Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A bad grade for pro-life advocacy

Here. 

HT: Bob Prokop

38 comments:

Cal Metzger said...

Let's see, no mention of which college in Florida. No names of professor, or attempt to provide the professor's side of the story, no follow up on the "severe repercussions," etc. Just a bunch of incredibly artificial sounding quotes, like, "because I I don’t agree with your opinion and you are wrong” and “well I don’t care. I won’t give you a good grade if you do it on that” and “call it what you want but I’m warning you."

Yeah, sounds totally believable to me. Really puts to bed once and for all the characterization that believers are pretty gullible and eager to be duped....

Crude said...

Haha. Sure Cal, because if there's one thing internet atheists are known for, it's their lack of gullibility, and their love of showing the 'alternate side of the story'.

By the way, at this point are you even capable of talking about 'believers' without letting your emotional angst go on display for all to see? Or is chimping out 24/7 just one of those things you have no self control over anymore since the mere discussion of theism triggers you?

planks length said...

Crude,

We've come across Cal's like before. Remember Skeppy? He somehow thought it was his duty to post something, anything, to whatever some believer had to say. He simply couldn't help himself. In a similar manner, Cal fancies himself to be some sort of a crusader, fighting a lonely battle against the Forces of Obscurantism and Reaction.

Go easy on him, man! Without his comments here, all Cal would have to look forward to is staring at the four walls of his mother's basement!

Miguel said...

Well, why did God allow it?

Checkmate, theists

Crude said...

Planks,

Cal's smarter than Skep. Which makes part of this frustrating - he should know better. But instead we have to go through these instinctive fury-swings with little provocation, which really seem to partly be just a matter of 'Honestly has no other idea how to interact on this topic'.

Legion of Logic said...

I tend to sort of side with Cal's first paragraph, as I was unable to independently verify any details - names, locations, etc. It could be true, or not.

But the gratuitous insult to theists...*facepalm*

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "But the gratuitous insult to theists...*facepalm*"
Victor (in a comment in the post previous to this): "Sometimes atheists are so gullible."

Not gratuitous; earned.

Crude said...

Not gratuitous; earned.

He said, snarling ruefully at the memory of whatever altar boy pissed in his cheerios at some point. It makes imagining the freaking fedora that much easier.

John Moore said...

But seriously you guys, the linked post lacks important information. Nobody should just accept what people say on the Internet, or in the traditional media either. We should insist on some fundamental journalistic standards, or we should just dismiss these kind of reports. It's irresponsible to link to something like this that only raises questions and spreads unsupported rumors.

In addition to the basic facts that Cal Metzger pointed out, I want to know what is being done about this. Does the student have legal support? Is there some organization trying to investigate? Will the school issue a statement?

Anyone who cared about academic integrity would have to dig deeper into this issue. You can't just toss out a link and say "Here" when there are so many unanswered questions.

Victor Reppert said...

On the one hand, I think the questions about the story are worthy of consideration. However the report doesn't seem to be anything too surprising.

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "On the one hand, I think the questions about the story are worthy of consideration. However the report doesn't seem to be anything too surprising."

The problem is that when you adopt an attitude that basically say, "Well, maybe the story I posted doesn't hold up to scrutiny, but it doesn't matter because we all just really know that this is what's going on ALL THE TIME," then it's harder to take legitimate claims of this kind of abuse seriously in the future.

From my perspective, what's NOT surprising is that apologists will grab ahold of and circulate anything that feeds into their persecution complex. And that desire to play victim, and smear one's opponents, is precisely what's wrong with much of academia today. So, I'd think you'd want to avoid keeping that company.

Victor Reppert said...

Oh, please, everyone is an apologist for something. You're an apologist for atheism.

Teachers of various stripes can be dogmatic and use the power of the grade to enforce their ideological views. And it's wrong.

Here is what a student said in Boghossian's class:

"I wrote what I had to ‘agree’ with what was said in class, but in truth I believe ABSOLUTELY that there is an amazing, savior GOD, who created the universe, lives among us, and loves us more than anything. That is my ABSOLUTE, and no amount of ‘philosophy’ will change that."

The words I want to focus on are the words "I wrote what I had to to agree." That is one sentence I hope NO student of mine has ever said or will ever say. And I have never heard it from anyone.

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "Oh, please, everyone is an apologist for something. You're an apologist for atheism."

I understand an apologist to be one who tries to defend the reasonability of the unreasonable. As atheism is not an unreasonable position, I can only be bad at explaining the process that leads to atheism, but I could never be "an apologist for atheism." I understand that you disagree, but that's my position, and you certainly haven't convinced me otherwise.

VR: "Teachers of various stripes can be dogmatic and use the power of the grade to enforce their ideological views. And it's wrong."

I agree. But this is really only a problem when there are no objective standards about the thing being taught. That is why we tend to see dogmatism where the arbiters of what is correct are the judgments of people, and not standards which exist separately from those judgments.

VR: "The words I want to focus on are the words "I wrote what I had to to agree." That is one sentence I hope NO student of mine has ever said or will ever say. And I have never heard it from anyone."

Hmm. As a teacher, it's pretty much your job to communicate the material upon which there is agreement. And to justify that agreement by consistently exercising and teaching those processes that have revealed those facts (objective, reliable, and verifiable) about which there is agreement. So, honestly, I can think of few more worthless classes than one in which a teacher doesn't expect the students to leave with an understanding of not just the facts, but about why we should agree with them. That's called education.

Still, I have to ask -- how would you distinguish between students who took a course on Geology and wrote what they thought about what they had learned, and Flat-Earthers who took the same course but only wrote to agree with was said in class. Are the flat-earthers welcome in your class if you taught geology, and would you pass them if they didn't agree with you?

In other words, don't you agree that sometimes a student's resistance to certain ideas is just a reflection of that student's old-fashioned stubbornness, ignorance, and close-mindedness?

Victor Reppert said...

A student in a geology class is expect to learn the theories and work within the theories. One can, for example, do perfectly good evolutionary biology and be a young earth creationist. I would want students to know why geologists think the earth is round, or why geologists think there were long geologic periods. I would make sure students understood that why geologists don't accept flood geology (tight stratification of dinosaurs in the Jurassic level suggests the existence of a Jurassic period, for example). I don't think I would even ask if a student actually personally believes in flood geology. I would just make sure they understood anti-flood geology.

The view that God put fossils in the ground to fool the scientists is perfectly compatible with the evidence. It doesn't leave you with a very nice picture of God, but you can go there.

Whether, for example, people think that matter exists is not relevant to the study of theories of matter. There are Hindu physicists who think that, in the final analysis, matter is maya or illusion. That in no way keeps them from being perfectly good physicists.

B. Prokop said...

"I understand an apologist to be one who tries to defend the reasonability of the unreasonable."

Dictionary definition of apologetics: "reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something" (my emphasis)

"As atheism is not an unreasonable position..."

HA, HA, HA, HA, HA, HA...!

"Flat-Earthers"

Hmm.. according to even the Flat Earth Society (which one would think had a vested interest in inflating their numbers) only 189 people in the entire world today believe in a flat earth. Straw man argument anyone?

Jezu ufam tobie!

Victor Reppert said...

Sorry, but Cal has a highly tendentious definition of the word "apologetics" which does not fit common usage. If you let definitions slide around, you get in trouble.

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "I would want students to know why geologists think the earth is round, or why geologists think there were long geologic periods."

But, after teaching them all the geology you know, you wouldn't expect a student to agree with you that world was a sphere?

Like I said, that doesn't seem like a very good Geology class to me.

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "Dictionary definition of apologetics: "reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something" (my emphasis)"
and
VR: "Sorry, but Cal has a highly tendentious definition of the word "apologetics" which does not fit common usage. If you let definitions slide around, you get in trouble."

For the sake of clarity, I explained how I have come to understand the word "apologist," and how I use it.

I know the etymology of the word. I also recognize that it has for some time now been chiefly identified with those who defend religion, in particular the Christian religion.

But yes, definitions do in fact "slide around" as a result of usage, and I should report to you both that the word "apologist" has begun to take on the connotations I described. Anyone who reads or listens today should know that when someone says, "He's just an apologist," the word now carries a stigma more often than not.

I'll leave it to you guys to ponder why that should be.

Couldn't be the too-often shabby behavior and irrationality of apologists. Nah.

Victor Reppert said...

If what is at issue is the rationality of religious belief, then defining apologetics as the defense of the indefensible is question-begging to say the least. Insofar as I do apologetics, I do so because I have concluded that these things are defensible, and want to share my reasons with others. You think atheism reasonable, and you want to share that with others.

Cal Metzger said...

Flat Earth Believing Geology Student: "I wrote what I had to ‘agree’ with what was said in class, but in truth I believe ABSOLUTELY that the world is completely flat, has four corners, and is at the center of all things. That is my ABSOLUTE, and no amount of ‘Geology’ will change that."

This is what it sounds like to me when someone says they should never have to agree with their teacher about the course material.



Cal Metzger said...

VR: "If what is at issue is the rationality of religious belief, then defining apologetics as the defense of the indefensible is question-begging to say the least."

Not quite. I'm saying that apologetics is largely becoming viewed as (defined, and accepted in use) as being the defense of the indefensible. I am saying that the term apologetics is appropriate for those who defend the rationality of each of the known, major religions. That's not question begging; that's outlining one's position.

Vr: "Insofar as I do apologetics, I do so because I have concluded that these things are defensible, and want to share my reasons with others."

Yes, I know that. And so long as your standard is, well, just your opinion, you are placing yourself in the company of those who think that flat earthers can reasonably disagree with their Geology teachers so long as they can share their reasons with others. I am pointing out that real education appeals to an objective standard upon which there is agreement. As it turns out, religious views are bereft of that objective standard, and that is why you find yourself taking a position that can be so easily lampooned.

VR: "You think atheism reasonable, and you want to share that with others."

Not quite. I find rationality (analytic philosophy, empiricism, scientific reasoning, etc.) to be immensely beneficial, and I would like to share those processes with others -- and part of that process is pointing out the flawed reasoning (inconsistency, mainly) of others. If the reasoning processes I espouse should lead to our coming to know that there is something like a god, then so be it.

B. Prokop said...

"Flat Earth Believing Geology Student"

Hmm.. according to even the Flat Earth Society (which one would think had a vested interest in inflating their numbers) only 189 people in the entire world today believe in a flat earth.

Straw man argument anyone?

Victor Reppert said...

Here we go again with the ridiculous fact-opinion distinction that is taught like intellectual rat poison to elementary school students.

There is no agreement in questions of religious belief. Even the concept of what evidence is is highly debatable. People at the highest levels of intellectual achievement disagree. Alvin Plantinga thinks that belief in the existence of God can be properly basic. In Keith Parsons' critical response in God and the Burden of Proof, he doesn't accept Plantinga's reasoning, but on the other hand he doesn't consider Plantinga's position to be refutable.

I studied Bayesian confirmation theory in grad school from one of the leading Bayesian theorists. We worked through attempts to establish "correct" prior probabilities from frequencies, and concluded that the attempt to do so was unworkable.

The idea that "either you accept MY objective standard of deciding what is plausible, or you are just like those people who think that flat earthers are just as reasonable as round earthers," is a false dichotomy to beat all false dichotomies.

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "Straw man argument anyone?"

I ignored this the first time for a reason.

You should look up strawman argument and see that you aren't using the term correctly. You should also look up argumentum ad populum, and see that an argument based on the number of adherents is a known fallacy (whichever side you want to take). And you should maybe also re-acquaint with the use of analogies as a way to illustrate how a principle could be flawed.

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "There is no agreement in questions of religious belief."

And that is one of the ways that we can identify that the process used to form religious beliefs is flawed.

VR: "Even the concept of what evidence is is highly debatable."

Don't confuse "can be debated" with "highly debatable." I can debate anything, but that doesn't mean that the earth is a sphere is a debatable proposition.

VR: "People at the highest levels of intellectual achievement disagree."

There is virtual unanimity among people of all levels of education for a huge spectrum of facts. And that's because facts for which there is widespread agreement are examinable -- they are objective, reliable, and verifiable.

VR: "Alvin Plantinga thinks that belief in the existence of God can be properly basic."

I don't agree. So how do we decide who's right.

If Alvin Plantinga thinks the earth is a sphere, and I think it's flat, he can resort to all kinds of evidence that demonstrate how I am wrong. What's the evidence that Plantinga can point to that believe in the existence of god is properly basic? This is a real problem for you.

VR: "In Keith Parsons' critical response in God and the Burden of Proof, he doesn't accept Plantinga's reasoning, but on the other hand he doesn't consider Plantinga's position to be refutable."

Who cares if a position can't be 100% refuted? When it comes to agreement about the facts of the world, there is no thing that can't be refuted. And yet we have a virtually uncountable number of facts that we can agree on.

Except gods.

Hmmmmm.


Victor Reppert said...

You don't have to agree with the teacher about the truth of the science presented. You DO have to accurately understand the science that your teacher teaches you, and make inferences within the scientific framework you are dealing with. However, the question of scientific realism is a philosophical question that is not, strictly speaking, part of science. Ever heard of Kurt Wise? He got a Harvard doctorate in geology, but is himself a Young Earth creationist. Now what Kurt had to do to earn his doctorate was to present and understand evolutionary geology. Nothing in his education required him to believe it. Not should it.

Victor Reppert said...

There are a lot of things what are very difficult to agree on. Ethical questions are difficult. Shoot, string theory is highly debatable. You know any knockdown arguments that settle the problem of universals?

The logical positivists thought they could decide what was meaningful with the verification principle. Only one problem (actually more than that), the verification principle didn't meet the standards of the verification principle, so it had to be dismissed as nonsense on its own criterion.

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "You don't have to agree with the teacher about the truth of the science presented. You DO have to accurately understand the science that your teacher teaches you, and make inferences within the scientific framework you are dealing with."

So what exactly is your problem with the student who wrote: "I wrote what I had to ‘agree’ with what was said in class, but in truth I believe ABSOLUTELY that there is an amazing, savior GOD, who created the universe, lives among us, and loves us more than anything."

VR: "Ever heard of Kurt Wise? He got a Harvard doctorate in geology, but is himself a Young Earth creationist."

Ever heard of the student you quoted from in the comments here? She (apparently) passed Boghossian's course, but she is herself a fervent Christian believer.

VR: "Now what Kurt had to do to earn his doctorate was to present and understand evolutionary geology. Nothing in his education required him to believe it. Not should it."

And this seems to be the case with both Kurt Wise and the woman you quoted. So I'm still not sure what the problem is with Boghossian's course.

B. Prokop said...

"I ignored this the first time for a reason."

Yeah you did, but perhaps for the wrong reasons. Your usage of the flat-Earther example is classic straw man argumentation. You pick an easily refutable position, to which no one amongst your debating partners agrees, and attempt to score some kind of point with it. And it's not only bad reasoning, it's bad form. It's no different than if I were to use Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy as an example of a typical atheist.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "Your usage of the flat-Earther example is classic straw man argumentation."

No. A straw man is when I twist YOUR ARGUMENT into a way that changes it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

My use of a flat earth student is an analogy. Analogies are maybe the most common tool used in discussions and arguments. They are highly useful at illuminating inconsistencies.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_analogy#False_analogy

I'm kind of gobsmacked you wouldn't know this.

B. Prokop said...

"I'm kind of gobsmacked you wouldn't know this."

I'm kinda gobsmacked that you can't realize you used a straw man argument.

Cal Metzger said...

Bob: "I'm kinda gobsmacked that you can't realize you used a straw man argument."

From why a strawman argument is a fallacy: "[Strawman] reasoning is a fallacy of relevance: it fails to address the proposition in question by misrepresenting the opposing position."

How could my flat-earth-student-taking-a-Geology-course analogy possibly misrepresent (?) VR's position that students shouldn't be expected to agree with their professors?

Explain your reasoning. Don't just keep repeating your vapid charge. Explain it. Show us how you think.

Victor Reppert said...

As I understood it, Boghossian's student's comment came from a student evaluation. Now student evaluations of the professor are written up by students, but withheld from the instructor until grades have been submitted. Now, if this were the case, Boghossian would not have known that his student was just agreeing for the sake of passing the class. In a properly conducted science class, a student will never be asked if he personally accepts the theories in question. It's not relevant to the operation of science. Hawking, for example, often denies that his cosmological theories are literally true, or need to be.

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "As I understood it, Boghossian's student's comment came from a student evaluation.... cosmological theories are literally true, or need to be."

It doesn't seem like any of this means that Boghossian has run his course improperly, then, does it?

B. Prokop said...

Strawman (according to Wikipedia): The so-called typical "attacking a straw man" argument creates the illusion of having completely refuted or defeated an opponent's proposition by covertly replacing it with a different proposition (i.e. "stand up a straw man") and then to refute or defeat that false argument ("knock down a straw man") instead of the original proposition.

Cal's Strawman: Instead of dealing with actual cases, he sets up the irrelevant case of a hypothetical flat-Earther. He creates the illusion of defeating the proposition under discussion by (not so) covertly replacing it with his own (ridiculous) example, with the unspoken premise that it is no different than the actual instances of the problem.

Wikipedia goes on to say:

The straw man fallacy occurs in the following pattern of argument:

Person 1 asserts proposition X.
Person 2 argues against a superficially similar proposition Y, falsely, as if an argument against Y were an argument against X.

This reasoning is a fallacy of relevance: it fails to address the proposition in question by misrepresenting the opposing position.


Let's make that more specific, shall we?

Victor asserts that theists must hide their true beliefs to get a good grade in Boghossian's class.
Cal argues against the superficially similar proposition that flat-Earthers must do the same, falsely, as if the two arguments were at all the same.

This reasoning is a fallacy of relevance: Bringing in flat-Earthers fails to address the proposition in question by misrepresenting the opposing position.

Ergo: Cal's use of flat-Earthers in this instance fits the definition of strawman argument perfectly.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "This reasoning is a fallacy of relevance: Bringing in flat-Earthers fails to address the proposition in question by misrepresenting the opposing position."

Um, how does my analogy of a student not being required to agree with the teacher about course material that conflicts with her beliefs MISREPRESENT (fail to be relevant?) Victor's position that a student not be required to agree with the teacher about course material that conflicts with her beliefs?

You understand that analogies MUST introduce a secondary object in order to be an analogy, correct? You understand that the purpose of my analogy was to introduce a topic in which you agreed with the material being taught by the teacher, to illuminate the extent that the principle should be applied.

Or do you just think (bizarrely, I would add) that ANY analogy that exposes the potential problems in a position is a kind of strawman? Because that's what it seems to me that you think.





B. Prokop said...

"You understand that analogies MUST introduce a secondary object in order to be an analogy, correct?"

Of course that's so. But in your case, you substituted a believing* student with someone who bears only the most superficial, and extremely tenuous, similarity to him/her.

If you can't see that a flat-Earther is no fit analogy for a believer, then that right there is a major part of your problem. It would explain why you can't recognize a logical fallacy when one is staring you in the face.

Would you say it was all right for me to replace "atheist" with "Scientologist" and call it an analogy? And yet there is far more in common between those two terms than there is between believer and flat-Earther.

* I refuse to use the semantically null term "theist".

Jezu ufam tobie

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "But in your case, you substituted a believing* student with someone who bears only the most superficial, and extremely tenuous, similarity to him/her."

Superficial and extremely tenuous? We know almost nothing about them except what they believe in, and that they both believe in things that are contrary to the course material. The second part is the crux of the analogy.

I think that by "straw man" you mean "doesn't comport with my sense of grandiosity." And as I have been pointing out, analogies are under no obligation to comport with your sense of grandiosity, and their not doing so does not implicate them in a straw man.

Prokop: "If you can't see that a flat-Earther is no fit analogy for a believer..."

If you can't see that a criminal Scotsman is no fit analogy for a true Scotsman... Like I said, if you want to protect your belief from analysis, scrutiny, and criticism, then you are joining a rather ignominious group.

Prokop: "Would you say it was all right for me to replace "atheist" with "Scientologist" and call it an analogy?

Sure. It depends on what you are analogizing but, why not? I can think of a fair one off the top of my head, no problem:

Me: "Atheists, like all people, deserve to be allowed to speak their minds about what they believe, and don't believe."
My analogy: "So, Mr. Smarty Pants, do you think that scientologists deserve to be allowed to speak their minds about what they believe, and don't believe?"
Me: "Yup."

See, it's not that hard.