They Changed Our Minds. Alina Chan and Jonathan Rauch

How do you tell the difference between truth and lies? The answer involves a careful process of seeking knowledge that may contradict our long held beliefs.  In this episode, our hosts share two conversations with expert guests who changed Jim and Richard's minds about how they approach topics central to our understanding of politics, science, and society.

Journalist and scholar Jonathan Rauch is the author of the best-selling book, "The Constitution of Knowledge". He makes a stirring case for the social system of checks and balances used by scientists, lawyers, business leaders, and researchers to turn disagreements into verifiable facts. 

Alina Chan is a Canadian molecular biologist specializing in gene therapy and cell engineering at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where she is a postdoctoral fellow. Chan is the co-author of "Viral: The Search for the Origin of COVID-19."

When she and several other scientists raised the possibility that the SARS CoV2 could have escaped from a lab, Chan's research was dismissed by many leading scientists and mainstream journalists. Some declared that her work was "a conspiracy theory." But Chan continues to ask crucial questions. The world needs to know the true origins of the pandemic in order to prevent the next dangerous virus from causing a future pandemic. A full and open investigation was never done.

Both of our interviews underline the need for nuance, curiosity and open-minded approaches to the world's great problems. The "global network of people hunting for each others' errors is far and away the greatest technology ever invented," Rauch tells us. The constitution of knowledge, he says, "is a global conversation of people looking for truth, and more especially, looking for error."

Recommendation: Richard is reading "Broken News" by political journalist Chris Stirewalt. This new book provides a crisp, passionate, well-judged argument of how the media rage machine divides America. Reporters in newsrooms are incentivized to write news stories that are full of emotion and anger. These reports very often get the most clicks and social media attention. This emphasis on anger and rage has polluted journalism, Stirewalt argues.

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