Ignorance and arrogance of “experts”
The blind faith of experts in their own infallibility is only exceeded by the blind faith of the general public in the infallibility of experts. Expertise is the new religion. [my comment]
“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
Bad economics in the bane of mankind. Bad peer reviewed papers have a way of being cherry-picked by those who “like” a particular (bad) policy approach.
“nearly 80% of the reported effects in these empirical economics literatures are exaggerated; typically, by a factor of two and with one‐third inflated by a factor of four or more. ” [Source]
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.
Guidelines for Science: Evidence and Checklists: “Most research papers published in the management and social sciences and applied economics fields violate established scientific principles. Consequently, perhaps fewer than one-in-one-hundred of the papers published in leading journals provide useful scientific knowledge. ”
Peer Review Is Bunk: “science is in deep trouble. Last year, Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, admitted that “much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue.” In his words, “science has taken a turn toward darkness.”
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]
Each discipline has its prima donnas strutting the world stage. They think that by “mastering” (never!) a TINY sliver of knowledge, they get to tell the world what to do. But they know less than 1% of knowledge, and make assumptions about the rest. “EXPERTS” ARE DANGEROUS.
This is a good article.
The truth is that even the most brilliant academics and practitioners have in-depth knowledge only in a very narrow field; that they have no particular expertise when it comes to devising new practical solutions; and that their professional biases are likely to induce them into various errors when it comes to solving large-scale social problems such as the current pandemic. This is patent in my own discipline, economics, but not really different in other academic fields. Let me explain this in some more detail.
The kind of knowledge that can be acquired by scientific research is just a preliminary to action. Research gathers facts and yields partial knowledge of causal connections. Economics tells us, for example, that the size of the money stock is positively related to the level of unit prices. But this is not the whole picture. Other causes come into play as well. Real-world decision-making cannot just rely on facts and other bits of partial knowledge. It must weigh the influence of a multitude of circumstances, not all of which are well known, and not all of which are directly related to the problem at stake. It must come to balanced conclusions, sometimes under rapidly changing circumstances.
In this respect, the typical expert is no expert, at all. How many laureates of the Nobel Prize in economics have earned any significant money by investing their savings? How many virologists or epidemiologists have established and operated a privately-run clinic or laboratory? I would never trust a colleague who had the folly to volunteer to direct a central planning board. I do not trust an epidemiologist who has the temerity to parade as a Covid19 czar. I do not believe a government that tells me it somehow knows “the experts” who know best how to protect and run an entire country.
Doctor killers have been the norm, not an exception: https://twitter.com/sabhlok/status/1704985551416512519