The Cowboy Who Wasn't There: E-book Companion Site

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Loftus Delusion

Believe it or not ladies and gentlemen, but a new book titled "The Loftus Delusion" was not written by any of us here at DL. Sure enough as always however, John was tempted to comment on how "respectfully" well written it was:

I’m honored that some college professors use my book Why I Became an Atheist (WIBA) in their college classes, like Dan Lambert, at John Brown University, and Richard Knopp, at Lincoln Christian University, as I mentioned earlier. I’m also honored that David Reuben Stone has decided to write a book against WIBA, called The Loftus Delusion. While I do not like the title of the book, which is misleading for a few reasons, including the fact that Stone does not deal at all with my most recent book, The Christian Delusion (TCD), Stone's book is a respectfully written one.

Would John like to tell his audience what is misleading about the book's title? I mean John, aren't you delusional?

To reiterate, isn't someone who denies evidence contrary to their claims in delusion? Like this, for example?

Now I do actually agree that the book is a little misleading. Take a look at it briefly and you'll see that the book, at least from the subtitle on the cover, addresses issues pertaining to Messianic Zionism vs. the New Atheists. That is perhaps misleading. But it is not misleading to rebut John on his assertion of possessing whatever special knowledge and insight is required into debunking the Christian faith.

Because John is far from qualified from debunking or arguing anything worth serious consideration. Instead, John offers arguments about a hypothetical world in which every living being was a vegetarian and we were all created to be pacificistic flower-frollicking hippies which is somehow to be automatically assumed as a perfect universe that only a perfect sovereign creator would spawn into existence.

Yep, that's about it as far as John's intellectual depth goes.

The question we ought to be asking here is not if the book actually backs up the meaning of its title. What we ought to ask is whether or not Loftus is delusional and if this can be verified outside of any published materials. And we certaintly think it has and can be verified and always will be verifiable.

Stone considers his book “the definitive critique of the anti-Biblical atheism of John W. Loftus” (seen on the back cover of his self-published book). [And to think, people don’t like my self-promotion ;-) ] Is he right? Not even close. He asks me for a response to his critique in the interests of a “charitable dialogue” that “could benefit us both in our search for truth" (p. 162). Okay. Here goes, very briefly.

And look, it didn't take long for us to spot something. John clearly seems to think people like myself have a problem with John because he promotes his own works. WRONG. The more accurate response is that we anti-Loftuscites don't approve of dirty political tactics in order to promote one's book. We don't appreciate an obsessiveness with oneself and trying to make themselves sound like an objective third-party source. And so on.

So John, its time you learned how to grasp that concept and actually come up with something real and supportive. Instead of trying to oversimplify the issue, you could say "People don't approve of my methods" and you might actually have a leg to stand on.

But then again...

Stone begins his book with a “newly discovered mathematical proof” of a critical component of the intelligent design (ID) thesis in chapter one (which can be seen on Amazon). Don’t get me wrong here. I can do the math. It’s just that it takes time to work through it; time that I must think is worthwhile if I’m going to want to do so. It’s just that I have lots of reasons for thinking it’s not worth it, so I didn’t. This chapter is the kingpin of his whole book. It’s Stone’s natural theology. If he’s right about it then he seems to indicate the rest of his case follows. If he’s wrong then his whole case fails. It’s that simple.

John is in the right here but can he apply this argument introspectively? John's book Why I Became an Atheist would rely entirely on John's personal testimony of his experiences managing churches and related groups. So, if John at first states that his reasons for leaving the faith are unconventional and did not rely on reason, John cannot state the exact opposite ahead of time:

"...Some former believers rejected their faith based upon the evidence itself. My initial arguments for rejecting the Christian faith are not the same ones that others have had..."

Later on...

"Nearly two years later, I came to deny the Christian faith. It required too much intellectual gerrymandering to believe.."

So, does John's case rely on his personal experiences or on his ability to interpret evidence? If John can't make up his mind, does he even have a case?

He criticizes my “Outsider Test for Faith” (OTF) and proposes an alternative called “Stone’s Test Of Neutral Evidence” (STONE). He criticizes the OTF for arguing for on behalf of skeptical agnosticism rather than for neutral agnosticism. He thinks we should be neutral agnostics rather than skeptical agnostics. Rather than starting our examination of the evidence “from above” with the assumption of God, or in starting “from below,” with the world, STONE argues we should start “from the middle,” even though he grants with me that “utterly pure and complete neutrality may be impossible to attain with respect to all belief systems.” (p. 73) Now this is all high sounding rhetoric, but rhetoric it is. It’s the democratization of extraordinary miracle claims that Bob Price criticizes so effectively in TCD. Stone, just like Boyd and Eddy in The Jesus Legend, wants us to take seriously all claims no matter how bizarre or outlandish so they can smuggle in their own extraordinary Christian claims. This so-called middle position of theirs is a strange land to stand on. They never started on this piece of ground in the first place. No, they were born into a Christian culture and accepted what they were taught to believe in this culture. There is no middle position. Human beings are not Spockian type creatures. We are given our religious worldviews. They are inherited; caught, not taught. The question the OTF asks us is how can we properly test the ones we were given. Given the fact that we are born into them, and given the fact that the odds are that ours is wrong from the geographical distribution of religious faiths, we should test our handed down faith with skepticism.

This is what John would call a "case study in cognitive dissonance reduction" because he seems to be incapable of answering the mounting criticisms there are against the OTF and why its limitations are perhaps its greatest weakness. If high-profile institutions such as the CIA relied on John's material for guidance instead of intelligence research, we might all be dead by now:

Saying that religions are merely by-products of enculteration is narrow-minded and ignorant. Sociologically speaking, we can view religions as various different items within a collective marketplace. Individual "consumers" pick and choose what religion or religious ritual best fits into their own lifestyle. Predominantly religious countries such as India are starting to make economic progressions and are realizing their place in the world despite having been affected by the detrimental caste system for many thousands of years. If John were correct in his thesis, then we would suspect that nations which are predominantly religious have little to no hope of ever improving their status on a worldwide scale. And yet they do, and will continue to do so. The notion that even theocracies are permanently static in their progress is a cariacture itself. The Islamic world can be credited with many advances in practical fields such as algebra, and yet the Islamic world has been dominated by a strict adherence to ritual and and a constant reverence for Allah since its inception. In fact, Islam is the only religion, according to comparative religion scholars, that delibrately fuses politics and theology with each other.

Oh and, in deductive logic, theism and atheism are both positions rooted in what is known as the Appeal to Ignorance Fallacy.

The most amazing thing about Stone’s book though, is that after he argues against my skeptical control beliefs he dismisses the second part of my book in ten pages (139-149). He says so. “Loftus’ unjustified Biblical perspectives may be dismissed due to their logical grounding in those unjustified controls beliefs.” (p. 139). The second part of WIBA criticizes the Bible and its foundational miracle claims and doctrines. For instance, since he thinks he’s undermined my skeptical control beliefs then without so much as trying to answer my arguments with regard to the atonement he basically says that since my control beliefs have been shown wrong I am unjustified in rejecting the doctrine of the atonement. I get it. Materials exist which finally do get at addressing what you bring up in your book, but they're obviously not good enough because they never got to "part 2"!

John, John, John, you are no logician. You use equivocation, appeals to ignorance, red herrings, straw men, and amphibolies to make your points about 98% of the time you make an "argument." If you were to specify what you meant by certain terms in the context that they get used, or if you were to elaborate on what it is you are actually trying to say, people would take you less seriously than they already do now. And of course, you and I both know this. Which is why you rely on logical fallacies rather than on true sound reasoning.

Wait just a minute, Stone. I was once an insider. The second half of the book describes why I could not remain a Christian GIVEN a believing set of control beliefs. It’s the considerations of the second half of WIBA that caused me to reject the Christian faith and led me to my skeptical control beliefs in the first place. So until or unless you actually deal with the arguments in the second half of my book, you have done nothing to support your natural theology project. And until you actually flesh out for us what it means to treat all religious truth claims “neutrally,” as you claim to do, then you must examine in detail the arguments in the second half of my book. You cannot merely say that with your neutral stance you would accept these biblical doctrines and claims. That’s NOT being neutral, you see, or very critical as a thinker. You need to show us from a neutral starting point why you would accept the claims of an incarnation, the atonement, or the resurrection, and you did no such thing.

Again, its time to place the microscope back on yourself, Lofty. No one else can or should have to do that for you. When it comes to actually coming up with something tentative, your primary tactic is to beat around the bush.

So John, from what I can tell, you do not acknowledge the evidence that is out there contrary to your assertions. You make no real attempts to address the criticisms of what you believe to be your most well constructed and hard-hitting arguments. When you've been backed into a corner, rather than man up to your flaws, shortcomings, and wrongdoings, you will divert the attention onto someone else, something else, or change the subject entirely. You are an individual that prefers to plug his ears when he is removed from any hint of the shadow that is their comfort zone. You are, quite evidentially, delusional.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Loftus Logic (Part 2)

I haven't been regularly updating the site for a couple of months now and decided to get back into a slight trend of things once more. So, in checking up on updates over at Debunking Christianity, I found another recent example of which to write another addition to my series here on logic. See for yourself:

Fallacy #3 - Appeal to Unreliable Authority

Definition: This would apply to someone who is actually a biologist pretending to be an expert in physics and so on. However, the fallacy itself also extends to those who rely on themselves to be an authority on things not objectively measurable.

Example: Case in point:

As with John's last work, Why I Became an Atheist, he offers a review of his own book for the second time in a row:

I really like this book. Dan Barker recently described it as a "powerhouse of a book" in an interview he did with me. It is. And not just because I compiled it and wrote four chapters for it. Let me explain why.

Notice, that much of the remaining review contains little to no substance about the book's actual content. Observe:

The book was made to have eye appeal. It just has a good look and feel to it. When holding it in your hands at 422 pages, it makes you see that there is a lot of information in it for the price.

Nothing could be more explicit to how pathetic the book itself probably is. This is like giving unalienable authority to the KJV Bible because of the elaborate designs on the front cover.

The authors are experts in the areas they write about. Let me give you a few examples. Who is better to write a chapter arguing that Christianity is a cultural phenomenon than cultural anthropologist David Eller? Who is better than psychologist Valerie Tarico to write on Christian belief and cognitive science? Who is better to write a chapter on Biblical cosmology than Ed Babinski, who has spent years studying this topic? Who is better than Biblical scholar Hector Avalos to write a chapter on the barbaric tribal God of the Old Testament? Who is better than Robert Price to write a chapter on what we can know about Jesus? Who is better than Richard Carrier to write a chapter on the resurrection of Jesus? The three last chapters in the book on morality by Eller, Hitler by Avalos, and the origins of science by Carrier, are each by themselves probably worth the price of the book.

These are all subjective statements about the quality of content in John's book. They make no critical analysis or assessment as to why we should believe the contributors offer more than their own slanted bias when coming into the framework of things. This is also a perfect example of another fallacy: Begging the Question - "X is true because X says so." Circular reasoning, as it is more commonly identified. The conclusion is the same as the assumption, and there are no other reasons to suggest or think otherwise. We have no other standard in this review to assess the credibility of any of these contributions other than John's heresay and those already convinced by the writings of these individuals. It does nothing for the individual interested in gaining a fresh new perspective.

And the flow of the book is good too. Most skeptical books dive right in on the arguments. But not this one. In the first part of the book we show how believers first adopt and defend their beliefs. We show that believers are not rational to accept what they first learned in this Christian culture on their mama's knees. Jason Long shows in his chapter how believers cannot reasonably think they have truly examined their adopted faith. And I close that part out with the Outsider Test for Faith, in what I consider my most mature defense of it ever.

We've examined the Outsider Test for Faith on here before, and have pointed out its anadequacies. Mainly, the problem with the "test" itself is that it leads us to the inference that someone can separate themselves from their culture to the point where beliefs are non-existent. Otherwise, if this is not Loftus' intent by crafting such a "test", then it remains that because someone happens to be Muslim because they were raised that way, it is irrelevant because of several different possibilities and explanations:

1) Not everyone raised in a particular culture is destined to believe in their cultural ideals and childhood background for life. Indeed, such cases arise where a Muslim may convert to Christianity, and vice versa.

2) Differences in cultural beliefs do not automatically lead to the conclusion that anyone who might have a belief based on their cultural background is necessarily wrong in their belief, just as they are not necessarily right by appealing to their culture.

Then there are the many glowing blurbs from Christian as well as atheist/agnostic scholars to be found on the back cover and inside pages. Here are three of them:

From Dr. Michael Martin, professor of philosophy emeritus and author of The Case Against Christianity and Atheism: A Philosophical Justification:

"John Loftus and his distinguished colleagues have certainly produced one of the best and arguably the best critique of the Christian faith the world has ever known. Using sociological, biblical, scientific, historical, philosophical, theological and ethical criticisms, this book completely destroys Christianity. All but the most fanatical believers who read it should be moved to have profound doubts."

From Dr. Dale C. Allison, Jr., author of Resurrecting Jesus: The Earliest Christian Tradition and Its Interpreters:

"Forget Dawkins. If you are looking for a truly substantial, well-informed criticism of the Christian religion, this is your book. Defenders of the faith will do believer and unbeliever alike a disservice if they do not rise to the challenge and wrestle with the thought-provoking arguments of Loftus and company."

From Dr. Keith Parsons, Professor of Philosophy, University of Houston, Clear Lake, and author of the book, God and the Burden of Proof:

"For nearly two thousand years apologists have striven mightily to show that the dogmas of Christianity are rationally defensible. For much of the Christian era critics have sought to debunk those apologetic claims. In that long tradition of criticism, there can have been few works as effective as The Christian Delusion. The essays are incisive, rigorous, and original, shedding new light on old issues and boldly exploring new paths of argument. The selection of topics is outstanding--at once both comprehensive and innovative. For fresh insights into an old debate, The Christian Delusion is strongly recommended."

Much more credibility is afforded to the review based on these excerpts. However, John closes with:

I think every skeptic who wants to understand Christianity and/or who argues with Christians should get it. I think every Christian apologist worthy of the name should get it. I think every believer who is having questions about his or her faith should get it. And I can only hope every devout believer will get it too.

"Worthy of the name"? To what John may be referring too, we cannot be certain. This could be constured in terms of how popular and well-liked someone is, but it says nothing about the truth value of their arguments or if in fact they tell the truth.

That's enough for a while now. Hope you've all enjoyed this so far. But alas, I have more important matters to attend too.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Loftus Logic (Part 1)

This is the beginning of a new series of tactics I'll be using to analyze the strength and validity of Loftus' arguments. John, our title subject, thinks nothing less of himself than a philosopher. Not only that, John considers his writings and ideas to be major contributions to the field of religious philosophy.

John's credentials amount to three master's degrees (an impressive feat, no doubt), but they are nonetheless irrelevant to whether or not John actually qualifies for having a doctorate-level understanding of his subject matter, which John seems to claim he has on the basis of these master degrees.

In giving John the benefit of the doubt, we'll suppose that John is a philosopher who can hold his own. Yes, on many on the many instances we've cited before it has been shown not to be the case. But we will temporarily assume that no such instances exist, or have been taken out of context. In this series, we will employ a set of methodologies using the tools and resources John least expects of us, most of which come out of a very important philosophical discipline.


There is no more of an effective manner to demonstrate John's grasp of a field in which he either professes to apply quite extensively in his arguments than to test his materials against the basic and bare minimum principles of logic. For the sake of categorization, I may decide to make other "series" evaluating the depth of Loftus' arguments when they apply to other philosophical disciplines such as ethics. For now, we will just cover a few examples of where John fails to live up to a logical and reasoned mindset. Some minor but important issues we will need to clarify before we get going:

Statements: "There is a purple whale in my backyard that eats chickens."

- This can either be true or false.

Arguments: Collections of statements. Hence:

- Arguments are not of true or false value because the statements which make up arguments are either true or false in and of themselves. The coherency of the statements and their relation to each other either lead to validity or invalidity. A completely valid argument (one in which all statements are true and guarantee the conclusion that follows) becomes a sound argument.

We will begin this series with some brief information on the informal fallacies often committed when trying to make arguments. I'll start by using a fairly recent example and how perfect it is in showing how invalid and non-sequitir John's argumentation really is. For the second time on this blog, we'll use John's article God, Sex, and the Orgasm as a "case study":

Logical Fallacy #1 - Equivocation

Definition: Equivocation is a fallacy because it creates ambiguity. It refers the "double-meaning""of a particular word even when that second meaning does not apply directly to the word itself, or the context in which the word is being used.

Example(s): "The power of the orgasm is so strong it motivates some married people into infidelity; some men to rape women; some Catholic priests to direct these urges toward molesting children..."

Being a Catholic priest does not by necessity mean that you go out and molest children. In fact, why can't this example be used in regards to other religions? That's only because Catholic priests have been the ones most commonly identified in our culture for gaining notoriety for child molestation. But in this case it is inappropriate and unwarranted, because John could just as well have said "The power of the orgasm is so strong it motivates...some (child molesters/rapists, etc.) to direct these urges toward molesting children..." which would have been more to the point and indeed, supportable. Neither Catholic priests nor child rapists are motivated solely through orgasm, and it may be based entirely a control factor, such as deriving pleasure from a moment in time in which they are dominating someone or something that lacks basic autonomy and a willpower to resist their advances.

"So why did God make our sex drive so strong? Why didn't he make the the orgasm less pleasurable? The pleasure of the orgasm is just too strong as it is. We all know this. With an evolutionary hypothesis this is what we'd expect to find, for our sex drive is good for the survival of our species. But under a theistic hypothesis it makes no sense."

Here is a perfect example of where John should know better. Had something been used by a creationist and it went along the lines of comparing evolution with theism, John would have ridiculed it for confusing matters of dichotomy. Theism and evolution are completely different categories and trains of thought. Evolution by itself does not imply atheism, and many atheists (including John) would argue this. Comparing the two does not provide for a consistent logical formula.

Fallacy # 2 - False Dilemma

Definition: The positing of a premise that sweeps away any other possible alternatives. Considers the situation at hand to be a matter of "either X or Y, but nothing in between." Basically the foundation for all extremist and black-and-white thinking.

Example: "If the pleasure of the orgasm was reduced there would be fewer sex crimes, and less infidelity. Or, the orgasm could've been created so as not to be pleasurable at all. God could've made the sex drive to be something of an instinct where we only want to do it when we want children, and then also created our desire to have children periodically. If this is what God had done instead, then with divine commands to populate the world, heterosexual people would only have sex for the purpose of bearing children in fulfillment of his commands, and that's it."

Sadly enough, this is highly inadequate reasoning.

1) First, John infamously assumes that "Without X, there would be less Y" without taking into consideration various other variables which may contribute to sex-related crimes.

2)Also consider that if the orgasm drives many to commit sex crimes, wouldn't the orgasm be some sort of instinctual drive towards sex-fulfillment? Sex crimes are often a means of gaining control based on psychological studies of many serial rapists. Having sex is not the main motive for going out and raping another individual.

3) If the orgasm was made to have no pleasurable incentive, then why create the "orgasm" to begin with? Even in such an implausible hypothetical world, without some sort of incentive the "drive" itself would be totally useless and hence, not a drive of any sort. Certainly not one which could be used for procreation.

4) John also argues that God could have created a world in which heterosexuals would only have sex for breeding purposes. But why stop there? Why would God allow the existence of homosexuals if orgasm and sexual desire only led to reproduction? Homosexuals would never have the desire for sex, thus homosexuals would be non-existent (therefore, the use of the prefix "hetero" would be unnecessary).

That's all for today folks. Stay tuned for more additions. ;)

The Mouse That Coughed

Over on TWeb, I'm conducting a poll on whether I should put together a rebuttal to John's new book:

Come on over and cast your vote. As of this moment, the yea votes outdo the nays by a sliver of one cipher.

The pros:

It'll really tick John off and may even send him once and for all to Arkham for treatment. Just check his promo post on the book. You'd swear that he was taking it to bed with him every night and cuddling with it. (Cigarette, John?)

It'll provide great entertainment.

The cons:

It'll take some time to compose a rebuttal. Say, 3-4 days all together. After all, it's not like John or his friends have anything new to say, and his contributors include some of the nuttiest people on the planet, like Jason Long and Dan Barker and even Hector Avalos.

John will take it as a sign that his book is so good it is in need of rebuttal. Of course, John has this way of putting "spin" on any reaction to his books such that it means something good. If Norman Geisler used it as toilet paper, John would consider that as a positive because it meant Norm was so engrossed in the book that he was even reading it while he was on the toilet. With John, if you rebut it, it's because it was so good it needed rebuttal; if you don't rebut it, it's because you were scared to do so and knew it was unbeatable.

Naturally, John is quite deluded to think such a thing. It remains that I've had absolutely ZERO requests to rebut John's book, and as noted in a prior entry, the same could be said of one of the world's largest apologetics ministries. In contrast, I've received dozens of requests to refute Zeitgeist. Apparently, if we use John's logic, Zeitgeist is a better rebuttal to Christianity than anything he's written. How 'bout that.

Of course, there's a mediate position too, which I plan to use if the vote ends in a tie, which looks possible right now.

I can always turn the rebuttal over to this pretty face....