Thinking Christian

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It’s Not About the CV, It’s About Whether It’s True Or Not

Posted on Dec 30, 2013 by Tom Gilson

Someone sent an email my way via Ratio Christi’s contact page, offering this tidbit of wisdom:

Why do you flatter yourself by believing that Peter Boghossian would waste his time with your nonsense? You are not even in the same league. This is an excellent corollary to the fact that Dawkins will not debate creationists. It would look good on your C.V. but not Peters [sic].

I don’t think I’m in the same league as Boghossian at all. His command of persuasion theory far outshines the little I learned in my social psychology studies. I’m sure the same would be true for his philosophical studies.

The thing is, though, this isn’t about who’s in what league. It isn’t about flattering myself, and I don’t need to pad my CV, since I already have all the position I want or need for years to come. It’s about whether his arguments stand up to a challenge. When it comes to the Christian faith, the answer is no, and I have shown reasons to think so.

17 Responses to “ It’s Not About the CV, It’s About Whether It’s True Or Not ”

  1. John Moore says:

    Dawkins won’t debate creationists because he’s convinced they aren’t even trying to discover truth; they’re only trying to get publicity. They’re only trying to pad their CV.

    I trust you are not in the same category and that you really are trying to understand the truth. Thus, it’s not right to compare your challenge of Boghossian with the creationists’ challenge of Dawkins.

  2. Izak says:

    Man, there seems to be a chesterton quote for every situation :-)

    He writes in “Orthodoxy” (and this is of course part of a larger discussion on materialist dogma): “You reject the peasant’s story about the ghost either because the man is a peasant or because the story is a ghost story.”

    Whenever someone asks the above question, the do-you-fancy-yourself-someone-of-import question, they are in essence rejecting the story because the story-teller is a peasant. Chesterton continues, saying that when you reject the peasant’s story, you deny the main principle of democracy.

    It is far better, though not without problems, to reject the story because it is a ghost story.

  3. Oisin says:

    Isn’t the main problem that Boghossian requires that his interlocutors tell him what would be required to change their minds about the veracity of their faith before he will interact with them? It’s an especially pressing need with apologetics, because if there is no possible way they can imagine changing their minds then there is no point in him interacting with them.

  4. Billy Squibs says:

    The claim was made that Tom is -

    a) talking nonsense
    b) not in the same league as Bog
    c) out to pad his CV

    Oisin, can you explain what connection your comment got to do with a – c? Are you suggesting that anyone involved in apologetics is unable/ unwilling to change their mind?

  5. Oisin says:

    But the thing is that Boghossian isn’t diregarding the chance of communicating completely, he wants to know what would change the mind of the apologetic first, though, because if he asks and the apologetic cannot give a single example of something that would change his/her mind, then Boghossian is wasting his time because there is simply nothing he can say that would change the mind of the apologetic if even the apologetic himself/herself cannot imagine how their mind would be changed.

  6. Billy Squibs says:

    You have neither addressed the topic of the original post nor responded to my comment. Who are you having a conversation with, Oisin? Is it that comments have been deleted? The point of the quote provided in the original post has nothing to do with your defence of Boghossian. Can you not see that?

    The ebook and the series of blog posts is intended to be a substantive intellectual critique of Boghossian’s book. What should be addressed are the arguments made by Tom rather than looking for a way of not engaging with them at all. The arguments either stand or fall by themselves, and this is true whatever one thinks about Tom’s supposed secret desire to improve his CV or your off topic defence of Boghossian’s reasoning for deciding to engage with someone.

  7. Tom Gilson says:

    Oisin @#3 and #5, the problem with that theory is this (excerpted from my book on Boghossian):

    Let’s consider another example: an atheist looking at the stars, when suddenly they re-arrange themselves to spell—for all the world to see—“I am God communicating with you. Believe in me!” It’s fanciful, but if it happened, that would presumably count as evidence for the reality of God. Or (less fanciful by far!) what about the Second Coming of Christ: that, too, should count as evidence for the reality of God, one would think.

    One would think—unless one were Peter Boghossian. On page 82 of the Manual for Creating Atheists, Boghossian says the rearrangement of the stars would be “suggestive (but far from conclusive as it’s a perception and could be a delusion).” In a conversation with Richard Dawkins[1], he goes further than that, or at least he seems to be affirming Dawkins as Dawkins goes further, saying that “the more probable explanation is that it’s a hallucination, or a conjuring trick by David Copperfield or something.” Dawkins even doubts that the Second Coming of Christ would convince him.

    [1] Beginning at about 12:30 in a video available at http://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/dawkins-finally-admits-he-is-closed-minded-about-the-existence-of-god/

    If Boghossian is waiting to find out if there’s anything that would change the apologist’s mind, he’s playing a hypocrite’s game.

  8. Tom Gilson says:

    If he wants to know what would change my mind he could ask. Some people say “the bones of Jesus Christ,” but that’s ambiguous: how would the identity of the bones be proved?

    I’d start instead with some credible naturalistic explanation for rationality, consciousness, and personal identity; or perhaps some superior explanation for the human condition. Even some other adequate explanation would cause me to consider changing my mind. It wouldn’t really have to be obviously superior, in order to get me wondering about the basis for my faith. Besides that I’d move on toward any credible evidence that Scripture is fraudulent. There are many things I could name.

    There isn’t anything Boghossian could name that could cause him to change his mind. He has said so quite plainly.

  9. G. Rodrigues says:

    If someone said to me that I am not in the same league as Dr. Peter Boghossian, I would take it as a compliment.

  10. Tom Gilson says:

    :)

    We’re all in different leagues in different games.

    When it comes to persuasion theory, he’s in the major leagues.

    When it comes to critical thinking skills, he might be major-league material (that’s an American baseball-ism, by the way), but he’s not bringing that heavy bat to the “lets-define-faith” game he’s playing.

    When it comes to understanding the realities of Christian faith, I will not describe the league I think he qualifies for. Let’s just say it’s not exactly professional.

  11. BillT says:

    The reason Boghossian isn’t responding has nothing to do with his supposedly wanting to know what would change the mind of the apologist first. That’s just a red herring. Boghossian didn’t write his book to examine the topic honestly, engage with Christians or to debate the merits of his argument. The book is simply piece of atheist propaganda. The quite dishonest redefinition of the central terms of the debate create a one sided polemic that is all about either convincing the uninformed or reinforcing the beliefs of the already convinced. There is no chance Boghossian would expose himself and his intellectual cowardice to any honest examination or debate. He’s after low hanging fruit not informed discourse.

  12. Tom Gilson says:

    True that. He uses other language to say it, but he too admits that he’s only after the easy pickings. He warns in his book not to engage with apologists. The reason he gives is that we’re too deep in our “doxastic pathologies.” But even if that were true, it would only explain why he would choose not to initiate with an apologist. It says nothing about why he wouldn’t answer specific charges like the ones I’m making.

    Funny thing is, if he refuses to answer because the charges are challenging, that says one thing about him: he’s running scared. If he refuses to answer because the charges are too easy and boring, that says something else: he doesn’t know a strong challenge from a weak one. If he refuses to answer because I’m an apologist, then that’s an implicit ad hominem.

    It doesn’t look good for him any way you look at it.

  13. Tom Gilson says:

    P.S. “He doesn’t know a strong answer from a weak one” was intentionally provocative. If he thinks my answers are weak, he could say so, but then he’d have to show why he thinks so.

  14. Oisin says:

    Why not ask Boghossian instead how one would prove to him that theism is true? I suspect that this would be a productive interaction for everyone involved.

  15. Tom Gilson says:

    Boghossian has already answered that question. See above.

  16. JAD says:

    Lev. 19:18 says, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

    Someone asked Jesus one day( Luke 10:25-29), “who is my neighbor”? In response Jesus taught his listeners and us the parable of “The Good Samaritan” (Luke 10: 30-37). Notice that in the story Jesus expands the concept of neighbor from someone of ones own tribe or race to all mankind. In other words, he taught us that every human being is our neighbor and deserves to be treated with love, respect and compassion. You’ll see how revolutionary Jesus teaching was if you read Josephus. The Jew’s and Samaritans hated one another. Yet Jesus used that hatred to teach us how as human beings, not just Christians, we should treat one another. That’s the beginning of the concept of universal human rights, free of the taint of ethnocentricity. That’s how God wants us to live. That’s how we should live.

    In other words, Jesus taught us an ethic of compassion for our fellow man. What kind of ethic does Peter Boghossian follow? It sounds to me like an ethic condescension and contempt. Does Boghossian believe in human rights? A free democratic society? Freedom of thought, freedom of conscience and belief? It doesn’t sound like it to me.

  17. jwds says:

    Ironically, the first step toward changing my mind would be evidence that my atheist interlocutor could actually make a good argument, i.e., one that doesn’t beg the question, doesn’t rely on insults, and actually indicates more knowledge of Christian thought and Scripture than a couple of History channel specials.

    But Bog and Lindsay, and most of the commenters, sure don’t fit the bill.

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