On April 15th, 1912, the great RMS Titanic descended into the icy waters of the North Atlantic, leaving more than 1,500 passengers and crew dead. To this day the bones of the ship lay stagnant and aging on the Atlantic floor.
While the Titanic’s pristine luxury appearance has perished, the ruined china and waterlogged clocks remain, creating haunting pictures and reanimating the tale of the unsinkable ship. After 105 years, these pictures and the mystery of the Titanic’s sinking continue to breathe life into the tragedy, encouraging researchers and explorers to look deeper into Titanic’s fatal flaw. Was it the iceberg collision that lead to the ship's demise? Or maybe a weakness in the ship’s hull? It’s these questions that lead to Titanic based articles, books, movies, and investigative TV shows. Titanic incites the quest for knowledge- certainty, logic, reason- something coveted and desired by humans since their existence.
As a child, the sinking of the Titanic was magnificent; there was something I couldn’t identify that attracted me to the terrible tale. My interest in the Titanic is what incited my interest in knowledge, I was hungry for any extra Titanic facts, and it felt like an addiction. But the real question and basis that stems from The Titanic and other haunting tales, is what drives humans to search for knowledge?
Prompted to reach a hand into a dark hole, many would be hesitant and even more would most likely refuse. They imagine all the terrible things that could happen; a poisonous snake could await, or maybe something even more terrifying: nothing. For the fear of nothing and anticipation can overcome the fear of everything. ‘Nothing’ terrifies even the most fearless, it’s the though of the unknown and in those cases the mind wanders to the worst. It’s the fine line between the old saying of “ignorance and bliss” with contrasting knowledge. But how does trust influence this decision, what makes a person believe something? And how do we know we can trust the knowledge we are receiving? Imagine the same scenario above, but only a friend is present and assured you that nothing harmful was in the hole. What if the qualifier was added that a soft puppy lay wait in the hole? People’s hesitancy would decrease. Why? Because they trust that their friend wouldn’t put them in any imminent danger.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, trust is defined as “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something”. However, one thing that the definition fails to address is the levels of trust. Trust itself is a very broad concept, and contains different levels, and each level is built by time, events, and actions. For example, the stranger in the above scenario has a low level of trust, while the friend has a higher level. The person in the example is a stranger, he or she lacks all three qualifiers, they lack time, since they are a stranger, and with time often comes the experience of events and actions with a person. The friend on the other hand, while they do hold a higher level of trust, the level can still fluctuate depending on the three factors. They can be long time friends, but certain actions or events can lead to distrust, they can be new friends and have proven themselves trustworthy through their actions in events. A sub factor is the quality of the friendship.
A more concrete example is the comparison of a best friend and a friendly acquaintance. The best friend would hold more trust than a friendly acquaintance because they’ve spent more time with the person. In some cases the stranger could be considered more trustworthy in comparison to a “frenemy”. This is a case where one may choose the unknown if the known is unpromising. So, in some cases there is grey area between identifying the more trustworthy candidate. This, however, can lead to lapses in trust and exceptions to the three factors of trust.
This grey area then leads to the question of what can be done to create and maintain trust and credibility. When a person first meets another person people would assume that they start at a base level of trust, but that’s not the truth. People’s reputations, appearances, voice, scent, and more can explain this, which may skew this starting level, but these characteristics are catered towards each individual. If a businessman meets another man dressed in a suit they would have a higher level of trust. Why? Because people tend to trust what they know best or what's more familiar, and in this situation it's the appearance. For others, it may be the scent of a deceased father that creates trust, or on the opposite spectrum, the scent of an ex boyfriend that may create underlying mistrust.
In many situations trust is something that we can fall back on, but there can be faults with trust, and this can occur with too much trust. Too much trust has the ability to blind us. This is similar to accepting knowledge; we accept knowledge based on the premise that others trust the fact. However, we know that we shouldn’t always accept knowledge, for example people originally believed in the geocentric model. People believed that the sun revolved around the Earth yet, they had no real proof or knowledge of this, simply human’s narcissistic tendencies. People believed the geocentric model because others believed in the model, and once they accepted this belief they blinded themselves to any other possibilities, including the truth, which we now know and accept. Another example of this is the belief that the Earth is flat, it was the same concept as the geocentric model, people blinded themselves to other possibilities. The misconception of a flat Earth was so sever that people believed that they could fall off the Earth. It’s a prime example of how a trusted lie can cause a panic.
As seen with the idea about the geocentric model the basis of knowledge can be corrupted based on blind trust. We see from past events when blind trust has lead to corruption in knowledge, but, presently, can we be fully aware that what we know now is the truth? Yes, we have science and millions of books, but what if the basic principles are compromised and we’ve yet to find out? This sounds far fetched, but if we think hard all the knowledge we’ve agglomerated has originated from history, which we know can be dated. In that sense I don’t think we'll ever know scientiae ueritatem, or in English the truth of knowledge.
Are there ways to prove the facts correct? To give trust back to knowledge? Yes, of course this is possible, but for that we must go all the way back, back to the first numbers, the first letters, the first equations, the first sentences and in that case the endeavor may outweigh the reward. Maybe ignorance is bliss. But, for those who do choose to study the past, they could uncover the world’s largest typo. And from there it’ll be a long journey to correct, but as humans, we will forever crave knowledge.