What's a Butterworth?

I don't really like Trevor Butterworth, because he's snotty and whiny. But I read him because he's often right and often useful.

A recent Butterworth op-ed is useful because it alerted me to a new book that sounds incredible, and a fascinating idea from that book (he's talking about what causes medical associations to issue wrong-headed health warnings):
Simple arrogance? Perhaps. Political agendas? Possibly. But a more intriguing explanation emerges from “The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life,” the latest book from the hugely entertaining anthropologist and evolutionary biologist Robert L. Trivers. The problem, it seems, is social.

Physics, says Trivers, is the most solid and sophisticated of the sciences as it is the least dependent on social interaction or social content. Or to put it more snarkily, its general lack of relevance to anything guarantees a high level of rigor.

On the other hand, the more relevant the science to everyday life, the more it risks being deformed by that social interaction through deceit and self-deception. It’s a theory that seems especially applicable to public health, where survival of the weakest depends on the social success of the science. It’s a painful irony that the more doctors care, the more careless they tend to be about the science. [my emphasis]
Read the whole op-ed here.
Buy the Trivers book here.

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