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I Think You'll Find It's a Bit More Complicated Than That

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The very best journalism from one of Britain's most admired and outspoken science writers, author of the bestselling Bad Science and Bad Pharma. In Bad Science, Ben Goldacre hilariously exposed the tricks that quacks and journalists use to distort science. In Bad Pharma, he put the $600 billion global pharmaceutical industry under the microscope. Now the pick of the journalism by one of our wittiest, most indignant and most fearless commentators on the worlds of medicine and science is collected in one volume.

400 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2014

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About the author

Ben Goldacre

14 books966 followers
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 Henry Parkes.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 200 reviews
June 22, 2015
This book was so variable. There were chapters that were really hard-hitting, naming names - which companies are ripping you off, which doctors are just publicising stuff for the money, exposing the scams, the pseudo-science and pouring scorn on the sort of people who if this was politics would be called conspiracy theorists. The sort of people who believe that there is "something" in vaccines causing autism, that really you need to drink 8 glasses of water a day (this was a marketing campaign from Nestle in the 80s with the first bottled water, but I know this from Elizabeth Royte's excellent expose of a very cynical industry Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It. .

If all the pieces, already published in the UK media, were up to the standard of his brilliant anti big-pharma and quack doctor book, Bad Science this book would have been the best book of the year I read. But towards the end he scrapes the bottom of the barrel with his pieces written in college and just about any science article he ever wrote. Some of them are distinctly sub-par. I don't know if Goldacre thinks all his work is so great or, as I hope, his publisher was telling him they needed more material, anything, but they have to fill the book.

He's a great writer, great researcher and his picture on the cover, well, he's definitely eye candy and that's definitely a bonus.

Profile Image for Kevin.
277 reviews740 followers
September 15, 2022
Goldacre is a treasure: "Pulling bad science apart is the best teaching gimmick I know for explaining how good science really works."

--2022 update: according to Goodreads, I've now read this book 8 times, so it certainly takes the prize for my most-read nonfiction book. Unfortunately, this in part has to do with my repeated reliance on Goldacre/this book for inspiration as I trudge through technical (statistical) studies in public health, as my heart is in bigger questions (geopolitical economy + ecological crises).
...Despite this disclaimer, Goldacre is still the wittiest writer I've read; I'm grateful for all his efforts in his fields, I get giddy when he expands to those bigger questions, and I hope to broaden the synthesis.

--This collection of journalism (many from https://www.theguardian.com/profile/b...) from my favorite popular science writer (focus on epidemiology, with a heap of big pharma, bad "science" quacks, and ugly media) is like reading a memoir of the author's intellectual battles, which I much prefer over generic here's-what-I-claim-to-remember-of-my-life memoirs.

Bridging the gap between science and society:
--Goldacre picks apart a wide range of issues in public health, revealing the fallacies (and often perverse social structures) while applying key concepts in research methodologies and statistics.
--More variety than Goldacre's other themed books, these topics stand out:

1) How is "science" applied in the real world?
--Examining "science" from an institutional perspective (here I'm loosely borrowing the term from the school of economics called "Institutional Economics"). For example: the process of publication (both results and methodology) allows research to be openly reviewed/verified/falsified by the public community of science. This comes after "peer review", which is only a minimal filter prior to publication.
--When science is done well, this process is rigorously applied. Nullius in verba ; "on the word of no one."
--Afterwards, systematic reviews/meta analyses can be applied to synthesis the many varying published studies on a particular scientific inquiry. After all, individual studies have numerous methodological limitations (sample size, time, resources, scope...) and may not even be reproducible, so an aggregate view can bring out findings hidden in smaller studies. Refer to the Cochrane organization. Science's "error bar" and hierarchy of evidence, etc. etc.
--Since Goldacre uses public health to explain science, there are many social science aspects beyond just physical sciences. So, these tools can be applied to the blurry boundaries, saving you from falling for not just pseudoscience but also pseudo social science like Outliers: The Story of Success!
--When science is abused, we have for example for-profit Big Pharma simply hiding unfavorable studies, creating massive publication bias that systematically distorts evidence-based knowledge (and in this example, pollutes evidence-based medical practice).
...I've summarized more Big Pharma tricks in reviewing Goldacre's Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients
...Keep in mind, these real-world deceptions rely on abstraction rather than sensationalist Big Pharma scare stories (ex. anti-vaxxers, AIDs denialism, see below) sold to us on corporate/social media (who also abuse "science"). Two wrongs don't make a right; crude fallacies are simply mirrored, and sadly the public get caught in between (like in politics, between the Democrats vs. Republicans, both funded by the 1% without the public's interest). Hence, this book's title, I Think You'll Find It's a Bit More Complicated Than That...

2) "Lies, damned lies, and statistics":
--Statistics used correctly is meant to counter our human heuristics (short-cuts we take to accomplish immediate, short-term survival routines, ex. spotting patterns, but way too blunt for any intensive analysis of the noisy world of data). However, these same heuristics can be exploited with bad (i.e. deceiving) statistics: How to Lie with Statistics.
--Topics include: sampling, confounding variables, randomness, probability and causality (e.g. random things happen all the time; you see a license plate of XXXXX, what are the chances of that? It only becomes interesting if you had predicted it ahead of time. This gets into study design, and extrapolating from results instead of testing a fixed hypothesis, where the experiment is designed to reduce sampling error, etc.).

3) Bad Media:
--Once again, taking an institutional perspective on how media is rewarded (i.e. profitable) to churn out sensationalist distortions (in effect, lies), and how difficult it is for those outside to correct the damage. Examples range from over-interpreting surrogate outcomes (ex. taking lab results on isolated chemical reactions and extrapolating to claims of curing diseases in real-world humans with all their complexities) to anti-vaxxers and AIDS denialism.
--Note: media/propaganda/censorship (particularly ideological censorship in politics) is worth your time unpacking:
a) The fabulous Vijay Prashad on "ideological censorship" in world news ( https://youtu.be/6jKcsHv3c74 ), intro: Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism
b) Yanis Varoufakis on propaganda of "economics" (https://youtu.be/gGeevtdp1WQ ), intro: Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: or, How Capitalism Works—and How It Fails
c) Noam Chomsky on propaganda in "democratic" capitalist societies: Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies
d) Case study of corporate propaganda and uses of "doubt": Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming

4) Systematic biases in entire fields (e.g. psychology, brain imaging studies).
5) Prosecutor's fallacy, with some chilling real world examples.
6) The possibility for applying evidence-based methodologies to government policies and education, using randomized controlled trials and eventually meta-analysis, systematic reviews...

--Previous books:
-Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks
-Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients

(search "Bad Science" to get a better resolution):
Bad Science chart
Profile Image for Caroline.
503 reviews562 followers
May 20, 2015
A marvellous book. I am new to Ben Goldacre's writings, which is both a good and a bad thing - good because I was unfamiliar with all the articles reproduced in this book from his journalism in The Guardian, and bad because it took me a while to understand the issues he was writing about. But I did get into them after a while, and the book progressed into an eye-opening and exciting read. He is also a very funny writer, which gave a nice leavening to the serious subjects he was writing about.

Basically our lives are plump with myths to do with health, and many of these are generated by sloppy academic bodies and journalists, giving out sub-standard or false information about scientific research. Ben Goldacre is like Superman. Flying *ta-da* across the miles of misinformation that we are fed by the media, to separate the truth from the lies, and he does a great job. He is a doctor and epidemiologist, and seemingly not remotely worried about being unpopular with his fellow doctors or journalists, as he lifts the lid on lazy, misleading or downright false research and reporting.

The book is wide-ranging in its scope, drawing attention to a variety of problems and the ways in which research is presented to the public.

My one quibble? I think the book could have been written with the articles in a different sequence. I found the introductory articles quite hard going. I would have preferred to have started off with some of the easier pieces, and worked my way into the more difficult ones, as I got more into the mindset of the author and his ideas. But that is a small quibble. I thought the book was excellent and I am definitely a few degrees less gullible than I was before I read it.
Profile Image for Trevor.
1,290 reviews21.7k followers
July 24, 2019
This is the second of this guy’s books I’ve read and the second that I’ve enjoyed. You know that old saying about damned lies and statistics, well, this book helps us learn to focus on the sort of lies that are likely to be told with stats and how to detect them. And it does this through a series of worked examples, even showing when the person using statistics badly doesn’t even know they are ‘lying’. Since this book is basically a series of articles that appeared mostly in the Guardian, as the author says, it makes a great toilet book. You know, one you can dip into when you have five minutes to spare.

I’ve added a link to one of the chapters in this book under my review of Screen Schooled – since that book relies quite heavily on the opinions of Professor Susan Greenfield on the damage screen-time does to young and developing brains. As the author says here, those claims and opinions really ought to be tested in the scientific discourse – by her printing them in a scientific journal, rather than argued in the popular press. The fact the professor doesn’t seek to publish her opinions in the scientific literature speaks volumes.

I’m not going to attempt a summary of this book, the author does that quite well in his introduction – rather, I’m going to play with some of the methods he uses by critiquing a report that came out a couple of weeks ago by Deloitte Economics called The Path to Prosperity: Why the future of work is human: https://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages.... My interest in this is due to my writing last year a literature review as part of a report for school children for Ford Australia on the future of work: https://100jobsofthefuture.com. That meant I became quite interested in this topic, and was surprised by how poor I thought the Deloitte report was.

When the report was released it was met in the press with a chorus of articles saying that it provided proof that the future of jobs was going to be rosy. I really have no idea what the future of jobs is likely to be – I think the evidence is very much mixed – and is likely to be mixed according to who you are, what you know, and where you live. At about the same time that this report came out The Economist also released an article claiming that the rich world was enjoying an unprecedented jobs boom https://www.economist.com/leaders/201....

The Deloitte report begins by saying that Australia has experienced 27 years of uninterrupted economic growth and that this has greatly contributed to our prosperity – the point being that rather than seeing the collapse of jobs predicted by many people (the World Economic Forum, for instance, or Oxford University) we have been witnessing the opposite. However, a recent report into wealth accumulation in Australia showed that there has been a massive shift in wealth towards the top of Australian society and those, particularly on the bottom, have either hardly improved in terms of their net wealth or gone backwards (depending on the time range one uses). For instance, “As for the poorest 40 per cent of households, they remain stuck with just 2.8 per cent of the nation's wealth between them”. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-07-1... - in fact, many people are working very hard and not really seeing much improvement in their living conditions and certainly have improved their productivity without receiving a commensurate increase in their remuneration. Wages growth in Australia is at historic lows – despite a world breaking period of economic growth. None of this is mentioned in the report.

In part, a lot of this report repeats things that have been said for years in other reports – that jobs requiring manual skills are decreasing as a proportion of all jobs, that jobs requiring cognitive skills are increasing. They simply change this to a series of metaphors – hands, head and heart. And while the proportion of all jobs that use each of these skills is clearly changing, it isn’t immediately clear that this is a good thing for working people. However, in this report the shift to head and heart from work that requires hands is unequivocally taken as an improvement to everyone’s working conditions. Others point out that most manual labour in the past was unionised and well paid – and that most service sector jobs are more likely to be less well paid – again, none of this is discussed in the report.

The ‘work of the heart’ is particularly praised in this report – but no effort has been made to either adequately describe what such jobs might be like nor what their likely level of remuneration will be. They have a graphic on with two circles representing heart and head jobs – and the heart jobs circle dominates the page – but since they don’t really define what these jobs will be, the graphic remains a bit meaningless. While they quote figures such as “86 percent of the jobs created between now and in 2030 will be knowledge worker jobs” (which I might have thought would be ‘head’ rather than ‘heart’, they have such a broad definition of knowledge work that I assume every service sector job could be covered in the definition. There is, of course, no mention at all about the impact of Taylorist time and motion being applied to service sector jobs in the report.

Much is made of the ‘skills gap’ that Australian workers have. Since they have divided the skills into head, hands and heart – they then claim that the biggest skills gap, by far, is in the ‘heart’ category. And what are these heart skills? Well, they have defined them from job advertisements and where these ads have asked for customer service skills, time management skills, or verbal communication skills – although, again, how these are ‘heart’ skills seems a bit odd to me. And, you would really need to give me a lot more information before I would agree that all jobs that ask for ‘customer service skills’ actually require anything remotely like skills in serving customers. It has become a cliché that every job is a customer service job, but this is so broad that we really need a new skill category for when a job actually does require you to serve someone. The same goes for ‘verbal communication skills’. But these ‘skills’ taken as being required in all jobs that simply list them in their position description. I think this is an odd assumption to make. It is also an odd assumption to thing that all jobs that ask for, say, verbal communication as actually asking for the same skill – you know, a taxi driver and a journalist probably both need verbal communication skills, but I suspect they aren’t quite the same skill set. The report then goes on to say that there is a gross shortage of such skills in the economy and to also quantify what it would mean if we could satisfy employers desire for such skills – that is, they estimate a $36 billion a year boost to the national income. No indication is made as to whose bum this figure was pulled out of.

One of the things that drives me crazy is when people use statistics dishonestly. So, when they say that there are 5 million more people employed in Australia than there were in 1988 – they really ought to have also said that there are also 10 million more Australians since 1988 too. Context isn’t something the authors of this report seem to like provide for many of the figures they use.

They also say daft things like, “we estimate that there are over five million workers who have more than nine years’ experience in Australia (or 39 percent of the workforce). However, only 5 percent of job advertisements were looking for people with this level of experience in the role”. What can this possibly mean? The authors imply that because job ads only ask for, say, 3 years’ experience, that they won’t employ you if you have, say, 4 years’ experience – and certainly will not if you have 9 years’ worth of experience – really? Is that really likely to be the case? Actually, to me, this sounds like complete nonsense. In case you assume I’m overstating this, the very next paragraph says: “If we assume that demand in job advertisements reflects demand in all jobs (even those which are not being advertised), this could imply that there are around 4.5 million more experienced workers than are demanded – a potential oversupply representing around one third of the Australian labour force”. So, one-third of the Australian labour force could be seen as being over qualified… I struggle to believe they are being serious here. And on the following page they do give some qualifications to these assumptions – but even after doing this they claim that there are eight times the number of people with 9 years’ experience than there are jobs advertised needing that much experience.

They also claim that increasing gender diversity in work places would see over $10 billion added to the economy – but again, this figure appears to have come out of nowhere. My problem with this is that other research consistently points to the fact that the gender pay gap in Australia is getting either getting wider or remaining much the same as it has for decades, that it is wider than in most comparable countries and that this is mostly due to the high levels of gender segregation in our workplaces https://www.theage.com.au/business/th...

Now, I know they say increase diversity will help fix this – but they don’t provide any evidence for why this might be the case and this would seem to be necessary since the history of the situation appears to suggest the opposite, that the more women who enter a profession in Australia, the more likely it is that the pay and the prestige of that occupation will drop. As I’ve argued throughout this, since they don’t really provide any explanation for where they’ve gotten their figures from, it isn’t easy to know what to make of the figures they use.

A lot of the end of the report says that it would make more sense for employers to train their staff in the new skills they need, rather than to seek to find those skills in the market place. They also propose that employers ought to do this via some process of micro-credentialing. They argue that since it cost businesses $7 billion a year in recruitment, they might be better off just training their own staff, rather than seeking to find these skills in new employees. Now, I’m quite in favour of this – but I still think the figures they’ve used to justify their arguments here sound a bit iffy. And it isn’t made any better by the graphs they provide that say that the skills shortages are going to be in areas like conflict resolution, innovative thinking or problem solving. All of these ‘skills’ sound more like fillers for a list of KPIs in a position description. I’ve sat on too many interview panels where such skills have been said to be central to the job – but have never been properly defined. Anyway, even the most mindless job in the world could be said to require ‘problem solving skills’. And honestly, how many jobs do you think that REALLY need ‘innovation skills’. Try really ‘innovating’ in most jobs and see how long you last.

What I like about this book is that he provides example after example of where science or statistics have been used to confuse. I think the best service this book provides is that it gets to question the figures people throw at you as if they were absolute proof of their case. You really do need to ask why should I believe that figure and where the hell did it come from anyway?

Profile Image for Brian Clegg.
Author 202 books2,564 followers
October 25, 2014
I was somewhat unnerved when Ben Goldacre's latest arrived in the post. I generally love his work, but this is a positive doorstep of a book at 474 pages, so I recoiled a little - but I shouldn't have worried, because as always it's readable, entertaining and enlightening. I got through the whole thing in two days, admittedly helped by spending six hours reading it on two train journeys, which, as a result, flew by.

What we have a selection of Goldacre's writing on bad science and the like since around 2003 (though it's not particularly chronological, more ordered by topic). A lot of the entries are taken from his Guardian Bad Science column, so if you are a fan of that, some will seem familiar. However there was plenty enough for me that I had not seen before - and even revisiting old favourites brought a smile, rather than a feeling of 'not again.'

Topics include all the usual Goldacre targets: quacks and pseudo-science, badly reported experiments, journalists totally misleading the public about what a scientific paper says and much more. You can enjoy, for instance, him laying into individuals and companies that make outrageous claims, but also highlighting heavy handed litigation to suppress criticism, newspaper headlines like 'Suicides Linked to Mobile Phone Masts' (guess what - they weren't) and even a piece on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway. I particularly liked the article 'The Caveat in Paragraph 19' which pointed out something I'd been aware of for a long time without really quantifying, which was the way bad newspaper science often makes outrageous claims up front, then has someone qualified far into the article - well after many stop reading - saying 'but actually there is no evidence for this.'

I Think You'll Find works well as a dip-in book, but I happily read it end to end. What says it all about the quality of this book is that when I got to page 403 and discovered that the remaining pages were notes and index I was really disappointed. I wanted more, and I rarely like long books. That's not a bad sign. Recommended for all the journalists, politicians, purveyors of woo and scientists in your life - but, frankly, for everyone else too. Lovely stuff.
Profile Image for Betawolf.
372 reviews1,471 followers
July 25, 2021

A collection of Goldacre's Bad Science columns, plus a few more odds and ends he's written over the years on a cluster of related topics. Almost all of it is over a decade old, so the issues aren't usually pressing ones any more, and indeed it's a little nostalgic reading about things like the Daily Mail's campaign categorising everything in the world as either causing or curing cancer, or the MMR vaccine fiasco, or magical bomb detection scams. In some ways things have improved a lot -- I don't read the papers often, but my impression is that journalists at least aren't allowed to get away with blatant distortions of scientific publications in the same way any more (or at least, not as much), and a little scientific literacy seems to be developing, as journalists respond sluggishly to the pressures applied by Goldacre and his affiliated army of nerd bloggers. In other ways there are serious backslides at the moment -- Goldacre was able at the time to scoff disbelievingly at early publications raging about the 'fascism' of science and promoting 'other ways of knowing', but that kind of talk has exploded recently, and is being uncritically rebroadcast (along with other postmodernist word salad) from prestigious medical journals that absolutely should know better.

This collection isn't as big or hard-hitting as his previous works. Bad Science and Bad Pharma have a focus that is missing here, with just occasional runs of articles on a topic, as more sleuthing is done and cranks or shills are exposed. The one item that most interested me was Goldacre's undergraduate(!) essay on heroin vs methadone prescription for heroin addicts. If the results he presents are reliable (and I have good reason to expect he would've corrected it if not), the choice to start prescribing methadone instead of heroin is one of the most bizarrely harmful public health decisions doctors have ever made, founded on apparently nothing other than a gut suspicion of heroin maintenance coupled with price disparities caused by a legal monopoly. Methadone is, on this now old review of evidence, significantly more dangerous to the patient, patients are (understandably) less likely to continue methadone treatment, and methadone is much harder to wean addicts off than heroin. I've never paid much attention to drugs policy but unless Goldacre is missing something significant out this is obviously crazy.

Goldacre's gone comparatively quiet recently, after his push for clinical trial preregistrations (possibly one of the most important things anyone has ever worked on) he has shifted into a general health data focus, and has been feeding into government policy and building tools for safe health data sharing with his own group. Predictably, he's been busy with the pandemic effort recently. With some luck, he'll start writing more columns in his old style again soon. (In the meantime, I'd suggest Unherd's Tom Chivers -- he has a similar statistical literacy focus and bullshit-cutting style, plus he's a Warhammer nerd.)
Profile Image for Mohamed al-Jamri.
174 reviews115 followers
October 24, 2016
Collection of his most fun articles and fights and academic papers written over 20 years. Science. Explains the critical appraisal process of science. Real scientists accept criticism. Statistic toy book. Study design.

No repititions. Lists the contents of book. A lot.

1. Drugs, A rock of cracks.
Opium raid in Afghanistan by UK troops. Media misinformation. UK minister of defense got it wrong too.

2. The least surrogate outcome.
Statistics. Drugs related deaths not counted in UK.

3. Heroin prescription
Medical skepticism. Methadone as a heroin substrate. Methodone is more dangerous and less effective for drug addicts. A brief history of opiate addiction. These used to be sold legally at pharmacies. Then in 1920s heroin was made illagal but prescribed by doctors for addicts who could not be treated. 1970s addicts given methadone instead of heroin. Abstinence. Then criminals take on the market.

Most bad effects of it are indirect. Price in Pak and UK. Bad effects of drug IV use. HIV. Policy of harm reduction better than abstinence based treatments.

Methadon is worse than heroin in terms of mortality and withdrawal affects and addiction.

Conclusion: need for studies on heroin vs methadon.

4. How science works.

Against Prof. Greenfield claims. Not published in a scientific paper.

"Science has authority not because of white coats or titles, but because of precision and transparency."

5. Cherry oicking is bad warn us when you do it.

Systematic reviews. The biologist society.

6. Being wrong.

7. Kids who stop bullshit and the parents who get angry about it

Brain gym crap. Healing touch. Mineral crap healing all disease. All found by children.

8. Existential angst about the bigger picture

Politics and beliefs. Study showing that Existential angst (thinking about death) leads people more to religion.

Unpublished studies.

9. The glorious mess of scientific realities

Ash experiment on conformity. Subsequent studies.

10. Nolius Invarbum (On the word of nobody).

The guardian refused to publish this article. His only rejection with the newspaper. Methodology was not published in guardian. This should have been published in a scientific journal. Open data is not enough without open methodology.

11. Is it okay to ignore results from people you don't trust.

Smoking and Alzehaimers disease. Systematic review. Higher chance to get AD and not protective. Even info from untrustworthy sources ought to be checked e.g. Nazi Germany study on smoking and cancer

12. Foreign substances in your precious bodily fluids.

Floride in water. Evidence not clear on positive or negative results. Poor quality data.

13. How myths are made

Soil association reject studies against them? Commercial ghost writers.

Network theory to see who cited what. To see papers with higher authority. Papers with higher authority are actually against the totality of evidence. Unfavorable data was simply ignored. A myth was created like this. That's why systematic reviews are needed.

14. Publish or be damned.

Codliv oil study-to-be-published. Didn't publish it but wrote in the news about it. Still not published a decade later.

15. Academic papers are hidden from the public and here's some direct action

Papers behind a pay wall.

Aaron Swartz trying to download all academic papers from a website. Arrested. Downloaded over 4 million papers (4.8M). He didn't share the data. He suicided after facing charges and pressures.

16. NMT is suing doctor Peter Welmheirst so let's look at its website.

MIST trial on migrane. Negative results. On their website patients were advertising devices they were never treated with. They were also not supposed to get individual patients' data from MIST trial. Misleading anecdotes.

Libel law allowing this to be done.

17. We are more possible than you can powerfully imagine.

Cosmos magazine. Libel law. BCA suing a researcher over criticizing their treatment.

In medicine we need freedom of speech and critical appraisal. Fear induced by libel threats is counterproductive.

18. Science is about embracing your knockers

Lack of transparency is a sign of bull shit.

Boob job magic cream. Threatened a dr who was skeptical with libel suit.

Drs shouldn't lost so much money and maybe their houses for giving their opinions.

19. The return for dr Julian Makiethe

Libel law. Called Ben Goldacre a liar on Twitter.

20. Quacks biologizing. Neurorealism.

Brain is mind. Duelism is laughable.

"All mental states must have physical quarelance."

FMRI in the public eye. Pain not real unless we see it in fMRI? Lol.

21. The Stigma gene.

Genetic association of behaviors. ADHD. Blaming all of the problem on genes creates problems and more stigma. The stigma can get to the family too including descendants.

22. Pink pink pink pink pinkmon

Evolutionary psychology. Just so stories. Gilrs like pink because they had to gather barries.

Cultural or genetic? Cultural since pink only a while ago used to be the preferred color of men.

[This is one of the bad sides of Evolutionary Psychology I pointed to a girl on Instagram recently. These risk giving certain cultural-specific norms a false biological explanation.]

Paper behind a pay wall despite being funded by public money.

23. The noble and ancient tradition of moron baiting.

Pseudoscience. Taken more seriously in the past. Now allowed in many places. Homeopathy in universities. Lekenioyism in USSR. UFOs. Anti-vaccine campaigners.

24. How do you regulate woo

Alt chinese medicine causing kidney failure to a patient via a banned substance.

How can you regulate decisions based on faith and not evidence? What is the yardstick on rationality?

Courses of chinese medicine kept secret. They are nonsense.

25. Blame everyone but yourself.

Doctors blaming others. Nutritionists over confident and think they know it all. This is due to the Nutritionist University spreading nonsense.

26. Guns don't kill people, puppies do.

Calculation of odds.

27. Data mining for terrorists would be lovely if it worked

The baseline problem. False positives are so much when applied to the general population. True pisitives will be really low comparatively.

28. Benford's law using statistics to bust out a country for naughtiness.

A country playing with their accounts. Benford's law, the leading digit of naturally occuring numbers follow an algorithm with 1s being more than 2s more than 3s etc. This make us know when numbers have been tempered with. Works for large digit numbers only.

29. The certainty of chance

Study not statistically significant yet published all over the media.

30. Sampling error, the unspoken issue behind small number change in news

Unemployment numbers in UK published by BBC. Sampling error is the sample becoming unrepresentitive by chance. Statistically unsignificant.

31. Scientific proof that we live in warmer and more welcoming universe.

Increase in Dawn syndrome attributed to people's changing morality on abortion instead of increasing age of pregnancy for women.

Passed moral judgment on people who terminate as not caring and compassionate.

32. Drink coffee see dead people

7 cups of coffee a day linked with hallucinations? Media tells us.

Weak observational data. The study mentions its shortcoming but the media doesn't report them.

33. Voices of the ancients

Looking at one set of data while excludinf others to get geometric shapes.

34. Oxes. ADE651 WTF

Pseudoscientific devices sold for Iraq for millions and they are crap. No test done. Scientific illetracy costed Iraq money and lives.

It's also used in Pakistan, Kenya and Lebanon.

35. After Madlin why not Ben Ladin

Magic box working on quantum physics to locate missing person and other woo. Hair or DNA used on the box to give us the location.

Presented in the media as real science.

36. Who's holding the smoking gun on bioresonance.

Bioresonance pseudoscience as treatment for smoking presented on BBC television.

37. AIDS big data.

Increased wait time at A/E translates to increased mortality. Big data made this study possible

38. Give us the data

Government restrictive data policies. Many discoveries can be only if data wiuld released.

39. Care.Data can save lives but not if we bungle it

"Numbers in medicine are not an abstract academic game. They are made of flesh and blood and they show us how to prevent unnecessary pain, suffering and death."

Postponed the release for 6 months.

People don't trust pharma companies to handle the data. Data will be anonymoused, but people will still be identifiable if any data leak happens.

Urges people not to opt out

40. Care.data has been bungled.

Mishandled. Must make sure to keep patients' trust.

41. House of numbers.

A movie about HIV. It's AIDS denialist proganda. HIV doesnt cause AIDS. Pseudoscience. Selective cuts of interviews with scientists.

42. AIDS denialism at the spectators

The movie was praised by some people. South Africa didn't buy anti-retrovirals due to this myth.

The maker of the movie died at age 52 due to AIDS. Her daughter died at 3 same reason.

43. Electrosensitivity surveys.

How to lie with statistics. Selection bias etc.

GPs and abortion survey at a chat website.

44. A new and interesting form of wrong.

As people get older, they get older. This is the stupidy of Gay people who came out survey.

45. Hello madam would you like your son to be unemployed

Poll written to manipulate people into leaning towards a certain answer by priming them with some introductory questions.

46. Wifi wants to kill your children but person X will sell you a devicr that will save them

Media promoting shit for a guy selling pseudoscience gadgets.

47. Why don't journalists mention the data

Electricosensitivity/electromagnetic hypersensitivity as a pseudo medical condition.

Journalists claim this has not been studies carefully. There are actually 37 double blind studies with negative results.

BBC 1 Panorama program totally ignored these studies.

48. Postmodernism neology

Bowel cancer mortality rate data. Larger population leads to less random variations and small populations leads to more random variations. Quason distribution. Funnel plot.

49. When journalists do primary research

Rescission leasing to increase in SSRI anti-depressants? This was not the real cause. It has been increasing in the previous years as well. If the journalist had checked medical literature they'd have got their answer.

50. Confound you

Fox news. Unplanned children developed more slowly? The went away when controlling for social factors etc.

51. Bicycle helmet and the law.

At a societal and individual level what is the effect of wearing helmet on safety. Many complicating factors.

52. Screen test

Not harmless. Promoting them with relative risk instead of absolute risk or number needed to screen and other tricks. False positives. Most people would still screen without these exaggerations

53. How do you know

Mobile phones cause brain cancer?

54. Anecdotes are great if they really illustrate the data

Duchans dystrophy. Dystophic protein mutation. Anecdotal tales shouldn't go beyond the data. Surrogate outcomes are not as important as the real goals (e.g. decreasing MI, mortality and complications.)

55. The strange case of the magnetic wine

Magnetic device claims to make wine age very fast, years progress in few minutes.

56. What is science, first magnetize your wine.

A study done.

57. Archey cockrum fascist

Stupid scientific article that it seemed like a hoax. Trying to criticize evidence based medicine and Chocrane. Uses the word fascism 26 times in 6 pages.

58. Irrationality Academia, what if academics were (so foolish).

fMRI statistical error that pervades 50% of neuroscience papers. Explains the error/fallacy.

Non statistically significant results played with to be made statistically significant. Analyzing in differences of differences. All studies committing this fally were in prestigious journals.

He hope this is the result of incompetence and not malice.

59. Brain imaging study more positive reults than their research entails.

Not including negative results within the study itself. In addition to the regular sources of bias (publication bias etc).

60. None of your damn business.

Retraction watch. Reasons need to be given. Academic misconduct needs to be communicated.

61. 12 monkeys. No 8. I mean 14.

Animal experiments are necessary and needs to be tightly regulated. If results are not communacated then animal suffering was in vain. Number of animals used in studies not consistent. Double blinding and randomization is needed. It's not common in Animal studies.

62. Medical Hypothesis fails the AIDS test

Peer review has many problems. The main one is that there is no better way.

Medical Hypothesis journal which has no peer review process and only the Editor does the reviews withdrew two papers of AIDS dissents.

63. Observation on the classification of idiots.

Down subjects and oriental people share some characteristics paper published in Medical Hypothesis. They should be termed Mongaloid people. Racist paper.

64. More crap journals.

Claim in Medical Hypothesis that ejaculation can be a good treatment for nasal conjestion in mature males. Lol.

65. Government the golden ass beam ritual

If you visualize doing something, or plan how you will react in a situation, this increases the change you will do so.

66. Illusions of control

Studies to show that we can be fooled to be in control when we're not.

67. Empathy failures

Study on severity of crime dependent on number of people affected. Result: less victims = harsher punishment. Skeptical that is only a lab study and may not apply in real life. Jury data showed the results of the study is correct.

We sympathize more with individual stories than when many people are affected

68. Blind prejudice

Psychology of music. What women wear and how that affect our perception of their music level. Controlled all factors yet what they wore changed their marks.

What you wear makes people react differently to you.

Sexist and racist prejudices.

69. Yeah well you can prove anything in science

Scientific evidence againt deeply held beliefs and how people react to them. Study on death penalty. Some people went to even doubt science itself.

"When presented with unwelcome scientific evidence, it seems, in a desperate bid to retain consistency in their worldview, many people would rather conclude that science in general is broken."

70. Superstition

Superstitious people living better? Duh.

[Self-fulfilling prophecy?]

Superstitions make you perform better.

71. Evidence based smear campaigns

Correcting smear campaigns can make some people believe deeper into the smear. Applies especially to conservatives. It reinforced their false beliefs.

"All the studies found exactly the same thing. If the original dodgy fact fits with your prejudices, a correction only reinforces these even more."

72. Why sigarate packs matter

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their facts."

Low tar sigarats same risk for cancer as normal ones, studie show. Even if people thought otherwise.

Branding strategies to fool people. White/silver/light make them appear safer.

73. All bow before the evidence of the nacebo effect.

Placebos causing side effects.

74. So brilliantly you have presented a case to media

Locked in syndrome. Facilitated communication. The facilitator is the author not the patient, as several studies show.

Media sensation and moral discussion.

No paper was published. FC didn't work.

**Bad Journalism. Statistics. **

75. If you want to be believed more, claim less

"Science isn't about authority or white coats. It's about following a method. And that method is built on core principles: precision and transparency, being clear about your methods, being honest about your results, and drawing a clear line between your results on the one hand and your judgment calls on how these results support a hypothesis. Anyway who blurrs these lines is an effy."
Profile Image for Rae.
388 reviews21 followers
August 4, 2021
How you feel about this book will depend on how you feel about Ben Goldacre. It's basically a collection of his writings over the years.

On the one hand, I am in awe of how much energy he has. He's been fighting misinformation for years and every time I finish one of his books, it leaves me miserable at what people can get away with. I'm also relieved that there are people like Dr Goldacre out there debunking this crap.

On the other hand, I also find his writing to be irritatingly smug.

As a collection of short articles, this was a jollier and more digestible book than Bad Pharma. It still left me feeling both disappointed at the state of science journalism and annoyed at having been lectured in nuggets of snark for the few days it took me to read.

There are some inclusions - such as an evangelical piece trying to get teachers on board with creating opportunities for research in education - that seemed out of place among the rest of the material, which mostly comprises articles from his column in the Guardian.

Ben Goldacre is good at calling people out on their shoddy numbers, but I feel he loses objectivity when there is a moral component to an argument. He puts forward his opinion on ethical issues in the same strident fashion as he does with facts, asserting his own opinion as the only reasonable stance on a myriad of issues.

For example, he is quite happy to present shoddy evidence to support pornography where sperm is collected. The most relevant of the studies he presented as evidence in support of porn only had 19 patients in it and arguably used a surrogate outcome, seeing as the question would be Does pornography in this setting increase the chances of a successful pregnancy? Other evidence was either carried out in animals or didn't use "no pornography" as a control.

There's a willingness to overlook the inadequacy of the evidence when it backs up his own position. Maybe if he wasn't so aggressively pedantic when assessing evidence others use it would be easier to ignore.

(I want to point out that I haven't decided what my opinion is on the NHS providing porn. Maybe a B.Y.O arrangement would be more satisfactory for everyone?)

Dr Goldacre's everyone-who-doesn't-agree-with-me is either a) an idiot, b) a moron or c) stupid approach can sometimes be fair enough when it comes to refuting definite facts, but you simply can't apply the same attitude where there is a difference in moral priorities. You won't find any nuanced discussion of ethics or philosophy in these articles.

He is, however, good at debunking nonsense claims and pointing out why a lot of what we hear reported day to day is complete tosh. He's very smart with figures, in a way that makes my poor qualitative head spin.

Personally, although Ben Goldacre is obviously an important voice in the fight for rationality, I find his know-it-all manner alienating and now that I've read three books by him, I don't feel the need to buy any more.
Profile Image for Anna.
416 reviews18 followers
November 12, 2016
I bought this book because the name is awesome, and because it sounded good. And while the idea behind it is great, and I did chuckle a few times, I feel like Goldacre's writing style is slightly annoying. He seems like one of those funny-but-only-in-small-doses kind of people, and even though I read this book in very small doses (like one or two columns per day, sometimes not even that), I still felt like there is too much repetition in this book. Probably would not feel like it if you'd actually read them from the Guardian once a week or so, but here it was easy to see how little he actually has to say.

That being said, that thing he does have to say is important: do not trust everything you read, especially in newspapers and magazines that clearly get their money from big, bad, scary headlines. And do your research before spreading any scaremongering piece of news. Feels like we all could learn a thing or two about that, right now...
Profile Image for ash | spaceyreads.
346 reviews204 followers
May 27, 2019
I absolutely loved this and needed this in my life. I've never been good with statistics. If it wasn't for a good friend of mine I would have flunked badly - hence I need this book as a refresher, even if as a layperson making my way through the ocean of information that bombards me everyday, and not as a plucky undergrad struggling through her essays.

Goldacre is also a very funny writer, and he writes with such sarcasm and scorn about journalists who misrepresent facts, academics that publish bad science, and organisations and industries founded on lying to the public. I found it refreshing that I could also learn more about the workings of other industries and its research. I find you learn best when you are shown exactly how something came about; how it started as an idea, made its way through various stakeholders - researchers, policymakers, editors - and came out on the other side as a catchy conclusion statement, then twisted and molded and spat out again by various persons, news outlets, salespersons, governments, depending on the stake they have in this newly polished fact.

"I'm not saying the figure sixty is wrong. While what it represents was probably overstated - by the Home Office and the press reports - the number itself isn't absurd. But it does seem odd that just finding out where it came from involved so much mucking about, and it seems even odder to ignore the robust figures in a long academic report that you've commissioned (the scheme wasn't cheap compared to, say, social worker salaries), and instead build your press activity around one opaque figure constructed, ever so slightly, somewhere, it seems, on the back of an envelope."

This toilet book - as described by Goldacre himself - is made up of various articles he has written over his career, making the information easily digestible in bite-sized pieces if you have about 10 minutes to spare for an article, such as when sitting on the throne. I enjoyed taking this everywhere with me, on the bus, meeting a friend, during meals, on the go, as informative entertainment. Great one.
Profile Image for Heather.
876 reviews157 followers
December 21, 2015
The very best journalism from one of Britain's most admired and outspoken science writers, author of the bestselling Bad Science and Bad Pharma.

Have I heard of Ben Goldacre? I think so. Have I ever read his articles? Somehow, I haven't. Do I enjoy someone picking apart falsehoods in reporting and research? You betcha. So this collection was ridiculously enjoyable.

My background is journalism, and I have a lot of fundamental problems with misreporting of stuff. I've even boycotted the news after years of it being my background TV, so seeing Goldacre take science reporting in various forms and pick apart the inaccuracies was just good ol' nitpicking fun.

But beyond that, it's quite ridiculous the liberties taken by some academics, companies and journalists in some really serious topics. You take much of the press with a pinch of salt, but flat out lies is quite a surprise in a lot of cases.

This is a circular review. Basically, if you like someone tackling things head on when they're wrong, with a bit of sarcasm, but a whole load of knowledge and research behind their articles, then this is just great. If you like science, I daresay you'll find something to enjoy too. If you like getting lazily angry at the wrongs of the world, like papers who profit on lies, you'll find those boxes well and truly ticked. It's just very good, I think.
Profile Image for Henry Manampiring.
Author 8 books1,014 followers
May 13, 2017
Read this, and at least be less susceptible to stupidity. Ben Goldacre is a critic of bad science and quackery. The book is compilation of his column writings on The Guardian, and hence makes "snackable" content you can start and finish at your convenience.

Very good anecdotes to understand the dangers of media sensationalism that creates fear based on irresponsible science or pseudoscience. Like "vaccine causes autism" nonsense. Along the way you will learn about scientific methods and why evidence-based medicine is important to understand, practice, and be demanded by public.

Read this. It may not make you smarter, but at least less prone to become gullible.
3 reviews1 follower
November 4, 2014
Ben calls this his 'toilet book' or a collection of his 'best fights' it's pretty funny in a 'gosh I probably fall for this nonsense all the time' type way. However, it really does opens your eyes to some of the under researched and misleading health-related stories that the media churn out, and the implications these sensationalist headlines can have on public health... If you haven't read Ben's books before, check out his first, Bad Science. Or follow him at www.badscience.net
Profile Image for Atila Iamarino.
411 reviews4,360 followers
October 14, 2015
Ótimos textos variados sobre ciência e pseudo-ciência com a dose certa de explicação e sarcasmo. Me trouxe para o mundo do ensino baseado em evidências além de tudo, o que é fantástico.
Profile Image for Tanveer.
36 reviews2 followers
July 4, 2022
Every time Goldacre says Homeopath, I get the feeling he is resisting the urge to say psychopath :)
Profile Image for Alex Sarll.
5,760 reviews231 followers
April 1, 2017
Collecting pieces not already cannibalised in the essential Bad Science, much of this will be familiar to devoted readers of Goldacre's Guardian column, though it also takes in everything from pieces for the FT and medical journals to a brochure for a miniature railway and an undergraduate essay, regarding whose style Goldacre now professes a degree of embarrassment. While it's certainly not as fluent as the more recent pieces, it's still peppered with the sort of bombshells we've subsequently come to expect from him: I had no idea that methadone is roughly four times deadlier than heroin, not to mention more addictive - but of course neo-Puritans still promote that over heroin prescription as a treatment, simply because there's less of a high. And there are even pieces here not by Goldacre; so scrupulous is he regarding the right of reply that he includes an entire column slagging him off by another paper's correspondent, confident that he doesn't even need to editorialise for us to see through the flimsy arguments and nudging bitchiness on which it relies. Because this is what makes Goldacre so valuable: he's not just right (or, to be strictly scientific, minimally wrong), he offers his readers an education in how they can also be right. Which extends to identifying people not interested in being right (strictly speaking, that is - they're precisely the sort of people who are extremely interested in being right, but who believe the main criterion for that is shouting about it, or waving nonsense buzzwords around, or maybe threatening to sue anyone who disagrees). The depressing thing, of course, is how despite the defiant optimism with which this book ends, we're now much further from a Goldacre world than we were even when this came out. Especially dispiriting was the piece reporting research about how, if you're obliged to print a correction to some fake news, that somehow makes people who were already inclined to believe it even more committed to its truth. How was rationality ever going to have a hope when being attempted by apes quite that dumb?
Profile Image for John.
40 reviews5 followers
July 21, 2015
Subtract about a star if you regularly read his Bad Science column, because most of the book came from there. I don't get the Guardian, and only occasionally read his blog, so this wasn't a problem for me. On the other hand, if you've read the book Bad Science, there's quite a lot of stuff in the same sort of themes - I'd probably suggest reading that first.

But it's got all the favourite characters (McKeith, the daily mail, MMR, brain gym). Maybe the short-form pieces don't have the same impact, but the way it's ordered (the chronology is all over the place, to the point where some of the pieces refer to early columns that are actually later in the book - I suppose that's why they put in an index) brings some sort of logic to it. He calls it a statistics toilet book, which is the only thing in it that I actually objected to.
Profile Image for Alex G.
31 reviews
March 2, 2015
I loathe to give anything by Ben Goldacre less than full praise. His writing is as important as it is engaging. But as a book this compendium of his articles becomes, after a while, a bleak trudge through a field of quacks, ill informed journalists, manipulated politicians and religious zealots.

I know Dr. Goldacre's job is to call our the bullsh*tters. But 3 chapters in and I was pining for recollections of journalists and scientists that got it right. More Archie Cochranes for example.

This, I think, is a great volume for dipping into for lessons and anecdotes and references. But wolfing it down in one go, as I did, was just too much.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
112 reviews13 followers
December 28, 2016
As was promised, I really enjoyed this book. It reminded me how much I love Ben Goldacre's writing style. I enjoyed some sections more than others (a few of the essays made me laugh out loud), but as a collection it worked really well. Would recommend!

(Yes I started reading this in April and it's taken me until December to finish it, but that isn't a reflection of how much I enjoyed it! It just inadvertently turned out to be a holiday book, for some unknown reason. Thus, it is probably the most travelled book I own!)

Book Riot's 2016 Read Harder Challenge | Task 3: Read a Collection of Essays
862 reviews6 followers
November 8, 2016
Excellent expose of all the bad science claims we read about in the headlines - Ben Goldacre is a columnist who takes a closer look at the studies behind medical, science, social or political claims. He examines how carefully (or not!) science experiments were conducted and analyzed, usually to find that there were major faults such as low populations, no control groups, inaccurate summaries, bad statistical analysis, selective studies, and all the other errors that cause bad science to happen and result in alarming and wrongful claims. He writes with humour, making his articles fun and readable.
Profile Image for Arne.
251 reviews
September 4, 2016
Saying that I enjoyed Bad Science more is actually just a measure of how good Bad Science was. This is an entertaining and illuminating read, it gets a bit Scooby Doo, where you can see where the article is going in the first paragraph but I absolutely love his sense of humour and the research that goes into his articles.

A practical personal take-away for me is how to make re-hidrate; 5 tsps of sugar 1 tsp of salt, thanks to Ben I will have significantly less hang-overs in the future. Capital stuff.
Profile Image for Richard Thomas.
590 reviews34 followers
November 28, 2015
A thought provoking and stimulating collection of articles from about the best de-bunker of twaddle there is. He has a cold eye for the pseudo scientific and for journalistic idiocy in swallowing whole the nonsense perpetrated by the unscrupulous and those who have commercial or religious axes to grind. This (and his previous books) should be the bedside reading for all politicians and journalists as well as the rest of us who need a little help to see through what someone is telling us.
Profile Image for Sian Bradshaw.
230 reviews4 followers
March 5, 2017
This book is quite a hefty thing and requires slow reading because of the detail. It is rather good and if you like poking holes in idiots' theories about appalling science, it's a bit of a giggle. The plethora of those declaring qualifications they don't have, theorising that X is harmful but you just happen to sell the anti X potion, and sheer nuttery.

Profile Image for Elentarri.
1,493 reviews11 followers
June 3, 2015
A whole book full of the authors 2-4 page newspaper/magazine articles. Not terribly specific and rather vague. I feel rather annoyed with myself for buying this book instead of borrowing it first.
Profile Image for Gavin.
1,084 reviews320 followers
April 1, 2019

A hundred clear, witty, and literate attacks on the agreeable nonempiricism that most worldviews and most conversations are based in, even in the modernised, developed world. (It covers such anti-scientific fields as alternative medicine, journalism, politics, and policy. You may regard anti-vaxxers, face cream 'science', homeopathy, and AIDS denialism as too obviously false to be worth your time deriding. But these hopeful, manipulative falsehoods are where many if not most live: someone has to defend people.)

This makes it a collection of a hundred enjoyable tutorials in statistics, experimental method, and epistemology:
Alternative therapists don't kill many people, but they do make a great teaching tool for the basics of evidence-based medicine, because their efforts to distort science are so extreme. When they pervert the activities of people who should know better – medicines regulators, or universities – it throws sharp relief onto the role of science and evidence in culture...

Goldacre is a gifted populariser: by focussing on particular abuses, he is able to animate very hard and theoretical topics by leveraging our anger, or our humour. (In a similar way to Nassim Taleb's snark. Of course, as strict empiricists, the two men share many targets: the powerful and overconfident, the famed and hollow, the predatory and avaricious). Since British libel law opens him to constant financial hazard, even when he is entirely careful and correct, he calls his writing "pop science with a gun to your head". (Actually it is mostly pop metascience; even better. There are shout-outs to the great critics of C20th science: Celia Mulrow, John Ioannidis, Uri Simonsohn, who are too-rarely praised; for they turned on the people who might otherwise have lionised them.)

He shows policy analysis to be lagging a century behind the standard set by medical trials, and not mostly for the good reasons (which are: that they have a more causally dense subject than medicine has; and because they face absolute ethical restrictions on their experiments: it is politically impossible to experiment with welfare systems). e.g.: Policy people set no required evidence threshold before administering their treatments en masse, have no controls, no randomisation, no calibration, no statements of formal uncertainty, no malpractice system to punish their recklessness, nor often any honest fucking posthoc evaluation of their treatment.
[Andrew Lansley's] pretence at data-driven neutrality is not just irritating, it's also hard to admire. There's no need to hide behind a cloak of scientific authority, murmuring the word "evidence" into microphones. If your reforms are a matter of ideology, legacy, whim and faith, then, like many of your predecessors, you could simply say so, and leave "evidence" to people who mean it.

Journalists come across as badly as the quacks - even BBC, Panorama, C4 News. This may be being ameliorated at last by the rise of the specialised blogospheres and by the Nate Silver / Rich Harris / Keith Frey school of data journalism. But not generally yet and not for sure.

I love his rationalist war-cry, against the public and dinner-party proponents of the never-supported MMR -autism link:
Many of these people were hardline extremists - humanities graduates - who treated my arguments about evidence as if I were some kind of religious zealot, a purveyor of scientism, a fool to be pitied. The time had clearly come to mount a massive counter-attack.

...nerds are more powerful than we know. Changing mainstream media will be hard, but you can help create parallel options. More academics should blog, post videos, post audio, post lectures, offer articles and more. You'll enjoy it: I've had threats and blackmail, abuse, smears and formal complaints with forged documentation. But it's worth it, for one simple reason: pulling bad science apart is the best teaching gimmick I know for explaining how good science works. I'm not a policeman, and I've never set out to produce a long list of what's right and what's wrong. For me, things have to be interestingly wrong, and the methods are all that matter.

His website is a bit ugly but has most of this content for free; the extras in this volume are oddities for fans (an undergraduate paper of his, BMJ editorials and notes from his heartening rise into British policy establishment (he is a public health researcher at the NHS). This was my second pass at his columns; I was again refreshed and uplifted and enraged. We might despair at how persistent insensitivity to evidence has been, and at how unnatural empiricism remains, in a society totally transformed by it. But I don't despair, because it has never been easier for us to check and rebut liars and fools. I sincerely aspire to become a "research parasite" (an independent checker of analyses, a rogue forensic statistician) and to write as clearly and well as him.

Goldacre is that rare thing, someone doing the best work they possibly could be. (If he could be persuaded to migrate to the global south...)
Profile Image for Dominic Carlin.
237 reviews3 followers
July 23, 2019
There are many issues with reading a collection of articles written over the course of 10+ years. Stories which might be interesting and topical in 2005, often aren’t in 2019.

The other problem combines the repetition of history and exposure. Writing articles attacking MMR vaccine truthers and homeopathists is too easy. These might be fine when you’re reading them once a year, but when you’re reading them once an hour it’s different.

Similarly, reading Ben Goldacre once a week - in articles <500 words - would be a delight. He’s an interesting fella, bringing interesting things to light.

Unfortunately he’s also an obnoxious prat.

Now, you might find it enjoyable to read 400 pages, one shit at a time as you sit on the bog. Sadly, this was a library book so I did not have that luxury.
Profile Image for Dan Smith.
9 reviews2 followers
December 8, 2019
Pretty average. In case it’s not clear this book is basically all of the articles that Ben Goldacre has published in his column in the Guardian, relating to bad science & most importantly the miss portrayal of science in the media. And therefore as it’s broken up into many of his column articles that he has made, each section is small, and you find that some of what you are reading (a lot actually) has been said before. And it can sometimes feel like you’re going around in circles. Like I imagine if the articles were broken up into relatable content and re-wrote, this book could easily be 100 pages and not 400...

But the arguments that are made in quite a lot of the articles are really interesting to read, although had to skip the ones regarding heroin addiction in the end (warning to folk afraid of needles...).
Profile Image for DiscoSpacePanther.
331 reviews11 followers
March 6, 2019
Finally picked this up again, re-read bits and finished it off.

This is an entertaining series of essays/articles from Ben Goldacre's Bad Science Column in the Guardian.

Pointing out the scurrilous fakery of alternative medicine as well as the over-credulous hearing that its proponents often get from the world of journalism is both satisfying (when a charlatan is exposed) but also exhaustingly frustrating (because it seems to be an exercise in whack-a-mole).

Definitely worth reading, and definitely worth taking to heart Goldacre's personal principle of disbelieving any media story about science if it fails to reveal its sources.
Profile Image for David Gilani.
331 reviews1 follower
December 21, 2021
Written by Ben Goldacre who had a column in the Guardian for a number of years where he would debunk / challenge some of the reporting of science/research/discovery in the media. Slightly odd structure for a book, as it's sort of a compilation of the best of those columns that he wrote, so sometimes feels a bit 'back and forth' between what he's saying about a topic now vs. what he wrote back then.

Really interesting mix of topics and overall makes a great number of points about the ways in which we should resist the temptation to simplify at the expense of truth and accuracy.
Profile Image for Raluca.
731 reviews30 followers
July 11, 2022
Eh. This collection of essays, most of them already published, doesn't add much to your life if you've already read Bad Science (which I somehow remember as better than my star rating would suggest). Goldacre is his usual, snarky self, and it gets pretty old pretty fast.
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