The truth, though, is that the evidence, so far, justifies neither conclusion. Neither side can claim, so far, to know what did and didn’t happen, what Kavannaugh did or didn’t do, more than three decades ago. The evidence warrants further investigation. Without such an investigation, the evidence can be combined with prior assumptions about Kavanaugh’s character to justify a belief in his guilt or innocence. But this is a mere belief, rooted in the conflicting assumptions of very different ideological communities, not knowledge.

The only responsible thing to do in such a situation — as opposed to the politically expedient thing to do — is either to suspend judgment or render it with suitable humility and skepticism. In my own case, I am tentatively inclined to believe Ford, but I’d greatly prefer to see some independent verification of at least some aspects of her story. Until such confirmation comes to light, I will withhold final judgment. A few of Kavanaugh’s defenders appear to be working to adopt an analogous position on the other side.

Suspending final judgment is hard, because it means keeping one’s mind open, and showing a willingness to change it, far longer than most people in our highly polarized time are willing to countenance. But it’s nonetheless the only honest response to a situation in which none of us really knows anything at all.