Showing posts with label Keith Parsons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Keith Parsons. Show all posts

The Philosophical Elitism of Keith Parsons

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I'm going to try showing Keith Parsons that he stands a lot to gain by listening to me, that I know what I'm talking about, and that he's wrong about the New Atheism. While I probably won't convince him, keep in mind that an argument doesn't need to be convincing for it to be a good one. I'm going to argue his problem is philosophical elitism. I will do so respectably, although it's that same attitude that may keep him from responding. First, here's a quote from Eric MacDonald endorsing Parsons:
The problem is precisely that the New Atheists think it appropriate to dismiss theology and philosophy of religion without understanding the first thing about it. Some New Atheists say, "I know enough about it. I was brought up as a Catholic or an Anglican or ...." But that's not qualification enough. Arguing from this point of view, where you really do not know what your opponent is arguing, because you have made no attempt to find out, is a simple informal fallacy known as special pleading. And the New Atheism is full of it. That's where Keith Parsons is way ahead of the New Atheists. Be an unbeliever by all means. But don't say that you know that there is no God or that theology is all make believe until you have really tried to understand what theologians are saying. And when you have done so, you will, I think, qualify your dismissal. --Eric MacDonald
I think this criticism of the New Atheism fails to understand the very phenomena being criticized. Let's just re-purpose MacDonald's quote: "The problem is precisely that the New Atheists think it appropriate to dismiss Scientology, or Mormonism, or militant Islam, or Hindu theology, or Haitian Catholic voodoo without understanding the first thing about it..." Need I go on? If anyone is special pleading it is MacDonald, for it didn't enter his mind to consider the many other religious faiths out there he easily dismisses without knowing that much about them. So I think reasonable people don't have to know a lot about religious faiths to reject them. We can dismiss these and other faiths precisely because they are faiths. The evidence is not there and even runs contrary to them. The moralities of these faiths also count against them. Do we need to know something about them to dismiss them? Sure, we should know something about them. In fact, to reject one of them we should at least hear about it. But even a rudimentary level of knowledge is enough for that, since faith is the problem. As outsiders we don't need to look into the many varieties of faith to know the results of faith are not likely to be true. We can do this simply by generalizing from the many mutually inconsistent false faiths to the probability that any given particular faith is false, even before getting an in-depth knowledge about it.

My specialties are theology, philosophical theology and especially apologetics. I am an expert on these subjects even though it's very hard to have a good grasp of them all. Now it's one thing for theologically unsophisticated intellectuals like Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and Stenger to argue against religion. It's quite another thing for a theologically sophisticated intellectual like myself to say the "New Atheists" were within their epistemic rights to denounce religion from their perspectives. And I do. I can admit they lack the sophistication to understand and respond point for point to sophisticated theology. But it doesn't matter. The reason is because all sophisticated theology is based in faith: faith in the Bible (or Koran) as the word of God, and/or faith in the Nicene creed (or other creeds), and/or faith in a church, synagogue or temple. No amount of sophistication changes this. Even an informed ten year old can come to the correct conclusions about faith without any sophistication at all.

Let's take a serious look at what Parsons said:
Do you need a Ph.D. in philosophy to be a legitimate and respectable participant in the theism/atheism debate or the science/religion debate? Of course not. But you do need to know what you are talking about. Those, however accomplished in other fields, who leap into the debate philosophically uninformed inevitably commit freshman mistakes that expose them to the scorn of sophisticated opponents. LINK.

The Arrogance and Ignorance of Keith Parsons

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Given that I have respected Keith Parsons as a man and a philosopher it is with great displeasure I write this post. But I assure you I am serious. I consider him both arrogant and ignorant. First, I consider Keith Parsons arrogant to think only sophisticated atheist philosophers can adequately respond to sophisticated Christian philosophers, such that any non-philosopher who tries is ignorant and shouldn't respond at all. At least Christians like William Lane Craig argue that philosophically unsophisticated Christians can continue believing in the face of philosophically sophisticated atheist arguments. Craig says they can continue believing due to the witness of the Holy Spirit.

Keith Parsons Attacks!

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Does anyone think what Keith Parsons wrote describes who I am and what I'm about? This is the kind of stuff that has a long life, something I have to constantly fight uphill to overcome. LINK. I don't need to respond since it's obvious he's ignorant about me. I do think it illustrates the unfairness of the Secular Outpost, and why no one should pay attention to anything they write about me or my works (unless it's good of course!) ;-)

Keith Parsons is Just Old. That Explains Why He Favors the Old Atheism.

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Evangelicals seem to love Keith Parsons. And he likes it. When it comes to writing something in Christian anthologies he's the go-to guy. That slap on the back must feel good. Now he's a good guy I'll admit. But even Edward Feser likes him. Something's gotta be wrong! ;-) They agree in that they both want to return to that old time religion, er, atheism. I understand why Feser wants to live in the past, but Parsons?

Look, I am not interested in merely having a discussion. I'm interested in changing minds. Karl Marx spoke for me when he quipped, "The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it."

At issue are the differences between Old Atheism and New Atheism. Parsons prefers the Old Atheism as does Feser. My view is they both want to live in the past. One must accept the changes and move on into the future. There is no going back. Christianity is dying. Why in the world would Parsons want to return to the good old days when Christianity had a huge monopoly in American academia, and where it was considered a respectable faith? There is at the present time a massive exodus from Christianity by young people. I just learned today that over half the people in Scotland are non-religious. As that happens in westernized countries we no longer need to respect faith-based reasoning, but rather tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth about religion.

What are the unique differences between Old Atheism and the New Atheism?

My Interview of Professor Keith Parsons About The Philosophy of Religion

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Dr. Keith M. Parsons is on the faculty of The University of Houston--Clear Lake, where he is Associate Professor of Philosophy. He has written a number of books and essays and was the founding editor of the philosophical journal Philo. He also did very well in two debates against William Lane Craig. Keith has honored me with the opportunity to interview him on the philosophy of religion, a topic I'll be writing about in a book titled, Unapologetic: Why the Philosophy of Religion Must End. What prompted this interview was that I noticed he was teaching a Philosophy of Religion (PoR) class after saying he wouldn't teach these classes any longer, or so it appeared seen here. I want to let him clear the air in case he changed his mind (his prerogative if he so chooses), or correct any misunderstandings readers might have. Going beyond this I want to get his present perspectives on the PoR discipline.
The following interview took place as I asked Keith a question via email, to which he responded as his time allowed. Then I would ask him another one, and so on. This was not debate, because I was restricted to asking questions. Even though I threw a few hardball's it wouldn't be fair to characterize this as anything more than a discussion. I interviewed him for the purposes of learning his views more or less, and that's it.

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John: The first question I must ask is why are you teaching a PoR class? Is it just one class, or are there others? Didn't you say you would no longer do so?

Professor Keith Parsons On Darwin the Philosopher

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Dr. Parsons recently argued that Darwin engaged in philosophical questions. Given the title to his post, the point is that Darwin was also a philosopher. What does Parsons say is the criteria for when someone is engaging in philosophy, as opposed to science? He says this:
In cases ... where the evidence will not settle the dispute, scientists must employ philosophical arguments. And they do. Therefore, the suggestion that science can simply replace philosophy is wrong for the reason that, as [Thomas] Kuhn observed, scientific debates often embed—or are embedded within—philosophical debates. These philosophical differences often cannot be settled by straightforward empirical means, but must be addressed with philosophical argument. Science cannot replace philosophy because philosophy is an essential part of the scientific enterprise. Kuhn was wrong about many things, but on this point he was absolutely right.
I had commented previously on what makes for philosophy right here. And I have no bone to pick with philosophy per se. But this is an interesting question. I think we can agree that mere reasoning is not equivalent to philosophy, so scientific reasoning is not necessarily doing philosophy. We should also agree that we don't need to wait until everyone agrees that a particular dispute has been settled by science, before we can say scientists are no longer doing philosophy when reasoning about the evidence. This was the case in Darwin's day, but the dispute over evolution has been settled in our day. I think the implications about evolution are settled too. What Parsons needs to do is show why anyone should wait until evolution deniers agree that this dispute has been settled, before saying evolutionists are not doing philosophy. So I see no reason to accept that criteria with regard to his specific example.

Professor Keith Parsons's "Rules of the Use of Ridicule"

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Previously Professor Keith Parsons advocated the use of ridicule, saying:
A single belly-laugh is worth a thousand syllogisms” said H.L. Mencken. Fundamentalism and fundamentalists should be ridiculed in the media, by comedians, or wherever. You don’t have to worry about fairness, since, as Poe’s Law famously notes, no satire can possibly be more absurd than the real thing. Come on. You just can’t come up with anything more ridiculous than someone who honestly thinks that all human woes stem from an incident in which a talking snake accosted a naked woman in a primeval garden and talked her into eating a piece of fruit. Again, most ridicule would consist of pointedly drawing attention to what they really believe. Nothing could be fairer than that. As a sign admonished on The Simpsons, put the fun back in fundamentalism. Laugh it to death. LINK.
Now I present for your consideration his rules for ridicule:

Professor Keith Parsons Advocates Ridicule

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He advocates this as one response to fundamentalism. He writes:
“A single belly-laugh is worth a thousand syllogisms” said H.L. Mencken. Fundamentalism and fundamentalists should be ridiculed in the media, by comedians, or wherever. You don’t have to worry about fairness, since, as Poe’s Law famously notes, no satire can possibly be more absurd than the real thing. Come on. You just can’t come up with anything more ridiculous than someone who honestly thinks that all human woes stem from an incident in which a talking snake accosted a naked woman in a primeval garden and talked her into eating a piece of fruit. Again, most ridicule would consist of pointedly drawing attention to what they really believe. Nothing could be fairer than that. As a sign admonished on The Simpsons, put the fun back in fundamentalism. Laugh it to death. LINK.
It's not just the so-called "new atheists" like Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher and PZ Myers who advocate ridicule. I do too. So does Richard Carrier, as does Stephen Law. Keep in mind we don't advocate this as the only response.

An Open Challenge to Dr. Keith Parsons and Other Atheist Philosophy of Religion Professors

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On September 1st 2010 Keith Parsons announced he was no longer going to teach in the area of the Philosophy of Religion. He wrote:

Dr. Keith Parsons Calls It Quits Regarding the Philosophy of Religion

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He wrote:
Over the past ten years I have published, in one venue or another, about twenty things on the philosophy of religion. I have a book on the subject, God and Burden of Proof, and another criticizing Christian apologetics, Why I am not a Christian. During my academic career I have debated William Lane Craig twice and creationists twice. I have written one master’s thesis and one doctoral dissertation in the philosophy of religion, and I have taught courses on the subject numerous times. But no more. I’ve had it.

I now regard “the case for theism” as a fraud and I can no longer take it seriously enough to present it to a class as a respectable philosophical position—no more than I could present intelligent design as a legitimate biological theory. BTW, in saying that I now consider the case for theism to be a fraud, I do not mean to charge that the people making that case are frauds who aim to fool us with claims they know to be empty. No, theistic philosophers and apologists are almost painfully earnest and honest; I don’t think there is a Bernie Madoff in the bunch. I just cannot take their arguments seriously any more, and if you cannot take something seriously, you should not try to devote serious academic attention to it. I’ve turned the philosophy of religion courses over to a colleague. Link