Jabs “as bad as the cancer”

October 10th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, express, vaccines | 51 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, Saturday 10 October 2009, The Guardian

imageLast month I had a debate at the Royal Institution with Lord Drayson, the Science Minister, in which he argued that I was too harsh on British science coverage, which is the best in the world. During this event our chairman (bizarrely and excellently Simon Mayo) pulled out a health front page from the Express, and asked what we thought about it. I said the article might well be accurate, but it’s also quite likely to be a work of fantasy, and as a serious matter of public health I would urge people to be extremely sceptical about health information on the front page of the Express. Lord Drayson thought this was cynical and unfair. He warmly encouraged us to trust this newspaper. Read the rest of this entry »

Drink coffee, see dead people.

January 17th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, badscience, dodgy academic press releases, express, presenting numbers, statistics | 65 Comments »

The Guardian,
Saturday January 17 2009
Ben Goldacre

Danger from just 7 cups of coffee a day” said the Express on Wednesday. “Too much coffee can make you hallucinate and sense dead people say sleep experts. The equivalent of just seven cups of instant coffee a day is enough to trigger the weird responses.” The story appeared in almost every national newspaper. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s not my fault I fall into repetitive self parody. You started it.

December 6th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in express, independent, mail, media, mirror, MMR, telegraph | 152 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian
Saturday December 6 2008

Writing this column only really scares me because I wonder whether everything else in the media is as shamelessly, venally, manipulatively, one-sidedly, selectively reported on as the things I know about. I’m not going to go on about MMR again. But this week the reality editing was truly without comparison. Read the rest of this entry »

Roger Coghill and the Aids test

June 28th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, competing interests, electrosensitivity, express, herbal remedies, magnets, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications, roger coghill, statistics | 72 Comments »

imageBen Goldacre
The Guardian,
Saturday June 28, 2008

It’s the big stories I enjoy the most. “Suicides linked to phone masts” roared the Sunday Express front-page headline this week. “The spate of deaths among young people in Britain’s suicide capital could be linked to radio waves from dozens of mobile phone transmitter masts near the victims’ homes.”
Read the rest of this entry »

A Quantitative Analysis Of The Frequency With Which One Company Is Promoted, And By Whom, In UK National Newspapers UPDATED 30/9/06

September 19th, 2006 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, alternative medicine, bad science, express, mail, statistics, telegraph, times | 48 Comments »

“A Quantitative Analysis Of The Frequency With Which One Company Is Promoted, And By Whom, In UK National Newspapers”

Updated 16th September 2006.

Dr Ben Goldacre (Corresponding Author)
Bad Science Research Institute,
www.badscience.net
ben@badscience.net

Introduction.

Susan Clark is an alternative therapy columnist who recently made a cheeky attack on her critics. It was subsequently noted that she promotes one company, Victoria Health, with some regularity in her writing. There is a large pool of alternative therapy writers in the UK, who all regularly promote specific products and companies. No background data was available on how frequently this one company is promoted in newspapers, and therefore it was impossible to assess whether Clark’s promotion of them represented an anomaly. This brief pilot study was aimed at providing further background data.
Read the rest of this entry »

The Great Tamiflu Vaccine Scare

February 18th, 2006 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, evening standard, express, independent, mail, mirror, MMR, scare stories, telegraph, times | 55 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Saturday February 18, 2006
The Guardian

The interesting thing about the Tamiflu vaccine for bird flu that everybody keeps going on about, is this: it’s not a vaccine. The manufacturers even spell that out in their factsheet. It’s a drug, an antibiotic for viruses.

But you wouldn’t know that if you read Paul Routledge in the Mirror, Alan Hall in the Daily Mail, Sally Guyoncourt in Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t dumb me down

September 8th, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, alternative medicine, bad science, bbc, cash-for-"stories", channel 4, channel five, chocolate, dangers, express, gillian mckeith, independent, letters, mail, media, mirror, MMR, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications, references, scare stories, statistics, telegraph, times, very basic science, weight loss | 85 Comments »

We laughed, we cried, we learned about statistics … Ben Goldacre on why writing Bad Science has increased his suspicion of the media by, ooh, a lot of per cents

Ben Goldacre
Thursday September 8, 2005
The Guardian

OK, here’s something weird. Every week in Bad Science we either victimise some barking pseudoscientific quack, or a big science story in a national newspaper. Now, tell me, why are these two groups even being mentioned in the same breath? Why is science in the media so often pointless, simplistic, boring, or just plain wrong? Like a proper little Darwin, I’ve been Read the rest of this entry »

Risk of infection

May 26th, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, dangers, express, independent, mail, mirror, MMR, telegraph, times | 1 Comment »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday May 26, 2005
The Guardian

· I’d like to open with a sanctimonious moment. I don’t expect anyone else in the world to follow suit, but from now on, if I refer to published academic research, I’ll be giving the full reference, at the foot of the column if there’s space, or at least on the web version. Why this is not standard media practice has always mystified me. “Science communicators” do read original papers and critically appraise them before writing about them, don’t they?

· Anyway, we’ll come back to testicles later. Meanwhile, there are two outbreaks of polio in Yemen and Indonesia. The strain of poliovirus originated – pay attention – in the Kano province in northern Nigeria. What, you may ask, has this got to do with your gonads – or indeed those of the man you love? Well, a couple of years ago Kano was the focal point of a Nigerian Muslim boycott of polio vaccination. Imams claimed that the vaccine was dangerous, poisoned, contaminated and part of a US plot to spread Aids or infertility in the Islamic world. Five Nigerian states boycotted it. Because, as any trendy MMR-dodging north London middle class humanities graduate couple with children would agree, just because vaccination has almost eradicated polio – a debilitating disease which as recently as 1988 was endemic in 125 countries – does not mean it is necessarily a good thing.

· This brings us back to testicles. Because, sadly, the natural world does not quite share my sense of retributive justice, nor does the paramyxovirus that causes mumps. If it were infecting only the innocent unvaccinated offspring of humanities graduates with no understanding of risk, I’d pretend to be sad on their behalf. But no. There were 8,104 cases of mumps confirmed in the UK last year, up from a combined total of 3,907 for all the previous five years, chart fans.

· But mumps cases last year were predominantly in young adults, because young adults as a herd have the lowest immunity. And one in five young men who get mumps can expect orchitis, a new joy for fans of infected and inflamed testicles. If your balls hurt and you’re infertile, you might wish to thank, for their peculiar interpretation and eulogising on the dangers of MMR: Andrew Wakefield, Nigella Lawson, Libby Purves, Suzanne Moore, Lynda Lee-Potter, The Daily Mail, Leo Blair’s tight-lipped parents, and, let’s be fair, every single national newspaper.

BMJ 2005 May 14;330: 1119-20

Protect your boundaries with agate

April 14th, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, express, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications, very basic science | 1 Comment »

Ben Goldacre
Thursday April 14, 2005
The Guardian

· After years of hand-wringing about the decay of post-enlightenment rationalist values I’m beginning to wonder whether all is well, and the choice of alternative health guff in the Daily Express is deliberate parody. There is no other explanation for this week’s article entitled Embrace the power of crystals (“the special structure of a crystal lets it absorb, strengthen and transmit electromagnetic energy that can heal and energise”). It offers such useful nuggets as:”Protect your boundaries with agate” (read aloud for optimum effect) and what must be the prototypical Daily Express headline, combining as it does its obsession with Asbo tomfoolery and New Age nonsense: “Silence noisy neighbours, with white moonstone.”

· Meanwhile, if there was any doubt that Bad Science readers represent the definitive research tool, Dave Forbes wrote in, after I pointed out that Doctor Who had miscalculated the rotational speed in Britain of the Earth on its own axis in the first episode of the new series, to point out a precedent for this. “You might like to check out Paul Saint’s Doctor Who novel The Suns of Caresh,” he suggests. “In one scene the Tardis’s destination is unexpectedly diverted from Israel to Chichester. Since the settings had not been adjusted to take into account the different rotational speed of the Earth’s surface at this latitude, the Tardis leaves a wake of destruction across the English countryside.”

· Lastly, it was good to see one of the more bizarre untruths from the Terri Schiavo “right to die” case crossing the Atlantic and popping up in the Scotsman. In line with much of the US media, it refers to her parents’ doctor in the case, William Hammesfahr, as “a Nobel prize-nominated neurologist who has an international reputation for treating brain-injured patients”. Now, Hammesfahr was “nominated” for the prize by a Republican congressman, Michael Bilirakis, though he might just as well have been nominated by my dead cat Hettie, since the Nobel committee only takes nominations from 3,000 or so invited people, mostly previous winners and big-arse professors. My favourite detail from the grandiose letter (masl.to/?X1E723FDA) is where he is nominated for the “Nobel peace prize in medicine”. Even if such a prize existed, it would be unusual for a science Nobel to be won by someone like Hammesfahr who, according to Pubmed, has published no papers in peer-reviewed journals. But don’t let that stop you nominating Hettie.

Atomic tomatoes are not the only fruit

December 16th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in africa, alternative medicine, bad science, celebs, channel 4, channel five, cosmetics, dna, express, gillian mckeith, herbal remedies, independent, letters, mail, MMR, nutritionists, oxygen, penises, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications, quantum physics, references, space, statistics, telegraph, times, very basic science, water | 9 Comments »

This article is a rough transcript of the most excellent Bad Science Awards 2004 that were held in the Asylum Club on Rathbone St W1, a tiny basement club with a fire safety license for 150. We were expecting 20 people but to general astonishment there were queues down the street, and an unruly crowd who were drunkenly, loudly, and at one point quite violently baying for Gillian McKeith’s blood. Also performing were the excellently frightening and dangerous Disinformation presents “National Grid”, performance terrorism with victorian electrical equipment and rubber gloves, featuring Mark Pilkington of Strange Attractor and Guardian Far Out fame.

Thursday December 16, 2004
The Guardian

Ben Goldacre on the gongs nobody wants to win…

Andrew Wakefield prize for preposterous extrapolation from a single unconvincing piece of scientific data

With its place at the kernel of Bad Science reporting in the news media, this was bound to be a hotly contested category. Were there any Read the rest of this entry »