Behind the Big Smoke Screen

Mega Genius® Intelligence Briefing [35]:


If you know how to recognize an expert, your life should be a bowl of cherries.  Since most people are clueless, they are choking on the pits.

First, let us find an expert, which is easier said than done.  For instance, I saw in the news this week that the commander of the Utah Highway Patrol’s drunken driving unit just resigned, after veering off the shoulder of a highway, crashing his cruiser into a concrete barrier, and being cited for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Colonel Scott Duncan, a spokesperson for the Utah Highway Patrol, admitted at a news conference, “We understand that people in this state, in this country, should be shocked over something like this, because they certainly were.”  He added, “They should be angry.  This is a violation of public trust.  They should feel betrayed.  And I don’t know if they’ll feel embarrassed, but we certainly are.”

Well, on the subject of preventing drunken driving, I think we can conclude that the commander of that State’s Highway Patrol’s drunken driving unit was not the expert that most people thought he was.

Looking further, I noticed another item in this week’s news.  Two doctors of psychology, from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of British Columbia, have just completed a study of “mindless reading” — the “zoning out” phenomenon in which a person reads sentence after sentence without understanding what he is reading.  Financed by a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, an arm of the U.S. Department of Education, these experts have concluded that zoning out by college students results in poor test results.  (Who would have thought?)

These psychologists have no idea why zoning out happens, or what, if anything, should be done about it.  However, after spending $691,000  of taxpayers’ money on the study, these “experts” have finally reached a conclusion: Readers who spent the most time failing to understand what they were reading ended up comprehending the least.  (Does anybody have a gun?)

My conclusion is that these experts in psychology do not have the mentality necessary to study mindless reading, that the departments of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of British Columbia have also zoned out, and that the U.S. Department of Education has too many dollars, although obviously not enough “cents.”

Incidentally, according to what I have just read, a nationally recognized reading expert and professor of education at the University of Michigan thinks that it would be “a huge, huge [sic]” leap to infer from the psychologists’ study that it has implications for reading instruction.  Apparently, making any worthwhile use of the $691,000 would cost “a huge, huge” amount more.

Another reading expert, who directs research and policy for the International Reading Association, which represents literacy professionals, has reached her own conclusion from the study.  “Zoning out,” this expert explained, “is probably not a whole lot different than not comprehending.”  (Would anyone like to borrow my gun?)

The actual solution to zoning out is revealed in “A Course in Education,” the fifth of The Mega Genius® Lectures.

So, where are we going to find real experts?  Perhaps we should look where there is clearly a consensus that they exist … in the field of medicine.

The United States of America is the superpower, the wealthiest country in the world, and one that prides itself on advanced medical care and sophisticated new technology.  Is it an expert in medicine?  What about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is a component of the Department of Health and Human Services, the principal agency in the government for protecting the health of all Americans.  Is it an expert?  Is the American Medical Association?  Is the Surgeon General?  Are any of them experts?

Let us consider some fundamental facts.

In a current analysis of global infant mortality among 33 industrialized nations, Japan takes the first-place award, with the lowest newborn death rate.  Tying for second place are the Czech Republic, Finland, Iceland and Norway.  So, where does the United States of America show up?  With a death rate more than double that of the countries that I named, the U.S. ties with Hungary, Poland, Malta, and Slovakia, in next to last place.

The only modern nation with a higher newborn death rate than the United States of America is Latvia.

Why is the newborn death rate in the U.S. so astonishingly high?  A primary factor is obesity, which is out of control in the U.S.  Obesity increases the risk of both premature births and low birth weight, which are leading causes of newborn death in industrialized nations.

So, which nation leads the world in obesity?  Hooray for the United States of America (burp).

Currently, more than half of all American children and teenagers are too fat.  Specifically, 34 percent are classified as overweight, and an additional 17 percent are classified as obese, meaning that their excess body fat is particularly obvious.  Yet numerous physicians will not tell those who are overweight that they are, since it might upset them or make them angry.  In accordance with guidelines adopted and promoted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many doctors believe that overweight children and teens should only be told that they are “at risk of overweight,” to avoid “traumatizing” them.

Furthermore, the physicians believe that the additional 17 percent who are obese should never be told that, either.  (Have any of them ever read Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”?)  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the word obese should “purposely [be] avoided because of negative connotations.”  Although, by their own admission, the physicians have occasionally referred to what they call the “o-word” in front of patients, they try to avoid using it in any form.  The bottom line:  Experts think that the word obese sounds mean.

Since the first step of effectively solving any problem is having the ability to face it, do not expect the experts to resolve obesity in the U.S. anytime soon.

The Associated Press has reported that a committee consisting of the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and obesity experts from 14 professional organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, is currently debating anew which words are too traumatizing for physicians to use when talking to children and teenagers.  I find that bizarre, since most children and teens whom I know are already thoroughly familiar with language sufficient to traumatize most physicians.  Regardless, it is all probably just a waste of time, since even Dr. Ronald Davis, the American Medical Association’s president-elect, doubts whether the current medical experts will be able to reach any agreement.

All right, so things do not look so promising for American newborns, and other children and teenagers, but what about those who have survived all that and are approaching the other end of their lifetimes?  What about the life expectancies of Americans?  Doesn’t modern medical care in the U.S. ensure the longest life span?  Well, I recall a recent comment from a physician, who said to me, “We don’t know all the answers.  Everyone should always remember, we practice medicine … we practice it.”  According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. spends more on health care than any other industrialized nation on Earth, yet trails dozens of other countries in rankings of life expectancy.

Well, aren’t we overlooking all the Americans who survived birth, childhood, their teenage years, and are not near their second-class life expectancy?  Isn’t real medical expertise easily available at least to those who are middle-aged?

According to a recent study performed jointly by the Rand Corporation and the University College London, and published in the 3 May 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, white middle-aged Americans — regardless of their education or income — are far less healthy than white middle-aged Brits, for example.  Even after eliminating minorities from the equation and various behavioral risks like smoking (the rates are about the same), and drinking (the Brits have a higher rate of heavy drinking), and obesity (Americans win the blue ribbon here), they discovered that middle-aged Americans are far more likely to suffer from severe health issues.  For instance, they are twice as likely as the Brits to contract diabetes, 60 percent more likely to suffer from heart disease, and are more susceptible to lung disease, high blood pressure and strokes.  Americans are also much more likely to get cancer — twice as likely!

What is going on here?  As Dr. Michael Marmot, an epidemiologist at University College London exclaimed, “Why isn’t the richest country in the world the healthiest country in the world?”

I ask, “Why isn’t America even close?”

Do not be fooled into thinking that more money is the solution.  That is a “red herring.”  U.S. health care spending is already double (in adjusted dollars) what Britain spends on each of its citizens, yet Americans receive only a pitiful fraction of the results.  (The actual solution is in understanding the human body, and knowing and applying the correct technology.  See “An Intelligent Look at Your Body,” the ninth of The Mega Genius® Lectures.)

According to The Associated Press, “Even experts familiar with the weaknesses in the U.S. health system seemed stunned by the study’s conclusions,” adding that this new research, “erases misconceptions and has experts scratching their heads.”  Well, I had no misconceptions, but that statement by The Associated Press caught my attention, for I have seen many stunned and puzzled people scratching their heads, but never an expert.

Obviously, we need to define the word expert before we waste any more time fruitlessly searching for one.  Maybe I should begin with my brother, who can demonstrate his expertise in several subjects and has his own definition, one which reflects more truth than you will find in a dictionary.  “An expert,” he contends, “is someone who is at least 25 miles from home.”

Dictionaries define expert as “one who is proficient, or displays special skill or knowledge.”  Nevertheless, that definition is woefully inadequate.  One can be proficient — meaning well advanced in an art, occupation or branch of knowledge, or have considerable experience in a trade or profession — or able to display special skill (of an unimportant nature) or knowledge of information (that is irrelevant and unworkable) without remotely approaching the realm of an expert.  In institutions of higher learning, posh offices, and lofty boardrooms, I have encountered dozens of such individuals for every person there who had actual expertise.

To arrive at an adequate definition for expert, we need to expand our attention to consider the broad scope within which we all live and operate.  The components of the physical universe are space, time, energy, and condensed energy in the form of objects; however, it is also a universe of both cause and effect.  Let us imagine that you want to cause a particular effect — that you intend for something to happen … and then it does.  You see, since one of the components of the physical universe is time, what you wanted to occur did not happen at the exact instant of your intention, but at a later instant, or subsequent time.

Here is the applicable law: Intention always precedes effect.  (Incidentally, that law reveals that the effect that is the entire physical universe had to have been caused by one or more intentions, whether from God or from gods.)

Now let us look further at what you intended.  It could have been anything at all, such as for a tree to be felled, or for a picture to be painted, or … well, even for a pet anteater to be fed.  You see, we are only concerned with the accomplishment of the effect, whatever it was.  What is important is that if exactly what you intended to happen did happen, and you ended up with a satiated anteater, for example, then it went well, at least from your viewpoint and from that of the anteater.  Of course, it may, or may not, have gone well from the viewpoint of another, or others.  After all, a terrific day for an anteater is a horrific day for the ants.

Perhaps you encountered difficulties, though.  If what you intended to happen only more or less did, then it did not go as well as you had hoped.  In that case, you may have ended up with a confusion of agitated ants and an unsatisfied anteater.  Moreover, if what you intended to happen was significantly different from what actually did occur, then you may not only be bogged down with innumerable ant bites, but even cornered by an acutely annoyed anteater.

Therefore, it is imperative to have the ability to cause the exact effects, and only the effects, that you intend, for life will go as well as you, or those who act on your behalf, are able to cause the effects that you want or need.

Accordingly, like a laser, we have focused on an adequate and accurate definition for the word expert: One who can cause the desired results.

The word authority merely means an expert who also has the power to influence how others think or act.  Regardless of anyone’s credentials, never accept a person as an authority until you are certain that he can cause the desired results.

For example, you often hear about “expert testimony” from an “expert witness,” who essentially is a person who is alleged to have special knowledge of a subject, because of education, profession, publication or experience, and who presents his opinion in a lawsuit or criminal case.  However, nowhere in that legal definition of expert witness is the person required to have the ability to cause the desired results.  And far too many of them cannot.

Considerably fewer experts exist on this planet than you have probably realized.  Fortunately, though, a few do exist and are identifiable.  They may be your heroes, or you may not care at all for their personalities or the way they dress, but they are experts.

For instance, Jacques Pépin, who was the personal chef for President Charles De Gaulle and two other French heads of state, and who turned down a similar position at the White House, is an expert.  So is James Bama, the American artist, who was inducted into the Illustrator’s Hall of Fame.  So is Bill Gates, the software architect and former centibillionaire, who is currently ranked by Forbes magazine as the wealthiest person on Earth; and, Barbra Streisand, the singer and film actress, whose awards include two Academy Awards, six Emmys, eleven Golden Globes and ten Grammys; and, Tom Cruise, the motion picture actor and producer whose films have earned more billions of dollars than anyone, who was just ranked by Forbes as the world’s most powerful celebrity, and many more.

Since extremely effective people exist in almost every field, you would be wise to ensure that anyone whom you hire or depend upon is an expert, including your automotive mechanic, physician, dentist, lawyer, accountant, grocer, and even your anteater feeder, if you have one.

Often a person has a genius for some activity or subject, but could never officially qualify as an overall genius on a valid and supervised intelligence test.  Similarly, an expert knows how to get a particular job done, even if that is all that he knows.  The only reason that he is an expert is that it is easily verifiable, such as by observation or pertinent statistics, that he has the ability to substantively cause the  desired results, in at least one facet of life.

There are no other necessary qualifications or considerations.  For example, experts do not even have to be ethical.  Jack the Ripper displayed superb expertise at what he did.

It is simple!  Experts can cause the desired results.  Those who cannot are not experts.  And that is the essence of the matter.

Now you know the most intelligent way to recognize an expert.  And if you can apply what you have learned, to identify who is and who is not an expert in any field, then you are now an expert on the subject of expertise.

Mega Genius®

8 July 2006


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