Wrong

Wrong (2010) by David Freedman is a very interesting book about how so many expert predictions are wrong. The book looks at various experts in scientific and other fields and analyses how what we know about the world is uncertain and how much of what we know is wrong.

The book starts by looking at John Ioannidis the medical researcher who has carefully looked at medical evidence and come to the conclusion that much of what we know about medicine comes from flawed studies and chance. He goes on to look at economists and other experts and what they have said and what has happened. The picture isn’t pretty.

He looks at how the media distorts facts and finding to generate controversy and more newsworthy items.

Freedman spends two chapters looking at scientific mistakes. He looks at how so much science turns out to be wrong with a focus on medical matters. He looks at how there is some deliberate deception but how many of the mistakes are the result of our own biases and flaws and are very hard to avoid.  On top of this Freedman shows how the media makes the situation worse and makes by quoting out of context and also, inadvertently, by rarely questioning scientists.

The book also looks at how crowds and groups often make the situation worse by ignoring or silencing inconvenient opinions and facts. The internet is no panacea either according to Freedman with little weighting giving to the reasoning behind opinions on almost any subject under the sun.

Finally Freedman makes a list of 11 ways to avoid being misled and also includes an appendix on why the book itself might be wrong. It’s a very good, thought provoking read.

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