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Dr. Golem: How to Think About Medicine Hardcover – 1 Nov 2005

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (1 Nov. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780226113661
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226113661
  • ASIN: 0226113663
  • Product Dimensions: 20.5 x 14.3 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,893,853 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


"Dr. Golem stalks the uncertainty of modern medicine, exploring its shaky clinical foundations, its bogus claims, and even its bogus practitioners. Deftly, Collins and Pinch penetrate the hole in the very heart of modern medicine - its 'irrational' rationale in the placebo effect. But it is neither with cheap cynicism nor appeals to popular anti-science sentiment that they conduct their surgery. Rather it is with the steely logic of the sociology of science - albeit tempered by the same wit, irony, and engaging personal anecdotes that characterized the two previous volumes in the Golem series." - Roger Cooter, The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London"

About the Author

Harry Collins is Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology at Cardiff University; director of the Centre for the Study of Knowledge, Expertise, and Science; and author of Gravity's Shadow: The Search for Gravitational Waves, also published by the University of Chicago Press. Trevor Pinch is professor in and chair of the Department of Science and Technology Studies and professor of sociology at Cornell University. Together, they are the authors of The Golem: What You Should Know about Science and The Golem at Large: What You Should Know about Technology.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Excellent clear writing which challenges both the blind acceptance of medicine and also the 'popular opposition' to recent scientific controversies. This book sets out the arguments behind the media hype and forces you to think again about the realities inherent in Western medical systems which are increasingly reliant on technology. It also raises questions about the limits of medicine, and the place occupied in society by the medical practices which we either tend to take for granted,forget,or prefer not to think about. I will be getting the rest of the Golem series now.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars 2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't judge this book by its awful cover and obscure reference to a creature of Jewish mythology. It is well worth reading. 25 Jun. 2014
By blaine decker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is the third in a series of books by the authors about how science is messy. Dr. Golem deserves to be read because it gives real insights into just how difficult it can be for even well meaning physicians to come up with an accurate diagnosis and treatment. The first chapter on the Placebo Effect should be required reading for anyone inclined to give too much credibility to randomized clinical trials.

Where I take issue with the authors is their contention that a Golem as they intend it, "is not an evil creature...not to be blamed for its mistakes." They are being far too kind and understanding.

It is impossible to hold this view if you have read Dr. Marcia Angell's book, "The Truth About the Drug Companies," or Dr. Ben Goldacre's books, "Bad Pharma," and "Bad Science." All three are five star books that go into more detail and are much better researched than Dr. Golem.

Chapter three of Dr. Golem deals with the seemingly mundane topic of tonsillectomies and a relatively benign Dr. Golem. The authors make a good case that the operation is probably over performed and of marginal benefit but that it is also almost impossible to determine conclusively where the line should be drawn for performing this rather safe operation.

I wonder if the authors had explored the documented high incidence of unnecessary c-sections and hysterectomies if they would have drawn the same conclusions. Or how about the case of h-pylori where tens of thousands of completely unnecessary gastric operations to treat ulcers were performed for years after Dr. Marshall and Dr. Warren demonstrated ulcers could be cured with a simple, inexpensive cocktail of antibiotics.

According to the CDC, in 2010, 57% of non-elderly adults and 90% of seniors in the US took at least one prescription drug. Nearly one out of three seniors is taking five or more prescription drugs with at least one additional over the counter medication. By some estimates, prescription drugs are the fourth leading cause of death in the US, yet seniors are routinely excluded from clinical trials. Drug interaction trials are almost non existent. Dr. Golem is a blindfolded giant reduced to trial and error and killing people. The book wisely makes the case that prevention is where our focus should be.

Harry Collins' real claim to fame is the concept of "interactional expertise" which describe the process where a person without the ability to contribute to science directly can never the less develop a level of expertise though interaction with experts and deep immersion in a subject. An example is someone closely monitoring their own diabetes.

With the advent of the internet, and collective reporting on individual experiences, it is today possible to become your own "expert" although the book cautions that it is easy to gain a false impression of how much you know. The book offers great insights into this.

The book provides nuggets of wisdom you will not read anywhere else and is worthy of four stars.
5.0 out of 5 stars A really good framework for me to begin exploring the cultural context ... 14 July 2015
By Aakash Gandhi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A really good framework for me to begin exploring the cultural context of medicine in the U.S.--gave it several reads during my premedical studies and will be on my shelf for many years to come.
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