Are Experts Ever Right? 4

No matter what the situation, there is always some expert ready to give an opinion on what should be done. The problem is, experts are more often wrong than right.

Don’t believe me? There are studies that show this, and those studies keep on coming.

In the financial world stock brokers are sometimes considered to be experts on stocks. Having been a stockbroker, I can tell you that most brokers have little expertise in picking good stocks. There is a famous book first published in 1973, “A Random Walk Down Wall Street”, by Burton Malkiel. One of the things the book highlights is the fact that from an historical viewpoint, professional money managers, as a whole, did not produce stock portfolio gains even as high as the market averages.

Most importantly, you could buy a stock index fund mimicking the Standard & Poor’s 500 average, and you would do better than most professional money managers. Guess what? This hasn’t changed in the last forty years. There is another book titled, “Where Are The Customers’ Yachts?“. The title is  in reference that many of the yachts in marinas are owned by stock brokers, who make money whether the market goes up or down.

Then we have the medical experts, most of them being medical doctors. I have blogged about their lack of expertise, but will repeat the numbers. It is that important. In my blog, The Dirty LIttle Health Care Secret, I highlight the fact that almost 100,000 people are killed by doctors and hospitals every year in the United States. There is a name for this phenomenon, iatrogenesis. Everybody in the medical industry knows about this horrible fact, but nobody wants to talk about it.

We aren’t through talking about medical experts and their mistakes. A very well-known paper published by Dr John Ioannidis, a Greek physician and researcher with  a blue-ribbon background that includes being a professor of medicine and director at Stanford University, and an adjunct at Tufts University School of Medicine, takes aim at peer reviewed studies in the medical research area.

Up to eighty percent of randomized studies in the medical field have proven to be wrong. This is the figure that the Ioannidis team arrived at after reviewing years and years of studies. The reasons vary, but researchers are human, doing anything to acquire government grants to keep university research departments afloat. Data are adjusted to show a pre-determined outcome. Plus, up to 10% of the really large randomized trials are just wrong. How many substances have been identified to be bad for you, and then further study falsified those findings? It is common.

So much for the medical experts.

Climate science is in much the same shape. It was revealed in the ClimateGate emails that internationally prominent climate scientists cherry-picked data, doctored graphs, and produced fraudulent information to the general public to further their political agenda. Other crooked scientists have demonstrated bad conduct, like Dr Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University. He produced the infamous Hockey Stick graph that erased the historic Medieval Warm Period of about 1,000 years ago when the world was warmer than now, but without the influence of increasing greenhouse gases, i.e., carbon dioxide.  Efforts to defend Mann’s shoddy work and wounded reputation were organized by a left-wing communications company, Fenton Communications. Fenton started a website called Realclimate, where the primary blog authors are the same ones that have been known to perpetuate alarmist garbage in the climate science.

Ever heard of eugenics? Eugenics is a science about genetics that was promoted widely around the world in the early decades of the twentieth century. Its advocates believed that they could breed unwanted characteristics like homosexuality, low IQ’s, bad looks, etc. out of the population. This idea was taken to its logical extreme by Hitler’s Nazis when they undertook to eliminate entire populations of people like Jews, homosexuals, mentally retarded people, and people with other medical or hereditary conditions. There was a world-wide following of eugenics. It was the scientific consensus of the day. Now, we know better, or should. The experts were terribly wrong, but there are some who still push this pseudoscience.

How about Alar, the substance falsely accused of causing cancer in children? Alar was sprayed on apples to keep them on the trees to promote ripening. Although attacked by environmentalists who said they had evidence, nothing was ever produced to prove the allegations. Furthermore, half of Hollywood testified before Congress about how bad the stuff was, and even the EPA thought the use of alar was OK. The anti-alar publicity campaign was organized by a left-wing communications company, Fenton Communications.

The list of experts out of control goes on, and on. Why is this?

I believe that money is at the root of much of the bogus research. Most research in the US is funded by the government, and this automatically means that many research programs are politically motivated. There are literally thousands of climate scientists sucking money out of the federal government, almost all of whom preach catastrophic global warming. The government does not fund studies that propose to show that the alarmist are not correct. The whole scam started with the self-fulfilling system that promotes crises that produce votes, and that generate research money.

Some bogus studies misuse statistics. Many of the researchers are medical doctors, climatologists, or social scientists who have little training in mathematics. When you read a press release about a study, see if they quote a margin of error, like plus or minus 5%. If a margin of error is not mentioned, throw a red flag, and look into that study. You may be surprised at what you find. After all, journalists are not very good with numbers, either, and have no clue what they are publishing.

Expert opinion is fraught with risk. If so many experts are wrong most of time, how are we to make decisions?

Pay attention to your gut. Listen to your neighbors. Get a second medical opinion. If something is too good to be true, it probably isn’t. Use your common sense.

Be very careful when checking expert information. Too many people put too much trust in experts and consensus. Everybody has their agenda.

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4 comments

  1. In one of those foggy cornors of my mind, I seem to recall a refrain that said an expert is anyone with a briefcase who is more than fifty miles from home (where no one knew who he/she was). But, that doesn’t cover the academics on our university campuses. I guess they are in a class bu themselves.

  2. When I read about the number killed by the healthcare system, it really got my attention. It is pretty much at the point that our healthcare system is the third biggest killer of American citizens, right after heart disease and cancer. More people are killed by doctors than get killed in auto accidents. The evidence seems to indicate that no matter where you live, if you require a lot of healthcare and doctor attention, you are at more risk. Interesting, and scary.

  3. Leticia, when I read your comment I burst into laughter. Then, I thought, “Maybe she is calling me a nimrod.” Either way, it is funny. Thanks.

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