How important are the opinions of experts in the
search for knowledge?
The search for knowledge is one of the key motivations of human development. Most
scientific breakthroughs are the result of a search for knowledge, and one key characteristic of
this type of search is that the resolution of the initial search invariably leads to the start of a
new search. In other words, knowledge is not a static, finite thing that is reached and then
considered complete. Instead, the search for knowledge is an ongoing process in which each
new discovery leads to new questions. For the individual, most subjects are so vast that they
must rely on the views of experts to help them determine how best to proceed. In many cases,
the decision is not entirely up to the individual to make: the range of resources available to a
researcher, for example, will necessarily be limited according to the consensus view.
Furthermore, online search engines such as Google use Page Rank as a means of
determining expert views on a range of subjects. In other words, the opinions of experts are
one of the most important elements of any search for knowledge.
Despite considerable debate, no firm, universally accepted definition of knowledge has ever
been established. As Duncan Pritchard argues, knowledge is fundamentally concerned with
belief (Pritchard, 2006). In other words, if enough people believe something, it is accepted as
having transcended the status of subjective belief and is considered to be 'knowledge'. The
term knowledge confers a sense of acceptance by the broader community (Pritchard, 2006),
even though no item of knowledge can ever be truly known for certain without at least a
degree of doubt. The concept of knowledge is associated with a degree of certainty, to the
extent that beyond reasonable doubt something is known to be true. As James and Stuart
Rachels point out, the word knowledge is based on the word know, i.e. to be sure of a fact
suppositions and guesswork become cemented in culture as widely-accepted fact.
Nevertheless, there remains an element of doubt about any item of knowledge, since many
observers acknowledge that no item can be absolutely 'known' without doubt.
Consequently, it is reasonable to assume that the opinions of experts are a vital element in
the search for knowledge. Paul Tomassi suggests that experts are those who have studied
the available evidence and who understand how best to fit together the facts and, in many