Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bad Science: What a book

At the moment I am reading the book "Bad Science" by Ben Goldacre, a regular columnist for The Guardian for a section by the same name - Bad Science.

This book is unreasonably good and preposterously funny, furthermore it also manages to give you a very good education about the basics of science and thinking in a more scientific way.

Mr. Goldacre seems to share a great many of the pet peeves that make me a little angry from time to time, and has entire chapters dedicated to, among other things, the likes of Homeopathic "Medicine", how the media contorts & misrepresents data, how journalists get it wrong and much more.
My favorite chapter to date is the one concerning his views towards "Dr" Gillian McKeith, every one's favorite television nutritionist.

Goldacre records his first introduction to McKeiths existence by way of an a letter from a reader of his column informing him of her TV series, Goldacre writes:
"She was also quoted saying something a 14 year old doing GSCE biology could have identified as pure nonsense: recommending spinach, and the darker leaves on plants, because they contain more chlorophyll. According to McKeith these are "high in oxygen" and will "really oxygenate your blood"
He goes on...
"Is chlorophyll "high in oxygen"? No. It helps make oxygen. In sunlight. And its pretty dark in your bowels: in fact, if there's any light in there at all then something's gone badly wrong"

My favorite part of the chapter is Goldacre's analysis of McKeith's "professional qualifications", it turns out that her PhD was obtained from "Clayton College" which offered a non-accredited correspondence course for a mere $6,400 in fees, furthermore. McKeith's defence of also being a member of the American Association of Nutritional Consultants is also questioned by Goldacre: "Well. My dead cat Hettie is also a "certified professional member of the AANC. I have the certificate hanging in my loo"

I could go on about this book forever, so for my own safety I won't, all I can say is that you should try and get hold of a copy of this book... or at the very least have a look at this video of him... and then get the book.

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