Review – Dogmatism in Science and Medicine: How Dominant Theories Monopolize Research and Stifle the Search for Truth, Henry H. Bauer

I read this book last year but I have the typing itch today and I think it deserves some extra promotion.

First things first, if you web-search the author’s name you’ll find an encyclopaedic entry that paints him as some kind of evil nut. However, this is merely an exhibit of the info wars whereby characters are smeared rather than their data challenged. Bauer admits to having held a couple of unsavoury opinions, but when convinced of their erroneousness he changes them, and indeed I’m sure he will change any current opinion he holds when convinced of the contrary. He even accepts ridicule for interest in the Loch Ness Monster.

Prior to this book, Bauer’s heavy-hitter was The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory. This got him stamped as an AIDS Denialist (he would likely prefer to be called an HIV sceptic, which is the title of one of his blogs – meaning that he doubts the existence and/or pathogenicity of HIV to cause the diseases defined as AIDS, but he does not deny AID) and had attracted the attention of “vigilantes” such as Seth Kalichman.

For those who want to see the broader picture of taint in science, including AIDS, Dogmatism… is probably the better book to read. Though Bauer is an Emeritus Professor, the writing style is very appealing to lay-people.

In all the arguments presented in the book – going from memory this includes global warming, the cholesterol hypothesis, cold fusion – Bauer does not claim that heretics have to be right, rather that the stifling of their voices is the real crime in science. The fact that they could be right and that a pauper theory exists in place of a regal one is not only damaging to science, but the public perception and application of science. The obvious oxygen to bankrupt theories is commercial interests, and Bauer hopes the metaphorical Titanic can be reversed long before it hits the iceberg.

Perhaps the best comparison this book has, at least in Britain, is with that of Ben Goldacre’s Bad Pharma, which has a more focussed attack on the medicinal drug industry. People may not agree with all the heresies examined by Bauer, and indeed they will find they don’t have all the data or expertise to make their mind up, but they will appreciate the fact that accepted theories should not be ring-fenced; they need to be prodded and poked to see if they pass the empirical rather than political and commercial tests.

I admit in some bias because I’m a fan of Bauer’s writings and there is some alignment of views, but even when standing back from that this is a book to be read if you can handle the academic pricing. Go Kindle to shave some pounds/dollars etc.