Five Things That Disqualify People From Being Experts in Religious Matters. Reviewing Mittelberg's Book "Confident Christianity" Part 12

I'm reviewing Mark Mittelberg's book Confident Faith. [See the "Mark Mittelberg" tag below for others]. Mittelberg had argued we need authorities since we cannot be experts in everything. So the "question is not if we'll be under authority, but which authorities we'll trust and respond to?" (p. 66) Trust! That's a key point. For my purposes I'm talking about experts with regard to the truth and their level of competence in religious matters (my focus). Are Mark Mittelberg and other conservative Christian apologists to be considered experts we can trust?

In post 10 of this series I made two points. 1) People should not be trusted as experts in religious matters who are not just wrong, but incompetent and even dishonest with the facts. And I provided some evidence in several links that there are some apologists, even top apologists, who are ignorant, incompetent and even dishonest with the facts. They should not be considered experts worthy of our trust. I also argued that 2) Mittelberg's dim view of science should disqualify him as an expert whom we can trust in Religious Matters. One would think science is a bunch of guesswork from what he wrote. Anyone who talks that way about science is not just ignorant but incompetent, and maybe dishonest with the facts. So he's not an expert we can trust, period. Then I gave him an assignment to look at two books of science in hopes he might change his deluded mind. If he's an honest person who truly wants to know the truth, they will change it. [If you object to my harsh language I'm just being honest with the facts. No personal offense should be taken. See Dr. Stephen Law's Five Morals To Guide Atheists and Believers In Our Debates.]

Now I'm going to say what disqualifies someone from being an expert in religious matters, with additional commentary.

Five things that disqualify someone from being trusted as an expert in religious matters:

1) Denying the need for sufficient objective evidence. Alvin Plantinga has argued Christian believers do not need objective evidence for their faith, so Plantinga is disqualified from being an expert in religious matters. He is clearly deluded no matter how brilliant his rhetoric is. Other Christian believers disagree with him on this, even highly noted apologists Norman Geisler and Paul Moser. If Geisler and Moser cannot be convinced then why should anyone else?

2) Rejecting the need to overcome the cognitive biases keeping us away from the truth. The only way to overcome these biases is to require sufficient objective evidence for truth, period. I wrote a post on Why Doubt Is The Adult Attitude And How Science Helps Us. In it I have complied a long list of books that prove this point. The evidence is overwhelming that our brain is uninterested in the truth but rather primarily concerned in protecting its host. So we must require sufficient objective evidence for what we think is true.

3) Rejecting the non-double standard requirement to approach all religious faiths with the same standard, as an outsider, a nonbeliever. Here is a primer on why we need it. Anyone who rejects this is not worthy of our trust as an expert.

4) Rejecting, denying, or denigrating science in general. The highest degree of trust we can have is when there is a consensus among scientists about an issue. See here for more.

5) Refusing to accept the overwhelming evidence for evolution disqualifies someone from being an expert in religious matters. That's because evolution has a significant bearing on religious matters. If anyone rejects evolution they are ignorant, willfully ignorant, and unworthy of trusting as an expert. Evolution is an issue that has achieved a consensus among scientists around the globe from those working is different fields. Given what Mittelberg says about science, I'm almost sure he rejects it. Start reading Charles Darwin's, On the Origin of Species. Then read the books by Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution Is True,and Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution.Do not just read the works of Christian creationists, who themselves were indoctrinated to believe what they do. Go to the source. Compare the evidence yourself. Along this same line read Robert M. Price and Edwin Suominen's wonderful book, Evolving out of Eden. They will show you the inescapable implications of evolution: There is no original sin, no need for a savior, and no need for salvation.

Agreed? If not you're in too deep.

Earlier I had mentioned Richard Feldman, who has argued that in cases of religious disagreement between epistemic peers who have shared all the same evidence, rationality requires them both to suspend judgment, regardless of how certain each of them thinks about the evidence. David M. Holley argues however, that from the outset the disagreeing parties involved "have reason to judge each other not to be epistemic peers, and that there is some evidence in many religious disagreements that is both relevant to the disagreement and impossible to fully share." This is a healthy debate between experts in philosophy. How are we to decide between them? It can be tough. Actually in this case, they can both be right. The factual question of whether there truly are epistemic peers who have shared all the same evidence is at issue. Feldman says yes there are, Holley says no there are not. On the factual question I think we're dealing with a continuum. On the one side there are recognized experts who are almost but not entirely epistemic peers, who have almost but not entirely shared evidence. On the other side there are people who are not epistemic peers much at all, who have barely little shared evidence. One of them could be an expert and the other a non-expert, or both could be experts in different fields, or both could be non-experts.

I'm going to tell you what I'm trying to show with my review. I'm trying to show why Mark Mittelberg is not an expert worthy of our trust. We have legitimate disagreements, yes. But he's not my epistemic peer and we do not have shared evidence. I know more than he does, which should already be evident. If not, it will. I know most of what he shows evidence of knowing. I've read most of his recommended resources and I know his arguments. I used them myself to argue for Christianity! Since I used these same arguments and have come to think they no longer work, what do I know that he doesn't? Plenty! I know things he hasn't considered before, for if he had, he wouldn't be using these lame ignorant arguments, as I'm showing.

Which brings me to say something important. I used to say the problem between believers and non-believers wasn't ignorance but rather a different way of seeing the evidence, that it was a problem of having different worldviews. Now I see the difference between believers and non-believers is NOT mainly a worldview problem, although it is that. It's NOT about seeing the evidence differently through different worldviews. It's NOT because we view the evidence differently due to different background knowledge either. There's no such thing as background knowledge leading believers to see the evidence differently, since that which is not true isn't considered knowledge at all. It's because of ignorance, sheer ignorance, sometimes massive ignorance, and even willful ignorance. The difference between us is that believers are simply ignorant. So are its apologists. All of them. About something important. Depending on which sect within Christianity and what they know.

So no, the disagreement between Mittelberg and myself isn't a case of epistemic peers having shared evidence that we see differently. The objective evidence is decisively against faith. The problem is that believers like him don't know how to think logically. They don't know they're controlled by a shitload of cognitive biases that prohibit them from even desiring the truth, much less discovering it. So they don't know they need to counteract these cognitive biases by demanding sufficient objective evidence based in scientific thinking. They don't even know what constitutes evidence! Even their best apologists defend their faith by special pleading. They don't even know they do so, but they do, all of them to some degree. They begin with faith then seek to confirm it in every important case. And as we know all too well, as Stephen Law said: “Anything based on faith, no matter how ludicrous, can be made to be consistent with the available evidence, given a little patience and ingenuity.” (Believing Bullshit, p. 75).

People have asked me from time to time if Christian apologists lie to defend their faith. I have said that even though there are some Christians who do so, most Christian apologists are sincere believers. I still think that. But what's really going on is Christian apologists have become experts at deceiving themselves first. So they are deceiving others because they are first deceiving themselves. The social sciences have decisively shown us that people can deceive themselves to accept their conscious beliefs despite the evidence. My task is to show them what they're doing. It's very hard to convince the deceived they are deceiving themselves though.

Many of them are willfully ignorant and don't understand why. Their brains will it!
Depending on the nature and strength of an individual’s pre-existing beliefs, willful ignorance can manifest itself in different ways. The practice can entail completely disregarding established facts, evidence and/or reasonable opinions if they fail to meet one’s expectations. Often excuses will be made, stating that the source is unreliable, that the experiment was flawed or the opinion is too biased...In other…more extreme cases, willful ignorance can involve outright refusal to read, hear or study, in any way, anything that does not conform to the person’s worldview. Rational Wiki.
I wrote three books to educate believers on how to honestly seek the truth: A) The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion is True. In it I show honest believers how to approach their faith consistently without any double standards or special pleading. B) How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist. In it I show Christian apologists how to correctly defend their faith, if it can be defended at all. Apologists should read it before writing another sentence in defense of their faith. In it I challenge apologists to stop doing what they're doing if they're serious about defending the Christian faith. The risk is that if they stop it they cannot defend their faith at all. But the risk is worth it if they're serious about knowing and defending the truth. C) Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End. In it I show philosophers of religion and other intellectuals how to properly evaluate religious faith itself. What I cannot teach however, is to desire the truth. That comes from within. Taken together these three books are the antidote to the faith virus. The problem is almost none of them desire the truth, comparatively speaking. Here's hoping a few honest believers are reading who desire the truth.

While I'm at it, I've found that even among the very best Christian apologists there is a woeful, and even culpable ignorance about what "atheism" means. So my advice to Christian apologists is to become informed about atheism by reading Russell Blackford and Udo Schuklenk's excellent book, 50 Great Myths About Atheism.They chose the myths to be dealt with very carefully, wanting to draw the line between myths and legitimate disagreements people of faith have with atheism. They write, "In each case, we are convinced that something is being claimed that is, if not straightforwardly false, at least seriously and demonstrably misleading" (p. 5). In order to show they are not picking "easy targets" they cite examples with the actual words said. That's the best anyone can expect. So, if you want to be a Christian apologist read this excellent book. No more ignorance. If you want to seriously engage a real target rather than a straw person you must first understand what atheism means. Be ignorant no more. It'll do you good.

More later...

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