The perils of trust

by Democritus

Nearly everyone alive today, from an early age,  knows the Earth is round. It has been an established science since antiquity. Yet, I bet you can count by the fingers of the hand the number of people who actually checked one of the many ways you can tell the earth is round: shadow length discrepancy of the same object at different locations, the appearance of “sinking” of a ship that sails and vanishes on the horizon, the shadow of Earth on the Moon during a lunar eclipse, etc. 

As far as the shape of Earth is concerned, we are, for thousands of years, simply trusting those who verified it before us. At some point in the past, enough people established this fact that there was no need for re-verification. That is not only understandable, it is actually vital to be able to trust others. Nobody has the time and expertise to check everything. Yet, I would claim that we should never lose the skill of skepticism even if there is no apparent reason for it. Otherwise, a lie can start and grow to become a deadly monster in the shadow of our default to blind trust. 

Take a more recent event: the 2020 Presidential Elections. A huge argument was made by the Left that it is so antidemocratic to not graciously concede the election, that the strength of the  Republic consists in the peaceful transition of power and that anything less will undermine the people’s trust in the system. Yes, indeed, people trust the system. We believe the Constitution, our laws, the checks and balances, all prevent a fraudulent result. And it could feel insulting to doubt such a result. 

But when was the last time when someone really checked that this system, whatever it may be, really works well as intended. When was the last time someone really LOOKED at it? Shouldn’t we do it once in a while?
Tell you what: I have no reason to doubt the Earth is round. But maybe, at the earliest opportunity,  I shall go to an ocean harbor to watch a departing ship and verify that it does appear as it is sinking below the horizon. As Ronald Reagan once said: trust but verify.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.