Sunday House Call #291, November 22, 2009

Sunday House Call #291

Since our last interview with Dr. Ben Goldacre in March of this year, he has written many a tale about the ongoing misrepresentations of science through agencies that wish to sell you a product or provide information through media sources.

Given that many applications of common alternative medical treatments are harmless in nature, there are times when the modes of thinking and claims made by the purveyors of these “health products” cause misery and death.

Such is the case of vitamin-pill entrepreneur Matthias Rath who sued Dr. Goldacre, and the Guardian, for libel. Rath lost his case after a long and expensive court battle but the harm that befell the people of South Africa when his products were touted as a treatment for AIDS and supported by the South African Government was severe.

Dr. Goldacre now has published the chapter of his book Bad Science entitled The Doctor will Sue You Now now that he has won the court case. It is a sad illustration and a very serious story about the dangers of pseudoscience.

As Dr. Goldacre states,

Matthias Rath takes us rudely outside the contained, almost academic distance of this book. For the most part we’ve been interested in the intellectual and cultural consequences of bad science, the made-up facts in national newspapers, dubious academic practices in universities, some foolish pill-peddling, and so on. But what happens if we take these sleights of hand, these pill-marketing techniques, and transplant them out of our decadent Western context into a situation where things really matter?

  • Dr. Ben Goldacre, physician, award-winning writer, and broadcaster, who has written the weekly Bad Science column in the Guardian since 2003 and is author of the book of the same name.

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