Science and business journalist David Freedman’s book, “Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us – And How to Know When Not To Trust Them,” hits on many health/medical/science journalism themes – although that is not the main focus of his book, which also addresses finance wizards, relationship gurus, celebrity CEOs, high-powered consultants and more.
The book’s introduction leads with the story of Dr. John Ioannidis – now at Stanford – who says:
“Amazingly, most medical treatment simply isn’t backed up by good, quantitative evidence.”
But Freedman also writes about:
(We’ve written about this before on this site, under these headlines:
We hear a lot about “the wisdom of the crowds.” He has a chapter, “The Idiocy of Crowds.”
Freedman describes as “the certainty principle” what it is that many of us want in advice:
“We’re heavily biased to advice that is simple, clear-cut, actionable, universal and palatable.”
That description seems to match much of the public dialogue on issues such as screening tests. Journalists often do a poor job handling uncertainty in situations where the answers are not clear-cut – such as screening test discussions. And the public dialogue suffers as a result.
I recommend “Wrong” and love some of the key quotes from it:
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