Ignorance and arrogance of “experts”
“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts”.
By Richard Feynman, in: “What is Science?”, presented at the fifteenth annual meeting of the National Science Teachers Association, in New York City (1966) published in The Physics Teacher Vol. 7, issue 6 (1969)
Those who have knowledge, don’t predict. Those who predict, don’t have knowledge” – Lao Tzu, 6thCentury BC Chinese Poet
A selection of my blog posts relating to our ignorance and folly, and the folly of “experts”
- A tragedy of errors: Mistakes in peer-reviewed papers are easy to find but hard to fix(Feb. 2016, Nature)
- Most Scientific Findings Are Wrong or Useless (Aug. 2016, Reason)
- Excel Created Major Typos in 20 Percent of Scientific Papers on Genes (Aug. 2106, Slate)
In the year 2000, the US National Heart Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) insisted that all researchers register their “primary aim” and then later their “primary outcome” with clinicaltrials.gov. This one small change in the way medical studies were reported transformed the “success” rates in peer reviewed papers. Before 2000, fully 57% of studies found the success they said they were testing for, but after that, their success rate fell to to a dismal 8%. When people didn’t have to declare what their aim was, they could fish through their results to find some positive, perhaps tangential association, and report that as if they had been investigating that effect all along. The negative results became invisible. If a diet, drug or treatment showed no benefit at all, or turned up bad results, nobody had to know. [Source]
IN MANY CASES OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE, **ALL** SCIENTISTS **ARE** WRONG, AND ONLY FURTHER SCIENCE WILL SHOW THEIR MISTAKE.
This is particularly true in complex disciplines where more than one factor is at work.
Scientists are unlikely to be wrong where ONE thing is at work (e.g. malaria parasite). But wherever there is more than one factor (e.g. chronic diseases, muskulo-skeletal disorders, climate science), then there is a very strong chance they will go wrong MOST OF THE TIME.
It takes enormous effort to untangle effects when multiple factors are at work.
ARROGANCE OF EXPERTS
Throughout the inquiry – during public hearings and in submissions – three things about Australian public health lobbyists came to worry me: a conceited arrogance in the face of evidence from overseas; a desire to make laws “for the greater good”, and the belief that “appropriate” intellectuals know better than the rest of us.
Combined, the three tendencies also revealed a growing confluence between nanny-statism.
First, those who would treat us like children and substitute their minds for ours ignore that suffrage has history. One of the arguments against extending the vote to women and working-class men was that they were not fit to make political choices because they spent their money on frivolities such as beer, cigarettes and lacy dresses.
Secondly, simply because individuals can make poor decisions does not mean governments make better ones. [Source]