Who do we trust?

The other day I read an article, by Elie Saslow, that discussed rumors about Obama and his faith/patriotism. The article follows Jim Peterman, in Ohio, who, “has watched enough news and campaign advertisements to hear the truth: Sen. Barack Obama, born in Hawaii, is a Christian family man with a track record of public service.”

However, Peterman can’t figure out why so many darn people are saying bad things about Obama. Especially close friends of his which he claims “are good people, smart people, so can they really all be wrong?” Saslow also asks the reader:

Does he choose to trust a TV commercial in which Obama talks about his “love of country”? Or his neighbor of 40 years, Don LeMaster, a Navy veteran who heard from a friend in Toledo that Obama refuses to wear an American-flag pin?

Does he trust a local newspaper article that details Obama’s Christian faith? Or his friend Leroy Pollard, a devoted family man so convinced Obama is a radical Muslim that he threatened to stop talking to his daughter when he heard she might vote for him?

Hmmm, should I trust multiple reliable sources? Or anecdotal evidence that I heard through a friend of a neighbor? Should I trust a local newspaper that has to worry about losing all credibility if it publishes a false story? Or should I listen to my friend, who is a so-called ‘devoted family man’, although he threatens not to talk to his daughter ever again if she votes different than him?

Gee, it looks like Peterman really has his work cut out for him with tough questions like these.

PS- By stating, “These are good people, smart people, so can they really all be wrong?”, Peterman invokes the logical fallacy argumentum ad populum, which states that since many or all of the people believe something, it must be true.

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