Cover image for Bad advice : or why celebrities, politicians, and activists aren't your best source of health information / Paul A. Offit, M.D.
Bad advice : or why celebrities, politicians, and activists aren't your best source of health information / Paul A. Offit, M.D.
Publication Information:
New York : Columbia University Press, [2018]
Physical Description:
xiv, 251 pages ; 24 cm
Prologue: On being naïve -- What science is--and what it isn't -- White mice and windowless rooms -- An alibi for ignorance -- Feeding the beast -- To debate or not to debate -- Make 'em laugh -- Science goes to the movies -- The Emperor's new clothes -- Judgment Day -- The nuclear option -- Pharma shill -- A ray of hope -- Epilogue: The end of the tour.


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
362.1014 OFF Book Adult General Collection

On Order



Science doesn't speak for itself. Neck-deep in work that can be messy and confounding and naïve in the ways of public communication, scientists are often unable to package their insights into the neat narratives that the public requires. Enter celebrities, advocates, lobbyists, and the funders behind them, who take advantage of scientists' reluctance to provide easy answers, flooding the media with misleading or incorrect claims about health risks. Amid this onslaught of spurious information, Americans are more confused than ever about what's good for them and what isn't.

In Bad Advice , Paul A. Offit shares hard-earned wisdom on the dos and don'ts of battling misinformation. For the past twenty years, Offit has been on the front lines in the fight for sound science and public heath. Stepping into the media spotlight as few scientists have done--such as being one of the first to speak out against conspiracy theories linking vaccines to autism--he found himself in the crosshairs of powerful groups intent on promoting pseudoscience. Bad Advice discusses science and its adversaries: not just the manias stoked by slick charlatans and their miracle cures but also corrosive, dangerous ideologies such as Holocaust and climate-change denial. Written with wit and passion, Offit's often humorous guide to taking on quack experts and self-appointed activists is a must-read for any American disturbed by the uptick in politicized attacks on science.

Author Notes

Paul A. Offit is the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia as well as the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He is an award-winning physician, coinventor of a rotavirus vaccine, and the author of several books on medical and scientific issues including, from Columbia University Press, Autism's False Prophets : Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure (2007) and Vaccines and Your Child: Separating Fact from Fiction (2011, with Charlotte A. Moser).

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Physician and medical researcher Offit (Pandora's Lab), cocreator of a rotavirus vaccine, recounts the travails of educating the public about science and health issues in his enlightening treatise. Science provides a valuable "antidote to superstition," but because scientists often lack the polish to put across their ideas and "the scientific method doesn't allow for absolute certainty," people often can't sort out good from bad science; consequently, "fringe scientists with winning personalities" wreak havoc on truth. With disarming candor, the author shares his own mistakes from interviews, such as becoming flustered when Charlie Rose took umbrage at his assertion that Steve Jobs's pancreatic cancer could likely have been treated successfully. After each example, Offit provides a lesson learned (in the case of Rose: "Don't panic. The facts are your safety net"). His chapter on Andrew Wakefield, infamous for falsifying data that he argued linked autism to the MMR vaccine, is thorough, fascinating, and damning. His chapter on debating creationists, Holocaust deniers, homeopaths, and anti-vaxxers is invigorating. "Science is under siege," Offit states, but "science advocates are fighting back," and his own book provides a sterling example of this stand in the name of empirical truth. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Prologue: On Being Naïvep. xi
1 What Science Is-and What It Isn'tp. 1
2 White Mice and Windowless Roomsp. 8
3 An Alibi for Ignorancep. 24
4 Feeding the Beastp. 50
5 To Debate or Not to Debatep. 75
6 Make 'Em Laughp. 96
7 Science Goes to the Moviesp. 117
8 The Emperor's New Clothesp. 127
9 Judgment Dayp. 146
10 The Nuclear Optionp. 163
11 Pharma Shillp. 178
12 A Ray of Hopep. 200
Epilogue: The End of the Tourp. 209
Acknowledgmentsp. 213
Appendix: Blogs and Podcastsp. 215
Notesp. 217
Selected Bibliographyp. 237
Indexp. 239