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Ben Goldacre Bad Science

About author

Ben Goldacre (1974) is a UK doctor, physician, academic and science writer. He is a Senior Clinical Research Fellow at the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, which is part of Oxford University. Goldacre is also a founder of the AllTrials campaign and Open Trials which requires open science cases in clinical trials. Between 2003 and 2011 he was writing column Bad Science for The Guardian.

Link to a Paper book: Bad Science

Link to an eBook: Bad Science

Introduction

The Bad Science is actually based on columns from The Guardian. Goldacre describes media information about health, medicine and diseases. He strongly criticized misleading information launched by pharmacy, newspapers, governments and false medical / science researchers.

This book isn’t just a collection of simple nonsense but it shows natural step-by-step escalation of misleading information; from amateur charlatans exposed in media, to the evil tricks of 30 billion worth food supplement industry and to 300 billion worth pharmacy industry. It`s about false medical and scientific reports which are written by people who are not doctors of medicine or scientists, but they think that they can make judges without basic knowledge and proves of exposed problems. I exposed my best five chapters from this book, there also others topics.

Detoxification

Of course we all know that our life is many times full of stress and toxins. On the market there are many products which should clean our body from toxins, such as drinks, pills, bath… The companies actually based their products on the fact that we are full of toxins which can be removed only with help of their super products.

For example; if we drink alcohol and at the same time eat fast food that`s not very healthy but the body have a mechanism to clean blood and sort things out, liver and kidneys have a function to `detox` body. All we have to do is trying to live pretty normal and healthy, to eat diverse food including fruits and vegetable, drink water and to be in motion every day, not to sit the whole day on the couch.

Cosmetics

Author said that he respect the industry of cosmetics cause they are on the other side of specter of detoxification industry (I understood this as sarcasm). Cosmetics industry usually make big profit from selling things which are not so effective and good as they are advertised. They are usually loud about good ingredients, but many times there is less discussion about how much those ingredients are actually in product.

The focus in this chapture was in moisturizing cream for skin. Such cream is actually pretty simple, you can make it from flower water, bee wax and some oil. Creams from drug stores are not so simple, they contain three ingredients: strong chemicals, hydrolyzed plant proteins and esoteric ingredients. There are many cases where they show to us how some ingredients effect on our skin cells, but this is usually different in a lab as on human body.

Homeopathy

In this chapter author describes homeopathy, he doesn’t find it as the enemy of classic medicine but as a way of alternative medicine. Homeopathy treatment should be based on history inheritance but it`s more common as a thing which is focused on what market needs. Many homeopaths told you that because of their pills you will feel much better, even it was proved that usually they have effects similar to placebo. Father of homeopathy was a German doctor Samuel Hahnemann in 18th century.

Homeopathic medicines are basically strongly diluted ingredients, produced as pills, creams or fluids. The proves which are shown to the public are usually based on experimental groups of 1 to 25 people who took 6 different doses of medicine in 2 days and are observed, they write everything about their reactions and behavior. Such proves are very weak, people could behave different if they expect that some medicine will work or no. The real clinical tests are made on more percise and complex modes.

Media prank about vaccine of MMR

There was a hot discussion in UK media about vaccine for MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) which lasted for almost 9 years. This was one of the most bizarre, misleading, cynical and underrated debate with zero real arguments. Guilt for such a war against this vaccine had false experts, media, journalists and bunch of activists.

In media there were tons of reports that this vaccine causes autism, that Rubella is not such a bad disease, that all three diseases were actually not prevented and that Tony Blair`s son perhaps didn’t get vaccine cause it can be dangerous. The main scare appears in 2001, when doctor Wakefield published an article about 12 children with digestion problems and connected with this vaccine. Anyway, no one said that vaccine for MMR is a miracle but it was based on many clinical tests not on emotional, hysteric public opinions.

Is traditional Medicine evil?

Alternative healers are addressing their opinions directly to public, that`s why they are so successful and have bigger cultural role. Even if they use similar tricks as pharmacy, their strategies and mistakes are more obvious. Many medicine doctors admit that also in traditional medicine, there are many mistakes, in cases when things go right and also in cases when things go wrong.

Medicine doctors have big knowledge about human body and about diseases but they also play an important role of encouraging people in a process of treatment. But like on every other areas there are also people who could do their work much better. Anyway, we must have something in our minds, the traditional medicine is based on proves, statistics, clinical tests and on years of researching.

How media encourages misunderstanding of science in public

We need to explore how much time back in history reaches people`s wrong explanation of science. Another question is, how is it possible that now when there are so much information about everything on the internet, most of the people believe nutritionists and other pseudo-scientists. One hypothesis is that media are leaded by people who have master degree of social sciences and those people don’t understand science properly.

The media stories are classified in three categories: stupid stories, breaking stories and thrillers. The biggest problem of many articles about science is that they actually don’t contain scientific proofs. Beside the fact that this would be probably boring, journalists usually think that people won’t understand it.

Conclusion and my opinion

The book Bad Science is a brilliant work, which should be read by everyone. There are described very serious topics but with much sense of humor. In this book the author didn’t start war against media, alternative medicine, pharmacy or nutritionists. He just want to show us that we need to use our brains, we need to think what we eat and drink, we need to think what the pharmacy and food supplement industry are producing. There are no magic receipts, or products but for sure there are products which can help us in some ways. But those products should have scientific proofs and clinical tests, in other case we can just spend money for things which won’t have any positive effects on our health, but negative.

Link to purchase: Paper Book or eBook.

Luka

22 Comments

  1. The book Bad Science by Ben Goldacre sounds like it would be one that I would enjoy reading. Short of conspiracy theories, I think there is a lot of false information out there that is reported by “experts” who don’t know much more than most of us, but just have an eloquent way of putting it. The chapters that you listed seem like they would be very informative to read. Thank you for sharing about this book. I look forward to reading it.

  2. This article is, exposing by a scientist,and doctor from Oxford University, of the misinformation, lies,by chemists,governments,media,and false medical researchers.

    It shows the false information about the value and efficacy of the products of the 300.billion pharmaceutical industry.

    We know that life has many stresses and much food and drink carry toxins,but our body has various organs such as the liver ,and kidneys to deal with toxins.

    The Cosmetics industry supplies overpriced goods which are not as good or as effective as they claim.

    Homeopathic medicine is seen as an alternative to regular medicine ,and consist of strongly diluted  pills ,creams ,or fluids,and have similar effects to a placebo.

    Traditional medicine is based on many of the tricks of the pharmacies,proven statistics ,clinical tests,and years of research.

    This is an eye opening book that we all need to read.

  3. Hey Luka, 

    I’ve really enjoyed reading this article on “Bad Sciency by Ben Goldacre” as you’ve provided us with tonnes of valuable information. I’ve purchased this book about 4 months back and I’ve already read it 8 times. It’s an amazing book and I guarantee that if your a science freak, you’ll love it! You’ll never ever be bored of the content it has as it’s interesting. 

    Thank you for taking your precious time in writing this blog post. Keep up the good work Luka! 

    • Hello,
      I really appreciate that you also like that book. You read it 8 times! It is worth to read it again of course, I`ll read it again too. Thank you very much for taking your time and writing a comment.

  4. This book has a lot of good content that will make it enjoy reading it.The author has really done a great job and I have to read exactly the things he is exposing to is , misinformation,lies,goverment and so on are exposed in this book I’m going to purchase one and recommend it also to my friends.

  5. Hi Luka – this is a brilliant book that typifies so many things that are wrong with us and our society today.

    Not only does the author highlight the sheer lies – let’s call them for what they are! – propogated by the pharmacutical, and cosmetic industries AND the media but correctly highlights the subversiveness of the media who are happy  to promote these lies to further their own ends.

    Yes, we should ALL read it but, alas, those who will benefit from it most have no sense of discrimination and believe ALL that they read in the media AND what they’re told by Big Business. That includes the governement who are, again, essentially looking after themselves and NOT the welfare of those they are supposed to look after – US!

    So, yes, everyone should read it, but we also need to question EVERY claim we see in  adverts – especialliy – in the press and from governemtn sources.

    Ian

    • Hi Ian!
      I appreciate that you agree with me about that book, it is brilliant indeed. I wish that more people would read it. You are right, it is a propaganda and it`s again all about the money. Sometimes it seems like they advertise unhealthy food and drinks and then they advertise some food supplements to sort things out.
      As you said we really need to question every claim we see in adverts and in media.
      Thank you very much for taking your time and leave a comment!

  6. This book definitely seems like an interesting read. I agree with you when you say we need to use our brains, we need to think what we eat and drink.

    I am a strong believer that what we put into our bodies matter. We have been sold too many quick fixes that end up causing more harm than good. What if we took care of bodies, using natural herbs all around us instead of running to lab made medicines? I think our health would be a lot better.

    When I see the many ads on tv for different medications I’m always so baffled by the number of side effects that go along with them. Clearly something can’t be right! How can we be treating one thing but potentially creating other problems?

    I’m not crying down science but it’s time we do our research and get back to basics instead of filling ourselves up with toxins.

    • I`m glad you share my opinion. You are actually right, there are a lot of natural herbs or products which could be very useful, chemical products should be used only when it is necessary.
      Good question, we treat one problem but create another, that`s business I guess. You think critical about those things and that`s good. Thank you so much for your comment.

  7. Bad Science looks like a good read.  There certainly are a lot of people presented in the media as experts who are barely scrutinized and promoted based on the bias of commentators and journalists that perhaps has a financial basis.  People like easy solutions and are quick to jump on the bandwagon without any more than superficial understanding.

    Personally, for most situations, illnesses, problems, etc. I tend to trust the least invasive and most natural antidotes until very strong arguments can convince me to act otherwise.

    • I appreciate you like this book, I agree with you. For our health we need as less chemistry as it`s possible. Thank you for your comment!

  8. Bad Science sounds like the book exactly for me. I read the description and it sounds interesting to read. I am glad that it includes Homeopathy, cosmetics and detoxification. I cannot wait to read the book. Thank you for posting this article. And also it is amazing how there is a eBook available , which makes it easy for me.

    • Hi Sujandar, I really appreciate that you like this book, it is interesting definitely. If you`ll find some time to read it I hope you`ll enjoy. Thank you for your comment!

  9. Hi Luka, thanks for your post, this book offers an open eye information to many of us. I was lucky to read it a few weeks ago, it has good information about how self proclaimed professionals are misinforming people with bad ideas and wrong information. I wish that everybody get the chance to read it. I appreciate people who post good articles like this one, thank you and good luck. 

    • Hi Jerry, good to hear that you read this book, it is really good and it discovers you many things about today media and industry guided thinking about health. Thank you for your comment!

  10. I really liked your post about Bad Science, like how i liked to read the book. Your article is very informative. I like this kind of books very much, because these open up te readers eyes. Most of them will learn a lot about how the media, goverment, etc. missinforming us.

    This is a very good post about a very good book. Thank you

  11. There is so much misleading information from pharmacies and governments, this book is much needed. I’m happy you brought up the MMR because that is something I am quite passionate about. There was recently a big outbreak in America and Israel because of people who believed that it causes Autism and anyways how bad is the measles? It gets me very angry because instead of listening to our Drs, who say everyone should be vaccinated people believe a rumour that is really outdated!

    The book sounds really good- I’d like to give it a read, I think it will clear up a lot of theories for me!

    • Hey, interesting opinion, if you`ll read this book I really hope you`ll enjoy, thank you for your comment!

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