“Seeing is believing.”
So, do we really know anything?
For instance I know that the Earth exists – I am able to walk on it and I eat things that grow out of it.
I also believe – without ever having seen it from far enough – that the Earth is round. Just as my ancestors used to believe that the Earth was flat. Both I and my ancestors were told what to believe and we did that. Because we believed in those who were offering us that particular piece of information and because the issue wasn’t of any real importance for us, personally.
I do trust that Neil Armstrong did land on the Moon. I’m not going to share with you my reasons for that here, this post is about something else. My point is that belief is casual while trust is active. I did research the matter, as I could, and I considered it carefully before reaching the conclusion that ‘Yes, I am convinced that Neil Armstrong did land on the Moon’.
As we all know ‘know’ is a verb. The corresponding noun is ‘knowledge’, information that we are aware of. And so familiar with that we don’t even remember how we have arrived to accept it as true.
Believe is also a verb. It’s corresponding noun is ‘belief’, information we are aware of and believe it to be true just because we were told so by a seemingly credible source.
Trust is both a verb and a noun. And here comes the really interesting part. While trust as a verb means more or less the same thing as believe, trust as a noun has nothing, but absolutely nothing in common with belief. Trust is a state of mind while belief is a piece of information with a ‘value’ attached to it.
In fact ‘trust’ is something you consciously choose to invest while ‘believing’ is something you are led to, sometimes even without you being aware of what is going on, by a person or even by the circumstances you happen to find yourself in.
Now it is time to introduce another notion. Faith. It exists only as a noun and that’s why I didn’t brought it up from the beginning.
It has something in common with both belief and trust. Similar to belief no proof is usually attached to faith and similar to trust faith is something that the individual has to willingly accept/profess/invest.
Coming back to knowledge we discover there are many kinds of it.
We have factual knowledge, the kind we have either witnessed or otherwise seems so evident that we’d never even dreamed of questioning. So evident that if somebody asks us to be specific and put it squarely in one of the ‘belief’, ‘trust’ or ‘faith’ drawers we’d be at a loss and protest vehemently ‘it’s plain knowledge, what’s wrong with you guys?’
Then we have our beliefs. For instance we know that we love our partners and our kids and we believe that they love us back. We also have faith in a lot of things. Some of us have faith in God, some others put their faith in politicians, market analysts or even the weather-man. For a longer or shorter period of time. When gravely ill we put our faith in doctors and in medicines. And so on.
And finally there is the trust problem. For a real trust to develop we need an actual understanding of what is going on. That’s where science and technology comes is. If we’d done something for a long enough period of time we gradually become confident in our ability to do that thing over and over again with consistent results. If the results are reproducible, if other people can obtain results similar to ours by following our methods then our endeavor is deemed scientific and, hence, trustworthy. Same goes for information gathered following scientific methods.
And here lies the pitfall. Science has to be constantly challenged in order to remain valid. If we reach that point where we start to put faith in science and scientists instead of continuously demanding proof and doing our best to understand with our own heads what is going on then we are doomed. Science morphs not in ‘religion’ – that is something else – but in hoax.
The ‘thing’ with science is that the only trustworthy aspect of it is the method, not at all the results. We’ll never be able to find the absolute truth – no result will ever be 100% accurate – but if we keep using the ‘scientific method’ – consistency and unhidden-ness – then we’ll remain on the safe side.