How to Answer A Science Denigrating Apologist Like Matthew Flannagan

We've seen this same MO before from Christian apologists who must denigrate science to believe, and along with it, the requirement for sufficient objective evidence for their miraculous extraordinary claims. Just look at the posts I've written about it right here. This fact alone, if you knew nothing else, should be alarming and cause you to doubt the healing power of the Christian snake oil they're peddling! In what follows is yet another attempt to sell that snake oil from a PhD named Matthew Flannagan, who fancies himself as knowledgeable when he's not. On Facebook atheist activist Tom Rafferty posted this meme:

Matthew Flannagan: I can think of several: belief in the laws of logic, induction, belief in the a real external world, belief in other minds, belief in causation, belief in moral obligations, and belief that my basic cognitive faculties are reliable. Also almost everything I have learnt about history, geography, and science that I was taught at school or from reading is based on the testimony of others and not direct evidence. Is there any other area in your life where you suspend belief in any contested claim and try and prove it?

Tom Rafferty: no question, there are basic, abstract concepts that are true and not dependent on anything external to themselves. Math and logic are good examples. Also, virtually all objective information that we receive from others is indirect from the prime source of evidence. However, science-based thinkers only accept information from reliable sources (the consensus of experts actually working in the field(s) under consideration), whereas, magical thinkers accept the word of the religious, promoters of alternatives to medicine and other pseudoscientists. This blog post of mine may help you understand where I am coming from.

Flannagan: So Tom we agree that meme about “not believing anything else” without evidence is just superficial and false then?

Rafferty: Of course not, what you are calling “not believing anything else without evidence” are basic abstract truths that don’t require further objective evidence. Now, did you read my link?

Flannagan: Right so there are basic truths that don’t require objective evidence. But that's different from believing things without evidence?

Rafferty: So, what are you saying? Religion doesn’t require evidence to be accepted as being true? I hope you aren’t saying that religion is a basic truth.

Flannagan: What is problematic about saying certain religious beliefs are basic that doesn’t strike me as any stranger than accepting that moral beliefs or belief in other minds is basic? In fact this idea has been centre stage in much epistemology of religious belief for several decades and has been part of the Augustinian tradition of faith and reason for Millenia. So to approach the question of religious belief just assuming it is false Begs a lot of substantive questions.

Rafferty: You, my friend, do not understand science-based thinking. Religion is a superstitious relic of humanity's pre-scientific past and the sooner you folks can understand that the sooner humanity will be on the path to improvement. To say that religion is in the same category of reality as math and logic is ludicrous: WHICH RELIGION IS TRUE AND HOW DO YOU DETERMINE IT????

Flannagan: Note that comment is just a string of name calling alongside an expression of faith in a secular eschatological narrative. Note also your question can be fired back at you, which secular philosophy or worldview is true and how do you determine it.

Rafferty: Science, because it works. (mic-drop)

Flannagan: Science doesn’t adjudicate between differing secular ideologies. But note the inference X works therefore x is true isn’t obviously correct. A lot of people embrace religions because it works for them.

Rafferty: if "religion" was a viable route to reality, there would be only ONE. Get real

Flannagan: That argument proves to much. There isn’t only one interpretation of science, there are multiple anti realist and realist interpretations in the philosophy of science, so your own logic means you can’t assume scientific realism is true. There are numerous different theories of epistemology so that means you can claim, as your are in this thread, that a particular way of doing epistemology is correct. Simply repeating self refuting slogans doesn’t really count for much in my book

Rafferty: Last effort by me: what works better than science to determine reality?


Let me comment. Rafferty's meme is adequate but simplistic for someone like Flannagan. When talking about the difference between religion and evidence we must stress we're talking about OBJECTIVE evidence, so we don't get sidetrack into going deeper and deeper into the rabbit's hole of irrelevancies and endless discussions about definitions and distinctions. We don't follow them down this hole, as apologists insist we do, in order to obfuscate the facts. We refuse to do so because we're interested in clarifying the real issues. We must also stress we're talking about the nature of nature, how it works and what its origins are, since objective evidence is required. Lastly, we must stick to undeniable concrete examples. Period.

One might redo the meme as follows:

A question for the religious:

Besides the objective factual and historical claims of your religion

what other objective claims do you accept without objective evidence?

A longer version might add:

You require objective evidence for criminal trials, pregnancy tests, and polls. Why don't you require objective evidence for the objective claim that Jesus was born of a virgin?

Okay. Okay. Memes are hard to write if one wants to be accurate along with being succinct.

I finally decided to silence Matthew Flannagan, and so far I have. In fact, I don't think he can have an adequate response, at all!


John Loftus: I'm trying to figure out how respond to you. You seem to denigrate science and the need for objective evidence because of debates in the philosophy of science. Why? Let's deal in concrete examples like the virgin birth of Jesus. Here's a link to my analysis of a debate I had on it, along with a link to my opening statement on it. Now tell us what debates in the philosophy of science have to do with the lack of objective evidence for the virgin birth!

For more on objective evidence and miracles see my most recent book on miracles. Gary Habermas is recommending it to his PhD students.


Should I have added "(mic-drop)"? ;-)

There are other claims of Flannagan I didn't respond to, but this one was the important one.