Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks

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Overview

Have you ever wondered how one day the media can assert that alcohol is bad for us and the next unashamedly run a story touting the benefits of daily alcohol consumption? Or how a drug that is pulled off the market for causing heart attacks ever got approved in the first place? How can average readers, who aren't medical doctors or Ph.D.s in biochemistry, tell what they should be paying attention to and what's, well, just more bullshit?

Ben Goldacre has made a point of exposing ...

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Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks

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Overview

Have you ever wondered how one day the media can assert that alcohol is bad for us and the next unashamedly run a story touting the benefits of daily alcohol consumption? Or how a drug that is pulled off the market for causing heart attacks ever got approved in the first place? How can average readers, who aren't medical doctors or Ph.D.s in biochemistry, tell what they should be paying attention to and what's, well, just more bullshit?

Ben Goldacre has made a point of exposing quack doctors and nutritionists, bogus credentialing programs, and biased scientific studies. He has also taken the media to task for its willingness to throw facts and proof out the window. But he's not here just to tell you what's wrong. Goldacre is here to teach you how to evaluate placebo effects, double-blind studies, and sample sizes, so that you can recognize bad science when you see it. You're about to feel a whole lot better.

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Editorial Reviews

Katherine Bouton
Ben Goldacre is exasperated. He's not exactly angry—that would be much less fun to read—except in certain circumstances. He is irked, vexed, bugged, ticked off at the sometimes inadvertent (because of stupidity) but more often deliberate deceptions perpetrated in the name of science. And he wants you, the reader, to share his feelings…[Bad Science is] illustrated with lucid charts and graphs, footnoted…indexed and far more serious than it looks. Depending on your point of view, you'll find it downright snarky or wittily readable.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Goldacre is the acerbic quackbuster who's a thorn in the side of celebrity nutritionists and alternative medicine practitioners in Britain through his "Bad Science" column in the Guardian. And now this M.D. and formidable investigative journalist brings his eye-popping insistence on rigorous science to this side of the Atlantic. There's plenty to debunk, like the detox footbaths that turn brown whether your feet are in them or not. Or the homeopathic remedies that are no more effective than placebos (i.e., sugar pills). Goldacre's on to Big Pharma as well, skewering the industry's manipulation of statistics and suppression of negative results in clinical trials. The media take their hits as well for fueling the scare over the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine's link to autism--a link that researchers have definitively debunked. And there's hell to pay for the growing legion of nutritionists and the lucrative nutritional supplement business, which come under Goldacre's special derision as "The Nonsense Du Jour" and "intellectual crimes." Not that Goldacre's always so solemn or scolding. His ongoing battle with Brit nutritionist Gillian McKeith is both unsettling and an amusing illustration of how simple it is to pull back the curtain on the wizard of Oz. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"Great fun for science and statistics geeks, this is challenging in the best sense of the word." —-Library Journal
Library Journal
British doctor Goldacre is in a tizzy and wants you to know about it. He's sick of unproven medical advice, homeopathic treatments, and poor pseudoscientific educational and nutritional programs. He writes the Guardian's "Bad Science" column and feels strongly about the healthy doses of misinformation floating around, buoyed by poorly conducted research studies. Explaining the meaning of randomized, double-blind, placebo studies, he directs his wrath at supplement hucksters past and present. Originally published in the UK, his book has been updated for American audiences—it features both UK and U.S. examples—and includes a chapter he was unable to publish previously because of a lawsuit. Funny and profane, Goldacre discusses the horror of U.S. pharmaceutical marketing campaigns, the value of evidence-based medicine, and how to lie with statistics. From vaccine scares to murder cases, there's something for everyone. VERDICT Great fun for science and statistics geeks, this is challenging in the best sense of the word. Recommended for public, academic, and medical libraries.—Elizabeth Williams, Washoe Cty. Lib. Syst., Reno, NV
Kirkus Reviews

British National Health Service physician Goldacre shoots down what he considers to be quackery.

This updated version of the UK edition, published in 2008, begins with the statement, "Homeopaths are morons." However, the author's real targets are not proponents of alternative medicine—although he considers their remedies to be no more effective than "sugar pills"—but the ignorance of the vast public who are led astray by media hype and advertisers. The author writes the weekly "Bad Science" column for The Guardian, which, like the book, is intended to help people "who are angry about the evils of the pharmaceutical industry and nervous about the role of profit in health care." While his dismissal of concerns about the use of MMR vaccine—an immunization shot against measles, mumps and rubella which many suspect may trigger autism in some children—are a bit cavalier, his purpose in writing is not to defend "big pharma" but to give the reader the tools to understand "how a health myth can be created, fostered, and maintained by the alternative medicine industry, using all the tricks on you, the public that big pharma uses on doctors." This edition includes an account of a libel suit filed against Goldacre and The Guardian, which was settled (in his favor) in 2008. The author had investigated the nefarious activities of a group of big-money entrepreneurs who had spread a conspiracy theory in South Africa. In order to market vitamins as a replacement for antiretroviral therapy in the treatment of AIDS, they circulated the big lie that the pharmaceuticals not only did not retard the disease but were responsible for its spread. For Goldacre, it is these "journalists and miracle cure merchants" who undermine people's understanding of the scientific basis for good medicine.

The author's attacks on alternative medicine are often misguided, but he provides a valuable service in exposing the countless examples of bad science being perpetrated throughout the medical community and in the press.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781452655895
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/4/2012
  • Format: MP3 on CD
  • Edition description: MP3 - Unabridged CD
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


Ben Goldacre is a doctor and science writer who has written the "Bad Science" column in the Guardian since 2003.

Jonathan Cowley is a British actor whose recording of The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart earned him an AudioFile Earphones Award. He has narrated many audiobooks as well as film trailers and documentaries on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 Matter 3

2 Brain Gym 15

3 The Progenium XY Complex 23

4 Homeopathy 30

5 The Placebo Effect 65

6 The Nonsense du Jour 87

7 Nutritionists 112

8 The Doctor Will Sue You Now 131

9 Is Mainstream Medicine Evil" 147

10 Why Clever People Believe Stupid Things 172

11 Bad Stats 186

12 The Media's MMR Hoax 208

And Another Thing 253

Notes 259

Further Reading and Acknowledgments 271

Index 275

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 22 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(8)

4 Star

(8)

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(4)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2012

    Repeats too much. Weird style

    This book repeats the same ideas over and over, so much, that at times I thought I was reading a few pages back. It has the value of introducing science to realms where science is needed, but the same ideas could had been said with elegance in a much smaller format (but maybe this would not have ended as a book). The style was also not of my liking either. This is the first time I came across a work of this author, I can imagine him as an entertaining, engaging speaker, probably controversial, but engaging nonetheless. However, I have the impression that he literally translated what he was thinking, like he were addressing an audience, straight to writing, and the outcome is not good. Some phrases are just too long, pretending to be humorous they verge to the point of ridiculousness. Interesting book, some segments are valuable but repetitious and of a style that some will enjoy, but many will not.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2012

    Explanes the junk science presented by the new media and other histeria

    A great review of the story behind the junk science and overt lies told by the news media and quacks which form the false basis for several curent popular and dangerous medical trends, such as not giving children thier shots. It also explanes how well intentioned medial groups get the data wrong about effectivity and dangers of drugs.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2012

    Good information, but could be organized better.

    Jumped around a lot.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 6, 2013

    Excellent, entertaining, no nonsense voice for science that's ac

    Excellent, entertaining, no nonsense voice for science that's actually fun to read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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