Published: Monday, October 22nd, 2012
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Turn on your TV to any sort of infomercial channel, and you’ll see ‘health’ products being peddled to you left, right and center. Whether its magnets being used to enhance your height, or foot-baths ‘drawing out toxins’, this sort of parlour quackery suckers in millions of customers constantly.
Bad Science demolishes such pseudoscience with a deft hand, containing that dry British wit that has become so famous among the UK’s various scientists and skeptics. Author Ben Goldacre is himself a bit of a household name in Britain, with his newspaper column (also titled Bad Science) in The Guardian. Bad Science
is an offshoot of that, serving as a sort of expansion of the topics covered in that column, be it all sorts of ridiculous, unscientific (and often times, expensive) hocus pocus treatments, and the irresponsible media that promotes it.
Bad Science doesn’t just about dissecting why those exercises you were told to do before doing a task that requires thought are bunk, but also goes into the history of various pseudosciences that still exist to this day. There’s even a chapter dedicated to the history and analysis of homoeopathy that’s worth the price of admission alone. This book isn’t a “point and laugh at the fools for being suckered”, but rather an explanation on why perfectly rational people are fooled into buying into something that is so seeming obvious in its falseness (There’s even a chapter entitled, “Why Clever People Believe Stupid Things.”.
But Bad Science isn’t an entire book just dedicated to just showing you why putting candles in your ear to draw out toxins is a ludicrous idea, oh no. Pick up one of the later editions of the book which include the previously omitted chapter, The Doctor Will Now Sue You (excluded, interestingly enough, due to a libel lawsuit Goldacre was facing at the hands of a vitamin pill entrepreneur during the time of the book’s publishing), a rather shocking and disgusting expose on the corruption within the pharmacology industry. It should provide more than enough vitrolic material for those in the mood for getting mad, and of course, some ammunition for tinfoil-hatted conspiracy theorists.
While Bad Science does tend to get slightly technical every now and then, don’t be put off by the occasional graph present. Bad Science is through-and-through a book by a scientist targeted at a science-loving general public. By reading this book, you’ll not only feel smarter for not having bought those Feng-Shuei crystal balls for your living room,but will finally understand what placebo means, and how powerful it can really be.