Top positive review
612 people found this helpful
on 7 October 2008
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.