Inquiry vs. Partisanship

Because I have criticized, directly or indirectly, some things written by John Loftus in the past couple of weeks, he has written a post entitled, “Jeff Lowder is the Devil in Disguise.”

In response, I have the following comments.

1. It wasn’t (and isn’t) my goal to offend Loftus. If he has taken anything I’ve written as some sort of personal insult, I think that is unfortunate. Nothing I wrote was intended that way.

2. I find the psychoanalysis of my supposed motivations, as well as the “Lowder can’t read” trash talk, rather off-putting.

3. I am much more interested in genuine inquiry than partisanship. I call ’em as I see ’em. If I think an argument for atheism is incomplete, vague, or even downright bad, I’m going to say so. If I think a defense of atheism is ineffective, I don’t see any problem with offering an independent defense of atheism which I think is effective. I even occasionally try to formulate arguments for conclusions I disagree with, as a way of “testing” ideas. All of this is part of what I think it means to be a freethinker and also to be a philosopher.

4. Regarding the benefits and harms caused by religion, I don’t have much to say other than I think the effects of religion are a mixed bag. In other words, I don’t think this is a binary, black-or-white issue. Religion has been good for people and it has harmed people. I’m not prepared to say which happens more often because I don’t know. I simply haven’t studied that issue enough to have an informed opinion.

5. As for the reliability of “faith-based processes,” I have no idea what Loftus is talking about. If he is talking about the effectiveness of prayer, I’m not aware of any reason to think it is more effective than the placebo effect, so I am probably in the same camp as him on that issue. If he means something else, then I don’t know what he has in mind.

6. Finally, I still don’t think Loftus has presented a good justification for his series of “noseeum” arguments, as I talk about here. I’m not claiming there isn’t a good argument here; rather, it’s just that Loftus has not yet presented a good justification for his argument(s).

Update, 9-Jan-13:

7. John seems particularly upset because I used the phrase “devil’s advocate.” That phrase was not the best choice of words. I wasn’t arguing just for the sake of arguing. I can easily rephrase what I wrote to make this clear.

I am not sure about this, but why should the fact that we exist on one spiral arm in the Milky Way galaxy even be relevant to whether God, if He exists, cares about us? On the assumption that theism is true, (1) God is an unembodied being; (2) God created the universe; (3) God is able to causally interact with the universe, despite being an unembodied being. Taken together, these three propositions seem to undercut the point.

Update, 12-Jan-13:

8. In response to my recent post criticizing Loftus’s argument that the size of the universe favors atheism over Christianity, Loftus has just written an “An Open Letter to Jeffery Jay Lowder.” Loftus addresses none of my objections. Instead, he talks about his feelings, speculates about my motives (maybe I’m picking on him to increase ad revenue, he says), and characterizes genuine philosophical disagreement as a “fight” which I “picked” with him. In response, all I have to say is that I view my philosophical disagreements with Loftus, when I do disagree with him, as just that and nothing more: philosophical disagreements. If Loftus wants to tell himself that there is some sort of personal issue between us, that’s unfortunate, but it’s his choice. If he ever decides to respond to my objections with arguments, reasons, or evidence, I’d love to consider what he has to say.

9. Victor Reppert has chimed in on my exchange with Loftus. In my opinion, Reppert nails it when he writes (to Loftus), “What you seem to be doing in response to Lowder is criticizing him not because his critiques of your argument aren’t good, but because he, as an atheist, should be loyal to the cause and not criticize arguments that support your cherished conclusion, atheism.” That indeed seems to be what Loftus is doing. It’s wrong.