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Snake Oil Science: The Truth about Complementary and Alternative Medicine Hardcover – 1 Nov 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 346 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (1 Nov. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195313682
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195313680
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 2.5 x 14.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,255,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

'Inside' Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), we see embarrassingly little critical evaluation. Barker Bausell most certainly comes from the 'inside' and he is definitely critical about CAM; this makes his book unusual, ground-breaking and, I think, important...his book is highly informative, easy to read and full of entertaining wit and humour...aimed at the consumer...but too good a book to be read by the lay audience only. I warmly recommend it to healthcare professionals who work in CAM or have an interest in this area. (Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies)

About the Author

R. Barker Bausell, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore, was Research Director of a National Institutes of Health-funded Complementary and Alternative Medicine Specialized Research Center where he was in charge of conducting and analyzing randomized clinical trials involving acupuncture's effectiveness for pain relief. He has also served as a consultant to Prevention and Discover magazines.


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Format: Hardcover
Why?

Because Bausell's position on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is simply this: it's no more effective than a placebo. This is not something that millions of people want to hear. Regardless, he puts together a compelling case to support this contention. In fact I would call his conclusion inescapable.

R. Barker Bausell is a research methodologist or biostatistician, a professor at the University of Maryland, and has had many years experience in evaluating research studies. It knows the ways researchers can fool themselves, leading to biased results, and he spells them out in elaborate detail. To demonstrate a point, he recalls the work of famed research psychologist Joseph Banks Rhine at Duke University who seemed to establish statistically that people can indeed demonstrate clairvoyance by guessing face down cards, and telepathy by reading other people's minds. Rhine conducted so many experiments over so many years that the above average success of his subjects could not happen by chance. Unfortunately one day he innocently revealed that he had "a filing cabinet filled with results of experiments that had produced only chance results or lower." He explained that "these particular results were produced by people who were deliberately guessing incorrectly just to spite him." (p.270)

Bausell's point is that if studies are selected, then the statistical evaluation of the effectiveness of card guessing or some kind of treatment, is invalid. Bausell notes that this selective process occurs not just from decisions made by researchers but by peer review journals and by the results that research sponsors may suppress as not helping the sales of their product or treatment.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this to be a splendidly well-written, comprehensive and fair-minded book. It is also witty. It's long enough to cover the ground, but not too long.
The publisher has done the author a disservice by using a hard-to-read sans-serif typeface and very light printing, which made the book hard to read. I hope they will go over to a conventional typeface for the paperback edition (and I'll buy a copy if they do).
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Format: Hardcover
I have enjoyed reading 3/4'ths of this book, I haven't gotten around to finish it. But this far it has been a detailed and informative introduction to the field of medical research and particularly placebo. One gets an intriguing glimpse into the difficulties that comes forward as to how one can separate placeboeffects from the effects intended by administering the actual drug/method that is on test. Somehow, placebo seems to have a peculiar ability to influence the subjects even when the researchers think they have taken every possible precaution to avoid its introduction. The book is important for all interested in complemantary or alternative medicine, and in debunking those that only offer dogmatic or lacking evidence for their "medicine". The author also has a sense of humour and uses it. A good or excellent read.
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