In Praise of Genius

November 24th, 2006 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, heroes of bad science | 5 Comments »

Superlative quackhunting by the formidable (in the french pronunciation of the word) Prof David Colquhoun FRS, chasing down those cheeky scamps from “Stop Snoring”, and their claim-rich TV adverts. They bang on about clinical trials. Colquhoun… finds them and reads them…

www.ucl.ac.uk/Pharmacology/dc-bits/quack.html#snore

Ah me, simple pleasures. It’s amazing how the kind of boring and nerdy everyday critical appraisal of published research literature that clinicians and academics engage in all day suddenly becomes smashingly good fun once you’re catching people out and making them look silly. Anyway, David’s dogged work takes him to companies house for a punchline, and the rest of his pages are equally superb.

This is, I guess, the start of a badscience mini-series bigging up the excellent work of people like DC, sciencepunk.com, quackometer.net, and the rest. I should also say that the standard of entertainment in the badscience forums continues to absolutely astonish me, the kickass science videos thread in particular is a joy.

Oh, and since the book that has turned my life upside down is now looking pretty finished-ish-kind-of (it just gets fuller, I have no self discipline for knowing when to stop researching…) spring will also bring, in case you’re really interested, the start of the badscience podcast series, a long season of one hour long unedited “in conversation” recordings with a proper list of profs, knights, quacks, chancers, journalists, lectures, and more.


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If you like what I do, and you want me to do more, you can: buy my books Bad Science and Bad Pharma, give them to your friends, put them on your reading list, employ me to do a talk, or tweet this article to your friends. Thanks! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

5 Responses



  1. prescience said,

    November 25, 2006 at 11:26 am

    Would this be the same David Colquhoun who, when the earth’s crust was still cooling (and I was a sorry-arsed marine biology undergraduate at Bangor) published “Lectures in Biostatistics”? And who thereby saved me from a life of statistical innumeracy?

    If it is, Ben, I’m going to pen a note to His Holiness Benedict XVI (we (his intimates) call him “Papa Razzi”, as he has a sense of humor) asking that Prof DC FRS should be immediately be Beatified and put on the fast track for Canonisation. “FRS” is impressive, but “St.” really cuts the mustard.

    I trust that I shall have your support in this. We need more saints, and few of those we have can count beyond three.

  2. coracle said,

    November 25, 2006 at 12:00 pm

    Excellent, can’t wait for the book.

  3. Frank said,

    November 25, 2006 at 2:14 pm

    Prof Colquhoun is really throwing down some science pwnage, as the kids say. Credit to him!

  4. David Colquhoun said,

    November 26, 2006 at 4:39 pm

    Good heavens, somebody remembers Lectures on Biostatistics. It went out of print sometime in the mid-70s, and I’ve seen copies on ebay for prices I can’t afford. So if prescience wants to sell his copy, this is the time. CUP say they are interested in a revised version and that might knock the bottom out of the market, so better get moving. Well no need to rush actually -the amount of time I’m spending on punk science (not to mention a bit of real stuff) means that action isn’t imminent.

    Actually I’m a bit nervous about revising it because since 1970 there has been a big rise in the Bayesian approach. In most cases the Bayes looks too much like feeding your prejudices into the final outcome for my taste, though I freely admit that in the end we are all Bayesian -why else would I ask for unusually strong evidence for homeopathy? The rows (right now) in the statistics world between pro– and anti-Bayesians make Ben vs McKeith look like a Sunday school picnic.

    PS If Pappa Razzi has read my religion page, better forget your plan (OK, now back to “the god delusion”). That reminds me of the comment made about the bunch of more-or-less elderly blokes who wrote to NHS chiefs in May. We should call ourselves the HRHs ( = Has Refused Honour)

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