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Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks Paperback – October 12, 2010
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“Ben Goldacre is exasperated . . . He is irked, vexed, bugged, ticked off at sometimes inadvertent (because of stupidity) but more often deliberate deceptions perpetrated in the name of science. And he wants you, the reader, to share his feelings . . . There's more here than just debunking nonsense. The appearance of ‘scienceiness': the diagrams and graphs, the experiments (where exactly was that study published?) that prove their efficacy are all superficially plausible, with enough of a "hassle barrier" to deter a closer look. Dr. Goldacre (a very boyish-looking 36-year-old British physician and author of the popular weekly Bad Science column in The Guardian) shows us why that closer look is necessary and how to do it . . . You'll get a good grounding in the importance of evidence-based medicine . . . You'll learn how to weigh the results of competing trials using a funnel plot, the value of meta-analysis and the Cochrane Collaboration. He points out common methodological flaws . . . ‘Studies show' is not good enough, he writes: ‘The plural of "anecdote" is not data.'” ―Katherine Bouton, The New York Times
“British physician and journalist Ben Goldacre takes aim at quack doctors, pharmaceutical companies and poorly designed studies in extraordinary fashion in Bad Science. He particularly loathes (most) nutritionists, especially Scottish TV personality Gillian McKeith. To prove that her American Association of Nutritional Consultants membership isn't so impressive, Goldacre describes registering his dead cat Hettie for the same credentials online. Goldacre shines in a chapter about bad scientific studies by writing it from the perspective of a make-believe big pharma researcher who needs to bring a mediocre new drug to market. He explains exactly how to skew the data to show a positive result. 'I'm so good at this I scare myself,' he writes. 'Comes from reading too many rubbish trials.'” ―Rachel Saslow, The Washington Post
“Ben Goldacre, a British physician and author, has written a very funny and biting book critiquing what he calls "Bad Science.'' Under this heading he includes homeopathy, cosmetics manufacturers whose claims about their products defy plausibility, proponents of miracle vitamins, and drug companies and physicians who design faulty studies and manipulate the results . . . While it is a very entertaining book, it also provides important insight into the horrifying outcomes that can result when willful anti-intellectualism is allowed equal footing with scientific methodology.” ―Dennis Rosen, The Boston Globe
“I hereby make the heretical argument that it is time to stop cramming kids' heads with the Krebs cycle, Ohm's law, and the myriad other facts that constitute today's science curricula. Instead, what we need to teach is the ability to detect Bad Science--BS, if you will. The reason we do science in the first place is so that ‘our own atomized experiences and prejudices' don't mislead us, as Ben Goldacre of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine puts it in his new book, Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks. Understanding what counts as evidence should therefore trump memorizing the structural formulas for alkanes.” ―Sharon Begley, Newsweek.com
“Dr. Ben Goldacre's UK bestseller Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks is finally in print in the USA, and Americans are lucky to have it. Goldacre writes a terrific Guardian column analyzing (and debunking) popular science reporting, and has been a star in the effort to set the record straight on woowoo ‘nutritionists,' doctors who claim that AIDS can be cured with vitamns, and vaccination/autism scares. Bad Science is more than just a debunking expose (though its that): it's a toolkit for critical thinking, a primer on statistics and valid study design, a guide to meta-analysis and other tools for uncovering and understanding truth . . . The book should be required reading for everyone who cares about health, science, and public policy.” ―BoingBoing.net
“One of the best books I've ever read. It completely changed the way I saw the world. And I actually mean it.” ―Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist
“Ben Goldacre lucidly, and irreverently, debunks a frightening amount of pseudoscience, from cosmetics to dietary supplements to alternative medicine. If you want to read one book to become a better-informed consumer and citizen, read Bad Science.” ―Sandeep Jauhar, author of Intern
“This is a much-needed book. Ben Goldacre shows us--with hysterical wit--how to separate the scam artists from real science. In a world of misinformation, this is a rare gem.” ―Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek
“Smart, funny, clear, unflinching: Ben Goldacre is my hero. Bad Science should be kicking up the dust on every high school science curriculum in America. ” ―Mary Roach, author of Stiff, Spook, and Bonk
“Ben Goldacre uses a brilliant mix of science and wit to challenge and investigate alternative therapists and the big pharmaceutical corporations. Bad Science is an invaluable tool for anybody who wants to protect themselves from the snake-oil salesmen of the twenty-first century. ” ―Simon Singh, author of Big Bang and Fermat's Last Theorem
Top Customer Reviews
Part of this stems from its national origin -- this is a very British book. As a result, it has a lot more about the MMR-vaccine-causes-autism nonsense than would have appeared in an American book, as the media panic in the U.K. was much greater than the one here. It similarly has less on faith healing and other topics that loom larger in the American consciousness.
But the book also differs in approach. In the quintessential American members of the genre, various bits of nonsense are debunked with a combination of common sense and powerful anecdote. American writers are particularly fond of grand gestures, sneaking into the back room and discovering the wizard hiding behind the curtain. That's not Goldacre's style at all. Instead, his favorite tool is the statistical blobbogram. The main targets of his scorn are holistic healers, vendors of pharmaceuticals and vitamins, who lie and abuse statistical techniques to mislead people into buying products that don't work instead of using ones that do. He similarly rails against the journalists who enable these malefactors.
Goldacre is a physician, so he spends most of his time on medical topics, but not all.
I enjoyed and appreciated every chapter of this book, and I hope many other people read it too.
That being said, I was a little disappointed in the way the author presents the subject. For example, his knocking of homeopathy and charlatan "science" frequently devolves into ad hominem. This is wholly unnecessary; we have the upper hand because science is on our side. Additionally, the author's style of writing is abrasively arrogant, which, is distracting. Most importantly, though, this book does little to promote critical thinking skills. The author spoon-feeds us the secret to the "magic" of those ludicrous detox foot pads without properly explaining why it sounds fishy, and the consequences of taking similar products' claims on its word. The reader may be left skeptical of homeopathy and the like (a good start) but lack the ability to personally assess *why* its claims are bogus and the science behind it.
Overall, however, the book was a interesting read. The reason I had to give 3.5 stars is the subject matter is *so* important that I have to hold this work to a very high standard. If you're interested in the *value* of skepticism and how to apply it generally, might I suggest "The Demon-Haunted World" (Sagan)? If you want to learn more about how statistics can be misleading... well, I'm currently reading "How To Lie With Statistics" (Huff) and a review is forthcoming.
In fact, I believe Bad Science should be a mandatory part of all high school science curricula, or at the very least, required reading for all medical students (who in my experience are as vulnerable to pseudoscience as other people). Heck, whoever you are, if you haven't read this book, you need to.
Ben Goldacre is a brainy muckraker who, with acerbic wit and unassailable accuracy, attacks anti-scientific BS and clearly explains how it cloaks itself in a scientific aura, and how it's wrong. The beautiful thing is, you don't have to be a scientist or even a particularly scientifically literate person to understand. Anybody with a brain can detect BS if given the proper tools.
Goldacre's targets cover the spectrum from "quacks, hacks" to "big pharma flacks".Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It was very interesting and made me rethink my views of modern medicine while at the same thing strengthening my disbelief in homeopathic medicine. Definitely recommend reading it! Read morePublished 3 months ago by Judith Callahan
I loved this book, I couldn't get over it. Goldacre is a really good writer and he does his research. Very fun read for any person. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Griffin C
Nice to read this kind of books and learn about how we are tricked to believe what it not quite truePublished 6 months ago by Justin Time
This book is awesome. Ben does an amazing job of making science interesting as well exposing issues in a meaningful way. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Adam McIntire
Fantastic. Great insight into the issues that there are with many studies and research done today for the sake of views, hits, and sensationalism.Published 8 months ago by Gareth Gobblecoque
I would definitely highly recommend this book to anyone, especially if you are into health and fitness. Read morePublished 8 months ago by PDG
Excellent read. Written by a professional. Don't let the hokey cover throw you off!Published 9 months ago by Indy Fritz