I’ve just finished reading a book called Bad Science by Ben Goldacre. It’s about the misuse of science by quacks, journalists, and big pharmaceutical companies.
It’s funny, disturbing, entertaining and just a bit heavy in places. But it’s a book that will change your ideas about not just alternative medicine, but also about the damage being done by poor journalism. It’s a good basic trainer in how a proper trial should be conducted, and how you can spot the bad science we see almost every night in programs such as Today Tonight and A Current Affair.
When you’re next watching one of these programs, see if you can spot the dodgy segments: medical breakthrough stories; new research showing alcohol/chocolate/shopping or whatever is good for you; the eat-anything-you-like diet or the new pill that can make your kids smarter.
Here are two TED talks that serve as a good introduction to Ben Goldacre’s work:
If you’d like to borrow a copy of Bad Science just drop me a line.
Ben Goldacre’s web site is a good read too:
I think everyone’s heard of placebos. Ben’s book talks a lot about the placebo effect and how it is sometimes used as the comparison for trials. It seems the process by which it works is not well understood, but some interesting trials of placebos have been performed showing how one placebo can outperform another. Fascinating!