History records numerous occasions when the ideas and decisions of people in positions of authority have been wrong opinions. When the idea of inoculating people against such diseases as smallpox first arrived in the colonies in the early 1900s, most authorities regarded it as nonsense. Among them were Benjamin Franklin and a number of the men who later founded Harvard Medical School. Against the authorities stood a relatively unknown man who didn’t even have a medical degree, Zabdiel Boylston, whose opinion was proved right? Not the experts’ but Zabdiel Boylston’s.
In 1890 a Nobel prize-winning bacteriologist, Dr. Robert Koch, reported that he had found a substance that would cure tuberculosis. When it was injected into patients, though, it was found to cause further illness and even death. With the development of our society, people’s ideas are changing rapidly in order to adapt to the new society where the conventions may be out-of-date, just as examples above suggests. Thus, the courage to question what the authority thinks plays a vital role in this rapidly changing society, making our life more easy and even save our lives.
If experts can, like the rest of us, be wrong, why are their views more highly valued than the views of non-experts? Many people wonder about this, and some conclude that it is a waste of time to consult the experts. What are the effects of hashish on those who smoke it? We could ask a person who never saw or smelled it, let alone smoked it. It would, of course, make better sense to get the opinion of a smoker or to take a poll of a large number of smokers. Better still would be the opinion of one or more trained observers, research scientists who have conducted studies of the effects of hashish smoking.
By examining the opinions of informed people before making up our minds, we broaden our perspective, see details we might not see by ourselves, and consider facts we would otherwise be unaware of. No one can know everything about everything; there is simply not enough time to learn. Consulting those who have given their special attention to the field of knowledge in question is a good way, but we should not just take it without our critical thinking, which may be a mark of dependence or irresponsibility.