Bad Science

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Along the way, he entertainingly uses the usual suspects of homeopathy and foot detox baths to illustrate his points. But he als Ben Goldacre is a man with a mission. But he also takes on something called "Brain Gym," a UK school program supposedly designed to improve learning, the rather outlandish claims of cosmetic cream manufactures, famous in the UK at least TV "nutritionists" pushing their own lines of fancy supplements, and the entire pharmaceutical industry.

In the process, he strives to help readers understand why so much of the science reported in the media is unreliable. His section on media distortions of science was among the most valuable parts of the book. He highlights the malignant tendency of the media to publish sensationalistic scare stories based on only the thinnest of evidence. One of his hints to keep in mind when reading a new story - if a doctor announces an incredible new breakthrough via press release, rather than peer reviewed journal, be very, very skeptical.

The book was written in , after Andrew Wakefield's paper linking the MMR vaccine to autism had already been withdrawn, but before he was found guilty of the outright fraud he actually perpetuated. Goldacre spends a section reviewing this scare in detail, pointing out that the media's later vilification of Wakefield would never have been necessary if anyone with a basic understanding of science had written the story to begin with - the original paper was so flimsy it didn't warrant the attention it got even if it hadn't turned out to be fraudulent.

It's Goldacre's discussion of the MRSA scare in the UK that is even more disturbing, however, as he demonstrates how this scare was essentially fabricated by a media hungry for sensational news.

I'm not sure I agree with him that this is the fault of humanities-trained journalists who think science is subjective and therefore feel justified in giving equal time to totally unqualified "experts," but there's no question the media's habit of reporting shaky sensational findings and completely ignoring follow up studies showing the original stories were in error is seriously hazardous to our health. It was also interesting to hear his theory that part of the reason that pharmaceutical companies are prone to sensationalizing mediocre results is because the low-hanging medical fruit has already been harvested.

During the middle part of the century, phenomenal life-saving breakthroughs were happening all the time. Since the mid-'70's, however, very few of these have occurred, which Goldacre suggests is the reason why Pharma has turned to "medicalizing" common complaints and pumping up iffy research findings in effort to preserve profits.

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He explains the cultural and political factors that combined with bad science to result in a devastating governmental policy of recommending beetroot to AIDS patients instead of antiretroviral drugs. Goldacre has real faith in the ability of non-scientists to understand the basics of what makes good science if they have the motivation to do so. But the overwhelming abundance of crap science in all areas of our lives has resulted in what he calls "corrosive intellectual side-effects.

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This book offers a powerful inoculation against that disease. Jan 02, Paul Bryant rated it liked it Shelves: modern-life. Beads that sparkle like a prism, snake oil for your rheumatism, Calico and gingham for the girls. Cast your eye on Dr. Okay, it was Calamity Jane. You knew that, I know. Can't just be me whose mind is stuffed with the lyrical junk of six decades. Onward to the review. Ben Goodacre is the sworn foe of all modern-day medical mo Beads that sparkle like a prism, snake oil for your rheumatism, Calico and gingham for the girls.

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Take that! And that! Oh, there never was one? How not surprised I am! Viewers, this guy is a FAKE. Knockabout aside, this book exposes the shoddy thinking and egregious lust for non-existent breakthroughs, miracle cures and health horror stories which bedevil the British press and which are perpetrated by humanities graduates who do not understand scientific method or basic maths.

There are graphs. You have been warned.

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View all 18 comments. A readable romp through the misuse and abuse of health related science in the media. The analysis of homeopathy, mrs McKeith and the brain gym seemed like shooting fish in a barrel, but then I remember that people make a lot of money marketing that kind of nonsense. Although it is all very entertaining a book is perhaps not the right tool to use against such a Hydra unless the edition is so very big and heavy that it requires a Hercules to wield it in battle , this is perhaps an example of the m A readable romp through the misuse and abuse of health related science in the media.

Although it is all very entertaining a book is perhaps not the right tool to use against such a Hydra unless the edition is so very big and heavy that it requires a Hercules to wield it in battle , this is perhaps an example of the move from blog view spoiler [column in fact but that does not alliterate hide spoiler ] to book being in the wrong direction. Every season will bring its own quackery.

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This isn't a book just about that, though. While Goldacre does give some very good examples, he spends a lot of time teaching the reader how to spot bad science specifically in the field of medicine. I knew a lot of it, but the only statistics class I took was quite a while ago. The refresher was needed. It might not be a lie, but when the reality is that deaths are up from 4 in 10, to 6, I feel lied to. That's tough on the people involved, but not statistically significant. He also shows where they don't. The Placebo Effect is a lot more involved than I had thought.

It explains a lot about all sorts of faith healing. He spends quite a bit of time showing the media irresponsibility when they cause public panics especially in the case of the MMR vaccine.

All in all, a great read. I recommend it to everyone, even if you don't agree with his take on everything. The tools he teaches are needed in today's complex world. Dec 25, Nikki rated it liked it Shelves: non-fiction , health , science-fact. Stories are important. They tell us what people's preoccupations are, what people want and what they're scared of. Scientifically , Goldacre's right -- but science isn't the only thing to be concerned about. I'm sure he'd think this reaction t "Just as the Big Bang theory is far more interesting than the creation story in Genesis, so the story that science can tell us about the natural world is far more interesting than any fable about magic pills concocted by an alternative therapist.

I'm sure he'd think this reaction typical of an arts student who has a belief system that, wishy-washy, may or may not involve a god, and who rather defends people's right to believe whatever damn fool thing they want to as long as they don't force it upon me. That's very much Goldacre's style -- flippant, funny, but at the core you get the sense that he'd like to hit you over the head with the book to batter the concepts into you. Science Is The Only Thing. For what he's talking about -- "brain gym", which I was subjected to, for example, or homeopathy -- he's totally right, but the way he talks just sets my teeth on edge.

I'm quite sure we couldn't get on if we got onto questions with subjective answers. So yeah, his writing about science is good, and perfectly clear to a relative layman I did a biology AS level, and my mother's a doctor, though , but something about his attitude just narks me. I mean. Secretly, deep down, perhaps they resent the fact that they have denied themselves access to the most significant developments in the history of Western thought from the past two hundred years And watch! I can do it too: "The people who [write books like Bad Science] are [science graduates] with no understanding of [the important things in life], who wear their ignorance as a badge of honour.

Secretly, deep down, perhaps they resent the fact that they [do not understand the power of stories, and resent their limitation of thinking that Western thought is the pinnacle of human achievement]. And they do. I haven't reacted to them in the exact way I'd been told I would: I had no side-effects, for example, and they began to work fairly quickly. Within a couple of weeks, all the major symptoms of my depression were gone, and though I wept when my grandfather died while I was on antidepressants, my feelings were in proportion to the event, unlike when my dad's mother died and I took to my bed for a week.

The natural selection of bad science.

I have not experienced any increase in anxiety, or that much trumpeted criticism that SSRIs make people want to kill themselves. So I'm probably too biased to accept a word that Goldacre says on the subject, even forgetting the fact that a close relative has done research into antidepressants and I typed up their results! But still, even trying to keep my own bias in mind, that doesn't sit right with me. I wonder -- has Goldacre written anything about his own biases?

My humanities degree has at least taught me that no one acts without some kind of stimulation. If you're looking at post-colonialism in literature, it's probably because the theory speaks to you in my case, because I'm Welsh and some postcolonial theory can be applied; for others it's the issue of kyriarchy, the way that all kinds of things intersect, so that racism sometimes looks and acts a bit like sexism or homophobia, and so the theory can be applied elsewhere.