Dr Ben Goldacre was on BBC 1’s One Show. Watch out for it on BBC iPlayer for September 8 (from 8:10 to 12:00 or thereabouts if you crave the added wisdom of Len Goodman). [Update, please use the iPlayer link if you can because this tells the BBC that you were interested in the Bad Science segment. For those who can’t, or for when it disappears, there is a YouTube.]
In an action-packed segment that serves as a lively precis of his book, Goldacre admonished the media for their poor science coverage and then took the viewer on a rapid tour of the Media Hall of Shame for Science Reporting and Obsession with Miracle Cures.
We learned that Dr Andrew Wakefield’s research would not have had such a profound influence had it not been for the ready echo-chamber of a credulous media and some inept handling by the medical authorities and their corduroyed antediluvian representatives. MMR was treated as an opportunity to attack the government and the NHS rather than as a topic that deserved appropriate coverage by specialist reporters.
Goldacre even made up some special topic boards for the ever-entertaining Daily Mail just to illustrate its particular flip-flopping on what might cause or prevent cancer depending on the date and the press release. One example was red wine which, in different stories, either prevented cancer or caused it: sadly, these pieces were even by the same journalist, Kate Devlin.Goldacre visited an open-air market with vegetables and fruit especially primped, polished and looking full of virtue and vitamins. We heard a nicely succinct message on the benefits of eating said virtuous foods and riding your bike and ignoring the over-complicated nonsense that passes for nutritionism. Cram-packed though the segment was, there was a short contribution from Il Fabuloso and Pithy Remarker In Chief, Professor Tom Sanders, who deadpanned superbly as he introduced us to a new term for nutritional therapists:
Spoon benders. They make it up as they go along. They promote the use of supplements quite often where supplements are totally unnecessary.
Watch it. There is much to learn and to amuse – both of which are A Good Thing. If you want to learn or laugh more, take a look through the book: Bad Science or browse through the website badscience.net.