"Public opinion has moved sharply in favour of assisted suicide, according to a poll for The Sunday Times."

December 20th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, death, statistics, times | 10 Comments »

I was delighted to discover this week that the Times have started an innovative new column entitled “Bad Statistics”. It seems to me to be somewhat lacking in thoroughness. I should like to submit for their consideration an article from the Sunday Times on the 14th of December.

The opening sentence is: “Public opinion has moved sharply in favour of assisted suicide, according to a poll for The Sunday Times.” This opening sentence is, I believe, incorrect. Read the rest of this entry »

Scientific proof that we live in a warmer and more caring universe

November 29th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, badscience, bbc, independent, mail, media, mirror, times | 170 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian
Saturday November 29 2008

As usual, it’s not Watergate, it’s just slightly irritating. “Down’s births increase in a caring Britain”, said the Times: “More babies are being born with Down’s syndrome as parents feel increasingly that society is a more welcoming place for children with the condition.” That’s beautiful. “More mothers are choosing to keep their babies when diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome” said the Mail. “Parents appear to be more willing to bring a child with Down’s syndrome into the world because British society has become increasingly accepting of the genetic abnormality” said the Independent. “Children’s quality of life is better and acceptance has risen”, said The Mirror. Read the rest of this entry »

The certainty of chance

September 6th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bbc, statistics, times | 18 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian,
Saturday September 6 2008

Britain’s happiest places have been mapped by scientists, according to the BBC: Read the rest of this entry »

The amazing disappearing reappearing finger

May 3rd, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, bbc, ITV, miracles, sun, telegraph, times | 16 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian,
Saturday May 3 2008

Traditionally on May Day the fool plays at pratfalls and buffoonery around local morris dancers, brandishing his fool’s bauble, an inflated pig’s bladder on a stick, with which he bewitches and controls the crowds. To the uninitiated it looks like chaos, but for his own safety the fool must know the dances as well as anyone, so that his weaving tomfoolery meshes perfectly with the intricate pattern of kicks, handkerchief waving, and stickbashing.

In the newspapers on May Day, meanwhile, journalists were earnestly reporting the news that pig’s bladder extract had been used by scientists in a major breakthrough allowing one man to magically regrow a finger. “‘Pixie dust’ helps man grow new finger,” squealed the Telegraph’s headline. “‘Pixie dust’ makes man’s severed finger regrow,” said the Times. “Made from dried pig’s bladder,” they explained, this magic powder “kick-starts the body’s healing process”. Read the rest of this entry »

“Pixie Dust helps man grow new finger”

May 1st, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, bbc, mail, sun, telegraph, times | 34 Comments »

Very briefly – because this kind of thing irritates me so much that I can’t be bothered to devote a great deal of time to it – in almost every single newspaper and media outlet today you will read about the Pixie Dust which helped a man’s finger grow back: “The man who grew a finger” [BBC], “‘Pixie dust’ helps man grow new finger” [Telegraph], “Man’s finger ‘regrown using pig extract’” [ITN], “Sliced finger grows back” [The Sun], etc.

Allow me to explain why I have good grounds to believe that this is nonsense, and that the journalists concerned have failed in the most basic regard.

[NB I gave this story some chat on the Today programme at 7:43am May 2, listen again here]

Read the rest of this entry »

Pep, zing, oomph, ker-ching. CoQ10.

March 15th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, bad science, medicalisation, nutritionists, times | 35 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian,
Saturday March 15 2008

Doctors love pills: so do the public, and the media, and of course so do pill companies. When one pill dies, another must take its place. Are you feeling tired? Demotivated? I bet you are. But there is a solution – a pill – pushed by no less than Dr Thomas Stuttaford of the Times. Just two days ago in an article about “office tiredness” he cheerfully rehashed a press release on Boots’ exciting new pep pills. He opines at length on how tired we all feel in the office. So tired.

Why not try Coenzyme Q10, Read the rest of this entry »

Even… more… ludicrous teleology from evolutionary psychologists

November 9th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, evolutionary psychology, mail, telegraph, times | 40 Comments »

If academic funding was determined by newspaper coverage we would never research anything but MMR and evolutionary psychology.

Which is fine. Read the rest of this entry »

The Amazing Qlink Science Pedant

May 19th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, alternative medicine, bad science, electrosensitivity, ITV, mail, patrick holford, qlink, times | 74 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Saturday May 19, 2007
The Guardian

Normally I’d ignore quack medical devices, but when the catalogue from Health Products For Life – run by vitamin pill salesman Patrick Holford – arrived, I found an unexpected treat waiting for me. Among his usual “special formulation” pill-peddling banter, there was the QLink pendant, at just £69.99.

The QLink is a device sold to protect you from those terrifying invisible electromagnetic rays, and cure many ills. “It needs no batteries as it is ‘powered’ by the wearer – the microchip is activated by a copper induction coil which picks up sufficient micro currents from your heart to power the pendant.” Says Holford’s catalogue. According to the manufacturer’s sales banter, it corrects your energy frequencies. Or something.
Read the rest of this entry »

Science told: hands off gay sheep – updated

January 29th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, scare stories, times, very basic science | 51 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Saturday January 13, 2007
The Guardian

“Science told: hands off gay sheep.” It’s hard to think of a headline more joyous than this classic from the Sunday Times. Apparently a scientist called Professor Charles Roselli is conducting cruel and gruesome experiments on sheep in the name of eradicating homosexuality. Unfortunately this “news” story, co-written by Isabelle Oakeshott – the Deputy Political Editor no less – is little more than dystopian science fiction fantasy, conjured up to drive a pressure group’s agenda.

We’ll open with their big hitter. “The animals’ skulls are cut open and electronic sensors are attached to their brains.” It sounds gruesome. But this was simply – and rather bizarrely – not true. 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 »