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Who Do You Trust?

Who do you trust? Various people seem to have varying degrees of trust for different institutions and professional groups and those trust levels often don’t seem to make a lot of sense. I have been thinking about this issue recently because of a podcast and the reported results of a survey held in the US.

The odd thing is that many people don’t trust the people they should and vice versa. For example, there are a large group of people who do trust practitioners of quack medicine and the celebrities who support them instead of medical professionals and the scientists who support them.

Does that make sense? Not really. Sure, I agree that there is some sense in being suspicious of the motives of the big corporations who manufacture drugs but in comparison to someone with no training and no backup from real objective evidence they seem quite trustworthy.

It’s bad enough that people threaten their own health by using quack remedies but it’s worse when they endanger their families and even their communities through their ignorance of the facts. The most obvious example is vaccination which is rejected by a bunch of crazies around the world – especially in the US – because they think the vaccines cause autism.

It has made no difference that the mercury-based preservative (which was actually safe) has been removed from most vaccines and the autism rate has continued to rise – they still won’t vaccinate their kids. So the children who aren’t vaccinated are at risk and if enough refuse vaccination those who can’t be treated for genuine reasons are also put at risk because of loss of herd immunity.

Many people also distrust politicians and I will agree there are good reasons to be distrustful of them but I think it goes beyond what’s reasonable. Most politicians act the way we would expect. For example, if the person is a conservative and they carry out traditional conservative actions when in power then we shouldn’t really be surprised, so what’s the problem?

And what about religious leaders? I now a lot of them are motivated by good intentions but they are trapped by their world view so they aren’t really the most trustworthy. And many aren’t motivated by good intentions at all. They are motivated by greed, or the need to extend the control of their institution, or to proselytise, or worse!

So who can be trusted? Well no one really, but there are certain groups who should start from a position of greater distrust: quacks, corporate leaders, politicians, etc; and others who should start with a level of trust above average: scientists, computer consultants/programmers (just joking), medical professionals, etc.

No one deserves total trust and no one should be completely distrusted either. The facts are all that matters. Anti-vaccination groups and other crazies should remember that.

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