Book Plunge: A Manual For Creating Atheists

Manualforcreatingatheists

What do I think of Peter Boghossian’s book on creating atheists? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Boghossian’s book in the past month or so has been the subject of great conversation on the internet. Why is this the case? Is it because there’s a new argument in here? No. There’s nothing new. Is it because there’s a really powerful demonstration of atheism in here? No. That’s not here also. It’s because now, Boghossian claims to have a way to apply principles of critical thinking and train others in them so that they can become “street epistemologists” with the goal of deconverting others.

Unfortunately, what I’ve seen is that these epistemologists are thoroughly unequipped for the job, and it’s no surprise because the apple has not fallen far from the tree.

And yet at the same time, I found great confirmation for so much of what I’ve been saying for years. I have for years been correcting Christians on their definition of faith. I have been telling them that their testimonies will not be persuasive to many skeptics out there and to avoid emphasizing their feelings, and in fact I’d prefer they not discuss feelings altogether. I’ve also been encouraging them to study, and not just the Bible, but good history and philosophy and any other field they have a passion for.

Well now those proverbial chickens are coming home to roost.

In fact, Boghossian wants to start a show called “The Reason Whisperer” where he will show conversations with the faithful seeking to deconvert them. If this show takes off, I have high hopes that he will come to my church. I really want to see that.

So to get to the meat of the matter, how is a street epistemologist supposed to do his job? He starts with faith and it all goes downhill from there. Boghossian defines faith as “belief without evidence” or “Pretending to know things that you do not know.”

In this section, he also talks about deepities. These are statements that sound profound, but are really meaningless. An example that he gives of this is Hebrews 11:1, a passage that Boghossian does not understand, probably because he didn’t really look into any major commentaries on the work. (You know, what we call, looking for evidence)

Therefore, Boghossian has the deck stacked in advance. Want to make a statement about faith? The street epistemologist is to read it as saying one of the two things Boghossian says it is. There is no concept that perhaps the other person might have a different definition. Perhaps the other person has done proper exegesis and study of the Greek word pistis to show that it more accurately refers to loyalty in the face of evidence that has been provided.

Boghossian regularly sees faith as a way of knowing. It is not. No one should know anything by faith. Faith is rather a response to what has been shown. The medievals would hold, for instance, that you could know that God exists on the basis of argumentation that was deductive, such as the five ways of Aquinas. They held that you believed that God was a Trinity, since this could not be known by reason alone but required trust in revelation. You can know historically that Jesus died on the cross. You believe that He died for your sins on that cross.

Unfortunately, Boghossian does not have any understanding of this and this straw man runs throughout the whole book. As soon as any street epistemologist comes across anyone who knows better, then they are caught in a bind. It is a shame also that Boghossian insists that these are the definitions of the word, since he is the one who encourages practicing “doxastic openness” which we shall get to later.

Boghossian gives a brief look at the resurrection which starts off with saying that it is assumed that a historical Jesus existed. For atheists who always want to talk about evidence, it amazes me that so many of them buy into this Christ-myth idea. To go to studies of ancient history and the NT and say Jesus never existed is on par to going to a geologist convention and telling them that the Earth is flat.

Boghossian says even if you grant the burial and the empty tomb, there are all number of ways to explain it, including the theory of space aliens. All of them require faith because of insufficient evidence. Any interaction with a Habermas, Licona, or Wright in this? Nope. We should ask Boghossian what methodology he took to arrive at this conclusion. By what methodology should street epistemologists accept it? Will it be a faith claim?

On page 28, Boghossian says that not a single argument for God’s existence has withstood scrutiny. He lists the five ways of Aquinas, Pascal’s Wager, the ontological argument, the fine-tuning argument, and the Kalam. He is emphatic that these are all failures and has an end note for that.

So when you go there, what will you find? Will you find a listing of works where these arguments were refuted? No. Will you find descriptions saying why these arguments are problematic? No. What will you find? A long statement on epistemologies?

On what grounds am I to believe these arguments have all been refuted? Boghossian’s say so? Is that the way a critical thinker should work?

Boghossian also says believers are told that ignorance is a mark of virtue and closeness to God. Sadly, I’m sure this is the case for several. In reality, if this is the Christianity Boghossian wishes to take down, more power to him there. I’ve been trying to take down this kind of Christianity for years. It has nothing to do with what Jesus taught and what the church has defended intellectually. Several decades ago in fact, the church was repeatedly warned the greatest threat to the church was anti-intellectualism.

It is at the end of the third chapter that we start seeing interventions, these are dialogues that Boghossian tells us about. The only one worth mentioning is a professor at an evangelical university who goes unnamed. Unfortunately, we have no idea what he teaches so I don’t know why we should take his opinion seriously. Most of these interventions consist of talking to people who I have no reason to believe are informed on their faith. It’s a reminder of what Bill Maher did in Religulous. It is like saying to tune in when a bodybuilder takes down a little old lady in a street fight.

Also in this chapter, he talks about doxastic openness. Closure is when someone is impervious to a reasoned argument and will not change their beliefs. The sad reality is this is a good description of street epistemologists and as we will see later on, Boghossian himself.

I fully think we should all be open to seeing if our beliefs are wrong. It is why I, as a Christian, have changed my stance on numerous issues over the years. This is something quite simple to do when your positions are based on evidence and argumentation.

One could think Boghossian has this view since in chapter 4, he does say to be willing to reconsider and be open to the idea that the faithful know something you don’t. (Such as the proper definition of faith in its proper social and historical context. Those who study the language might know this better than someone like Boghossian who does not.)

Interestingly, one of his strategies in this chapter is to avoid facts.

I’m not kidding. p. 71 and part II. The heading is “Avoid Facts.”

This strikes me as odd. If I am supposed to change my worldview, aren’t the facts relevant to that? Boghossian says that if people believed on the basis of evidence, they wouldn’t be where they are today. Isn’t this part of the doxastic closeness that he earlier condemns? Could it be the evidence just might be on the side of the Christian. Maybe I’m wrong on that of course, but should we not be open?

Boghossian says it is how we arrive at our conclusions that matter. Now I do agree this is important to discuss. Yet I tell people I am an empiricist. Knowledge begins with sense experience. I use that to reason to God. (Say the ways of Aquinas for instance.) Then with history, I try to read the best scholarship on both sides of the issue in forming an opinion on what happened to Jesus. I am also actively reading what I disagree with, such as Boghossian’s book, to see if I might have missed anything.

Does Boghossian fault that procedure?

Now Boghossian could say my conclusion is reached in advance and I have confirmation bias, but that needs to be shown rather than just asserted. The best way to show it if my methodology is sound is to show how I am not following it properly and that is done by looking at the evidence.

It is amusing to see him say Gary Habermas reached his position by starting with the divinity of Christ and the truth of Scripture and reasoning backwards. Anyone who has heard Habermas speak on doubt before knows that this is not the case. Knowing him personally, I have heard far more than most readers I am sure and know about the hours he spent agonizing over questions and not being wiling to commit to Christianity. He was quite close to being a Buddhist in fact.

It is a wonder where Boghossian gets his information then. Did he just assume it? Has he taken a faith position?

In actuality, what this can allow Boghossian to do is to discount any opinion that disagrees with him by claiming “confirmation bias.” The problem is anyone else could do the same with Boghossian’s position. A Christian could say “Well of course he’s not going to let the evidence lead him to God. He doesn’t want that.”

For example, let’s suppose there was an atheist who held to his atheism for known emotional reasons. Let’s suppose these were reasons such as he grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home and hated his parents and everything to do with Christianity. Let’s also suppose he wants to sleep with any girl he meets and knows that Christianity would require him to give that up. This man has reasons to want to be an atheist that can cloud how he views the evidence. I don’t think anyone would doubt this.

Does that mean that he’s wrong?

No. The only way you know if he’s right or wrong is by looking at the evidence.

This is also shown with Boghossian in, like I said, he does not practice doxastic openness. For instance, he has been asked what it would take to make him believe, he uses a line from Lawrence Krauss. If he walked out at night and saw all the stars in the sky aligned to say “I am God communicating with you, believe in Me!” and every human being worldwide saw this in their native language, this would be suggestive. (He adds it would be far from conclusive. It could be a delusion.)

Yes. This is from the one who says we should practice doxastic openness.

What does this mean? It means formulating an argument for God’s existence will not work with Boghossian. What he requires for himself is a personal experience, and even then a grand personal experience is only suggestive. Why should anyone attempt to reason with someone like Boghossian who says the arguments won’t convince him but that it will require a personal experience?

Shouldn’t we go with the arguments instead of personal experience?

The sixth chapter spends much on interventions, including arguments over a topic such as if the universe had a beginning. Boghossian has this idea that an eternal universe would mean no God. I, meanwhile, say I’m willing to grant an eternal multiverse. What is needed is to explain not just its existence but its act of existing.

Seeing as I plan to focus more later, I’m going to move on to chapter 8, because in many ways I found this an excellent chapter. I really appreciated Boghossian’s viewpoints on relativism and the modern definition of tolerance being bogus and the problem with adding “o-phobia” to something.

Boghossian is certainly right that ideas need to be open to criticism and if he says “faith ideas” need to be open, I fully agree! In fact, I am one who goes out in public really hoping someone will see me reading a book by an atheist and think I’m one and try to talk me out of it, or see me reading a book about the resurrection of Jesus and try to talk to me out of that. I have always said that I want us to just come together and discuss the evidence and let Christianity work in the marketplace of ideas. Which case should we go with? Whoever brings forward the best arguments and evidences.

I also agree with what is said about faith-based claims. Those students who stand up in class and have nothing else to say except “The Bible says” are a sign of a problem that we have. It is not a problem with the Bible, but with a claim on how Christian education is done. It has too long been made that Christians are just told what the Bible says. Say anything about why you should trust the Bible? Nope. Say anything about worldviews that oppose the Bible? Nope. It’s part of what I’ve called the escapist mentality.

In fact, that’s what’s so ironic about Boghossian’s book. There is much in there that I could agree with generally on reasoning, and ironically, much of the attitudes that he sees in the faithful are the same attitudes that I see in the faithless. The atheists I meet more often than not have a hubris built into them where they think they are rational and right by virtue of being an atheist. I will also not deny many Christians have that same mindset to them as well.

As I plan to write on this further, I will conclude at this point by saying that Boghossian is someone to take seriously, not because he has new information, but because he is an evangelist for atheism that is seeking to make other evangelists. Boghossian would say someone like me is upset about a show like “The Reason Whisperer.” On the contrary, I am thrilled about it. I adore it whenever something like this happens. The Da Vinci Code, The New Atheists, and now this. Hopefully more and more soon the church will wake up and realize it needs to get up and do something and actually start learning what we believe. I think a show like this could be the shot in the arm the church needs. Of course, if the church does not wake up soon, I think it will only be around for about another generation or so in America.

The reality is the arguments are still simple to deal with and the street epistemologists are thoroughly unequipped in their quest. The problem on the side of the church is not lack of information. The problem is desire to have that information and awareness of the problem a lack of information causes. When someone abandons the life of the mind, it is sad. When a Christian does it, it is a travesty.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

For more information see the following:

My look at Hebrews 11:1

The Escapist Mentality

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25 Responses to “Book Plunge: A Manual For Creating Atheists”

  1. Another Reasoned Analysis of “A Manual for Creating Atheists” - Thinking Christian Says:

    […] it out here. […]

  2. Jason Says:

    Well said Nick.

  3. silenceofmind Says:

    In the ‘hood we call Boghossian’s method, leftist indoctrination.

    It’s already happening through the mass media (aka the drive-by media) and public education.

  4. Lion IRC Says:

    I have faith that my eyes and ears arent deceiving me when they help me to detect empirical evidence.

    And I have faith that people I trust wouldnt lie to me about global warming for example.

  5. williamfrancisbrown Says:

    Lion,

    Re. global warming, there is much deception involved and so many concerted interests at stake in it being real – you might be fooling yourself depending on your sources of info.

  6. Lion IRC Says:

    WFB,

    I trust that people are tellling the truth.

    But look at what is being said.

    Most of what is said about global warming is merely opinion.

    Opinions arent lies. Interpretation of the facts are open to opinion and probability and guesswork and willful ignorance…

    If Mr Boghossian is confident that God doesnt exist, he is entitled to base that belief on something or on nothing. It’s his mind. Let him use it freely and let the evidence lead him in the direction he thinks it points. Somewhere. Or nowhere.

    People can honestly believe that Jesus didnt rise from the dead because they didnt see it with their own eyes and they arent lying about their opinion.

  7. Lion IRC Says:

    If Mr Boghossian is confident that God doesnt exist…
    Confident: – from the Latin con fide.
    …meaning “with faith”.

  8. Izak Burger Says:

    Years ago, a friend of my father told him he’s having doubts about certain doctrines of the church and he wants to leave that church and join another. My father told him to refer back to the Catechism, the documents that detail what the church believes, so he could be sure of what it is he objects to and whether that which he doubts isn’t perhaps adequately explained.

    Shortly afterwards, that man left his church and joined the other, and had himself re-baptised. When my father asked him whether he had checked the catechism, it turns out that he didn’t.

    He made the decision entirely based on emotion rather than reason.

    Sadly, as you rightly point out, that is the case for many Christians. Perhaps a wake-up call is indeed necessary.

  9. Reviews of “A Manual for Creating Atheists” by Peter Boghossian | Biblical Scholarship Says:

    […] Deeper Waters […]

  10. Really Recommended Posts 2/21/14- Camels, Vampires, Dinosaurs, Islam, and more! | J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason" Says:

    […] Book Plunge: A Manual for Creating Atheists- Boghossian’s book has created a stir, as he is actively trying to deconvert Christians in particular. Check out this interesting review and examination of the work. […]

  11. tildeb Says:

    Response to Boghossian’s thesis: “These are not the droids you’re looking for.”

  12. Cory Tucholski Says:

    Reblogged this on Josiah Concept Ministries and commented:
    Part of the reason I didn’t write a review on the blog for Peter Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists is because I knew that my reaction was the same as most Christians who are informed in matters of faith and philosophy. Sure enough, Nick Peters wrote the exact review that I wanted to.

  13. Cory Tucholski Says:

    Looks like you had every single thought, nearly verbatim, that I had as I read the book. In fact, I thought I had written this at first. I had to check the by-line and blog URL carefully just to make sure…..

  14. tildeb Says:

    Boghossian regularly sees faith as a way of knowing. It is not. No one should know anything by faith. Faith is rather a response to what has been shown.

    No it’s not. It’s an assumption of confidence that is misplaced.

    Boghossian sees faith as a way of knowing because this is the way it is used to justify claims about reality. He rightly points out that there is a kind of epistemology used by believers to try to justify their faith-based beliefs. Ask any religious believer about a faith-based belief with “How do you that?” and you will see this switching of methods to justify confidence in beliefs. A very typical maneuver when asked which part of scripture is to be taken literally while another part is to be taken metaphorically is to make this methodological switch and try to reason one’s way to the conclusion the believer wants based on metaphysical premises that are not demonstrated to deserve confidence. Ask the question and you will not receive the kind of answer similar to the kind used to justify an evidence-adduced belief (such as justifying a belief in where the car keys are when asked “How do you know that?”). The former is dependent on the confidence granted to it while the latter is independent of one’s confidence. That’s why we’re talking about epistemology: because the two are incompatible methods to arrive at justifying knowledge claims about reality..

    A different epistemology is clearly used to justify different claims about the reality we share. Reason alone is insufficient outside of an axiomatic system to justify knowledge claims about how reality operates and by what means causal effects can be demonstrably attributed. This is why natural philosophy produced metaphysical claims about reality that appeared to be reasonable but did not produce reliable and consistent knowledge about reality that could not be demonstrated independent of the claimant. And we should pay attention to the historical record: that using this faith-based kind of epistemology to justify claims about the reality we share does not, has not, and never shall produce knowledge that works independently of the claimant – in other words, justified by reality’s arbitration of the claim to be ‘true’ – regardless of how reasonable it may appear… having so far produced zero therapies that work, zero applications that work, and zero technologies that work consistently and reliably well for everyone everywhere all the time. What the epistemology for faith-based belief produces is not knowledge. It is unjustified belief. And using unjustified dependent beliefs to justify claims about an independent reality is a guaranteed method to fool yourself.

  15. apologianick Says:

    Tilde: No it’s not. It’s an assumption of confidence that is misplaced.

    Reply: It could be. It could not be. Pistis was shown to a Caesar back in the Roman world. Was that misplaced? Not necessarily. A slave showed pistis to his master. A worshiper would show pistis to their deity. What you need is a scholarly source saying what pistis is. Here’s mine:

    Faith/Faithfulness

    “These terms refer to the value of reliability. The value is ascribed to persons as well as to objects and qualities. Relative to persons, faith is reliability in interpersonal relations: it thus takes on the value of enduring personal loyalty, of personal faithfulness. The nouns ‘faith’, ‘belief’, ‘fidelity’, ‘faithfulness,’ as well as the verbs ‘to have faith’ and ‘to believe,’ refers to the social glue that binds one person to another. This bond is the social, externally manifested, emotionally rooted behavior of loyalty, commitment, and solidarity. As a social bond, it works with the value of (personal and group) attachment (translated ‘love’) and the value of (personal and group) allegiance or trust (translated ‘hope.’) p. 72 Pilch and Malina Handbook of Biblical Social Values.

    Now if you want to, I recommend going and looking up Greek and NT Lexicons. See how many of them list the definition of pistis as “believing without evidence” or “Pretending to know things you don’t know.”

    If you cannot, then stop believing that this is what faith is without evidence. It doesn’t help your case to pretend to know something you don’t know.

    Tilde: Boghossian sees faith as a way of knowing because this is the way it is used to justify claims about reality. He rightly points out that there is a kind of epistemology used by believers to try to justify their faith-based beliefs.

    REply: If you mean the rank and file, then as I’ve said, I have no problem with that, but that is not how serious research is done. That would be like saying I’m going to find the best arguments in atheism by watching YouTube videos of atheist teenagers complaining.

    Tilde: Ask any religious believer about a faith-based belief with “How do you that?” and you will see this switching of methods to justify confidence in beliefs.

    Reply: REally? Try me. If you ask me why I believe anything, I will give evidence for it, save beliefs that are part of the foundation of knowledge. (Try to argue that the external world exists outside of your mind for instance. As soon as you accept an idealist approach, you lose. You can never escape it. Also, the existence of God is not one of those. That is reasoned to.)

    Tilde: A very typical maneuver when asked which part of scripture is to be taken literally while another part is to be taken metaphorically is to make this methodological switch and try to reason one’s way to the conclusion the believer wants based on metaphysical premises that are not demonstrated to deserve confidence.

    Reply: Fundamentalist atheists have such a hang-up on literalism. Actually, every part should be taken literally. Why? Because literal really means “According to the intent of the author.” The author might have intended a metaphor or a straightforward account. He might have made it apocalyptic or a simile or hyperbole. All are “literal” interpretations. I suppose you really mean instead interpreting it in a literalistic sense.

    Then I will ask you the same question.

    If I’m reading Homer, how do I decide what is “literalistic” and what isn’t? How about if I’m reading Shakespeare? How about if I’m reading Hesiod or Virgil?

    Most people want a magic bullet. It doesn’t exist.

    Tilde:Ask the question and you will not receive the kind of answer similar to the kind used to justify an evidence-adduced belief (such as justifying a belief in where the car keys are when asked “How do you know that?”). The former is dependent on the confidence granted to it while the latter is independent of one’s confidence.

    Reply: No. A text has a true interpretation regardless of one’s confidence or not. That doesn’t mean that what the interpreted text says is true, but it means that there is an interpretation that does get to what the author wanted us to understand.

    Tilde: That’s why we’re talking about epistemology: because the two are incompatible methods to arrive at justifying knowledge claims about reality..

    Reply: Except no one here has said faith is a way of arriving at knowledge. Faith is a response to claims that have already been revealed through any medium whatsoever.

    Tilde: A different epistemology is clearly used to justify different claims about the reality we share. Reason alone is insufficient outside of an axiomatic system to justify knowledge claims about how reality operates and by what means causal effects can be demonstrably attributed. This is why natural philosophy produced metaphysical claims about reality that appeared to be reasonable but did not produce reliable and consistent knowledge about reality that could not be demonstrated independent of the claimant.

    Reply: The problem is so much of this is just reason. It’s saying reason alone cannot tell you about the universe, but how is that known without looking? Furthermore, as I said, I’m a Thomist. I hold to the five ways. Thomists are Aristotleans. How did Aristotle arrive at knowledge? That’s right! It all begins with sense experience!

    Tilde: And we should pay attention to the historical record: that using this faith-based kind of epistemology to justify claims about the reality we share does not, has not, and never shall produce knowledge that works independently of the claimant

    REply: Yes. Let’s talk about the historical record. Would you like to talk about the scientific advances that took place in the medieval period that paved the way for Kepler, Newton, Galileo, etc.? Would you like to talk about the clock and the astrolabe? Would you like to talk about the medical understanding being advanced? Would you like to talk about the Mean Speed Theorem being calculated? Would you like to talk about the work of people like Roger Bacon and others in advancing science?

    Reality is most people have been fed a myth about the so-called dark ages that they were anti-science. In reality, there were several people doing experiments. In fact, before you could study theology, which was the highest body of knowledge, you had to study the natural sciences.

    Tilde: – in other words, justified by reality’s arbitration of the claim to be ‘true’ – regardless of how reasonable it may appear… having so far produced zero therapies that work, zero applications that work, and zero technologies that work consistently and reliably well for everyone everywhere all the time.

    Reply: What a straw man. It would have been nice to have seen some historical evidence here. Unfortunately, as expected, there is none. It is just assumed that the medievals and others just shouted “Faith!” all the time and made arguments that way. They didn’t.

    Tilde: What the epistemology for faith-based belief produces is not knowledge. It is unjustified belief. And using unjustified dependent beliefs to justify claims about an independent reality is a guaranteed method to fool yourself.

    REply: I contend that you have several unjustified beliefs on what pistis is and about what has happened in history.

    Let’s see if what takes place about unjustified beliefs happens in this case. I predict it will.

  16. tildeb Says:

    Apologianick, thank you for your thoughtful reply.

    I detected a very strong core of Tomistic thinking in your OP that utilizes ‘proper’ definitions as a central defense against criticisms of faith-based beliefs. It’s a successful defense mechanism (tactic) used only for faith-based belief claims that advances our knowledge of the world not one iota.

    None of the counter examples you used demonstrates the contribution of this metaphysical framework to the products these scientists worked to produced. The method to arrive at these products simply doesn’t require it, which is how even creationists can be evolutionary biologists: by exercising effective compartmentalizing and a dose of mental gymnastics when the two are inevitably in conflict (the same kind of compartmentalized thinking that allows a priest to be a priest yet molest children… the two activities are not reflections of any compatibility or even contribution to each other).

    The lack of knowledge produced by a way of thinking about reality that assumes its premises about reality are true is the brute fact that renders Tomistic thinking as just another metaphysical framework in need of criticism because it assumes unjustified conclusions for its premises… premises that stand incompatible with knowledge adduced from reality (like any version of a creationist belief in an historical POOF!ism event that stands incompatible with evolution defined by its scientific understanding). And it needs this criticism because this diversionary tactic – of finding proper word definitions for nebulous metaphysical notions – attempts to justify a philosophical position as a suitable and trustworthy replacement for a methodological approach to understanding how the world works. This approach matters in justifying truth claims made about how reality operates and what it contains.

    You claim (I dare to presume), for example, that God exists and is a causal agency in this reality, that Jesus was an historical figure, that the resurrection occurred at an historical place and time, and so on… all of which are claims about reality unsupported by compelling evidence adduced from reality… but necessary for your philosophical approach to be utilized. The evidence produced from reality in its support is dependent on the selected conclusion (change the conclusion, change the evidence brought forward, which is how and why there are so many incompatible religious claims between each other!) and does not deal adequately with all the contrary evidence reality provides us (which is why all these incompatible religions continue to divide people without any grand consensus from the evidence brought to bear).

    This kind of evidential cherry-picking is a giveaway for a faith-based epistemology… a pistis – an assumption of good faith – that is methodologically different. We see exactly the same approach used in alternative medicine, for denialism in vaccination efficacy and human caused climate change, various conspiracy theories and superstitions, future readings and dowsing, and so on. It’s a broken methodology that uses confidence in a set of beliefs a priori before turning to reality as an arbitrator of the evidence adduced for this confidence.

    I know we’ll never agree that your reliance on a philosophical framework doesn’t work to produce knowledge of reality no matter how many times you are asked to demonstrate why the assumed premises you utilize for the philosophical basis of your metaphysics deserve confidence. This you simply cannot do or you would… in which case you wouldn’t require philosophy to support your metaphysical framework; you would produce demonstrable and therefore compelling evidence adduced from reality… in which case you wouldn’t need faith… be it of the pistis kind or not!

  17. apologianick Says:

    Tilde: I detected a very strong core of Tomistic thinking in your OP that utilizes ‘proper’ definitions as a central defense against criticisms of faith-based beliefs. It’s a successful defense mechanism (tactic) used only for faith-based belief claims that advances our knowledge of the world not one iota.

    Reply: Actually, everyone seeks to utilize proper definitions, but my speaking about faith was not as a Thomist but as a student of the NT. A Platonist or even an atheist could have made the exact same claim.

    Tilde: None of the counter examples you used demonstrates the contribution of this metaphysical framework to the products these scientists worked to produced.

    Reply: That’s because none of them were using metaphysics to arrive at their conclusion. They were using science. Now were their answers sometimes wrong? Yeah. They were. So are some of ours. They were trying. Metaphysics works great for studying what metaphysics is supposed to study. It doesn’t work great for what isn’t in its area.

    Tilde: The method to arrive at these products simply doesn’t require it, which is how even creationists can be evolutionary biologists: by exercising effective compartmentalizing and a dose of mental gymnastics when the two are inevitably in conflict (the same kind of compartmentalized thinking that allows a priest to be a priest yet molest children… the two activities are not reflections of any compatibility or even contribution to each other).

    Reply: Actually, a Thomist has no problem with evolutionary theory. I choose to not say anything yea or nay because I’m not a scientist. In fact, evolutionary theory would fit in just fine with the fifth way.

    Tilde: The lack of knowledge produced by a way of thinking about reality that assumes its premises about reality are true is the brute fact that renders Tomistic thinking as just another metaphysical framework in need of criticism because it assumes unjustified conclusions for its premises… premises that stand incompatible with knowledge adduced from reality (like any version of a creationist belief in an historical POOF!ism event that stands incompatible with evolution defined by its scientific understanding).

    Reply; Except that’s not the Thomistic approach. If you want to know the assumptions I make as a Thomist, well here they are.

    The external world exists outside of my mind.
    Reality is knowable.
    We can study reality and know it to some extent.
    All knowledge begins with sense experience.

    Which of these statements do you find problematic?

    Tilde: And it needs this criticism because this diversionary tactic – of finding proper word definitions for nebulous metaphysical notions – attempts to justify a philosophical position as a suitable and trustworthy replacement for a methodological approach to understanding how the world works. This approach matters in justifying truth claims made about how reality operates and what it contains.

    Reply: Once again, this isn’t done. You can study both metaphysics and physics and the subject matter of both is not identical. Aquinas’s teacher, Albert Magus, did much in the area of scientific research. I believe you’re just living with a false conception about how research was done in those days.

    Tilde: You claim (I dare to presume), for example, that God exists and is a causal agency in this reality, that Jesus was an historical figure, that the resurrection occurred at an historical place and time, and so on… all of which are claims about reality unsupported by compelling evidence adduced from reality…

    Reply: Actually, I would gladly give reasons for any of those beliefs. For God’s existence, I’d point to the five ways of Aquinas. For the existence of Jesus, I’d point to every single PH.D. peer-reviewed NT or ancient history scholar teaching at an accredited university. No one takes the Christ-myth theory seriously. For the resurrection, I’d point to works such as the Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright or The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach by Michael Licona.

    Tilde: but necessary for your philosophical approach to be utilized. The evidence produced from reality in its support is dependent on the selected conclusion (change the conclusion, change the evidence brought forward, which is how and why there are so many incompatible religious claims between each other!) and does not deal adequately with all the contrary evidence reality provides us (which is why all these incompatible religions continue to divide people without any grand consensus from the evidence brought to bear).

    Reply: This assumes that because people disagree that there is no truth to what they disagree about. Must be problematic when we come to scientific claims that are disagreed with. Could it be people disagree because reality can be hard to interpret?

    Now you can say I begin with my conclusion. I don’t. Thomists don’t do that at all. There’s a simple way to deal with the supposed claim and it’s still the same. Refute the arguments.

    Tilde: This kind of evidential cherry-picking is a giveaway for a faith-based epistemology… a pistis – an assumption of good faith – that is methodologically different. We see exactly the same approach used in alternative medicine, for denialism in vaccination efficacy and human caused climate change, various conspiracy theories and superstitions, future readings and dowsing, and so on. It’s a broken methodology that uses confidence in a set of beliefs a priori before turning to reality as an arbitrator of the evidence adduced for this confidence.

    Reply: More claims of bias. How about less talk of bias and more talk of dealing with the data?

    Tilde: I know we’ll never agree that your reliance on a philosophical framework doesn’t work to produce knowledge of reality no matter how many times you are asked to demonstrate why the assumed premises you utilize for the philosophical basis of your metaphysics deserve confidence. This you simply cannot do or you would… in which case you wouldn’t require philosophy to support your metaphysical framework; you would produce demonstrable and therefore compelling evidence adduced from reality… in which case you wouldn’t need faith… be it of the pistis kind or not!

    Reply: Actually, you would. You would need to believe that your results were accurate and that your predecessors in science who you trust for their information were also accurate. Furthermore, I do make philosophical claims that I think can be backed and they are backed philosophically. The mistake is assuming all claims should be backed scientifically. THis is odd since nothing you’ve said so far has any scientific backing.

  18. cornelll Says:

    Tildeb do you think all knowledge has to be derived by science?cc

    • tildeb Says:

      Thanks for the question, cornell.

      My answer is, “No, of course not.”

      But I think any knowledge claims about how reality operates and stuff it contains requires a method of enquiry that will allow reality – and not our beliefs about it – the role to arbitrate them to help us determine the strength of confidence we then place in our formulated explanations about it. There is a raft of justified true beliefs that are entirely and properly subjective requiring no outside arbitration of them.

    • tildeb Says:

      I would always question the notion that knowledge is derived from the scientific method because that suggests a deductive model similar to that used in an axiomatic system like math and/or logic to produce an ‘answer. This is not an accurate reflection how we come to knowledge through the scientific method: we adduce explanations and reveal the confidence in them by what seems to work reliably and consistently well for everyone everywhere all the time. That’s why (and how) our knowledge can change over time. The difference is an important one – and applicable for assigning confidence to knowledge claims – which is the only reason why I mention it.

    • tildeb Says:

      I failed to close the italics after the first word ‘derived’ and open it before the final word ‘adduce’. Sorry for my sloppiness.

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