Top positive review
Excellent and enlightening book
19 July 2015
This is one of those books which should be required reading for anyone either embarking on a career in science, anyone writing about science in the media, and anyone who might read scientific articles in the press. Goldacre's theme is that we are basically vulnerable to the ignorance and/or charlatanry of professional journalists and alternative therapists who are unaware of how science works and have no interest in educating either themselves or the people they are selling to, whether it's scare stories to their readership or snake oil therapies to sometimes frightened or desperate sick people.
People can perhaps detect smugness in some of his writing - he is a Guardian columnist, after all - but this should not detract from the fact that alternative therapists not only peddle cures which have not been subjected to any kind of rigorous testing, but they attack and undermine established medicine among some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on earth - the chapter on the exploitation of South African AIDS sufferers by alternative therapists did not describe New Age dottiness, it described a crime against humanity.
The point that Goldacre makes is simple: if you want to sell your radical healthcare product to the public, test it, using double blinding, proper controls and ensure that the subjects are not tainted by physical contamination or conscious or unconscious biases, and then publish the results so that any scientist or government regulatory body can review your methods, your analysis of the results and your interpretations, reproduce them and agree - or not - with your findings. Dr Goldacre is perfectly open to properly tested therapies - he says so, repeatedly. Not that you'd get that from reading the 1-star reviews, which are mainly written by people who have not read the book properly, and of whom some admit to having a fiscal or intellectual stake in the unproven therapies he skewers throughout the book. Goldacre has little time either for Big Pharma's scientific methods, not that the 1-star pseudo-reviewers who accuse him of being a Big Pharma stooge would have read that part.
If you have any interest in how science is reported in the media, how it is sold to the public or just in science generally, this book provides an interesting an enlightening read.