Ben Goldacre

Ben Goldacre, columnist in the Guardian, and author of Bad Science, describes himself as a nerdy scientist and a doctor and tries to create the impression that he is this innocent crusader for the truth. His journalistic approach, however, is much more of spiteful innuendo and vitamin pill hater irrespective of the facts. He twists the truth and likes to get ‘vitamin pill salesman’ and other such derogatory phrases in as often as possible in reference to me. (One rather classic example is his description of my graduating from university in 1979 as ‘leaving college’.) Although his main line of attack usually relates to my referencing or not referencing something in a book, hypocritically he doesn’t give references to support his arguments so no-one can really dig deeper for themselves. One of the hallmarks of proper scientific debate is an open mind to explore hypotheses and examine the evidence. This isn’t his style. In fact, there’s a book on him called Junk Journalism: Ben Goldacre, quackbusters and corporate science’ by investigative reporter Martin Walker, available as a free download, which makes Goldacre’s underhand journalistic tactics and corporate and pharmaceutical interests quite transparent. Well worth a read. How on earth this detailed critique hasn’t made it onto his Wikipedia entry never ceases to amaze me.

Despite claims to the contrary Goldacre isn’t really a scientist in the sense that he hasn’t published a single scientific trial if your search on the net. He’s a commentator and a journalist – award winning at that, but he does fail to admit that his first award was paid by the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmith Kline, followed by another, paid by Syngenta, the agrochemical business making GM seeds. Occasionally he does say bad things about drug trials but he’s missed breaking all the big stories – the ineffectiveness of statins, the increased suicide risk of anti-depressants, the proven danger of giving anti-psychotic drugs to young people with depression and old people with memory loss, to name a few. I’ve even fed him information on these but he wasn’t interested.

His Wikipedia entry says he’s a psychiatrist so he should know a thing or two about these drugs. He is nowhere to be found on the UK register for GPs or hospital specialists so it isn’t clear if he actually sees patients. He is the son of Professor Michael Goldacre, co-author of a study on GlaxoSmithKline’s MMR vaccine, Pluserix, which had to be withdrawn, having caused serious adverse reactions in thousands of children. He is a fan of the MMR vaccine.

So far, he has made most of his living denigrating complementary medicine, and those that promote it, under the guise of ‘bad science’. If he really is on big pharma’s case, as he claims, I’m all for it – especially in the field of psychiatry.  His knowledge of nutritional science, for which he has no qualification, in certainly ropey to say the least.