Randal Rauser is not someone who it’s possible to have any sort of rational discussion about religion with

Posted on 06/29/13 72 Comments

A couple weeks ago I had a bit of a dust up with Chris Hallquist which culminated in my article “Chris Hallquist, fundamentalism, and prejudice against Christian apologists.” Now Chris has fired back. Has he ever! His article opens like this:

“I don’t think I’m going to be able to get through writing this post if I try to feign politeness, so let me start by saying that it’s long been clear to me that, in spite of his moderate views on some issues (relative to his fellow evangelicals, anyway) Christian apologist Randal Rauser is not someone who it’s possible to have any sort of rational discussion about religion with.”

And believe it or not, things go down from there!

But all kidding aside, I must take issue with Chris’ statement that it is not possible to have a rational discussion with me about religion. This is clearly false and the evidence for that fact is the ongoing rational discussions in this blog.

So what’s going on here? An illustration comes to mind. Imagine that Bill tries to drive a Porsche 911 around the racetrack in under five minutes and in the process he ends up crashing the car. In his defense he says “Nobody can drive that 911 around the racetrack in under five minutes!” However, if many people have driven the 911 around the racetrack in less than five minutes we would have empirical evidence that Bill’s statement is false. Not only would it be false, but it would look a lot like sour grapes. Similarly, given that Chris’ statement is demonstrably false, I must conclude that he suffers from a bit of sour grapes over his crashed car. And by behaving in this way Chris discredits himself.

Unfortunately, this has come to be predictable behavior from Chris whose debate style appears to include liberal recourse to declarations that his intellectual foes are ignorant, dishonest and/or irrational. Not surprisingly, we see the same behavior on display in the title of Chris’ latest essay: “The ignorance and dishonesty of Christian apologetics, part 1: anti-evolutionism“.

It is not worth my while to bother refuting Chris’ essay point by point. However, I will take a moment to deconstruct one point he makes in defense of an earlier prejudicial statement he made against Christian apologists.

To get there let’s back up to my article “Chris Hallquist, fundamentalism, and prejudice against Christian apologists” (linked to above). In that article I quoted Chris as follows:

“I do not claim that all Christian apologists are either ignorant or dishonest without exception… but I do think it’s generally true of the stuff that currently dominates Christian apologetics.”

I quoted this passage because it seemed to me an indefensible defense of Chris’ prejudice and I sought to illumine the point by offering a parallel statement in which one seeks to defend a racial prejudice. Thus I wrote:

“I do not claim that all Mexicans are either ignorant or dishonest without exception… but I do think it’s generally true of the work that currently done by Mexican immigrants.”

I then explained the point I was making with this analogical statement as follows:

“Whether you’re saying all Mexicans are ignorant or dishonest or whether you’re saying most are, you still need to provide hard evidence to justify your claim. The same goes when you replace “Mexicans” with “Christian apologists”.”

This analogy clearly angered Chris. Presumably he resented the ugliness of his prejudice being juxtaposed with the ugliness of racial prejudice. So in his most recent article he returned to this point in an attempt to challenge the legitimacy of the analogy I drew. He does so by arguing the cases are disanalogous:

“The crucial difference here is that Christian apologetics is an intellectual project, not an ethnic or racial group, and it is perfectly fair to judge an intellectual project by its leading proponents. And McDowell, Craig, and Plantinga are the farthest thing from random examples of Christian apologetics.”

This strikes me as a completely spurious response. But before I get to that let me point out two ways that one could legitimately infer from the ignorance and/or dishonesty of three leaders of a group to the likelihood that most members of the group are likewise ignorant and/or dishonest.

The first way is if the group is very small. If, for example, there are only 7 or 8 members of a group then identifying three important members as being ignorant and/or dishonest would provide some warrant for inferring that generally members of the group are ignorant and/or dishonest. (I am assuming that “generally” refers to something well north of 50%.)

Second, one could provide warrant for the conclusion by identifying core beliefs for communal identity as held by those three individuals and then arguing that those core beliefs lead to ignorance and/or dishonesty. For example, if three individuals in a group taught that one must use whatever means possible to win an argument, and we had reason to believe that this assertion was somehow central to membership identity in the group, then one might have warrant for the conclusion that generally members of the group are ignorant and/or dishonest.

(Mind you, I don’t think these two avenues would clearly justify the conclusion. But they do offer the best hope of justifying it.)

Well the first avenue is closed to us since there are likely tens of thousands of Christians who would self-identify as apologists. So that leaves the second avenue. If Chris would like to argue that Plantinga, Craig and McDowell hold beliefs that lead to intellectual dishonesty and/or ignorance, and these beliefs are somehow core to being a Christian apologist, then he is welcome to try and make a case for that. But rest assured, I will pop every balloon as quickly as he tries to launch it.

So we’re left with a rather absurd picture in which Chris claims that Plantinga, Craig and McDowell are ignorant or dishonest and then concludes from this that apologists generally are ignorant and dishonest.

Now imagine if we argued this way with respect to other “intellectual projects”. Identify three important feminists or Chicago school economists or democrats or atheists who are arguably ignorant and/or dishonest in some way, and you are justified in concluding that generally feminists or Chicago school economists or democrats or atheists are ignorant and/or dishonest.

Yes folks, this really is as indefensible as it sounds. And I think I’ll leave it there.

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  • Reginald Selkirk

    It is not worth my while to bother refuting Chris’ essay point by point.

    Especially not the bit about your insistence that William Dembski is not a creationist because he is not a young earth creationist. You were entirely wrong about that point, and your appeal to Ronald Numbers was just plain wrong.

    • Rob Gressis

      Why was he wrong about that point? I must have missed that discussion, but why do you call Dembski a creationist?

      Speaking just for myself, every time I’ve heard someone designated as a creationist, it was because he was a young-earth creationist. Are you using the term, “creationist”, merely to describe someone who believes that God created the universe?

      • Hrafn

        He “was just plain wrong” because Numbers does not conflate creationism with Young Earth creationism (and I would point out that Rauser has yet to provide a citation to substantiate Numbers’ support).

        He calls “Dembski a creationist” because most experts (Numbers included) consider ID to be a form of creationism.

        Prominent Old Earth creationists include Hugh Ross, Gerald Schroeder, William Jennings Bryan, Bernard Ramm & Harry Rimmer.

        ‘Creationism’ in its current context means a religiously-motivated anti-evolutionism.

        • Rob Gressis

          Thanks for the reply, Hrafn.

          A couple of things.

          (1) you define “‘Creationism in its current context” as “a religiously motivated anti-evolutionism”. This is going to be a weird question, but do I have to accept this definition? I ask, because it seems to me that there are political motivations behind this definition. My thinking goes like this: (i) creationism, to many people, means: “young-earth creationism”; (ii) young-earth creationism is considered extremely intellectually disreputable; (iii) therefore, if you consider intelligent design theory disreputable, you should come up with a name that will encourage people to associate it with something that is agreed by many more people to be intellectually disreputable.

          (2) David Berlinski is an atheist, an intelligent-design theorist. By your definition, does he count as a creationist (the argument could go: “yes, because even though he’s personally atheistic, he’s part of a movement whose membership is overwhelmingly religious”)?

          To put my cards on the table: I don’t believe in (what I call) young-earth creationism or intelligent design theory, but I do think the latter is less intellectually disreputable than the former. In addition, if an ID-theorist tells me that he doesn’t want to be called a creationist, then I won’t insist on calling him one.

          • Reginald Selkirk

            1) As mentioned in my other comment, Dembski does not insist that he not be called a creationist, in fact he identifies himself that way.

            2) There are legal reasons why ID proponents wish ID not to be identified as creationists, but the evidence that ID is an attempt to circumvent existing legal precedents is quite strong (see “cdesign proponentsists”; see also Barbara Forrest’s testimony at the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, complete transcripts available online) so that I feel no obligation to abide by their wishes.

            3) No mention of David Berlinksi is complete without use of the word supercilious.

          • Hrafn

            David Berlinski, although an associate of the ID movement is not “an intelligent-design theorist”. He supports ID’s anti-evolution arguments, but carefully avoids avowing their “therefore the intelligent designer did it” conclusion. He has described his relationship to it as “warm but distant. It’s the same attitude that I display in public toward my ex-wives.”

            Further he is hardly a “theorist”, as he has provided little in the way of theoretical (as opposed to purely rhetorical) support for ID’s anti-evolution campaign.

      • Reginald Selkirk

        Why was he wrong about that point? I must have missed that discussion, but why do you call Dembski a creationist

        It’s all there in the comments to the previous thread.

        Not only do I call Dembski a creationist, he calls himself a creationist – an old earth creationist (see previous thread for direct quote and link to source).

        Rauser’s tactic was an appeal to Ronald Numbers’ book The Creationists, which he claimed authoritatively commanded that creationist = young earth creationist. So I whipped out my copy and quoted at length from the introduction to that book showing that this is false, and Numbers himself uses the term more inclusively to include old earth creationism; specifically day-age creationism and gap creationism. The original version of that book (C 1992) is too old to have any reference to “Intelligent Design.”

        • Rob Gressis

          Thanks for your comments, Reginald. They’re very helpful.

          Assuming he hasn’t responded to you (perhaps he thinks he has, and you don’t consider what he wrote a sufficient response? I haven’t followed this debate at all), I don’t know why Randal hasn’t responded to you. I think he should.

          Here’s how I would respond to you. Well, it’s not a response, so much as a question, given that I haven’t read Numbers’s book. When Numbers calls people who believe in an old earth, “old earth creationists”, is this a technical term he’s offering in order to allow his readers to see similarities between disparate groups of people, or is it supposed to be a descriptive term based on how they’ve always been described (by themselves or the culture at large, for instance)?

          I had no idea Dembski describes himself as a creationist. Do you know why he does that?

          As for “cdesign proponentsists”, I’m familiar with that (though not under that description), but I wasn’t impressed with that evidence. Here’s why: there’s a movement called (at least, I call them) the intelligent design movement (starting with people like Philip Johnson, and including people like Michael Behe, Stephen Meyer, and William Dembski), and there’s a movement called creationism (that includes people like Duane Gish). The creationist movement is primarily interested in teaching something opposed to evolutionary theory, because (to oversimplify things) they think evolutionary theory is Satanic. The ID movement wants to teach ID in addition to evolutionary theory because they think the evidence supports ID.

          The ID movement joined with the creationist movement in trying to teach something besides evolution, and members of the creationist movement rather bluntly used Of Pandas and People as their example textbook. They just switched “creationist” with “ID”. But, just because *they* did that, it doesn’t follow that ID is just young-earth creationism.

          That’s how I read it, anyway. I confess to not following these things all that closely.

          • b33bl3br0x

            A little history helps to clarify the point.

            In 1968, the supreme court ruled in Epperson v Arkansas that law forbiding teaching evolution were unconstitutional. A movement started called “creation science” (a.k.a. “scientific creationism”). This was made up of creationists* trying to rebrand creationism as scientific so that it could be taught in schools along side evolution.

            In ’87 Edwards v Agguilard the supreme court passed down a ruling stating “creation science” was not, in fact, science and was instead a particular religious viewpoint; All laws mandating equal time between creation science and evolution were therefore unconstitutional.

            At the time, Behe was writing a book called “Of Pandas and People” which was to be a “creation science” textbook. When the Edwards decision was handed down, a wholesale word replacement was done for the entire book changing “creationism” to “Intelligent Design” and “creationists” to “design proponents”. There was an intermediate in the latter replacement that read “cdesign proponentists”.

            This demonstrates, the ID movement is the creationist movement, they just changed the name because they had to in order to achieve their goal (getting creationism [back] into the science classroom).

            *since apparently this distinction is required here, this includes young-earth, old earth, day-age, and gap creationists

            • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

              Hi b33bl3br0x . And congrats for the most impenetrable handle!

              Now to business.

              First, your quick summary missed the pivotal 1981 Arkansas case which is expertly summarized in “Creationism on Trial” by theologian Langdon Gilkey.

              But more importantly, there are many adherents to and sympathizers with ID who share no sympathy with creationism, so your leap to ID is creationism in a cheap tuxedo is simply unwarranted. Frankly, this all smacks as a glaring instance of the genetic fallacy which simply serves to preclude any independent evaluation of ID on its own merits.

              • b33bl3br0x

                By 1981 case I assume you mean McLean v Arkansas (I just want to make sure that this is the case you’re referring to, the decision was handed down in Jan. 1982 so I mostly see it dated as ’82 not ’81) I left out McLean because it was not a supreme court case. It was only binding on Arkansas.

                The problem with ascribing this the genetic fallacy is that the people who were associated with it when it was creation science, who coined the term ID as a mask, are still there, and still in charge of the movement. Based upon their own words, their views have not changed. The same people with same views and the same motivations (see the wedge strategy) means that their motivations for originating the movement are relevant.

                there are many adherents to and sympathizers with ID who share no sympathy with creationism,

                This seems to be true only in so far as your particular quirk or excluding anyone from the group “creationist” that is not YEC.

                • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                  “This seems to be true only in so far as your particular quirk or excluding anyone from the group “creationist” that is not YEC.”

                  I don’t know what this means. Can you rephrase?

                  • b33bl3br0x

                    If we assume that the word creationist means not only young-earth, but also old-earth, day age, creationists from other religions, etc. (but not theistic evolutionists) then your statement doesn’t ring true.

              • Hrafn

                Randal Rauser:

                Please demonstrate that “there are many adherents to and sympathizers with ID who share no sympathy with creationism”, as I think that this claim is highly suspect. The vast majority of supporters of ID are anti-evolution theists, who therefore can reasonably be considered “creationists” (YEC or OEC). The far smaller number of agnostic or atheist sympathisers tend to be highly equivocal (e.g. Berlinski) or ambiguous in their support

              • Andy_Schueler

                But more importantly, there are many adherents to and sympathizers with ID who share no sympathy with creationism, so your leap to ID is creationism in a cheap tuxedo is simply unwarranted.

                “Scientific creationism”, both the OEC and YEC kind, is based on two pillars – criticism of evolution (which by means of a false dichotomy is used as alleged evidence for creationism) and alleged positive evidence for their own creation models (flood geology, baraminology etc.).
                ID has dropped the latter and rehashed the former, using more sciencey sounding language. “Irreducible complexity” for example is an ancient concept, St. George Mivart used it as criticism of Darwin´s ideas back in 1871, and it was already used by YECs decades before Behe wrote Darwin´s Black Box. People from the Institute for Creation research used even the same examples that Behe uses (they just called it “organized complexity”), including the bacterial flagellum.
                And the same applies to all of the arguments used by Cdesign proponentsists – with the exception of some of Dembski´s arguments maybe, here there is at least some novelty. Dembski got his ideas from A. E. Wilder-Smith (a YEC), and tried (and failed) to translate them into a mathematically rigorous concept – here we saw at least a modicum of novelty in the arguments compared to what YECs and OECs used already decades before (and, unlike Behe, Dembski was at least honest enough to occasionally credit his YEC source).
                There might be a handful (certainly not “many”) ID sympathizers who are neither YECs nor any kind of OEC, this however doesn´t change the fact that what they are sympathetic to is “creationism in a cheap tuxedo”.

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      I pointed out that the word “creationist” is used several different ways. Minimally, it can be used to mean a person who believes God created the universe. But in common parlance the term is used synonymously with the terms “biblical creationism”, “scientific creationism”, “young earth creationism” and “6 day creationism”. Ron Numbers reflects this usage when he titled his book about biblical creationism “The Creationists”.

      Since Dembski is a theist he is trivially a creationist in the general sense, but he is emphatically not a creationist in the narrow sense of the term where creationism = young earth creationism.

      • b33bl3br0x

        Dembski is not creationist in the trivial sense that he’s a theist. He believes that specific agency from the creator was required at various points throughout the process that gave rise to new beings that were not in a line of decent. He is not a theistic evolutionist.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          But he’s not a young earth creationist / six day creationist / scientific creationist / biblical creationist as those terms have been understood since Morris and Whitcomb published “The Genesis Flood” in 1963.

          • b33bl3br0x

            Here I have to disagree with the way you’re using the word creationist. The term creationist in nearly all places I’ve seen anywhere ascribe the term to anyone who believes in incidences of divine creation events in the history of life, which necessarily mean that there is no common decent of organisms.

            Your particular usage of the word creationist to mean only young-earth/6-day/biblical literalist creationist is not a common usage I’ve seen.

            This includes young earth, day-age, old earth, and gap creationists.

            But yes, Dembski is not a young-earther but he is still a creationist.

            • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

              Fair enough. So we have the following:

              Creationist 1: God created everything.

              Creationist 2: God created everything and created species directly.

              Creationist 3: God created everything and created species directly and created in 6 days approximately 6000-10,000 years ago and Genesis 1-2 is to be interpreted literally.

              • b33bl3br0x

                Well…I’m not so certain with “creationist 1″. This category would include theistic evolutionists which are generally not put in the group of creationists.

                I’d tend to think of it more in nested designations.

                Theists
                Evolutionists
                Creationists
                Young Earth
                Old Earth
                etc

            • Billy Squibs

              If we are talking personal experience, I’d have to disagree with you, b33bl3br0x. By an overwhelming majority I’ve noticed the term creationinst applied to 6-day creation types. On numerous occasions I have tried to qualify the term so that it is understood as something that could potentially be applied to all Christians.

  • RonH

    Actually, on atheist assumptions, I’m not sure it’s rational to conclude that people can hold religious beliefs rationally. I might even be able to prove it eventually. Thus far, all the evidence I’ve seen seems to support the idea.

    Irrationality is the “original sin” in atheism. The only way to escape it is to convert. Damned if you don’t, damned if you do.

  • eric

    So we’re left with a rather absurd picture in which Chris claims that
    Plantinga, Craig and McDowell are ignorant or dishonest and then
    concludes from this that apologists generally are ignorant and
    dishonest.

    You have an issue with the generalization. Okay, let’s set that aside: do you agree with Chris that the arguments from Plantinga, Craig, and McDowell that he’s claimed are ignorant, are in fact ignorant?

    One example that Chris mentioned in the last post was Plantinga’s claim that there are no transitional fossils. Do you agree that’s an ignorant argument/claim? Another example he recently mentioned was the 2LOT argument (made by various apologists, but I believe Chris cited Dembski making it): do you agree that’s an ignorant argument/claim?

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      “You have an issue with the generalization. Okay, let’s set that aside”

      No let’s not set that aside since that’s the whole point of my critique. Do you agree with Chris’ mode of argumentation that if you can find three important participants in an “intellectual project” who are in some respect ignorant and/or dishonest that you are justified in concluding that participants in that intellectual project are generally ignorant and/or dishonest?

      • john

        Randal, please respond to eric’s questions which you overlooked. I will cut and paste here:

        “One example that Chris mentioned in the last post was Plantinga’s claim that there are no transitional fossils. Do you agree that’s an ignorant argument/claim? Another example he recently mentioned was the 2LOT argument (made by various apologists, but I believe Chris cited Dembski making it): do you agree that’s an ignorant argument/claim?”

        Thanks.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          I will happily do so when Eric replies to my question. Indeed, I’ll happily devote an entire article to the topic. And for a limited time offer, if Eric replies today I’ll write an article on the topic for tomorrow.

          • john

            Whether or not eric replies to your question doesn’t seem relevant. How about if I try to answer your question and then just pretend I have similar questions?

            Your question (to eric): “Do you agree with Chris’ mode of argumentation that if you can find three important participants in an “intellectual project” who are in some respect ignorant and/or dishonest that you are justified in concluding that participants in that intellectual project are generally ignorant and/or dishonest?”

            My attempt at a reply: I generally just like to refer to people as being dishonest or ignorant in reference to specific topics. And I would not hesitate to call someone ignorant or dishonest if they have been presented with evidence which demonstrates where there assertions are wrong and they continue with their assertions as if such information has never been provided to them. I’m sure there are nuances here, like whether or not the person can understand the new information presented to them, but generally my answer stands.

          • David_Evans

            Let me also try to answer your question to Eric. I have found that very often in arguments with a Christian apologist (call him A) he/she will say things like “your view is too simplistic. Why don’t you engage with sophisticated apologists such as X?” Quite often, X is either Craig or Plantinga. If I find that X has serious intellectual flaws, that suggests to me that either
            A has understood X’s arguments, agrees with them and therefore has the same flaw
            or
            A has not understood X’s arguments and is therefore being dishonest in appealing to them.

            After a sufficient number of such arguments I think I may rationally conclude that the typical apologist is either flawed or dishonest. If there were a better version of apologetics, why has no-one pointed it out to me?

          • eric

            And for a limited time offer, if Eric replies today I’ll write an article on the topic for tomorrow.

            I did. My time stamp for your message above says “a day ago.” So…..????

            • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

              This article is the response:

              http://randalrauser.com/2013/07/why-atheistic-apologists-are-generally-ignorant-andor-dishonest-according-to-chris-hallquists-methodology/

              The response to your specific issue comes near the beginning when I address the fact that anybody who denies the presence of transitional forms in the fossil record must be ignorant to the many examples. From there I went beyond your concern to challenge Chris’ entire “critique”.

              • eric

                I’ll take a look and respond as appropriate there, so this will likely be my last comment on this particular thread. Though you are probably safe in regards to any additional ‘limited time offers,’ as it might be a day or two before I can do that. Thanks for the conversation.

      • eric

        I wrote a longer reply but it seems to have been eaten by the internet. So the short version: I would not make such a generalization myself because I disagree that making it has any value. But I see those arguments come up in blogs and letters to the editor every time this issue hits the mainstream media, so I don’t think its a completely unfair generalization.

        Now, I happily await your response, including whether you agree that Plantinga is making an ignorant argument when he denies the existence of transitional fossils, and whether you agree Demski is making an ignorant argument when he claims the 2LOT contradicts the TOE.

        • eric

          Err…for clarity, “disagree” should read “disagree with Chris…”

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          Thanks. As I promised, I’ll devote a blog post to this topic tomorrow.

          In the interim, I’d like you to explain your reasoning in the first paragraph. You say that generalizations are made in “blogs and letters” and from this you conclude that it is therefore not completely unfair to make such generalizations.

          Could you explain what you mean by this? Are you saying that you can understand how Chris Hallquist could make such an indefensible statement because prejudice and bad reasoning of this kind is widespread?

          Or are you saying that because this is widespread there is some legitimacy to Chris’ claims?

          Or are you claiming something else?

          • eric

            The latter; the more creationists that use (for example) the 2LOT argument every time they have a chance to speak up, the more reasonable the generalization becomes.

            But since you’ve asked me to explain the first paragaph, I want to make another point that relates directly to this (and why I said I wouldn’t use it): I think your response to Chris is far less reasonable or defensible than his generalization. If someone says “your argument is wrong, here’s why…and you are a poopyhead,” then yes, you can call them out for making the completely unwarranted last claim. Poopyhead comments are an a**hole move. But if you respond to that by saying: “I will not discuss any flaw in my argument until I get satisfaction about that poopyhead comment,” then you’ve made a bigger a**hole move because now you are intentionally using someone else’s fallacious argument to avoid having a substantive discussion about your own argument.

            The reason I wouldn’t make such generalizations is that it leaves an opening for someone to shut down substantive conversation in exactly this way – and no intellectually honest arguer should be trying to shut down substantive discussion, they should be trying to move beyond the fallacies to re-engage. You’re using a shutting-down technique, and in my opinion, that’s worse than Chris’ making (what you perceive to be) an unfair generalization.

            • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

              What kind of response is this?! I promised to publish a full article on this topic tomorrow. But that doesn’t absolve you from having to defend your comments about Chris’ indefensible prejudice. At present you look like a complete hypocrite. For shame!

              • b33bl3br0x

                Strictly speaking your response in the blog post contains a category error.

                So we’re left with a rather absurd picture in which Chris claims that Plantinga, Craig and McDowell are ignorant or dishonest and then concludes from this that apologists generally are ignorant and dishonest.

                “I do not claim that all Christian apologists are either ignorant or dishonest without exception… but I do think it’s generally true of the stuff that currently dominates Christian apologetics.”

                Do you see it? He didn’t extend the generalization that all apologists were “generally ignorant and dishonest”. He extended the generalization to the arguments put forward (from what he sees at least) most often. While he does claim that a specific subset of apologists are ignorant or dishonest, he differentiates later between the people and the arguments themselves.

                • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                  If only atheists interpreted the Bible with the same care that they interpret atheistic bloggers.

                  Regardless, the justification problem still remains. Moreover, you can’t identify arguments as being ignorant or dishonest. Those are properties pertaining only to agents.

                  • b33bl3br0x

                    This brings up an interesting issue. If a dishonest person makes an argument they know to be a lie, and this argument is then parroted by another who doesn’t actually know that it’s a lie is it the new person telling the lie who is dishonest or is the argument dishonest?

                    I’d tend to agree that dishonest and ignorant imply intent or a mind state which requires an agent (I mean it’s kind of definitional right?), but I’m not certain that I’d be willing to impart those qualities to someone who is just repeating a bad argument they heard someone make. I think that this is where Chris’s line of thought was going.

              • eric

                You asked me to explain my comment, you gave me two possible interpretations, I told you I meant the latter. What type of response is that? A very clear and direct one.
                I also included some additional commentary intended to explain why I generally disagree with Chris’ use of such a generalization…but extra commentary doesn’t somehow make the first paragraph less explanatory.

                • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                  “The latter; the more creationists that use (for example) the 2LOT argument every time they have a chance to speak up, the more reasonable the generalization becomes.”

                  This doesn’t make sense Eric. Let’s say no atheist has lied to me to defend atheism. I am not justified in believing the proposition “Atheists generally lie to defend atheism.” Now imagine that I have an experience with one atheist who lied to defend his atheism. Am I now more justified, based on that evidence, to accept the proposition that atheists generally lie to defend atheism? And if I have experience with a second atheist who lied am I even more justified in accepting the proposition?

                  • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                    You might think of it as saving money to buy your first Ferrari. One dollar saved might trivially bring you a dollar closer to purchasing the car, but you’re still not in a place to say “I can buy a Ferrari.” Likewise, experience with a smattering of apologists (or atheists) out of tens of thousands doesn’t warrant you in concluding that apologists (or atheists) are generally dishonest or whatever.

                    • eric

                      I understand that critique of generalizations. Its fair as far as it goes, but doesn’t take into account the fact that humans rarely have complete information on a subject they wish to discuss. If you insist that we must have complete information (here, about a populace’s opinion on a subject) before making a generalization about that populace, then you are essentially rejecting the process of generalization altogether.
                      Inference is not merely the act of describing a complete data set; its asserting something about the data missing from your data set based on the data you do have. So it seems quite circular or illegitimate to me for someone to argue that Chris can’t draw an inference about creationist behavior because he hasn’t talked to every creationist (in your analogy: save every dollar needed). In that respect, your ferrari analogy is extremely bad: saving money for a purchase is not like making generalizationsd or drawing inferences in critically important ways.

                    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

                      Two points. First, you switched from “apologist” to “creationist”.

                      Second, you try to defend Chris by imputing to me the absurd position that a person must have comprehensive knowledge of a group of people to make statements that individuals from that group “generally” are ignorant and dishonest.

                      Is there no middle ground between these two absurd extremes?

                    • eric

                      The imputation comes directly from your Ferrari analogy. You just compared collecting data about apologists (sorry for saying creationists) and then making a generalization to collecting money to buy a Ferrari. Your point was very clear: you’re saying that you can’t buy the car until you have all the money, right?

                      Its a terrible analogy because the whole point of generalizing is to try and come to a conclusion when you can’t collect all the data.

                      But now we are arguing about a digression on a digression, and you still haven’t addressed whether you think Plantinga commenting that there are no fossil intermediates was ignorant or whether Dembski claiming the 2LOT refutes evolution is ignorant. Can you please stop going deeper down the rabbit hole of argumentative minituae of how horrible it is when someone makes what you perceive to be an unwarranted generalization (shock! horror!) or whether buying a car is like drawing an inference (facepalm!) and get back to the substantive question of whether such apologetics are ignorant or not?

                    • Billy Squibs

                      Yet I would say that while all apologist may be equal in the eyes of the Lord, some are equal than others when it comes to us mere mortals. By this I mean that if some apologists are popular enough to influence the apologetics movement as a whole their dollar goes that bit further and buys you that little bit more of the Ferrari. This still doesn’t mean that apologetics is by definition a dishonest enterprise. But I can sympathise *to an extent* with the atheist who sees dishonesty in a Christian apologist and concludes that the rest must be an equally rotten lot. At the same time I don’t agree with the automatic assumption made by some folks that apologist X is being dishonest, rather than assuming good intent.

                      For example, WLC is often branded a liar (and worse) but even when I disagree with him (one Christian to another) I can allow for the charitable assumption that both of us can look at the same issue and come up with differing conclusions that seem equally valid and therefore we are both justified inhold our views with name calling. I get the impression from some folks that this is not an option and any disagreement must be down to the other person’s dishonesty.

                    • Billy Squibs

                      That should be “without the name calling”.

                  • eric

                    I think the word “generally” is, in normal speech, going to be taken to imply a majority – at least in the limited data you have. So, if you made 50 posts on atheism and in 30-40 of them, some atheist came along and blatantly lied to you, then yes I think you would be reasonably justified in making the generalizaion that atheists often lie.
                    But I note you are still using this “generalization” issue to dodge substantive issues about the validity or ignorance of some of the arguments made by major design propoents such as Plantinga and Dembski. And I repeat my opinion on what you’re doing: you using Chris’ generalization as a reason to derail or halt the debate on arguments made against evolution/for ID is worse behavior than Chrsis making a generalization in the first place..

  • Nox

    The difference is that christian apologetics is by definition a dishonest enterprise. Anyone engaging in it is engaging (knowingly or otherwise) in an attempt to spread bad information. There is no trait inherent to mexicans (outside the imaginary traits assigned to them by racists) which leads to ignorance and dishonesty. Skin color and ancestry don’t directly affect a person’s thinking. The ideas someone holds do directly affect their thinking.

    The primary job of christian apologists is to say whatever they can think of that supports christianity, regardless of whether what they are saying is true. If any of the clubs you mentioned as examples were entirely built around belief in demonstrably false tenets, and they required all members to state and defend belief in these tenets even to the point of lying in support of the club, and everyone who did offer any defense of this club’s tenets lied rampantly, and anyone could look at the club’s charter and see the mistakes and lies right there on the page, then yes, it absolutely would be justified to say “all X are ignorant or dishonest” (keeping in mind that ignorance is not always a choice, and is not the same thing as being unintelligent).

    If Craig, Plantinga and McDowell are not accurate samples of christian apologetics, and Hallquist is wrong to refer them as representative, can you give me one example of an apologist or argument that does not suffer from the same ignorance and dishonesty as McDowell, Plantinga and Craig?

    • Billy Squibs

      So Christian apologetics is dishonest because you definite it as dishonest. No doubt you are familiar with the fallacy known as begging the question, Nox. Because you have produced a text-book example of it.

      You finish by throwing down the gauntlet and asking for an argument made by Criag, McDowell or Plantinga that is neither ignorant or dishonest (I assume that you will be the arbitrator on this). Sorry, but you have it wrong. It’s you who have to do the work and demonstrate to us a) the validity of your opening claim and b) the validity of your spurious charge that apologists such as Craig, McDowel and Plantinga are ignorant and dishonest.

      Your comment is chock full of rhetoric but comes with no supporting evidence. Absolutely none. You are asserting your position, not demonstrating it.

      P.S. Please note that dimply disagreeing with them is not the same as demonstrating that theses men are ignorant and dishonest.

      P.P.S. Also, while I suspect that you think that doing so might support “the myth” grammar dictates that Christianity, a proper noun, should begin with an upper-case “C”.

      • Reginald Selkirk

        Billy Squibs: So Christian apologetics is dishonest because you definite it as dishonest

        That is not an accurate characterization of what he said. He did say that Christian apologetics is dishonest, he did not say that it is “by definition.” That was your own invention.

        • Kerk

          Boy, you really do have some serious problems with reading! Read his first sentence, word by word:

          “The difference is that christian apologetics is by definition a dishonest enterprise.”

          • Reginald Selkirk

            Yes I missed that one. Sorry.

            • Billy Squibs

              Reginald, do you see anythign else wrong with my comment?

          • cyngus

            Read again: “dishonest enterprise”. It is dishonest enterprise to help religious leaders,or yourself, to make money from selling “God”.

            • Billy Squibs

              Did you have a point beyond trolling?

              • cyngus

                It’s you who have to do the work and demonstrate that I am a troll. Maybe the truth is upsetting you and you are trying an unsuccessful ad hominem.

                Yea, “Christianity” with “C” in upper case, please. Because otherwise we’ll burn in hell. You grammar Nazi.
                Hebrew alphabet is all in upper case and YHWH is not upset with that. Get a life.

                Oh! And he wrote “mexicans” in lower case. You did not see that. No tamales for you!

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      Apologetics simply comes from the Greek word “apologia”, meaning to provide a defense for one’s beliefs.

      So do you think all defenses of one’s beliefs are dishonest? If so, can you defend that position?

      In other words, this is a silly comment which, as Billy observes, merely has you making your case by definitional fiat. If only winning arguments were that easy…

      • john

        I may be wrong, but if I’m not it seems quite telling. “Apologia” means to provide a defense of *an* argument or belief, not necessarily one’s own, as you said Randal. A non-believer can provide an apologia for a believer’s assertion, often better that the believer themselves (and vice-versa). It’s often just iterating an argument one has heard. Many often confuse knowing a string of words that resembles an argument as knowledge.

        • john

          In reference to above comments, if what I said is true regarding the definition of *apologia*, I would call Randal ignorant or dishonest if he continues to offer his purported definition of *apologia*.

      • cyngus

        Apologetics does not simply comes from the Greek word “apologia” when it is applied to Christianity, as “Apologetics = branch of Christianity”.

        “Apologetics” can be simply absurd to describe atheism. Religious disbelief is still disbelief, with or without supporting it.

        I mean, I disbelief God, why should you impose the “apologetic” term on me? My disbelief can be supported by Science and Philosophy, I don’t do apologetics for Science and Philosophy, I just explain my disbelief with the help of Science and Philosophy.

        I think this “apologetic” applied to atheism is just theist stubbornness in calling atheism as religion, to have a quarrel between us religious heretics.

      • Luke Breuer

        Randal, I would actually be interested in your answer to Nox’s last paragraph:

        If Craig, Plantinga and McDowell are not accurate samples of christian apologetics, and Hallquist is wrong to refer them as representative, can you give me one example of an apologist or argument that does not suffer from the same ignorance and dishonesty as McDowell, Plantinga and Craig?

        Roger Olson recently suggested Keith Ward to me, whom I have been enjoying immensely.

  • cyngus

    You cannot have any rational discussion with anyone about religion.

    The only rational discussion is about irreligion. Irreligion shows rationality, while religion is just pseudorationalism, that is “openness of rationalism” beyond human rationality, extending rationalism to a fabricated human conception called “God”.

  • Pofarmer

    I notice that you are diving the whole subject of his post.

  • MRHamilton

    You know what’s a fun game? To look through some of these comments and replace “apologetics” or “religion” or the like with “atheism.” If you do, a lot of them start sounding like fundamentalist sermons!

    • cyngus

      In your ‘switch’ game, Randal approves the use of “fundamentalism”. When it was about Christians, Randal scratched his head to came up with a hole article to show that Christian “fundamentalist sermons” are not that bad.
      Sure, “fundamentalism” is bad when “practiced” by atheists.

  • AdamHazzard

    …let me point out two ways that one could
    legitimately infer from the ignorance and/or dishonesty of three leaders
    of a group to the likelihood that most members of the group are
    likewise ignorant and/or dishonest….

    Well, let me point out at least one way in which you could legitimately infer from the repeated ignorance and/or dishonesty of three much-lauded leaders of an advocacy group, in the course of their advocacy that most of their allied advocates are likewise ignorant and/or dishonest. One clue would be that errors are not acknowledged by those who make them nor are they pointed out by fellow advocates.

    Even the apologists for economic austerity now admit that one of their keystone documents (“Growth in a Time of Debt,” by the Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff) contained serious errors.

    Has the apologetic community been as honest about the evolutionary ignorance Christ points out in his article?

    • Billy Squibs

      I would think so. Organisations like Biologos are set up specifically to pitch evolutionary theory to a Christian audience. Its members are vocally critical of “creationism” and the ID movement. On the other had, and without wishing to misrepresent either Plantiga or Craig (not sure about McDowell), I believe that both of them are open to evolution, just not unguided evolution.

  • Tim

    I am with Randal. Everyone is (at least initially) an apologist for their perspective/worldview when it is challenged. Moreover, this is normal/healthy intellectual behavior and not dishonest in the least.

    If anything, it is the many de facto apologists for materialism who ostensibly present themselves as disinterested truth seekers that are acting in a dishonest manner. Christian apologists are at least upfront about where they’re coming from and should be commended for this fact.

    • cyngus

      You are being dishonest as is Randal.
      A religious disbelief does not require to be defended unless you attack me with “why don’t you believe?” or “why they don’t believe?”. However, even in this case, the defense is not “apologetic”, I just take Science and Philosophy findings to show you why I disbelief. Got a problem with that? Then go against Science or distort Philosophy with “Christian philosophy” transforming it in theology.

      You come with your belief, I do not believe, then you surely use apologetic to defend your religion as if my disbelief is an attack upon you. I may use Science and Philosophy as a “defenders” of my religious disbelief, but it is not the intention of Science and Philosophy to prove or disprove God or god(s).

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