About me

DFreedman

dhfreedman@gmail.com

Twitter: @dhfreedman 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/dhfreedman

 

 

 

I’m a science journalist and author. I’m a contributing writer at The Atlantic, where I’ve had several cover stories, and semi-regular cover-story contributor to Newsweek. I’ve contributed off and on to a number of publications, including Scientific American, Politico, Quanta, Men’s Journal, and others. I’m the author of five books. I co-founded and for a while ran an online magazine about global healthcare.

I’ve long been primarily a science, technology and business writer, with a special focus on health-related issues. Here’s a sampling of some of the other publications I’ve written for: The New York Times, Discover, Science, The Columbia Journalism Review, Forbes, MIT Technology Review, Self, The Boston Globe, Wired, The Harvard Business Review, The Los Angeles Times, Fast Company, Reader’s Digest, Men’s Health, The Boston Globe Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, and many more.

I live in the Boston area. My byline usually reads “David H. Freedman.” The “H.” is there to distinguish me from various well-known David Freedmans who are not me, including the animator/producer, the late Bible scholar, the North Carolina defense lawyer, the law/boxmaking writer, the neuroscientist, the Trump administration’s ambassador to Israel, the psychiatric epidemiologist, the Australian racehorse owner, the blacksmith, the cricketer, the late gag-writer, the accountant, and the radio-station manager (whom I met when he was mistakenly installed in my hotel room). There are even several people of note who go by “David H. Freedman,” including an international labor researcher who wrote a book on employment, a Michigan lawyer, and a U.S. Army officer. I am not any of them, either. And no matter what Google tells you, I am most definitely not David A. Freedman, the late great Berkeley statistician, whom I interviewed at his home shortly before he passed away, and whose photo, book credits, and level of deceasedness Google routinely interchanges with mine.

My last book was called WRONG: Why experts keep failing us–and how to know when not to trust them. It’s about all the forces that push experts, be they top scientists, high-powered consultants, pop gurus, financial whizzes or journalistic pundits (like me), into misleading us with flawed advice, and discusses ways to tell good expert advice from the dubious stuff.  I wrote about the subject for The Atlantic for the lead feature of the magazine’s annual “Brave Thinkers” issue, and substantial articles about the book ran in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, and many other publications internationally.  I’ve spoken about the book on numerous radio and television programs in the U.S. and elsewhere.  It’s published by Little, Brown, and you can learn more about it here, and find it on Amazon here.

My previous book was A Perfect Mess, co-authored with Eric Abrahamson.  It’s about how disorganization and messiness can be good things. The New York Times wrote a feature article about me and the book, and CBS Sunday morning did a segment on me. You can learn more about the book here, and find it on Amazon here.

I’m the author of three other books–on the U.S. Marines, computer crime, and artificial intelligence–and you can learn more about my books, and browse some of my articles, elsewhere on the site. My work has also appeared in various collections of science writing, and in the Norton Reader.

31 thoughts on “About me

  1. […] ‘The End of Temptation.’ The article, The Perfected Self, is written by author and journalist David Freedman. In it he talks about B.F. Skinner’s theories of behavior modification to address the obesity […]

  2. Christina Quinonez says:

    David,
    I’m curious about your background in the sciences. Are you a scientist? What makes you passionate enough about science to want to write critically about it?

    Thanks,
    Christina

    • No, I’m not a scientist, just a journalist. I’ve always loved science, which makes it hard to even say why–I’m baffled why many people don’t love science. I wouldn’t really say that I write very critically about science, rather I’d say I’m interested in the aspects of science that make it difficult to progress rapidly, steadily or reliably. I think that sounds critical to non-scientists because they don’t understand that’s just the nature of science. Most scientists don’t find my work to be particularly critical of science, they themselves say these things all the time. I am, however, very critical of most science journalism, which tends to focus on those science stories that are least likely to hold up over the long term, and that in the case of health can mislead people into failing to do the things they need to do to live longer and healthier lives.

      • Gina Pera says:

        David wrote: “I am, however, very critical of most science journalism, which tends to focus on those science stories that are least likely to hold up over the long term, and that in the case of health can mislead people into failing to do the things they need to do to live longer and healthier lives.”

        Yes. Thank you.

  3. Michelle Her says:

    Hello Mr. H. Freedman, I am a college student from MCTC located in Minnesota. I’m doing a research paper on one of your article, “How Junk Food Can End Obesity.” I just wanted to ask, when’d you create your ” About ” post from MM/DD/YYYY. Who is it sponsor of the article, if there’s one?

    • Hi Michelle. Not sure I understand your first question, “When’d you create your ‘About’ post from MM/DD/YYYY?” Do you want to try to ask it in a clearer way? As for your second question about sponsorship, I think perhaps you’re asking me if some food company or industry group paid me to write it. If that’s what you’re asking, the answer is no, I’ve never received any money from any food company or food industry group, not for that article or anything else. Does that answer your question, or were you asking something else? — Dave

  4. lorentjd says:

    Hi, David.

    Your essay “The War on Stupid People” was provocative. It reminded me of “Coming Apart” by Charles Murray in the sense that your essay highlighted a key source of the growing privilege gap. That gap worries me. I think we are on a trajectory where a growing and substantial number of people will simply be unemployable. I think your idea of government subsidizies to discourage automaton is unlikely to be adopted. Perhaps a guaranteed basic income is the solution but, even there, there will likely be tremendous opposition to such a program (as happened recently in Switzerland where the voters rejected such a plan with over 75% of votes against the proposal). That all being said, those with high intelligence would be well served to be more humble about the unearned privilege we enjoy.

  5. Jennifer Cisney-Crowe says:

    I am using your article The Perfected Self to write an argumentative Essay on Behavior Modification and B.F. Skinner. Are there any sources you would recommend for this Essay? What would I say about you in a Annotated Bibliography for your accomplishments that are not included in this web page?

    • storyadmin says:

      Glad to hear my article might be helpful for your essay. B.F. Skinner himself wrote a number of books on the science of modifying behavior, and the one I’d recommend is “About Behaviorism.” You can also find some material that might be helpful at abainternational.org, though most of it is aimed at people in the field. Most of what’s written elsewhere about behavior modification is from people who misunderstand the field, and they often know almost nothing about it. A frequent claim, for example, is that the field was “discredited” decades ago by Noam Chomsky, an absurdly wrong notion; another is that behavior modification tries to make people “like” or “dislike” certain things or behaviors by associating them with pleasant or unpleasant sensations, also wrong. I think the information about me on the website is fine for your bibliography. Good luck!

  6. Jeremy Mumford says:

    Your Men’s Journal article on wildfires and the WUI was disturbingly prophetic. “It may be paradise, but it’s one spark removed from hell.”

  7. Tony Ritter says:

    Mr. Freedman:

    In your article about Duolingo, you interviewed three people. That was it.

    1)The creator of Duolingo
    2) a competitor of another language program
    and
    3) a professor.

    Wow.

    After 70 hours (or about a month) on the program studying Italian you wrote about your results and critique.

    Suggestion.

    Maybe you should have interviewed some of the *users* of the software – both young and old – before you wrote your, what I would call, scathing, article for a more *well rounded appraisal* of a revolutionary language program called Duolingo.

    Kind regards.
    TR

  8. patricia bloom, RN. says:

    i have never seen so many dumb generalizations in one article !!

    • storyadmin says:

      I have never seen such a dumb observation in one comment!! Just kidding. Seriously, though, while I welcome even the shallowest of comments, it might help if you specified which article you’re commenting on. Or maybe you meant all my articles? Which would be quite the generalization.

  9. Gini Dodds says:

    I really enjoy all your articles in the Atlantic. The latest, The Worst Patients, got me thinking about patient responsibilities. It would be really interesting to know if any employers or governments require patients to adhere to standards (healthy BMI, exercise, no smoking, moderate alcohol intake, etc.) as a condition for receiving free or inexpensive coverage. I realize it would be an administrative nightmare to enforce, but still interesting to think about. Are you aware of anything like this?

    • storyadmin says:

      Thanks, Gini. Yes, it’s becoming more common for employers to find ways to get employees to take better care of themselves in order to lower healthcare costs. But they have to be careful how they present it–if a plan looks like it’s discriminating against those who for whatever reasons aren’t willing or able to improve their lifestyle habits, then it could run into all kinds of legal and regulatory trouble. So typically these programs offer modest incentives for better health habits, such as rewards for achieving a certain number of steps taken per day. Certainly plans offer significant discounts for being a non-smoker–for some reason, our society is all behind openly discriminating against smokers, but goes nuts if people who maintain any other type of habit associated with poor health are encouraged to make changes.

  10. Tracie Hollings says:

    Did you publish Death of an American?

  11. Hi David, I’m a student at Utah Valley University, and I’m doing a research paper on your article “how junk food can end obesity”. It caught my eye, being a moderately overweight college student who frequently eats out at fast food places.
    In your article, and in the video where you talk about it, you make a lot of bold and generalized statements about the Health and Wholesome food industry as a whole, but for part of the essay I am doing, I am supposed to look at and consider the credentials of the author.
    Looking through this page and on the article itself, I have learned that you are not a scientist, but a journalist interested in science- seeing your reply to Christina Quinonez above.
    Additionally, while looking around, I have not found any sources that you have cited towards your article, and a lot of what you say comes from personal experience.
    Do you have any sources to back up what you say in your article, or any background that should make us believe what you say more than- say, any other journalist covering a health topic? I really enjoyed reading your article, and am eager to work on my essay about it.

    Kind regards,
    Nikolas Ver Steeg

    • storyadmin says:

      Thanks, Nikolas. Yes, I have sources to back up everything I have to say in the article. Feel free to point out any particular claims I make that you think call for more sourcing than I already provide in the article, and perhaps I can give you a source or two for them. My background is that I’m a journalist with no financial or other interest in the food industry.

  12. Alan Dworsky says:

    The link to David’s book “WRONG” isn’t working. It leads to a diet website of some kind.

    • storyadmin says:

      Thanks! I need to go through and update that and many other links on this site. I think the book is easy to find via a Google search on “wrong” “david h. freedman”

  13. Jennifer Brasher says:

    Hi,
    Just wondering what your university quals are?
    Interested. T

    Doing some research and cannot seem to find in all the available links
    Thanks
    Jennifer

    • storyadmin says:

      Started off with two years in Northwestern University’s journalism school, but ended up with a BA in physics from Oberlin College. No graduate studies.

  14. James Pearce says:

    Were you serious in your article on the
    Atlantic arueing against a meritocracy?
    Perhaps in your embracing of mediocrity you failed to consider the high costs of those who make significant numbers of mistakes routinely, costs they pay, their families pay, those who work with them and society at large. Also, research has shown they generally do not self correct, nor identity their mistakes. And they are easily influenced to vote for populist candidates who promise them simple solutions to complex problems. Perhaps you can name a few leaders such as get elected due to unsophisticated voters. It might be funny, but it has resulted in a lot of people getting killed.

    • storyadmin says:

      Nope, I’m well aware of those costs, they’re mostly obvious. I wonder, though, if you’ve ever given any thought to the costs of leaving behind those who fail to thrive in our meritocracy. Also, do you think everyone who voted for Trump is dumb, and everyone who voted for Biden is smart? And what’s your proposed solution for those “mediocre” voters?

      • James Pearce says:

        No, everyone who voted for Mr. Trump is not dumb. Those with very large incomes have benefited by the tax policies he put in place and many high income earners are quite bright. And, many who voted for Mr. Biden did so on an emotional basis, not based on the exercise of logic.
        I do not have an answer in regard to voters who make decisions on the basis of heuristics in the short term.
        In the long term, I support the teaching of critical thinking skills.
        IQ has been shown to only have a slight correlation to rational analytical thought. The SAT and ACT do not test for it.
        Heuristics are easier then deeper and more involved thinking and decision making. Perhaps if we were all taught that when making important desisions we need to think a out what we are deciding and careful consider our decisions and if we are equiped with the tools to do so we all can make better decisions.
        In regard to Mr. Trump, I have had many conversations with individuals who are religious conservatives who were very bothered by him and wished they had an alternative canidate. Other than on abortion, he violated many of their values and they felt they were being used. This included both conservative Roman Catholics and Fundamentalist Protestants.

        One other thing. I believe that there is a significant diference between a meritocracy and the gatekeeper function that college degrees operationalize.

        Specifically, many, actually most jobs until recently did not require college degrees. As example, my brother in law thirty years ago was able to become a store manager without one, instead it was on the basis of his performance.

        Ony after race based testing was determined illegal (Supreme Court case regarding Duke Power) did we see a proliferation in the requirement of college degrees rather than positions being open to all based on skills and acheivement.

        Today I believe College degrees function to block minority candidates for jobs they otherwise would be able to do.

        And advanced degrees along with unpaid and low paid internships and periods of low paying post graduate work and entry level University Positions have an additional function, to ensure that most of the really good jobs, the ones which allow for creativity, spontaneity, flexibility and travel are held by the children of those who can devote the resources to make certain their offspring can get them by financially supporting them during the many years long period of experiance now almost required gain those positions and to do so comfortably and without taking on supplemental employment or living in poverty.

      • storyadmin says:

        Thanks for these thoughtful comments. It really doesn’t sound like we disagree much. it sounds more like you’ve misinterpreted my article as championing mediocrity. It didn’t; it called for a reexamination of the de facto policies that would today prevent your brother-in-law from becoming a store manager without a college degree.

      • James Pearce says:

        Please look at this study: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED536488.pdf
        It is an academic look at one of the unintended consequences of Griggs v. Duke.
        Basically getting a degree has been transformed from simply the acknowledgement of the completion of a level of formal eduction to acting as a gate to keep some people out of some jobs.

        If you couple this with the decline of eduction as a leveling factor, especially as you outlined in your article it borders on what could be considered a conspiracy to continue policies of racial segregation in employment.

        While it is ancedotal, I recall the story the father of one of my clients who after retiring as a vice-president of a major insurance company and becoming a consultant found blatent racism in the South in the form of the warm embrace and language used by those administrators he acted as a consultant for when they heard his accent, that of Virginia and specifically the Shenandoah Valley. As someone who spent his carreer largely in the North (New York, Connecticut and Ohio) and Texas he said he was taken aback by it. These were younger men and women, but they talked n the manner of the segregationist of his youth in the 1960s.

        I believe the underfunding of public education and the proliferation of private, often “christian” acadmies throughout the south is a defuse but strong and self reinforcing set of actions to maintain the power elites in the South, namely wealthy whites who to this day benefit from an inheritance from Slavery.

        And, by the way, I am a person who would be classifie as white, actually based on genetics, very white as in Northern European 98% by genotype.

  15. Warren Nast says:

    Dear Mr. Freedman,
    I was doing some file cleaning when I came upon my dog eared copy of your Marine Corp Article in the 1998 issue of Inc. Magazine. At the time I was working for a liberals arts college as a Dining Service Retail ops manager who had received a promotion to run the Convenience Store, the Cafe and Concession stands and at that time I was a hands on manager. But after reading that article I used the rule of three, empowered my staff, and used the end game thinking to make my operations thrive. My workers at the time were all college students but because the Marines trust 18-22 year olds with responsibility I created a group of student leaders that took to management. Many of them still keep in touch with me today and let me know that was one of their best work experiences.

    The Marines know what they are doing and I also added their leadership principals (J.J.D.I.D.T.I.E.B.U.C.K.L.E) and their 11 point training : Know yourself and seek improvement, etc.

    Along with some Biblical principals I think I did a pretty good job of leading people.

    I hate to think if I had stayed that micro-manager. That would have been frustrating.

    Thanks for such a great article. I changed my world.

    Sincerely,

    Warren Nast

    • storyadmin says:

      Thanks for these kind and inspirational comments, Warren. It sounds like you instilled a lot of pride in your employees, and I wish more managers were able to do that.

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