Contra Paul Manata on the OTF (Part 2)

This is the second part of my response to Paul Manata's criticisms of the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF). Part 1 can be read here. Again, I'll not repeat myself. In this part I'll examine where Paul also claims it's not a sound argument. Really? Let's look at this.

Paul had previously argued it wasn't a valid argument which I just showed contrary to his claims that it was, with a slight quibbling phrase change. This leaves him in a problematic position, for if it is an invalid argument there is nothing for him to respond further to. Perhaps he's hedging his bets just in case I could show him he's wrong? Okay, since I did. Still, if he wants to continue arguing against it he must be arguing against something, right? Then what is he responding to after supposedly showing it's an invalid argument? By continuing he betrays that he DOES know what the argument is despite claiming it's invalid. In order to continue he should have reformulated the argument to his own liking so that he could continue, but he didn't do so.

As to its soundness he claims fellow contributors to The Christian Delusion do not agree with me, for according to Manata: "Eller, Tarico, and Long do not seem to grant that most humans, let alone religiously inclined humans, are rational...So a problem with (1) is that Loftus‘s cohorts think it is false. Loftus needs to remove "rational" from the premise. (p. 52).

This raises the deep and complex question of what it means to say someone is rational. If we think being rational means following the rules of logic, then rational people can be dead wrong and still be rational. All they have to do is follow the rules of logic to be rational. Rational people can be dead wrong simply because they start with a false assumption. If they take a false assumption as their starting point then they may be perfectly rational to follow that assumption with good logic to its logical conclusion, even though their conclusion is wrong. They would be wrong not because they are irrational, but because they started with a wrong assumption. That is how I define rationality. As an example, I personally think the logic of the Inquisition was impeccable, but it was absolutely wrong because it assumed God was the author of certain Biblical texts that justified it. As another example, if a believer assumes God exists then this might lead him to logically conclude God is the author of morality and that there is a life after death. The logic is probably there, at least for believers. It’s just that their starting assumption is false.

What Tarico (and the others) argues is that we human beings are not rational about anything, because in this context she is defining rationality as something that includes our assumptions and not just whether people follow the rules of logic. However, she knows of this distinction when she wrote, “it doesn’t take very many false assumptions to send us on a long goose chase.” To illustrate this she tells us about the mental world of a paranoid schizophrenic. To such a person the perceived persecution by the CIA sounds real. “You can sit, as a psychiatrist, with a diagnostic manual next to you, and think: as bizarre as it sounds, the CIA really is bugging this guy. The arguments are tight, the logic persuasive, the evidence organized into neat files. All that is needed to build such an impressive house of illusion is a clear, well-organized mind and a few false assumptions. Paranoid individuals can be very credible.”

I've written on this distinction before.

Then Manata offers a false analogy to my phrase, "an overwhelming degree," when I said that religious beliefs are causally dependent on culture to an overwhelming degree. He asks, "Would we say, 'The ball caused the breaking of the window to an overwhelming degree'"? No, of course not, but when it comes to that which leads us to believe something there are several factors (not just a ball) so all we can talk about is which factors were more important than others and to what degree. I admit there are original thinkers. But the overwhelming probability is that we are all children of our times. It's the rare person who rises up above his own culture, as Mark Twain quipped. Manata can fault me for not specifying how much our cultural upbringing influences our thinking if wants to, since I find it very hard to quantity such a thing. But it is best described by the word "overwhelming" as cultural anthropologists all show us, including David Eller. It is overwhelming enough to consider the probability of my whole argument for testing religious faiths, that's for sure.

Next Manata argues:
It seems obvious to me that some religions are more probable than others. Loftus‘s argument depends upon the idea that the religious faith one adheres to is a matter of luck, like choosing a lottery ball out of a giant urn. If there are 500 Ping-Pong balls inside the urn, the probability that I pick any one of them is 1/500. Each ball has the same odds. But what argument can Loftus offer to the effect that religious faiths are equipossible like this? He doesn‘t offer a single one in the entire chapter.
Manata had offered this argument before in this thread, and I answered it there. Why didn't he respond in this book of his to what I had written? I said:
So here [Paul] comes claiming he has the ability to rationally decide which religion is probable despite what we know from the human sciences. So he bites the bullet. He's basically claiming he does not have a double standard when examining religious faiths and that he can tell us which one is the most probable one out of them all. Read much of what he writes and it is crystal clear he is so certain and cocksure he's right that he treats everyone...as if we're all buffoons. What a blinded man he is. He needs to take seriously what Valerie Tarico wrote in her chapter, but he won't.

Is Christianity more probable than Scientology? I'm devoting a series of posts to this question and the answer is a resounding NO!

Tell ya what Paul, tell us your record at convincing a knowledgeable Scientologist that he is wrong and that Christianity is correct. Go convince a Mormon he is wrong while you're at it. While at one time I thought Christianity was more probable than these other faiths by far, I no longer think so at all. Remember, for me Christianity failed the Insider Test for Faith too, examining it from the faith presumption that Christianity was true, as it's doing with many ex-Christians who post their stories over at ex.christian.net.
I did say we had a history, right?

My view is that no religion is probable; that they all are mere possibilities, unlikely ones. Although this need not have been the case. I grant that a religion could pass the OTF. It's just that none of the so-called "revealed" ones pass the OTF. This is not the fault of the OTF. The OTF is a reasonable, objective and fair test for religious faiths. The fact that none of them pass such a reasonable test is the fault of religious faith.

Nor is the goal of the OTF to show religious faiths are wrong or delusionally held. The goal of the OTF, as I've said, is to offer a reasonable standard for judging whether or not arguments of behalf of religious faiths can succeed. It's a two step process for me. First let's agree on a non-double standard for judging religious faiths based in the OTF. That's my first step. Then in my second step I'm prepared to proceed with the arguments. I'll argue based on the OTF that Manata's faith is false and he can try to show his faith is correct. So he is simply wrong to think the OTF is meant to argue him away from his faith when he demands that I offer arguments to that effect. I offer those arguments elsewhere, yes, as a second step. But what I'm doing with the OTF is offering a reasonable non-double standard by which to judge religious faiths. If he disagrees he needs to offer us an alternative standard or continue arguing based on a double standard, which is indicative that he intuitively knows he's wrong--for in no other area could anyone get away with having a double standard when arguing a case.

Because the OTF is a standard for judging religious faiths and not itself an argument against them, Manata's whole objection that it commits the genetic fallacy fails as being both irrelevant and false. To me this is simple logic and he tries unsuccessfully to gerrymander around it as if a counter-example using a mathematical equation can prove otherwise. Of course, 2 + 2 = 4. We know this on independent grounds. What we don't know is which religious faith is correct. So the unreliable origins of religious faiths learned on our Mama's knees are indeed relevant to the probability of any particular one of them, which causes me to suggest the OTF.

There is something else Manata throws my way. Victor Reppert first articulated why believers object to the OTF (in that earlier thread linked above) when he asked: "Well, why an outsider test for faith as opposed to an outsider test for world-views?" Manata expands on this:
If I give up Christianity in order to test it, and every other worldview, then I would find myself in a state of cognitive paralysis. For example, I would have no idea about the origination and purpose of my cognitive faculties. I would not be able to believe that their purpose was to deliver true beliefs. Since no one can adopt a "perspectiveless" stance, then what stance should I adopt?
This, I think, goes a long way toward explaining why believers object to the OTF, and it's based on the sheer ignorance of the important distinction between worldviews and religious faiths.

What is a worldview? Christian philosopher James Sire in his book, The Universe Next Door makes it out to be a set of assumptions about the world and then proceeds to specifically define them as having to do with a list of notions about God, ethics, history, death, and so forth. Geisler and Watkins in their book, World's Apart do the same thing. However, Walsh and Middleton in their book, The Transforming Vision show what a naive view that is, which is much closer to Ninan Smart's complete and fuller view in his book Worldviews: Crosscultural Explorations of Human Beliefs. Walsh and Middleton are Christians who show that worldviews affect how we even bath our babies! They contrasted how Japanese and Canadian babies are bathed by their mothers. While the Japanese rituals reflect gentleness, obedience, submission and dependence by the closeness of the parent to the child, the Canadian rituals reflect a distance between mother and child because the child is on his or her own, and as such has an emphasis "on independence, assertiveness and the development of power." (p. 18). In each of these different cultures, the authors tell us, "we can observe different modes of recreation, different sports, transportation and eating habits. Each culture develops unique artistic and musical life." (Ibid.) [What they said can be read online at Amazon by doing a "Search Inside the Book" for the word "bath."] When I read that, the lights came on. Worldviews are about everything we think and do--everything. No wonder Manata seems to claim he would believe in nothing if Christianity is false! He thinks Christianity is a worldview! IT'S NOT! NOT BY A LONG SHOT! A worldview encompasses everything we think and do, how we see, what we place value on, and so forth and so on.

But Christianity? It is merely a set of doctrines that a believer accepts, best reflected in the creeds. It does not tell the believer what to think, or do, say. Yes, it's part and parcel of the cultures where it takes root, but it is not the whole culture itself. Cultures are larger and more encompassing than religious faiths. And since individually held worldviews are not always in complete agreement with dominant socially constructed cultures, individual worldviews are larger and more encompassing than cultures. There is much more to what people think and how they act than is represented by their inherited religious faith.

Come on now, really, can you explain why people of different color can be Christians and yet have different attitudes when it comes to politics or President Obama? Does the fact that one is a Christian woman mean she will think like a Christian man? Does a New Yorker Christian see the world exactly like a Christian from Mexico? H. Richard Niebuhr's book Christ and Culture even shows us there are different Christian responses to cultures.

Since worldviews include everything we think is true there are probably about as many worldviews as there are people because no one thinks exactly the same way about everything.

So, the OTF is NOT about worldviews. It's not asking that a person gives up everything he or she believes at the same time. It only concerns religious faiths. Worldviews are larger than religious faiths. Believers can abandon their religious faith like I have without it affecting that much of anything else they accept from their culture for the most part, although it can affect quite a bit.

I'm not asking believers to question everything they believe about everything. That's practically impossible. Rene Descartes didn't even succeed at this. So if believers think I'm asking them to question everything they think about everything at the same time, they're dead wrong.

I'm not.

If Manata thinks this is what the OTF requires of believers then he needs to show why he thinks this. Nonetheless, I am a testament to the fact that you CAN reject your religious faith and retain most everything else you accept from your cultural upbringing, and I do. Although I do so tentatively realizing that there are other ways of seeing things that are merely foreign to me. Since we so badly reason about everything I need evidence to accept what I do, and the sciences provide it.

3 comments:

Tyro said...

Paul also claims the OTF is not a sound argument.

The OTF is merely a special case of applying a consistent methodology when reaching conclusions. It seems absurd to say that this could be wrong since there are so many obvious failures which arise if we reject it.

This raises the deep and complex question of what it means to say someone is rational.

I think it also ignores the difference between the process we use innately or without thought and a formalized process designed to foster rationality and reason. Individually scientists, like all humans, are prone to irrationality and bias but the scientific process provides the methodology and the checks and balances which lead to increasingly rational, well-supported conclusions.

I think that the OTF is an attempt to introduce some checks into the theistic decision-making process. It doesn't guarantee a rational process, but it does make it more rational.

the OTF is a standard for judging religious faiths and not itself an argument against them.

I quibble with the "standard for judging" part since it doesn't present a standard against which religions must be judged but yes, it isn't an argument in itself (which is what makes it so powerful). People can attack an argument but how to you attack a principle of fairness and rationality?

Howard said...

Christian apologist make fatuous arguments because they would have their ignorant masses believe their authorities can handle skeptic arguments, therefore, think Christianity is a legitimate contender. Apologists know the masses don't give a rats ass about the truth and will never bother reading both arguments. Or better yet, read. As long as something is out there that claims to counter the skeptic's claims. They also think everything from skeptics is the work of Satan and have decided that instead of succumbing to reason, they would rather make crazy arguments and live in delusion.


How else do you reason their thinking?

Howard said...

Atheist's job = Kill the faith culture = Send the message that truth and evidence is supreme = More people care = More Atheists