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Science Fictions Reviews

Science Fictions by Stuart Ritchie

Science Fictions: Exposing Fraud, Bias, Negligence and Hype in Science

Stuart Ritchie

3.80 out of 5

6 reviews

Imprint: The Bodley Head Ltd
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publication date: 16 Jul 2020
ISBN: 9781847925657

But what if science itself can't be relied on?Medicine, education, psychology, health, parenting - wherever it really matters, we look to science for guidance.

4 stars out of 5
Nick Rennison
9 Aug 2020

"His book brilliantly highlights the problems in current practices and sets out a path towards new ones."

Stuart Ritchie, a lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College, London, is very definitely not ‘anti-science’.

It has, he writes, ‘cured diseases, mapped the brain, forecasted the climate and split the atom; it’s the best method we have of figuring out how the universe works and of bending it to our will’.

What he wants is to save science from what he sees as its present crisis. His book brilliantly highlights the problems in current practices and sets out a path towards new ones.


4 stars out of 5
1 Aug 2020

"Stuart Ritchie’s engaging tour of the dark side of research"

Although his book contains more psychodrama than science fictions, Ritchie is an illuminating and thoughtful guide. Ultimately, he comes to praise science, not to bury it. Despite the chicanery and bias that blight research, not least the infatuation with positive results, scientists have the tools, scepticism and self-awareness to smooth away the human wrinkles from what undoubtedly remains the most powerful means we have to make sense of the cosmos.

4 stars out of 5
James McConnachie
19 Jul 2020

"Much of what we take for scientific truth is riddled with error, argues this polemic"

Ritchie is fascinating — if you’re into statistics — on the alarming phenomenon of “p-hacking”, whereby if research data turns out not to be statistically significant it is pushed and pulled around until something pops up that is. He is also good on “underpowered” studies, where data samples are too small — too few mice are studied, for instance, or only 12 autistic children. Sample sizes can profoundly distort what can be found. Scientists spend too long, he warns, “chasing an effect that’s like the giant shadow projected by a moth sitting on a lightbulb”.

4 stars out of 5
16 Jul 2020

"far more enjoyable and far less worthy than you might guess from the subject matter"

Ritchie’s book is about the very, very many ways that boring results become exciting results. Some involve outright fraud, some more subtle tricks. Most are the simple structural problems that mean honest scientists doing what they are meant to still skew the body of research. Few examples better illustrate the problems than the parable of the antidepressants. In 2018 a group of researchers looked into 105 studies that had investigated the efficacy of these drugs. Pretty much half showed an effect, half did not. Not, perhaps, strong evidence for antidepressants.

4 stars out of 5
16 Jul 2020

"a fascinating study by neuroscientist Dr Stuart Ritchie"

‘Proponents of the amyloid hypothesis,’ says Ritchie, ‘many of whom are powerful, well-established professors, act as a ‘cabal’, shooting down papers that question the hypothesis with nasty peer reviews and torpedoing the attempts of heterodox researchers to get funding and tenure.’ So: science is often flawed. That’s because scientists are human beings. They cheat, they lie, they bully. ‘My view,’ says Ritchie, ‘is that scientists need to work harder to deserve trust.’ This book will help to ensure they do.

2 stars out of 5
9 Jul 2020

"Science Fictions is a lively read"

Science Fictions is a lively read; but it contains too much scaremongering and too little celebration of the progress that has been made. Yes, there have been serious problems. Many have already been fixed; some whole disciplines (above all social psychology, where key experiments, such as the Stanford prison guard experiment, turn out to have been rigged) have been shaken to their foundations. But the solution is not, as Ritchie seems to think, to make science less competitive. Take out the competition and scientific progress will simply grind to a halt.