It's been around for quite a while, so you may have read it already, but in case you haven't we'd like to draw your attention to a book called "Bad Science" by Ben Goldacre.
It's an absolute gem.
Goldacre takes on the self-serving health "experts", the newspaper reporters who bombard us with spurious health scares, the people who make a mint out of ridiculous diets, the dodgy scientists and doctors who build themselves a comfortable fortune out of our gullibility. Chapters include "Brain Gym", the MMR vaccine nonsense, Dr.Gillian McKeith, homeopathy, and a section on why apparently sensible people are hoaxed so easily.
Here are a few quotes from reviews of this book ...
For sheer savagery, the illusion-destroying, joyous attack on the self-regarding, know-nothing orthodoxies of the modern middle classes, Bad Science cannot be beaten - Observer
... an essential primer for anyone who has ever felt uneasy about news coverage of faddish scientific "break-throughs", health scares and "studies have shown" stories - it should be on the National Curriculum - Time Out
Goldacre is obviously berserk with rage at the reptiles who dominate public health debate - Telegraph
It makes irrationality, ignorance and mental laziness entertaining, yet does so as part of a serious attempt to vaccinate us against them - Times Literary Supplement
But don't take the word of newspaper reviewers - see for yourself. Here are the very first words in the book, the opening of its Introduction ...
Let me tell you how bad things have become. Children are routinely being taught - by their own teachers, in thousands of British state schools - that if they wiggle their head up and down it will increase blood flow to the frontal lobes, thus improving concentration; that rubbing their fingers together in a special sciencey way will improve "energy flow" through the body; that there is no water in processed food' and that holding water on their tongue will hydrate the brain directly through the roof of the mouth, all as part of a special exercise programme called "Brain Gym". We will devote some time to these beliefs and, more importantly, the buffoons in our education system who endorse them.
As you'd expect from an established and highly-respected science writer, the book is superbly written in beautiful English with a pithy and often acerbic turn of phrase. We particularly liked this little snippet from a section about bogus science in the beauty industry ...
"... there are huge numbers of creams (and other beauty treatments) claiming to deliver oxygen directly to your skin. Many of the creams contain peroxide, which, if you really want to persuade yourself of its efficacy, has a chemical formula of H2O2, and could fancifully be conceived of as water 'with some extra oxygen', although chemical formulas don't really work that way - after all, a pile of rust is an iron bridge with some extra oxygen ..."
A brilliant book. Jolly cheap, too, considering the sheer quantity of common-sense it contains. You can buy it here.
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
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