September 25, 2020

Knowledge and trust

Two years ago the news in the Salish Sea of the Pacific Northwest was of an Orca, Tahlequah, carrying her dead calf for two weeks. We all mourned with her. Concern increased that her health was in danger. Happily, she survived and now has a new baby. It is a boy and seems happy and healthy. Extra good news came today of a second calf born to the J-pod of Orcas that live in Puget Sound, the southern part of the Salish Sea. We needed some good news right now.

These are the times that are both full of misery and delight. Fear for tomorrow is palpable, but can vanish in an instant if we are blessed with something that wakes us up. It may be seeing a certain bird fly across the sky, noticing a blossom start to flower, or awe from the spider web that was built from my car to the cherry tree overnight and now covered with raindrops so it hangs in the air. We can be moved by music, something we read, or by speaking to a brother or friend. Or a story about resilience and hope, like Tahlequah’s. These are moments we all need for our resilience and our souls.

Our minds are overwhelmed with information blasting at us. I have spoken about the “Infodemic” of misinformation, but the truth is there is also a “pandemic” of new scientific information. It can be impossible to keep up and filter the reliable from the unreliable, the good studies from the not so good, and the significant from the not so significant. I find it exciting to read and hear about new ideas and new data, but sometimes I need a filter. I expect you do too. I found this article in Medium helpful which lists 50 experts to trust. Twitter has a site that you can follow that sifts and sorts through early studies that are in the “pre-print”phase. These are articles that have data that hasn’t yet been peer reviewed, but may have important information in it. I also read Journal Watch which compiles medical information from medical journals, to help keep me up to date. Their section about COVID-19 is free, with no subscription necessary. I also have started getting Science Daily’s newsletters that are interesting to peruse.

All of this extra information comes at a cost. Trust in science is at a low point. People are questioning guidelines and data, spurred on by changes in recommendations that has occurred since the beginning of the epidemic, not surprising since knowledge has increased about how the virus behaves. Also, trust is stressed by leadership giving mixed messages. It is exacerbated by trolls, bots, and conspiracy theories spread virally on the internet. Check out these cool tools from Indiana University to help with filtering misinformation.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, and check your sources!

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.