Sunday, September 26, 2010

Some Confusions from Loftus on Methodological Naturalism

I was away from the computer yesterday, so I didn't see John's comment.

And you are being extremely disingenuous Vic, to the point of lying (yes, lying. You are at least lying to yourself).
Look at Walter Martin's book on the cults. Listen, I am not stupid. You are. Martin and all others assume there is a natural explanation for every other religion but their own.

I have never seen such utter stupidity before.

I am not subscribing. Anyone with a brain can read Martin's books or Geisler's or McDowell's.

Listen, if you wish to engage me take a basic primer in apologetics.

Sheesh. Is this the level or ignorance it takes to believe?

I think so, and that's why I want nothing to do with it. I am a thinking person. Critique this all you want but with such a buffoonish post as this it is MORE obvious than the nose on your face.


 I am going to ignore Mr. Loftus' unfortunate tone here, and proceed to the logical point I think he has missed. Martin, Geisler, and McDowell, I take it, believe that the founding of other religions can be explained naturalistically. Of course, it is critical only in Western revealed religions, such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, etc. to have supernaturally explained founding events. Christians believe that God was active in the founding of both Judaism and Christianity, but they do not think God participated in the founding of the Islam, or the founding of Mormonism. It is certainly open to Christians to accept a supernatural explanation for the founding of these religions, namely a demonic explanation, but Martin and others don't ordinarily go that way, and I am inclined to suppose that they are right to do so. I heard a Christian caller to Hank Hanegraaf's show say that Moroni was an angel, but he was a fallen angel. Richard Abanes, a Mormonism expert, said that he didn't think that this was the case.

The obvious point, which seems to have escaped Mr. Loftus, is that explaining something naturalistically is not sufficient to make one a methodological naturalist. Here is the definition of methodological naturalism, provided by Paul Kurtz here

First, naturalism is committed to a methodological principle within the context of scientific inquiry; i.e., all hypotheses and events are to be explained and tested by reference to natural causes and events. To introduce a supernatural or transcendental cause within science is to depart from naturalistic explanations. On this ground, to invoke an intelligent designer or creator is inadmissible....

In other words, before investigating some phenomenon, a methodological naturalist decides that whatever explanations are to be given it cannot be a supernatural explanation. Someone who adopts methodological naturalism assumes from the outset that no supernatural explanation can or will be given. What that means is that if an event in fact has a supernatural explanation, the investigator, who has committed himself to MN, will miss that explanation.

Now, people who believe in miracles explain many, indeed most things non-miraculously.  When Catholics canonize saints, they have to verify the miracles. They can conclude that the prospective saint didn't produce any miracles, in which case he (or she) is not canonized. That doesn't mean they are methodological naturalists, that means they didn't find enough evidence to support this particular prospective saint's miracle claims.

Now, look at the structure of the arguments in the comparison between the founding of Islam and the founding of Christianity, which I linked to in the previous post. I'm not even vouching for the argumentation in defense of Christianity here, I am just making the case that that site compared the manuscript evidence, the documentary evidence, and the archaeological evidence for the Bible as opposed to the Qu'ran. No doubt the author of this site thinks that the founding of Islam is in fact to be explained naturalistically, but there is nothing on the site that I can see that says it must be explained naturalistically. The central characteristic of methodological naturalism is a necessity that the subject matter be explained naturalistically, and that any supernatural explanations, even if true, be overlooked. In fact, by presenting this kind of evidence, the author of the website is implying that if the evidential situation were reversed, them we ought to seriously consider the Qu'ran, and not the Bible, is divine rather than human in origin.

Martin, Geisler, and McDowell do not assume that there is a naturalistic explanation for the founding of Islam. I contend that they argue that, in this case, there is a naturalistic explanation for the founding of Islam. 

So Mr. Loftus is making a leap from

1) Martin, Geisler, and McDowell in fact explain the origins of Islam naturalistically,

to

2) Martin, Geisler, and McDowell are employing methodological naturalism in their explanation of the founding of Islam.

And this, I submit, does not follow. Only be conflating the acceptance of a naturalistic explanation in a particular case with the acceptance of methodological naturalism can Mr. Loftus make his case that my last post was stupid. Once the distinction between these is clarified, his criticism falls flat.

55 comments:

Joshua Blanchard said...

I think you're giving Loftus the benefit of the doubt here, by attributing this poorly conceived opinion to him. In fact he specified not at all what he is referring to in these authors. Why not wait for him to provide a single example of the egregious error he alleges has been widely made?

Also, it's important to note that Christian apologists in the traditions Loftus says he is concerned with generally think that Christian claims can be established with otherwise secular methods - and they apply these methods to their own and competing faiths.

Anonymous said...

Like BDK one can completely reject the existence of God or the validity of any & all Christian Apologetics and still see that Loftus doesn't know what he is talking about.

Anonymous said...

Well done, Vic, for pointing out the obvious flaw in Loftus argument whilst maintaining a civil tone that he's proven himself incapable of emulating.

mattghg said...

It's to your credit that you don't sink to the level of JL's 'unfortunate tone' here (although I wouldn't quite say you ignored it, since you mention it!).

Is there anyone here that Loftus hasn't insulted yet?

Bilbo said...

John W. Loftus: "And in case anyone wants to know. I actually like Vic quite a lot. "

We are relieved to hear that.

John W. Loftus said...

Ohhhhh Noooooo!!!!!

Vic cannot see quite plainly that the whole reason for the Outsider Test for Faith is to make people consistent in how they deal with other religious faiths than their own.

Wow! Another completely ignorant attempt to defend what cannot be defended.

Consistency. That's what Christians do not have. They are for all practical purposes methodological naturalists when examining every other religion but their own.

...and Vic's only defense is to tell us they are not methodological naturalists!!! Of course they aren't. Their problem is that they are not consistent, something the OTF asks them to be.

What sheer idiocy the likes of which should put Vic in the insane asylum if it wasn't for the fact that when he goes to church he's already there.

Where are your critical thinking skill Vic?

And when will you recognize that defending the Christian faith will make brilliant people like yourself to absolutely dumber than a box of rocks.

Bilbo said...

John,

No doubt it's because I am also an idiot, but it's not clear to me that you followed Vic's argument. Perhaps if you restated in your own words what you think is Vic's argument, we will be able to understand you better.

John W. Loftus said...

A slight spike in the sales of my books took place again.

♪♫•.¸¸♥♪♫•*¨*•♫♪

John W. Loftus said...

Bilbo, you mean this garbage:

Martin, Geisler, and McDowell do not assume that there is a naturalistic explanation for the founding of Islam. I contend that they argue that, in this case, there is a naturalistic explanation for the founding of Islam.

Oh, and Vic doesn't assume his religion is true either?...He argues for it?

Laughable.

Laughable.

But in fact they DO assume Islam has a natural explanation. They use special pleading to argue what they have assumed to be the case.

I'll not bother anymore here unless someone can actually come up with something substantial for me to respond to.

Victor Reppert said...

A lot of noise and no argument. What we need is some real argument that apologists are methodological naturalists with respect to other religions. That is, that they presuppose that the miracles did not happen, as opposed to arguing, as they appear to be doing, that the evidence for a miraculous founding of other religions is possible but inadequate.

What I have argued is that apologist critiques of other religions do not appeal to methodological naturalism, either explicitly or implicitly. Again, let's go back to the site I linked to in the previous post. It compares the manuscript evidence, the documentary evidence, and the archaeological evidence in support of the Bible with the manuscript, documentary, and archaeological evidence for the Qu'ran. Based on that, that Bible comes out better.
On the face of things, naturalism doesn't enter into it.

My argument is simply that you don't have to be a methodological naturalist to explain something naturalistically. Do you agree?

Do you actually think that someone is being inconsistent if they explain some things in terms of the supernatural and others naturalistically? Is that it? So that, if we say that one thing is supernatural, we have to say that everything is supernatural? If this is the claim, it shouts out for argumentative support.

What if we say that we should accept the supernatural when the evidence for it is good enough, and not otherwise? That, at least in the minds of these apologists, the evidence is sufficient for the Resurrection but not for the supernatural origin of the Qu'ran? That is what it looks like they are claiming. Where is the inconsistency here?

The Catholic Church has as list of saint candidates. It checks the claim that the saint performed a miracle. Some it accepts, others it rejects, depending on whether the Church really thinks the miracle occurred or not. They base it on the evidence. Is there inconsistency here?

Just saying that someone is inconsistent is quite different from providing a real argument that they are inconsistent.

Victor Reppert said...

Can YOU argue that Islam has a naturalistic explanation without assuming it to be the case? Or would you use the same kinds of arguments Christian apologists do to show that the evidence just isn't strong enough?

Can you argue that Christianity has a naturalistic origin without assuming it to be the case? Are you becoming the Cornelius Van Til of atheistic apologetics?

Where's the beef?

Jake Elwood XVI said...

Mr Loftus wrote
"A slight spike in the sales of my books took place again.

♪♫•.¸¸♥♪♫•*¨*•♫♪"

I wonder what that means.
0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,0,0,0,2

Do you have evidence for that spike?

JEXVI

John W. Loftus said...

Vic: ...that the evidence for a miraculous founding of other religions is possible but inadequate.

Vic, how dare you use this as someone else's viewpoint! That is MY viewpoint and I'm a methodological naturalist!!!!

So there is nothing here folks. Move along.

Vic again: My argument is simply that you don't have to be a methodological naturalist to explain something naturalistically. Do you agree?

Well, Vic, my point is that you don't know what that method is to begin with, or do you assume that a MN will never under any circumstances believe in a miracle? Strange. That.

But let me grant you this point anyway. Martin, Geisler and McDowell's book all assume these New Religious Movements are false exactly as I do and exactly like one would think when applying the OTF. So regardless of the superfluous nomenclature disagreement that is the point. Like me they initially are skeptical of extraordinary claims or extraordinary events. THAT is the point.

[Ignoring this point of mine Vic continues on as if I never made it...]

Bilbo said...

It sounds like the disagreement is on what exactly is methodological naturalism.

Victor Reppert said...

John: Here is Kurtz's definition of methodological naturalism once again, which I gave in the initial post:

First, naturalism is committed to a methodological principle within the context of scientific inquiry; i.e., all hypotheses and events are to be explained and tested by reference to natural causes and events. To introduce a supernatural or transcendental cause within science is to depart from naturalistic explanations. On this ground, to invoke an intelligent designer or creator is inadmissible....

That seems to just plain RULE OUT supernatural claims from the get-go. If this is what methodological naturalism is, then we can't get to the truth of any supernatural claims from where we are. So, even if a miracle were to occur, a methodological naturalist would have to deny it. Since I included this definition in my original post, you should have said something if you thought there was something wrong with that definition, as apparently you do. Perhaps you subscribe to a weaker form of methodological naturalism than does Kurtz (or Forrest).

But now let's go back to the comparison between Islam and Christianity that I was talking about in the previous post. The author of the site is claiming that there is more and better evidence for the Bible than for the Qu'ran. It seems to me that that claim is independent of the question of how much evidence should be sufficient. Given the fact that, according to their argument, Christianity reaches a higher evidential standard than Islam, it is possible that, at least for some reasonable persons, the evidence is sufficient for Christianity and not sufficient for Islam.

Even though I certainly don't endorse everything in the comparison, I do think the evidence is better for Christianity than for Islam. I think, further, that if I thought the evidential situation were reversed, I would have to start wondering if I was in the right religion.

If you think the evidence is better for Christianity, then it need not be the case that you are using a different standard for the two religions, one of which you are an insider to, and the other of which you are an outsider to.

To make the kind of case you want, you have to look at some specifics, and show that there are parallel pieces of evidence in the two religions, where Christians take that piece to be evidence for Christianity, but that same piece of evidence, found in Islam, is not considered evidence.

Victor Reppert said...

There is a sense in which any argument based on evidence for Christianity assumes that Christianity is false. That is, since we want to avoid begging the question, we have to be looking at it as something that could provide a reason for someone who doesn't currently believe, whatever shape their priors are in at that point, to believe once the evidence is given. Or, as is usually the case, it's a cumulative case role-player. Now, you do sometimes see McDowell just assume the Bible is true in order to prove what he wants to, but, for example, I haven't seen McGrew engage in that kind of question-begging.

Robert Gressis said...

Hi Vic and John,

Like some others, I'm not convinced (nor am I unconvinced; I just don't yet know what to think) that the Christian is under an obligation to look at his faith from the perspective of an outsider. Here's an anlogy: let's imagine I come up with something called "the Outsider Test for Moral Realism". The way this test works is that you have to imagine you weren't a moral realist--you didn't believe (nor did you disbelieve) that there is an objective right and wrong. Given that starting point, do you think that moral realism or moral skepticism would be the most convincing position?

I'm not sure, but my hunch is that moral skepticism would come out superior. In fact, this is true for a lot of skepticisms: external world skepticism would, I think, come out on top if we gave, say, an "Outsider Test for External World Realism". What should we conclude from this?

I don't know; I think it's possible that one could think there are significant differences between external world realism and, say, moral realism or theism (almost everyone is an external world realist; significantly fewer are theists; it's not clear to me how many are moral realists. If we look at what people say, I'd say most Americans are moral skeptics; if we look at what people do, I'm significantly less sure that most people are moral skeptics), but I think you need to do some heavy epistemological lifting to show this.

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, who is McGrew that I should take notice of him? There are no heavyweights here just as there are no heavyweights when it comes to Mormonism.

Would you please ignore me?

I will make the case you suggest easily in my book on the subject, as I will about moral realism.

Really, you people think I have not thought of these things before?

Sheesh.

Victor Reppert said...

Who McGrew is is someone who avoids circular argumentation in his defense of Christian miracles. Whether he is a heavyweight or not is beside the point. In my opinion he is as far above your class in these debates as he is above your class in chess, but that is just one man's opinion.

Victor Reppert said...

Robert G: I challenged John on external world realism and moral realism, and he responded to my challenges in The Christian Delusion. The reason he has thought of these question is because I challenged him on it.

Victor Reppert said...

I indicated what it would take to demonstrate a double standard. If a Christian is caught up in the sort of double standard you say he is, then there have to be parallels between the evidence, where a Christian calls the same thing evidence for his view but not evidence in the other religion.

John W. Loftus said...

In my opinion he is as far above your class in these debates...

Yeah, and you know what else? A Muslim or Mormon scholar is above my class too, all dead wrong for the same reasons.

Or, McGrew can answer my magnum opus.

If he has the breadth of knowledge I do on these matters I would surely like to know, but that's just one man's opinion.

GREV said...

Hello:

If Mr. Loftus thinks us all stupid; why does he not leave us alone in our dumb approach to life?

Mind you, I consider his dismissal of scholarship that defends the Christian theistic viewpoint to parade such arrogance that I am sometimes almost left speechless.

You do not believe. Tis your right. The facts are that able Christian scholarship has existed, does exist and will exist.

I think I will stick with reading Habermas. I have always liked what comes out of continental Europe, as opposed to the United States. Loftus just confirms this.

GREV said...

I should add some American authorship like Dallas Willard and for one is worth reading. My apologies to American authors for lumping you all together with the likes of Dennett, Harris and Loftus.

GREV said...

Just something further to this...

Mr. Loftus, it is hard to find the interesting things in what you have to say when your writing style is so combative and arrogant.

MaxVel said...

From my observations of John's approach to convincing all us "stupid" Christians I'm convinced he has a very high emotional stake in proving himself right and us wrong. He can't just walk away and leave us to our 'folly'. On a certain discussion board he's well known as the guy who gets his arguments roundly defeated, says 'That's it, I'm gone'... ...and then comes back again, and again, and... well, you get the picture.

If you know some of John's past history, you might guess at the reasons behind this inability to just let it go.

In my opinion the requirements of John's self-image push him to promote himself and his anti-God arguments incessantly. He just must be right, and we have to affirm him in his beliefs. Anything else would mean that he's made a terrible mistake, and his ego won't allow that as a possibility.

So when John is challenged and the flaws in his position pointed out, he can't deal with it calmly, but gets all worked up and resorts to insults. I've seen this pattern of behaviour from John a number of times.

John, why can't you just let it go? Of course it's your right to have an opinion, to publish that opinion, and so on, but - you should ask yourself - why does it matter so much that you be right and others wrong?

Anonymous said...

Time to ban John Loftus...

Joshua Blanchard said...

"Martin, Geisler and McDowell's book all assume these New Religious Movements are false"

Why doesn't it bother anyone that Loftus has still failed to find an actual example of the error he alleges? Most of the discussion involves two struggles: (1) trying hard to ignore Loftus' insults and subterfuge and (2) trying to point out that Loftus doesn't understand the nature of the error he is alleging.

But it seems that he can't even find an example, other than naming people who are in positions to be examples. This strikes me as just as sad as the second issue above.

SteveK said...

Juries in criminal trials take an 'outsider test' and not everyone comes to the same conclusion, yet everyone is working with the same evidence.

Why does Loftus think it a problem when rational 'outsiders' conclude that, given the evidence, Atheism is false and Christianity is true?

Victor Reppert said...

Let's get back to the simple point here. We have a website, which I linked to, which says that when we compare the Bible and the Qu'ran, the Bible has more manuscript evidence behind it, more documentary evidence behind it, and more archaeological evidence behind it. Although I think there are problems with some of the sub-arguments in this discussion, it seems clear enough to me that these claims are correct. The Bible is in considerably better shape on all three counts.

The vast majority of people who believe in a revealed religion consider either the Bible to be authoritative or they consider the Qu'ran to be authoritative. So, if we think God is a God who reveals himself in a written word, these two documents would be the place to look, at least on the face of things.

Now, based on this evidence, someone equally skeptical of both religions to begin with could, on the basis of this evidence, conclude that the Christian Bible is more likely to be authoritative than the Qu'ran, on the grounds that the Bible has better evidence supporting it. In fact, if I were convinced that the situation was reversed, and that there was historical evidence in support of the Qu'ran that was better than that of the Bible, I would start to wonder about being a Christian. I'm not going to make the Holy Spirit epistemology move here, but I am also not going to guarantee what I would do in the face of a major evidential shift of that kind. All I am saying is that the evidence matters to me.

Now, of course, you can say that in spite of the support the Bible has, there isn't enough to license belief in the miracles recorded therein. Maybe the evidence isn't extraordinary enough for you. All I am saying is that someone who began equally skeptical of both religions could, on the basis of a difference in the state of the evidence, choose the Bible over the Qu'ran. These two documents were compared by three evidential tests, and the Bible came out better on all of them. There were no assumptions at the beginning that I could see. There may have been bias, but can anyone doubt the overall conclusion of the comparison?

John W. Loftus said...

SteveK, a trial is a good example of an outsider looking in. No thumbs should be on the scales of justice. If there is a conflict of interest a judge or a lawyer should recuse themselves. The jury represents people who are uninvolved peers.

None of this describes believers who examine their own faith. The OTF demands the impartiality of agnostic, which is worse on one's own religion but better on the religious faiths one rejects.

No everyone agrees. Yes, true that. But that's a jury trial about an event that strictly speaking is "on the boards," that is it is about an ordinary event rather than a supposed extraordinary event. The whole reason Vic objects to the OTF is because he knows his faith will not pass the OTF.

Regardless, someone on a jury should at least be able to justify his decision afterward based on the skepticism of an outsider. One cannot punt to faith when judging the case before him like believers do an every juncture. That is ONLY being fair.

SteveK asks: Why does Loftus think it a problem when rational 'outsiders' conclude that, given the evidence, Atheism is false and Christianity is true?

Those are not our only options! The options are myriad and every bit in between! Besides, someone who rejects Hinduism in India is an atheist, while someone in Saudi Arabia who rejects Islam is an atheist, etc. That makes YOU an atheist in the same way since the definition of an atheist is a non-believer. I am simply a non-believer by virtue of the fact that your religion doesn't pass the OTF in the same way as you are a non-believer in Hinduism or Islam in other countries.

So the choice becomes one between belief or non-belief. There are billions of people on the planet on my side who do not believe in your particular Christian sect.

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, Muslims scoff at the reasonableness of the trinity while Christians scoff at a single unitary God. That's because they are skeptics about the others position all the way back to the existence of each others god.

Victor Reppert said...

And the discussion can go beyond scoffing, and start talking about manuscript evidence, documentary evidence, and archaeological evidence. When someone argues, they say, in effect, "Don't look at me, look at the argument." I am contending that an outsider, forced to choose between Christianity and Islam based on evidence, would choose Christianity. There IS and evidential difference, however much you might wish to discount it.

John W. Loftus said...

Vic: "I am contending that an outsider, forced to choose between Christianity and Islam based on evidence, would choose Christianity."

Which Christianity? Which Islam? Our options are never that simple. If in order to bolster your faith you have to be simplistic, then so be it.

And so let's limit our options on other supposed claims too. Either a supposed alien abduction claim took place, or an alien god was speaking to the guy. Choose ye thi day between these options.

There were a myriad number of Christian sects in the 1st-2nd centuries. Why assume the ones that survived are anything at all?

In any case, the choices, the choices, the choices, are never close to being as you make them out to be.

Blaise Pascal said...

"That makes YOU an atheist in the same way since the definition of an atheist is a non-believer."

So, a non-believer in atheism is after all an atheist.


"I am simply a non-believer by virtue of the fact that your religion doesn't pass the OTF in the same way as you are a non-believer in Hinduism or Islam in other countries."

I think your OTF is useless. In every argument you have premisses and a conclusion. The premisses can be themselves deductions from other premisses. But somewhere we come to basic facts which are either given directly by our reason (e.g. mathematical truths, or more generally: apriori truths) or by our senses.

Your OTF is of no use in judging the truth-value of the premisses. It is just some kind of psychological bla-bla.

"So the choice becomes one between belief or non-belief. There are billions of people on the planet on my side who do not believe in your particular Christian sect."

Argumentum ad populum? There are billions of people who believe in god or gods. What do you make of this?

"There were a myriad number of Christian sects in the 1st-2nd centuries. Why assume the ones that survived are anything at all?"

Because the ones that survived were the only ones who had a valid apostolic succession that can be traced to the apostles. In other words they had apostolic authority.

Victor Reppert said...

Of course we can change the options, but if there has been a real revelation, do you think Almighty God allow the Trinitarians to win if Arianism was really true?

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, if the Arians had won (or the other groups, see Ehrman's works) you would be saying the same damn thing as an Arian right now.

Correct?

Where does it stop?

Victor Reppert said...

But they didn't win. I live in alpha. I don't know what possible world you're in.

John W. Loftus said...

Sounds to me like Gamiliel's advice in Acts 5:34-40.

Is this how you assess things?

Maybe you're a Hegelian?

Or, maybe you're a Calvinist?

Truth wins out, eh?

Such a farce that it. Try it in Saudi Arabia or North Korea or Iran.

Oh no, just in this case, right, and a couple of others?

Selective observationalism then, eh, and YOU so the selecting, right?

You have just punted to faith which is not allowed if you are truly at least being objective and fair about what you believe (disregarding the OTF entirely here).

John W. Loftus said...

Actually Vic, it's worse than that.

At every single crucial junture when it comes to what you believe (i.e., think is probably the case) you punt to faith, and you do it a multitude number of times over and over and over and, well, you get my point.

This is not allowed if you are trying to be objective and fair about what you believe (disregarding the OTF entirely here).

Bilbo said...

John: Muslims scoff at the reasonableness of the trinity while Christians scoff at a single unitary God.

Speaking as a Christian, I don't scoff at a single unitary God. I accept the doctrine of the Trinity, not because I think it obviously reasonable, but because I accept the authority of the New Testament, and the doctrine of the Trinity seems to be the best explanation for various statements made in the NT.

I sympathize with those who scoff at the idea of the Trinity.

Bilbo said...

I also sympathize with those who scoff at the idea of the Incarnation and the idea of vicarious atonement of sin.

Victor Reppert said...

If Islam is true, then I, and not John, am right about the existence of God. I worship the same God as the Muslims, despite the fact that they deny the Trinity and I accept it. Oh, and I will have gotten the virgin birth right also.

If Arianism is true, then I was right, and John was wrong, about the Lordship of Christ, about his Resurrection, etc.

If Catholicism is true, then I erred when I decided against joining the Catholic Church when I was 21. But I surely have a whole lot more right than John does.

I do think it likely that if some special revelation exists, then either the Bible or the Qu'ran is true revelation. I don't think that is "punting to faith" at all. It seems probable to me.

I do think that, evidentially, Christianity is in better shape than any other religion. If someone were to approach all religions with equal skepticism to begin with, then Christianity would have to be the choice. An outsider should be able to see that.

Joshua Blanchard said...

Can anyone think of an example from the authors Loftus cites of an argument which employs something called "methodological naturalism" against another religion, but not toward a competing claim in Christianity? So far Reppert has explained in great detail how it is possible to think one supernaturalist claim superior to another based on standard evidential methods, so clearly Loftus' critique does not apply to him.

If no one, not even Loftus, can think of an example, then can anyone clarify what the point of discussion is?

SteveK said...

John,
None of this describes believers who examine their own faith.

What evidence do you have to support this claim?

The OTF demands the impartiality of agnostic, which is worse on one's own religion but better on the religious faiths one rejects.

You're saying atheism is an evidence-based conclusion rather than a mere absence/lack of belief? How else can you move from agnostic outsider to atheist? This is counter to everything I've heard about atheism.

That makes YOU an atheist in the same way since the definition of an atheist is a non-believer.

It makes me an adherent to the law of non-contradiction and an admirer of truth.

In addition, you are misusing the word 'atheist' to try to make a point where none exists. Atheism is the lack of belief in any God and I do believe in a God, hence I am not atheistic by any measure. Your statement makes no sense.

I do, however, think Christianity is true.

There are billions of people on the planet on my side who do not believe in your particular Christian sect.

And billions more who are not on the side of your atheism sect. What should we conclude from all of this, John?

Joshua Blanchard said...

Loftus likes to change topics. For example, he says:

"At every single crucial junture when it comes to what you believe (i.e., think is probably the case) you punt to faith."

Since Loftus obviously can't think of an example for his original claim (remember: that Christian apologists like Martin use naturalism to evaluate only one of two competing claims, or just invokes the Bible), perhaps he can think of an example in this brief discussion of where Reppert commits the error he attributes in the statement just quoted. In which statements has Reppert "punt[ed]" to faith? Extra credit points are available for good answers to this challenge.

Mike Erich the Mad Theologian said...

Am I to conclude more that to be a genuine super-naturalism I must believe every event that claims to be a miracle to be true and none of them to have a naturalistic explanation. This is utter nonsense. It is like saying to believe in UFOs, I must believe that every claimed UFO sighting is genuine. This would not make a person a super-naturalist but a naive idiot. The fact that someone does not believe every claimed super-natural event to be so, does not mean they do not really believe the ones they claim to believe.

Steven Carr said...

' Someone who adopts methodological naturalism assumes from the outset that no supernatural explanation can or will be given. What that means is that if an event in fact has a supernatural explanation, the investigator, who has committed himself to MN, will miss that explanation.'

If he finds himself checkmated, he will still play on, as he has committed himself to the idea that he is winning.

Similarly, somebody who assumes that he has a winning position in chess will never be able to find a line for his opponent that overturns that assumption.

If you assume that something is true, then, by definition, no amount of evidence can ever persuade you to revise your assumption.

Of course, there is always the bare possibility that somebody committed to methdological naturalism will admit that his assumption has turned out to be false.

But we know from Victor's superb analysis of MN that this can no more happen than that somebody committed to the idea that his chess position is winning can ever admit that he is actually losing.

John W. Loftus said...

If Islam is true, then I, and not John, am right about the existence of God...

Vic, if you want to compare the things you and I accept there are a great many of them too. So?

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, go ahead and do this list again this time sharing the things you and I accept but that Muslims, Jews and Hindu's don't.

If you and I are right they are wrong...and so on and so on. And repeat this process for a Hindu and a Muslim that is they are correct you are wrong.

What is your point Vic? Every comment must have a point.

What's yours?

SteveK said...

Speaking of that, John, what was the point of this comment you made?

There are billions of people on the planet on my side who do not believe in your particular Christian sect.

Victor Reppert said...

The point is, as a Christian, even if Islam is true, it will turn out that I got a lot of things right which I would not get right if I, based on the Outsider Test argument or otherwise, became an agnostic.

If I want the greatest balance of true beliefs over false ones, given the plurality of religions, it doesn't look like my best shot is with agnosticism.

If we make the further supposition that the gain achieved by believing a true religious proposition if it is true is greater than the loss sustained by failing to believe a religious proposition if it is false, the advantage of becoming an agnostic is even less.

The way the outsider test is set up, it is presumed that if someone believes that Christianity is true, but it turns out the Jews have it right, the Christians have lost, and lost just as badly as if they had been atheists. I don't think that's the case at all.

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, there are two definitions of agnosticism which have common roots in Huxley. The first is simple skepticism. The second one tracing itself to Russell is an all encompassing skepticism of metaphysical claims.

My claim is that I'll get a whole lot more things right by being a skeptics than a believer. Why not? Skepticism isn't the boogy man you'd like to make it out to be. We SHOULD be skeptical of claims unless they met their burden of proof especially on important life or death issues [No. I am almost stunned you would throw a Pascalian type of wager at me given the many gods objection which is exactly what we're talking about].

I'll not chase this rabbit down the hole with you though, and it is a rabbit down a hole.

Victor Reppert said...

BTW, I'm not convinced by the many-gods objection to Pascal's wager. Given a choice between buying a lottery ticket with a 1 in 1000 chance at eternal happiness, or a beer, I would take the lottery ticket. Infinity divided by any finite number is still infinity.

But let's get back to the central point at issue here. You claimed that Christian opponents of other religions either question-beggingly assume the authority of the Bible, or exercise a kind of methodological naturalism with respect to other religions which, if applied to Christianity, would result in the rejection of Christianity as well. Looking at a paradigm case of Christian apologetic response to Islam, we find that this is not the case. We find that Christian apologists compare the Bible and the Qu'ran with respect to manuscript evidence, documentary evidence, and archaeological evidence. Given the fact that, on this reading of the evidence, the evidence supporting Christianity is better than that of Islam, an outsider could choose Christianity over Islam based on the evidence. In fact, as an unbeliever you can accept the claim that the Christian Bible has better manuscript evidence, documentary evidence, and archaeological evidence than has the Qu'ran. The comparison doesn't say what the evidential threshold should be, but it does say that Christianity is better evidenced than Islam. So, an atheist might say the evidence isn't sufficiently "extraordinary" to warrant belief, but even an unbeliever should realize that the Christian Bible is in better evidential shape than the Qu'ran.

I've even made the claim that if you could show me that the situation was really reversed, my faith would be in trouble.

Of course, there are many more gods, and more holy books. Do you know of any that would do better than either the Bible or the Qu'ran on these three tests?

So let's take Outsider Tester Joe, someone who has, hypothetically, put all religions, prior to investigation at the same level of epistemic probability. Joe takes each religion's holy books, and runs the three tests on each. The Christian Bible wins by a considerable margin, so Outsider Tester Joe either becomes or remains a Christian. He can only be thought to have failed to employ the OTF if he has treated similar cases differently because he is a Christian insider. But the cases are not similar. There's an evidential difference.

Alex Dalton said...

Loftus wrote: A slight spike in the sales of my books took place again.

Alex: Ahahahahahah...this actually made me laugh. Especially with the little musical notes underneath it.