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Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks [Hardcover]

Ben Goldacre
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 12 2010
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 inaccurate, contradictory, and sometimes even misleading information. Until now. Ben Goldacre masterfully dismantles the questionable science behind some of the great drug trials, court cases, and missed opportunities of our time, but he also goes further: out of the bullshit, he shows us the fascinating story of how we know what we know, and gives us the tools to uncover bad science for ourselves.


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"For sheer savagery, the illusion-destroying, joyous attack on the self-regarding, know-nothing orthodoxies of the modern middle classes, Bad Science can not be beaten. You'll laugh your head off, then throw all those expensive health foods in the bin."
The Observer (U.K.)

"One of the essential reads of the year." 
New Scientist

"If you were to pick up just one non-fiction book this year, you'd do well to make it this one." 
Daily Mail

"Thousands of books are enjoyable; many are enlightening; only a very few will ever rate as necessary to social health. This is one of them." 
The Independent

"It should be on the national curriculum."
— Time Out (five stars)

About the Author

BEN GOLDACRE is an award-winning writer, broadcaster, and medical doctor who specialises in unpicking dodgy scientific claims made by scaremongering journalists, dodgy government reports, evil pharmaceutical corporations, PR companies, and quacks. He has written a weekly "Bad Science" column in the Guardian since 2003, and has made acclaimed documentaries for BBC Radio, including "The Placebo Effect" and "The Rise of the Lifestyle Nutritionists." Trained in Oxford and London, with brief forays into academia, he is thirty-five and works full-time as a medical doctor in London.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
While it preaches to the choir to a certain extent, many incisive and eye-opening facts are presented in a very engaging manner.

The core message of the book is that the vast majority of what is written and read today about "health" and "diets" and other similar subjects concerning our well-being are in actual fact supported by claims that have utterly vacuous science behind them — if any at all. If you're into homeopathy or any New Age-y methodologies for improving your quality of life, you're in for some rude awakenings.

One subject that is thankfully covered in detail is the complexity of the placebo effect. Because many of the readers of Goldacre's critique will quickly fire back the expected "but they DO work for me!" arguments, he has taken the time to explain what the placebo effect actually is — why it "working" may not mean quite what you expect — and how truly fascinating the science behind it is.

He is also quick to point out that the placebo effect, carefully dressed, is also what has allowed the book's villainous charlatans to mislead and exploit the gullible, the tired, the sick, and the stupid for so long.

As far as a pop-lit critique of modern scientific marketing goes, I consider it required reading. As a scholarly effort, it's not without its problems, but those neither diminish its value nor cloud the integrity of its point.

The world would be a better place if all highschool students had "Bad Science" on their mandatory reading lists.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eye-Opening and Mercilessly Logical Nov. 12 2010
By G. Poirier TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Despite its rather broad-sounding title, the "bad science" is really science associated with the health, nutrition and medical fields. The author, a physician and strong advocate of evidence-based medicine, guides the reader through what constitutes careful research and diligent analysis and interpretation of results. He points out the many pitfalls that even the most conscientious researchers can unwittingly fall into. But mainly he also discusses various tricks that less than honest researchers - those usually with a vested interest in some specific outcome of the experiments/research (e.g., some alternative medicine practitioners, some pharmaceutical companies, some nutritionists, even some physicians, etc.) - will use to promote their ideologies, products, etc., even when these have been proven worthless by honest, careful researchers. Carl Sagan's view that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" features prominently throughout this book.

This author is not afraid to express his views - especially when sloppy research and/or dishonesty is involved. His prose is quite lively, authoritative, friendly, often witty and fast-paced. Anyone interested in the use and abuse of science should thoroughly enjoy this book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Excellent Oct. 12 2010
Format:Hardcover
I read this book several years ago, after ordering it from amazon.co.uk, and am very pleased that it's coming to North America. Although many of the examples used will be UK-specific, and thus perhaps unfamiliar to readers, the content remains very pertinent. Science and skepticism are sorely needed everywhere, but most especially in the field of medicine. In this book Dr. Ben Goldacre provides us with a wonderful primer on evaluating claims made in this most important of areas.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not only Medicine Nov. 3 2013
By selby
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is an accurate portrayl of the subject but, in the greater scheme of things, it also reflects the absolute power of the media to influence our thought patterns. It was Joseph Goebbels who said that if a lie is repeated often enough, it will be accepted as the truth.
One only has to look as far as the politics of where ever you are to see the same bad science (unsuitable politicians) elected/appointed on the shaky grounds of excellent advertising.
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