In 1995 McArthur Wheeler walked into a bank, with his face fully exposed to all the cameras, and proceeded to rob it. So his face and identity was all over Pittsburgh by the time he was robbing the second bank with his face fully exposed to the cameras. Needless to say he was quickly apprehended by police. When a cop told him they saw him on the surveillance tape he said “but I was wearing the juice.”
Apparently, lemon juice can be a sort of “invisible” ink. That is when you write with it on paper it is invisible unless it is heated up. Mr. Wheeler thought he would be the next mastermind criminal by wearing this invisible ink (lemon juice) on his face.
This case lead to research into whether people who are more confident are really more competent. As it turns out confidence tends to suggest the opposite. The Dunning Kruger effect is a bias where people who are incompetent tend to be over-confident. People who are less confident tend to be more competent.
Talking about arguments for God or Meta-Ethics or epistemology are really philosophical questions. These questions have been debated for as long as we have written records. Yet I find that certain atheists with the least philosophical training tend to be the most confident in their various philosophical assertions. Belief in God is Childish! Christians need to just grow up! Belief in God is like belief in fairies or Santa Clause. Of course, we don’t believe in miracles or any supernatural events. Etc etc.
Lately I have found some of the same sorts of claims about morality and the basis of morality called meta-ethics. I have been told I am ignoring what is obvious and simple by believing in the most common view of ethics held by professional philosophers – moral realism.
Now we all know that these are just assertions about what is disputed and has been disputed by the most intelligent people to ever live. Yet these guys with little or no training seem so confident. When I see comment like that I can’t help but think they are “wearing the juice.”
Now that is not to say it is unpersuasive to sound confident. Confidence is more persuasive then expertise.
Moreover simply repeating the same conclusion can make us believe it is true. This is called the illusory truth effect.
So simply repeating these claims that it is obvious there is no God or it is obvious no miracle could ever happen will tend to make us believe the claims are true. But are such assertions good reasons to believe them? Rational people want to have good reasons for their beliefs not just believe due to biases.
Memes are another form of persuasion that more often than not plays on our mind’s biases instead of our reason. These will often incorporate confidently repeating the same slogan, but they often also try to embarrass people. This subtly suggests people should be ridiculed and socially ostracized for daring to remain Christian even though it is “obviously” so unreasonable. This is effectively bullying someone to accept that persons position not because there are good reasons to accept the position but out of fear of being a social outcast. Have courage.
If you see no evidence for a disputed claim in their post it doesn’t hurt to ask if they can offer some. Maybe they will – but then at least you are dealing with evidence and that is what we want to get to. Take your time and think about it dispassionately without fear of ridicule. Does it really prove their point? Feel free to ask how they get from that piece of evidence to the conclusion that God or real morality can’t exist. I don’t think there is any such obvious proof out there or we would all know about it.
If they never/rarely offer any actual evidence for their claims then the site is solely playing on biases and not a source of rationally good reasons for belief. I want all people to look for these biases at work. Recognize how they are trying to “play you” as opposed to “reason with you.” After you read a blog ask what evidence against God was presented and what premises/evidence did they use. Is it a valid argument (that is can I agree with the evidence as being factual or the premises as true but still not be bound to the same conclusion) Or did they just repeat the same conclusion or assume the conclusion and engage in some Bulverism?
If you feel like you might be ridiculed if you posted on that blog or talked with that person, then ask yourself if you think that person is trying to essentially bully you into accepting their view. Are they overconfident? That is a sign they are not competent. I highly suggest you read from people who clearly work in the field under discussion. That is why I recommend sources like the Stanford Philosophy encyclopedia and people who regularly publish in meta-ethics. I think you will find more often than not those who are experts tend to have much more nuanced opinions. It is true the opinions may not seem as exciting or dramatic but I think you will learn concepts that tend to keep egos in check.
I’m not immune. I spent quite a bit of time reading about meta-ethics and majored in philosophy for my undergraduate degree. I also have a law degree which I believe added quite a bit of nuance to my understanding of morality and our overall circumstance in general. But I don’t claim to be as expert as philosophers who regularly publish in meta-ethics. I specifically remember reading Richard Joyce and thinking along the lines “Why is he so tame in his conclusions? He can argue for a much stronger conclusion with the reasoning he uses!” I may have even dropped him an email asking him why. I think that was several years ago and I haven’t heard back…. yet. I suspect he is aware of some concepts that keeps his conclusions a bit more modest.
But anyway if you think a person is too boring and doesn’t argue as strongly as you like, it may be that person is actually just more informed and competent than the guy who seems very confident and convincing but is really just dodging the important questions, repeating assertions, bullying, and spewing bulverism.
Both sides of an argument can be that way. So the same advice applies to Christians who are reading other Christian Apologists. Your brain may get a more pleasing chemical cocktail by reading others who confidently restate conclusions you agree with, than it does by those who are not so enthusiastic. But the less enthusiastic author is likely more informed and I believe more likely to pass on some more trustworthy wisdom.
Nice post. I think we must always acknowledge the possibility that we are wrong. I like Socrates’s quote, “I know that I know nothing.” I think it’s interesting how two people who disagree can both be so confident that they are right, and yet one of them must be wrong. I like how you ask me to justify the claims I make. I think a lot of atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris aren’t all that great at philosophy.
I will say that a draft of this blog did talk about those 2 in particular. I decided to leave that out. I really just want people to recognize the biases and make their own observations.
I think this is really a spectrum. We can all fall for or employ these biases to some extent. The point is to try to limit it and also to recognize those blogs where the authors are really just repeatedly employing tactics which play on our biases rather than giving us new ideas or evidence to think about.
I will say I think your blog is a great place for reasoned debate and discussion. You set out reasons for believing what you do as clearly as possible and allow them to stand or fall without resorting bias manipulation. I think other atheists that post here do as well.
It’s just something I always consider as I read blogs or other materials. Am I really getting new ideas or evidence or am I just getting overconfident assertion?
One blog would literally just repost memes. And it had quite a few followers. The person would almost never discuss the slogans or even respond when the quotes were shown to be inaccurate. He posted so many that the comment section was worthless.
“I will say I think your blog is a great place for reasoned debate and discussion. You set out reasons for believing what you do as clearly as possible and allow them to stand or fall without resorting bias manipulation. I think other atheists that post here do as well.”
Thanks! I think your blog is a great place for reasoned debate and discussion too. I’ve really enjoyed discussing philosophy with you. You’ve caused me to put a lot more thought into certain topics.
“One blog would literally just repost memes. And it had quite a few followers. The person would almost never discuss the slogans or even respond when the quotes were shown to be inaccurate. He posted so many that the comment section was worthless.”
Yeah, I’m always surprised by how much of a following one can get just from preaching to the choir.
You Stated — “I think we must always acknowledge the possibility that we are wrong. ”
My Question — Are you wrong in thinking that we should always do that?
It’s possible 🙂
Philosopher polling is inherently unreliable. I suspect that you would consider most of those who responded “realist” to be heretics (on realism, that is),:)
Could be unreliable. I am basing that statement on this:
Not sure why you think I would say they are heretics on moral realism? Do you think I have a view of what that means outside the field? Or do you think they would have a strange view that is outside the field?
When you pose a closed-ended question to a crowd which is prone to disagree on definitions, you should doubt your data.
But, to immediately reference that dubious data, most of the respondents also endorsed naturalism as well as physicalism in philosophy of mind. So, most would presumably endorse some naturalism + moral realism combo, which you seem to argue against.
I actually agree with you there. I think that combo has too many problems with the prescriptive aspect of morality.
I am not too surprised at the percentages. Maybe I am a bit surprised at the number of philosophers who are not theists I thought maybe another 7% or so would be theists.
I am not surprised at the number of moral realists. I was surprised that anti-realist views of morality much more popular in everyday atheists than in philosophy professors. That is why I originally thought the Euthyphro dilemma would be helpful to atheism since it seems to give a way for moral realism. But when I found that it seems so many atheists outside of philosophy do not accept moral realism it seems that the dilemma hurts them by showing subjective moral beliefs to be arbitrary.
I think the percent of atheist philosophers who are moral anti-realists will increase as arguments based on evolutionary processes seems to make their position less tenable. I wonder if the anti-realism about all normative positions will increase as well.
I think most are utilitarian/consequentialists who still would not push the fat man – though I think that generally describes the average person’s ethic.
Inconsistent maybe, but it is difficult to follow any other path in real life.
Reason enough to suspect the lot.
You think most philosophy profs are utilitarians?
Sorry, no, I meant most atheists (and theists).
I favor Moorean intuitionism + an error theory, as a non-philosopher expert.
Pretty sure I’ve struck overlooked gold with that.
What fills you with confidence that your god exists, and enough confidence to assert your steadfast belief in the veracity of this claim?
You Stated — “What fills you with confidence that your god exists…”
My Response — That seems obvious, God does. What else would?
You have no evidence of the god Yahweh being anything but a narrative construct.
However,If you are happy taking orders from a man-made text concerning an ancient man- made Canaanite (likely) then good for you! Some might consider such behaviour bordering on delusional, or worse.
You Stated — “If you are happy taking orders from a man-made text concerning an ancient man- made Canaanite (likely) then good for you!”
My Response — Thanks for confirming free thought O.o While at the same time trying to convince me with text typed on a screen from mankind O.o
You Stated — “Some might consider such behaviour bordering on delusional, or worse.”
My Response — Then debating such a person would make you equally so if not far worse…. strange world O.o
I wouldn’t dream of trying to convince you, and what on earth made you think so?
If you are disinclined to research and accept evidence then that is your business.
I merely point out the fact of your ignorance and delusion.
Aside from my interest in religion in general, engaging in such dialogue with deluded individuals such as you is generally for the benefit of those that may be reading along but are not up to commenting, that they might question their current unsubstantiated, and very likely indoctrinated religious beliefs ( much like you I suspect) and maybe put them on the road to deconversion.
Narcissistic personality disorder — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.
“I merely point out the fact of your ignorance and delusion.”
“engaging in such dialogue with deluded individuals such as you is generally for the benefit of those that may be reading along”
Therefore according to this criteria, everyone who blogs, or is a journalist, appears on television or films must be guilty of varying degrees of NPD.
However, your behavior is certainly indicative of the Dunning Kruger effect, for who would extol the virtues and divinity of a biblical character featured in a text that is known to be riddled with error across almost every every major discipline other than someone who is delusional and suffering from the DK effect?
If a Narcissistic were to argue that they were not one I wonder if it would be done by characterizing me as, “someone who is delusional and suffering from the DK effect”
Maybe the conversation should be less about my character and more about your proof and position.
I don’t dabble in proof but evidence.
To date, you have failed to offer any evidence to support any claim you have made.
You Stated — “To date, you have failed to offer any evidence to support any claim you have made.”
My Response — I offer as much as you so we have either both failed or both succeeded.
Your argument is not persuasive enough to convince me to think otherwise, don’t blame me for that… simply provide a better argument that is more convincing.
Until you do we will have to agree to disagree
You need a better argument to explain the resurrection of the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth?
Since I didn’t bring it up I don’t. Also since I didn’t perform it I don’t.
Failing to prove one point doesn’t give me confidence you are ready for the next one.
But I’m willing to hear you out, post your link for this new argument and I will respond there. I’m sure you’ve made an article for this topic of resurrection.
Maybe having more people to assist in the debate will make for a better discussion.
You cannot be serious?
You Stated — “Yet I find that certain atheists with the least philosophical training tend to be the most confident in their various philosophical assertions. Belief in God is Childish! Christians need to just grow up! Belief in God is like belief in fairies or Santa Clause.
My response — So If I asked you if you believed in an ancient Viking false god you are saying you would?
As a christian, I myself believe that Viking gods are childish and those that believe in them are trapped in idiocracy of the near highest order. Does this in any way indicate my level of philosophical training?