What should it say on the back of my book?

March 3rd, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | 150 Comments »


As you can imagine I’m a bit of a control freak about precision and dumbing down, and so inevitably I’m a bit annoyed that the back cover of the new paperback of Bad Science won’t have the same excellent text that I so lovingly prepared for the original trade paperback. Instead it will have a pill bottle with “Dr Ben Goldacre gives lasting protection against” and then five things.  Here are four. Hivemind, help me, I have minutes to choose the last one. Quick!

Dr Ben Goldacre gives lasting protection against:

* scaremongering journalists
* pill-pushing nutritionists
* flaky statistics
* evil pharmaceutical corporations

And yeah, I do think it’s a bit naff, but then I didn’t like the last cover much, and now I feel weirdly attached to it. Just give me the last bulletpoint and I can rest easy. Or recommend a better five. But we have minutes

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

150 Responses

  1. Henry said,

    March 3, 2009 at 8:03 pm



  2. decium said,

    March 3, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    un-critical thinking

  3. TroisVitesse said,

    March 3, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    Hysterical hack hyperbole
    Wholesale flim-flam peddlers

  4. mauve said,

    March 3, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    Has anyone undertaken a study to assess whether pink dolphins are carcinogenous or is this just media scaremongering?

  5. EleanorC said,

    March 3, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    Fluffy Mike – probably the thing that has the biggest effect on sales is positioning – how prominently the bookselling chains place the book physically in their stores and virtually in their marketing and advertising and on their websites, whether it goes into 3-for-2 promotions, book club offers, etc. Though of course the cover and the reviews affect the decision on how to position it. The author’s media profile is a massive factor in that decision too.

    Issuing the book in various editions maximises its reach. The £12.99 edition appealed to one section of the market; this one will be a smaller format in a larger print run – therefore cheaper – and will be picked up by a slightly different (and larger) set of shoppers.

    Mauve – what I want to know is how pink dolphins affect house prices…

  6. biggerpills said,

    March 3, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    @mauve I don’t know but it’s a pretty shifty-looking dolphin, looks like it’s up to no good. Perhaps Richard Littlejohn knows.

    I love the “do not harass the dolphin” request.

  7. dkb said,

    March 3, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Too late now, but I thought it needed a dustbin category at the end, such as:

    … and other insults to your intelligence.

  8. Artsgrad said,

    March 3, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Bugger – I’m too late for this, but:

    All known forms of quackery


    99% of quacks

  9. numero said,

    March 3, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    measles, mumps and rubella

  10. gazza said,

    March 3, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    The book only protexts against 5 things? I think you undersell yourself!

    Why not a free flowing ‘rant’ of items it protects against across 5 lines? With a selection of all the clever things posted above?

  11. biggerpills said,

    March 3, 2009 at 11:02 pm


  12. Jammydodger said,

    March 3, 2009 at 11:30 pm


    …99% of Sophists and 87% of other Charlatans

  13. Jammydodger said,

    March 4, 2009 at 12:04 am

    Actually, what about:

    Dr. Ben Goldacre has been linked with anecdotal prophylaxis against some of the following widespread aetiologies:

    scaremongering journalists
    pill pushing nutritionists
    flaky statistics
    evil pharmaceutical corporations
    Sophists and other associated Charlatans

    Enclosed within are a series of case study reports detailing several instances of such effectiveness for objective review by interested and affected parties.

    Hmmm… Or then again..

  14. Tom P said,

    March 4, 2009 at 12:07 am


  15. omnis said,

    March 4, 2009 at 12:44 am

    Hi Ben. If it’s not too late could you change ‘evil pharmaceutical companies’ to ‘profiteering …’ or somesuch. Of course, if pharmas do things which are unethical you should be pointing it out. But one of the reasons I believe to be behind the rise in quackery in the world is the widely held belief that scientists are inherently evil. It’s the marketing and legal sections of pharmas that have questionable ethics, but the scientists trying to do good get tarred with the same brush. There are a lot of people out there who believe evil scientists deliberately make their drugs addictive (to sell more of them) and deliberately engineer side effects (to sell other drugs) and torture bunnies cos it’s fun. These are conversations I’ve had down the pub many many times, and putting the word evil on the back of the book (even when aimed at the corporations) is just going to reinforce those opinions amongst those people.
    Having just ended a 13 year career as a research scientist in a major pharma it’s become clear to me that the only industry that actively tries to improve people lives (in significant ways, not just by giving them ipods) is also the 2nd most despised, after arms dealers. Highlight their shortcomings, by all means, but they’re no more inherently evil than global capitalism in general.

  16. underblog said,

    March 4, 2009 at 12:55 am

    Something about science by press release?

    PR bullshitters?

  17. brainduck said,

    March 4, 2009 at 2:06 am

    Ben, once again, if you really mean:
    ‘I want to be plagiarised, I want you to steal my ideas, that’s exactly what they’re here for, and the same goes, with some vague caveats, for mainstream media. I’d prefer you to say where the stuff came from, so that people can find more of the same if they like it, but to my mind that’s a matter of panache rather than law or money’
    then please use a Creative Commons licence (creativecommons.org/license/) instead of copyright.
    If publishers won’t let you for the book, and finding different publishers isn’t an option, then at least stick one on this blog.
    Encouraging people to break the law is not always a bad thing, but better to set up structures where doing the right thing does not mean you have to.

  18. Indy said,

    March 4, 2009 at 7:42 am

    omnis – I agree, and am saddened you’ve chosen to leave Big Pharma (better to have good people on the inside I say).

    BTW Endarkenment is brilliant!!!!

  19. briantist said,

    March 4, 2009 at 7:53 am

    probably far too late, but my one would have been “Doctors who … are not doctors”.

  20. Andrew Clegg said,

    March 4, 2009 at 8:09 am

    Endarkenment comes from Francis Wheen’s Mumbo-Jumbo book doesn’t it?

    BTW read Black Mass by John Gray if you think the Enlightenment was all good…

  21. Andrew Clegg said,

    March 4, 2009 at 8:10 am

    PS it’s a shame Ben didn’t get “79.4% of dodgy statistics” in there…

  22. devilsadvocate said,

    March 4, 2009 at 8:56 am

    Missed it, huh??

    Dr. Ben Goldacre gives lasting protection against:
    * Autism-causing vaccines
    * Statistical slackness
    * Alien abduction
    * Tabloid-derived toxins
    * Demonic possession
    * Homeopathic poisons
    * Gullibility
    * Arguments from Authority

  23. Rhysickle said,

    March 4, 2009 at 9:47 am

    ‘Dr’ Gillian McKeith

  24. Darwinschurch said,

    March 4, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Damn, missed it!

    Just in case,

    *Homeopathic bollocks

  25. Nick Bland said,

    March 4, 2009 at 10:33 am

    quacks and snakeoil salesmen?

  26. John said,

    March 4, 2009 at 10:53 am

    “Policy-based evidence making”

  27. MissPrism said,

    March 4, 2009 at 11:44 am

    and the rest of the the bollocks du jour

  28. duboing said,

    March 4, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Any room for the word ‘charlatan’ in there? I don’t think it’s used enough these days.

  29. Pete Beaudro said,

    March 4, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    maybe go for ‘Goldacre, PI’, with a photo of you looking quizically through a magnifying glass at a copy of the Mail, particularly trained on the word ‘narwhal’ (for plentyofants). The entire headline would read ‘sex with narwhals causes cancer’.

    It’s a sure-fire winner – hell, I’d buy another copy.

  30. cat said,

    March 4, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    It’s too late, and too few people would get it anyway, but:


  31. chatsubo said,

    March 4, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Ben Goldacre said,
    March 3, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    i like:

    marketing bullshit
    factless arguments

    should i make them drop Dr from Dr Ben Goldacre? i hate hate hate hate HATE the way they slightly seem to be insisting on presenting the book as a rabid hate screed from an authority figure, when the only thing i really add is that it is the absolute opposite of that.”

    U.N. Representative: So, Mr. Evil… Dr. Evil: It’s Dr. Evil, I didn’t spend six years in Evil Medical School to be called “mister,” thank you very much

  32. T said,

    March 4, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    How can you not wish to have Dr on the back panel??
    You are actually a Dr this gives you OFFICIAL gravitas unlike Mac Keith
    My five would be

    •Almost all of the people you will ever meet
    •Every thing you see on TV
    •Everything you read

  33. DrDaveExeter said,

    March 4, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Late as usual, but for your next edition you might add “Dry, flaky equations”


  34. NuclearChicken said,

    March 4, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    So what’s made it on the final list then?

  35. konomios said,

    March 4, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    T, I think he doesn’t want to have Dr on the back precisely because he doesn’t want “OFFICIAL gravitas”. One of the points he makes in the book is that you shouldn’t trust someone’s opinion just because of a title they have.

    After all, McKeith called herself Dr…

  36. Diversity said,

    March 4, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    Whether or not you are the most sanctimonious person in the known universe (my Baysian prior bets 10 to the eigth: 1 against), I remember fondly the joy of telling a German academic conference organiser that I should not be introduced as Herr Professor Dr.Dr., nor as Herr Professor Dr. since I held neither a Professorship nor a Doctorate.

    Latin is out of fashion (though medicos learn some), but for a suitable audience(or a Vatican edition of Bad Science) you might add to the list:

    supressio veri
    suggestio falsi

  37. T said,

    March 4, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Ha yes I see your point! I haven’t actually read this book yet…I’m waiting for it to come back to the library. so i can read it for free

  38. Jenfa said,

    March 4, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    On a completely unrelated note, I have been looking at your merchandise page. How is it possible that an extremely small pair of pants is more costly than a t-shirt? :/

  39. Scrotley said,

    March 4, 2009 at 11:56 pm



  40. 24alex said,

    March 5, 2009 at 5:35 am

    +1 for [strikethrough]dr[/strikethrough] gillian mckieth

  41. 24alex said,

    March 5, 2009 at 5:36 am

    Bollocks, that was meant to be a crossed out Dr. infront of her name!

  42. Queex said,

    March 5, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    “All kinds of things you didn’t know weren’t bad for you”

    “Snake-oil salesmen in lab coats”

  43. TimW said,

    March 5, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    And a partridge in a pear tree.

  44. ed rowe said,

    March 5, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Don’t know about the back of your book, Ben, but can you please put an index in this time? Check out the Society of Indexers for reasons why or, if you want the quick version, so I can find my way round it more quickly. No, I’m not an indexer BTW. Cheers.

  45. Kallis said,

    March 5, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Far too late now but…

    Blurb writers

  46. Redski said,

    March 5, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Go whole hog: Measles, mumps and rubella

  47. MrMalcontent said,

    March 6, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    110% of statistical errors

  48. frisbee said,

    March 8, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Kinda obvious. Should be Bad Science

  49. mikewhit said,

    March 9, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    But apart from the cover what is the difference between old and new books ?

    Please. I believe I have asked before … without success. And I bought an old one.

  50. NelC said,

    March 14, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Oh, good gods, yes, I have to agree with Ed: index! I really don’t want to have to re-read nearly the whole book to find again the disease the French associate with vaccines, for example. I will re-read the book at some point, but I also feel the need to pick at the bones occasionally.