Monday, May 27


This is the title to a book I have just read by David H Freedman, who is a research journalist and who outlines why he thinks experts keep failing us.

The book is a good read, mostly comprising of an uncommon common sense approach as to when not to trust the experts and how to disseminate useful information.

Here are some extracts:

Characteristics of less trustworthy expert advice
1. It's simplistic, universally appealing and definitive
2. The research findings are supported by either smaller studies or only correlated from animal studies
3. It's groundbreaking
4. It's pushed by people or organisations that stand to benefit from its acceptance

Characteristics of expert advice we should ignore
1. It's mildly resonant
2. It's provocative - look for evidence before adopting a simply provocative viewpoint
3. It's got a lot of positive attention
4. Other experts embrace it
5. It appears in a prestigious journal
6. The experts backing it boast impressive credentials

Characteristics of more trustworthy advice
1. It doesn't trip the previous alarms
2. It's a negative finding
3. It's heavy on qualifying statements
4. Its candid about refutable evidence
5. It provides some context for the research
6. It provides perspective


None of this is particularly earth shattering but it is refreshingly frank and well measured in providing principals that help us sort out the wheat from the chaffs - from the mountain of information that bombards us on a daily basis.

Often it is best to test out a particular theory or revelation and see how it pans out over time. Unfortunately, experts for the rather obvious right and wrong moral issues, a lot of the experts who offer advice these days are plainly wrong, including new so called ground breaking discoveries in all fields of endeavour.

As usual that is not the problem of the science on the data but rather human nature which cannot be relied upon to uphold integrity.

Thursday, May 16

Circular seasons.

Trees, whose leaves of changing hues paint
A momentary portrait of a new season
Whose leafy arms hold birds in joyous song
Remind us of life’s eternal spring
Not otherwise discerned.

The trunks of fallen trees; circular rings
A reminder of yesteryear-of seasons come and gone
Of encouragements, the warmth of a fire glow
Of mysteries, of meanings no longer obscure
As grace unfolds, it is a gift of life.

But for all that is said and done
In grief, in joy, in all things under the sun
It is the act of kindness
That all seasons doth surpass.