Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The SLTF


Jesse, I think there's an important point, and that is, "Who's the outsider?" Now, if we take the word "outsider" as meaning, well, someone who's not in fact committed to any particular revealed religion, then Lewis even when he had knelt and prayed, was an outsider, since he did not accept any special revelation at that time, and did not do so for a couple of years.

However, when Loftus actually describes the so-called "outsider," it is an outsider Loftus has created in his own image. For him to acknowledge that a person's religion has passed the OTF, there has to be evidence that at least ought to persuade someone like himself; someone who accepts a broadly scientistic epistemology, etc. But you can be an outsider without subscribing to Loftus's brand of scientism. So it's not an Outsider Test for Faith, it's the SLTF, the Satisfy Loftus (or Articulett, or Papalinton, etc. etc., etc.) test for faith. But if that's the case, why is faith unreasonable if it can't be proven to the satisfaction of its harshest critics? Why are they in the catbird seat, determining the rationality of all beliefs?

120 comments:

Jesse Parrish said...

As I stated in my most recent post:

"What else can I say? Nothing about this argument works, nor could it conceivably be reworked to capture what Loftus wants. There's a reason for this: it isn't actually an argument. It is a symptom of Loftus' assumption that he objectively and most accurately views the world in a culture-transcendent way. I might have spoken too soon: if a Christian happens to trust Loftus more than God, there may be an opening for the OTF."

Interestingly, his argument might be adapted as follows: he claims that his own prior is an `expert' prior, which may be adopted by a non-expert. The details of similar approaches are outlined by Richard Jeffrey in his Subjective Probability: The Real Thing.

The problem, of course, is that Loftus has yet to successfully demand that believers recognize his expertise, as his argument does not successfully ground the relative epistemic privilege of his position. He must assume that Christian belief is unwarranted - and that Christians will recognize this - before his argument could be applied. Obviously, that doesn't get us much.

I prefer the `LOL' acroynm: "Loftus is Objective - Loftus".

"Why are they in the catbird seat, determining the rationality of all beliefs?"

We aren't, and we can't assume that others will recognize us as such; hence why I feel that the OTF does positive harm to the state of debate.

Jesse Parrish said...

Now the state of argument about the OTF can be summarized as follows:

"WTF, LOL! STFU."

I couldn't be happier.

unkleE said...

"WTF, LOL! STFU."

I really did laugh out loud when I read this!

Jesse Parrish said...

Now, on the important but separate point of "who's the outsider", the first and foremost problem is that there is no unique answer.

A vague wave at the sciences won't help us here, since I do not think that believers who seriously argue for rational warrant are interested in contradicting consensus science. Rather, they attempt to consistently make the methods and findings of science a part of their outlook, and not without success.

I think that whenever we are looking to calibrate the effect of evidence on probability, we should rely first and foremost on `public knowledge', but there is theoretical room for differences, including legitimate differences in intuitions.

Trivially, my confidence in the contents of a first-hand testimony may be less than the person who is providing the testimony. Is it that I am more of an `outsider' than that person? Is it that I am more `objective'? Not necessarily. Our critical faculties may all be functioning perfectly well, and we may still have legitimate differences in credence.

There are cases where we trust `outsiders' more than `insiders', say whenever we are investigating the claims of homeopaths. But this is not an intrinsically objective fact about the epistemic superiority of outsiders; rather, it is that we have known biases to deal with which may be partially controlled for by introducing a skeptical opinion. In the case of homeopathy, these would include placebo affects and confirmation bias.

In general, the best `outsider position' is not a particular agent. The best `objective' means of controlling for biases, as employed in the sciences, is "argument amongst friends." Barring decisive argumentation, we give each other a presumption of similar reasonableness and attempt to state the arguments at their strongest. We seek out opposing views to avoid the errors of confirmation bias. We seek to nail down as exactly as we can what is required for the preservation of disagreement or the arrival to consensus. We seek fervently the outlines of our opinions, and find their shortcomings.

In other words, we should never assume that we in general have special privileges - epistemic entitlements, if you prefer - over knowledgeable peers.

There are cases where I feel that certain intuitions are unwarranted, e.g. those which some entertain about actual infinities, but I have to spell out why I think this is in a way that somebody with that intuition could understand, if I do not want them to employ it. In other cases, say in the secular facts surrounding the Resurrection, I have to admit that there are other intuitions which I presume to be legitimate on a par with my own, as I lack grounds for dismissing them.

When I want to be more `objective', I seek to find arguments which may persuade me or those who disagree with me. I do not look only for those observations which legitimize my prior opinions.

My answer to the `outsider' issue is simple: try reliable means of truth-seeking instead. All else is distraction.

Jesse Parrish said...

UGH. Placebo effects, I mean.

Morrison said...

The Satisy Loftus Tset For Faith is ironcially names, because Loftus has specifically stated in his Supplemental Volume to WIBA tht even if he were to admit that Christianity had been proved, that he would not follow up.

Further in WIBA, he states in the last chapter that the utlimtate explanation of existence is CHANCE...that is his word, CHANCE...and such a position is Unfalifiable.

If he believes that everything is ultimately explained by CHANCE then there is No Proof, Even In Principle, that he would accept.

But, as stated above, even if there were he would not follow Christianity.

His problem is emotional and spritual; indeed, he admits in WIBA that Two of the Three supposed main reasons that he rejected Christ were emotionally based.

So, why is everyone spending so much time on him?

He is not an honest debater...he is not willing to accept the conclusions if he loses, and he admits that.

Papalinton said...

Jesse
"The problem, of course, is that Loftus has yet to successfully demand that believers recognize his expertise, as his argument does not successfully ground the relative epistemic privilege of his position. He must assume that Christian belief is unwarranted - and that Christians will recognize this - before his argument could be applied. "

This assessment is misguided and is somewhat a prior of yours. The process of the OTF has nil reliance on predication of Loftus's expertise nor any level of epistemic privilege of his position. The process is simple: all it asks is that you apply to your own faith the same reasoning that you apply to other's faiths. That's it.

You commentary on this tread and the other does not take into consideration his particular experiences. The OTF is not a product developed by an atheist per se. Rather, the OTF is a product of Loftus' experiences from both sides of the fence. He was for twenty odd years the arch defender of the faith. He ate, lived and breathed christian thought. He understands the emotional, physical and psychological framework out of which theists operate. It is not strange to him. Indeed, the personal cathartic, revelational, transcendent experiences so beloved of christian theists as a testament of their holding hands with god, he also experienced. It was familiar. And as he notes in The Christian Delusion, he still experiences and relate to those 'high' in the mind states that had provoked those feelings. But equally, he now measures those experiences against a very different set of emotional, physical and psychological criteria. It is his unique comparisons across that divide from which the OTF was formulated.

Loftus did not establish the OTF in the absence of his previous involvement, participation, contact with, acquaintance, exposure to, observation of, awareness of, and insights into those highly charged periods of transcendence. They are, along with another and quite different set of criteria, a signature sine qua non.

Your, "... we should never assume that we in general have special privileges - epistemic entitlements, if you prefer - over knowledgeable peers", is the very reason christian theists scoff at the OTF as Loftus does not claim special privileges 'over knowledgeable peers'.

Loftus put the OTF out there; theists predictably reacted in that rehearsed maneuver when there is a threat to their mythos, they circled the wagons to beat off the infidel, heathen, pagan, idolater, and the heretic.

Papalinton said...

Jesse

These are Lofus's words on the OTF:
" When believers criticize the other faiths they reject, they use reason and science to do so. They assume these other religions have the burden of proof. They assume human not divine authors to their holy book(s). They assume a human not a divine origin to their faiths.
Believers do this when rejecting other faiths. So dispensing all of the red herrings about morality and a non-material universe, the OTF simply asks believers to do unto their own faith what they do unto other faiths. All it asks of them is to be consistent.
The OTF asks why believers operate on a double standard. If that's how they reject other faiths then they should apply that same standard to their own. Let reason and science rather than faith be their guide. Assume your own faith has the burden of proof. Assume human rather than divine authors to your holy book(s) and see what you get. If there is a divine author behind the texts it should be known even with that initial skeptical assumption.
So the OTF uses the exact same standard that believers use when rejecting other religions. If there is any inconsistency at all it is not with the OTF. It is how believers assess truth claims. For it should only take a moment’s thought to realize that if there is a God who wants people born into different religious cultures to believe, who are outsiders, then that religious faith SHOULD pass the OTF.
If Christians want to reject the OTF then either they must admit they have a double standard for examining religious faiths, one for their own faith and a different one for others, or their faith was not made to pass the OTF in the first place. In either case all of their arguments against the OTF are based on red herrings, special pleading, begging the question, the denigrating science, and an ignorance that I can only attribute to delusional blindness."


I would be grateful indicating where it is that Loftus assets epistemic privilege and an expert 'prior'?

Cheers

Jesse Parrish said...

Papalinton,

We could go over the exact same thread yet again. I still have these things called posts that you haven't taken effort to either understand or respond to.

STFU already.

Anonymous said...

It's true what they say.

Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. ;)

Papalinton said...

Jesse
"We could go over the exact same thread yet again.
I still have these things called posts that you haven't taken effort to either understand or respond to.'

Jesse, parroting reference to previous comment doesn't become you. I have taken the effort to respond on each occasion and I thought I made it quite clear they were not of any substantive merit and that they were indeed a particular personal interpretation of yours with consonant priors.

And I understand them well. It isn't as though your take is some revelational gestalt in the league of E=mc2. And furthermore, your views did somewhat smack of 'expertise-ism' and a presumption of epistemic privilege of your position.

Notwithstanding, I did read your critique of the OTF with interest and a certain level of admiration.

Jesse Parrish said...

And here I was thinking it was in the "apologetical basket requiring no further consideration."

waka-waka.

We're at the same place as before, actually. I'll leave you to your own devices.

Anonymous said...

"the OTF is a product of Loftus' experiences from both sides of the fence. He was for twenty odd years the arch defender of the faith. He ate, lived and breathed christian thought. He understands the emotional, physical and psychological framework out of which theists operate. It is not strange to him. Indeed, the personal cathartic, revelational, transcendent experiences so beloved of christian theists as a testament of their holding hands with god, he also experienced. It was familiar."

LOL. And you know this because he said so.

Jesse Parrish said...

Terrific, isn't it, Anon?

Oh Jesse you silly person he isn't asserting that he is objective so that believers should adopt his position from the get-go. Also, he's objective, so believers should adopt his position from the get-go. To do otherwise would be unfair/inconsistent/have bad taste in music or something.

LOL, now with a new introduction from Papalinton, a recognized expert in the field.

Anonymous said...

Pappy's faith in Lofty is truly touching.

John W. Loftus said...

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2011/06/what-is-outsiders-perspective.html

Jesse Parrish said...

Are you even trying?

Victor Reppert said...

John: The post you reference here is exactly what I was responding to. It seems that you can be an outsider (lacking any commitment to any revealed religion in particular) without taking the Outsider's Perspective as you have defined it. In other words, your argument commits the Fallacy of False Dilemma, or False Alternatives.

Jesse Parrish said...

The false distinction which he makes carries with it the additionally false assumption that the `OP' environment is epistemically superior to the `IP' environment and must be recognized by believers as such. (Question-begging, as this references a discrepancy in correctness, not in origins of belief.) Of course, in order to convince a believer of that, we'd have to show that the `OP' environment actually is in fact superior, but in order to do that, we would have to enter into the usual arguments.

But John would know this problem already, had he actually read Thrasymachus' post instead of simply saying that he saw nothing to respond to and throwing in a book plug.

B. Prokop said...

My brief Q and A session with Papalinton earlier on this website tells me everything I need to know about the so-called OTF.

Me to Papalinton: Do you believe that that "taking the OTF" inevitably results in a rejection of Christianity? ... Can I assume ... that you take the Loftus position of (his words paraphrased) "unless you end up by rejecting Christianity, you haven't really taken the OTF"?

Papalinton'e response: I think that's a yes.

If we can judge by these words of a disciple, this demonstrates conclusively that the Loftus verson of the "OTF" has no intellectual credibility whatsoever.

Now (totally separate issue), as to the so-called OTF itself, we have to remember two things:

1) that the "OTF" did not originate with John Loftus. Indeed, it dates back to the time of the Apostles themselves. After all (as I have repeatedly mentioned, but have never gotten a response from the Loftus team), at the time of Saints Peter and Paul, EVERYONE was an outsider vis a vis Christianity, yet they and the other Apostles won over countless converts, every one of them an "outsider".

And 2) in the two millennia since that time, untold numbers of "outsiders" have come to the Faith. Obviously, Christianity has nothing whatsoever to fear from being examined from an outsider perspective. Otherwise, how could one account for the explosive growth of Christianity in China today (one hundred million plus believers at last count, and growing by the second)? Or the overnight conversion of the entire country of Cambodia in the past generation, a country with ZERO history of Christianity? Or the rapid expansion of the Faith in Sub-Saharan Africa (far in excess of the population growth), and the current pushing northward of the Christian/Islamic boundary that runs through the enter of that continent? These are all the collective outcome of millions upon millions of outsiders examining Christianity, and deciding it is true.

(Or perhaps the OTF-enthusiasts are elitists, and only the opinions of educated Westerners count for anything, and the beliefs of ignorant Third Worlders can be contemptuously discounted?)

Anthony Fleming said...

I have to say, I am really beginning to like this Jesse Parrish guy. I like finding reasonable atheists who give good and solid arguments for their stance while providing something actually interesting to read. Normally I have trouble trusting the atheist side unless BDK is on here. So...Kudos.

What I would like to see on this post now is a Christian who is helping support John Loftus OTF argument the way Victor and Jesse are in agreement against it. Looks like the Outsider Test needs to pass the Outsider Test. :)

BenYachov said...

Serious question for Paps.

Why the deathless defense of OTF argument? Do you believe Atheism rises or falls without it?

BNCS said...

Is anyone else getting the vibe that Loftus is for Papalinton what L Ron Hubbard is for a dedicated scientologist?

Complete with the crazy rewriting of personal history to be crazily augmented.

B. Prokop said...

Anthony,

Christians have been supporting the OTF long before Loftus was born. It originated within the Faith. But the Loftus interpretation of the OTF, with the mandatory outcome to suit his druthers, is indefensible by anyone.

A lot of the "anti-Loftus" sentiment on this website and elsewhere would vanish, if only he would drop that ridiculously unreasonable demand. After all, he starts out with common sense propositions: no double standards, objectivity. Who can argue with that? But then he goes off the deep end by insisting on a predetermined result. Talk about double standards! This is a CLASSIC case of the pot calling the kettle black!!!

Victor Reppert said...

Strictly speaking, there is no OTF. There are various OTFs that one might perform, and everyone can see the merit of looking at something from the perspective of someone else and asking what one would think if one came from a different perspective. That's what makes the OTF initially appealing. But then, when someone declares himself to be The Outsider, we are supposed to kowtow?

I don't think so.

B. Prokop said...

By the way, I've detected a mis-typing in my first posting. It reads now "of the entire country of Cambodia". I meant to write, "throughout the entire country of Cambodia".

Sorry for the error.

B. Prokop said...

Victor,

I believe you and I are saying basically the same thing in different words. I point out the absurdity of insisting on one and only one outcome to this so-called test. You come at it from another angle to call attention to the fact that who is deemed to be the "true outsider" is predetermined in the Loftus worldview. In both cases, the "Loftus OTF" comes to the starting block, drained of all content and void of significance.

Jesse Parrish said...

Thanks Anthony!

I've had a pleasant reception here. I must be doing something wrong. So far, one person (inconsistently) dislikes me and another dislikes me, for several and opposite reasons.

That's a hopeful sign, at least.

But mostly it's all been mostly positive. My thanks for the compliment.

BenYachov said...

>. I must be doing something wrong. So far, one person (inconsistently) dislikes me and another dislikes me, for several and opposite reasons.

Rather I say you must be doing something right.

Tony was right here we are disagreeing again!!!!

OH THE HORROR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:-)

Papalinton said...

Jesse
"The false distinction which he makes carries with it the additionally false assumption that the `OP' environment is epistemically superior to the `IP' environment and must be recognized by believers as such."

What nonsense. We know there is parity. Your silly emotive charge of 'epistemic superiority' is a misreading of the place and role of the OTF. The IP perspective has been the primary motivator for the increasing number of people ditching their 'Faith' for agnosticism/atheism. Over the last 20 years in the US, ARIS surveys have consistently demonstrated this trend. People are gradually realizing the role of institutional religion perpetuating the big swindle of this elaborate cultural edifice. People are also beginning to understand the little prospect of its meeting the needs of people as they face future challenges. There is far too much rear-view gazing, as propounded by the Albert Mohlers of the world.

Loftus is suggesting to theists, even those whose IP perspective are causing them to waver, also have the OP of the OTF they can apply.
There are so many [unsubstantiated but have a reasonable sense of being on fairly sure ground] people out in the community that are 'christian' for the simple reason they will be face significant rejection, ostracism, and disruption [perhaps even violence, certainly psychological and emotional abuse for their 'transgression'] by family, friends, work colleagues, and that the outcome simply would not be worth risking the chance of speaking freely and honestly about their perspective. Dr Daniel Dennett, philosopher, is currently undertaking research through interviews with clergy on this very topic. A preliminary scoping exercise with 7 ministers and priests prepared to discuss their situation indicated that the issue appears extensive.

The OTF simply provides an additional point of review that christian theists can and perhaps should embark on.

Papalinton said...

Bob
Me to Papalinton: Do you believe that that "taking the OTF" inevitably results in a rejection of Christianity? ... Can I assume ... that you take the Loftus position of (his words paraphrased) "unless you end up by rejecting Christianity, you haven't really taken the OTF"?

Papalinton'e response: I think that's a yes.

If we can judge by these words of a disciple, this demonstrates conclusively that the Loftus verson of the "OTF" has no intellectual credibility whatsoever.

------------

1. You denigrate the term 'disciple'. By these words can I extrapolate your meaning to include the 12 original dunderheads/sycophants having no 'intellectual credibility whatsoever'? Clearly your use of that particular word, read in context of the intent of your message, connotes the inference of a paucity of intellection.

2. Taking the OTF properly should result in the rejection of christianity, one outcome, as surely as taking a step out from the top of a 30 story building will result in only one outcome about the truth of gravity. And in both cases, a miracle would be appropriate. And once all natural explanations have been considered and eliminated, then one could truly say, your faith has passed the OTF.

3. And I would suggest that on 'faith' passing the OTF, 'intellectual credibility' would indubitably come with it.

Simple really. It's not rocket science.

Jesse Parrish said...

Now it's simply a `point of view', not a requirement of intellectual consistency.

WTF. Also, STFU

Papalinton said...

Jeese
"Now it's simply a `point of view', not a requirement of intellectual consistency."

No. A point of 'review', you know a reassessment, analysis, evaluation, appraisal, examination, investigation, inquiry, probe, inspection, study;
reconsideration, reassessment, reevaluation, reappraisal; change, alteration, modification.

Take your pick.

Jesse Parrish said...

Ah, I didn't see `prerequisite for reasonableness' on there. Can I phone a friend?

Anonymous said...

Everyone pay close attention to how Paps can hardly go a thread without gurgling out insults and throwing insulting nicknames - but treat him in kind and he cries like a baby.

You lost, Paps. You're being outgunned here in way upon way by, apparently, another non-believer. Write it off as a loss, and move on to the next one.

Or better yet, don't. Seeing you squirm is instructive. Loftus may learn a thing or two, and considering he really is an expert on stammering, backtracking and obfuscating, that's impressive. Must be the teacher in you. ;)

Jesse Parrish said...

You're awfully hard on teachers, Anon.

Victor Reppert said...

Here's a test. Examine your beliefs. If you agree with Reppert's beliefs, you passed. If you don't agree with Reppert, you failed miserably, and you need to retake the test until we get the correct result.

Sounds good to me.

Jesse Parrish said...

The ROR?

Call it Engrish for `LOL'.

I have to say, though... You should really focus on harder targets.

Papalinton said...

"You lost, Paps. You're being outgunned here in way upon way by, apparently, another non-believer. Write it off as a loss, and move on to the next one."

In your wildest dreams, Anon. Then again, Anon, you are an expert in mystical dreaming and wishful thinking, what with your little means of invisible support, propping up your life to give it what little meaning and relevance it needs. Not dissimilar to the dependency of a cokehead for his/her hallucinatory trip into irrational oblivion, or more parochially known as 'a foray into the supernatural world among the grandpappies, and uncles and aunties, ghosts, angels, jesus, seraphim.

Yes. No question you got me there, Anon. I have nothing to offer that can match your world. But I have seen "The Matrix".

B. Prokop said...

If possible, it may be time for Victor to ban anonymous comments from this website. Is that technologically possible?

Brenda said...

There is no outside. Everyone is an insider. There is no absolute vantage point from which everything can be judged.

How could it be otherwise? How could there be a frame, a way of looking at things, which is not a way of looking at things? How can you step outside of your own skin, your own culture?

There is no absolute language in which everything can be said.

Randal Rauser had to best response to this latest kerfuffle. You do the best you can and try to as objective as possible and that's it.

B. Prokop said...

Papalinton,

I know this is probably a minor point, but I don't want to leave a wrong impression. My use of the word "disciple" was purely a shorthand to distinguish your words from those of Loftus. I never dreamed the term would end up being weighted in any manner. There was no intention whatsoever of placing any value-laden connotations on it. Sorry if I caused any confusion.

Papalinton said...

Hi Victor
"Here's a test. Examine your beliefs. If you agree with Reppert's beliefs, you passed. If you don't agree with Reppert, you failed miserably, and you need to retake the test until we get the correct result.
Sounds good to me."

To me, this is not a philosopher holding the worthy title of PhD talking here. This form and level of discourse is that which one would usually ascribe to the Anons, Morrisions, Yachovs and Ilions of the biblioblogosphere.

I can understand why it is you find the OTF so compellingly obnoxious to your worldview. And it is.
In context, can you not appreciate that it is also a warning signaling an earnest challenge to the veracity of christian theism. This is not some contra-apologetical skirmish, at which declared heresies and blasphemies in earlier times, could once be expeditiously disposed.

Theism must now, in a post-christian period, prove its relevance. No longer is acknowledged deference and social privilege to be automatically accorded without justification. Christian theism must earn its keep, just as every other aspect of modern society must. The inertia of historical tradition is no longer an accepted raison d'ĂȘtre.

There are serious philosophical issues here that ought be providing some very good insight why it is this trend away from organised religion is occurring and to reassess what continuing role theism can play in future communities.

Jesse Parrish said...

"To me, this is not a philosopher holding the worthy title of PhD talking here. This form and level of discourse is that which one would usually ascribe to the Anons, Morrisions, Yachovs and Ilions of the biblioblogosphere."

No True Philosopher©™(^o^)┘ makes ironic points, to be sure.

BenYachov said...

>Randal Rauser had to best response to this latest kerfuffle. You do the best you can and try to as objective as possible and that's it.

More Common Sense.

Love it. Good show. Well done.

Papalinton said...

"There was no intention whatsoever of placing any value-laden connotations on it. Sorry if I caused any confusion."


No need for apology Bob.

Words do convey meaning, and the truth or the meaning of the message is that which has been perceived or interpreted by the receiver, regardless of the sender's intention. If the message relayed back in the receiver's response is different to that of the sender's intention, then in all likelihood, the sender did not convey that message clearly.

Clarification of this aspect then allows one to determine whether dishonesty, deliberate obfuscation and/or genuine misinterpretation was the intended or unintended action of the receiver. Each case can then be dealt with by the sender as appropriate.

Papalinton said...

"More Common Sense."

The catch-22 is that common sense ain't all that common.

Anonymous said...

Paps, that picture of you with Dan Barker says a lot.

Like Loftus, he continued to preach and lie to his congregation after he no longer believed.

Why do you respect such guys?

Did you like to people too?

B. Prokop said...

Papalinton,

Not knowing either you or Dan Barker, which one is you in your profile picture?

(Tell you what, I'll go first! I'm the one with two legs in my own picture.)

Papalinton said...

Bob
"(Tell you what, I'll go first! I'm the one with two legs in my own picture.)"

Triped? biped? Damn! I got it wrong! :o)

I'm the fit specimen on the left, just as Anonymous picked it. I might add, I've lost 10 Kilos [22lbs] over the last couple months and looking to shed another 15Kg by the end of the year.

BenYachov said...

Your thinner than I am at this point Paps I'll give you that. Well done!

But your reading comprehension skills and general reasoning skills aren't fit at all.

Mike Darus said...

@Papa "Words do convey meaning, and the truth or the meaning of the message is that which has been perceived or interpreted by the receiver, regardless of the sender's intention."

I totally agree that the receiver of the message has the responsibility to attempt to comprehend the sender's intended meaning.

B. Prokop said...

Mike,

What you've brought up is what's behind my biggest objection to literalism (or, for that matter, fundamentalism), which is the very nature of language. As a professional linguist for the U.S. government since the 1970s, I know very well the slipperiness of "meaning" when it comes to words, and how nearly impossible it is to translate from one language to another without some degree of distortion of meaning or loss of nuance.

The people who insist that "every word of The Bible is the literal truth" do not seem to realize that that very statement is semantically null. Despite our best efforts, the meaning and intent of what we say and write inevitably morphs form person to person.

I absolutely love Zeno's Three Propositions, which date from the 5th Century B.C. Here they are:

1. No one ever really understands anything.

2. And if somehow a person ever did manage to understand something, he'd never be able to explain it to anyone else.

3. And if that other person ever did manage to understand what was said to him, he'd get it wrong.

Anthony Fleming said...

B Prokop, you wrote, "Christians have been supporting the OTF long before Loftus was born. It originated within the Faith. But the Loftus interpretation of the OTF, with the mandatory outcome to suit his druthers, is indefensible by anyone."

This is true. In fact, Christianity could not have spread if it were not for "outsiders." It still spreads to outsiders.

I was actually just playing with words. Basically, the arguments against John Loftus' OTF have a Christian and an Atheist working together while the arguments "for" the argument are from atheists alone. This is why I said that his argument should pass its own requirements; that the Outsider Test should have to pass the Outsider Test. :)

There is a lot of Anti-Loftus sentiment but I am not one of those. In fact, I have been trying to get him to come up here for a debate but things have been difficult to organize with all the other challenges life throws at us.

Jesse,

It probably means your doing something right. :)

Anthony Fleming said...

One other note. The OTF doesn't bothered me because it doesn't prove anything. It is an argument that does not make an argument.

Maybe Christians should have the honest inquirer test! Basically; if you are an honest inquirer then Christianity will prove itself to you and you will end up as a Christian! To begin, make no assumptions on whether or not a God exists or whether miracles are possible as no one can prove the affirmative or the negative. Just be an honest inquirer; someone who doesn't have a bunch of assumptions so Christianity can be properly evaluated. If at the end of the test you are not a converted Christian then you didn't correctly take the test because God will surely prove himself to all honest inquirers.

Lets see how many atheists accept my rationale.

Mike Darus said...

B. Prokrop:
I completely understand Zeno and your point.

This is kind of fun.

Papalinton said...

Bob
"I know very well the slipperiness of "meaning" when it comes to words, and how nearly impossible it is to translate from one language to another without some degree of distortion of meaning or loss of nuance. "

I am with you on this point Bob. Spot on. Proximation is about as close as we can get, even within our mother tongue. Ahhh, the imprecision of the English language.

I didn't know about Zeno. Thanks.

Mike Darus said...

Papa,
hilarious post about how well you understand!

SteveK said...

Pap
>>> Taking the OTF properly should result in the rejection of christianity, one outcome, as surely as taking a step out from the top of a 30 story building will result in only one outcome about the truth of gravity.

Jurors are a type of outsider and they can legitimately come to different conclusions when evaluating the same evidence.

Are you saying it is impossible for rational people to come to differing conclusions? I think they can, but I'd like to get your thoughts.

If you agree with me, then why can this not be the case when it comes to Christianity?

Papalinton said...

Hi SteveK
"Jurors are a type of outsider and they can legitimately come to different conclusions when evaluating the same evidence.
Are you saying it is impossible for rational people to come to differing conclusions? I think they can, but I'd like to get your thoughts."

No, not at all. The key point in your comment is that while the evidence is the same, the methodology of evaluation exercised by each juror will be as variable as their experiences, skills, and learning. And it is the method by which christians dismiss the claims of other faiths as plain wrong and then use a different level of evaluation for their own claim. It is this inconsistency that Loftus draws attention to. In your jury example, the prosecution must proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the offender is indeed guilty. And in terms of courts and the perspective of jurisprudence, religious evidence would simply not muster or pass any test of authenticity or validity. "God made me do it", would not count as any form of veritable evidence for the defense. Quoting from the bible would have as much levitational value in a court room as a lead balloon.
History has largely demonstrated in matters of technical and substantive differences between religious thought and secular thought, for example, Intelligent Design being a valid scientific concept, has generally demonstrated religious thought as little more than personal preference.

And all that the OTF asks, is for consistency to be applied. If you use a set of criteria [and usually these are predicated on reason and logic and even co-opting elements of scientific fact, or the principles of scientific methodology for additional impact] for assessing the truth of another's faith, then you must apply those very same criteria to your own faith. If one believes that Muhammad riding off into the heavens on a horse to sit at the right hand of god, is just myth, then why is believing jesus floated up into the heavens to sit at the right hand of god, any different? How is that jesus was able to walk through walls after his resurrection? Why do we find it impossible now to believe that if it could happen once, why does one not give credence to all those that have witnessed people walk through walls today?

If jesus was able to revivify so many people, that is, raise them from the dead, what are the reasons you suggest those religious gurus and mystics in India that to this day have raised people from the dead, as silly? And there are millions of witnesses right now, in India, that testify to these occurrences. Why is it the response today is to point to 'mass hysteria'. Is one of the criterion you use, one of timing? That is, resurrection miracles only occurred for a short time at around jesus' time, and god no longer allows these kinds of miracles today?

Do you not feel any embarrassment or sense of unease watching those poor duped wretches, at their most vulnerable and defenseless, hoping for that miracle cure at Lourdes? Hope is such a powerful emotion and the Catholic Church's continued involvement in this charade is a gob-smackingly cynical exercise, only there but for the long-standing tradition, born out of a time when there was nothing that one would conceivably consider a semblance of efficacious medicine.

These are my thoughts, SteveK.

SteveK said...

Pap,
>>> The key point in your comment is that while the evidence is the same, the methodology of evaluation exercised by each juror will be as variable as their experiences, skills, and learning.

I'm glad to hear you agree. To summarize, we're saying that different conclusions can be rationally justified even though the objective evidence is the same.

>>> If one believes that Muhammad riding off into the heavens on a horse to sit at the right hand of god, is just myth, then why is believing jesus floated up into the heavens to sit at the right hand of god, any different?

The answer to this puzzle is that the concept of non-contradiction is adhered to after a conclusion has been reached.

Using the example of juror as an outsider, if one thinks the evidence supports the conclusion that Joe murdered Mary with a knife, then that ought to be enough to justify and explain why they don't think the other suspect, Tom, murdered her with a knife.

As a religious outsider, if I think the evidence supports the conclusion that Christ was resurrected, then that ought to be enough to justify and explain why I don't think the other religions are true.

Is this reasonable?

Jesse Parrish said...

SteveK,

Dead on. Evidence, strictly speaking, is not merely `for' or `against' a proposition in isolation. Rather, observation induces - to use a common image - what we might call a flow of probability between various propositions.

Trivially, the degree to which one confirms Christianity sets a minimum threshold on the degree to which one `disconfirms' propositions contradicting it.

SteveK said...

Here it is in short form.

1) I start as an unbiased outsider as best I can.

2) I evaluate the objective evidence as best I can within the context of my own experiences.

3) I reach a rational conclusion (A), which may be different than another person who concludes (B).

4) My conclusion, (A), justifies and explains why I don't accept contradictory conclusion (B).

This outline is the rational behind what I call the believers slogan.

Anonymous said...

You know, in the earlier edition of John's WIBA, which was WIRC, he talks about all the crimes he committed.

Assaults, car theft, sex with girls "his age", which means they were under eighteen, etc.

Has it occurred to him that his noterity has reminded some of his victims that he is still out there, and indirectly profiting from their suffering?

Papalinton said...

SteveK
"I'm glad to hear you agree. To summarize, we're saying that different conclusions can be rationally justified even though the objective evidence is the same."

Absolutely not. That is not what I said, that, " ... different conclusions can be rationally justified even though the objective evidence is the same."

Your question to me was that, '.. [C]an rational people come to different conclusions about the same evidence? to which I responded, yes. This has nothing at all to do with, "... different conclusions being rationally justified." In a court of law, the quantum of evidence has to be presented that will unequivocally return a singular verdict proved beyond a reasonable doubt. If it does then all jurors, on the basis of the evidence will return a unanimous verdict. [Unless of course it is decided previously that a majority of jurors becomes the standard for determining guilt or innocence. In capital crimes it usually requires a 12 from 12 verdict.]

In answer to your last commentary, I reiterate, 'rational people can come to different conclusions about the same evidence', but clearly if they do the case has not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. And clearly in such a case each juror would have assessed the evidence from very different personal perspectives and had not been convinced beyond a reasonable; or alternatively, might well have different motivations for the choice of decisions made and the weightings they gave to the various pieces of evidence. I take as an example of the trial of OJ Simpson, which seemed on the prima facie evidence, he commit murder. But for whatever reason the jury thought otherwise. And I have no reason to doubt each of those jury persons were rational, law-abiding and decent people. And judging by comments from law experts about the strength of the evidence, the different conclusions reached by the jurors cannot be rationally justified. Some other and greater influence was in play.

So there is a very clear distinction between the concept of rational people coming to different conclusions, and the concept of different conclusions being rationally justified, SteveK.

SteveK, your comment, "As a religious outsider, if I think the evidence supports the conclusion that Christ was resurrected, then that ought to be enough to justify and explain why I don't think the other religions are true", only exacerbates the issue and renders it problematic. Why? Because your interpretation of the evidence [and what is that evidence for the resurrection? Will the evidence be sufficient, even on the balance of probabilities, the test used in civil courts, be sufficient to convince a Hindu of the resurrection?] you selected for concluding other religions as false, while concurrently claiming the exact same evidence for your religion makes it true, has not been tested. I suspect, had I asked a Hindu about the truth of your religion as a comparison to his, I get the sneaky feeling that his response would be exactly as yours but diametric.

From this perspective, Steve, your level of evidence is somewhat riddled with personal conviction rather than substantive fact.

Papalinton said...

Jesse
"Trivially, the degree to which one confirms Christianity sets a minimum threshold on the degree to which one `disconfirms' propositions contradicting it."

This is bunkum. On your reckoning it seems the bar for setting the minimum threshold is lying on the ground.

Jesse, your comment, "Dead on. Evidence, strictly speaking, is not merely `for' or `against' a proposition in isolation. Rather, observation induces - to use a common image - what we might call a flow of probability between various propositions", is a bit of jejune weasel wording.

It depends on your level of evidence, the best evidence being a go/no go for a proposition; either it is evidence for or against. Your 'flow of probability' only determines where the tipping point resides, and in and of itself, is conditional on the person assessing it. Your 'flow of probability' is easily characterized by the difference in the stringency of tests for criminal culpability as distinct from civil culpability, that is, 'beyond all reasonable doubt' as opposed to 'on the balance of probabilities', respectively.
Evidence as defined within theology would be of none, if any value, in a court of law. Theological evidence has no transferable value or currency outside theological or Apologetical scholarship. Theological evidence does not possess an equivalent level of rigor that say, scientific evidence possesses. In the main scientific evidence is universally accepted regardless of culture, creed, and religion. Therefore to assess religious claims a different kind of test is required; the OTF.

And as I had referred earlier, the example of the claim of Intelligent Design [ID] as a valid scientific concept is only considered such through the lens of theology. The courts have ruled, ID is a wholly-owned derivative of 'christian science' as defined through theology. In this case there is no 'flow of probability' that will resurrect ID, or more colloquially, raise it from the dead.

Mr Veale said...

So, just to be clear, the OTF is officially dead?

Mr Veale said...

(I've referred to it as a "zombie argument" - no matter how many time you refute the OTF, Loftus just keeps restating it as if all is well, and as if he has you on the ropes. Like a zombie, this argument refuses to understand that it is dead.
But Loftus is awfully quiet, and has left Papalinton to make speeches on his behalf. So have you guys finally managed to put a silver bullet in the OTF's brain, and a stake of oak in its heart?

Remember, this is the blog that shut Richard Carrier up with a tutorial on Bayes Theorem!)

B. Prokop said...

Papalinton,

Your last two postings get to the heart of the difficulty that participants on opposite sides of the debate on this website seem to have in communicating to the other.

Now I am a 60-year old Catholic, who's spent most of his life examining in minute detail just what it is that he believes. I was raised in the faith, but did have a 2-3 year fling with Protestantism during college, back in the 70's (had too many intellectual difficulties with it, which is why it didn't last, but I'm still glad I had that experience). Believe it or not, ended up falling in love with an atheist, and enjoyed 33 years of married life before Diane was taken from me by cancer. Interestingly enough, she gradually became a believer as the years progressed, and ultimately died receiving all the sacraments. (I guess I must have won all the arguments, because I met her an atheist conservative Republican, and she ended up a Catholic liberal Democrat.) Have two grown daughters, one today a Catholic, the other a member of the Church of England. So by your standards, I guess I'm an "insider".

But so what? (Warning: thought experiment follows) A person could be born atop Mount Everest, living his entire life there, and still legitimately conclude from objective research that he does indeed live at the highest place on Earth, without having to delude himself. His "insider" status has no bearing whatsoever on the outcome of his examination of whether or not he occupies such-and-such an elevation.

In the same way, throughout the decades I have read far more books than I could possibly number or list on Christianity (Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox), Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Yoruba, and Atheism (as well as listening to their music, reading their literature, appreciating their art, marveling at their architecture, etc. And most importantly, talking to their adherents) I have examined the evidence for and against the Resurrection with a fine-toothed comb, and believe that my conclusions on the matter are as objective as one can possibly get without being a stone.

My conclusion: the evidence is overwhelmingly for the Resurrection's historical reality, beyond any possible reasonable doubt. In fact, I find the "pro" case to be so compelling that I very honestly fail to understand how any rational person can come to an opposite conclusion. I class its probability of being true as being the same as for "two plus two equals four" being correct.

So when I read you (and others) denying this, I'll admit that my actual (and normally unwritten) reaction is very close to "Is he blind? Is he willfully ignoring the evidence? Is there a hidden agenda here?". And in like manner, you (and Loftus) respond to Victor, myself, and others with "He's deluded, brainwashed, ignorant, irrational, superstitious!" despite the obvious fact that that is precisely what we are NOT (not after so much careful, meticulous, and independent research).

So now can't you see that such comments make YOU an "insider" too? (And if you deny that, I'm just going have to respond with "He's deluded, brainwashed, ignorant, irrational, superstitious!")

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

Bob
i appreciate the ardency and emotional conviction with which you put your case. I do. But I take one of your paragraphs and reiterate that level of entreaty for a Muslim:

"My conclusion: the evidence is overwhelmingly for Muhammad's divine discourse as it accords with the truth of historical reality, beyond any possible reasonable doubt. In fact, I find the "pro" case to be so compelling that I very honestly fail to understand how any rational person can come to an opposite conclusion. I class its probability of being true as being the same as for "two plus two equals four" being correct."

So, which is the truth, Bob? The Islamic evidence or Christian evidence? How do you convince a Sikh of the evidence for the resurrection?

You also say, "So when I read you (and others) denying this, I'll admit that my actual (and normally unwritten) reaction is very close to "Is he blind? Is he willfully ignoring the evidence? "
I can only remind you that I too was a card-carrying evangelical for so many years of my life, and as I read books on christianity, Ancient Near East history, philosophy, general science, biology and evolution, mathematics, art, and literature (in my first degree I read English Literature as a major), I saw all too clearly that religion was simply a perfectly normal human cultural artifact, one that distinguished my culture and thus my identity distinct from other cultures and societies, as surely as spoken English is a primary cultural identifier.

As George W Bush is reported to have said, "If English is good enough for Jesus and the Bible, it's good enough for me." (reputedly)

Bob, I stand before a panel of four of the best, most compassionate, caring and considerate humans, a Hindi, a Christian, a Jew, and a Sikh. I ask them, 'I want to with all my heart fulfill my life spiritually, to reach ascetic transcendence and to search for the meaning of life, to follow in the path of god. Please advise me which is the one true faith, for in my ignorance and human frailties, I am afraid of choosing the false one, a choice from which I might never recover should it be wrong.'

My reasoning for the innumerable numbers of 'true' faiths tells me either every one is true or none are true. The only 'truth' of the one true religion is predicated solely on the successful nature of the competitive proselytizing expertise of each religion, and that the 'truth' is inextricably linked to the size of their slice of the pie chart. Might is right, size is everything. What is your reasoning for the multitude of faiths, Bob? How do you explain the tens of thousands of diverse faiths extant?

B. Prokop said...

But there's no requirement to "explain" the existence of other religions! If they weren't there, there would be no need for the Great Commission ("Go and make disciples of all nations..."). I feel no need to justify their existence, it's just the way it is. I really don't lose any sleep over the issue.

Once again, there's a fundamental difference of bedrock assumptions which inform both of our worldviews. You apparently regard "competitive proselytizing" as evidence of falsehood. I see it as nothing more than a force of nature, on the order of low pressure areas or cold fronts. It's just the way things work.

And when you come down to it, what are most people on this website engaged in, other than competitive proselytizing? If you don't have a problem with it when you or Dan Barker does it, why should you think differently when a Muslim or a Christian does? By your logic, atheism is not worthy of serious consideration because it (at least currently) engages in proselytism.

Tony Hoffman said...

Wow. I can’t believe this is still going on.

Okay, I’ll take a stab at stating an OTF as a kind of challenge – which is what I think it is – so that it remains a perfectly valid criticism of most religious belief.

1. A believer in a religion has found her religion (R) credible in ways that can be defined as standards.

2. These same standards can then be used to compare the claims of other religions (O) whose claims contradict that of R.
The standards it seems that believers apply to the evaluation of their religion include:
A. Historical accounts of supernatural occurrences
B. Contemporary accounts of supernatural occurrences
C. Historical and contemporary growth (a sort of fallacy, but in this case I think maybe not)
C. Personal experiences (incorrigible occurrences)

3. To an outsider, the standards developed by the believer’s reasons for finding R credible appear to make O credible as well.

4. Therefore, the reasons for finding any R credible are all susceptible to charges of special pleading.

One thing that I think that has either not been communicated well, or has been misunderstood, is that the Outsider in the OTF need not be the religious believer. I think the test should consider it a real outsider (a jury), and that the OTF should be thought of as an opportunity to present a case before that jury that will be found credible (beyond a reasonable doubt). Part of the problem, it seems to me, is that in (how I understand) the OTF all the other religions are allowed to present their cases to the same jury. Again, the believer in the OTF is not trying to convince herself that her beliefs are rational, but that a jury, presented cases using the same kinds of standards, would find her beliefs rational given all other competing claims.

I haven’t worked out the details for this, but it seems obvious that the jury would be, to put it mildly, unable to come to any determination beyond a reasonable doubt. And it is the reasonableness of the jury’s findings, not the conviction of each prosecuting believer, that is the one that the OTF asks us to watch.

Papalinton said...

Bob
"But there's no requirement to "explain" the existence of other religions! If they weren't there, there would be no need for the Great Commission ("Go and make disciples of all nations..."). I feel no need to justify their existence, it's just the way it is. I really don't lose any sleep over the issue."

But those religions are indeed there, Bob. they cannot be blithely swept under the carpet. And therefore you remain in active denial about the realities of what drives the other 5+ billions of people on this planet. So much for understanding and ecumenism. Your catholicism has inured you to exercise callous indifference to the varying origins for why other people have differing faith ideals. And your response confirms the exclusivist nature of religious expression. This does not auger well for any form of reconciliation or meeting on neutral ground.

The reason I comment on this site is not that of proselytism, but I am tired of being declared a persona non grata, a person without morality, no ethics, godless therefore untrustworthy. All because i do not subscribe to someone's brand of superstition. I am tired with religions getting in the road of improving the well-being of humanity. Religion is toxic, not because of the bible, but because moderate and fair christians do not have the resolve, the strength, the foresight, nor the courage to slap down the nasties, those that strive to introduce christian sharia at all level of government, or to deal with the charlatans of the Benny Hinn stripe. I am tired of the stupidity and the nonsense, exampled by the teaching of ID as an alternative to evolution in our schools.
I am tired of the nonsense Feser trots out: http://choiceindying.com/2011/08/12/argumentum-ad-verecundiam-2/

Religion must be challenged directly. No more will religion be accepted as a given at face value - to respect its claims, its authority, its boundaries. Religion is just another domain of human culture, not a superhuman one and not even an independent one. Religion is the dependent variable to the independent variables of everyday social and physical reality. It must prove its worth to universally improving human well-being, or get out of the way.

Anthony Fleming said...

Mr. Veale, I think the OTF as John Loftus promotes it is officially dead.

Tony, you wrote, "... it seems obvious that the jury would be, to put it mildly, unable to come to any determination beyond a reasonable doubt. And it is the reasonableness of the jury’s findings, not the conviction of each prosecuting believer, that is the one that the OTF asks us to watch."

Good point. The problem however would be assigning such a case as a jury or criminal trial that does require evidence beyond reasonable doubt. I am not so sure that these instances require such scrutiny to the average person. Why not a civil trial where the judge is making the call?

Anthony Fleming said...

Papa, as far as the multiple religions thing...

If someone were to ask me why I am a Christian I would not answer with an apologetic argument, because it would be a dishonest reason. I believe there are some good arguments for God's existence such as the AfR, the cosmological argument, argument for unconditioned reality, arguments for the resurrection etc etc. However, those are not reasons for my personal commitment to Christianity.

My real reason is that I find Jesus trustworthy and I decided to follow him. While there are reasons that I have for coming to that reason, it is still the central reason for my faith. To disprove my faith then one would have to disprove Jesus.

However, many other religions and faiths do not necessarily disprove Jesus. Muslims feel he is the word of God the same way Christianity does. Christianity also says he is the messiah but so do many messianic Jews. Christianity also says he is the son of God who descended to earth but that isn't much different than the views of many Hindus who hold him as an Avatar. I have also met many Buddhists who claim he is an enlightened one and Taoists who think he was a perfect example of some of their principals.

If I then am to look to other religions about this man whom I trust and follow I see that they have some similar thoughts about him and some different ones. So, in the end I go to the sources closest to him in order to get the best idea of who he is, the gospels.

Anonymous said...

But Paps, you ARE untrustworhy!

You ally yourself with two admitted liars, Loftus and Barker, who, by their own admission lied to their own congregations.

And you smear people on Amazon.

I am thankful I no longer have teaches like you.

B. Prokop said...

"But those religions are indeed there, Bob. they cannot be blithely swept under the carpet. And therefore you remain in active denial about the realities of what drives the other 5+ billions of people on this planet."

But I don't sweep them under the carpet! By no means. I think about them a lot, I've studied them, appreciated the beautiful aspects of them (I have a special affinity with Hinduism, which I regard as the second most plausible religion on the planet.) And yes, it might surprise you to find that I've examined their claims with the same standards as I tore apart Christianity's. And (other than Hinduism) there was no contest - none. The level of credibility was often so low in some cases that it was difficult to use the same word (religion) to describe all the alternatives.

Just for pure amusement (not to be taken uber-seriously), here is my very idiosyncratic ranking of the truth claims of major world religions, after decades of examining them (the order gets pretty arbitrary near the bottom of the list):

Christianity
Hinduism
Yoruba
Buddhism
Judaism
Confucianism
Paganism
Daoism

And here are those with zero credibility (in no particular order):

Islam
Mormonism
Zoroastrianism
Manichaeism
Shintoism
Various Cults
New Age
Atheism

But I most definitely do not advocate making ANYONE a persona non grata solely on the grounds of their beliefs. And I absolutely LOVE living in a secular state. I believe that to be the best of all possible (fallen) worlds. One thing you advocate that I agree 100% with is the need for a level playing field. I am confident that, given a fair chance, the Truth will ultimately "win".

Brenda said...

Randal Rauser - "Everyone should critically introspect their basic worldview commitments with objectivity and care."

This is or should be uncontroversial. It includes atheism and even in my case agnosticism. We should all be able to provide some sort of justification for our beliefs. Even if (or especially if) we reject rationalism and accept "I believe because my father believed". All of that is fine with me. We should all know where we stand.

BUT.... Once we do that and once we examine our beliefs and, presumably subject them to rational analysis, then I think it becomes increasingly difficult to justify some belief systems. Any belief that rejects facts is out.

The OTF simply reflects John Loftus' confidence that if people subject their own beliefs to rational justification they will reject them and adopt his beliefs.

I feel that for most religions if one subjects them to rational analysis most people will either reject them or come to some sort of compromise position. I think that we would all benefit if more people did that. We also all benefit from an environment of free rational debate free from authoritarian pressure.

I reject atheism because I see in them authoritarian tendencies and a willingness to adopt totalitarian solutions to what they perceive as social problems. Modern Liberalism is based on tolerance and I see little tolerance for disagreement among the New Atheists.

In certain atheist circles what I have said above is a radical position that they feel should be rejected. Such a view, in my opinion, threatens our very democratic way of life just as surely as fundamentalism does.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I reject atheism because I see in them authoritarian tendencies and a willingness to adopt totalitarian solutions to what they perceive as social problems.

Wow. Just wow.

Brenda said...

Papalinton said...
I am tired of being declared a persona non grata, a person without morality, no ethics, godless therefore untrustworthy. All because i do not subscribe to someone's brand of superstition.

I think that is a valid concern. I think that everyone should be subject to a benefit of the doubt. I have friends who are Baptists, they are decent people. I do not judge people by their faith. I judge them by their behavior. But I don't dismiss all religion as superstition. I think that is itself an extremist belief.

I am tired with religions getting in the road of improving the well-being of humanity.

I think a perfectly good argument can be made that humanity has benefited greatly by faith. In fact I think that faith, the ability to take the reason why a thing cannot be so as reason why it must be so, as humanities' greatest advantage over other animals.

Religion is toxic, not because of the bible, but because moderate and fair christians do not have the resolve, the strength, the foresight, nor the courage to slap down the nasties

I reject this. I do not believe that religion is toxic. In fact, I think that people who feel they must "slap down" those who disagree with them are in fact the problem.

I am tired of the stupidity and the nonsense

Well then you should work to convince others of the rightness of your beliefs over those of your opponents. How is the New Atheist strategy of being an unrelenting asshole working out? How successful have Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris actually been?

Religion is just another domain of human culture

Religion IS culture. If something is not a fact of the world then it resides in the domain of culture. Religion/culture seeks to give an answer not to matters of fact but to questions of how we should live, what is our purpose, how do we fit in the world. Atheism also seeks to answer these questions and so also resides in the domain of human values. Atheism is not science.

Papalinton said...

"Wow. Just wow."

Ditto.
Unbelievable.

Jesse Parrish said...

Tony Hoffman,

As you've said, it could use some clean-up. Let me know if you have success and we'll discuss it. In particular, the standards you list need to be clearly translated in terms of epistemic merit/degree. Some historical accounts of miracles are more sound - or less obviously bunkum - than others.

Papalinton/BDK,

Ditto ditto ditto. And a good reason I do not use the term `agnostic' in isolation... That sort of attitude is surprisingly common.

B. Prokop said...

Have to agree with Brenda on this one.

Atheism and Totalitarianism have time and again proven themselves to be blood brothers.

Mr Veale said...

Yip. And BDK allies himself with Devils. And Knights.
Knights are dark. They happen when the sun goes down. So BDK means that the blue sky will turn to darkness when the devils of atheism triumph.

(I mean, if everyone else is playing ideological association games, why can't I play a word association game. And don't you dare be so hypocritical as to object to this sort of practice PapaLinton, after endorsing that analysis of Ed Feser's work. You haven't read one of his books. And while I don't agree with much of Feser's analysis, I am horrified that a "serious" thinker who "knows his theological onions" would associate Feser with Himmler and priestly paedophilia. That was at once the most immoral and inept philosophical review that I have read on the web. Shame on you for endorsing it, then criticising someone else for a similar tactic!)

Graham Veale

B. Prokop said...

From "The Power and the Glory" by Graham Greene, Penguin Classics, pp 101-102:

“The wall of the burial-ground had fallen in: one or two crosses had been smashed by enthusiasts: an angel had lost one of its stone wings, and what gravestones were left undamaged leant at an acute angle in the long marshy grass. One image of the Mother of God had lost ears and arms and stood like a pagan Venus over the grave of some rich, forgotten timber merchant.

It was odd - this fury to deface, because, of course, you could never deface enough. If God had been like a toad, you could have rid the globe of toads, but when God was like yourself, it was no good being content with stone figures - you had to kill yourself among the graves.”

Brenda said...

Various said
Wow. Just wow.

Sam Harris - Full throated advocacy of torture, even suggesting new methods of torture so the tender sensibilities of the perpetrator are not harmed. Has also advocated an undemocratic policy of revoking freedom of speech for religious groups.

Richard Dawkins - Believes he and other "Brights" represent an intellectual elite who are naturally superior to others and accordingly should be given special privileges. Has advocated denying professional academic degrees to those who profess religious beliefs.

Christopher Hitchens - Also advocated the use of torture (until he experienced it for himself) and in general has sought to justify (along with Harris) US imperialist aggression in the Middle East. Has given open support for pro-Nazi Holocaust Denier David Irving.

These are just the most prominent of the New Atheists. In my experience I have found that many of the aggressive atheists one can encounter online, people like PZ Meyers, have little or no respect for freedom of speech or religion. The lack of respect for the rights of those who do not agree with them is to me more alarming than other concerns.

I feel that we should preserve the secular neutrality and liberalism of our multi-cultural civilization. Some atheists represent as much of a threat to freedom as any fundamentalist does.

Mr Veale said...

Yes, but what is missing is an account that shows that atheism is sufficient for totalitarianism. I wouldn't even want to make that claim of communism. (Eric Hobsbawm has his faults, but I doubt that he's plotting against the West.)

This is all reminiscent of arguments that Islamic belief leads to violent conflict in a pluralist society. You can find notorious cases where Islamic belief was part of a very complex set of circumstances that led to imperialism or revolution. That is a long way from showing that every form of Islam is dangerous.

(In fact, the only danger that I see in Foucault's atheism is that it might bore someone to death!)

Graham

Mr Veale said...

Brenda

There are certainly very dangerous ideas in New Atheist literature. I'm not sure if Harris really believes half of what he says, or if his publisher just encourages him to be a shock jock.

In the moral landscape he insists in one footnote that atheists are more stigmatised in American culture than Blacks, gays, Jews, Muslims - anyone in fact. Now you have to wonder if Sam is living in a paranoid fantasy, or if the publisher just whispered "go on, Sam, the punters will lap it up!"

He also denies that every human is of equal worth, and says that one day we will defer to experts to tell us what is right and what is wrong. Well, you can safely predict anything if you place it far enough in the future. One day aliens will liberate us from the chains of monotheism. One day we'll use teleportation devices to travel around the solar system. One day Fox News will present the news in a balanced and sober fashion.

In any case, it is disturbing that there is a market for this nonsense. Even if they are all busy at Star Trek and comic book conventions for the time being.

graham

Jesse Parrish said...

Brenda,

"I feel that we should preserve the secular neutrality and liberalism of our multi-cultural civilization. Some atheists represent as much of a threat to freedom as any fundamentalist does."

And I think you'll find agreement with this statement... from most self-identified atheists.

I'm happy to bash Harris and Hitchens over the warmongering. For Dawkins claiming to deny religious people degrees, I would like a reference. For the `Brights' thing, why not read him?

(If arrogance and agreement with approx half of the American polity count as `totalitarian', I don't know what the word means anymore.)

But if you want to talk about support for torture, or the death penalty, ...

No, usually there's no significant difference between the non-religious and the general population.

"These are just the most prominent of the New Atheists. In my experience I have found that many of the aggressive atheists one can encounter online, people like PZ Meyers, have little or no respect for freedom of speech or religion. The lack of respect for the rights of those who do not agree with them is to me more alarming than other concerns."

You could learn how to spell "PZ Myers". You give little to no indication of reading those whom you broad-brushingly indict as totalitarian. You haven't read anything on the difference between `respect for religion' and `respect for rights to religion', have you? I have yet to see the new atheists demand state atheism. They're very `totalitarian' about things like state-sponsored Ten Commandments statues on courthouse lawns, but they're fairly mild about things like `right to worship and assemble'.

Atheists span the political gamut. We have liberals like Myers and Dawkins, and conservatives like Shermer and Harris, and other things like Hitchens. Remarkably, our political divisions have not proven essential, which is rather odd for a totalitarian movement. The fiercest contention I have seen has been over feminism, which is always an absurdly heated discussion on the internet.

And now for your last and most egregious abuse:

"Christopher Hitchens - Also advocated the use of torture (until he experienced it for himself) and in general has sought to justify (along with Harris) US imperialist aggression in the Middle East. Has given open support for pro-Nazi Holocaust Denier David Irving."

Go away. What Hitchens supported was Irving's right to free speech. Weirdly totalitarian, right?

Mr Veale said...

Jesse
A problem that I have with the New Atheism is that it is McAtheism - mass produced nuggets designed for mass consumption. The evangelical church has been playing a similar game since the 1970s.
I've nothing against Big Macs. Morgan Spurlock would have suffered ill health if he had consumed nothing but salad for a month. Food is food, and the body will break it down into fats, proteins and carbohydrates whether it was made by a codon bleu chef or Ronald McDonald.
However, at some stage, we need to eat our greens, watch our fat intake, and enjoy preparing a good meal with friends and family. Man cannot live on McNuggets alone. Now you've more going into your intellectual system than fast, greasy food. So you can enjoy Dawkins and Hitchens with a good conscience.
The problem is that the dust jackets suggest that all we need to do is peruse "The God Delusion" or "Letter to a Christian Nation" to understand atheism. It's a bit like assuming you understand Calvin because you've listened to a Mark Driscoll sermon. We live in a "fast food" culture; and it isn't a great idea for Christians or atheists to say "Supersize Me!"

Graham

Mr Veale said...

So basically, what worries me, is that some of the punters might take the outrageous soundbites seriously.

Jesse Parrish said...

Graham,

"A problem that I have with the New Atheism is that it is McAtheism - mass produced nuggets designed for mass consumption. The evangelical church has been playing a similar game since the 1970s."

Of course I have difficulties with the popularization of atheism. If you've followed my comments, you would probably know my contempt for those who casually self-identify as rationalists without doing the hard work. (No, Bill Maher, believing that the Earth is old does not make you a rationalist, especially when you promote medical quackery.) I think you share my sentiments:

"Now you've more going into your intellectual system than fast, greasy food. So you can enjoy Dawkins and Hitchens with a good conscience."

This is exactly the point I usually make whenever discussing popular New Atheists. They are not the end of the discussion, but perhaps they can serve as the beginning for popular audiences. The cautious building and critique of a secular philosophy is ahead of those who strive for a new weltanschuung.

"The problem is that the dust jackets suggest that all we need to do is peruse "The God Delusion" or "Letter to a Christian Nation" to understand atheism. It's a bit like assuming you understand Calvin because you've listened to a Mark Driscoll sermon. We live in a "fast food" culture; and it isn't a great idea for Christians or atheists to say "Supersize Me!""

I will happily share this criticism. At the very beginning of his Orthodoxy, Chesterton makes a suitable remark:

"Thoroughly worldly people never understand the word; they rely altogether on a few cynical maxims which are not true."

Of course, it's downhill from there, but the spirit of tsuyoku naritai remains.

Jesse Parrish said...

*Weltanshauung

I don't speak German, but I love the words.

Anonymous said...

And I think you'll find agreement with this statement... from most self-identified atheists.

Where? Are they hiding somewhere? Because in my experience, certainly among atheists online, the idea that "atheists" can represent any kind of threat to freedom (or threat at all) is cast as ludicrous on the grounds that an atheist as an atheist has no beliefs and therefore no motivations to speak of.

For the `Brights' thing, why not read him?

The Brights thing is hilarious. Notice how it gets very little airtime among the big-ticket atheists nowadays? It's because it was obnoxious and a bad idea. Though it was probably made worse by the most visible atheists behaving like absolute twerps the moment they had some media spotlight. Calling someone "a bright" at this point would probably be taken more as an insult or mockery. Deservedly.

No, usually there's no significant difference between the non-religious and the general population.

There's plenty of significant difference. It just gets downplayed when inconvenient, highlighted when desired. Then again, 'the non-religious' is a constantly shifting variable for many atheists. Sometimes it means "just people who self-identify as atheists". Other times it means "anyone who is even technically soft agnostic or who has no opinion on God's existence". Usually tracked to whether it's seen as beneficial or not to avow or disavow their membership in the special atheist club.

You haven't read anything on the difference between `respect for religion' and `respect for rights to religion', have you? I have yet to see the new atheists demand state atheism.

Funny. I've seen new atheists argue that they want religious beliefs defined as mental disorders in the DSM, but I suppose "New Atheist" here only means "Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and maybe Dennett if we squint". Of course, Dawkins claims that a religious upbringing (teaching a child about hell!) is more abusive to a child than sexual abuse. Hitchens regards the religious purges in Soviet russia as a bit sad, but probably quite necessary. Harris dances around the idea of killing people because their beliefs are dangerous, and dictating morality (and law to go with it) "scientifically".

Atheists span the political gamut. We have liberals like Myers and Dawkins, and conservatives like Shermer and Harris, and other things like Hitchens. Remarkably, our political divisions have not proven essential, which is rather odd for a totalitarian movement.

Myers said flatly that conservative or liberatarian atheists should be kicked out of his imaginary movement, or at least if they felt like they had to leave because they couldn't support "progressive" or liberal policies, "good riddance".

As for political divisions and totalitarian movements, that's very naive. Because totalitarians never put differences aside so long as they agree on essential points, right?

Jesse Parrish said...

Do I even need to start?

Anonymous said...

Do I even need to start?

I appreciate you adding your offering to the pile of deserved smack-arounds the piss-poor "OTF" has garnered. I appreciate your difficulties with New Atheism/McAtheism. But I stand by my observations.

I could add that believing that Maher is not a "rationalist" would apparently put you at odds with Dawkins. Of course, I seem to remember Dawkins claiming he wasn't aware of Maher's takes on medicine and didn't have much to say even when Maher was receiving some manner of Bright award. Whether that implies Dawkins is clueless or a liar, I leave to others to decide.

SteveK said...

Pap,
>>> So, which is the truth, Bob? The Islamic evidence or Christian evidence?

By your own comment, this is a non-issue for the OTF. You said that rational people can reach different conclusions using the same objective evidence.

So when juror 1 says "guilty", juror 2 says "innocent" and the sum total of all 12 jurors says "we can't decide" (hung jury) there isn't *necessarily* a bias problem or a problem with the rationality of the jurors.

It should go without saying that there is only one answer to the question of guilt. Non-contradiction requires it.

Likewise, there is only one answer to the question of God. The fact that people disagree about the answer is not *necessarily* a sign of bias or irrationality.

You aren't saying it's possible that individuals are bias and/or irrational when it comes to religion (we all know it's possible). No, you and Loftus are saying the test CONFIRMS that religious individuals are biased and/or irrational in ALL cases. Really?

Tests must comport to reality so I have to ask how the test goes about confirming the conclusion? What's the methodology for evaluating the test results?

BTW, you never responded to my comment made on August 12, 2011 9:57 PM. Is that reasonable to you?

Mr Veale said...

It is all too easy for a Theist to think that dismantling McAtheism means that he has dismantled Atheism.
It means nothing of the sort. I'm afraid that I don't have a simple refutation of William Rowe's evidential argument from evil. Now, I think that I have some good reasons for doubting Rowe's conclusion. But I'm fully aware that Rowe wouldn't buy them.

It might irk me that people who are way smarter than me - Jesse and BDK and Thrasymachus, can read and understand apologetic arguments that convince me, and yet remain unconvinced themselves. But that's life. There's room for disagreement.

And as Paul Moser has argued, a Perfect God would not be interested in communicating theoretical information that he exists. He would be interested in transforming people in an existentially and morally challenging way. (Moser tends to talk as if God engaged in a cover-up though. I tend to think that there is publicly available evidence of God's existence.)

So I'm happy to live with the fact that very clever people can read the same arguments that I do and reach different conclusions. To some extent I'm happier . If all there was to theism was the proposition that a personal God exists, it would hardly be worth bothering with. It would be like the philosophical debate over universals. Theoretically interesting, important even. But hardly gripping and life changing.

Graham

SteveK said...

Oops...I should have said:

"What's the methodology for evaluating the test results and can a similar test be made for jurors? I am sure the judicial system would be interested in a bullet-proof test like this. No more hung juries. No more incorrect verdicts."

Mr Veale said...

PapaLinton

I agree that evangelicals do not do enough about Benny Hinn. We tend to fall back on "judge not that ye be not judged" as an excuse for cowardice.
I can say the same about Ken Ham's attempt to build an Ark Theme Park. It's one thing to have an eccentric idea; I'm even happy for you to campaign to promote that eccentric idea. But to take money that could be better used to build a theme park? Come on...

I also agree that there is a lazy connection between atheism and nihilism in the evangelical subculture. This comes from a misunderstanding of the moral argument for Theism. The moral argument works from the assumption that the Theist and the Atheist can agree that there are moral facts that both can agree on. Then the Theist tries to argue that Theism best explains those facts, or that only Theism can explain those facts.
But evangelicals forget that the moral argument only works if Theist and Atheist agree that there are moral facts!!! So if the evangelical wants to use the moral argument he has to assume that the atheist is a moral person.

Perhaps there is a throwback to Locke's suspicion of atheism as dangerous. Maybe he worried that all atheists would end up agreeing with Hobbes. But whatever the reason, evangelicals tend to muddle the moral argument up with a practical argument, which insists that without Theism we will descend into moral chaos. And then they further confuse that argument with the assumption that the individual atheist will approve of moral chaos.

Which is nonsense. You strike me as a very moral person - maybe even an idealist. (Difficult to explain your prose otherwise). This is why I was astonished to see you refer to that horrific and bigotted attack on a Roman Catholic thinker. Especially when you have not read Feser's books.

This is exactly the unfair treatment that you complain about. "You are an atheist" does not mean "you are morally dangerous".
"You are a conservative Catholic" does not mean "you excuse Priestly Paedophilia and remind me of Himmler".

What's sauce for the goose, and all that...

Graham

Brenda said...

Jesse - For Dawkins claiming to deny religious people degrees, I would like a reference.

Should employers be blind to private beliefs?

"I would discriminate against both these religious men [Kurt Wise and Martin Gaskell] if I were on the search committee for a university job, on the same grounds as I gave for my hypothetical examples above. The fact that these particular anti-scientific beliefs happen to be grounded in religion should make no difference. Religious beliefs should never be privileged over other beliefs, simply by virtue of being religious."

---
I have yet to see the new atheists demand state atheism.

Sam Harris - "some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them,"

Atheists span the political gamut. We have liberals like Myers and Dawkins, and conservatives like Shermer and Harris, and other things like Hitchens.

And just as you complain about moderate Christians failure to speak out against fundamentalists so also I think moderate atheists should be criticized for their failure to call out extremist atheists for their anti-democratic totalitarianist views. Oh wait, I *am* a moderate atheist by some reckonings (agnosticism being a middle or moderate position). In spite of the claim that there is no club of atheism, no dogma, Ihave experienced intense fury, hate speech and personal attacks simply because I criticize prominent atheists for their very own words.

What Hitchens supported was Irving's right to free speech. Weirdly totalitarian, right?

He did a bit more than that:

Max Blumenthal at the Huffington Post
"In an article for Vanity Fair in 1996, Hitchens called Irving a "great historian," and argued that Irving's book,, "Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich," deserved to be published by a mainstream publisher. St. Martin's Press had initially agreed to publish it, but backed out when it became a target of protests because of Irving's Holocaust denial and historical distortions. "He wrote a very, very fair account of the controversy [over "Goebbels"] in his magazine and he impressed me by his fairness," Irving said.

Then, in February 2006, after Irving was jailed in Austria, Hitchens published another defense of Irving's "free speech," this time on the Wall Street Journal's op-ed page. "It was very decent of him because it wasn't the popular thing to do," Irving told me.

"And you're still good friends with him?" I asked Irving. "You're still in touch with Christopher Hitchens?"

"Yes, I think it's fair to say that," he responded. "I really don't want to incriminate him.""

Jesse Parrish said...

Brenda,

I know he "did a bit more than that." You could have read the article that I linked; I stand by Hitchens' judgment on Irving. He did nothing, I repeat, nothing to endorse Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism, which is how you presented it.

That's scummy. I know better, and you should too. Similar things have been said about others you, by your phrasings, seem to know.

On Dawkins: Had you read the article, you would have seen this:

"Either you should say, "I don't care whether his beliefs are based on religion or not, they are private and I refuse to take them into account." Or you should join me in saying, "I don't care whether his beliefs are based on religion or not, they affect his suitability for the job, and I am going to take them into account." A law that encourages you to say, "If a candidate's private beliefs are based on religion I shall ignore them, otherwise I shall take them into account", is a bad law."

I happen to have qualms about Dawkins' position, but it was, again, nothing like you presented it. It also had nothing to do with supplying degrees, but everything to do with admitting professors who do not take their subject matter seriously. Which is why I approve of Parsons' decision to stop teaching about philosophy of religion now that he puts no stock in the arguments. Here is what he said:

"I have to confess that I now regard “the case for theism” as a fraud and I can no longer take it seriously enough to present it to a class as a respectable philosophical position—no more than I could present intelligent design as a legitimate biological theory. BTW, in saying that I now consider the case for theism to be a fraud, I do not mean to charge that the people making that case are frauds who aim to fool us with claims they know to be empty. No, theistic philosophers and apologists are almost painfully earnest and honest; I don’t think there is a Bernie Madoff in the bunch. I just cannot take their arguments seriously any more, and if you cannot take something seriously, you should not try to devote serious academic attention to it. I’ve turned the philosophy of religion courses over to a colleague."

Is Parsons a totalitarian as well?

On Harris: I've said before that I have little to say in his defense, but again, you misrepresent.

Should I start on your representation of agnosticism as a `middle ground'? Middle of what, exactly?

Quit with the slanders. Even if they were accurate for these select people, they are not accurate for atheists in general. Quit pretending that by labeling yourself an agnostic you've put yourself in the camp of sunshine and pleasantness.

B. Prokop said...

SteveK writes, "As a religious outsider, if I think the evidence supports the conclusion that Christ was resurrected, then that ought to be enough to justify and explain why I don't think the other religions are true.
Is this reasonable?"

I'm not sure how to respond to this. If you believed in the Resurrection of Christ, you'd likely no longer be a "religious outsider" but a Christian, and therefore an insider.

But to speak to a larger issue, the "truth" of any particular religion is not necessarily a binary, yes/no sort of thing. As you might have inferred by my tongue in cheek list, they lie on a continuum of increasing or decreasing overall reflection of reality. Some are so far off the deep end that there is next to zero correspondence between them and Truth, while others are much closer. I would imagine that even atheists would agree with this idea.

Jesse Parrish said...

Seriously Brenda, read one of your charges:


Then, in February 2006, after Irving was jailed in Austria, Hitchens published another defense of Irving's "free speech," this time on the Wall Street Journal's op-ed page. "It was very decent of him because it wasn't the popular thing to do," Irving told me.

"And you're still good friends with him?" I asked Irving. "You're still in touch with Christopher Hitchens?"

"Yes, I think it's fair to say that," he responded. "I really don't want to incriminate him."


Hitchens has contact! He associates with unsavory types!

I'm not here to give the `New Atheists' - especially Harris - any free pass. I'm not even here to claim that they have an unblemished record. But I don't have to listen to this noise about totalitarianism.

Papalinton said...

Graham Veale
"This is why I was astonished to see you refer to that horrific and bigotted attack on a Roman Catholic thinker. Especially when you have not read Feser's books. "

That horrid and bigoted writer, Graham, is a serious man, a former Anglican priest, who knows his theological onions and makes serious arguments against the fatuity of theologians like Feser.

He brings with him the experience of having been an insider for decades, and understands and can challenge the vacuity of Feser's arguments, which are unabashedly couched in singularly Apologetical theistic terms, dressed up as philosophy [mutton dressed as lamb].
Feser is a theologian first, a man whose whole existence is predicated on the superstition of an extra-natural world replete with malevolent spirits, celestial levitation, satans, and cherubim [first mention is at Gen 3:24], even unicorns [Num. 23:22] and satyrs [Isa. 13:21].
Feser as a philosopher of any standing outside Apologetical circles, is of little value.

[Indeed the bible mentions the existence of unicorns 9 times in the OT. The biblical unicorn was a real animal, not an imaginary creature. The Bible refers to the unicorn in the context of familiar animals, such as peacocks, lambs, lions, bullocks, goats, donkeys, horses, dogs, eagles, and calves (Job 39:9–12.1). In Job 38–41, God reminded Job of the characteristics of a variety of impressive animals He had created, showing Job that God was far above man in power and strength.
Job had to be familiar with the animals on God’s list for the illustration to be effective. God points out in Job 39:9–12 that the unicorn, “whose strength is great,” is useless for agricultural work, refusing to serve man or “harrow (plow) the valley.” This visual aid gave Job a glimpse of God’s greatness. An imaginary fantasy animal would have defeated the purpose of God’s illustration.] Just a little additional side piece of information.

Jesse Parrish said...

I like much of MacDonald's writing, but I have to second Graham here. For all his the weirdness about gayness, Feser is not a moron. When I have more scratch, I plan to get a copy of his Aquinas, and I have much enjoyed his blog.

MacDonald might have carefully separated the `religious' aspects of the philosophy from the quality of the philosophy, as many critics of Feser have done. Instead, he dismissed them as "considered unsuccessful by lots of smart folks" and left it at that. I suppose he gets bonus points for the irony.

No special irony points for the argument from morally distasteful results, but that one appears as well.

I shouldn't have to say anything about the Nazi invocations. But since he supplied something of a defense...

"Someone will tell me that this is an outrageous comparison, but I am not so sure. Of course the scale of the horror is not so great, but is the injustice and the horror any less because it happens only to a few?"

With his examples in mind, yes. The systematic enslavement and destruction of millions is a bit worse than a callous excommunication, callous though it might be.

"I will return to consider Feser’s understanding of the Aristotelian arguments and what Aquinas makes of them in a later post, but I find it a disagreeable and rebarbative task, and for now will think of other things."

That should have been the first task. I think Eric is poisoning the well here.

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

"For all his the weirdness about gayness, Feser is not a moron."

No he is not a moron, and I think McDonald is not suggesting that. But it seems that the defense of the Catholic mythos, founded on tradition, can even make smart people do moronic things with incognizant alacrity

Jesse Parrish said...

Papalinton,

I do not think MacDonald was accusing Feser of stupidity either, but he might as well have done so. Does he expect his audience to take Feser's work seriously after such an introduction?

On the assumption that Feser is not a moron, he may have something interesting and worthwhile to say. His arguments may be worth being stated at their strongest. One might be unconvinced and come away a secularist and materialist, but perhaps a better one.

Instead, MacDonald labeled his work as error and witchcraft. Whether the witch's eyes are green, brown, blue, or black is immaterial; a witch is a witch, after all. Now, at best, the discussion is "let's see where this is nonsense and a threat to your rational and moral soundness," as opposed to "what do we learn from this?"

Are we ready, as commenters at Choice in Dying suggest, to ignore rationalist inquiry concerning the content of the arguments, to focus on the psychology of its proponent? Are popular audiences of atheists already so adept concerning Platonism, Aristotelianism, and scholastic philosophy that we could only be bored by a serious hearing?

Papalinton said...

"Instead, MacDonald labeled his work as error and witchcraft. Whether the witch's eyes are green, brown, blue, or black is immaterial; a witch is a witch, after all."

Another interpretation is that McDonald is presenting his critique in theo-speak, so that the message is not misconstrued by the religiose. You know, about witches and witchcraft etc. These are common elements of the supernatural milieu, intimately known by all theists for the activities that either bring discredit to god or enhance it.

It seems for someone with god on their side, theists are a very touchy lot.

Jesse Parrish said...

Why are we listing other interpretations?

Ok, apparently some samples are in order:

"I have already argued in my last post that the immorality and inhumanity to which Feser’s reason drives him is reason enough to question his arguments. If we are driven by our arguments to believe, for example, that there is a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world and subordinate all others to themselves, then we should go back and look at our premises. But if our premises are highly subtle and disputed claims in the philosophy of logc, as Feser’s are, and if these premises lead us to callous and inhuman conclusions, then we must revisit our premises. This is a moral obligation."

"Such inhumanity surely calls into question the train of argument which leads to it. Having come to this point, surely the philosopher has a responsibility to go back and try to find where the error in his reasoning lies."

Shall we check her eye color?

Odd that for someone trying to translate thoughts into `theo-speak' for the sake of the religious, the contemptible nature of religious dogma is taken as read.

Anonymous said...

Papa, it is funnier than hell that you call theists a touchy lot.

You are the most self absorbed touchy atheist I have seen on these boards.

Anonymous said...

Papa, it is funnier than hell that you call theists a touchy lot.

You are the most self absorbed touchy atheist I have seen on these boards.

Papalinton said...

"Theo-speak"





poe

kbrowne said...

Jesse

I agree that Macdonald’s Nazi comparisons are ridiculous and unjust. But your comment on his comparison is very misleading. You say:

“The systematic enslavement and destruction of millions is a bit worse than a callous excommunication, callous though it might be.”

Macdonald’s objection is not so much that the excommunications themselves were cruel but that they provide evidence of the cruelty of the Catholic Church. People were excommunicated because they did things which, if it had had the power to do so, the Church would have prevented.

The nine year old rape victim who was pregnant with twins was able to have an abortion and the dying woman was able to have a simple operation that saved her life only because there were people who were prepared to disobey the Church. Excommunication was all that the Church could do but, by doing it, it showed what would have happened if obedient Catholics had been in charge.

Mr Veale said...

This is not on a par with the holocaust. However misguided, they were an attempt to stop people killing.
It was McDonald's lazy connection between social conservatism and Nazism that betrayed a horrible bigotry and dogmatism on MacDonald's part.
I'm not sure what demons haunt Mr MacDonald. But he propounded the idea that social conservatism is potentially sadistic, lethal and genocidal. No argument was presented. It was like listening to a street preacher explaining any given national catastrophe by referencing the nation's godlessness and the need for repentance.
I am stunned by this personal attack on a respected teacher and scholar; and horrified that Professor Coyne can endorse and commend this attack. PZ Myers appears positively balanced in comparison.
I had expected some balance on your part Papa. However, you have fallen prey to the same blind dogmatism that allows Benny Hinn to proclaim miracles were there are none, and Ken Ham to build Arks where the rains won't fall. It is the exhilirating feeling of moral certainty and superiority, bought for minimal intellectual effort, that attracts you. Sadly, it's impossible to take you seriously at the moment.
Graham

Papalinton said...

Mr Veale
"It was McDonald's lazy connection between social conservatism and Nazism that betrayed a horrible bigotry and dogmatism on MacDonald's part."

How do you know that?
Isn't social conservatism an identifier of centre-right or the right wing of politics. Isn't Nazism and Fascism also particular aspects of right wing ideology? I thought McDonald's proposition was a reasonable position to conclude just as liberalism is usually determined as aspects of socialism and are posited to the left wing of politics.

Arch right-wing social conservatism is as unhelpful to society as is communism on the left. So your feigned horror about the connection of social conservatism and Nazism is somewhat naive. Political commentators don't have a problem with these levels of parallels. Incidentally, I wouldn't worry too much about Feser. He is big enough and ugly enough to dispense bigotry and dogmatism with the best of them. Remember Catholics have had 2,000 years to hone their skills at bigotry and dogmatism. It is only since the Enlightenment, that golden period of humanity characterized by personal growth and secular reasoning, when religious hegemony was vigorously challenged and cast into the shadows, that atheism/agnosticism has been able to bloom; it remains some 1700 years in arrears of Catholic domination, a veritable David against the Catholic goliath. But things are changing, and for the better, Graham. I am confident a rebalancing of the influence of religion will continue its downward trend in the US to a level more reflective of the demands and needs of a diverse and multicultural community.

SteveK said...

Hi Bob,
>>> If you believed in the Resurrection of Christ, you'd likely no longer be a "religious outsider" but a Christian, and therefore an insider.

I was speaking about the process of becoming an insider - whatever that term actually means, I am not sure. I think this parallels with my analogy of being a juror and reaching a verdict.

I question the use of the term "insider" anyway. Is the juror who reaches a verdict an insider, and what does that even mean?

Jesse Parrish said...

As this post was addressed to me, I should note that I'm not following the thread anymore. Those looking to continue the discussion about the OTF should consult my last post on the same, as cited in the first reply here.

And remember, folks:

WTF, LOL! STFU.

The most sophisticated argument in the universe ever.