Disbelief as Asset and Vulnerability, Knowledge as Trust and Accountability

Rajanaka taught me to follow the evidence, be prepared to change my mind (not that anyone likes to do that), and look with askance upon certainty. Certainty is, after all, more dangerous than ignorance. Misinformation helps form the shadow of doubt when we are eager (for any number of reasons) or have reason to be particularly suspect. And we do have such reasons given how many times we’ve been lied to by people who put on reputation with the mantle of righteous.

I like to think that we are folks who like to ask questions, who use doubt creatively, and remember that information is human, can be revised, and is only as good as we are. We think of information as requiring responsibility for sources and methods but know we have to rely on others for much of that. After all, what do _you_ really know about the science of epidemiology? We need reputable others to be reputable.

I’d like to think we consider maturity an important feature to use experience as a guide, and then there are the critical skills and education we need to help us navigate _with_ doubt and experimentation as a feature of learning. It’s no small matter sorting out what we feel, what we think we know, and what’s true. Yes, there are facts too. We must learn with them in order to learn from them. This is not easy either.

I’d like to think we know well that we must trust and have confidence in people, even when they are bound to let us down—we’re all human, and the best of us falter. So we fancy that we are not the believer types who lay down to authority but who know there’s not much without confidence and accountability. On all of these matters we’d make good candidates for our own doubt-theorying becoming vulnerable to misuse or breakdown.

Having now received at least three replies to my note regarding critical thinking from offended Trumpist yogis I think we can safely say that their arguments are that our arguments are fake, based on misinformation and “the media.” We are not being critical thinkers because our sources are defacto false.

It’s not only that they are Fox or QAnon sourced—though that seems to be as much the case. Rather, it is a strain in yoga worlds, that seem to follow lines in other “progressive” worlds, that thinks the anything institutional must be wholly suspect or false. There is no _measure_ of doubt so much as there is only doubt and then there is certainty. Making uncertainty a feature of both is unfamiliar as is the importance of having clarity about the intelligence we all need to function.

Somehow facts can’t exist if there are corporations or, say, pharmaceutical companies _only_ trying to profit by making you sick. (The anti-vaxxer thing functions as a trickle down delusion). The whole world can’t be trusted but for “my” sources or tribe; the need to belong or the fear of expulsion work their own insidious alchemies on human decision making.

This may be a different _kind_ of suspicion rather than an extremist degree. We could posit that such a degree of suspicion would make more sense if it didn’t go so far out into the wilderness. After all, we _are_ being grifted and robbed and misused and lied to—it’s not like we don’t remember cigarette company executives, so what makes FB or any other profiteer different? There is little doubt that people will use other people for any purpose. Sad, true, always a part of our concerns.

But it is the degree of commitment to unreliable sources coupled to how critical thinking does its best work what now sets matters apart. Professional journalists, doctors and other health experts, your neighbors counting votes—everyone is not to be trusted? Because there is a meme repeated by another source? First, one has to step further and further to the edge, to the place where _everything_ is suspicion and doubt. Critical thinking instead demands that we ask why we are suspicious and what is worth doubting. It’s not “doubt everything”; it’s how to learn about doubting so that you can get to the business of knowing.

Next, one would have to discredit all of the “mainstream” as something “other”: can’t trust “them.” Now you claim your own sources, to which you are committed. What prevents unchecked avenues of disinformation when you believe _your_ sources but not the process, method, or people who are doing the work of accountability?

And that is the crux of the matter. Accountability, like doubt and truth, takes work, real work; it takes skills learned and cultivated so that we can understand that the world of experience is information that must be measured to be understood.

Rajanaka, if it is anything, is the commitment to cultivating the skills we need for a healthy intellectual, emotional, and ethical human experience. We may not always get it right because we are humans living in spheres of information that must acknowledge and create limits and boundaries in order to expand our efforts to know. But let us continue to try to learn, with hearts and minds at work.

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