Why dont we trust our experts?

Discussion in 'The Intelligence Cell' started by smartascarrots, Apr 13, 2010.

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  1. Reading THIS this morning and I came across this little pearl of wisdom:

    It suddenly struck me that this is not an isolated instance. We seem to have given up entirely on listening to sources of expert and authoritative information. 50 years ago, your doctor was a man of substance in the community and people always listened; the same was true of all the 'professions'.

    What has gone so wrong with Britain that a bloke whose sole contribution to the medical field is to provide doctors with flesh to prod feels he know better than they, even when presented with evidence that he's wrong?
  2. Spin.

    Medical research, like statistics and economics, has been spun in so many ways by so many people for so many reasons that people still don't have any personal, observed knowledge, but no longer trust the experts to be either (a) unbiased or (b) competent.

    You can read a report 'proving' that crisps are healthier than apples (they are, but only if you dry them both out first), you can read reams about the recession that take the same evidence and arrive at startlingly different conclusions.

    People assume that whatever they are told has been spun out of all recognition and out of any connection with reality, and ignore it all. Inevitable result of crying 'wolf' all the time.
  3. Nanny State

    5 pieces of fruit and veg a day

    4 litres of water a day

    Don't take salt

    Don't take sugar

    Don't drink too much (But just enough so we can still keep taking your taxes)

    Don't smoke ah oh well go on (But just enough so we can still keep taking your taxes)

    Don't walk on the cracks in the road Oh that is me being a silly billy (Can I call billy silly? or will that offend?)

  4. Anything that the experts tell you will be negated by the next lot of experts in time.

    There are countless examples of where the experts got it very very badly wrong - Thalidomide springs to mind.

    How many experts STILL say you shouldn't get the MMR jab.

    To many vested interests to take any report at face value.
  5. For every expert's opinion there is an equal and opposite expert's opinion...
  6. I've never trusted experts since a journalist described me as one when she quoted me in an article.
  7. My Mum did forty fags a day and a couple of large brandys , and died of old age at 86
  8. So, to summarise. There's no point in studying anything in depth and arriving at an informed conclusion because a) nobody will listen and b) it's probably bollocks anyway?

    I agree with the point about spin jading the palate but as to the divided viewpoints and contrary evidence, I'd say that was more the fault of politicians seizing on arguments to support their view and journalists looking for sensations to fill columns and airwaves. Personally, if I was buying an expensive piece of technology I'd rather do so from someone who knew about technology than someone who knew about selling stuff. It seems like only common sense to me.
  9. Which bit of the Thalidomide situation went wrong? The testing was carried out as well as possible and seemed to show it was safe. When used on a larger scale, it quickly became evident that it wasn't and was withdrawn. Thalidomide is a good example of the correct response to a drug showing side effects that hadn't been noticed previously.
  10. Which bit? The thousands of crippled babies caused by the stuff might make you a bit less trusting of expert opinion?
  11. That is a specious point to put up.

    The issue is not about something as clear and profound as Thalidomide nor indeed smoking which, a very limited number in self denial aside, is clearly understood to have very negative health effects.

    More to do with the self interested scientist, doctor etc pushing a bit a "research" which has their name or some funding hanging off of it. Problem really started when science ceased to be a vocation and became a career (See: Global Warming bandwagon effect)
  12. Not that well paid!

    Although I am looking forward to visiting San Diego in November... And Rome was very nice last October :D
  13. OldSnowy

    OldSnowy LE Moderator Book Reviewer

    Coincidentally enough, from the Times today:

    How the five-a-day mantra was born

    Helen Rumbelow
    It is one of the most successful indoctrinations in modern Britain, filtering into every aspect of public life. I start my day on a bus decorated with the injunction to eat five-a-day, I drop my son off at a nursery where he learns to count using the Government’s five-a-day fruit and vegetable quota, and at the supermarket it is slapped anywhere it will confer a commercial advantage.We have swallowed it whole and, when we swallow the five-a-day, we believe we gain a kind of magic protection. Or we did until last week’s news that the biggest study of its kind, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, showed that the reduced cancer risk by eating five-a-day didn’t add up to more than a hill of beans.

    This made me a bit queasy. Where did this five-a-day order — promoted by government, the NHS, the American Cancer Society and more than 25 other countries — come from? Fuelled by a two-a-day-diet — ketchup and an olive — I tracked the global health campaign. The trail took me back 25 years, to a woman in California, and left me with little appetite for public health advice.

    “The world has gone mad with targets,” says Tim Lang, the first stop in my quest. I’d tried the Department of Health, and was told its five-a-day programme was announced in 2000, based on World Health Organisation advice about the role of diet in cancer, but that didn’t really tell the full story.

    Lang, a professor of food policy at City University, remembers it differently. It was the late 1990s, the new Labour Government had come to power and set about instilling a target-driven culture in every aspect of British life.

    “We all understand targets in the policy world. I remember being in the room when we were being briefed by Americans on five-a-day, which we adopted from them. They chose five partly as it was considered a nice round sum and partly because it seemed possible, given how low consumption of fruit and vegetables was.”

    The Department of Health was searching for a motivational tool for a nation of poor eaters and the ready-made American campaign based on the number five seemed catchy. What, I say? Can this really be true — the five in five-a-day was chosen for marketing purposes?

    More: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article7095530.ece

    A fine example of 'experts' at work - in this case marketing experts, rather than health experts, but that's hardly the point :)
  14. OldSnowy

    OldSnowy LE Moderator Book Reviewer

    And funnily enough, another great 'expert' announcement is debunked:

    Drink Limits "Useless"

    Guidelines on safe alcohol consumption limits that have shaped health policy in Britain for 20 years were “plucked out of the air” as an “intelligent guess”.

    The Times reveals today that the recommended weekly drinking limits of 21 units of alcohol for men and 14 for women, first introduced in 1987 and still in use today, had no firm scientific basis whatsoever.

    Subsequent studies found evidence which suggested that the safety limits should be raised, but they were ignored by a succession of health ministers. One found that men drinking between 21 and 30 units of alcohol a week had the lowest mortality rate in Britain. Another concluded that a man would have to drink 63 units a week, or a bottle of wine a day, to face the same risk of death as a teetotaller.

    The disclosure that the 1987 recommendation was prompted by “a feeling that you had to say something” came from Richard Smith, a member of the Royal College of Physicians working party that produced it.

    He told The Times that the committee’s epidemiologist had confessed that “it’s impossible to say what’s safe and what isn’t” because “we don’t really have any data whatsoever”.


    Sorry, what was the original question - why don't we trust out experts?

    Simple answer - because they get too closely involved with politicans and pressure groups, and lose what objectivity they had to start with (which in many cases is not much).
  15. Can't remember where I read it, but like it says in the link, five was chosen because it was do-able. Apparently the actual fruit & vegetable intake should be closer to nine, but because it would be too difficult to convince people to eat that much, it was decided five was a better amount to market. This makes sense when also considering a lot of health campaigns are aiming for harm reduction - i.e. eating around half the recommended amount of servings per day is less harmful than eating one.

    Here's an article in the BMJ saying the same thing about the nine-a-day intake:


    Although I think part of the reason for the general publics distrust of science is the media do not report it properly. For example, despite the reason for telling people to eat five, rather than nine, portions of fruit/vegetable a day was probably because it would probably do a better job of increasing peoples intake, the Times decided to use it as a cheap shot at Labour: