Theism, Atheism and Being Irrational, Part 2 (Evidence)

What Is Evidence? I’ve served on a jury just once in my life. The case involved the rape of a child. The direct evidence consisted almost solely in the testimony of the victim. The defense introduced what I would call “defeaters”—reasons to doubt the veracity of the testimony. Being an epistemologist, I paid careful attention to how both attorneys built their cases. When the trial concluded, the judge sent us into a private room to deliberate, and the jury chose me as foreperson. I found the procedure quite simple. There were several charges, written in propositional form. Each juror was … Continue reading Theism, Atheism and Being Irrational, Part 2 (Evidence)

Theism, Atheism and Being Irrational, Part 1

I loathe condescension for two reasons. One, I find it deeply offensive to be treated as a cognitive inferior or be told I’m being irrational. Two, when someone acts condescendingly toward me, it is like a mirror painfully reflecting my own condescending attitude toward others. Ouch. And there are few places where people are more smug than in debates about God and religion. Both sides are quite certain they occupy the rational high-ground, the moral high-ground, or both. Many atheists think that belief in a god is irrational because there is a lack of evidence. Believers maintain faith by denial, … Continue reading Theism, Atheism and Being Irrational, Part 1

Dealing with Dissonance

Who can forget the menacingly repetitive theme from the film “Psycho.” Sonic dissonance creating tension and setting our teeth on edge. Extreme dissonance is useful for horror films and car horns, but it’s not the sort of thing you can listen to for long. Ideas can be dissonant as well. Ideas or thoughts in the mind that contradict or conflict in some way can cause mental and psychological irritation. We want to press ‘mute’ on them, as we do with disturbing music. A frequent cause of this cognitive dissonance is disagreement with others—especially someone we consider to be an intellectual … Continue reading Dealing with Dissonance

Krista Tippett on Intellectual Humility in Religion and Politics

If you haven’t completely given up on politics yet, and you’re wondering how we can affect the way conversations play out in the public square, then you’ll enjoy this podcast. You may be familiar with Krista Tippett, host of On Being, a radio program and podcast. She discusses “Public Life, Social Humility, and the Religious Other” with Evan Rosa, host of the The Table podcast, produced by the Biola Center for Christian Thought. I find discussions like these immensely helpful to the pursuit of better thinking. Here’s the link.  Continue reading Krista Tippett on Intellectual Humility in Religion and Politics

The Epistemology of Racism

In the wake of recent events in Charlottesville, it is easy to stand back and point fingers at “those people” and think of the trouble as “out there.” There’s a certain comfort and reassurance that we aren’t like that. But much of the persistent problem of racism lurks in more subtle places. I suspect that for most people of color, they don’t often run into people waving flags and carrying torches. The sting of racism comes from the people they live around everyday—people like you and me. We can’t let Charlottesville, Washington and Ferguson blind us to our own contribution. … Continue reading The Epistemology of Racism

3 Reasons Why You Love Click-bait

Click bait. The impossibly enticing headline. We love it the way fish love . . . whatever it is they love. (I’m not a fisherman.) Maybe like proverbial mice love the cheese in the trap. But the allure of click bait isn’t that visceral, like some leftover of evolution. It is intellectual, or at least cognitive. We bite on those juicy stories because they give us something our minds crave. I admit it—I feel the pull of those tabloid headlines when I’m standing in the check-out line, or scrolling to the bottom of a news feed. I think there are … Continue reading 3 Reasons Why You Love Click-bait

Cromwell’s Rule

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken. ~Oliver Cromwell, in a letter to the Synod of Scotland I remember the day I first learned to ask a crucial question during a conversational argument. Locked in a fervent discussion about religion, my interlocutor and I had logged hours of circling around the same issues. I despaired of making any headway. Then it dawned on me—the question! It was this: “Do you think it is possible that you’re wrong?” He answered “no,” and I politely ended the conversation. Of course, I’ve put the … Continue reading Cromwell’s Rule

How to Lose an Argument

I only hate losing when it comes to things I’m good at. I’m happy to concede a basketball game or a tennis match. But I hate losing arguments. Since childhood, I’ve relished a good adrenaline-surging verbal exchange. It’s probably one part genetic, one part environment. You know how most families have a variety of personality types who complement and balance one another? My parents , me and my sister were all hyper-assertive, stubborn fighters. You adapt to survive. You learn to like it. My wife, on the other hand, hates conflict. So that has been challenging. And just as she … Continue reading How to Lose an Argument