Bad Science comes to the USA: Ben Goldacre's tremendous woo-fighting book in print in the States

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27 Responses to “Bad Science comes to the USA: Ben Goldacre's tremendous woo-fighting book in print in the States”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I bought this book when I was in London (I’m Canadian), and I lugged it around for the whole trip…I wish I had known it was coming to North America!

    The version we have here seems much smaller than the one I bought in London, do you know if it’s different? Maybe it’s just a difference in text size.

    I love the new cover!

  2. bklynchris says:

    Hey Cory,

    Care to give us an idea of Goldacre’s “Big Pharma Flaks”? I venture an assumption that for every bottle of snake oil sold by said salesman, he sells three as a result of Big Pharm’s Big Phlops and Phailures. Our continued witness of pharmaceutical companies questionable ethics with regard to double blind placebo study results and all too frequent harmful side effects has really done more damage than homeopathy on public health. Mainly, because it has introduced the pariah of well founded DOUBT to the consumer, making him vulnerable to “Quacks and Hacks”.

    You really do not give that side enough of your attention Cory, wish you would, otherwise you start to sound a little like those you, dare I say, villify?

    • Lester says:

      I just listened to Goldacre on the last SGU podcast and I’ve been looking forward to this book for a while now.

      And bklynchris, you certainly have a point, although I don’t see the need to call Cory out on this. The problems of Big Pharma are worth continually highlighting, although the snake oil out there predates Big Pharma. Homeopathy, Chiropractic and a number of related disciplines are all holdovers from 19th century spiritualism. (Many other “alt meds” that we think are ancient, such as acupuncture and reflexology, weren’t codified until the 20th century.) I can’t see how we can hope to reform modern medicine while we’re still clinging to unscientific fantasy.

      And, at the risk of sounding like a cheerleader, the fact is that drugs are essential. They are, in fact, the only thing that works. I wouldn’t want to live in the world before insulin, antibiotics, vaccines or targeted therapeutics. (Worth a read is a new book about the discovery of insulin, called “Breakthrough” http://www.boston.com/ae/books/articles/2010/08/30/breakthrough_recalls_insulins_discovery_in_the_setting_of_one_childs_life/ actually shows where industry — Eli Lily, in this case — saved the day. )

      The problem comes in when industry is focused on working the approval system/maximizing shareholder impact than on new drug discovery. In the SGU podcast, Goldacre called for better scrutiny, transparency, and, yes, better collaboration with academia. Its worth a listen:
      http://www.theskepticsguide.org/archive/podcastinfo.aspx?mid=1&pid=274

      Lastly, I’d like to point out that Alternative Medicine is, in the US, at least, a multi-billion, poorly regulated industry.

      • turn_self_off says:

        The sad thing about insulin is that it is a treatment (yes it provides the ability for many to live a average length life), not a cure. And i am unsure how much eli lily have spent looking for a actual cure.

        Remember that a treatment can be sold repeatedly, while a cure only once…

    • imajication says:

      Sounds like you need to read the book. Or if you don’t want to shell out the $$$, read http://www.badscience.net/.

  3. RedSun says:

    You know, it’s sad that books like these actually have to be written and published.
    One would hope that there will some day be an “Anti-Bullshit” class taught in school to children.
    “How Not to Be a Complete Sucker 101″.

  4. WizarDru says:

    ….And just like that, I bought the e-Book on my nook.

    Saw this article, grabbed the 20-page sample and immediately grabbed it. Goldacre’s focus is clearly just trying to banish hobgoblins and admonish those responsible for promoting them without proper research or even the most simple vetting.

    The writing is amusing but enlightening. So far, it’s evoked a strong sense of the Amazing Randi, which is a Good Thing.

  5. pato pal ur says:

    Interesting… According to McKeith’s website, the organization she earned her “PhD” from is Clayton College of Natural Health, which “is licensed with the Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education.” Yet Alabama’s Dept. of Postsecondary Education website does not list Clayton College of Natural Health as being licensed by the state. Furthermore, the site takes pains to point out that being licensed “is not associated with accreditation.”

    I personally am a big believer in a lot of aspects of holistic health and healing, so it’s a shame that greedy lowlifes like McKeith give the entire field a bad name in their attempts to enrich themselves.

  6. Graham Anderson says:

    Translation required on Comment #1 – STAT!

  7. dilectable says:

    The only thing Cory forgot to mention, IMO, is just how entertaining the book is. I lent this book to my non-sciencey colleague, who loved it so much she bought one for every member of her extended family last christmas (amongst other stuff I hasten to add- she’s not tight!)

  8. AGC says:

    “Translation required on Comment #1 – STAT!”

    “Big Pharm’s Big Phlops and Phailures” = Chemical Companies Cwaks and Clacks.

  9. Lobster says:

    You can tell that guy’s a scientist because he has glasses and not one but TWO test tubes. :D

    • Lester says:

      “Hmmm….cure cancer or create monkey slaves…cancer…slaves…cancer…slaves…oh I can’t decide.” The cover captures the internal dialog of most scientists.

    • andygates says:

      It’s that second test tube that marks the cover guy out as a real scientist. That’s the control.

  10. AnthonyC says:

    I for one am very, very happy with my inability to breathe through my bowels. Amiright?

  11. bklynchris says:

    #2-no, ask someone else, maybe #4

    #5-Yes, I guess I am calling Corey out, but not in a bad way. My mother is Type I diabetic diagnosed in the 60′s, daughter an epileptic, and brother has had juvenile glaucoma for 20+ years. That said, I literally, owe my mother’s life to insulin, daughter’s functional well being to zarontin, and brother’s sight to pressure lowering eye drops. Yes, I get it. The successes are many, the failures in the shadows, but failures have an impact on people’s lives as profound as the successes. And spent 10 years in the trenches of medical and clinical research…it is ugly and scary. Thus my capitalized emphasis on the harm of doubt.

    #6-thank you, will look into it, if I have not already lived it.

    And to everyone, am buying Goldacre’s book, AND reading it (for me, sadly often, the two are not mutually inclusive).

    • Lester says:

      Not to beat on the topic too much, but also check out that SGU podcast. Goldacre says some interesting things about the under-reporting of scientific trials by pharma and the need for more transparency.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I am soooo excited for this. I tried to grab this on audible, for my subwaytimes in the morning, but, sadly, I wasn’t in the right regional zone to purchase it. Hopefully this will change, or i will at the least grab the kobo edition!

  13. Charlotte Corday says:

    “The problem comes in when industry is focused on working the approval system”

    Which would indicate that the approval system is in need of some changes….

  14. Gregory Goldmacher says:

    I am very excited to read this book, of course. I am a skeptical scientist and love this kind of stuff. My worry is that this, like many books of this sort, mainly appeals to the people who least need to read it. Preaching to the choir, essentially.

  15. MonkeyRobo says:

    Just FYI, later editions of the book in the UK had the Matthias Rath chapter reinstated, after the lawsuit was settled in Goldacre’s favour.

    I can’t recommend the book highly enough. Great stuff.

  16. Thalia says:

    READ this: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/11/lies-damned-lies-and-medical-science/8269/1/

    Those studies are 80% WRONG if it’s a non-randomized study, 25% WRONG if it’s randomized. Science works, but only if done right. Unfortunately, it’s mostly not.

  17. Jonathan Badger says:

    If you haven’t read Goldacre’s stuff, he is firmly on the side of science — which means he makes enemies both among the the hippie newage astral projection and acupuncture set as well as among the corporate set trying to suppress publication of papers showing that that the latest wonder drug isn’t so wonderful. He is brave in that typically these two sets try to claim that critics are in the other camp rather than realize that science has no loyalty to either.

  18. theLadyfingers says:

    Kellogg also recommended male circumcision as a cure for masturbation, but no-one seems to care too much about that one.

  19. Flying_Monkey says:

    Jonathan Badger has it spot in. Goldacre is an advocate of scientific method, in other words of challenging bullshit everywhere. It’s not the case that big pharma BAD means alternative medicine GOOD or vice-versa. And homeopathy is still bullshit whoever is selling it.

  20. apoxia says:

    I’ve had this recommended by a few clinical psychologists. I bought the UK version on Book Depository yesterday. I’m looking forward to receiving it :)

  21. Jerril says:

    I printed out and read the AIDS chapter except; it was lying around my livingroom later and a friend saw it. And read it. And brought it home to show to other people, and I suspect it travelled from there.

    I’m ordering this now.

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