Monday, July 30, 2012

Loftus Challenges P. Z. Myers

Here.  Actually, I think Loftus occupies a position somewhere between someone like Lowder and people like Myers.

44 comments:

cl said...

Here's the really funny line:

Compared to him I'm a voice of reason.

Pure hypocrisy from Loftus. Loftus, too, is abrasive and calls name. Loftus, too, bans dissent. Loftus, too, uses rhetoric.

Vic, why would somebody like yourself say Loftus falls somewhere between Lowder and PZ? On my view, Loftus falls maybe a rung or two beneath Lowder on the "Gnu Atheist" scale.

But, maybe you know something I don't?

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Okay, I'll bite. What is the "Gnu Atheist" scale and where have you placed me?

Crude said...

Actually, I think Loftus occupies a position somewhere between someone like Lowder and people like Myers.

Good God. No.

Lowder's actually rather intelligent and sincerely polite, even though I think he bullshits at times. Myers is an idiot, and he's a living joke when he tries to be inspiring - but he's got a track record of entertaining a large group of people.

Loftus? Loftus is intellectually mediocre. He's on par with the average Cultist of Gnu comment boxer in all ways.

He's got a rotten personal track record, hitting every note from "launched a fake blog to attack his opponents" to "tried to engage in photoshopping his opponents to mock them" to tantrums to worse. He engages in some dead obvious schtick - remember when, if you didn't review his book, you were terrified of it (otherwise you'd read it), but if you did review it you were terrified of it (because that's why you read it, and claimed the arguments were weak)?

I used to call Loftus the Jim Bakker of atheism, but I eventually realized that's not accurate. Jim Bakker was a wild success at his con, for a while.

Crude said...

By the way, let's look at the first lines of his post, because it shows another typical Loftus move. Reformatted.

I've been critical of PZ Myers for five principled reasons:

1) he doesn't understand the mind of the believer,

2) he treats people who disagree as if they are morons,

3) he's a divisive force within the ranks of atheism,

4) he panders to the younger baser type atheist audience, and

5) he doesn't much value the contributions of people like me who deal with Christians on their own terms.


Alright, let's see.

1) First, "the mind of a believer" is vastly more diverse than Loftus seems to realize - see theistic personalism v classical theism v panentheism v otherwise. But insofar as evangelical Christianity goes, it's pretty clear Loftus is rather hobbled in 'understanding' that either.

2) Loftus does this himself, repeatedly. Here's a favorite quote from Loftus, back when he was doing poorly on Freethought Blogs: It’s not just the utter buffoons I’m talking about, which are many, but all of them. Christians are illogical and delusional. This I know, after spending years in my own delusion and after years of dealing with them since my deconversion. How can they be so deluded, I ask myself? How can they be so dumb?

3) I'd say "so is John" in that various atheists and agnostics have criticized him and his arguments in the past, but this one slides. What with John not reasonably being called a "force" within the ranks of atheism. (By the way, quick question. Atheism, I've heard this guy insist, is the lack of belief. How the hell does one cause division among people who are unified only insofar as they lack a belief?)

4) So? What's this a statement of, other than jealousy because Loftus is incapable of doing this, much as he wishes he could? Remember, he left Freethought Blogs largely because he was a failure there. And he measured failure, in part, in terms of whether or not he could make money or at least get attention.

5) And there's the usual one. "Myers doesn't think highly enough of me!", in other words. The guy should realize that it's not just Myers, it's most people, for reasons already made clear.

What we're seeing here can be better summed up another way: Loftus thought he was going to be the next Big Thing with Internet Atheism. It never materialized, and chances are it never will. PZ Myers, however, got all the attention and money Loftus thought he'd get, if only he redoubled his efforts. Worse, Myers launched "Freethought" Blogs, crowding John's voice out even more. So you've got all this envy driving him, plus one more bit: envy on the grounds that Myers has a better beard.

Sad stuff, John.

BenYachov said...

I will say this in defense of Loftus.

At least he doesn't steal Eucharists from Catholic Churches. So whatever his personality flaws at least he is not a thief. Unlike Myers.

BenYachov said...

Oh and Loftus when it comes to Atheist apologetics he is a bit of a one trick pony.

He can't give anything more then an Atheistpolemic against Fundamentalism. Nothing sophisticated beyond that.

unkleE said...

" What is the "Gnu Atheist" scale and where have you placed me?"

I dunno about a Gnu atheist scale - I dislike that term - but you are one of the atheists I have a deep respect for. I have read a few of your writings and found them uniformly thoughtful, fair-minded and courteous. Thank you. I can say that about few other internet atheists - or christians.

"Pure hypocrisy from Loftus. Loftus, too, is abrasive and calls name."

Unfortunately, the same could be said for many christians - especially in comments sections. It is all to easy to do.

Victor Reppert said...

I think someone is further on the New Atheist scale if they are dogmatic, and just assert the atheist talking points without considering what might be said on the other side. They also make no effort to dialogue with believing opponents. Lowder is the exact opposite, deeply committed to the process of argumentation, recognizing that argument has a life of its own and that doing an honest job with that is more important than scoring points.

Loftus tries to engage believers, but still keeps up the ridicule that is the trademark of the New Atheists. Now, I don't think this is a stable position. You can't put persuasion ahead of argumentation and then expect to engage people on the other side.

soku said...

Lowder is about as far from a New Atheist as I can imagine, FWIW.

cl said...

Ah, damnit. My apologies, Jeff. I meant to say that Loftus falls a rung or two beneath MYERS on the scale.

As for you, Jeff, Unkle E summarized my opinion best: "you are one of the (few) atheists I have a deep respect for. I have read a few of your writings and found them uniformly thoughtful, fair-minded and courteous. Thank you."

Again, my apologies Jeff. You are so reasonable and chill that you're not even on the Gnu scale.

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, if you want a civilized discussion of the issues that separate us then come over to my blog. For some reason I cannot fully understand the people who comment here are no different than the ones who comment over at PZ's blog, hate-filled, spiteful people. They are no different than the Triabloguers, people I have nothing but disdain for. You cannot say that about the people who comment on my blog, at least, not as much by far. The reason is simple. Because I treat people with respect for the most part. You know this. I set the example.

To anyone who disagrees then show me the evidence. Since I know they cannot do this I won't bother coming back to see if they try.

In some sense, like PZ Myers, you pander to the Christian side just as he panders to the atheist side.

John W. Loftus said...

Tell ya what Vic, do the same poll of your readers that I did. See if your readership compares. I'd be really curious.

Crude said...

Because I treat people with respect for the most part. You know this. I set the example.

What a load of crap!

What you do, John, is selectively act nice when you think you can get something, then whip around and act like a punk when you don't get your way or you've already gotten what crumbs you were after.

To anyone who disagrees then show me the evidence. Since I know they cannot do this I won't bother coming back to see if they try.

Already provided a chunk in this thread. Go ahead, John. Ask me to provide the evidence of your amazon antics, your fake blogging, your insults (Remember the whole insult over Victor being a professor, and your disgusting jealousy over that?). I probably won't be the only one.

The scraps I provided in this thread alone speak against you. Do you honestly think you're going to achieve any amount of recognition just by being the 'the atheist who disses Myers'? Keep at it, man. I think Myers is an absolute sham, but at least he can entertain his flock. You can't even manage much of that.

And as for 'see if your readership compares', Victor's blog is by and large a place where he links to other blogs, or offers maybe a paragraph of commentary now and then. It's clearly a place where he spitballs ideas, or just sketches out brief opinions. He doesn't pretend to be the new wave of Christian apologetics.

By the way, any bets on whether mister 'I'm not going to be coming back to this thread' will, in fact, do so? It's not like we've not seen that freaking act a hundred times.

cl said...

Loftus,

"To anyone who disagrees then show me the evidence."

Gladly, John. To begin, here is my entire series on how "respectful" and "reasonable" you and your commenters are. Great stuff. Since you're so rational, and so about evidence, I challenge you to read it and formulate a reasoned response. Double dare ya.

"Vic, if you want a civilized discussion of the issues that separate us then come over to my blog."

Your blog? Civilized? Get real! You condone comments like this:

Just who in the bloody hell do you think you are, you Christian piece of garbage, to come here barking out orders? You're an arrogant, condescending piece of shit. You seem to think you're an intellectual of sorts, when all you are is a Christian who's read a few books. John, everyone, this really is the limit. BR, I'm more than a little annoyed that you continue to engage him. I'm out of here. I have better things to do than to waste my time with these cretins. -Cipher [source]

I could easily provide 10 more comments that are just as "civilized" but I think readers can get the point.

"...the people who comment here are no different than the ones who comment over at PZ's blog, hate-filled, spiteful people. They are no different than the Triabloguers, people I have nothing but disdain for. You cannot say that about the people who comment on my blog, at least, not as much by far."

Patently false. See above.

"...I treat people with respect for the most part."

Right, by calling them "delusional," "idiots," "pigs," "stupid," and "fucking idiots," just to name a few. You have the audacity to say *WE* are "spiteful" and "hatefilled," yet, who writes stuff like this:

"How old are you CL? I'd guess you have not yet experienced much life. I'd say you were under the age of 21, too young to be here. I don't give a damn what you think of me of my deconversion at all. You're too stupid to realize that regardless of it you must deal with the arguments in the book. They are leading people away from you faith. []"

"I'm tired of having to deal with the likes of cl. When I do it's like wallowing in the mire with a pig. But now that he's gone there will come another fucking idiot on his heels at DC, probably in a week. [John W. Loftus, February 17, 2011 5:41 PM]"

Perhaps most hilarious of all,

"Since I know they cannot do this I won't bother coming back to see if they try."

Convenient, but, is it rational to put the cart before the horse? Oh well. I don't mind. I've presented quite a bit of evidence for a quick five minute post, and I think it speaks for itself.

rank sophist said...

Loftus is such a hypocrite.

cl said...

rank,

Add to that unaccountable. An accountable person, a person who was actually interested in truth, wouldn't simply declare, "Nobody can provide the evidence" and then scamper off back to his echo chamber. Really, this is downright immoral and intellectually dishonest (and I don't throw that accusation around often but in this case I stand by it until shown otherwise).

Crude said...

cl,

Add to that unaccountable. An accountable person, a person who was actually interested in truth, wouldn't simply declare, "Nobody can provide the evidence" and then scamper off back to his echo chamber.

Not only that, but it illustrates another problem with Loftus: he is a fumbling figure at best. He knows what his own past is. He knows we're aware of it. He knows we'd enjoy airing it given the chance.

But he apparently thought denying not only the reality, but the existence of *evidence* of his behavior, was a smart move.

As I've said - he's been a pretty marginal figure as an atheist, not because of PZ Myers or most of the other reasons he assigns them to. He's been marginal because he's really not that impressive, despite a lot of effort. It's sad more than anything.

physphilmusic said...

cl,
that reply of yours (at July 30 8.02 PM) is seriously one of the most effective exposures of hypocrisy I've ever seen on the internet. Congratulations. I'm literally laughing out loud.

John, I think it would be better for you to go down the "This rudeness is justified" track rather than "I'm not rude at all!" track. The latter has been shown to be too easily debunked.

finney said...

Great minds discuss ideas. Medium minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people. - Eleanor Roosevelt

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

unkleE, Victor, soku, and cl -- Thank you very much for the kind words. They are very much appreciated.

cl -- No worries. I didn't take offense. My initial reaction was confusion; I had the feeling I wasn't understanding your point.

Victor Reppert said...

John, I get attacked personally every time I go on your blog. Even when I bring up logical points that don't really decide the issue between atheism and Christianity, and are not apologetical arguments, I get attacked and put on the defensive. One person brings up the "answered prayer" argument when it is not germane to the topic at hand, another says somehow my arguments can be ignored since I consider myself saved because of what I believe (this in spite of the fact that I'm not a soteriological exclusivist, so I don't believe that I would be necessarily damned if Christianity were true, but I stopped believing it). I am sometimes told that I don't deserve the degree that I most certainly earned by completing sufficient course work and getting a dissertation through a committee.

It would be an interesting question as to whether the Outsider Test for Faith could be developed as a dissertation topic and passed through a committee.

On this blog I present material that is opposed to what I believe. Everyone here who posts on a regular basis disagrees with me about some significant issue. There are no "Reppert dittoheads" here, whatsoever.

cl said...

physphilmusic,

"that reply of yours (at July 30 8.02 PM) is seriously one of the most effective exposures of hypocrisy I've ever seen on the internet. Congratulations. I'm literally laughing out loud."

Thanks! The said thing is, John's faithful can't see the light. I'd be much more gratified if Loftus would simply come back and tackle the evidence he declared "doesn't exist."

Doug Benscoter said...

Vic and Jeff, would you two ever consider doing a formal written debate on God's existence? I think we'd all be edified by your contributions. I'd be happy to moderate, even though it probably wouldn't be necessary.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Wow! I'm flattered by the invitation. I haven't studied Vic's arguments enough to debate him, though I have on my proverbial "to do" list to read his book, study the argument from reason, and read the secondary literature on it.

Doug Benscoter said...

Glad there's some interest! I really think the two of you could put together a reasonable and charitable debate. As you mention, Vic's book C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea, is a great start if you're unfamiliar with the argument from reason. In addition, though, is Vic's contribution to the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, dedicated to the argument from reason.

Jeff, if I understand correctly, your arguments usually deal with the problems of suffering and divine hiddenness. Is that correct?

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Doug -- Thanks. I tend to focus on the arguments physical minds, evil, and divine hiddenness.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

"arguments" should be "arguments from"

Doug Benscoter said...

Cool. The book I'm currently working on includes responses to the problems of suffering and divine hiddenness. There's also a chapter dedicated to the argument from consciousness, so that might be interpreted as a response to arguments from physical minds.

BenYachov said...

>Because I treat people with respect for the most part. You know this. I set the example.

Groucho Marxs once said it's all about sincerity once you learn how to fake that you have got it made.

Dude your skills at faking sincerity and humility are rubbish. Pure rubbish.

Just saying.

Kierans said...

@Doug I'd like to read that book when you're done. The argument from evil is in my humble opinion the strongest anti theist (Christian) apologetic. I'm currently interested in reading theistic material that addresses this issue.

B. Prokop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Prokop said...

"The argument from evil is in my humble opinion the strongest anti theist (Christian) apologetic."

Au contrare, the Argument from Evil is actually one of the strongest in favor of theism. Acknowledgment of he existence of evil is predicated upon recognizing a standard independent of the purely material world, by which to judge events within that construct. Just as an umpire cannot be on one of the teams playing the game, you cannot judge anything as "evil" solely from within the universe. It requires something else.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

B. Prokop:

Au contrare, the Argument from Evil is actually one of the strongest in favor of theism. Acknowledgment of he existence of evil is predicated upon recognizing a standard independent of the purely material world, by which to judge events within that construct. Just as an umpire cannot be on one of the teams playing the game, you cannot judge anything as "evil" solely from within the universe. It requires something else.

I really wish critics of arguments from evil would stop using this objection without (at least) acknowledging the obvious rebuttal.

B. Prokop said...

That's all 'ya got? If that's the "obvious rebuttal", then I can safely claim victory and go home.

The atheist using the Unjustified Suffering Argument is doing nothing other than changing the terminology while failing to rebut anything. Instead of the dreaded word "evil" we now have "unjustified". But once again, unjustified by what standard and according to whom? I fail to see how such word-switching can possibly pass muster as any kind of rebuttal.

If the material universe is All There Is, then everything is as it should be, and there exists no grounds upon which to either justify or not justify anything. In fact, the very words have been drained of meaning.

Jeffery, this is a Show Stopper. You will exhaust yourself chasing imaginary rabbits down non-existent holes trying to get past this without acknowledging an objective external standard of judgement. As long as everything is internal to the system in question (the material universe), you can never get past the stumbling block of relativism.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

B. Prokop:

The atheist using the Unjustified Suffering Argument is doing nothing other than changing the terminology while failing to rebut anything. Instead of the dreaded word "evil" we now have "unjustified". But once again, unjustified by what standard and according to whom? I fail to see how such word-switching can possibly pass muster as any kind of rebuttal.

With all due respect, you've completely missed the point of the rebuttal. I'll quote it here for your convenience.

AE may be understood as a challenge to the internal coherence of a theistic worldview. An AE can be understood as saying something like the following:

Look. You theists believe that X, Y, and Z are evil. You theists believe that God is good. You theists believe that good persons are opposed to evil. So you theists need to explain why a god who is good (in your sense of 'good') would allow so much apparently pointless evil (in your sense of 'evil'). If you can't explain it, then that is a problem for the internal coherence of your worldview.[15]

When AE is understood in this way, it doesn't presuppose that there are objective moral values.


If the material universe is All There Is, then everything is as it should be, and there exists no grounds upon which to either justify or not justify anything. In fact, the very words have been drained of meaning.

This confuses atheism with materialism. I don't think there are any supernatural beings, but I don't believe the material universe is all there is. I'm open to the existence of abstract objects.

cl said...

Jeff,

I think you're right. However, if the atheist in question truly believes that God allows "evil" to persist while simultaneously denying the existence of objective morality (evil / good), therein lies the problem: the atheist in question contradicts his or herself. The belief that God truly allows evil is at odds with a belief that there is ultimately no evil.

Don't'cha think?

B. Prokop said...

"This confuses atheism with materialism. I don't think there are any supernatural beings, but I don't believe the material universe is all there is. I'm open to the existence of abstract objects."

This sounds an awful lot like wanting to have one's cake and eat it too. It also smells of consternation at having to go past the brink. You know damn well what's out there, but are holding back at the precipice. Please, please, let it be something comfortable and undemanding like "abstract objects". There's no way that something like that will ever force me to reexamine my life, to acknowledge that there's something (Someone) that/who is rightfully worshiped, that might actually make demands on me. But most of all, please, please, please don't make me join up with those insufferably smug, self-congratulatory, narrow-minded Christians. That, I could never stand! I'd much rather stay far clear of such, and instead stick with my more humble atheist crowd, who only self-deprecatingly describe themselves as enlightened, rational, scientific, modern, clear-headed, more intelligent than the ignorant masses, fearless, the Wave of the Future, and of course Free Thinkers (no herd mentality for us!).

(I will be moving further comments to the thread above this one.)

cl said...

B. Prokop,

"This sounds an awful lot like wanting to have one's cake and eat it too."

Yeah, I tend to agree with you on that point. It seems to me this is just a game of semantics. Why can't God be an "abstract object?" That sort of thing.

Zach said...

People here often conflate vulgar materialism and atheism. You an be an atheist but not a vulgar materialist. It is quite common among philosophers who think about math, morality, and mind. Prokop actually seems to get offended by this perfectly consistent, often elegant, position for ill-thought-out reasons. I don't go there personally, but I certainly don't see it in the pernicious psychological terms that Prokop frames it. How very queer.

Such over-personalizing of arguments has run rampant at this blog. A true pity.

cl said...

Zach,

"Such over-personalizing of arguments has run rampant at this blog. A true pity."

I think there's some merit to that, but, didn't you just over-personalize the principled distinction you attempted to draw? Did you have to poke at B. Prokop? I guess what I'm saying is, if over-personalization is something you see as a negative, why engage in it yourself?

I don't mind the personal element to arguments. After all, they don't occur in a vacuum, but in the minds of people.

B. Prokop said...

Me, offended? Heavens, no! My chief emotion here is one of pity.

Doug Benscoter said...

Kierans, I agree that the argument from suffering/evil is the strongest atheistic argument, at least on an emotional level. I think the logical version is easily refuted, which is the version I'll be discussing. The various evidential versions of the argument are more complicated and may require more than the 5-6 pages I'm dedicating to each chapter. The book is just meant to be an introductory text to natural theology.

For what it's worth, even if the argument from suffering were successful, it would only show that God is not maximally great. It wouldn't show that atheism is true.

Kierans said...

Since I started this, I'd better weigh in a bit more ;p

Doug: "I agree that the argument from suffering/evil is the strongest atheistic argument, at least on an emotional level."

This is true, and I agree with Bob and others who have offered their viewpoints on the issue. However as Doug has identified there is an emotional component to the problem, that needs to be addressed in any successful discussion of the problem of evil. It's not enough to say to the atheist "evil proves God exists" if they are suffering due to the consequences of evil doing. This is because to someone suffering, God's existence doesn't easily answer the question of why he allows evil. Recent examples of atheists going down this track is Loftus' posts on the "Batman shooter", and the argument that because God didn't stop such evil "his inaction shows he doesn't exist". This is essentially "divine hiddenness" which Doug mentioned he will be touching on in his book.

Doug Benscoter said...

Kierans, you're absolutely right. This is why theists typically divide the problem of suffering into two categories: intellectual and emotional. I can argue all day that God has morally sufficient reasons to permit evil and suffering, and that may satisfy the intellectual element of the theist's response. However, the emotional element cannot be ignored. Philosophy, while a good in its own right, cannot take the place of spiritual counseling. The latter attempts to deal with the emotional aspect. I'm not a counselor, just a philosopher/theologian. My responses to the problem of suffering will be strictly intellectual, so I can only encourage those who are struggling emotionally with their suffering to seek the advice of a spiritual mentor.