A Trusting Species

I was standing in an aisle at the grocery store today, reading a label, when it struck me that for all our vaunted skepticism, we are a trusting species. There is no way to know for sure that the ingredients listed on the label are the only ingredients in the product, in fact, there’s a better than average chance that there are things in the product that aren’t listed on the label. For example, a certain amount of pesticides are allowed by law to be ignored when a product is advertised as “organic.” Many ingredients, not just pesticides, are actually included in the definition of certain foods, so even though a food my advertise itself as “sugar free,” that is not necessarily the case. And yet, we still read labels, still buy things according to what we read.

Because we are a trusting species.

Oddly, while we insist on full disclosure when it comes to food (even though we don’t always get it) we don’t demand the same sort of itemization with drugs. We take what the doctors prescribe (and they prescribe what the drug companies suggest they prescribe) because, evidence to the contrary, we trust that those people have our best interests at heart.

When it comes to doctors, survey after survey shows that people don’t trust the medical establishment, don’t trust doctors, yet when asked specifically about their doctor, they trust her (or him) implicitly. Which is a weird sort of syllogism. If all doctors are untrustworthy, and if everyone’s doctor is trustworthy, it somehow comes out meaning that all doctors are trustworthy.

Logically, it doesn’t make sense, but it does if you realize — ta da! — that we are a trusting species.

I think nowhere is this trust so apparent as in drug commercials. Commercial after commercial shows happy, laughing people, so thrilled to have taken the drug of choice (which almost always has three syllables, and one of the letters in one of those syllables is frequently a Q, X, or Z) yet while we watch these happy people, and while that oh-so-catchy drug name is oft repeated, there is a running commentary about all the horrible things that drug could do to you if you take it. And yet people not only agree to take it, they sometimes go running to their doctor (the only doctor in the world who is trustworthy) and ask for the drug by name.

Because we are a trusting species.

The trouble is, we cannot simply go by our own senses, believing only what our eyes, ears, and nose tell us, because those senses are basically lying to us. What we see is not what actually exists (which to the best of anyone’s knowledge or belief are various wavelengths of energy that somehow disappear into uncertainty and then perhaps into nothingness the more they are studied). Instead, what we see is what our brains decide to show us as they interpret that energy.

And we believe because . . . yep, because we are a trusting species. We have to believe our eyes and other senses. Otherwise, we’d be just streams (or strings or bundles) of energy interacting with other bundles of energy.

It’s not our fault that we are a trusting species — it’s how we were made. We have to trust, though to be honest, some of us have a harder time trusting than others do. We’re the sort who stand in grocery store aisles and wonder what the truth is about the ingredients listed on the product we are holding in our hand.


What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

2 Responses to “A Trusting Species”

  1. Uthayanan Says:

    When I was very young I have learned two words :
    The civilization and human.
    I was very happy about these words. At the moment with my life experience I am little more skeptical and afraid of these words but I try to stay optimist.
    European regulations says the words “sugar free no added sugar can contain up to 0.5 g of simple sugars (sucrose, glucose, fructose …) per 100 g or 100ml.
    The same for the medicine.
    I am satisfied with the Nordic countries and others Europe countries to make life better with organic foods. And notions of the food controls.
    I am really happy and grateful for Pat and my doctor for 35 years never mention to take medicine for my grief.
    I am fortunate to have a good doctor.
    Commercials try to use the loophole in the law with the packaging and label printing in a way it is not easy to read the informations of additives. I can add on…. !

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It’s interesting that these situations aren’t just true for the USA, but for other countries as well. It makes sense, I guess, since international corporations help sway policies everywhere.

      And yes, it’s really good you didn’t take medicine for your grief. In my case, I wanted to feel all of it. It didn’t seem right that Jeff would leave this earth and life would go on as usual. I needed to respect his death and my grief.

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