Friday, March 20, 2009

Skeptics are Skeptical of Everything Except Skepticism

I was just involved in a long discussion with Ten Minas Ministries covering a variety of topics. (WARNING: It is two lawyers talking—so it gets extremely long-winded. Read at your own peril. Unless you are suffering from insomnia, in which case: “Enjoy. And sleep well.”) One of the tacit questions asked was whether I was ignoring logical fallacies in atheistic arguments because of my bias toward atheism.

How does one tell one’s own bias? Worse—how does one remove it from consideration of the issue?

I accuse Christian apologists of being biased. (Oh boy—do I!). I see bias in people’s politics, in looking for mates, in handling money. We see biases in play all the time. I would be foolish to see it in everyone else, and presume I do not suffer from prejudices myself.

Of course I have biases. I can even see them come out when listening to theistic debates. I am rooting for the skeptic; the non-believer. I groan when they make a bad point, cheer when they make a good point and hiss at Dr. Craig. *grin* My writing comes from a decidedly skeptical viewpoint when it comes to Christian claims.

I have written before on how I try to remove these biases, by considering arguments in terms of what neutral, disinterested parties would be convinced by. Not by what I think, or what persuades me. Yet in the end, it is my determination of what a neutral would think. No juries are helping me out by giving verdicts on God.

I try. At least I think I do. I try and come at the question as if there may be a God. My brain does something like this:

“Look at the world about you. The complexity of a single cell, let alone trillions working in unity to make a human body work. Or ecosystems. Or the fascinating study of DNA. How does intelligence work? How can we be so certain of our own existence, if it is chemical reactions? Certainly some God is the initiator and holds this together.

“O.K….so we assume there is a God…

“…What does he look like?

“How do I use this world to make determinations about something that is not from this world? How can I look at a plant and derive some concept about this God? How do I look at the history of cosmology and align that with a God? Or evolution? Or planetary alignments?

“How can I be consistent in a method regarding God, claiming some things within this universe must reflect a god (intelligence) and some things must not (time)? What method do we use to pick and choose?

“Why would I use the cosmological argument for God when I see so many issues in the concept of ‘causation’ (specifically the issue of the use of time before there was time) as well as the fact we don’t know what happened in the 1 Planck second after Time=0? Isn’t this speculation based upon unknown facts?

My mind starts to race…

“How is it gods change so much over time and locale? Why is it the more science learns, the more gods must modify to conform to the new information? I can see Christianity is not true—yet they believe so fervently. Couldn’t every belief in God be equally untrue, yet fervently held?

At this point, my mind won’t…quite…reach a god. It won’t snap into place. No matter how open I think I am trying to be, it just doesn’t fit.

He He He. We have all done this with a present in a box, or a screw in a hole. We try it; doesn’t fit. We try it again; still doesn’t fit. We walk away, and come back, “One more time”—still doesn’t fit. Maybe one more time…

I feel the same about God. The arguments against God are still there. I can’t make them go away. I don’t see the logical fallacies being claimed.

But is that simply my bias? Are the questions not honest inquiry, but biases piling on?

How do YOU get rid of your bias?


  1. I can't.

    They are a part of me.

    God is the only one that can make a believer out of me...the one who is basically a non-believer at heart.

  2. You raise a good point here.

    Bias in an inherent part of all of us. Only a fool denies it.

    As a former pastor, I used to delude myself into thinking I could read the Bible in a unbiased, neutral way.

    Reality? This is impossible.

    The best we can do is recognize our own bias and temper our thinking a bit, leaving the possibility that we mind be blinded by our biases.

    Of course, just becuase someone says we are biased doesn't mean we are.

    I am against war, all war. Every time I enter a debate on that issue I am accused of being a liberal.(because that's how liberals think, that's their bias)

    I reject the bias charge on this issue. I believe I can clearly see the issues and that my beliefs are not colored by a liberal bias. (especially since I had the same view in my far more conservative days)

    Bias we all have it. It is just a lot easier to spot in others :)

    Great blog you have here.


  3. "How do YOU get rid of your bias?"

    Isn't that that the ideal function of debate? Argument?

    Isn't it the job of the opponent to get rid of my bias, and my job to remove theirs?

  4. theoldadam,

    If God is the “only” one who can make a believer, it causes me to wonder why humans have expounded trillions of words attempting to convince others of various positions.

    Would to be a colossal waste of time to evangelize in any form.

    Bruce, thank you. I have been enjoying your blog as well.

    Paul, I hope debating can eliminate some of the bias. Never sure how effective it is.

  5. Isn't this somewhat assuming that all biases are equal? Or that all matters of faith are equal? That, and is a bias the same as a normal world parameter?

    I think your most recent post on 'canards that need to go' is touching on this, but in most areas of life, we do operate from a 'natural' standpoint. We know the sun will rise tomorrow, because that's how we've seen the world work. We know there are instruments out there that track the rotation of the Earth, or the movement of the EArth around the sun.

    Or, if my friend shows up at my door and says that she flew here without a plane, am I biased if I dismiss that claim? No, I'm operating within the parameters of my world. I know that it's impossible for people to fly, and thus know where to place her claim -- a falsehood. If she wants to convince me that she did fly, I need a considerable amount of proof, because her claim violates the rules I know to be in place in terms of how the world operates. I'd almost need that proof in order to re-set my world parameters.