Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial Edzard Ernst & Simon Singh, Bantam Press 2008
The sale of alternative medicines worldwide involves many billions of dollars changing hands annually; yet the evidence that these products, taken individually actually work is very slim. Sales often rely on strident or seductive marketing, folklore, testimonials, habit and herd mentality.
Ernst is a Professor of Complementary Medicine at Exeter University, while Singh is a respected Science writer. Between them, they are well placed to scour the vast scientific literature and to make its findings upfront and accessible.
Homeopathy, Chiropractic, Acupuncture, Aroma Therapy, Reflexology and Herbal Medicine, even the Power of Prayer, are among more than thirty popular treatments which come under investigation. The book says of each of these that the scientific evidence for their effectiveness IS there, and goes on to provide it. The Placebo factor is thoroughly discussed.
Prince Charles, a target of the book, will probably not agree with its major premise; double-blind clinical trials subject to peer review are the Gold Standard in deciding whether a remedy is likely to be effective or useless.
The best on-line price I discovered for this book was A$21.95 (free delivery) from Borders. (cf $27.95 elsewhere). http://www.borders.com.au/book/trick-or-treatment-alternative-medicine-on-trial/437428/
Other reviews of this book:
When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish – and Other Speculations About This and That. Martin Gardner, Hill and Wang 2010
Visitors to this website will know the esteem in which we hold the late Martin Gardner. Read Eric Fiesley’s tribute here: http://vicskeptics.wordpress.com/2010/05/25/vale-martin-gardner/
I pre-ordered this paperback hot off the press through Amazon USA, so I had no real idea of what to expect. I was familiar with Gardner’s critical debunking (Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science; Science: Good, Bad, and Bogus; Did Adam and Eve Have Navels?). I had also read and owned some of his many excursions into Mathematics and Logic, including collections of puzzles. I recently purchased Entertaining Science Experiments with Everyday Objects and instantly regretted not having done so in 1981 while still teaching Science.
For that reason, I was surprised (and very briefly disappointed) to discover that only the first half of this collection of essays from the last fifty years is concerned with Science, Maths, Logic and The Paranormal. The entire second half of the book is devoted to Literature, Religion and American Politics. The author’s fondness for the works of both GK Chesterton and HG Wells is a recurring theme (despite the mutual antipathy between those two writers), as is his love of poetry. (The title of the book derives from a long once popular American poem about Evolution.) Another surprise is that Gardner refers to himself as a Philosophical Theist in the longest essay in the book, Why I Am Not an Atheist.
For that reason, I cannot give this book a categorical “buy” recommendation, for fear that some visitors to this site might consider themselves short-changed. I personally enjoyed it immensely. But then, I’m a quirky individual.
Finally, I confess that much of the personal appeal of a Gardner book is that I still have a role model to aspire to. If I still have my marbles at ninety-five, to the extent that Gardner did, I’ll be doing well.
This book is available online from Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/When-You-Were-Tadpole-Fish/dp/0809087375 and will cost about A$28.80 including shipping and handling at current exchange rates.
I couldn’t find this book in stock in a search of Australian bookstores. (Please correct me if I’m wrong!) Biblioz.com will get it for you but expect to pay at least A$42 for a USED copy!
Here are two other reviews of When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/21/AR2009102103700.html
http://scienceontap.blogspot.com/ April 24 2010
The History of Britain Revealed – The Shocking Truth About the English Language. Icon Books, 2007
M.J. Harper makes what seems to be a scholarly case for the proposition that the accepted view of the development of English from Anglo Saxon is bogus. While he refrains from making strident counter claims, he surmises that the Britons might have been speaking a form of English (and not Celtic) when the Romans invaded, and the lingua franca of the British Isles at the time of Stonehenge may even have been an early form of English.
The title of the book is unfortunate: just The Shocking Truth About the English Language would have been more appropriate. The author accepts the orthodox historical cannon of names, places and dates, but rejects the established view that Anglo Saxon, with an injection of Latin and French is the ancestor of English.
This book is witty, lucid, entertaining and takes no prisoners. Here is an excerpt from early on in the book: http://vicskeptics.wordpress.com/about/reviews/history-of-britain-excerpt/
The author has come prepared for an argument, and his scholastic weaponry appears formidable. He describes himself as an “Applied Epistemologist” , then goes on to regret the extent to which that term has been hijacked by people who dabble in “utterly useless” fields of endeavour. He refers the reader to a website. Here’s the link to that part of the site which is specifically dedicated to discussing this book.
One thing makes me wary of the book. Both The Fortean Times and Rupert Sheldrake gave it glowing reviews!
The paperback is freely available through Amazon UK or similar UK on-line sources for £7 to £9, (plus conversion fee plus postage)
or try http://www.biblioz.com/search.php?a=79&i=34966099. Expect to pay about A$43 including delivery in Australia.
Previous reviews on this website:
11th August 2010 Skeptical Podcast Review by Mal Vickers http://vicskeptics.wordpress.com/2010/08/11/skeptical-podcast-review/
23rd July 2010 Creation Movie Review by Terry Kelly
23rd June 2010 Unexplained DVD Review by Steve Roberts
10th May 2010 Conceiving God Book Review by Terry Kelly