If there’s one thing every conservative Republican knows, it’s that Brent Kavanaugh is a devoted husband, loving father, and brilliant jurist who’s always treated women with respect and who is now the innocent victim of a smear campaign orchestrated by the left and its amen chorus in the liberal media.
And if there’s one thing that every progressive Democrat knows, it’s that Brent Kavanaugh is a liar and a fraud whose jurisprudence and personal behavior toward women going all the way back to high school consistently displays a flagrantly misogynist contempt for female autonomy and dignity.
Of course, neither side truly knows any such thing. Each side believes it on the basis of partial evidence and reasoning that’s highly motivated by prior ideological commitments.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to reach a fair-minded judgment about the charges and counter-charges swirling around the Supreme Court nominee. But it does mean that fair-minded observers of the circus should be staking out their positions with far more humility and tentativeness than they are. That is, of course, if they care more about reaching the truth than contributing to the advancement of a scorched-earth partisan crusade.
Knowledge is a tricky thing. I know the sky is blue because I’ve seen it with my own eyes thousands of times. But how do I know that the Earth revolves around the sun rather than the other way around? I have no experience of this. On the contrary, my senses tell me otherwise. I see the sun rise, move across the sky, and set every day, while the ground under my feet feels perfectly stationary. Yet I will readily say that I know the Earth revolves around the sun.
It is more accurate to say that I believe the Earth revolves around the sun because I trust the scientists who tell me that when it comes to the truth about the natural world, my senses are unreliable. Of course it’s also possible that I can learn how to make the precise observations and do the mathematical calculations that will verify the belief for myself, allowing me to understand how scientists originally came to this conclusion. In that case, it would be possible to say with accuracy that I know the Earth revolves around the sun.
But in plenty of other matters, such verification isn’t possible. It’s unlikely I can or will personally replicate the work of evolutionary biologists sufficient to demonstrate that Darwin was right about the process of natural selection or that climate scientists are right about the anthropogenic causes of climate change. It’s not likely at all that I would be able to verify for myself that the universe began with the Big Bang or that it’s impossible to travel faster than the speed of light, let alone the far more fanciful nuances of quantum mechanics or string theory. I don’t possess knowledge of these subjects. I believe certain things about them because I trust the people who do possess knowledge of these subjects.
Now let’s think about what may have …read more
Source:: The Week – Politics