Many of you are aware that I’m a contributor to the Science-Based Medicine blog. Today the founder and executive editor of SBM, Steven Novella, has announced that he and the SBM blog are being sued for writing about questionable Alzheimer’s disease treatments by a Florida physician, Dr. Edward Tobinick. Dr. Novella has indicated that he intends to fight, rather than pull the blog post:
The claims and practice of Dr. Tobinick have many of the red flags of a dubious medical practice, of the sort that we discuss regularly on SBM. It seems that Dr. Tobinick does not appreciate public criticism of his claims and practice, and he wants me to remove the post from SBM. In my opinion he is using legal thuggery in an attempt to intimidate me and silence my free speech because he finds its content inconvenient.
Of course, we have no intention of removing the post as we feel it is critical to the public’s interest. This is what we do at SBM – provide an objective analysis of questionable or controversial medical claims so that consumers can make more informed decisions, and to advance the state of science in medicine.
We also feel it is critical not to cave to this type of intimidation. If we do, we might as well close up shop (which I suspect the Tobinicks of the world would find agreeable). Defending against even a frivolous lawsuit can be quite expensive, but we feel it is necessary for us to fight as hard as we can to defend our rights and the work that we do here at SBM.
Given the intent of Science-Based Medicine it was just a matter of time for someone, lacking any credible scientific defense, would turn to the courts in order to stifle debate and criticism. Free debate and scientific criticism is absolutely essential to the practice and the advance of science-based medicine. One of the core principles of scientific skepticism is the belief that all ideas can and should be subject to fair criticism. No testable claim a sacred, as Carl Sagan noted decades ago:
…at the heart of science is an essential balance between two seemingly contradictory attitudes – an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive, and the most ruthlessly skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new. This is how deep truths are winnowed from deep nonsense.
– Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, Chapter 17
It is the winnowing of truth from nonsense that made me a fan of Dr. Novella and of SBM long before I was invited to contribute to the blog. If you value the work of Science-Based Medicine and its contributors, and believe that unorthodox and scientifically questionable practices can and should be subject to scrutiny and criticism, please considering helping out in any way you can:
- Share Dr. Novella’s story on your social media
- Write/post/blog about Dr. Novella’s lawsuit
- Consider donating to support SBM and its legal defense (post on the SBM website, or via SGU Productions). Tag your donation “Legal Defense Fund”
Other coverage of Edward Tobinick and his lawsuit against Steven Novella (I will add to this as it grows, please let me know of additional coverage):
- Legal thuggery directed at Steve Novella and Science-Based Medicine from Respectful Insolence