Saturday, January 12, 2013

Ridicule, Representation, and the Courtier's Reply: Why Loftus' position is unstable


This is in reply to the Lowder-Loftus exchange. The thread I was responding to is here.

I think you have an unstable position. If people are anything like me, when they hear ridicule, they instantly look for straw men. The more you use ridicule, the more likely your readers, especially those who have been around a little, are going to assume that you are misrepresenting your opponents in order to get ridicule off the ground. If I were to sit here are ridicule evolution, people at this site would immediately start looking for ways in which I don't understand Darwinian biology. So you have to be ready for that. The easy way out of that problem is to use the Courtier's Reply, essentially saying that "Your position is so ridiculous that I don't even have to bother to do my homework and understand it to see how ridiculous it is." Now, you have indicated dissatisfaction with the Courtier's reply, but with the Courtier's reply, you don't have to worry about how accurately you represent your opponent. I suppose it's possible to ridicule something while making a careful effort at representing it correctly, but I have seen only one person come close to doing that, and even he wasn't completely successful. Normally, this isn't done, and so the person whose position is being ridiculed is going to suspect a straw man, and ninety nine times out of a hundred he will be right. I suppose ridicule might persuade a "low information believer," (the equivalent of a low information voter), and I suppose if  you thought the end (of faith) justifies the means, it might be a worthwhile tool. But it strikes me as a dishonest one. As Russell once said in another context, it has all the advantages of theft over honest toil.

But the context here is not exactly the use of ridicule, but the effort to criticize arguments that support a conclusion one believes in strongly. What you seem to be doing in response to Lowder is criticizing him not because his critiques of your argument aren't good, but because he, as an atheist, should be loyal to the cause and not criticize arguments that support your cherished conclusion, atheism. It's like saying to a Christian who has troubling questions "Are you saved? Do you know Jesus? If you were truly born again, you wouldn't be questioning like this." If I hadn't run into Christians who did NOT respond this way to my questions, I might will have ended up believing what you do now.

Fellow Christian philosophers have criticized William Lane Craig's theistic arguments. Suppose you were to find out the Craig had responded to them by saying "Look, you agree with me that Christianity is true, and people need Jesus. My arguments help people see this. You are taking away from the progress of the Gospel when you criticize my arguments, so you shouldn't be doing that." Wouldn't you consider that to be proof positive that Craig was not an honest scholar?

I don't advocate civility in argumentation because it's nice. That's a point that a lot of people miss. I advocate it because incivility is typically correlated with the misrepresentation of opposing views. The correlation isn't perfect, but from what I have seem it's pretty good. So, the more you ridicule my position, the more my straw man detectors will be out in full force.

Relying on ridicule leads logically to embracing the Courtier's Reply. That's why I call your position unstable. 

72 comments:

B. Prokop said...

Victor,

There appear to be two types of ridicule used (at least on this site). The first is essentially a debasing of terminology (e.g., woo, "cracker", parthenogenesis, etc.). We see lots of examples of this in politics as well (socialist, gun nut, teabagger, baby murderers, etc.). The second is indeed very much the deliberate creation of strawmen ("Did your Jesus meet up with Mohammed's horse when he flew into the sky?")

But I don't see how this fits in with your critique of the courtier's reply. What am I missing?

(And remember, you won't get a reply from me until Monday. I'm off the internet on Sundays.)

Dan Gillson said...

Posted this over at the Secular Outpost:

"Loftus' narcissistic "open letter" reads like it was written by a bratty teenage girl: 'Jeffrey Jay Lowder is just jealous because I'm more popular ... blah, blah, blah ... sob, sob ... he's just being mean to me to get more attention ...' I don't know why serious, intelligent people pay attention to him; he's a mutton-head, nothing more."

I have no respect for Loftus. A few years back, I was looking at his books on Amazon. I was reading through the comments of some two- and three-star reviews, and I saw Loftus arguing with the reviewers over what they wrote. "What a thin-skinned prick," I thought to myself. Loftus has since worked very hard to confirm my first impressions of him.

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, I've argued daily with Christians for seven years. I have had to deal with idiots like Dan Gillson, for instance, who has "no respect" for me, none, zip, zada. Whew! That's a lot of disrespect when he has never met me and surely has not experienced being attacked on a daily basis simply because I aim to argue against Christianity, that is evangelicalism. Neither he nor anyone else will brow beat me into doing differently, and neither will Lowder, who is more interested in being liked/respected than in arguing against religion. Imagine that, Lowder wants to distract me away from my goals by debating him when I already know he is as emotionally attached to his argument as any Christian is, and when he hasn't dealt with the full argument in my book. Can you imagine any reasonable person doing this to someone else without an agenda? Let's see Graham Oppy challenge Michael Martin to a debate on some issue. That just does not happen. People don't do that unless they want to prove they're superior or something. Is this a "who has the bigger dick" contest, or something else we'd find in High School? He's a prick, yes, but who cares about size? Lowder needs to read up on cognitive biases, something he'll find in McCormick's book. It's what's lacking in his analysis. Sheesh. I already know he's wrong on the issue and emotionally attached to it. Why must I respond at all to him? Why? What do I have to gain in being sidetracked from my goals to do so? What are his goals?

Here's the deal. I have argued for seven years. I am gravitating more and more to ridicule. Again, I've presented the arguments. Now I'm doing more ridiculing.

Of course you don't like it. But then my arguments didn't convince you so who cares?

Dan Gillson said...

i. Loftus has had to deal with a lot of idiots before, but none comme moi. I am an entirely different breed of idiot whom Loftus has never experienced: multi-lingual, socially fluent, plucky, and generally likable. (It almost sounds like I'm not an idiot, but I suppose that has yet to be decided. I could, after all, turn out to be one. We'll find out at the closure of my story. "Stay tuned for the season finale!")

ii. Humorously, Loftus loses the point midway through the first paragraph, rambling on about penis envy, Lowder, Graham Oppy ... and about being sidetracked. (For the clueless: I put the elipsis is there to highlight the irony.)

iii. Loftus is probably "gravitating more and more to ridicule" because he can't argue. Well, he can't argue constructively: he can dig his heels in and act like a petulant brat, which I suppose is a form of being argumentative, which is kind of like arguing--but he himself can't construct a decent argument; how sad for a man with three masters and some PhD work.

iv. I love how Loftus ends his comment: "Why do you care if I act like a brat?" Well John, we probably care because acting like a brat entails that you act like a brat, something that grownups frown upon.

Dan Gillson said...

I wish that we could edit our comments after writing them. The unnecessary "is" after "elipsis" is glaring menacingly at me.

Mr Veale said...

I think this article is relevant -
http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/the-mgonz-test/

It concludes...

"...here is a little advice for anyone engaged in online debates: run a MGonz test. If your conversation partner is ignoring all your points, and is merely hurling personal abuse, you might as well be talking to a chatbot. Switch the computer off, and do something less boring instead."

Matt DeStefano said...

Loftus is like a petulant child at this point - all of this abuse hurled at Jeff because he was critical of an argument John was making. It's terribly childish, and now he's issuing "challenges" and accusing Jeff of wanting ad revenue (despite the fact that Jeff criticized him on Rauser's blog, and only responded to Jeff after he called him the 'Devil in disguise').

What respect I had for Loftus is quickly vanishing.

Matt DeStefano said...

Oops, that should read "only responded to Loftus", not Jeff.

John W. Loftus said...

Matt, Lowder has not responded to my argument. Comprendo? He has responded to two blog posts of mine. Blog posts. Yeah, that's called scholarship, not! My arguments are in my book. The rest of what I say follows.

Syllabus said...

FYI, "comprendo" means "I understand". The word you want is "comprende".

B. Prokop said...

Loftus’s first posting to this website basically amounts to a white flag of surrender.

First of all, he freely cedes that his arguments have not worked. “I have argued for seven years … I've presented the arguments … my arguments didn't convince

So he can now draw one of three possible conclusions from this:

1. His arguments were no good, and he needs to improve them.

2. His going-in premises were wrong, so ultimately no argument will ever work in their favor.

Or, there’s Number 3, which Loftus did opt for:

3. Argument in and of itself is futile, so he is now “gravitating more and more to ridicule.

John, I think that rather than change your medium, you need a new message. What exactly is your goal here? To feel good? ‘Cause that’s going to be the only positive result of descending to ridicule. And please don’t flatter yourself by imagining that we’re actually bothered by anything you could possibly say (“Of course you don’t like it.”). No, the primary feeling aroused by ridicule is pity – pity for the ridiculer. Ridicule makes the person doing it look stupid and childish. When I note you or Steven Carr or Linton or anyone else engaging in the behaviors I described in the first posting to this thread, I mostly feel sorry for you or them. But certainly not threatened, and by no stretch of the imagination persuaded.

Are you still trying to convince anybody that you’re right and they’re wrong? Because study after study has shown that ridicule only hardens the attitude and opinions of the person on the receiving end, thus ironically working against the ridiculer.

So come clean, John – have you given up here? Because if you haven’t, then I would imagine that the last thing you’d want to do is hurt your own “goals”.

finney said...

Loftus: "...an old respectful atheist). I think Reppert is right. I am the golden mean between two extremes."

Lol that being a respectful atheist is an extreme for Loftus.

Victor Reppert said...

BP: Are you still trying to convince anybody that you’re right and they’re wrong? Because study after study has shown that ridicule only hardens the attitude and opinions of the person on the receiving end, thus ironically working against the ridiculer.

VR: So, failure to recognize this is science denial.

steve said...

Since Loftus keeps whining about folks not responding to the argument, I–for one–have responded to the argument from scale:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/01/was-god-cooling-his-heels.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/01/scalar-arguments.html

steve said...

John W. Loftus said...

"Let's see Graham Oppy challenge Michael Martin to a debate on some issue. That just does not happen."

Unfortunately, that comparison is detrimental to Loftus. There are atheists like Graham Oppy and Massimo Pigliucci with whom it's possible to have a rational debate. That sets them apart from Loftus.

Loftus (along with Hitchens, Dawkins, and Carrier) is vying for the Madalyn Murray O'Hair demographic. Water seeks its own level. For Loftus, that would be the gutter.

steve said...

John W. Loftus said...

“…and neither will Lowder, who is more interested in being liked/respected than in arguing against religion.”

Since Loftus wants to consider motives, let’s indulge him. Loftus, Lowder, and Carrier range along a continuum.

Loftus suffers from an inferiority complex, exacerbated by a midlife crisis. By contrast, Carrier suffers from a superiority complex. Lowder is clearly the most well-adjusted of the three.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

John Loftus wrote:

Matt, Lowder has not responded to my argument. Comprendo? He has responded to two blog posts of mine. Blog posts. Yeah, that's called scholarship, not! My arguments are in my book. The rest of what I say follows.

Either your blog posts summarize the arguments in your book (about the size of the universe) or they do not. If they do summarize the arguments in your book, then I have responded to the arguments in your book (about the size of the universe). If they do not summarize the arguments in your book, then your reply (above) sounds more like an admission that your blog posts rely upon weak arguments than a defense of the blog posts themselves.

John W. Loftus said...

Lowder, you have an agenda. What is it? [This the point where you lie to yourself and others.].

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

John Loftus wrote:

and neither will Lowder, who is more interested in being liked/respected than in arguing against religion.

Huh? That is nonsense. My #1 goal is not be liked or respected. My #1 goal is the pursuit of truth. Much of the time that does lead to my arguing against religion. Occasionally it leads me to criticize fellow atheists, such as yourself.

Imagine that, Lowder wants to distract me away from my goals...

You're not a mind reader, John. Please stop pretending to read my mind and know what I want. For the record, my goal is NOT to "distract" you "away from" your goals.

...by debating him when I already know he is as emotionally attached to his argument as any Christian is,

Let me see if I have this straight. I am a fellow atheist who has criticized some versions of the argument from scale (such as Nicholas Everitt's) while defending another version (Paul Draper's). When I then criticize your version, your response is that I am "emotionally attached" to my argument. What could that possibly mean?

One option is that because I think Draper's version works, I have an agenda to discredit your version. That doesn't make any sense, since defending Draper's version doesn't prevent me from accepting your version also.

I am tempted to conclude that you are projecting your emotions onto me, so that when you describe an "emotional attachment" you are describing yourself. But, unlike you, I don't think I have the ability to read minds, so I am not going to go there.

and when he hasn't dealt with the full argument in my book. Can you imagine any reasonable person doing this to someone else without an agenda? Let's see Graham Oppy challenge Michael Martin to a debate on some issue. That just does not happen.

Yes, I can imagine an entire group of people who do this. They're called philosophers. Even Draper has done this. One of his very first papers, "Probabilistic Arguments from Evil," criticized Rowe's and Martin's versions of the argument from evil before offering his own. But Rowe and Martin didn't throw a tantrum because a fellow nontheist had criticized them in print.

Here's another example: Graham Oppy has publicly criticized Quentin Smith's big bang cosmological argument for atheism. Again, we didn't see Quentin Smith issuing challenges to Oppy or questioning his motives.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

John Loftus wrote:

People don't do that unless they want to prove they're superior or something.

Or if they are interested in truth.

Is this a "who has the bigger dick" contest, or something else we'd find in High School? He's a prick, yes, but who cares about size?

Really? Because I have criticized your argument on a blog, you are now calling me a "prick"?

Really?

Lowder needs to read up on cognitive biases, something he'll find in McCormick's book. It's what's lacking in his analysis. Sheesh. I already know he's wrong on the issue and emotionally attached to it.

I don't think the attempted mind reading is accurate or helpful. Please stop declaring what I am emotionally attached to.

Why must I respond at all to him? Why? What do I have to gain in being sidetracked from my goals to do so? What are his goals?

There is no law that says you "must" respond to me. It's up to you.

Think of it this way. If your #1 goal is to promote atheism and debunk Christianity, then one way to help achieve that goal is to use good arguments and try to avoid using bad arguments. So it is in your self interest to deal with my objections. If I'm wrong, you'll profit from being able to show why your argument works in spite of my objections. If I'm right, you'll profit from being able to modify your arguments accordingly. Either way, both your credibility and the credibility of your arguments will be increased. And that can only help, not hurt, your mission to promote atheism and debunk Christianity.

John W. Loftus said...

Lowder, what is the truth? When will you stop rearranging chairs on the Titanic? Why bother if you know and agree with me on what the truth is?

John W. Loftus said...

Lowder would rather play games than change the world. I am interested in changing the world

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

John Loftus wrote:

Lowder, you have an agenda. What is it? [This the point where you lie to yourself and others.].

I'm going to directly answer your question and then provide some observations.

In direct answer to your question: my "agenda" is to follow the evidence wherever it leads, to the best of my ability.

Now, my observations:

1. Now you are accusing me of being a liar? Seriously?

2. A recurring theme in your comments is the issue of objectivity, neutrality, impartiality, and cognitive biases. I don't think I've commented on those before, so I will comment now. I don't think anyone is perfectly objective, neutral, or impartial, however much they may try to be so. Probably everyone has cognitive biases. So what? I've never claimed otherwise.

3. All of this is a distraction from the original issue: your argument from the size of the universe to atheism. I've posted my objections. Instead of responding to my objections, you've engaged in name calling, questioning my motives, issued challenges, etc. You've damaged your personal credibility.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Lowder, what is the truth?

The truth includes the following.

(1) God probably does not exist and Christianity is probably false.
(2) Your argument from the size of the universe doesn't work.
(3) Relying upon bad arguments doesn't help convince people of the truth of (1).

When will you stop rearranging chairs on the Titanic? Why bother if you know and agree with me on what the truth is?

See (3).

B. Prokop said...

Pilate: "What is truth?"
Loftus: "What is the truth?"

John, you accuse Jeffery of being "emotionally attached" to his argument, but seem oblivious that your over-the-top assault on him is no less emotionally driven.

As a disinterested bystander watching this brouhaha, I have to say that overwhelming majority of emotion being displayed here is on your part.

B. Prokop said...

And as to the so-called Argument from the Size of the Universe, any time an argument can be boiled down to "Heads I win; tails you lose" (as this one does) - it's a non-starter.

steve said...

John W. Loftus said...

"I am interested in changing the world."

You're not alone. Cemeteries contain ambitious atheists who figured they could change the world. In the end, the world stayed the same, but the world changed them–from living atheists to dead ones.

Victor Reppert said...

You don't change the world of ideas by shouting loudly enough, and complaining whenever anyone present an argument against you. If anyone were to persaude me that God does not exist, I guarantee you that that person would be someone who had bothered to think through the case for theism and had bothered to represent the arguments correctly. I know what peer pressure is when I see it, and people like Dawkins and, sadly, yourself, reduce the case for what you believe that peer pressure. Let's all go back to high school and use arguments like "You're how old and you haven't gotten laid? What's the matter with you?"

The way some atheists argue, I just shake my head and say "Boy, even if they had any good arguments, I certainly wouldn't want to become an atheist, because I certainly don't want to end up like that person."

B. Prokop said...

Although I have no dog in the fight between Lowder and Loftus, I cannot say the same for the larger battle between Christianity and atheism. I freely admit (hell, I proclaim) that not only is Christianity true and atheism false, but I also believe that Christianity is a great force for good in the world, whilst atheism is a clear and present danger, not only to society but also to the individual that embraces it. (How's that for a run on sentence?)

That said, I really ought to welcome Loftus's style of argument (or non-argument, since by his own admission he has now rejected argument), as it is so off-putting to anyone not already in total agreement with him. It is scarcely likely to gain new converts to the cause.

Indeed, I would imagine that with every word he utters, atheism is pushed just that much further out of the mainstream of acceptable discourse. Loftus and others of his ilk are to atheism what the Tea Party is to the Republicans - ideologically pure and undoubtedly sincere, yet by their mannerisms and fanaticism, increasingly marginalized. At any moment I expect them to start calling each other AINOs (Atheists In Name Only).

steve said...

On the historical question of whether the Copernican Revolution dislodged man from his "central" place in cosmology and theology:


http://bedejournal.blogspot.com/2009/04/galileo-affair-2-cosmic-promotion.html

http://bedejournal.blogspot.com/2009/07/neo-geocentrism.html

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Here is a link to a paper by a nontheist (Draper) criticizing two different versions of the argument from evil defended by two other nontheists (Martin and Rowe).

John W. Loftus said...

Lowder: my 'agenda' is to follow the evidence wherever it leads, to the best of my ability.

Your cognitive bias is showing Jeff. Better zip up quick before people see. So, you haven't made up your mind yet? You really don't know what to think of the case for Christianity? Really? Join the rational community and come out in force against this delusion. I've written about the case yesterday.

Lowder: You've damaged your personal credibility.

Oh, please, no one who is rational can possible think that my demeanor here can damage anything unless they think ad hominens count for anything. In real life I hang around with a really rough crowd at times, with people who if you saw them walking in your direction late at night on the same sidewalk you just might cross the street.

As to not responding to your critique, I don't need to. You have not responded to what I wrote in my book. You're wrong even though I know I cannot convince you (which is one reason I don't bother). You don't even understand which concepts of God I'm arguing against.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Here is a revised version of my critique of Everitt's argument.

Dan Gillson said...

By "tough crowd," John means people who sometimes ride motorcycles and eat steaks. Puh-leeze.

B. Prokop said...

"You're wrong even though I know I cannot convince you (which is one reason I don't bother)."

Huh? Is Loftus channeling Ilion? are they the same person?!?!?

Syllabus said...

Oh, please, no one who is rational can possible think that my demeanor here can damage anything unless they think ad hominens[sic] count for anything.

... well, yeah, but probably not for the reasons that you think.

B. Prokop said...

Syllabus,

I've been dying to ask this for months. What is your Blogger picture supposed to represent? Is that Dick Cheney?

Karl Grant said...

Bob,

Syllabus' picture is Megamind from the Dream Works Animation movie of the same name.

Syllabus said...

What Karl said. Though that picture of Cheney with the musket would make a thoroughly amusing profile pic...

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

John Loftus wrote:

You have not responded to what I wrote in my book. You're wrong even though I know I cannot convince you (which is one reason I don't bother). You don't even understand which concepts of God I'm arguing against.

I just went to Amazon with the intent of purchasing your book and discovered it is only available in paperback, not on Kindle. Would you be willing to email the chapter to me?

B. Prokop said...

"You don't even understand which concepts of God I'm arguing against."

Ah, I missed that in the original posting. A classic use of the Courtier's Reply, if I ever saw one - textbook, in fact.

Jeffery,

Don't count on getting an e-mailed copy of the chapter. You're horning in on John's income here. I once offered him an even exchange of two books, and he turned me down, explicitly stating that he didn't want to lose the sale!


Victor Reppert said...

It is interesting that Loftus has not addressed the specific arguments I made concerning the use of ridicule, and the connection to the Courtier's Reply.

John W. Loftus said...

I am really surprised by the level of arguments here, even coming from Vic. If this is how believers reason no wonder you believe. Jeff, no, not interested, don't care. I really don't. I probably wouldn't respond even if you did get it and wrote about it because at this point I don't care what you think of it. What I have seen repeatedly over the years is that many Christians haven't seen an argument that supports what they believe they haven't liked, especially coming from an atheist. You do realize this, right? You do see what I see on a daily basis, right? They believe so many things based on fallacious reasoning it makes my head spin. You?

Vic, I did respond. I have earned the right to ridicule your faith:

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2013/01/my-inaugural-speech-on-state-of-case.html?m=0

B. Prokop said...

See, Jeffery? I warned you that you wouldn't be getting the chapter for free. This is Loftus's business. John has an economic interest in making his "arguments" (such as they are). He doesn't care whether or not you are swayed by his opinions, as long as you purchase the book.

Papalinton said...

Ridicule works.
No doubt about it.
Had it not been the case, all attempts at mockery, satire and ridicule would have petered out long ago, with little backwash. However, this has not been the situation. Indeed, the outcome has been quite the opposite. The size of reaction and the pitch of the counter-response from the religiose, particularly towards the 'New Atheists' and the vast and diverse commentary on the web is a clear measure of the effectiveness of the bite of ridicule.

Interestingly, Loftus was of the view that ridicule was fine so long as it was targeted and not overdone. Carrier, on the other hand, is very much of a mind that ridicule does have a big role to play in prizing the theist from his invisible means of support.

Really. In the 21stC how can one not envisage the utter ludicrousness of grown-ups, mature adults with hands together, engaged in a conversation with the voice in their heads. And what's more, to ritualize it into a group or collective performance each Sunday. The incongruity of it is simply dumbfounding.

Couple that with weeping statues of Mary or jesus, or water dripping from their toes, or portraits etched into toast, or the apparent 68[?] real miracles from the 100s of millions of the sick and disabled that have trudged to Lourdes annually in the last century and a half, the thought of any semblance of reality in these scenarios is risible.

Christianity is a ridicule of its own making.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

John Loftus wrote:

Jeff, no, not interested, don't care. I really don't. I probably wouldn't respond even if you did get it and wrote about it because at this point I don't care what you think of it.

Wow. Even Christian apologists have sent me copies of their papers when I have asked for them. But here we have a fellow atheist refusing to provide me with an electronic copy of his chapter.

Here's what I think has happened. I criticized one of your arguments in the combox on Randal Rauser's blog. In response, you have been adversarial with me. You've acted as if my criticism of one of your arguments was a personal attack. You've called me a prick, a liar, and the devil in disguise. You've devoted two entire blog posts to attacking me personally by name, issuing public challenges, questioning my motives, etc. Furthermore, you haven't apologized for anything.

Again, there is no need to be adversarial. I am not your enemy.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Victor -- I like the general point of your post; I had never thought of things in the way you present them. But it makes sense to me.

I have no idea how to write a general principle about this sort of thing, but I do have the belief that there is a time and a place for ridicule. So I'm unwilling to make a blanket statement that ridicule is never okay. But I do think, when it comes to Christianity, that atheists who ridicule mainstream Christian beliefs are fools.

Why? In my experience, those some atheists are the ones who tend to focus on the harms of religion rather than the truth/falsity of religious claims. They tend to have a focus on atheistic outreach, (political) evangelism, or both. Yet they don't seem to get the fact that ridicule is not an effective way to change minds or even just build support from people who disagree with them. In that sense, their ridicule is counterproductive.

Papalinton said...

Bob
"He doesn't care whether or not you are swayed by his opinions, as long as you purchase the book."

You are right, Bob. Indeed, apart from a bit of to-and-fro, both Lowder and Loftus seem not to be particularly concerned with each's perspective other than as a corrective measure of the arguments. And they are both entitled to hold their respective perspectives [excuse the alliteration]. However, there is no succour for the theist in either perspective. Both understand and appreciate, be it from a philosophical POV [Lowder] or a theological POV [Loftus], that the christian mythos, no matter how deep it is personally held, was, is, and remains a wholly-owned derivative of cultural and social development. Any accrual or accretion of supernatural characteristics, features or attributions in the fable is simply undisciplined teleology and agency detection running feral. There is significant and mounting investigatory evidence that currently informs us this is the case.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

You are right, Bob. Indeed, apart from a bit of to-and-fro, both Lowder and Loftus seem not to be particularly concerned with each's perspective other than as a corrective measure of the arguments.

Huh? I'm afraid I don't understand your point or, if I do, I disagree. I asked Loftus to email me a copy of his chapter so that I can better understand his perspective.

Papalinton said...

Jeff
"But I do think, when it comes to Christianity, that atheists who ridicule mainstream Christian beliefs are fools. "

Please enumerate some of the mainstream christian beliefs that are ridiculed, Jeff. I am very interested in your list. By way of example, if you mean the mainstream christian belief characterized in the adage, "Do unto others as you would have them do to you", then historically such an example would be factually, historically and egregiously incorrect. This moral or ethical injunction preceded christianity by millennia. Indeed it was appropriated and exclusively annexed by the early christian writers and promulgated as one of their own making. So this one would not meet the criterion of a specifically christian belief. In point of fact it is the raft of universal humanist sayings, apothegms, aphorisms, proverbs and axioms that shine as a beacon above and beyond, through the drudge of supernatural superstition in the biblical anthology, none of which can be rightly attributed or accredited to the christian belief system. Thou shall not kill, thou shall not steal, thou shall not bear false witness [tell lies] etc etc, are not christian maxims, they are universal humanist maxims, reflecting much of the genetic evolutionary altruism built into our survival module, particularly as they affect and impact on our relationship with close relatives, the group and the clan within the immediate environs. Every group of homo sapiens on the planet were guided by this instinctive pull of clan or group protection survival built into, our genetic make-up. Every group largely expressed these as universally consistent maxims, regardless of group, regardless of region in the world. They would have developed without religion.

So I am interested which of the mainstream christian beliefs you are referring to that are ridiculed. Please enlighten us.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Sure: the resurrection of Jesus, the Virgin Birth, the Incarnation.

Syllabus said...

So I am interested which of the mainstream christian beliefs you are referring to that are ridiculed. Please enlighten us.

Oh boy. This is - quite unintentionally, I'm sure - exceptionally amusing.

Papalinton said...

Jeff
"Huh? I'm afraid I don't understand your point or, if I do, I disagree. I asked Loftus to email me a copy of his chapter so that I can better understand his perspective."

Read the balance of my comment to get the gist. I am saying to Bob, there is little for theists to gain from the argument between you and John. They may be gee-ing you on, and howling down Loftus, but at bottom, whatever it is you have to say, or that John has to say, does not support or improve the theist perspective one jot. Both you and John are committed atheists, albeit with different temperaments and perspectives. So theists bleating or baying for blood in the ringside seats around the two combatants doesn't advance their supernatural superstitious belief system one iota. In the final analysis christianity will largely go the way of all previous religions. That is a clear lesson of historical repeatability. Religions are formed, they develop, plateau, atrophy, and finally fade into the memory of history. It has happened innumerable times throughout humankind's story.

Unfortunately, that is not to say that a new religion capable of capturing people's imagination and able to tap into the strengths and weaknesses of today's human condition, one that is better able to articulate people's concerns, might not one day emerge. We have historically witnessed the emergence of new and vibrant religions exampled by the rise of Mormonism, and interestingly, Scientology, a religion borne out of the halcyon days of alien abductions, space movies, Sputnik, Roswell sightings and alleged top government secrecy, and conspiracy theories abundant during the 1950's and 1960's that provided conditions ripe for a new cosmic focussed religion.

Papalinton said...

Jeff
"Sure: the resurrection of Jesus, the Virgin Birth, the Incarnation."

What are your reasons for characterizing atheists as fools should they ridicule these? Why are these of any special significance that preclude their parodying? You would know that Islam and Judaism have collectively pooh-poohed these beliefs since their very first inception, fabrication and inclusion into the purportedly canonical New Testament we now have. Indeed Celsus, one of the great Greek philosophers of the second century CE wrote a significant polemical treatise on the nonsense of the christian mythos. So the New Atheists are not unique in the annals of history in ridiculing the christian fantasy.

Each one of these are not unique to the christian mythos. The resurrection of dead gods, and parthenogenesis, and the process of incarnation have filled the pages of religion since time immemorial. None of these are uniquely christian. Most if not all comparative study of Religion or History of Religion 101 course will quickly dispel any such notion.

So, I'm not sure there is any valid reason for making such a statement other than a personal need for accommodationism or deference. As an ex-christian, it is my contention that such acquiescence is both misplaced and gratuitous, according these superstitious beliefs a status-in-fact that is unwarranted and unnecessary.

Papalinton said...

Syllabus
"Oh boy. This is - quite unintentionally, I'm sure - exceptionally amusing."

Now we both know what it is Jeff was talking about.

B. Prokop said...

"Huh? I'm afraid I don't understand your point."

Join the club, Jeffery.

John W. Loftus said...

Jeff, I understand you better than I’m letting on. I was once stuck in the mode you are for years on end. I just moved on. You and a former team member at DC, exapologist, appear to have the same attitude/approach I once did. I can do that too. I can have a discussion for discussion’s sake, and it’s not beyond me to do it again on occasion. I just think it’s a waste of time now. The case is closed. Christianity is a delusion through and through. Either you think that or you don’t. If you don’t then we are at odds with each other. Either you think evangelicalism is bad or you don’t. Either you think faith is bad or you don’t. I do, and I’m going to start focusing on these topics on my blog. We are also at odds when it comes to the value of philosophy. I only have respect for a scientifically informed one so I will not grant things to theists for the sake of argument whereas you will. So more often than not I’ll ask them to produce the evidence before granting them something. You grant too much. You also want the respect of philosophers on both sides too much, whereas I don’t care. Everyone wants respect, me included, but I know what I doubt, and that means more to me than the respect of people who grant too much, or who are scientifically uninformed, or who don’t think faith is bad.
There is no biblical basis for the theology that philosophers are respectfully discussing. Since Yahweh doesn’t exist (and never did) Christian theology is a house of cards. I go for the jugular vein of their faith. I don’t dance around it to gain respect. Christians love it when you meet them on philosophical grounds. They hate me for going directly for the jugular vein, claiming like I do that their faith has no more warrant than Scientology, but that’s what I do, and that’s what I think. I have produced the arguments too. They also hate it when I point out how badly they argue for their faith, and I have done that. But I don’t care.

John W. Loftus said...

--continued--

Now along you come feigning the typical attitude of someone who wants to help, not hurt our cause. “Let’s beef up Loftus’s arguments by showing which ones are effective and which ones aren’t.” I already know some of my arguments are not effective, even though I don’t know which ones. We all use fallacious arguments and don’t realize it. I don’t think I’m wrong about the scale of the universe though. And I don’t think you can criticize two blog posts of mine like you did. But this does not adversely affect my over-all case, even if you’re right. My case is cumulative.

I do, however, consider you an enemy of my goals. We are at odds with each other. You are on the wrong side of history. To show this I would like for you to defend any given argument for Zeus. Go ahead. Grant a few things and then show why any given argument against Zeus is a bad one. You won’t do it, will you? That’s because Zeus is a dead god, just like Yahweh died. Now we have Anselm’s God. He too will die. So unless you can give me any reason to think faith in Anslem’s God has more going for it than faith in Zeus, or faith in any god, or faith at all, I’m not interested in reading what you have to say about the scale of the universe. You are granting too much in making your argument.

John W. Loftus said...

--continued--

There’s something else. Given cognitive biases, and given that in some ways I am a lightning rod for attacks from Christians this will only reinforce to the deluded mind that I don’t know what I’m talking about. It will reinforce to them that I can be dismissed and ignored. Is that what you want? That’s what I abhor about what you’re doing. If you wanted that chapter from me you could have emailed me, but you didn’t. You put it here publically, like a challenge. Now there’s your public answer. You are not worth my time, that is, until you join the rational community who has decided, like I have, that Christianity deserves no respect at all.

When you join the rational community then you will stick to those arguments you think do work. This includes persuasion techniques (and using ridicule) as Stephen Law has suggested. After all, human beings may be so bad at reasoning that persuasion is all that matters. We are not like Spock. Not one is. Far, far, from it. Christians jump on statements like these from me but this is the case about human beings. This is who we are. And it’s most emphatically the case with them. They were never argued into their faith so they cannot usually be argued out of it either. No, rather they were persuaded to believe by the circumstances of upbringing and the likability of a significant person in their lives. Based on this propensity of ours, I argue that anything can be believed and defended, anything. That’s why I argue against faith itself. None of us have any right to be sure we are correct in that which we affirm (as opposed to that which we doubt). Science is the only antidote to this propensity, and science has spoken on the matter. Faith itself is an unreliable process for gaining knowledge. Therefore the Christian faith, qua faith is a delusion for childish people. Doubt is the adult attitude.

For the record Jeff, I’m placing this on Vic’s blog, a bastion for Christians who hate me, rather than on my blog. I may use an excerpt though.

B. Prokop said...

"a bastion for Christians who hate me"

John, nobody here hates you. Pity you, yes... but hate? No way.

Is this projection? Do you hate them?

John W. Loftus said...

B. Prokop, do you pity Jeff Lowder too?

B. Prokop said...

"B. Prokop, do you pity Jeff Lowder too?"

John, I only know you through what you've posted to DI over the years. But from what I've seen, I can safely say that you appear to be (judging solely by your own words) not only totally in error in your most fundamental conclusions about what is true, but also completely wrongheaded in your approach to the Big Questions of Life. You seem less delusional than, say, Linton, but share his predilection toward debasing dialog through ridicule. You are far less delusional than self-styled Christian "Ilion", but at times you both share an almost identical debate style. Is that how you wish to be known?

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not offended by ridicule. My main reaction is to feel sorry for the one doing it. This is genuine advice here. If you truly wish to get others to think the way you do (and I hope they never do), you will never get them to do so by the use of ridicule. I guarantee you, all you will accomplish is to cause people to harden their opinions against what you have to say. This has been proven time and again by political consultants to candidates. What ridicule does accomplish is to "fire up the base" (e.g., when President Obama used the word "Romnesia" in his speeches, it's not likely that a single potential Romney voter was converted to the cause, but it served to motivate someone already supporting Obama to actually vote.)

I really shouldn't be giving you this advice. Because to be perfectly honest, as things stand right now, you are one of the most effective voices against atheism out there!

Walter said...

This is genuine advice here. If you truly wish to get others to think the way you do (and I hope they never do), you will never get them to do so by the use of ridicule.

I agree with Bob one hundred percent (and that doesn't happen often). Mockery simply makes people dig in their heels. Ever run across a person who strongly believes in a flat earth? Laughing at them will get you nowhere if your goal is to convince them that the earth is indeed a sphere; you need to show them they are wrong, not just point a finger while giggling. Or you can just walk away while shaking your head.

Point being: if you are truly interested in changing minds then reasoned discussion is going to be far more productive than sarcasm. And yes, there will always be some who will never see things your way, in which case you simply move on. I was once a Baptist Fundamentalist myself. You can bet that I didn't change my worldview because an atheist horse-laughed me. Bottom line for John and Linton: you guys are shooting yourselves in the foot.

John W. Loftus said...

Jeff, do you really want to be liked by people who reason so badly? Do you?

B. Prokop said...

"Jeff, do you really want to be liked by people who reason so badly?"

What a fascinating insight into someone's mindset. The question presupposes that John actually does not want to be liked by people who think differently than himself. He doesn't just want to disagree with them - he wishes for their hostility!

Going further, one might wonder whether the wished-for feeling is reciprocal... This would explain the over-the-top attacks on Jeffery (who is, after all, a fellow atheist) for his daring to question one of John's arguments.

I can't read John's mind, but I can read his posts. The personal attacks on motive and character, the avowed (even proud) use of ridicule, the eschewing of rational argument (His words, not mine! "I have argued for seven years … I've presented the arguments … my arguments didn't convince ... [Therefore] I am gravitating more and more to ridicule."), and the overall demeanor of his general presentation - all point to a deep-seated interior anger (?at what?), which is likely the ultimate cause for his disastrously wrongheaded outlook on life.

And he's worried about other people reasoning badly? John, never have the words, "First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye" had such applicability as here!

Dan Gillson said...

Really Loftus, the only person with a reasoning deficiency here is you. Your writing jumps to conclusions more often than a high schooler's, it exhibits poor logical development, and it demonstrates little to no fluency in contemporary philosophy.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

I wrote a comment that ended with this:

"Again, there is no need to be adversarial. I am not your enemy."

In response, John posted no less than four (4) comments. His response may be summarized as follows.

(1) Jeff wants to have discussions for the sake of discussions.
(2) If Jeff does not agree with John that Christianity is a delusion, then Jeff and John are at odds with each other.
(3) Jeff and John are at odds about the value of philosophy.
(4) Jeff wants too much to have the respect of philosophers on both sides.
(5) John already knows some of his arguments are not effective, but he doesn't know which ones.
(6) Jeff is the enemy of John's goals.
(7) Jeff's public criticisms of John's arguments will reinforce in the minds of Christians that John can be dismissed and ignored.
(8) Therefore, Jeff is John's *personal* enemy, i.e., Jeff deserves to be called a prick, a liar, the devil in disguise, etc.

Is that a fair summary of your position, John? I disagree with (1)-(7) and could respond to each of them, but I am more interested in understanding why you think I deserve to be the target of your verbal abuse.

John W. Loftus said...

Jeff, you silly enabler, as I said, you're not worth my time.

Papalinton said...

Jeff
You have yet to respond why it is foolish for atheists to ridicule mainstream christian beliefs. I still await your response.

Jeff, you may be convincing yourself you are pursuing the truth, but it is becoming clear that your 'truth' is ery much focussed on the structure of the argument rather than the content or the substantive nature of the knowledge. In a later blog on Victor's you note:
"Since Victor has redated his post, I'm going to take this as an opportunity to provide links to my objections to Everitt's argument. See here and here. [January 14, 2013 5:56 PM]
Jeffery Jay Lowder said...
Here is a link to the latest version of my critique of Everitt's version of the argument from scale. [January 15, 2013 3:49 AM]"
[Does size matter?]

It seems not only has Loftus been the focus of your corrective arguments, but now Everitt, and many others in previous times, including The Uncredible Hallq, and no doubt many theist philosophers. A very clear pattern is emerging that your objections and criticisms to arguments is, as I contend, not about the content or the knowledge base, but rather, the structure or line of argument; argument for the sake of argument. I think Loftus has pretty much hit the button on the nose in his comment:

"We are also at odds when it comes to the value of philosophy. I only have respect for a scientifically informed one so I will not grant things to theists for the sake of argument whereas you will. So more often than not I’ll ask them to produce the evidence before granting them something. You grant too much. You also want the respect of philosophers on both sides too much, whereas I don’t care. Everyone wants respect, me included, but I know what I doubt, and that means more to me than the respect of people who grant too much, or who are scientifically uninformed, or who don’t think faith is bad."

I am reminded by Krauss, 'The Universe from Nothing" [p 2185 Kindle Version: Pp. 172-3(?)]:

"These issues [God, Jesus, resurrection , the universe etc etc] have been debated and discussed for millennia, by brilliant and not-so-brilliant minds, many of the latter making their current living by debating them. We can return to these issues now because we are simply better informed by our knowledge of the nature of physical reality. Neither Aristotle nor Aquinas knew about the existence of our galaxy, much less the Big Bang, or quantum mechanics. Hence the issues they and later medieval philosophers grappled with must be interpreted and understood in the light of new knowledge."

It is not that I am saying you debate philosophy within this perspective, but there is little doubt religionists do so with ignorant alacrity. A quick read of Feser's website will very much illuminate the notion of 'going back to basics' of Thomist scholasticism rather than 'forward to fundamentals' of contemporary philosophy, and especially, scientifically-informed philosophy. The conjunction with and synchrony of philosophy and science, is without doubt the process with the greatest level of explanatory power available to humanity. Anything else is just icing.

To date, your post-commentary and subsequent apologia for your actions have insufficiently convincing.

You would do well to bring forward McCormick on your reading list. Much of what has been discussed here are placed in illuminating context that places in such stark contrast the nature of reality as we are currently informed and context in which the christian mythos was constructed and propagated over the centuries.

Ryan M said...

John, wouldn't you think that Jeff, as a clearly bright skeptic, would actually be worth your time purely for advancing the case against Christianity? Surely you don't want to just talk to Christians on your own. I figure that even though Jeff agrees with you that Christianity is probably false, it would still be wise to take the time to have skeptics like him understand your positions better so you can gain a helpful ally.

John W. Loftus said...

Okay Ryan, sure. I basically meant that this particular topic is over as far as I am concerned. It's not worth my time continuing in it. I think I've said what I wanted. With the case for Christianity so bad it's hardly worth the time spent on an ineffective argument.

Steven Carr said...

REPPERT
Fellow Christian philosophers have criticized William Lane Craig's theistic arguments.

CARR
Well, we always knew there were things wrong with Craig's arguments.

Even his fellow Christians say so.