Jay Lehr: “The Little Black Book of Junk Science” book review

By Jay Lehr / Heartland Institute

The Little Black Book of Junk Science, by Alex Berezow, Ph.D., American Council on Science and Health, June 2017, 72 pages, ISBN-10: 0997253002, ISBN-13: 978-0997253009; $9.95 on Amazon.com

Three decades ago, the late Dr. Elizabeth Whelan established the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) for the express purpose of exposing the rapidly declining veracity of scientific information purveyed in journalism, advertising, and public pronouncements by organizations that profit from publicizing health scares.

ACSH, now directed by Hank Campbell, is made up of a talented staff of scientists, medical doctors, and journalists who are on the battlefield warning the public against the reams of disinformation reported every day. This 72 page, three inch by five inch black book summarizes their work in 193 alphabetized entries explaining the fallacies behind almost every imaginable popular bogus health- or science-related claim.

This book could well be one of the most important science books published in my lifetime, because if everyone read it, society could advance by light-years. Although one can read it in less than an hour, it will require three hours to absorb its critiques of all the fallacies it discusses.

Author Alex Berezow puts the lie to myriad fallacies in amazingly few words in this book, convincing thoughtful readers they are being exposed to copious amounts of misinformation.

The best way to convince potential readers to obtain this book and share its insights is to highlight some of its brilliant entries. Berezow shows, for example, why antibiotics do not cure viral infections, and why people should not waste their money on brain training games, chelation therapy, or chiropractors. He uses mathematics effectively to explain why conspiracy theories diverge from reality.

Debunking Food Fads

Readers of this book will likely not watch Dr. Oz again or believe anything the Environmental Working Group ever writes, nor will they buy essential oils from the modern-day snake oil salesmen pushing them as health items. Careful readers will likely eat less organic food and worry less about peanut allergies. The book discusses many food fads, such as eating quinoa and raw or unpasteurized food.

Berezow explains why the anti-oxidant supplement craze is mostly a scam, and why the body mass index often fails to describe a healthy body.

The book is full of simple wisdom. Concerning dieting, for instance, the book notes one sure way to lose weight is to consume fewer calories than you burn.

Exposing Interest Groups

The book easily dispels fears fracking for natural gas and oil production is dangerous, shows the health risks from the Fukushima nuclear plant breakdown were grossly overstated, and provides evidence genetically modified organisms are good and Greenpeace is bad. After reading the book, you will want to beware of hormone replacement therapy. The book also points out the Union of Concerned Scientists has few scientists but lots of socialists.

And while everyone wants animals to be treated well, Berezow points out People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals takes actions that put animals’ lives at risk, for instance by releasing 30,000 mink from captivity to die in the wilds.

Humor and Clarity

Although the book covers very serious science topics, it does so with some welcome humor. The entry for “Psychics,” for example, says, “Nobody can see the future. Anybody who claims to predict the future is either a psychic or an economist, and both have roughly the same track record.”

 Berezow clearly and concisely describes complex topics such as sample size and the new genetic modification technique CRISPR in ways a nonscientific audience can understand. Many of his explanations are positive, intended to counteract the continuous drumbeat of false propaganda hyped by hundreds of fear-mongering environmental activist organizations. For instance, Berezow celebrates the strides we have made in preventing lead from getting into children’s blood.

Christmas is approaching, and I cannot imagine a better stocking stuffer for your closest friends and family than this Little Black Book of Junk Science. The American Council on Science and Health will be very happy to supply you with copies.

 

Jay Lehr, Ph.D. (jlehr@heartland.org) is science director of The Heartland Institute.

 

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