So much relies on science. 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. Science Fictions reveals the disturbing flaws that undermine our understanding of all of these fields and more.
While the scientific method will always be our best and only way of knowing about the world, in reality the current system of funding and publishing science not only fails to safeguard against scientists' inescapable biases and foibles, it actively encourages them. Many widely accepted and highly influential theories and claims – about 'priming' and 'growth mindset', sleep and nutrition, genes and the microbiome, as well as a host of drugs, allergies and therapies – turn out to be based on unreliable, exaggerated and even fraudulent papers. We can trace their influence in everything from austerity economics to the anti-vaccination movement, and occasionally count the cost of them in human lives.
Stuart Ritchie has been at the vanguard of a new reform movement within science aimed at exposing and fixing these problems. In this vital investigation, he gathers together the evidence of their full and shocking extent and proposes a host of remedies to save and protect this most valuable of human endeavours from itself.
Dr Stuart Ritchie is a Lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London and winner of the 2015 ‘Rising Star’ award from the Association for Psychological Science. He has written for The Times, Spectator, Washington Post, Wired, Literary Review and Aeon, and has appeared on BBC Radio 4 programmes The Infinite Monkey Cage, More or Less and Bringing Up Britain.
"Thrilling [...] Ritchie reminds us that another world is possible"
– The Times
"Fascinating [...] important"
– Sunday Times
"The most important science story of our times [...] evocative and engaging [...] sometimes funny, sometimes shocking"
"Excellent [...] we need better science. That's why books like this are so important"
– Evening Standard
"Entertaining [...] revelatory [...] brilliantly highlights the problems in current practices and sets out a path towards new ones"
– Daily Mail
"A desperately important book, Science Fictions brilliantly exposes the fragility of the science on which lives, livelihoods and our whole society depend [...] Required reading for everyone"
– Adam Rutherford, author of How to Argue With a Racist
"Ritchie's engaging tour of the dark side of research [...] has rumbled science's guilty secret [...] the tragedy is that the current system does not just overlook our foibles, it amplifies them [...] he's entertaining company [...] an illuminating and thoughtful guide. Ultimately, he comes to praise science, not to bury it"
– Roger Highfield, Literary Review
"An engagingly accessible set of cautionary tales to show how science and scientists can be led astray, in some instances with fatal consequences [...] clear-eyed and chillingly accurate [...] should be compulsory reading for anyone involved in the communication of science to policy makers and to the public"
– Gina Rippon, author of The Gendered Brain
"Gripping tales of increasing recent villainy and bias in the laboratory, which should worry those of us who love science"
– Matt Ridley, author of How Innovation Works
"All the replication-failure and scientific-misconduct stories you've ever heard are here – along with more that you haven't [...] This comprehensive collection of mishaps, misdeeds and tales of caution is the great strength of Ritchie's offering [...] Ritchie's four themes carve complex, interconnected issues at natural joints, and allow his case studies to shine"
– Fiona Fidler, Nature