Evidence, Vested Interests and Wishful Thinking

Evidence, Vested Interests and Wishful Thinking

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”

~ C. S. Lewis

This recent TED Med video featuring Ben Goldacre speaks about the systemic problem of under-reporting of negative results in medicine (medical trials, drug trials and the like). The medical profession calls it Publication Bias. Interestingly I didn’t hear any mention of “vested interests” or “commercial pressures”.

How much more of an issue is the under-reporting, wilful ignoring or downright suppression of negative results in attempted Agile adoptions and transformations? (I say it’s more of an issue because of its scope, not that it’s necessarily killing people – compared with e.g. the estimated 100,000 unnecessary US deaths due to ill-informed anti-Arrhythmia drug prescriptions).

“Human beings (including myself) sometimes use their beliefs for wish-fulfillment. Too often we believe what we want to be true.”

~ David L. Wolfe, Epistemology: The Justification Of Belief

What trail of wreckage, in terms of hopes dashed and babies-thrown-out-with-bathwaters, ensues? How many people are suffering? How many are actually dying?

What part have we each of us played in this theatre of pain?

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m feeling at least as mad (angry, frustrated, outraged) as Ben Goldacre seems to be. How about you? How does it make you feel?

– Bob

Further Reading

What Doctors Don’t Know About the Drugs they Prescribe ~ Ben Goldacre (TED video)
Lean Product and Process Development ~ Dr Allen Ward

  1. I’m not so sure it is “vested interests” or “commercial pressures” maybe more “blame culture”, “fear” and “human nature” that cause us to cover up our failings.

    Maybe the first job is to remove fear of failure. As where there is fear ducking the issue is just inevitable.


  2. Since Genesis we have been “covering up” and blaming it on the person standing next to us. Adam is our model here.

    Any post starting with a quote from CS Lewis gets my attention.

    It happened again this week that a senior leader tried to stir me away from a facilitation where the truth might have just showed up.

    Thanks for stirring things up in quite a good way via this post!

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