I'm a proud member of the reality-based community. This is a big reason why I no longer believe in God or supernatural phenomena.
It'd be nice if these things actually existed. But "nice" is irrelevant when it comes to learning the truth about reality. Reality is what it is, not what individuals want it to be.
When I learned about Jonathan Rauch's book, "The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth," the title alone made me want to buy it.
I've only read two of the eight chapters, but I skipped ahead and read the passages that I've shared below. I like these Rules for Reality. They fit with my personal philosophy, though naturally Rauch states them more clearly than I'd be capable of.
The first sentence below echoes something I say often in my blog posts.
Everyone is entitled to believe whatever they want, even if it isn't true. But if you want other people to accept your belief, then you need to submit that belief to the reality-based community for examination and criticism. Meaning, to people who embrace truth-seeking.
Religious believers, mystics, and such typically aren't willing to do this. They expect others to take their statements about reality seriously, even though they don't comply with the Rules for Reality below.
Rules for Reality
Say you believe something (X) to be true, and you believe that its acceptance as true by others is important or at least warranted.
X might be that the earth revolves around the sun, that God is a trinity, that an embryo is a human being, that human activity is causing climate change, that vaccination saves lives, that Joe Biden was lawfully elected president, or some other consequential proposition.
The specific proposition does not matter. What does matter is that the only way to validate it is to submit it to the reality-based community.
Otherwise, you could win dominance for your proposition by, say, brute force, threatening and jailing and torturing and killing those who see things differently -- as we have seen, a standard method down through history.
Or you and your like-minded friends could go off and talk only to each other, in which case you would have founded a cult -- which is lawful but socially divisive and epistemically worthless.
Or you could engage in a social-media campaign to shame and intimidate those who disagree with you -- a very common method these days, but one which stifles debate and throttles knowledge (and harms a lot of people).
What the reality-based community does is something else again. In my book Kindly Inquisitors, I argue that liberal science's distinctive qualities derive from two core rules, and that any public conversation which obeys those two rules will display the distinguishing characteristics of liberal science. The rules are:
The fallibilist rule: No one gets the final say. You may claim that a statement is established as knowledge only if it can be debunked, in principle, and 0nly insofar as it withstands attempts to debunk it.
That is, you are entitled to claim a statement is objectively true only insofar as it is both checkable and has stood up to checking, and not otherwise.
In practice, of course, determining whether a particular statement stands up to checking is sometimes hard, and we have to argue about it.
But what counts is the way the rule directs us to behave: you must assume your own and everyone else's fallibility and you must hunt for your own and others' errors, even if you are confident that you are right.
Otherwise, you are not reality-based.
The empirical rule: No one has personal authority. You may claim that a statement has been established as knowledge only insofar as the method used to check it gives the same result regardless of the identity of the checker, and regardless of the source of the statement.
Whatever you do to check a proposition must be something that anyone can do, at least in principle, and get the same result. Also, no one proposing a hypothesis gets a free pass simply because of who she is or what group she belongs to.
Who you are does not count; the rules apply to everybody and persons are interchangeable. If your method is valid only for you or your affinity group or people who believe as you do, then you are not reality-based.