Stephen O’Grady ’97 has an insightful essay on certainty.

Many of you are probably less than shocked by this, given that our understanding of training regimens has made more than a few advances in the last 30 years, but for me it triggered a minor epiphany: much of what we know, is in fact wrong. From biology to gym to history, a substantial portion of what we are taught in our formative years is just plain incorrect. Some of the errors are intentional, some are not, but it’s impossible to argue that pretty much all of us are force fed large quantities of faulty data. Nor are the inconsistencies limited to education; how many times, for example, have health professionals changed their minds on whether or not eggs are healthy or unhealthy? First they’re good, then they’re bad, now, well, now I don’t even know if they’re good or bad, I eat them anyway. I’m sure each of you could come up with your own examples; when discussing this topic with a friend recently, they were immediately reminded of the very checkered history of medicine. Actively bleeding patients, after all, was a recommended and ardently believed in treatment for a variety of ailments well into the last century.

Read the whole thing.

The underestimation of uncertainty is a topic near and dear to my heart. My claim is that you should not be confident that the predictions of a reasonable expert won’t come to pass. In other words, if some experts think X and other argue Y, then a wise Eph has 95% confidence intervals that include both X and Y. But that is a rant for another day. Read O’Grady. You’ll learn something.

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