Bad Science is a comprehensive and witty critique of the scaremongering journalism, pill-pushing nutritionists, flaky statistics and disreputable pharmaceutical companies that have made an industry from spreading disinformation on scientific subjects.
Bad Science Summary
Bad Science is the debut book by the UK blogger, author and doctor Bed Goldacre
Debunking copious amounts of unscientific quackery, the book details some very real moral concerns around the way that science is presented and frequently co-opted in the pursuit of irresponsible health supplements, morally dubious pharmaceuticals and journalists paid to induce moral panic through wilful neglect of proper scientific facts.
From start to finish, Goldacre slams the irresponsible approach taken by those in industry to present themselves and their views as rigorous and factual when they are in fact profiteering from useful and often outright dangerous products that lack all credibility.
Below are some of the key insights from the book.
- Bad Science is used to misell countless products from childhood exercise classes to detox diets, vitamin supplements and alternative therapies.
- The vast majority of cosmetics have no practical value but are legally allowed to present their claims as scientific due to legal loopholes that fail to enforce rigour.
- Homeopathy is completely unscientific and fails to substantiate any of its claims in practice. It simply induces the placebo effect.
- As science requires some technical knowledge, products often exploit public ignorance to present antioxidants, omega acids, vitamins and superfoods in a way that fails entirely to stand up to the actual scientific basis of these terms.
- To give credence to their claims, many publicists will claim professorships, professional memberships or pHDs that only have superficial value and are often obtained from institutions that have no legal standing.
- The mainstream media sell the news rather than report the news ensuring that science is only ever presented in a stripped back and sensational way that can be easily mis-understood by the general public.
- The defining feature that links alternative therapy, pharmaceuticals and food supplements is their inability to submit themselves to any form of peer review and self-criticism as an industry.
- The pharmaceutical industry spends most of its time and budget on manipulating data, lobbying and cajoling professionals to use overpriced trademarked drugs that rarely offer any additional social benefits.
- Unfortunately, the practice of Bad Science is highly profitable for all involved and, given that it is so little understood, is likely to continue for many decades to come as it has in the past.
- A good example of Bad Science in action is the MMR health scare in the UK where sensational media coverage based on unverified scientific claims led to a moral panic around vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella.
- This has resulted in the weakening of herd immunity with consequences to this day. Many parents still refuse to allow their child to get vaccinated despite the overwhelming scientific evidence.