Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mandatory reading for teenagers

I just found a new book that should really be mandatory reading for science classes in schools.  It never will be, of course, because it talks frankly about how completely ridiculous a lot of alternative medicine is and homeopaths and fraudulent 'nutrition experts' have too much clout and too much to lose to let this sort of thing slide.  The basic idea behind the book is to talk about how the scientific method is used in experiments and the ways in which it is regularly ignored.  The author talks all about the total lack of evidence for things like homeopathy, the way in which the placebo effect works, and how big pharma distorts evidence (or outright lies) to get its 'medicine' to market.

It reads like a book that would be perfect for high school science, though honestly if everybody in the world read it I am sure the world be a better place.  A whole lot of quacks and charlatans would be out of business and scientific and medical advancement would certainly improve.  If you already know a fair bit about how to do science properly including very basic ideas of sampling bias and such from statistics you won't get anything out of the book except some fun and terrifying examples, but for the average person this is going to be a gold mine.

Before you go telling me that nutritionists have useful things to say, keep in mind:  Telling people to eat lots of veggies, moderate alcohol intake and don't smoke is great.  We don't need nutritionists for that, and unfortunately many nutritionists specialize in very specific and completely unsupported advice.  Antioxidants! (Bogus)  Green leaves to oxygenate your blood!  (Greens are good, but not because of that!)  Cut all wheat from your diet!  (Not a terrible idea if you just replace it with veggies, but how is that different from 'eat more veggies'?)

This is a great crash course on being skeptical of silly, outrageous, or simply spurious claims of health benefits whether peddled by your local wellness expert or some giant company.  We all need this information.  Well, all of us but the folks making a fortune peddling snake oil.  It kinda kicks them in the wallet.

Here is a great video summarizing a lot of the points of the book in 15 minutes.

No comments:

Post a Comment