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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptical Inquirer > Sept/october 2019 > Suing for Science

Suing for Science

Why the Center for Inquiry chose homeopathy for its first court cases challenging any of the forms of pseudoscience that plague society.

If flipping through the pages of Skeptical Inquirer shows us anything (and it does—the editor made sure I put that in), it is that science is misunderstood, misused, and misrepresented throughout our society. And if the United States is known for anything, it’s for a system where if you are wronged, the first reaction is to sue—and sue everyone. So why, I am frequently asked, aren’t there more science-based lawsuits and court cases?

In preparation for this article, I asked friends to name famous science lawsuits. And all people came up with was the Scopes Monkey Trial (or, sometimes, the “intelligent design” case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District1). But often it appears there is a restraining order in force between the law and science.

Here are a few explanations of that and a description of how the Center for Inquiry (CFI), which includes the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, managed to work its way around that and file not just one but two major lawsuits challenging the method of sale of homeopathic, pseudoscientific nonsense in CVS and Walmart stores in the District of Columbia.

1. It’s not actually true; there are plenty of “science” lawsuits.

These tend to be intellectual property cases and rarely make big news, though they can have a large impact on consumers. One of the largest cases I worked on as a forprofit attorney was such a case, regarding patents on the process for attaching covers to golf balls. Had the final outcome of the case been different, one of the top-selling golf balls in the world could have been forced off the market. That’s golf, though, which is hardly a life-ordeath situation. But in cases throughout the federal court system, the availability and profitability of thousands of product lines are determined in products as diverse as pharmaceuticals, telecommunication devices, genetically modified foodstuffs, and so on.

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SPECIAL ISSUE: THE HEALTH WARS: IN THE TRENCHES AGAINST ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE