John Loftus is not Socratic Cole Slaw (or, if he is, then why am I trying to talk with him...?)

Intro note from Jason Pratt, guest author for the Cadre... Warning: 14 page post approaching! The original discussion, such as it was, can be found scattered through here on the Cadre journal page. John Loftus eventually continued his replies, first to BK and then to myself, here on the Debunking Christianity journal. You’ll need to scroll down a while through the comments to get to mine, and then to John’s reply. I’m around #11.

Where I quote John Loftus, I am sometimes using double-fancy brackets {{like this}}. For in-paragraph quotations, I’ll use regular double-quote marks. Single-quote marks indicate a paraphrase.

Since I’m going to end up repeating myself several times, I won’t blame John if he synopsizes in any reply he makes. I would of course prefer that he recognize I made such-n-such reply and include some reference to it, at least in principle, in his own replies. This is one way how discussions ‘continue’ as ‘discussions’. {s}


{{I hope that [mutual learning] happens, but your tone isn't conducive to a mutual learning. You seem to have the answers my friend.}}

Ahem. This is from someone who started his posts in the (original) comment thread in question by emphatically stating, “There is only one God that is deserving of the name, and that is the philosopher’s God. That is the God established by reasonable arguments, if such a thing can be done. The other Gods are human religions based upon the doctrines of “faith,” that legitimize and grant power to those who propogate them, advanced by the sword, but containing not much by way of evidence, in my opinion.”

Things didn’t get less proclamatic, not to say more eirenic, on your part from there.

And, incidentally, I identified _myself_ as being someone who grounds his metaphysical beliefs philosophically first, established by reasonable arguments, with an eye toward watching out for uncritically accepting influences from my own environment. In fact I take flak from that occasionally by Christians who complain that this means I’m putting myself over-against ‘scriptural authority.’ (I think of it as ‘not cheating when talking to sceptics.’ Opinions differ. {shrug}{s})

Wasn’t that the sort of thing you said you’d respect in principle (even if you went on to have reasonable disagreements, too)?

Yet when Bill made vaguer statements along that line himself, you sarcastically derided him for it and tried to call in his past history against him anyway, as if there was no point in even trying to do such a thing. Not exactly a tone conducive to _mutual learning_ there, either. (Especially if the point was that the only lesson to be possibly learned is to become an agnostic and/or eventually an atheist. More on this later.)

I also specifically said, more than once, that (to put it in the first way I said it), “I’m willing to respect your reasoning, without writing it off as being a mere product of your environment.” Did I ever try to Bulverize you like that subsequently anyway? No. Have I ever done that to you over the years of debating on Victor Reppert’s DangIdea site? No.

I _have_ criticised your logical application; and also your unwillingness to offer the same charity in return that you tacitly expect us to provide to you regarding _your_ reasoning in relation to the stimuli of _your_ environment. (Your demurement attempt will be discussed later in various places. Suffice to say for the moment that you don’t hold to that demurement very long; just long enough to make it seem like some kind of shared tu quoque with Bill, as a way of deflating his own answer to you.)

If someone can escape their macro (and micro) environmental pressures far enough to be able to think with proper and effective critical acumen about their own beliefs and the beliefs of others, then (by tautology) someone can do that. That is the sort of assumption I find I have to make in regard to myself in order to reason about anything; and I would be cheating if I didn’t extend that assumption as a live possibility at least to other members of my species whom I am engaging in argument. I debate metaphysics and other things with men; not with Furbees, nor with the iMac computer I’m currently composing this reply on.

So are you going to extend the assumption you make about your own ability to critically engage ideas (your own or others) as a live possibility to those whom you disagree with? Or not?

If so, then you should take back a lot of the things you were trying to do in that thread.

If not--then I’m not the one, between us, who is trying to shut down even the possibility of “mutual learning”.

Or, if you deny you may have such an ability instead or have successfully applied it in your agnosticism, then I expect to see a lot of retractions of your crits against ‘Christianity’ with a public announcement that you aren’t competent to do such analysis, on grounds similar to what you dismissed Bill for.

(Although for what it’s worth, if I noticed you doing that, I’d pipe up in your favor that if you really didn’t have such competency, there wouldn’t be much point in us paying attention to your ostensible conclusion that you don’t have such competency! That’s supposed to be reassuring. {s})

{{Jason, you either admit the basis for the outsider test, or you don’t.

Let’s say you do. If you do then you ought to be an agnostic because no faith can survive that test in my opinion, although it should if there is a God who wants us to believe in his specific religion.}}

Is that an _answer_ you _seem to have?_ Just checking. {g}

If the basis for the ‘outsider test’ is that no outsider can have sufficient capability to legitimately gauge the viability of an ‘insider’s’ belief, then I expect to see you disavowing pretty much everything you’ve written against Christian belief and becoming a ‘real’ agnostic (whatever that may be) instead of a critic of Christianity. You can’t call that in as a general principle against a Christian and leave yourself exempt from it. (After which I would point out more practical problems with trying to go that route, summed up by noting that no agnosticism can coherently survive such an operation either! Except maybe a rock’s agnosticism. Rocks are singularly narrow-minded... {s})

Fwiw, I deny (including _in your favor_, at least potentially--how you practice it is another thing) that any person (with normally functioning mentality anyway, in whatever way that functioning gets there) cannot be critical enough to responsibly evaluate their own beliefs and other people’s beliefs. If I affirmed it, I would be quickly engaging in self-refutational absurdity (including in the affirmation itself.) That means I can’t legitimately deploy it against other people, either, as a general dismissal of their beliefs. As I also wrote in that thread, “I don’t write off Muslim beliefs just because they happened to be born into a Muslim environment; and I don’t write off the agnosticism or atheism of friends of mine [or enemies, either, btw] just because they happen to have been raised in [or currently inhabit either, btw] that kind of environment.”

I would be disrespecting my friends if I did that (even though their beliefs and disbeliefs and uncertainties are different from mine), and I would be cheating against my opponents (whether friend or enemy) if I did that. That means I can’t legitimately use it against you, either. And I haven’t tried to do so. And I won’t.

(But you _have_ tried to do so, including in that original thread.)

{{Let’s say you don’t accept the basis for the outsider test. At that point I can ask you why you apply a double standard here. Why do you treat your own specific faith differently than you do others?}}

Why do you treat your beliefs (such as as they are) as if they are true instead of false? Hopefully you do so for good reasons! It would be rather inept (or perhaps desperate) of me to complain that you are _thereby_ treating your own beliefs ‘differently’ than you do others, where you both happen to disagree about the truth of something.

As to whether I am treating other beliefs ‘differently’ in any _unfair_ way, that is another question. Where am I being unfair to other beliefs, then? (That’s ‘me’, btw, John, not some hypostatized Christian-in-general you can set up as a straw man, nor some other Christian you’ve debated with before.) Am I treating _you_ unfairly by insisting on at least assuming you have the same possibility I (logically) have to assume I have--that of being free enough from mere reaction to environmental stimuli to responsibly evaluate your own and other people’s beliefs? It looks to me as though I am treating you very fairly by insisting on this, even though it deprives me of a prima facie weapon I could deploy against you in rhetorical dismissal.

Why, then, are you treating Bill and the others as though it’s ridiculous that they even might be critically competent enough (despite mere reaction to environmental stimuli) to write something like “Debunking Atheism”? Why are you treating your own possibility of critical acumen (despite mere reaction to your own environmental stimuli) differently than you do for those others?

If you reply that you _are_ treating them the same, by appealing to a tu quoque, then the _first_ place to start is not with dissing BK’s beliefs. It’s with dissing your own, including your criticisms of Christianity. I don’t see this happening yet. I don’t expect it to ever happen. I would actually _DEFEND YOU_ to some extent if I _did_ notice you trying to do it by general principle.

As you wrote, “there must be exceptions to this, or we can write off all metaphyscial beliefs.” That includes writing off all metaphysical conclusions, including the ones you include in your agnosticism (whether you consider that to be a belief or a conclusion). Unless you just sheerly and groundlessly assert your ostensible conclusions and beliefs, perhaps. After which I would be in some perplexity over whether I should admit you even _have_ a belief. (But if I did, my doing so would count in favor of theism as a corollary conclusion eventually; just so you’re aware. {s})

{{As I have repeatedly said, the overwhelming reason why someone becomes an insider to a particular religious faith in the first place is because of _when and where he or she was born._ Start there for a minute. Do you deny this? Yes or no?}}

You’re going backwards, John, for no good reason. I discussed this with you already in the other thread, and you aren’t even incorporating my replies into your attempt at continuing the criticism.

(For those people without John’s advantages in having been there when the data was given, my answer was, “Not only do I not dispute that, I specifically admitted it, too.” You may wish to ask yourself, if John already asked this, and I already answered it and went on with that side of the discussion myself, why isn’t John actually continuing the discussion by at least referring to my answer, instead of pretending this hasn’t been done already? If one goes back and checks how the discussion between us _did_ proceed, one may find an interesting possible answer to that question, btw...)

{{The adherents of these faiths are just as intelligent as other people around the world too, and you could no more convince many of them they are wrong than they could convince many Christians.}}

Yep. Actually, John, between the two of us, I seem to be the one giving _them_ more credit for this, than _you_ are! Unless you’re willing to agree with me that they can be critically responsible about their beliefs including in relation to my own where those differ. I’m pretty sure _I’m_ not the one who is trying to dismiss them as _only_ knee-jerk responding to their envrionmental stimuli.

(Again, for those of you who don’t have John’s advantage of having actually been present for that thread, I wrote, “That means I _agree_ you have a _right_ to be sceptical, according to the best light you can see.” And again, “I agree you have a right not only to be sceptical about 'religious' claims, but [even] to be an atheist, too, according to the best conclusions you can draw. I could hardly be a supernaturalistic theist (much moreso an orthodox trinitarian theist) and coherently deny you really do have such a _right_. Could I? {g}” I still stand by the principle of what I said here, _in his favor_, btw.)

{{You claim that I myself cannot think outside my own upbringing if what we believe is based to an overwhelming degree on when and where we are born, but that simply does not follow.}}

Actually, I was pointing out that if you put that kind of onus on your opponents, you’re toasting yourself to the same degree.

No, you didn’t say that it was impossible to think outside one’s own upbringing--and neither did I. (Though you implied that we shouldn’t expect BK to have done so, or pretty much anyone who has actually remained a believer instead of becoming an agnostic.)

On the contrary, I explicitly pointed out corollaries which follow from holding to the position, _as I do_, that one can think outside one’s own upbringing. Including two versions of an argument against accepting atheism thereby. So obviously that position is not incidental to my own beliefs.

However, to recap here, since obviously you aren’t going to: I _did_ say that if atheism is true, then _all_ thinking (necessarily including all _your_ thinking) not only cannot escape from but is ultimately based on-and-only-on non-rational mere reaction to our environments (micro and macro, insofar as there is some distinction).

So, no, if atheism is true, you can’t in fact think outside your environment. Ditto if naturalism is true, though in a different way. I’m glad to see that you agree we actually _can_ do this, though. Go supernaturalistic theism! {g} (Except of course when you doubt that you can. Interestingly, this tends to happen when theism looks about to be argued for in some fashion thereby...)

Nevertheless, you treated Bill with contempt when he tried to claim that he was thinking outside his upbringing, and you merely tried to bring his (presumed) religious upbringing into the picture again as if this told sufficiently against any such claim on his part. (And you utterly ignored Cam when he noted that he _had_ been raised in a sceptical environment!) In fact, _you_ stressed, at that time, that if Bill was doing this, then he was doing better than you, with a sarcastic implication that of course he was doing no such thing. Because he isn’t an agnostic and/or atheist, I suppose. (A good hpyercalvinistic line of thinking there, John!--must be from your upbringing... {g})

Granted, if atheism is true, then in fact neither Bill nor you could be doing that. But that hasn’t stopped you from trying to claim it about _yourself_ anyway. (Except when doing so looks like it may have to allow the risk of some weight toward theism somehow.)

{{Here's why: A believer in one specific religion has already rejected all other religions, so when he or she rejects the one they were brought up with he or she becomes an agnostic or atheist many times, like me.}}

Which goes a long way toward explaining why most conversions out of one religion, historically, _aren’t_ into atheism or agnosticism.

Oh--wait, it doesn’t... {g}

Appeal to the massive prevalence of religion in human history isn’t going to help there as a defense. A massive prevalence of religious belief in human history tends to count against agnosticism, much less atheism, being some kind of natural default position. Not that a natural default position is _in itself_ any ground to accept that the position might be correct, of course, I’m willing to agree. You weren’t trying to appeal to agnosticism and/or atheism as a “default position” for _that_ purpose, though, right?

If on the other hand you were trying to appeal to it as a _logical_ default position, then you’d have to agree that you _did_ in fact break enough free from your environmental pressures to do something other (or at least more) than knee-jerk react into agnosticism when your environment changed. (This is aside from gauging the actual logical merits of reaching such a conclusion, that agnosticism is some kind of default position to take, if anything goes wrong with someone’s religious beliefs. But I discuss that topic elsewhere.)

There are, admittedly, people going around who, thanks to category error (among other things--I find an acceptance of the gnostic heresy to have a factor in this, too), think that if Christianity (for instance) is true, then every other belief must be _completely_ false. Therefore, if something happens to nick their belief in (what they understand to be) ‘Christian’ propositions, for example, to this or that degree, they decide this means they should (or at least logically can) give up on religion altogether; and then proceed to do so.

But obviously they _aren’t_ doing so because they used to think atheism (and agnosticism) was false and Christianity true, therefore if Christianity is falsified they have _nowhere_ true to go to instead-or-thereby!

Or if that _is_ their rationale, then they’re kind of muddled. {s}

But in fact they go to what they _used to_ think was false to hold to, which they _now_ think instead is _true_. Agnosticism or atheism, for example, _is_ (they now believe) the _proper_ way to go--which proposition they thought _untrue_ before.

Even so, I don’t deny that they may be responsibly evaluating things according to the best light they themselves can see (as I also put it in the other thread). I also don’t deny that they have a right, as well as a responsibility, to do so. Ineptness or faulty data aren’t in themselves a denigration of the person. I get faulty data, too, sometimes, and I’m not always ept myself. {g}

(If they’re intentionally _fudging_, then that’s another thing. I try very hard to watch for fudging in my own apologetics, but as a penitent sinner I can’t say I don’t fudge sometimes in other regards. And I have caught myself doing it in apologetics, too, on occasion. It’s a sin, not just a mistake, either way, when I do it. But I neither assume nor conclude before the disputation actually commences that the other person _must be_ fudging; unlike some schools of Christian theology.)

{{You say that if I can do it then anyone can, but that too does not follow. I’m not so sure I did in fact do it.}}

Even if you didn’t in fact do it, that doesn’t in the least change or threaten the notion that if you _can_ do it then anyone (in principle) can.

But--if you’re not so sure that you in fact did do it; and if you call coup on Christians for not being able to do it and yet presenting their evaluations as if those could be possibly right; then you ought to be willing to hang yourself and your _own_ evaluations, by the same petard. (Which would seem to include that evaluation, too.)

Or, if you recognize and insist that you have a right to debunk Christianity, and that you may in principle be correct to do so, then they have the same right and possibility--whether or not this is by a sufficient escape from their own environmental stimuli.

Otherwise, _you’re_ the one employing the double-standard. Or if you seriously think you may have only been reacting to environmental stimuli in leaving Christianity, then why are you still debunking Christianity? Maybe a bad digestion (or a more complex equivalent thereof) has led you into agnosticism, and is keeping you there.

Fwiw, I wouldn’t charge that against you, as a way of dismissing your agnosticism (or atheism, or whatever it is you currently have.) I know opponents sometimes reason clearly on an issue, and can even be right to critique a point being held by a believer--sometimes very important points, whether in the data or in the logic involved. I’ve been rightly tagged wrong myself on occasion. It happens; and it _ought_ to happen. Mutual learning and all that, yo? {g} If you like, you can set up a post on your website, and I’ll be glad to drop in my reasons for thinking Bart Ehrman scored many good and even excellent points in his debate against William Lane Craig last year; or for why I’m on record as judging Keith Parsons to have actually _won_ his own debate against WLC back in 96, by a solid edge. (I’d post it here, but surely that would be more fitting over in ‘debunking Xtianity’, right? Just let me know when-if-ever you do it. You can get my email address from the hyperlink of my name. God knows I get enough spam that way, too, so be specific please in the title.)

What I have a problem with, is when you say you allow that you might be no better off than a particular Christian opponent in your epistemological status, in order to oppose the Christian; and then one way or another you don’t take that seriously in regard to your own debunking efforts (for example). It looks like a pennyful of humility, gladly paid in order to score against an opponent, and then forgotten (or even denied) before it can count against your own efforts. When that happens, it’s pretty obvious the only real consistency is the ‘opposing Christians and/or religious believers generally’ part.

For self-consistency’s sake, if nothing else (but there is more than that, I aver), I would rather treat you as being something more than a Socratic cabbage, even if it means putting up with the risk that you might in fact get something right against me somewhere.

{{And it does no good whatsoever to claim you did escape your upbringing so you are right about what you believe, as BK wants to say, unlike me.}}

Actually, Bill was responding to your challenge that people who can’t sufficiently overcome the influences of their upbringing are in no position to critically evaluate even their own beliefs, much less other people’s. (Therefore poot on Christians. But not on yourself, of course, one way or the other. Debunking Christianity has to come first. {s} Socratic cabbages are admittedly quite unfreethinkingly and merely environmentally agnostic, I allow. Tasty, too. {g})

But if you want, we really can treat you as though you are only memetically reacting to your changing environment. This is why I don’t spend my time trying to have discussions with your local Furbee from Furman anymore. For goodness’ sake (that's a theological claim {g}), I would rather _not_ treat you (or him) that way; but, I do have to admit it makes my life a lot easier and less stressful when I do.

Fwiw, I don’t believe that merely escaping one’s environmental influences is in itself ground for claiming one is right about a claim. I don’t think BK was saying that, either. I _do_ think you’re trying to make your own life easier and less stressful by treating us as Socratic cabbages (who should be good agnostic cabbages, just like, well, biological cabbages {g}); and yourself too, temporarily, if that looks to score some kind of point against us. Even though we’re consistently trying to claim something else, something better, about ourselves _and_ you. (I’m even willing, in principle, to believe something better about your agnosticism, than that it’s only the agnosticism of a cabbage, merely reacting to its environment. But, however you wish... {shrug})

Points for comparison. Person A is saying: I can do something you can’t, which is why I at least have the possibility of being right about my position, unlike you! Well, okay, maybe I can’t do it either, any more than you can; but that’s even better because that denial actually means I’m right to hold my position and you’re wrong not to hold my position! (Although I’ll go back to acting as if I can do that thing asap; because after all, what’s the harm in pretending I can do so? Except when that person over there does it. Then it’s wrong.)

Person B is saying: I find I have to treat myself as having certain capabilities, whether or not I manage to apply them competently, if I’m going to accept any argument I myself make; and I also find I have to presume the same complimentary thing about you, my opponent, if I am going to have an argument with you at all. So, I will affirm that we both have this capability, despite mere environmental influences on both our parts (one way or another), and proceed to dispute with you. But I had better keep in mind that I have to be granting you the same charity I grant myself in doing so, even if that means having to accept a risk that you might end up being right about something with me being wrong. Otherwise I’m cheating; which _instantly_ makes _me_ wrong, even if it happens that other people don’t notice the cheat. So I’d better keep my opponent’s favor in mind, and play fair, even if that means he may possibly get to win some points sometimes, or even the match altogether.

Readers may now evaluate which person is doing the more proper thing, according to your best ability and the best light you can see. {s}

Some notes:

{{If there is no such thing as having objective reasons to believe something then BK should be an agnostic, the default position. I also argue that agnosticism leads to atheism.}}

If there is no such thing as having objective reasons to believe something, then you cannot have any objective reason to believe BK (or anyone else, including yourself) should be an agnostic, much less that agnosticism is “the default position”. You also cannot have objective reasons to argue that agnosticism leads to atheism.

If you consider that to be an advantage to your reasoning, or something that you’ll just have to put up with in regard to your own reasoning, then you could stand to be more consistent about application in that regard. (But then you’d have to allow the same credence potentially to BK, who is in the same epistemic boat.)

If you consider that to be a disadvantage to BK’s reasoning, then it also counts as a disadvantage to _your_ reasoning by the same general proportion. (In which case you’ll have to give up any hope of being taken seriously in your ‘debunking Christianity’.)

On the other hand, if there is such a thing as having objective reasons to believe something, then there _might_ be objective reasons to conclude that BK ought to be an agnostic, and that agnosticism is some kind of default position (the agnosticism of a cabbage, perhaps--that would certainly have to be true if atheism is true), and for arguing that agnosticism leads (properly or otherwise) to atheism. Or, there still might not be, for those positions. Or, there might be in some people’s sufficiently objective evaluation, while other people might just as objectively reach different conclusions, maybe even from the same data sets. (Objective evaluation is no bar against honest error, or against having faulty or limited data sets. But neither are those bars to an evaluation being objective.) Fun complexity! Charity to opponents! Real duels with real honor available for _everyone_ involved, instead of two guys kind of falling against one another as the wind blows them around! {g}

I tend to go with option 2; but I know preferences vary. {s}

{{I never said we SHOULD believe what all authorities believe just because they believe it.}}

Hardly--otherwise you’d have to go with the majority of authorities throughout human history who have taught against agnosticism (not to say atheism)! Nevertheless, your authorities as people are in the same boat you and BK are--aren’t they? 90% of what _they_ believe depends on data accepted from authorities, etc. (I could tease a fun if venial theistic argument out of this, but I’ll defer.)

If your authorities are worth accepting _despite this_, then by tautology such a thing can be done. Either you yourself are also doing it, or you’re not. If you’re not, goodbye to Debunking Christianity (since explicitly or tacitly such an attempt depends on you being able to do this yourself to some legitimate extent.) If you can--then while your demurement that you might not be doing so in the case of your own beliefs is appreciated, your case might actually be better than that demurrment after all. Which I would be willing to agree is at least potentially good news for _you_. (But then so much for trying to run a tu quoque on BK.)

Okay, I’ll indulge in one fun if venial theistic argument...

{{Who sets up that mutually agreed upon test? Why mutual partners, silly.}}

Yay! I agree! Go multipersonal singular substance theism! {ggg!}

Oh, wait, you didn’t _really_ mean mutual partners are the ultimate grounding for that... Silly me. {g} So, back to the question: who set up that mutually agreed upon test (i.e. that if authorities mutally agree upon something we who are not authorities can be confident in accepting it)? Obviously it needs to be something with as much at least prima facie credence as ‘mutual partners’. Except without being that answer. Be sure to include why we should accept this source which is like mutual rational partners being the ultimate ground of reality and authority. But not.

Or, you could take my question in the context in which it was asked instead, since it ought to be obvious that answering ‘mutual [human] partners’ doesn’t get around the authority question in regard to whether they’re in the same boat we are, in principle, regarding their ability to come up with things that ought to be accepted (by themselves or those under authority, either one).

I’m okay with it either way. {s} (Though given a choice I’d rather stick with what I was talking about when I asked the question, for topical coherency.)



Anonymous said…
Glad to hear that 'lil ole me provoked a 14 page response. Do you think anyone besides me is going to read it? In any case I already responded here.
BK said…
The funniest thing about this is that despite his long explanation on his own blog talking about epistemological certainty and authority, he has never answered my question. I suspect he never will.
Anonymous said…
I dont think its as bad of John to ignore my upbringing as it is for him to ignore the upbringing of all the original Christians, whether they be Pagan or Jewish or otherwise. The societal pressures against apostasy were much stronger back then than now and the original Christians certainly werent raised Christian!

Good post.

Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
BK said…
I removed the last post because I deemed it to be a simple ad hominem with no content worthy of remaining on the site. If Mr. Loftus wants to post again removing the insults, it may remain.
BK said…
While I earlier posted John Loftus' comment, I have exchanged e-mails with Jason who says he would prefer that I leave it up. So, here is what John W. Loftus said that I removed:


I'll have to be honest here. Not even I have read through what you wrote. It appears as if you were dealing with the link I previously provided, though.

You need an English Composition class. I_get_{{lost when}}_reading [through_(it)].

It's too cumbersome to read, and I've heard the same things before.

I am not going to give a full defense to the Outsider Test. I did that in my book. What I'm actually arguing for is a prior presumption whereby we treat religious propositions with a healthy measure of skepticism based upon the fact of religious diversity spread around the globe into separate geographical locations.

I think that's a no brainer. Agnosticism is the default position when faced with the maleability of the human mind to adopt cultural beliefs as our own, especially when there is so much disagreement among respective authorities and where there isn't a mutually agreed upon test to decide between them.

I just don't see how any amount of logical gerrymandering can overcome my argument.

If you'd like to write more clearly I might actually read through what you wrote.

Take an English Composition class. The fact that you write how you do tells me you don't have much of an education, and hence not much by
way of substance either. I am not a translator.
Anonymous said…
Well, I'm glad Jason had you repost it, because if you hadn't, then it would make me look really bad. Now everyone can see for themselves what kind of post BK thinks is inappropriate.

I didn't save it anyway, so thanks, Jason.
Anonymous said…
John said:

"I'll have to be honest here. Not even I have read through what you wrote."

John said:

"I've heard the same things before."

How can you know if you've heard the same things before if you didnt even read his post? How did you even initially respond to him on your blog without knowing exactly what Jason was talking about?

"What I'm actually arguing for is a prior presumption whereby we treat religious propositions with a healthy measure of skepticism based upon the fact of religious diversity spread around the globe into separate geographical locations."

Can we treat naturalism or materialism or atheism with a healthy measure of skepticism as well? No worldview is without assumptions. Assumptions are beliefs. Or do you think some worldviews are too good to be questioned?

"Agnosticism is the default position"

Jason addresses this partially in the OP. Perhaps you should directly respond to what he wrote. I would disagree with this. For one thing people have to know or have a concept of God just to be agnostic. The common understanding of the term agnostic (though Im sure you might respond with many other definitions of agnosticism as argued within the secular community) is being unsure if we can know if a God exists. In this understanding of agnosticism it is reactionary, not the default. If you mean agnostic in the sense that a beaver or racoon are agnostic, then at one point in time all humans were. Im not sure how now that the concept of God has pervaded the world as it relates to humans how anyone can go to this "default" position without having some kind of assumption. Agnostics are still only reacting in a sense instead of defaulting. Im not sure if "unknowing" is the same as "agnostic". Its impossible for an agnostic in today's society to maintain this kind of ignorance in their retaining their agnosticism.

Religions are a natural extension of human experience. They have developed naturally in virtually every isolated culture on the planet. Recent research supports that there may be a hereditary link to religiosity. I would say supernaturalism is the conscious human default position and any position that denies or disbelieves or is unsure of the supernatural is merely reactionary. The supernatural claims and beliefs have to come BEFORE someone can be "agnostic" concerning them, unless you are actually speaking of how plants or rocks are agnostic.

Jason Pratt said…

Nor, by and large, did they say, ‘Hmmm... something not quite right with paganism/agnosticism/atheism... I guess that means we had better become agnostics--hey, we’re right back where we started! Cool!’ {g}

Guess that means they weren’t logical enough. It takes people who can read complex sentences to be that smart. Or maybe people who can’t read complex sentences. One of those anyway. {g}


_Lots_ of funny things about this! My favorite so far, is that I must be really really inept at logical gerrymandering. Because, if I was the kind of person who would rejigger logic into some weird shape purely for my own convenience, one would normally suppose I _wouldn’t_ be the kind of person who would fill my post with appeals in favor of taking John seriously. Or maybe that shows just how extremely perverse my gerrymandering is. Something like that. {g}


{{Do you think anyone besides me is going to read it?}}

Amazingly, some of the Christians on this site made it through without any difficulty. They must have only imagined they understood it. Or maybe it was a miracle. Opinions vary.

That being said, I can sympathize with not wanting to read a 14 page reply, even for long enough (like, for instance, in the title) to notice I’m bending over backwards in numerous places to try to find ways to give you credit for your beliefs (such as they are). For example, I was so pooped by the time I finished it, that I just didn’t feel like going back and adding in html coding for the formatting. Which I don’t much like doing anyway, because I’m not very good at it. (I think my link to Victor’s site is busted, for instance.) Much easier to drop in one explanatory paragraph, and go eat dinner.

But I agree, in a longer post like that it would have been helpful aesthetically. Not that a truly critical reader would confuse aesthetics with content quality, but still I ought to have waited until I felt more like doing it.

Also, I could have trimmed down a lot of that length, had I not been including ways to take you seriously. I can think of an offer to post up some appreciative evaluations of Bart Ehrman and Keith Parsons vs. William Lane Craig, on your own website, that inflated the post by several dozen words for apparently no good reason, to give one example. But, as you say, you’ve heard it all before, so you didn’t miss anything there... {shrug}

{{It appears as if you were dealing with the link I previously provided, though.}}

Not only that, I even linked to the link you previously provided--where I had left another substantial comment already, to which you had already written a response yourself, to which I was answering with this post (while also recursing back through to your comments in the original post on this site, topically).

So, yes, it does seem like I might have even been dealing with the link you previously provided. Good analysis there! (See, that would have been lost if I hadn’t asked Bill to undelete your second comment.)

{{I_get_{{lost when}}_reading [through_(it)].}}

Apparently one of the things taught in that English Composition class I apparently missed, was that there is no distinction between formatting and parenthetical cues being randomly dropped into a single sentence, and such cues being placed for emphasis and topical distinction. Or maybe that was in the Sheer Rhetoric 101 class. (Me really am not remember attending for to be that one.)

{{It's too cumbersome to read, and I've heard the same things before.}}

Along with Cam (and I expect others), I find it amusing that you had already _replied_ to it before leaving your first comment, where you wondered whether anyone would read it besides yourself--and _then_ afterward you decided it was too cumbersome to read.

Too cumbersome to read, I can sympathize with. Even _I_ sometimes complain about my prolixty. (Including in my introductory note, come to think of it. I took a snipe at myself for the length in my comment announcing the post on your own journal, too, as I recall.) Already writing up a reply to it before you’ve read it, and then deciding afterward it’s too cumbersome to read? Less sympathy there. {insert sound of world’s smallest violin playing}

For those who are curious, the ‘reply’ to my OP which John ‘already’ made before deciding my OP was too cumbersome to read through, is largely a cut-n-paste drop of things he was saying the past couple of days in various threads already referred to; without any context at all that previous discussions were being held on it. Not surprisingly, there is also zero engagement with what I was saying in this post. Aside from merely parroting things he had already written before (what a great and easy way to put up a substantial post--why don’t I try that sometime??), he adds a list of “Christianity Am False” chestnuts, all of which have been discussed before, at length, none of which have anything to do with recent actual discussions. But they do pad out the post (cut-n-paste parrot-droppings from previously composed material perhaps?), and provide a nice prima facie way for ‘concluding’ (via an undistributed middle) that “The only reason Christians believe it is because they were influenced to believe it by people they trust, by their parents, and by their culture.” Go agnosticism!

I dunno, maybe John _is_ a Socratic cabbage after all... The level of mere memetic regurgitation seems awfully high. {shrug}

{{If you'd like to write more clearly I might actually read through what you wrote.}}

For what it’s worth (that’s what fwiw means, btw), during dinner after I posted this up, I was already pondering how to focus it down further, since I do in fact understand that long and/or complex posts are bothersome to read through. I was planning to write a more topically focused version anyway; but since you asked so nicely, I feel extra good about already planning to do so. Go me! {g}

{{Agnosticism is the default position}}

“Jason addresses this” at tedious (not to say painful) length “in his OP. Perhaps you should directly respond to what he wrote.”

See? Cam managed to read it. {shrug}

However, this is what I was planning to focus on later; so if you prefer to wait until then, I have no complaints. Though on the other hand, given the utter lack of engagement your ‘reply’ already shows (at least it appears as if I was dealing with the link you previously provided, right?), I am increasingly inclined to say ‘never mind’ and go do something else instead.

Anonymous said…
Pratt: I am increasingly inclined to say ‘never mind’ and go do something else instead.

Then perhaps you should do that, since I still haven't read it. I did skim it, though, and what I saw was nothing new. I am well aware there are ongoing discussions that never end here and there and everywhere. I see things differently. If you keep watching at DC you'll "see" what I mean as I link to a talk I'm to give soon.

When I skimmed what you wrote there were so many gross mischaracterizations of my position that it leads me to think you are uneducated or you refuse to actually address what I actaully think, and if either is the case you aren't worth my time {[sorry[}.

I guess BK thinks what you said was worth the time. Let the reader trudge through what you wrote to see for themselves. It's not worth it to me.
Anonymous said…
By the way, Pratt, the truth is you lost me with the title. If you want a respectful discussion then be respectful. When I feel someone is throwing mud in my face, I throw it back.

So, it behooves you from now on, if you want someone to hear what you have to say, to be polite.

Otherwise you can vent, mischaracterize and sling mud all you want. But I don't have to read it or respond to it. And I won't.

Pity. We could have both learned from each other.
BK said…
John W. Loftus wrote:

"So, it behooves you from now on, if you want someone to hear what you have to say, to be polite."

This, from the man that wrote the following:

"Take an English Composition class. The fact that you write how you do tells me you don't have much of an education, and hence not much by way of substance either."

Anonymous said…
John said:

"When I skimmed what you wrote there were so many gross mischaracterizations of my position that it leads me to think you are uneducated or you refuse to actually address what I actaully think."

I dont think I'm the only one who really really wants to hear from you specifically how Jason mischaracterized you.


p.s. Do you think people should avoid reading your books, John? Theyre certainly more than 14 pages.
Anonymous said…
BK, are YOU a serious thinker? Let's see, Pratt treats me with disrespect, I respond by disrespecting him. BK accuses me of what? Being disrespectful? No. Never. Not until I am first disrepected. Period. I actually think some people would rather turn a discussion into a fight so they don't have to deal with my arguments. That's what I see anyway. Prove me wrong.

Cam, then blame Pratt, not me.
Anonymous said…
John -
Blame Jason for what? Im not sure what you mean by this.

If you read Jasons OP you would realize he was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt and he has in other threads as well. Just because someone can point out a double standard of yours or possible errors amidst your numerous assertions doesnt make it disrespectful. Hes providing a helpful critique.

John, truly, I would give you a lot of respect if you just read the OP in its entirety and responded to Jason's arguments (having actually read it first, mind you). If you truly are only concerned with the arguments, then make yours given the arguments the OP contains.

BK said…

Let me say this: I wouldn't have posted what Jason did because I don't believe in posting on a general website the challenges to individual atheists unless they are authors whose material is published by a national publishing house and read by thousands. When I posted my response to your objection about Lot's wife and Balaam's ass, I didn't reference you because I wasn't responding to you alone but merely used your comment as an example of what I have seen lots of times previously.

Having said that, I don't see where Jason disrespected you. He put down his objections to your thinking, you insulted his intelligence. Unlike you, I read this and I didn't see him calling you names or insulting your intelligence. I saw him critiquing your viewpoint.

Finally, as far as you not being disrespectful unless disrespected, I think you need to do some introspection. You have, in the past, definitely disrespected what I have said without provocation. You did so most recently in the post that engendered this post by Jason when you responded to my question asking how you knew that I hadn't looked at the situation as an outsider by mocking. Seriously, look in the mirror.
Jason Pratt said…

{{Let the reader trudge through what you wrote to see for themselves. It's not worth it to me.}}

Fair enough. I've certainly felt the same way enough times myself. No foul against you.

{{By the way, Pratt, the truth is you lost me with the title. If you want a respectful discussion then be respectful. When I feel someone is throwing mud in my face, I throw it back.}}

So.... when I affirm that you _aren’t_ a Socratic cabbage, you think I’m insulting you. ... ... ... ooooookay.

Given that, I can understand your being in the mood to simply dismiss anything else in the post. I guess. Especially since during the post I routinely come up with various interpretive options and then _dismiss_ the ones that involve you being logically required to disavow your own work as being incompetent, unwarranted, etc. Leaving over the options where I agree you have a right to be a sceptic and to reach conclusions for your beliefs to the best of your ability, etc. Which gells with the title of the post.

But if you were insulted by my denial that you are a Socratic cabbage, I can see how you would be insulted by my preference to go with interpretive options that agree to respect your epistemological status and rights as being no less than my own. (Though being a completist I mentioned the other options anyway for comparison.)


To be fair, he ad hom’d me with that _after_ he had been insulted by my affirmation that he isn’t a Socratic cabbage.

Making use of a brief colorful phrase, I agreed that (to borrow yet again from something I said earlier and have tended to repeat occasionally, including in my OP), “I’m willing to respect [John’s] reasoning, without writing it off as being a mere product of [his] environment.” If I did write him off that way (i.e. as a Socratic cabbage, to put it colorfully), I wouldn’t be trying to talk with him at all. (Thus the parenthetical subtitle.)

Having so gravely insulted him that way in large font with the very title of my post, it’s fair enough that he make snarky comments about my incomprehension of the English language. I upset him, see? So he’s insulting me to show me how it feels. Once we understand that he was actually _insulted_ by my title, then it all makes sense.

Maybe I should put up a brief post entitled, “John Loftus _is_ a Socratic cabbage--sorry John!” It’s just, y’know, to _me_ this looks like I’m insulting him. I mean, I know what he said, that it’s the _other_ thing that insults him (to _not_ be considered a Socratic cabbage). But it feels weird to say that he is. I _don’t_ think that he is, but he’s insulted by that. Yet I can’t get my mind to hew over into accepting that he _is_ a Socratic cabbage. Sigh... Maybe it’s something to do with original sin.


See, _I’m_ the one to blame if John doesn’t want to tell us specifically how I mischaracterized him. Other than by my affirming that he isn’t a Socratic cabbage. I upset him by mischaracterizing him _that_ way, so really what more does he have to say?)

Anyway, he’s too upset by that insult to think clearly right now, much less to read the post with anything other than hostility; so I doubt anything would be gained if he did try to cipher through my prolixity at this point. He would only be further insulted in various (occasionally similar) ways, assuming my twisted and debased syntax can be made sense of at all.

Less angst all around to let it drop. It's a good afternoon to go shoot giant robots instead, IMO.


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