Intended for healthcare professionals


Doctors and complementary medicine

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 22 April 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:1145

“Deep model” that is probably true should be used

  1. Mary S Norrie, medical advisor, GS Medical Advisors (
  1. 8 Abbey Close, Stockton-on-Tees, Cleveland TS19 7SP
  2. Department of Sociology, Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent ST4 2DE
  3. Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel

    EDITOR—Leibovici suggests that, in the real world with limited resources, “a deep model of the physical world is essential for choosing hypotheses to be tested and for learning from failures.”1 This point is applicable to any area of research, but it makes the assumption that one's deep model of life/the physical universe/whatever is full and accurate. In turn, this implies a certainty we cannot possess. We cannot state that our deep model is certainly true, for it allows only for what we already know and not for what we have yet to learn or discover.

    History is littered with examples of deep models that were later found to be inaccurate or incomplete. In Galileo's time, a deep model held by senior Catholic clergy was that the earth was the centre of the universe. Later, use of an extremely accurate, reliable timepiece to measure longitude at sea for the first time was long delayed because the experts to whom the timepiece was presented held the deep model that no mechanical clock could possibly be sufficiently accurate for this purpose. Modern nuclear physics has probably turned much of the previously held scientific deep model on its head.

    The …

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