A bright day for freedom of speech in science

Courtesy of Richard Wiseman

After two years’ struggle, the British Chiropractic Association finally dropped their libel case against science writer Simon Singh. This has been a high profile case in the campaign (which has only just begun!) to reform the UK’s ridiculous libel laws. This is a great step in the right direction. For the man who’s occupied centre stage, the victory will still be a costly one. Singh has spent 200.000 pounds to defend himself in the case, which started after he wrote an article in the Guardian in 2008 criticising the (lacking) scientific basis for chiropractic treatments. Instead of meeting him with arguments and evidence, the BCA attempted to sue the criticism to silence.

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Naturalistic Spiritualisms

Spiritualism was a symptomatic cultural trend of the Victorian period. For decades mediums captivated the worker, the bourgeois, the nobleman, the socialist utopian, the Christian apostate, and people from virtually any and all professions, with their table rappings, levitating furniture, full-form materializations, and messages from beyond the grave. When a message was coming through, whether from the ghost of Benjamin Franklin, the archangel Gabriel, or the sitter’s aunt Nelly, the spirit medium provided the goods. But despite this caricature, which no doubt does full justice to much of the movement, spiritualism also became a heated battleground for deeply natural-philosophic questions: what is Nature, how does she operate, and what can we know about her? Where are the boundaries of the natural to be drawn?

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