Bad Science

Reason No. 917 to start a blog: People who read it will know about you and may actually buy your book when it comes out.

That’s the only reason I picked up Ben Goldacre’s book, Bad Science. I had read his blog in the Guardian and though I don’t read it regularly, the style of writing was interesting enough for me to pick up the book.

Bad Science is about how the media and others — like alternative medicine proponents and nutritionists — who confuse people about science and one man’s work in demystifying science and pointing out the bad science. (Science in this context also means medicine and health-related stuff.)

Goldacre’s main target is the media and he is unrelenting in his critique of the way the media has spread idiotic rumours, misunderstood research, and sometimes backed people who were clearly not proper scientists. Goldacre explains the way in which proper research tests are conducted, he sheds light on the placebo effect, he takes on nutritionists, homeopaths, and of course the media.

What comes through in Goldacre’s book is that he genuinely understands science at the fundamental level and that he cares passionately about the way it’s been obfuscated by the media. Goldacre does the dirty work of the background research and is fearless in going after people who spread misinformation.

The book is primarily written for a UK audience, so those who are not familiar with some of the stories the author refers to may find that off-putting. Sometimes, the book tends to get heavy in its discussion and at those points you’ll probably skip a few paragraphs. (I guess it’s that way with most books.)

Bad Science shows us what kind of information is being fed to us in the name of science and how we can, by learning a few simple concepts and asking a few questions, avoid being hoodwinked. The next time I see a health-related (or for that matter anything related to science) piece of news in my morning paper, I’ll know enough to at least be a wee bit skeptical.

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