Christians Must Denigrate Reason, Science, and Evidence to Believe

I've said before that most Christians must denigrate or disparage reason, science, and evidence to believe. I've seen them do this time and again. But with one reviewer of my book it is extremely blatant. What other beliefs do Christians have in their daily world that requires the denigration of reason, science, and evidence? They operate on a double standard.

27 comments:

ismellarat said...

In the Spielberg movie Always

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096794/

people wake up on the other side to find out that God is Shirley MacLaine.

If that were to happen to me, I would reluctantly be convinced that it is so.

What would Sophie and everyone else have to say to that? ;-)

Atheist943 said...

I find it appalling that many Christians actually WANT their religion to be true.

It would be like a person who WANTS an evil psychopathic monster to torture 2/3 of a group and letting 1/3 of a group get bliss. (Compare this to Yahweh torturing most people and giving Christians bliss.)

It really sickens me to see Christians wanting Christianity to be true and defending it (like Lee Strobel, etc.) It feels like they WANT me to go to Hell (intimidation.)

Even more sickening are the Christian apologists' defenses of the doctrine of eternal hell. It shocks me. I won't even go into the subject of hell.

Mr. Loftus, do you also find apologists' defenses of eternal hell sickening? and what do you think about the doctrine of Hell.

Thanks

ahswan said...

I would tend to agree with your assessment of Sophie, the reviewer you link to. I think the Apostle Paul would as well, considering 1st Corinthians 15.

However, it is not necessary to denigrate or disparage science or reason in order to believe; it is also quite possible that your definitions of reason, science and evidence are debatable. However, no man is perfectly reasonable, so reason and our ability to comprehend must be seen as fallible.

John W. Loftus said...

Atheist943, I don't think Christians want anyone to go to hell, but yes I think it's barbaric.

JD Walters said...

John,

You of all people with your emphasis on how limited your knowledge is and how wrong you are about certain things should be open to the idea that there are limits to empirical reasoning. Sophie is not denigrating reason, she merely adheres to a different model of reason, based on different assumptions. How much reading have you done of Michel Henry? Why are you so sure that an epistemology which gives ontological primacy to Self and the Spirit is so destructive of rational thinking?

After studying Clifford's essay on the importance of basing one's beliefs on evidence I became convinced that the worries he and other rationalists had about rational justification did not have so much to do with the 'mechanics' of reason but with the ethical consequences of holding a different model of reason: a boat builder who didn't verify whether his ship was built sturdily would be guilty of any loss of passengers and crew should the ship go down.

The reason empiricists are so adamant about the admissibility of certain kinds of evidence is that they are afraid of the adverse consequences of bypassing the empirical process. But not all non-empirical or at least bounded empirical epistemologies are susceptible to that danger. If you read all her posts on Michel Henry and his phenomenological personalism, you will notice that she does account for the successes of science and for the danger of fundamentalism:

http://sophiesladder.com/WordPress/?cat=76

It may be frustrating that your arguments can't get traction among believers like that, but she's not a naive fideist.

Harry McCall said...

Ah yes, a simple view of the role of faith by a typical worker ant called Sophie.

Sophie, unable to inflect any offensive damage to John’s logic because of its small pinchers and stinger (ability to objectively reason); Sophie must hides in the security of his/her nest of blind faith knowing the queen (God)is hopefully nearby.

As for Hell goes, the ONLY people who believe in it are the ones who happen to think they are not going there themselves! Ironic isn’t it?

John W. Loftus said...

JD, do you agree with Boyd and Eddy (The Jesus Legend) that everythind is fair game? What's to prohibit a Mormon or Hindu from claiming the same things? What can adjudicate our differences besides the evidence?

I'd really like to know.

A. J. D'Adamo said...

You ask "What other beliefs do Christians have in their daily world that requires the denigration of reason, science, and evidence?"

It seems to me Christian belief itself requires the denigration of reason and evidence. Otherwise, reason and the evidence of biblical verses would compel Believers to give everything to the poor, suffer not a witch to live, turn the other cheek, poke out the eye that offends, chop off the hand, resist not evil, , etc. etc.

JD Walters said...

If by 'fair game' you mean that any construal of the world is at least possibly true, I agree in the sense that there are very few purely a priori constraints on what form a world could take. In practice though most of these views are neither 'live' nor 'momentous' for me as William James put it.

I agree with Boyd and Eddy that one cannot rule out a supernatural explanation of a historical event in principle. But not just any supernatural explanation will do. Just like there are no hard and fast rules for what counts as a good (naturalistic) historical explanation (does it focus too much or too little on ideas? does it stress broader institutional forces or individual decisions), there are no hard and fast rules for the adequacy of supernatural explanations either. That doesn't mean we can't have reasonable conversations between scholars who hold opposing views.

What if a Hindu or Mormon defends their faith with a concept of subjective truth? Well, what if they do? Let's see a detailed example and then we'll talk. The problem is that you are still begging the question of which model of reasoning is to be preferred. The problem of other religious truth claims will appear differently within an objectivist and subjectivist epistemology. I suspect that Henry's epistemology would imply that some truths are not intersubjectively available. That's anathema to empiricism, but maybe the practical consequences will not turn out to be as bad as you fear.

Keep in mind I'm not a Henry-an subjectivist myself. I was just reacting to your immediate assumption that someone with a different model of reason is degrading or ignoring it, which is the same as saying that you're convinced your own model is the absolute, non-negotiable, superior one epistemologically and morally.

Player Piano said...

JD Walters,

"You of all people with your emphasis on how limited your knowledge is and how wrong you are about certain things should be open to the idea that there are limits to empirical reasoning."

Could you please explain to us what certain things John is wrong about? I'm not content to let that unbacked assertion sit there with no explanation. What do you expect me to do, take your word "on faith"? ;)

Of course there are limits to our empirical reasoning. But what other kind of reason are you suggesting that we use instead? What kind of reason are you advocating that we use? Furthermore, what kind of reason should we use for analyzing religion?

"Sophie is not denigrating reason, she merely adheres to a different model of reason, based on different assumptions."

Okay, what are her assumptions? What makes her model of reason different?

"How much reading have you done of Michel Henry? Why are you so sure that an epistemology which gives ontological primacy to Self and the Spirit is so destructive of rational thinking?"

We can't prove that there are any spirits...period. If we have evidence which conflicts with a popular conception of Christianity, people will just say "my spirit tells me...", and that is destructive to rational thinking. We know that personal experiences are inherently unreliable. However, there are systems (such as the scientific method) by which we can overcome this unreliability to form a reasonable threshold of empirical knowledge. What model of reason do you advocate, and how does your model account for the inherent unreliability of personal experiences?

"After studying Clifford's essay on the importance of basing one's beliefs on evidence I became convinced that the worries he and other rationalists had about rational justification did not have so much to do with the 'mechanics' of reason but with the ethical consequences of holding a different model of reason: a boat builder who didn't verify whether his ship was built sturdily would be guilty of any loss of passengers and crew should the ship go down."

Again, what models of reason do you support? What are the mechanics of these models? What makes your concepts of reason a better alternative than empiricism?

"The reason empiricists are so adamant about the admissibility of certain kinds of evidence is that they are afraid of the adverse consequences of bypassing the empirical process. But not all non-empirical or at least bounded empirical epistemologies are susceptible to that danger."

But isn't it better altogehter to eliminate susceptibility as much as possible? Isn't the best model what we're looking for?

You appear to be looking for a model of reason that falls in line with your beliefs. Isn't it better to actually be looking for a model which does the best job of eliminating susceptibility?

"It may be frustrating that your arguments can't get traction among believers like that, but she's not a naive fideist."

It just seems like you're piling on here. Was that really necessary?

John W. Loftus said...

JD, surely you don't mean that all construals of the world are possibly true. You do realize how many there are don't you such that I don't have to remind you? No reasonable person thinks this unless they are agnostics or people who are trying to leave room for their faith apart from the evidence. Think about it.

You say: In practice though most of these views are neither 'live' nor 'momentous' for me as William James put it.

Of course not, but what makes some live or momentous to you? That's the real question. Other people think differently. How do you really propose to differentiate between them and show one to be preferable based on your epistemology if you agree with Boyd and Eddy? Surely you are not required to equally consider possible such things as weeeping statues of the Virgin Mary or witches that flew through the night to have sex with the devil as you do other things. Why is that? I dispute them all. I am consistent. I require some evidence for the things I consider possible. Reasonable scientifically minded people must do this or we'll be led to consider wildly improbable things as equally as we do other things. What exactly is wrong with that? What exactly is wrong with doubt? What exactly is wrong with testing what we respectfully believe to try to show what we believe is wrong?

You say: What if a Hindu or Mormon defends their faith with a concept of subjective truth? Well, what if they do? Let's see a detailed example and then we'll talk.

Well, they do say such things. Engage them and see for yourself. How would you answer them?

You say: Keep in mind I'm not a Henry-an subjectivist myself.

Well, if you'll tell me why then we will agree. So if we agree what was wrong with my original statement on the matter? Why would you defend something you disagree with?

Cheers, my friend.

John W. Loftus said...

JD, you said: I agree with Boyd and Eddy that one cannot rule out a supernatural explanation of a historical event in principle.

Actually, I agree with this but that is not what they said. Even if miracles are in principle "on the boards" I can still argue with Hume and Lessing that I think there wouldn't be any good reason to believe any claims of them in the ancient past, even if they happened! That's why I argue that unless miracles are taking place today that apologists should give up trying to defend that they did in the past.

Pentecostal and Charismatics are up to this challenege but I'm going to post a video series shortly that actually takes a good hard look at them. You must see this!

Besides, even if miracles are taking place today I have never personally experienced one of them, and I was a Pentecostal in my early years.

There is always room for doubt unless a moracle is personally experienced, and even then they can be subject to rigorous doubt.

Will G said...

I think what this kind of debate illustrates is a frequent personality difference between a lot of atheists and a lot of Christians I've noticed. I remember reading some of Nassim Nicolas Taleb's stuff (a finance writer) and he was saying how people are prone to what he called the 'Ludic' fallacy, in reference to financial markets (at least I think it was the Ludic fallacy). The Ludic fallacy is where people generalise based on what's gone before to how the future will be. So a stockbroker might underrate, thereby, the chance of catastrophic financial meltdown because it's never happened before in their lifetime. In religion I think the same kind of thinking applies. An atheist might look at our current philosophical knowledge, current science, and current understanding of things and say 'Yeah, there's pretty much no god'. Whereas a Christian might naturally be inclined to say 'Well, human reason is limited in this or that way, so I think it's very uncertain to say that'. That's certainly a holdable position, and would be analogous to someone predicting the out-of-the-usual a lot more often. I think I find myself in the latter category.

Player Piano said...

Will G,

You said that:

"The Ludic fallacy is where people generalise based on what's gone before to how the future will be."

Well, that's part of it. I also generalize based on where the evidence or lack of evidence leads. The evidence for the supernatural just hasn't manifested itself. This is significantly different from your stock market analysis. It's as if you said "just because there's never been a stock market rally caused by space aliens, that doesn't mean it can't happen." Well yes, because we've never seen any extraterrestrial beings interfering with our stock market. And we've never seen any supernatural beings interfering with natural events. A stock market collapse is the same type of phenomena as a boom, but once you invoke aliens (for whom you have no evidence), then you have an explanation which delves into a completely differnt kind of phenomena. That's the difference between natural and supernatural explanations.

"So a stockbroker might underrate, thereby, the chance of catastrophic financial meltdown because it's never happened before in their lifetime. In religion I think the same kind of thinking applies."

As I said before, a catastrophic financial meltdown is not an entirely unreasonable thing to expect. Supernatural intervention is an extraordiary claim. A financial meltdown is not.

"An atheist might look at our current philosophical knowledge, current science, and current understanding of things and say 'Yeah, there's pretty much no god'. Whereas a Christian might naturally be inclined to say 'Well, human reason is limited in this or that way, so I think it's very uncertain to say that'. That's certainly a holdable position, and would be analogous to someone predicting the out-of-the-usual a lot more often. I think I find myself in the latter category."

The event that current science has limitations, of course, in no way validates Christianity. Belief still needs specific evidence to be justified.

Science is uncertain, but it self-corrects. Religion claims to be certain, but is fundamentally uncertain because of conflicting dogmas and interpretations, and by the way, it usually doesn't self-correct, it's not falsifiable, and we have no evidence for it.

At least we have a definition of science. When you can get people to agree on a common definition of "god", even a common definition of the Christian god, let me know.

Science is more trustworthy exactly because it is fluid.

Human reason may very well be limited, but I believe that within the confines of human reasoning, Christianity does not make sense. The Bible, for starters, is not internally consistent, even about spiritual things, and is still very inaccurate about the world we live in. I could just keep going. ;)

MH said...

Course they do, faith is the explicit disowning of reason.

If god wants me, he can give me exactly the same courtesy he gave doubting Thomas, reasonable, scientific evidence. Thomas would have went to hell without it; I guess he loves him more.

That story just makes it clearer the bible is a collection of just-so stories meant to convert people to the religion.

Though I think the old testament is more about puffing up their own god, so enemies are less likely to fight, with the usual additions of subduing the population and extorting money from them.

JD Walters said...

John,

This could turn into a very long discussion which I don't have time for right now. I think Boyd and Eddy put forward a fairly reasonable proposal for the supernatural in historical method, which does not require you to consider all possible supernatural explanations as equally likely. But it's been a while since I read the book so I'd have to go over their first chapter on method again.

Piano Player,
I wasn't claiming that John has admitted he's wrong on specific things. I was merely reiterating what he's admitted on more than one occasion, that it's possible he could be wrong about many things. I took that as a simple and proper admission of fallibility. Given that admission, I merely suggested that he shouldn't be too quick to pronounce judgment on a model of reasoning different from his own, especially when he hasn't taken the time to understand it.

I don't yet have my own preferred model of reasoning, but I can assure you I'm not just looking for one that confirms my beliefs. I want to understand how human beings actually reason, both in day to day life and in scientific and other academic inquiry and what that understanding suggests by way of compensating for our epistemological weaknesses as well as probing the limits of our reasoning, if/wherever those are found.

Will G,
Very good points. Christians and atheists will differ as to when their explanatory scheme has reached breaking point.

stevec said...

Plantinga tries to smash reason to bits in his reformed epistemology as well with his attack on classical foundationalism which he then tries to hijack into a license to believe whatever he already believed.

Player Piano said...

JD Walters,

I am glad that you are not looking for a model of reason which specifically conforms to your beliefs, but which accounts for how humans actually reason.

By the way, my name is "Player Piano", not "Piano Player". You're at least the fifth person to misread it, so don't take it personally. Somehow it's a fairly frequent occurence? It's from Kurt Vonnegut.

Jeff Carter said...

Allow me to place into context what I wrote in "Gotcha", the blog on Sophie's Ladder.

My main points are a) there are other valid forces in reality other than reason such as courage, fidelity, and stamina and these forces have been more effective in moving the world than reason; and b) there are limitations to reason.

Given a) and b) which should courage and faith not be valued above reason?

I find it extremely ironic that the proponents of rationality know little of its history and are ill-equipped to defend it against the damage done to reason by western philosophy. As a scientist and engineer, I hardly consider myself a denigrator of reason and science; I simply know its limitations.

I have begun a series on Sophie's Ladder entitled "An Overview of the Limitations of Reason" in which I will outline the case against reason that has been made, not by me, but by western philosophy itself. I invite all of you to read it and discuss it with me.

ismellarat said...

Ewww, it was you, who wrote that?

I thought the site sounded familiar, and I did like some of the other stuff you posted here.

I think the problem is that it sounded as if you were saying you'd still believe in the resurrection, even if it could be proven that it had never happened.

It made people wonder what else you'd believe, in the face of proof to the contrary.

Robert_B said...

Greetings fellow debunkers and truth lovers. Today I noticed a very cool press release on Science Daily that is of interest to those thinking about the god question.

Scientists Resolve Mystery Of How Massive Stars Form

One minor argument used by creationists entails that very massive population one stars cannot form due to excessive radiation pressure preventing mass accretion. Such massive stars are the source for elements heaver than lithium. The scientific study announced in the SD press release describes how such massive stars can form in spite of their great radiation pressure. This then means that a natural means by which massive population one stars can form is known. Any naturalistic explanation is preferable to a supernatural explanation for any given phenomenon because naturalism is in greater harmony with Occam's Razor and is more parsimonious relative to reality than is super-naturalism. Science once again pulls the rug from beneath theistic creationists by eliminating yet another of their "God of the Gap" arguments from ignorance.

Robert_B said...

ahswan: "it is not necessary to denigrate or disparage science or reason in order to believe"

On the contrary. All mystics must denigrate and despise reality, material existence, the uniformity of nature and science because the metaphysical primacy of existence is axiomatically, blatantly, obviously true.

ahswan: "it is also quite possible that your definitions of reason, science and evidence are debatable. However, no man is perfectly reasonable"

By stipulating that reason, science and evidence are open to debate you assert there is no fixed reality. Yet in the next sentence you imply perfect reason is known. (To say X is not Y is to imply that Y is known.) This is a stolen concept fallacy. That is using a concept while denying the validity of its genetic roots, i.e., of an earlier concept(s) on which it logically depends. You are denying reality by saying reason, science and evidence are open to debate while next asserting by implication that perfect reason can be known. If there is no fixed reality, then nothing can be known. Ahswan, your assertions are self-refuting.

Jeff Carter said...

I think the problem is that it sounded as if you were saying you'd still believe in the resurrection, even if it could be proven that it had never happened.

I was saying that observation through use of the physical senses does not necessarily constitute proof, especially when I have an interior experience to the contrary.

The interior truth trumps the objective truth. I will believe that I exist before I believe that rock exists.

That said, read my other stuff. Do I sound irrational? Or like someone who knows philosophy?

ismellarat said...

Yes, Jeff, you do sound as if you know philosophy.

But with what you've said in that post, one just doesn't know where to begin.

Was the resurrection an observable event or not?

If it was supposed to be, you were there and didn't observe it, how can you get around that?

It looks as if some people respond to that in the way they do because it's actually a loaded question: they "know for a fact" that they are experiencing the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and maybe a few other phenomena, and if they were trapped into saying they wouldn't believe in the resurrection if they knew it didn't take place, they'd also have to say that everything else had just been guesswork all along - REGARDLESS OF WHETHER OR NOT THE RESURRECTION REALLY HAPPENED - after they'd committed themselves to saying it's fact.

So they must cling to these screwy answers, like William Lane Craig saying he'd assume he'd been tricked.

Robert_B said...

"Reason is man’s tool of knowledge, the faculty that enables him to perceive the facts of reality. To act rationally means to act in accordance with the facts of reality. Emotions are not tools of cognition. What you feel tells you nothing about the facts; it merely tells you something about your estimate of the facts. Emotions are the result of your value judgments; they are caused by your basic premises, which you may hold consciously or subconsciously, which may be right or wrong."

“Playboy’s Interview with Ayn Rand,” March 1964.

http://www.aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/reason.html

John W. Loftus said...

Jeff, have you read the second to last chapter in my book? It describes my initial thought process in becoming an atheist and why reason may not apply to ultimacies.

What makes you think that if reason doesn't apply that faith is any better of a candidate, especially when there are so many different faith statements?

David B. Ellis said...


I was saying that observation through use of the physical senses does not necessarily constitute proof, especially when I have an interior experience to the contrary.

The interior truth trumps the objective truth. I will believe that I exist before I believe that rock exists.


The more analogous question is "would you believe that a rock (an externally existent object) exists based solely on an inward experience rather than sense data".

After all, when we take about someone having a sense of the Living Presence of Jesus in their hearts we're aren't just talking about a claim that he exists ONLY in your heart (else we'd be in agreement and not having this debate).