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on 30 January 2013
Ben Goldacre, a junior doctor, writes about his many criticisms of dodgy science, and particularly the journalists who wrote about it and spread misinformation.

While it's well researched, true, educational and a good presentation of the science and lack of it behind various claims, the aggressive tone grates against the reader and the attempt to make me feel anger just turns into frustration at the book.

Goldacre's writing can Ben come across as egotistic in places, and he certainly doesn't write in a way that's likely to endear him to those who disagree with his views. It seems that he is preaching to the choir. A more relaxed style, even in alternating chapters, might have made the book easier to read, but as it is the continued stress of reading builds up to the point where I just couldn't wait for the final few chapters to finish so I could relax.

I do feel I've learnt a little from this book, particularly from the early sections on clinical trials, but I'm not convinced its the best way to communicate science.
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on 3 November 2015
Lame half-rendition of important arguments that could have been handled objectively and with more skill. Mr Goldacre may be clever, but he sure is not wise with his words, nor funny in his bigoted opinions about human behaviour. Maybe he should leave the writing to the experts, those humanities graduates he finds premium page space to LOL about.

One can have a science qualification and still be missing half of his humanity. If he was smart he could try hiding his deeply unscientific claims to generalisation. Or whatever.

I also hope he is granted his wish of convincing "attractive young women, who are disappointingly underrepresented in the sciences." What a stud.

An equally ranty science student and humanities graduate.
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on 17 January 2011
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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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.
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VINE VOICEon 20 March 2010
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. His chapters relating to the media were also illuminating and, yes, journalists do get things wrong!

Anyway, my recommendation is that you buy this book - not only for yourself but also for your children, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends etc.
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on 5 June 2011
A great read for people who read newspapers especially. I often dismiss articles in the paper as they clearly look like press releases, but this book highlights how far news and science articles can sway towards a shocking headline at the expense of the truth. Read it and encourage others to read it too.
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on 27 August 2012
I've been an intermittent reader of Goldacre's articles both online and in the Guardian. In general I find him easy to read and easy to understand, even when talking about something that's potentially quite complicated.

This book is an excellent introduction for the newcomer to his writings. It not only presents the arguments against all sorts of bunkum in a well-ordered manner, it also explains in detail how the scientific method works, and what to look for when presented with so-called "evidence".

To the reviewers that say he is arrogant, I'm sorry, I just can't see it. He lays out the arguments, then refutes the ones that have little or no value. I suspect the perception of arrogance comes from people having their views challenged, but then that is what science is all about.

I actually think everybody should read this, whatever they think about alternative medicine. Best case is that you will gain a lot of extra knowledge on how to think and act critically. Worst case is that you will feel the urge to write a ranty review here on Amazon, which I can't see hurting Mr. Goldacre in the slightest.

Another one in the same vein worth reading is: Trick or Treatment?: Alternative Medicine on Trial. There's a lot of overlap between the two, but both are well-researched and well-written.
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on 14 January 2014
It's an ok book. In his quest to highlight the scientific inadequacies of 'alternative medicine' Dr Ben Goldacre has displayed a rather aggressive writing style at times. Although, as he no doubt correctly alludes, he probably wouldn't get his book published if he wrote a less aggressive/ sensational account of the problems with medicine and it's associated parties.
It would be nice to see him cast his critical eye inwardly towards the established medical hegemony. Based on his writing style, that would possibly be the most interesting book he could write.
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on 15 September 2013
This book is just a teeny bit lazy - it's relatively easy to find charlatans in any field, and "science" is probably no different. Many of the culprits were outed fairly speedily, leaving town with a trail of press clippings in their dust. I doubt that much of this book is original research, and the author's "real doctor" credentials don't seem to be relevant here. An OK read.
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on 24 February 2013
This is a must-read for anybody who ever finds themselves wondering about why the quality of science journalism is so poor. Goldacre goes into great depth about the evils of corporations, and has some very funny anecdotes about some of the more questionable pesudo-science bandied about to so-called 'alternative therapists'. My problem with the book is the clear contempt he has for his subjects. I understand more than most how annoying it is to confront scientific ignorance (I'm a science teacher, so I see my share of stupidity), but there are a lot of frankly spiteful diatribes against the academic qualifications of anybody who Goldacre disagrees with. I'm all for exposing people who lie or deliberately distort facts, but this book seems more to be a waspish attack on anybody who doesn't have the same level of education that those who have completed a science degree poses. For example, there are numerous uses of the phrase 'journalists with humanities degrees", which seems unnecessary to me. In one section, Goldacre brushes off the fact that one person he wrote about may have commited suicide as a result of this book. While I concur that the man in question - somebody who established a microbiology lab in his garden shed - was clearly under-qualified for the work he did, I felt that there was a distatestful attempt to justify the treatment meted out in the book. Clearly there is always a need to question the credentials of those purporting to have made amazing new discoveries, but the snide comments about 'using kitchen tables' as lab benches actually weakened the appeal of the book, by mocking a mans environment rather than the actual work he carried out.

This is disappointing, as I found it difficult to carry on reading something that I agree with when there was so much nastiness veiled as incisive commentary. I can understand the source of that anger - I just think it was overdone.
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