Steve's Reviews > Bad Science

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre
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's review
Oct 24, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: science, media
Read in December, 2008

In Bad Science Goldacre sets out to cut through the health and diet-related nonsense that so often leaves people confused - or worse, misled. He gets to the root of the confusion by revealing the surprising power of the placebo effect and the various ways to tell a fair clinical trial from an unfair one. He devastatingly demolishes some of the 'advice' spouted by celebrity 'nutritionist' Gillian McKeith ("or to give her full medical title, Gillian McKeith"), devoting an entire chapter to her, as well as to Professor Patrick Holford whose 'knowledge' is placed under the spotlight. He casts doubt on the many claims made by promoters of faddish detox diets, miracle pills and so on. He reveals the shockingly widespread faith placed in something called "the Brain Gym" by UK schools. He cuts to the facts about homeopathy, and he tries to get to the bottom of the MMR hoax. Towards the end, he also covers the basics of why we're prone to making the cognitive mistakes that we do (much of which is covered at greater length in Stuart Sutherland's book 'Irrationality').

As anyone who follows his Guardian column will know, Ben is passionate about the way people are routinely misled on science and health-related issues, whether it's by the reckless media (tabloid and broadsheet alike), the big pharmaceutical giants, or the freelance nutritionalists and alternative therapists. In this book, he demonstrates that same passion, and comes across as exasperated yet still somewhat amused by the sheer ridiculousness of it all. By the end of it, any faith in flakey woolly ideas should have been well and truly shaken off, and you'll hopefully find yourself with a newfound respect for evidence-based medicine, rational thought and the quest for truth. Save yourself some money from your next batch of "wonder pills" and buy this book instead. It'll do you far more good.

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