Monday, December 27, 2010

More science and the OTF

I think I'm getting a little more engagement from John that usual. 

1) You are avoiding the question of what would constitute "me" in some other culture, and what would make that relevant. 

2) Do most people accept the religion of the culture they are raised in if they become philosophy majors and deliberately expose themselves to opposing viewpoints? Now different people have different sorts of intellectual needs, and I would not want to denigrate other types of people, but given the kinds of friends and professors I encountered throughout my education, as well as all the people I read, I think I gave the atheist side plenty of opportunity to convince me had the case been there. Given the kind of upbringing I had, the people I spent time with, the major I chose, and just the intensity with which I pursued questions, I don't think it was a done deal that I would end up a Christian. I have imagined a few scenarios where I might have ended up as an unbeliever. 

3) Attribution bias? Well, one of the things I learned in the course of my intellectual development was that there are limits on how rational a person can be, and I have discovered that it is difficult to be rational. I'm aware of the dangers of wishful thinking; that's one of the things that has made it harder, not easier, to believe. All I can say is that I think I have tried harder and longer to be rational about religion than virtually anyone I know. With all that, of course, I could have failed. I believe that imagining what we would believe if we started in a different place from where we started is a good heuristic. Granting special authority and "default" status to some viewpoint other than one's own is, in my view, epistemically unwarranted. 

4) I'm not committing the "infallibility or falsehood" dichotomy, since obviously I think neither that I am infallible nor that my beliefs are false. What you seem to imply is that since you went through what you describe as such a wrenching conversion experience, you had to be sure that you right, and therefore your opponents simply must be wrong. Or so you sound at times. Otherwise, why MUST you explain away all your opponents? Why not just say that people have come to different places trying the best they could to be rational, and in some sense agree to disagree. (Which doesn't mean I expect you to stop thinking that I am wrong). 

5) I am NOT railing against the sciences, I am railing against bad extrapolations from the sciences. Nothing proved in science necessarily entails that Christianity is false. 

5a) The NAS statistic is the one atheists love to quote, but you have to go from science to unbelief, not the scientific community to unbelief. The scientific community was once almost exclusively Christian, and yet skeptics argue that the overall thrust of science proved the undoing of religion even though the scientists were Christians. But you can't help yourself to that argument, and then argue that now, the religious persuasions of a particular group of scientists proves that science and religion are in conflict. Even if science itself provides an antidote to bias in the long run, scientists thinking about the field of religion are just as subject to bias as the rest of us mortals. 

5b) I've never been a YEC, and I don't believe I hold any belief about any scientific matter based on a perceived conflict with a literal reading of Scripture. I didn't learn fundamentalism from my mother. She wasn't a fundamentalist. 

6) You are ignoring my distinction between narrow science and broad science. Even within science, different methods are proper to different subject matter. Are there certain modes of reasoning proper to metaphysics that are might not be acceptable within any science in particular. 

7) I did mention that modern science arose on Christianity's watch, and I knew you would come back with Carrier's research claiming that Christianity can't claim any credit for science. Of course I've seen Carrier's case, (which is all over Infidels and was even part of his critique of my book), but I'm not fully persuaded. But, of course, you chose to ignore my main argument that unless theism or something like it is true, then science is not so much as possible, because rational inference would not be possible. All beliefs would be, in the final analysis, production of non-rational causes. This is the argument from reason, as you know. Carrier replied to that, too but I think my reply in C. S. Lewis as a Philosopher, along with Darek Barefoot's reply on Infidels, constitutes an effective answer to Carrier on the AFR. 

8) The "kick against the goads" rhetoric about the OTF is getting old and silly. The fact is I have acknowledge a legitimacy to using the heuristic of thinking from some standpoint other than one's own. What I have denied is that there is an authoritative "outside" perspective, or that these sociological considerations warrant making nonbelief the "default" position. 


Blue Devil Knight said...

One number 1: Take you right when you come out of your mother's womb, and raise you in a different family in the Middle East. Not sure why you are getting so caught up on this one, it's pretty clear.

Number 3: loftus (perhaps following shermer) is misusing the term 'attribution bias' from social psychology (from attribution theory). Just way off. Minor semantic point, but he might want to look it up.

On number 7: bringing up the arg from reason in the context of the OTF is a red herring. Perhaps challenge Loftus to discuss that separately, but it will only muddy the discussion of the OTF. and frankly i don't feel like watching that car crash from either angle. :P

Victor Reppert said...

BDK: The reason I bring of the AFR is the fact that Loftus is proposing that we can defeat our tendencies toward bias by following science. The "scientific" position is the proper outsider position, everything else is just our own personal biases. The trouble here is that it is not clear what it means to follow science, and that I have arguments that he completely ignores that imply that science can't even exist in a naturalistic universe.