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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Loftus' "Outsider Test": Just Another Ad for Pepto-Bismol!

How ironic indeed that John Loftus recently advised us to “not be fooled on April Fool’s Day” after what he just fell for. Such is the level of his narcissism that he seems never to stop and think before he jumps into a swimming pool filled with double-edged razor blades.

But on the occasion of his April 1 post on his gratuitously useless “Outsider Test” – the latest version of the old “if you were born in Pakistan you’d be a Muslim” canard – it is also ironic that he makes a post that proves EXACTLY the point I planned to make in my next “official” post here – namely, that his Outsider Test is about as useful as the Mormon burning in the bosom. I had planned to post this around April 10, but since it’s so relevant now, why wait?

Yes: The Outsider Test is just Loftus’ version of the Mormon burning in the bosom.


First of all, let’s review some stuff I wrote about that Mormon version of the Outsider Test:


The inevitable result of such an epistemic paradigm will be on these lines:

If you ask for it, God will give you confirmation that the Book of Mormon (or the Bible, or van Praagh's stories, whatever) are true.

But what if I ask God and He doesn't answer, or says they are NOT true?

You either didn't ask sincerely or are being misguided. Try again.

I am sincere/I did ask again. The same thing happens.


Then, what? The inevitable result is that the proclaimer of whatever internal witness must declare that the seeker is not sincerely seeking, or is not accessing the right source. Now it may be replied just as simply that a person who denies the relevance of evidence, i.e., pointing to a certain truth, is just the same either not sincerely seeking, or else is misguided. Practically speaking the internal witness could be of no more value than evidence, even if it is genuine. Indeed, since the internal witness is not accessible or open to investigation or argument (as would be things with an evidential basis) one might suggest that the internal witness serves an even less useful purpose than external evidences -- and indeed, offers more opportunities for people to deceive themselves.


How is Loftus’ “Outsider Test” no better? His quote speaks for itself:

”Let me put it to you this way, if you read everything that I have read and experienced everything that I have experienced, then you would think on these issues exactly the same way I do.”

Ah…sniff. Eau de Narcissus, is that? So here’s what it boils down to:

If you read all John Loftus has read, it will give you confirmation that Loftus’ view is true.

But what if I read all those sources, and decide that Loftus’ view is NOT true?

You either didn't read sincerely or are being misguided. Try again.

I am sincere/I did read again. The same thing happens.


Then, what? The inevitable result is that Loftus must declare that the seeker is not sincerely seeking, or is not accessing the right sources. Thus the Outsider Test is of no actual value – just as Loftus has been told time and time and time again on TheologyWeb. It’s just a cheap parlor trick with Loftus sitting at the table in his swami outfit rubbing his crystal ball (and despairing because he can’t find those three holes) telling us poor benighted schleps that we’d know better if we just bought his book bought his book. Bought his book.

The sad fact is that many of us HAVE read the same sources as Loftus – and in many topical areas, much, much more than he has – and we’re not convinced. The Outsider Test is, as I told Loftus from, Day 1 that I heard of it, a waste of time, and a diversion from the real issues of evidence.

By no means am I saying that one should not examine one’s presuppositions – but that’s old news, a subset of the evidence-sifting process, and the Outsider Test isn’t much more than Loftus’ vain attempt to repackage and sell something that was stale at the time of Thomas Paine.

That’s the hard truth, Loftus.

Deny this if you can.


  1. Thank you for this evalution of the OTF. As a Christian and contributor to the DC on occassion (comments) I have advocated that Christians ought to take the OTF. In fact, John put my recommendation up as a post. Here are my reasons:

    1. This is my attempt to put myself in the shoes of the skeptic and try to see things his way. I am playing the game on his terms. Having said that, I don't really think it is possible to do the OTF as John defines it, because it is impossible to abandon all bias, previous education, mental conditioning, etc.

    2. I think it is a good exercise for believers to evaluate their own belief system for it's vercity. After all, if Christianity is true it will stand the test. Thus, I do not fear that a Christian will lose his faith. It should strengthen his faith.

    3. I am "suspicious" that this OTF concept is Mr. Loftus' way of attracting attention to himself. I will not judge his motives, but it "seems" that he is more interested in people reading his book, accepting him as a genuinely smart guy, and adding credibility to his belief about himself, than in actually finding the truth. So, take the challenge, because you will probably pass it as a Christian and you will reveal to Mr. Loftus that his claim is not true. Again, I don't suggest anyone take it with the idea of proving Loftus wrong, but I just trust that Christianity can stand the test. Of course, you are correct in stating that Mr. Loftus will just proclaim that one did not properly take the test if one remains a Christian.

  2. I substantially agree, Joe. Let me add:

    1) I particularly would be someone for whom the Outsider Test would work well. I was raised in a non-Christian home, in a setting where Christianity was denigrated as intolerant. The one Christian in my family was obnoxious and aggressive. But when I point this out, it will be said that I was "raised in a Christian society." So who indeed can really do the OTF as Loftus defines it?

    1A. Relatedly, Loftus himself must think that he did it (or something like it) to break out of Christianity, so once again, it becomes no better than the Mormon test in terms of how we decide whether someone took the OTF successfully. For the Loftus, the mark of a successful OTF is deconversion, otherwise you didn't do it right.

    2. Yes. The unexamined life is not worth living. To that extent I prefer the idea of churches educating people better. Loftus and the DC gang are walking advertisements for better education in churches.

    3. On TWeb, these suspicions might seem a little more well-grounded! Loftus early on there peddled his book so much that even his fellow Skeptics there were scoffing. And what can you say to a man who writes a 5-star review of his own book on Amazon, as Loftus did?


  3. Where does "faith" fit in in all of this? Isn't faith the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen?

    It appears you're saying that while some assert that atheism is the only "rational" conclusion, the opposite is in fact true.

    Is that true? Is belief the only reasonable conclusion when one looks at the same body of evidence you have?

  4. Faith: which includes a look at Hebrews 11:1.

    "Is that true? Is belief the only reasonable conclusion when one looks at the same body of evidence you have?"

    Yes, but I'm not promoting an "Outsider Test" as a way of not confronting actual arguments.

  5. I enjoy your critiques of the Outsider Test.


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