Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bad Science

I just finished Bad Science, by Ben Goldacre, of the blog by the same name. The book is sadly only available in the UK, which makes sense as all of the examples of bad science in the book are about the UK. The examples though are great.

Perhaps my favorite is (possibly) the first health trial, of course finding a vegetarian diet is most healthy:

11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see." 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

Then there is the story (which I have not confirmed) that carrots help eyesight is from WW2, when the British didn't want the Germans to know they had invented radar, and so made up the story that British soldiers had great night vision because of the vegetable.

I recommend the book to anyone that wants more evidence that the media can't properly discuss science, and that doctors are just like most people: confused by the science that surrounds them.

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