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Bad Science by Dr Ben Goldacre

Yesterday was World Book Day and Gibraltar Cultural Services has organised several initiatives in place of in person events including book reviews by local avid readers. The World Book Day offering forms part of GCS’s Youth Arts Jamboree. Today is the last day of book reviews published in the Chronicle.

By Gianni Gonzalez
I would describe Bad Science, written by Dr Ben Goldacre, as an inspirational book that proved to be an eye-opener for me. I believe this book allows you to immerse yourself into the true reality of what the world of medicine really is and all the hidden secrets that researchers and big pharmaceutical companies hide from the public. It shows you how easy it is for journalists and the media to overcomplicate science by twisting statistics to gain coverage on their headlines.

His use of language and on occasion humorous jokes, make the book extremely easy to read. I believe that the author was spot on with the linguistic techniques he used as he managed to keep the book extremely informative and sophisticated whilst being entertaining, which can be quite difficult when covering these topics.

In the book, Goldacre subjectively analyses and criticises modern day ‘science’ as he busts many common myths and beliefs that have been engrained into our brains. He challenges a topic that has been debated very much during the 21st century which he calls the ‘Media’s MMR hoax’. This was the incorrect belief that the MMR vaccination caused autism which he then explains led to thousands of children being infected with these horrible diseases because of the many ‘anti-vaxxers’.

He critiques many different hoaxes that are found throughout the industry that is ‘alternative medicine’. These people sell pseudoscientific techniques (techniques not proven to be scientifically true). This includes many quacks (people with no qualifications or sufficient knowledge on diagnosing and treating others but claim to be able to using alternative techniques). They treat patients using methods such as homeopathy (medicines with a minuscule portion of the active ingredient prescribed by doctors). Consequently, people unnecessarily die when brainwashed by these pseudoscientists as they are not being treated adequately for potentially life-threatening problems.

Personally, my favourite chapter was ‘The Placebo Effect’. Goldacre does an exceptionally good job of explaining the immense power that the brain has to the point where people can get a lot better from an absurd range of medical problems by simply having a pill made purely of sugar whilst thinking it is medicine. On the contrary, it is also extremely intriguing but terrifying how the nocebo effect is very prominent throughout society. This further consolidates the unexplainable amount of power that the brain has on our bodies as it can make the human body terribly ill if you believe yourself to be ill.

In conclusion, I would implore anyone with an interest in science or thinking about a possible career in the field of science to read this book. With a clever and comical tone throughout, Goldacre concludes the book with an inspirational and invigorating message that the vices of science can be outweighed by the knowledge and dedication of the next generation.

Gianni Gonzalez is an A-level student aspiring to work in the field of medicine and science. He has found that reading these types of books are a great way of expanding his knowledge around the subject. This between his vigorous studying regime, school duties as Head Boy of Bayside, and his love for basketball and sports.

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