How I Believe

Below are 21 statements that form the basis for my own epistemology: how I believe. I’ve tried to avoid technical, philosophical language wherever possible, but it might still sound clunky to some readers. The sub-points, also numbered, offer something like an example of the claim. (Omitted from this post, for the sake of space, is any discussion about updating beliefs based on new evidence.) If you love this topic and want to go deeper, click the links. Here’s the challenge: Read all the statements, see if you disagree with any of them, then tell me why. Refer to sub-points as … Continue reading How I Believe

Hitchens, Hume, and Miracles

What should we think about miracles? Have you ever witnessed one? Most people haven’t, but they are willing to rely on the testimony of others. On the other hand, lots of people will insist that with all we know about the way the world works, we should discard our belief in miracles and dismiss testimony of them. I found this short article to be very fair in its presentation. Philosopher Tim McGrew briefly presents a way of thinking about miracle claims that gives consideration to both skeptics and believers. If you think he wasn’t fair, or omitted some crucial perspective, … Continue reading Hitchens, Hume, and Miracles

Evidence, Gender and God

My friend Ellie is transgender. When Ellie and I had coffee a while back, she told me that ever since she was little, she just knew that she was a girl. This wasn’t based on any medical or scientific evidence—it was based on simply turning inward and examining her own sense of self. Some of you will sympathize, others will scoff, but both Ellie and I appeal to the evidence of experience and introspection to support deeply held beliefs. How do we evaluate such claims? Ways of Knowing Well, consider first that everyone relies on introspection as a source of … Continue reading Evidence, Gender and God

Is It Arrogant to Think You’re Right?

Arrogance stinks. I’ve been accused of it, sometimes guilty of it. And I’ve seen the effects of it—even in my relationship with my dad. A year before he died, we attended our first and only baseball game together. My father loved baseball. When he offered to show me how to “keep score,” I scoffed, informing him that I wasn’t stupid and knew how to keep score. He tried to explain, but I had felt my intelligence insulted and wouldn’t have it. He didn’t force the issue. Years later, after he was gone, I realized what he was saying. I still … Continue reading Is It Arrogant to Think You’re Right?

Changing People’s Minds

I came across this article about Blaise Pascal’s persuasion “trick” a few months ago and loved it. (The title is a bit click-baity, but the principle is sound.) Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic theologian. (Check out his wiki here.) An impressive fellow, to say the least. I won’t try to summarize the article, but if you enjoy engaging in lively discussions about important things with people who disagree with you (and actually hope to persuade), then this is worth a read! Groundbelief.com exists to help people learn how to communicate with each other about religion, politics, etc. … Continue reading Changing People’s Minds

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