Distrusting Experts

I was reading one of the Telegraph blogs today, by some guy who was pointing out, quite reasonably, that people tend to pick evidence that supports or confirms their existing beliefs. He said he did it himself. Then he got onto climate science, and some new report that had come out, and people’s responses to it.

The trouble is, there’s no avoiding it. As a non-climate scientist, I have to accept certain things on authority, as I do with all expert knowledge. This is an argument from authority, but we all do it, and it’s vital: if I had cancer, I’d accept the authority of the oncologist and the body of knowledge of the oncology community, rather than try to guide my own treatment with information I’d found on the internet. As Ben Goldacre said long ago in a different context, you have only two options: “you can either learn to interpret data yourself and come to your own informed conclusions; or you decide who to trust”.

I’ve decided who to trust, and it’s mainstream scientific opinion: the Royal Society, the Royal Institution, Nasa, the US National Academy of Sciences, the US Geological Survey, the IPCC, the national science bodies of 30 or so other countries. And that gives me a possible route out of the confirmation-bias trap: I have, in advance, outsourced my judgment to expert bodies. If several of them changed their position, I would change mine. It’s far from perfect, but short of becoming a climate scientist myself, it’s the only option I have; otherwise my reasonable belief that the climate is changing due to human behaviour becomes an article of faith. As it is, although it is mediated through authority, it’s still, I hope, based on empirical data, on the scientific method.

What I want to ask those sceptics who, like me, are not professional climate scientists is: what’s your way out? You are as trapped by confirmation bias as I am. You will not be able to disinterestedly search through the torrents of information, false and true, on the internet and elsewhere: the more you look, the more you will confirm your own beliefs, because that’s what we do. Since the design of the human mind makes you an unreliable judge, what evidence would it take to change your mind? Who, in short, do you trust? If you look at your own beliefs, and realise that there is nothing which could shake them, then you, as much as the hard Greens, are practicing a religion, not seeking empirical fact.

And I read all that and got thinking about where he’d said: “As a non-climate scientist, I have to accept certain things on authority, as I do with all expert knowledge.” And I wondered: Is that true? Do we have to accept certain things on authority?

I could sorta see his line of reasoning. He didn’t understand climate science enough to do it himself, so he had to take the scientific findings on trust. What’s wrong with that?

Perhaps the simplest answer was to wind back the clock five hundred years to 1512, and ask the same questions, and see what the answers would most likely have been. Five hundred years ago he would have been saying something like: “As a non-theologian who can’t read Latin, I have to accept the Pope’s authoritative teachings, I troth. And also I have to accept the consensus view that the sun goes round the earth, I wist. And also the medical science that teaches us that disease is a surfeit or deficit of one of the four humours, and can be regulated by judicious bleeding by expert outreach consultants using leeches or the latest ‘hot cup’ method, prithee.”

Jump back 500 years, and it’s glaringly obvious: he would have been better off distrusting the Pope, the astronomers, and the doctors, and almost everybody else as well, because most of them hardly knew anything at all about anything.

Yet there have always been experts, and wise men, and mystics and seers. And quite often they maybe knew slightly more about some things than the average guy, but not really very much more. Go back 2000 years, and if you had a really tough question you needed an answer to, you went to the top: you consulted the Oracle at Delphi.

Of course, looking back 500 years, we have the benefit of hindsight, and we know a lot of things they didn’t know, and we can snigger.

But is it going to be any different in another 500 years? Aren’t they most likely to be looking back at us here in 2012, and sniggering at us too?

The truth of the matter is that our ‘experts’ don’t really know very much more about anything than the ‘experts’ did 500 years ago. What we’re very good at doing is publicising our few small scientific successes – Newton, Einstein, etc -, while concealing all the acres of stuff we don’t understand at all.

The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that blind trust in experts is something like the root of all evil. For a start, as just pointed out, they’re never really that expert. They’re just guessing most of the time. And their guesses are almost certainly wrong. A healthy distrust of experts is what’s really needed.

Somebody wrote in the comments a while back that physicist Richard Feynman had once said, “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” And I think that’s the right attitude to experts.

But when it comes to questions about global warming, it’s not really about ‘who to believe’. Everyone has their own experience available to them, and they can ask themselves: “Does it seem to me to be hotter now than it was when I was young?” And they’ll have an answer. And it’ll be Yes or No. And that answer really ought to be the one that matters most of all. People should above all firstly believe themselves and their own experience. If they’re not going to do that, why the heck should they trust anybody else’s?

Same with smoking. People should ask themselves: “How often have I seen people taken ill after inhaling someone else’s tobacco smoke? How often have I seen people taken ill after inhaling their own tobacco smoke?” And again, they’ll have an answer. Very often. Often. Occasionally. Seldom. Never. Tick the appropriate box. I bet that for most people the answer would be: never. Because that’s my experience.

But these days, trusting your own judgment or experience is unthinkable. You have to find an expert. You have to find a guru. And when you make people into experts and gurus, you hand them power. And they use that power ruthlessly.

People have believed the climate scientists and the antismoking zealots, and they’ve handed them a great deal of power, and now they’re using the power and influence they’ve been given to set out to destroy Western industrial civilisation, and to shatter communities and demonise millions of smokers. They can do it because they’ve been promoted into experts by people who won’t or can’t trust themselves.

And also you can just say: I don’t know. There’s a good piece here with Richard Feynmen saying that he didn’t mind not knowing, that he could live with not knowing and not understanding.



 
The writer quoted above says: “If I had cancer, I’d accept the authority of the oncologist and the body of knowledge of the oncology community.” I’m not sure that I would. Because I don’t think they know very much about cancer, and their treatments are as mediaeval as bleeding people with hot cups or leeches. There’s a case to be made that you’re better off just buying yourself a few cases of good whisky than taking their advice.

My father got diagnosed with incipient bladder cancer, and was put on a course of radiotherapy. He drove himself the 20 or so miles to the hospital, underwent the first dose, and then drove himself all the way home. And when he’d got home, he promptly collapsed with a stroke from which he never recovered.

He’d have been better off if he’d just stayed home. He would certainly have lived a lot longer.

Going back to climate science, although I’m not a climate scientist, I can write computer simulation models, and I started writing my own climate simulation model a while back. It rather ground to a halt when I got stuck playing photon football in the atmosphere, going round in circles. But I was thinking today that I might resuscitate the project, and make a few simple assumptions to get past the obstruction, and do my own research. It astonishes me that more people don’t do that.

We’re also doing our own research with the ISIS study of smokers, rather than leaving it to the ‘experts’.

Anyway, here’s another 50 minutes of Richard Feynman. There’s a good bit about ‘experts’ at about 43 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Frank Davis

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26 Responses to Distrusting Experts

  1. jaxthefirst says:

    “ … you can either learn to interpret data yourself and come to your own informed conclusions; or you decide who to trust.”

    Goldacre may well have been right in this respect, but what Chivers fails to recognize is that that decision can turn out to be wrong, and in the past often has done. It’s not a bad thing to trust other people, but it’s a very bad thing to trust them blindly and totally and, once having placed your trust in them, refuse to withdraw it if they prove to be unworthy of it. Chivers’s statement about “changing his position if the experts change theirs” indicates that this is precisely what he has done.

    Basically, this is an article written by a man who has decided to absolve himself of the responsibility of coming to his own conclusions on a matter which is simply too time-consuming for him to be bothered to research in any depth, but who is desperately trying to conceal this fact by pretending that the only alternative is to achieve the impossible task of becoming a Climate Change Expert overnight, and that the only sensible thing to do, therefore, is to trust the “scientists.” What ever happened to “keeping an open mind” on things? Where does this need come from to “take sides” and thus to have to make a judgment on which side is most likely to be the “winning” one?

    No wonder the present standard of journalism in the MSM is so poor when reporters are happy to let other people do all the thinking for them, right down to believing them even when – as he himself says – he only “hopes” that their pronouncements are “based on empirical data.”

    What an obedient little drone he is!

  2. harleyrider1978 says:

    Im a non-believer,why might they ask when they all practice the religion of government. Their belief system isnt really a religion but they practice it like a religion. Its been my personal finding that government will lie and cheat to gain the end they desire for whomever is in power. We have a constitution in America that was made to keep the above from happening where when one group controls government they try and outlaw,criminalize the other side. A constitution sets rights, inalienable rights, there suppose to be to protect the citizens from the government. It is those who practice the religion of government that is the enemy. Those whom trust in the rights of the people and that liberty shared are the true believers! We need not government when we simply believe in ourselves and our own rights equal to each and none better than the other. I trust this is wisdom sound for any time in human history.

  3. irocyr says:

    I started distrusting the ”experts” the first time I saw a warning on a cigarette pack that said ”smoking causes lung cancer”. I was quite willing to believe the warning ”smoking may cause cancer” but not ”causes cancer”, not when I knew that the cause for cancer was not yet found. Right there and then I was baffled, not totally distrustful at that point yet, but puzzled. How can that be? It seemed to me that if the cause of cancer had been discovered I would have heard a lot more about it than just a warning on a pack of cigarettes. From that point on I started being suspicious of everything I was hearing about smoking, but when the smoking ban consultations or pseudo-consultations rather, were launched to get the pulse of the public for smoking bans because of harm second hand smoke causes, then I started investigating. I couldn’t bring myself to accept that the Canadian government could even consider to kick young, old, handicapped, or even healthy people in sometimes Siberian temperatures outdoors to smoke. SHS harm to warrant such drastic measures was just too absurd a notion, I thought. Besides, my life-time and eye-witness experience never even had me suspect that SHS can cause anything more than some people getting annoyed over it. I then started doing research and one thing led me to another and another (and the pro-choice websites were quite a rarity at the time and some were too extreme to get my serious consideration) until I discovered epidemiology and what an inexact ”science” that was. And I discovered that ”smoking causes cancer” is also based on epidemiology. No pure science involved. No white lab coats, no test tubes, no microscopes, nothing that even resembles science.

    And then I discovered how even deaths allegedly caused by smoking weren’t real documented deaths, but computer estimates based on risk factors of former and current smokers and how risk factors are then misleadingly converted into an ”exact” number of deaths. And it is then I became a total non-believer. It was in 2004 and my father had just passed away, not before crying tears over the fact that I was still smoking and that I would die from it. And I promised myself to seek vengeance on the liars and the fraudsters for the pain they caused my father seeing his daughter smoke and convinced that there were no ifs or maybes about it, I was going to die.

    I do not trust anything coming from anyone unless I have examined the findings myself. The type of science used, the strength of the findings, the biases, the confounders and only then can I form my own opinion whether I find the results plausible or not. As for climate change, much like the author, I don’t have the necessary knowledge to verify the data but quite frankly, after everything I learned on the smoking issue I can’t possibly trust either side, so I stay neutral leaning more towards the side that denies it.

  4. Barman says:

    My father got diagnosed with incipient bladder cancer, and was put on a course of radiotherapy. He drove himself the 20 or so miles to the hospital, underwent the first dose, and then drove himself all the way home. And when he’d got home, he promptly collapsed with a stroke from which he never recovered.

    He’d have been better off if he’d just stayed home. He would certainly have lived a lot longer.

    Exact same thing happened to my stepfather – the ‘treatment’ killed him.

    My mother too – walked into hospital apparently a fit and healthy woman to have her tumour treated and died there.

    Experts my arse.

  5. waltc says:

    On open minds: There’s a group in NYC that stages debates on hot topics and has the clout to get The Experts Of The Moment on both sides to do the debating. (Maybe like the group that had Snowdon debating Hitchens in your neck of the woods.) About 2 yrs ago the topic was GW, It;s happening and it’s man-made.. Before the debate, the audience (and in NYC that means 90% Liberal, PC, NYTimes-reading robots) votes for or against the proposition and then votes again at the end. The Before vote was overwhelmingly Yes. The After vote was impressively No. Tho I attribute some of that to the dismissive arrogance of the Expert Warmists, there were still enough solid facts to change at least half the minds.

    Tangentially, too, there are plenty of Experts who are also skeptics, so the guy who wrote the article was merely choosing which Experts to trust because he did have a choice.

    I’ve always thought that state of art cancer therapy exists only for one purpose: to make you think death’s not so bad after all.

  6. nisakiman says:

    Indeed. The author’s stance omits the most important consideration: Common sense born of experience. You don’t need to be a climate scientist to juxtapose the claims and the facts and make your decisions on that basis. And as Iro points out, where smoking is concerned, the claims patently do not fit the facts. Her example “smoking causes cancer” is one statement that everyone should automatically reject as preposterous. Common sense, if we engage it, tells us quite empirically that the statement is false. The evidence surrounds us. But your author will accept that statement at face value, despite a mass of evidence to the contrary, because “experts” say so. And unfortunately, he is but one of many who will accept the pronouncements of “experts” in favour of what he can see around him. Thus has the SHS myth been propagated, even among those of my (and Frank’s) generation, who all grew up in a fug of ambient tobacco smoke and who are now the healthiest and longest-lived generation ever. The evidence is there before our eyes, and yet because the “experts” say otherwise, people have discarded their experience. I fear for the future when that sort of blind acceptance is the norm.

  7. Mr A says:

    Tobacco “science” has made me a cynic. Fortunately, where AGW science IS extremely difficult to understand, the Tobacco Control stuff is easily fisked if you know anything about research methodology. You don’t need to understand the biological reactions between smoke and cells to see that their claims of “Smoking Bans cause 3% fall in hear attacks!” is nonsense when the fall in heart attacks was 3% year on year BEFORE any ban. You don’t need to be an oncologist or biochemist to see that studies are flawed because they use massive confidence intervals or they omit certain key data or they use overgeneralised or leading terminology. (Or with the case of thirdhand smoke, their “evidence” is just a phone poll of the general public).

    However, despite climate science being very hard to understand (unlike their secondhand smoke counterparts), I am generally sceptical as I see it follow the Tobacco Junk Science template almost entirely, and the Tobacco Junk Science is 100% bollocks which makes me wonder why, if AGW research was genuinely investigative, it would need to do so.

    As with Tobacco Junk science, AGW research generally relies on appeals to authority. It is also politically motivated. Dissenters are generally smeared or silenced. The media is “bought off” and there are undoubted political benefits to our overlords from their findings. I don’t see such factors at play in particle physics, for example, which makes me conclude that AGW science MUST be nonsense. (That and the fact that I know a couple of leading geologists and they both think it’s bollocks AND they have outlined the extreme political pressure they are under to toe the line at their respective academic institutions).

    • Frank Davis says:

      You don’t need to be an oncologist or biochemist to see that studies are flawed

      I don’t think you have to be a climate scientist either to see that climate science is flawed. The raw temperature data they gather from all over the world really ought to be sacred. But they go and ‘adjust’ it all the same. Watts et al. have a new paper just out in which they’ve found that:

      The new analysis demonstrates that reported 1979-2008 U.S. temperature trends are spuriously doubled, with 92% of that over-estimation resulting from erroneous NOAA adjustments of well-sited stations upward.

      That’s awful! That’s seriously awful.

      In addition, in the climate models they build, there are a number of physical processes (e.g. cloud formation) that aren’t well understood. That means that their climate simulations mix good understanding with poor understanding. And in my view a model is only ever as good as its worst part, much like a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

  8. truckerlyn says:

    We all have our own strengths, sadly mine is not maths or science! These are things I just cannot get my head around. However, I am, I believe, logical and as others have said regarding the smoking ban, it only takes logic and our own experiences to see what a load of crap is peddled about smoking, when, as said, those now living the longest than ANY previous generation are those that grew up in during the height of the smoking era, when every single one of them would have had a great deal of exposure to cigarette smoke and most probably also smoked at some point too.

    Same with climate change; we know (or perhaps that should be ‘are pretty certain) from historical evidence that this planet has undergone ice ages and ??? whatever the name for the opposite is, since it came into being. Of course, there is no-one alive who has actually experienced it because it happens gradually over thousands of years. To me, it is logical to say that the changes we are seeing now are the subtle changes that come with the natural evolution of this planet, as has happened for ever!

    There are good, honest scientists and there are those who, like many in government, are so far up their own backsides they cannot see what is right infront of them; but I guess that is life, sadly. Thankfully there are some of us that sane, logical and sceptical enough not to just blindly follow!

  9. SadButMadLad says:

    The “I don’t know anything so I must trust an authority” mentality also extends to believing things like adverts. A company producing something must know everything about its product so it’s an authority so it must be believed.

    And it extends to the state. The state is an authority because we have voted in the best of our people to act on our behalf so it must be believed.

    It should be “I don’t know anything so I will keep an open mind”. Listen to all arguments, learn to separate out the hyperbole and the name calling, and check the facts for yourself. It doesn’t mean that you have to learn about the subject in depth, just check the sources to see if they are the full story.

  10. Frank Davis says:

    One surprising thing that’s been emerging from my own personal ISIS social impact study is a sharp rise in distrust of experts. 77% of my respondents are reporting deepening distrust (and often very deep distrust). Even some of the people who report no impacts of the smoking ban on them are ticking the distrust boxes. I don’t know why. There seems to be a collapse of trust happening (if only in my neck of the woods). But maybe when I get some more results it’ll prove illusory.

    • Rose says:

      Publican Live: smoking solutions

      13 March, 2007

      “There is little doubt as to the main issue on the minds of licensees across the UK in the spring of 2007: the smoking ban.

      While it is a challenge for many marginal, landlocked pubs, the ban represents a new dawn for most of the trade – the smoke of an antiquated era dispersing to reveal potential for greater profits.”

      Fresh Air, Fresh Thinking

      “The Publican’s initiative to help you understand the smoking ban laws and prepare for the big day is gathering momentum. Fresh Air, Fresh Thinking will be represented at Publican Live by a series of free talks by the BII, local planning officers and The Publican’s partner, fresh air lobby group AIR.”
      http://web.archive.org/web/20071111000438/http://www.thepublican.com/story.asp?storyCode=54546

    • truckerlyn says:

      Personally, when I see or hear the word ‘Expert’ my automatic reaction is “here we go again, another load of bull from some twat paid to come up with what the buyer wants, at any cost and by fair means or foul!”

      I definitely trust NOTHING that is said by ‘Experts’!

  11. Rose says:

    “The first drug used for cancer chemotherapy did not start out as a medicine. Mustard gas was used as a chemical warfare agent during World War I and was studied further during World War II.

    During a military operation in World War II, a group of people were accidentally exposed to mustard gas and were later found to have very low white blood cell counts. Doctors reasoned that an agent that damaged the rapidly growing white blood cells might have a similar effect on cancer.

    Therefore, in the 1940s, several patients with advanced lymphomas (cancers of certain white blood cells) were given the drug by vein, rather than by breathing the irritating gas. Their improvement, although temporary, was remarkable”
    cancer.org (if you visit the site it asks you to take a survey, so I missed off the link)

    Medicine or Chemical Warfare?
    “Mustard gas
    During the Second World War, a ship carrying mustard gas exploded. In the autopsies carried out on the crew-members, it was noticed that exposure to the mustard gas had caused destruction of fast growing tissue and had slowed down the reproduction of white blood cells. It was surmised that since cancer grew rapidly, these poisons could kill cancer tissue swiftly.”
    http://campaignfortruth.com/Eclub/200504/CTM-cancer-chemicalwarfare.htm

    Toxic Treatment Without Benefit

    “Increasingly sophisticated and expensive cytotoxins are being administered to seriously ill patients with intestinal, breast,lung or prostate tumours.
    An epidemiologist has now analysed the survival rates.
    His findings: patients do not live a single day longer despite all the alleged advances.”
    http://web.archive.org/web/20070817113123/germannewmedicine.ca/documents/spiegeldoc.html

    November 12, 2008

    “Doctors have been urged to be more cautious in offering cancer treatment to terminally-ill patients as chemotherapy can often do more harm than good, a study suggests.

    Patients with incurable cancers were promised much greater access to the latest drugs which could offer them extra months or years of life by a Department of Health review last week.

    Such medicines are often taken or injected as part of a “cocktail” of chemotherapy drugs.

    But the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD) found that more than four in ten patients who received chemotherapy towards the end of life suffered potentially fatal effects from the drugs, and treatment was “inappropriate” in nearly a fifth of cases.

    About 300,000 patients now receive chemotherapy in the UK each year, a 60 per cent increase compared to 2004.

    But in a study of more than 600 cancer patients who died within 30 days of receiving treatment, chemotherapy probably caused or hastened death in 27 per cent of cases, the inquiry found.”
    http: //www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/health/article5138033.ece?Submitted=true
    http: //www.whale.to/cancer/chemotherapy9.html

    Why the use of Mustard gas in the first place?

    Because of a british blockade in WW1

    “It disclosed that German industry had no more than a six months’ supply of imported raw materials.
    2 The limited stockpile of nitrates made gunpowder production particularly vulnerable. As long as the British fleet controlled the seas, the prospect of replenishing the nitrate supply by shipments from Chile was slim.

    “A munitions crisis of major dimensions loomed if the war continued for another half year. An army running out of gunpowder was a military disaster beyond contemplation. To come to grips with the problem Rathenau appointed Fritz Haber, then at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry, to head up the chemical division of the new agency. The creator of synthetic ammonia brought with him an assortment of Nobel Prize winners and other scientific luminaries, and soon this division became known as the “Bureau Haber.”

    “Until a steady supply of gunpowder could be assured, no offensive could be mounted and the western front would be frozen in place. In the meantime, some other method would have to be found to break the stalemate.

    Falkenhayn assigned the search for a solution to Major Max Bauer, an aggressive and imaginative officer who was the Supreme Command’s liaison to heavy industry. 9
    Bauer discussed his assignment with a number of the War Ministry’s scientific consultants, members of the Bureau Haber. This impressive group included, in addition to Haber, Nobel Prize winners Walther Nernst, Emil Fischer, and Richard Willstaetter.

    Bauer learned from them that the German dyestuff industry was the source of poisonous chemicals such as bromine, chlorine, and phosgene, which could easily be converted into terrible instruments of mass asphyxiation.”

    “Though all poisonous weapons had been outlawed by the 1907 Hague convention, to which Germany was a signatory, the attractions of poison gas warfare were too great for the Germans to be constrained by the treaty.
    To the contrary, the very fact that poison gas was barred by the convention assured Germany of the advantage of surprise.

    Bauer and Nernst paid a visit to the acknowledged spokesman of the German dyestuff industry, Carl Duisberg, who saw immediately that poison gas warfare could revive the moribund dyestuff industry, which was almost at a standstill since the beginning of the war. ”
    http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/sociopol_igfarben02a.htm

    The research to make these weapons seems to have translated over time into new medical uses and agricultural pesticides.

  12. BrianB says:

    What’s most annoying to me is when (typically) the Daily Mail or the BBC open up a news item with “Experts say…”. It is at best lazy journalism that bestows such a title on people who rarely merit it when compared with those whom I would personally believe to be ‘Experts’.

    True experts are those relatively few scientists who are working towards new discoveries and genuine advances in humankind’s experience and wellbeing. I take my hat off to those working during the heady days (now, sadly, almost gone) of space exploration; the CERN physicists who created and are now using the Large Hadron Collider; the developers of the silicon chip, with the massive and rapid involvement of micro-electronics in all of our daily lives and the genuine discoverers of ‘wonder’ drugs, such as penicillin (as opposed to Daily Mail ‘wonder’-crap such as statins).

    But genuine scientific expertise is only afforded to very few, and so we have now evolved a burgeoning industry comrpising a wide range of ‘Fake’ sciences, amongst wich I would include Economics, Sociology, Epidemiology and, latterly, Climatology. I consider these to be fake, because I don’t believe that they are doing anything to advance the human lot at all – and, most importantly, they don’t actually have an end product for us all to marvel at (like a rocket to Mars, a shiny new iPhone etc). All these people seem to want to do is use alleged ‘science’ to identify putative cause and effect, but, to them ’cause’ means ‘blame’ and ‘effect’ is taken to mean ‘legislate’.

    There is one common factor that binds all of these fake sciences together, and that is Statistics! Consider every study put out by epidemiologists (especially our very own favoured kind): where is the science? There is none! What is the ‘science’ behind the alleged causal link between anthopogenic carbon dioxide and Global (ahem) Warming? It is a piss-poor correlation coefficient, backed up by the ‘argument’ that “we have run out of other ideas, so it must be this”.It all comes down to the employement of (basic) statistical techniques and the blind belief in the ‘P<0.05 = causation' fallacy. No self-repsecting statistician would have any truck with all this.

    Now, as a mathematician and statistician myself, I will always defer to the great heroes of my own discipline as "experts". Newton, Maxwell, Pythagoras, Gauss, Bayes and Fisher are a few great names who actually made really discoveries in the field of mathematics and statistics, and who well deserve the epithet "Expert". But I have no time for the innumerate pygmies who think that by collecting some (usually crappy) sample data and plugging into a method in a statistic software package (selected beacuse it produces the 'right' result, not because it is mathematically appropriate) entitles them to be treated as experts. For a start these people are invariably NOT experts in maths or stats – look at the likes of Pell, Gilmore (both of them), Bauld, Glantz etc – at best they have some expertise in something (Pell is a Cardiologist, for example), but it is not in mathematics.Similar arguments can be applied to Jones, Briffa, Mann, Trenberth et al. in their particular area of academic tomfoolery.

    So, my argument is that real science is being lost in the noise of fake science, and the main-stream media – maybe due to its own inherent innumeracy – has lost its ability to distinguish between the works of an Einstein and a quack like Pell. And these people know this, which explains why there is the daily bombardment of 'studies' hitting the headlines – the vast majority of which are nothing more than an exercise in advocates finding a statistical technique to 'prove' the thing they hate causes bad things to happen.

    No discovery, no advances in human knowledge or experience, no use to anyone in fact – just blame! All done with selfish interest and totally devoid of altruism. Furthermore, their basic ignorance of mathematics means that the majority of their statistical conclusions are just plain wrong – and proveably so (but that's for another thesis!).

    All in all, those people that the BBC, the Daily Mail, and that tosser writing in the Telegraph refer to as 'experts' are not experts at all: they are merely…..

    Charlatans.

    • Tom says:

      Also, on the matter of anti-smoking “experts” like Glantz, etal. out of UCSF, they have also created a “science” out of going through old internal tobacco company documents, pulling some words and sentences out of context from various documents, from various companies, from various geographic locations, from various time periods, on various non-related subject matter – then writing propaganda thesis around all these pulled “sound bites” – then calling it another form of “science” – and like with UCSF, that is the “science” they used to demand smoking be banned in the US military and tobacco retailing be banned on military posts. “Science”, at its best.

    • Margo says:

      Let’s not forget that the original meaning of the word science is knowledge. It doesn’t always have to be about producing stuff that advances ‘humankind’s experience and wellbeing’, does it?

  13. c777 says:

    He’ll get on that Chivers.
    It pays to say “the right things”,even though concerning AGW it’s probably wrong.
    The latest body blow to the warmists is mis-sighting weather stations,and proof of that too.
    Future job at the Beeb?

  14. Gary K. says:

    “1979-2008 U.S. temperature trends”

    Why those years?
    Well; before that, was the time when the ‘climate experts’ were convinced that the world was going to shortly be sliding into an ‘Ice Age’ and was doomed!

    Before that we were doomed by heating and about 100 years ago the claims were about an ‘Ice Age’.
    One does not have to be an expert in science to read history.

    With the internet around, one only needs to know how to ask the right search questions and the time to search.

    Nor does one need a degree in math.
    Mortality in relation to smoking: 50 years observations on male British doctors
    Doll et al
    http://www.bmj.com/highwire/filestream/400720/field_highwire_article_pdf/0/bmj.38142.554479.AE.full.pdf

    Table 1, page 3
    This table lists the deaths from the 8 disease groups that are said to be caused by smoking and the total deaths.
    Non-smokers have 16.3 deaths from the smoking caused diseases out of a total of 19.38 deaths.

    Current smokers have 30.41 deaths from the smoking caused diseases out of a total of 35.4.

    When you convert to deaths per 100 deaths, you find that:

    84 non-smoker deaths out of 100 non-smoker deaths are due to the 8 groups of smoking ’caused’ diseases.

    86 current smoker deaths out of 100 current smoker deaths are due to the 8 groups of smoking ’caused’ diseases.

    The odds are pretty much the same for dying from a ‘smoking caused’ disease.

  15. Junican says:

    One (of the many) things that bother me about the Global Warming swizz is that it seems to be true that the conclusions drawn by numerous groups all seem to rely upon one or two sets of statistics, which have been compiled and are jealously guarded by a very few people (or even, conveniently, lost). Thus we see that all the bodies such as the Royal Society are, in fact, merely parroting the conclusions of a very small number of ‘prime movers’. Thus, even the august bodies are themselves bowing to ‘authority’.

  16. Gary K. says:

    Experts don’t always tell us the whole Truth.
    Everybody knows that an adult BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is normal and healthy and 25 to 29.9 is overweight and unhealthy.

    But; for the 18% of US adults that are over the age of 65, normal BMI is 18.5 to 29.9!!!!

    I did not find this out until I had a pre-surgery physical and saw the notation on the report.
    My doctors had certainly never informed me of this fact!!!!

    • truckerlyn says:

      Do we all know that? Aren’t the BMI figures just figures plucked from thin air like the units of alcohol are along with all other ‘measures, of ‘what is good for us’? Do the so called experts actually know? I don’t think so, simply because we are all different and what is good for one is very possibly harmful to another!

  17. Gary K. says:

    A short search brought up this.
    If you are over 65, you can have your cake and eat it too!
    http://rimed.org/medhealthri/2010-06/2010-06-187.pdf
    The lowest all cause mortality risk was at a BMI of 26.6 for men(over 65) and 26.2 for women(over 65).

    Low BMI is more consistly associated with a higher mortality than higher BMI.

  18. Feynman is my greatest. After the collapse of my belief in most of my scientific modern heroes, only he has survived. Check out his bits on cargo cult science, the doctors that attended his firs wife or his opinion on computer models (gigo). Feynman is trully great and it fells good to see that others remember his stance on skepticism and “experts”. He was an honest, humble, excentric and driven man.

  19. Pingback: Common People | Frank Davis

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