Common Sense Versus Blind Faith in the Age of Internet

By Robin Trimingham

Not too long ago people believed that adding boric acid to milk was a safe way to remove the smell and purify it when it had turned sour.

That belief was wrongly intensified by the Victorian authority on all things household, Isabella Beeton, who assured readers it was “a quite harmless addition”.

Equally intriguing are the early advertisements in ladies magazines that touted the digestive health benefits of menthol cigarettes. After all, if the ad appeared in a reputable trusted magazine, the claims being made must be true right?

In a sense, in the age before internet access to information was so limited that people really had no choice other than to believe what they were told, particularly when it came to medical advice. Today, however, we have reached a point where almost the reverse is true.

This is good in that a new mother with a crying infant can look up symptoms online at 2am to better determine whether the child is just being fussy or in need of urgent medical attention.

However, the internet is also the great equaliser — anyone with a platform or a point of view can have their say and not everyone is interested in circulating helpful, let alone accurate, information. Just Google “white vinegar cure for cancer” for example, and you will be confronted with more than five million references.

Does it work? Don’t ask me — I’m not a doctor.

Would I ever rely on blind faith alone to cure an illness, resolve a financial catastrophe or solve a major life problem?

Hard to say without a specific example I admit, but the odds are that I would try all approaches recommended by “qualified experts” first. The question is, how can you determine who is qualified to make these expert recommendations in a time of desperation, and what role does faith play in achieving a successful outcome in any situation?

Believe it or not, I really believe that the role of faith here has much more to do with how a person defines a “successful outcome” in a given situation.

It’s like the old saying by the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.” From the caterpillar’s perspective, faith alone does not prevent the end of life as he knows it, but from the butterfly’s perspective, any other outcome would have been unthinkable.

So what’s the point? Reports from news agencies around the globe would have you believe that the world has entered a phase of rampant global warming, pandemic disease and financial instability and, to some degree, all of these things are true in some locations.

It can be tempting to give in to panic and selfish thoughts and to make rash decisions, but now more than ever common sense would dictate that we research all situations thoroughly before making decisions and look out for each other as we move forward together as an island paradise in the sun.

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