Philosophy Magazine

Street Epistemology: Basic Tactics, Part Three

By Mmcgee
Written by faithandselfdefense

In our last report about street epistemology we started an in-depth look into HOW street epistemologists do what they do. We’ve talked about the WHY in previous reports, so we’re currently looking at their tactics.

If you didn’t read the first part of this Basic Tactics series, you may want to click here to read the report before reading further. You can look at the first part of our in-depth look here.

You may also find it helpful to read about the history of atheist street epistemology in our free Ebook, Street Epistemologists ‘On Guard’.

Tactics Indepth

I’m using four primary sources for this part of our report –

  1. A Manual for Creating Atheists by Peter Boghossian
  2. StreetEpistemology.com
  3. Complete Street Epistemology Guide: How to Talk About Beliefs (Last Update: May 10, 2016)
  4. Street Epistemology videos

This next section from the Complete Street Epistemology guide is found in Section 2.4 and is titled When to use it.

“You can use Street Epistemology whenever a truth claim is being made. However it is most useful for extraordinary claims, such as miracles and supernatural phenomena, including:

  • ●  Existence of one or more gods or immaterial persons (theism).
  • ●  Phenomena that violate or suspend the operation of natural laws (supernaturalism,paranormal and psychic phenomena, miracles, karma).
  • ●  Biological death does not end one’s existence as a conscious being (afterlife,reincarnation, resurrection).
  • ●  The effectiveness of healing modalities that science based medicine rejects asunproven or ineffective (quackery).
  • ●  The scientific validity of an idea or system which has never been adequatelyresearched or fails under scientific testing (pseudosciences).
  • ●  A covert but powerful force/group is responsible for certain events or situations,where evidence of that force/group is lacking (conspiracy theories). In such cases, we often encounter the following justifications, and the Street Epistemologistasks whether they are sufficiently reliable to warrant belief in the claim.
  • ●  Faith : When given as a reason for belief, it can be understood as firm confidence in the claim in excess of what is warranted by evidence. [ SEP: Faith ]
  • ●  Numinous, revelatory, or mystical experiences [ SEP: Religious Experience ]
  • ●  Personal experiences : answered prayers, “worked for me” therapies.
  • ●  Testimony (e.g., anecdotes, tradition, authorities): Testimony may be helpful indescribing the evidence for a claim or how to obtain the evidence, but perceptions and memories are not generally reliable evidence on their own. Testimony is particularly vulnerable to errors and omissions by the reporter, intentional or not. [ IEP: Testimony ],[ SEP: Epistemological Problems of Testimony”

Lots of material to cover here, so let’s take it one point at a time.

Extraordinary Evidence?

Street epistemologists use SE “whenever a truth claim is being made.” That could cover a lot of ground since everyone makes multiple truth claims throughout their day. However, they do zoom in a bit by saying that it is most useful for extraordinary claims. How do they define extraordinary claims?

“such as miracles and supernatural phenomena”

I see – miracles and supernatural phenomena are extraordinary claims and need a separate category of evidence. Ordinary evidence, in any number, won’t do.

What we have here is typical atheistic materialism (e.g. physicalism). While popular astronomer Carl Sagan used to promote the phrase “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” the idea is much older than the 20th century. In his 18th century book On Miracles, David Hume stated that an extraordinary claim is one that directly contradicts a massive amount of existing empirical data. He also wrote this –

“No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.” David Hume,  An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, 1748)

Claims that are new or novel do not necessarily fit Hume’s category unless there exists massive amounts of evidence to the contrary. Atheists want to establish a separate category for what would be needed for truth claims they view as extraordinary. However, evidence doesn’t work that way. The evidence is the same for all truth claims.

  • Truth claim made —> observe evidence that supports claim and evidence that opposes claim —> conclusion reached after weighing all of the evidence

Extraordinary evidence belongs to the extraordinarily large number of observations, not as a separate category.

It seems that atheists want to control when the term extraordinary can be used. That, based on their stated materialistic view of life, seems arbitrary.

To say that something is rare and doesn’t happen often does not by itself make something an extraordinary claim. What we need to seek is trustworthy, corroborating evidence for any claim. Even the rarest of truth claims can be proven with ordinary evidence if ordinary evidence supports the claim. Why would we need to pass over an abundance of ordinary evidence that supports a supposed extraordinary truth claim and demand extraordinary evidence when ordinary evidence would give us what we need to make a reasonable decision about the claim? Is it possible that atheist street epistemologists require the separate category of extraordinary evidence because of a bias toward the supernatural? That’s what I did when I was an atheist and what I believe many, if not most, atheist street epistemologists are doing as well.

If we go along with the street epistemologist for a bit to see what extraordinary evidence would look like, what do we learn?

I’ll jump ahead in the Complete Street Epistemology Guide to Section 4.7, Eliciting the interlocutor’s epistemology, because that gives us more insight to how atheist street epistemologists view extraordinary claims –

“The interlocutor may give a justification for their belief that relies on an equally extraordinary claim, such as a specific miracle. In this case think of yourself as a foundation inspector. Work with the interlocutor to determine whether their beliefs are built on solid ground or shifting sand. Dig deeper into the foundations of the interlocutor’s belief system by asking, “What gives you confidence that X is true?” Keep digging until you reach a justification that is not based on something extraordinary. At that point you are ready to begin inspecting the quality of the foundation, determining the reliability of the methods that the interlocutor uses to know that the foundational belief is true.”

Did you see that!

“Keep digging until you reach a justification that is not based on something extraordinary.”

The atheist street epistemologist will continue to “dig” (ask questions for the purpose of causing doubt) “until” they reach a person’s justification that is NOT based on something extraordinary.

May I state the obvious? That is blatant manipulation on the part of the atheist.

An atheist street epistemologist is not going to find any agreement in a conversation with a theist about the existence of God until the theist gives the atheist a justification not based on something the atheist views as extraordinary. That puts the supposed “discussion” under the total control of the atheist. They don’t have to allow anything in that they don’t want to allow. Pretty nifty, don’t you think?

I’ve been talking with atheists as a theist for almost 50 years and what we just saw from the atheist Complete Street Epistemology Guide (CSEG) shows us where talks bog down and often stop between theists and atheists. The atheist will not accept any reasoning based on a belief they view as extraordinary.

Let’s look again at the CSEG to see what atheist street epistemologists view as extraordinary claims.

[I copied and pasted this list from the CSEG without making any changes. You can look at it online for yourself.]

  • ●  Existence of one or more gods or immaterial persons (theism).
  • ●  Phenomena that violate or suspend the operation of natural laws (supernaturalism,paranormal and psychic phenomena, miracles, karma).
  • ●  Biological death does not end one’s existence as a conscious being (afterlife,reincarnation, resurrection).
  • ●  The effectiveness of healing modalities that science based medicine rejects asunproven or ineffective (quackery).
  • ●  The scientific validity of an idea or system which has never been adequatelyresearched or fails under scientific testing (pseudosciences).
  • ●  A covert but powerful force/group is responsible for certain events or situations,where evidence of that force/group is lacking (conspiracy theories). In such cases, we often encounter the following justifications, and the Street Epistemologistasks whether they are sufficiently reliable to warrant belief in the claim.
  • ●  Faith : When given as a reason for belief, it can be understood as firm confidence in the claim in excess of what is warranted by evidence. [ SEP: Faith ]
  • ●  Numinous, revelatory, or mystical experiences [ SEP: Religious Experience ]
  • ●  Personal experiences : answered prayers, “worked for me” therapies.
  • ●  Testimony (e.g., anecdotes, tradition, authorities): Testimony may be helpful indescribing the evidence for a claim or how to obtain the evidence, but perceptions and memories are not generally reliable evidence on their own. Testimony is particularly vulnerable to errors and omissions by the reporter, intentional or not. [ IEP: Testimony ],[ SEP: Epistemological Problems of Testimony”

Now, let’s look again at what the same atheist training manual states about how street epistemologists should deal with these “extraordinary” claims –

“The interlocutor may give a justification for their belief that relies on an equally extraordinary claim, such as a specific miracle. In this case think of yourself as a foundation inspector. Work with the interlocutor to determine whether their beliefs are built on solid ground or shifting sand. Dig deeper into the foundations of the interlocutor’s belief system by asking, “What gives you confidence that X is true?” Keep digging until you reach a justification that is not based on something extraordinary. At that point you are ready to begin inspecting the quality of the foundation, determining the reliability of the methods that the interlocutor uses to know that the foundational belief is true.”

That means the atheist street epistemologist is going to oppose any explanation, any evidence a theist will share with them. Except for one. The one evidence that atheists tell me they will accept as support for the truth claim that God exists is if God reveals Himself to them in Person.

That’s when I tell them my story of daring God to show up on my radio talk show and be interviewed and how a science professor appeared on my show months later and introduced me to several pieces of scientific evidence that led to my investigation into whether God existed or not. I invite them to do the same thing.

As for the comment about working with the interlocutor to determine whether their beliefs are built on solid ground or shifting sand, I might mention that the image at the top of these blog posts addresses that very issue. It is my view as a former atheist that atheist street epistemology is built on nothing more than shifting sand –

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. ‘But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” Matthew 7:24-27

Next Time

We’ll take a look at the CSEG’s first point about “extraordinary evidence” next time in our special series about street epistemology –

“Existence of one or more gods or immaterial persons (theism).”

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Street Epistemology: Basic Tactics, Part Three

Advertisements June 22, 2018June 19, 2018 · Posted in Faith Defense · Tagged atheism, Christianity, street epistemology, theism ·

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :