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Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  20,242 ratings  ·  1,146 reviews
The informative and witty expose of the "bad science" we are all subjected to, called "one of the essential reads of the year" by New Scientist.

We are obsessed with our health. And yet — from the media's "world-expert microbiologist" with a mail-order Ph.D. in his garden shed laboratory, and via multiple health scares and miracle cures— we are constantly bombarded with ina
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 12th 2010 by McClelland & Stewart (first published 2008)
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Michael Jones This version actually has a chapter which starts with: "This chapter did not appear in the original British edition of this book..." [because of a…moreThis version actually has a chapter which starts with: "This chapter did not appear in the original British edition of this book..." [because of a lawsuit at the time] - so presumably it is an American edition. The Copyright notice lists all three years 2008, 2009, 2010.(less)
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So, you are about to tuck into a lentil burger with chia seed extract for that omega three boast you know your body has been crying out for since your last detox, especially since you aren’t completely sure if the cannabis oil you’ve been baking into your gluten free cookies has given you indigestion or if it is the start of the stomach cancer you thought you might have had and was the reason why you started eating the damn things in the first place. The guy on the Internet who sold you the oil ...more
Petra X
10-star book

Edit - I have edited the review as the book is now available in the US. Truly a worthwhile read, one up for us against big Pharma!

Until recently this book was not available in the US as books that attack big Pharma, alternative medicine gurus (especially the tv variety) and sacred cows like the MMR-Autism myth get sued just to stop publication even if there is no hope of winning the suit.

This is an important book and illuminates the part the media plays in the dissemination of info
Feb 05, 2015 David rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by: Gendou
This is a marvelous book about people getting science--mostly medical and nutritional science--really really wrong. I was struck by an amazing coincidence from the very first page. Just two weeks before I read this book, a friend described to me the foot bath that he had undergone, exactly as described in the book Bad Science. He is scientifically oriented, so he was just flabbergasted when the procedure left a brown sludge in the foot bath, but the treatment removed all the pain in his knees fr ...more
Ben Goldacre is a man with a mission. A UK doctor who writes a column for the Guardian, he'd like it very much if people would stop making their health decisions on the basis of crap science.

Unfortunately, there is an awful lot of crap science out there. So Goldacre does his best to educate people about how to tell the difference between the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Along the way, he entertainingly uses the usual suspects of homeopathy and foot detox baths to illustrate his points. But he als
Paul Bryant
Beads that sparkle like a prism, snake oil for your rheumatism,
Calico and gingham for the girls.
Cast your eye on Dr. Borer’s patent-pending hair restorer,
guaranteed to grow hair on a billiard ball

Hands up who doesn't recognise which gender-bending musical those portentous words emanate from ?

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
I knew there was a lot of bad science & horrible media coverage out there, but I had no idea just how bad. 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.

As Goldacre so aptly shows, numbers can easily lie, especially when blasted on headl
I wish that I could give this book 4 stars. I tell you what, I give the idea for this book 4 stars. Unfortunately though, the execution wasn't so fantastic. That said, I do think that anyone interested in the way that the media are able to influence public opinion about serious matters, and in the recent explosion of health-related reality TV should give it a read. It is an interesting book if you can get over the shoddy editing and Goldacres' pomp and ceremony.

Goldacre insists that this should
"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." Well, no. 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 ...more
Ken Robert
No one is spared in this delightfully infuriating tour of the myriad ways we can be duped by bad advice on health and medicine.

The author, Dr. Ben Goldacre, skewers alternative medicine quack jobs, data dithering drug researchers, scare mongering journalists, pinheaded politicians, and simple minded celebrities who would all gleefully sell us horse manure if we were willing to buy it.

And he does it with a flair for making the confusing understandable as well as entertaining.

Read this book and yo
Oct 27, 2011 Nancy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nancy by: Petra X
Shelves: science, health
I've read about most of the topics covered in this book elsewhere, but Goldacre does a great job of teaching us to spot the failures of Big Pharma, alternative medicine and journalism. He does this in an entertaining way using ripped-from-the-headlines stories.

Last week I was in the mood to read some non-fiction so went to the shelves of one of my goodreads friends and made a list of her 5 star health and science books. Armed with that,I found several of those books at the library and have been
Excellent book that I think everyone should read, I don't consider myself to be a particular naive person, and I'm not a conspiracy nut whatsoever, but at the same time am under no illusions about Big Pharma. That said, it was a real eye opener to see just how biased and flawed some of the medical studies were and that very reputable medical journals regularly publish findings and studies that should be very suspect to the professional scientist.

The only problem with this book, and why I only ga
Mar 17, 2010 Matt rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: favorites
This excellent book written by the intelligent and entertaining doctor and health communicator Ben Goldacre is a must read for anyone who has an opinion about any health issue you've seen, heard or read about in the media. Although written in the context of the UK, its lessons and advice apply to anyone anywhere.

Covering everything from CAM (including chiropractic and homeopathy) to vaccinations to self-proclaimed "TV professors" (like Gillian McKeith) to the pros & cons of the pharmaceutica
This is the kind of the book that I would make everyone read when I get to rule the world. There’s so much nonsense going around these days in the name of science and research that a lot of people would be quite shocked with this book. Examples are endless. Detox treatment? Just a big hoax. Homeopathy? Even a bigger hoax. All those fancy and expensive cosmetic products that supposedly do magic to your skin? Just a waste of money. Vitamin C prevents and treats cold? Not really. Antioxidants slow ...more
An extension of his blog, this is a collection of basically rants about how science and statistics are abused by a variety of people. It also looks at faulty science behind some nutritionists and some of their dodgy "credentials". His emphasis is on making people question "facts" and double check the evidence.

However, people don't have the time for a lot of this, and when you're offered a glimmer of hope people tend to take it. The placebo effect is explored here and he does admit that it works
Terry Clague
Simply: a brilliant book which should be used as a set text for the entire nation.

I've been a fan of the Bad Science column in The Guardian for years and the only reason I didn't snap this book up sooner was that I thought it might simply recycle those columns. Nothing could be further from the truth and I will be urging everyone who's anyone to read the book at the earliest opportunity.

There isn't anything in the book which doesn't leap off the page, but here are some favourite bits:

"The nove
“I spend a lot of time talking to people who disagree with me - I would go so far as to say that it's my favourite leisure activity.”
I'm an avid fan of More or Less , the popular statistics radio programme on BBC Radio, and I always enjoy Ben Goldacre's appearances on the show. At one point, I remember Tim Hartford introducing him as something like "the perennially angry Guardian columnist," to which Goldacre responded, "I am not perennially angry!" or similar. He got quite heated about it, muc
This is a very good book about very bad science. The author is a British physician, psychiatrist and journalist who writes both a blog ( and a weekly column for The Guardian newspaper in the UK.

Goldacre's focus, not surprisingly, is the form of bad science that that thrives so riotously in the field of medicine and health -- including everything from homeopathy to food supplements to anti-vaccination nuttiness to Brain Gym. Common to all these forms of bad science is an aversi
Phase Reading
The passion of Ben Goldacre on his topic of "Bad Science" is undeniable. This is a doctor with a bee in his bonnet, a snarky tone and no qualms about telling it like it is and whom he might offend. Undoubtedly, I imagine, most readers will be offended - scientists, researchers, naturopaths and other alternative "quacks", journalists, statisticians, university deans, nutritionists, Big Pharma, the average you and me - we all will get a swipe in Bad Science.

What I liked about this book was the mes
This is a surprisingly difficult book to review as on one hand Goldacre has a point in that much of the science coverage we get in the media is questionable at best and a lot of the experts in non-science fields, particularly homeopathy and other alternative medicines have a tendacy to use science to back up their claims and beliefs when its not entirely appropriate. On the other hand these alternatives do have a place for many people, as do many other things, although they shouldn't be treated ...more
Ben Goldacre is a crusader against charlatans , humbuggers and the ignorant in their claims for the efficacy of alternative and conventional therapies and in the application of so called 'science' to a range of issues. Among his targets are the likes of homeopaths , big pharma , prosecutors and the defense at law and journalists , of whom he is particularly scathing . He also takes on some UK specific personalities . Along the way he arms his readers with a range of logic , statistical and psyc ...more
Every once and a while I read a book and think "I should buy this for everyone I know..." This is one of those books.

But unlike some of those books, this book is not long and is written to the general public--and seasoned with humor. (For those who care the audio book has a wonderful British narrator.)

In Bad Science, Ben Goldacre does a fabulous job weaving explanations of true science into criticisms of the bullshit we see and hear every day. But he doesn't only pick the low hanging fruit of al
Francis Kayiwa
Apr 22, 2010 Francis Kayiwa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE!

Science reporting is Science reporting is ATROCIOUS. Many a night I've sat and watched the news, read a newspaper article and just cringed! I like to think that I know a tiny bit about science, so I can spot the poor reporting more easily. I've always wondered about the reason for this. Unfortunately it has always made me doubt ANY reporting as a result. Reading Bad Science is a good tonic and provides insight on this and th
Goldacre is a physician in the UK who has dedicated himself, through his column in The Guardian, to combating pseudoscience - particularly in health care. He starts the book by making some pretty well-worn arguments against homeopathy and other alternative medicine. That said, he does a much better job than most because he sets up his standards for proof of efficacy in a very thorough and well-organized way. In the process, he comes to the best description I've come across so far of what makes a ...more
Katarzyna Bodziony-Szweda
No i jak tu wystawić ocenę? Z jednej strony fundamentalnie zgadzam się z wszystkimi zawartymi w tej książce poglądami i uważam, że Goldcare ma lekkie i przyjemne pióro.
Z drugiej strony niezmiernie nużył mnie jego styl erudyty przemawiającego do wioskowych głupków, puszczającego jednocześnie oko do tej "elyty", która podziela jego poglądy. "Well done, you're middle class too", że zacytuję Jimmiego Carra. Nieco nudne były też rozdziały, w których wpadał w wielostronicowe, powtarzające te same arg
This book is a great introduction to understanding the basics of the scientific method and logical thinking. A lot of this stuff I studied in Uni but none of it was as clearly set forth as it is here. Ben Goldacre writes in a clear and entertaining way at the same time he's educating you about the seriousness of misleading people by using bad science. People who are very much into homeopathy and are not willing to look at that field objectively may not like this book. That said the parts about t ...more
Manal Saad
This is an eyeopener book, I find it very interesting and informative.. the stories the author mentioned in the book are unbelievable!

Part of the scientific things he talked about like study design, randomization and statistics are what I do for a living nowadays and I can't stress how important it is to have a valid data and information as it's going to be generalized to the worldwide population.

The pharmaceutical industry and the media along with scientists wannabies are manipulating the pub
Good, entertaining book. And given what I am going to save now that I stop buying omega-3 capsules for the kids, one of the best investments I've made.

The down-side is that it is very British. Goldacre ripped into British personages (McKeith) whom I had never heard of, and English news (Durham fish-oil trial, MSRA scare) which similarly were new to me. A lot of it was really criticism of the British press, which wasn't too relevant to me.

The new chapter on Rath, and the handling of HIV in South
A promising expose of medical scams and quackery masquerading as science, particularly in the UK. Much of the material is culled from Goldacre's Bad Science column in the Guardian. Unfortunately, enjoyment of the book is compromised by mediocre writing and poor structure, and by the author's occasional slip into condescension.

Still, the topics are fascinating. This is worth reading for the damning descriptions of the UK media's science reporting alone. But a good editor and more discipline on t
Karin Slaughter
All right, I'm pretty terrified now. Hope you become the same.
This book speaks to my critical nature! The conversational and personal tone make it very easy to read. I found the HIV/AIDS lack-of-treatment and vaccine scare chapters the most interesting because they provide very good talking points for my job. The author Dr. Goldacre asks people to exercise common sense and, above all, to trust science - not the sciencey-ness used in the marketing of everything from diet fads to homeopathic medicine and so on. This is a good read, if for nothing else, to re ...more
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Ben Goldacre is a British science writer and psychiatrist, born in 1974. He is the author of The Guardian newspaper's weekly Bad Science column and a book of the same title, published by Fourth Estate in September 2008.

Goldacre is the son of Michael Goldacre, professor of public health at the University of Oxford, the nephew of science journalist Robyn Williams, and the great-great-grandson of Sir
More about Ben Goldacre...

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“You cannot reason people out of a position that they did not reason themselves into.” 150 likes
“You are a placebo responder. Your body plays tricks on your mind. You cannot be trusted.” 38 likes
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