A Happy Day for Skeptics and Atheists

There were a couple incredible news stories taking over the skeptic/atheist world yesterday. To recap:

After Simon Singh won his recent appeal, the British Chiropractic Association has dropped their case against him (PDF)!

This means Singh is almost done with this nightmare — which started because he spoke the truth about the BCA: their products are indeed “bogus.”

They do nothing to help you and we’d all be better off not wasting our money on them.

The next step is for Singh to recover his costs for the whole debacle. Let’s hope judges agree: the BCA ought to pick up his tab.

[Singh] said he would be pursuing the BCA for his legal costs. “The issue of costs is still outstanding. I suppose it will cost the BCA upward of £300,000, and I want to make sure they end up paying my legal costs, which will be over £100,000. It could be that I don’t get that money back: that explains why people don’t fight libel cases.”

Until the BCA pays for all this money wasted on them, this case isn’t truly over.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional! Finally.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation brought that lawsuit against President Bush in October, 2008, but the decision was released yesterday (PDF):

“It goes beyond mere ‘acknowledgment’ of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context. In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience. When the government associates one set of religious beliefs with the state and identifies nonadherents as outsiders, it encroaches upon the individual’s decision about whether and how to worship.”

“One might argue that the National Day of Prayer does not violate the establishment clause because it does not endorse any one religion. Unfortunately, that does not cure the problem. Although adherents of many religions ‘turn to God in prayer,’ not all of them do. Further, the statute seems to contemplate a specifically Christian form of prayer with its reference to ‘churches’ but no other places of worship and the limitation in the 1952 version of the statute that the National Day of Prayer may not be on a Sunday.”

The Obama administration isn’t about to stop celebrating it, though. The White House issued a Tweet yesterday saying as much:

Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor expressed surprise and disappointment at the White House’s response to “tweet” over a constitutional issue of this magnitude: “President Obama is a constitutional scholar, and knows the issues at stake. He couldn’t possibly have read the 66-page historic ruling by Judge Crabb at the time of this Tweet,” Gaylor said.

The American Center for Law and Justice is already planning an appeal.

“It is unfortunate that this court failed to understand that a day set aside for prayer for the country represents a time-honored tradition that embraces the First Amendment, not violates it,” said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ. “If the appeals court fails to reverse this decision, we are confident the Supreme Court will hear the case and ultimately determine that such proclamations and observances like the National Day of Prayer not only reflect our nation’s rich history, but are indeed consistent with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”

Right… so can we assume Sekulow would fully support a National Day of Blasphemy? Or a National Day Without God?

In any case, the appeal won’t be decided in time for the NDoP on May 6th, so it will probably proceed as scheduled. You can bet that the FFRF won’t go down without a fight, though. Congratulations to them on this major victory.

To be clear, anyone can pray. If they want, they can pray on the National Day of Prayer. Hell, even President Obama can pray on that day.

This lawsuit was about the White House celebrating it and how that constitutes an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion.

Not only that, this is (let’s face it) a Christian event. A few years ago, when a woman was invited to deliver a Hindu prayer to open NDoP events in Troy, Michigan, the National Day of Prayer Task force objected.

This is government endorsement of religion. There’s no doubt about it. Judge Crabb made the right decision.

  • http://pinkydead.blogspot.com David McNerney

    I have question….

    I met this Chiropracter, at a party, and we chatted and he was explaining it all – and I said to him “Sorry, but that is a complete dose of bullshit”. He accepted what I said, but asked me to keep an open mind. Which I like to do.

    At the time, my wife had a problem with her hip – and he suggested she give it a try. And she did – and the problem went away.

    Now, I still think the spiel about how it works is complete toss – but I cannot deny that it worked.

  • Greg

    David – I’m not particularly well read on chiropody, but as a general thing:

    If someone came to you and told you that regularly lifting weights would make you stronger because magical pixies like watching people lift heavy things, and reward them by magically increasing their muscles; the claim would still be bogus, even though you took their advice, lifted weights, and became stronger.

    It may be that some things they say work – that doesn’t mean that they aren’t making bogus claims.

  • Dan

    I had a stiff neck, really stiff, like frozen rigid and the pain was exquisite. I visited a chiropractor who manipulated my spine and fixed the problem. Had he stopped there I would have been a fan of chiropody for life. Unfortunately, after he manipulated my spine, he taped a small ball bearing to my wrist. I knew then he was a quack and I have never been back. My Doctor gives me a cautizone injection nowadays when I have this neck problem, the muscles relax and it gets better.

  • Trace

    The NDP poster they have at the local grocery store is kind of creepy (depicts a group of people holding hands praying in front of the White House and says something along the lines of “we need to pray to God in these troubled times” (It may not be the exact wording).

    I don’t know who sponsors the poster (some ecumenical group, not sure though) but the prayer will be held at the local park where every summer they run an “ecumenical” BVS.

    If I can, I will look for a link for the image.

  • codemenkey

    it’s not just a happy day for skeptics and atheists… it’s a happy day for everybody who values liberty and constitutional rights, even when it is “inconvenient.” obama’s response is infuriating, and it stands contrary to his campaign promises.

  • Erp

    The National Day of Prayer organization is not just Christian but a specific subsection of Christians (don’t look for Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses [not that Jehovah's Witnesses would be involved in a government called NDP anyway since I suspect it is against their religion]). I’m not even that sure how much Catholics are welcome.

  • DSimon

    David, my understanding is that certain parts of chiropractic are nowhere near as wooey as other “alternative medicines”. Back manipulation can actually meet some of its claims about certain things, like treating back pain. However, it does so with no more effectiveness, and somewhat more risk, than standard medical practice.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    David:

    At the time, my wife had a problem with her hip – and he suggested she give it a try. And she did – and the problem went away.

    Now, I still think the spiel about how it works is complete toss – but I cannot deny that it worked.

    Sure you can.
    1. Did you have a ‘control’ against which you could test?
    2. Do you know that there was nothing else that could make her hip problem go away?
    3. Do you know that the problem could not have gone away on its own?

    There are any number of other possible explanations that don’t involve a spinal manipulation practice based on the concept of a spiritual life force being injected by God into our body through our spine and on to all of our organs. Such as what DSimon said – that there was nothing special about the chiropractic adjustment that you couldn’t get from someone with an actual MD who wouldn’t weasel around about how it works :)

  • JB Tait

    After I broke my back (a small compression fracture), I was sent to a physiotherapist (not a chiropractor) for massage, to relax the muscles that had been guarding it. The therapist apparently didn’t read my physician’s orders well enough, and decided that my “back problems” were caused by weak stomach muscles because in his experience, that was the usual cause of back pain.
    The nature of my injury was such that I should not have been flexing my back this way but he insisted, despite my protestations.

    My first situp caused intense pain, paralyzed my legs (nearly permanently), sent me back to the hospital, and set back my recovery by weeks, but the therapist was convinced it was because I didn’t follow his instructions properly and used my side muscles (obliques) instead of my abs.

    The issue is inadequate feedback. When a customer doesn’t come back, the practitioner is likely to think it is because they were cured, and never dream it is because they are afraid of being injured, so they develop distorted views of what their results are. There is also the placebo effect, which is very powerful. If the customer believes firmly enough that this practitioner’s manipulations will clear up his poison ivy, for instance, then possibly his body will stop making antigens.

    In this way, after years of practice, they become convinced they can do so much more than scientific investigation would confirm. I am sure they truly believe their claims are valid.

    My point is that even medically trained and certified professionals overrate the efficacy of their treatments, and in my case, I think a chiropractor or a shopping mall masseuse would have been the better choice.

  • polomint38

    @greg @dan

    Chiropody is the British word for Podiatry.
    The word you where looking for is Chiropractic .

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    By the way, on the subject of Jay Sekulow and the ACLJ: It should come as no surprise that the ACLJ is a hardcore Christian group aimed at doing everything it can to inject Christian theology into our government, and to make it seem like Christians are an oppressed minority. Jay has a national talk radio show where he bloviates about how President Obama is trying to make America forget who our enemy is and how he wants to appease the Islamic extremists the same way Chamberlain appeased Hitler.

    Rev. Barry Lynn and Jay Sekulow co-author a blog called Lynn V. Sekulow on BeliefNet (one of the few things worth reading there, in my experience…). From what I’ve read there, Jay is adept at twisting the issue to turn everything into an attack on Christianity. For example, in a recent entry, he described a case where “Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco … denied official recognition to a student group – the Christian Legal Society (CLS) – after CLS said it could not abide by the school’s non-discrimination policy, [which] forbids student groups from discriminating on the basis of, among other things, religion.” Sekulow argued that the key issue in the case was that forcing the CLS to allow anyone to join meant that people with views counter to their mission could join and become elected to leadership, which meant that the college was allowing CLS’s religious freedom to potentially be infringed.

    That’s hogwash, of course, as Rev. Lynn pointed out in response. The issue was not whether or not the CLS will be forced to bow to political correctness. Rather, the issue was whether or not the CLS would obey the same guidelines as every other student group, or insist that it received special privileges. No one was forcing the CLS to become officially recognized; if they wanted to maintain their discriminatory membership criteria, they could still form their group, but not expect it to be recognized or funded as an official group by the school.

    Sekulow’s response ignores this completely and relentlessly hacks away at a straw man of the actual situation, arguing about how things “should be” rather than how they are or how the law reads. He’s very good at that sort of thing; it’s pretty much the entirety of his radio show. He’s done the same thing with the health care bill, lying about several pages in the bill by saying that they go into detail about how the government is going to spend billions of dollars on abortions – when, in fact, it describes how a state can opt out of any unspecified future funding given to clinics that may or may not provide abortions. He also lied about what the ‘deem and pass’ procedure was, stating flat-out several times that it was unconstitutional and never mentioning that the Republicans had used it before and never been challenged about it.

  • http://seangill-insidemyhead.blogspot.com/ SeanG

    I just read Obama’s statement from last year’s NPD (in the twitter link). More and more I just think he’s paying lip service to get votes whenever he drops “non-believers” into a statement. I’m sure the NDP statement, in part, is pandering to the religious. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, since that’s what politicians do.

  • SoonerHumanist

    In response to the NDP, while I don’t really care enough about it to have an opinion, I think probably the best way to counter it would be to organize a National Day of Prayer to Joe Pesci. Praying to him is about as effective as praying to God, and he looks like a guy who can get stuff done.

    RIP George.

  • plutosdad

    I read that link specifically about Troy, Michigan, and it makes me sick. Especially when they start whining about their rights being violated, after they excluded everyone else.

    No one was stopping them from praying, they still kept their rights. But if they wanted a government sponsored observance then you have to include everyone, you don’t get to exclude anyone. You can exclude as many as you want at a PRIVATE event, but not a government sponsored public event. If they didn’t want hindus praying they could have held a private event whenever they wanted.

    And then they wanted to recall the mayor for what? Standing up for minorities? Wtf? Do these people not understand rights? Democracy is “majority rule”, rights constrain government and the majority from doing whatever they want. Their exclusion of others from a government sponsored event is precisely the situation the 1st amendment is designed to stop.

    If we had a “day of meditation” it might not be bad, but the majority religion would always try to coopt it, since we apparently can’t play nice. I’m glad we’re finally getting rid of this “day of oppression”

  • http://seangill-insidemyhead.blogspot.com/ SeanG

    No one was stopping them from praying, they still kept their rights. But if they wanted a government sponsored observance then you have to include everyone, you don’t get to exclude anyone.

    Exactly. Really, if christians (especially conservatives) actually did what the bible says, there’d be no problems. Of course, actually reading the bible would really get in their way. (Matthew 6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.)

  • Richard P.

    I have been to a Chiropractor for hip alignment problems and a ceased neck. In both cases I had immediate relief and with a few more treatments the problems went away.

    MikeTheInfidel asks:

    1. Did you have a ‘control’ against which you could test?
    Could the control be considered similar past injuries, that in past times with regular medicine took longer to deal with. If so then yes I had a control.

    2. Do you know that there was nothing else that could make the problem go away?

    No, in fact I would say that there were other options. I could have been injected with drugs. I could have laid in bed for days and wait for it to work it self out.

    However this was a treatment that did not require drugs and I did not have days to wait.

    Aspirin is not the only treatment for a headache, does this make aspirin a bogus treatment?

    3. Do you know that the problem could not have gone away on its own?

    Yes it could have, my experience in similar injuries showed me that the optional treatments would take longer to complete the process and would require more drugs .

    But how does this make it bogus?

    Is there only one way to skin a cat?

    Now I do not think that they would have helped me with breathing problems or kidney dialysis. but for muscle and joint problems they did make a huge difference.

    Just because there is other alternatives to one treatment or another, why does that make it a bogus treatment?

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Iason Ouabache

    Right… so can we assume Sekulow would fully support a National Day of Blasphemy? Or a National Day Without God?

    Of course not, because that is not “traditional”. Where “traditional” in this sense is anything that they managed to slip through the legislature without anyone noticing in the last 60 years.

  • Snuggly Buffalo

    Richard P., no one is claiming that Chiropractic is a bogus treatment for things like back pain. But there’s a lot of bogus treatments that go along with that, and there are alternatives that work just as well. Why support an industry that believes in “innate intelligence” and subluxations as well as dangerous notions like using chiropractic to treat serious problems unrelated to the musculoskeletal system when you can get conventional treatments that work just as well (from physical therapists or osteopaths)? I’m not even talking about drugs or lying in bed. Nothing a chiropractor did for you couldn’t have been done by a good osteopath, and you wouldn’t be supporting a field full of woo-woo.

  • http://pinkydead.blogspot.com David McNerney

    @MikeTheInfidel

    Sure you can.
    1. Did you have a ‘control’ against which you could test?
    2. Do you know that there was nothing else that could make her hip problem go away?
    3. Do you know that the problem could not have gone away on its own?

    1. Yes. She visited a number of physiotherapists on the advice of various physicians, with absolutely no effect. She had resigned herself to a life of pain.
    2. Yes. Physiotherapy, see 1.
    3. This was an acute pain that she had suffered from a number of months, and which had not abated in the slightest way until this “treatment”.

    To be fair, he didn’t talk about “a spiritual life force being injected by God” (I would have run) – it was more about energy paths and channel flows and blah blah blah.

  • Stephen P

    … and the limitation in the 1952 version of the statute that the National Day of Prayer may not be on a Sunday.

    Huh?

    I’ve known Christians attempt to ban almost every activity on a Sunday – but praying? Perhaps they should pursue that prohibition a bit more vigorously.

  • Richard P.

    Snuggly Buffalo

    I see your point, and I agree. Maybe this is also a problem in certain areas of the world and not so much elsewhere.

    I live in Canada. My exposure with chiropractors must be different. I have always understood that their specialty is in skeletal alignment. It is only from exchanges like these do I ever see things like colic healing and chiropractors linked together. So I am either under exposed to the underlying deviousness of this diabolical conspiracy, or maybe it is just a larger problem in US and Britain.

    Our Woo shit comes from the massage therapists and naturopaths (Spelling???). Those seem to be the ones dedicated to aligning everyone’s chakras. But they don’t have any real recognized qualifications here, and it’s usually only the loopy that take them seriously.

    So to me going to a chiropractor here is going to see a bone alignment specialist. Not going to see the snake oil salesman for a miracle cure.
    He will help with my sore hip and the kink in my shoulder. Something to be said for our health care system I guess.

  • Richard P.

    Also,I have never heard the terms”“innate intelligence” and subluxations” in any of the chiropractor offices I have been in. But then I just automatically block out crap like that so maybe I just ignored it.

  • http://pinkydead.blogspot.com David McNerney

    @Richard P

    I think I’m just starting to get this.

    I just read Simon Singh’s original article (via wikipedia). And I have to say, it concurs very well with my experience of Chiropractic treatment.

    How do you feel about what Singh said?

  • http://cranialhyperossification.blogspot.com GDad

    I love how Mr. Sekulow’s name sounds like “secular.”

  • Richard P.

    David McNerney asks:
    How do you feel about what Singh said?

    First off i think, Wow!! Sounds like a lot of woo is involved in this.

    Then;

    “In fact, Palmer’s first chiropractic intervention supposedly cured a man who had been profoundly deaf for 17 years. His second treatment was equally strange, because he claimed that he treated a patient with heart trouble by correcting a displaced vertebra.”

    Bullshit.

    “You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact they still possess some quite wacky ideas.”

    Well Skeletal problems, I wonder what the Canadian association says about this?

    Here’s what they say–
    “Chiropractic care cannot “cure” these conditions, but”
    “research conducted in Denmark resulted in chiropractic treatment being recommended for the relief of infantile colic. Similarly, a recent U.S. study concluded that the application of manipulative techniques in children with recurring ear infections can prevent or decrease surgical intervention or antibiotic overuse.”
    So I have sent an email to them to provide sources and to the The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association. It is a peer reviewed journal, I will find out what their response is.

    “roughly half of all chiropractic patients experience temporary adverse effects, such as pain, numbness, stiffness, dizziness and headaches.”

    Okay, but I am sure half of the visits to a regular doctor has had these side effects to, I do not find this surprising.

    “manipulation of the neck can damage the vertebral arteries, which supply blood to the brain. So-called vertebral dissection can ultimately cut off the blood supply, which in turn can lead to a stroke and even death.”

    I can understand this. I have always checked the qualifications of those working on me to ensure they have experience to do the job properly, but I except that shit can happen.

    I am sure it can’t be much worse than a medication that causes anal leakage, but maybe that’s just me.

    “This case is not unique. In Canada alone there have been several other women who have died after receiving chiropractic therapy, and Professor Ernst has identified about 700 cases of serious complications among the medical literature”

    Okay, but how do those stats measure up compared to back surgery or any other medical practices. My understanding is that thousands die every year due to “normal” medical complications. Are these numbers any higher??

    “if spinal manipulation were a drug with such serious adverse effects and so little demonstrable benefit, then it would almost certainly have been taken off the market.”

    Really?? I wonder if that is true. There are some pretty damaging drugs. I know several people that take medications to contract the side effects of other medication. Does Singh have any evidence of this final assumption?

    That is what I think of his article. I think he makes some great points. I do think there must be some chiropractors that stretch a little to far. I also wonder if this is not just taking things to an extreme and there is a balance in here that is missing.

    If you only look for the bad it is easy to find. But is it really all bad? Is it really any worse than the other choices?

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    1. Yes. She visited a number of physiotherapists on the advice of various physicians, with absolutely no effect. She had resigned herself to a life of pain.

    This isn’t the same as a control. A control would be not receiving chiropractic treatment, and you can’t have the same person be both control and non-control.

    Just because there is other alternatives to one treatment or another, why does that make it a bogus treatment?

    That is not what makes it a bogus treatment. What makes it a bogus treatment is that it is based on fiction, and experimental testing has consistently shown that, the better the controls, the closer to placebo the results of chiropractic treatment become.

  • idioteque

    So what about a National Day of Meditation? Or a National Day of Dervish Dancing? A National Day of Tibetan Chant?

  • Richard P.

    MikeTheInfidel says:
    “This isn’t the same as a control. A control would be not receiving chiropractic treatment, and you can’t have the same person be both control and non-control.”

    How could you have a control is this circumstance? Would you not need two identical people, with identical injuries to have a consistent observable outcomes?

    If this is to be a criteria, then it is impossible to accomplish, until cloning becomes main stream.

    I have had times when I have had a sharp pain in my hip. Due to occupational hazards. Very similar injuries. The doctor was drugs and pain for weeks. The chiropractor was one session and back to work the next day. Then two follow up sessions. I would consider this a much closer example of control than other alternatives. The outcome with the chiropractor was much better than the doctors method.
    Does this invalidate the the results?

    This seems more like a carpenter pretending to be a plumber than a snake oil salesman selling cure alls.

  • Julia

    Richard P.:
    I have had similar positive experiences (and a complete lack of woo) with chiropractors (in Vancouver), but was similarly skeptical of the CCA’s comments about colic and ear infections. Would you be so kind as to share their response on here?

  • Richard P.

    Hi Julia,

    I will report back as soon as I have a response. it will probably take a couple of days.
    My experience with them was in Saskatchewan. (yes I wrote that with out the help of spell check.)
    I live just outside Lumby now. Nice to see my experience is not unique.

  • muggle

    Woo hoo!!!

  • Charon

    @Richard P. “How could you have a control is this circumstance? Would you not need two identical people, with identical injuries to have a consistent observable outcomes?”

    No. The whole point of well-designed studies is to have a large enough sample size that variations between people average out, with the exception that one group receives treatment and the other doesn’t.

    Note: you can’t do this yourself. Which is why there are medical researchers who conduct randomized, placebo-controlled studies. Such studies indicate that chiropractic might be helpful for musculoskeletal problems, but not for anything else.

    Science-Based Medicine

  • Kate

    “The whole point of well-designed studies is to have a large enough sample size that variations between people average out, with the exception that one group receives treatment and the other doesn’t.”

    Or matched samples.