You Can’t Judge an Argument By Its Conclusion

Barbara A. Drescher taught courses in quantitative/experimental research methods and topics in cognitive psychology at California State University, Northridge. She wrote a provocative post where she argues as follows:
The tendency to judge conclusions based on current beliefs is a product of how our brains evolved and developed – a side-effect of what makes us successful organisms. It is human nature, it is wrong and must be overcome if one is to be consistently rational. This problem pops up in a host of cognitive tasks and is a manifestation of the most influential of human frailties: the confirmation bias. This makes it extremely resistant to correction, especially in real-world contexts.

Reason is about the validity of arguments, so judging a conclusion as valid or invalid without examining the argument is itself an irrational act. Without the argument, your only yardstick is your own belief about the truth of that conclusion. Link.
I am convinced that confirmation bias runs amuck in the minds of most all believers. They judge the merits of any argument based on whether they agree with the conclusion. I am also convinced that apologists who defend Christianity start with their conclusions and then construct arguments to support them. So I am convinced that to embrace and defend the Christian faith is irrational. I cannot even hope to convince most Christians of this, since they aren't usually reasoned into their faith in the first place. But let me beat my head against the wall one more time:

Let's rehearse the facts.

1) Confirmation bias is a fact that all of us must be aware of and combat if we want to know the truth. People believe and defend what they prefer to be true. This is an obvious and non-controversial fact. That's who we are as human beings. That's what we human beings do. That's what psychological studies have repeatedly shown us over and over. I've written a great deal about this and what it means for the Christian faith.

2) It was science that discovered and continues to study this human propensity of ours, both cognitive science and social psychology. There are 19 social biases, 8 memory biases, 42 decision-making biases, and 35 probability/belief biases, as mapped out right here (just scroll down to read them).

What to do?

3) We must reject unreliable methods for determining the truth. Given that most believers learned their religion on their Mama's knees, and given that they cannot all be correct, we know that learning one's religion in this way is an utterly unreliable way to determine which religion (if any) is the correct one.

4) We must learn to doubt, to be skeptics about our culturally specific religion. Doubt is, after all, the adult attitude, as I've argued before.

5) The only way to know whether our inherited religion is true, given how we learned it in the first place, and given our cognitive bias propensities, is to trust the results of science. Unless you are an Amish person, modern believers accept the results of science about 99% of the time, except when they conflict with what was written down by ancient superstitious pre-scientific people in a canonized set of books as interpreted by modern Christian exegetes (who often disagree about the meaning of key passages). This is extremely inconsistent of them to do so. And it's also ignorant, since there is no parity at all with what pre-scientific people thought compared with modern science.

Evolution, a test case.

Jerry Coyne tells us evolution is a fact:
Every day, hundreds of observations and experiments pour into the hopper of the scientific literature. Many of them don't have much to do with evolution - they're observations about the details of physiology, biochemistry, development, and so on - but many of them do. And every fact that has something to do with evolution confirms its truth. Every fossil that we find, every DNA molecule that we sequence, every organ system that we dissect, supports the idea that species evolved from common ancestors. Despite innumerable possible observations that could prove evolution untrue, we don't have a single one. We don't find mammals in Precambrian rocks, humans in the same layers as dinosaurs, or any other fossils out of evolutionary order. DNA sequencing supports the evolutionary relationships of species originally deduced from the fossil record. And, as natural selection predicts, we find no species with adaptations that only benefit a different species. We do find dead genes and vestigial organs, incomprehensible under the idea of special creation. Despite a million chances to be wrong, evolution always comes up right. That is as close as we can get to a scientific truth. - Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution Is True.
Richard Dawkins says the same thing:
Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact. The evidence for evolution is at least as strong as the evidence for the Holocaust, even allowing for eyewitnesses to the Holocaust. It is the plain truth that we are cousins of chimpanzees, somewhat more distant cousins of monkeys, more distant cousins still of aardvarks and manatees, yet more distant cousins of bananas and turnips...continue the list as long as desired...It didn't have to be true, but it is. We know this because a rising flood of evidence supports it. Evolution is a fact, and this book will demonstrate it. No reputable scientist disputes it, and no unbiased reader will close the book doubting it. The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution(pp. 8-9).
Given the fact of evolution the implications for Christianity are enormous: The God-hypothesis for the creation of human beings is unnecessary at best; the Adam & Eve story is a myth; there is no original sin and no need to atone for it; human beings are not special nor even the highest creation; when we die we cease to exist just like every other species does. There are many others. Religion itself becomes an unnecessary hypothesis.

Against this overwhelming evidence, creationists continue to argue that even though evolution is a fact it's still possible their particular God exists. But as I've argued that's not probable, given evolution.

Look at the trends.

If science leads us to God, then why are there separate Christian creationist organizations set up with the express purpose of defending the God hypothesis? If the scientific evidence leads us to God, then atheists who object to the creationist conclusion would be the ones starting their own organizations with the express purpose of defending the non-God hypothesis. But this is not what we see. There aren't even any atheist universities set up with the express purpose of indoctrinating students not to believe. We do see a multitude of Christian colleges set up with the express purpose of indoctrinating their students to adopt their own sectarian beliefs. Why is it that science is not sectarian at all, whereas religion by its very nature is sectarian, divisive and diverse?

Why is it when it comes to evangelicalism that honest evangelical scholarship is a ruse, that there is no such thing? Scholars who deviate from the norm based on the evidence are booted out of their evangelical colleges and seminaries. In fact, in every generation new evangelical colleges and seminaries, publishing houses, and even denominations are started when the older ones drift into more "reasonable" moderate or liberal views. Why is it that Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, originally founded as seminaries with the goal of training conservative preachers, are the harbingers of liberalism and atheism?

Look at what it takes to defend the Christian faith.

Why is it that in order to defend the Christian faith even the best apologists must repeatedly lean on fallacious ways of doing so, as I am arguing here?

The only conclusion I can come to, is as I've said, that to embrace and defend the Christian faith is irrational. I have never been more convinced of this. Believers see this quite clearly when it comes to rejecting other religions and the sects within their own. I see this with them all.