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