- Answering Our Critics
- “Fair comment” and defamation
- Placebo effect
- Regression to the Mean
- Confirmation bias
- Causality illusion
- Hawthorne effect
- Simpson’s paradox
- Will Rogers phenomenon
- Logical fallacies
- Orthodox/Mainstream doctors are not holistic or out to make money
- Media Guide to Skepticism
- The Debunking Handbook
- Motivated reasoning
- How to counter the circus of pseudoscience
This article, by Harriet Hall, and posted to Science-Based Medicine, beautifully responds to a number of the numerous criticisms leveled at CAMCheck. As she explains: “Our critics keep bringing up the same old memes, and it occurred to me that rather than try to answer them each time, it might be useful to list those criticisms and answer them here.” (This is part one. Part two continues here.) In the case of CamCheck, we are not arguing for “Science-Based Medicine” but the subtle difference of “Evidence-based Medicine”, i.e., we want to see adequate proof!
“Fair comment” and defamation
Our opinions are without malice, not extreme, unjust, unbalanced, exaggerated nor prejudiced but based on supporting evidence for our assertions – alternatively, demonstrating a lack of evidence for claims being made. The facts and/or rationale for our assertions accompany our postings. Although these opinions may appear harsh, they are indeed true. Could these comments appear to be defamatory?
Your Rights describes “fair comment” as such:
“If a defendant can prove that the defamatory statement is an expression of opinion on a matter of public interest and not a statement of fact, he or she can rely on the defence of fair comment.”
“The courts have said that whenever a matter is such as to affect people at large, so that they may be legitimately interested in, or concerned at, what is going on or what may happen to them or to others, then it is a matter of public interest on which everyone is entitled to make fair comment.”
“The comment must be based on true facts which are either contained in the publication or are sufficiently referred to. It is for the defendant to prove that the underlying facts are true. If he or she is unable to do so, then the defence will fail. As with justification, the defendant does not to have to prove the truth of every fact provided the comment was fair in relation to those facts which are proved.”
Is there a local South African precedent?
“The fact that a defamatory statement is true and that its publication was for the public benefit constitutes a complete defence.”
Du Bois (Editor) Wille’s Principles of South African Law (9th edition) pages 1177-8.
More recent judgments of the Constitutional Court:
“The common law requires the defendant to establish, once the plaintiff has proved the publication of defamatory statement affecting the plaintiff, that the publication was lawful because the contents of the statement were true and in the public benefit.”
Khumalo v Holomisa 2002 (5) SA 401 (CC) at para 37 per O’Regan J
“Criticism was protected even if extreme, unjust, unbalanced, exaggerated and prejudiced so long as it expresses an honestly-held opinion, without malice, on a matter of public interest on facts that were true.”
Prof Pierre de Vos wrote an excellent piece about “defamation” for the Daily Maverick. Two interesting and relevant paragraphs are:
Prof de Vos has elaborated on defamation in the blog, ConstitutionallySpeaking.co.za:
“Although not a closed list, the most commonly raised defences to rebut unlawfulness are that the publication was true and in the public benefit; that the publication constituted fair comment and that the publication was made on a privileged occasion.” This means you will not be liable for defamation if you can show to a court that what you had said was both true and was on a matter that was in the public interest.
“Although not a closed list, the most commonly raised defences to rebut unlawfulness are that the publication was true and in the public benefit; that the publication constituted fair comment and that the publication was made on a privileged occasion.”
This means you will not be liable for defamation if you can show to a court that what you had said was both true and was on a matter that was in the public interest.
Recently (3/12/2017), in response to a letter from Prof Tim Noakes’ lawyer, Prof de Vos, had the following to say:
“Second, as you well know, it is not unlawful to express an ‘honest, genuine (though possibly exaggerated or prejudiced) expression of opinion relevant to the facts upon which it was based (The Citizen 1978 (Pty) Ltd and Others v McBride). As Cameron J remarked in that case about the defence of fair comment:
‘So to dub the defence ‘fair comment’ is misleading. If, to be protected, comment has to be ‘fair’, the law would require expressions of opinion on matters of fact to be just, equitable, reasonable, level-headed and balanced. That is not so. An important rationale for the defence of protected or ‘fair’ comment is to ensure that divergent views are aired in public and subjected to scrutiny and debate. Through open contest, these views may be challenged in argument. By contrast, if views we consider wrong-headed and unacceptable are repressed, they may never be exposed as unpersuasive. Untrammelled debate enhances truth-finding and enables us to scrutinise political argument and deliberate social values.”
All CamCheck’s postings are factual and claims and statements can be supported with evidence.
This often comes up – how do we know whether something is a real effect or simply a placebo response?
Notice how of the 209 patients in Group A who took the unbranded placebo, 111 said that they were completely better and in Group B, 134 of those taking the branded placebo were completely better. In other words, although the “aspirin” they took was only a placebo, they felt “completely better” – this is a good example of a placebo effect.
Subjects may change their usual behavior just because they are participating in a study, and this can lead to overestimating the effects of treatment, particularly in the control group. 
When unrecognized determining factors (“confounders”) influence the data, the overall results of a study can be completely changed by analysis of sub-groups. [Translator’s note: another way of saying this is that a trend that appears in different groups of data can disappear or reverse when the groups are combined.] 
The Will Rogers phenomenon
Improved diagnostic methods that artificially increase the prevalence of a disease can improve the apparent prognosis of a patient without the measurement parameters having been changed. [Translator’s note: If cancers are diagnosed earlier but there is no change the time of death, the survival time will appear to have increased. The name comes from a Will Rogers quotation: “When the Okies left Oklahoma and moved to California, they raised the average intelligence level in both states.“] 
“A logical fallacy is usually what has happened when someone is wrong about something. It’s a flaw in reasoning. They’re like tricks or illusions of thought, and they’re often very sneakily used by politicians and the media to fool people. Don’t be fooled! This website and poster have been designed to help you identify and call out dodgy logic wherever it may raise its ugly, incoherent head.” yourlogicalfallacyis.com
- Doctors Are Not “Only Out to Make Money” – Harriet Hall