Book Review: Free Radicals – The Secret Anarchy of Science – Michael Brooks

Free Radicals – The Secret Anarchy of Science, is authored by a scientific insider – Michael Brooks, PhD. Michael pulls back the curtain to reveal the Great Oz of Science as he really is – a sometimes charlatan and showman, dabbling in the mysteries of the universe.

This is a fascinating and exciting read, which genuinely will change your opinion of scientific endeavor - it certainly has mine at least. It is essentially a collection of well-told true stories of some of the most prominent and scientific minds of recent (as in approx. 500 years) history, and their exploits and trials on the road to scientific heroism. These stories usually involve drugs, Machiavellian deceit, lunacy and un-explainable genius.

The stories themselves are best left in the telling to Michael Brooks, but suffice it to say we have a lot of reasons to be thankful for LSD! This book gives the lie to the notion of the rational logical methods of the ‘scientist’, a being who is thought to be a slave to empirical evidence, the consummate wise man or woman exercising their brains in the pursuit of unlocking the secrets of the universe. Empiricism, however, is to many of the even most world-renowned scientists, evidently an irritating obstacle to be maneuvered around. Also, its not always hours in the lab, or indeed sober reflection that lead to scientific discovery – quite the opposite in reality.

This book also demonstrates how frighteningly slow the scientific community is to accept new theories, even when the proof is literally under their noses. Conversely, at least to some degree, I would suggest after reading this that you would be foolish not to be skeptical of some (or most) of the prevailing scientific theory, on any given subject.

But the most striking aspects of this book are two-fold: the denuding or defrocking of scientists as wise, honorable and inherently trustworthy people, and secondly, just how fleeting and translucent truth can be.

So the next time some wizened boffin is lauded by the scientific community for having found some new amazing particle or such, stop! Be skeptical. After all, is skepticism not at the heart of the scientific method?

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