How myths are made

August 8th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, big pharma, ghostwriters, publication bias, references, structured data, systematic reviews | 41 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, Saturday 8 August 2009, The Guardian.

Much of what we cover in this column revolves around the idea of a “systematic review”, where the literature is surveyed methodically, following a predetermined protocol, to find all the evidence on a given question. As we saw last week, for example, the Soil Association would rather have the freedom to selectively reference only research which supports their case, rather than the totality of the evidence.

Two disturbing news stories demonstrate how this rejection of best practice can also cut to the core of academia.

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March 28th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, references, suicide | 89 Comments »

Apologies for the exegesis, but I would like to formally introduce this piece as what I hope is my first unambiguous abuse of my position as a “columnist”. I had an acquaintance – the partner of a cherished ex-girlfriend – die in tragic circumstances (not suicide, as it happens) and the details were pored over hideously and unnecessarily by the media for no reason other than prurience and a desire to make a spectacle of someone else’s pain. The media have made it quite clear that they cannot be trusted to report sensibly on coroners’ inquests, and so they have made it quite clear that they should be expelled from them. Read the rest of this entry »

How Aric Sigman distorts the scientific evidence to mislead you.

February 24th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in aric sigman, bad science, mail, onanism, references | 153 Comments »

I was on newsnight a second ago, debating the rather indulgent claims of Baroness Professor Susan Greenfield and Dr Aric Sigman about Facebook and Twitter. It’s 40 minutes in to the show, which can be seen here as a wmv/rm file or here on iPlayer or here:

I promised references. These can be found below. Read the rest of this entry »

How dumb can one company be?

January 10th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bbc, detox, references | 60 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian,
Saturday 10 January 2009

Obviously by now you can interpolate my views on detox: meaningless, symbolic, gimmicky shortlived health gestures with a built-in expiry date, when we could be reading about the NHS’s surprisingly useful website to help you stop smoking (do it now:, or lifestyle pieces on the joys of buying a bike, and making a genuine move to integrate exercise into your daily life for the long term. I’m not trying to bore you. But after a few months of concentrating on dodgy reporting in the media, I had genuinely forgotten how far out a proper fruitcake can get.

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As far as I understand thinktanks….

June 7th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, references, statistics | 19 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian,
Saturday June 7 2008

It is with deep regret that I must alert you to a frightening decline in the quality of maths in reports complaining about the frightening decline in the quality of maths in Britain. “The value of mathematics”, by thinktank Reform, has received a huge amount of flattering media coverage this week in the Times, the Telegraph, and even scored a second puff in the Guardian from Professor Marcus du Sautoy himself. There is less maths around. We suffer economically. People think it’s cool to be bad at sums. These are bad things.
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“Manufacturing Doubt”: Sir Cliff Richard weighs in on the Cochrane review.

April 26th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, manufacturing doubt, nutritionists, references, statistics | 36 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian,
Saturday April 26 2008

And so our ongoing project to learn about evidence through nonsense enters its sixth improbable year. This week, the assembled celebrity community and vitamin pill industry will walk us through the pitfalls of reading through a systematic review and meta-analysis from the Cochrane Collaboration, an international not for profit organisation set up 15 years ago to create transparent, systematic, unbiased reviews of the medical literature on everything from drugs, through surgery, to community interventions. Read the rest of this entry »

Foreign substances in your precious bodily fluids

February 9th, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, references, scare stories, statistics | 48 Comments »

You’ll find fluoride in tea, beer and fish, which might sound like a balanced diet to you. This week Alan Johnson announced a major new push for putting it in the drinking water, with some very grand promises, and in the face of serious opposition.

General Ripper first developed his theories about environmental poisoning and bodily fluids when he experienced impotence, fatigue, and a pervasive sense of emptiness during the physical act of love. Read the rest of this entry »

Meaningful debates need clear information

October 27th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in badscience, references, religion, statistics | 42 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian
Saturday October 27 2007

Where do all those numbers in the newspapers come from? Here’s a funny thing. The Commons committee on science and technology is taking evidence on “scientific developments relating to the Abortion Act 1967”.

Scientific and medical expert bodies giving evidence say that survival in births below 24 weeks has not significantly improved since the 1990s, when it was only 10-20%. But one expert, a professor of neonatal medicine, says survival at 22 and 23 weeks has improved. In fact, he says survival rates in this group can be phenomenally high: 42% of children born at 23 weeks at some top specialist centres. He is quoted widely: the Independent, Telegraph, Channel 4, on Newsnight, by Tory MPs, and so on. The figure has a life of its own. Read the rest of this entry »

The Joy of Ingelfingering

September 21st, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, media, references, scare stories | 25 Comments »

This is a response (as they say in Youtube) to a previous piece in the Times Higher by Bob Ward, which is pasted at the bottom. Hey, I’m in the THES. I am officially “old”.

Clinical cost of making headlines
Ben Goldacre
21 September 2007
Times Higher Education Supplement

Paul Broca was a French craniologist who measured brains. He was famous, and his name is given to Broca’s area, the part of the brain involved in generating speech, which is often damaged in strokes. But Broca had a problem: his German brain specimens were 100g heavier than his French ones, and by rights, the French should have been superior. Read the rest of this entry »

Dr George Carlo responds to Andrew Goldacre

June 8th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, electrosensitivity, hate mail, letters, references, stifling criticism | 34 Comments »

This post is only if you’re not bored of the rather trying electrosensitivity lobby. Here is a letter which has popped up all over the interweb, I assume it is genuinely from Dr Carlo, who is hawked about as a rather eminent figure, and not a fake created in an effort to smear him.
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