Rather brilliantly I have been plagiarised by the Times…

December 12th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in onanism | 20 Comments »

Who have a new column called…


no wait…

we could call it….

Bad Statistics“.

Favourite quote:

“Send your bad statistics to badstats@thetimes.co.uk

Good for the cause though. And the bloke who writes it used to comment here.  I hope it, er, gets better.

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! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

20 Responses

  1. John said,

    December 12, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    (Not strictly on message but in reference to the story in the mini-blog you have to laugh at the insentivity of Google ads.)

    I checked out the story about the woman drinking herself to death on water and the ads below were:

    * lose 5 pounds in three days

    * got a drink problem

    * this site guarantees to remove really gross stuff from your gut.

  2. used to be jdc said,

    December 12, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    I’ve been plagiarising you for ages and no-one’s offered me a bloody job.

  3. The Biologista said,

    December 12, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    It’s not half bad.

    They really could try a less obvious name though.

  4. warhelmet said,

    December 12, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Hang on – look at the page and where it sits in the Times Online hierarchy…

    Something under “women” and “life & style”. At least the grauniad have the courtesy to stick Ben in the main paper, in the news section.


  5. Sili said,

    December 12, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    Isn’t there already a “Bad Statistics” blog?

    Along with, of course,

    Bad Astronomy
    Bad Martial Arts
    (Good Math), Bad Math

    And those I just the ones I recall.

    To be fair, warhelmet, “Women/Life & Style” strikes me as section that’s louse with bad stats (and chemistry and psychology and sociology and whathaveyou). I think it’s admirable if someone tries to fight the good fight against the vacuous columnists of that persuasion.

  6. used to be jdc said,

    December 12, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    Ooh, good point Sili – there’s Bad Archaeology too. Couldn’t find a blog called Bad Statistics though. My weak google-fu may not have been powerful enough this time. I should really dilute and succuss it…

  7. drunkenoaf said,

    December 12, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    Ye gads, that’s a lame column.

    I just wonder what would happen if Mr. Whipple annoyed a litigious quack like Rath. Would Mr. Murdoch stand behind him like the good people at the Guardian did with you? Would Whipple even dare?

  8. jonathanhearsey said,

    December 12, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Don’t worry, Ben – we’ve all been lifting your original stuff for years!!!!!


  9. The Biologista said,

    December 13, 2008 at 12:19 am

    Now if only we could sneak such a column into one of the major women’s magazines. A significant unchallenged source of total credulous trash right there.

  10. S said,

    December 13, 2008 at 2:11 am

    How about Bad Things (including all Stuff)

  11. Junkmonkey said,

    December 14, 2008 at 3:01 am

    I hope it gets better too but take heart from the fact that it is there in the first place (or rather second place since BadScience was first). Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The more there is of this kind of thing the better.

    And don’t forget:


  12. vince said,

    December 15, 2008 at 11:04 am

    No BadStatistics book yet, at least! Amazon have refused to let me buy any more copies of BadScience since I bought 5 in September; apparently they limit these things!

    Anyway, the more coverage of these sorts of issues the better, as long as the coverage is reasonably clear.

  13. warhelmet said,

    December 15, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    @The Biologista – are you completely mad? Putting a badsciencesque column in a women’s magazine would scare the advertisers. Especially the woo ones that you find at the back amongst the cosmetic surgery ads. And the scratch cards with premium rate claim numbers. It can’t be done… Well, I’d love it if someone could prove me wrong. And Sili – “good fight” – the article doesn’t really challenge anything of any import. It’s a silly article.

    BadEducation. That’s the column I want to see. With particular concentration on mathematics and science. And maybe a bit of logic and rhetoric.
    And critical reasoning. And proper “media studies” in the sense that one is taught how to parse a newspaper article, etc…

    It’s certainly not the case that more coverage of these issues is a good thing. I, for one, would prefer that it wasn’t necessary.

    I am sick to the back teeth of newspapers being filled with non-news content. Look at the sunday editions.

    Bah, humbug.

  14. yoav said,

    December 16, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    Remember, 98% of all statistics are made up.

    My favourite statistically based shock headline is:
    “50% of all hospitals/doctors/[insert your favourite bete noir here] are below average!”

  15. zeno said,

    December 17, 2008 at 12:06 am

    I emailed Bad Statistics the other day about a Theos poll. The press release was titled ‘1 in 3 Britons believe in virgin birth’, but the poll question didn’t quite match it, asking the level of agreement with the statement that “Jesus was born to a virgin called Mary” was historically accurate. (I see the problem as being that many will instead see the statement as ‘Jesus was born to Mary’ and leave out the virgin bit.) They found that two-thirds did.

    Tom Whipple seemed quite interested in this mismatch, so it may appear in a future column!

    Talking of Theos, they did another poll about the nation’s awareness of Charles Dawrin’s 200th anniversary and 150th anniversary of the Origin of Species. Not surprisingly, it found that 80% did not know about it – hopefully that will change in the coming months. However, there is hope for future generations: 25% of those ‘up to four years old’, were aware! (See campaigndirector.moodia.com/Client/Theos/Files/DarwinpollNov08.pdf)

  16. mikewhit said,

    December 17, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    “50% of all hospitals/doctors/[insert your favourite bete noir here] are below average!” – depends on the distribution.

    Now ‘below the median’ I could get annoyed about …

  17. jasondenys said,

    December 19, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Wasn’t ‘Bad Astronomy’ the first ‘Bad’ blog?

  18. ossian said,

    December 21, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Bad Boys “The Blog Where S. Claus Exploses the Lies and Misinformation at the Foot of the Christmas Tree”

    Latest Posts:

    Whose Getting Ashes in Their Stockings [Page 3]

    He’s Not The Messiah; He’s a Very Naughty Boy

    Thanks Mummy The Mistletoe Action Was Hawt [an expose of the spread of plastic mistletoe with guest advisors from Gardeners Questiontime]

  19. DoubleBluff said,

    December 30, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Have you seen the only two comments on the Times’ article?

    What a useles article

    George, Fla, USA

    Rip off.

    Tom, Stoke-on-Trent, England


  20. Kimpatsu said,

    January 13, 2009 at 4:26 am

    They really could try a less obvious name though.
    What are the odds of that…?