Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Personal Views Personal views

The sins of expertness and a proposal for redemption

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 06 May 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:1283

Rapid Response:

Re: From Socrates to Sackett


Bernard Guyot wisely says:

“Sackett gives the message that authority should not be conferred
without question upon knowledge and the knower (i.e. the expert), upon
medical science and the scientist, and upon learning medicine and the
learned…” [1]

To which we can also add the following quotes from Paul Feyerabend
upon a similar theme:

“In society at large the judgement of the scientist is received with
the same reverence as the judgement of bishops and cardinals was accepted
not too long ago.” [2]

“Organs of the state should never hesitate to reject the judgement of
scientists when they have reason for doing so.” [2]

“...the science of run by slaves, slaves of institutions
and slaves of ‘reason’...” [2]

From which we might humbly deduce that arrogance is always rooted in
belief and a dogmatic adherence to the accepted view buttressed by
institutions. Change only comes through ‘whistleblowers’ and other
heretics who are willing to challenge those accepted views, the 'slaves'
who endorse them and the institutions that unquestioningly confirm their


[1] BMJ letter, From Socrates to Sackett, 25 September 2000, Bernard

[2] P Feyerabend, 1981, How to Defend Society Against Science, in Ian
Hacking, Ed, Scientific Revolutions, OUP, Chapter 8

Competing interests: No competing interests

27 September 2000
Peter Morrell
Hon Research Associate, History of Medicine
Staffordshire University