The Conclusion Driven Arguments of Cameron Bertuzzi of "Capturing Christianity" Regarding The Outsider Test for Faith, Part 2

Having previously commented on the kinds of important issues Cameron Bertuzzi of "Capturing Christianity" failed to mention, let me deal with the substance of his criticisms of the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF). To his credit he quotes me fairly as saying:
The outsider test is simply a challenge to test one’s own religious faith with the presumption of skepticism, as an outsider. It calls upon believers to “Test or examine your religious beliefs as if you were outsiders with the same presumption of skepticism you use to test or examine other religious beliefs.” Its presumption is that when examining any set of religious beliefs skepticism is warranted, since the odds are good that the particular set of religious beliefs you have adopted is wrong.

The amount of skepticism warranted depends on [1] the number of rational people who disagree, [2] whether the people who disagree are separated into distinct geographical locations, [3] the nature of those beliefs, [4] how they originated, [5] how they were personally adopted in the first place, and [6] the kinds of evidence that can possibly be used to decide between them. My claim is that when it comes to religious beliefs a high degree of skepticism is warranted because of these factors. SOURCE.
In his first post he loosely discusses numbers 1, 2, and 4 above, with a focus on #1, that "the amount of skepticism warranted depends on the number of rational people who disagree."

First off, the seven factors warranting skepticism all come into play, but some have more weight than others. None of them bears all the weight. Furthermore, the factors mentioned are suggestive, not exhaustive. Another three factors off the top of my head are [8] how much objective evidence there is to the contrary, [9] how likely is it cognitive biases are affecting one's beliefs, leading to the feeling of certainty without any self-correcting acknowledgment that doubt is healthy, and [10] how important and central are these beliefs to the person's self-identity inside a social tribe.

Bertuzzi begins by mentioning the genetic fallacy. In some respect it seems he agrees with it's impact, but also says invoking it isn't enough. In the very post of mine he links to, I answered this criticism:
In arguing that one’s religious faith is overwhelmingly adopted by the “accidents of birth,” have I committed the informal genetic fallacy of irrelevance? This fallacy is committed whenever it’s argued that a belief is false because of the origination of the belief.

I don’t think the genetic fallacy is as much of a big deal as people think it is, especially in religious contexts. If someone has a paranoid belief about the CIA spying on him and we find that the genesis (or origin) of his belief comes from him taking a hallucinogenic drug like L.S.D., then we have some really good evidence to be skeptical of his paranoid belief, even though we have not actually shown his belief to be false in any other way, and even though by doing so someone could say we have committed the genetic fallacy. So in a like manner if we can determine that the origins of the earliest Christianities were created purely by ancient superstitious human beings, we have good grounds for skepticism. But even more to the point, if all of our beliefs are completely determined by our environment then that’s the case regardless of the fact that by arguing for this it commits the genetic fallacy.

Still, there is no genetic fallacy here unless by explaining how believers first adopt their faith I therefore conclude that such a faith is false. I’m not arguing that these faiths are false because of how believers originally adopted them. I’m merely arguing believers should be skeptical of their culturally adopted religious faith because of how they first adopted them.
Bertuzzi turns next to what Reformed philosopher Joseph Kim calls the Equal Weight Theory:
(1) It is unreasonable to hold to one’s views in the face of disagreement since one would need positive reason to privilege one’s views over one’s opponent.

(2) No such reason is available since the disagreeing parties are epistemic peers and have access to the same evidence.

(3) Therefore, one should give equal weight to the opinion of an epistemic peer and to one’s own opinion in the case of epistemic disagreement.
Dr. Kim disputes this argument.

Kim's first criticism is the most important one, so I'll spend more time on it. He objects that merely because rational people disagree about something does not justify skepticism about a particular claim. For there’s "no reason to assume that, for instance, any given Christian and any given Muslim have access to the same evidence." For my part I find it strange Kim uses two different religions as his example, which he thinks proves his point, since he's a Christian writing to other Christians who are sure their religion is superior to Islam. This is dis-analogous to what I'm arguing with the OTF. So what he says is another example of obfuscation. What the OTF seeks to do is settle, once and for all if possible, which religion is true, if there is one. So one cannot use the supposed truth of one religion as evidence that others who disagree are wrong. For first one's own religion must pass intellectual muster through the OTF.

In fact, if one understands what kind of evidence counts and what kind of evidence doesn't count there isn't sufficient objective evidence to believe in either religion. Here's a hint: Objective evidence counts. Private subjective evidence doesn't count since it's only evidence of private subjective states of affairs. Testimonial evidence doesn't count much at all without corroborative objective evidence to back it up. Second- third- fourth- handed hearsay testimonial evidence counts even less, especially if it's not written down until decades or more later, and where the earliest complete manuscripts available are centuries later.

In my book I mention the work of Richard Feldman who has written some of the definitive pioneering work in this area. He 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." Dr. Kim agrees. 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 all be right. But first we must settle the factual question of whether there truly are epistemic peers who have shared all the same evidence. If not, this disagreement has little to do with religious disagreements. Feldman says there are epistemic peers who have shared all the same evidence, while Holley and Kim say no there are not, not completely anyway. 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.

Skepticism is best expressed on a continuum, anyway. Some belief claims will warrant more skepticism than others. I’m claiming that religious beliefs warrant probably the highest skepticism given the sociological facts and the nature of these beliefs (factor #3). At the risk of offending believers here, religious beliefs, like beliefs in the Elves of Iceland, the trolls of Norway, and the power of witches in Africa, must be subjected to the highest levels of skepticism given both the extraordinary nature of these claims, how some of these beliefs are adopted in the first place from their respective cultures and because of the irrational nature of faith.

I find it strange to include as experts people who defend bizarre miraculous beliefs anyway. Let’s say all the miracles in the Bible actually took place as literally described, including talking snakes and donkeys, a sun standing still in the sky, a man being swallowed whole by a sea monster who lived to tell the tale, a virgin giving birth to a baby god, three levitating men at the Transfiguration of Jesus (two previously dead), dozens and dozens of zombie saints arising from the dead upon the death of Jesus, and men who were taken away into the sky dome heaven above the earth just above the sun moon and stars (cf. Enoch, Elijah and Jesus). Anyone who seeks to defend these beliefs, and don't kid yourselves many do, are not experts in anything but a delusion fostered by obfuscating the facts. There could be no objective evidence for any of them apart from mere ancient superstitious testimony coming from the Bible, which contains many bizarre miraculous claims. Just think what you would conclude of any of these miraculous claims if told to you by a person or two who claimed to have seen them? For more on what disqualifies someone as an expert see my post on 5 things that disqualify someone from being trusted as an expert in religious matters.

We should always think exclusively in terms of the probabilities and proportion our beliefs according to the strength of the evidence, as David Hume argued. If the evidence is inconclusive, then and only then our epistemic duty calls for a suspension of judgment. There might be miracles, perhaps many of them, that have taken place, and will take place in the future too, that we have no reason to think took place. I might have been abducted by aliens for testing, then put back in time exactly where I was abducted without a scratch or any objective evidence of my abduction. But no reasonable person would have any reason for believing my tale. Likewise, it just isn’t enough to believe ancient superstitious testimony concerning such claims without objective evidence corroborating them.

So I think rational disagreement between (more or less) religious peers who all share the same exact foundation of faith can and do merit what I call the default attitude, of agnosticism and skepticism. The amount of skepticism warranted depends on the criteria I mentioned earlier. Rational people don’t bet against gravity, for instance, because there is evidence for it that was learned apart from what was taught based on faith in a geographically distinct location. I’m claiming religious beliefs are in a different category than the results of repeatable scientific experiments because religious beliefs are faith-based, and that this fact is both obvious and non-controversial. Religious faith doesn't have objective scientific evidence for it but is being debunked daily by the sciences. See my The Top Seven Ways Christianity is Debunked By the Sciences.

My claim is that there's just way too much widespread global religious disagreement, regardless of whether or not religious people are peers and regardless of whether they have any shared evidence. That's because of something they all share. Faith changes how they assess the evidence. And the OTF seeks to solve it, if it can be solved at all.

Professor of anthropology David Eller tells us that “there are many religions in the world, and they are different from each other in multiple and profound ways. Not all religions refer to gods, nor do all make morality a central issue, etc. No religion is ‘normal’ or ‘typical’ of all religions; the truth is in the diversity.” He goes on to say:
Many or most religions have functioned quite well without any notions of god(s) at all, and others have mixed god(s) with other beliefs such that god-beliefs are not the critical parts of the religion. . . . Some religions that refer to or focus on gods believe them to be all-powerful, but others do not. Some consider them to be moral agents, and some do not; more than a few gods are downright immoral. Some think they are remote, while others think they are close (or both simultaneously). Some believe that the gods are immortal and eternal, but others include stories of gods dying and being born . . . not all gods are creators, nor is creation a central feature or concern of all religions. . . . Finally, there is not even always a firm boundary between humans and gods; humans can become gods, and the gods may be former humans.
And again:
“Religion” does not equal “theism” and certainly not “Christianity,” let alone any particular sect of Christianity. Indeed, there is no specific religion or type of religion that is really religion, the very essence or nature of religion. . . . Not only that, there is no central or essential or uniquely authentic theism but rather an array of theisms . . . . “Christianity” consists of a collection of Christianities including Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. And there is no central or essential Protestantism: it is a type of Christianity/monotheism/theism/religion with many branches. No one Protestant sect is more Protestant or more religious than any other. . . . In fact, there is no “real” Christianity at all, only a range of Christianities.
Robert McKim tells us that it “is clear, therefore, that large numbers of people have held, and now hold, false beliefs in the area of religion . . . at most one of them can be true. . . . And since so many people hold false beliefs in the area of religion, it would seem, therefore, that all groups need to consider the possibility that their beliefs in this area may be mistaken.” McKim concludes, “To fail to examine your beliefs when you ought to examine them is to fail to be rational in an important respect.” For “when there is disagreement, it is parochial and unsatisfactory to fail to take other perspectives seriously.” To believers who are sure they have the correct religious faith, McKim cautions that this is “simply a poor guarantee that you are right, at least in the area in which there is disagreement, including the area of religious belief.” [All quotes by Eller and McKim can be found in my book on the OTF].

Secondly, Bertuzzi tells us Dr. Kim argues that "if equal weight theory is true, then it would cause us to give up all sorts of common sense beliefs. Take the belief that other minds exist. It may surprise you to learn that some people deny this. But then if Equal Weight Theory is true, their epistemic peers (you and me) are required to take a stance of agnosticism toward this belief. We could no longer rationally believe that our parents, our friends, or our families have minds. But surely that is absurd."

This is pure sophistry and obfuscationism given the amount of religious diversity Bertuzzi is trying to sweep away without thinking honestly about its implications. Listen, what Dr. Kim mentions is a total red herring to the specific issue before us. Typical Christian. Some disagreements are over the facts. Take evolution for instance. It's a fact. The evidence is overwhelming. The only cases where Kim's criticism might be valid of peer disagreements given shared evidence is if there is evidence both sides agree on. It has nothing to say about peer disagreements when one side accepts the evidence and the other side doesn't. There is sufficiently strong objective evidence that people with faith can come to a multitude number of mutually contradictory beliefs unrelated to the evidence. That's when the side with sufficient objective evidence wins out. That some people disagree against the evidence doesn't change the facts. The people who disagree have to be confronted with the facts and be willing to honestly consider them. The OTF is the only test designed to help them do this. It helps to eliminate confirmation bias as much as possible so believers can honestly re-examine the faith they inherited inside their respective religious cultures.

Bertuzzi again, quoting Kim:
Third, and this objection seals the deal, not everyone agrees that Equal Weight Theory is true. For instance, I don’t agree that it is. But given Equal Weight Theory, any of my epistemic peers that accept it are now obliged to reject it (Kim argues the same argument works at the academic level). Equal Weight Theory is therefore self-defeating.
As I mentioned just above. It doesn't matter if people disagree with the facts. The ignorant opinions of people who disagree in human caused climate change don't count. The opinions of people who disagree that vaccines can eliminate viruses don't count. So likewise Bertuzzi's disagreement with the Equal Weight Theory doesn't count since the disagreement, as I said, is over a factual issue.

Bertuzzi concludes:
Given that Equal Weight Theory is ultimately self-defeating, I can only conclude that Loftus’ first consideration doesn’t actually warrant skepticism.
To refresh, "the amount of skepticism warranted depends on [1] the number of rational people who disagree." Taken in conjunction with factor [2] "whether the people who disagree are separated into distinct geographical locations." I'm talking about 'otherwise' intelligent people who are ignorant and/or uneducated who are swayed by their social tribes in every part of the globe. We don't see global scientific disagreements on a number of settled issues. Scientists come to a consensus when there's enough evidence to settle an issue. That there's been no way to settle religious disputes is due to the rejection of the kind of evidence that counts, which in turn is due to the irrationality of faith. Faith, religious faith, produces this great geographical religious diversity among 'otherwise' rational and intelligent people.

Again, Bertuzzi is just offering a knee-jerk reaction to this fair test of religious faith based on the conclusions of faith. His arguments are conclusion driven, not honest ones. That's just typical of Christians. It's proof positive of what I wrote earlier:
This strong tendency to prefer what we wish to believe and to confirm it are so strong The brain treats questions about beliefs like physical threats. Guy P. Harrison put the problem this way. If a skeptic disputes a psychic’s readings, then “the believer’s brain is likely to instinctively go into siege mode. The drawbridge is raised, crocodiles are released into the mote, and defenders man the walls.” He goes on to explain, “The worst part of all this is that the believer usually doesn’t recognize how biased and close-minded he is being. He likely feels that he is completely rational and fair. It doesn’t happen just with fans of psychics. We are all vulnerable to this distorted way of thinking.” [Think: Why You Should Question Everything, 2013), p. 67.] This process happens whenever the brain feels threatened by contrary data. The brain feels physically attacked when confronted with ideas that challenge it, and will do what it takes to deflect that attack.
The subconscious brain will deceive us. We know this. Being made aware that one's arguments are conclusion driven should help Bertuzzi and others disarm the brain by honestly and stubbornly seeking the truth that the OTF offers.