Tag Archives: anxiety, apathy, burnout, conflict, diversity, duplicity, education, justice, values

Whom Do You Trust? (Part 2)

Trust is learned by risking!

In the last post, I suggested that the most important question of the 21st century is: “Whom or what do you trust?” Our culture is in data overload, giving major attention to the latest “scientific research” and the latest expert, yet not valuing our own wisdom.

I was struck by the following statement in the opening of the latest on-line course to reach my desk: “For centuries most emotions were demonized, viewed as weaknesses and avoided at all costs. But recent research has proven how emotion can be a powerful tool in shaping our connection to others and motivating us to change. [emphasis added]” Yes, emotions were demonized, but why do we need “recent research” to prove the value of emotions — is it not obvious?

My searching for what to trust

I have six university degrees, all of them in some field of science — 21 years of exposure to world knowledge and 73 years of exposure to life. My major interests are consciousness, spirituality and food-nutrition. In all of this, I am aware of shifting fads, mainly driven by greed, said to be “well researched” or “based on recent research.” Yet these fads are generally driven by premises with which I have long disagreed.

Despite years of seeking, I have found no better answer to this question of trust than “I trust myself.” But it has taken a lot of personal growth work to get to this point. And I am very fortunate that I have been able to educate myself in diverse fields. Most people are not that lucky.

I am committed to developing for myself what I call an integrated worldview. I seek a framework for living wherein I am able to fall back on basic principles that guide me in responding to what life offers. This framework must fit with my life experience, and if necessary, I will change the frame to accommodate what life offers. I will not dismiss what life offers so as to hold onto the frame.

The most effective way in which I have done this is to periodically examine my Truths? list — short statements of my beliefs, revisited every year or so to assess if what I have written is still true for me. I started it almost 30 years ago, and it now comprises over thirty pages. It remains incredibly valuable to me.

I recognize that there is much that I do not understand (yet is not to be discarded — it is authentically what life offers). Thus, (metaphorically) I carry a large container of “not knowing.” In contrast, much of what I encounter is someone else’s explanation of what life offers — I do discard much of this, unless it offers truth.

What I trust

  • I trust my Truths?, my searching for understanding.
  • I trust my own experience (which I corroborate with my integrated worldview): my civilization is in trouble; there is massive social inequity (the dynamics of power); there are more people on the roads and in the stores (increasing population); there are more people being anger and frustrated (increasing world stress); the world is getting warmer (global warming).
  • I trust the mystical experiences with which I have been gifted: the universe is greater than I am, and I am not in charge. I trust the events of synchronicity that I have experienced — many unexpected turning points have occurred in my life; they have changed me in untold ways.
  • I trust the universe as based on four basic premises, what I consider as the moral imperatives (mainly as presented by Thomas Berry in The Great Work): community (everything is connected to everything else), diversity (everything is different from everything else), subjectivity (interiority becomes more obvious with complexity), and change (everything changes over time).
    • When these principles are followed, life succeeds. When any one of them is discarded, violations occur.
  • I trust scientific principles, but not scientism. (What is often called science these days is often simply data collection based on a particular premise or bias.) I trust the consensus of knowledgeable people, individuals who are recognized experts in their fields, when the underlying principles are consistent with my worldview.
    • I trust consensus decisions in native or indigenous communities more than I trust such decisions in ivory tower universities or multi-national corporations: some communities are closer to the earth.
  • When the data and/or view does not fit my worldview, yet seems to be consistent with sound science, I hold the information in abeyance, “not knowing.”
  • I trust the dynamics of authentic democracy.
    • As such, authentic democracy requires I trust the dynamics of nonviolent civil disobedience (but there is risk — the more anger, the less nonviolent behavior).
  • I do not trust processes based on the dynamics of power — power corrupts.
    • When basic principles are circumvented so as to validate data, I do not trust such processes.

I trust others when it is clear to me that they are seeking their own growth.

Whom do You Trust?


Whom or what do you trust? I suggest that this is one of the central questions for living in the 21st century.

What information to you accept as authentic so as to guide you in responding to the difficulties of this century. Most people are in data overload. For example, if I do a Google search on any given topic, I will almost certain find a million hits (in 0.98 seconds!), and I won’t know what “hit” to trust.

Yet I am frequently aware of how tenuous is my grasp of the complexity of modern life. More and more I rely on others to provide me with accurate assessments (and that they are relying further on others to provide them with accurate assessments). It is such a conundrum.

Over the past hundred years, we have begun to reach the limits of our current form of civilization based on power, technology, and consumerism. There has been huge inequity in how we treat ourselves as human beings, and huge duplicity in the many examples of greed and mismanagement (on my earlier post Reflections On Hope, Part 1, I listed many examples).

So what is there to do, especially when many people now are at risk of burnout as we confront the issues of global warming. And global warming is only the symptom of the many issues to be resolved.

The TIC Process

The current way in which most people validate new information is to use what is called a TIC process. They translate (T) the new information into language they can understand more easily, they interpret (I) into their own system of meaning, and then they corroborate (C) this meaning with groups that they already trust. For example, if I want to process information about new electric cars, I translate (T) the information into my current understanding of cars, think about (I) what cars mean to me, and then go ask (C) my friends what they think about electric cars.

That can work well for many simple issues. But it falls down in a number of ways.

  • Human beings respond best to issues that develop quickly — witness how quickly we respond to fires and/or tsunamis. However, the development of climate change is so slow that, from year to year, it is difficult to convince oneself that there has been a change. It is therefore hard to recognize to what extent we live in dangerous times. And if I ask others to corroborate, they are in the same dilemma.
  • Another factor is the process of pluralistic ignorance, a situation wherein an individual (often the majority of people) privately rejects a norm or behavior, but incorrectly assume that most others accept it, and therefore the individual goes along with the behavior so as to “fit in.”

For example, if I see someone lying on the side of the street, and simultaneously note that passersby are simply walking around the individual, I am also highly likely to walk around also — I will assume the person is drunk or some such. But what may have actually happened is that the first person to respond simply assumed that the individual was drunk, and walked by. Then the second person saw this, and also walked by, and so on, creating a cascade effect in which a person having a stroke or seizure (or other) is ignored.

As human beings, we are very reluctant to step out of our preconditioned responses. In Public Perception of Future Threats to Humanity …, the research indicates “a majority (54%) rated the risk of our way of life ending within the next 100 years at 50% or greater, and a quarter (24%) rated the risk of human beings being wiped out at 50% or greater.” Yet where is the massive social response?

  • Then, to what extent is my trusted group knowledgeable or biased? Consider the issues about Donald Trump — I will get very different answers of those I ask depending upon their political background. Politics is such a diverse field that it is difficult to get useful corroboration.

Combine all this with the disinformation scandals (the tobacco industry, the agribusiness industry, the fossil fuel industry, et cetera) that have been propagated over the past fifty years, then it is no wonder that we have such a slow response to global warming. Our world has become so complex.

We need a different way of evaluating information. For example, Steven Pinker in The World is Not Falling Apart (2014 Dec 22) suggests that “an evidence-based mindset on the state of the world would bring many benefits.” There is some truth in this, but in my many years of being a physician, I have seen too many examples of misrepresentation in so-called “evidence-based medical practice.” It is an accurate truism for me that “believing is seeing,” not “seeing is believing.”

In the next post, I will discuss what I myself trust.

To be continued.