Bad Advice: Or Why Celebrities, Politicians, and Activists Aren’t Your Best Source of Health Information

Paul A. Offit. Columbia Univ., $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-231-18698-8
Physician and medical researcher Offit (Pandora’s Lab), cocreator of a rotavirus vaccine, recounts the travails of educating the public about science and health issues in his enlightening treatise. Science provides a valuable “antidote to superstition,” but because scientists often lack the polish to put across their ideas and “the scientific method doesn’t allow for absolute certainty,” people often can’t sort out good from bad science; consequently, “fringe scientists with winning personalities” wreak havoc on truth. With disarming candor, the author shares his own mistakes from interviews, such as becoming flustered when Charlie Rose took umbrage at his assertion that Steve Jobs’s pancreatic cancer could likely have been treated successfully. After each example, Offit provides a lesson learned (in the case of Rose: “Don’t panic. The facts are your safety net”). His chapter on Andrew Wakefield, infamous for falsifying data that he argued linked autism to the MMR vaccine, is thorough, fascinating, and damning. His chapter on debating creationists, Holocaust deniers, homeopaths, and anti-vaxxers is invigorating. “Science is under siege,” Offit states, but “science advocates are fighting back,” and his own book provides a sterling example of this stand in the name of empirical truth. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/16/2018
Release date: 06/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-231-18699-5
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