(Note: All of my complaints have been addressed and changes have been made. This article is now null and void but I am leaving it here for the sake of historical accuracy).
There’s a campaign at the moment to keep libel laws out of science. The campaign was started after author and TV presenter Simon Singh was sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association.
In essense, the libel laws in England are quite different from those in most other countries. Here in Australia if I was to accuse someone of being a fraud, they would have to prove they are not. In England, I would have to prove that they are. In this particular case it is over Simon using the word “bogus” when talking about the practise of Chiropractic, and despite the fact he very thoroughly explained his use of the word in the article, a judge has decided it meant something all together different from what he meant. Now Simon is stuck with having to prove that something he did not even say is true and accurate.
You’re probably wondering now how I cannot support a campaign to help out someone wronged in such a way. Well, keep reading.
The essense of the campaign is wrong in my opinion. The problem doesn’t lie in the fact that science, writers and scientists can be accused of libel. The problem is actually with the English libel system itself. It is this which we should be campaigning to get changed, get the horribly broken libel system fixed and more in-line with most other countries.
It’s essentially saying “we’re happy with this horribly broken system to be used on all other people, fields and systems just not on us”. This kind of thinking is something skeptics and atheists come up and rile against all the time in debates, it’s something known as special pleading.
I think it’s hypocritical and just plain stupid for us to start using special pleading, something we’ve argued against time and time again. I’m amazed by the number of people who are blindly going in to this special pleading campaign with full support, while at the same time accusing theologers, homeopaths, and alt-medders of using special pleading to get away without scrutiny.
Simon Singh does need our support and our help, but not like this.