Friday, October 01, 2010

The Insider Test for Infidels

Acknowledging points on the other side doesn't even require granting legitimacy to theism or to Christianity. You made the argument that Christian apologetics in response to other religions either appeals to biblical authority (which is NOT question-begging to the extent that the other religion in question accepts biblical authority), or appeals to methodological naturalism in a way that would undercut Christian apologetics if applied to Christianity. I pointed out, using a fairly pedestrian Christian anti-Islamic website, that this appears to be demonstratably false. There were no appeals to biblical authority, there was no appeal to Humean views on miracles, there was no appeal to the principle that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. No, there was just the argument that, using three evidential tests, the Bible stands on far firmer historical ground than does the Qu'ran. This was a conclusion that an atheist could easily draw and remain an atheist. This was a reason you were giving for why Christianity couldn't possibly pass the outsider test, and it look fairly obvious to me that it flew in the face of the evidence. The website looked clearly to applying the same standard of evidence to each religion. It would hardly be the end of atheism for you to just acknowledge the point. You didn't. In fact you said my claim was laughable. But yet you want to set yourself up as my "guide" in viewing my religious beliefs from an outside perspective, someone who can be truly impartial because he isn't religiously committed? It's like saying Rush Limbaugh can be objective about the Democratic Party because he's an outsider.

The fact is that Christian apologists reject religions like Mormonism and Scientology, because, to be quite honest, Joseph Smith looks like a charlatan using ordinary evidence. ECREA isn't necessary to the argument, and is never, so far as I know, invoked.

Bald assertions claiming that your opponents are ignorant is another thing that does nothing and accomplishes less for your cause. Here at Dangerous Idea I have worked to establish an atmosphere of fairness for our discussions. That's the culture here, and people on both sides of the Christian debate recognize it. I have a reputation for fair-mindedness that I believe I have earned. You come in shooting from the hip, and you aren't going to persuade anyone. You shoot from the hip, and all you will hit is your own foot, over and over again.

Unfortunately, you have hyped and hyped and hyped the OTF to the point where I feel I need to bring it back down to earth. In its place, and within limits, it is a fine idea. What I object to is all the tendentious stuff piled on top of it. It's because of all that other stuff that I have to concur with Steve Hays (whatever our differences may have been in the past), that by the time you get through with it, the Outsider Test for Faith becomes the Insider Test for Infidels.

Someone who deconverts and spends all his time attacking Christianity is not a real outsider. He is a partisan. He is a player in the language game of Christianity. There are plenty of people who grew up as Christians and deconverted, and are now sworn enemies of what they once embraced. Psychology has a name for it, it's called "reaction formation."

Your OTF, what's legitimate about it, appeals to fair intellectual play, but you don't practice it in the way you conduct debate. That's on thing I find stinkingly hypocritical about the whole project.

You actually appeal to Feldman, and yet assert with absolute certainty what your academic superiors deny. That's blatant hypocrisy.

I think one appeal atheism has for some people, something that they look for from fundamentalism, is the need for absolute certainty. They can't tolerate living with doubt, with the possibility that they might be wrong. They start doubting the Bible, or Christianity, and then Richard Dawkins or John Loftus come along and say, "Sure, you can have absolute certainty, or almost absolute certainty. Just deconvert and become and atheist." It appeals to people emotionally. But, in my view, that's what's really delusional.

81 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

I can't keep up anymore Vic. Have fun with this on your own. I've said most of what I want to say in defense of the OTF.

thepolemicalmedic said...

I've attempted to renovate the OTF to preserve what's good about it. I don't think it's any big silver bullet for Atheism, even in the best light I can give it.

Loftus doesn't seem to think all that much of my attempt, but see for yourself.

Joshua Blanchard said...

On the first issue, I think all Loftus would have to do is provide a single example of an apologist adopting a double standard or assuming the Bible, in order to begin to support his generalization.

And I must repeat, just naming apologists, as he did previously, doesn't cut it.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Best line of the post:

"It's like saying Rush Limbaugh can be objective about the Democratic Party because he's an outsider."

Clearly, being an outsider is neither necessary nor sufficient for being objective.

When considered as the imperative to think critically, the OTF is obvious. It is about as eye-opening as the claim that humans need food to live. Nobody disagrees. Loftus has argued that when one applies such a critical stance to Christianity, Christianity can't hold up.

Unfortunately, when Loftus is confronted with intelligent and knowledgable people that actually want to discuss the issues in any detail, he punts to ad hominem. The preacher of reason ironically punts to ad hominem rather than skewer his adversaries with those vaunted critical thinking skills honed through years of specializing in the study of nothing in particular.

However, we can't make the mistake of thinking that he is wrong just because he is an inept interlocutor. Some of what he says makes sense. He is right that we ought to think critically about our beliefs. As Plato, Descartes, and Hume pointed out, we especially need to be cautious about beliefs that are highly correlated with cultural and other contingent factors. Such correlations do suggest that there is much more to belief fixation than rational factors. This is really the main point of Loftus' argument, and it is sound. Don't let that old chestnut get lost in the preacher's fog.

Finally, I'll point out again that peer review is a great way to submit one's ideas to a critical outsider. Loftus should try submitting a discussion of the OTF to a respected peer-reviewed philosophy journal, and publish the reviewer comments unexpurgated on his blog.

The Uncredible Hallq said...

Joshua,

Josh McDowell's The Resurrection Factor makes the argument that the resurrection must have happened because the Gospels are just obviously 100% historically reliable.. Does that satisfy you?

Fishermage said...

Does he really claim that the gospels are obviously 100% reliable? I didn't read that book, but I certainly don't remember him doing that in Evidence that Demands a Verdict.

However, even if he states that, does he state that based upon FAITH, or because of some case for historical reliability he developed there or elsewhere?

If that's the case, he is punting so something he considers proven, not faith.

You and I could agree or disagree as to whether he has proven the case for OUR level of evidence requirements, but that's not the same thing.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Thank you Hallq, for at least trying to get specific. That's all people have been asking for. While one instance wouldn't prove the general claim, at least it would give a nice case study in the phenomeonon (if it turns out to be right). I haven't read The Resurrection Factor, so I have no idea if it indeed is a good example.

Bilbo said...

I followed JWL's link to his own blog. From the comments there I would say that his blog is not an echo chamber.

Joshua Blanchard said...

Hallq:

Condemnations of McDowell always satisfy me.

I haven't read that book. Doesn't McDowell think (1) that evidence supports the reliability of the New Testament and (2) that the resurrection is more likely on the evidence than non-Christian explanations?

In any case, I highly doubt the argumentative structure of McDowell's book is an appeal to "obvious" reliability of the Gospels, therefore the resurrection. That would be a short book! But this is probably the argumentative structure of what goes on in McDowell's brain. Then he finds a bunch of quotes of people who agree. Then he demands "verdicts."

But it would be interesting to compare this reasoning to related apologetic reasoning on the resurrection, which sometimes assume reliability of the Gospels insofar as it takes the reliability to be supported by historical evidence. William Craig certainly argues this way, but that's because he takes certain "facts" in the Gospels to be widely agree upon, based on standard intellectual procedures.

Joshua Blanchard said...

I should clarify what I think is actually going on here.

My complex and crazy theory is that many non-Christians, on evidential grounds, disagree with the conclusions of Christian apologists, who argue on those same grounds.

I think there is a resistance to saying that your opponent merely disagrees and is wrong. There is a temptation to say, your opponent also is some kind of a buffoon. Or, he is not a buffoon, but in this one case has made a buffoonish error, which makes us feel more justified in not bothering to address his arguments.

I have an additional complicated and crazy view, which is that there are many rational people with good arguments, but because I will die someday, and have limited financial and intellectual resources, I will only address some of them. I don't need some theory telling me everyone I can't address is not worth addressing, because they are brainwashed - a term which refers to "Loftus knows not what."

Tim said...

McDowell is a popularizer, albeit a popular one, and so a short work of his originally written nearly 30 years ago is probably as good a place as any to look for incautious formulations of apologetic arguments. I don't own the book, and Amazon doesn't have a "Look inside" option for it, so I can't speak to the question of how McDowell handles the argument.

But I do have a few questions for those who think OTF amounts to something more than "try hard to be fair." The answers one gives to them might, in a certain sense, reveal more than one's position on the first-order issue of theism and atheism.

1. Suppose that Bumbling Apologist Barney tries to look into the evidence with a bit of self-criticism but (because he isn't very clever or hasn't researched the matter deeply enough, not because he's lacking in good will and ordinary objectivity) he overrates a particular line of argument on behalf of the view that he does, in fact, hold -- but he would have overrated a similar line of argument in favor of someone else's contrary view, too, if he had happened to run across it. Does Barney, in virtue of his having looked into the matter just this deeply and retained his faith, pass the OTF?

2. Suppose that Incipient Deconvert Dave tries to look into the evidence with a bit of self-criticism but (because he isn't very clever or hasn't researched the matter deeply enough, not because he's lacking in good will and ordinary objectivity) he overrates an objection to Christianity -- but he would have overrated a similar objection against any other view, too, if he had happened to run across it. Does Dave, in virtue of his having looked into the matter just this deeply and deciding to abandon his faith, pass the OTF?

And if the answer is that Barney fails, but Dave gets a pass,

3. Why?

4. Aggressive Atheist Art reads some articles posted online at the Internet Infidels site and follows up by looking at a few of the books to which they refer. He is impressed by the strength of their case against Christianity. He tries to read around a little to see whether the Christians have some decent responses to these critical arguments, but after more searching than he would ordinarily have done, he remains convinced that the Christians have the worst of the argument. As a result, he remains an atheist. But if he had dug even deeper, he would have run across some arguments on the Christian side that would have persuaded him to abandon his atheism. Does Art pass the skeptical equivalent of the OTF?

5. Sincere Seeker Sam reads a popular book of Christian apologetics and is impressed by the apparent weight of the evidence. He tries to read around a little to see whether some online articles at the Internet Infidels site or in his library will provide him with answers to the apologetic arguments, but after more searching than he would ordinarily have done, he remains convinced that the Christians have the better of the argument. In the end, he becomes a Christian. But if he had dug even deeper, he would have run across some arguments on the skeptical side that would have persuaded him to abandon Christianity. Does Sam pass the skeptical equivalent of the OTF?

And if the answer is that Art gets a pass but Sam fails,

6. Why?

Mr Veale said...

Seems like a slam dunk to me.

Well played Dr Reppert!

Mr Veale said...

And well said Tim!
Sooner or later we have to make a judgement.

Mr Veale said...

Actually, having read Loftus' link, I'm struck by just how *terrible* his understanding of Christian epistemology is.

It seems to be limited to crude evidentialism like McDowell's. He certainly has not earned the right to dismiss his opponent (Dr Reppert) and declare a victory.

The Uncredible Hallq said...

For all those who are curious:

The Resurrection Factor is basically the chapter on the resurrection from ETDAV, with a list of "obvious observations" stuck in the front, one of which is basically "the New Testament is a reliable historical document." The material that follows repeatedly assumes, without comment, the factuality of any detail of the Biblical accounts which McDowell thinks will help his case.

The analogous ETDAV chapter does the same thing, except that it at least is preceded by a chapter defending the overall reliability of the New Testament. McDowell shows little indication, though, of having even asked himself whether he demonstrated everything he needed to to make the chapter on the resurrection work.

While you could dismiss this as "that's just McDowell," I think he's only the most blatant example. I've tried to point out previously that the proprietor of this blog sometimes responds to critics just by citing details of the Biblical narrative, without acknowledging that skeptics would say we have no reason to think those details are historically accurate.

Frankly, William Lane Craig is often little better than McDowell in this regard. He tells his audience he'll only use things agreed upon by a solid majority of Biblical scholars, but he quickly falls back on citing whatever details of the Bible stories he thinks will help make his point.

In some ways, Craig is actually the worst offender because what he says is so misleading, and he's well enough informed to know better. If you took everything he says seriously, you'd end up concluding that McDowell represents the consensus of secular Biblical scholarship.

Fishermage said...

However, neither in the case of McDowell that you are presenting, nor in Craig's case, is either "punting to faith."

They may be not making arguments that convince you, they MIGHT be making a appeal to authority, but they are not assuming the gospels are reliable as an article of faith, they arte merely convinced by a certain amount of evidence that they are reliable, and argue from there.

I see no evidence that they are not convinced by evidence and arguments of the scholars they cite or reference, and you and I are free to agree or disagree with their acceptance of these scholars work.

But they aren't "punting to faith," except maybe faith in certain scholars.

I guess what we would need to do is look to the scholars THEY are convinced by and see if those scholars punt to faith.

John W. Loftus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John W. Loftus said...

Someone here said my epistemology is terrible. Not so at all. But then you haven't read much of what I write. Let it be said loud and clear I cannot say all that I know, and this applies all the more to a single blog post or comment.

Take for example the claim that Christians have evaluated the evidence which convinces them a) their religious faith is true, and b) other religious faiths are false.

Evidence convinces? Not on your life. There is hardly enough evidence to convince anyone that Jesus arose from the dead unless you had a presumption to believe it. No dispassionate historian qua historian with the tools of the historian could ever conclude this extraordinary event took place.

People who claim otherwise are just fooling themselves. The tools of the historian are inadequate for this task. The historian must be skeptical, must seek independent corroboration, must assume a natural cause, must never claim more than the evidence allows, cannot use faith. The historian qua historian who is truly interested in studying history methodologically is as good as it gets in describing the outsider when it comes to Christianity. S/he sets faith aside, just as a scientist does. Such a method has produced the goods so many times it makes our heads spin, whereas faith can only get lucky with hunches at best, or at least, that's all we know it does.

And if BDK remembers I did say I would write one scholarly article. Now I wonder what I'll write it on? But if anyone is keeping tabs with the reviews, the OTF has been passing peer review for some time now even if others disagree (who said an argument had to be convincing for it to be good anyway?).

Don't give me any crap about commenting further. I never said I wouldn't.

Cheers.

Tim said...

John writes:

Take for example the claim that Christians have evaluated the evidence which convinces them a) their religious faith is true, and b) other religious faiths are false.

Evidence convinces? Not on your life. There is hardly enough evidence to convince anyone that Jesus arose from the dead unless you had a presumption to believe it. No dispassionate historian qua historian with the tools of the historian could ever conclude this extraordinary event took place.


That does rather make it sound like the OTF is the ITI -- We can tell that Christians aren't being dispassionate in their evaluation of the evidence because, darn it, if they were, they wouldn't be Christians.

Fishermage said...

When testing for a miracle, how can one always assume a natural cause? would that not eliminate the very possibility of the thing you are testing for?

John W. Loftus said...

Tim said: We can tell that Christians aren't being dispassionate in their evaluation of the evidence because, darn it, if they were, they wouldn't be Christians.

Nope, because now we're talking about the standards of a historian. According to those standards the evidence cannot convince. You said you read my book. Did you read chapter eight? If so, or when you do, here's your challenge: critique that chapter or admit I'm right about history.

Here's what knowledgeable Christians do, like I. Howard Marshall. They admit the historical evidence cannot lead to faith. They just claim faith trumps the evidence. Admit it. Faith trumps the evidence, okay? Say it.

But once you admit this you must deal with the OTF, in that you cannot use faith to evaluate the evidence. As I said in that chapter this is your catch--22, something Vic doesn't need to read because he's heard it all before.

Victor Reppert said...

John, what definition or conception of faith are you using. It makes all the difference in the world. Remember how Lewis described faith in the post where I quoted him on faith and concluded, in that sense of faith, that of course it takes faith to be an atheist. What if we presuppose that meaning for the term?

John W. Loftus said...

Great question Vic!

Tomorrow, though, okay?

But in the meantime did you really read my chapter in "The Christian Delusion"? Interact with that on the concept of faith and skepticism worldviews and religion and see if I even need to respond.

Anonymous said...

Looks like some Christians have not watches "banned books of the bible". If you did you would probably lose your faith

Tim said...

John,

You write:

Nope, because now we're talking about the standards of a historian. According to those standards the evidence cannot convince. You said you read my book. Did you read chapter eight? If so, or when you do, here's your challenge: critique that chapter or admit I'm right about history.

I did read chapter 8 of WIBA, and I was unpersuaded. Sorry, but I have no plans to write a critique of it; too much else to do.

Here's what knowledgeable Christians do, like I. Howard Marshall. They admit the historical evidence cannot lead to faith. They just claim faith trumps the evidence. Admit it. Faith trumps the evidence, okay? Say it.

It is not clear to me that you have been completely fair in your representation of Marshall. Be that as it may, he does not answer for me. “Faith trumps evidence” is certainly not a position forced on knowledgable Christians by either the constraints of rational belief or the evidence itself. I do realize that it would make your picture of the world tidier if all well-informed Christians would say what you would like them to say. But here, again, I must decline.

Anonymous said...

Here's what knowledgeable Christians do, like I. Howard Marshall. They admit the historical evidence cannot lead to faith. They just claim faith trumps the evidence. Admit it. Faith trumps the evidence, okay? Say it.

The historical evidence cannot lead to faith? So the goal is to look at the historical evidence in order to have faith, but that's not possible, so you have faith? This is just mangled writing, and possibly thinking.

Maybe what John means is that the historical evidence all by its lonesome and disconnected from any other beliefs is not enough to force a conclusion that Christ rose from the dead. But all that would mean is that - like Victor has said in the past - quite a lot of this depends on what other beliefs or worldview you bring to the table before looking at the historical evidence. (What's more, it would also mean that one could not conclude that Christ did NOT rise from the dead based on the historical evidence. Remove the worldview and all other beliefs, and all you have is data sitting there, unused.) I think any theist in this thread would admit that if you're a committed naturalist or are purposefully excluding the possibility of miracles before evaluating the historical evidence, then yes, said evidence won't convince you. That's not exactly surprising.

Now, maybe what John instead means is that you can't be 100% certain that you are correct if you believe that Christ rose from the dead based on the historical evidence, even granting the relevant worldview and preceding beliefs. Let's grant that for the sake of argument. The problem is that the obvious reply is, so what? That doesn't mean you can't have good, justifiable reasons to believe, even if your certainty is (to put it in crude measurement) 99% or 95% or 90% or 80% or even lower. Having a belief even while acknowledging the possibility of being wrong or that you don't have 100% absolute certainty is faith, sure - but everyone (atheists included) has this sort of faith. Again, if this is what he's saying, it's not some special trouble for a theist.

And just to repeat something John apparently doesn't like to hear: If skepticism is merely acknowledging the possibility of being wrong about one's beliefs, of having doubts, then Victor is a skeptic, and likely most theists in this thread are skeptics as well. In fact, the one person who doesn't seem to be a skeptic is John himself, since he repeatedly states that he knows, is certain, that Christianity is false. Having a certain belief like that, declaring oneself to be right and everyone else wrong without a doubt, is not skepticism. In fact, it's practically the opposite. And it's more or less a by the book example of the sort of thinking highlighted in "Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Us)".

I notice, by the way, John isn't making as much hay about that book anymore. My guess why is that he realizes if he's going to take that book seriously, then he's going to have to display some self-doubt, some qualifications, etc. He'd admit it's possible his arguments are bad, or that there could be flaws he's unable to see, even if it all seems right to him. Some of that doubt and skepticism he talks so highly of.

But that doesn't suit his methods, does it? If his goal is to persuade through any means necessary rather than through reason, then the very things "Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)" warn that humans are privy to, John has to deny being privy to himself.

In other words, mistakes are made - but not by him.

Steven Carr said...

VICTOR
The fact is that Christian apologists reject religions like Mormonism and Scientology, because, to be quite honest, Joseph Smith looks like a charlatan using ordinary evidence

CARR
Quite unlike the author of 'Luke', who concealed his identity from his readers and ripped off the Gospel of Mark, secretly changing whatever did not suit his own private theological agenda.

John W. Loftus said...

...like Victor has said in the past - quite a lot of this depends on what other beliefs or worldview you bring to the table before looking at the historical evidence.

Uhhh, yes. But here's the problem which is fatal to your faith: you cannot get to the resurrection of Jesus via philosophy. Again, you cannot get to the resurrection via philosophy. Oh, Swinburne tried doing this as a thought experiment when he concluded that if God exists he's 97% sure Jesus arose from the dead--which shows clearly us the end of natural theology project, for if this is what people can do with philosophy then it's useless.

So in other words, in order to establish your religious faith you must use historical evidence at every juncture. But in order to see that evidence as evidence we need to have reasons to do so (this is the philosophy of history, something extremely important to these questions). Where do those reasons come from? Not your religious faith. For you cannot conclude Jesus arose from the grave before you assess whether he did. You cannot use your worldview (as you called it) to help you determine whether the evidence shows Jesus arose from the dead. THIS is the catch-22 which Vic has heard before and which Tim in unpersuaded which I wrote about more extensively in my chapter 8 of my WIBA book.

John W. Loftus said...

So as was said so excellently: "Remove the worldview and all other beliefs, and all you have is data sitting there, unused."

Exactly, exactly exactly!

My point.

I said it first.

Now here's the ten thousand dollar question for Tim since he's unpersuaded by chapter 8 in my book: how can you establish the Christian faith (or, worldview as Christians ill-define it) when you need that faith (or worldview) to come to the conclusion Jesus arose from the dead? For it's your belief that Jesus arose from the dead that forms the basis of your faith (or worldview).

If you approach the historical data without first having your faith (or worldview) you will not conclude Jesus arose.

Ask Stephen Davis. Dale Allison. Bart Ehrman. They'll tell you what I just did. To a man.

John W. Loftus said...

Also said above: If skepticism is merely acknowledging the possibility of being wrong about one's beliefs, of having doubts, then Victor is a skeptic, and likely most theists in this thread are skeptics as well.

Hey Vic, what word best describes you? I'm a skeptic.

Then this: In fact, the one person who doesn't seem to be a skeptic is John himself, since he repeatedly states that he knows, is certain, that Christianity is false.

Really?

Then this: I notice, by the way, John isn't making as much hay about that book anymore. My guess why is that he realizes if he's going to take that book seriously, then he's going to have to display some self-doubt, some qualifications, etc.

In other words, mistakes are made - but not by him.


Read this for the answer.

Such ignorance about so many things. I don't have the time. Defending the faith makes otherwise brilliant people look stupid. They fill their writing with non-sequiturs, question begging, special pleading, and red herrings it's amazing and frustrating to even engage them. It's like engaging a Scientologist or a Mormon.

Grow brains people. Think. Learn. Listen. Question.

John W. Loftus said...

I provided the quotes from Davis and Allison in my book. Here's what Bart Ehrman said.

Listen closely to what he said. You cannot use your so-called worldview (or "priors") to asses this historical argument, for you must independently establish that the resurrection took place in history before such a belief can be placed into you bag of "priors."

Now do you understand the problem? It it fatal for anyone who wishes to believe Jesus arose from the dead in history. We can even grant the existence of God and the possibility of miracles and it changes nothing for we would not know which God existed and so we would not know if he would actually have done such a miracle.

John W. Loftus said...

Now I decided to spend some time here this morning. Please, someone tell me they finally understand the problem. While you may be unpersuaded surely you can see why I and a great many others in this world do not believe.

Anonymous said...

Hey Vic, what word best describes you? I'm a skeptic.

No, you're not. You just call yourself that. You'd call yourself a potato if you thought it would persuade people to believe what you want them to believe. You made the brilliant move of basically admitting that, remember?

It's like engaging a Scientologist or a Mormon.

Well, John, I can't say engaging you is like engaging a Mormon. They are almost always far more civil, more honest, more consistent, and have better arguments for their positions than you do.

I will concede that your style and reasoning bears a striking similarity to Tom Cruise on Oprah, though.

Anonymous said...

Listen closely to what he said. You cannot use your so-called worldview (or "priors") to asses this historical argument, for you must independently establish that the resurrection took place in history before such a belief can be placed into you bag of "priors."

John, you either don't understand what your critics are saying to you or you're just intentionally missing the point. Ehrman is making an argument about what he thinks a historian, "from a purely historical point of view", can conclude. Ehrman isn't saying priors aren't allowed here - he is insisting on certain priors for a particular type of investigation, and qualifying it. These priors are what are under dispute when believers, apologists and otherwise engage the same data - so Ehrman's personal view is of no use to you on this topic. Doubly so since Ehrman says "historical tools are not the way to answer that question", but every apologist I know of will admit that if you approach the history in question committed to naturalism or a belief that there is no God or 'miracles' do not occur, you won't get to the resurrection. Historical tools alone won't do the trick for either the naturalist or the theist, unless their priors are pushed under the heading 'historical tools'.

You don't seem to get that there is no "No worldview" option for assessing data. That's like saying you have to read what a book says without the "bias" of coming to the book with any knowledge of language, or alphabet, or anything else. You eschew those things, and you can't even assess the book to begin with. Hell, you can't even tell you're dealing with a book.

Sorry to break the news to you, John, but worldviews are inescapable. They can be compared, they can be criticized, but they cannot be escaped. And this recognition slices down your arguments in these last couple threads, leaving little behind other than what Victor and others have been saying: "Try to be as objective as possible." And that's not something you came up with.

Just admit it, move on to other arguments. You can still be an atheist and reject Christianity, but you blew it on this argument. Life will go on, I assure you.

John W. Loftus said...

I only want to say a couple of things at this point. Worldviews are not religious faiths, so while we all have worldviews--none of them exactly the same, not even between people who share the same creed and church--we do not all have religious faiths. That is an ignorance about worldviews I find stunning among Christian believers.

Also, although methodological naturalism is one of our "priors" it is completely justified by the scientific method, and something Christians themselves use ON A DAILY BASIS in every area of life except when assessing the question of the historicity of the Bible and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

So the question for Anonymous is why he leaves his brains at the door to the church? Why does he assume a natural explanation for a noise in the night, or a dream, or a crime scene, and so forth, and so on, and so forth, and so on, but when it comes to an obvious superstitious set of canonized texts he refuses to assume what he assumes in all other areas of his life, that there is a natural explanation for them; that there is a natural explanation for the claims that Jesus arose from the dead, something Ehrman just offered?

I cannot convince him. He is impervious to argument. This is a sign of a brainwashed person who must resolve this contradiction by digging in deeper. It's what he needs to do to reduce his cognitive dissonance.

John W. Loftus said...

Oh, and one other thing, since I can. Ehrman's suggested alternatives can be multiplied exponentially and they are not countered in the slightest by including Yahweh, or a creator god and the possibility of miracles in the mix. For what needs to be shown is that Yahweh did such a miracle here in this particular case and the tools we have available to assess whether he did so are inadequate for the task. I like Bob Price who says that even if God raised Jesus from the dead there is no way we can know that he did. THAT is the case and only practically brain dead people refuse to acknowledge this.

John W. Loftus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John W. Loftus said...

And Vic, faith is a leap beyond what the probabilities call for. So if the probability for an event happening is 60% then I cannot base any decision of mine or say with any more confidence than 60% that said event happened.

Faith that goes beyond the probabilities is always an unjustified leap then, except when assessing the truth value for things which faith can produce. If I believe I can get the girl, or become successful, then the very act of believing these things against the odds helps make what I believe possible in the first place, and can make it happen. But whether or not Jesus arose from the dead is a historical question that cannot be made true by believing it happened.

---------

I should charge money for this. Go over to my blog and put a few pennies in my jar.

John W. Loftus said...

I much harsher view of faith can be found here.

Now look, I never again want to hear people say I run and hide when people disagree and argue against me. I just choose my battles. I don't always have the time.

Carry on. This is Sunday, your day to worship with nearly 100% certainty a historical possibility that cannot be shown to have happened.

THAT is the definition of a delusional person, and I'm here to tell you this is who you are, and in this sense you are no different at all to the Mormon person who is worshiping at the same time today.

Mr Veale said...

Mr Loftus


I said "Christian" Epistemology. You seem to take this as meaning (a) Evidentialist (b) a crude understanding of Reformed Epistemology, (somewhat limited to Plantinga's works) or (c) crude fideism.

I see no evidence that you've even *heard* of Linda Zagezebski's wrk on virtue epistemology, or that you've dealt with CS Evans of "Faith Beyond Reason", or Paul Helm's work on "Faith Seeking Understanding."
Can you express an opinion of Paul Moser's recent work, for example?

Not that every atheist is under any obligation to examine these works. But you don't even seem to understand that Christian Epistemology does not begin and end with answering the sceptic, or that it pays close attention to emotional predispositions.

It's poor form for someone who is so triumphalist in his claims.

In your defence, some Christian apologists are just as guilty of triumphalism. But I don't find Dr Reppert guilty of that charge. Quite the opposite in fact.

Graham Veale

Fishermage said...

I think I am starting to see the problem here.

I am seeing John imply that apologists use "faith in the resurrection" to judge evidence for the resurrection, which, if true, would be a bad thing.

However what we actually see is apologists use "faith" that God probably exists and miracles are possible to judge resurrection (and all other religions) and then coming to the conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead.

They then use exactly the same methodology (the one that John doesn't like because it doesn't remove the possibility of God) to judge all other religions.

When a Christian apologist rejects Islam, I don't see them saying, "That could not happen because miracles can't happen" or similar things in Mormonism, no, he checks the regular historical evidence that is NOT miraculous and see how THAT stacks up with the bible.


Same outsider worldview in both instances (miracles are possible, now let us see where and when any happened), just not John's view(miracles are impossible).

A theist or a tentative theist looking at all theistic religions and deciding which religion is most likely true is an outsider, just as an atheist is.

However the committed atheist, by HIS position, is required to believe ALL of them are wrong, while the committed, or even the tentative theist is open to possibility.

albert finny said...

I see no evidence that you've even *heard* of Linda Zagezebski's wrk on virtue epistemology, or that you've dealt with CS Evans of "Faith Beyond Reason", or Paul Helm's work on "Faith Seeking Understanding."

Of course, neither have 99.99% of Christians. Clearly those Christians aren't relying on those writers for their epistemology, and equally clearly those writers are simply not that relevant to discussions about Christian epistemology - if by Christian epistemology you mean how Christians actually operate in the world.

John W. Loftus said...

Graham, I am as triumphant that your faith is wrong as you are that Scientology and Mormonism is wrong. So there is nothing wrong with triumphalism. And it doesn't matter one whit what Vic thinks about it since there are certainly others who visit here who do.

Just to update you, I had a master's class with the late Stuart Hackett at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School called "Religious Epistemology" in 1982 where we read works by Mavrodes and Evans), and I had one of the first ever master's classes on Plantinga's epistemology there under Bill Craig two years later. I have taught college level philosophy of religion and apologetics classes too.

In my book WIBA there is a whole chapter on faith and reason where I embraced William Abraham's views on the matter for the practical purposes of a best case scenario.

Now, after spending years thinking, teaching, and writing on the subject are you here to tell me there is a break through on the matter? You'll have to convince me and I'm not easily convinced so don't bother.

Answer me this, is it possible to understand religious epistemology and yet reject most of it?

If so, that's me.

Mr Veale said...

Mr Loftus

"This is Sunday, your day to worship with nearly 100% certainty a historical possibility that cannot be shown to have happened.

THAT is the definition of a delusional person, and I'm here to tell you this is who you are, and in this sense you are no different at all to the Mormon person who is worshiping at the same time today."


That pretty much illustrates my point!
Anyone who has spent any time with Pascal, or read James' "Will to Believe", or is acquainted with Swinburne's "Faith and Reason" would weep at the idea that Christian's are unaware of the difference between the historical probabilities, and the total commitment required by Christian belief.


Graham Veale

Mr Veale said...

I am also overwhelmed by the fact that you have read Plantinga, Abraham and co. And that you haven't kept your reading up to date.

I would never give Buddhism and Islam as low a probability as Mormonism, or Mormonism as low as Scientology.

A little nuance never hurts.

John W. Loftus said...

Fishermage, you are one dense person. You just skipped over the fact that the scenario I argue for allows for the possibility of God and miracles and yet STILL does not arrive at the conclusion you think it does.

Wow!

Don't look now but your lack of critical thinking skills is showing. Quick, tuck it in so no one notices.

There is absolutely no way you have the skills needed to properly asses the truth of your faith.

John W. Loftus said...

I would never give Buddhism and Islam as low a probability as Mormonism, or Mormonism as low as Scientology.

Ahhhhh, then you fail to realize they all started with one person claiming to know the truth who gathered people together and told them that truth.

All religions started as cults. The fact that millions or billions of people now believe it doesn't make the basis for them any different.

Just give them time...

Mr Veale said...

"And I'm not easily convinced so don't bother"..

what, exactly, is the evidential force of your self-belief? Why on earth should I be bothered by the fact that you've lectured on this subject?

If I'm within my right to disagree with Mackie, Sober, Sobel and Gale, I think that I might just be within my rights to disagree with you?

Graham

Vinny said...

When testing for a miracle, how can one always assume a natural cause?

Because that’s how testing works.

The reason we think that fingerprints on a gun constitute evidence of who handled the gun is because we understand the natural processes by which patterns matching those on the human finger come to appear on other objects and we think those natural processes are always consistent. If we simply thought such patterns appeared on objects randomly or we thought that they appeared there by divine fiat, we could not infer that a particular person handled a gun by the fact that his fingerprints appear on it.

Our biggest obstacle to testing for miracles is that we have no data set of verifiable miracles with which to compare the evidence. I am always amused by the argument that the miracle accounts in the Gospels have the earmarks of true stories. How does anyone know what the earmarks of a true miracle account are? If we knew which miracles really took place, we might find that the accounts are not the sober, measured accounts that the apologist claims we find in the New Testament. For all we know, the accounts of real miracles might appear to be crazed and disjointed.

The historian can never say that the evidence suggests a miracle took place, but it’s not because he knows that miracles never have taken place. He cannot say that evidence suggests a miracle took place because he can never claim to know what evidence of a real miracle looks like.

Mr Veale said...

A devastating critique of religious belief...someone might have made it up.

Why are you bothering with this twaddle, Dr Reppert?

John W. Loftus said...

Graham, I do not say you are irrational to believe. I say you are delusional.

If we think being rational means following the rules of logic, then rational people can be dead wrong and still be rational. All they have to do is follow the rules of logic to be rational. Rational people can be dead wrong simply because they start with a false assumption. If they take a false assumption as their starting point then they may be perfectly rational to follow that assumption with good logic to its logical conclusion, even though their conclusion is wrong. They would be wrong not because they are irrational, but because they started with a wrong assumption.

Delusional people by my lights stat with the wrong assumptions.

Fishermage said...

John, I'm skipping over what you said about YOUR views on where the evidence leads because it is not relevant to the Outsider Test.

YOU may feel that, given the possibility of miracles, that there isn't enough evidence to warrant a belief in the resurrection, but I don't see it that way. Neither do most Christian apologists in this area.

However, Christian theists NOT judging Mormonism or Bahai ANY differently -- differently than YOU do, evidently, but not differently than they evaluate the resurrection.

Now, we could have another discussion about the credulity of Christians in particular vs theists in general vs your own perfection, John, but that kind of discussion has little to do with the OTF as such, so it is best skipping over.

John W. Loftus said...

Again, I should charge for this.

Graham, put a few pennies in my jar at my blog.

John W. Loftus said...

Fishermage, tell ya what then, ask some outsiders what they think of your so-called evidence. Ask, oh, let's see where should I start, Muslims, Hindu's, Buddhists, Christian Scientists, Bahai practitioners, witch doctors...

Calculate the conversion rates and get back to me.

Oh, don't forget that when you attempt to convert them you present a balanced view of the church history and theological disputes, okay? Or, do this, give them a copy of Vic's book and mine and tell them to decide after doing so, okay? Ask them to study it out by reading both sides before choosing, which is the fair way isn't it?

Calculate the conversion rates and get back to me.

THAT would be as fair of a test as I can measure.

Where is the Templeton foundation grant money now?

Mr Veale said...

You do seem like a very good bloke, John, and I might take you up on that offer. (You remind me of a good friend, who's quite a fan of yours)!

I'm probably a bit too "Norn Irish" in my rhetoric, and I'm glad that you haven't taken offence. We tend to hit hard and worry about the issues later!

Graham

Fishermage said...

What other outsiders think of the evidence is not relevant. I was an outsider from around 15 to 36 (raised non-religious Jewish in a very intellectually, quite liberal and secular, open home, I was an agnostic atheist all this time), and then after looking into or Taoism, Buddhism, Sufism, Shinto, Animism, neo-paganism, lots of New Thought and "New Age" thought, subjectivism, objectivism, existentialism, marxism, enlightenment rationalism, pragmatism and all sorts of 'isms," all outside to Christianity, as time went on an evidence accumulated, I eventually came to believe in the resurrection.

I am far from a master of any of those subjects, but I explored all of them in my honest search for Truth as I see it.


I do NOT find all of them "wrong," by the way, I find that Jesus is the culmination of a lot of "right" from other religions, but again that's another discussion.

Now, I still disagree with much of Christian dogma and theology, but that has nothing to do with this discussion.

However, I was and in many ways an outsider (I am technically, to many Christians, a Christian heretic as a universalist).

I look at the things I believe DAILY and question them. I am forever an outsider AND insider.

Your test for the Outsider Test is MOST interesting, John, and since you are the one with a case to prove, it's YOUR dime.

However, if you want to attack the institutional Church, I'm right there with you in many ways. Again that has little to do with this discussion either.

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks Graham, I have some fun yes. But many of the people here think I'm obnoxious. Don't blow my cover, okay?

Now I gotta spend the afternoon with mother-in-law, something I consider much more pleasurable than being here. Although it's kinda fun beating up on delusional people who are clueless from time to time and telling them that's what they are to their face AND backing it up.

I did back it up didn't I?

David B Marshall said...

Hi, Victor. I'm the author (last book) of The Truth Behind the New Atheism. I haven't read your book, but have been reading and enjoying C. S. Lewis' works for 35 years or so. My publisher asked me to contribute reflections for a book called The Lion and the Land of Narnia once, which I did under the title, "The Apologetics of Narnia." So we appear to be on the same wavelength.

Your critique of John Loftus seems to be quite on the money. I posted a similiar critique on my new (and unknown) blog:

http://christthetao.blogspot.com/

John seems a bit overwhelmed, trying to defend his argument; which is understandable. But just a few days ago, he cited an e-mail from another skeptic complaining that informed Christians hadn't responded to his book. It's feast or famine, apparently, and both options seem to somehow discredit Christianity.

Anyway, I'm grateful to John for pointing me to your web site!

David B Marshall said...

Fishermage: Your self-description piqued my interest, and I took at look at your profile.

I'm very interested in Taoism (mostly the philosophical kind), Buddhism, Confucianism, and how they relate to Christianity. I often write on this subject (True Son of Heaven, also articles in First Things, Books & Culture, Christianity Today). I'm presently reading a Chinese philosopher named Yuan Zhiming on Jesus and Lao Zi, among other topics.

You might like his book, called Lao Zi vs. the Bible. Right now, it's just in Chinese, but hopefully it will be translated before too long.

If you haven't read him, I'd also recommend Lin Yutang's From Pagan to Christian to you. He's a great writer, and the book kind of bummed some of his fans out.

I'd also be interested in hearing more of your story some time. My e-mail address is christthetao@msn.com, if you feel like dropping me a line.

Tim said...

John asks:

Now here's the ten thousand dollar question for Tim since he's unpersuaded by chapter 8 in my book: how can you establish the Christian faith (or, worldview as Christians ill-define it) when you need that faith (or worldview) to come to the conclusion Jesus arose from the dead?

Speaking only for myself, I believe the proper answer here is "Mu." I'm a full-throttle evidentialist.

DL said...

Loftus: Such ignorance about so many things.

Irony, or Freudian slip? You be the judge!

DL said...

Loftus: Delusional people by my lights stat with the wrong assumptions.

Uh, wait, your definition of "delusional" is "mistaken"?? This opens Loftus's apparent nuttiness to new interpretations. Perhaps he's not really unhinged, he's just speaking his own version of English where words mean something other than what the rest of the English-speaking world means by then. (OK, that doesn't exactly suggest he's notunhinged...)


Again, I should charge for this.

Hm. The most logical inference is that in Loftusese, "charge" means "beg forgiveness".


John W. Loftus said...

Tim said: "I'm a full-throttle evidentialist."

So, you do not believe more than what the evidence calls for?

Wow, do YOU have additional problems for your faith, but that will have to wait for another time.

Still, this is what Bill Craig said about it.

Tim said...

John,

I always try to make my best judgment based on the evidence I have at the time. Sometimes that involves holding positions tentatively; sometimes that involves suspending judgment. That's all part of trying to follow the evidence wherever it leads.

I am aware of various proposed alternative suggestions as to how one ought to regulate one's beliefs. I just think they're wrong.

As for Bill Craig's comment, as Thomas More says in A Man for All Seasons, "I never intended to pin my soul to any man's back, not even the best man that I know this day living."

By the way, just seeking clarification -- in light of your comment @October 02, 2010 3:46 PM, is it official now that, according to you, the only way a Christian can pass the OTF is by abandoning his faith?

John W. Loftus said...

Tim I'm not going to look any further for that comment but I can't find it.

In any case the answer is that I do not think Christianity can pass the the OTF. But this is not the fault of the test itself.

Let me put it to you this way. If God doesn't exist then your faith should fail the test. God doesn't exist. Therefore your faith should fail the test. The fault then is not with the test itself should your faith fail the test. And your faith SHOULD pass the OTF because there are outsiders who will end up in hell if it doesn't.

And yet your problem is that the OTF disallows faith. Since the evidence for faith in extraordinary claims cannot lead a historian qua historian to faith your faith fails the test.

John W. Loftus said...

Methinks people have blasted the OTF without thinking about it here.

Again, I should charge $10 per comment. Vic, how about it, I mean after all you seem to have thought about the OTF more than most people. Why then should I be the one informing them about it here. After all this is YOUR blog. Can't do it eh?

Now I gotta ask why, especially since you claim to be my superior.

Again, this is basic stuff. That's all it will ever be, basic stuff. It's the kind of stuff that destroys your faith though, so I understand why you just don't get it. Brainwashed people cannot understand even the most basic stuff you see.

Sorry to be you.

$10 per post sound good to you?

Now let's get this straight just so I know. You are a philosopher of religion, right? You teach philosophy of religion classes, right? In those classes do you or don't you teach both sides of an issue fairly and have the students discuss them under you knowing glance? Do you, or don't you?

Well then, I am you co-teacher here since you utterly fail to present the opposing side fairly. That should cost you some money.

Please, go over to my blog and put a few pennies in my jar. I'll take what I can get.

Victor Reppert said...

John, I see nothing on your site that ever presents the opposing side fairly. You don't even try.

Actually, I use the outsider test for faith myself, or at least some of the points I find in it, with people who unreflective come at issues from a viewpoints that mindlessly assumes Christianity.

Tim said...

John,

You write:

Let me put it to you this way. If God doesn't exist then your faith should fail the test. God doesn't exist. Therefore your faith should fail the test.

So, just to be sure this is absolutely clear: the reason that Christians (I assume that individuals are allowed to take the test on behalf of the positions they hold) can't pass the OTF (that is, pass it and remain Christians), according to you, is that God does not exist.

Conjecture: You would also say that any person taking the OTF with respect to any false belief and ending up retaining that belief has failed the test.

Is this further conjecture a fair summary?

John W. Loftus said...

You know Vic, sometimes you give rise to a thought that makes me want to apologize to you for your kind responses.

But naw, it's just a thought.

But I do try to present the opposing side fairly. I do.

Tell ya what, point something out to me where I don't if you can. I'll betcha you can't with a few proviso's. This only applies:

When I am making a substantive post remembering the limitations of that post whereby I cannot say everything I know.

It does not apply when I link to something I did not write since I am not responsible for everything said in what I link to, nor how it's said.

It does not apply to every single kind of Christianity because there are so many of them to choose from. If I criticize liberal types you cannot respond that I did not write about your particular type and vice versa, versa vice.

Okay?

Go.

John W. Loftus said...

Tim: ...the reason that Christians can't pass the OTF according to you, is that God does not exist.

I fear the probability expert is setting me up for something I won't like...music please while I think...♪♫•.¸¸♥♪♫•*¨*•♫♪

More, ♪♫•.¸¸♥♪♫•*¨*•♫♪

More, ♪♫•.¸¸♥♪♫•*¨*•♫♪

Well let me try to be accurate here. It means there would be no reason to believe he exists. He could still exist and escape our detection much like the Loch Ness Monster does if he exists.

But then probability is all we have to go on. So based on the probabilities no I do not think your God exists. The Christian kind of God described in the Bible does not exist.

Conjecture: You would also say that any person taking the OTF with respect to any false belief and ending up retaining that belief has failed the test.

Is this further conjecture a fair summary?


Methinks there is an extra negative here that makes this conjecture difficult to know how to respond to. A belief fails the test when it cannot be maintained from the perspective of a skeptic, an outsider, yes.

Going to be gone now. Let's see what you hve for me in the morning.

Bracing for the thumping to come.

Victor Reppert said...

Does the outsider test set up an infinite regress? If we can't believe anything unless we pass an outsider test for that belief, then doesn't the outsider test have to itself be outsider tested, and then that there has to be an outsider test for the outsider test for the outsider test, and then we would also need an outsider test for the outsider test for the outsider test for the outsider test, etc.

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, come on now, an infinite regress for any kind of meta-knowledge test for epistemology seems unavoidable I would think. Such questions peter out though, although they are relevant to Tim's evidentialism wouldn't you say?

Mr Veale said...

John

You may no longer be reading, but no, you're not obnoxious.

I hereby declare you an honorary Ulsterman...

You get to join the ranks with Davy Crocket and Stonewall Jackson!

GV

Mr Veale said...

William Penn also vaguely counts - he visited Lurgan, and one of his mates (Jim Logan) was from Ulster.

Also Jonathan Swift...

and CS Lewis!

John W. Loftus said...

Graham, thanks that's right. Maybe I'll get there someday.

Victor Reppert said...

John: There was supposed to be a thumping reply to Tim's question. Where is it?

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, where is Tim's reply for me to reply to? He didn't post anything. I see no thumping from him at all, although I had expected him to say something. Surely you can see that.

Or, is it here somewhere in a secret type that outsiders cannot see?

Here's my motto: I can only respond to something when there is something to respond to.

If he writes it I will come.

Any questions?

Perhaps you should lay off that gin and tonic.

Brian said...

I don't know exactly where Tim was headed, John, but his questions to you suggest the following worry. If the falsity of a belief is a sufficient condition for a person's failing the OTF with respect to that belief, then it appears that the OTF presupposes an infallibilist epistemology, one according to which the "justification" condition on knowledge (or perhaps even on rationality?) entails truth. Not many since Descartes have endorsed such an incredibly strong condition. Most have thought that one can be epistemically justified (or, what might be distinct, one can have an epistemically justified belief) even if one believes something that is false.

You seem to want to move away from such a view when you talk about God's existence being "improbable," suggesting that you would not accept Tim's Conjecture, but accept instead something weaker:

Conjecture*: You would also say that any person taking the OTF with respect to any (very?) improbable belief and ending up retaining that belief has failed the test.

Here again there are worries. The probability in question can't be objective, since objectively improbable events occur, and one might have very good evidence that they occur. If it is subjective or epistemic, then the probability of an event's occurence (or of a proposition's being true, etc.) will be agent-relative, and highly context-dependent. But then it's hard to see why many, perhaps most, Christians wouldn't be able to pass the OTF, given this understanding of the probability involved. You seem to think that we should assess the probability of a belief by occupying the epistemic situation of a "skeptic" (with respect to the relevant belief), no? So, necessarily, if a skeptic would conclude that the belief is (very) improbable, then no one can pass the OTF with respect to that belief. Does that sound fair so far?

If so, notice how far away we are from saying that "If God doesn't exist, then your faith should fail the OTF." We're not even saying "If God's existence is objectively improbable, then your faith should fail the OTF." Nor even "If God's existence is subjectively improbable, then your faith should fail the OTF" (that might be true, but is far weaker than what you seem to be claiming).

But do you at least see the "infallibilist" worry suggested by your comment that God's non-existence entails that one can't pass the OTF w.r.t. belief in God?

John W. Loftus said...

Brian, let's use a concrete example here, okay? Discussions move along much quicker if we do.

So can a Scientologist be justified in his beliefs even though they are false? That puts an example to what I'm saying.

In this specific example I say no. It doesn't matter whether such a thing as you suggest is possible or not. I could care less. Let's talk turkey.

Now let's talk about why I think the answer here is negative and apply it to Christian theism. Then you'll see exactly what I'm talking about.

My claim is that most believers, including Scientologists are rational. It's just that they are delusional. They start out with one or more false, ignorant, indefensible assumptions and then use logic impeccably to a correct conclusion based on them.

One MUST justify the prior assumptions to justify one's belief, and in the case of Scientology and Christainity this cannot be reasonably done.

In any case, the important thing is whether something is probable. I should only believe that which is probable. This means Christianity might be true. But then the Loch Ness monster might exist who has succeeded in escaping detection for all these years.

Yes, you heard that right. Christianity might be true!

Woooooooo Hooooooo!

[But keep in might I'm also willing to risk Pascal's Wager on it.]

John W. Loftus said...

Oh, I just opened the silly little door to proper basic beliefs.

I'd rather talk turkey.

I cannot educate everyone here about everything.

I have other things to do too.

Unless you pay me.

Maybe Vic can do this for us all. Let's sit in his class as he teaches us in a fairly non-biased way about proper basically.

You don't need me for this.

Tim said...

I wasn't trying to set up a thumping -- that was John's inference. I'm just trying to sort through the variety of ways that the phrase "outsider test" gets used. I tried, in my question here (which no one has directly answered) to find out whether its primary sense is as a heuristic ("Here, try thinking about things this way, it may help to correct for some hard-to-spot biases") or as a diagnostic ("Once you've taken this test, tell me where you wind up -- and if it isn't where I wound up, you fail").

So far, the answers have strongly suggested that it's the latter. And I think that's a problem, because the attraction and intuitiveness of an outsider test is, I think, largely a function of it's being conceived of in the former way, as a heuristic. The diagonstic use, applied the way that John seems intent on applying it, really does collapse into the Insider Test for Infidels.