You might remember how I’ve decided to discuss logic and research here in an attempt to fight back against some of the very dubious argument techniques I've seen some writers rely on. And as that all sounds very dull and dry I'm getting things off to a nice gentle start today by suggesting a little reading, backed up with a great giveaway.
Dr Ben Goldacre writes a column for the Guardian called Bad Science in which he discusses the misuse and misinterpretation of science. One of his common themes is how the media frequently misrepresents scientific research in order to present a more sensationalist story and while we really should know what our politicians are up to and how our banks’ bosses are paid, the stories Goldacre covers are far more important to most of our daily lives. I’m astonished that his column isn’t more appreciated.
His Guardian articles also appear on his blog, which is a true delight: the discussions that evolve there are well-informed, articulate, reasoned and hilarious, and I usually learn more there about the truth of a story than from the news coverage I see all about me.
There is also a Bad Science book, which is a quick and funny read: but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s lightweight. It’s beautifully researched, meticulously referenced and jam-packed solid with advice and information for everyone who has ever marvelled at a newspaper story, or wondered why so many scientists seem to research such ridiculous things. And it’s all written in very clear and accessible language so it’s suitable for just about anyone, even those without a science background: my thirteen-year-old son is now reading my copy and is enjoying it immensely.
I have no doubt: if your writing depends on research in any way and you don't want to make yourself look foolish, this book is essential reading for you no matter what you’re researching: it discusses verifying data, interpreting data and how research should be structured, and warns against common misconceptions and mistakes.
I could go on about how this book makes science interesting, accessible and entertaining; or about how the fabulous Dr Goldacre meticulously unravels all the nonsense about supposed links between the MMR vaccine and autism; I could quote extensively from the book to make my point and make you laugh at the same time: the chapters about homeopathy and Gillian McKeith are riotously entertaining. But I won't do any of that. Instead I urge you to get your hands on a copy and read it for yourself, and there are two ways you could do this: you could go out and buy yourself a copy right now, or you could leave a comment here and tell me exactly why you deserve to be given one of the free copies which HarperPerennial has promised to provide to my readers.
The lucky winners will be selected a week from today from everyone who has commented on this post, and I’ll admit right now that I’m likely to be biased towards people who make me laugh, people who pay attention, and people who make sense. Those nice people at HarperPerennial will, of course, have some say in the matter so if you promote Bad Science and this giveaway in some way (on your own blogs, perhaps—remember to post links here or we won't know about your efforts), then that might well score you extra points.