Science Fictions: How fraud, incompetence and hype undermine the search for truth by Stuart Ritchie
(The Bodley Head, 2020)

Science Fictions: How fraud, incompetence and hype undermine the search for truth

by Stuart Ritchie

Science Fictions exposes a worrying truth: much of the science that underpins ‘expert’ advice on health, parenting, economics and more is unverifiable or plain wrong.

Medical prescriptions, dietary advice, political claims, legal rulings, children’s education, road safety, environmental conservation: so much depends on published science being reliable and true. But while the scientific method will always be our best and only way of knowing about the world, in reality the current system not only fails to safeguard against scientists’ inescapable flaws and foibles, it actively encourages bad science - with sometimes deadly consequences.

Stuart Ritchie was among the first people to expose these problems, sparking what became known as the ‘replication crisis’. In this vital investigation, he presents their full and shocking extent: rampant incompetence, pervasive fraud and methods of funding and publication that actively promote bias and exaggeration. From papers that claimed the existence of psychic powers to widely accepted advice about ‘priming’ and ‘growth mindset’, we can trace their effects in austerity economics, the anti-vaccination movement and dozens of bestselling books – and occasionally count the costs in human lives.

Both witty and deadly serious, Science Fictions is at the vanguard of a new scientific movement: one that aims to save, reform and protect this most valuable and important of human endeavours.