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Posted by on May 9, 2009 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Careful how you use “bogus”

The Simon Singh court case had its preliminary hearing on the 7th and the news was very bad for Singh.

The two key decisions made by the judge are reported by Jack of Kent here.

The passage from the article in question is this:

“The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.”

The judge ruled that this passage is not “comment” but statement of fact. Second he ruled that “bogus” means deliberate and targeted dishonesty. Singh maintains this was not his intended meaning (he just meant the BCA was being reckless advocating treatments for which no evidence), but the judge has decreed that is the meaning – the meaning on which the case will turn: Singh was claiming the BCA were actually being dishonest, rather than just, say, stupid and reckless.

I do find this a very peculiar reading of Singh. Look, for example at the following piece by Robert Park (link below) about “bogus science”. Park clearly is not suggesting that those promoting bogus science are necessarily dishonest (though some are of course). His criteria for bogusness are not criteria for dishonesty.

The seven warning signs of bogus science.

This author also clearly is not suggesting deliberate and targeted dishonesty when talking about the “bogus science of second hand smoke”.

Yet the judge has now declared that by “bogus” Singh meant deliberate and targeted dishonesty. As a result, it is hard to see how Singh can win.

So, be very careful how you use the expressions “bogus science” and “bogus treatment”, for the legal precedent has now been set, and you may be sued. Perhaps “bullshit science” and “bullshit treatment” are safer (following Penn and Teller).

Obviously there will need to be a whip round to support Singh.

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