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Epistemology

In Knowledge We Trust! ~Lazar

http://web.utk.edu/~jhardwig/RoleTrust.pdf

“It seems paradoxical that scientific research, in many ways one of the most questioning and skeptical of human activities, should be dependent on human trust.” -Elizabeth Nuefeld

Trust is highly controversial to our mind when it comes to ideas we question, yet almost treated as an instinct among the concepts we like and desire. More so, we base our trust in people upon their expertise and relationship. When it comes to factual knowledge, we will always prefer to belive the words of a professional over those spoken from a friend, regardless of whether or not the professional is correct. On the other hand, we would trust our friend with aiding us in a personal task over the professional. Yet, our trust in friendship seems to have a much greater potential of failure over our trust in professionals. It seems that the chord of personal trust has a greater tension over professional trust, but with greater tension, it must be stronger, thus has greater personal value. However, this level of personal trust does not create a well-built foundation for factual knowledge. This all comes down to one question, that is how easily, and/or whether or not this “trust” in professional researchers is being abused?

Allow me to refer you to the following logarithmic function:

f(x) = logx

f(10) = 1

If you are familiar with logarithms, this would not be an alien world to you. However, what if one never was exposed to such mathematics and has never experienced or used this function before. Then we approach the scenario where this person now trusts that I am in fact portraying the truth about this mathematical function.

Now, consider meeting a stranger in a coffee shop and you begin speaking with this so-called stranger. You begin to discuss the topic related to animals, where the stranger claims he is a leading expert in Red Pandas (A topic which you know almost nothing about), and states several highly believable facts. Would you believe them? Would you question him? Most likely, you would not go through the trouble to ask the stranger to show documentation to prove he is an expert in Red Pandas, and most likely you would belive what he has to say, due to his professional appearance.

Let me refer you to a second problem. Today scientists have documentation that can prove they indeed are experts and their field of study and evidence for their research. But does this not only provide a greater tool for manipulation as well as profession? With this evident status, scientists could almost create anything they wish (With logic of course) and we would belive what they published. Of course, most scientists work for themselves and would have no motive of such anarchy. However, lets consider those working for big corporations, who are paid to find certain results. Wouldnt they have a motive to begin making up results in order to keep their jobs? We still believe what they have provided for us as well, yet there are possibilities of their research being manipulated and infected by the reach of money.

At the same time, what would happen if we began to question all research and all new knowledge so forth? We would not be able to get any significant work accomplished and research would by almost futile. In the end, we need this trust in the professionals of our society in order for society as itself to function efficiently. This is regardless of whether or not we are being lied to, we must trust that we are told the truth (Maybe “they” know that WE know this fact, therefore they can lie to us without us questioning. just something to think about).

So how do we know whether or not we are told the truth?

We don’t.

Consider Schrödinger’s cat, where a cat was placed in a box with a vile of poison and some cat food. the box was then closed. How can we know whether the cat is dead or alive? It’s simple, the cat is both dead and alive, or at least that’s what we must assume. This experiment was used to demonstrate the uncertainty principle at the quantum level; however, for us, it is a great tool to describe how we should treat our trust towards society’s professionals. We must assume that we are both told the truth and lied to, for we do not know whether we are or are not. Since we can’t know, we must trust society’s professionals as well as oppose. Maybe humans already subconsciously perform these two tasks regularly, because if we never questioned any new or old theories, studies would never progress, falsification would never occur, and hence there would be no paradigm shifts.

 So where does this end us?

Knowledge is a direct function of trust. Meaning, without the notion of trust in society’s professionals, knowledge would not be able to be passed among our generations and education would be good as useless. More so, society would not be able to function, we would have a large barrier preventing us to function in a professional environment, for workers would not trust each other in their working teams. Science would no longer progress and businesses would collapse under its own structure.

It takes one miniscule second to break years of trust, yet it takes years to gain a miniscule amount of trust.

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  1. Pingback: Lazar | Philosophy 12 - January 20, 2014

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