Showing posts with label argument from ignorance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label argument from ignorance. Show all posts

Turning the Argument from Reason On its Head

I was asked to comment on CS Lewis:

We can trust of the conclusions of our brains precisely because we evolved. The fact that we can think correctly means we had the survival skills that got us here. Other species died out because they didn't think correctly. Evolution has the unintended consequence that it weeds out species whose thinking skills didn't allow them to survive.

Since evolution is continuing we're far from having the precise logical thinking skills of someone like Spock in Star Trek though. Compared to Spock we are but babes. For our brains lie to us in favor of comfortable truths that help keep us within the safety net of our social tribes. The list of cognitive biases that hinder our brains from knowing the truth is very real, very long, and they affect us all, all the time, especially on matters we are passionate about. So our brains are not that reliable as good guides to the truth, apart from demanding hard sufficient objective corroborating evidence for truths about the nature of nature, its workings and origins. That our brains are flawed is the reason why people still believe in supernatural entities likes gods, goddesses, ghosts and ghouls without sufficient objective evidence. It's also the reason why those of us who understand the flawed nature of our brains look for science to circumvent the biases of our brains. There is no higher authority than having an overwhelming consensus of scientists working in a field. There is no lower authority than people who rely on subjective feelings for the truth.

There Isn't a Bad Reason to Reject the Christian Faith, Part 4

Previously I argued there isn't a bad personal reason to reject the Christian faith. Christian apologist Dr. Vincent Torley understood my argument fairly well so I'll use what he wrote to describe it (edited for brevity without the digressions). Then I'll comment on it.

There Isn't a Bad Reason to Reject the Christian Faith, Part 3

To see what I've been arguing recently read Part 1, and if so desired read Part 2. Now for Part 3 where I'll attempt to deal with another objection, this time coming from Matt DeStefano, an atheist who is a philosophy student in a master's level program. I remember those days myself a long long time ago in a far away galaxy. I hope you're enjoying this period in your life Matt, because you will probably look back on it as the best time in your life, as I do. DeStefano presents a scenario that is supposed to be the exception to my blanket claim that there isn't a bad personal reason to reject Christianity. If an exception can be found then my blanket claim is false. So let me say first of all that if DeStefano's counter-example works then it doesn't undercut anything else I said, only that there is an exception or two or three. I can live with this if so. Nonetheless, I don't think his scenario works.

There Isn't a Bad Reason to Reject the Christian Faith, Part 2

Previously I argued there isn't a bad personal reason to reject the Christian faith. This argument is aimed at Christians who believe in the following Doctrinal Statement (DS): An omniscient, omnibenelovent, omnipotent God exists who sent Jesus to atone for the sins of all who believe in him and desires that everyone should be saved with no one lost (See 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). Other believers need not apply. Other beliefs that people have are not specifically relevant to my argument except as they illustrate how bad human beings generally reason about things. In the next few posts I'm going to answer some criticisms of what I had written. Be sure to read my original post to understand what follows.

I've found that the more well-known an atheist becomes then the more often atheists criticize him or her for this, that, or the other. I don't like it but it comes with the territory. It's a sign of some kind of success, believe it or not. Atheists disagree with each other quite a bit anyway, but in my case I have put out thousands of words over the last seven years, so atheists who want to nitpick at this, that, or the other, can find plenty of nits to pick, especially since I like being a provocateur from time to time. One atheist critic of my argument is Jeff Lowder, who has recently been dogging my steps for reasons that totally baffle me.

There Isn't a Bad Reason to Reject the Christian Faith, Part 1

I have been thinking about Christianity for over forty years. I believed it. I preached it. I earned several master's degrees in it. I taught it. I learned to reject it. Then for over seven years on a daily basis I have sought to argue against it. I have written, co-written and/or edited five published books in five years containing the results of everything I have learned, which should lead thinking people to reject it. But I have to confess here and now, up front and center, that there isn't a bad reason to reject the Christian faith. I don't expect people to agree. It's a conclusion I have come to from everything I have learned. Again, there isn't a bad reason to reject the Christian faith. Since there might be one I'll leave it up to someone to suggest it. Otherwise, my claim stands.

So let me merely introduce what appears to be an overly simplistic claim and see what happens from here. As I said, I'm only introducing this line of thought. Christian people have said of me that, "Of the many atheist and theist blogs that I follow I would have to say that you are the best at consistently coming up with interesting topics and arguments even though I disagree with almost everything you say." Okay then, here goes. I want to defend the claim of the title to this post. Let's see if I can by taking an absurdly ignorant argument against Christianity and show why it's still a good reason for rejecting the Christian faith.

Christians Debunk Themselves! There's Nothing Left for Me To Do But Report What They Say!

What is there about ancient documents that can be interpreted in so many different ways by people who think they are divinely inspired? If Christians cannot agree with each other inside the house of faith, how can they possibly expect the textual evidence of the Bible to lead anyone outside the faith to accept the resurrection of Jesus? I recommend every Christian get all of the following books. Read them for yourselves. Opposing Christian scholars dismantle and effectively critique each others views leaving no reason to believe any of them. All. Get. Them. Now!

Why Doubt Is The Adult Attitude And How Science Helps Us

Anyone who understands the slightest bit about human rationality knows enough not to claim he or she knows too much with any high degree of assuredness. Doubt is a virtue. It's the adult attitude. It's the attitude we must develop since we're not born with it. As children we believed whatever we were told, until we become adults. Even as adults it isn't very easy at all for most people to doubt what they were raised to believe. Most adults still believe a large part of what they were taught as children, especially when it comes to their religious faith. It doesn't even occur to most of them that they should doubt their inherited faith. I have repeatedly made the distinction between affirming a claim and doubting it. And there is a continuum for doubting a claim based on how out-of-the-ordinary that claim is to us. The more out-of-the-ordinary a claim is then the more evidence we need to accept it. There is nothing controversial about this at all.

The Implications of the Book Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)

From the description of the book we read:
Backed by years of research and delivered in lively, energetic prose, Mistakes Were Made but Not by Me offers a fascinating explanation of self-deception—how it works, the harm it can cause, and how we can overcome it.
I read it and loved it. Fascinating stuff here about cognitive dissonance and how we deceive ourselves to resolve it. The implications of this book are that we should all be skeptics and trust the sciences. Let me briefly explain.

A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives

In her book A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives, Cordelia Fine cautions us when it comes to the conclusions of our brains. I claim that believers ought to take special heed of this and become agnostics. Believers retort that my brain may be deceiving me too. Let me say two things in response:

One) Okay let's all agree with the scientific data and become agnostics. I'm game if you are, otherwise dispute the data. Two) I do not affirm any religious beliefs. I am a non-believer. I don't think the evidence is there to believe in a three headed eternally existing God who created this particular world and became one of us to die on a cross for our sins in one lone part of the ancient world who bodily resurrected from the grave but was only seen by a few people, thereby forcing the rest of us to take their word on what they saw or spend an eternity in hell because we did not see this event for ourselves since we were born in a different time and place and were taught to think critically based in the modern sciences. Again, I do not believe this. It does not represent an intelligent plan from a perfectly good, all powerful God. If our brains deceive us when it comes to important issues like this then it's best not to be gullible and to demand evidence, hard evidence, positive evidence before we'll believe, especially since there are so many other believers in this world who are certain they are right about such matters too. Since there are so many different people all certain they have the answers to existence I can look at them all and say that until one of them steps up to the plate and offers something more by way of evidence than the others do then I cannot believe in any of them, and that's what I do.

On Being Ignorant of One's Ignorance and Unaware of Being Unskilled

[Written by John W. Loftus] As a former Christian, especially soon after I first converted, I thought I knew the answers to the riddle of existence. The answers were all in the Bible. And I thought I could also understand the Bible well enough to know, especially before I had any advanced learning. Initially I was a Bible Thumper. My motto was: God said it. I believe it. That settles it. All of the answers were to be found in the Bible, and I thought I knew them--all of them. So without any education at all I soon had the confidence to speak to college professors I met and not be intimidated at all. And I did. I remember walking away from some conversations thinking to myself how ignorant that professor was. Yep. That's right. At that time I was what psychologists have dubbed "Unskilled and Unaware of it." And it appears to me many Christians who comment here are just as I was. They come here with the answers. Some of them do not even have a college education. And yet they offer nothing but ignorant comments. I can't convince them otherwise. They are like I once was.

Looking back on those initial years I could see clearly that I was not able to think through the issues of the Bible, especially hermeneutics, until after gaining a master's degree. I would have told you upon receiving my first master's degree that I was ignorant before then. But I kept on learning and studying. Age had a way of teaching me as well. It seems as though as every decade passed I would say I was more ignorant in the previous one. As every decade passed I see more and more wisdom in Socrates who claimed he was wise because he didn't know. According to him the wiser that a person is, then the less he claims to know. Awareness of our ignorance only comes with more knowledge.

The Argument From Ignorance: "I Know I'm Ignorant About Most Things, Silly, and You Are Too!"

Part 1

This is an argument I've used before but needs some further explication.

The Argument From Ignorance

Surely people have heard of the "Argument From Reason," which attempts to show God exists, and the "Argument From Evil," which attempts to show God does not exist. I hereby advance for the first time the "Argument From Ignorance," which is short for the "Argument From Human Ignorance." Hitchiking and expanding on the arguments found in J.L. Schellenberg's book The Wisdom to Doubt: A Justification of Religious Skepticism, I will attempt to show that religious skepticism is justified based upon the fact that human beings are ignorant, and we are ignorant because we are profoundly limited and immature as human beings. [This might take a few posts to do so]. Let me begin with a summary of the argument found in Part One of Schellenberg's book.

In Part One Schellenberg argues for religious skepticism based on four distinct categories of thought called "modes," which he later combines into one. In the "Subject Mode" the author argues that human beings are limited in understanding. There is available evidence that is neglected and/or inaccessible to us. There is unrecognized evidence that is undiscovered and undiscoverable by all of us. In the "Object Mode" the author argues that it's probably beyond finite humans beings to understand Ultimate reality, since it must be "something infinitely profound." (p. 51) As such, we may have inadequate and incoherent conceptions of it.

In the "Retrospective Mode" the author considers the human past with regard to religious claims. The human past is too brief, ("only a few thousand years old") and we have been occupied by other things for us to conclude we have arrived at a final understanding. There have been moral, psychological and social factors which were actively against religious improvements to our understanding. There has been hubris (or self-importance) and greed, jealously and envy, which taken together led to dogmatism, hostility and rivalry among people of different understandings. "Because religious belief is wrapped up with this ultimate concern, it has tended to go hand in hand with a rather fierce loyalty. Nothing less than complete devotion is appropriate where such a reality is involved." "How, for example, can one remain loyal to God if one allows oneself to be seduced by objections to the belief that there is a God?...she is likely rather to become stubborn and intransigent, because of a well-intentional but misplaced loyalty." "When they notice that others disagree, they tend not to think of this as an opportunity for dialogue and growth toward deeper understanding, but rather feel impelled to insist on fundamental error in the opposing views." (p. 76-78). Furthermore, "the more attached one becomes to one's beliefs, the more difficult it is to remain open to their falsity and to engage in investigations that might show them to be false" (p. 84), which in turn has been "inimical to creative and critical thinking" about the Ultimate.

In the "Prospective Mode" the author "considers what may lie ahead rather than what lies behind us." (p. 91). If we survive on this planet we have 1 billion years to come up with better solutions to understanding the Ultimate, especially since we've just entered an era of unprecedented access to digital information that may all be categorized and placed into a hand held iPod someday. Science will progress into the future as well. People will increasingly be forced to get to know others who have a different religious perspective with a global economy and travel, and we will learn from each other and become more tolerant and assimilating of these views with a healthy exchange of information.

The author finally combines these four into one called "The Presumption Mode," which builds on everything he said before. He argues that "human beings are both profoundly limited and profoundly immature." (p. 117). Lacking any pragmatic reasons to counter his truth-oriented arguments, he concludes that "religious skepticism is positively justified." (p. 129).