George Bernard Shaw? Alexander Pope? H. W. James? Thomas Henry Huxley? Paul Janet? George Pellew? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: Recently I saw a tweet with a quotation attributed to the famous playwright and intellectual George Bernard Shaw:
Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.
I haven’t been able to find a solid citation. Would you please help?
Quote Investigator: In 1903 George Bernard Shaw published “Man and Superman: A Comedy and a Philosophy”. The book included a section titled “Maxims for Revolutionists”. One of the adages closely matched the statement under analysis. Yet, it did differ slightly. Here are four of Shaw’s maxims. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.
A learned man is an idler who kills time with study. Beware of his false knowledge: it is more dangerous than ignorance.
Activity is the only road to knowledge.
Every fool believes what his teachers tell him, and calls his credulity science or morality as confidently as his father called it divine revelation.
Shaw’s comment about false knowledge has close precursors, and QI suggests a possible lineage for the remark by presenting selected citations in chronological order below.