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Bad Science Paperback – 6 Oct 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; paperback / softback edition (6 Oct. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007240198
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007240197
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 2.9 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (660 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 250,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ben Goldacre is a doctor and science writer who has written the ' Bad Science ' column in the Guardian since 2003. His work focuses on unpicking the evidence behind misleading claims from journalists, the pharmaceutical industry, alternative therapists, and government reports. He has made a number of documentaries for BBC Radio 4, and his book Bad Science reached Number One in the nonfiction charts, has sold over 500,000 copies, and is available in 22 countries.

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Review

‘The most important book you’ll read this year, and quite possibly the funniest.’
Charlie Brooker

‘Bad Science inroduces the basic scientific principles to help everyone to become an effective bullshit detector.’
Sir Iain Chalmers, Founder of the Cochrane Library'

“There are two compelling reasons to read this book. The first is to revel in its systematic dismantling of the nonsense put forth by nutritionists, homeopaths, cosmetic companies and the pharmaceutical industry in their attempts to persuade us to buy their products or buy into their philosophy. The second is for the fascinating discussion of why we are so easily duped, and what inclines us to see patterns in randomness or cause where there are none. Throw in the book's sheer entertainment value and you have one the essential reads of the year so far” New Scientist

“A hugely entertaining book…While every chapter is entertaining, a few are genuinely eye-opening…This isn't just an essential primer for anyone who has ever felt uneasy about news coverage of faddish scientific 'breakthroughs', health scares and 'studies have shown' stories – it should be on the National Curriculum.” Time Out

Books of the Year, The Scotsman, Alexander McCall's choice

Review

`It is an important book and if you were to pick up just one non-fiction book this year you'd do well to make it this one.'

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

590 of 635 people found the following review helpful By Bill Cutter on 7 Oct. 2008
Format: Paperback
A thoroughly excellent book from a practising doctor and medical researcher, who is also one of the few science journalists to actually understand scientific method. He is nearly a lone voice in the media, exposing the astonishing journey of 'health news' from the pages of academic journals to the tabloids and broadsheets, without passing through a critical brain in between. Thus, on a daily basis, the papers produce "X CAUSES/CURES CANCER" stories, based on very shaky understanding of experiments done in a petri dish. Whilst these stories may give false hope or fear to thousands of people, which is bad enough, in the case of MMR, they actually caused harm. He also explains how and why science fails to explain itself clearly and loudly in the face of emotionally charged 'my son has autism due to MMR' stories.

Goldacre also lays bare the facts about such 'complementary' therapies such as Homeopathy and Nutritionism, which when stripped of the accolades given them in the media, are revealed to be little more than eccentric ideas which somehow have gained unquestioning credence in the popular mind, and even, perversely, created a deep-rooted suspicion of maninstream medicine which is now taken at face value.

I thoroughly recommend this book, especially for journalists, but it is also essential reading for scientists, doctors and anyone who finds their mouth flapping when trying to put their friends / family straight on why spending 100 quid on dipping their feet in water and watching it go brown is a spectacular waste of money.

Final thoughts - if this book demonstrates how bad science reporting is, what else is being reported badly that we should know about? Finance? Politics? Help!! Also, why is there no organisation with teeth that can bring people to account for irresponsible reporting? A free press is central to our world of course, but not a wild press, trampling all over everyone and everything without so much as a backward glance.
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109 of 118 people found the following review helpful By Ms. R. L. A. Amelan VINE VOICE on 20 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
I have been towing this book around with me for some weeks reading a chapter here and there. Sitting in cafes and other public venues, I have frightened passers-by with my screams of laughter at Goldacre's entertaining prose which can make some fairly dry topics not only accessible but downright funny.

I feel that I have a genuine reason for reviewing this book because I am a nurse working in clinical audit and know only too well how easy it is to manipulate statistics to mean exactly what you want. I have thus recommended this to more than one doctor about to embark on audit as a useful insight into the subject.

Frankly, I learned loads from this volume, which actually frightens me because I thought that I had a passing grasp of the power of stats. As a result, I now treat the information that comes up on my pivot tables and graphs with a new respect and query it much more closely.

My favourite part of the book has to be about Goldacre's handling of Gillian McKeith, the food guru (or whatever she is). His handling of her lack of bioscientific knowledge was excellent and made me smile. What I particularly liked was his correct explanations of the science behind the facts. There is something very elegant and beautiful about true science and he brought this out to perfection. He is clearly a great enthusiast and, at the end of the book, he recommends people to adopt a greater spirit of enquiry into the subject. Go for it!

Initially, I, like many, had thought that Mr. Goldacre would just debunk alternative therapies but I was in for a surprise. His comments on mainstream scientific research were illuminating and I must say that I had not realised that responsible minds could skew things this much - through both good intention and mendacity.
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209 of 228 people found the following review helpful By Dr. W. S. James on 17 Jan. 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I would support all the positive comments made by other reviewers of the book itself. However, I feel very short-changed by Amazon over the Kindle edition. If they want to charge more for the Kindle edition (which can't be lent to a friend or donated to Oxfam) than the paperback version, they surely need to do a tiny bit of copy-editing, rather than dumping the OCRed version on their site as if it were a Project Gutenberg freebie. Most pages of this book had one of two simple typesetting errors that could have been corrected with about 30 minutes of a copy-editor's time: "soft" hyphens, which presumably occur at the ends of lines in the print edition, are retained in the mid-dle (sic) of words on the line; conversely, spaces between words areomitted (sic), which presumably reflects line breaks in the print edition. After a while, this annoyance becomes exasperating. To add a final twist, one cross-reference in the text retained its print format, as a reference to a page number in the regular book, utterly meaningless in the Kindle edition.

Come on Amazon! Kindle is a neat bit of technology, but the quality of Kindle editions needs at least to match that of the published book if you're going to charge bookshop prices, or you'll lose your customers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Darren H. on 19 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback
This book has received a lot of reviews and they are in the main supportive of the fact that critical scientific review seems to be too hard for many to do correctly.

We need a free press, we need business to support product development. But as Ben goes to great lengths to show, there is a lot of poor reporting and a lot of mal-practice out there.

Alas when Ben asks about methods used for various claims, it appears that many do not want to do the science properly. Either because they won't sell their product or they need to fill column inches in the media (or are just incompetent).

Ben's website, mentioned in the book, has many anecdotes going back many years and is a great accompaniment to the book. It is worth looking there as well.

Ben is a five star beacon of reason in the fog of miscommunication - this book says why.

I may get shouted at, but only four stars because I think at times the same point (lack of scientific method) is repeated quite a lot. We know about the views on MRSA, MMR and nutritionists - we do get it!

This will appeal to non-scientists as well, just to make you think about reading claims in the media before making a purchase or making you mind up on important science matters.
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