In “How to Dispel Your Illusions,” a NYRB piece from December 2011, Freeman Dyson writes about Daniel Kahneman’s reliance in objective information over subjective analysis, using as an example the work of noted pediatric anesthesiologist Virginia Apgar. An excerpt:
“Kahneman had a bachelor’s degree in psychology and had read a book, Clinical vs. Statistical Prediction: A Theoretical Analysis and a Review of the Evidence by Paul Meehl, published only a year earlier. Meehl was an American psychologist who studied the successes and failures of predictions in many different settings. He found overwhelming evidence for a disturbing conclusion. Predictions based on simple statistical scoring were generally more accurate than predictions based on expert judgment.
A famous example confirming Meehl’s conclusion is the ‘Apgar score,’ invented by the anesthesiologist Virginia Apgar in 1953 to guide the treatment of newborn babies. The Apgar score is a simple formula based on five vital signs that can be measured quickly: heart rate, breathing, reflexes, muscle tone, and color. It does better than the average doctor in deciding whether the baby needs immediate help. It is now used everywhere and saves the lives of thousands of babies.”
Apgar is lauded by actress (and nurse) Kathryn Crosby, year unknown: