How do we arrive at truth? My guest on the podcast today argues that it is through reality-based communities — in government, media, the law, and science and academia — which collectively determine truth through trial and error, rules and norms, and discussion and debate. All together, he calls this system “the constitution of knowledge.”
But this system is under threat, he says, from both the right and the left. On the right, through the flooding of the public sphere with what’s called “a firehose of falsehoods.” And on the left, through cancel culture. (You can find his useful cancel culture checklist here.)
Jonathan Rauch is a journalist and author in Washington, D.C. He’s a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributing writer at The Atlantic. His latest book is The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth.
In this wide-ranging conversation, we discuss The Constitution of Knowledge, as well as the pandemic, the importance of viewpoint diversity, emotional safetyism, illiberalism on the left, and why free speech was crucial for winning gay marriage — a movement that Rauch was a prominent activist in. We also cover his recent American Purpose essay on transgender activism, and Trump, and the New Right.
I’m thrilled to have Jonathan Rauch as my guest today. And tomorrow I will be sending out a full transcript.
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