Why experts* keep failing us--and how to know when not to trust them *Scientists, finance wizards, doctors, relationship gurus, celebrity CEOs, high-powered consultants, health officials and more


By David H. Freedman

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Our investments are devastated, obesity is epidemic, test scores are in decline, blue-chip companies circle the drain, and popular medications turn out to be ineffective and even dangerous. What happened? Didn’t we listen to the scientists, economists and other experts who promised us that if we followed their advice all would be well?

Actually, those experts are a big reason we’re in this mess. And, according to acclaimed business and science writer David H. Freedman, such expert counsel usually turns out to be wrong — often wildly so. Wrong reveals the dangerously distorted ways experts come up with their advice, and why the most heavily flawed conclusions end up getting the most attention-all the more so in the online era.

But there’s hope: Wrong spells out the means by which every individual and organization can do a better job of unearthing the crucial bits of right within a vast avalanche of misleading pronouncements.


  • "An exposé of the multiple ways that society's so-called experts let us down, if not outright betray us. It's a chunk of spicy populist outrage, and it can be a hoot....It's news you can use."
    Dwight Garner, New York Times
  • We are, as Mr. Freedman puts it, living in an age of "punctuated wrongness," usually misled, occasionally enlightened. His goal is a broad account of this phenomenon, how it takes shape through specific problems in measurement, how it spreads through the general idiocy of crowds, and how we might identify and avoid it. Bravo!...[Mr. Freedman] turns to the right kind of experts to articulate general principles-biostatisticians, for example, who can see deeper than the average scientist into the way the data are gathered, analyzed and screwed up...What makes Wrong so right-it being as good as any general account of the fragility of what we take as expert knowledge-is that it raises the right questions."
    Trevor Butterworth, Wall Street Journal
  • "Mind-bending...[A] compelling case that the majority of people frequently recognized as experts...base their findings on flawed information more often than not....readers of Freedman's evidence might mitigate their unwarranted trust in the "experts" who so often offer sound bites on the morning television news-entertainment programs as well as the "experts" promoted by Oprah, Dr. Phil and others of that ilk."
    Steve Weinberg, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • "Forcefully argued, focusing on the point where error shades into deceit...Wrong makes a powerful case for the prevalence of scientific ineptitude."

    Michael Washburn, Washington Post
  • "This is by far one of the most interesting non-fiction books to have come out in recent times. David H. Freedman reveals why and how a lot-if not all-expert advice is either misleading, manipulated as to mislead, or just plain wrong. Freedman, a journalist by profession, pierces through the shell of intellectual confidence in studies-scientific or otherwise-and exposes 'expert advice', 'studies reveal' and 'survey says' as false catch-phrases designed to fool people into believing that we humans know more about the world around us than we actually do."
    Amir Hafizi, The Malay Mail
  • "A revealing look at the fallibility of "experts," and tips on how to glean facts from the mass of published misinformation...Informative and engaging, if not groundbreaking news to more cynical readers."
    Kirkus Reviews
    "An engaging polemic against the neat-police who hold so much sway over our lives."
    The Wall Street Journal

On Sale
Jun 10, 2010
Page Count
304 pages

David H. Freedman

About the Author

David H. Freedman (www.freedman.com) is a contributing editor at Inc. Magazine. His articles on science, business and technology have appeared in theAtlantic, Newsweek, the New York Times, the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Science, Wired, and many other publications.

His previous book (coauthored) is A Perfect Mess, about the useful role of disorder in daily life, business and science. He is also the author of books about the U.S. Marines, computer crime, and artificial intelligence. Freedman casts a critical eye on headline health news at his blog, Making Sense of Medicine.

Learn more about this author