Epistemology: Faith, Trust and Fox News

A new poll from Suffolk University shows which news sources are most trusted by Americans:

 Fox News  28%
 CNN  18%
 NBC  10%
 MSNBC    6%
 CBS    6%
 ABC    6%

Let me start by noting that I don’t want to go into politics in this post.  Instead, I simply want to use this poll to briefly discuss epistemology – how we “know”.

Much of what we “know” comes from others who we trust — not from first hand experience.  Since we can have only so many experiences, such a form of knowledge is very valuable.  Why do more people trust Fox News than other stations?  Well, their trust is not based on reality testing.  But I likewise don’t think reality testing feeds the trust of those who trust other stations either.  People rarely test the news reports of all the stations and then decide from that data which stations report the most accurate data.

We gather much of what we claim to know from secondary, tertiary and distant sources.  This trust element plays a large roll in human evidence weighing.  People trust for all sorts of reasons.  Often they trust because they have a valued relationships with the reporter.  Others times they learn to trust because the reporters present information that matches their worldview.   The first is the “Halo Effect” in action and the second is the “Confirmation Bias” in action.   But we all decide like this: Fox, CNN and ABC watchers.

Should we find ways to measure evidence to trouble shoot the downfalls of trust — absolutely!  But the task is not easy and we do it far less than we imagine.

Theists and Atheists often argue over the word “faith”.  One of the many meanings of “Faith” is “trust”. And this trust-faith can come with evidence of different quantity and quality — in many cases it comes with no evidence and even counter evidence. But this trust-faith never comes with exhaustive or near exhaustive evidence. That is why it is “faith”.  We all have trust-faith in many things and we are often unaware of how little first-hand evidence supports our opinions — our “knowledge”.

Hopefully this post was only bland common-sense applied to a new poll.



Filed under Philosophy & Religion

2 responses to “Epistemology: Faith, Trust and Fox News

  1. I think there is an important third factor. People tend to trust sources that they perceive to present both sides. Whether FOX News really presents balanced viewpoints or not, people seem to perceive it that way. I know I’ve gotten a kick out of watching the YouTube recordings of the times when Bill O’Reilly interviews rappers or black activists, because they tend to run circles around him without him even realizing it. The fact that he lets people come on and kick his butt makes me more likely to trust his show.

  2. @ JS,
    Indeed, this is why I enjoy reading “The Week”, on any given subject, the try to quote several sources from contradictory sources.

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