Sunday, April 10, 2016

Lofter is the best medicine


New Atheist pamphleteer John Loftus is like a train wreck orchestrated by Zeno of Elea: As Loftus rams headlong into the devastating objections of his critics, the chassis, wheels, gears, and passenger body parts that are the contents of his mind proceed through ever more thorough stages of pulverization.  And yet somehow, the grisly disaster just never stops.  Loftus continues on at full speed, tiny bits of metal and flesh reduced to even smaller bits, and those to yet smaller ones, ad infinitum.  You feel you ought to turn away in horror, but nevertheless find yourself settling back, metaphysically transfixed and reaching for the Jiffy Pop.

Recall some current events recounted in a recent post.  Atheist philosopher Keith Parsons had lamented the tendency of New Atheists to ignore rather than answer the best arguments of the other side, to refuse to do their homework before commenting on philosophical matters, and to resort to mere invective in place of argumentation.  Loftus, entirely ignoring what Parsons actually said, dismissed him on ad hominem grounds, averring that Parsons is “just old” and likes getting attention -- thereby deploying, in defense of the New Atheism, some of the very traits Parsons deplores in the New Atheism.  A restrained Parsons then replied with a polite and reasoned defense of himself against this gratuitous attack.  Whereupon Loftus accused Parsons of “unfairly” “attacking” him, and dismissed Parsons’ new remarks too as something which “obvious[ly]” “don’t need” a response. 

Well, no sooner had the pixels dried on that, than Loftus put up another anti-Parsons rant.  Maybe he decided it was not so “obvious” after all that Parsons’ remarks “don’t need” a response.  Or maybe not, because as it happens, Loftus’ latest tantrum also completely fails to respond to what Parsons actually said.

Start with the (unintentionally) comically best line of the rant, wherein Loftus predicts, vis-à-vis his latest post: “I take it Parsons is probably too arrogant to respond to me.”  This despite the fact that the allegedly too-arrogant-to-respond-to-Loftus Parsons already had responded to Loftus (indeed, his response is precisely what Loftus is complaining about), and, again, did so politely rather than arrogantly.  And this despite the fact that Loftus himself had just gotten done arrogantly dismissing Parsons as not worth responding to.  If Loftus isn’t the most clueless man on earth, the only alternative can be that he is in fact the Platonic Form of Cluelessness, that in which all merely finitely clueless men participate. 

Yet arrogance is not the only Loftus-like quality Loftus projects onto Parsons.  He assures us that Parsons is “both arrogant and ignorant.”  How so?

First, Loftus charges that Parsons is an “elitist” who “arrogant[ly] think[s] only sophisticated atheist philosophers can adequately respond to sophisticated Christian philosophers, such that any non-philosopher who tries is ignorant and shouldn't respond at all.”  The slight problem with this, of course, is that Parsons never said any such thing.  What he said is that an atheist should take on the best arguments of the other side rather than the weakest, and should try to understand those arguments before criticizing them.  He never said that only a professional atheist philosopher is capable of doing this.  Loftus is simply attacking a straw man.

Loftus also asserts, in defense of his fellow New Atheists, that “scientists like Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne know more than enough to argue sophisticated Christian philosophers are wrong, even though they don't know as much as they do to respond on their turf.”

Well, suppose some creationist said that he already “knows more than enough to argue that Darwinian biologists are wrong, even though he doesn't know as much as they do to respond on their turf.”  Loftus would be outraged, and rightly so.  Darwinian biologists are precisely the ones who know best the arguments for Darwinian evolution, so that no one who is unwilling to respond “on their turf” could possibly “know more than enough” to reject those arguments. 

But exactly the same thing is true of the arguments of natural theology.  Unless you know the “turf” that Aquinas, Leibniz, et al. are playing on, you cannot possibly “know more than enough” to reject their arguments.  No doubt Loftus will assert that the cases are not really parallel.  But merely asserting is all he does, which is exactly the problem.  For whether the cases are parallel or not is precisely what is at issue between him and Parsons.  Hence merely to assert that the cases are not parallel is simply to beg the question.

With a straight face, apparently (though really, who the hell knows what Loftus is doing behind that keyboard?), Loftus describes himself as “a philosophically sophisticated atheist.”  Philosophically sophisticated?  Well, he certainly knows something about logical fallacies, I’ll give him that.  Unfortunately, he must have left his logic class early the day the professor said: “Oh, and by the way, class, these are ways not to reason.”

Then there are Loftus’s grounds for calling Parsons “ignorant.”  Here they are.  Brace yourself:

I also consider Parsons to be ignorant not to realize that the real ignorance is the ignorance of faith… The whole reason sophisticated Christian arguments exist in the first place is because it takes sophistication to make their faith palatable. The more the sophistication then the more the obfuscation, since their faith can only be defended by confusing people who don't share that sophistication. Defenses of Christianity are nothing but special pleading hiding underneath several layers of obfuscation with a sophistication to make it appear otherwise. It's nothing less than special pleading all the way down.

Now, of course, to know that the defenses really are nothing more than “special pleading,” you’d first have to actually examine them, to show exactly how they go wrong, and to show also that they go wrong so badly that no one could possibly be convinced of them except as a dishonest exercise in special pleading.  Yet examining them in this way is precisely what Loftus says he and other New Atheists can justifiably refuse to do.  That is to say, they insist dogmatically that they can reject arguments and evidence without having actually to examine them -- just like, you know, they constantly accuse religious people of doing.  Evidently, it isn’t really dogmatism and ignorance Loftus dislikes, but only religious dogmatism and ignorance.  Atheistic dogmatism and ignorance are OK.  But you knew that already if you’ve ever had the misfortune of wasting more than five minutes of your life reading John Loftus.

Anyway, this is of course just the old New Atheist story, the core, manifestly question-begging argument underlying the entire movement: We know even the most sophisticated religious arguments aren’t worth bothering with, because religious claims are just too obviously stupid to be true; and we know they are just too obviously stupid to be true because even the most sophisticated religious arguments aren’t worth bothering with!  Loftus is a metaphysical marvel.  He isn’t just a never-ending train wreck; he is a train which somehow manages to speed into a brick wall despite running in a perfectly circular loop.

Loftus has said that while he is all for “reasonably dissecting” the views of one’s opponents, there are some views that are so manifestly “irrational” that outright “ridicule” is what is called for.  Well, by now he’s certainly proven that much beyond any doubt!

100 comments:

  1. Damn Feser! Between you and Parsons, I have to ask, is this beat down a new atheist day?

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  2. L.O.F.T.U.S.: the real ignorance is the ignorance of faith…

    Well, when it comes to being ignorant of faith, Loftus certainly takes the cake. He couldn't be more ignorant of matters of faith if you took both his brain cells and replaced them with a pair of corroded double-A batteries. So yes, his ignorance certainly counts as real ignorance, gotta give him that.

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  3. As an atheist who couldn't disagree more with your metaphysics, it really pains me to see this critique - because it is so spot on.

    File these actions by Loftus under "atheists behaving badly". He does not represent the whole.

    Much like Christians are tainted by the likes of Ken Ham, so is atheism tainted by poor displays of reasoning like this by Loftus and some of the other "New Atheists".

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    Replies
    1. Shut your neck bearded head you preening, pseudo-intellectual, Hitchens-Dawkins parroting, basement dwelling troll.

      Delete
  4. >>"Now, of course, to know that the defenses really are nothing more than “special pleading,” you’d first have to actually examine them, to show exactly how they go wrong, and to show also that they go wrong so badly that no one could possibly be convinced of them except as a dishonest exercise in special pleading. Yet examining them in this way is precisely what Loftus says he and other New Atheists can justifiably refuse to do. That is to say, they insist dogmatically that they can reject arguments and evidence without having actually to examine them -- just like, you know, they constantly accuse religious people of doing."



    Dr. Feser, surely you must be aware of the "Just look and see" school of thought, quite rampant among today's youth. Just look and see! Just look at it on the face of it! Just feel and intuit the truth! No need to look for the supporting evidence and argumentation, let alone fashion a detailed study of them! When dealing with topics like Christianity that strike us as especially extravagant and worthless, we actually have a special cognitive power that arises and gives us a pure and immediate link to reality! "I feel" actually becomes "I know"! And if you ask me how I know that, well...I just do! Seriously dude, if I don't have to justify my belief in the external world, I don't have to justify my belief in the idiocy of faith, the legitimacy of gay marriage, etc. All are equally obvious to me!

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  5. I like Mr. Green's comment about Loftus the most.

    But rumour has it that "L.O.F.T.U.S." is actually an AI experiment gone wild… apparently an attempt by Baron Robert Bishop of "Word and Catch Fire" to create an Internet posting-bot to promote Christianity. Unfortunately, it was programmed to mimic the style of Facebook-using millennials, ostensibly to appeal to their sarcastic modern sensibilities, but with the unintended result that the AI quickly evolved into a snarky, reverse-psychological "Poe-bot", presumably aiming to make religion look better by posing as an anti-intellectual opponent who spews irrational uninformed "new atheist"-style screeds.

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  6. Much as the dog returns to his vomit, the fundie atheist who converted from fundie Christianity has, actually, come full circle.

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  7. Wait I think you changed the title of this post. I like the new one better! loft loft loft loft loft!

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  8. The first time I heard Loftus give an interview, it was excruciating. It was excruciating for me, a layperson who barely has a working knowledge of the concepts, to listen to him garble his way through one fallacy after another. I wouldn't read a word he's written, even if someone gave me one of his books and 6-pack of good beer... He doesn't add much scholarship to the argument, he's just riding the coattails of atheism's popularity right now, regurgitating it many of its weakest arguments.

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  9. I literally laughed aloud when I read this:

    I also consider Parsons to be ignorant not to realize that the real ignorance is the ignorance of faith… The whole reason sophisticated Christian arguments exist in the first place is because it takes sophistication to make their faith palatable. The more the sophistication then the more the obfuscation, since their faith can only be defended by confusing people who don't share that sophistication. Defenses of Christianity are nothing but special pleading hiding underneath several layers of obfuscation with a sophistication to make it appear otherwise. It's nothing less than special pleading all the way down.

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  10. @Greg, it seems to be hilarious on several levels, one of which is the terrible writing. Ever heard of changing up vocabulary? So repetitive. One of the things I try to break my students of in their first essay...

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  11. Loftus is right about this. Parsons will defend his fellow elitists, no matter how bad the argument they make.

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  12. Parsons will defend his fellow elitists, no matter how bad the argument they make.

    As the post notes, Parsons said nothing that has anything to do with elitism. Unless (as may well be the case) you are claiming that a concern for making one's arguments actually rational and informed is elitism?

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  13. Actually, I am concerned about making rational and informed arguments. Parsons, on the other hand, seems to be much more concerned about whether the one making the argument is a member of the elitist club. Elitists are not immune from making bad arguments.

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  14. Anonymous: File these actions by Loftus under "atheists behaving badly". He does not represent the whole.

    I do sympathise. Any group has its idiots who do their best to make the majority look bad. Unfortunately atheists are at a particular disadvantage, because for the serious and sober ones, there is no "atheist pope" or Grand Commission to spread the (non-)word, and so all the attention goes to the empty vessels who make the most noise. (There is surely a circle of Hell for anti-intellectual louts, but I guess that's cold comfort to the reasonable atheist…!)

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  15. The Imskeptical hulk: Parsons will defend his fellow elitists

    It's true... being able and willing to, y'know, read a book does put one in a privileged class. The majority of people throughout history never had that luxury. So it's nice to know that someone is there to represent the illiterate ignoramus caste. And who better for the job than L.O.F.T.U.S.?


    Taylor Weaver: Greg, it seems to be hilarious on several levels, one of which is the terrible writing.

    Hey, the best way to improve one's vocabulary is to read widely, and we don't want to encourage that kind of elitism, now, do we? Start reading and the next thing you know, you might even start understanding stuff!! Where will it all end!?!


    Tomislav Ostojich: thanks! Perhaps we should apply the Turing Test and see whether anyone can tell the difference between Loftus and a human pretending to be a failed A.I. troll.

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  16. Parsons, on the other hand, seems to be much more concerned about whether the one making the argument is a member of the elitist club.

    As the post notes, nothing Parsons says actually requires this conclusion. Unless you actually have a rational argument for the claim that he does? You do after all claim to be concerned about making rational and informed arguments.

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  17. Loftus is right about this. Parsons will defend his fellow elitists, no matter how bad the argument they make.

    This obviously wasn't the case when he criticized contemporary phil. of religion as being essentially a waste of time. Now, Parsons has, so far as I can tell, recanted to some degree, though it seems less because he decided he wanted to vouch for his fellow elitists, so much as he simply changed his mind. But perhaps you have some special insight into this that I don't.

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  18. ccmncx,

    I am well aware of Parsons' "Goodbye to All This". Being a member of the club himself (of course), he's allowed to make any criticism he wants. It's the rest of us who aren't.

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  19. Actually, everyone knows that Parsons is actually a closet-Christian. It is the only logical, rational, informed explanation for the pseudo-sophistication and elitism. And, you can trust me because obviously I am being rational and logical here.

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  20. Being a member of the club himself (of course), he's allowed to make any criticism he wants. It's the rest of us who aren't.

    And, again, do you have an argument for this, or are we all supposed to accept your groundless assertions for some reason?

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  21. Brandon,

    I'll give you one example. I point out that WLC has made several egregious mathematical errors in his arguments. (these have been called out by mathematicians.) Parsons steps in to defend Craig, and never admits his errors.

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  22. I point out that WLC has made several egregious mathematical errors in his arguments. (these have been called out by mathematicians.) Parsons steps in to defend Craig, and never admits his errors.

    What in the name of anything does this have to do with elitism? If Parsons made exactly the same defense while also saying (what we already know Parsons thinks) that he thinks Craig makes different errors than the ones you are claiming, would that suddenly make him no longer elitist, despite still making exactly the same defense? Or is it just the fact that he doesn't agree with your criticisms that makes him elitist?

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  23. ... You guys are doomed, now a Loftus lackey has got his sights on you... Prepare for the ankle biting

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  24. "Well, no sooner had the pixels dried on that, than Loftus put up another anti-Parsons rant. "


    I read his "essay". Other than that the guy is a rather emotionally brittle type what else do we learn from it?

    To paraphrase

    "Argument? Argument! I doan need no steenkin' argument ..."

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  25. I am well aware of Parsons' "Goodbye to All This". Being a member of the club himself (of course), he's allowed to make any criticism he wants. It's the rest of us who aren't.

    Okay, but this is a different claim from the one you made earlier, which was that Parsons would defend his elite buddies, even if their arguments sucked.
    But now you say that not only is criticism on the table, but he can do whatever the heck he wants as far as criticism goes, because he's a member of the in-group. So then, does Parsons defend his fellows of philosophy of religion simply in virtue of being in the same group, or does he get a free pass for any type of criticism? You've claimed both positions, yet if they aren't flat-out contradictory, they are at least in serious tension with each other.

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  26. Imskeptical: Actually, I am concerned about making rational and informed arguments.

    Then allow me to set your mind at ease by assuring you that you are nowhere in the vicinity of making one.

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  27. And you have the delusion that you are.

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  28. I love how this devolved into a 'I know you are but what am I?' playground type interaction.

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  29. elite: a select part of a group that is superior to the rest in terms of ability or qualities.

    Since both Parsons and Loftus are atheists, each of Parons and Loftus belong to the group of atheists.

    But im-skeptical sees Parsons as elite, and sees Loftus as not elite.

    Ergo, im-skeptical sees Loftus as belonging to that part of the group of atheists which is inferior to the rest in terms of ability or qualities.

    One wonders, however, why im-skeptical is here saying that Loftus is inferior, rather than over at Loftus's blog reporting to Loftus how -- in keeping with his, im-skeptical's, well-reasoned and rational consideration -- Loftus is inferior.

    The upshot of this is: if im-skeptical wishes to defend or speak highly of Loftus, then im-skeptical might have somewhat less of an uphill climb were he to do something other than explicitly say that Parsons is elite while Loftus is not, and thereby implicitly say/acknowledge that Loftus is inferior.

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  30. Pay attention. This is for people who understand English. I did not use the word 'elite'.

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  31. What's remarkable is that Loftus has so many intelligent people discussing his moronic thought. He may be an unbelievably obtuse bigot, but at least he's entertaining (mostly in virtue of being an unbelievably obtuse bigot). And as far as that goes, losing the hat would be a decidedly bad move. It would make an irreparable dent in his panache.

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  32. Eduardo, the dude that understands EnglishApril 11, 2016 at 11:45 AM

    Lol!!!

    You can't maie this up... Elitist... That is the word you use... Guess what an elitist usually protect??? ;-)

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  33. @im-skeptical

    "Actually, I am concerned about making rational and informed arguments. Parsons, on the other hand, seems to be much more concerned about whether the one making the argument is a member of the elitist club. Elitists are not immune from making bad arguments.

    April 11, 2016 at 8:26 AM"

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  34. @im-spectacle

    "Loftus is right about this. Parsons will defend his fellow elitists, no matter how bad the argument they make.

    April 11, 2016 at 7:55 AM"

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  35. If you need examples of every type of fallacy in your logic course, just pull up Loftus's site. Free of charge!

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  36. To give im-skeptical the benefit of the doubt, he might have just meant that Parsons is an elitist insofar as he *considers* himself an elite and believes that the society in question should be dominated by the elites. Mr. skeptical doesn't have to believe that Parsons is *actually* an elite.

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  37. From google dictionary:

    Elitist - a person who believes that a system or society should be ruled or dominated by an elite

    "Pay attention. This is for people who understand English. I did not use the word 'elite'."

    No, but you utilized the concept, which is what matters.

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  38. Actually Loftus is all about telling other people that they are right and others are stupid for not agreeing to them.

    Seriously Loftus is not a light weight... He is a no-weight he never made part of the competition mostly because he never wanted to, makes no sense in preparing to fight if you have no desire to win or if only wish to win by cheating.

    So skeptical dude here, skeptical meaning "my brain has so e awesome ability to doubt anything that I feel like doubting than posturing and rationalizing about the reasons I do so!"
    Is just the type of reader Loftus has...

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  39. HAHA was Amy Schumer wearing a fedora your idea, Professor Feser? 10/10.

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  40. "If Loftus isn’t the most clueless man on earth, the only alternative can be that he is in fact the Platonic Form of Cluelessness, that in which all merely finitely clueless men participate."

    This is the first time I've read or seen Platonic forms used in a verbal beat down and it seems to have partook in the Platonic form of "ownage".

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  41. Anonymous: If you need examples of every type of fallacy in your logic course, just pull up Loftus's site.

    Now, now, let's not exaggerate. "False modesty" is a type of fallacy, after all.

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  42. Off topic but: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgisehuGOyY

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  43. Off topic but: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgisehuGOyY

    Sigh...

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  44. The problem with Skepo and Loftus are well...they are both totally and completely gay!!!

    Super gay!!! Mega-gay! Liberace gay!

    Mind you they are not gay in the fun, beautiful, super hip, and cool way Milo Yiannopoulos is gay.

    More in the lame Perez Hilton with Mapplethorpe's bull whipped shoved in the wrong place type of gay.

    They are just so gay.

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  45. @Mr. Green: "Anonymous: 'If you need examples of every type of fallacy in your logic course, just pull up Loftus's site.' / Now, now, let's not exaggerate. 'False modesty' is a type of fallacy, after all."

    Heh. :)

    And our credulous sometime-visitor im-skeptical has returned! What a small world. You know, I ran into his brothers the other day, im-healthy the chain smoker and im-sober the fall-down drunk. When I was at the doctor's office getting my physical they were there to pick up their mother, Irony Q. Fitzlikeaglove.

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  46. Anonymous Taylor said...

    I love how this devolved into a 'I know you are but what am I?' playground type interaction.

    April 11, 2016 at 11:12 AM"

    Well, it's been a rough election season, and it's hardly underway.

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  47. @Son of Ya'Kov: "The problem with Skepo and Loftus are well...they are both totally and completely gay!!! / Super gay!!! Mega-gay! Liberace gay! / Mind you they are not gay in the fun, beautiful, super hip, and cool way Milo Yiannopoulos is gay. / More in the lame Perez Hilton with Mapplethorpe's bull whipped shoved in the wrong place type of gay. / They are just so gay."

    I genuinely see no connection there.

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  48. @DNW: "'Anonymous Taylor said... / I love how this devolved into a 'I know you are but what am I?' playground type interaction. / April 11, 2016 at 11:12 AM' / Well, it's been a rough election season, and it's hardly underway."

    Heh. :)

    We should also note for those who may have missed it im-skeptical's extraordinary performance last time.

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  49. Also, just for the record, I am both Taylor's. Just am not connected to my G+ account while at office, usually.

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  50. I like Parsons and Loftus, and appreciate much of what they write in their books, and don't think it necessary to get involved into internecine squabbles since I'm agnostic.

    Nor do I get involved much in name-calling.

    I also suspect that anyone serious about rational argumentation can do their own search to find the best arguments on both sides.

    As for weaker arguments and primate-like alpha male chest thumping and enormous generalizations concerning the relative values of philosophy vs. science, or the relative values of new vs. old atheism, such disputes seem less than clear, since all major generalizations and categories overlap to some extent.








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  51. @Edward T. Babinski: "As for weaker arguments and primate-like alpha male chest thumping and enormous generalizations concerning the relative values of philosophy vs. science, or the relative values of new vs. old atheism, such disputes seem less than clear, since all major generalizations and categories overlap to some extent."

    Which generalizations do you think are the "enormous" ones? Which arguments are the "weaker" ones? (Do quote. Why, folks on this blog have gone to all the trouble of quoting the views they criticize. And yours sounds so like an *Clouds* reference...)

    When "all major generalizations and categories" "overlap", do they do so symmetrically? (Such that, for example, a generalization supported by argument and evidence, and a generalization not so supported, each "overlap" the other to the same extent, so that their support and lack of support, respectively, obscure each other, allowing people the false pretense that they stand on an equal footing in terms of likely truth?) Or is yours more a carelessly spatial metaphor, not meant to be inspected too closely?

    Which "generalizations and categories" are overlapping, specifically, in this case? And what relevance do you think has their "overlap"?

    Do you realize that it is "less than clear" to make a generalization about "all major generalizations and categories" (which would include, depending upon the scope of your word "major", shoes, and ships, and sealing wax, cabbages and kings; and why the sky is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings)? And that furthermore that it is downright sloppy to reply, to the specific and detailed logical arguments given on this blog, with such gaseous hand-waving? (*All* *major* generalizations and categories? That word "major" must be out of breath...)

    Do you, in fact, have any *argument* regarding this post, or the last one, or indeed any post about "the relative values of philosophy vs. science, or the relative values of new vs. old atheism"? Because if not, then of course your claim not to "get involved much in name-calling" amounts to little--it just means you turn to waffle instead.

    And of course, around here we turn to name-calling *after* arguments, or along-side them. :)

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  52. I'd like to know what people commenting here (as well as Ed) think of Bradley Bowen's series of articles on Aquinas at the Secular Outpost.

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  53. DrYogami post the link please.

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  54. This is probably worthy of a comment or two from Professor Feser:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2016/04/11/aquinas-argument-for-the-existence-of-god-part-6/

    You can find the other parts on the same website.

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  55. @Anonymous:

    "DrYogami post the link please."

    Mr. Bowen has divided the series in two. The full list is here. The relevant posts are "I Don't Care" (first series, six parts) and "Aquinas’ Argument for the Existence of God" (second series, three parts at the moment of this writing, and starting at 4). For what it's worth, my opinion: move along, nothing to see here.

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    Replies
    1. I clicked on that first link from grodrigues just to glance and saw that the reason he says ALL's argument is a failure is because....he doesn't demonstrate that Jesus historically died in the cross. Moving on now...

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    2. WLC's* I HATE autocorrect.

      Delete
  56. I might be crazy, but I've always thought of John Loftus as being sort of an Andy Kaufman figure in the New Atheist community. I don't think he's ever seriously meant anything he's written. He's not exactly a troll; he's a performance artist.

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  57. I think we need to take seriously that some of these new Atheist leaders are at least partially charlatans in that while they believe that religion is obviously false they also recognise that they have amassed a following that need to be fed "fresh meat" on a regular basis. It doesn't particularly matter what you feed them or whether it makes sense. It just needs to be the kind of thing that the gnus want to hear.

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  58. @John Quinn: "I think we need to take seriously that some of these new Atheist leaders are at least partially charlatans in that while they believe that religion is obviously false they also recognise that they have amassed a following that need to be fed 'fresh meat' on a regular basis."

    *cough* Largely Bulverism. *cough*

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  59. This afternoon I missed Scott, as many do. I went back and read the first reactions to the news, and the next ones. Timotheos had given a brief rehearsal of Scott's beliefs, which I found familiar. He linked to the post where, on this blog, Scott decided to convert.

    As I've seen no memorial to Scott beyond our own, or obituary beyond this brief notice, I fixed on something Scott said: "...the two things I find attractive about Catholicism are Aquinas and Palestrina (that is, reason and beauty, which are ultimately the same)..."

    So I am listening to the Tallis Scholars' Missa Papae Marcelli.

    No point to make there. Just wanted to share the music, and say why.

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  60. Thanks for sharing that. I will have to check out the link of music you have put up.

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  61. @laubadetriste thanks for sharing that. Reminded me of my childhood going with my parents attending midnight mass and the nuns singing (great memories).

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  62. Feser versus Loftus? Really?

    Sandblaster, meet soup cracker. A soup cracker with a little novelty hat on it.

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  63. laubadetriste you can believe what you like but Loftus and Skepo are totally gay.

    Not the fun quirky gay of Graham Norton. But more of the fascist gayness of Dan Savage.

    they are just so gay.

    They are also a waste of time. Soon they won't even be worthy of my insults.

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  64. PS it breaks my heart Scott is no with us in this world.

    But it only serves to make us look forward to the world to come....

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  65. What a fool believes
    he sees
    No wise man has the power
    to reason away

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJe1iUuAW4M

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  66. Off topic, but worthwile:

    William Lane Craig vs Hart/Feser on theistic personalism vs classical theism

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  67. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xU2WLZ9mO8o


    oops

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  68. In reading the new atheists I was initially drawn mostly to Grayling as he is an actual philosopher. To my shock, his arguments were no more sophisticated than the new atheists who are not philosophers (Krauss, Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, etc). I wasn't surprised that Krauss, Dawkins, etc didn't understand philosophical arguments, but Grayling is supposed to be at least a semi-competent philosopher. What the hell?

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  69. Will Dr Fayser Laser answer to that little Jimmy??? Well check on the new episode of: Feser and the philosophites!!!!

    Brought to you by: .... Any ideas folks?

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  70. Anon wrote:

    'Off topic, but worthwile:

    William Lane Craig vs Hart/Feser on theistic personalism vs classical theism...'

    Not to threadjack but thanks for the link. I hope that Ed gets to respond to this. Whilst my sympathies are with Feser, McCabe and Hart here, and I profoundly disagree with many of the implications Craig draws from the Thomist view, I have much respect for Craig (whose theology I disagree with for a variety of reasons), and am pleased that he has chosen to address this as it will no doubt stimulate further dialogue on what I believe to be an issue of utmost importance.

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  71. Craig brings to mind an interesting question: do Thomist's believe that it's within God's power to create a world that doesn't depend on Him at every moment for its existence? Could God create a world that had "existential inertia?"

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  72. "Anonymous said...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xU2WLZ9mO8o


    oops

    April 13, 2016 at 11:22 AM"

    Worth the listen.

    Saw some YouTube links to Hart in the same window.

    How anybody has the patience to listen to that guy, whatever his virtues might be, is completely beyond me.

    " blah blah blah ... an identity forged in the fires of history ... blah blah blah ..."

    Isn't depositing that kind of prose in public illegal nowadays?

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  73. @ Anon

    In reading the new atheists I was initially drawn mostly to Grayling as he is an actual philosopher. To my shock, his arguments were no more sophisticated than the new atheists who are not philosophers (Krauss, Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, etc). I wasn't surprised that Krauss, Dawkins, etc didn't understand philosophical arguments, but Grayling is supposed to be at least a semi-competent philosopher. What the hell?

    Same with Dennett. And otherwise respectable philosophers. People shut off when they start talking about religion.

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  74. @laubadetriste

    <@John Quinn: "I think we need to take seriously that some of these new Atheist leaders are at <least partially charlatans in that while they believe that religion is obviously false they <also recognise that they have amassed a following that need to be fed 'fresh meat' on a <regular basis."

    <*cough* Largely Bulverism. *cough*

    So fine I will quit speculating as to why Loftus keeps pressing a bad position and just enjoy the popcorn :) Unless of course Loftus is correct and Parsons IS just old and likes old things.

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  75. Off-Topic guys and ladies... What was the church's position on people with deficiency in the medieval ages???

    I am in the class that touched on this .... Am REALLY curious now!

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  76. do Thomist's believe that it's within God's power to create a world that doesn't depend on Him at every moment for its existence? Could God create a world that had "existential inertia?"

    No that would be a contradiction. He could no more make such a world then he could make one where 2+2=5.

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  77. Chad said:
    "Craig brings to mind an interesting question: do Thomist's believe that it's within God's power to create a world that doesn't depend on Him at every moment for its existence? Could God create a world that had "existential inertia?""

    I'm inclined to say that, as stated, your last sentence is straightforwardly a contradiction in terms. If it was *created* then obviously it doesn't have existence of itself through itself.

    You could of course rephrase things so that it's a bit more subtle. "Could God make something whose existence now is subsequently from itself: could God make a necessary being?" But I don't think that works either, since such a thing would still either be contingent or would be identical with God himself.

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  78. @Son of Ya'Kov: "you can believe what you like but Loftus and Skepo are totally gay. / Not the fun quirky gay of Graham Norton. But more of the fascist gayness of Dan Savage. / they are just so gay. / They are also a waste of time. Soon they won't even be worthy of my insults."

    Ah. :) You made me laugh. My bad. I thought you were about to indulge in some casual cruelty about gay people. That I would've disliked. But being a jackass? That I can get behind. Here, let me join you. I'll pass over Loftus for the moment, as I know little about him. But im-skeptical? I expressed my honest opinion before, and let me add:

    *He puts mayonnaise on his pancakes.*

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  79. @Eduardo: "Will Dr Fayser Laser answer to that little Jimmy??? Well check on the new episode of: Feser and the philosophites!!!! / Brought to you by: .... Any ideas folks?"

    This damn better be like Silverhawks. :)

    Lessee... the Ovaltine decoder ring is taken... Chiquita Bananas is too snug with the Empire...

    How 'bout... PLATYPUS!?

    (See, it's an Aristotle joke. And who wouldn't want to be sponsored by a gentle river creature?)

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  80. @John Quinn: "So fine I will quit speculating as to why Loftus keeps pressing a bad position and just enjoy the popcorn :)"

    Oh my, don't *stop.*

    This too shall pass.

    Like a stone.

    Speaking of popcorn, where are my malt balls...

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  81. Malt balls?
    So you too enjoy watching the Loftus trainwreck?

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  82. "I thought you were about to indulge in some casual cruelty about gay people."

    We must love homosexuals as persons, but must we always be careful not to offend or hurt them when describing their behavior? Can't we sometimes express disgust and scorn for their behavior? It seems like half the battle is lost when we are already self-censoring ourselves about offending them.

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  83. John Quin said...

    @laubadetriste

    <@John Quinn: "I think we need to take seriously that some of these new Atheist leaders are at least partially charlatans in that while they believe that religion is obviously false they also recognise that they have amassed a following that need to be fed 'fresh meat' on a <regular basis."

    *cough* Largely Bulverism. *cough*

    So fine I will quit speculating as to why Loftus keeps pressing a bad position and just enjoy the popcorn :) Unless of course Loftus is correct and Parsons IS just old and likes old things.

    April 13, 2016 at 5:04 PM"



    I think that Quin has a point. And the reason for thinking that, is that there is testimonial evidence - if somewhat indirect - that would lead one to make that inference.

    You could cite for example, a number of on the record remarks made by Christopher Hitchens - and grant that he had attractive qualities as well - regarding his taste for not only the sound of his own baritone, but recognition and even adulation.

    The nearly hysterical raving of P.Z Myers in his storming the kingdom of God speech, makes one suspect that if he is not insane there must be some benefit calculation involved in such behavior.

    Admittedly, there may almost never be a purely intellectual and disinterested motivation driving us. The public question of whether God exists, largely interests me in direct proportion to the extent that neurotic atheists almost invariably link (through some logically comprehensible process) their secularism, to their political taste for government directed "altruism".

    Now that, saying to someone in effect that: "You are a 'effen socialist because you an annoying defective, who is constitutionally unfitted for life in a libertarian rule of law polity ", might be real Bulverism.

    But it might also be true.

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  84. As a point of clarification I wasn't saying Loftus, Coyne et al are wrong about a particular truth claim because they having a following but rather I was speculating as to why they would act as strangely as they do.
    Perhaps Charlatan is going a step too far but rather they know that they have been called out on poor reasoning but just don't care because they are changing hearts and minds and the "faithful" don't care just so long as they fob off the critique.
    Still speculative but I think it have some justification even in Loftus's recent post

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  85. " Blogger John Quin said...

    As a point of clarification I wasn't saying Loftus, Coyne et al are wrong about a particular truth claim because they having a following but rather I was speculating as to why they would act as strangely as they do.
    Perhaps Charlatan is going a step too far but rather they know that they have been called out on poor reasoning but just don't care because they are changing hearts and minds and the "faithful" don't care just so long as they fob off the critique.
    Still speculative but I think it have some justification even in Loftus's recent post

    April 14, 2016 at 7:18 AM"



    I took what you were saying as asserting that some number of unnamed atheists who also happened to be professional polemicists were engaged in rhetorical escalation in order to keep their audience attentive and responsive.

    "Bulverism" I take it, and if I remember Lewis's description correctly, is the charge that what one asserts may be impeached on the basis of his having a vested interest saying it. I think he used the example of a mathematician to illustrate the problem involved.

    Of course Christians face special challenges when arguing with atheist secularists; especially in the area of ethics. The Christian is more or less committed to a "one humanity" doctrine that conditions how he responds to the ethical, and even intellectual in some ways, challenges of the atheist - who usually seems comfortable both in denying the essentialist logic which makes one humanity possible and gives it any meaning as a class term, while relying on the social inertia of an assumed "we" terminology, for rhetorical leverage nonetheless.


    For a Christian it's kind of like trying to convince a man who is drowning himself that life is worth living; as he tries to pull you under as well. You really face a problem that is operating on more than one level.

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  86. @John Quin: "Malt balls? / So you too enjoy watching the Loftus trainwreck?"

    Yup. :)

    @Anonymous April 14, 2016 at 2:03 AM: "We must love homosexuals as persons, but must we always be careful not to offend or hurt them when describing their behavior? Can't we sometimes express disgust and scorn for their behavior? It seems like half the battle is lost when we are already self-censoring ourselves about offending them."

    In my opinion, no, you must not always be careful not to offend or hurt homosexuals (or anyone else); and yes, you can sometimes express disgust and scorn for their behavior. And I do hope you do not engage in self-censorship out of a desire *merely* not to offend.

    Note that I *didn't* object to Son of Ya'Kov. I made the mild observation that I didn't see any connection between the items he mentioned, and then I waited. And when he wrote next, I realized I was mistaken, and said so.

    But if I *had* spoken, I might have said that "casual cruelty" would go quite beyond loving homosexuals as persons; and in general, that if you can dish it out, you had best be ready to take it.

    (I suspect that, in principle, none of that is actually controversial, though of course we may dispute just where taste and judgment lie when we get down to cases. I distinctly remember a recent discussion wherein some objected to my defense of harsh language regarding Islam [not Muslims]--but then I was the only one to call out a commenter who mused about bombing Mecca.)

    @DNW: "I think that Quin has a point."

    Yes, he does. That's why I qualified "Bulverism" with "largely." And in turn you have a point regarding non-intellectual and interested motivations. But what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Too much "You are a 'effen socialist because you an annoying defective, who is constitutionally unfitted for life in a libertarian rule of law polity," however true, and you have forfeited the ability to object when someone says you believe in God because you're afraid of death/unemancipated from your self-imposed minority/a hater of women, etc.

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  87. The key bit, as Lewis said, is that "you must show *that* a man is wrong before you start explaining *why* he is wrong." In some cases that has already been done. Dr. Feser was very careful to justify his discussion of Coyne's person. I (and others) spent many hours demonstrating the vacuity of im-skeptical--

    who, by the way, *doesn't return his library books*

    --and I seem to remember P. Z. Myers being exposed to sunlight recently, too. In fact, that we're even having this discussion is a merit. But in general we ought to be careful not to jump too quickly to speculation of motives.

    (Incidentally, I would defend the Hitch, as I have before. But I suppose that's neither here nor there, he's just an example, and was never the worst one.)

    "'Bulverism' I take it, and if I remember Lewis's description correctly, is the charge that what one asserts may be impeached on the basis of his having a vested interest saying it. I think he used the example of a mathematician to illustrate the problem involved."

    Yup.

    "Of course Christians face special challenges when arguing with atheist secularists; especially in the area of ethics. The Christian is more or less committed to a 'one humanity' doctrine that conditions how he responds to the ethical, and even intellectual in some ways, challenges of the atheist - who usually seems comfortable both in denying the essentialist logic which makes one humanity possible and gives it any meaning as a class term, while relying on the social inertia of an assumed 'we' terminology, for rhetorical leverage nonetheless. / For a Christian it's kind of like trying to convince a man who is drowning himself that life is worth living; as he tries to pull you under as well. You really face a problem that is operating on more than one level."

    Huh. Now *that's* interesting. Hadn't thought of it like that.

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  88. @DNW:

    Unrelatedly, I frequently get a laugh out of your political asides. Not going anywhere with that--I just enjoy reading them.

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  89. @DNW: On the other hand (as I pointed out on Loftus's blog), some atheists (not necessarily any you find at Loftus's blog) really do care about the truth, which makes them proto-theists, so they won't try to pull you down with them, but will listen and engage in honest dialogue. (And mutatis mutandis for some theists, who really don't care about the truth...)

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  90. @ DNW

    "I took what you were saying as asserting that some number of unnamed atheists who also happened to be professional polemicists were engaged in rhetorical escalation in order to keep their audience attentive and responsive."

    ====

    Right so again just idle speculation but my take on Dawkins, Coyne et al is that post 9/11 they voiced loudly things that have irritated them for a long while. They gave their best shot at explaining why religion is false but were shocked to find out that people like WLC, Feser et al existed and that their reasons were old and fallacious.
    But of course they found out that their polemical rants got the desired effect anyway so why bother will all the academic stuff. Just keep churning out the rant and kill religion that way. So in reality they know they have been exposed but just don't care.

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  91. Eduardo: What was the church's position on people with deficiency in the medieval ages???

    The same as it always was and will be: that they need to be saved.
    But I can’t be more specific because I don’t know what you mean by “people with deficiencies”.

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  92. Deaf people would be the major target.

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  93. iwpoe: Sorry for the late reply. What I was asking was, could God create a thing that did not require Him to constantly sustain in existence? The First Way entails that this couldn't be anything that could change, but what if God created something unchangeable, such as a timeless, "block-universe" with B-theory time?

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  94. Reading Feser and Loftus together, the impression I'm left with is that Feser can annihilate Loftus on the subject of classical theism - defending an Aristotelian God, the sort of entity defended in David Conway's book, The Rediscovery of Wisdom. Loftus, however, has the upper hand in critiquing the special revelation of Scripture, particularly when it comes to revealing the psychotic nature of Yahweh and his alter-ego Jesus.

    It is a lot easier to remain a Christian if one remains, paradoxically, at the deep end of pool (philosophy). It is when we approach the shallow end, the ground level, where the words of God are written down by a group of desert nomads, that I found it impossible to remain a Christian.

    I wrestled with this question for years. This was Aquinas' life goal, obviously, but even he cherry-picked what parts of Scripture he would focus on. Such is why the Aquinas' Christianity looks so different from the sola scriptura god of conservative Protestants.

    Dr. Feser defends classical theism better than anyone I know of; but he also generally begs off defending the Biblical god explicitly, on the grounds that he is not a theologian. That, to me, is an evasive manoeuvre. Feser, in my opinion, all but establishes the existence of One Above All Others. But he leaves us no closer to having confidence in the identity of God as claimed by the Bible. Chesterton's Everlasting Man took a shot at it, but we surely need more than witty rhetoric to overcome problems such as the slaughter of the Canaanites; how Lucifer could fall in a sinless world and why sin requires a blood sacrifice, just to name a few.

    Loftus, Dan Barker and the entire brigade of New Atheists have been most effective at criticising special revelation, demonstrating the Bible is full of old myths from Zoroastrianism etc. Their 'hubris' in my opinion is that they throw philosophy out of the window as well. I don't know why they feel it necessary to reject Aristotle's God, along with the god of Abraham. While, most ironically to my mind, they maintain a 'more Christian than Christian' commitment to 'equality'. There is not a Nietzschean ubermensch among them. While they adopt progressive stances on things like gay marriage and abortion, they do this in the name of 'equality' and 'human rights' - things which are all based in 'image of god' foundations. Just once, I'd love to see Dan Barker etc. stand up and admit that equality is a secular myth and that in a world of just atoms and molecules, that there's nothing objectively wrong with racism. I won't hold my breath.

    I love reading Dr. Feser and will continue to do so, keen as I am on maintaining a love of sophia, absent an undue reverence for the fearsome tribal deity found in the pages of Scripture.

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  95. If you want to know how Loftus responds to someone asking him to defend his atheism on philosophical grounds, then watch this video of a lecture he gave at the University of Louisiana. Skip to about 4:40 in this link:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwPTnc0d_nQ

    And if you want to see him suggests that we have a food fight rather than discuss the matter after his feet have been held to the fire, then watch this link from the same lecture (the 7th video...because that's how long it took to film this nonsense):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_234699&feature=iv&src_vid=cwPTnc0d_nQ&v=HMsOWTFHiqs

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  96. The great concern I have is people like this talk to each other in little isolated bubbles. And if you look at online atheist discourse, a lot of them are growing ever more militant and hateful, while talking exactly like this.

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