I haven’t read John Loftus’ most recent book Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End (Pitchstone, 2016). But today I did take a look at what Loftus has to say about me. Here’s the most significant excerpt:
“Randal Rauser is an associate professor of historical theology at Taylor Seminary, Edmonton, Canada. He and I coauthored a debate-style book together titled God or Godless? He is a Christian believer. I cowrote the book to reach any honest believers since I consider him impervious to reason. I could say it of any Christian pseudo-intellectual to some degree, depending on how close he or she is to the truth (liberals are closer than progressive evangelicals who are closer than fundamentalists). I admit Rauser reasons well in other areas of his life unrelated to his faith. He could even teach a critical thinking class. So he’s rational, very much so. But like all believers his brain must basically shut down when it comes to faith. When it comes to faith his brain must disengage. It cannot connect the dots. It refuses to connect them. Faith stops the brain from working properly. Faith is a cognitive bias that causes believers to overestimate any confirming evidence and underestimate any disconfirming evidence. So his brain will not let reason penetrate it, given his faith bias. Some people have even described faith as a virus of the brain (or mind). It makes the brain sick. Maybe Marx said it best though. It’s an opiate, a deadening drug.” (54-55)
This excerpt is a great example of Loftus’ own glaring bias blind spot. He devotes over 200 words to declaring me hopelessly biased, a victim to unconstrained motivated reasoning and confirmation bias. But in all that incendiary verbiage, he provides not a single example of the alleged offense. All smoke, no fire.
But that’s not to say there is no logic to Loftus’ ramblings, for there most assuredly is. When he spends all his time labeling those with whom he disagrees as hopelessly cognitively biased, he creates a testimonial undercutting defeater for their arguments. That is, he need not directly rebut anything I say because he has already established that I exercise “faith” which is apparently “a cognitive bias”, one that “stops the brain from working” like a “virus”. This virus has left my “brain sick”, victim to “an opiate, a deadening drug.”
In contrast to Loftus’ rhetoric, my apologetic method is formed by a dedication to steel-manning my opponents, even to the extent of writing an entire book — Is the Atheist My Neighbor? Rethinking Christian attitudes toward atheism — to defending the intellectual credibility of atheism. What is more, last year I defended atheism in a devil’s advocate debate while atheist Michael Ruse defended Christianity.
No surprise, Loftus is wholly unable to steel-man his Christian interlocutors. His biases prevent him from doing so. Instead, he loves to label the Christians he disagrees with “fundamentalists”. Indeed, at the beginning of Unapologetic he begins by labeling Alvin Plantinga a fundamentalist. The irony with such methods is that they demonstrate Loftus’ own unchecked fundamentalism. He is the one who is invoking the tried and true binary opposition of classic fundamentalism, one which contrasts the enlightened in-group with the deluded out-group. Everybody is vulnerable to cognitive biases to some degree. But it is Loftus himself who, in his dogged determination to marginalize Christians, thereby demonstrates the most glaring, unchecked biases of all.