Chuck Klosterman - Questioning Everything We Know in "But What If We're Wrong?"

June 30, 2016 - Chuck Klosterman 06/30/2016 Views: 14,783

Chuck Klosterman, author of "But What If We're Wrong?", explains why fundamental ideas like gravity could be disputed in the future. (5:37)

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My guest tonightis a best-selling author

whose new book is called But What If We're Wrong?

Please welcome Chuck Klosterman!

(cheers and applause)

-Thank you, sir.-Thank you very much.

-Welcome to the show.-It's great to be here.

You are oneof the smartest people I know.

You just... WheneverI hear you on a podcast,

whenever I read one ofyour essays, one of your books,

I'm just like, "This man thinksabout everything."

-How much LSD or mushroomshave you taken? -(laughter)

Well, I think the right amount,

which is, like, enough,but not too early in life.

Like, I got into life a ways,you know...

So you have enoughto base it off of, and then,

the hallucinationsjust make it work out?

Yeah, somebody once told methat, like,

your life is like a boat,and drugs are like the wind.


-And you can't...-Was that your dealer?

You can't get too much windwhen you're young

'cause your boat will capsize,so you have to be older.

-(laughter) -Huh.-I feel like

that's a weird justificationfor drugs.

-(laughter) -Oh. -Not too muchwind when you're young.

Um, let's talk about the book, But What If We're Wrong?

This is somethingI've spoken about for so long.

I'm gladyou have written about it.

I always ask this questionto my friends.

I go,"How do we know we're right?"

In any decision we make,whether it's political,

whether it's sports, whetherit's how we perceive history,

what if we're wrong?

And you talk about that in somany different ways in the book.

You're sayingthat everyone can be wrong.

You're sayingthat in different ways,

we've shownthat people have been wrong.

But surely this excludes Oprah.

-(laughter)-Oprah cannot be wrong, right?

She has a lot of confidence,

and that sometimes isthe same as being right.

-Is that a thing?-No, that's not true at all.

-(laughter)-It's just a... Uh...

The thing is, it's like,the history of ideas

is pretty much the historyof people being wrong.

-NOAH: Yes.-So even though

in the present tenseit feels as though

we have this kind of generalperception of certitude

-about what reality is like...-Yeah.

...uh, in all likelihood, uh,if... unless we're living

in a completelydifferent time frame

where the rules no longer apply,

at some point, in 300 or 500or a thousand years,

they're gonna look backat this period and most

of the most entrenched ideas

will seem either mildly absurdor surprisingly accurate.

Like, we will be shocked,people will be shocked

that we were right about sortof the things that we based

our understandingof the world on.

What-What's a good exampleof that in history?

What would you say is the mostglaring ex-example of that?

Where we go,they were completely wrong,

but at the time, they thoughtthey were completely right.

Well, i-i-in, like,early in the book,

I kind of use the easiestexample, probably is gravity.

Because what I was...what I would do is this.

So, I would go to scientists

or people in all kindsof disciplines,

and I would always sort offrame it like this.

I'd be like, you know,like, "Hey, man"--

'cause I'm cool of course,so I said--

-I'd be like...-(Noah laughs)

I like your approachto scientists.

-"Hey, man."-Yeah, yeah.

"Hey, man, it's like,I'm not trying to contradict

"your view of reality'cause in all likelihood,

your view is mine." You know?-Yes.

"I just want to knowif there's any possibility

"or any likelihood thatwe are essentially wrong

about somethingthat's really meaningful?"

And then, because I didn't wantto seem like a crazy person,

I would always go,"I know some things

are off the table,like gravity."

-You know.-Yes.

And then, one guy,Brian Greene,

was like,"Well, no, it's not."

And then I thought to myself,"Well, this book may work."

If the thing I'm using as theunchangeable idea is changeable,

because, you know,for 2,000 years,

the idea that we have gravitywas Aristotle's idea,

when, like, science was kind ofinterlocked with philosophy,

and it was that, like,a rock doesn't float...

-Yup.-...because a rock wants

-to be on the ground.-Yes.

It has agency and craves theground because it wants to be

in the center of the universeand, of course, the Earth

is the center of the universe.

And then that all shiftedwith Newton and then Einstein,

but this idea we haveabout gravity now,

even though it seems so rationaland so, you know,

kind of accepted universally,it's 350 years old.

So we were wrongfor 2,000 years,

and now we're certainabout something whose life span

is still relatively short.

Is it possible that,in another 800 years,

this period will seem crazy?

It seems very possible to me,even though I don't necessarily

-know why that will happen.-Yeah.

That begs the question, though,

uh, or raises the question,rather,

uh, Donald Trump.

(audience laughter)


Could-could-could webe-be wrong?

Yeah, well,'cause that would be the thing.


Could-could we look back and go,

"Wh...he made America great again"?

It is...

It is sortof this terrifying idea

because it's like, well,

no one's going around saying,like,

"Well, if we can justget him in office,

it will be great--that's the problem."

-Like, there's the assumption,of course... -Yes.

-that he's the least qualified-Yes.

person possible to be this farin the race...


...and if he became president,

-it would somehow destroydemocracy... -Yes.

and yet, the thing is,

this is happeningbecause of democracy.

Like, we're worried about himdestroying democracy,

but the way this is set up,where anyone can be president.

-You don't have to be qualified.-Democracy...

So, the thing is, that would bethe thing we'd be wrong about,

if this happened.

So we need to destroy democracyto stop Donald Trump.

It is, uh... it's, yeah.

It's kind's-it's the paradox of living.

I think it's a priceworth paying.


But we just,you know, we just...

We believe democracy is great.

We even question it.

-We do, we do, though.-Yeah, yeah.

This is a powerful discussion.

I should have taken weedbefore we, uh...

Man, this is... You reallyneed to read the book.

-It's fascinating.-Yeah.

-Thank you so much for coming.-Thanks.

It's a fantastic read.

So many questions,so many answers.

But What if We're Wrong? is available now.

Chuck Klosterman, everybody!

(cheers and applause)