Thursday, 13 May 2010
This series is an atheist's review of an important anthology critical of Christian beliefs called, "The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails" (TCD), that is likely to be popularly discussed across the web. I'll be reviewing the book in light of just about every other response to TCD on the web (pros and cons) and responding to new Christian objections as I find them. I think this will be the best that I personally can contribute to improving the online dialogue between Christians and non-believers on popular battleground issues.
Chapter 4, "The Outsider Test for Faith Revisited" by John Loftus:
This chapter on the "outsider test for faith" (OTF) is John Loftus' home field, so to speak. He's covered the ground so many times in the past and there isn't a lot to disagree with here. The vast majority of what he says, he has learned to say well. The main idea here is that arguments for a worldview need to be geared towards persuading people who do not already agree with the position, rather than just having inherited a position and then defending it in ways that could defend any arbitrary position. Seems straight forward and common-sensical enough (and I agree with the Christian objections that this isn't really new), but certain issues do come up between atheists and Christians when various elements are over or underplayed. Please see atheist reviewer, Ken Pulliam's coverage of the strengths of the chapter.
To summarize the responses from Christian reviewers that I've responded to in this 99 page post of mine (I've responded to over 200 issues, so please see the table of contents for the overview): Looney rejected the OTF because he believed that it meant we would have to evaluate every single worldview before accepting one. Jayman777 accepted the gist of the OTF and then moved on presumably to show that his views passed it. Randal Rauser accepted the gist of the OTF, but went on to say that Loftus goes too far in presumption and not far enough with all other beliefs. Steve Hays rejects the OTF because he doesn’t think anyone is an outsider to the gist of his theistic/moral paradigm and that anyone who says otherwise is deliberately suppressing that knowledge. Jason Engwer accepted the gist of the OTF, but expressed that Loftus goes too far with it. Paul Manata rejects the OTF because he expected a “Socrates is mortal” kind of logical theorem rather than a probabilistic standard and he also bizarrely insisted that he would be cognitively impaired if he stopped thinking Christian thoughts. There is a lot of senseless nitpicking, and many instances of Christian reviewers putting forth "outsider tests for belief" that they think Loftus should address.
Contents of My Review (the "CliffsNote" version):Loftus revisits David Eller's chapter 1 and Jason Long's chapter 3: For Better and Worse?
Loftus seems to manage to retroactively save Long's chapter, and eventually says all the things Eller should have said in his chapter, but still quotes more Eller uncritically.I respond to Christian reviewer, Looney: Do we have to evaluate all possible worldviews before becoming an atheist?Loftus overstates a claim: Are all religions exclusivistic?
The short answer is no. One does not have to evaluate all possible worldviews in order to have a convincing case for a particular worldview.
Since a great many religions are not mutually exclusive (even in method), Loftus' OTF is left a bit fuzzier than he presents it.I respond to Christian reviewer, jayman777: What about religious people who convert for thoughtful reasons?
I tediously show how Loftus creates unnecessary problems for himself by lingering on this issue rather than directing readers to an actual intellectual battleground. This creates the appearance of a "no-true-rationalist" fallacy.Loftus overstates a claim: Are Christians and atheists too delusional to get it right?
I respond to Christian reviewer, Paul Manata: Is Loftus' application of the OTF to Christianity incoherent?
Short answer: No. Manata pulls two Loftus quotes out of context.
I respond to Christian reviewer, Steve Hays: Is the OTF unfair because of Loftus' mission in life?
Appeal to motives doesn't invalidate a fair standard.
Human psychology seems to be portrayed as completely helpless and it's no surprise that Christians get the idea that they are supposed to "snap out of it" because we hypocritically said so.Loftus is too simplistic:
Are Christians really methodological naturalists when it comes to other religions?
I imagine most Christian intellectuals who will read this book will likely not be so strictly confined. And even if they are, long standing apologetic alternative supernatural explanations are not hard for them to find.
I respond to Hays: Do many Muslims claim that demons inspired Christianity just like many Christians claim demons inspired Islam?
Hays bizarrely tries to deny it with a few variations of hairsplitting, but fails.
I respond to Christian reviewer, Jason Engwer: How does the OTF apply to appeals to modern paranormal phenomena?
If mainstream science or scholarship was against the position of your opponents, typically you'd dismiss them outright.
I respond to Hays:
Hays wants to portray it as covert atheism even though it is the most responsible open ended research program possible even if some version of supernaturalism happens to be true.If Hays really wants to put Hiter 'staches on atheists for saying that gods, angels, devils, and magic aren't common ground, more power to him (to the demise of his credibility, that is).Um...no...but supernatural things have to be admitted by all to at least be rare.The materialistic world is our common ground and explaining why it is the way it is is a debate to be had.Should distant third-parties who believe in the miraculous on this absentee basis?Perhaps when Christians solve the problem of induction that will be a fair question.
What about the psychological probability about whether every Christian who claims to have seen a miracle is delusional?Without consistency of standards (a la OTF), every cloud of anecdotal hearsay would generate an ontological artifact from Bigfoot to UFOs.Have they happened yet? Have they happened yet? Have they happened yet? No. Hmmm...miracles seem rare [begin conversation over again]How can methodological naturalism have precedence over supernaturalism when there are also many competing naturalistic worldviews?The materialistic world is literally our backyard, the differences between views on them is not so great, and all naturalistic worldviews would be falsified with the vindication of just one supernatural claim.Shouldn't the best explanation in any case have precedence?
When ambiguity and probability are not relevant factors Hays point here would matter. Obviously if we have good evidence, then we have good evidence.
No, but Loftus' inference was not completely unjustified since Hays is known for making those kinds of accusations.Is all Christian anecdotal evidence of the miraculous so easily invalidated?I respond to jayman777:
Loftus blows off a huge issue in 9 words.
To an extent, when required.I would hope so.Yes, but not quite Loftus' version of it. See Richard Carrier's response instead.
I respond to Christian reviewer, Randal Rauser:
Would an OTB on perceptual fallacies mean we should treat all of our perception as probably false?
Yes. Fortunately, OTBs can be passed.
Should we apply the OTB to politics and ethics?
Yes. Next stupid question.
If we applied an OTB to politics would we all have to be anarchists?
No, it just means we can't treat our inherited political system as necessarily the gospel truth.
Should people explore other political viewpoints?
Yes. Next stupid question.
Should people build entire worldviews based on consistent standards of evidence?Yes. Next stupid question.I respond to Hays:
Is the OTF unfair to Christians while letting atheists off the hook?
No, because the default setting is agnosticism and guess what, epistemology is hard.
No and Loftus never said it was.Yes, and that's what science is for (to rigorously pass difficult OTBs).Is Loftus inconsistent when he says that atheists can't take an outsider test because there are too many other perspectives out there?Not really, since it doesn't take much to become an agnostic insider.
How much should geographical distribution matter to apply the OTF?
Responsible people subject all their most important beliefs to scrutiny so it doesn't really matter what the exact thresholds are.
Why is Steve Hays so dense?
Using various quotes from Hays, I demonstrate some of the reasons why this is such a difficult conversation to have with him.Did Loftus never consider an OTB?
Hays bizarrely pretends like this issue wasn't already explained in Loftus' chapter.Is Ben's unquestionable axiom methodological atheism?
Rather than impress us with his smashing sense of fairness, Hays merely makes accusations he can't back up.Isn't pointing out inconsistencies in your opponent's position a basic element of refutation?
Sure, but in this case, if Loftus is personally inconsistent that doesn't tell anyone else whether they should be or not, so it's just an irrelevant personal attack.
Is James McGrath a faithless axe-grinder?Hays appears to be offended by McGrath's use of the Golden Rule in terms of being fair with competing religious claims.Hays demonizes agnosticism as though every possible position is equally biased just because it can be called a position.
Are Hays' beliefs exempt from the OTF if he doesn't advocate the standard himself?
I can't seem to find anywhere in the laws of logic where it says it's okay for only Steve Hays to assert his conclusion.Are there no outsiders to the fundamental truths of Christianity?
Hays' real problem with the OTF is that he thinks we all already know he is right.Is the position of agnosticism cheating if there is all that evidence for a god?
If there is so much evidence for a god, then there's no reason that evidence cannot be presented to pass the OTF for those of us who are "confused."Should Hays even be trying to connect with his audience?
One wonders what the point is if not.Hays can't just assume we all have the same intuitions and so if the arguments from natural theology actually work, they can be presented to pass the OTF.
Is it hypocrisy for Hays to make sweeping statements about every nonbeliever, but object when nonbelievers do that about believers?
Yes, especially when he can't prove that he is in a position to know better and can easily be shown to ignore immediate contrary evidence to fit his ideological prejudice.Even if atheism has no moral basis, that doesn't mean Christians can be hypocritical on their own terms.I'm defending the premise of the OTF that says the vast majority of them probably did and that any further unseen mechanisms (like the Holy Spirit) would have to be justified with arguments that have more prima facie weight than the assumption of enculturalization.
Do proponents of the OTF have Hays' best interests at heart?
I don't think consistent rational thinking is going to kill Hays and plenty of people survive the journey to nonbelief.Does everyone have to rigorously justify their worldview to have justified beliefs?
No, but if you are going to make claims well beyond the realm of human expertise (or include a lot of "I'm not that sures"), then you have to have your worldview justifications sorted out.Does the Christian god jump start everyone with clear knowledge of his existence?
The Bible says that demons know Yahweh exists and shudder, but can all humans be expected to do the same kind of confidence-based shuddering?How does Ben know he's not a brain-in-a-vat?Is it okay for Hays to make statements about the mental states of unbelievers since he has Divine Revelation on his side?
Hays avoids taking responsibility for his claim that he knows the mental states of nonbelievers with this philosophical red herring that has been addressed elsewhere.
Am I allowed to say I have a crystal ball that tells me Christianity is false (and that Hays knows it) without actually proving it?
If Hays has such arguments on his blog, then he should be able to present them to pass the OTF.Are nonbelievers who claim that they don't know that a god exists just like criminals who deny their guilt?Since Hays presents no evidence to pass the OTF, he can't quite justify calling us criminals, now can he?Hays said we all know it's true, so yes.People live in a lot of different kinds of mental states all the time and the evidence from nonbelievers (and everyone else) reflects this spectrum.If Loftus can say that all Christians are delusional why can't Hays say that all nonbelievers are living in denial of the truths of theism?Hays doesn't think he has to present any evidence to show this, whereas Loftus does (in addition to probably allowing for people being honestly mistaken, whereas there's no such thing for Hays on nonbelievers).Some do, but not all of them.Why would moral relativists like Loftus, Eller, and Avalos spend so much time trying to convince others to believe and behave like they do?Even when atheists aren't moral relativists, Hays just has an excuse for that as well.
Aren't moral relativists who act inconsistently trying to evade an unwelcome truth?
Having a somewhat inconsistent moral paradigm is normal for pretty much everyone and hardly evidence they know Hays' god exists.Doesn't our fallen human nature explain why believers can be found to struggle with the existence of the Christian god?
Wouldn't that give humanity an excuse for not knowing that a god exists since our mental faculties are corrupted beyond our control?
Is the lack of denial of the existence of physical objects a bad example to compare to the denial of the existence of a god?
It can't be a bad example since the existence of a god is supposed to be clear and we are supposed to be without excuse.
Wouldn't a better example be the existence of the past?Don't unbelievers often act crazy?
To even have a conversation everyone recognizes the necessary trust we put in belief in the past and theists can only hope to argue like that for a god's utility in much more ambiguous philosophical territory.
Not proportionately more so than believers, as far as I know.What's the difference between natural theology and natural revelation?
Hays says he's appealing to revelation, but that's an interpretation based on whether or not the arguments from natural theology actually work.Can't there be subliminal inferences from natural revelation that are more primary than the arguments from natural theology?
How are we supposed to know what the correct subliminal inferences are when they differ unless the arguments from natural theology actually work?Does Hays not have to explain how he knows that all nonbelievers are living in denial, because the OTF is a cookie-cutter standard?
The OTF is open to any Christian who doesn't fit the "mold" to pass it, and Hays still has to explain how he knows the divine revelation he appeals to is genuine.Christian beliefs are not conservative claims about reality (that are well outside the realm of human expertise) and many people have different kinds of innate intuitions and subliminal mental processes contrary to Christian doctrine.Since TID is only meant to be apologetic defense, does Hays need to unpack any of the evidence for belief in divine revelation since it is secondary anyway?
Hays is just arguing for his right to not justify why Christians believe since he believes his actual arguments are secondary.Why doesn't Ben just read the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology if he's so interested in the arguments from natural theology?
I am already reading that book, but that doesn't mean those arguments are convincing.Can't natural revelation entail inferential knowledge and/or innate knowledge?
Either way makes no difference to the overall criticism.Politics: Isn't the OTF just a juvenile dare to take an unfair test?
There's nothing juvenile or unfair about epistemic responsibility.Didn't Ben misrepresent Hays' argument against atheistic epistemic duties?What kind of argument would it take to properly address the OTF?
Hays doesn't understand that he is appealing to motivations to care about the truth and erroneously assumes such motivations have to be absolute to be sufficient (or principled) motivations.
How can atheists shame or praise a person's relationship to their epistemic duties?
Since Christians supposedly share the value of truth, any Christian who fails to live up to that standard intentionally should be considered shameful regardless of whether shame is justified outside of that context.Is it Ben's fault that the discussion is personal?
No one is twisting Hays' arm to take the OTF, but if someone wants to know my opinion on how shameful it is to neglect your epistemic duties, my answer is available.
Instead of Hays' misapprehension of the framing of Loftus' argument, I suggest the basic template response I think that a responsible Christian ought to take.Aren't Christians being justified in what they believe and convincing nonbelievers to become believers separate issues?
Not really, since the reasons that you present to yourself to believe should be pretty much the same ones you present to someone else.Does Hays legitimize religious experience in general?
He says he doesn't, but then doesn't tell us how to tell Christian religious experiences from other brands of religious experiences.
Do prophetic dreams have to be religious?
No, and I never said otherwise.Is the argument from religious experience sufficient to justify belief in a god or is it inconclusive?
I compare Hays' position to Kai-man Kwan's from the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology.Is there anything wrong with looking for confirmation of a subjective experience?
No, but the perils of confirmation bias need to be taken seriously.Dreams: Do we have to be able to justify subjective experiences like dreams that no one else can verify?
Verification from categorically analogous subjective experiences will do.
Isn't it easy to confirm that a dream is prophetic?
Dumb luck needs to be distinguished from actual prophetic accuracy.Aren't some things too coincidental to be merely coincidental?
Possibly, but keep in mind that humans are horrible statistics machines.Isn't rigorous correspondence arbitrary?
There are different ways to verify that dreams are prophetic and rigorous correspondence over time is one of them if the dreams in and of themselves are somewhat vague.Couldn't a dream about the future be allegorical?
There could be many types of prophetic dreams, but the more abstract, the more difficult it will be to sort fact from fictional correspondence.What about Joseph's dream about the 7 year famine in Egypt?
That story is hearsay and irrelevant to the conversation.
Isn't it solipsistic to be distrusting of your experiences?
Shouldn't we trust the experiences that show how fallible and unreliable our minds can be?Isn't an argument from experience meant to only be convincing to the person having it?
Formerly religious people have had what seem to be analogous religious experiences that they didn't believe they could justify as genuine.Don't apologists also turn to public lines of evidence?Doesn't the Bible have an explanation for religious confusion?
Then why not present that evidence to pass the OTF?Doesn't it cut equally against atheism if the brain is capable of generating all sorts of anomalous experiences?
No, because atheists aren't appealing to explicitly atheist experiences.Doesn't a god have to come to us through subjective experiences since there is no other way for us to exist?
Hays misses the point and pretends like there are no distinctions to be made along a spectrum of more subjective than not.Doesn't raw experience not interpret itself?
The brain has many filters to process the experiences and yet not all conscious methodologies are created equal.
Having an explanation isn't the same thing as having the best explanation.No, I argue that respecting free will can't be more morally important than respecting the need for solid information to make those choices.
Superstition and Barbarism: Is there no such thing as a superstitious person?Hays gets offended when Loftus calls the people in Biblical times superstitious as though it doesn't point out genuine methodological distinctions in thought patterns between even modern Christians and the cultures of ancient Bible times.Just being defensive and offended doesn't make the issue go away since again, there are genuine behavioral distinctions between the social norms of the ancients and even modern Christians.
Does Loftus make no effort to apply his tests consistently to the category of superstition and barbarism?
Real differences remain between Biblically endorsed superstition and barbarism and modern Christian standards.
Can't the Bible merely record superstition that it doesn't necessarily embrace?
Sure, but what about the apparent superstition and barbarism that it does embrace?Does a Christian have to take responsibility for Scripture since they didn't write it?
Christians have to take responsibility for their acceptance of Scripture.Hasn't Hays, in his blog, already responded head on to charges of superstition and barbarism in the Bible?
Hays may well have done so on his blog in the past or even on Avalos chapter later in TCD, but that only reinforces that Loftus' challenge is a genuine issue.Can moral relativists make charges of barbarism?
They can make internal criticisms to show the inconsistency and they can also make claims based on their frame of reference that Christians may happen to share.Doesn't Hays address Carrier's moral realism later in TID?
I will take up the conversation later in my review series then.
Are atheistic moral realists inconsistent and haven't even plenty of secular writers convincingly refuted that position?
Hays needs to show that there is an inconsistency and that the arguments from those other atheists actually work.Hasn't Hays already dealt with the issue of the internal critique of a moral relativist?
I will take up the conversation later in my review series then.Holy Spirits: Do Mormons have a genuine self-authenticating inner spiritual witness to their faith?
Hays tries to defend Plantinga's idea of properly basic religious beliefs, but basically avoids the main issue with technicalities which Christians ignore in practice.
Hays never explains why he thinks this is the case.We give human minds, the past, possible worlds, numbers, and morals more credit because they are much more universally defensible in one way or another than a particular kind of god.Should we automatically discount the appeal to tacit knowledge or self-authenticating mental states?No, I pointed out when we need to raise the standards accordingly since mutually exclusive propositions are getting in via similar means.Hays isn't very helpful since he doesn't bother showing us how anyone would know their self-validating religious feelings beat other people's contrary self-validating feelings in a world where none of them have to correspond to any supernatural reality.Does Loftus fail to draw an elementary distinction between true and false claims about one’s experience?It should have been obvious from context that Loftus is generally on the same page as me.Probably not, but the vagueness hardly helps the case for the supposed reality behind the experience.Aren't professional religious philosophers much more responsible with their claims about religious experiences?They certainly can be, but the particular philosopher from the Blackwell Companion that Hays referenced does not make as strong of claims as he does.This is irrelevant since there is a multitude of religious people who do and this is the brand of justification that we are talking about.
Do all religious people need their subjective religious justifications to remain untested?
Hays overtly argues Christians shouldn't have to challenge their basic justifications.Isn't it responding to TCD on its own terms to show that a subjective religious experience can be a perfectly valid reason to believe something?
No, because Christians won't believe every similar justification and they need to apply their standards consistently.What does it mean to “take responsibility” for something that’s not common ground?
It's called debate, Steve.Scoring the Outsider Test: Does Hays object to the OTF because he knows his faith can't pass it?Hays claims that the OTF is lopsided and that it presupposes Christians don't already know Christianity is true.Did Loftus smuggle atheism into the OTF?
Only because Hays can't part with the idea of Jesus in even hypothetical terms.Hays confirms that he is uncritical with the inner witness of the Holy Spirit since he calls it a given.Of course the debate is about what the experience means, not whether there has been an experience or not.Skeptics are pointing out that self-authenticating experiences of a god aren't so self-authenticating after all or that whatever is supposed to be self-authenticating about it doesn't likely have anything to do with correspondence to a real god.Yes, one that is all in your head, just like a god.
Would we not apply Loftus' standards in any other field of inquiry?
Just how does Hays think science gets done anyway? By asserting your conclusion and not having to prove anything?Does Loftus prejudge believing in the Christian faith as "gullible?"
No, it's explained why in the premises of the OTF.Therefore let's not be skeptical about Christianity, okay?
Does Loftus need to justify all of his beliefs via the OTB before he applies the OTF to Christianity?
Only if we pretend like there's no possible common ground to work with.
Doesn't Loftus need to justify epistemic duties with an OTB?
Hays believes that atheism undermines a genuine interest in truth.If life just ends, doesn't that affect one's capacity to enjoy it in the meantime?
It might for some people, but not for others.Are Christians proverbial cry-babies if they can't accept a mortal life without an afterlife clause?What if you know that after your amazing vacation you will be kidnapped and tortured?
It is understandable to be disappointed from a particular frame of reference you are used to, but unacceptable to fail to recognize that other people can flourish under purely naturalistic assumptions.
With this analogy Hays bizarrely confuses what happens in an atheist's worldview with what happens in his Biblical Christian worldview.Hays says no, but the Bible says few will be saved.Even so, wouldn't the threat of hell on yourself be enough motivation to ignore the rest of the damned?If we are just picking appealing worldviews, one would not choose this divine extortion and predominantly unhappy never-ending.How can you avoid hell by becoming an atheist?
Hays fails to understand the "choose your favorite scenario" aspect of the conversation and presumes Christianity is still true.Doesn't Robert Adams provide concrete examples of grounding epistemic duties in his two monographs on the subject?
But as an atheist isn't there no obligation to deny that a god exists?
A hypothetical grounding isn't a grounding without proof of existence and Hays acts like there some obligation to scorn the truth no matter how indispensable a lifelong utility truth is.
It appears he grounds morality in the concept of appraised excellence, but he doesn't seem to prove a god exists or tell us why the concept of excellence cannot be appreciated in its own right on naturalistic terms.
Hays appears to want to say any motivation that is not absolute is unprincipled, but he does not bother defending that unjustified assumption.
Hays invents necessary suffering for all the nonbelievers he's never met.
Don't atheists just distract themselves from this misery and live a lie?
Yes, Steve, it's a conspiracy of wanton happiness.Aren't the rules of an atheist's life artificial?
If Christianity is false, then surely living a fake Christian life would deserve the title "artificial."Is Ben's contribution to this cultural conversation foolish?
Maybe, but it can't be more foolish than Hays' responses.Does Loftus need to show us in detail how each and every person on earth came to their religious conclusions?No, probabilities will do, and it doesn't matter since if Loftus is mistaken, presenting the reasons that these religious people have for their beliefs by definition passes the OTF.We should treat religious texts with the same standards based on their actual implicit merits.
Don't cultural influences, psychological gimmicks, cognitive biases, and double standards cut equally against atheism?
In context, Hays is the one defending his right not to be sufficiently critical, as well as advocating a degree of certainty in terms of metaphysics well beyond any human's expertise.Can anyone rise above biases or are all appeals doomed to superficiality?
Hays defaults to incredulity and misrepresentation in order to say that atheists like me believe all critical thinking is necessarily social conditioning that can't be corrected or improved upon.Does Ben fault TID for succeeding?!
It is obvious that I freely fault and praise TCD and TID where each succeed and/or fail, if only Hays wasn't so intent on ignoring evidence contrary to his convenient narratives of the discussion.
Does Loftus misrepresent Hays by claiming that Hays admitted he only has assumptions and not good reasons?Technically yes, but practically no. Hays assumes his theistic tacit knowledge is genuine without argument and so Loftus is vindicated in the end.
Does Hays owe Loftus a spiritual autobiography?
Explaining why one has good reasons to declare things about the mental states of an entire people group wouldn't be a bad idea.Does TCD declare that Christians are psychotic?
No, Loftus specifically goes out of his way to say the opposite.If Hays has been defending the Christian faith online since 2004 where has Ben been?
Being an intellectually honest agnostic and atheist blogger since 2005. :)Does TCD fail to define delusion?
Nope, Hays just missed it.If Christianity is culturally conditioned how can it fit the standard definition of delusional that states delusion is counter-cultural?Unless Hays wants to say that non-believing countries aren't delusional, he's going to have to accept a slight tweak to the definition as well.Is there no prima facie presumption that Hays' Christian faith flies in the face of the evidence since he has subjected the TCD to sustained replies?Technically that would make Hays even more delusional than your average Christian (if Christianity is false) since he is literally flying in the face of a great deal of the evidence and argument against his position.
Hays' version of attacking it on its own terms was grossly superficial and even the further replies here lack any indication that substance will follow.Is TID at the same level as TCD?
I have to say that if TCD aimed low (which wasn't consistently the case), TID aimed even lower and didn't help the case for Christians not being delusional.They can be I'm sure, but attacking them doesn't help Hays here or prove that there aren't Christians who are pathetically trying to hold on intellectually to wish fulfillment.More politics: Does it make sense to trivialize intellectual difficulties of Christianity when presented by an atheist even if apologetics is dedicated to helping Christians with many of those same difficulties?Hays seems to think that the difference between defensive and offensive apologetic strategies he says he employs entitles him to conveniently misrepresent the truth.I don't know what Hays is referring to since they have zero kills by my count (whereas I have hundreds here). :)Isn't it a hollowing bullying appeal to intellectual integrity unless an atheist can justify moral realism?
Hays seems to erroneously think that his disagreement with me over naturalistic moral realism has some impact on my motives.
Does Steve need Ben to affirm him?
I don't recall saying he did.
Is Ben over-focused on the OTF?
I'm only as focused on Hay' criticisms of the OTF as much as Hays is, since I'm covering all the chapters of TCD as well.
Should Hays let Loftus off the hook because of the more sensible things Ben advocates?
Hays doesn't explain why he seems to think every atheist has to pay for Loftus' exaggerations or why we can't both elevate the collective conversation despite historical sins on both sides.
Sh'ld yee shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite?
I respond to Engwer:
Does a god have to convince people into belief objectively?
If a god wants a confused world where it's impossible to conclude the Christian worldview is true in a responsible way, then no.Do skeptical impressions have to always trump positive impressions of Christianity?
No, but often when addressed together impartially, there isn't much room for a positive belief in the Christian worldview.
Does Loftus go too far with this OTF?
Engwer notes there is some truth to what Loftus is advocating here, but that some aspects are unhealthy overkill. I basically agree.
I respond to Manata:
Does Loftus need to pass 20,000 more OTFs to be consistent?
Not if the overlap of the Christianities dies one death.
Is the OTF a logical truth or a theorem?
It's a probabilistic rule of thumb designed to simply illustrate a typical religious person's inability to be consistent with their standards of evidence and avoid special pleading they'd never accept anywhere else.
How does Loftus get a "highly likely" from a "very likely?"
Manata corrects the equivalent of a typo! Yay!
If all religions are probably false, then why bother even taking the OTF?
If you'd like to believe the one you've inherited is honestly true despite the odds, then evaluating it impartially makes perfect sense.
Can't Christianity still be true despite the initial low probability against it?
Yes, just like every other worldview might be true.
Does Loftus' OTF commit the genetic fallacy still?
Manata seems to be under the impression we are likely to learn new math skills from taking drugs.
Doesn't the Bible say we're supposed to know Christianity is true by the Holy Spirit?
Do you listen to con artists and apply the investment justifications suggested by infomercials?
Isn't the OTF beside the point if you can just present good reasons why Christianity is false?
Presenting reasons Christianity is false is an extension of using consistent standards of evidence and often times mere consistency of standards is what entails that Christianity is false.
Isn't the OTF too vague?
Only if words don't mean things.
Who would take an "outsider test for philosophy" if it had the same structure as the OTF and what standards would we apply?
I would hope so! And whatever standards we'd apply, hopefully they'd be consistent.
Is Loftus' OTF conclusion related to his OTF premises?
If being probably correct about your worldview is your goal, then yes.
Does Loftus disagree with Tarico on whether humans are rational?
Yes, if the Bible contradicts itself when it gives conflicting advice about answering a fool according to his folly. [In other words, no.]
Aren't a large majority of our culturally inherited beliefs also perfectly rational?
The ones we can verify independently certainly are.
Does the OTF get rid of original thinkers?
Yes, just like health care reform means the government is going to kill grandma.
Are some religions more probable than others?
If only we were allowed to have an opinion on that.
Should we treat beliefs that have a low probability of being true as probably false?
By definition, yes.
Is Manata defending his right to be inconsistent with his standards?
It sure does seem like it.
Would Manata be in a state of cognitive paralysis if he took the OTF?
Most definitely. :) But a more reasonable person wouldn't.
Would Loftus take a test to see if his cognitive faculties are reliable?
If he could, he would, but that doesn't give religion a pass.
Does Loftus prove that Manata holds double standards?
Loftus' chapter was mostly about setting the standard, not applying it, or addressing every nuance of Manata's personal convictions.
Is Christianity the only reason we can know anything (as C. S. Lewis said)?
Lewis' unverifiable perspective appears to deny the experience of others.
What happens to the OTF when people vastly agree about things at the expense of atheism?
The reverse of the OTF is not blind acceptance of popular beliefs, especially when those beliefs are beyond the realm of human expertise.Should we evaluate our moral values as outsiders, should Loftus test the "kill babies for fun" moral theory, and are moral relativists in denial of substantial moral common ground across cultural barriers?
Manata manages to address his own materialistic anxieties if only he'd read himself in context of his other related statements.
Does Loftus' OTF fail at every level?Nope. Manata's rebuttal does though.
I respond to Manata's 1st response to Loftus:
Should Manata care that he personally inspired the OTF?I respond to Manata's 2nd response to Loftus:
Maybe. Jesus might be mad.
Why can't Loftus see that Manata just wants to point out that the OTF is so horrible?
Perhaps because just about everything Manata has brought up is pretty trivial?
Is Loftus the equivalent of a religious zealot?
Maybe, but it doesn't invalidate the OTF.
Did Loftus reject every Christianity with his insider test for faith?
Manata didn't show that Loftus' ITF didn't invalidate important aspects of most mainstream Christianities.
Would Plantinga's extended A/C model make Loftus premise 2 false?
Not really, but Manata should be proving we have mental god detectors rather than lamely criticizing the OTF.
Is there still no connection between premise 1 and premise 2 of Loftus' OTF?
Premise 2 is pretty much contained in premise one.
Should religious beliefs be justified by other beliefs?
All beliefs are subject to the checks and balances of other beliefs.
Is a possibility a probability?
Quibbling is quibbling.
Is someone holding a winning lottery ticket rational for believing they have it despite the odds against that being true?
The OTB would apply before you know the winning numbers. Showing the winning numbers is the equivalent of passing the OTB.
Is the OTF too uninteresting to take seriously?
Oh, it's boring as hell, but then again many important things are.
Can Loftus appeal to Eller, Tarico, and Long if he has not responded to TID criticisms of those previous chapters?
No, but I did.
Does Loftus admit that some religions are more probable than others.
Yes, but I didn't.
Did Loftus tell us why all religions are equipossible?
No, but I did.
Would Manata's brain still explode if he ever dared take the OTF?
Yes. And that's exactly why we want him to take it immediately. :D
Loftus' scientism blunder?Outro: My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Loftus actually advocates "weak scientism" but he is too easily quote-mine-able otherwise.Loftus gets it wrong: Was the atheist, Carl Sagan, making an extraordinary claim when he asserts that the cosmos is all there is?
The short answer: Yes, he was. Insert agnosticism instead.
Despite the polemical missteps, the vast majority of what Loftus says works just fine.
It was good to see Loftus say something sensible on the very page after Jason Long's overblown chapter (page 81):Complete neutrality as sort of a blank-slate type of condition, while desirable, is practically impossible...
A statement like that or two right in the middle of Long's chapter would have gone a long way to resolving some of its issues (though I'd prefer if all relevant statements were crafted carefully in light of this). On the other hand, it seems unfortunate that Loftus puts David Eller's issues from chapter one back on the table (page 82-83, quoting Eller from "Atheism Advanced"):...the diversity of religion forces us to see religion as a culturally relative phenomenon; different groups have different religions that appear adapted to their unique social and even environmental conditions. But if their religion is relative, then why is ours not?" [bold emphasis mine]
I was hoping to forget about chapter 1. Again, it's those intellectual arguments intellectual religious people believe they have. This is nearly a type of denialism on Eller's part (and unfortunately Loftus channels some more of this unnecessary theme later in the chapter). "You don't have arguments, because I disagree with them." "You didn't think things through, because I concluded differently." Etc. And who knows, maybe that will even turn out to be exactly the case. But in the meantime (What are these arguments anyway? We don't even know yet!) do atheists not have arguments because intellectual theists don't agree with those? If Eller had said, "...the diversity of religion strongly suggests we should see religion as a culturally relative phenomenon," and left the door open for debate, I wouldn't still be accusing him and Richard Carrier of assuming their conclusion and insulting every Christian intellectual who will read this book.
Further, if one is not careful (and Loftus way overstated his rebuttals in his debate with D'Souza that I went to, for example), Eller's kind of argument ends up looking like this: "Your religion is false because there are other religions." Eller's formulation is basically the worst way to put that kind of argument and it could have easily been dropped in favor of the more sensible things that Loftus says (page 92, 99):How do you know your religion isn't the false one and theirs the true one? Only by passing the OTF can you know. [...] I allow that a religion could still pass the OTF even despite its unreliable origins [...] At best there can only be one true religion in what we observe to be a sea of hundreds of false ones, which entails a very high rate of error for how believers first adopt a religion. Hence, believers need some further test to be sure their faith is the correct one. [...] I'm not arguing that religious faiths are necessarily false because of how believers originally adopt them. I'm merely arguing that believers should be skeptical of their culturally adopted religious faith because of it.
If atheists don't overstate the point, I think that can easily make a lot of sense to Christians like jayman777:I don’t have a huge disagreement with Loftus on this point but I think we should be wary of being too skeptical because there are such differences. [...] I agree with Loftus that the OTF does not commit the genetic fallacy for it leaves open the possibility that a religion is true despite its origins.
And Christians like Randal Rauser:[The OTF] is a challenge to people who hold to religious faith of whatever sort to approach their beliefs with the objective, critical distance of an outsider. Loftus wants believers to take this challenge because he is convinced that if they do they will likely find themselves rejecting whatever faith it is that they hold. [...] I agree that we ought to think about our beliefs from an outsider's perspective.
Another Christian reviewer, Looney, did go a bit overboard:This OTF, however, would essentially ban all humans from making any decision to either adapt or change religion - Mr. Loftus included! How many Phl.d's would we need to process all the religions along with arguments pro/con? We can't even choose atheism, because there might be a religion out there that passes his test!
Loftus repeatedly states that the default position is agnosticism (pages 88, 98). The advocates and defenders of any single worldview are being asked to properly respect the actual epistemic hurdles they need to clear. If they are using defensive plastic arguments that could work for any worldview, why should that be considered to be sufficiently convincing that your worldview is actually true? It doesn't mean every imaginable worldview needs to be analyzed in order to make a properly convincing case for one we are already aware of. That's where Looney goes wrong. Loftus' formulation of the OTF does suffer slightly from relying on too easy of a gimmick to inspire sufficient critical thinking. It's not like we'd have no reason to question an inherited worldview if in fact it was the only one we'd ever heard of. I'll bet there have been natural skeptics in every obscure cultural nook of human history. But it certainly helps that we are heavily aware of a great deal of "proof of concept" for how to get worldview building drastically wrong, given the "lab experiments" of the many religions that we can see have been generated in many different human cultures.
Fortunately, near the end of Looney's review, he does happen to notice:...John is right to say that agnosticism is the most likely conclusion of a robust Skepticism.
However, to return to Loftus' quotes above (from page 99), even there we do find Loftus overstating other things. Not all religions have to be 100% wrong for one to be 100% right. There are many varieties of "natural religion" which allow for the adoption of the epistemological foundation of the religious experiences of other religions. Granted, we can still push Loftus' point into that (since that foundation isn't necessarily a good one), but the picture can be a great deal fuzzier than how Loftus is portraying if we aren't talking about the rigidly exclusive monotheistic religions that have severe penalties built in for any deviation from official creed. Christian apologist, David Marshall sure didn't approve:John assumes that Christianity is limited to a zero-sum or "exclusivist" view of religions. As an authority on how Christianity relates to other religions, I think this is terribly simplistic.
Indeed. And we have to be more cautious here, since Christian reviewers, like Jeremy can make counter arguments like this:Let’s pretend there are 100,000 systems of belief which posit a god or gods, and 1 system of belief which posits no god — atheism. Are the odds that there is a god or gods, or that there isn’t? If I had to side with the disdained argument from consensus, I’d have to go with saying that the odds are that there is some sort of god. The fact that they disagree over what god does not overrule the fact that they agree there is a god.
Loftus brackets positive claims into the supernatural unknown in their own special probability category because of their overwhelming lack of verifiability. It doesn't make a lot of sense to toss agnosticism into that mix as though verifying your mental state of ignorance is that related or relevant here (see my response to Manata on a similar objection). So it's not a popularity vote, but rather a referendum on folks that are taking their inherited far-reaching claims too seriously.
Liberal Christian reviewer, jayman777, rightly points out:Even if we assume that most converts to Christianity have not critically examined the religion, that does not entail that no converts critically examined the religion. And let us not forget that there are people who convert to Christianity despite the fact that they know it will lead to persecution or even death. Eventually the atheist must confront the question of how these people, even if they are a minority, became Christians.
The applied definition of "critical examination" is going to differ from person to person (even though that doesn't mean everyone is correct about their definition). For Loftus to be consistent, obviously he's going to conclude, no matter which demographic is thrown at him, that those Christians didn't really pass his OTF. They just thought they did and were mistaken. It's pointless to even ask, and everyone seems to be admitting Loftus' point holds true in general. The ONLY way to actually resolve who is really applying a "critical examination" that in fact passes the OTF is to dive into the actual critical examination. Meanwhile, it is also pointless to linger here, but Loftus keeps taking us back there anyway before we move on to other chapters.
Looney basically agrees with me:The existence of disputes means nothing. You have to look at the content. [...] Skepticism, however, isn't all there is to Reason. We must also look to the overall consistency of the world view, as it looks at all religions, atheism, God and man.
Looney makes a slew of vague claims in his response to Loftus and asserts many things that don't deal directly with this particular chapter (so I'm going to leave them alone for now). It looks kind of like a brainstorm of what Looney might label "critical examination" in response to the prominent (and unnecessary) accusation of this chapter that Christians just don't do that (in a non-delusional way). So we'll move on.
Christian philosopher, Victor Reppert is supposed to be wrong when he claims (Loftus quotes him on page 102):If what it is to be skeptical is just to entertain skeptical questions about one's beliefs, to subject them to scrutiny, to take seriously possible evidence against them and to task what reasons can be given for them, then I have been performing the outsider test since 1972.
Nuh uh! Isn't that what I'm supposed to say, John? Unfortunately we are still lingering here. And we have to tell Reppert that all those hours "thinking" about things, really didn't happen. Loftus in his concluding argument of the chapter claims (page 103):Believers are simply in denial when they claim their religious faith passes the OTF.
Thanks Loftus. We don't need to declare intellectual victory just yet in the book. If one doesn't leave the actual argument part open-ended you're bound to keep getting follow-up objections like this from Christians like jayman777:It is that, even if the rule is true, the atheist is still left needing to explain how some people convert to Christianity even after critically examining its tenets and in the face of severe social pressure to reject the faith.
Paul Manata over on Triablogue pointed out the apparent "no-true-rationalist" fallacy and then attempted to point out a specific contradiction in Loftus' rhetoric:...John Loftus writes:
As I have argued, the only kind of religion that might possibly pass this test is one that embraces some kind of nebulous god (although I don't think one exists).
Christianity, for instance, could pass the OTF.
[...] These two claims are incoherent (on the reasonable assumption that Loftus isn't as ignorant as to think Christianity "embraces some kind of nebulous god"). Necessarily ~p contradicts possibly p
Loftus is only guilty of having already thought through the OTF for himself in regards to Christianity. The two quotes are speaking in two different senses: a priori versus a posteriori. Loftus is saying, on the one hand (in the second quote), there is nothing a priori that prevents Christianity from passing the OTF. He's trying to show that it is a fair test and then challenging up and coming Christian thinkers to actually apply it. However, when Christians come to him and tell him they have applied it and it has passed, he compares his a posteriori conclusions to theirs (hence we get the first quote). And of course, in a world full of disputes about everything at all levels, we expect disagreement there. The OTF is not a magic formula for making everyone who thinks they are using it think consistently.
Engwer adds:There's some truth to what Loftus is saying. But many of the people he interacts with in apologetic contexts have tested their faith to some extent, even if they didn't do so before adopting their faith. He can criticize those people for not testing their beliefs earlier. And the fact that they were late in doing it does raise the question of whether they tested their faith sufficiently. Maybe their prior involvement in that faith distorted their testing. But maybe it didn't, or maybe the testing was sufficient to overcome the distorting effects.
I expect Christians to dispute Loftus' a posteriori conclusions based on application of the OTF to Christianity, but I don't think they need to fault him for merely having conclusions of his own. Both parties at this point just need to "show their work" and get into actual arguments beyond the OTF. There is nothing incoherent about saying, "You didn't do it right," if you immediately follow that up with showing it. Granted, here in chapter 4, Loftus just declares it a few times (and hence the no-true-rationalist fallacy lingers at least superficially), but presumably the rest of the Christian Delusion should actually move the ball along.
But let's not forget Christian reviewer, Edmund Lowrie, on Amazon:Rationality, of course, often assumes personal definitions so that anyone disagreeing is "irrational". [...] the definition of rationality is agreement with the atheist apologists. People who don't agree are simply irrational. That intellectually arrogant point of view is clearly stated by claiming that "smart people" who defend faith well are simply defending a mistaken belief. The circular reasoning of these atheist evangelists validates their own prior convictions and thus, I would argue, is demonstrates its own form of delusion.
Hence, we will have to keep saying things like: No, we don't really have to explain anything since anyone can point to anyone going anywhere on the belief-scape who is claiming to be a critical person. Obviously many people are quite capable of getting it wrong (and we don't need the psychological studies Loftus throws at Victor Reppert to tell us that).
It's so pointless!
But, just to over-correct the record, Richard Carrier responds:...it's absurd to claim TCD argues "people who don't agree are simply irrational" when Loftus says point blank that religious people are rational, which in fact is exactly why the Outsider Test for Faith is required: perfectly rational people come to mutually contradictory conclusions (the evidence for this is undeniable), therefore perfectly rational people can be wrong, in fact statistically they usually are wrong. Therefore it is not enough to be rational. You have to also be adequately informed. And becoming adequately informed is exactly what taking the Outsider Test for Faith is about, combined with the Golden Rule (p. 85) to treat your faith by the same standards you treat others.
I have to admit, I completely missed it. Loftus does call religious people rational, "point blank" (page 82, thesis 1 of OTF):Rational people in distinct geographical locations around the globe overwhelmingly adopt and defend a wide diversity of religious faiths due to their upbringing and cultural heritage.
It's actually really easy to miss (and I go out of my way to underline those kinds of important lingual nuances when I find them) since a strong theme of the rest of the chapter is just how rational religious people apparently aren't. This could easily dovetail in a stupid semantic debate over what we mean by "rational." Does this merely mean the prevalent use of rationality? Or success in achieving correct conclusions? Depending on which definition you may be inclined to use, I don't think we can fully blame Christians for getting the wrong idea here.
And so, I also agree with jayman777 that Loftus was too dismissive on objection 2 (there were 8 objections Loftus covered, btw). Loftus said (page 90):When it comes to these converts, however, my opinion is that most of them do not objectively weigh the evidence when making their initial religious commitments.
Loftus goes on to blame the Asian converts for sharing too many superstitious beliefs with the writers of the Bible and for not being introduced by evangelists to skeptical books like TCD (the "other side" of the story). And those aren't bad points to make, but he should also have been granting that perhaps they did convert for the right reasons. What does Loftus lose by accepting the possibility? If one is confident of their atheistic arguments, it really doesn't matter, does it?
Loftus shows he has in mind what I'm saying, but unfortunately it just didn't manifest in his chapter:Nor is the goal of the OTF to show religious faiths are wrong or delusionally held. The goal of the OTF, as I've said, is to offer a reasonable standard for judging whether or not arguments of behalf of religious faiths can succeed. It's a two step process for me. First let's agree on a non-double standard for judging religious faiths based in the OTF. That's my first step. Then in my second step I'm prepared to proceed with the arguments. I'll argue based on the OTF that Manata's faith is false and he can try to show his faith is correct. So he is simply wrong to think the OTF is meant to argue him away from his faith when he demands that I offer arguments to that effect. I offer those arguments elsewhere, yes, as a second step.
But Hays wants to drag us back into the gutter still! In his response to Loftus, "Scoring the Outsider Test," Hays says:Needless to say, the goal of TCD is clearly to knock down the Christian faith. His chapter on the OTF plays a strategic role in his effort to achieve that goal.
Duh! Loftus' mission in life is well known. However the OTF can't respectably do the job unless it is first and foremost a fair standard. Conflating the fairness of the standard, the application of the standard, and Loftus' motives doesn't get us anywhere with the OTF. Yet the Triabloggers seem desperate to do that (rather than just move on to application mode). In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays says:So Ben backhandedly admits that I was right. Yet somehow it’s dragging us back into the “gutter” to correct Loftus’ disingenuous disclaimer.
How does it prove Loftus is disingenuous with his standard by appealing to his motives? That may play well for a Christian audience, but "appealing to motive" is a fallacy. Hays totally knows better when he is on the defense:Tobin’s objection is textbook case of the circumstantial ad hominem fallacy. He tries to preemptively discredit the arguments of evangelical scholars by impugning their motives. But that’s irrelevant to the quality of their arguments. For instance, suppose a disgruntled employee gets back at the company that fired him by going to the authorities with evidence that his company is guilty of racketeering. Should the authorities not even bother to study the evidence because the former employee is motivated by revenge?
Subtract the word "Tobin" and insert the word "Hays" (and "evangelical" with "atheist" of course) and I don't see a difference here. Secondly, when I acknowledge Loftus' general motives, that doesn't mean I'm endorsing Hays' fallacy. So yes, Hays refuses to take us out of the gutter and keeps the conversation stuck on motives rather than the argument.
In his response to Loftus, "Scoring the Outsider Test," Hays complains:No, the goal is to reduce Christianity to a mere hypothesis.
Aww...the bride of Christ's husband is reduced to mere bachelor status...and that just doesn't feel right, does it, Steve? [*eyeroll*] Down with objectivity, I say!
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays objects:...that doesn’t even attempt to be responsive to what I actually said. And that’s another reason why there’s no point in my continuing to engage [Ben].
First of all, Hays isn't my type anyway. Secondly, Hays seems to think there is something inappropriate about treating a worldview as a hypothesis. Hence, chiding him about about his inability or unwillingness to do that with Christianity, does in fact respond to what he said. The fact he can't process that just reinforces the original justification for the chiding.
In his response to Loftus, "Scoring the Outsider Test," Hays says:[Loftus is] not exactly an impartial judge or umpire.Ben can never figure out what it means to answer an opponent on his own grounds. Whether or not I’m an impartial judge is a red herring. The question at issue is how Loftus chose to frame the argument. Loftus poses as the umpire, with the OTF.
Whether or not either Loftus or Hays is an impartial judge of the Christian worldview for every reader of TCD is the red herring. The OTF is a standard to apply to yourself. Everyone has to be their own umpire ultimately and so focusing on the mundane fact that Loftus has his own conclusions is a meaningless personal attack on Hays' part, imo.
Isn't anyone even trying to have a conversation here? We'll continue this more in the Hays section below.
Overstated Rhetoric on Human Bias
Loftus overstates some claims and muddies the waters further (page 83):That's why they're called control beliefs. They are like blinders. From the moment they are put on, we pretty much see only what our blinders will let us see.
He did the same in "Why I Became an Atheist" (WIBA). It was annoying there, too. Loftus also says in TCD (page 92):What we've learned is that we should be skeptical about that which we were led to believe even though we can't actually see anything about our beliefs to be skeptical about.
Huh? That's like the epitome of unhelpful. It reminds me of those annoying parts in movies where someone tells their brainwashed friend, "Snap out of it! Just snap out of it! I love you! Therefore you are cured!"
Loftus quotes atheist, Jason Long (page 102):Bias is our default setting, and most of the distortions happen below the level of conscious awareness.
Yeah, so I'm not sure how "delusional" Christians are supposed to react to all of this constructively. So it is no surprise when Christian reviewers, like Looney, react this way:John just spent the last 3 chapters trying to prove that it is absolutely impossible for anyone to be logical regarding religion. So why now does he challenge us to be logical, when he has proven that this is a human impossibility - for both theists and atheists alike?
Is Looney exaggerating even more than Loftus, Long, Eller, and Dan Barker? Sure. But he's been helped along the way by careless skeptical rhetoric that could have been avoided. It should have been obvious Christian readers were going to be in the binds they are in, throw the accusation of bias back in our faces, and it appears that little has been done to defuse that situation ahead of time.
Then there are at least two more places where Loftus is overly simplistic, imo (page 86):[Christians] adopt a methodological naturalist viewpoint to test these other extraordinary claims and find them wanting.
There are too many Christian apologists out there who do not necessarily exclude the supernatural origins of other religions. For example, Jayman777 says:Loftus believes Christians are acting correctly when they adopt a methodological naturalist viewpoint to investigate other religions. I disagree with Loftus here if he means that Christians should not be open to the possibility of “non-Christian miracles.” For example, I should not rule out the possibility that Muhammad worked a miracle.
And still others, like Hays, will claim that perhaps demons inspired other religions:In principle, Christianity doesn't rule out the extraordinary claims of rival religions. To the contrary, the Christian faith affirms the existence of an occult reality. Black magic.
Engwer adds:A Christian worldview involves the occurrence of miracles among unbelievers, like the healing of Naaman and the empowering of non-Christians by demons (2 Kings 5, John 11:49-52, 2 Thessalonians 2:9, Revelation 13:13-14). Some Christians believe that Mohammad, the founder of Islam, was demonically influenced. They don't argue for a naturalistic origin of the religion. Protestants sometimes argue that Marian apparitions are demonic. Christians often acknowledge that non-Christians have had supernatural near-death experiences. Many similar examples could be cited.
This is not atypical for intellectual Christians and so the accusation of methodological inconsistency is more difficult to establish. Loftus might be able to argue that most don't even think enough about their faith to come up with clever supernatural excuses for other religions, but in all likelihood, they won't be the ones reading this book. And even if they are, they are just as likely to go looking for excuses as not upon impact. It is understandable that not everything can be covered, but again, some things just aren't obscure enough to skip.
And since Loftus did skip it, this allows Hays to say things like this:Ironically, his "Outsider Test" is formulated from the viewpoint of an insider. An atheist. And a militant atheist at that. As such, the Outsider Test is really the Insider Test. In the interests of truth in advertising, the Outsider Test for Faith should be relabeled the Insider Test by Infidels (ITI). An individual using the ITI will judge Christianity by the prejudicial standards of an atheist. Testing the Christian faith by administering a test which is frontloaded with atheistic assumptions like methodological naturalism.
It seems that many Christians who do actually explain other religions in terms of supernaturalism are not convinced by the actual historical evidence for those claims and do not present certainties anyway. In other words a natural explanation is still just as optional for them. Engwer, in his response to Loftus' response to him confirms this:I didn't say that Christians "evaluate these other religious faiths and miracles as if they are demon produced". Rather, I referred to conclusions that are reached about non-Christian individuals and belief systems. See page 47 of The Infidel Delusion. I referred to arguing for something like demonic influence in another religion. I didn't say that we should begin with an assumption of demonic involvement. I didn't suggest that "Demons are everywhere." And I mentioned supernatural possibilities other than demonic involvement.
Supernaturalism is merely a possible explanation given the worldview to which they are (arbitrarily?) loyal. It's hard to fault Loftus entirely for avoiding the convolutedness of that issue. Stepping away from Christianity for a moment would seem to flat-line the applicability of the supernatural explanations across the board for many Christians, if that's the only means by which such claims enter into their knowledge base. Loftus does say in response to TID:Muslims claim the same exact thing. They say the reason Christians believe is because demons are deceiving them. Where does that get anyone? I’ll tell you where—nowhere as in NO WHERE.
Could maybe he have mentioned something like that in passing in his chapter? Oh well...
In his response to Loftus, "Scoring the Outsider Test," Hays objects:[Loftus] acts as if Islam and Christianity are symmetrical. Yet that’s obviously not the case. For instance, Muhammad treated the Bible as the standard of comparison. He invited doubters to ask Christians and Jews to vouch for his prophetic credentials. But that’s hardly reversible. It’s not as if Bible writers ever invited Mohammedans to judge the Bible by the Koran.
Just because some aspects are asymmetrical doesn't mean all of them are. Duh. Loftus appeals to a point of more substance, since if demons inspired Christianity or Islam, then they can make up any further "tests" or asymmetries that they like which will be superfluous.
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays objects again:No, that’s not how Loftus framed the argument. Loftus said: “Muslims claim the same exact thing. They say the reason Christians believe is because demons are deceiving them.” Muslims are in no position to say that, for that would be self-refuting. The Koran claims to be a confirmation of Biblical revelation. If, however, Christians are demonically inspired rather than divinely inspired, then that undercuts the ostensible foundation for the Koran.
Wow. Alright, well the illustrious wikipedia says:Muslims believe that those texts were neglected, corrupted (tahrif) or altered in time by the Jews and Christians and have been replaced by God's final and perfect revelation, which is the Qur'an.
Hence, it's not so self-refuting to claim that demons helped Christians corrupt the original revelation and inspires them to reject the updated version.In a recent thread here, I discussed some of the paranormal phenomena documented by researchers like Stephen Braude, and I specifically made the point that I don't think all of it is demonic. In the past, when discussing near-death experiences, I've acknowledged that we have convincing evidence for the experiences of some non-Christians, and I didn't argue that they're all demonic in nature.
Loftus' outsider test applies brutely there, too, since typically we accept the consensus of science on issues not close enough to home (as non-experts). And since there is nothing supernatural validated by the sciences, in Loftus' way of thinking, all the pseudoscience (as it has been labeled by the mainstream of science) would go the way of the dodo with consistent OTF standards. Loftus doesn't really explain that. It'd be nice if he would. But that's his choice to assume Christians will simply know how to be consistent in the ways he may expect.
In his response to Loftus, "Scoring the Outsider Test," Hays says:...methodological naturalism is not “agnostic.” If only makes sense to use a naturalistic methodology if you think the world operates naturalistically. And that’s not something you can know in advance of the fact. At best, that’s only something you can discover by observation and experience. Even then, induction is descriptive, not prescriptive. “Methodological naturalism” is just a euphemism for “methodological atheism.” But that’s hardly impartial or noncommittal. Rather, that’s presumptive. What is more, that begs the question of what the world is really like. After all, this is the very issue in dispute.
The natural world (or creation, as Christians would refer to it) is common ground. Miracles, gods, angels, demons, and other supernatural phenomena are not common ground. They do not post on the message boards or have blogs (though Yahweh does have a twitter account, I'll admit, but so does Batman).
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays objects:From a Christian standpoint, the only categorical, metaphysical distinction lies between the Creator and the creature. In that respect, angels and demons belong to the natural world. All creatures belong to the natural world. An atheist has no right to unilaterally dictate common ground. Common ground appeals need to be justified, not unilaterally postulated–especially when the boundaries are drawn at the very point in dispute.
Hays recognizes that there is a dispute, but he appears to demand common ground that is not common ground. Hays can fill out the form: "Miracles, gods, angels, demons and other supernatural phenomena are common ground between atheists and Christians because ______________________." Hays would have to assert that Loftus, myself, and other nonbelievers are crazy and delusional. Maybe he really believes that. It would be nice if he actually backed that up with an argument.
Christians have to admit that genuine sightings of these beings are at the very least exceptionally rare.
Hays objects:Rarity is irrelevant to whether or not something is natural or supernatural. Are four-leaf clovers supernatural?
Did I say that anything that is rare is therefore supernatural? The Venn diagram of rare things can overlap both the natural and supernatural circles. Duh.
Christians also have to admit that naturalistic explanations do work a whole lot more of the time than supernatural ones.
Hays objects:From a Christian standpoint, natural forces and natural mechanisms are contingent on God’s creative fiat of the natural world, with its internal causality. So that’s not an alternative to divine agency. You might as well say the cue ball does more work than the pool player.
Hays is cheating here with his "Christian standpoint" and mere interpretation of what physics is based on. He will not accept the common ground evidence available to everyone and work with that towards his own conclusions.
Hays objects:I have no way to quantify the percentiles. As I pointed out in a recent discussion with somebody else, if answered prayer is a factor in historical causation, the effect of answered prayer would be indetectible further down the line. Same thing with coincidence miracles (e.g. miracles of timing). Except for observers close enough to the situation to rightly attribute the outcome to prayer or special providence, such miraculous factors can’t be ruled in or ruled out by distant third-parties.
Hays is free to tell us what "rightly attributing" would amount to. From other issues I would infer that Hays has rather low standards, doesn't apply much critical thinking, or weigh the evidence in favor of alternative natural explanations. He is free to show otherwise, of course. He also doesn't appreciate the distinction between reality and what we know about reality. Perhaps the greatest ninja ever would never leave any evidence "distant third-parties" could ever confirm. Should "distant third-parties" then assume that these super ninjas exist? I would never "rule out" ninjas, but I also am not going to be a devoted believer in them either on the basis of non-evidence.
The admitted rarity of miracles establishes a probability spectrum and hence is prescriptive with the input of a very few common ground facts.
Hays objects:"Probability” is bound up with the presumptive uniformity of nature and the problem of induction. How does Ben get started?
Hays often appeals to the rest of his site without linking to anything specific, and I've linked several times to my discussion on induction and Hays won't read it. Hays won't even read this entire post even though he keeps bringing up issues that are already covered in it. In short, Christians don't solve the problem of induction, they just stick us with even more assumptions about a god's nature.
Hays objects:There is more than one type of probability. There is psychological probability as well as physical probability–such as the psychological probability (or not) that all Christians who ever said they witnessed a miracle are delusional.
Yeah, already covered that, too, with Jason Engwer. In short, every extraordinary claim would be true if we went with that standard, from UFOs to Bigfoot.
Not only does methodological naturalism more properly represent an agnostic research program, it also represents the most responsible way to establish supernatural facts by eliminating the more probable naturalistic alternatives.
Hays objects:The most responsible way to establish if something happens (e.g. miracles) is to wait and see if it happens, not to lay down man-made rules that prescribe in advance of the fact what can or can’t happen.
*raises eyebrow* Wait to see if a miracle happens. Should I wait and see if a UFO lands in my backyard, too? And I don't recall claiming that miracles can't happen.
Methodological naturalism is especially pertinent since there are many competing supernatural worldviews and a wide spectrum of disagreement even in the conservative Christian worldview.
Hays uncritically objects as he always does as though every argument always cuts both ways:There are many competing natural worldviews.
And they'd all be refuted if just one supernatural entity/event turned out to be real, wouldn't they?
Categorically, naturalistic explanations would need to be eliminated first since Christians can't agree on what their god was supposed to have done (such as in terms of young earth creationism, to old earth creationism, ID, etc.).
Hays conveniently fails to quote the second half of my sentence above as though his version of Christianity doesn't have to compete with all the other supernatural worldview and objects:No. We need to go with the best explanation in any given case, given the available evidence.
And the available evidence strongly suggests that miracles are at the very least infrequent and that naturalistic explanations will likely take the cake. As I told Rauser, if there is really good evidence of miracles, well then we have really good evidence of miracles don't we? Now where is it? I covered this issue a bit with Engwer already.
I think my final challenge question for Hays would be something along the lines of this: If Steve Hays were a doctor and a patient came in claiming a supernatural hex had been placed upon them, would Hays feel obligated to check for naturalistic causes? Or would he just pray to his god to remove the demonic curse? If not, what is with Hays? Is he secretly a methodological atheist or something crazy like that?
In his response to Loftus, "Scoring the Outsider Test," Hays says:[Loftus] shifts from literal demonization to figurative demonization. Is Loftus so caught up in his persecution complex that he can’t tell the difference any more?I find it more than plausible that a man who was dabbling in the occult (Taoism) would leave himself wide open to the demonic—especially in the case of an apostate like [Richard] Carrier. Those that pray to false gods become the devil’s prey.
*shrug* It's not like Hays isn't known for the accusation (or the overt suggestion, in the case of Carrier).
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays responds:Since Carrier is one of Ben’s “heroes” (along with other luminaries like Barack Obama, Jon Stewart, Al Franken, Anthony Weiner), I understand why his feelings are hurt when I slight his idol. However, I simply drew an inference from autobiographical material which Carrier publicly volunteered about himself. Since Taoism is an occultic tradition, and Carrier also admits to having undergone an episode of Old-Hag syndrome as a practicing Taoist, there’s nothing untoward about my suggestion.
While I'm sure that a Christian like Hays has some lovely things to say about Obama, Stewart, Franken, and Weiner, Loftus' original point is that Hays is willing to think his opponents are demon-possessed. Hays avoided the issue to attack Loftus personally and I demonstrated Loftus' inference about Hays was in fact perfectly reasonable. Hays doesn't like his inverse scarlet letter, but that's just too bad isn't it? Maybe he should bother to prove that demons actually exist or that Loftus is actually wrong about something important.
Loftus also very briefly asserts that (page 86):...nor can [the Christian] trust her own anecdotal religious experiences.
The many religious people who will come to this book based off of their particular religious experiences that haven't been addressed are not going to be persuaded by these 9 words. Valerie Tarico, in her chapter, certainly didn't cover them all (or even claim to cover them all) or provide the appropriate skeptical sensibilities for engaging every oddball claim that couldn't possibly be covered. Jayman777 sure noticed:...at least some people become believers for intellectual reasons and/or because they are convinced they have witnessed a genuine miracle (something far more grand than a sense of peace).
What is the percentage of the population that will claim to have seen an angel? Or a miracle? What is the percentage that knows someone who claims to have seen a miracle or an angel? Go into a crowded auditorium in a Christian/atheist debate and see how many hands go up when you ask for spooky supernatural stories of the Christian flavor. They don't dismiss them all as casually as Loftus may like to believe and will often respond back with, "Well maybe some of them are fiction, but how can they all be wrong?" [Which is exactly the argument both Engwer and Hays did eventually make]
If someone picks up the ball here later in the book, that's great (it's not like it can't be dealt with), but I don't see how a book like this can let that ball drop. Carrier claimed there was "no where to run" and Swedish atheist reviewer, Andrew Creutz, said this:I am troubled by the fact that there are still people who assume that Christianity says about reality is actually true, despite the evidence that the review only gives a hint about, and The Christian Delusion and other books overflow with, projecting the Christian reality of perception in intellectual sanctions.
Yeah, well there are places to run. Big and well-established places in apologetic thought. And really they aren't even running, since the positions not confronted are rather typical in my estimation. If we don't step up and recognize them, then this embitters and justifies Christians who know better, and confuses and entrenches atheists who haven't been helped to see things fully from the other perspective.
Jayman777 says:I am certain [Loftus' moral and political beliefs] are based on more than the scientific method. If this is the case, then it must be possible for religious beliefs to be considered true on grounds other than science. He can’t employ a double standard.
Loftus is saying religious beliefs (like moral or political beliefs) need to be justified sufficiently above and beyond the merits of their competitors. If there are no tools to do this, or if all political, moral, and religious philosophies can make the exact same subjective justifications, then we have no business favoring one over the other. At the very least if we pick one anyway (because we are forced to pick one) we should be honest and admit our way is arbitrary. Maybe going further than that requires scientific investigation. And maybe it doesn't. It should be noted that science isn't some separate compartment of reality (any more than philosophy is). There is a relatively smooth continuum of objective thinking from our ordinary modest conclusions to scientific theories (and on to philosophical ideas that pull everything together). If there wasn't we couldn't even do science. There would need to be magical science fairies (made of pure scienteons) to do it for us if we can't even make our way successfully to the lab. Some issues need that level of rigorous investigation and others may not. It just depends on the issue. Admittedly, you probably couldn't tell that from Loftus' chapter. He does get into it in follow up posts responding to his critics.
In response to the correction by Loftus, Jayman777 asks Loftus in the comments:By weak scientism do you mean that you believe science is the best, but not the only, method to acquire knowledge? If so, would you like to clarify the quotes I gave from pages 89 and 95?
Perhaps my answer above clarifies.
Jayman777 incredulously asks:Am I to believe that the average atheist would become very skeptical of the theory of evolution if it were shown opinions on evolution depended heavily on geography and culture?
One wonders if religion has a 95% consensus on anything (since there are significant chunks of religion that are not theistic even). And even if it does in some extremely vague way, it doesn't matter. The extraordinary claims of Big Religion typically are the realm of metaphysics and metaphysics is explicitly not humanity's domain of expertise. Hence a consensus on "what else exists" other than the "created" world is irrelevant. As Loftus says in the comments: "Science transcends geographical borders. Anyone can do the experiments themselves. That’s the difference." Science is about getting things right well within the domain of human expertise. As hard as Eller states his conclusion, it is a much more difficult task to make science look like a subjective artifact of culture and the excesses of human psychology.
Jayman777 objects:Reppert notes that most Westerners are raised to believe in an external world whereas someone born in India may believe that the external world is just an illusion. Should we not subject our Western beliefs to the OTF? Loftus begs the question when he asserts that the existence of the external world is experienced every moment we are alive. He tries to rely on the consensus of scientists but scientists merely assume the existence of the external word, they do not demonstrate it. This issue is a philosophical issue and Loftus cannot skirt it with appeals to probability (how could you calculate a probability in this case?).
Manata raises the same objection:Or, more troublesome, the counter example shows that we should have the same level of skepticism towards, say, the philosophical belief that the world is maya as we should have towards the philosophical belief that the external world exists and is mind independent.
After Loftus confronts jayman777's review, jayman777 replies:I am not denying that there is an external, material world. I am saying that your defense for the existence of an external world fails. That we perceive a world in front of us is no surprise to the Indian in Reppert’s example and thus gains your position no advantage in the debate. Unless you can provide a better argument, Reppert has shown that your own beliefs fail to pass the OTB ["outsider test for beliefs"]. If you are going to muster a better argument, I think it will have to be a philosophical argument.
Yup. And this isn't hard to do. I let Loftus' somewhat lame answer slide as I read through the chapter, but Carrier addresses this more directly in his book, Sense and Goodness without God (page 52):On the other hand, if the [Cartesian] demon were really this consistent in giving us results, through which we satisfy our every goal and desire, there would hardly be any intelligible difference between what we call “reality” and the world the demon is inventing for us [or in this case an illusionary world]. As noted in II.2.1.2 (“Meaning, Reality, and Illusion”), such a construct would be reality, in every sense of the word we normally use. And since we observe some methods to work better than others, and indeed some work best of all, a Cartesian Demon would have to be arranging it this way, constructing reality for us solely in accord with a fixed plan it has chosen. In that case we have just as much reason to pursue the relevant methods for discovering that plan, and to abandon the bad ones, so we can gain the reward of a successful life experience from this mischievous demon. In other words, there is no reason to trust that any Cartesian Demon theory is true, and even if it is, nothing significant changes for us regarding method.
That passes the Indian OTB since the persistent distinctions in our collective illusion are common ground.
Manata says:In response to the claim that Loftus needs to take the outsider test for his belief that the external world is an illusion, Loftus says that before he takes that test the challenger must show him that his belief in a mind-independent external world is "probably false" (95-96). Loftus holds the position that the response to the person who claims that your belief could be false is, "So what? Give me good reason to believe that it is false" (96).
For this thought experiment, we'll call one party Thomas Anderson and we'll call the other party Trinity. Now, Trin and Tom both have something in common. As Carrier pointed out above, they share the pattern of what Tom calls "reality" and Trinity calls "the Matrix." So they are both insiders as far as that pattern goes. Tom is an outsider to what Trinity calls "the real world." Even if Trinity is completely confident that what she calls the real world is in fact the real world, it may not seem to make much sense for her to take an OTF (Or in this case, it would be an OTB). We're not dealing with faith here, just her holistic past experiences of actually being unplugged and discovering an apocalyptic world that is hosting a computer simulation for most humans. However, she can still take the test. She doesn't need to get all indignant about it like Manata does. It's just the fact she's going to pass so easily because she'd be using all the same standards of evidence that Tom uses for calling the Matrix real applied to her very obvious experiences from outside of the Matrix. This is a technicality, but the point is, she can do it. There's nothing logically impossible about it. And more importantly, for Tom's sake, if she wants to make a more convincing argument without just unplugging him, she should be prepared to expose him to really good reasons for believing they are currently in a simulated world. She needs to be able to look at things from his perspective and not just pretend like her assertions are going to be credible based on Tom's background knowledge. Her reasons would need to be based on reasonable standards of evidence.
Why is that? Well, incidentally there's another example from the Animatrix. Specifically, in "A Kid's Story," we find a young man, named Michael Popper, who doesn't seem to have very credible reasons for thinking he even needs to wake up from the Matrix. Is a vague mystical notion that reality isn't as it should be, having bizarre existential conversations with a random person online, and being chased through school by some government agents a good enough reason to throw yourself off of a building believing you will wake up in the real world? Would Mike, the day before the story takes place, have a convincing case that passes an OTF if he were trying to convince another student that the Matrix is real? Probably not. As far as epistemology goes, being correct about the Matrix was a blind hit. He probably shouldn't have believed it himself. Plenty of people have all sorts of mystical notions and convoluted escapist intuitions. And there are plenty of people online who are willing to feed your choice delusion. Getting mixed up with the authorities for some reason or another could happen by chance. If the Matrix is anything like the world we know, then there would be all sorts of people who believe all sorts of crazy things that go well beyond what is immediately evident to all. Responsible people know that and are willing to re-think their grasp on reality accordingly.
People like Manata can pretend like their convictions about Christianity are based on personal evidence that is much more like Trinity's situation than Mike's. It's doubtful that's actually the case. On the other hand, if I'm mistaken about that, it seems they could easily get into some convincing detail and they'd never bother appealing to anything like faith. They would also more readily respect how outsiders should view what they say and construct meaningful ways to bridge the gap of credibility to the best of their ability. And if for some inconvenient reason this simply can't be done, they would respect those unfortunate circumstances like rational caring people do and they wouldn't waste everyone's time arguing with assertions. Rational, caring people conclude, "You know what? I wouldn't believe me either if I were you."
In ordinary life, the less people can verify my own claims, and the more it would cost them if they believed me, the less I naturally expect them to take my claims seriously. I may still have to believe my own experiences (since the real world example I'm thinking of would be unverifiable mental/emotional states that impact interpersonal conflicts) since I personally can't deny it, but I respect the fact I would be asking others to potentially go out on a limb. That can be a struggle, but that's just how it is.
Regardless, the point is, the OTF still applies in either event. Neither a Trinity, nor a Mike should have much to fear from it. Especially, if they are backed up by a loving god who likely wouldn't put them in inconsiderate epistemic circumstances to begin with. Then again, that's why Christians have the problem of "divine hiddeness." Maybe they should fear the OTF since they have everything to lose in the world of intellectual credibility.
Rauser has a good start by agreeing that the endeavor to evaluate our worldviews from the "outside" is a good and meaningful exercise, but concludes Loftus has gone too far (as well as not far enough).
Rauser says:Lionel Nicholas in his Introduction to Psychologywhich recounts the findings of an anthropologist named Turnbull:
"Turnbull stated that when he was accompanied by a pygmy guide (who had spent his entire life in the dense jungle ... never entering the plains in any manner) onto the open plains, they observed a buffalo (which the pygmy had only ever seen at a maximum distance of 30 meters in the jungle). When the pygmy was shown the buffalo at a distance he asked what kind of insect it was. When told that it was not an insect but rather a buffalo, he stated that it could not be a buffalo as it was too small."[...] do cases like Turnbull's pygmy (not to mention our own perceptual foibles) force us to conclude that any given percept (e.g. seeing a red apple on the kitchen table or smelling freshly baked cookies) is likely false? Of course not! So why think this would be true in the case of religion? Why does the "overwhelming" suddenly kick in at religion apart from the fact that Loftus wants it to?
I'm not really sure what Rauser hopes to accomplish here. It is easy to verify that the pygmy's perception is mistaken through independent means. Rauser's crime here is to bring up something too trivial to matter in comparison to the category of consistency of standards with religious justifications for belief. If we did live in a world where all sorts of bizarre perceptual beliefs conflicted (and that is the case to some extent), would Rauser recommend everyone holding inconsistent standards to defend their own possibly misperception? Apologists can't win here. But they can lose a great deal by exposing how philosophically petty they are.
Rauser says:If this outsider test is applicable to Asfandyar and Evie's faith, why not also apply it to their politics and ethics?
What part of TCD do you see recommending the complete shut down of critical thinking in all other areas of life? Oh noes! Loftus doesn't plan to write, "The Communist Delusion"! I guess that means we don't have to be sufficiently critical with Christianity? Loftus points out that he already addressed this issue in the very chapter Rauser is criticizing and that Rauser isn't interacting with those responses.
In his third post, Rauser says:People who hold to various political systems should subject those systems to the outsider test. That is, they should consider their systems as outsiders, as if they were not adherents to them. If they do they will necessarily conclude that their political system is false and they will become ANARCHISTS!
We do live in a world with a lot of conflicting political ideologies and it wouldn't make much sense to just take up the position of your parents and be irrationally defensive about it after that would it? Does Rauser need to try to scare us with the boogieman term "anarchist" as though people should not hold their inherited political beliefs at arm's length until the pros and cons of different systems become clear? I don't think we should jump to the conclusion that democracy is necessarily the best ever when there are a lot of other ways people have run countries. It's not like it doesn't have its problems. Our congress can raise its own salaries and special interests of large corporations constantly clog the arteries of the will of the people. That doesn't exactly make the best advertisement to the people of other political systems who may be quite content with whatever they have even given whatever downsides those other systems may have.
In his fourth post, Rauser finds the capslock button again and says:AT LEAST NOT UNTIL THEY COMPLETE THE TWO PARTY SYSTEM OUTSIDER TEST FOR POLITICS.
Perhaps something like "Wife Swap". Uriah and Sig have to live in the other's constituencies for at least two weeks. And while there Uriah must watch "Democracy Now!" on PBS and Sig has to listen to Rush Limbaugh.
So I guess we're all stuck. And we're all left with a rather bracing and very much expanded form of our second premise:
2. It seems very likely that all of one's beliefs are not merely a matter of independent rational judgment but are causally dependent on cultural conditions to an overwhelming degree. This is the you don't know anything so put on your headphones and tune out the world thesis.
Dang, all we wanted to do was kick some religious people around. So how did we end up here?
We ended up here because religious defenders aren't giving up their religion any time soon and so they take things to impractical levels in their defensiveness. Average folk also aren't going to build a rigorous worldview any time soon even if they should (and they should), but that doesn't mean Big Religion gets to skooch off the chopping block here. If we are calling for a complete epistemic overhaul, surely the flagrant beliefs of religion can be the first to go through the grinder. Or perhaps Rauser truly believes that the size of some buffalo are the priorities in life?
In his second post, Rauser says:...we Christians submit our beliefs to rigorous objective testing in the blazing summer sun while the atheists sip pints of ale on the shady porch.
The cliche' lack of Christian humility before serious epistemic issues rears its ugly head. Loftus claims the default position is agnosticism, and of course ANY claim to actual knowledge is going to have to do a lot more leg work. Is that Loftus' fault? Knowledge is hard, Randal. Deal with it.
Rauser says:That's what worries me about the outsider test for x (whatever x is). The suggestion is: pass this one test of belief introspection and once you're done, go forth and shine your glowing rational countenance on the shadowy realms of irrationalism because YOU'RE RATIONAL BABY!
I don't see where Loftus advocated disowning a persistent tool of critical thinking. If Rauser wants to attack the flavor of one atheist, I suppose he's entitled. However, it is just as petty to go there as is whatever flakiness Rauser thinks he's pointing out. Loftus says in response:I can easily agree with Rauser that these intellectual virtues (if they are different) should be maintained all of our lives. They are not considered one-night-stands. That’s one of the reasons I blog every day. I’m learning. I’m growing. I’m continually testing what I think. And I think these intellectual virtues should be embraced by everyone.
Rauser needs to go less with his spidey-sense and stick more to the issues.
Rauser says:As for the extraordinary beliefs, I noted that a universe coming into existence out of nothing and then, through random undirected processes producing organisms that contain the vast stores of biological information in DNA, strikes a lot of smart people as pretty extraordinary. So why don't atheists have to subject themselves to the outsider test based on the extraordinary nature of their beliefs?
I agree, many claims of metaphysical naturalism fall within the domain of "extraordinary" when juxtaposed against the kinds of things humans are typically familiar with. That's why we have A: Science to actually make that case which passes the OTB. And B: Ignorance for when even science doesn't have anything to work with. There are no criticisms here unless Rauser just wants to argue against a lazy nonbeliever. There's no necessary reason why nonbelievers have to fit that profile and certainly nothing helpful to defending Christianity against critical scrutiny here.
Rauser says:John seeks to exempt the atheist from the test by saying that there are too many perspectives they would be forced to adopt from the outside. Should they become a young earth creationist? An orthodox Jew? Since the atheist cannot reasonably adopt all these outsider perspectives they get exempted from the exercise, I guess. Wow, doesn't John see that he just blew up his whole argument? A Christian can ask the same thing: which outsider perspective shall she adopt? There are many, many perspectives.
In context, Loftus was saying that being an agnostic really isn't much of an insider position to begin with. It's like being "in" on a secret that when written down amounts to a blank sheet of paper. Does "insider" talk really make much coherent sense here? Loftus then unnecessarily makes a reductio ad absurdum argument on top of that to try to point out that it doesn't make sense to take a random positive position to evaluate a non-position. For some reason, that's where Rauser thinks he can jump on it out of context to serve his defensive Christian agenda.
But, incidentally, despite the back and forth there is a tool to be used here. The more intimately I know about any other perspective, the more likely I am to format my persuasive arguments in terms of bridging that gap from wherever they are to where I am on the belief-scape. For instance, in speaking with young earth creationists, I find it useful to begin with the things that they agree with (see here for example). With the fewest modifications I then justify the little bits of my evolutionist worldview that make our understanding different. So I am constantly subjecting my views to outsider tests (in addition to other tests) with each conversation I have in order to make my own understanding even better. Obviously you can't do this all at once, but over time it can be a consistent priority. I completely agree when Rauser said:Our recertification is ongoing because when it comes to intellectual virtue, we're all works in progress.
Regardless, the main issue is that the outsider test for atheists puts you at agnosticism. Agnosticism only requires that you know you don't know, which isn't hard to come by. The extraordinary claims of any position need to be justified in ways designed to convince outsiders rather than what is so typical of religious arguments that are designed to be faithful to indefensible traditions. Science does indeed justify many extraordinary aspects of metaphysical naturalism via the proper means. The even bigger questions are simply matters of mutual ignorance that religion can't pretend to have any kind of handle on. Hence all the quibbling here on Rauser's part completely fails.
In his fifth post, Rauser says:There are many other problems with this geographic distribution thesis. How does one falsify it? I.e. what level of geographic homogeneous distribution must obtain before the outsider test becomes applicable? Good luck establishing that threshold!
I don't see why any beliefs should be exempted. I've never met a belief that I wasn't willing to go to town on so all of these complaints are quite stupid.
Typically such sections like this one are perceived by readers to be "poisoning the well" and ad hominem in nature. Hays is the only one that gets a section like this because his fellow Christian reviewers are a bit more straight forward with where they are coming from. Just a fair warning: It's kind of hard to figure out why Hays says a lot of the stuff he does without knowing the below information. A primer seems necessary to me, since I have to consciously unpack what I've learned about him often enough when I come across what seem like especially bizarre responses from him (even for Christians). If you think that's too "ad hominemie" (since it does make him look bad) then just skip the section. My feelings won't be hurt. Obviously Hays doesn't think what he says is strange so there's no little need to explain himself, but that causes plenty of communication problems he doesn't seem interested in resolving.
First, though somewhat benign, we have what he's said in the current chapter of TID:...if you have good reason to believe that your own position is correct, then, by definition, a contrary position is wrong. Everybody does that.
Oh do they? Someone sounds a tad defensive. Some of us are actually open to renegotiating our positions in confrontation with other people. We actually enjoy and appreciate keeping those doors in our minds open, because we know how easily mistaken human knowledge is due to things like confirmation bias. We don't always look to see why other people are wrong, we also push ourselves to ask the "Are they wrong?" question. And we do this even if we're confident of our contrary conclusions, because getting things correct is a life long battle. It seems pretty clear that Hays has those mental doors shut and locked tight and only needs to know you disagree with him in order to tell him all about who you are on the inside and what you must mean.
Here is a much more startling quote from his blog:People who are atheists aren't intellectually respectable, while people who are intellectually respectable aren't atheists.
Wow. This ends genuine conversation right there. Let's try that on any other people group:People who are [black] aren't intellectually respectable, while people who are intellectually respectable aren't [black].
Or to cycle through some discriminatory cliches':People who are [female] aren't intellectually respectable, while people who are intellectually respectable aren't [female].
Or:People who are [Jewish] aren't intellectually respectable, while people who are intellectually respectable aren't [Jewish].
Or:People who are [named Steve Hays] aren't intellectually respectable, while people who are intellectually respectable aren't [named Steve Hays].
Even if Hays tries to justify himself with a long chain of reasoning from natural revelation, to Biblical authority, to the claim that nonbelievers are deliberately repressing theistic knowledge (and are therefore always "cheating" in conversations about god questions, though Hays does plenty of cheating himself), Hays has to ignore all the immediate evidence an atheist gives that could establish them as intellectually respectable (or whatever else the artificial claim is that is imposed on nonbelievers). Hence, there's really no excuse. He certainly knows better when it suits him to know better:Some people find some types of evidence more compelling than others. Each individual is unique, with a distinctive personality and life-story.
I guess there's a hidden asterisk in there that says, "unless you are an atheist." I don't see how Hays can hope to complain about the bias of others when he is flagrantly so. Notice, he doesn't appreciate it when he thinks it is being done to him. In his response to Loftus, "Scoring the Outsider Test," Hays says:[Loftus says]
“The amount of skepticism warranted depends not only on the number of rational people who disagree…”
And Loftus predefines “rational people” as atheists.
No, actually Loftus defines religious people as rational right there in the opening line of the OTF: "Rational people in distinct geographical locations around the globe overwhelmingly adopt and defend a wide diversity of religious faiths due to their upbringing and cultural heritage." That doesn't stop Hays from continually defaulting to his "everyone's doing it" justifications throughout the conversation.
Hays also says:[Ben said:]
"... it is at least somewhat important that you understand where I'm actually coming from."Where you're coming from is that you're a thankless God-hater who feels the compulsive need to rationalize his petulant, childish ingratitude.
Double wow. Ingratitude for existing? He's quoting me there and I'm pretty sure I hadn't given him any existential emotional schpeals. How would Hays know about an atheist's mental states if they haven't even mentioned their alignment with gratefulness or not? Hays is certainly aware no one is psychic in these debates when says things like this:Loftus is simply imputing cognitive dissonance to his Christian opponents. He’s in no position to know that....by definition, atheism is a wrong turn. Even if atheism were "right," it is still a wrong turn. Atheism is not a viable option. If you're a seeker or a doubter, don't waste your time on atheism. Rather, explore the other option which, if true, offers you more than a brain in a jar–alongside rows of other dead brains–neatly labeled and arranged on the dusty shelves of a steel cabinet in a storage room.
Hays points out this doesn't make Christianity true, but it seems obvious he's only going to pick the fairy tale options of the worldview spectrum even if they are all false. That's hardly intellectual integrity and it's a little silly for Hays to expect atheists to feel the same way about atheism as he does.
Hays says:Christian apologetics traditionally accentuates the miraculous dimension of the Christian faith while atheism, conversely, unloads its fire on the miraculous dimension of life.
Elsewhere he says:Defending a meaningful existence (Christianity) and defending a meaningless existence (atheism) are hardly comparable.
His other blog is titled, "Where Dreams Come True." There's nothing wrong with having a healthy fantasy life (and I would encourage it), but Hays does continually present this stuff in the pathway of the debate as though his subjective feelings on the matter of atheism being true or not actually matter. It's not very hard to draw a cliche' emotional profile of the guy from all this. Are all atheists out to wound his inner child and stamp out the very love and passion of life? It would seem so.
Hays claims his apparent bigotry towards atheists is actually based on his experience of actual atheists and not a cult think mentality lifted straight from the Bible. But can we perhaps surmise that he looks at the world through the Bible's eyes, presents a jaded Christian attitude as a result, and reaps the natural hostile atheist responses therefore completing the self-fulfilling prophecy? Confirmation bias isn't great evidence, dude. Hays had this to say about an atheist contributor to TCD:Tobin is guilty of gross overgeneralizations, based on his self-reinforcing ignorance.
Just subtract "Tobin" and insert "Hays." [Oh, and I do think Tobin is guilty of some overgeneralizations, btw.]
In "This Joyful Eastertide" which was a book length review of "The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave" Hays says:The explanatory power of God’s word is what makes explanation possible. Facts without values are literally meaningless. Only the Creator of the world is in a position to interpret the world. If there is an omniscient mind, and if that omniscient mind has revealed to us a finite, but interpreted body of knowledge about the way things are, then we know as much as we need to know.
So that's why atheists can't be intellectually respectable. By definition, we can't explain anything! Though either Hays popped out of the womb with a Bible in his skull, or perhaps he couldn't explain things until he'd finished reading it (and understanding it?) many years later? What about say teachers who have never read the Bible? Are they not explaining anything to their students? It's always amazing to note the absurdities generated by religious epistemologies that pretend like they start where they can't possibly start. Manata has similar issues below.
Hays, like many Christians, seems insecure with his fallacious all or nothing attitude:The Christian faith presents itself to the world as a revealed religion. And a revealed religion is a package-deal. Either it was divinely revealed or it wasn’t. There is either historical revelation, or there isn’t. There is either historical redemption or there isn’t. This doesn’t come in degrees and fractions and percentiles. If the Bible is only partly inspired, although it claims to be wholly inspired, then we can’t go behind the record of revelation to tell which is which, for the record is all we have to go by.
The very few verses in the very few books that happen to even mention the idea of inspiration might well be the least inspired parts of the 66 book collection. So yes, there are easily Christian shades of gray without having to butcher the entire Bible.
Now we'll move on to the Hays dialog.
Hays in TID
The first and most obvious example is that Hays raises an issue as though he did not even read the chapter:At the very least, then, why not an Outsider Test of Belief in general, rather than an Outsider Test of (religious) Faith in particular?Since [Hays] read my chapter he already knows I do just that. There is an OTB that is larger and more encompassing than the limited OTF. The OTF is therefore a subset of the OTB. The outsider is a skeptic in varying degrees. Skepticism is a virtue if the alternative is being gullible, okay? I wrote:
The amount of skepticism warranted depends not only on the number of rational people who disagree, but also whether the people who disagree are separated into distinct geographical locations, the nature of their beliefs, how their beliefs originated, under what circumstances their beliefs were personally adopted in the first place, and the kinds of evidence that can possibly be used to decide between the differing beliefs. My claim is that when it comes to religious faiths, a high degree of skepticism is warranted precisely because of these factors.
Perhaps Hays was just trying to be rhetorical for the sake of his own readers? Dunno. Not very interactive though.
Turns out I was being too charitable and Hays, in his response to Loftus, "Scoring the Outsider Test," just plain doesn't believe Loftus:That’s just a throwaway line to create the specious appearance that Loftus is even-handed. But in actual practice he does no such thing. So Loftus is the one who’s guilty of the double standard. And what is worse, he’s guilty of a double standard in selectively applying his own standard, whereas that was never my standard.
Um...right. I think this is the "everyone is doing it" fallacy of justification. Some of us actually do make every effort to apply the OTB (and other relevant standards) to every contentious issue that we have time to think about and research.
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays objects:Ben doesn’t apply the Outsider Test of Belief to methodological atheism. Rather, that’s his unquestionable axiom.
I showed how Hays had to misrepresent Loftus, Islam, statements made by myself (as well as not reading related material on this very post, or other posts in review of TCD on TID), and so I don't consider Hays much of a qualified judge of what my unquestionable axioms are supposed to be. And if he were correct, guess what! I would just start questioning it! Pretty simple. However, since I've already interacted with everything every Christian reviewer has said on the topic, and I certainly explained the reasons for methodological naturalism rather than just asserting it, Hays is still stuck with his "everyone is doing it" fallacy of justification.
Is Hays really going to waste so much time and effort writing lengthy responses (and presumably spending the time to think about why he doesn't have to think about it) and disown a critical check on his most important beliefs because of just one other man's supposed inconsistency (that Hays never bothered to demonstrate, btw). Perhaps these debates need to be a tad less personal, eh? "Johnny didn't do his homework and failed class, so I'm not going to either." Hays' mother, "Riiiiight."
Hays objects:Pointing out inconsistencies in your opponent’s argument is a basic element of refutation.
Yeah, but if Loftus were inconsistent, what does it matter? It doesn't justify people being unwilling to evaluate their beliefs in contention with outsiders who disagree with them. Loftus may fail at that. Hays definitely fails at that. That doesn't do anyone else any good as though Hays and Loftus are the supreme arbiters of which worldview is true or what anyone else should do if they want to be responsible with their beliefs.
In TID, Hays says this about liberal Christian blogger, James McGrath:Loftus says
"adopting the OTF is like following the Golden Rule, or so argues Dr. James McGrath" (85).However, McGrath flunks the Outsider Test. For McGrath imposes methodological naturalism on Biblical historiography. Yet that imposition hardly reflects the viewpoint of the Bible writers. Rather, it reflects the insider perspective of a faithless ax-grinder like McGrath.
What exactly was it that McGrath said again? This is what Loftus quoted of him in TCD:...one cannot claim Christianity is grounded purely in history while other traditions are at best shrouded in myth. One simply has to apply the most basic Christian principle to one's investigation of competing claims: The Golden Rule.
Should McGrath be taking sides with the writers of the Bible or should he be taking sides with modern humanity who has to investigate a world of conflicting claims as responsible epistemologists? Does Steve Hays take sides with Muhammad? Joseph Smith? What if we applied every defensive apologetic gimmick to every other fantastic story and religion in history? Where would that leave us? All Hays has done has inverted the OTF so that he doesn't have to pass it. If Hays thinks he can show that methodological naturalism is irresponsible (because of all the magic in the world skeptics are ignoring), then please, hop to it. Name calling, on the other hand, probably won't be very helpful and just makes Hays look like a faithless ax-grinder (faithless that is, to the responsible public debate).
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays objects:If methodological atheism represents an outsider perspective in relation to Islam or Mormonism, then Islam or Mormonism represent an outsider perspective in relation to McGrath. So, yes, if you’re sincere about assuming an “outsider’s viewpoint, then that cuts both ways. To ask if I side with Muhammad or Joseph Smith is stupid since I’m not the one who’s touting the OTF. I’m just applying the outsider rubric consistently, unlike Loftus, to answer Loftus on his own term. But Ben is too dim to ever figure out the nature of a tu quoque argument.
If I don't understand tu quoque arguments then apparently Hays doesn't understand rhetorical questions? (psst...don't answer that) Sure, McGrath is an outsider to Islam and Mormonism, but the OTF (or the Golden Rule) doesn't mean he should accept their standards of evidence. It's about McGrath being consistent in his investigation regardless of whatever standards he's applying and applying the same standards he would expect anyone else to apply. Elsewhere Hays agreed that we should evaluate texts like the Bible, the Koran, and the book of Mormon based on their actual merits and so there shouldn't be any disagreement in principle here. Obviously it is fair to launch criticisms when they don't actually stay on that path and I'll be doing plenty of that in regards to Hays in the next chapters of this review of TCD.
Hays says:Moreover, Ben’s objection isn’t even responsive to what I actually said. I was explicitly referring to McGrath’s adoption of methodological historiography. I’ve debated that with McGrath on my own blog.
I've dug a little into Hays' exchanges with McGrath and it appears the actual reference doesn't have a lot to do with the continuum of discussion here between Loftus, Hays, and the OTF, but rather to Hays' beef with McGrath on other issues. I have no comment on whether McGrath is conflating methodological naturalism with the grammatico-historical method (which appears to be a method that evaluates the text through the eyes and worldview of the authors of it, which could be instructive). If only Hays would explain himself and link more and attack less, things could move along without misunderstandings like this.
What's Wrong with Agnosticism?
The idea of honest ignorance, in TID, is next on Hays' hit list of concepts that must be demonized in order for him to avoid subjecting Christianity to sufficient scrutiny:Loftus says,
"I'm asking believers to change their assumptions and/or become agnostics. This is what I call the 'default position'" (88).But that flunks the Outsider Test. Agnosticism is only the default position if you happen to be an agnostic. So that reflects the insider perspective of an agnostic.
Really, Steve? Really? He then moves on to discuss what the best neutral starting point would actually be between more than one conflicting position. Oh wait, no he doesn't. Loftus points out the same thing:So, does Hays think all of our viewpoints are incommensurable?—that we each live in an intellectual box and there can be no meeting of the minds, or changing of perspectives? Does he think we are locked inside our own boxes?—that we each see things differently and there is nothing that can test between our different perspectives? He argues daily on his blog as if this is not the case. He argues as if he can convince people otherwise. But this is not the conclusion to what he just wrote if all we have to judge different perspectives is from the inside. So how does Hays propose we objectively test our own perspectives? What is his alternative to the OTB/OTF? I see no better one suggested by him or anyone.
In his response to Loftus, "Scoring the Outsider Test," Hays says:Remember that I don’t accept the OTF. I’m merely judging the OTF on its own terms. [...] But that doesn’t generate a dilemma for my own position. [...] If Loftus is going to deploy the insider/outsider rubric, then no one is exempt. Everybody is an insider in reference to his own position, to his own viewpoint. [...] I’m just taking his principle to its logical extreme.
In order to force the issue of common ground I'm going to point out that Hays is applying an ITB (an insider test for the coherency of beliefs). Loftus believes in that, too. Yay! I'm also going to point out that there's no reason we can't apply more than one standard. Right? But Hays' response here is still just based on implausibly disowning agnosticism as though it takes much consistent thinking to figure out you don't know something. In other words it is the most outsider position to take possible and the technicality that we can label it an insider position is still horribly trivial.
In his first post to me, "Surrender to error," Hays responds:Agnosticism hardly represents a neutral frame of reference. If God exists, then everything is ultimately dependent on God’s existence. If God does not exist, then nothing is dependent on God’s existence. You can’t bracket a proposition with global implications and leave everything else intact. [...] I don’t require the agnostic to step outside of the truth. Rather, he needs to open his eyes to the truth that’s all around him. An agnostic is already in the truth–he simply shuts his eyes to the truth.
If belief in a god has such evident global implications, then it should be no problem whatsoever to appeal to those global implications and pass the OTF. If Hays wants to make claims about the explicit mental states of agnostics, despite their protests (and his own hypocrisy when it comes to making universal claims about the mental states of believers), then he's just a jerk who will lose the argument the instant the agnostic checks her mental inventory of beliefs and doesn't find "belief in god" amongst them.
Hays doesn't seem to understand this when in the same post, he says:There is not reason to treat agnosticism as the default position unless you take the position that there’s no evidence for God’s existence, or insufficient evidence, or evidence to the contrary. But whichever one you stake out, that’s hardly a neutral starting-point. Rather, that takes for granted some substantive and quite contentious claims about the state of the evidence. Ben is cheating. Loftus is cheating.
And how do we sort out substantive and contentious claims about the actual state of the evidence? We argue from hypothetical ignorance to what we can actually prove. It's not like this is rocket science and it's not like Hays is completely unfamiliar with this rudimentary intellectual procedure:What should we do in a situation like that? (a) We could suspend judgment. (b) Or we could go with the best overall explanation.
So no one is allowed to suspend judgment on this god question without soliciting ad hominem attacks from Steve Hays? Alright... Hays calls Loftus and me cheaters, but I don't see how that logically follows from his mere Bible-says-so assertions.
In his response to Loftus, "Scoring the Outsider Test," Hays says:I don’t have any general expectation about who will be convinced. That’s up to God.
The cheap shot would be to say, "It shows." Zing! The more reasonable question would be to ask, "Why are this god's servants not mindful of making convincing arguments to outsiders?"
Inferences from Natural Revelation?
Originally I misread Hays' argument (which seemed to be a type of presuppositionalism) and you can see where he corrects me in the post, "Surrender to error." I've subsequently adjusted this section accordingly (and also in light of "Firing into the bushes" and "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!") and will continue to do so to make sure that Hays' views are properly represented.
In his response to Loftus, "Scoring the Outsider Test," Hays says:You have to begin with tacit knowledge. Due to natural revelation and common grace, God conserves a certain amount of tacit knowledge, which can function as a pretheoretical criterion. And that, in turn, can function in conjunction with formal criteria. In the revelation of Scripture, God confirms our tacit knowledge. God grounds our tacit knowledge. And God reveals other criteria.
If Hays is ultimately appealing to natural theology, then why not appeal to the actual arguments from natural theology? And if those arguments actually work, he has the means to pass Loftus' OTF. In addition, it seems Hays is saying that natural theology (in the form of the natural world) innately stimulates the human mind to theological intuitions (or inferences in his case), then he has to deal with the fact that it's not going to seem that way to everyone. Notice his flagrant hypocrisy in his first post to me, "Surrender to error:"[I said:] So Hays is really going to argue for the 'We can't be too sure that most people have carefully thought through their inherited worldview' thesis?It would be irresponsible to indulge in sweeping statements one way or the others. Moreover, people don’t have to have a consciously articulated worldview to have a reliable worldview. Back to tacit knowledge. The problem is the way in which unbelievers suppress tacit knowledge. [emphasis mine]
That's in the very same tiny little paragraph! How is it not equally irresponsible to indulge in the premise that Hays knows unbelievers are suppressing their theological tacit knowledge?
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays responds:Even if I were a hypocrite, the charge of hypocrisy, from the lips of an atheist, has no sting. Since atheism can’t underwrite moral realism, there’s nothing wrong with being hypocritical–from a secular standpoint. Ben resorts to moral disapprobation despite a worldview in which there is nothing to back that up.
On the contrary, hypocrisy is a word that is associated with a pattern of behavior. That association maps onto that behavior regardless of whether or not there is anything "wrong" with hypocrisy apart from the Christian worldview. This can then channel into an internal critique of Hays' Christian worldview and would result in the conclusion that one has to be a hypocrite in order to be a Christian like Hays. Obviously that would be an unlivable Christian lifestyle, since you'd necessarily be a fake Christian.
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays responds:As usual, Ben still misses the conundrum of the consistent atheist. Yes, hypocrisy is wrong given Christianity. But by the same token, Christian faith can’t be inherently hypocritical, for (ad arguendo), it’s only within the Christian framework that hypocrisy is wrong. Therefore, one could never mount an internal critique of Christianity on the grounds of hypocrisy, since such a critique must simultaneously affirm and deny the Christian grounding of the vice. To cease to be a Christian because Christianity is inherently hypocritical is to move outside the framework wherein hypocrisy had moral significance.
Hays doesn't seem to be able to comprehend when he loses an argument. I could evaluate the idea of hypocrisy and the hypothesis of Christianity for any unprincipled reason I wanted. I could do it to impress a woman. I could do it because I have a gun to my head. I could do it for any reason under the sun (i.e. it doesn't have to be my epistemic duty) and it could still be true that one would have to necessarily be a hypocrite in order to be a Christian. So when someone says to Hays, "It is apparently impossible to live your worldview consistently," it makes no sense for him to default to his canned "solve anything an atheist says" defense to say that hypocrisy can't be justified as "wrong" in some other worldview. Proper motivation to evaluate truth claims is entirely beside the point when all it takes is at least some motivation. Even if Hays were correct about "inconsistent atheism," what would that amount to? I'd go, "Oh, you're right. I guess Christianity is false and that I don't need to go around caring about the truth anymore." It would not necessarily result in the rejection of atheism or the proper acceptance of Christianity.
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays complains:How would Ben be in any position to posit that all Christians are Christian because they inherited their faith? He doesn’t offer polling data. And even if he did, that would just be a miniscule sampling.
I never said I knew they did. I'm defending the premise of Loftus' OTF that most probably did. There are plenty of intellectual Christians that will complain about the vast intellectual lethargy in their ranks and everyone knows most people don't think things through or develop a rigorously justified worldview. Any Christian that either isn't a mere cultural Christian (like a Muslim might be a cultural Muslim), or isn't one who is merely rationalizing on top of that arbitrary investment is free to pass the OTF and prove it. It's an open door that Hays simply refuses to walk through and certainly not an indicator of close mindedness or hypocrisy on my part (or Loftus' for that matter).
Rather than going through that open door and presenting evidence, in his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays responds:It’s true that I don’t walk through every door someone opens–especially when the porter doesn’t have my best interests at heart. Some open doors lead into torture chambers. Some open doors lead into thin air. There’s something to be said for knowing what’s on the other side of the door before you step through the door.
I know, I know, atheism would make you sad. And for some reason you aren't a cry-baby. [Although to be fair, some apostates really do have horrible deconversion experiences as their mindset adjusts. That doesn't mean Christian belief is justified, or that a metaphorical "torture chamber" or "thin air" awaits everyone.] Way to avoid the issue.
Hays continues:One doesn’t need to have a rigorously justified worldview to have justified beliefs. A child can have a natural fear of heights. He’s in no position to explain why falling from a height is dangerous, yet his instinctual fear is amply warranted. A child may instinctively fear a snarling dog. Even though he can’t rigorously justify his fear, his fear is well-grounded. I can recognize my father’s handwriting even though I’m not a handwriting expert. I can recognize a friend’s voice on the phone even thought I don’t have voice recognition technology to prove it.
Children and adults fear things irrationally and there are plenty of cases of mistaken identity. Perhaps there are genuine fears and valid pattern recognition more often than not (and I would hope so), but that doesn't solve a dispute. One has to be able to take things to the next level of justification when applicable or you have to admit that the contrary fears and recognitions of others are just as good as yours and treat them as such. Exclusivistic Christians aren't going to do that though. They'll present the same lame evidence as anyone else, in full knowledge of human errancy, and then declare victory.
In his first post to me, "Surrender to error," Hays claims to know an aspect of the mental states of every human ever born:God jump-starts everyone.
O rly? How do we know that Hays isn't suppressing his tacit knowledge that Christianity is intellectually indefensible? In that case, he'd have acquired over the course of his life and his apologetic efforts that the important elements of Christianity are suspiciously always unverifiable in any responsible way and that the arguments from nonbelievers unsettlingly have more weight than they should.
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays responds to the above question with this question:How does Ben know he’s not a brain-in-a-vat?
Hays misses the point of my response, because it was designed to be a back and forth, "You aren't any more psychic than I am," appeal. Regardless, I've responded to this red herring on this very post already if Hays would bother to read more than just his section.
Hays continues:I’m in a position to say what I did because I have a different source of information than Ben does: divine revelation.
And where did Hays demonstrate that his divine source of information is legitimate?
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays responds:I’ve been defending the Bible for years on end. Check the archives.
Concerning the OTF, Hays contributes to a chapter in TID, he writes a lengthy response to Loftus, and three lengthy responses to me, makes extremely controversial statements about the actual mental states of all unbelievers all the while being disgusted when he thinks they are doing something similar to believers, and yet he can't even be troubled on that entire journey to justify his argument? That's over 18,100 words and he can't even sketch out the basic justification or give a link or two? I'm sure those defenses are amazing. [/sarcasm]
So Hays has made plenty of claims about atheists in general and individuals such as myself based on this "source." He's made claims about explicit mental states I can immediately verify or falsify and so I know in a very straight forward way that his divine source is bogus. I know I don't know that a god exists and Hays claims his divine source says otherwise. Case closed.
Hays responds:Really? Somehow I don’t think that’s the standard homicide detectives apply in a murder investigation. If the suspect denies the crime, does that mean the case is closed? Both the innocent and the guilty routinely deny their guilt. So that’s neither here nor there.
Hays doesn't seem to understand that the case is closed...for me. He's making claims about my mental states, which is quite the gamble for him if he actually expects to be convincing to me. It's like the psychic who is supposed to tell you how many fingers you are holding up behind your back and just plain gets it wrong. In a past conversation with Hays I've seen him bizarrely attempt to be intimidating like a detective trying to break a suspect. If he believes that is a lucrative prospect for convincing unbelievers, good luck.
Of course, there are struggling nonbelievers out there who are subjectively intimidated by the religious culture they live in who may well fall prey to that line of attack. But then again there are also Christians who would have to acknowledge that prior to their conversion, they remember what it was like to be a nonbeliever and that they weren't secretly suppressing god-knowledge. They were merely convinced later in life. How is Hays going to ad hoc this away?
Rejecting all of the counter examples I've provided (with more on the way below) can be terribly ironic when often times believers will be appealing to the prima facie evidence of eyewitness testimony to validate the claims that Jesus rose from the dead. There's supposedly a case for Christianity based on the eyewitness testimony of some Jews from thousands of years ago. This in turn is supposed to legitimize the teachings of the Bible, including the one about nonbelievers suppressing knowledge of a god. Hence, the supposed eyewitness testimony from a handful of Jews from thousands of years ago overturns the interactive testimony from millions of modern day nonbelievers that people like Hays can actively question in their pursuit of the truth of the matter. Somehow I don't think that adds up in the Christian's favor.
If Hays wants use the detective/criminal analogy to say he has really good reasons to trust divine revelation, then he needs to actually demonstrate that. He's had plenty of time to bring those arguments up even if nonbelievers are actively suppressing god knowledge. He could have used those arguments to pass the OTF and instead Hays spent way too much time and effort convincing the "jury" that he doesn't actually have a case, imo.
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays said:A universal revelation doesn’t imply universal belief. For the mind must be predisposed to believe revealed truth.
Hays specifically said: "...unbelievers suppress tacit knowledge." [emphasis mine] That means we are supposed to know theism is true.
At the very least (if Hays misspoke) it does imply that everyone is in a position to know theism is true. I know I'm not in that position and I don't know of anyone who is. Further, the behavior of most other nonbelievers (and even many believers) is most explicable given the explanation that they have not been given a jump start in the theological knowledge department if theists like Hays would ever bother to try out the hypothesis. It would be extremely difficult if not impossible for a nonbeliever to live like a nonbeliever if they really did have no excuse in regards to knowing that a god exists and that they are morally accountable to him (and Hays even seems to agree this state of affairs would gnaw away at them) as the apostle Paul claims at the beginning of Romans.
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays says:It’s a commonplace of human experience to see people who live in denial.
It is also commonplace to see people who live in ignorance and/or honestly believe things that are false. Hays' theory doesn't allow for that when it comes to nonbelievers. Furthermore, this would be an extreme case of such denial since there would be unlimited negative consequences to repressing the "obvious" information. How do nonbelievers like myself do it? We sound pretty badass don't we? Regardless, Hays theory presumes nonbelievers have theistic knowledge and a deliberate suppression of it, regardless of the actual evidence from a nonbeliever.
Hays continues:Indeed, Ben’s response is counterproductive, for that’s exactly what the contributors to TCD say about Christians. We are delusional. We persist in our faith despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. That’s the allegation. If Ben now rejects that type of argument, then he has burned a key plank of TCD.
A key component of that argument is actually presenting evidence that it is true. Hays doesn't seem very interested in doing that part.
Hays continues:Unbelievers act just like the Bible predicts. They behve like rebels. They try hard to silence their guilty conscience. And they create like-minded communities that mtually vouch for each other’s alibi.
Some unbelievers do act just like the Bible predicts, but what happens when they don't fit the mold? What does Hays do then? There are plenty of apatheists and even "Christians" in Christian communities who don't really care and who simply take the culture presented to them for granted. That's hardly rebelling. You can't tell them from anyone else, but occasionally you'll bump into someone with that temperament. Then there are nonbelievers who are raised by nonbelieving parents and don't even know anything about religion or gods and are actually shocked when they get a little older and find out about what many other people believe. And there are former believers who absolutely didn't want to be atheists in a subjective sense, but were forced into it anyway by their intellectual integrity. The point is there's a wide range of nonbelievers just as there is a wide range of believers, because there is a wide range of people on just about any and every issue. Hays' pretentious theory has to explain all the evidence at least as well as a contrary theory that says knowledge of a god is not universal. Hays is like the worst detective ever.
Hays continues:Take contributors to TCD like Loftus, Ellis, and Avalos. Although they deny moral realism, they exert tremendous time and effort in trying to make everyone agree with them. But if you’re a moral relativist, why does it mean so much to you to disprove Christianity?
I wouldn't describe Loftus, Eller, and Avalos as your average nonbeliever and if he thinks that is the case, then he must not get out much. There is some incoherence in a moral relativist position that I'm not going to try to defend here, but there's also credit not given by Hays to their critiques. I will get more into this in later chapters.
Hays continues:The obvious reason for their inconsistency is that, deep down, they are trying to evade an unwelcome truth.
Does that mean that Richard Carrier, Sam Harris, and I (as moral realists) aren't trying to evade an unwelcome truth? Do we get credit for that or no? Was the apostle Paul trying to evade an unwelcome truth when he said that different things could be wrong to different believers based on their subjective measure of faith (Romans 14)? I'll bet his contemporary Christian critics might have said something to that effect.
Hays' theory that everyone has knowledge of a god also does not explain the behaviors of believers who have genuine fundamental epistemological struggles with their faith, even though they have every reason to simply know the obvious as we are told they should know. Why this bizarre behavior?
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays responds to the above:Natural revelation doesn’t have to explain that. Our fallen condition explains that.
So it is always the believer's fault when they have those days or weeks where they don't believe? Or is Hays admitting he is wrong by contradictorily saying that humans aren't suppressing their god knowledge, but in fact are just fallible epistemology machines that don't always come to the correct conclusion? Wouldn't that give them an excuse?
I don't suddenly confuse myself into not knowing my car exists or that my family and friends exist. But apparently people can do that with a god.
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays responds to the above:That’s a poor analogy. God is not a visible, tangible object–like a sports car.
Is Hays accidentally admitting that the existence of his god is not obvious after all and that there can be outsiders? If not, then why is it a poor analogy?
Hays continues:A better analogy would be something like the past. You can’t see the past or touch the past. All you have are traces of the past. But we don’t ordinarily doubt the past on that account–even though, by Ben’s criterion, we ought to.
I'm going to assume this is yet another example of an OTB challenge (much like ethical and political beliefs, belief in external reality, belief beyond perception fallacies, philosophical beliefs, and epistemic duties, that I've already answered) in order to implausibly avoid critical standards for Christianity. Should we believe in the past unless we can justify it to outsiders? First, it would be impossible to justify it to outsiders, because we'd be talking to people who apparently have had anterograde amnesia their entire lives. Obviously you can't have a conversation with someone who can't have conversations. Then there are people who do have memory forming capabilities and have bizarre views on the past anyway. Presentists are still trying to explain something even if their critics point out their position ends up denying the existence of the past. I don't think presentists set out to do that so it wouldn't be much of a criticism if they weren't trying to deal with the mutual belief of some form of the past. Then I suppose there might be the possibility of someone believing that our past memories (and all of our world that has been contrived to correspond to them) are fictions. They perhaps believe in some alternate past, just not the one we think we remember and whose modern effects we can verify. My response to that isn't any different than my answer on the OTB for external reality. We're only human and can only work with the apparent information we have. Lastly, if this comes down to deliberating between those "traces" that Hays mentioned, then it's just a matter of the best explanation of those traces. We might still admit we can't be completely sure the past happened as we remember it, but we can only do the best we can. I can't even imagine someone that has completely confused themselves out of belief in the past any more than someone who isn't bat-sh*t crazy and denies the existence of cars. Perhaps Hays or someone else can provide an example. Then we could evaluate where they may have gone wrong on their own terms and create an effective argument that bridges the gap between perspectives.
No one is saying that theists aren't allowed to make arguments for the existence of a god, but if they are saying everyone already knows a god exists, that's a serious problem. His position in relation to Loftus' OTF is basically, "There aren't outsiders." Everyone supposedly knows that a god exists and that we are morally accountable to him and that it's just a matter of sorting out the correct religion that best corresponds to natural revelation. If you think you are an outsider to that information, you are suppressing that part of your knowledge and are basically "cheating" according to Hays. Hays apparently just arbitrarily believes that theism is necessary for an understanding of the universe even though that's not obvious to others and apparently he won't argue for it in order to pass the OTF. I wouldn't consider most Christians mistaken, in a symmetrical way. I don't think they know atheism is true and actively suppress that knowledge even if some are like that (who are just afraid to be atheists). Most simply don't know any better and can hardly be blamed for it.
On any other topic with a similar level of "confusion" (that Hays advocates for nonbelievers) these people would be considered insane. Are they (or were they)? Insert implausible ad hoc excuses to save the Biblical Christian god theory. [see more here]
Hays continues:Unbelievers often act crazy. Take the antinatalist movement.
Lo and behold there's one of those lame excuses as though that could even possibly be a good sample of the sanity levels of nonbelievers. I'm sure that since there are more believers than nonbelievers in general there are more crazy believers than there are crazy nonbelievers. If Hays wants to show that there is a disproportionate ratio of crazy nonbelievers to believers, that'd be one thing, but still fall short of his absolute application he needs it to be.
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays says:I’m not appealing to natural theology. I’m appealing to natural revelation. Although natural revelation forms the basis of natural theology, the two are not synonymous.
The "revelation" part is an interpretation based on concluding the arguments from natural theology actually work. Hence, why would I bother with it rather than just cutting directly to the relevant part?
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays says:To the contrary, it may be a subliminal inference. The inference can also be formalized. But that’s a separate step.
Alright, well then we are basically in intuitions land which was already in the scope of things I was addressing. Hays' intuitions are valid and if yours differ, he's doesn't have the tools to take it to the next level. He apparently only has ideological ad hominem at his disposal to say that you secretly have the same intuitions, but that you unfairly repress them (unlike Hays and other like-minded theists).
Every Christian has their own spin on things and I'm not psychic. So if there is some other issue there, Hays needs to tell us just what he thinks natural revelation is and why his interpretation of whatever he is pointing to is best. He can at least point to a post that elaborates (if he cares about clarity in this exchange as opposed to scoring cheap shots).
Hays responds:But that’s the point. The contributors to TCD are in no position to apply a cookie-cutter to the faith of each and every Christian.
The contributors to TCD are handing out what they think is the most general applicable standard to the Christian population for Christian individuals to hold themselves to, where raw Christian epistemology "in the wild" so to speak most goes wrong and is most guilty of epistemic crimes. Obviously the minority of intellectual Christians is going to have a problem with this since they, by nature, will have the most at stake when it comes to the accusation of "intellectual inconsistency," but tough oats. It applies to them, too (albeit in a more sophisticated and rigorous way), and they of all people should have the tools to pass the OTF, since as I've pointed out many times, the door is open for those Christians who don't fit the mold to actually pass the test. Hence, there is no meaningful "cookie cutter" issue.
Hays continues:Different Christians can have different reasons for why they believe, and they can also be justified in what they believe for different reasons. We don’t need formal arguments to justify our faith–any more than we need formal arguments to justify many of our instinctual or empirical beliefs–most of which are either innate or formed by a subliminal process.
As Hays over-habitually says (probably in his sleep, as well), that cuts both ways. That's the whole point of the OTF is to show that Christians can't appeal to the same subjective things that everyone else from every other religion, philosophy, and worldview can claim and expect to be taken seriously (any more than anyone else can). Where it doesn't cut both ways is one party--ahem, atheists like Loftus and me--recognize our standards of truth need to be raised accordingly (and proportionally) to the task at hand of sorting out the mutually exclusive claims that are being justified with evidence that should have the same weight. Instead, Hays' version of this is just to buy the cult-think from the Bible hook, line, and sinker, and declare that everyone else is an evil represser of all his theistic starter knowledge. He declares something like, "No, all atheists really act like that," but makes every atheist fit the stereotypical mold like every other prejudiced person before him has attempted to do with their confirmation bias riddled thinking. Notice he has no trouble pointing to the wide open spectrum of "honest" Christian thinkers, but if it comes to unbelievers it's apparently an entirely different story. Even when corrected, Hays just resorts to some new accusation. (notice in that last link, Hays bizarrely pretends every last apostate is seeking fame and fortune...or that they all flock together or something. Who knows.)
Hays continues:In offensive apologetics, Christian philosophers and scholars make an effort to unpack some of the evidence, and marshal arguments. But that’s not a prerequisite for knowing something. Rather, that’s a type of second-order knowledge.
Well, I'm going to charitably assume on Hays' behalf that he unpacks things more in later chapters of TID (I've only read selectively ahead, given that I'm reviewing everything along the way), and hasn't wasted everyone's time with a shallow hack job that really doesn't accomplish anything other than playing to shallow Christian audiences who need their anti-atheistic prejudices reinforced. Then again, Hays doesn't want to be treated like an "atheist thinker" so I guess I should just assume more superficial hackery?
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays says:As far as natural theology is concerned, if Ben is curious about the arguments for natural theology, why doesn’t he read The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology? I have 24 hours in a day, just like Ben. It’s hardly incumbent on me to do for him what he can do for himself.
Why does Hays assume I'm not reading that book? Ironically, that's the very book I'm reading to help prepare for a recent Debate Night (which is part 4 of 5 of our "William Lane Craig's current standard 5 debate arguments" series, my friend Inquiring Infidel and I switch off playing the Christian and atheist roles). We have Christian friends that attend. Hays would be welcome to attend as well if he lived in town and was more friendly.
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays says:I didn’t [assume Ben is not reading that book]. And if he’s read the book, then he can answer his own question.
Perhaps my command of the English language is faulty, but "...why doesn't he read..." implies you assume that he hasn't read the book. I haven't completed it yet, but for some reason Hays assumes that those arguments are stellar or that bringing up the gist of the relevant ones is somehow inappropriate for TID. What better way to prove that infidels are delusional (recall the book title), but by actually proving it with good arguments!
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays says:Natural revelation doesn’t entail innate knowledge, although that’s one model of natural revelation. But it could be inferential knowledge.
It really doesn't matter how Hays cuts the cake here. Humans can make bad inferences just as they can have bad intuitions and there are certainly plenty of "atheistic" inferences to be made in regards to the same territory that natural theology attempts to cover. Ironically, in chapter 2, Patrick Chan and Manata went off on a huge anti-materialistic tangent that really didn't have anything to do with Tarico's chapter. And here, the Triabloggers simply refuse to present actual arguments to pass a fair test. Regardless, I've responded in turn to both scenarios since we might simply switch things around and plop those arguments down on the OTF on their frigid behalf.
Hays continues:Why should I play with the casino’s loaded dice? That would be a pretty dumb thing to do. The OTF is just a juvenile dare, the way adolescent boys taunt each other to perform dangerous stunts. To cave into that type of peer pressure is a mark of emotional weakness. I don’t live for Ben’s approval.
I don't see how asking a person to be consistent with their standards is playing with "loaded dice." I don't see how it is a "juvenile dare" to demand arguments that actually surpass the explanatory power of contrary arguments in a contentious context. And I don't see how "caving in" to intellectual integrity is "weak." Quite the contrary. [It should be noted that Hays' response to the last three or four sentences is basically, "Nuh uh, what I said," in his typical intellectually lazy way as though I haven't addressed all of his claims.] If we have to "go there" it is emotionally weak to not be able to challenge your most fundamental beliefs. Further, making an argument like Hays' "atheism would make me sad" is in the same genre of emotional weakness, imo.
Alas, in his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays claims I misrepresent his "atheism would make Hays sad" argument and says:If atheism is true, then it makes no ultimate difference who believes what. If atheism is true, then we have no epistemic duties.
To be more specific, Hays was saying that he has no motivation to tend to epistemic duties unless something like Christianity is true. I showed that there are good enough reasons to tend to them even if they will have no ultimate absolute significance. It is difficult to live a life without tending to truth, and much harm can come from error. It's not an all or nothing deal and the example of flourishing nonbelievers should be proof of concept contrary to his subjective feelings on the matter. Hays was then in denial that nonbelievers live fulfilling lives in order to accommodate his perspective which simply doesn't mean anything to nonbelievers who know they are flourishing just as much as Christians know they themselves are flourishing. Hays doesn't seem to understand that his argument does in fact boil down to "atheism would make him sad." That's all the explanatory power it has, which of course Hays isn't interested in acknowledging. Hence it must be my fault for "misrepresenting" his lame argument. If he doesn't like that, he's going to have to provide a better one.
So anyway, I also don't see what any of this has to do with my approval. Hays should want to apply good standards on his own terms regardless of whether I exist or the rest of the intellectual community exists that isn't interested in his brand of Christian solipsism.
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays responds:When someone like Ben invokes the rhetoric ruse of shaming his opponent into agreeing with him, it takes for granted that we should value his opinion of how wonderful or terrible we are.
So what does "someone like Ben" mean exactly? Is this an invocation of a dehumanizing atheist stereotype? And it is a bit bizarre that Hays will say I "take it for granted" that my opinion is valuable when clearly I've already said (just below, in context before this current layer of response) he is free to disregard it. I still think Hays' perspective is shameful. That's not going to change. Anyone who shares my values should agree by definition. Psst...Christians are supposed to share my values on epistemic duties.
He can pretend not to care about that, but he is responding to my arguments as though it matters. I'm not his keeper and I don't think he owes me anything. My response to him isn't about him. It's to everyone else who is concerned with this intellectual territory (which Hays could technically be a part of). Hays can stop making this personal any time he wants to.
Hays responds:Ben can stop making this personal by dropping the rhetorical ploy of shaming his opponent.
It's only a ploy if I don't believe in it. Hays hasn't shown I don't believe in it (and I happen to be an insider on my own beliefs). He also hasn't shown my justifications for believing in it are mistaken. He doesn't even understand his own justifications apparently. And to top it all off, he's misrepresented my presentation of my actual expectations in order to be more offended. He can stay put in his ill-founded righteous indignation concerning me having an opinion and I will continue all the more to have that opinion, that Hays' position is a failure at every level and that any reasonable person should be ashamed of that. It is also my opinion that others will conclude similar things about Hays' opinion based on how well I present mine.
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays says:In addition, Ben isn’t paying attention to the nature of the argument. TCD alleges that Christian faith is delusional. So that goes to the issue of defensive apologetics, not offensive apologetics. I don’t need to make a positive case for Christian theism to rebut TCD. For that’s not how the argument was framed.
Being defensive in this context just means that Hays and company are backing up to the wall and complaining that perhaps elements of the OTF do not apply to them. What they don't appear to appreciate is that in light of the actual nature of the OTF, that actually puts them in a position to pass the OTF if that defensive position is legitimate. Here's a helpful hint for how that argument probably should have gone (which some of the Christians reviewing TCD, including Engwer in TID, somewhat followed, but not all the way):You don't know me. It is understandable if you've met plenty of religious people and find that in all likelihood they by and large merely accepted the faith they were raised into. If they thought about it, they still statistically trended to the religion of their youth, and there are plenty of cognitive biases to account for that. We could be picky about various aspects of the OTF, since it is impossible to know exactly why every religious person ever believes (or believed) as they do. Even though I believe that God has orchestrated the natural beliefs of saved Christians and that in fact humans have a sensus divinitatis, I recognize this is not immediately evident and will have to actually argue for the reality of those positions. It is also my conviction that unbelievers are suppressing basic knowledge of theological truths that God has presented everyone, and I have very good reasons to think this is the case. However I recognize that perhaps they are too confused to recognize this for themselves and so I will need to carefully present my case for that to get them back on track. Hopefully if Loftus is as reasonable as he is supposed to be as a "rational atheist," in the process I will show that my arguments for all of these beliefs pass the OTF as well. It is clear that Loftus is merely looking for sufficient reasons to take a religious worldview seriously that go above and beyond the many lame rationalizations different kinds of religious people give for their beliefs that tend to amount to special pleading. In fact, I believe we have those kinds of reasons. I recommend, for example, The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology [and whatever else establishes the fundamental building blocks of the Christian worldview]. I look forward to engaging Loftus on those arguments (or perhaps he can direct me to where he may have already responded to them) and the rest of the arguments presented in TCD.
I would then proceed to use Loftus' several examples (that he unfortunately does not spend enough time elaborating on himself) to one-up Loftus and demonstrate how in fact the correct way for an intellectually respectable Christian to not assert the conclusion or resort to special pleading. I would also point to any literature elaborating on the evidence and best arguments for those claims. That is the appropriate, respectable form of response to Loftus' chapter from an intellectual Christian point of view. It is not the nitpickstravaganza that we got from Hays and Manata that merely exposes how willing they are to avoid taking their religious convictions to a sufficient level of critical scrutiny and many, many other intellectual blunders typical of their brand of thinking (as I've rigorously shown here in my review of everything they said).
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays responds to the above section by reiterating points he's already made that I've already refuted. No need to go in circles.
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays says:This is not about convincing unbelievers to become believers. Rather, this is about whether or not Christians are justified in what they believe. At that level, the argument from religious experience would suffice–although other arguments are certainly available.
Constructing an argument that ideally should convince a hypothetical unbeliever to become a believer and demonstrating that actual Christians are not delusional has considerable (if not complete) overlap. It seems only people that are going to defend solipsistic standards of evidence are going to think otherwise. Hays demonstrates that when it comes to evaluating the legitimacy of religious experiences, he takes them as a given and does not even appear to comprehend scrutiny of them.
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays says:No, I never legitimated religious experience in general. That is more of Ben’s sloppy reading comprehension.
So...the non-Christian religious experiences are mere delusions or are demonic in nature? *eyeroll* Is Hays going to bother to clarify? Or will he just keep blaming my lack of being psychic on poor reading comprehension and also leaving skeptical audiences with the impression that he is in fact a special pleader when it comes to Christian religious experiences?
Anyway, the argument from his religious experiences (assuming he's even had any) does not suffice, since he has not demonstrated a reasonable degree of competency in evaluating some very mundane relevant things here [see the section on evaluating prophetic dreams below].
Hays responds:Why does Ben assume that predictive dreams must be intrinsically religious?
When did I say prophetic dreams were intrinsically religious? The incompetent evaluation of prophetic dreams and religious experiences are similar enough in nature to be comparable regardless of whether the prophecies happened to be religious in nature. In fact, my example from my own life didn't have anything to do with my religion.
Since Hays referenced the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology earlier, and after I finished the chapter on the ontological arguments, out of curiosity I started reading through the argument from religious experience. Interestingly, the author of that chapter, Kai-man Kwan admits in the very beginning:I do not claim that [the argument from religious experience] is a conclusive argument, but I think it is a reasonable argument that can contribute to the cumulative case for the existence of God.
Compare that to what Hays said just above:...this is about whether or not Christians are justified in what they believe. At that level, the argument from religious experience would suffice–although other arguments are certainly available.
If the argument from religious experience isn't conclusive, how can it suffice? Being compatible with other arguments for theism hardly grants it the status of a reasonable fallback position when all else fails. Perhaps Hays has a better version of the argument than Kwan? Perhaps he should present it or link to where he has presented it in the past.
In his response to Loftus, "Scoring the Outsider Test," Hays says:...there’s nothing inherently suspect about looking for other, supporting arguments for something we initial believe apart from the supplementary reasons. For instance, I may have an experience which gives me good reason to believe something. Over and above my personal experience, there may be other lines of evidence which corroborate my experience. Suppose I remember seeing a lunar eclipse. Suppose I confirm my experience by reading a newspaper account of that event. Is there something wrong with my methodology? No.
And suppose one confirms their experience with a less trustworthy newspaper like a tabloid and invents a conspiracy to account for the official story? And the reason we discount the more trustworthy newspaper is because the less trustworthy one validates our experience? The circularity and special pleading (for example on the false cosmology embraced in the supposedly inerrant Bible) can then be allowed to set in. We'll be evaluating more of those issues in my review of later chapters of TCD.
In his response to Loftus, "Scoring the Outsider Test," Hays says:We all have private experiences which may be sufficient to justify our belief in something. I remember a dream I had last night. Am I not justified in believing that I had a dream?
Yet we all have analogous experiences since we dream ourselves. If you are going to make a categorically different claim like, "My dreams tell the future" (or is actually a divine internet link up to the netherworld) there's an epistemic battle to be waged there and the same evidence of merely having that experience isn't good enough. You also have to show that your experience rigorously corresponds to reality or you don't really have that great a reason to believe in it yourself.
In his first post to me, "Surrender to error," Hays basically agrees [note: I originally slightly misread this response]:...it isn’t all that difficult to see how we’d go about confirming or disconfirming an ostensible dream about the future.
Hays considers my example "odd," but the scenario I had in mind was from my own experience. Years ago I actually had a couple dreams that seemed to correspond to the events of the following day. Should I believe that I was really dreaming about the future or that those dreams just so happened to correlate?
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays asks:Why not?Whether or not an ostensibly predictive dream is dumb luck depends on how close and "naturally" inexplicable the parallels are. Some things are too coincidental to be coincidental. So that depends on the details of the dream, as well as the details of the extramental event to which it ostensibly refers.
One wonders what he thinks would be "too coincidental." He does know that humans are horrible statistics machines, right?
If prophetic dreams happened every night for a month and were rather specific, for example, I think I'd have a case. [edit: I added the words, "for example" to the previous sentence since Hays conveniently decided I presented the only possible case scenario for verifying prophetic dreams from my perspective.]
However, yet again, in his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays disagrees:That’s rather arbitrary.
No...just believing it because it vaguely worked out once or twice is what is arbitrary. Making sure it isn't arbitrary with some rigor is what would be not arbitrary.
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays responds:But that isn’t what Ben originally said. He said “Years ago I actually had a couple dreams that seemed to correspond to the events of the following day.” Now he’s suggesting they were “vague.”
I know Hays has a problem with taking his original impression of an argument too seriously and considering any further clarification (or just a rewording that happens to contradict his original impression) to be a completely different argument (as I've noticed many times in discussions with him). However, one could easily suppose that "seemed to correspond" is the equivalent of "vaguely worked out" and that Hays, as usual, is inventing a change that's not actually present.
The dreams didn't even make enough of an impression on me for me to remember what they were even about. I only recall wisps of them vaguely, telling other people about them, and I recall my basic Christian skeptical sentiments at the time, even though I believed in an ideological sense that prophetic dreams could be expected. A lady at work seemed to be much more convinced than I was and told me to pay close attention to them in the future. They never happened again so there was nothing to pay close attention to. If it had been really good evidence, I'm pretty sure I would have jumped on that and perhaps still been a supernaturalist of some kind to this day as a result. A good independent argument is a good independent argument and that could have translated into merely a different compatible worldview. Granted, this is where Hays dismisses all of this outright, because it would imply I'm an honest person. And he "knows" I'm not an honest person because I'm an atheist. Since everyone knows a god exists, all atheists are therefore dishonest people and that characterizes me whether I present consistent evidence of my honesty (apart from arguing for atheism, of course). However, if he's mistaken that we all know a god exists, then my testimony should suffice at face value. I've given him many reasons to believe he is mistaken and he's merely gone all conspiracy theory on us.
If Hays would like to direct us to some solid research on the efficacy of predictive dreams, he can feel free. That would be appropriate since my own experience was just an example.
Hence my appeal to "rigor" that apparently Hays was clueless about in his first post to me, "Surrender to error:"To take Ben’s own example, why would a dream about the future have to “rigorously” correspond to the future? Why couldn’t a dream about the future be allegorical?
I don't know why Hays is avoiding the issue. I'm sure a dream about the future could come in the form of many literary genres. However the more obscure and representational, the more difficult to peg down as "real."
Hays, in his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," again with extreme minimalism, responds:Take Joseph’s dream about the famine.
A: That's an unverifiable story in an ancient book. B: It was culturally taken for granted that prophecy was real and therefore not likely subjected to much scrutiny. C: Even if based on some real history, we can't be sure that Joseph didn't get the interpretations of many other dreams wrong and that the Bible only records his success stories. D: We could subject a modern interpreter to the same tests of rigor I've advocated for more straight forward supposedly prophetic dreams. E: In the story, Joseph's predictions actually pan out which should bring us back around to the concept of verification that is in dispute. I don't know why we are arguing over just what kind of dream it has to be or whether or not there is a middle man interpreter in the scenario. Hays just won't cut the crap. That's on him. If Hays really wants to fight over this, that's a little crazy, like he's never just plain asked himself an honest question about anything: "How do I know this is actually true?"
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", even though Hays only dropped six words on the topic above, he accuses me of missing the point, he avoids showing that I actually presented 5 separate avenues of pursuit to cover all plausible bases (A-E), and he ignores the final most significant point E. So again, Hays just won't cut the crap. He randomly puts down Dawkins and doesn't bother to tell us about these so called prophetic dream success stories that are "too coincidental" to be merely coincidental. Remember, the original issue was Hays basically saying, "I have dreams that you can't verify, therefore religious experiences can be valid" as though he had no concept of good enough verification by analogy (since we all have dreams) or too weak of justification to be an argument (since religious experiences are just as good as hallucinations or random anomalous mental events). I raised the bar to a relevant issue which was prophetic dreams and gave an example of how we might establish their legitimacy. Hays portrayed it as the only possible example of verification didn't bother pointing to good science on the topic. Hence there's still not a reason present in this four iteration discussion to take religious experiences or prophetic dreams seriously on the part of supernatural worldviews everywhere.
The analogy of dreams is a case in point. Obviously our brains are capable of creating all sorts of experiences that have nothing to do with the rest of reality. Why are theists like Hays so trusting of whatever mental experiences they believe correlate with a real god entity? That's the important critical question theists just don't tend to ever get around to answering because they never bothered to be that responsible with evaluating their experiences in the first place for the sake of their own intellectual integrity.
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays says:One of Ben’s revealing habits is getting ticked off when a Christian apologists holds an atheist to the terms of his own argument. But Ben was the one who introduced the qualification of rigor: rigorous correspondence. I’m just answering him on his own grounds. He likes to bandy words about “honesty” and “intellectual integrity,” but it’s a mark of his dishonesty that when I beat him at his own game, or John Loftus, he wants to change the rules.
From my point of view, Hays often makes fallacious arguments from the ultra literal history of conversation (or just his interpretation of it), rather than recognizing the natural logical leeway of a position (or even the reading of a sentence in context). Hays seems to navigate by politics first and content a very distant second. I don't consider that lack of critical alacrity on Hays' part to be my fault or indicative of my dishonesty. But I would say that, wouldn't I? And further, Hays never demonstrated that the original example of verification I gave, where basically vague dreams continue to correspond to the next day's events for long periods of time was actually wrong in any sense. He was just too busy changing the topic and looking for problems that weren't there to bother being helpful.
Hays continues:...it’s also ironic that Ben is so fond of throwing the “solipsistic” epithet around. For if you’re so distrusting of whether mental experiences map onto extramental realities, then that’s a recipe for solipsism.
It's the hallmark of epistemic entitlement to disregard the best information we have on the human condition in reference to our fallibility. Human fallibility should be common ground, but Christians too often refuse to apply those lessons if it undercuts the legitimacy of their belief in Christianity. Everyone knows humans are errant. Our best methods confirm that in great detail. Not applying it is what is to yourself is what is solipsistic and intellectually dishonest.
My intuitions and inferences based on my experience of the natural world are not the same as Hays' intuitions and inferences and the best Hays can hope to do is appeal to an unqualified popularity vote based on a psychological frame of mind not known for getting the realities beyond appearances correct (i.e. metaphysical intuitions). As I've said, the natural problems of human epistemology favor the more conservative metaphysical claims and religion is not making such conservative claims.
In his response to Loftus, "Scoring the Outsider Test," Hays says:Now, what’s adequate for my justification may be inadequate for your justification. My firsthand experience isn’t your firsthand experience. If you didn’t have the same experience, then you might not be justified in believing it. The argument from experience isn’t meant to be convincing to a second party. It doesn’t have to be. That’s irrelevant. What I’m justified in believing, and what you’re justified in believing, are separate issues.
Not really. Plenty of apostates have had "religious experiences" they don't think they could justify in an epistemically responsible way. Applying the OTF is a great way to evaluate whether you are being fair with your own experiences. At least Hays is admitting that his reasons for believing shouldn't necessarily mean anything to anyone else. So far, from what I know, his claim to natural theological tacit knowledge doesn't mean anything to me.
Hays says:That’s why, in Christian apologetics, we also turn to public lines of evidence.
Well, since Hays finally cares about what other people think, maybe he could show how his Christian beliefs pass the OTF? :) People in this world do have strong a-rational positive reactions to all sorts of ideas. The brain is capable of manifesting all sorts of anomalous experiences and intuitions whether there is a spiritual realm or not.
In his first post to me, "Surrender to error," Hays responds:If that cuts against theism, then it cuts against atheism with equal force.
When did I appeal to my explicitly atheist experiences and/or atheist intuitions to justify atheism in this post (or anywhere else for that matter)?
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays responds:...needless to say, there’s no such thing as an “explicit atheist experience”–as analogous to religious experience.
True, which is why it makes no sense to say that it "cuts both ways" since obviously it doesn't, which was my point. *facepalm* Every mental experience I'm going to appeal to in order to make my arguments will have these qualities: A. It will be something analogous and verifiable to the experiences of my entire audience. Or B. I will make damn sure I extra-justify relevant things that are only going on in my head to achieve the same level of responsible public debate. Hays does not seem to sufficiently care about those values and thus forfeits the ball.
For a god to use means that are indistinguishable from the errors of the human mind makes it a dirty subjective way to establish credibility in this world.
In his first post to me, "Surrender to error," Hays responds:We can only access the objective via the subjective. We can’t step outside of our minds and senses to enjoy unmediated knowledge of the external world.
I don't have a problem using Hays' version of "subjective" and "objective" since I'm not trying to win an argument with overly simplistic semantics. Even from our subjective frame of reference that we cannot escape, there is still a spectrum of more objective than not. If we are fair and we treat the experiences of others as just as legitimate as our own, and attempt to sort out the world from that vantage point, it should be clear that using "tacit knowledge" of the natural theology variety is a dirty OVERLY subjective way to establish credibility in the world just like I said. The fruit of this is evident in a heavily confused religious world forever struggling to get along with reality.
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays responds:Raw experience doesn’t enable us to “sort out the world.” You also need some criteria.
*sigh* We're just on the topic of experiences and so that was what was emphasized. There is also mental architecture in the brain that is already processing experiences through the filters of coherency and relevancy, etc. We can then take those basic mental facets and tune them up even more, pool our resources, and engage in the project of accountable collectivistic science to do even better than evolution ever "imagined."
Hays continues:Needless to say, the phenomenon of religious confusion is hardly an undercutter or defeater for Biblical theism, for the Bible has an explanation for that phenomenon.
Having "an" explanation does not mean it is the best explanation. Hays actually needs to provide an argument that this god's communication skills don't suck when the evidence of the world at face value clearly strongly implies that they would (if in fact this god existed).
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays responds:That begs the question of whether divine communication was ever meant to foster unanimity. But that’s certainly not how divine communication is presented in Scripture. The intent of divine revelation is divisive as well as unitive.
It's not about unanimity, it's about the value of education for individuals. It is cruel to force people to play an eternal life or death game where they don't even know the rules. If life is a test, can everyone even agree on homeroom? Hardly. A genuinely moral agent cannot respect freewill and disrespect providing the information required to make good choices at the same time.
Superstition and Barbarism?
In TID, Hays says:Loftus says
"The Christian theist must now try to make sense of this claim [i.e. two natures of Christ], coming as it does from an ancient superstitious people…" (86).But that pejorative characterization flunks the Outsider Test. To brand them as "superstitious" doesn't reflect the viewpoint of an ancient people. Rather, that reflects the insider perspective of an apostate like John Loftus.
Does Hays honestly believe there are no superstitious people in the world even if Christianity is true? In context (that Hays neglects to quote) Loftus was careful to use the superstitions of the Greeks (from the Bible itself) as an example, but Hays just takes a swipe at Loftus anyway to suit his own pejorative narrative of atheists. Further, in chapter 7 in his book, "Why I Became an Atheist" ("The Strange and Superstitious World of the Bible" pages 124-164) Loftus takes us on a very down to earth tour illustrating his point. Readers can very easily compare their own sensibilities with that of the Biblical evidence. Even most modern Christians don't tend to act like the characters in the Bible. Loftus uses not only the Bible's official beliefs, but also what it offhandedly reveals about the common sensibilities of the times. Christian students of the Bible will tend to ignore this kind of thing in the texts, but Loftus is keen on putting it front and center, assembling it all together and saying, "Hey, look at the obvious."
In his response to Loftus, "Scoring the Outsider Test," Hays says:[Loftus said:]
“Of course, the question is why anyone in our modern society should desire the viewpoint of ancient superstitious barbaric Biblical people anyway, which is extremely strange to me, and says nothing against a Muslim who wishes to adopt the writings of the Koran.”
Which perfectly illustrates the fact that Loftus doesn’t take the OTB seriously. To say the viewpoint of Bible writers is “barbaric” and “superstitious” doesn’t reflect an “agnostic” view of Scripture. It’s not as if Loftus is withholding judgment. No, he judges Scripture by his own culturally provincial outlook. Secular parochialism.
Perhaps Hays bites the bullet on every superstition and barbarism recorded in the Bible and actively lives them out in his life (or has an amazing excuse for how none of them apply to modern Christians)? It's funny how Manata asks if the police know that Loftus has tried out the "kill babies for fun" moral theory as though we should be moved by the whimsical suggestion. Killing babies for their god (Psalm 137:9) apparently wasn't that big a deal.
In his first post to me, "Surrender to error," Hays says:
It’s ironic that Ben makes so much of the OTF even though he’s unable to actually follow the argument. The question at issue is simply one of consistency. Loftus makes no effort to apply his own test consistently. He merely uses that as a ruse to camouflage his prejudice.
If Hays doesn't want to take responsibility for all the superstitions and barbarisms in the Bible he probably doesn't apply, so be it. That certainly doesn't hurt Loftus' argument.
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays says:
The fact that Scripture records cases of barbarism and superstitious doesn’t make the Scriptural record barbarous or superstitious.
Loftus and company are referring to official cases of "apparent" barbarism and superstition that the Bible endorses in addition to pointing out how the Bible let's us know about similar barbarism and superstitions in the surrounding culture. That was obvious. Hays is avoiding the issue.
Hays continues:No, I don’t take responsibility for the Bible. I didn’t write it. I do take responsibility for my faith in Scripture.
The difference in relevancy here is nonexistent. Any Christian has to take responsibility for any and all official superstitions and barbarisms advocated in Scripture in order to have a coherent moral paradigm. Again, Hays is avoiding the issue and not taking responsibility for his faith in Scripture.
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays says:Ben keeps raising these empty-headed objections as if I hadn’t ever dealt with that objection before. Not only do I address cases of “official” barbarism and superstition in Scripture in the course of my response to TCD, but I’ve also been doing that for years at Triablogue. For Ben to say I’m “avoiding” the issue when I’ve confronted the issue head-on multiple times just makes Ben look like a lazy, willful ignoramus.
Take responsibility for your own worldview rather than taking cheap shots at atheists who know your excuses are going to suck on impact. Hays could have presented the top three typical "apparent" barbarisms in TID itself, the worst of the worst, and discussed why they aren't so barbaric after all. To not do so is lazy and irresponsible and makes TID look like a mindless hack job. If Hays and company get into that in Avalos' chapter later, that's great. Point us in that direction. I'll cover that when I get there. I'm already reading everything in response to TCD and responding to it and Hays wants to frame that as lazy, willful ignorance? The very least Hays could do is link to relevant articles rather than making me search every Christian reviewer's blog for their past responses on key issues. When they link to things, I do investigate. If they don't, I assume they weren't very proud of their arguments or that they don't really care about their worldview or a meaningful conversation that is educational to everyone.
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays says:”Barbarism” is a moral value-judgment. But Loftus and other contributors to TCD are moral relativists. So, yes, it hurts his argument to use a self-contradictory argument.
A: I've complained about the same thing on Ken Pulliam's blog review of David Eller's chapter on the topic. B: Loftus inserts a footnote in Eller's chapter that points to moral realist positions that Hays does not address. C: I am not a moral relativist. D: Regardless, even moral relativists can show the internal incoherency of other moral belief systems as Richard Carrier has pointed out.
In response to point B above (on naturalistic moral realism), in his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays says:I address that on 92 and 163n100 of TID. Yet another reminder that literacy isn’t Ben’s strong suit.
Had Hays not taken yet another opportunity for ill-founded insult and been directing the conversation towards productive ends all along where applicable, I would merely have been able to say, "Fair enough. We'll get to that later in my review." In fact I've said that very thing to Engwer. Since I'm covering everything online in response to TCD, I haven't finished reading TID, and never said otherwise, have left most issues open-ended, and have encouraged others (on both sides) to do the same. The fact no one listens is merely part of the crappy politics perpetually fogging these conversations. Unfortunately I don't have the ability to make up for everyone not carrying their load of good will regardless of past grievances (whether real or contrived).
In response to point C, Hays says:Which simply means that Ben is not a consistent atheist. Ben isn't exactly the standard-bearer. But a number of prominent secular thinkers have presented persuasive arguments to show the incompatibility of atheism with moral realism.
So the moral of the story is that if you are a moral relativist atheist you are hiding something and if you aren't you are being inconsistent. Unfortunately for Hays, he's not shown the inconsistency and referencing other atheists who disagree with me is about as meaningful as referencing other Christians who disagree with him. Hays loves to say things cut both ways even when they don't. Why not here?
In response to point D, Hays says:I already dealt with that objection in a subsequent response to Avalos: http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2010/07/split-personality.html As usual, Ben is way behind the curve.
In TID, Hays says:Loftus says,
"Just think how it would sound to evangelical Christians if Mormons claimed their faith was 'properly basic,' or that the inner witness of the Spirit self-authenticates their faith" (87).For all I know, Plantinga might concede that Mormon faith is properly basic. Proper basically simply means a belief enjoys prima facie warrant. It doesn't mean the belief in question is either true or unfalsifiable.
It is certainly warranted to consider what your faith related feelings mean, but in practice religious people do use them as defeaters for contrary evidence and difficult issues. So no matter how much lip service a religious person may pay to technicalities, the ball of subjective probability is already rolling in their minds in favor of their religious convictions.
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays claims:Mormons do not enjoy prima facie justification for their faith.
Alright, why not?
And rather than taking all the easily verifiable earthly evidence at face value and coming to the best straight forward conclusion (that religious people are merely rationalizing their subjective investment in their particular brand of religion), they grant the things unseen way too much credit.
Hays responds:Unseen things like human minds. Or the past. Or possible worlds. Or numbers. Or morals.
These are matters of best explanations, practicality, detectable patterns, and debates that theists would necessarily have to resolve in their favor. I shouldn't have to unpack what I meant by the things "unseen" since in context of what I've argued in this post, it's merely rhetorical shorthand (and not just literal vision) that doesn't preclude the possibility of making arguments for the existence of a god. However, all of the things listed are much more conservative claims than theism especially in comparison to the much more universally defensible evidence theists have to reject once they've claimed their Christian worldview.
In Hays' case, he might even tell himself that his "tacit knowledge" is falsifiable (or maybe he doesn't, I don't know). To illustrate the likely bias at play here, here's an analogy: Let's say you hear a news report that claims your mother murdered a neighbor. Now, let's say you hear a report that someone you don't know murdered their neighbor. Let's say you are seven years old and don't know that your mother is actually a psychopath. Regardless, this hypothetical child may naturally be more incredulous about the report about his mother rather than the report about some random stranger. The thresholds of disconfirmation of each hypothesis are set differently simply because of the inherent psychological affinity for a particular kind of conclusion over another. To translate the analogy, the mothers would be various religions. The idea of them being psychopaths would correlate with the idea of most religions necessarily being false to important enough degrees. Hence, any given "child" would probably be the offspring of a psychopath and be too inexperienced with how mothers are supposed to be to know any better. This isn't meant to be a pejorative analogy. It's meant to illustrate ordinary bias, plain and simple. The OTF is designed to set those standards equally so that we take each story on its own merits rather than demanding mountains of amazingly absolute evidence to disprove the undesired conclusion.
Unfortunately, being objective like this basically means Christians would have to emotionally divorce their cosmic spiritual husband to even be able to properly contemplate such an idea. Some can think hypothetically, but others probably just can't do it any justice. That's being a traitor right? An infidel! But what other way is there to be objective and claim the title of impartial thinker? If you are standing in a room full of spiritual brides of different gods, and everyone claiming various flavors of "god(s) perceptions," "tacit knowledge," and "self-authenticating inner spiritual witnesses" with all the psychological bias that implies, that's not reasonable at all. Everyone's standards for everyone else will simply be unfairly high. The challenge is to set a standard for all and then to see which beliefs (if any) pass it.
In his first post to me, "Surrender to error," Hays responds:Unless Ben denies the possibility of tacit knowledge or self-authenticating mental states, why should we automatically discount that appeal? Likewise, Ben’s dismissive attitude makes no more sense than saying that if some men misremember, then I should distrust my own memories.
I don't think I automatically discounted the appeal, but I did point out each party needs to raise their standards accordingly since mutually exclusive propositions are getting in via similar means. There's plenty of research that strongly suggests we should have a healthy distrust of our memories (given all the ways we know memory can go wrong). Hence, if two people recall the same event differently, and we want to know the truth, we'll have to do a little better than just taking them both at face value won't we?
In TID, Hays says:There's nothing wrong with claiming divine self-authentication if, in fact, a believer does enjoy the witness of the Spirit. That's a variant on the argument from religious experience, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that appeal. There's nothing wrong with making the claim as long as the claim is true.
This just begs the question of whether or not it really is true that a "self-authenticating" inner feeling associated with a religion actually has been instigated by a supernatural agent.
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays says:It’s sufficient for me to point out that Loftus fails to draw an elementary distinction between true and false claims about one’s experience.
No, Loftus is saying the same thing I am. He agrees they probably had their subjective experiences. And he also agrees that they fail to take their arguments based on those experiences to a sufficient degree of critical justification. Hays refuses to step up to where the argument actually is and isn't saying anything that helpful here. Loftus' basic point remains that Christians should just as readily dismiss their own subjective feelings as compelling evidence since it is obviously so ubiquitous to many conflicting religious positions.
Hays continues to respond:This assumes that most religionists even claim to have a distinctive religious experience.
There is more than one level to this argument since not only do religious people not subject their experiences to enough scrutiny to sort out the supernatural world, but in addition, they don't sufficiently subject their interpretation of their subjective experiences to the competing naturalistic hypothesis which says it's probably all in their heads (or that at least we don't know that it isn't just all in their heads).
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays responds:An all-too-typical instance of the type of overstatement which passes for “rigor” in village atheism. Yet you clearly can’t say that about religious people, per se. For instance, that’s not something you can say about Christian philosophers or philosophical theologians.
As I've shown from the Blackwell Companion on this issue, when they are more responsible they come out of the gauntlet of critical thinking with decisively weaker claims that don't really do anyone any good.
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays says:But take Islam. It’s all about external conformity to sharia law. You don’t have to believe it. You only have to keep up appearances.
This is a red herring on Hays' part since obviously we're only referring to the religions and the sects of various religions who do actually appeal to the argument from experiences. Again, Hays isn't saying anything helpful.
Confronting others challenges our untested assumptions. Religious people apparently need their assumptions to remain untested, because their god apparently has only provided them subjective means of persuasion.
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays says:Once again, that’s not an intellectually earnest claim. It is clearly false to make that claim about religious people in general. They range along a continuum. But Ben can’t afford to concede that, for the same reason the contributors can’t afford to concede that, since their objective is to discredit religion in toto.
Of course atheists apparently don't fall along a continuum according to Hays. They all suppress their god-knowledge and can never be intellectually honest thinkers by definition. Hays can't afford to concede that, whereas I can afford to leave the door open for more intellectually honest religious people (as clearly I've done in this very post, contrary to other atheists like Loftus, if Hays had actually bothered to read it all) and then put down their arguments as honestly mistaken (as I've also done here, since I've responded to everything freely available online in direct response to TCD). Hays has to do a lot of gerrymandering to avoid his own hypocrisy, prejudice, and ignorance, and to establish mine. He's not going to win.
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays says:Once again, Ben is unable to follow the argument. I’m responding to TCD on its own terms. A subjective experience can be a perfectly valid reason to believe something. I remember some of the dreams I had. The fact that I remember those dreams is sufficient reason to believe I had them. Yes, it’s possible that I misremembered a dream, but it would be irrational for me to automatically doubt my memory. If I memories were systematically unreliable, then we could never test them against some external check, since we couldn’t trust our recollection of the external check.
That's not responding to TCD on its own terms. Loftus would agree that subjective experiences can be a valid reason to believe something and was never advocating automatically doubting every memory (any more than I was). In context, the argument is still on the table and unaddressed that religious people who make an appeal to their subjective religious experiences are not providing a verifiable means of telling that it's not all in their heads, or that their version (if it has mutually exclusive contents against other religions) is more legitimate. The religious epistemology is failing at more than one level. Hays still isn't saying anything to salvage that situation and isn't taking responsibility for the part of the debate that is not common ground.
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays responds:What does it mean to “take responsibility” for something that’s not common ground? When I was a boy, I had a dog. We’d sometimes go for walks. I’d walk through the woods to park nearby. Usually it was just the two of us. There were no eyewitnesses. No security cameras. So the walks with my dog weren’t “common ground.”
It's called a debate, Steve. You know, where everyone steps up to the challenge of defending what only they believe in? Or at least whatever your opponent doesn't happen to believe in? I've already discussed the principle of analogous verification of basic categories where this dovetails into the type of equally fruitless discussion we had over "prophetic dreams" so his pet dog example is just more of the same lack of sense.
Hays Fails at Keeping Score
In response to Loftus' response to Hays in TID (specifically the accusation that Christians object to the OTF because they know their faith can't pass it), Hays boils it all down for us and says:I object to [the OTF] on two grounds:
i) Loftus applies the Outsider Test selectively and lopsidedly. He only applies it to religion, not irreligion. And even then, his real target is conservative Evangelicalism.
ii) The underlying assumption of the OTF is that no Christian could really know if Christianity is true. Therefore, he should suspend judgment at the outset.
Agnosticism easily passes the outsider test thus negating Hays' first ground. If a Christian "really knows" Christianity is true, then it should be no trouble to step out of belief hypothetically and simply argue your way back into it. Presumably you have to do this as a Christian for professed agnostics anyway. You have to make a convincing case that leads someone from ignorance to intellectual conviction that your Christian worldview corresponds to reality. It should be no trouble at all. If Hays is referencing the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit again, Christians are being asked to evaluate that subjective conviction in light of what they would think about it as an outsider if they were addressing other subjective "self-authenticating" religious convictions. Christians unwilling to do this are simply not being fair. They necessarily force themselves into mere contrary assertion mode in the world of intellectual responsibility.
Hays persists:Loftus has smuggled his atheism into the OTF. For the unspoken presupposition of the OTF is that no Christian could actually know if Christianity is true. Hence, no Christian can operate from that presumption. No Christian can take that as a given.
Again, if a Christian already knows legitimately, then the OTF should merely confirm the obvious. Is Hays willing to ask the question whether a Christian should take their self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit as a given or not? It sounds like he's just defending his right to be uncritical because the whole idea behind the magic feelings is not having to ask basic questions.
In his first post to me, "Surrender to error," Hays confirms it:By definition, a self-authenticating experience is a given.
Nevermind that different people can have conflicting "self-authenticating" mental experiences or that many forms of delusion (even of the non-religious varieties) are quite self-authenticating.
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays responds:True to his philosophical naïveté, Ben fails to distinguish between a self-authenticating experience, and the interpretation of a self-authenticating experience. Needless to say, one can’t have contradictory self-authenticating experiences. But that’s way too subtle for Ben.
Hays is too eager to jump on his "Ben is naive" narrative and simply has misread my response. I've added the word "different" to be more clear in the sentence above that Hays is responding to. The issue on the table was always the interpretations of the "self-authenticating" experiences and Hays still fails to say anything helpful to distinguish what the proper interpretation is. All self-authenticating religious experiences (and non-religious self-authenticating delusions) could easily correlate to no genuine spiritual reality and we have no way to verify any differently. Hays' job would be to show that we do have a way. He consistently refuses to do that.
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays says:He rewrites what he said, then blames me because I didn’t respond to his backdated revision.
No actually I added a single word to a statement that could have already meant what I intended to say (since "people" can mean the same thing as "different people" which is actually somewhat redundant) and then I told readers exactly what I did. So there's no conspiracy. I'm serving the conversation. Hays is stuck making cheap shots and still not addressing the argument. When believers claim they have a "self authenticating" religious experience, obviously they mean it to be objective by definition of having been authenticated. The mutually exclusive "self-authenticating" Holy Spirit experiences are meant to demonstrate this self-authentication process (whatever it is supposed to be) is faulty. Hays just isn't taking us anywhere.
Hays continues:As usual, Ben doesn’t know what he’s talking about. A “self-authenticating delusion” is oxymoronic. By definition, a self-authenticating experience is a veridical experience. By the same token, you can’t have two or more veridical experiences which contradict each other.
No kidding. I think that's the skeptic's argument.
Hays continues:If I feel pain, that’s a self-authenticating experience. If you feel pain, that can't conflict with my experience.
Notice how Hays appeals to an example of something that is purely "all in your head" to demonstrate proof of concept for something that's not supposed to be just all in your head. Hence, we are still going nowhere fast and it's all Hays' fault despite his protests and lame excuses. Even if Hays wants to argue that pain corresponds to some physical damage to the body like the experience of the Holy Spirit is supposed to correspond to god, we can corroborate the damage to the body with other senses and the witness of others in robust detail. There are plenty of examples of pain that represent false alarms and things that don't need to be paid attention to, so when corroboration is lacking we allow for our sense of pain to just be an experience with no meaningful referent.
In his response to Loftus, "Scoring the Outsider Test," Hays says:That’s hardly a standard we apply in all other fields of knowledge. We don’t say that no one can know, going into his examination of rival positions, that his own position is true.
We do ask for humility given the landscape of conflicting and failed rationality, and we do ask for people to argue from agnosticism square one and justify all of their assumptions consistently in ways that cannot be defensively applied to any unverifiable assertion. The irony is that if Hays manages to give good reasons to not take what he thinks is the OTF, he's necessarily passed the actual OTF. The only other option is for Hays to be continually hammered on his solipsistic standards. And I am eager to oblige. :)
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays responds to the above:Among other problems, the OTF poses trick questions–questions which presuppose methodological atheism.
Hays might want to bother reading my entire post since I've already covered this issue in addition to every other problem Hays (and every other Christian reviewer) has brought up.
In his response to Loftus, "Scoring the Outsider Test," Hays says:[Loftus said:]
Skepticism is a virtue if the alternative is being gullible, okay?
Notice the hidden assumption. He could only apply the OTF to Christianity if Christian faith is gullible. But the OTF can’t assume that from the outset. For that would be prejudicial. The OTF can’t specify which beliefs are gullible and which are not. For that, Loftus would need a separate argument–in which case the OTF is superfluous.
The "hidden assumption" isn't so hidden since if we took the OTF at face value, it would be gullibility to simply pronounce your culture's inherited religion as the absolute truth. If Hays is looking at Loftus' words through the eyes of already having thought through many complicated debates and arguments in favor of his Christian faith, he needs to drop the offense and recognize where he's coming from is what he should be presenting in order to pass the OTF. If Hays is uncomfortable with doing that, then Loftus has basically proven the point.
Hays continues:No one can be skeptical about everything. We can’t reserve judgment about everything. For skepticism must measure some things by other things.
Is it okay to be skeptical about the far reaching claims of religion in context of all the other cultural lab experiments that have generated contrary claims? Hays can only be arguing for special pleading here. If there are good reasons to accept x, y, and z and you can explain why no one can disown them, that passes the OTF. Duh. But that doesn't mean you can argue from analogy to giving your religion a pass.
Naturalistic Epistemic Duties?
Hays says:And if, moreover, he were serious about how the OTF is a subset of the OTB, then he’d first need to justify all the non-religious beliefs by which he measures the religious beliefs.
Pick a belief. Let's talk about it, Steve. What ordinary beliefs do we not have in common that would impact the OTF?
In his first post to me, "Surrender to error," Hays somewhat takes me up on the challenge:Take the way in which atheism undermines epistemic duties.
Fortunately Hays has already elaborated beyond those nine words in the intro of TID:...from an atheistic standpoint, what does it matter if you draw the right conclusions or the wrong conclusions? Suppose, for the sake of argument, that atheism is true. There is no heaven or hell. This is it.
Yeah... Then Hays answers his own question:Perhaps you'd say that while it makes no difference after we're dead, it makes a big difference while we're alive.
Hays continues:For one thing, how I think the trip will end certainly affects my capacity to enjoy the trip.
If atheism is the only credible deal available, you take the deal. If you want to be a cry-baby about reality, that's your problem. And you are entitled. No one is stopping you from checking out.
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays responds:Here Ben must resort to the language of shame. He’s trying to shame the Christian into performing the OTF stunt. But the problem with that tactic is that atheism is a shameless position. Since atheism fails to underwrite moral realism, there’s nothing that anyone anywhere should ever feel ashamed of. So his schoolyard taunt falls flat under its own dead weight.
Hays is taking us in circles. The original issue was that atheism couldn't justify the value of epistemic duties. Hays attempted to show this by saying he'd be too sad to take truth seriously if atheism were true. I've shown how that doesn't have to be the case (above and below). Hays fails to prove me wrong, defaults back to his original assertion, and then claims I made no argument:In addition, Ben resorts to bullying rhetoric because he has no counterargument. Since atheism is unable to warrant epistemic duties, we have no obligation to give atheism the time of day. Atheism disqualifies itself from the competition of ideas.
Nevermind that Hays did actually appeal to being a proverbial cry-baby in order to dismiss atheism and continues to do so. If Hays feels "bullied" by me turning the force of his subjective appeal around on him, again, that's his problem. Grow up.
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays responds:To begin with, the fact that someone acts like a verbal bully doesn’t mean his readers “feel” bullied. If Ben isn’t smart enough to know the difference, then he should avoid venues that expose his intellectual deficiencies.
Well perhaps that is true (note, I did say "if"), but since Hays feels free to disregard my own testimony on my own mental states on a number of issues to suit his ideological persuasion, why should I believe him about his? Granted, I don't care whether he actually feels bullied or not. It's a non-issue.
Hays continues:It’s also amusing to see a twenty-something whose favorite TV shows include Superman and Batman tell someone else it’s time to “grow up.”
Yeah, I'm also an artist with a degree in animation. I love the craft. Thanks. Does that somehow make me a non-adult or excuse Christian apologists for their lack of intellectual integrity? Hardly.
Hays continues:The fact is, moreover, that a twenty-something hasn’t “grown up.” Growing up encompasses the entire lifecycle. Ben lacks the life-experience to know what it’s like to suffer certain losses.
So Hays again somehow assumes he knows something about me? When will he set his crystal ball aside and stop this hypocrisy?
Hays continues:Finally, when I point out that he resorts to the rhetoric of shame, he responds to me by resorting to the rhetoric of shame! Needless to say, that’s not an intellectual response. It’s just emotive, tuff-guy bloviating.
Hays is miffed that I have values, emotions, interests, life experiences, and opinions like every other human being on the planet and that I point some of them in his direction on his particular intellectual failings he's demonstrated here. Noted. Maybe he could advance good arguments to show why the particular opinion in question is incorrect?
In TID, Hays continues:Suppose I win a free ticket to a tropical resort. There I will be treated to every sensuous pleasure. But suppose I have a premonition. Suppose I know that at the end of my vacation I'll be kidnapped, imprisoned, and tortured for months on end. Wouldn't that ominous presentiment spoil the anticipation of the whole vacation? How could I enjoy the tropical resort with that foreboding finale in view?
Hays seems to have confused atheism with Biblical Christianity, since the idea that most of my friends and family and most humans ever born would burn in hell for all eternity doesn't strike me as the Disney ending Hays claims he needs to be motivated in life.
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays responds:Aside from the fact that Scripture doesn’t assign percentiles to the saints and the damned...
On the contrary, Matthew 7:14 does just that:But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.If you had every conceivable pleasure in this life, but knew you’d wind up in hell when you die, that would constantly gnaw away at your capacity for enjoyment. So Ben’s counterexample unwittingly confirms my original point.
It seems that Hays is saying he can deal with an ugly apocalyptic future for most of humanity if he himself is threatened by damnation if he doesn't cheer up. And perhaps he can. This does nothing to demonstrate that a mere natural life is unmotivating in the epistemic duty department and Christianity certainly hasn't been shown to be an appealing worldview to randomly pick. Who wants to live in the grind of divine extortion? One can be gnawed on in more than one way and the threat of hell does not magically eliminate the fate of most of humanity in the Christian belief system. It just makes it more convoluted and there are certainly Christians who struggle with it even if Hays manages to be a Leonardo DeHapprio. [see image >>>]
If I had to randomly choose for everyone which worldview was true (between the two options that happen to be on the table), I'd pick atheism. At least people would have a decent chance at a decent life that doesn't have a high probability of being absolutely horrible for all eternity.
Hays continues:That’s like a serial killer who murders all his friends, then complains about how lonely he is. Atheists go to hell while Christians go to heaven. So how does the existence of hell tip the scales in favor of atheism? How do you avoid going to hell by becoming an atheist? You don’t. Just the opposite.
Hays doesn't seem to comprehend the "if we were arbitrarily choosing a preferable worldview" theme here. By Hays own standards, he should agree with me. Of course, Christians will be dishonest and just ignore the horrible parts of their own worldview. I think Jesus had something to say about that though.
Let's assume Hays means more than an appeal to his subjective preferences though. Erroneously presuming there is an objective basis for epistemic duties that doesn't actually exist doesn't do much for supporting epistemic duties either. Hence, if I take Christianity seriously, I'd presumably be obligated to be intellectually honest with what I know and what I can prove. If I know I don't know that a god exists and Biblical Christianity requires that I do know (despite Hays' ignorant assertions to the contrary), obviously I can't be a Christian even if epistemic duties cannot be justified outside of that context.
Hays responds:Ben misses the dilemma of atheism. If Christianity can ground epistemic duties, while atheism cannot, then there can be no epistemic duty to even consider atheism. If God didn’t exist, there would be no obligation to deny his existence.
Round and round we go. Hypothetically being "able" to ground epistemic duties is not the same thing as actually grounding epistemic duties.
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays responds:If you want concrete examples, Robert Adams has written two monographs on the subject: Finite and Infinite Goods: A Framework for Ethics and A Theory of Virtue: Excellence in Being for the Good.
Hays comes through with some references. Great. But do those books prove a god exists or do they just take his existence for granted and work with the idea? Sorry Hays, that doesn't ground epistemic duties by making stuff up. Hence, we are still going round and round in circles all thanks to Hays. Also, I don't have the money to buy them, but judging by the summaries and reviews on Amazon I would have this to say (for the sake of argument): Excellence is an idea or concept. Ideas and concepts are patterns that can exist in a material universe. If the material pattern of the pursuit or appraisal of excellence should simply be recognized for what it is and valued in its own right on its own terms and if this is what grounds moral obligations, then there appears to be no reason why a naturalistic moral realist cannot adopt those values and live by them. There is no reason why excellence has to be embodied in a divine person, especially when practically speaking (and if the sole reviewer on Amazon is correct about what the author says), "Direct and unambiguous commands from God are extremely rare, argues Adams, which means that conflicting values and obligations in any situation need to be thought about critically before interpreting these as communicating a divine command." For the practical ordinary Christian, their god's excellence is just an idea, just like it would be for an atheist and the concept and value of it is independent of god. If Adams is advocating serious consideration of what is true, then there's no magic force field that prevents that from undercutting Christian theism if no one at any time can even hope to prove there is a god who gives commands in the first place.
Considering Christianity would mean taking seriously the possibility that we are unable to show that the Christian basis is correct. If that's where the evidence leads, that's where it leads. Hence, Hays has not pulled out of his own Christian dilemma nor established that atheists have no motivation to tend to epistemic duties.
Hays responds:Notice the bait-and-switch. To say some atheists are “motivated” to take epistemic duties seriously doesn’t mean they have a principled motivation. People can be motivated in very unscrupulous ways for whatevever they do.
Notice how Hays doesn't prove that atheists simply have to have unprincipled motivations. He just alludes to the possibility as though even Christians can't have unprincipled motivations even if better ones are available. The bottom line though is that principled or unprincipled, if the job is done, the job is done. If a police officer shoots you because you broke the law and are trying to evade capture or if a burglar shoots you because you were in her way on her way out the door with your stuff, you are just as dead. Hays can hardly complain about his worldview being refuted even if the person who does it has the utmost unprincipled reasons for doing so.
If we are that "mythical" agnostic (if you ask Hays) who is searching for the correct worldview, obviously we already have the motivation to tend to our epistemic duties. Christianity didn't have to provide what was already there.
Meanwhile, as an atheist, I take epistemic responsibilities seriously because I will be living in the meantime and error can lead to much unnecessary suffering.
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays responds:Actually, believing that life is meaningless (a la atheism) is a recipe for much gratuitous suffering.
So why are all atheists not gratuitously suffering?
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!," Hays responds:Because they blink. They live a lie. They distract themselves.
If I made the same accusations about all Christians, Hays would cry foul, but again, it's apparently perfectly okay to do that with unbelievers because of arguments Hays won't even present.
Ultimately life may be meaningless, but that doesn't have to cancel out a meaningful life in the meantime before you die. If I care about virtually any problem in life at any level, getting epistemology right is the right tool for the job [note: Richard Carrier lays out 7 reasons to be moral in "Sense and Goodness without God" pages 293-302 which are love, debt, goodness, self interest, trust, self-image, and worldly self interest]. This is obvious even if it doesn't happen to cure Hays' subjective depression.
Hays continues:Sure, you can turn life into a game of croquette. Invent artificial rules. Erect artificial obstacles. Dictate artificial goals. Award artificial prizes. Then you die, and the next generation fills the time playing croquette.
And...that would make you sad? Like that argument that Hays says he's never making, but clearly is always making. Further, what is defining "artificial" here? Because if you can't prove that theism is true, then it seems like living a Christian life is what would be artificial.
In the case of my blog here, taking the time to do something like a comprehensive review of TCD is my contribution of good will to everyone else who may be currently struggling through difficult epistemic problems brought on by living in this religious culture. I don't expect Christians necessarily to sympathize.
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays responds:[Ben's] contribution is foolish on secular grounds as well as Christian grounds.
I'm not impressed by Hays' assessment of either as I've shown (though he is entitled to his opinion). Hays and company will make continual appeals (such as in the case of responding to Babinski) that atheists do not interact with all of their points. What happens when someone interacts with all of their points? Bluff called. I don't expect to convince Hays that he is incorrect. I expect to be able to rigorously show that Hays is incorrect for everyone else to see and to provide leverage in the debate which often resembles a game of whack a mole. I simply whack all the apologetic fallacies simultaneously so that options dwindle to nothing on where Christian intellectuals can run. To use a Super Mario Brothers analogy, in Christian apologetics the princess is always in another castle, because there is no truth princess. Just a bunch of empty epistemic castles, playing defense against the genuine knowledge of the world, and guarding nothing. Hence, I've shown how all the castles are empty all at the same time.
Christian philosophers also too often demand by implication that non-believers solve all the problems in philosophy before we can be skeptical of their religion. Loftus is counting on a modern reality bias. It's the collection of heuristical beliefs an average person accumulates (in a culture that has been influenced a great deal by a more no-nonsense multiculturalism, and the scientific revolution) that are arguably similar enough to everyone else's. A reasonable person in the realm of debate starts with the things that he/she believes anyone can easily verify (even though they might be wrong about that) and then argues from there to the less certain conclusions (or shows why we can't get to certain conclusions). Rather than drawing circles of common ground around the basics of human life that are easily verifiable by all and then arguing into the various levels of mutual ignorance, (as I've shown again, again, again, and again that Christians irresponsibly fail to do), Christians typically disown common ground, disown the possibility of agnosticism on disputable and difficult matters, and then start where no one can possibly start their thinking and then claim ownership of all the spoils on behalf of a god. In my opinion, Christian philosophers need to learn to debate like responsible people, admit they are rationalizing an arbitrary position, or give up their worldview. The Lord detests dishonest scales, and so do many skeptics. Look, common ground!
In his response to Loftus, "Scoring the Outsider Test," Hays says:[Loftus'] scepticism would only be warranted if he can make a specific, compelling case that geographical distribution, how their beliefs originate, under what circumstances, and the kinds of evidence, undermine religious faith. The OTF can’t predecide that issue. Each of these is a specific objection, calling for a separate argument.
So Hays is really going to argue for the "We can't be too sure that most people have carefully thought through their inherited worldview" thesis? I'll bet he'll get up at the pulpit on Sunday morning the next day complaining how Christians don't take their faith that seriously or he'll approve of an actual preacher who does. Notice, it doesn't even matter. The OTF doesn't conclude the case. The OTF just sets the bar so that if it is actually true that someone has adopted their faith for really good reasons, then they'll easily be able to show it. The idea that religion is getting by predominantly on human subjectivity (even if you entertain notions of demonic influence and other supernatural causes) is at the very least a strong enough competitor warranting the OTF. Even if the default position were agnostic supernaturalism, in a parallel universe, we'd still be applying the OTF to that next level of investigation since there would be lots of supernatural possibilities.
Hays says:Logically, you’d only treat all religious texts equally if, in fact, all religious texts are coequal. For instance, it would make sense to treat all religious texts equally if all religious texts are equally false. Yet that’s hardly an equitable operating assumption. Rather, that’s a very biased assumption. [...] It’s not as if an atheist assumes the falsity of his own views. It would only make sense to treat the Bible the same way if the Bible is the same. And how could Loftus know that? That’s not something he could know at the outset of his investigations. So he can’t very well lay down a ground rule which anticipates his conclusion.
Loftus does actually assume the falsity of atheism ("strong atheism" or a positive case against the existence of a god) from the outset of an OTF investigation, because he continually says the default position is agnosticism. Hays supplements that straw man attack with being overly simplistic. In a proper meritocracy we treat all religious texts the same in the sense that each of them is judged by their actual contents and cultural context without favoritism. If it looks like a duck, smells like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we call it a duck. We don't call one of them a hippo that looks, smells, and quacks just like a duck. It would still be possible for a divine book to shine with those standards since it may well look, smell, and wheeze like a hippo instead. Hays has good reason to be irrationally defensive here, because he approaches the Bible with the "very biased assumption" that his tacit knowledge tells him (and folks like Rauser) this duck is actually a hippo in disguise. That doesn't help the rest of us though who are looking at Hays' tacit knowledge through the skeptical lens of mutual knowledge (cultural influences, psychological gimmicks, cognitive biases, and double standards that humans are afflicted with) presented in Part 1 of TCD.
In his first post to me, "Surrender to error," Hays responds:But, of course, if cultural influences, psychological gimmicks, cognitive biases, &c., furnish good reason to be skeptical of theism, then they furnish equal reason to be skeptical of atheism, agnosticism, &c.
I think I did say "mutual" and I think I'm well aware that atheism and agnostics are "humans." However, I'm not the one at every turn here making excuses for why I don't take my beliefs to a sufficient level of critical thinking to justify them them against the beliefs of others.
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays responds:That’s just a throwaway line. Ben pays lipservice to scepticism, but then he acts as if he can rise above it. But if he’s going to invoke undercutters like social conditioning, then any effort on his part to distance himself from social conditioning would, itself, be a socially conditioned maneuver. So he isn’t really escaping his social conditioning. Rather, he’s taking a socially conditioned exit which circles back into social conditioning.
Hays continues to assume some absolute status of "social conditioning" that I never argued as though he is talking to Loftus, David Eller, and Jason Long. There is some overstated rhetoric on the issue in TCD, which I have blasted in this very post. With mild rhetorical corrections things are back on track and there are issues to deal with.
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays says:Notice how often Ben faults TID, not because it failed to rebut the TCD, but because it succeeded in rebutting the TCD!
Notice how I don't get credit for giving credit where credit is due and how this doesn't channel into my intellectual integrity account in Hays' mind even though I've clearly earned it. Granted, I'm not demanding it, but it does say something about Hays' inability to be impartial. Hays can undermine himself all he wants. I'm happy to just keep pointing it out.
In his response to Loftus, "Scoring the Outsider Test," Hays says:[Loftus said:]
Hays also opines:Moreover, if you have good reason to believe that your own position is correct, then, by definition, a contrary position is wrong. Everybody does that.Yep. They do. But this is typical of what believers do. They assume they are correct; then they find arguments that lead them to think they are correct; then they beg the question by claiming all others are wrong.”
Compare his paraphrase of what I said with what he quoting me as saying. I said: “if you have good reason to believe that your own position is correct, then, by definition, a contrary position is wrong.” He said: “But this is typical of what believers do. They assume they are correct; then they find arguments that lead them to think they are correct. That’s a great method for knowing the truth about religious faith, isn’t it?” But that’s clearly not equivalent to what I said. Did I say we begin by assuming that we’re correct, then find supporting arguments? No. I said, “If you have a good reason to believe that your own position is correct…”
Hays points out that Loftus slightly misrepresents what he said turning his "good reason" into "assumption," but it seems Hays is just assuming he doesn't need to defend his tacit knowledge and that Loftus isn't misrepresenting his actual position after all.
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays responds:I don’t owe Loftus a spiritual autobiography. The onus is not on me. Loftus is the one who presumes to make sweeping claims about the psychotic mindset of each and every Christian. He doesn’t share the first-person perspective of perfect strangers to offer an informed opinion about their mental state.
A: Loftus did not call each and every Christian "psychotic." In fact he went out of his way to say the opposite in TCD. B: The premises of OTF are based on probabilities, not absolutes. Hays and Manata continually misrepresent it in that sense (in addition to many other misrepresentations). C: If there are Christians or other religious people who do not fit the mold, they are then free to show it which would pass the OTF. D: Hays makes claims about the mental states of all non-believers based on divine revelation that he never bothers to actually justify. E: Hays does not owe anyone a spiritual biography unless he actually wants us to take his worldview seriously or give other Christians the defenses they need to confront the nonbelieving world. F: On Christian terms (1 Peter 3:15), it would seem Hays is basically obligated to do this.
In response to point A in his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays says:TCD alleges that Christian faith is delusional. That attributes a psychotic state to Christians. And TCD makes no exceptions. Takes no prisoners.
It makes no exceptions other than the exceptions I just pointed out. If Hays just doesn't care about reading things in context, so be it. No one's going to twist his arm.
In response to points E and F, Hays says:Ben acts like a Borg baby that just popped out of the incubation chamber. I’ve been prolifically defending the faith since 2004. Where has he been?
I've been blogging as an agnostic and atheist thinker since 2005 and I think I've presented much better arguments than Hays has even if I'm a year behind. :p
Hays continues:Admittedly, one of the basic problems with TCD is its failure to define a “delusion.”
Richard Carrier on page 412 of TCD says:...a delusion is any belief that is not merely false, but easily shown to be false on even a cursory check of the facts, yet held with a conviction out of all proportion to the evidence.
Hays calls this a "basic problem" with TCD, it took a cursory search of TCD on Amazon to turn this definition up, and therefore Hays, by Carrier's definition, is clearly delusional on this point.
Hays continues anyway:BTW, notice how this standard definition directly contravenes a central plank of TCD. Christian faith can’t simultaneously be culturally conditioned and countercultural. It can’t be both abnormal and culturally inherited.
Only a slight modification is required to the "unusual in the culture to which the person belongs" part of the Oxford Companion definition he provides with something like "that is typically unusual in the culture to which the person belongs." One would have to imagine that an "atheist country" would be culturally delusional to Hays' sensibilities and hence it would seem he needs this tweak to the definition as well.
Hays continues:And there’s no prima facie presumption that my Christian faith flies in the face of the evidence when I have subjected the TCD to a sustained reply–not only in TID, but in many follow-up replies.
I think I've definitely shown otherwise. This brings us back full circle since it just so happens to connect with the previous layer of conversation at this very point: When Hays meets someone with different natural intuitions and inferences he apparently has no argument. He doesn't have the tools to take his beliefs to the next level of credibility.
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays responds:I don’t have to take it to the next level since that’s not the level at which TCD is pitched. And at this risk of stating the obvious, it’s not as if I don’t defend Christianity on a regular basis.
I'm sure it is risky to state the obvious as a regular defender of the Christian faith. Zing!
All kidding aside, I've agreed in other parts of my review of TCD that there are aspects of it that aim low (even though there are other chapters in the anthology that aim appropriately higher). I don't consider that an excuse to do the same in my own review, and I even allienated Loftus in the process. Similarly, I don't see any reason for a Christian reviewer to fail to point people in the right direction at the very least. Hays should know a post or a series of posts where he takes the discussion on how he knows his appeal to "natural revelation" is the best explanation of the available evidence to show that Loftus really was wrong all along. Why is Hays allowed to merely assume his natural revelation "knowledge" is legit and find any lame argument that corresponds to it correct and any lame argument against it incorrect in this contentious context? Perhaps Hays does have better reasons, but he has failed to overturn what Loftus pointed out in the actual discussion.
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays responds:Of course a refutation is aimed at the same level as the target. What do you expect?
I expect exactly what I said above that Hays failed to quote. Taking the high ground (or the higher ground at the very least).
In his response to Loftus, "Scoring the Outsider Test," Hays turns to attack nonbelievers:But since he brings up the issue, what is typical of unbelievers? Take the average apostate. They publish deconversion testimonies in which they tell us how they lost their faith. They state the initial factors which caused them to lose their faith. Having decided that Christianity was false, they then bone up on all of the stock arguments against the faith. But, of course, most of the reasons they now give to justify their apostasy were not the precipitating factors. Rather, this is an ex post facto attempt to vindicate their apostasy. We see this pattern in Loftus himself. His lost his faith, mainly because he felt betrayed by God and mistreated by his church after his fling with the stripper. And ever since then he’s been ransacking the literature for additional reasons to justify his defection from the faith.
For the record, here's my deconversion story. I've been blogging as a non-believer for 5 years, and I make a clear distinction between what decoverted me and what I believe now. There's no reason to conflate the two, and the latter is simply what further prevents me from reconverting to Christianity. The original intellectual reason is still sufficient (since I still know I don't know that a god exists and can't possibly have a sincere relationship with a god on that non-basis), but I've broadened my horizons a great deal on a number of issues since then in my campaign to improve the dialog in this culture war. Any conversion process from any worldview to another will likely have a mixture of intellectual and emotional reasons. That's the crime of being human (which is a crime, according to many Christian doctrines). Hays has jumped on the common Christian pejorative narrative that Loftus had virtually no intellectual reasons and that there are no understandable reasons to confront the blessed gift from heaven that is Big Religion in our culture. It's not Loftus' fault that Christians will simply ignore his testimony to the contrary and focus on what is more convenient for the Bible's narrative about unsaved sinners and apostates. Even if Loftus is a flagrant liar, the entire enterprise of Christian apologetics is about catering to struggling Christians with intellectual difficulties. Hence, it should not be an extraordinary claim that sometimes apostasy happens for what are at least believed to be genuine intellectual reasons. There's no better way to shoot apologetics in the foot than to blow it all off as trivial for the sake of slandering one atheist.
In his first post to me, "Surrender to error," Hays responds:Yet that’s scarcely the situation of hardened apostates like Ben or Loftus. Moreover, it fails to distinguish between offensive and defensive apologetics.
So should we start suspecting that the lack of interest in applying actual arguments to pass the OTF is really just a defensive apologetic farce designed to avoid validating Loftus' OTF? Is Hays really saying he's keeping all the good arguments for the Christians? haha Suit yourself. That's your own intellectual integrity on the line there and it just makes it look like you really, really, really, really just want to assert your conclusion and not have to present any defensible reasons for someone to take Christianity seriously beyond being inundated by all the subjective things talked about in part 1 of TCD. Good luck with that strategy.
In his second post to me, "Firing into the bushes," Hays responds:Ben keeps treating the OTF as a given, even though I and others (e.g. Reppert, Manata) have executed the OTF six different ways. How many times to do we have to kill it before it’s good and dead? One coup de grâce will do.
If Hays gets to declare victory, certainly I do all the more, since I've actually responded to everyone and I've shown in many places where Hays hasn't even read my entire post here.
Hays continues:Likewise, the line about “intellectual integrity” is just more of his hollow, bullying rhetoric. But intellectual integrity is only an intellectual virtue in a world with virtues. If there are no duties in general, then there are no epistemic duties in particular. Ben acts as if I should let him skip over this step so that he can proceed to the next step. But there’s no reason to go to the next step unless and until he can justify epistemic duties.
If I'm mistaken about the existence of virtues in a nontheistic context, that would be a mistake of mine. I don't see how I could hope to be mistaken though since the pattern of virtue and its appeal in living the good life available to live are directly verifiable in my experience. Regardless, Hays cannot declare victory on that level of debate as though I agree with him (or as though I have not already shown him his errors as I see them), and then on top of that attribute a motivation to me that does not represent my actual mental states. I've left him alone on his blog after a handful of fruitless exchanges and he still manages to feel bullied? Congratulations? It should be noted that Hays actually does advocate social intimidation tactics in the service of his apologetics, whereas I do not in the service of unapologetics.
Hays continues:On a related note is his egotistic conceit in imagining that I need Ben to affirm me. As if I can’t survive his disesteem. But I was doing just fine before he was ever born.
Hays appears to be projecting given how he thinks he would feel if he were in my position. I'm not you, Steve. Sorry.
Hays continues:And, once again, he’s too wrapped up in his own little world to remember the nature of the argument in the TCD. That’s not about persuaded atheists to embrace Christianity. Rather, that’s a question of whether Christians are warranted (rather than delusional) in their Christian faith. I don’t have to marshal all of the good arguments for Christianity to rebut that type of allegation. Rather, it’s a question of whether the contributors to the TCD are in a position to say my Christian faith is delusional. Since, however, they don’t have access to my life experience experience, their allegation is grossly underdetermined by the evidence. Keep in mind, too, that I’ve presented specific, detailed responses to TCD. It’s not as if the current issue that Ben is obsessing over is the only arrow in my quiver. We’re discussing a narrow issue because Ben is fixated on a narrow issue.
Hays doesn't seem to understand that this is only my review of chapter 4. He apparently can't recognize his own reflection in the mirror (and the grammatical errors seem to represent a level of mental fatigue by the end of his post). I will respond insofar as online Christians pretend to have dealt with the legitimate issues raised in TCD. If he keeps being wrong, that's not my problem. That's his problem. I've enthusiastically corrected my mistakes in the process and will continue to do so. Where has Hays admitted to any errors no matter how gratuitious?
In his third post to me, "Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!", Hays says:I’m not going to give the contributors an easy out. If they wish to retreat, they must do so in plain view. Not under cover of darkness.
I'm all for Loftus taking back his overstated rhetoric. Now, how about this conversation we've been having? Am I responsible for Loftus' intellectual sins?
Hays concludes his 18,100 word, 5 post, surface-skimming farce with:Reading Ben, I’m reminded of what my Scottish forebears used to say: “Ne'er shaw yir teeth unless ye can bite!”
Engwer complains:It also ignores the possibility that God can lead a person to faith through a reliable means that isn't verifiable by objective argumentation, such as the witness of the Holy Spirit. Something like the witness of the Spirit wouldn't be an objective argument for Christianity. Thus, a dispute that's being judged by such argumentation can't be won by an appeal to something like the witness of the Spirit. But the idea that God, if He exists, can only persuade people by means of objective argumentation is absurd.
As has been pointed out before (here, here, here, and just above), if the inner witness is not verifiable by objective argumentation, that seems to imply that the person receiving this vague "witness" doesn't have anything reliable to go on themselves. If I can't tell the difference between a subjective reaction to provocative theistic ideas and the actual instigation of a supernatural agent, then what business do I have concluding the later rather than the former? At the very least one should settle on ignorance if they believe a real god would expect them to be epistemically responsible. Certainly people can be persuaded by less than objective argumentation, but the other side of that coin is that lots of people are convinced of all sorts of false conclusions via all sorts of less than objective argumentation. And your average Joe sinner has no simple way to sort it all out. So the absurdity is a loving god who would put people perpetually in that situation Tower of Babel style.
Engwer responds to Loftus' response to TID:I was arguing for one means among others that God could use. I didn't suggest that He only or always uses that means. And where people are born is something within God's sovereignty (Acts 17:26-27).
But most often, this god would have to be guilty of using that subjective irresponsible means that will have no intellectual credibility and yet will compel layperson and professional philosopher alike into the public arena as an irreducibly complex faulty component of their epistemology. How can free will be more important than making truly informed decisions with it? Even if we set aside the lack of respect for intellectual responsibility (since in crude fashion a god can be portrayed as "getting the job done" in only saving the souls he intended to save), this remains a matter of moral irresponsibility since this god, though he professes to care about everyone's salvation (1 Timothy 2:4), didn't save everyone. Perhaps a god could have created a more modest world with a more critically selected smaller group of souls that would all be saved in context of each others' spiritual journeys (and not at the expense of them). It could be argued though by a theologian that somehow this god could increase the numerical yield of saints by allowing for strategic interactions with pre-damned souls. However, this is not a concept of moral perfection. It is an "on balance" judgment (in other words, a "more good than harm" justification that fallible humans are used to applying to themselves) and cannot be the handiwork of the morally perfect agent that this god is supposed to be. If there were no options that yielded morally perfect consequences, a morally perfect god would not do anything at all and would not lose anything from inaction because this god does not need any created thing to be perfectly awesome in his own default nature. Anything that compelled him to act regardless of these considerations would necessarily compromise his perfect nature (since "perfect" means "without blemish," not "good on balance"). See my extensive argument map for "The Logical Argument from Evil."
Engwer asks:If we're going to use such negative initial observations to frame our judgment about religion, why not also allow positive initial observations to frame it, such as the apparent reasonableness of a person who commends a religion to us, the general trustworthiness of eyewitness testimony such as Christianity claims to have for some of its central beliefs, etc.?
We can put all our impressions on the table together and see what happens. But then we have a muddled mess that contributes much more to an agnostic situation than anything else. I get asked by Christians all the time why I do not respond positively to the basic saving message of Christianity. Well, the answer, is that I did, uncritically at one time. And then I had to be honest and set everything on the table of consideration. A hero that comes to save you is a wonderful story. However a hero that has put you in jeopardy in order to get the reward of coming to save you (see Romans 11:32) evokes entirely a different impression. So that's just one example of mixed impressions that does not favor a typical Christian response. Collectively it favors an apostate response. In his response to Engwer, Loftus adds:There is a huge difference between seeing a miracle take place before our very eyes in which we can determine it was not a trick of the eyes, from hearing a story that stems from one source which is repeated told by different people for decades across different lands in a ancient pre-scientific culture. This fails the test of Lessing’s Broad Ugly Ditch, and is no basis for believing in any miraculous claim in the past.
We can mix impressions all day long. I've experienced a wide variety in reference to the Christian worldview as a cradle Lutheran, a young earth creationist convert, an Eastern Orthodox convert, an agnostic, an atheist, and just as a critical person who has been interested in the clash of worldviews for over a decade. It is not unreasonable to doubt the credibility of an ancient story about miracles. It's not necessarily unreasonable to have a positive reaction to that story either. But if we put those two basic impressions together impartially, I don't see how any honest person can walk away with a lot of confidence in Christianity.
Engwer notes:There is merit to questioning one's beliefs. As far as Loftus is trying to get people to do that, as a general principle, that's healthy. But when he goes on to make comments about how Christians supposedly just beg the question by presuming their worldview or take a Humean approach toward other religions, or he assumes that people haven't tested their faith enough when he's in no position to know that about them, that's unhealthy. And he's been doing such things for years. He claims that "Believers are simply in denial when they claim their religious faith passes the OTF [Outsider Test for Faith]." (103) His chapter doesn't demonstrate that assertion, nor does the remainder of the book. As I mentioned in the introduction of my review, the book doesn't even address some of the most significant evidence for Christianity.
I have to agree with many of Engwer's sentiments here. There is certainly an unhealthy element to the way Loftus conducts himself online and I condemn it whenever it comes up. It doesn't manifest too much in his actual chapter here and the gist of the chapter can stand on its own merits as Engwer describes. Loftus is a propagandist and not a diplomat (and I don't mean "propagandist" pejoratively). He is escalating anti-apologetic theater for his target audience for the most part and appears to be deliberately leaving certain elements out in order to streamline the presentation and create the desired experience. He has his justifications for doing so given that no book can hope to reach everyone and not every issue is equally important. His books appear to be looking for closet atheists who don't know they are atheists and basically ignoring everyone else (entrenched supernaturalists). I'm sure he well knows (for example) that many Christians will explain away other religions as demonic counterfeits (as was discussed above). And he leaves it out because it confuses the issue, knowing that many many modern Christians won't go that far and are rather secular in their everyday sensibilities that he wishes to appeal to. It's debatable whether that's a good move on his part or not, but as far as I can gather, that's what's going on.
As for Engwer's claim that the rest of TCD doesn't have anything to offer, we'll just have to wait and see, won't we?
Manata proclaims:There are so many things to critique in John Loftus's chapter that one could write a book correcting all of his errors and fallacious reasoning.
Lots of errors you say? hehe. Let's see what inerrant things Manata brings on:[Loftus] cannot claim to have been an insider to any of them except the one he was in. By my count, Loftus needs to do 20,000 more outsider tests for the denominations he and his cohorts claim represent different Christianities. So he can never again claim he's debunked Christianity via the outsider test, because ―there is no such thing as Christianity.
Well, since this isn't binary, it is logically possible that there are 20,000 sects of Christianity that are sufficiently at odds with one another to be worth pointing out, but also have enough fundamental elements that can be attacked in mass with OTF standards. For instance, if a good almighty god does not exist (just the argument from evil alone), then most of Christianities and Islams (and some other religions) automatically take a fatal hit. That doesn't mean they don't still disagree about the true nature of Jesus of Nazareth.
It may be helpful to point out all the tempered language in Loftus' argument since Manata has basically announced up front that he's going to be trite with it:1. Rational people in distinct geographical locations around the globe overwhelmingly adopt and defend a wide diversity of religious faiths due to their upbringing and cultural heritage. This is the religious diversity thesis.
2. Consequently, it seems very likely that adopting one’s religious faith is not merely a matter of independent rational judgment but is causally dependent on cultural conditions to an overwhelming degree. This is the religious dependency thesis.
3. Hence the odds are highly likely that any given adopted religious faith is false.
4. So the best way to test one’s adopted religious faith is from the perspective of an outsider with the same level of skepticism used to evaluate other religious faiths. This expresses the OTF. [emphasis mine]
That's the only way an argument like this can be put, since there's no way to actually investigate absolutely every individual's background. It will never be airtight as a result, but all it does is point out the heuristical obvious. There are plenty of ways rational people get it wrong, so an extra degree of caution (than obviously people normally put forth) is in order. To attack Loftus' argument in any other way basically means you are either being a dick (and hence unproductive in the collective conversation) and/or you hope to defend your right to assert your unjustified conclusion because you know you can't apply a sufficient degree of scrutiny (which is equally unproductive). That's all the OTF means. It means you argue (and evaluate your own beliefs on your own time) from square one agnosticism in contentious debates with people who disagree rather than playing defensive games anyone else can play just as easily.
It looks like Manata just wants to play games:(1) is not a logical truth or a theorem.
Um, thanks for pointing that out? Manata later says he understands probablistic arguments, so why doesn't he understand this one?
Manata says:What justifies the move from (2) to (3), i.e., "it seems very likely" to "the odds are highly likely"?
I suppose that can be tweaked to be consistent. Um, thanks? We no haz to b that kritikal nao bout Jebuss? Loftus, in his response to Manata agrees with me:Okay, when I write my book on the OTF I will make this phrase change since he's right, the wording should be the same in each case. I'll change them to "the odds are very likely" in both cases. I don't see much difference though between these two slightly different phrases.
Manata says:...if (3) is true, then why take a test? You have a probabilistic defeater for your faith.
Because everything would be false in that event, wouldn't it? So since you have to take some kind of position, it makes sense to apply appropriate levels of critical thinking. We can even throw agnosticism under the bus like Steve Hays does, and pretend like it measures something slightly more than zero on the position-o-meter. How much critical thinking does it take to figure out you don't know something and that if anyone else was in your position you would demand that they conclude the same? [five seconds later] Done.
Manata says:...even if we assume that all religions, and by implication Christianity, have a low probability of being true, we can still be rational in believing Christianity.
Sure...it's still possible. Just like it's still possible that any other religion is true. You are a unique snowflake...just like all the others. *yawn*
Hays cuts in and says:[Loftus said:]
“Manata (along with James Anderson) makes a very strange delusional move at this point. They ask why it must be the case that just because the odds are highly likely that any particular religion is false this means that their particular religion is false.”
That’s a silly way of casting the issue. Let’s take a comparison. For every correct answer to a math question, there exist an infinite number of wrong answers. Should we therefore be agnostic about the right answer? No. The raw odds are irrelevant to whether or not we can know the answer. There’s an obvious difference between saying there’s a one in a thousand chance that something is right, and saying there’s a one in a thousand chance of knowing which one is right. Loftus confuses the two.
In the case of religion the answer is arbitrary and unverifiable. Hence Hays' counterexample simply doesn't apply. If Hays has some way to verify his religious claims, then he can pass the OTF and has no reason to generate endless faulty criticisms of it. Either way, Hays' appraisal of the OTF (just like Manata's appraisal) is twisted and meaningless.
Manata says:[The OTF] commits the genetic fallacy. Loftus [...] claims that the charge is irrelevant [...] He gives an example of a paranoid belief brought on by use of psychedelic drugs. [...However,] if the drug user was caused to believe that 2+2=4 by taking the drug, the origination would do nothing to show that the belief is probably false.
I suppose Manata must be on drugs since he seems to be under the impression that the drug user can't go through rehab, and evaluate his belief that 2+2=4 as an outsider and conclude that "Wow, somehow I went through my whole life not knowing rudimentary math. Thank you, cocaine!" In his response to Manata, Loftus adds:Of course, 2 + 2 = 4. We know this on independent grounds. What we don't know is which religious faith is correct. So the unreliable origins of religious faiths learned on our Mama's knees are indeed relevant to the probability of any particular one of them, which causes me to suggest the OTF.
Manata says:Loftus's claim is that belief in God originates from an unreliable source (putting aside that this simply assumes the falsity of the biblical explanation for the cause of a person's belief in God and trust in Jesus Christ, which means Loftus is attacking Christianity as an outsider).
GASP! You mean, Loftus is doing his job correctly?!?! Are we supposed to conclude that Loftus is at fault if the Bible officially advocates a method of "knowing" that sucks (see here, here, here, and here) when we apply a reasonable standard like the OTF? Are we supposed to blindly accept wholesale the "standards" of potential con artists and cult leaders? I don't think so. Think for yourself, Paul!
Manata says:If Loftus does not have good reasons that are persuasive to me for thinking that Christianity is probably false, then I don't need to take the OTF. If he has good reasons that are persuasive to me, such that I conclude that Christianity is probably false, then I don't need to take the OTF!
Since the important claims of religion are typically entrenched in the unknown, many of the reasons we should reject them are predominately based on or closely tied into a consistency of standards which the OTF represents. Christians are well adjusted to ad hocing their way around disproofs with far-fetched possibilities. Often times the only way to address religion is indirectly via standards of evidence. There's hardly ever a smoking gun that absolutely disproves the existence of many extraordinary claims. Reality just wasn't designed to make refuting every ridiculous claim that convenient.
Manata says:We can test this argument for validity by using logical counterexamples. The first counter example exposes a problem of vagueness...
The actual problem is Manata's refusal to let words and phrases means things. In the last chapter Manata decided he didn't know what rationality meant. In this chapter, he has decided he doesn't know the inherent difference in implication between "taste preferences" and "religious faiths." Hence, all Manata manages to do is demonstrate his shear lack of interpretative charity and lack of willingness to contribute something meaningful to the discussion. I mean, look how confused Manata is:First, what would it mean to say that my preference for vanilla is false? Second, that people disagree about taste preference gives me no reason to be skeptical of my preference for vanilla.
This confusion was Loftus' fault? Riiiiiiiiight. Loftus, in his response to Manata counters:Our tastes are indeed culturally adopted to a large extent. So what should we do about this fact? We should not insist that our diet is the only correct one or that our way of eating is the only correct way to eat--that we should not be dogmatic about tastes. We should adopt a more tolerant and even agnostic view of which diet is the correct one (given basic scientifically known essential nutrients, of course, but then the sciences once again enters the picture and saves the day). Now go apply this analogy to your Christian faith, Manata.
Then Manata inserts the word "philosophies" instead of "religious faiths" and expects us to reject the form of Loftus' argument. Not sure why Manata thinks we should be uncritical with a world full of inherited incompatible philosophical traditions. Loftus certainly doesn't think we should be:So yes, let's subject all of these ideas to a measure of outsider skepticism warranted by the nature of those ideas, how they were first adopted, and so forth. And yes, let's subject the religious basis for all philosophical, political and moral beliefs.
But Manata asks:But if those must be tested and evaluated, by what standard would we do so?
I'm going to assume Manata isn't saying he's incapable of thinking for himself or that we are simply powerless to evaluate conflicting claims with consistent impartial standards. Perhaps if Manata were not trying so hard to misapprehend Loftus' argument he wouldn't find himself seeming to imply ridiculous things like this. *shrug* Since we are on the OTF, we'll use its standards. Loftus calls this the "best" method to evaluate our beliefs and tells us simply to use the standards we are naturally inclined to dismiss the philosophies (in this case) of others. We generally are more critical and spot on when we don't have an investment in the outcome and this is partially a learning process since in all likelihood we haven't thought through our dismissal standards either. Simply trying to pull our standards together consistently is the ultimate goal and the OTF presents a fairly straight forward means to start the process (unless you are Paul Manata, of course).
Well, brainstorming time: What kinds of thinking do we apply to other philosophies we didn't just so happen to have inherited? Your friend read this book by this philosopher and she was like, "Omg, this is so true." And you're all like, "Tell me something specific about it." And she just can't/won't do it (she insists you should "just read it"), because it seems like she just had some emotional reaction to the contents and couldn't hope to defend the logistics in confrontation. But she's sure the whole thing is correct. Well...did you do the same thing? Did you read some Christian book and have a subjective reaction that just seems credible to you personally, but when it comes down to it, you don't really understand the construction of it? Doesn't make either philosophy false, but it does call for some healthy distance from complete confidence. Maybe you should read her book and keep an open mind? Perhaps even try to see what she sees without immediately jumping on why it would be wrong if the philosopher you appeal to is right. Seems simple, but people don't often do it. Alright, so we've applied one simple standard impartially. You're only a baby-step closer to the truth (since this is just a cliche' example), you've partially sacrificed your n00b level of confidence, and you've started the process of developing impartial critical thinking skills. We then learn to continually use the "lab results" of others to constantly check ourselves for our own biases. A hundred more examples later, and if you've done your job, whatever the outcome is, is much more likely to be true than had you not done so.
It's possible that Manata is confessing that he really doesn't think through opposing positions, and that he simply rejects them all because he already knows his position is 100% correct. Mkay... Steve Hays seems to have confessed the very same intellectual crime of overconfidence and it shows. It's no wonder they generate such long rhetorical chains of defensive superficial garbage and can never seem to figure out what their opponents are actually saying. Even though the OTF certainly hasn't helped improve their critical thinking skills, it seems to have at least exposed their brand of thinking for what it apparently is.
Manata substitutes out "religious faiths" for farmers whose farming is dependent on demand, and then at the end tries to show Loftus' conclusion doesn't follow from his premises with this conclusion:So, the best way to test what one farmer has farmed is from the perspective of a horse racing jockey, with the same level of skepticism you use to evaluate what other farmers have farmed.
Presumably the connection for Manata is that a horse racing jockey is an outsider to farming? And the implication is that the best way to figure out what a farmer is growing is to check their field or something? Manata has twisted the conversation so much it is difficult to even figure out what he's saying. In Loftus' argument, we'd all be farmers (hence the horse jockeys are a red herring). And in his argument, what we are growing in our fields (or the truth crops of our worldview) in terms of religion especially are invisible (and in terms of philosophy and morality are simply obscure and difficult thinking tasks to apprehend and so have an element of "invisibility"). So, if we are farmers who believe we ourselves are growing truth crops, but that others are not, we'd have to justify our standards of appraisal consistently if we are genuine truth farmers. What would be inappropriate about that? Manata seems just too intent with finding problems to be actually helpful with his deconstruction effort.
In response to Manata, Loftus says:...Manata asks how (4) follows from the above three premises. "The conclusion seems totally unrelated to the premises," he claims. "Indeed, a better conclusion would be, "Therefore, your faith is probably false." Well, granted, I could have written the conclusion like this, it's just that I didn't have to for two reasons. In the first place, the conclusion of the argument is stated in (3): "Hence the odds are highly likely that any given adopted religious faith is false." That's a good enough conclusion I think, and it also implies Manata's conclusion that "Therefore, your faith is probably false." I think Manata's conclusion is self-evident from (1-3) and doesn't need to be stated. Again, it's implied, and is no fault of the argument itself that is wasn't stated. In the second place there is the word "So" in (4) that begins the sentence and could be read like this: "Given the conclusion of (3) the best way to test one’s adopted religious faith is from the perspective of an outsider with the same level of skepticism used to evaluate other religious faiths." So what we have here is quibbling...
Quibbling indeed. Continuing the theme of flakey evaluation, Manata says:I will grant (1) arguendo, but it should be noted that Loftus's fellow contributors do not! Eller, Tarico, and Long do not seem to grant that most humans, let alone religiously inclined humans, are rational. Tarico begins a subheading of her chapter with the title: "So You Think You're Rational" (50). As for being rational, Tarico tells us that "research on human cognition suggests" that "none of us are" (50). So a problem with (1) is that Loftus's cohorts think it is false. Loftus needs to remove "rational" from the premise.
Tarico's hyperbole (that could easily be understood in context by even somewhat charitable readers) was covered to death in my review of chapter 2. In his response to Manata, Loftus adds his own observations with examples from Tarico's own chapter.
Manata says:...what does it mean to say that religious beliefs are causally dependent on culture to an overwhelming degree and so it seems likely that they are not rational? Surely a large majority of our beliefs have correlations to our cultural conditions, and surely a great many of them are rational.
That same majority of rational cultural beliefs that Manata refers to also correlate rather well with immediate verifiable reality. Religion gets a necessary kick in the pants as a result.
Manata says:And isn't "overwhelming" a bit strong? That would seem to get rid of original thinkers.
Because we have so many original religious thinkers rather than ones continuing to defend ancient traditions? As was pointed out before, Loftus tempered all his language, so Manata's expectations are simply inappropriate. In response to Manata, Loftus says:I admit there are original thinkers. But the overwhelming probability is that we are all children of our times. It's the rare person who rises up above his own culture, as Mark Twain quipped. Manata can fault me for not specifying how much our cultural upbringing influences our thinking if wants to, since I find it very hard to quantity such a thing. But it is best described by the word "overwhelming" as cultural anthropologists all show us, including David Eller. It is overwhelming enough to consider the probability of my whole argument for testing religious faiths, that's for sure.
"Admit" he says. Like that's even worth labeling a concession.
Manata says:Loftus is assuming that the probability of any given religion being true is equipossible with all religions. But it seems obvious to me that some religions are more probable than others.
Christians will not hesitate to throw human opinions entirely under the bus when it is convenient. Since Christians will persistently remind us that their god's ways are not our ways and that he is infinitely beyond our comprehension (and point to scripture like Romans 9), who are we to even surmise which kind of religions are more likely true? If this god wants to hide one lucky golden ticket into heaven, in a chocolate bar (as the sole way anyone ever gets into heaven), who are we pathetic mortals to criticize him for it? If Christian thinkers do want to allow human assessment into the equation all of the sudden they are going to have to deal with all of the crazy times they decided that unbelievers aren't allowed to have defensible opinions on what a loving god should and shouldn't do (example: Rauser to Babinski). I laid out a pretty good outline for a feasible alternative Christianity many years ago. In comparison to something like that, all the Christian-like religions just don't compare at all. Hence, if we are allowing any evil and miscommunication into the equation (see my argument map on the logical problem of evil), pretty much anything else is equally "probable" in my opinion.
Manata says:...a low probability of a belief's B having a true truth value doesn't logically imply that I should test that belief and treat it as probably false.
No, it does actually mean (if we are just starting out our exploration of the issues), that we shouldn't grant our initial impressions the weight that people naturally tend to do. If we are a Christian apologist confronting the Muslim half of the religious world, we expect them to do a near full re-inventory of the beliefs. If we confront a wide range of different kinds of people including atheists and agnostics, again, Christians are necessarily expecting people to almost completely reevaluate everything they believe about the world. It is only fair, via the golden rule, that we have done the same for ourselves. Manata wants to reverse the cart and the horse here, but he really shouldn't need to do that. Surely he thinks he has many convincing arguments for Christianity and he even mentions some of those reasons in his response here. So why not just accept the OTF and then say, "This is what takes Christianity out of improbability land"? I could probably even rewrite his chapter using his own quotes and start off his case for him, using the construction of the OTF. It's just sad they butcher things so much without cause.
If Loftus is guilty of lingering here with a "no-true-rationalist" fallacy, then surely Christians like Manata are at the very least equally guilty of lingering with a "I-have-the-right-to-be-inconsistent-with-my-standards" fallacy:
...doesn't logically imply that I should test that belief...
...there'd be no need to take an outsider test.
...why take a test?
No need to test it.
...I don't need to take the OTF.
...I don't need to take the OTF!
Loftus's OTF is a waste of time, a needless obstacle...
If I give up Christianity in order to test it, and every other worldview, then I would find myself in a state of cognitive paralysis.
I thus find that I cannot take Loftus's test because it has too many built in undercutting defeaters to my cognitive and moral proper functioning. The results would be disastrous, thus proper function does not allow me to take Loftus's test.
I can't think of how many times I've concluded to myself that the only difference between the conflicting positions is that atheism is simply consistent with the same things everyone knows. If Manata can't appreciate that, that's his problem.
Manata says:I would have no idea about the origination and purpose of my cognitive faculties. I would not be able to believe that their purpose was to deliver true beliefs. Since no one can adopt a "perspectiveless" stance, then what stance should I adopt? What view of mind would I have? What moral stance would I take in order to judge a worldview's moral consequences and consistency? What would I believe about man, his problem, and the solution? Would I be a realist or an anti-realist? What would I think about meaning? How would I even think about other religions and my religion? Would I deny naturalism and hold that there is intrinsic purpose in the world? What would my views on logic be? Would reasons and intentions be an irreducible explanation for why certain things take place? Would I hold that the universe is causally closed? Would I think that normativity is an irreducible feature of the world?
It seems that Manata was born a 30 year old Christian apologist and doesn't recall that at some time from conception to an age of Christian reason he didn't know the answers to those questions from any perspective. He's also conveniently defined agnosticism out of the equation (much like Hays) as Christians so often seem to have to do in order to get an unfair leg up on the competition. Is childhood a state of "cognitive paralysis" or has this armchair philosopher gone off the deep end yet again in a vain attempt to do away with consistent standards of evidence? Please note, starting with this link, I've addressed many of the random philosophical issues the Triabloggers decided to bring up.
Manata says:Would Loftus take a test to see if his cognitive faculties are reliable? Giving up the reliability of his cognitive faculties and placing them on the table for testing would give him a reason not to take the test since the minute he gives up the reliability of his faculties he loses the motivation to test them, or anything else. Loftus pretends that this is to be biased toward your worldview. Yes, it is. And I've just given good reasons for the bias.
Of the few things that are logically impossible to do, I'm assuming Loftus would give Manata a pass on. There's no point in "testing" your cognitive faculties if your cognitive faculties are doing the test. But, on the other hand that's exactly what they do in cognitive science: They determine to the best of our ability the limits of our cognitive abilities. At some level we have to assume we have something to work with (and incidentally if that's not the case, who cares?), but then it wouldn't make much sense to disown what we know about our cognitive faults with Manata's objection here would it? So, Manata is just being unreasonable and pretending like this issue can give him the same kind of pass on his religion. It's just not logically impossible to not be a Christian and it's completely possible to be an agnostic on most of the issues Manata has raised.
Manata says:Loftus merely suggests that I apply double standards to other religions, he doesn't show this.
The purpose of this chapter was to set the standard (and perhaps suggest applications). The purpose of the other chapters is to show how it is applied to various issues. Did Manata expect to be personally addressed like Loftus can read his mind?
Manata says:As C.S. Lewis said, "I believe in Christianity like I believe in the sun. Not only because I see it, but because of it I see everything else."
C. S. Lewis is in great need of demonstrating that non-Christians don't see anything, since they will protest that they do. It is fine and dandy to think that your worldview is the best explanation of reality and therefore the most informative. That's exactly what I think about my non-Christian worldview (and I would hope that others picked their worldview for that same reason). It is another thing to claim ownership (on behalf of Jesus) of some of the primordial common ground that humanity is born with and then just expect everyone to agree with you about the not-so-common-ground elements that are actually just indefensible Christian interpretations.
Manata says:Loftus's argument focuses on disagreement. But what about agreement? The vast majority of humans throughout history have believed in something "other," something "supernatural." [...] Most agree that there is something supernatural, that man has a problem and is in need of a solution, man is not ultimate, meaning and purpose is an irreducible feature of the world, miracles have happened, etc. Loftus's argument seems to rest on the notion that disagreement leads to his test, which should lead to atheism. But of course many of the meta-level concerns are agreed upon. The level of agreement leads to atheism being off the table, if we're to take Loftus's test seriously.
As an atheist, I think there are probably other realms out there besides this universe. I think humanity has issues that it needs to work on. I don't think humans are supreme and that we could easily be trumped by a more advanced species. I find meaning and purpose in life even if there is no ultimate purpose or meaning to it (even valuing a god is ultimately meaningless and circular just like anything else would be). And I believe science has worked many "miracles." Now, Manata is going to have to work overtime to defend all his terms in order to push me out of the realm of human agreement (if we don't challenge any of those assertions). But that's just it, there's probably no solid consensus on the little details he's going to have to nail down. Anything he can point to is going to be vague and watered down.
For instance, let's say we concede that supernatural miracles happen. Atheist Michael Martin, in "The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave" says this (page 48):
Thus, for example, Stephen T. Davis, a well-known Christian philosopher, apologist, and believer in miracles, argues 'naturalistic explanations of phenomena ought to be preferred by rational people in the vast majority of cases.' His position is perfectly compatible with both the existence of miracles and the possibility of obtaining strong evidence for them. It does imply, however, that even on the assumption of theism, initially any given miracle claim is incredible and that to overcome this initial improbability strong evidence must be produced.
So Manata really isn't necessarily getting himself anywhere useful in disowning Christian flavored delusions. There's no reason why Manata couldn't at least apply the OTF or the golden rule of interpretation like James McGrath does, and conclude that in all likelihood there is probably a lot of myth built into the gospels, because that's what he'd conclude if he were evaluating any other religious tradition that had similar indications. Further the last two hundred years of scientific advancement and the dawn of the information age is a bit of a game changer in terms of properly evaluating human common ground. Modern knowledge should have a great deal more weight than many millennia of ignorance. But that's obvious since science is the most refined version of the OTB we have by design. As Manata unwittingly demonstrated in a previous chapter, scientists who get along with religion today tend to do so by holding it to completely different standards. If religion could pass the OTB, I guarantee it would be a branch of science and we wouldn't be having this conversation.
Manata says:Imagine a fish bowl with a fish in it. Now, a great and overwhelming majority of the world's population, yesterday and today, would agree that something is in the fish tank. Atheists are the ones saying that nothing is in there. If disagreement shows relativism then agreement should show objectivism or realism. So the atheist that raises the problem from disagreement needs to stick to his guns. If not, then all this hubbub about "disagreement" leading to cognitive despair is simply hand waving. They think agreement counts for nothing. They aren't bothered by it, at all. So why should the theist be bothered by disagreement?
The existence of a god and metaphysics in general is simply not a matter of human expertise. Hence the vague consensus on the matter is unqualified and disregardable. Now, is there a fish in a bowl somewhere here on earth? Have at it human consensus!
Obviously people can all agree about something and still be wrong. That's why there's that argumentum ad populum fallacy. The OTF does not directly encompass everything there is about critical thinking (though a clever person probably could ratify everything in terms of it). But it is a pretty good rule of thumb with which to check your worldview especially as we continually meet new thinkers that appear to be applying our own standards and yet come to different conclusions. Maybe the OTF is the best as Loftus claims. I don't know. I just use everything when applicable.
Manata says:More troubling, many religious beliefs are bound up with values and it is not clear that they can be neatly separated. That people disagree about my values gives me no reason to drop mine and test them with the same level of skepticism I have towards theirs. [...]The counter example also shows that we should have the same level of skepticism towards the moral command, "one ought to torture babies for fun," as we have toward the moral command, "one ought never torture babies for fun." Indeed, the counter example concludes that we should test that moral command! Has Loftus tested that moral command? Do the police know? [...]
A similar problem haunts cultural relativism in its moral dimension. There's just more agreement than the cultural relativist would like.
So if we put together these three nuggets on morality from Manata in this chapter, it seems Manata is worried that thinking too critically would lead him to killing babies even though he believes there's a great deal of alignment on issues of morality that would probably side against killing babies? Mkay... Someone is just telegraphing that impartially evaluating Christianity as an outsider is too threatening to his values. Hence we shouldn't expect much of what he says to make any sense. Lo and behold not much of what he says makes any sense.
Manata concludes his blizzard of nonsense with:Loftus's argument for his outsider test is vague, ambiguous, invalid, unsound, superfluous, informally fallacious, and subject to a defeater-deflector. It fails on just about every level.
Manata's appraisal of Loftus' OTF is shallow, denialistic, off target, overstated, confused, and simply too obnoxiously uncharitable to even call a meaningful response. It's obvious Manata went well out of his way to throw everything at it including the kitchen sink (since Richard Carrier popularly claimed that the OTF is the "lynch pin" of TCD and apparently Manata is the Christian responsible for inspiring the idea in Loftus' head in the first place, lol. Poor guy. I'll bet Jesus will demote him a level in heaven at least.), but he might as well have just thrown an actual kitchen sink at a copy of TCD since he didn't end up including hardly anything of worthwhile intellectual substance.
Manata's Response to Loftus
Manata says:This is interesting since I never knew I was the inspiration behind Loftus’s OTF (where are my royalties!?), and I certainly don’t rue the day I “provoked [Loftus] to propose the test.”
Give it time, Paul. Give it time.
Manata says:I think the OTF argument is horrible, and I’m just trying to get John to see that.
Maybe he should try doing something other than quibbling at every trivial weakness?
Manata says:John takes criticism of his arguments as an assault on his person. He’s committed to them like a religious zealot. To challenge them is to challenge John. It seems John Loftus has the attitude, “But who are you, O man, to talk back to John?”
It is rather odd to me how, for whatever reason, Manata was a dick to Tarico in chapter two (just read his opening paragraph to her), but can't be found (so far anyway) to be as offensive to the male contributors (unless you count a long series of lame objections as offensive). His opening to Loftus in TID is actually rather sterile at face value. Not sure what to make of that. Maybe Loftus is oversensitive in his reply, but the retaliatory tone of TID is obvious between Manata and Hays in general. It is really cheesy to plug the subjective reactions of atheists into the stubborn-sinner-who-fancies-himself-god narrative when forgiven sinners (according to Christian doctrine) can be found to be just as subjectively oversensitive to criticism. It's just common human behavior that isn't particularly indicative of their allegiance to or against a particular supernatural entity. Manata seems to have been called a religious zealot 50,000 times too many in the past and appears to want to make sure the label sticks to someone else instead. Good luck! Loftus clearly doesn't even need the OTF if he even claims he deconverted with an ITF (as Manata even brings up in his next paragraph). We'll see if Manata is so quick to disown "horrible" arguments of his own. Doubtful.
Loftus had said:Manata begins by saying, "Loftus claims to have taken the outsider test for Christianity. He says he judged Christianity by the same standards he judged other religions false. Christianity did not pass the test." This is incorrect.
In response, Manata says:Loftus begins by noting that, “Thus Christianity failed the Insider Test for Faith as I said in footnote 9 on page 105 of The Christian Delusion, the book he's criticizing.” But of course, “Christianity” didn’t fail any insider or outsider test, for as Loftus tells us, “there is no such thing as Christianity, only Christianities.” Loftus uses this appeal to giving an insider test to Christianity as a kind of super-warrant for his rejection. But, there are thousands of Christainities, according to Loftus, and none of them received Loftus’s insider test, except for one. So It’d be better for him to scale back his claims about Christianity failing the insider test. But this is a minor quibble, so I’ll move on.
There's also no such thing as "Christainitites." Are we done quibbling yet? Let the lame talking point die, plz. Manata would have to be making the argument Richard Carrier accused the Triabloggers collectively of advancing:1. There are many different Christianities.
2. If there are many different Christianities, no two Christianities have any elements in common.
3. If no two Christianities have any elements in common, then no collection of essays purporting to refute Christianity can refute Christianity.
4. TCD is a collection of essays purporting to refute Christianity.
5. Therefore, TCD cannot refute Christianity.
Obviously premise two is too simplistic and hence the TID errors considerably on one of their prominent talking points. Do we know that Loftus' ITF only covers one tiny sliver of the Christian spectrum from anything Manata says? Nope. So Manata does not engage the contents of Loftus' ITF, he does not acknowledge his own mistake in saying that Loftus had left Christianity because of the OTF, and instead defaults to self-conscious and illogical quibbling.
Manata says:Certainly something like Plantinga’s extended A/C model is possible, so (1) could be true while (2) false (i.e., one could be rational in a faith one received from the testimony of one’s parents). Furthermore, if something like Plantinga’s A/C model is true, then, for most Christians, (1) could be true (perhaps it is the means God uses to bring his elect in) and (2) would be false.
Manata is still hung up on the possibility of a religion still being true despite Loftus' test even though there is no disagreement there between Loftus and himself. If Manata wants to say that the Holy Spirit makes Christians Christians through subjective means, then prove it. If he wants to say that humans have a sensus divinitatis (a mental god-detector), then prove it. If Manata could do that, his beliefs might well actually pass the OTF. All of the subjective aspects of human belief that Loftus references in the formulation of the OTF are common ground unless there is no such thing as cultural influence, psychological gimmicks, cognitive bias, and double standards in Manata's worldview. Defending Plantinga's extended A/C model would have made a much more productive chapter in TID. But apparently having a sensus divinitatis or being influenced by the Holy Spirit does not give a Christian a convincing argument. So why is it convincing? Why should assuming it be considered a neutral starting place between the wide variety of religious and non-religious people rather than what Loftus has advocated? Triabloggers seem to have little to no sense of fairness or neutrality and hence their apologetic efforts are perpetually doomed to unravel to conclusion asserting and mindless hackery.
Manata still maintains there is no connection between premises one and two of Loftus' OTF argument even though premise 1 already basically contains premise 2 and is fairly redundant: "...adopt and defend a wide diversity of religious faiths due to their upbringing and cultural heritage..." basically = "...adopting one’s religious faith is not merely a matter of independent rational judgment but is causally dependent on cultural conditions..." So what's the connection? The identity property, maybe?
Manata says:If it is that Christians are only rational in holding their beliefs on on the basis of their relation to other beliefs, or that Christian beliefs are only probable with respect to their relation on other beliefs, then quite clearly Loftus has begged the question against theories of warrant like Plantinga’s (cf. ibid, 442). If Loftus’s inference require the assumption that noetic structures must have this kind of basing relation, then it’s validity doesn’t seem very plausible without something like classical foundationalism, internalism, or coherentism being necessarily the case.
All of our beliefs are subject to the coherency of all our other beliefs. It is logically possible that we may have some brute sense experience that stands all by itself and may in fact reflect some external reality. However, it is by definition an incredibly weak link and shouldn't be considered a defeater for anything else. This is not question begging and Loftus really doesn't have to write a philosophy book counter to Plantinga for the basic objection to be presented. Minus the isms all beliefs can be subject to foundational, internal, and coherency tests for well rounded justification. Whether one particular school of thought is "true" or not is irrelevant. Obvious weakness is obvious.
Manata says:...we’re not talking about possibilities, but probabilities. Even if the probability is 1/44,000, this is still a probability and not a possibility.
Epic semantic quibbling that gets Manata no where!
Manata says:Just like the lottery, if I have the winning ticket in my hand I am rational in believing that I have won. In fact, I am warranted in so believing. Likewise with Christianity. Not only do I have arguments for why I believe, not only do I have various types of defeaters against the claim that my faith is (non-statistically) false—which is the more interesting kind of probability claim, the one, in fact, that could get me to take an OTF—but I am also warranted in so believing.
This is just so painful to read. Producing the winning ticket is the obvious way to pass an OTB. If Manata has that kind of evidence for Christianity, then presenting it passes the OTF and there's no reason to make such a flakey stink about the formulation of the OTF. Some incredibly bizarre psychological bias is going on here and I can only speculate why the Triabloggers are all hung up on keeping the oh-so-scary OTF at arms length.
Manata says:Pointing out the statistical probability that only one sub-set of propositions can be true out of a set of mutually exclusive propositions, is uninteresting and does not, for the reasons given, allow the inferences Loftus wants to make.
It's the probability combined with the general knowledge that people tend to soak up their religious surroundings uncritically. It's a call to evaluate at the entry level of critical thinking on the topic whether or not the foundation of your religious beliefs is really any different than the subjective foundations of a multitude of others. Clearly Manata has achieved a mental critical mass where such an issue no longer matters to him, but plenty of former Christians when they reach that point in their intellectual and personal maturation have their bubble popped. I'm also aware of Christians who are at least somewhat interested in the observation someone on the other side of the world who was born into a different religion is just as confident as they are about their convictions. It does matter. It is relevant. Manata's dismissal is defensive, dishonest, and unhelpful. Part one of TCD applies to a lot of people on a lot of issues, whether religious, political, philosophical or otherwise. If you look at something like TCD as an entry level to advanced negative case against mainstream fundamentalist Christianity, that kind of rudimentary primer on the many colors of cognitive biases is an entirely appropriate step one.
So the basic roads to take here are:
A: Take the OTF and have your religious bubble popped for lack of objective grounding.
B: Take the OTF and pass it with good arguments to justify your religious beliefs.
C: Disown the OTF while presuming to have good arguments which suspiciously can't be applied to passing the OTF.
When apologists like Manata continually opt for C, it is always going to look like somewhere their "arguments" are really going to unravel to conclusion asserting and special pleading. And it's just a matter of them actually talking long enough about where they are actually coming from before this becomes plainly evident. Other apologists like jayman777, Rauser, and Engwer chose B while then leaning in to accuse Loftus of going too far with the OTF. Dropping Hays' and Manata's contributions to chapter 4 would have been entirely appropriate and saved me from writing a response that's actually longer than Loftus' original chapter. If they want to give Loftus' skeptical beachhead more credibility, they can keep this up indefinitely. It just makes them look bad.
Manata's 2nd Response to Loftus
Manata's first response on evaluating the logical validity of the OTF failed basically because he expected a "Socrates is mortal" kind of rigid argument rather than a probabilistic guide. And I imagine Manata is so committed to his critique at this point, he will never change his expectations. That's fine, I'm happy to point out how shallow and uncharitable an intellectual ambassador for Christ he is. In part 2 of his response to Loftus, he moves on to evaluate the soundness of the OTF.
Manata says:The first thing to point out is that Loftus appeals to Eller, Tarico, and Long’s stuff in his response to me, as well as in his chapter in TCD. He claimed their chapters are supportive of his argument. Since we “debunked” those chapters in TID, Loftus can’t appeal to them without responding to our criticisms. He has undefeated defeaters. So his appeal to them in his response to me is gratuitous.John Loftus admits that religions that posit an external world are more probable than ones that do not.John Loftus has not justified his claim that all religions have identical probability assignments, and his blustering about it does not an argument make. So, I deny the premise that treats all religions as equipossible and ask John to give the argument showing that they are.
Well...I did! I showed that an internal Christian principle flat-lines all external odds assessments. If you accept the authority of the Bible, you have to disown all probability assessments of religion because this god's opinions and choices are infinitely beyond all human intuitions and reasons. Hence, "x makes more sense to me" in terms of religion is always irrelevant. Perhaps theologians over the eons should not have invented such plastic excuses...
Anyway, Manata goes off on a lame list of other things that Loftus did or didn't do that I either didn't or did do. Boring exchange is boring.
But finally, it is fun to point out that Manata bothers to formalize this priceless nonsense:1. Any stance that results in massive cognitive disaster for a cognizer, S, is a stance S should avoid.
2. The OTF is a stance that results in massive cognitive disaster for me.
3. Therefore, I should avoid the OTF.
Note, my response above (as if a response was necessary). Although "cognizer" is a pretty sweet word, I'll admit.
The only thing we can and should trust is the sciences.
*facepalm* Okay, I have to put pants on in the morning, Loftus, one leg at a time, right? I guess I'd better have google right there with me. But how can I be sure I know how to type? Oh noes! Certainly Christians have noticed:...[Loftus] makes a blunder by stating that the “only thing we can and should trust is the sciences” (p. 89). This position, called scientism, is ably refuted by Edward Feser.
And jayman777 won't be the only one. I'm well aware Loftus isn't advocating scientism, and Loftus even does some damage control on jayman777's blog post in the comments. However, given typical Christian philosophical presuppositions about atheists, Loftus' scientism-sounding statement is starkly naked and unqualified as is. What about all the Christians out there who aren't going to write blog posts, John? Can you correct all of them? And yet again, we needed to have read WIBA to excuse the content of TCD. So I disagree with jayman777 that this was a philosophical blunder. It was a presentation blunder.
At the tail end of answering objection six, Loftus asks (page 98):By contrast, what extraordinary claims are atheists making? Is it an extraordinary claim for atheists to say with Carl Sagan that, "the cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be"? It may seem that way to believers, and so this must still be shown to be the best explanation of the available evidence in discussions with them. But it's not an extraordinary claim at all.
Um, yeah it is. How could any human being easily know there isn't something other than this cosmos? The non-extraordinary claim here would be, "I don't know whether there is more than this cosmos or not." Surely claiming knowledge one way or the other is categorically more extraordinary than not. And incidentally it may well be an extraordinary claim to claim that there isn't more than this cosmos.
Most of what Loftus said was spot on, despite the things I've pointed out here. He tread on a lot of difficult ground and managed to make tactful sense through a lot of it. But honestly I would think he'd have this ALL down to a science by now. I could easily have been completely blown away, but wasn't. I give 4 out of 5 stars as a result.
Next up, Ed Babinski's "The Cosmology of the Bible."