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Are Atheists using Intellectually Dishonest Arguments?
#1
Are Atheists using Intellectually Dishonest Arguments?
So, last week I was browsing the internets and came across a blog post by Eve Keneinan entitled "Intellectually Dishonest Atheists." 

I clicked the link hoping to find an article which would make some significant points and perhaps challenge me to become more intellectually honest. I was sorely disappointed. The article did not challenge me at all. Well... maybe a little bit... but for the most part I felt like I didn't get my money's worth (and keep in mind the article was free to read online.)

Keneinan made three main points, each divided into various subpoints:

1) Atheists often suffer from a "persistent inability or refusal to distinguish God from a god or gods"

2) Atheists often presume  "belief in scientism, the logically incoherent claim that 'only scientific knowledge is valid/real/genuine knowledge'"

3) Atheists often engage in "persistent use of the burden of proof fallacy, that is, the rhetorical trope which combines an argument from ignorance (“my position is the default position,” i.e. “my position is true until proven false, so I need not argue for it) with special pleading.

I would like to see discussion of all three main points in this thread, but to keep the OP as concise as possible, I will only treat the first point here.

Eve Keneinan Wrote:A persistent inability or refusal to distinguish God from a god or gods. This is a distinction 3 or 4-year-old children can easily grasp, so any atheist who claims not be be able to grasp it is either severely intellectually impaired or lying. In almost all cases, the atheist is simply attempting to conflate God with a god in order to set up a strawman and/or trying to annoy you by belittling God—while ignoring the basic conceptual distinction that all European languages mark by differentiating the word “God” from the word “god” by capitalization. As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains, in the entry written by atheist philosopher J. J. C. Smart:

‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God. I shall here assume that the God in question is that of a sophisticated monotheism. The tribal gods of the early inhabitants of Palestine are of little or no philosophical interest. They were essentially finite beings, and the god of one tribe or collection of tribes was regarded as good in that it enabled victory in war against tribes with less powerful gods. Similarly the Greek and Roman gods were more like mythical heroes and heroines than like the omnipotent, omniscient and good God postulated in mediaeval and modern philosophy.

So, lets unpack this.

Eve Keneinan Wrote:A persistent inability or refusal to distinguish God from a god or gods. This is a distinction 3 or 4-year-old children can easily grasp

Bullshit. If you have programmed your three-year-old to distinguish Yahweh from Zeus, she can regurgitate what you have told her to believe. But no child at that age cares about such a distinction, nor can she articulate it in her own words.

Eve Keneinan Wrote:the atheist is simply attempting to conflate God with a god in order to set up a strawman and/or trying to annoy you by belittling God—while ignoring the basic conceptual distinction that all European languages mark by differentiating the word “God” from the word “god” by capitalization.

Who gives a shit? Some people have the bizarre habit of capitalizing a pronoun when "God" is the antecedent. This practice has no precedent outside of circles of believers and in no fucking way marks a logical distinction. If I chose to capitalize the word "house" when referring to my own particular place of habitation, would this assign my particular livingspace special significance over others? --"My House is the third house on the left. Just past the white house with the red trim, you will find my House." I fail to see how capitalization proves anything. And, even if it does... guess what? Zeus is capitalized!

J. J. C. Smart Wrote:"‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God. I shall here assume that the God in question is that of a sophisticated monotheism. The tribal gods of the early inhabitants of Palestine are of little or no philosophical interest."

This is probably the most valid point made in the article. When arguing with an adherent of a "sophisticated monotheism," one ought not use arguments which ignore the sophistication of one's opponent's particular god concept. In layman's terms: An argument that utterly refutes Drich may not even be appropriate to make against Neo. Oftentimes I find myself leveling criticisms against Christians in general that only really apply to Christian fundamentalists. In this instance, Keneinan makes a valid point. We ought to keep our opponents' actual views in mind, lest we be guilty of strawmanning.

But what about the vast majority of Christians who do not have a "sophisticated monotheism"? I'd estimate around 90% of the Christians I know, do not worship the eternal being of whom Aquinas and Anselm spoke. They worship the tribal god of the Israelites, and they will tell you as much if you inquire about the nature of their god. It seems quite unfair to atheists to have them respond to god-claims that resemble paganism with counterarguments that refute an eternal, cosmic being.

I like to work on myself intellectually. Working on one's own intellectual honesty requires one to reevaluate one's position, trying to spot prejudices and false assumptions. To be intellectually dishonest is to not care if one is wrong. All an intellectually dishonest person cares about is winning an argument. (Plato's critiques of sophism drive this point home.) An intellectually honest person cares about the validity of his or her own arguments. I'm wrong about tons of stuff. I, like anyone else, am susceptible to intellectual foibles (ie accepting false premises as true, logical fallacies, etc.) But why do I feel like this article misrepresents the position we are actually arguing? Why do I feel this article criticizes atheists for minor intellectual transgressions while ignoring the fact that theistic apologetics often uses these selfsame transgressions as the foundation of its position? Why do I feel that this article, in the course of criticizing intellectual honesty, is it itself intellectually dishonest?
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#2
RE: Are Atheists using Intellectually Dishonest Arguments?
Quote:2) Atheists often presume  "belief in scientism, the logically incoherent claim that 'only scientific knowledge is valid/real/genuine knowledge'"

Point #2 is utter horseshit, pure and simple.  While some atheists are also supporters of scientism, this is obviously not the case with the majority of atheists.

While the author is correct that scientism is logically incoherent (I might quibble with her definition, but that's beyond the scope of this reply), there is nothing intellectually dishonest in an atheist using scientific methodology to refute some religious claims (the Flood, the resurrection, the Exodus, etc), because these are claims amenable to scientific investigation.  If theists are going to cite these claims  as potentially veridical events, it isn't just permissible but is incumbent upon atheists to test them with scientific rigor.  But the author seems to want NO testing of ANY claim made by ANY religionists.  That's true intellectual dishonesty, that is.

I agree, though, that not all religious claims are subject to scientific investigation.  One we often hear is 'God is love'.  This may or may not be a nonsensical statement (though I strongly suspect that it is), but I don't know how I'd begin to devise an experiment to test it.

I'm perfectly happy accepting things that I cannot prove scientifically (life on other planets, my wife loves me, bacon crumbles improve apple pie), but so what?  But when Ms Kenienan makes a claim for God that is at least potentially falsifiable, she ought not get her knickers in a twist when people attempt to falsify it.  And she certainly had no business labeling all scientific investigations of religious claims as 'scientism'.

Boru
'A man is accepted into a church for what he believes.  He is turned out for what he knows.' - Mark Twain
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#3
RE: Are Atheists using Intellectually Dishonest Arguments?
Only the first part perhaps applies to me. And I do that exactly because Christians do believe in a god that is distinct from the classical God of the ancient Greek philosophers or the God of deists. They believe in a God that has emotions, that really cares about what human beings do in their lives, that punishes whenever they see fit, that sends down commandments and revelations, that manifests physically in this world (whether as man or burning bush or cloud or whatever), that created angels, tested the first of mankind with a tree, is one God but convolutedly three Persons, made a donkey talk one time, and so on. A God that is clearly made in the image of ancient men who didn't know any better and couldn't come up with a better God that would appeal to modern civilized people (so modern civilized people have had to evolve their God to become a better deity). I don't see such a being as Supreme at all, so why should I make that distinction argued by the author? Because their God, over time, has been assigned "maximally great" characteristics? So what? It still remains a diminished god because of what the Christian faith demands of it.
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#4
RE: Are Atheists using Intellectually Dishonest Arguments?
We're only "dishonest" because she can't adequately defend her assertion that god exists when challenged. 

1. God is not more special/different from god or gods.

2. Atheist does not rely on science. 

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burden_of_...hilosophy)

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#5
RE: Are Atheists using Intellectually Dishonest Arguments?
Quote:) Atheists often suffer from a "persistent inability or refusal to distinguish God from a god or gods"
Their is no difference. Theists are the ones engaging in special pleading by asserting their is a difference  

Quote:2) Atheists often presume  "belief in scientism, the logically incoherent claim that 'only scientific knowledge is valid/real/genuine knowledge'
Bullshit . Accepting that science is the best and firmest ideal of knowledge is not saying it's the only.  

Quote:3) Atheists often engage in "persistent use of the burden of proof fallacy, that is, the rhetorical trope which combines an argument from ignorance (“my position is the default position,” i.e. “my position is true until proven false, so I need not argue for it) with special pleading.
No we don't. Pointing out you have asserted a claim without supporting it . Thus i will accept the claim . Is not a claim that a position is true . Only that one position remains unsupported .
Seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy -- myself.

Inuit Proverb

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#6
RE: Are Atheists using Intellectually Dishonest Arguments?
(March 7, 2018 at 8:07 pm)mh.brewer Wrote: We're only "dishonest" because she can't adequately defend her assertion that god exists when challenged. 

1. God is not more special/different from god or gods.

2. Atheist does not rely on science. 

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burden_of_...hilosophy)

OK, Brewer, but you have to admit that perceiving something as the truth makes it true. The unseen? Many have observed it.
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#7
RE: Are Atheists using Intellectually Dishonest Arguments?
(March 7, 2018 at 9:17 pm)vulcanlogician Wrote:
(March 7, 2018 at 8:07 pm)mh.brewer Wrote: We're only "dishonest" because she can't adequately defend her assertion that god exists when challenged. 

1. God is not more special/different from god or gods.

2. Atheist does not rely on science. 

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burden_of_...hilosophy)

OK, Brewer, but you have to admit that perceiving something as the truth makes it true. The unseen? Many have observed it.

Only to the one person/belief. I perceive that my dick used to be 12 inches long. Now it's only nine. 

Most truths require transferable unbiased perspective to remain true, from person, to person, to person, to................. 

 (my biased wife will tell you it was 6 as best)

Edit: I found this discussion, maybe you've seen it: http://argumentforreason.blogspot.com/20...-this.html

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#8
RE: Are Atheists using Intellectually Dishonest Arguments?
(March 7, 2018 at 7:27 pm)vulcanlogician Wrote: Keneinan made three main points, each divided into various subpoints:

1) Atheists often suffer from a "persistent inability or refusal to distinguish God from a god or gods"

I agree with your dismissal of this point. Furthermore God, gods and god are all to poorly defined terms.


(March 7, 2018 at 7:27 pm)vulcanlogician Wrote: 2) Atheists often presume  "belief in scientism, the logically incoherent claim that 'only scientific knowledge is valid/real/genuine knowledge'"

In my experience this is her best source of criticism. Some atheists, upon leaving a religion, do seem to over react in this direction. Some of us will claim they will only believe that for which there is adequate evidence, when no one can live a life that way. Some seem to expect science to rule on all questions, when science is not germane to answering all questions.


(March 7, 2018 at 7:27 pm)vulcanlogician Wrote: 3) Atheists often engage in "persistent use of the burden of proof fallacy, that is, the rhetorical trope which combines an argument from ignorance (“my position is the default position,” i.e. “my position is true until proven false, so I need not argue for it) with special pleading.

She gets no traction here and it makes me wonder if she defines atheism as holding the positive belief that gods do not exist, as if we actually understood what "gods" refers to. No one owes anyone an explanation for why they do not take the question of god belief seriously. Until terms are defined and reason provided to think the question matters, meh is a perfectly reasonable response.
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#9
RE: Are Atheists using Intellectually Dishonest Arguments?
Quote:1) Atheists often suffer from a "persistent inability or refusal to distinguish God from a god or gods"

A condition common among religitards.

[Image: quote-i-contend-that-we-are-both-atheist...299825.jpg]
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#10
RE: Are Atheists using Intellectually Dishonest Arguments?
(March 8, 2018 at 12:06 am)Minimalist Wrote:
Quote:1) Atheists often suffer from a "persistent inability or refusal to distinguish God from a god or gods"

A condition common among religitards.

[Image: quote-i-contend-that-we-are-both-atheist...299825.jpg]

Except Christians are not atheists. They believe in a god. Atheists don't believe in any god.

Also, they don't seem to dismiss other gods for similar reasons we do. Have you not seen Huggy's terrible reasoning for why he believes Odin doesn't exist (in that recent Odin thread)?
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