More Christian Heuristic Analysis

I'm a big fan of argument analysis, and in William Lobdells post he listed several common Christian heuristics for dealing with the problem of apostasy. In the comments section of his article you can see one of our christian guests using some other common heuristics which I've taken a moment to analyze. I welcome William, and I hope he'll consider joining DC as an author.

This is a list of some of the heuristics William handled in his post:
Criticism: You’re anti-religious or anti-Christian.
Criticism: You are trying to lead people away from God and/or Jesus Christ
Criticism: You’ve confused the sinfulness of man with a perfect God.
Criticism: You were never really a serious Christian, so you didn’t really lose your faith, you never had it.
Criticism: You’ve consigned yourself to an eternity in hell

In the comments section of that article one of our guests used quite a few common heuristics laying them out nicely for an opportunity for analysis. In my view these heuristics are the result of various cognitive biases and unskilled thinking. A couple of Good books on that sort of thing are "How We Know What Isn't So" by Thomas Gilovich and "How To Think About Weird Things" by Theodore Schick and Lewis Vaughn

BLAMING THE VICTIM
"no you have not lost your faith – just exchanged it. "
This depends on belief being a voluntary action. Try believing that the sun won't come up tomorrow, or the sun will not set around the time its forecast. I can't do it, and I don't think anyone else can either. One can commit to an idea, but that is completely different than having a belief or an emotional investment in it. I can say "Sir" or "Ma'am" completely independent of whether I think its deserved or not.

One practical test of whether belief is inherently "rational" is to look through trivia game cards and choose the right answer from four or five options. Sometimes there will be one that the observer thinks right away could be the answer, then see another that the observer "feels" more likely to be the right answer. Then the observer is wrong and it was the one the observer thought before but didn't feel right. This kind of thing happens to me all the time. Belief, for the most part, is not consciously controlled, if at all.

"Without proof absolute either way to believe there is no God is as much of a leap of faith (more in my opinion) as to believe there is a God."
A lack of proof of something SHOULD cause a belief that a real world state is not being accurately described by the data. The commenter seems to say that the belief that the datum is unlikely given the lack of evidence is EQUIVALENT to believing it without evidence. The quality of the evidence is relevant only to the observer. The evidence may foster a belief in some people but not in others.

It is appropriate to doubt a datum that lacks support, it is NOT appropriate to commit to a datum that lacks support. The commenter faults the apostate for appropriately doubting the datum on the grounds that the evidence does not nurture, support, cause, sustain or warrant his belief. Therefore the commenter faults the apostate for not ARTIFICIALLY sustaining his emotional investment.

"I really think you are taking cheap (and intellectually weak) shots at the religion that has not met your expectations – by the way, did you meet Christ’s expectations of you?"
This depends on the apostates expectations being inappropriate. Were the apostates expectations inappropriate? If the apostates expectations were based on sound principles in support of the apostates value system then how can it be inappropriate? What expectations does the apostate have that is inappropriate? I think its safe to say that apostates are apostates because the evidence doesn't nurture, support, cause, sustain or warrant their belief. If the only definitive proof is some inner knowing about God, then if God is of One Mind, this inner knowing should be consistent across people and multiple denominations of Christianity are evidence that its not.

THE "TU QUOQUE" FALLACY
"But why should we expect more of Christians and their institutions than of secular organizations?"
"Secular organizations do it too!"
Is it inappropriate to fault something because other things exhibit the same behavior. But it can be appropriate to fault things even though the behavior is exhibited by the speaker. Should I NOT reprimand my child for vulgar language even though I do it too? My child has every right to reprimand me, and to further reprimand me for not being consistent. In this case, how Secular organizations behave has no bearing on how Christian organizations should behave.

THE CIRCULAR ARGUMENT
"it is rational to expect Christianity to attract more than its fair share – where else would they go in an unforgiving world?"
This presumes Christians are in a constant state of "recovery" from their sin. The guest concludes that there are more "sinners" in church exactly because "sinners" see church as place they can go to help overcome their "sin". Therefore it should be expected that one would find "sinners" in church. After all, people that go into an Ice Cream shop have a desire for and are lacking ice cream, so we would expect to find people lacking ice cream in the ice cream shop.

The missing qualifier in that reasoning scheme which disconfirms it and which is the qualifier that breaks the circle is the effectiveness of the ice cream shop in providing Ice Cream. People do get their ice cream because the ice cream shop is effective at selling it to them. So if customers of ice cream never left the store, we should see more of the customers that have had ice cream, and can get it anytime they want and less of those that want it, do not have it and have not had it.

I'll concede that we are all in constant state of recovery from undesirable human behavior. That is what education and learning how to associate in a society is all about. But this leads to the question of HOW EFFECTIVE CHRISTIANITY IS at dealing with undesirable Human Behavior (Sin) compared to other methods. When you assess the effectiveness and efficiency of Christianity on dealing with undesirable human behavior, its evident that it has no advantage.

"[the apostate says] 'I indeed was a serious Christian' Well you certainly went through some of the motions!"
This asserts that though the apostates behavior was consistent with a true believer, his apostasy proves that he never really believed at all. This missing qualifier which disconfirms the statement and breaks the circle is the intent behind the actions. What benefit would the NON-BELIEVER have in ACTING LIKE A BELIEVER? Obviously to act like a Christian is a result of believing oneself to be a Christian or believing their is some benefit to pretending to be a Christian. To say that someone pretended to be a Christian for over a decade and then decided to renounce it and advertise it requires some forethought and premeditation to what benefit? To put oneself into an undesirable minority? Not bloody likely.

THE SLIDING WINDOW
"have fallen into what seems to be a common atheist trap on giving up religion – finding in the literalistic interpretation of the bible anything that can be criticised."
The guests seems to be saying that though the Bible is the revealed word of God, it shouldn't be taken at face value. Its only accurate so far, but they won't define any parameters. Bring some parameters for how to measure what is an accurate representation of a real world state and what is not to the table and there might be a case for a non-literal interpretation. As it stands, it is not clear that the author of the scripture did not intend for it to be taken literally except where there is an obvious use of metaphor such as in the case of parables.

"Given the social context of His time there were many things Jesus did not directly seek out against – capital punishment etc."
This seems to presume that it was somehow inappropriate for God on Earth to speak out against slavery, or not killing witches. If Jesus was God on Earth, then in order to Qualify as God he must have been the ultimate authority, so how would it have been inappropriate? Is it NOT a sound principle that the most qualified should lead, or that the authority should exercise that authority, or that beings should be prevented from intentionally or otherwise harming themselves or others? To make the guests claim tenable the criteria for appropriate behavior in an authority and the criteria for appropriate behavior by the observer of suffering must be modified.

THE SELF-CENTERED STANDARD FOR CHRISTIANITY
"The problem you seem to have faced was that when you realized God was not in the beliefs you held you seem to have decided there is no God rather than that God might be different from what you believed or wanted Him to be."
This is the old "I Got Mine, Why Can't You Get Yours?" argument. If the apostate understood Christianity the way our guest understands it, the apostate would still be a believer. Meaning that if the Apostate would ignore disconfirming qualifiers in the standard Christian reasoning schemes, then they would still be a believer. I Agree.

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11 comments:

Harry McCall said...

Damn Lee, if you lived in the first century CE and met Jesus in a conversation, he would be pulling his hair out with you and would become an apostate himself!

As you make so amply clear; Christianity employs a marketing strategy drawn from confused / uneducated emotionalism and child like thinking it labels as “Unforgiven Sin”.

These non-Christians (Unforgiven Sinners) are sold a created problem (Fallen creation and sin) and then sold a created solution to fix the created problem: God and Salvation.

To keep the product selling, the term “sinner” stays to protect the product (Christianity), but also to keep customer / sinner in an area of perceived need.

As you so vividly point out, a little objective education and observation goes a long logical way! (Little wonder Christianity uses the doctrine of Hell to divert heretical thinking.)

Lee Randolph said...

thanks harry,
this article is modeled after the LSAT practice exams. They give an argument in a scenario, then explain why its flawed.

I use those practice exams like puzzle books.

RichD said...

I knew there was something wrong with you Lee, I could just never pin it down. ;)

RichD said...

Hi Lee,

When does belief transform into knowledge? You choose to use the sun rising and setting as a belief example, so I ask this question because you may have had a belief about that at one point, but as you experience the sun coming up every morning, doesn't that become knowledge that the sun rises and not really belief anymore?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Rich,
When does belief transform into knowledge?
I don't know, what's the difference between a belief and knowledge?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Richd,
I knew there was something wrong with you Lee, I could just never pin it down. ;)
right now, i"m also using the "homework helpers" series books on Algebra and Physics as puzzle books, the math trainer game for my Nintendo DS in addition to listening to the TTC course on Emotional Intelligence on my ipod in the car.

I got tired of the standard puzzle books because I felt like I was wasting my time spinning my wheels. At least this way I can spin my wheels and actually build my skills.

You'd be surprised how many times a simple solution to a complex household problem presents itself because fundamental principles of physics or chemistry is fresh in the mind.

the way I see it, it builds my intuition, makes it more likely that a solution to a problem will arrive intuitively or that I have higher likelihood of being right on a hunch than the next guy.

The LSAT is the same way. I take notes in meetings and then talk to the individuals afterwards giving them hints about how to approach their problem and they say it adds value. At least I'm often told I'll never get fired. I know thats not the case, because If I ever offend someone operating under self-serving cog. bias they would dump me in a heartbeat.

one of the biggest problems and most easy to identify and gets the most bang for the buck are the critical questions I use here at DC
- "Where does that data come from?"
- "Who originates it?"
- "why does it come from there?"
- "what does this data represent?"
- "what do you want to capture?"
- "where should it come from?"
- "why should it come from there?"
- "is that likely considering this data?"
- "How do you know its accurate?"
- "Have you taken inventory of what you know and what you don't know?"
- "Might your solution be somewhere in the data you don't know?"

When you have good accurate and complete data to deal with, and sound principled algorithms to apply to them, problems get a whole lot easier to solve.

Its fundamental.
;-)

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Rich,
When does belief transform into knowledge?
after thinking about it a little more, I say that belief and knowledge are similar up to a couple of points.
- a person can believe something that can be verified by other people using other means directly or indirectly. TRIANGULATION. In this case, whether it is believed or not, it is more pragmatic and practical to consider it knowledge and go on about life. The old "we exist in the mind of god" argument comes to mind. The belief becomes irrelevant.
- a person can believe something that cannot be verified
- a person can NOT believe something that can be verified
- a person can know but not believe something in the case of split brain patients. The know things, use the knowledge but aren't consciously aware in some case that they've been exposed to that knowledge.
-- or a person may know what the facts are but estimate something else regardless. In that case they believe there is some missing information that has not been considered and they won't, don't or can't commit to it emotionally.
- Some people have a disorder that I can't recall the name of that prevents them from being certain about anything.

damn Descartes, in my mind he screwed up a good couple hundred years of learning for more than just his "mind-body problem".

Scott Ahten sent me this link about people who don't believe they are incompetent and in fact don't seem to be capable to recognize incompetence.
Link

In my mind belief is a multifaceted problem that only depends on a percentage of volition. I think the data supports that very well.

my personal working definition of "belief" is an idea that doesn't have any data to support it yet. In fact when i interview people about problems, I jump on that word along with "should" and "would" as potential areas where the problem is.
As in "Why do you believe that?"
or "Why would or Why should..." and then we are back in the field of assessing whether our data is Accurate or not.

RichD said...

Hi Lee,

I don't know, what's the difference between a belief and knowledge?

I ususally had the difference in my mind as belief being something you think is true without evidence and knowledge being something that is true based on evidence. However after doing more thinking and reading it appears that they can be used interchangealbe in some cases. Then after reading the link you posted, I think I may just be incompetant and not know it. :)
I also think that the word belief is different for science than it is for religion. Because belief can be a conviction of something based on evidence. That is usually not the case when belief is used in religious circles. I am thinking that belief and faith are synonomous.

RichD said...

You'd be surprised how many times a simple solution to a complex household problem presents itself because fundamental principles of physics or chemistry is fresh in the mind.

And more importantly, it keeps your brain active and should keep alzheimers at bay. I have 3 regularly read magazines that I keep around for down times because I have a hard time just doing nothing. They are popular science, which feeds my tech fetish, scientific american, and discovery. They have brain puzzles in a couple of those so that keeps my busy. Even last night I sat out in my hot tub and looking up at the stars I was trying to remeber where the andromeda galaxy was because I am sure it's one you can see with the naked eye but my wife didn't think we caould see any galaxys. Now I have to find it so I can show her with the telescope. Now if i can just figure out how to mix the hot tub and the telescope together. Now after that irrelevant babble I will move on to looking at your article and finding common ground and uncommon ground to comment on.
I have to laugh at the word verification somedays, this time it was "huscrews". I'm not sure what one is but I bet they are handy for something.

RichD said...

Hi Lee,

I found myself some comments to make.

"But why should we expect more of Christians and their institutions than of secular organizations?"

First I think we should expect more from Christians. Reading through kiwi's elaboration on this comment it seems that he is expecting to see worse behavior from those who align themselves with Christianity and lays out 5 groups of people to show his point. Even taking into consideration that 4 of those groups he expected to see a negative impact on Christianity and 1 group would have a positive impact, thus an overall negative, those people should be aligning themselves to better their lives, except for group one. So shouldn't we actually expect an overall positive view of Christianity? I think so, and it is evident in the comments their that people expect not perfection but effort, and further than that not just effort but success.
There, and I did all that without even mentioning secular institutions.
I expect that secular institutions are trying the same thing, to make lives better. they may not always align themselves with the values that believers have, but then they're not trying to either. But believers should be trying to align themselves with God, but they are trying to figure out who God is from incomplete data, the bible. Without help from God I don't see how this is possible. There is no way that everything we need to know about God and what he expects of us is contained in that book. Especially when you consider how it is we came to have the bible. And apparently the best we can expect, according to another post from logimos, is everyone misunderstanding the gospel in different ways. It points towards Christianity being lost to me.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi richd
It points towards Christianity being lost to me.
yea, me too.