I still think we should read books. Remember George Orwell might have feared an age when we were prevented from reading them, but Aldous Huxley had an even bleaker vision of a Brave New World where noone even wanted to read them any more. So just to preserve our humanity and enjoy these wonderfully personal, solid and discrete creations, please can we drag ourselves away from Facebook once in while to pick one up.
Bad Science by Ben Goldacre – Well, once I’d picked this up I couldn’t put this down. He might scoff at homeopathy and expensive face creams, but his real wrath is directed towards poor science journalism and the pharmaceutical industry (Big Pharma as it seems to be known now). He is a lover of the scientific method, is an incredibly intelligent, clear and lucid writer and even though you might not agree with some of his opinions, tone and conclusions, it is still a good and fascinating read.
A Scientist in Wonderland by Edzard Ernst – Find out all about the scourge of alternative medicine. I defy you not to like him, at least just a little bit, after you’re read this book. Not only is it part memoir – his adored mother, incidentally, was a big fan of naturopathy – it’s also just very entertaining. I particularly enjoyed the spiritual healing clinical trial.
The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan – I read this last about 20 years ago but it gets quoted by “baloney-detectors” all the time, was a really enjoyable read, and I have meant to read it again ever since. It made a big impression on me.
Good Thinking Society – a website of a society set up by Simon Singh in 2012. Yes, they’re the ones generating all these complaints about treating babies and children. Go and check it out if you believe in knowing your enemy.
The individual skeptics all have their own websites as well and they are terrific. These are generally productive people who are very intelligent and their area of interest often intersects with ours. But they are also skeptical about politicians, drugs companies and banks, which probably also means that their views cross over with many of us too. The main skeptics I know of (I use a k because sceptic looks like it could be pronounced septic, and those opposed to them possibly antiseptic) are Edzard Ernst, Ben Goldacre, Simon Singh, David Colquhoun, Richard Dawkins (although I think he is more preocuppied with debunking religion than alternative medicine) and there a few others I haven’t caught up with yet.
Ben Goldacre – The Bad Science website is quite heavily academic, but if you want to know about something specific, like statins, it is really useful. He really digs the dirt. But is possibly more interested in going after the pharmacology industry which might not as relevant to most of us.
Edzard Ernst – Wow does this guy produce a lot of writing, and it mostly seems to be about the evidence for alternative therapies. Approach this site with an open mind, as I know he’s not the most popular person in osteoworld, but also bear in mind that he has now been subject to years of abuse and attack from advocates of alternative medicine, and his career and health have suffered as a result of him simply doing his job as best he could.
David Colquhoun – also has a busy blog, DC’s Improbable Science. He is a bit of a statistics guy but you’ll find some things to read. He seems to have some favourable experience of osteopathy and indeed personal connections with some osteopaths.