Monday, March 24, 2014

Better Arguments

Keith Parsons tackled the question “Can the Arguments of the “New Atheists” be made Stronger?“ in response to criticisms of the same by Ed Feser. It subsequently lit off a loosely-related firestorm in the comments section that resulted in a series of posts by Feser and Parsons - but that’s not the point here - yet.

Parsons makes a real nice point that I quote in full:

...the gravamen of Dawkins’ contention [that “religious beliefs are based merely upon faith and not upon evidence”] can be re-stated as the charge that there is a great disparity between the assurance with which major religious claims are generally asserted and the actual epistemic credentials of those claims. Creedal claims are often presented as so manifestly true that those who willfully reject them are regarded as deserving of temporal or eternal punishment, or perhaps as invincibly ignorant. In this case we might expect that those creedal propositions are as well established, as irrefragable and apodictically certain as claims can be. Yet this seems not to be the case. Every such set of tenets is doubted by very many ostensibly rational, intelligent, and well-informed people. This alone is reason to think that the strength of the claims of religion is often overblown. Further, if creedal claims are manifestly true, it must be the case that each of the propositions constituting those claims is (a) clear, coherent, internally consistent, and compatible with other creedal claims, (b) either obviously true or established beyond a reasonable doubt, and (c) such that if established by reasons, those reasons should be readily apparent to any serious inquirer, since if the reasons for believing a proposition are too obscure, abstruse, or arcane, this could be a legitimate reason for not accepting it. However, it is highly doubtful that conditions a, b, and c are met with respect to the creedal claims of any religion.

No further comment from me is necessary, except to say that these three points are worth remembering when examining claims of any kind, no matter who makes them.

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