Did you ever have the uneasy feeling that the experts are not … well, experts?
‘We don’t like their sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out.’ Decca Recording Company executive, turning down the Beatles, 1962
I Wish I Hadn’t Said That sets straight thousands of examples of expert misunderstanding, miscalculation, egregious prognostication, boo-boos, and just plain lies. The experts have been wrong about everything under, including and beyond the sun: time, space, the sexes, the races, the environment, economics, politics, crime, education, the media, history and science. In I Wish I Hadn’t Said That we see just how much the experts don’t know.
‘No woman in my lifetime will be Prime Minister’ Margaret Thatcher
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The authors have founded the Institute of Expertology-- whose sole aim, it appears, is to undermine our faith in "experts". Certainly, they present compelling evidence--272 pages closely packed with well-researched and referenced blunders that would bring a blush to the faces of an army of Nobel Laureates. Because they're all here--academics, engineers, theologians, distinguished scientists, politicians (no surprise there), newspaper pundits and military leaders--all of them cramming their feet in their mouths as fast and as hard as they will go. Some of the mistakes are just head-in-the-sand pitiful, like Erasmus Wilson, professor at Oxford University who is credited with: "When the Paris exhibition closes, electric light will close with it and no more will be heard of it". But the serious edge to this book is betrayed by the comments that some experts make which have more serious consequences, for example Captain Edward J Smith of the Titanic: "I cannot imagine any condition that would cause this ship to founder ... ". The dangers of trusting "experts" gets far more serious when the section on Military bloopers is examined. General Haig in 1914 on the machine gun: "Make no mistake, this weapon will change absolutely nothing".
The greatest surprise, however, is not just the individual mistakes, but how wrong so many people can be for so long. In a brilliant introduction, political columnist Matthew Parris ruminates on how we respond to such undermining of our faith in the "professionals". His advice will surely strike a chord: "The way to cock a snook at their vanity is not to strive for greater expertise, but to sit beneath a shady tree, blithely ignorant and happy to remain so, watching time and fortune do their work upon those with pretensions to knowledge".
This volume is well researched and organised into easily-referenced sections. Although as a general read, the joke can wear a bit thin after a while but the book is undoubtedly a fantastic reference tool. It will contain enough detail on your own area of interest--whether that's cookery or nuclear warfare--to bring caution to your own pronouncements, and a healthy dose of detachment to those of others. --Tim ThornboroughReview:
‘This book is irreverent, unfair and subversive. What more could anyone ask for?’
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