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
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.
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.
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.
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.