Saturday, March 17, 2012

A dialogue with Articulett on Debunking Christianity

A: Think of a religion that you think of as harmful or cult-like-- Think of how you see that religion. Do you think members of those faiths could benefit from understanding how you (an outsider to that faith) see their faith? Do you think of your non-belief in that faith as being subject to the OTF as well? If not, why do you think non-belief in your religion does?

V: If there is an Outsider Test that works, then it has to work for all propositions. My belief that thetans do not exist would have to be subject to it, but I am not terribly worried.

A: Aren't all babies born without supernatural beliefs until cultures indoctrinate them? --hence non-belief is the default position!

V: Are you kidding? Babies don't make a natural-supernatural distinction, so it's not the case that they start by filtering out beliefs on the grounds that they involve the supernatural, until Mommy and Daddy take them to Sunday School.

A: Do you have a better method for getting people to look objectively at their supernatural beliefs?

V: People should scrutinize all their beliefs. If you believe that a Miracle Diet formula will make you lose weight, that belief should be questioned, even though the makers of the formula are not literally claiming that it works via supernatural causation.

A: If not, why should anyone care that a religionist thinks the OTF is "epistemologically flawed"?

V: Good epistemology is good epistemology, and bad epistemology is bad epistemology. Whether the person doing the epistemology is a believer or an unbeliever is irrelevant. But, again, you're not listening. I said that the OTF is flawed only on some construals.

A: You have a vested interest in protecting your faith; you imagine your salvation hinges upon doing so. Moreover, you think "faith is good" and that your god hands out extreme punishments to doubters.

V: This is a world-class example of circumstantial ad hominem. It is also a straw man. I've said over and over again that I'm an inclusivist with universalist sympathies.If I became a nonbeliever, and it turned out that Christianity was true after all, I wouldn't be automatically damned. Why do you insist on putting words into the mouths of Christians?

A: I think you are fine with believers in other faiths using it... you just don't want to think about the implications it has on your own faith. It's your faith that is "epistemelogically flawed", Victor. You believe in a god who demands that you believe in the right unbelievable story or be punished forever. Moreover you are told this god is good and that you must worship him. This makes your belief as flawed as a Muslim's-- more flawed even... they don't need to try and make sense of a 3-in-1 god or pretend that believing in such a being is monotheistic!

V: I think everyone should consider the positions they hold from perspectives outside their  own. That goes for Christians, atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, Scientologists, Muslims, Republicans, and Democrats.

14 comments:

unkleE said...

You are an admirably honest and persevering person, Victor. I can't imagine I would have pursued the OTF half as long had I been in your position.

The more I observe atheist vs theist debates/discussion, the more I think both sides are biased towards finding arguments to support the conclusions they already have come to - that's human nature. Whether we use an OTF or not, that is still likely to be our tendency.

Hoping some structured 'test' will keep people honest is vain (it clearly hasn't prevent proponents of the OTF from continuing with their biases and dodgy claims, just as it doesn't seem to have changed many theists' views), and I would far rather trust someone like you simply saying that you try to be honest and review your beliefs.

Internet atheist/theist debates seem to be moving into 'new-speak' territory, with apparently reducing attempts to remain fair minded and based on evidence. (Exhibit A are the Jesus mythers who are forced to call the whole academic study of NT history a conspiracy because it doesn't conclude as they would like; exhibit B are the conflict thesis proponents who likewise see a conspiracy when the medieval historians don't conclude the way they want either.)

Rationalism ain't what it used to be unfortunately, and the responses to you ongoing discussions of the OTYF seem to confirm this.

I hope that's not too provocative, but these are thoughts I've been mulling over for quite some time, and I criticise many people on both sides. Best wishes.

Nick said...

'You believe in a god who demands that you believe in the right unbelievable story or be punished forever.'

Victor has expressly stated, on numerous occasions, that he doesn't believe this. And anyway, if he did, that would at least prove it's not 'unbelievable'.

As for the OTF - historically, the default position of humans is some kind of theism. Agnosticism isn't the default position unless you're 'indoctrinated' into a scientistic, positivistic, naturalistic, materialistic worldview.

Re babies - if babies really are agnostic or atheist because they're not indoctrinated into supernatural beliefs, then the best outsider perspective isn't that of a modern secularist - it's that of a baby. (Try Zen Buddhism?) But if a baby's agnosticism/atheism isn't a positive belief (e.g. 'I believe it is not the case that there is a God') but simply a lack of any positive belief in God (it is not the case that the baby believes in God) then the agnosticism/atheism of a baby is the same as the agnosticism of a teacup, boating hat, or plaster of Paris statuette of Sir Thomas More - an absence of positive beliefs.

There is no absolute 'outsider' perspective available to any human in a position to be interested in adopting an outsider perspective, any more than the perspective of a teacup is available to us. The best we can do is test our own beliefs by provisionally adopting viewpoints antithetical to them.

kilo papa said...

"Faith: No one word personifies the absolute worst and most wicked policies of religion better than that. Faith is mind-rot -- it's a poison that destroys critical thinking, undermines evidence, and leads people into lives dedicated to absurdity. It's a parasite that's regarded as a virtue. I speak as a representative of the scientific faction of atheism here -- it's one thing we simply cannot compromise on. Faith is wrong, and at the same time faith is a central tenet of just about every religion on the planet. We can't ignore that -- that's the thing we are interested in fighting."--P.Z. Myers

Victor Reppert said...

"I am not asking anyone to believe in Christianity if his best reasoning tells him the weight of the evidence is against it."

Myers has to distort the understanding of faith to get the result he wants.He isn't paying attention.

Cole said...

As someone who suffers from shizo-affective disorder perhaps someone can tell me how the OTF leads one to believe in talking donkys, visions of beasts, etc. These are the types of things I'm trying to get away from. People who believe in things like that need to be on medication. It's been my experience when I'm off my medicine that the stronger I believe something the more real it becomes. This is what led to my delusions. This is why Christian teaching can be so dangerous to people like me. Belief in demons and such. I must now reject all hocus pocus beliefs to keep my sanity and live my life. I believe in myself. I am not perfect but I still have worth as a human being. I must love myself. Only then can I love others from a position of power and not insecurity. If there is a Creator then He's clearly not involved with His creation. This is easily seen when a baby human gets ripped to shreds by a bear. It can also be seen in my life. It's not until I started believing in myself and loving myself that I started to get confidence. Taking this love to others from a position of power instead of isecurity only reinforces my self-esteem. It's a humble self-confidence. The Bible tries to get people to doubt themselves and lower their self-esteem so that they turn their life over to God and let Him manage it for them. In such a position of insecurity people become emotionally crippled and never grow up. I believe that one must learn to take control of their life so that they can grow up. For some like me this involves taking your medicine and doing other things that are not self- destructive. If the OTF leads someone to believe in talking donkys then there's something wrong with it.

steve said...

Harvard child psychologist Robert Coles has investigated the religious life of children. It's not all indoctrination:

http://being.publicradio.org/programs/2009/robert-coles/transcript.shtml

Jason Pratt said...

Cole,

Personally, I find it easier to believe in talking donkeys really happening to 'other people over there' than really happening to myself!

But from experience, I don't really recommend much religious belief to people who already have inherent medical problems with hallucinations and otherwise collapsing fantasy with reality. Modern people find it difficult enough to believe (except whenever it's convenient) that persons can truly contribute any behavior beyond what non-rational, non-moral, automatic natural reactions and counterreactions and random quantum fluctuations would produce.

But I am against any philosophy, whether theology or atheology, naturalism or supernaturalism, that reduces sanity to a collection of automatic epiphenomena. Believing that one's self is an illusion is as mentally unhealthy as believing one's self is the reality of which everything else is an illusion.

A metaphysic that encourages you to believe in yourself but not too much in yourself, is a good place to set up one's mental bases (so to speak).

Such a metaphysic is also notoriously hard to parse out (unfortunately), when it comes to details. How much belief in yourself is too much, and why?--how little is too little, and why? There are subtle yet important shades of detail and degree either way.


Anyway, it's important not to beg questions uncritically in any direction. There's something wrong with the OTF if it leads to talking donkeys and there are no such things as talking donkeys. But there's also something wrong with the OTF if it leads to no talking donkeys when talking donkeys, like talking monkeys (if not for quite the same immediate reasons), are possible after all. And then relatedly, there's something wrong with the OTF if it leads to too many talking donkeys. Or to not enough talking monkeys.

(John Loftus has had a habit in the past of denigrating human reasoning capability at a fundamental level, when the implications of the characteristics of human reasoning look too problematic for his philosophy. The implications of the existence of talking monkeys can be very unsettling sometimes. {g})

JRP

Cole said...

Thank you Jason for a very kind and intelligent response. I acknowledge your position and I promise to weigh it carefully.

Papalinton said...

Victor
"Myers has to distort the understanding of faith to get the result he wants.He isn't paying attention."

That's theo-speak for, " Myers deduces that the concept of 'faith', as the religiose perceive it, has been Apologetically opinionated out of existence, the result of which the religious connotation of 'faith' has forfeited any and all transferable value or worth outside the world of theism.

To speak of a 'person of faith' now, is typically a pejorative descriptor for one holding eccentric, aberrant or bizarre ideations of netherworld entities that are physically capable of intruding, interfering, and influencing the lives of those in the natural world across the highly dubious and irresolute notion of a natural/supernatural divide.

It is more a reflection of the believer that isn't paying attention, unaware of the shifting ground beneath his/her feet, of the community that increasingly looks askance at this historical fanciful conjecture so existentially dependent on the capricious vagaries of 'faith'.

No distortion from Myers, I'm afraid. Just plain and straight talking that the religious cannot bare to hear. Superstitious woo is superstitious woo, no matter how it be dressed up in tradition.

Eric said...

"No distortion from Myers, I'm afraid. Just plain and straight talking that the religious cannot bare to hear. Superstitious woo is superstitious woo, no matter how it be dressed up in tradition."

Pap, suppose I said, "Scientific theories are just theories, and we all know that you have your theory of something, and I have mine. As Papalinton once said, 'who accepts this One Truth nonsense,' so don't go telling me that your theory is somehow better than mine. Now scientists try to tell us that they mean something different when they use the term 'theory,' but look at the sorts of definitions you find in dictionaries: 'speculation'; 'an unproved assumption'; and so on. So the scientists are obviously cherry picking the definitions that suit their desires. But we all know what the term 'theory' really means, for we all use it each day: 'Did you hear about what so-and-so did?' 'Yes, and here's my theory...' So a theory is pure speculation, no matter what scientists say, and no matter how they try to dress the term up in pretty words."

Now Pap, that's obvious nonsense, but it's precisely what you're doing.

Papalinton said...

Eric
"Now Pap, that's obvious nonsense, but it's precisely what you're doing."

No Eric, that is not what you think I am doing. I am demonstrating the paucity of theist arguments by continually referring back to wearisome Apologetical works that blight the fields of philosophy, history, higher criticism of biblical studies and even theology.

I am trying, hard as I might, to demonstrate that a polymathic approach will have a far more substantive impact in understanding and the development of knowledge than the restricted and narrow approach of placing all your eggs in the one theistic basket. Do do so only leads to a skewed perspective of reality. You must, you are required to draw on evidence, findings, proofs from the widest sources of knowledge one can, from sociology, from anthropology, philosophy, general science, physics, biology, the suite of neurosciences, history, archeology.

To resort or default back to compromise the particular and unique offerings of these areas of research, by only assessing their worth through the lens of christian theism is an utter game breaker.

As for theories being only speculative, no need for the grandiose heights of the Empire State Building. Climb to the roof of your closest 6 story building. Now, step out off of the roof to test whether the Theory of Gravity is just a theory. And when you've done that .... Oh! That's right. You would have posthumously discovered that the theory of gravity is indeed not 'just a theory'.

If you are queazy about heights, inject yourself with the H5N1 Bird Flu. This should confirm the concept of the 'Germ Theory'. Try the Ebola virus if your feel lucky in testing your proposition that "Germ Theory" is just a theory.

Germ Theory - All About Viruses and Bacteria:
"Germ theory is one of the greatest discoveries in microbiology. Discovered by Louis Pasteur, it proved how sicknesses like strep throat, tuberculosis, and E. coli were caused by small macrobiotic organisms and that sickness did not just appear in blood or was caused by filth.

Read the following for a more comprehensive brief: http://aboutviruses.weebly.com/germ-theory.html

Eric, foolish people say the most foolish of things. Don't wear your foolishness on your sleeve.

Doug Benscoter said...

With respect to babies and atheism being the default position, I think this is a lot like saying that "acalculus" (a rejection of calculus) is the default position. After all, babies don't believe in that, either. Now, if someone wants to say there are good reasons to believe in calculus, but not good reasons to believe in God, then they're begging the question. We simply turn the discussion back to whether there are good reasons to believe in God.

Eric said...

"No Eric, that is not what you think I am doing."

Pap, I'm the world's foremost authority on what I think. Perhaps you meant something else?

"am trying, hard as I might, to demonstrate that a polymathic approach will have a far more substantive impact in understanding and the development of knowledge than the restricted and narrow approach of placing all your eggs in the one theistic basket. Do do so only leads to a skewed perspective of reality. You must, you are required to draw on evidence, findings, proofs from the widest sources of knowledge one can, from sociology, from anthropology, philosophy, general science, physics, biology, the suite of neurosciences, history, archeology."

Pap, are you under the misimpression that theists reject anthropology, sociology, neuroscience, etc.? There are prominent theists in all these fields, you know.

As far as 'understanding reality' goes, I'm reminded of this quote from Chesterton: "The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand. The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid."

"As for theories being only speculative, no need for the grandiose heights of the Empire State Building. Climb to the roof of your closest 6 story building. Now, step out off of the roof to test whether the Theory of Gravity is just a theory."

Let me get this straight: You think that theories of gravity are concerned with *whether*, say, I would fall to the ground from such a height, rather than *explaining why* I'd fall from such a height? Wow. As usual, the internet atheist, playing the role of the defender of science, demonstrates that he doesn't know the first thing about it.

That basic error on your part aside, you didn't actually address my point about the use of the term 'theory' in the scientific community vis-a-vis its use in general, and how this affects your inconsistent approach to the term 'faith' as Christians understand it. You seem to have foolishly taken me to be saying that we should understand the term 'theory' according to its acceptation when referencing scientific uses of the term, and hence you attempted to refute this notion. But what you missed (somehow) is that this is where *your* reasoning (if I may call it that) about the Christian use of the term 'faith' leads if we apply it to other terms, like the term 'theory.'

Papalinton said...

Eric
"Pap, are you under the misimpression that theists reject anthropology, sociology, neuroscience, etc.? There are prominent theists in all these fields, you know."

They do. You will never see an article where a Feser or a Plantinga will refer to science or anthropology, or the neurosciences to substantiate any of the myriad of claims in the bible. Or more correctly, theists like yourself, will only use those aspects for which there is even only a the smell of a connection [Big Bang supports Genesis 1] or positive correlation to believer woo, while rejecting the vast majority of their findings that demonstrate a negative correlation with religion.

You will never read from these 'prominent theists' anything from their field that substantiates any of the truth claims of christian theism that has opened up any new area of investigation worth pursuing. Behe tried it, Dempski tried it; not one iota of even a possibility for serious consideration in biology or cosmology circles. Haldane and Polkinghorne tried it in terms of their fields of science. Only in religious circles have they engendered any excitement. In scientific circles? Not even a ripple. The god hypothesis aborted itself during the Enlightenment. Any attempt to resurrect it ever since has been nothing short of comedy. Try as bible crazies might, there is no gap left into which a god can be wedged.
To note there are "prominent theists in all fields" is simply an exposé of those that are emotionally and psychologically incapable of divesting their brand of woo. Religious scientists leave their god at the door of the laboratory. You will never find a god in a petrie dish.

"As far as 'understanding reality' goes, I'm reminded of this quote from Chesterton: "The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand. The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid.""

Today, this is the heralded mantra of the New Age movement, a Spirituality movement that has risen in the final decades of the 20thC. Chesterton would be right in his element alongside Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Rhonda Byrne, James Redfield, and Wayne Dyer, amongst many others.

All I can say about the 'secrets of mysticism' comes form Elbert Hubbard, American philosopher: "A mystic is a person who is puzzled before the obvious, but who understands the nonexistent."
No better epitaph could apply to Chesterton.