Bonnie Kristian is a journalist who writes for Christianity Today and has been published in The New York Times, The Week, CNN, The Daily Beast, and many more. Bonnie wrote the book Untrustworthy: The Knowledge Crisis Breaking Our Brains, Polluting Our Politics, and Corrupting Christian Community. The title says it all. How can we have good faith conversations and dialogue when we're dealing with "alternative facts" and call every report we don't agree with "fake news"? These are important questions for all of us.
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So, Randy, we've been seeing quite a few new listeners recently. You kidding me? No, we got like probably several 1000 new subscribers.
It's really amazing. And if you happen to be one of those people that's listening to the show for the first or second or third time, we just want to let you know, we're super glad you're here and just want to tell you a little bit about ourselves. Yeah, we're
so grateful that you give us your time that is so precious. We're so grateful that you just want to listen to our conversations, whether it's just the two of us or whether it's guests. We are grateful you're here and we'd love to hear from you. So whether that's getting in touch with us via email, social media, giving us guest recommendations, book recommendations, or if you have just any question for us about things that we talked about, we'd love to hear from you, because we want to cultivate community. So welcome to the community friends.
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I'm Randy, the pastor half of the podcast, and my friend Kyle is a philosopher. This podcast hosts conversations at the intersection of philosophy, theology, and spirituality.
We also invite experts to join us, making public space that we've often enjoyed off-air around the proverbial table with a good drink in the back corner of a dark pub.
Thanks for joining us, and welcome to A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar. In this episode, we're talking to Bonnie Kristian who wrote the book untrustworthy. And it's a very, very pertinent book, very, very relevant book, it's untrustworthy, the knowledge crisis, breaking our brains polluting our politics, and corrupting Christian community. And I want to tell you, it is extremely relevant. And the ironic thing, the reason that I wanted to introduce this episode is because it's a book about epistemology. It's a book, in fact about the epistemic crisis we find ourselves in, in our culture. And the guy who is the co host of this podcast with me is in fact, in Epistemologists, yeah,
what are the odds? What are the odds?
I felt bad for Barney going in? But you were kind?
I tried. I tried. Yeah, held back most of my hardest questions. Give me a break. Now, it's a great book. And she, you know, she clearly has read a farewell recently. She's a journalist, I guess we should say, and writes in some major publications that you've probably read. And yeah, it's a very timely book, I think it was came out at the end of 2022. But it could easily have been written at any point in the last six, seven years.
Yep. Yeah, she wrote it in 2021. And like any good, credible journalist would, it's a well researched book, she she did her homework, she speaks as an Epistemologists, often, and not poorly. I mean, it's just, it's a book about basically, how discourse is broken down in our world, and how dialogue has ceased to exist, because it's impossible to have conversation with people who aren't dealing in reality sometimes. And it's impossible when you're talking about two different realities, two different perspectives and worldviews that don't line up. And maybe even one of those is not based in reality, and not based in good faith arguments. What do you do then? And that's where we find ourselves in our in our current discourse, in our in our culture, and
specifically, what do you do as a Christian? So that's what sets this book apart from several other similar ones that have come out in the last several years. And the one that I'm writing frankly, like, yeah, that are, you know, more mainstream, more secular. She's coming at it from a decidedly Christian vantage point. And, you know, closing off each chapter closing off each major line of thought with and where does this leave us with Jesus in the church? Are there any special resources or obligations that we have as Christians, and so if you're, you know, if you're in a church situation where conspiracism has taken over, or it's threatening to take over if you have family members, who it's hard to talk to anymore, because they turn every conversation towards some kind of, you know, Q Anon, or they, you know, want you to agree with all their internet derived beliefs. Who doesn't have this? And yeah, and yet, you want to be their brother or sister in Christ. This is a book that is definitely written for you.
Yeah. And just just to show her credibility. I mean, she comes out in the book as a libertarian. Yeah, so a right leaning person. politican, an
Evangelical, she claims in a footnote that she's happily, you know, subscribes to the quadrilateral and all that stuff so
well, and even more than that, she's an Anabaptist and grew up as an Anabaptist. So that's got some unique perspective to it as well. An Anabaptist libertarian wrote a book about the epistemic crisis we find ourselves in so it's a fun interview. We're excited to share with you but first, on this podcast, we taste tasty alcoholic beverages because we are a pastor philosopher walk into a bar and so today, we have to taste a really unique first ever for the show. And this is like episode 60 or something. I don't know where, I don't know. But it's Myers rum single barrel. It's a Jamaican rum but the unique thing about it, so we've never tasted as a rum in the show before. but it's a rum that was finished in Sasa rack right barrels. And this is only available at our friends at store he'll be Casey so a rum is unique enough anyways but I think rum is having a moment do you see rum more often there's a lot more boutique e rums. But this is rum that's finished in a Sazerac rye barrel, which is really nice. I'm excited to try it.
Yeah. So this is like a store pick from our friends at story Hill, you might be able to find some version of this somewhere else. I will say Sazerac is my go to, like mixing rifle, you know, if I want to make s as rancor, or an old fashioned with rye or something, that's what I reach for. So I'm excited about this.
Well, so it has an a really, really interesting nose. And by interesting, I mean, you got to really work to find appealing characters.
Yeah, it's like State Fair livestock barn. That's one that I'm not just talking about the straw. No.
Yeah, it does have.
It's a little bit leathery. It's also got some sour characteristics to it.
It does. Yeah, that straw thing comes through prominently. But yeah. Barn and not necessarily just in the woody sense.
It tastes really, really interesting. All the cap. Now I'm going to be really, really lame in this tasting because I haven't had a rum. I don't know if I've ever had a straight rum. To be honest. It's
so confusing. It's so many different things. across areas.
You get the right part like I am, but it
completely disappears by the end of it is like there are stages to this. At first is just almost uncut young whiskey. Yeah,
very low proof, though. Like I'm having trouble recalibrating from what normally happens at this part of the episode where we take a sip and it kind of like, hits you nice and hard. And you're like, oh, yeah, okay. You got to dig a bit deeper for
this. And it's taken a completely different path. Totally different. It becomes Rome halfway through. Yeah,
that's it. It starts out as more of a rise slash whiskey. And then all of a sudden, on your palate, it morphs and transforms into a rum. Yeah, no different kinds of rum.
It's not, it's not my favorite. But it's a very interesting drink, which is part of what I look for in a drink is like, just I want something that's going to be a conversation piece. And that is unlike anything I've had before. This is definitely
like, I would want to put this I would want to build a cocktail around this. Because I think it could do some really interesting stuff with more than with normal rum could do, I would say absolutely more than because, you know, it's got that rye spice and that Woody character, that barnyard thing could be good in the right context. But it's it's, you know, it's sweet, like sugar cane like it's, it is a rum, but it's pretending to be something. Yeah, I do.
I do. I would really say if you're into rum. In particular, if you want to mix a rum drink, try this. Like, it's, it's going to be different. It's going to stand out.
Because this is a podcast that has editing. Could we quick, make that cocktail and just like come back. In fact, we couldn't have the tastes. Enjoy it more that
way. Yeah. What do you have?
Where would you go with this?
And it needs some kind of citrus.
I've got. I've got lemon. Yeah, either of those
would be fine. I'd
probably lean toward Do you want to go to the kitchen for a minute? And yeah, get us out. Let's do it.
So nice. This is a little bit funky. It's wild. But it's like a whiskey that turns into a rum and it doesn't know where it lands in some ways. We decided to make a cocktail. Yeah. So we don't know much about rum drinks. But this is a dark and stormy
sort of. We started with a dark and stormy and then we decided we wanted something else. And so we can.
So this is the Myers Myers rum single barrel aged in the soundtrack, right that you can find his story, he'll be Casey. And we decided to mix it with ginger beer, which is a classic Dark and Stormy. But then what did you add to a Kyle? Just for fun? Well,
Elliot had this really cool juicer. So we put some lemon juice in there. A little bit of simple syrup, and then some orange bitters to round it out. So I don't know what the heck you'd call this but all of them to their did. Yeah. Okay. There's a lot going on in here, but it turned out nice. Yeah, I love it.
This is the cocktail porn on the podcast. Some people will hate. Yeah, for sure. But that's a delicious summer drink. Right there
it is. Yes. I'm happy to endorse this. Rum as an excellent mixer. If you want a little bit more of a high bro. Yeah, and
I promise it'll be very unique to any other room that you you're gonna mix for Dark and Stormy.
Yeah, yeah. Dark and steamy is what that's what we made. Okay, all right. Ask for it at the bar story Hill. No, no.
Don't do that. But do go to store Hill as for Myers rum aged in the Cezar accuride barrels or go there and get the Hooton young that we sampled just a little bit ago. Go there and get all sorts of fun things there. I was with Joe at story. He'll be Casey last week. And I was in their cellar and they have some really, really fun stuff. They have some crazy tequilas. They had some outrageous whiskeys. We should do some some funky stuff going on. Yeah,
yeah. A bottle of tequila would not say no. Well, he was showing me
like a $500 bottle of tequila which we will not taste on the show our next episode
live from the
from the story he'll sell.
It's not as sexy as you think. But it kind of is. But this is delicious. Try Dark and Stormy on a on a gorgeous summer day and get yourself to story he'll be Casey. Get you some some whiskey, some liquor, or some food and if you don't live in Milwaukee, support local support local
cheers. We want to shout out one of our top shelf supporters. We couldn't do what we do without you guys and Hannah Lehmann. Thanks so much, Hannah layman. Yeah.
We love him. We love edible.
Yeah. Cheers. Thank
you so much.
Speaking and top shelf supporters, if you would like to get a shout out on the show, the easiest way to do that is to go to Patreon. And subscribe. And for the $20 tier, that's our top shelf tier, you get all sorts of fun perks, and one of those, as I mentioned on the show, but there's other options as well. There's a monthly book club, if you want to join that that we recently added. That's the pappy tier. If you would like extra content and aren't so interested in the mention, there's a middle tier, middle shelf tier, if you just want to support us, there's a bottom shelf tier, so head over to Patreon and
we're so grateful. We're so grateful for your support. Well, Bonnie Kristian, thank you so much for joining us on a pastor and a philosopher walk into a bar.
Yeah, thank you so much for having me. So the book is untrustworthy.
The knowledge crisis, breaking our brains polluting our politics and corrupting Christian community. And man, what a timely book. Yeah, seriously. And I just want to start off the interview with the way you started out the book, which was just settled me in so so firmly, both informing me on your point of view where you're coming from and what the book is going to be all about. And in, in the introduction, you you begin with a story about your friend, Jim. And it just routes you right away into what we're going to be talking about. So can you tell our listeners a little bit about that story? Yeah, absolutely.
So Jim is older, like nearing retirement age, and he and his wife, were thinking about buying a house in a new city to be in your family. And I'm like, all over Zillow, love to look at old houses. So everybody knows this about me. So we were like, you know, sending some Zillow links back and forth. And they're going to look at some of the things that I sent. This was in the fall of 2020. And so the election is getting closer. And they, Jim starts to realize like, hey, maybe Trump is not going to win this thing. And he's like a big talk radio listener. Like it wasn't so much like the election conspiracy theory type stuff, it was just like, he was realizing like, hey, maybe, maybe Biden does win. And that really freaked him out because of, you know, like, what he was hearing in his media of choice. So much so that he decided that he wouldn't buy a house in this city after all. And I was just like, flabbergasted, like, you're gonna change your plans because of the election. And so we heard about this, and things came to a head with like, this line that's burned into my brain where he said, like, you know, I just, I don't want to be in the middle of a city in the middle of a million starving people. I was just like, what, and he was just so sure that, you know, if the Democrats came to power that, like, supply chains would break down, like we'd be going like Cormac McCarthy, the road, like everything was going to be the end of society as we know it, and that they, you know, needed to get some land somewhere where they could be like farming. And of course, now with three years, four years later, almost, or two, two and a half, you know, none of that has happened. And I was pretty confident at the time that none of that was going to happen. Not to say we haven't had some inflation, certainly, but yeah, he was he was just certain and certain enough that he did change his plans and did not buy a house and use some of his downpayment money on a on a camper trailer, which doesn't hold value, the same way that property does. And so that was sort of a moment where it became this, this knowledge crisis that I'm writing the book about became super real to me, because, you know, it wasn't just what he was thinking about, right like this had real consequences in his life. And that's, like the sort of consequences that are very serious and And, and made it Yeah, it was shocking to me. Like I said, that line has burned into my brain and, and so when I started working on the book, it was like, Yeah, this is this is a big part of it. This is like a very concrete example of how how badly this can go.
So Jim, your friend really kind of made a decision that changed. You know, maybe that's his retirement that he's spent on that in changed the course of his family's future, perhaps, and I'm assuming he's a friend of yours. You're obviously very sensible, smart person after reading the book. I'm assuming Jim, isn't crazy, right? Like,
no, no, very reasonable guy. And, you know, this is not like a case of, you know, he needs like mental health care. This is a case of he, he believed that this was going to happen because of the media he consumed.
And the book was born.
Yeah. Were you already writing it at this point? Or was that one of the triggers?
Let's see fall of 2020. I was, I was thinking about it. I think I was, you know, sort of batting around a couple of different book ideas at the time. But it wasn't until after that, that I put together the proposal.
Yeah. Well, it makes sense. If that way, that'll that'll trigger something for sure. Yep. Yeah, I haven't had anything quite that extreme. But I think a lot of our listeners are probably identify with that story and know family members or friends who are in very similar situations. So when you refer to a knowledge crisis, it's easy to see what you mean. So sad. Yeah, you don't need the stats, although there are some very disturbing stats in the book that we'll get to. But no, I think most of us probably know somebody who has made significant decisions based on really shitty information. So I've read several books. on these topics. I'm writing a book about expertise as we speak. And so you know, I'm coming across more and more. Other than the ones written by philosophers, most of them don't talk about philosophy. And, and some of them I wish would write because they're talking about concepts that have long philosophical histories behind them. So when at the beginning of chapter one, your first little subheading was introduction to epistemology, I got excited. So you say in the book, you have a critique, a couple of places have the phrase speaking as a blank, but I'm about to say it anyway. Speaking as an Epistemologists, like, that's
much different. Earned expertise? Yes. Yes. Not just
gonna get to the, although you're just taking my word for it. That
could be wind could be
anybody. So why did you frame it that way? What, what made you dive into the philosophy? Because it's all the way through? And there are many different tax you could have taken as a journalist.
Yeah, I mean, I've been interested in epistemology for a long time. Honestly, I think going back to like my undergraduate degree, I did studying political science, but definitely went more into like the political philosophy and of things not so much like the math side of political science. So it's been interesting to me for a long time. And I would say in like, 2017 2018 2019, like, in those years in the run up to when I started thinking about, like, this is a book that was a topic that I can look back to in sort of my my journalism work, I'm an opinion writer, so I, you know, have the leeway to talk about that sort of thing. And then we did a report or might not. And it just seemed increasingly like something that people did not know about, and maybe really needed to know about in this time and place in which we find ourselves and so yeah, I, I think in my original proposal, I had like epistemic crisis in the in the subtitle. And my agent and editor advised me, rightly, you know, you can't put that on the cover. People don't know what that word means. And they're right from a marketing angle, but from like, getting out of this mess angle, like that's part of the problem that people people don't know this word we engage in like epistemic activities all the time. We're always thinking about, like, we're always weighing truth claims and accepting rejecting them. We don't really recognize that that's what we're doing.
Yeah. Yeah. And I appreciate that, right there with you. That's one of the major points of having this podcast. You, if anything, you're maybe a little more optimistic than I am about the usefulness of philosophy and its ability to actually make any difference. But but it was a refreshing kind of take to an optimistic take to read so I appreciate it.
So I don't like questions like this, but I feel like I have to ask that's a good way to capture a question right? But in the in chapter one of your book, and then you go on and you do this several other times, you say that both political parties are at fault for this epistemic crisis that we find ourselves in. Now, I'll admit that the Left is not perfect for sure deserves its fair share of critique about a number of things. But when it comes to this particular issue, the epistemic crisis that we find ourselves in the, the lies, the fake news, the, you know, all of the stuff that this book is about, if seems like a bit much of a both sides ism to try to say, with integrity that both sides of the political political aisle are responsible for the epistemic crisis, when seems to me like we didn't have this epistemic crisis until 2016 or 2015, during the election, and until Kellyanne Conway was talking about, you know, what alternative alternative facts and fake news and, you know, now we have just a plethora of actually just fake news that's just come out of nowhere. So, to me, that seems a little, just tell me why you say you want to go to lengths to see both sides.
I mean, so I think it's completely fair to say that, on balance in this exact moment. In some ways, the right is worse, or at least worse, in more obvious ways. I do think Donald Trump is unique figure, and the way that he sure relates to, you know, 10s of millions of people is unique, and there's not a exact comparison to that on the left for sure. The reason why I think it is a problem on the left, as well, is an end, it definitely looks different. I fully agree with that. Well, hang on, let me back up. Before I say that one. One other bigger factor of this is that I think that we would be in a very similar situation, even if you didn't have Trump. I think that the cultural and technological changes are such that maybe it wouldn't be quite as bad. Maybe it wouldn't be as bad in such like, glaringly stupid ways as like alternative facts. But I think a lot of the fundamentals would be the same if you take Trump out of the equation, but you have all the same, like technological progression, the same overwhelming quantity of information that we're encountering. I think that's a big factor. And so I don't think it's, you know, if the right were sort of behaving itself being sort of like the right circuit, 2002. Right, I still think we'd have the vast majority what we have. Now, as far as the left, again, I did think it looks different, like a really obvious example, to reach for here, I think would be the way that the especially the very online left in America is increasingly like the very well educated the like academic elite left. And thinking about like the the way that people handle like, I would say, verges into, like science was on the way that like, it goes beyond respect for expertise and like deference to someone who knows more than you and has true expertise to, frankly, getting weird, in some cases,
like give an example of scientism, for people that might not be familiar with that term.
I mean, so I would, I'm thinking, especially in the context of the last few years of like, the behavior around some of the pandemic stuff. Like when people started posting like heart eyes for Fauci, like, what is that this means a government official, he's a bureaucrat, you're like in love with him. And then with him personally, and also a lot of public health officials, Leighton admissions of noble lies, blatant hypocrisy is where they're violating the rules they themselves have made. Like that kind of behaviors, so deadly to trust and expertise, and we super need trust and expertise. And so like, to my mind, that's a really grave undermining of truth and a really grave undermining of experts, expert sources of knowledge, and, you know, a really valuable opinion and wisdom that we need from from well educated people. And so like, for me, the, you know, there was the the early wise, basically about masks, saying like you shouldn't wear masks, when in reality, they just wanted to conserve masks for healthcare workers, right. And then shortly after they come out and say, well, actually, we just wanted to conserve master healthcare workers mouths are getting sewer them. Why would people believe that at that point? I mean, you know, I think you should have won the mask, right? But the fact is, after a lie like that, that's terrible. And you can't expect the public to buy into what you say after that, and that that won't have a bit worn contribute to epistemic grace. So there are other ways as well, that's something that I think looms really prominent right now. In my mind, certainly given recent history.
I think people go overboard with both sides ism, caution awareness in by that I mean, a lot of times it is really healthy to critique both sides of an issue and to say, let's be honest about both sides. I'm just not sure. I'm just not sure this one is particularly for me, one where you can do that. But I don't want to, I don't want to turn this conversation into a debate
for what it's worth. It didn't stand out to me as strongly as it did to you. I noticed some of it, but it wasn't like a major critique out of the book or anything like that I, I don't always agree with some of the targets, for example, I don't think Fauci was lying and the example that you use, but I can totally see the point. And I definitely know after many years of teaching undergraduates who are mostly liberal, that the seeds for epistemic crisis are very much there.
In fairness, I sort of distracted myself. The the example that I was heading towards with Fauci specifically, was where he has this New York Times interview where he's talking about what you need to reach for herd immunity. Yeah. And he says, you know, originally started 60%, than I thought, the public is accepting of this, I can bump it up to 7080 90%. There's no basis in scientific facts there. Right. It's pure PR. And he's admitting openly that he picked numbers at random based on what he thought the public could receive, not in any actual scientific fact. And that's just like egregious.
Yeah, I don't want to get to the way this is that I read the situation differently. Let's just say,
Yeah, well, we can we can move on. But I was curious. Yeah. And there's
also some background about the noble lie. I mean, it's a huge controversy in circles. I mean, there's a large wing of politicians who are like, very in favor of like Leo Strauss, for example, who advocated and sort of popularize that kind of view. And it's, it's rather complicated. I, I just have a hard time believing that he was not acting in good faith in that situation. But I could be wrong. You know, it's I don't know the guy. So who knows? The way I read it, it was just like, there was a reasonable range of statistical probabilities. And he chose one that seemed to make good strategic sense. And then the situation changed needed a different thing. And this is related to a question I'm going to ask you later about, like, what should an expert do when they have different information?
I think it can be at once good faith, and also terrible PR and undermining public. Even if it was well intended. I don't think it requires there to be like any malice on his part, right?
Yeah. So maybe we're using the word lie differently than right, because that's a morally laden term. And so anyway, that's not one of the places I really wanted to focus on the Celio.
So in chapter two, something that I found fascinating that we actually mentioned when we were doing a recording, yesterday, was your research of the sudden once we humans make a statement about, you know, what we believe publicly? We don't like to reverse them. And you have some research that you've looked into, can you tell us about that, especially as it pertains to social media? Because everyone says things publicly today?
Yeah, so the research is really wild is, you know, that thing where you draw two lines of the same length, and then on one, you have, like, arrows facing out, and on the other you have arrows facing in. And so the one of the arrows facing in, looks much smaller than one of the arrows facing now, into basically the research that they did was, they would have people guess, you know, are these lines, different lines the same, same amount. And they had some people just think it to themselves, some people write it down, some people say it aloud to the group. And what they found was like, you know, this is a belief of no consequence, like, nobody's gonna think you're stupid. If you get it wrong, it's whatever. But the people like the more they had committed themselves to it, and like, the more like, so the people who wrote more than the people who thought and the people who spoke when the people who privately wrote, they were very resistant to changing their minds. And so, you know, I mean, it makes sense, if you think about it, right? Nobody likes to be wrong. Nobody likes to look like a inconsistent or a flip flopper. And so when you put things out in print in public, then when you're confronted with evidence that maybe what you said, wasn't actually right. It's harder, it's harder to go back on it. And to say, not only here's my new opinion, but I was wrong before. And I think we all know, we have it in the back of our minds that you might even try to just say, like, here's my new opinion, and then someone could dig it up and call you out. And so that, that knowledge, whether it's conscious or not, I think does make it harder for us to change our minds. Once we've posted
as if it's a bad thing to say, I've got more information than I had when I said that. And now I've changed my mind as if that's not a good thing for human being to do, right.
Yeah. Which is so weird, but you know, that it feels it feels awkward to do it. Even Even I think, though we would we would all say like, yeah, it's great to update your opinions when you know more, but in practice, doesn't mean we do it.
And how does that affect this? You know, our discourse? I think he was what you were talking about in that part, or even that epistemic crisis that that we're doubling down and things that we know were not true?
Yeah, well, the like the social media situation is unique and history, right? Like in decades past. You just only had so much opportunity to talk about this stuff. Like you didn't have a phone with you a way to broadcast your opinions to everyone you know it just about any hour of the day. And now you do and so once sort of just like practical realities of life and you know, social norms and not being a jerk to whoever you're standing next to in line or whatever, like that would have constrained your your airing of your opinions and a lot of it would have just stayed in your head. And now, we all have this opportunity all the time. And in many cases, we do just sort of, you know, play pundit constantly.
It made me think about How much easier would have been to be friends with people who think differently than you for social media, right? Like, I've literally got people was you
remember it, right?
You didn't know that. Jim thought that that way. Or, you know, Jim didn't know he thought that everybody's got a gem in their lives. Like I love this person deeply. How can they think this way, and then all of a sudden, it starts changing and tainting the way you see them. Man along for the day when I don't know everything about the way this person thinks and all their opinions, because they probably are more than their opinions. But not today, though. That's all we see now.
Yeah, it's, um, it's, it's tricky. I don't. And then you get into this sense of like, well, do I have a moral responsibility to confront them? Like that was wondering for a few years there, especially there was like that big spate of how to show your racist uncle at Thanksgiving, like how bad he is. Because we all know that what persuades you know, 60 year old man is having like a 19 year old tell it
works every time. Yeah, very effective. Yeah, especially after a couple of glasses of wine. Related to that. So one of the things I've noticed a lot about expertise and people's relation to it and the public sphere is the often in experts changing their mind is interpreted as a failure of expertise itself. And so you talked about changing perceptions of expertise, where whereas it used to be like, when a conspiracy theorist is a good example, when it conspiracy theorists back in the day back in the day being like
1995, it is
the way to be a conspiracy. Right? I would say that yet late 20th century, with the way to be a good conspiracy theorists was to marshal lots of evidence and lots of arguments and throw as many of them at your opponent as you could and appeal to expertise in a very heavy handed way. It's just an alternative set of experts, whereas conspiracists today, operate quite differently, right? There's, there's a hostility to the notion of expertise itself. So I wanted to get you to talk about that a little bit, because I've noticed it too. And maybe just while you're doing that, give us this distinction between conspiracists and conspiracy theorists?
Yeah, let me start with the latter. So that distinction is not unique. To me, it comes from a book called A lot of people are saying, yeah, a pair of political scientists whose name I don't have memorized off the top of my head. But the basic idea is, like, as you said, that conspiracy theorizing, and sort of the classic sense is, as you described, it's like a lot of you know, it's the wall with the red strings and you're connecting all the dots and you're, you know, meeting in the parking garage and getting the classified documents and building this elaborate case for proof for proof that this conspiracy has happened. And you know, sometimes that will be right more often probably it'll be wrong, but you're you're building a case conspiracism is what what this book calls conspiracy without the theory. And so it's it's not really going to all that effort, you know, there's there's not necessarily any documents there there's not necessarily any proof there's a lot of accusations there's a lot of innuendo there's a lot of like Han that sure seems to fit and it's really just like you've picked people that you have already decided are bad probably because of pre existing political differences. And then just sort of like go looking for bits and pieces that make sense and the the Q anon movement is a really great example of this right there's there's no actual proof that like elite Democrats are eating kids you know, the various various branches of the conspiracy theory. I shouldn't even call them conspiracy theory because it's not there's not much of a theory there. And it's always and that's why you can always change it's very flexible right? So like if one prediction doesn't come to pass it doesn't really matter. It doesn't there's no theory to blow up you just move on to a new accusation and prediction
and it's like it's adherence and know that right it's, it's distributed by design, so that there's no central figure that can if they toppled the whole thing topples. That's
yeah, it's it's like a really good comparison is that it's like a game like the people are playing together. And you're sort of you know, you're building the game together and sort of like a Dungeons and Dragons style, right? Where you're all telling the story together. And there's not there you know, there were these obviously these these posts by by queue that that launched it. But queue can stop posting and the story can keep going. And like
all the reporting I've seen on this is that they're pretty sure they know who the first queue was, but they're looking at several people who have played the role. It sounds like,
Yeah, I think they're pretty certain. I don't know if there's like, I don't know the extent of the smoking gun. But I don't think it really matters to the vast majority of people who are involved in that, because they don't, you know, they can believe what they want to believe about who is and they can believe what they want to believe about the whole thing. And so like, there's different versions of it, right, like in some versions of it, Trump is still president now and like to Biden is a puppet for him, basically. Or maybe he's a hologram or maybe he thinks he's president. And he doesn't know that he's not actually for like, there's so you can you can make of it what you want. It's endlessly malleable. Yeah. So that's that distinction. And then the other question was like the changing the use of expertise. Is that right? Yeah. The one thing you mentioned, the idea that we see experts changing their mind is a failure now. And I think that's true. I also think it's somewhat of a novel situation, where in the past when you sort of like those decisions happened behind closed doors to a real degree, right? And so people experts would do their deliberations, do their experiments, what have you, and then come out sort of with the final product, or at least a product that would be final for a little while? Whereas now we see them? You know, are you on Twitter, we're getting like updates and changes in real time. Things happen so much more quickly, partly because like technology enables it to happen and partly because social media and the the constant invitation of experts to come talk on cable news, or what have you, allows them to sort of give live updates along the way. And so for a non expert audience, it's very easy to to look at those live updates and say, Why haven't you figured it out yet? Like, why are you arguing about this? Why don't you have the answer? Yes. And of course, this is going to be complicated by the fact that having real expertise in one subnet, does not necessarily make you a good communicator, doesn't necessarily give you any knowledge of how to talk to the public in a way that won't freak people out, right? And so, but now, every, like experts, just like everyone else has that megaphone has that opportunity to talk to the public. And so they can have, at the same time, real expertise, and really poor PR skills. And a public that, you know, doesn't have expert knowledge probably feels like it has expert knowledge because it can Google. And so that all together just makes for a terrible loss of trust, and something that we very much need and real expert failures do happen. But then there's also this very natural and appropriate revising. And they those two categories just get mashed together. It's a terrible effect.
Yeah. And it results in really horrifying statistics like this one that I found in your book, about 15% of Americans that I think it was 2021 endorse Q anon beliefs. So it's like they wouldn't necessarily have self identified as Q anon adherence. But when asked, do you, you know, subscribe to these tenets, or whatever you want to call them? They did like all of them. And then an even worse statistic. And when you look at white evangelicals, specifically, it's like, maybe half, like 30 to 50%.
It was it was very high. It was like 50 55%. But I don't think that half was necessarily the whole package. Much just like at least something significant. Yeah,
yeah. But even just that 15% statistic, you cite somebody saying that's about the same number of like white mainline Protestant? Yeah. Shocking.
I had to read that like three times. So I was like, This can't be right.
It's one of the more depressing parts of the book, to be honest with you. As a pastor, this, you know, you had a chapter where you, you talked about interviewing a couple pastors and faith leaders and talked about, you know, the conspiracy theorists queue and unfollowers of people who believe stuff about it in their churches. And I just got this sense in this is not this is not unique to your book is not unique to the people that you've interviewed. I'm a pastor, I have lots of friends who are pastors, and I just got this sense of pastors thinking, what do I have to say about this? Because the minute I talked about how, you know, it's on Christ, like and really, it's just crazy for Christ follower to believe in these conspiracies and conspiracy theories and conspiracism I'm gonna lose a third of my church, and I could never do that because I've got bills to pay because of God, you know, all this than the other and it's just, it's actually made me want to write in to talk to having a whole episode about like, we need to be willing to lose people from our churches because pastors, if pastors can't talk about an epistemic crisis like this, and if pastors can't talk about 30 to 50% of Their church believing conspiracy theories and maybe way more than that in some contexts. I'm sure. If we can't talk about those things, why are we pastors? Why are we leading a church? Why are we trying to disciple people onto the way of Jesus? Are you just frustrated by that as I am bunny?
I am, though I would also add maybe some an obviously, I'm not speaking as a pastor. I don't envy the role of pastors ever, but especially right now. But I would add maybe some qualifiers which are. So they leave your church, right. Well, now, is there anyone in their lives? Who's going to be pushback on this at all? Right? Like, that's, to me, that's a difficult legitimately difficult question. Is it? Is it better to be strident enough that they go? Because I mean, you're, you know, you're confident in the truth of what you're saying? Or is it better to try to, you know, speak with them gently and privately and have at least some input in their life? Not q&a on? I don't know. I mean, that's like, that's, I don't think that doesn't you can answer at the mass scale. I also think it's complicated by the fact that even more now than a few years ago, there's been so much sorting about this, right, such that the the pastor who wants to speak out, he probably doesn't have many of those folks in his church anymore, and he wouldn't be just preaching to the choir. And that's not to say, like, don't do it, right. Like, it's good to reinforce it with people who are not, you know, deep down that road. But in many cases, I think that the sort of people who are deep down that road have already gone to churches that are going to reinforce their beliefs. And so the the pastor who wants to speak out, and the person who most needs to hear it are probably not going to be in contact in many places. Yeah, it's I was at a an event in Chicago a few months ago, that was talking about, like themes related to the book. And there was an audience question. It was basically like, Why aren't pastors and and especially sort of like National evangelical leaders, speaking out about this obvious problem that you have, like among your people? And so I was talking over like, you know, what I'm saying here, like, Yeah, I mean, in many cases, they should. And but, you know, they're messy reasons. There's also, as you said, like, these practical reasons of, does your church collapse and die when half of your congregation leaves, right, and because they can't keep the lights on. But the other big part of it is, and this connects to our discussion of expertise, it's not like there's one there's no evangelical Pope, it's not like there's some greater hierarchy or key, right, where you could have some widely recognized authority figure, say, this stuff is wrong and bad. And you guys are an epistemic crisis. And here's what you need to be thinking about this. That that people could would be, in some sense, like required to listen to. Because you can just leave and go to a different church and hear exactly what you want to hear. And it's not like they're both reporting to the same bishop or something like that. So yeah, I share your frustration. I also understand why some pastors hesitate.
I do too. I really do. I mean, I have, again, many peers who are in that boat, but I think it's, somebody should write a book called The scandal of the evangelical mind, because most of the people that were, you know, you're correct, and saying, there's a lot of people who are really hardcore queue and unfollowers or bhaga. evangelicals who are already down the road to Greg locks, church, you know, and there's, there's no coming back from that. But I do think there's a lot of people, especially the ones that you speak to in the book, who would never say they're a coupon follower, but unwittingly follow a lot of Q anon perspectives, because they've been told that by their family or by their tough lady, or whatever, and I think there are many who if if, if a pastor came out and said, you know, let's, let's have a real conversation about the things that we, we believe in that we are, you know, moved by as a people, as opposed to the gospel. I think there are some people who will leave for sure you're going to lose people if you talk about conspiracies and conspiracy theories. But I do think you're going to actually win over some and get them to think wow, like, I didn't know, I was believing that, you know, I think I do think there's still enough people to make it worthwhile. Because if we don't, first of all our churches are going to turn into the cults like Greg locks, church, you know, whether we like it or not, if we're not going to be able to speak to it out loud, and also just as a pastor, that's where I just want to say, if we're not able to speak into our congregations lives in real ways, challenge them by the gospel and call them to follow Jesus. Then we're not pastoring anymore, then we're not actually serving the church. We're actually just trying to entertain people and keep you know, a budget but it was in the good old days. And that is something that I hope no pastor is interested in.
And I think that that is touching on a bigger issue that I realized, as I was writing, and also realized that I was not the person to address it at a large scale, and that there wasn't room for it in this book at a large scale, but it's wrapped up in a bigger issue of like, ecclesiology, and like pastoral authority, and obviously, there are really good reasons. We can all think of, you know, scandals and examples of abuse, why people are wary of strong pastoral authority, and why people are wary of staying and like submitting themselves to that hard teaching and discipleship, right when some part of them wants to reject it. But I don't know how, I don't know if it's possible to move past the bigger epistemic crisis until we figure some of that stuff out as well. And how to do that in a, in a healthy and like, obviously, non abusive way.
Yeah. Yeah. And this is, I mean, it's, it's almost like fast forwarding to the end, but I had the thought was, you too, were talking of like, the the people who are hardened and trenched. And we all have those people in our lives, most of us. Unless you're like, living on some liberal, you know, atheistic Island, somewhere in New York, we all have those people in our lives. And I want to say, for the people who are really entrenched for the people who are just like, have given themselves to it, I have very little hope, if any, that they're ever coming out of that, like you have some good, good tips in the end of your book of how to how to detox from social media, how to how to quiet your mind a little bit, because we're so you know, there's many, many good recommendations that you have, at your end, at the end of your book, but I'm skeptical that any of them will work on the people who are buying it hook, line and sinker, what are your thoughts?
Yeah, like people who don't know that there's a problem, right? And so you know, that's, that's obviously someone who's never going to, like, take those suggestions and try to apply them for themselves. I don't know, I don't want to say that I have no hope. I do think it's a fool's errand to think that someone is going to change their mind, you know, in six months, two year five year timeline, that's, it's probably going to be a very long timeline, if it happens at all. I would say for a lot of people, I don't necessarily even though there's gonna be a mind change so much as a deprioritization. And like a refocus of attention. And so maybe those beliefs are still there, sort of lurking in the back of their minds. And that just is what it is. And like, we're all probably wrong about stuff. And hopefully not too severely, if it be can become less relationally, destructive, less, you know, destructive of personal choices they're making, like, where to buy a house, or if to buy a house, if you can have some improvement on that, like relational and practical side of things such that, you know, again, even if the beliefs are still there, it's not the main thing in your life anymore. I think that is possible. You know, there are many cases where it won't happen. And you can, if you want to be really, really sad, go look up the the Q anon casualties subreddit and read people's stories about like their family members getting in, you know, so deep that they just cut off relationships, because they can't be, you know, they can't have a loved one who doesn't agree with them on all of this stuff. But I think that for a lot of people, it's possible to avoid that. Which may not seem like that might seem like a low bar, but I don't know. I think that's pretty important.
Yeah. And I mean, one more thing, and I'll let Kyle fit last last few questions, because I know that he's got some good ones. But I do like your approach of saying, just don't argue, like, it's whether it's on social media or in person, don't argue about it, because it's like, I've never seen it actually work, what might work is actually drawing their attention to some more beautiful things to say more real things to some more good things, in drawing their attention away from the stuff that they've been filling their minds with. That seems, in my experience, like the best advice I could hear or give somebody.
Yeah, and I mean, it's advice for like myself as well, like, when I don't argue online anymore, really. But back when I used to, I would be like, jumpy, like, I'd log off, but I knew that it was still out there. And I'd be like, a little like, hyped up, like trying to calm myself down before I went back and looked again, and it wasn't even like anger, it was to some extent fear of like, has someone gotten on there just really dragged me in in real life. I think they're like, for me the the bigger risk is that you know, if the argument isn't going anywhere productive and it's not going to that you know, I will get angry and and how is that going to make them more likely, you know, the next time we talk to give any credence to what I say even if what I'm saying is something much more neutral or like, you know, come to dinner with me right because I just yelled at them over some political beliefs they have.
Yep, yeah. And I want to come back to that later. We're gonna talk more about the internet. And Bo Burnham, who was probably my favorite part of the book, big fan. So we're gonna get to that. First, though, I want to take a somewhat more challenging line of questioning if that's okay. I really enjoyed your book. I like you. You seem like a nice person. I did not enjoy chapter seven. And this is, this is the one about identitarian difference.
I, you know, I thought that this was the chapter that people want to get mad about is, it hasn't happened yet. So that's
interesting. I didn't hear it come up on any of the interviews, I listened. Yeah. Which kind of surprised me? Well, let me first pose it like this First, what is that? Where does the idea come from? Why is there a chapter about it? In the book? And how important do you take that chapter to be to the thesis of the book.
So the idea comes from and, and Matt Breunig, who runs the people's Policy Project, and he came up with this, I want to say it's like, 2013, quite a long time ago. And the idea is basically, that he's naming it as a critique. He's not advocating for it. But the idea is basically that people will expect deference to someone who is the more historically oppressed conversation partner, especially on issues relating to their oppression. And so you mentioned earlier, the phrase speaking as a, so it's something like, if you're talking about racism in one person is white and one person is black, the black person can say, well, you know, speaking as a black person, here's what I think. And the white person needs to defer to them, because they have superior knowledge and experience of it. And so the critique of that bruenig makes, which I won't go over in full, because he's very logical guy in house, you know, quite a lot of steps, that would be tedious to say, in a podcast format. But the gist of it is basically like, it's, it requires a previous logic of, or previous idea of, of who is oppressed. And it doesn't make a lot of sense in practice. And that the way that it frequently works is that people come to their own conclusions, then they find someone of the, you know, the oppressed demographic, who agrees with them and point to them and say, look, here's a person who's saying what I think, and we have to listen to them, because they, they are in the right demographic. And beyond that, as you know, others have pointed out, I think it functions as a conversation Ender. Where, you know, if someone invokes that epistemic ly superior identity for the sake of this conversation, well, then the other person is just sort of, what can they say? Right, like they don't have the standing to challenge it, regardless of like the the quality of the ideas or arguments or facts evidence being being asserted? As far as how important I think it is. I think that depends a lot on the context that you're in. And whether you're encountering this very much, I think there are many people who are not encountering this very often. I also think that there are places where it where it does happen, and where you see critiques of people's writing or arguments that have nothing to do with the truth of what they've said the reason of what they've said the evidence of what they've said, and just have to do with them being, you know, the wrong person to say it. And that does seem like an unwise impediment to getting at the truth.
Yeah. So thanks for that. That overview. Appreciate it. Yeah, I was not convinced by his argument. It seems, it seems relatively easy to me to determine who the oppressed are. And it doesn't like it's a kind of publicly available evidence, it doesn't have to be something you discover autonomously, right. It's, it's out there like, it's, I can make a pretty easy case appealing to the premises that any reasonable person should be able to get behind that African Americans are more oppressed than white men. Like that's not
difficult. He would agree disagree with that. I think that his point is that you can make that prioritization without or you can make that determination excuse me, without making the leap to
Sure. Yeah, so deference is definitely an extra step. I think it's a reasonable step in some cases. But his he seemed to be making some kind of circularity argument that he didn't think was there, like we can start with a kind of public evidence and then determine if it is then a reasonable step into deference. And I think in some cases it is now I will say this, you do a good job of describing the worst version of it in the chapter. And so if I had a critique of that chapter, I guess it would come down to some kind of straw man, situation that was maybe happening now. definitely seen the thing you're critiquing on Twitter like, it's, it's there. It's, it's in social media. And if that's the target, then fine. But one thing I tend I like to do and I always did this with my students as well as try to get them to look at the best version of a view before critiquing it right. And so I kept waiting in this chapter for that version to make an appearance, and then it never did. And so at the end of it, I was left a little disappointed, because you can easily come away from that chapter not knowing anything about this or the background of it or anything like that, with the idea, or the impression that the whole connection between epistemic deference or epistemic privilege, and identity is just hopelessly confused. And it's just not the case. If that were the result, then I think it would be a kind of straw man rejection. So for example, there's a probably 40 year tradition in epistemology, particularly feminist epistemology, that has a rich and varied account of this relationship and their long standing debates amongst feminist Epistemologists about what they call standpoint, epistemology, or standpoint theory. And there's some very interesting stuff to learn there. And some very interesting example cases that get used. And I think there's some very productive fields of research, including in hard sciences and things that you might not expect, that have come out of those discussions, feminist philosophers of biology, for example, who will describe in detail the ways that biological research might have gone differently if women were involved in how it has gone differently, since women have been involved and how maybe having women in those spaces can give them a kind of epistemic privilege because they can see things both from the perspective of the marginalized and from the perspective of the I don't want to say the oppressor because it's kind of Marxian. But you know what I mean? Like the, they can see that they had this kind of double vision, which does go back to Marx. And so they can see it both ways. Whereas the one on top of the hierarchy can only see it in the one way. There's lots of insights that I think are very rich and very valuable that come from that tradition, and they didn't show up in that chapter. And also, they're just like, there are cases where that kind of deference just seems to make intuitive sense. So for example, George Yancy is a philosopher, writes a lot about race. Christian, he wrote a probably my favorite opinion piece that I've ever read in the New York Times. It was a letter to Christians asking them to just listen to him about racism.
yeah, it was just a few years ago. Yeah. Anyway, so he'll, he uses this example of being on an elevator. He's a, I don't know, 5650s 60 year old man, black man gets on an elevator, he you know, he's a professor. He gets on an elevator to go to his car. And a white woman is standing in the elevator, and immediately tenses up, when he gets on the job. And he says this is a regular occurrence. It's not like it happened one time. And then he has a really interesting and really detailed explanation of that experience. And he goes through it with his students regularly. And he wrote a paper describing all of his students quick responses. And some of them are really reasonable responses, but they're so quick. And that it raises the point, rhetorically, why are you going there so quickly, instead of trying to understand how I'm describing this experience to you from my perspective? And so we can imagine that kind of situation. Let's say you have the white woman on the elevator, and you have a white guy on the elevator and George gets on the elevator and the white woman tenses up, and George says That's racist. And the white guy says, No, it's not. It seems like George might have an epistemic privileged perspective in that situation. So I'm wondering if you can see some kind of reasonable version of that.
Yeah, no, and I don't disagree with that. And I granted, I would have to go back and look at the chapter again, with this in mind. My recollection is that I did allow that, that there are times when, when your unique experiences and perspective and standpoint Yes, do give you insights that others will not have that will that it will let you raise questions that others will not know to ask. I think that that is in there. Is it in there as much as it could have been? Maybe not? That you may be quite right about that, that it could have been emphasized more? So yeah, no, I it's not my intent to suggest that that people's perspectives are never valuable that those that it's never going to give you a unique angle on things, but rather that if it becomes a tool to end the conversation, rather than to expand it, and in the, you know, the op ed that you're talking about, I would say that's certainly expanding the conversation. Yeah. That that's when it becomes a problem. And as you say, it is something that happens a lot on social media. As for how much it happens in real life, like So I think that depends a lot on the context that you're in. Probably, like I said, there are a lot of people who are not encountering this at all, and would read that chapter and say, like, oh, that seems bad. I don't really see that happening. Yeah, it is inevitably a pretty internet focused book. And maybe overstating for the average person's experience, how much the fair is happening.
Let me ask one more follow up to that. And then I want to talk about the internet. And then we could be just just about that. That's okay. I don't want to keep you too long. Do you think because at the end of that chapter, you say something very strong. I'm going to quote it here. So you put some serious religious weighed on the importance of your point about identitarian difference? You say, if white men have one epistemology and black women, another, the whole New Testament vision of humanity redeemed and made one and Jesus is undone. So that makes it seem really significant, right? What I want you to help me understand is how you avoid succumbing to your own critique of this kind of difference by relying on your Christian identity as a way of framing the right approach to disagreement. Does that makes sense?
Yeah, well, I would say two things. One is that that quote, hopefully, reads is an explicit call back to a blog quote earlier in the chapter from Mark Lilla. So he's talking about his experience as a professor at Columbia University, and he says, you know, classroom discussions that might once have begun, I think, a and here's my argument. Now take the form speaking as an accent, I'm offended that you claim B. This makes perfect sense. If you believe that identity determines everything, it means there is no impartial space for dialogue. White men have one epistemology, black women have another so what remains to be said, what replaces argument then is taboo. So in that case, the specific scenario that I'm pointing back to, again, is not these people have different standpoints and different things to contribute to the conversation. It's one person shares what she believes and the other person has to simply be silent, because there's nowhere else to go.
So is it the case that your central critique of this kind of view is that it makes argument and disagreement impassable? Based on Yeah. Okay. Yeah, I was just saying why. Why do you think arguments should be passable?
But there's a difference between reading that after having heard both people's points, both people's perspectives, both people's evidence, and saying, Well, you know, after considering all of that, I just don't come to the same conclusion that you do, as opposed to one person is able to speak and share their experience and their standpoint and the other person doesn't, isn't really able to contribute.
Yeah. It just seemed to me like, and this is the last thing. It just seemed to me like, you were falling back on an idea of Christian unity, as a justification for why disagreement must be passable in the end. And if that's what was happening, then you're doing the Identitarian difference thing, right? Because I'm a Christian, I'm committed, it's my conviction, that there is a kind of ultimate unity, where identity will not keep us from one another entirely.
Yeah, I would say the unity is not complete agreement on everything. This is going to be like the worst line I've ever said. But if you're familiar with my first book, The whole concept of the first book is that, you know, there's a lot of stuff Christians disagree on, let's go over the disagreements and, you know, see what they are, and understand that thinking this other thing does not make you any less a Christian, then, you know, whatever, whatever position it is, you favor. So I don't when I am alluding to Christian unity there it's not lockstep agreement on everything that, you know, we believe, right, like there's going to be disagreement. It's more a procedural argument about how the conversations are happening, and how that agree to disagree moment is being reached.
Yeah, and I can say, I mean, I, I anticipated this conversation as I was reading the chapter, honestly. Because I was reading your chapter and it was, you know, well thought out, and I know, Kyle. And I don't mean that as a dick. I just mean, I know, I feel like I know your mind a little bit. And I think both are correct. I wasn't comfortable with the, with the chapter in some ways, because I think there's been a correction that's been long, long needed, as far as listening to people who are in oppressed communities. That's just like, I think that's an easy yes. And then I do think that like, much like in many other cases, there might have been an overcorrection. And by the overcorrection, I mean, when a person who's not in a press community can ask any questions or can have, share their perspective or data or whatever, then maybe that's an overcorrection and so I think we can say yes to both of those.
Yeah, here's the thing that I think we can all agree is bad. Who was the person that you were citing for this in the book? I can't remember the name right now. Somebody well known, but oh, it was the novelist African novelist. Adichie right. Chimamanda Adichie. So like, if you can't ask a good faith question without being villainized. That's bad. That's and that happens on Twitter. That's the name of the game on Twitter. Right. Yeah. Yeah. I just want to maintain that there. There is a version of epistemic deference that is defensible. And that's more reasonable. Yeah. Anyway,
I want to say that I like I don't know that I would call it deference at that point. Just because I don't know. I don't love the the word for something more positive. But I agree that there is a version that is that is good. And that like we should Yes, I
tend to think deference is like a very Christian idea, right? I mean, Submitting yourselves to one another is like what we're supposed to do, but whatever we're getting. I did want to talk about bowburn Because he's my favorite comedian. And I freaking loved that soul.
Hold on the bowburn. Cuz I love into you, right. And Bonnie mentioned,
Burnham is to me into writers.
I mean, it's a tough call. It's fair. If it helps, I have never heard. What is wrong with me? Sorry, well, I've
never heard into I'm just kidding.
No, I'm, in chapter eight, Barney, you put forth some epistemic virtues that can help our knowledge crisis, and you share a number of those, I don't want you to go into all of them. I really would love to hear more you use NT rights phrase, and an epistemology of love. And, man, that sounds so good. You gave like three paragraphs to it. So could you just flesh out a little bit more for us? What might be an epistemology of love? What does that look like? What does that sound like? And what is that? What is it? Exactly?
I will try I warn you, though, that I've been asked about this once or twice before in podcasts. And part of the reason why I quoted him, like a big blockquote in the book is that I always butcher it when I try to say it just off the top of my head. But his idea is basically that you're not seeking sort of a inhuman, impossible objectivity, where you know, you're just a mirror reflecting the world with with no, no input, no perspective of your own no standpoint, but also not going into, you know, complete subjectivity, where it's just about, you know, what you want to be true, or what's what's convenient, or profitable for you to be true, whatever, you know, serves your, your personal interests. And so his idea of an epistemology of love as a, as a better, virtuous medium, between the two is that if you love the thing that you're you're trying to learn about, and obviously not love in like a sentimental sense, right? But wanting it to wanting to sort of, like, know, and understand. And I think he uses the word, like celebrate it for itself, then that gives you a perspective where, you know, it's not, you're not without regard for truth, you're not getting into, to subjectivity. But there is like, an affection and a posture there and wanting to, like really know the the best of it and to, to know it well. And it's closely related, I think, to the, the idea that I also only give like a few paragraphs to, which is the, the Anabaptist idea of hermeneutics of obedience where, you know, basically, their idea is that when you're reading scripture, if you're not prepared to obey it, you'll find it harder to understand. And so both of them are, are very much about like, how are we seeking the truth? And how are we coming to the information we're encountering? And are we trying to make it serve our interests? Or are we coming to it as it actually is? Yep.
Which reminds me of so much of Jesus in the gospels, but do you have any thoughts on this idea of an epistemology of love? Oh, my
God, that's another kind of identitarian difference. Right, I should defer to the person who's obedient, and their interpretation of Scripture as part of their identity. No, I think I would just call it epistemology. What he's describing, right? Unless your understanding of epistemology is rooted in, like the 17th century or something like that's just what we're doing. We might not use the word love although some people would, I suppose. But
yeah, I think what's more unique because you philosophers do mostly hopefully have a love for the truth, and a love for and a passion for getting to like what's at the root of this argument or this supposition, whatever. But when we talk about normal people, non philosophers we're not always operating from an epistemology of love. We don't always love the truth we love being right. We love being you know, winning a debate we love you fill in the blank. I think that's where it really fits. Yeah.
For the folks who learned the word epistemology, you know, in my first chapter for the first time, yeah.
Did we ever actually define it in this episode? Go ahead. Maybe we didn't. Boehner, you want to do that? Just in case?
Well, yeah, I feel shy doing it. And the gist of it is that it's like the branch of philosophy that is concerned with knowledge itself, you know, how do we acquire it? How do we distinguish between true knowledge and, you know, belief? What's the difference between like, facts and opinion, these kinds of questions? Yeah.
If you've been wondering the whole episode, what the heck that word means? Apologies. Okay, so last question. In the, I think it was chapter nine, literally laughed out loud at the beginning of the chapter when you reference Bo Burnham and one of my favorite songs from his Netflix special from post pandemic, if you haven't seen inside, just go watch it. It's, it's brilliant. It's not an easy watch. So like, psychologically difficult at times, so don't do it with your kids. But, but absolutely brilliant. And I think about it a lot. And in particular, that song, and the emphasis on the internet. So I wanted you to give us just a quick overview of what you're doing in that chapter. Why the internet is going to kill us all. And if there any practical things we can do about it.
Yeah. Well, so this song is welcome to the internet. And it's it's very, sort of frantic and unsettling. And he's he's describing just like, the chaos and absurdity of being character from you know, something very serious, or something very sweet into, you know, like you should call your mom is one of the quotes from it.
Which is weird to laugh at that. But I promise if you hear it in the song, it is
a very funny song. It's very well done. I had to quote, pretty selectively keep out some of the some of the quotes that out of context without seeing the songs at this wooden wooden.
Standing is a good minute.
But yeah, I think if you especially if you are, you know, around our age of an age where you can remember the time before the internet, but you also in a sense, grew up with it. It's very like evocative of what it feels like to be plunged into this environment, and have to figure out how to navigate it. And so I don't remember how, when exactly when that came out. But I'd seen it recently enough when I was starting to write that chapter, which is, you know, significantly about how do we handle ourselves with the internet, and other media as well. But I think for a lot of people, it is the internet, that is the main thing to be handled. And so the chapter is getting into a lot of much more pragmatic stuff about choices we make around or our news consumption or habits and where we're placing our attention is so much of which, especially at this point in for me, in the like book, podcasts and promotion process seems like this is also obviously, you know, did I really need to spell this out for people? And then I like go up to my bedroom and spend two hours scrolling on my phone, right? And it's like, oh, yeah, this is why this is why I spelled it out because it is so obvious. And yet it's also something that we all need to be told so often. If, as the subtitle says, your brain is broken, and I do feel like my brain is broken by the Internet and by like the the media environment in which I live in work, and it's something that I have to you know, continue to deal with and the Bo Burnham song Welcome to the internet is you know, recognizably the product of another broken brain that is aware of its problems.
I think about it every time my toddler who is about 19 months old now runs over to and grabs the television remote and brings it to me for me to turn on Daniel Tiger for him and I think that line from that song you know, mommy let you use her iPad you were barely two and it did all the things we designed it to do. And I just think oh shit.
Yeah, the book at times made me grateful and proud to still be a newspaper subscriber Barney because
I'm not a newspaper subscriber.
It feels good to just like get your news in a bunch of you iron it papers. I don't iron it man, but it feels good. I'm never gonna give up on it until it goes away and it will go away at some point but I love not having an algorithm to my news. I love being able to just read what's what's in print there and hopefully have a decent source that's not super biased and all that business, but it it just scares you to think about it scares me to think about how manufactured what we see is on the internet and how echo chamber ish our world gets when we live our lives on our devices and get all our news from our devices, which are trained and formed to give us the particular stuff that we're looking for. We need to cut the cord in, in trying to look for other sources and other avenues for for knowledge for news for for media as much as possible, because man, it really is breaking our brains, I think.
Yeah, I don't I don't really have anything to add to that. It's it's a grim diagnosis and a lot of ways. And I eye waiver to some degree on, you know, how much hope is there, you know, how many of us are going to really try to deal with this in a sustained? And, and honestly, you know, I think it's like, lifelong way. I do take some hope, though, in the fact that people do increasingly seem aware that there's a problem. And when I say you know, knowledge crisis, for the most part, people are like, oh, yeah, and yeah, no, I know that. I know about that. I have that.
Including Djinns ears like that. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. A lot of them are much better at it than I am.
And it does sound way sexier to say epistemic crisis. The knowledge crisis. Let's be honest. It does. Yeah. Awesome. Well, Bonnie Kristian, thank you so much for joining us again. The book is called untrustworthy the knowledge crisis, breaking our brains polluting our politics and corrupting Christian community. It is a I would say it's an important book. It's a really great read, relevant to me each and every one of us. So thank you for writing it. Thank you for joining us, Bunny.
Yeah, thank you for having me even even after not liking chapter seven.
Don't worry about this guy. Have a good night. Thank you.
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