Saturday, 29 January 2011

Just Finished Reading: Bad Science

I am usually a voracious holiday reader but this has been affected by jet lag, socialising and time spent blogging. Yes, dear readers I've sacrificed valuable nose in book time and some raunchy chick lit enjoyment for you!  I've only just completed  Bad Science, one I started before leaving the United Kingdom and have to say it has been a captivating read.

As someone who's just tentatively dipped their toes into academia by submitting an opinion piece for publication in a journal,  I've found this a valuable reminder of how to evaluate scientific evidence that should serve me well if I were to step up the tempo and do a proper piece of research.   I wish it had been around when I was a student embarking on my rather dry evidence based practice  module.   This book is not just targeted at us would-be boffins.  It's a timely and highly readable reminder for a nuch wider audience to examine the claims made by so-called experts in a critical way.

I found the chapters on the placebo effect, the ways in which statistics can be manipulated to serve the purposes of those trying to sell something and why clever people believe stupid things particularly fascinating.  My own susceptibility to the claims of cosmetic companies  when selling eye debagging cream serves as a perfect example!  There's also sections about how specific scientific stories such as the MMR scare were treated in the media.    Ben Goldacre points out that the quality press are quite happy to present other subject matter such as literary criticism and sports reviews in a non dumbed down way.  I found his call to the media to report science stories in a way that assumes their readership is intelligent a particularly poignant part of the book.  We deserve better than to be fed sensationalist stories rather than balanced argument!

1 comment:

  1. My brother who recently passed away was twice published in the journal of clinical engineering. Just before he passed he had been contacted by Scientific American as they wanted to interview him to do an article on him. He was the first Technologist to be published in a medical journal.

    The way the media treats bad science is amazing. What comes to mind is something you still hear about. The chocolate kills dog report. When you take a single dog a small dog of 4 pounds at that and feed it nothing but 8 pounds of chocolate in 2 months what else can you expect. If you ate twice your body weight in 2 chocolate in 2 months what do you think would happen to you.

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