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VINE VOICEon 30 January 2016
This is a tremendously important book in exposing and debunking much of the pseudo-science that bedevils much public discourse in this country. He focuses on a whole range of issues, including homeopathy, faddish nutritionists and health scares such as the MRSA and anti-MMR hoaxes. These cases have a number of factors in common, including the media's misunderstanding of basic research techniques and their misinterpretation of evidence and statistics, and the desire for medical stories to fit common templates such as "killer disease", "miracle cure" or "brave maverick doctor defies medical establishment", which leads to over or under-reporting of research depending on its findings and origin. These faults are, of course, not unique to the media, but the media's role as the bridge between science and the great majority of the public puts them in a unique position to influence public perceptions (as in other issues). The book is not perfect, there is a fair amount of repetition (though he covers very important points that are worth hammering home) and I found the author's tone occasionally a little patronising. However, its central messages are crucial to a healthy public debate about the opportunities and limitations of scientific research, not only within the medical sphere.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 8 November 2015
Although it's been around for many years now, and Ben Goldacre's high profile makes much of the content feel familiar even to new readers, Bad Science is still well worth a read - not only for his extremely entertaining style but also the very practical details about how to understand science (mis)reporting in the media. The main targets of Goldacre's well-directed ire will be be already familiar if you have read some of his work elsewhere, but these details means it is still a very useful, as well as fun, read.
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on 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.
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VINE VOICEon 25 April 2016
BAD SCIENCE (Ben Goldacre)
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.
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on 1 July 2016
When I was contemplating buying this (on the recommendation of a friend) I was baffled by the polar opposite reviews for 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.
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on 12 June 2017
Excellent book, recommended to heath conscious individuals. Opens your eyes about the "Pharmaceutical Lobby" business.
Gives useful advice about harmful medicines. Highly recommended.
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on 17 May 2015
Having studied biology and chemistry at A-level, while I'm far from an expert, I'm probably more knowledgeable about science than the average person on the street. And I'm certainly not one to panic about whatever the Daily Mail's decided to claim causes cancer this week, or to put my faith in homeopathic remedies, so I felt like this book might be preaching to the converted. Instead, I found it a bit of a revelation just how unscrupulous some providers or both traditional and alternative remedies can be and just how bad huge swathes of science journalism actually are.

This is far from a ranty polemic. While the author clearly has his own views, he puts his faith in research rather than opinion, and subjects everything from cancer treatments to detox regimes to the same level of scrutiny, starting from the principal that properly conducted experiments are the bedrock of all medicine. Throughout, he really shows his working. By the end, if you've been paying attention, you'll not just have learnt about specific examples of "bad science," but learnt what a good study should look like and the tricks people use. This isn't rooted in cynicism - far from it. The author is willing to give everything a chance, as long as there's strong research to back it up. And as a result, he scrutinises both medical journals and magazine articles and carries out his own bits of mini-research.

This was all very compelling. It's nice to read a book that actually teaches you something and that combines this with a bit of humour and some good storytelling. I felt that this should be taught in schools as part of both science and critical thinking.

I had a few complaints: though he was generally balanced and likable, the author occasionally came across as a little smug, and showed far too much disdain towards "humanities graduates." The book was slightly overlong and repeated a few key points over and over. Though I mostly enjoyed it, I found some parts to be a bit of a slog.

Still, this is a must read for anyone who realises that newspaper headlines about disease and the claims of some alternative medicine purveyors seem equally dodgy, but don't yet have the tools or knowledge to pick these arguments apart.
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on 20 April 2016
I'm relatively new to Dr Goldacre but was recommended his book by a colleague. I am a GP who over time has forgotten a lot of the hard critical analysis we were taught whilst training. This book is great, in that it critically analyses a lot of health stories and the reporting of these by media outlets but also feels very accessible. The author manages to write a book that whilst easy to understand was actually very good revision for myself, having (in past) studied the area of evidence based medicine.

I wish this book had been around when I was studying for my medical degree as I finished it within 2 weeks, which is probably quicker than I read a chapter of some of the heavier 'academic' texts we were asked to study, which ultimately were saying the same thing!
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on 13 December 2015
This is a real eye opener, lots of really jaw dropping information, I will never look at expensive branded products the same again. This book will save you money by explaining all the lies and fabricated science that companies glam up to make you feel that you simply must have their product or life will not be the same. Now I have to admit I have seen some adverts that are clearly playing on peoples insecurities but this book really blows your mind with the levels these companies will go to take your money off you. Now instead of my expensive aftershave cream I was buying every other month for £12.99 I am using a unbranded standard moisture cream that cost me £1 I bought that nearly 4 months ago and still have half a pot left. How has my face not fallen to pieces? I can't even tell the difference. They told me that their product was so much better. Thank you Ben Goldacre. :-)
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on 2 September 2016
I would recommend this book to practically anyone. It has been one of the useful books in terms of what it has taught. This book will provide you with a toolkit for sifting between good and bad science. It explains how marketing and media mislead us, how ineffective treatments can be presented as being effective, how healthy living is portrayed as being far more complicated than it needs to be, and why even clever people can be fooled.

It is not a conclusive list of every possible pseudoscience topic - and it does not need to be. Each example is brought in to provide examples of various tactics that are used. The chapter on homeopathy holds lessons that could be applied to acupuncture, for instance. The placebo effect is discussed in great detail. You may be familiar with the fact that fake medicine can cure illnesses, but you may not realise just how powerful it is - or that it can work even if you know the medicine is fake.

For most of the book, the misuse of science gets steadily more sophisticated with each chapter. The first chapters deal with some fairly obvious quackery. By chapter 10, the book has gone on to cover how pharmaceutical companies are hardly innocent themselves. Too often, results from unsuccessful trials are hidden and testers who fail to complete the trial are not included. These failings are explored in a great deal more detail in the book's sequel, Bad Pharma. Besides these topics, the book also discusses social and psychological factors that lead to us being manipulated. People would rather seek a cure in the form of a pill than in a series of minor, persistent lifestyle changes. We have a tendency to try to imagine that correlation implies cause, and to be biased towards evidence that matches our convictions.

A common theme of the book is that low-key improvements are exaggerated by marketing and media. There were many sensational medical discoveries from the 1930s to the 1970s but there have been far less since then. That's not to say that medicine hasn't advanced - it has advanced a great deal, funnily enough. But more recent advances tend to be subtle. The discovery of a drug that makes patients 20% less likely to die from certain types of cancer is not nearly as exciting as the discovery of penicillin. As a result, too often the media tend to sensationalise what they find. That's way "I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that" is practically Ben Goldacre's catchphrase.
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