Customer Review

276 of 299 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very good in places - but completely ruined by homeopathy..., 3 July 2010
This review is from: 13 Things That Don't Make Sense: The Most Intriguing Scientific Mysteries of Our Time (Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed about half of this book. The early chapters on physics & astronomy discuss some difficult concepts in a very approachable way, and the chapters on evolution are also very good. There is some really excellent popular science writing in these pages. Unfortunately, and perhaps inevitably in a book of this type, there are a few low points as well...

To be credible as a book about "scientific mysteries", the unifying themes should still have been the need for extraordinary evidence to support extraordinary claims, and the scientific method. This is, after all, a book with the word "scientific" on the cover. The tone of the writing in places is credulous where it should have been questioning.

But the real show stopper for me was the chapter on homeopathy. I strongly suspect that this was deliberately put at the end of the book. I (and many other readers, I suspect) would have stopped reading at that point if it had been any earlier. The last line of the preceding chapter serves as a warning to what follows: an examination of "science's least favorite anomaly". How something for which there is no credible scientific evidence *at all* qualifies as a scientific anomaly is quite beyond me. The studies and "evidence" discussed in this chapter are (without exception) discredited, or flawed, or small, or unrepeated, or statistically inadequate, or all of these. The unquestioning and naive tone of this chapter discredits the entire book, which is a great shame. To paraphrase the chapter title, homeopathy is patently absurd - and it won't go away because (i) people want to believe, (ii) it's a multi-billion dollar industry, and (iii) authors like Michael Brooks (who should know better) like to report the views of people with weird ideas - in the interests of being controversial.

I was left with a single example of homeopathy having a real effect: it unfortunately ruined this book. If only Michael Brooks had limited himself to writing about 12 Things That Don't Make Sense, I would have given this 4 stars.
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Tracked by 7 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 26 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 29 Dec 2010 08:44:13 GMT
SWW says:
Excellent review, thank you

Posted on 19 Feb 2011 15:06:33 GMT
Philip says:
Thanks for the heads up. I was considering buying this book but anything that even slightly promotes the height of quackery that is homoeopathy is an instant 'no buy' for me.

Posted on 24 Mar 2011 19:49:25 GMT
Simon Evans says:
I'm sorry you don't like homeopathy. I consider myself to be at least as sceptical as the next person but 10 years ago when I was in severe pain from my back (double sciatica) I tried everything that conventional medecine could offer with no effect. Eventually I was given some homeopathic arnica by a friend and found to my great surprise that it helped a great deal. I am well aware that this is purely anecdotal and 'statistically inadequate' evidence, and I have absolutely no idea of any mechanism by which it could operate, but I suspect that experiences like this are behind many peoples support for homeopathy.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Mar 2011 22:46:43 GMT
Philip says:
This is the placebo effect. It's medically proven and rather useful, but no substitute for actual medicine. You would most likely have recovered had you simply eaten a smartie or an M&M as long as you weren't told what it was and believed it was medicine. Homoeopathy pills have no active ingredient and are simply sugar pills, so it's completely impossible for them to have any medical effect at all.

Again, they have no active ingredients, they are simply sugar.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Mar 2011 22:54:45 GMT
Simon Evans says:
Then perhaps you can explain why the strong painkillers administered by my doctor had no effect. As I said above, the active ingredient in the homeopathic pills I took was arnica.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Mar 2011 23:03:41 GMT
Philip says:
Pain killers sometimes don't work on some people unfortunately. And as I said, there is no active ingredient in any homeopathic pill. None at all. Any original ingredients are diluted to such a degree as to be completely removed from the final product. Read the research, there is absolutely no doubt over their lack of efficacy. They work as placebo when people are pre-disposed to believe that they will work, or are desperate and will put their faith in anything new.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Apr 2011 14:17:11 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 21 Apr 2011 14:18:08 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Apr 2011 14:19:15 BDT
Student says:
It seems possible that you may have got the definitions confused here? If it has an active ingredient then that would surely make it 'herbal medicine' as opposed to 'homeopathy'?
Most medics agree that herbal medicine may work in some circumstances as many drugs are derived from plants which naturally contain unrefined versions of the drug (eg willow bark to aspirin).
However, most studies conclude that homeopathy is no different to placebos.

Posted on 29 Aug 2011 22:35:08 BDT
Vickster says:
Thank you for the homeopathy warning, I would have bought it but been successfully warned off.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Sep 2011 15:38:04 BDT
The placebo effect is in and of itself extremely interesting. If something can improve someone's health without putting chemicals into their bodies then that is a GOOD THING. If you had chronic illness and something "tricked" your brain or body into improving then, believe me, you would not care if it was a "trick". Something that can unleash the enormous potential of the body to heal itself is a good thing!!
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