Bad Science Paperback – 6 Oct 2008
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‘The most important book you’ll read this year, and quite possibly the funniest.’
‘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
`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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The poor reviews are excellent evidence for just how controversial and challenging this book is.
N.B. There is a huge amount to take in and understand, so read it twice and you'll get even more out of it.
Bad Science looks at the scientific method for research (not as boring as it sounds) and gives concrete examples of when it has gone wrong. Obviously this doesn't win Goldacre any friends, but he is quick to point out that the examples given are not intended with malice, they are chosen from the many he could have picked.
He also takes apart Homeopathy (which I think is why there are so many negative reviews) by showing that the trials performed are flawed. He points out some of the absurdities of Homeopaths and guides a reader clearly to seeing that the ideas are nonsense. If you're a big fan of Homeopathy or other alternative therapies, you will probably hate what he has to say.
Most interesting is the discussion of Placebo medicine and also how a person's beliefs can influence the outcomes. It's made me far more aware that a lot of the time, the pills I take are probably doing nothing for me, but my belief in them stops the issue. That to me is no bad thing!
My copy has bookmarks stuck in it everywhere with things I want to follow up and find out more about.
A profoundly interesting book, that you may well find yourself pushing onto friends and family.
Read it and weep!
There are still snakeoil merchants flogging us miracle cures, nostrums ,herbal remedies and spurious nutrional theory – the only changes since time immemorial have been the so-called sophistication in supporting the claims.
Ben Goldacre tackles the poor science behind the claims ( particularly poorly conducted performance trials and use of selective evidence ) and also exposes a number of charlatans along the way.
Whilst Pharma and other companies are quite strictly controlled about PR and claims , why not get sloppy journalism to report and promote new products. There are some classic examples here – certainly up to 2008.
I am a retired chemist ( I have seen my share of fudging of results and sales claims over the years and threatened to have one salesman fired for recommending an inappropriate product and calling me a liar to a customer) but anyone who can follow simple arguments will be educated ., informed , amused , horrified by Ben’s analysis of many so-called “ trials” of products – some ( not just Pharma companies with mega PR departments) but also involving councils and education departments where children have been used as guinea pigs in trials of pills to enhance intelligence resulting in zero / negligible data. The downside of many of the these fallacious schemes is the now common belief that ANY\THING can be fixed by a pill rather than a healthy lifestyle – SCARY.
There is a very interesting review of the Placebo effect ( as the old saying Nothing act faster than naadine – so take nothing) where patient expectations , beliefs , and doctors /patients attitudes can be as important as certain medications. This does not negate the real effects of drugs but it does have importance in marginal performance cases.
The author goes on to discuss the real tragedies where misplaced results , opportunism and sheer media frenzy resulted in the blocking of use of AIDS drugs in South Africa and the smearing of the triple MMR injection resulted in babies remaining unprotected until the results were critically re examined and original media hype was finally debunked.Sadly journalists only write miracle or scare stories - rarely the incremental development of medical science - often by arts and humanities graduates who cannot be bothered to assess the fundamentals of the science involved in clinical trials.