This title isn’t available with your membership

We’re working with the publisher to make it available as soon as possible. If you’d like to read it immediately, you can purchase this title individually.

Request Title

Have you ever wondered how one day the media can assert that alcohol is bad for us and the next unashamedly run a story touting the benefits of daily alcohol consumption? Or how a drug that is pulled off the market for causing heart attacks ever got approved in the first place? How can average readers, who aren't medical doctors or Ph.D.s in biochemistry, tell what they should be paying attention to and what's, well, just more bullshit?

Ben Goldacre has made a point of exposing quack doctors and nutritionists, bogus credentialing programs, and biased scientific studies. He has also taken the media to task for its willingness to throw facts and proof out the window. But he's not here just to tell you what's wrong. Goldacre is here to teach you how to evaluate placebo effects, double-blind studies, and sample sizes, so that you can recognize bad science when you see it. You're about to feel a whole lot better.

Published: Macmillan Publishers on Oct 12, 2010
ISBN: 9781429967099
List price: $4.99
Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
Availability for Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks
Available as a separate purchase
  1. This book can be read on up to 6 mobile devices.
Clear rating

I hadn't come across Ben Goldacre's Bad Science column in The Guardian before reading this book, which is a shame as it's the sort of thing I usually enjoy, but at least I've now got a pretty clear idea of what I've been missing. This is a crash course in the kind of clear-headed debunking of charlatans, scaremongerers and shysters the author so obviously specialises in. I got the impression that the initial aim here was (while making some serious points) to provide a lighthearted look at some of the more preposterous pseudo-science claims and media scares currently in circulation. What it comes out as is a just-under control - if entirely justifiable - near-rant by a man of science left confounded by the idiocies of the modern world.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Very good, very readable, very worthwhile. Will need to remember various choice snippets - I already knew the one about standard homeopathic dilutions being to the level that if you had a sphere of water 8 light seconds in diameter then there would be just one molecule of the active ingredient in it, but there are plenty of others in there. Lots of lovely outrage and information, too, which is cool.

Less cool is an infelicity of language that he needs to look at. There's a couple of places where he either refers to the reader as "he", or to doctors as being male. Somewhere else he says that the Toys R Us microscope can amusingly be used to look at "your sperm". None of it is egregious, but there's enough that I noticed it in the first place and then noticed more of it. And FFS, he's only mid-thirties - no excuse for not either paying attention to this or already doing it reflexively.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A book that is definitely worth reading for all the insights it gives you into the incredible amount of rubbish that is described as 'science' in the media. Goldacre gives a wide variety of examples of stories and personalities from the last few years (the book was published in 2008) in regards to the 'health' industry etc etc but what is really important is that he provides you with the methodology to apply to anything you might read in today's newspapers, magazines, television - as Sherlock Holmes would say "you know my methods Watson, apply them"One slight niggle (and it is slight and rather petty of me) is the frequent references to 'Humanities' graduates and their lack of interest or understanding of science, especially in regards to their position in the media and the trouble this causes in the public understanding of science. While I must sadly agree that in regards to the media it is probably true ( I recently read an embarrassing review of a Horizon Special television programme where the reviewer said that she only became really interested when she misheard 'fairies' instead of 'theories'!), there are many of us from 'The Arts' who do have shelves full of popular science books - and who knows we have even occasionally read them....However, this is just a slight moan on what is otherwise a very good book with an important point to make that should be read by everyone.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Read all reviews

Reviews

I hadn't come across Ben Goldacre's Bad Science column in The Guardian before reading this book, which is a shame as it's the sort of thing I usually enjoy, but at least I've now got a pretty clear idea of what I've been missing. This is a crash course in the kind of clear-headed debunking of charlatans, scaremongerers and shysters the author so obviously specialises in. I got the impression that the initial aim here was (while making some serious points) to provide a lighthearted look at some of the more preposterous pseudo-science claims and media scares currently in circulation. What it comes out as is a just-under control - if entirely justifiable - near-rant by a man of science left confounded by the idiocies of the modern world.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Very good, very readable, very worthwhile. Will need to remember various choice snippets - I already knew the one about standard homeopathic dilutions being to the level that if you had a sphere of water 8 light seconds in diameter then there would be just one molecule of the active ingredient in it, but there are plenty of others in there. Lots of lovely outrage and information, too, which is cool.

Less cool is an infelicity of language that he needs to look at. There's a couple of places where he either refers to the reader as "he", or to doctors as being male. Somewhere else he says that the Toys R Us microscope can amusingly be used to look at "your sperm". None of it is egregious, but there's enough that I noticed it in the first place and then noticed more of it. And FFS, he's only mid-thirties - no excuse for not either paying attention to this or already doing it reflexively.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A book that is definitely worth reading for all the insights it gives you into the incredible amount of rubbish that is described as 'science' in the media. Goldacre gives a wide variety of examples of stories and personalities from the last few years (the book was published in 2008) in regards to the 'health' industry etc etc but what is really important is that he provides you with the methodology to apply to anything you might read in today's newspapers, magazines, television - as Sherlock Holmes would say "you know my methods Watson, apply them"One slight niggle (and it is slight and rather petty of me) is the frequent references to 'Humanities' graduates and their lack of interest or understanding of science, especially in regards to their position in the media and the trouble this causes in the public understanding of science. While I must sadly agree that in regards to the media it is probably true ( I recently read an embarrassing review of a Horizon Special television programme where the reviewer said that she only became really interested when she misheard 'fairies' instead of 'theories'!), there are many of us from 'The Arts' who do have shelves full of popular science books - and who knows we have even occasionally read them....However, this is just a slight moan on what is otherwise a very good book with an important point to make that should be read by everyone.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Polemic against bad polemic.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Very convincving - if sometimes too forceful.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This book, by its own admission "a light and humourous book about science" [p.216], sits nicely on my shelf next to How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World and Counterknowledge. It earns a cheerful four stars reminding us "that you should look at the totality of evidence rather than cherry pick, that you cannot overextrapolate from preliminary lab data, that referencing should be accurate and should reflect the content of the paper you are citing" [p.171] whilst having a pop at the scientifically unfounded claims of purveyors of health food supplements and homeopaths and their total lack of medical credentials, and examining the natural wonders of the placebo effect.There is a decent rant at the vacuousness of the majority of science reporting in the mainstream media perpetrated by "humanities graduates with little understanding of science" [p.224] along the lines of 'guess what those wacky scientists have come up with now'. Indeed, in his final analysis, the author lays the lions share of the blame of public misunderstanding of science at the feet of the media "which has failed science so spectacularly, getting stuff wrong, and dumbing down" [p.338]. Partly this is because of the incompatibility of scientific discovery and the news agenda: "The media remain obsessed with 'new breakthroughs'. ... But if an experimental result is newsworthy, it can often be for the same reasons that mean it is probably wrong: it must be new, and unexpected, it must change what we previously thought; which is to say it must be a single lone piece of information which contradicts a large amount of pre-existing experimental evidence" [p.236]. Sometimes this misreporting has drastic consequences, as in the case of the MMR vaccination scare described as a "the media's MMR hoax" [p.290].But there are three chapters in particular where Bad Science earns its fifth star for me by opening my eyes and teaching me something new. 'Is Mainstream Medicine Evil?' deals with 'big pharma' and how they can manipulate trial data to get a positive outcome for their drug [p.209]. 'Bad Stats' shows how to present statistical data in a way to sound more dramatic or impressive by using probabilities and percentages instead of natural frequencies, and the error of finding a hypothesis in the results that you were not testing for beforehand. The misunderstanding of statistics by laymen has resulted in some tragic miscarriages of justice. And 'Why Clever People Believe Stupid Things' has some neat examples of cognitive illusions and why we have a natural bias towards positive evidence that reinforces our prior beliefs. All in all a good entertaining read that has changed the way I read and appraise the reporting of 'science' stories in the mainstream media.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Load more
scribd