Education Is Not Medicine

Pocket Quintilian

One of the most useful books that I have read over the past twenty years is Dr. Ben Goldacre’s superb Bad Science. Written in an accessible, sardonic style, it provides a much-needed explanation of the real meaning of “evidence” in medical matters, and a thorough demolition of the fraudulent claims that fester on for years in the murky world of alternative medicine.

The centrepiece of the book is a laudably clear and comprehensive description of how randomized controlled trials (RCTs) ought to be conducted. Central to this is the importance of double-blinding, a concept to which I was never introduced in my own teacher training (and which, I now realise, rendered essentially worthless the vast majority of the “studies” that we were shown).

The question arises: why are RCTs necessary in medicine, rather than the sort of experimentation which has expanded human knowledge in areas such as physics…

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