A smorgasbord of links, today, relating to the right of scientists to say what the hell they like (to summarise the argument flippantly and inaccurately).
The UK’s libel laws stink: this excellent BBC World Service doc explains why. You’ll know this already, of course, because of the likes of Singh v the Chiropractors, Wilmshurst v NMT and (possibly my favourite) Goldacre v Rath. Goldacre said of his tussle with Rath:
‘It was … a pretty unpleasant episode, not just for me, but also for the many other people he’s tried to sue, including Medecins Sans Frontieres and more. If you’re ever looking for a warning sign that you’re on the wrong side of an argument, suing Medecins Sans Frontieres is probably a pretty good clue.’
Goldacre and Singh, incidentally, are taking to the road this year with a science-plus-funny-bits show, Uncaged Monkeys, where they’ll feature on the undercard (TV’s Professor Brian Cox being, I expect, the main event).
The libel reform campaign has, naturally, gathered around it an impressive roster of supporters. Also, Jonathan Ross. Donating to it would make the world a slightly better place (better than if you donated to, say, Medecins Sans Frontieres? Well, to be on the safe side, best donate to both).
I don’t know who had the brilliant idea of photographing a lot of geeks and putting them on a calendar to raise money for the campaign, but it is a brilliant idea. How else would we get to see pictures like this?
Yes, it’s Brian Cox and his missus. And their cat. Why? I don’t know why.
Lord Judge, allowing Simon Singh’s appeal in his fight against the BCA, was inspired to quote Milton’s Areopagitica:
‘I have sat among their learned men [in Italy], for that honour I had, and been counted happy to be born in such a place of philosophic freedom, as they supposed England was, while themselves did nothing but bemoan the servile condition into which learning among them was brought; … that nothing had been there written now these many years but flattery and fustian. There it was that I found and visited the famous Galileo, grown old a prisoner of the Inquisition, for thinking in astronomy otherwise than the Franciscan and Dominican licensers thought.’
Lord Judge remarked: “That is a pass to which we ought not to come again.”