Dripping Deep and Trivial

The other day John Loftus wrote on Facebook, “Faith is an irrational leap over the probabilities based on at least one cognitive bias and buttressed by at least one logical fallacy.”

I don’t respond to John very often anymore, but something about the context of this post piqued my interest; or rather, it was the lack of all context. Sure, I know John could probably show where he thinks he got that claim from. But here it was just sitting here, just a stark, open, self-assured, unsupported assertion.

So I answered in kind, with a stark, open, self-assured unsupported assertion: “Ummm…. no, it isn’t. But thanks for your entry.”

You can be sure that I have read and written plenty to support that answer, but I didn’t see much need to return anything more in response than the claim deserved.

I knew what to expect, and I got it. Other commenters:

“Saying ‘no it’s not’ doesn’t contribute at all. Would you like to try again?”

I thought that was amusing, considering that John’s assertion had contributed nothing but predictable bias spoken ex cathedra in the first place.

Do you suppose he noticed that? I had. That’s why I answered so tersely.

“He can’t make any better ‘argument’ than this, Andrew. I’ve seen him try too many times.”

That’s funny, too, since it’s demonstrably false (see below). Makes you wonder whether these guys really are committed to evidence-based reasoning like they always say they are.

Someone else said, “Wow. Deep.” No, actually, it was neither a wow nor a deep thought, unless there’s something profound about noticing John had said nothing profound, and responding in kind. I don’t think that’s very deep at all. It seemed rather obvious to me.

So I  didn’t have anything grandiose in mind. I suppose this sarcastic answer of his was supposed to bother me, as if I’d failed somewhere. Nope. Not here, anyway.

Finally ,the same person who said he’d never seen me produce a better argument added, “Gilson tries to pass himself off as a Christian intellectual.”

Here again there’s little sign that this person has any commitment to evidence-based reasoning. I represent myself as a thinking person, sure, and also a speaker, author, and ministry advisor. But I don’t call myself an intellectual. It’s too vague a term to be much use anyway, unless you’re in the academy, a think tank, or someplace similar where vocational expectations require you to adopt it for yourself.

So why bring this up here? It’s such a small, brief, trivial matter; and yet that’s what I find in today’s internet atheism. There’s nothing so small or inconsequential but that atheists will find ways to magnify it into an opportunity to drip mockery and ridicule all over it.

They parody themselves in the process.

Anyway, if someone wants to whether I have anything to say to expand just a bit on those four words, “Ummm…. no, it isn’t,” I do have an answer. The content there applies to Loftus’s view of faith as well as to Boghossian’s.


  1. SCBrownLHRM

    Mr. Loftus’ remark was catch-y and a nice sound bite, so perhaps it’s about selling books. Perhaps it was a proverbial momentary itch he needed to scratch. Otherwise it’s not clear what would motivate anyone to demonstrate that sort of irrational leap over anything remotely specific based on some sort of cognitive bias and buttressed by a simple logical fallacy.

    I agree with Tom’s reply “in-kind”.

    That such a reply-in-kind game was missed by Loftus-fans was just bizarre.

    That’s the problem with mixing [A] sound bites with [B] fans.

  2. Mike Rhoades

    Why is it that Christians are the only ones required to give a substantive answer?

    “Saying ‘no it’s not’ doesn’t contribute at all.” Sure it does, it just doesn’t fit into the atheist paradigm of “make a brief unsubstantiated statement and expect a Christian essay to refute.” Besides, the quote should have been “…no it isn’t…” We all know, thanks to Clintonian parsing, that the meaning of “is/isn’t” can be very deep indeed!

  3. John

    Hi Tom,

    Dr. Peter Boghossian has defined faith as “pretending to know things you don’t know.” It’s a stipulative definition, one that’s polemical in nature yet accurate from the perspective of atheists and skeptics. No, we emphatically do not have to use a word such as “faith” in the same way Christians use it, when the concept behind it is the debate itself. Although, if faith is trust, as they say, there is no reason to trust faith.

    Anyway, just like the sophists in the days of Socrates, who pretended to know things they didn’t know, most all apologists for Christianity do likewise (otherwise they wouldn’t be apologists). By contrast Boghossian wants us to practice the intellectual virtue of authenticity, whereby we admit we don’t know something if we legitimately don’t know it. No one can know everything. So apologists who are pretending are not authentic people. The question is why anyone would take seriously the pontifications of an inauthentic person? The lack of authenticity, all by itself, should tell us such a person is indoctrinated, brainwashed and delusional.

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    Tom Gilson

    Except Dr. Boghossian is wrong. He’s wrong on the use of the term. It’s inaccurate from the perspective of what the word means, even though it might be rhetorically convenient from your perspective.

    As for authenticity, he teaches critical thinking but practices straw man argumentation and a host of other fallacies. He is no model of intellectual authenticity.

    It’s in my book and elsewhere on this blog, though I’m not in a place right now where I can grab those links.

    Apologists neither pretend to know everything more need to pretend it. That’s a straw man on your part, doing your own credibility no good.

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  6. John

    Tom, are you an openminded person? That should be easy to show me if so. Such a person is openminded to the consensus of scientists working in their fields.

    Evolution meets this criterion of the consensus of scientists.

    Christian apologists who are not scientists pretend they are equipped to dispute the consensus of scientists because they are not openminded.

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    Tom Gilson

    John, if you want to know my opinion on all this you can read the reams of previous conversation on it. I’m not going to let you hijack a thread onto such a huge unrelated topic.

    But if you really, really do want to open up the discussion you’ve started, prove to me that your closing sentence here is accurate. Prove that it’s the only explanation for the phenomenon of disagreement with evolution, as you imply it to be.

    Prove to me that it’s specifically applicable to belief in naturalistic evolution, which is the only version of evolution I’ve ever mounted a serious case against anywhere. (What, did you assume something else about me without evidence? If so — you can correct me if I’m wrong — doesn’t that seem awfully ironic?)

    Prove to me that you’re scientifically qualified to make that statement. For (to borrow language from your own closing line) isn’t it also possible that atheist apologists who are not psychologists make claims like yours because it’s self-serving for them to do so?

    Again, going back to a few lines above, is this unscientifically-produced explanation of yours the only one you think possible for disagreeing with certain evolutionary claims? If so — wouldn’t you like to ask yourself whether you’re the one who’s lacking in open-mindedness?

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