Sunday, January 09, 2011

Hostility Bias

I want to separate two questions. My main claim is that even if we have reasons to believe that there is a substantial difference between the content of the original text and the earliest manuscripts, Price's argument for that is a nonstarter, since it seems to be arguing that whenever you have one copy or a million copies, and you can't get your hands on the original, you don't have any reason to believe that the copy resembles the original. That's what I took from his argument. What I take from that is that this is another instance where hostile critics of Scripture are so hostile that they will accept any argument that undermines anything an apologist might say, no matter how bad the argument. In other words, I am suggesting that skeptical scholars can. and often do, suffer from a hostility bias toward Scripture. That was the main point of my post. The only way to rebut that would be to argument that I was taking Price out of context, (since I did just lift the post out of Arizona Atheist's response to me), and that if you read the rest of what he says, he isn't really making the claim I am attributing to him. If there are other ways of argument for doubt about the manuscripts we have, that doesn't alter the claim I was making about Price. Ehrman's arguments, I take it, are better, though I don't buy them by any stretch of the imagination.

I think a lot of "movement atheists" put confidence in people like Price and Carrier on the grounds, presumably, that they are "outsiders" (and in Price's case, he's an exbeliever), and not subject to a Christian bias. Such confidence is, I believe, unjustified. It is also possible to be biased against Christianity, a concept that is hard for some people to digest.

22 comments:

Mr Veale said...

"I think a lot of "movement atheists" put confidence in people like Price and Carrier on the grounds, presumably, that they are "outsiders" (and in Price's case, he's an exbeliever), and not subject to a Christian bias."

I doubt that EP Sanders, or James Crossley, or Maurice Casey could be considered "insiders". They would have nothing to lose by advocating and arguing for the Carrier/Price thesis, and would have a lot to gain.
Yet, oddly enough, the come to the conclusion that Jesus existed, and we can know at least a few things about him.
Maybe the SBL could invite Carrier to take a seminar on the Historical Jesus? I'd pay good money to see the question and answer session.

Graham

Mr Veale said...

Actually, a Crossley/Carrier debate would be much more fun.

Nick said...

Why of course we can't accept Christian testimony. It's biased!

We'll gladly accept atheist testimony on the facts because atheists could never have bias.

Mr Veale said...

I'll break this address up so folk can read it; but I think Vic should provide a link to it for two reasons.
1) It is a neat dissection of the OTF by an atheist.
2) John Loftus refuses to see that his argument has received a fair hearing by another sceptic, and that sceptic has some very telling criticisms.
Instead of a receiving the response that he deserves, Thrasymachus is rudely dismissed, given a few promissory notes about future articles, and a platitude about science.
All of which points to some hostility bias on John's part. (Perhaps we need to create an outsider test for authors. Read your work as if it was written by another, and subject it to the same criticisms that you would reserve for those that you most passionately disagree with.)


Graham

Mr Veale said...

http://thepolemicalmedic.

wordpress.

com

/2011/01/10/

on-outsiders-and-

atheism-a-reply-to-

loftus/#comment-133

Bob Prokop said...

Graham,

That is good advice for anyone writing. Before my retirement, I was the head of a small fed. govt. agency. I never sent out an e-mail outside of my own office without having at least one other person read it first. You'd be surprised how many times phrases were caught (and eliminated) that could potentially be read in a manner completely opposite of my intent.

Lawyers have a saying: "A man who represents himself has a fool for a client". Perhaps we can add a writers' warning to that idea: "A man who approves his own work has a fool for an editor".

Nick said...

Bob: Lawyers have a saying: "A man who represents himself has a fool for a client". Perhaps we can add a writers' warning to that idea: "A man who approves his own work has a fool for an editor".

Reply: Yep. It'd almost be doing something like, oh, I don't know, reviewing your own book on Amazon and giving it five stars.

John W. Loftus said...

Mr. Veale I already responded to Thrasymachus one time. Must I continually engage people or do you think the person with the last word must be right? I cannot chase that rabbit down the hole. At some point you'll just have to think for yourself. What did he say in response that I did not previously answer?

Sheesh.

I respond to people, but I cannot respond to them all. Many people have written responses to the OTF. And these same people claim that I have been refuted. Must I respond to them all?

Check these responses of mine out:

At Rev. Phillip Brown. Phillip repeatedly maintained that he refuted me so I decided to respond. Did He?

At David Marshall. David repeatedly maintained that he refuted me so I decided to respond. Did he? Must I respond to everyone especially when I have already stated my case?

At Randal Rauser.

There are others I have not responded to. So what? It is nothing but buffoonery to think that if I don't respond that I can't. And it makes absolutely no difference at all whether said person is on my side of the fence or not when the reasoning is just as bad.

Mr Veale said...

I am aware of your previous reply to Thrasymachus. At no stage do you even engage with the issues that Thrasymachus raises at the post above.
Of course you are under no obligation to respond to every critic. But pointing to repeated reformulations of your argument to avoid falsification doesn't inspire confidence.
Graham

Mr Veale said...

Again, you just say Thrasymachus has misunderstood you. You don't say how, or why. You don't say where. We're just meant to take your word for it.

Mr Veale said...

I'll repeat the criticisms that I gave on the-polemical-medic.

The best way to construe OTF is as an undercutting defeater. John’s proposed defeater now seems to be that “beliefs that we receive from our culture are unreliable.” As science transcends culture, science is the only source of reliable belief.

Of course this would lead to a paralysing scepticism about our moral and political beliefs.

It is also hopelessly naive about the history and rational foundations of science. For example, as a matter of historical fact, physics would not have advanced if some scientists had not formed a commitment to their theories that went beyond what the evidence warranted.

John needs to specify why my culture is a defeater for my religious belief. It is sheer buffoonery to compare me to a Mormon in Salt Lake City; an animist in Southern Sudan; a priest of Amen-Re in ancient Egypt; and an atheist in North Korea, and then conclude that we are all in the same epistemic situation regarding our religious beliefs. What is it about my culture that prevents me forming rational religious beliefs?

John also needs to reflect on the concept of an individual’s natural rights. These are a product of Western Culture, and not Scientific investigation. They are not the necessary outcome of mankind’s ethical development. Solid arguments have been presented against natural rights. Their existence is controversial. Does John believe in Natural rights? The OTF would dictate that he should not.

Graham

John W. Loftus said...

Veale: Of course you are under no obligation to respond to every critic.

Precisely, which explains why I'm not responding to you.

People have to make up their own minds by now.

Mr Veale said...

No John, you're not responding because you are bluffing.

Bob Prokop said...

Graham makes a very good point, where he says:

"It is sheer buffoonery to compare me to a Mormon in Salt Lake City; an animist in Southern Sudan; a priest of Amen-Re in ancient Egypt; and an atheist in North Korea, and then conclude that we are all in the same epistemic situation regarding our religious beliefs. What is it about my culture that prevents me forming rational religious beliefs?"

I think that is spot on. Loftus attempts to put a Western Christian in the absurd position of defending cultures and upbringings he may not have anything in common with, when all he is required to defend is his own beliefs.

So, for instance, if Loftus feels there is something problematical with my specific background that somehow calls my thought processes into question, he should address that specifically, rather than issuing a blanket anathema against any and all upbringings.

John W. Loftus said...

Veale said: No John, you're not responding because you are bluffing.

That's basically what Rev. Brown and David Marshall repeatedly said, and what some others are saying too. It's as if people want me to acknowledge their existence or something. Get over it folks. ;-)

Hell, Vic could show you why your arguments do not succeed if he's interested in the truth. Hey Vic, want to give it a go?

Anonymous said...

No John, you're not responding because you are bluffing.

The worst part of John's bluffing isn't the bluffing part, it's the how-bad-his-bluffing-is part. It's like an Emperor's Clothes situation, except yelling out "Hey, you're naked!" just has him preen and talk about how glorious his clothes are even more loudly.

Eventually you have to conclude he's an exhibitionist who likes attention, period, and move on to more worthy targets.

Mr Veale said...

Actually, we're trying to help you John. There might actually be something interesting in the OTF, if you drop it as an argument.

One of the benefits of reading history and philosophy is that it helps you escape the intellectual limitations of popular and high culture. In other words, it allows you to think for yourself.

I'm not sure that anything bolstered my faith more than realising that the canons of rationality now embraced by the Western intelligentsia could have turned out differently. And, more than that, it was possible to critique these standards.

So an "outsider test" encouraged my faith. It's your attempt to shoehorn a reasonable idea into an argument for atheism that's so disappointing.

(Although your sense of mischief is a lot of fun! Maybe it's a sign that I've been teaching too long, but I appreciate the art! I'm sure your High School teachers loved you...)

Graham

John W. Loftus said...

Mr. Veale, I remember disputing my 8th grade math teacher about something. I was not a good student but I'm not afraid of saying that something doesn't make sense if it doesn't. So I persisted for 45 minutes of a 50 minute class period. I was not obnoxious nor did I monopolize the time. Like Socrates I merely asked questions. Then my teacher tried to answer them, and I said why I couldn't understand his explanation. Then he did it again and asked me if it made sense now, sort of like what teachers sometimes do since if he can explain it to the dumbest kid in class then he knows the rest will get it too. The other students chimed in against me but I held my ground, not being stubborn but simply honest. Five minutes before class was over he understood he was wrong. Then he did a very quick turn around, which I wondered if the other students saw what he did, for at that point he took up my side against the other students saying things like, "no here's what John is saying," and stuff like that. He never said I was right but he turned around and made my case for me in those last five minutes and was glad that class period was over.

;-)

One thing I know for sure is that I can think critically. I've been doing that all my life.

Anonymous said...

One thing I know for sure is that I can think critically. I've been doing that all my life.

Sounds like someone needs an outsider's test!

Mr Veale said...

Yip, I recognise that student!

:-)

Mr Veale said...

Fine art form, that is. The student has to ask questions smart enough to warrant answer, but not so smart to give away that they probably know the answer.

Or the student has to be able to judge when the teacher would rather talk than mark written work.

Tricky enough in a humanities class. To achieve that level of diversion in a maths class suggests a master of the art form!

Graham

John W. Loftus said...

Well, let's put it this way Graham. I'm not afraid of being wrong. I don't care what people think if I don't understand something, and I didn't. I remember being is a Greek Koine class in college where the professor asked the class what they thought the best translation was. He had us raise our hands if we agreed it meant interpretation X. Then he asked a few questions about it and had us raise our hands if we still thought that way. Only half of us did. Then he made some other comments and asked again. Only 5 of us remained steadfast. Then after more comments he asked one last time.

;-) guess.

He did not persuade me. And I wasn't afraid of being wrong if I didn't agree.