As you may know, I am currently being sued for libel. My own case is largely irrelevant, because the bigger issue is libel reform so that scientists can discuss ideas openly, fairly and robustly, without fear that they might end up in court. There are currently three ongoing cases involving libel and science/medicine.
This is a very English problem, but it has a chilling effect on debate around the world because English law can have a global jurisdiction. Hence, I am asking for support from around the world.
One way to help achieve libel reform is for 100,000 people to sign the petition for libel reform before the political parties write their manifestos for the upcoming General Election. We already have 29,000 signatures, but we really need 100,000, and we need your help to get there.
If you have not yet signed, then please click here.
To find out why we need to reform English libel law, then please read on.
A journalist friend once remarked to me that “fair and balanced” reportage is an impossible ideal because the two terms are at war. To be fair is to tell the truth as best you can. To be balanced is to consult a flat-Earther for a counterpoint every time you write a story about a shuttle launch. This is a fine distinction, and one that I'm guessing the good folks at Atlanta Progressive News failed to grok while attempting to justify the firing of senior staff writer Jonathan Springston because of his unseemly attachment to... objectivity.
I had intended my recent Swift article to be an empowering piece on personal responsibility. I also wanted to bust a few myths about advertising’s alleged powers of control. Judging from many of the comments, it seems that some readers took the piece for a unilateral defense of marketing, abuses included, and a disavowal of marketers’ responsibilities for what and how they sell.
During a recent episode of The Dr. Oz Show, Oz discussed Reiki — an alternative medicine that Oz says might be the “most important alternative medicine treatment of all.” Oz explained to the audience that his wife was a Reiki master, and from time to time she uses the treatment on him. “I can’t even tell when she’s treating me. Sometimes she secretly treats me,” says Oz. After a brief introduction to this alternative “energy medicine,” Oz introduces Reiki master Pamela Miles. At this point, there is a lady from the audience — with a headache — sitting in a chair in front of Miles. Before Miles treats the headache she explains, “Reiki is a balancing practice, and so rather than addressing the headache or whatever else is the problem, what it does is influences the person’s overall system towards balance.” After a brief intro on basic Reiki, Miles performs her magic, and presto: The lady’s headache is gone.
One of the perks of basing conclusions on evidence rather than whims or emotions is that you tend be right more often. Yes, that sounds like an arrogant thing to say, but face it... the reason we're skeptics is because we love the truth and we're constantly searching to refine it. That tends to make us more informed on any topic than the general public who often seem to go with the flow and not question what they're told. I'm generalizing, but you get the point.
Be that as it may, it's easy to take pride in this fact. "Hey, I've done the research, and I'm right a lot of the time! Look at me!!!" Saying it like that may seem ridiculous, but it's not far from what I've been observing lately. I believe that such an attitude is not only counterproductive, it also ignores the best thing about being a skeptic, and that is... being able to freely say "Oops, I was wrong about that."