The age of the faux expert

Where I live there is a small regional airport and from my window I can see planes coming in to land or after taking off. On the Nextdoor neighborhood community discussion board there was a post by someone claiming that the airport does not follow standard aviation rules for which direction to take off and land depending on the wind direction, giving as the source for their complaint the responses they got when they did a search on Google on “what direction do planes fly with NW wind”.

Really? This person thinks that the people working in air traffic control and the pilots have no idea what they are doing and that this person knows better than people who do this for a living and who are well aware that lives depend on them getting it right? In response to the complaint, one commenter posted “Monterey Airport is HIRING!!! They are looking for employees just like you. Currently nobody knows what they are doing 😂😂😂 instead of criticizing maybe you should go help out.”

This illustrates the problem that we have, that people think a quick Google search makes them an ‘expert’ on pretty much anything. We see this most clearly with medical treatment, especially with covid-19. It is one thing to go on the internet and seek out information so that you can be better informed and have more meaningful discussions with your health care professionals by asking more pertinent questions and being better able to appreciate their answers. It is something else entirely to think that your judgment is now superior to that of those who do what they do for a living, day in and day out.


  1. Matt G says

    The internet is great for getting information. It’s also great for confirming your biases, if that’s your preference. The internet is how I learned about Morton’s Demon!

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    Faux experts make up 73.9% of the statistics they cite, and cause a drop of at least 11.56% in Gross Domestic Product and an increase of 4.63% in the national deficit.

    And you can quote me on that!

  3. bmiller says

    See: vaccine skeptics. I have a coworker who “sent me a website” as if that is enough.

  4. Holms says

    I’m still at something of a loss as to how horse medicine became the target of the Trump cult’s obsession in the first place. There had to be a Crank 0, a person that first decided to promote a random medicine over what doctors were recommending. I’d love to ask that guy: “why a de-wormer??”

  5. Matt G says

    Holms@4- I was just thinking the same thing today. David Gorski (aka Orac) is the kind of person to know that, since he’s been blogging about pseudomedicine for years.

  6. Reginald Selkirk says

    @4, @6: That Science-Based Medicine was written in April. Matt G is correct that ivermectin had some effect in high concentrations in the petri dish in stopping virus from infecting cultured cells, but it was then included in several human trials and did not perform well.
    Why a veterinary deworming drug? When the pandemic started and the virus was first characterized, researchers around the world were trying known drugs to see if they would have any effect. It is a lot faster and cheaper to re-purpose a known and approved drug for a new purpose than to develop a new drug from scratch. So; that someone tried ivermectin is not surprising. That it might have an effect in high concentrations in a petri dish, but fail in clinical trials is also not especially surprising.

  7. Reginald Selkirk says

    The more interesting question is probably “when did ivermectin become a right wing cause celebre and when did the expectations become detached from the reality of the evidence”? I do not follow the Q crowd closely, but here are a few relevant items.
    Ivermectin was popular in Brazil in 2020. Considering how that country did with COVID, I don’t know why anyone would be encouraged by that.
    In November 2020, a research paper was submitted to Research Square as a preprint, claiming very positive results with ivermectin.
    In December 2020, Senator Ron Johnson was convening committee hearing for assorted quacks to testify about assorted pseudo-medicines including ivermectin.
    In July 2021, that most positive paper on ivermectin was retracted after Research Square was notified that the paper contained clear signs of fraud, including plagiarism, data cloning and fabrication of results.
    Huge study supporting ivermectin as Covid treatment withdrawn over ethical concerns.
    While the paper had never undergone peer review, it had been sitting on that web site for about 8 months, and its results had been incorporated into several metastudies.

  8. Reginald Selkirk says

    Retraction Watch has a page listing coronavirus-related papers which have been retracted or are targets of concern link. Of the ~150 papers listed, 4 retracted papers and 1 with an expression of concern have “ivermectin” in the title.

  9. garnetstar says

    Besides this person thinking that they know better than aviation professionals, 1) why are they watching which directions planes that they’re not on are flying? and 2) why did they bother to “research” the supposed correct directions?

    Along with assuming experts have more basis for their opinions on their subjects than you do, another concept now lost to humanity was called “minding your own business.”
    As in, routine operations in the world are that are going along fine can be trusted to continue without your interference.

  10. John Morales says

    It is something else entirely to think that your judgment is now superior to that of those who do what they do for a living, day in and day out.

    Judgement… literally so, in at least one case:

    A judge in Ohio ordered a hospital to treat a Covid-19 patient with ivermectin, despite warnings from experts that the anti-parasitic drug has not proved effective against the virus and can be dangerous in large doses.

  11. Matt G says

    Reginald@8- There also appears to be a “if the liberals want us to do it, we won’t, and if they don’t want us to do it, we will” mentality at work. And the more they get warned about ivermectin and advised to get the vaccine, the more they want ivermectin and the more resistant they are to getting the vaccine. Yes, they really are that childish. I’ve been watching the republicans for over 40 years and I am absolutely baffled by how irrational they have become.

  12. consciousness razor says

    John Morales, here’s another one:

    The Arkansas Medical Board is investigating reports that inmates at a county jail were prescribed the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin to combat COVID-19 even though it hasn’t been approved to treat the coronavirus.

  13. says

    Now Rand Paul is saying he’s “on the fence” about the actual COVID-19 vaccines, but also saying people are refusing to consider invermectin ONLY because they all hate Trump.

  14. Reginald Selkirk says

    @14: Rand Paul is factually wrong about that (I know, you’re shocked to hear it). Ivermectin was included in several clinical trials and failed to perform.

  15. Reginald Selkirk says

    Near the end of the 20th century, Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in southern California was slated for decommissioning. The powers that be came up with a plan to open a large commercial airport at El Toro and scale back the existing facility at John Wayne Airport in Newport Beach. The latter would not be closed entirely, but commercial passenger service would be ended and the airport would remain as a playground for rich people with private jets (this is Orange County we’re talking about.) The people promoting this plan commissioned the required studies for environmental impact, noise impact, etc.
    It came to light that the noise studies were performed with the assumption that aircraft would be taking off and landing with a tailwind and towards the nearby hills. In other words, it was a completely unrealistic sham intended to help slip the plan through the approval process.
    @10: If dozens or hundreds of commercial flights are going to be taking off every day over your neighborhood, it is your business. It impacts quality of life and real estate values.
    Well, someone noticed, and things were brought to light and you might notice that there is not a huge commercial airport at El Toro today.

  16. garnetstar says

    @16, not relevant. I said that “if the routine operations of the world are getting along fine”, not if a scam is detected or something that negatively impacts people’s lives is proposed.

    That’s what you’re supposed to spend your time on, not wasting it investigating wholly successful operations.

  17. mnb0 says

    “This person thinks that …..”
    Yes, this is the kind of character I’ve met several times! They pretty often are intelligent people in other respects ….. And I’m talking real life, not internet.

  18. lorn says

    Come, come now. Everyone knows that as good as the JAMA, And you can always cross-check your sources against the Health Ranger just to be double sure. You can’t go wrong if you stick to reliable sources for your information. LOL.

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