My entire life has been spent ferreting out the truth, studying geography, science and history with an informed skepticism. My father was a scientist/engineer; and for a while, I pursued the rare college major of scientific journalism. Even today, I still have ambitions of becoming a science journalist. One of my friends works as a journalist for a science magazine in New York so I must remember to ask him whether they are currently recruiting any writers. At one time, my friend was known as the best editorial assistant NYC had to offer. Also, I know that a lot of science journalists actually work from home and this is definitely something that interests me. Anyway, this post offers insights and wisdom about the maze of research spewed out by expert prognosticators. Their research is often contradictory… For instance, cell phones-good or bad?…drinking water while exercising—good or bad? …UV—good or bad? “Experts” line up on both sides of countless issues.
In 1958, the Chairman of IBM said that there was only a market for “maybe 5 computers” in the world. Ten years later one of his engineers at IBM’s Advanced Computing System Division exclaimed that he saw no use for computer microchips. 14 years later, IBM had updated their forecast that the world might be able to use 200,000 PCs, & RCA had predicted 220,000 PCs worldwide by 2001. Changing channels, in 2006 there were 1.5 million Americans diagnosed w/ cancer, 40% of that no. died of cancer that year. That year, the NCS spent $5.2 billion on cancer research, & one source noted over $15 billion was spent worldwide on cancer research. (I give these as only ballpark representations to make the pt. lots is spent each year.) Going back in time to 1973, I note that the no. of deaths was only 30% of those diagnosed w/ cancer, & one source said $.8 billion was spent that yr. in the U.S. on cancer research. Another source said mortality rates for cancer are basically the same now as in the 1950’s. What have all the experts done with the billions of dollars annually spent on cancer research for over half a century & why haven’t those countless pages of cancer advice & studies made a significant difference to the no. one killer of adults under 85?? Could it be that our experts are fallible?? It’s much worse than that, most published research esp. the dazzlingly research written up by the mass media is false. Falsifying data is common in research. A review of studies on new drugs show that 65% under reported the dangers of the new drugs…& when confronted only 14% fessed up to underreporting it. Two quotes from 2 incredible men of science sum up this paragraph…Sir Francis Bacon noted that preconceived ideas create our observations. Einstein declared, “If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.” And strangely, most experts, because they have agendas (careers, funding to raise, & preconceived ideas) rather than seeking the truth, do exactly like Einstein described.
What really is the nature of the problem? For starters, the problem is that life is complex. For instance, there are 1,000’s of variables that function as to why a person may be fat. But the common person doesn’t want a limited explanation that is qualified a dozen ways, he wants a “doubt-free”, do-able, interesting, “one-size-fits-all”, simple solution. However, such advice is most likely wrong advice because genuinely good advice is not good sounding advice. Real advice comes w/ qualifications & conditions, ifs, ands or buts…which my experience has shown people, esp. Americans, detest. An engineer close to me got upset when I answered his questions truthfully by qualifying my answers in detail rather than simplistically giving a yes or no answer, neither of which would have been truthful. This career engineer is an example of how the very people that should be exacting are in the mindset of giving careless answers. Scientific studies are notorious for not controlling countless variables that in reality invalidate any finding they claim from their data, if the data is even for real. Much data today is obtained w/ sloppiness, or altered to create a good discovery. Whistle blowers like Margot O’Toole lose their jobs, or at least get retaliated against. We have developed a culture of letting colleagues get away w/ bad research. Nowadays, many people tend to make use of the student’s internet research guide and other similar resources to learn how to write a good research paper. In ’99, Nat. Geographic published research about a missing link between birds & dinosaurs which was a hoax; missing link hoaxes have been common concerning man’s alleged ancestors, & even Dr. Leaky manufactured his great discoveries. Science, esp. pharma, loves to use mice (& other animals) to determine theories about people. In the long run, these flashy discoveries based on mice studies are usually found to be irrelevant to humans, as the two species are that different, but the World’s media gets an interesting health story to keep their ratings up; who cares if the health conclusions are bogus?
Watch out for the fads. I saw efficiency experts come in, later I was taught Total Quality Management (TQM)…by the way, management fads like 3 letter acronyms like BPR & MBO…they promise the moon, and after a while are tossed for the next management fad. Meanwhile the “experts” get rich. In the last decade about 1,000 books/yr. came out preaching globalization for corporations. Before that it was computerization…all the top Fortune 500 companies that computerized experienced productivity drops for years (according to research I read). I can believe the productivity drop, because I’ve seen the so called experts wrong more than right most of my life. If they’d spent the time investing in ways to increase employee morale and listen to internal feedback perhaps that would have fared them better. In terms of business, today’s winners are often tomorrow’s losers, but experts watch a company, then pick something they are doing & prognosticate that everyone else’s companies will succeed by doing it. For instance, experts said that companies that specialized rather than diversified were successful. They used the stat that 78% which had a particular set of profit criteria were specialized. Sounds like focusing is good…but wait, of all the companies that specialize only 35% meet any of the profit criteria. In other words, most companies that are focused are failures. You have to be very careful about what a statistic means. Today’s science is a religion, and their evangelists are journalists, who unfortunately have no standards of honesty. Most medical research (95%) is never challenged by someone trying to replicate it, & if someone did finance & disprove it, research journals don’t like to publish negative articles so your warning will not get publicity.
So watch out for simplistic universal one-size-fits-all health advice. Look for researchers who are flexible and understand the complexity of life and are above tunnel vision. Some scientists have a sixth sense for knowing what to research like Sir Isaac Newton. Don’t give credence to animal studies & small size studies. Pay attention to who gains from the study & its advice. Remember that we tend to want good sounding (but incomplete & misleading) advice, rather than the complex truth. Also watch out for PC, group think research. It’s popular to say the whites/U.S. govt. had a policy of genocide of natives. False. It is true that there were brutal massacres by both sides, but there was no policy to genocide all natives. For instance, the massacre of Pequots was part of a war between the Dutch & English and each side’s natives. 200 natives fought w/ the English when they retaliated against Pequot brutality by hitting a Pequot town. Yet the History channel talked like the massacre was a policy of genocide by whites against all natives. It is now popular to denounce America as an embarrassment because it was built on slavery, & yet the same people extoll the virtues of ancient Rome & Egypt. I hate double standards. Many of the “great” civilizations were built on slavery, America’s venture into slavery, while an abomination, was mild compared to many of these other “great civilizations”. The point is that there are PC historical fads that distort the truth for agendas, such as the author who faked evidence to support his recent book that claims Americans had little to do with guns before the Civil War. Watch out for PC fads; even the churches have fads. Groupthink does not make something real. A lazy thinker will run with the herd right to slaughter. In contrast w/ today’s mass media PC experts, Christ said that the way to destruction is broad; the way to truth & life is narrow & only a small minority find it. If the World’s mass media experts advise one way, a safe bet is that they are wrong! You know what I mean?!