Why must we not blindly believe in experts?

On 20161102, our family members saw the highest number of doctors for outpatient consultations. For my first appointment, I was disappointed that I spent less than 5 minutes sharing my problem with the specialist (he is polite, curious and works in a big clinic), but he did not even perform manual examination, and we had to pay for a three-digit-sum of bill. Perhaps, it’s just the practice. Although financially, I myself or my insurance can pay for the bill, I am a firm believer of spending of what is necessary and not to be wasteful.

Then, I was updated on Little Prince’s outpatient consultation and my mind thought [4] of this important question of living: Why must we not blindly believe in experts? After all, our lives have been greatly affected by the experts, from the safety and affordability of our dwellings (thanks to the security and economy policies, respectively) to our health.

Below are reasons why we must not blindly believe in experts (authority).

***
Yesterday experts are not necessarily today experts, and today experts are not necessarily tomorrow experts.

As an “expert” (at least perceived by my company and clients) myself, I deeply agree with this notion. I must constantly self-renew myself so that my knowledge and skills are relevant and advanced, in order to do all I can to serve my customers.

Experts must constantly garner new knowledge, integrate with the old one, unlearn the obsolete and irrelevant, and decide on the best practice to solve problems.

When Little Prince was first admitted to hospital in August 2016, he was diagnosed with asthma. Every morning during his hospitalization, different pediatrician of the ward (the pediatrician changed daily) would tell us different things.

On a follow-up visit on 20161102 (with another doctor of the same hospital he was admitted, who is also an Associate Professor), Little Prince was diagnosed with allergic rhinitis, instead of asthma.

For the past weeks and months, Little Prince was prescribed (since August 2016) with daily high dose of flixotide, which possibly contributed to his slow (or no) growth, sadly [1]. The doctor who discharged Little Prince in August 2016 told us not to give ketotifen to Little Prince, but the pediatricians whom we saw on 20160902 and 20161102 (of the same hospital of the discharging doctor) favored ketotifen over flixotide.

***
Experts are also human beings.

Human beings are emotional, just that the emotional levels of people vary on a spectrum — from very emotional (may result in being too empathetic or unstable) to least emotional (may result in being more cold-hearted or decisive).

As human beings, our physicians, economists, teachers, scientists [5], engineers, and lawyers also have their daily moods and long-term motivations [2], from negative to positive ones, for example fear, anger, power-within, and servant leader.

Moreover, life is dynamic, so are people. People change, for better of worse. While good reviews can give assurance, they are not 100% guarantee. Read the reviews with a pinch of salt. Consider the cues sent by the universe.

For repetitive procedures, human beings are also prone to errors. For example, in my limited interactions with the obstetrician who helped delivering Little Princess, I noted that she forgot her car key and had to re-do a PAP smear sample collection for me. I could only pray that she did a good job for critical procedures such as cesarean surgeries.

For critical situations, experts are limited by current knowledge, practice and environment, hence they may be fatally wrong too. If Suzanne Chin’s husband followed the advice of the attending respiratory physician, neurologists, and ICU head, she would be dead!

***
An expert service provider may be suitable for some people, but not others.

For example, a teacher’s or a professor’s methodology may be suitable for particular students, but not all students. This old-age observation had led to an advice in the idiom 因材施教.

The same notion is applicable for physicians and specialists. When we are unwell and see a particular doctor, our interaction lasts very shortly in comparison to our self-interaction. After all, we have lived with our body since our birth, hence we must be the person who knows our body best [3], not the physician. However, the doctor – together with the advancement in science and technology (e.g. ultrasound, X-ray, MRI, etc) — can point to us our unknown unknown based on his/her knowledge (acquired through 十年寒窗 years of learning and interning) and experience (of treating or perceived-as-just-seeing many patients).

***

Thus, what are our action points?

  1. do not 100% believe in [i] an expert, [ii] experts of particular timing (era) and location (e.g. countries)
  2. research and consider (multiple or alternative) inputs of the experts, but we ourselves must be the final decision makers, based on our acquired knowledge from the experts, rationales and intuition.
  3. constantly self-renew (learn, unlearn, re-learn, explore, and practice) to be an expert (at the frontier) who serve others with our best capacity.

***
[1] On 20160723, Little Prince qualified for IKEA Småland admission, i.e. he has reached over 90 cm! On 20161102, the weight and height of Little Prince were 13.5 kg and 95.6 cm, respectively.

[2] See also (i) Asia2016/*tianxiaweigong_notebook*jpg for experts’ self-interest (ii) motivations described by Danah Zohar in Spiritual Capital

[3] self-knowledge (知己) + intrapersonal skills.

[4] My mind also thought of an event: in 2004, my first research mentor kindly and candidly shared his observation of me being gullible. I prefer to think that I kept my 赤子之心.

[5] In an article published by The Guardian on 20170606, Julian Kirchherr, a geosciences Assistant professor at Utrecht University, suggested that many published research findings may be false. The majority (>70%) of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments.

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2 comments

  1. […] must not 100% believe in the […]

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  2. […] Do not 100% believe the experts. […]

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