Views & Reviews Review of the Week

The sibyl is faulty

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c4471 (Published 18 August 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c4471
  1. Julian Sheather, deputy head of ethics
  1. 1BMA
  1. jsheather{at}bma.org.uk

    The way research is currently configured, there is enormous pressure if not to deceive, then certainly to game the system, writes Julian Sheather

    Every age has its sources of wisdom, those to whom we turn for a little light in the abiding darkness: the oracle at Delphi intoxicated by volcanic gases; shadowy priests whispering behind the grille; or ascetics and gurus in their mountain fastnesses. Ours, though, is unassailably the age of the expert. With science regnant, it is to her disciples we instinctively turn. What, asks David Freedman in his combative new book, is the status of their collective wisdom? The interesting thing turns out to be not the answer, which is given in the title, but what lies behind it. Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us—And How to Know When Not to Trust Them is a brisk interrogation of the extraordinary fallibility of even the most lauded and garlanded of our contemporary experts.

    Freedman is catholic in his choice …

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