Street Epistemologists Get Their Needed Crutch

About three years ago, John Loftus excitedly reviewed Peter Boghossian’s silly book as follows:

Peter Boghossian’s new brilliant book will change our nomenclature and effectiveness in disabusing believers of their faith. His book will definitely change the religious landscape.
Nomenclature refers to the names we give to phenomena.
[…]
So he’s calling on a potential legion of people who are willing to help cure believers of their faith virus. He calls them “Street Epistemologists” who are equipped with the tactics he presents in his manual.
[….]
I think that with the Socratic Method as an excellent tool in our toolkit (as he explains in chapter five), Boghossian has given the Street Epistemologist a better understanding of how to argue believers out of their faith, even if many of them still probably cannot be argued out of it. He writes, “In order to reason them out of their faith they’ll have to be taught how to reason first, and then instructed in the application of this new tool to their epistemic condition.” (p. 63)
This is the brilliant part of Boghossian’s book. I look forward to the results in the years to come.

Well, it’s been about three years now and where is this promised change in “our nomenclature and effectiveness in disabusing believers of their faith?”

As far as I can tell, no one outside of the Cult of Gnu has taken Boghossian’s book seriously. I have seen no glowing reviews from mainstream scholars or scholarly publications. And no one outside of the Cult of Gnu has adopted Boghossian’s twisted definition of faith. In fact, I don’t even see Dawkins or Harris adopting Boghossian’s nomenclature.

And where is the legion of “Street Epistemologists?” Over the last three years, we had a single Street Epistemologist show up at this blog and after some of us asked him a few questions, he ran away.

There is a Street Epistemology website that is trying to put together a list of 10,000 people “who will be active and engage others and teach others better ways to come to knowledge.” Three years after setting it up, they have 66 members.

Clearly, the tiny, timid community of street epistemologists need some help.  Fast.  So Boghossian has come up with a way to help energize this flailing community.  Consider what Gnu activist Jerry Coyne recently wrote:

Over lunch I learned about Peter’s new app, which is out in some places. It’s apparently designed to help nonbelievers rebut every possible argument for religion and superstition, and I’ll give more details when it’s released in the U.S.

LOL!  An app!  What a shot in the arm.  The street epistemologists need an app to tell them what to say and soon they will have one.  If you are a street epistemologist who needs to test out your app, feel free to cure some of us of our mind virus with one of your interventions.

There is a potential downside of this app.  If you have interacted with Gnu atheists in the past, you already know they all tend to sound the same.  Dime-a-dozen.  But I’m concerned once they all begin relying on their app that this problem will only get worse.

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105 Responses to Street Epistemologists Get Their Needed Crutch

  1. Dhay says:

    > I think that with the Socratic Method as an excellent tool in our toolkit (as he explains in chapter five), Boghossian has given the Street Epistemologist a better understanding of how to argue believers out of their faith …

    Admittedly, my knowledge of the Socratic Method is based upon the very hostile critique of Plato (who voiced “Socrates”) which Karl Popper provided in his The Open Society and its Enemies — Plato depicted Socrates as promoting a profoundly anti-democratic and outright fascist message — together with a little independent reading many years ago: what I do remember is that in Plato’s books Socrates’ opponents in argument are mere Aunt Sallys, there for the sole purpose of being knocked down repeatedly by Socrates, there merely as a convenient foil to help advance Socrates’ arguments by raising easily knocked-down objections.

    But these are not really arguments, they are carefully scripted plays

    I have heard ‘discussions’ between a three year old’s dolls which have been similar in style to those put in the mouths of Socrates and his opponents, so am unimpressed by the allegedly adult version.

    Anyone trying to use the Socratic Method on the streets will probably end up like the Aikido master Sam Harris makes fun of in his blog post “The Pleasures of Drowning”. (Neither of Harris’ embedded videos now seems to work, but I found the link below.) Either the Epistemologist will find someone unprepared for such an encounter, easily overcome, but who will probably exit feeling they’ve just been mugged — or if they come up against a street fighter (so to speak), the Epistemologist will come away with the equivalent of a bloody nose.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jf3Gc2a0_8)

    > There is a Street Epistemology website that is trying to put together a list of 10,000 people “who will be active and engage others and teach others better ways to come to knowledge.” Three years after setting it up, they have 66 members.

    And of those 66, only three have been brave enough to add their surnames — it’s almost invariably “Alex A” or suchlike.

    Even in secular Britain, of the eight names, only one has a surname.

    I don’t think these reticent mice are going to become Street Epistemologist lions.

  2. Kevin says:

    I’ve long held that such people were going online to get their talking points. Now someone was clever enough to make a couple bucks off that behavior.

  3. Crude says:

    For real? What’s next – Tracts they can hand out?

    I for one look forward to encountering someone using that app, as rare as it likely will be. Especially if it’s a street encounter.

    Because I’m going to use arguments they won’t be familiar with, or in obscure ways. I may even throw out an argument that makes no sense but sounds merely obscure, just to watch them flail.

    You want to see a funny zealot meltdown? Ask them a question they can’t handle. And then point out that they can’t handle it. They lose their cool, quickly, because the whole reason for the app (or their talking points sheet) in the first place is to make them feel as if they’re invulnerable. And people need to feel invulnerable when they have insecurities to cope with.

    By the way, think about the implicit need for this app. You know why Pete’s trying to make it?

    Because the zealots were encountering arguments they couldn’t handle.

    Pete’s conclusion: well clearly they just don’t have access to all the resources! (Just, you know – google and such.)

    But… what if that’s not why they were failing?

  4. Doug says:

    @Crude,
    You don’t mean… No! …that one of their premises might be incorrect???

  5. Kevin says:

    It also shows the ridiculousness of not believing in God or Christianity, yet having to use an app to see the reasons you don’t believe in them.

  6. I would love to talk to one of these “Street Epistemologists”. Maybe I’ll run into Brian P. since he is in the same province in Canada as me. Chances are slim considering he could be 30 hours away. I would love to hear how he grounds his epistemology within his atheistic worldview. It sounds like he may ground it in an app.

  7. Allallt says:

    I found the book to be a little strange. But that might be, for the most part, because British culture is very different. People offer, as defence of their belief, “I just believe” and will take umbrage with the question “why?”. Sure, I could go to Sheffield and pester people who really will debate me, but those people are not representative of the UK’s religious persuasions. (I have argued with them before, but that was by virtue of encountering them in a hotel in Austria. Long story.)
    I liked the books ideas, and they’ve worked well in engaging with conversation about the “Brexit” and other things British people really will talk about. But religion remain a shameful taboo here.

    In case you’re wondering, I hate the idea that religion is a shameful taboo. I think religion, like all ideas, should be honestly aired and compete with their criticisms.

  8. TFBW says:

    Crude said:

    They lose their cool, quickly, because the whole reason for the app (or their talking points sheet) in the first place is to make them feel as if they’re invulnerable. And people need to feel invulnerable when they have insecurities to cope with.

    It’s a combination of that and a desire to feel intellectually superior. They really like their feelings of intellectual superiority. And I say “feel” rather than “be” advisedly: I think Feser really nailed it with his Walter Mitty Atheism article, like so.

    The New Atheist talks, constantly and loudly, about reason, science, evidence, facts, being “reality-based,” etc. Equally constantly and loudly, he decries dogmatism, ignorance, wishful thinking, whatever is merely “faith-based,” etc. And he relentlessly denounces “religious” people, whom, he imagines, are central casting exemplars of the latter vices. But it is not reason, science, etc. that really move him. What really moves him is the pleasure that the thought of being paradigmatically rational, scientific, etc. gives him. Nor is he really moved by what religious people actually think. After all, he not only doesn’t trouble himself to find out what they actually think, but often will expend great energy trying to rationalize his refusal to find out what they actually think. (Consider e.g. P.Z. Myers’ shamelessly question-begging “Courtier’s reply” dodge.) Rather, what moves him is the self-righteous delight he takes in his belief in his intellectual and moral superiority over “religious” people. His “rationalism” consists, not in actually being rational, but in constantly chatting up rationality and constantly badmouthing those who, at least in his imagination, are not as rational as he enjoys believing that he is.

    The appeal of Street Epistemology, if any, seems to be in the fact that you get to go out and parade your intellectual superiority in public (so long as you pick sufficiently unprepared opponents). The risk of Street Epistemology is that you get to go out and fail in public. It’s much safer to stroke your ego on the Internet, where you can walk away from a difficult situation without being seen to do so (and you can even tell yourself that you were just getting bored with the other idiot). I don’t think this app is going to change that equation much.

  9. Dhay says:

    Perhaps the Street Epistemologists should take a leaf out of the book of those who have been street-proselytising for many decades.

    Firstly, the Epistemologists need to really drill into their brains the frequently-encountered arguments both for and against their own position and also for and against the range of those contrary positions which they will encounter, likewise the counters to each argument; then these can be rattled out instantly, confidently and unhesitatingly as appropriate.

    I really think that anyone stopping to look up an answer in an app has shown themselves ignorant — indeed pig ignorant because they have not bothered to learn about the subject properly — and by such lack of interest has shown themselves to be doxastically closed, unamenable to argument, why bother even engaging with them. And anyone breaking off to consult an app is no more engaging with me than is someone breaking off to make or take phone calls.

    Secondly, rather than the Epistemologists trying to stop busy people in the street, or harass people in cafes, parks or other public places, I would suggest concentrating upon becoming Doorstep Epistemologists, people who go around in twos for mutual support and safety, knock on doors and then politely offer the householder the opportunity to discuss the Good News of atheism and the Even Better News of New Atheism.

    And so that those householders who won’t actually argue, engage or listen will have something to mull over, the Epistemologists should leave them an exhortatory magazine setting out their intellectually superior messages — with snappily named titles such as The Lofty Viewpoint or Wake up!.

  10. Ilíon says:

    There is a potential downside of this app.

    Ah! But there is also an upside, at least from their point of view — if they run the app in “observer mode”, they can get the emotional and intellectual satisfaction of observing that their pocket virtual “Street Epistemologist” *always* bests its virtual “opponents”.

  11. Dhay says:

    That’s the advantage of the Socratic Method: as practiced by Socrates – or how Plato has written him — it is the method of answering easily-countered objections which your prepared answers, following the fantasy script in order to reach the foregone (pre-ordained) conclusion that Plato was always going to reach. As long as that happens, success every time!

    But it’s difficult to read Plato’s play dialogues without wondering why ever the straight-guy “opponent” should challenge with the easy questions rather than the hard ones, and how Socrates would ever fare in a real debate.

    Those carefully scripted martial arts film sequences in which the hero always trounces their opponent come to mind. With such a script, what else!

    And as Crude points out, once off-script, once off of their app’s “Street Epistemology for Idiots” type list of objections and counters, counter-objections and their counters, they are going to struggle.

    Scripted answers are inflexible, and are no substitute for knowledge of your subject; and at the end of the day, that pesky GIGO acronym (Garbage In, Garbage Out) applies just as much to an app as to any other part of computing.

  12. Dhay says:

    Allallt > … British culture is very different. People offer, as defence of their belief, “I just believe” and will take umbrage with the question “why?”

    For those who are not British, let me translate: “I just believe” is very polite British code for: If I’m not in your face, why are you in mine? Why should I accept your harassment? Please go away!

    Then when asked, “Why?”, evidently this person is rudely still persisting. You are still here, dammit! Why won’t you go away when asked politely! Do I have to go as far as brusqueness, or even rudeness, in order to be heard?!

  13. Dhay says:

    > There is a Street Epistemology website that is trying to put together a list of 10,000 people “who will be active and engage others and teach others better ways to come to knowledge.” Three years after setting it up, they have 66 members.

    The ‘WayBack Machine’ internet archive has no record of the Street Epistemology website before 21 November 2013, at which time it didn’t, perhaps couldn’t archive the webpage containing the list of Epistemologists. A month later, on 21 December 2013, there were 53 Epistemologists listed — evidently the early rush.

    In the two-and-a-third years since then, a mere 13 more Epistemologists have signed up, at an average rate of a mere five-and-a-half per year.

    Let’s see, 9934 to go, at an average of 5.54 a year; that’s a little under 1800 years before Boghossian reaches his target.

    But it gets worse: the 53 grew by 12 to 65 in the three months to 26 February 2014, then by only 1 more in the (approx) six months to 16 July 2014. In the last 21 months or so there have been precisely zero new Epistemologists added. Boghossian just isn’t getting his new recruits, not only not in the large numbers he desires, but not at all.

    Boghossian wants to recruit 10,000 Street Epistemologists? Forlorn hope. He’s failed utterly.

  14. Doug says:

    Clearly an oversight on his part — there should be a place for volunteers to have those “productive” conversations for his street epistemologists to practice on. I bet he could have more than 66 of those overnight…

  15. FZM says:

    Dhay,

    For those who are not British, let me translate: “I just believe” is very polite British code for: If I’m not in your face, why are you in mine? Why should I accept your harassment? Please go away!

    I was thinking something like that too.

    Allallt,

    In case you’re wondering, I hate the idea that religion is a shameful taboo. I think religion, like all ideas, should be honestly aired and compete with their criticisms.

    Personally I’d like to see the concept of ‘religion’ handled a bit more critically than is the case in many discussions. It seems to lend itself to being defined in vague and hazy (sometimes polemical) ways and there doesn’t seem to be any generally accepted definition among academics of what exactly it means and why some things aught to be classified as ‘religion’ and ‘religious’ and others not.

    If it is contrasted or compared with other non-specific, vaguely defined concepts (for example, ‘science’ especially understood in broad terms) the scene is set for sweeping generalisations and interminable discussions.

  16. Dhay says:

    Appistemologists?

  17. The original Mr. X says:

    @Dhay:

    what I do remember is that in Plato’s books Socrates’ opponents in argument are mere Aunt Sallys, there for the sole purpose of being knocked down repeatedly by Socrates, there merely as a convenient foil to help advance Socrates’ arguments by raising easily knocked-down objections.

    I don’t think that’s necessarily a fair assessment. Sure, a lot of Socrates’ opponents do give weak arguments for their positions; but if the New Atheism has taught us anything, it’s that giving weak, easily-refuted arguments doesn’t preclude one from attracting a large group of followers.

  18. Dhay says:

    Remember Peter Boghossian’s target of 10,000 Street Epistemologists. His site listed 53 potential Epistemologists on 21 December 2013, which grew by 12 in the next three months, 1 in the next six months, then by zero in the following 21 months to April 2016.

    Today, prompted by Jerry Coyne’s announcement that the Atheos App has been launched in the USA, and spotting on the AA main page that the App is “Now live in Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Ireland and Hong Kong!”, which should mean a flood of new people signing up to flood that mere 66 up to the 10,000 target, I looked at the list again.

    And found that the people on the list, originally 66 in number, currently number 11. Count them!

    https://streetepistemology.com/the-10000/

    If you click ‘Read more …’, you read that:

    … an enterprising man named Leif Cid, completely on his own initiative, was compiling the names of people who emailed him and asked to join. As interest in Street Epistemology increased over the months and years, the number of people asking to join the List of 10,000 also grew, outpacing our ability to keep the site current.

    So the list of 66 wasn’t current, that’s why there were only 66 names, not the hugely larger number the above implies … except … the present list of a mere 11 names is current.

    While this website and its content are not in any way controlled by Boghossian, we do have his support behind managing the List of 10,000. In other words, this is the Official List.

    And it is the official list.

    The 11 is evidently those who remain after the list compilers e-mailed the original 66 (or attempted to) asking if they would like to be re-enrolled in the presumably prestigious position at the top of the list as an early enroller — evidently 55 of them could no longer be be contacted at the e-mail address given, or couldn’t be bothered even to reply, or declined to be re-added.

    The earliest join or re-join date on the list is 24 July 2016, the latest 29 July. Now that the App has been launched so widely, and has now been so enthusiastically publicised by Coyne to his 41,771 followers and presumably greater still number of regular viewers, I look forward to seeing how fast the number on the Official List grows towards Boghossian’s 10,000 target.

    From 11.

  19. Kevin says:

    It must be really good, every person who rated it rated it 5 stars, except for one 4 star. Highest rated app I’ve ever seen.

  20. Kevin says:

    Well I decided to download the app since it was free. It is…ludicrous. But I’m getting good scores so I gused I’m a good Street Epistemologist.

  21. Kevin says:

    Gused? Guess

  22. Dhay says:

    > From 11.

    I am now able to announce that the total on the up-to-date list has doubled, in fact slightly more than doubled, and now stands at a majestic 23.

    Only the first 20 names are being shown, but looking for names local to me I see that there are names in that 20 there which were not on the original list of 66; so although “… we did manage to re-invite those people who emailed us [to be on the old list] to create a new account on the website” — ie the list compilers sought to reconstruct the new list in the same order as the old list, starting with those on the old list if possible, hence presumably contacted the 66 early before opening for allcomers — they evidently didn’t get enough enthusiasm from the original 66 to get even 20 of them onto the new list.

    If I’m generous and assume today’s newcomers haven’t yet been added to the list yet, that’s three a day, which equates to a further nine years to reaching the 10,000 target — assuming this hasn’t just been the early rush, such as happened with the original list, which quickly petered to a bare trickle, then soon thereafter ground to a complete halt at 66.

    We’ll see what happens in due course, but it looks promising: 23 on the list so far, only another 9,977 to go.

  23. Dhay says:

    Street Epistemology principle number One:

    If you’re not genuinely willing to revise your beliefs, don’t try to change anyone else’s beliefs.

    ~Peter Boghossian~

    That, I think, is what will stop the target of 10,000 being reached.

  24. Dhay says:

    Someone’s back from holiday: after a gap of nine days, the list has grown by seven to a magnificent total of 30.

    The remaining 9,970 will soon flood in at this rate.

    *

    Or perhaps not: on the ‘resources’ page there’s a downloadable pdf of “The Complete Street Epistemology Guide: How to Talk About Beliefs”:

    As a Street Epistemologist, you start from a position of “doxastic openness” in which you acknowledge that the other person’s position may be correct. You should be willing to revise your beliefs if this turns out to be the case.

    This echoes the quote in the post above. Just in itself it requires a level of “atheist saintliness” –if I can call it that — which is not usually much in evidence.

    Be respectful, honest, curious, collaborative, empathetic and nonjudgmental. Seek to understand what the interlocutor believes and how they justify their belief. Form a collaborative partnership …
    Ask yourself : Are you prepared to behave in a respectful, empathetic, and collaborative manner with your interlocutors?

    For many, probably most, probably not. Christian-bashing is evidently out, Out, OUT. But when even the self-styled “Friendly Atheist” has stooped to promoting the claim that bringing your children up Christian is child abuse, when even Hemant Mehta fails the standard of conduct required for successful Street Epistemology, what chance have all those eager let’s-get-at-’em, I-love-sneering-and-jeering unfriendly atheists of meeting the standard.

    I’m sure there are “atheist saints” who could meet the standard; I just wonder whether, for those who do meet the standard of detachment required, they are likely to be attached enough to spend time on Street Epistemology.

    *

    It amuse me to think there might be a secret collaboration between Sam Harris and Peter Boghossian: Harris ensures a supply of detached atheist trained meditators, and Boghossian dispatches them onto the streets.

  25. Dhay says:

    I see I’m late to the party: Michael made my “atheist saint” points above rather more fully, and better, back in October 2013, when he posted that:

    Peter Boghossian has nine strategies to help Gnu atheists make more Gnus. There is a huge problem – Boghossian does not seem to understand the nature of the Gnu atheist. The Gnu atheist is about as likely to embrace and adopt those strategies as Richard Dawkins is likely to get in an elevator with Rebecca Watson. Let’s have a look.

    [1 — 9 and their respective problems]

    In summary, Boghossian’s Nine Strategies are very unlikely to succeed, for he may as well have written the Nine Best Ways to Cook Beef for a community of vegans.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/boghossian-bites-off-more-than-he-can-chew/

    So how many budding Epistemologists are there now, how many are there who are honing their “atheist saintliness” ready to teach reason? It’s rocketed up overnight to 31. Only another 9,969 to go.

    Not that being on a list of self-declared Street Epistemologists makes someone an Epistemologist, competent in any part of philosophy, trained in reason or “Reason”, or even a reasonable and rational person.

    *

    I note in passing that “Reason” is a code word denoting a movement, and self-chosen by the movement members for propaganda purposes, rather than an objective assessment from outside, it’s not something to take at face value; it has the same objective standing as the “Moral Majority” code phrase for the (now former) quite opposite movement.

  26. stcordova says:

    ” It’s rocketed up overnight to 31. Only another 9,969 to go.”

    🙂

  27. Dhay says:

    And by coincidence, Gottfried has just linked (in another thread) to a long post by Edward Feser which includes this short passage about the New Atheist “Reason” (see above), as Feser has experienced it from the likes of Jerry Coyne, Lawrence Krauss and others:

    The New Atheist talks, constantly and loudly, about reason, science, evidence, facts, being “reality-based,” etc. Equally constantly and loudly, he decries dogmatism, ignorance, wishful thinking, whatever is merely “faith-based,” etc. And he relentlessly denounces “religious” people, whom, he imagines, are central casting exemplars of the latter vices. But it is not reason, science, etc. that really move him. What really moves him is the pleasure that the thought of being paradigmatically rational, scientific, etc. gives him. Nor is he really moved by what religious people actually think. After all, he not only doesn’t trouble himself to find out what they actually think, but often will expend great energy trying to rationalize his refusal to find out what they actually think. (Consider e.g. P.Z. Myers’ shamelessly question-begging “Courtier’s reply” dodge.) Rather, what moves him is the self-righteous delight he takes in his belief in his intellectual and moral superiority over “religious” people. His “rationalism” consists, not in actually being rational, but in constantly chatting up rationality and constantly badmouthing those who, at least in his imagination, are not as rational as he enjoys believing that he is.

    Here too, we have a kind of moralistic onanism which requires a rich fantasy life to support it. Finding out what thinkers like Aquinas, Leibniz, et al. actually said would completely destroy the fantasy, because they simply don’t fit the New Atheist’s caricature of religion. Hence the New Atheist nourishes his imagination instead with made-up examples of purportedly theistic ideas and argumentation, which he typically derives from reading other New Atheist writers rather than by reading what religious thinkers themselves have written. He repeatedly calls these examples to mind when he wants to reassure himself of the stupidity of religious people and of his superiority over them — especially when he encounters some religious opponent who doesn’t seem to fit his stereotype. He thinks: “First cause arguments start from the premise that ‘everything has a cause’; all such arguments founder on their inability to answer the challenge ‘What caused God?’; theism is incompatible with science, or at least presupposes outdated science; theism always ultimately rests on appeals to faith, or the Bible, or emotion…” and so forth. None of this is true, and it is all easily refuted simply by consulting the actual writings of religious thinkers. But the New Atheist is able to keep himself from seeing this by translating everything an opponent says into something he pulls from his mental bag of clichés about “what theists think.”
    [Emphasis original, albeit for clarity I’ve used an emphasis style which shows up more.]

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/walter-mitty-atheism.html

    There’s a lot more; it’s an interesting if long read.

    Not all atheists are like this, of course, though Feser depicts a recognisable and very familiar type.

    As regards this snippet from the above …

    … the New Atheist nourishes his imagination instead with made-up examples of purportedly theistic ideas and argumentation, which he typically derives from reading other New Atheist writers rather than by reading what religious thinkers themselves have written. He repeatedly calls these examples to mind when he wants to reassure himself of the stupidity of religious people and of his superiority over them …

    … prospective Epistemologists should bear in mind that Peter Boghossian is one of these New Atheist writers who Feser criticises as ill-informed. Boghossian’s weird definition of “faith” is notorious, as is his doxastic closure in refusing to accept correction.

    (In Feser’s terms, he’s another “Walter Mitty Atheist.”)

    Beware that the standard of “atheist saintliness” required of a Street Epistemologist is higher than Boghossian himself in practice meets. Boghossian requires a high standard of his Epistemologists, applies a lower standard to himself.

  28. Dhay says:

    A few days ago in clock time, albeit in a later thread than this one, ‘The Atheist Savant’ responded to In Michael’s 02 May 2016 OP entitled “Atheos: The Atheist Proselytization App”; Michael had reviewed the “laughably bad” thump, thump, thumping commercial promoting the (then future) App:

    The app even comes with its own commercial. It’s laughably bad, but worth watching for a few minutes to give you insight into the what it is that intellectually stimulates the Gnu atheist. For the record, I could only take about 3 minutes of it before my eardrums started to bleed:

    A few days ago (09 August 2016), ‘The Atheist Savant’ responded to that with:

    Let me see if understand you here. You played it for 3 mins?
    Would you consider a critic’s review of book if she only read the first 3 pages?
    How did you come to your position if you didn’t complete the game?

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2016/05/02/atheos-the-atheist-proselytization-app/#comment-13904

    Let’s compare ‘The Atheist Savant’s fantasy world with reality: what Michael reviewed was a commercial, Michael stated very plainly (see above) that it was a commercial; had ‘The Atheist Savant’ bothered to even begin to look at it himself, it would have been very obvious that it was not a game, it was a commercial; had ‘The Atheist Savant’ bothered to look at the length, it would have been very obvious that the commercial was only 4 minutes 26 seconds long — Michael actually looked at and listened to two-thirds of it; had ‘The Atheist Savant’ bothered to watch and listen and analyse it all the way through (as I did), he would have discovered it doesn’t get any better further on.

    ‘The Atheist Savant’ didn’t listen at all to a commercial he criticised Michael for not not listening to the last 90 seconds of. That’s hypocrisy.

    We’ve got a prize berk here in ‘The Atheist Savant’, someone with minimal reading comprehension, ready to jump in with instant ill-considered and hypocritical criticisms.

    A good Street Epistemologist, paraphrasing the Guide, needs to be able to listen attentively to their interlocutor, understand what’s been said, and to echo it back to check and clarify. Plainly ‘The Atheist Savant’ doesn’t meet that standard, and fails by a wide margin, so no doubt it was tongue-in-cheek of ‘Doug’ to subsequently suggest:

    Corey — why haven’t you signed up here [web address of the SE list]:
    They need you, bro’!

    The list has rocketed up overnight to 32. Only another 9,968 to go.

    And the new prospective Street Epistemologist is … yes, it’s ‘The Atheist Savant’.

    Not that being on a list of self-declared Street Epistemologists makes someone an Epistemologist, competent in any part of philosophy, trained in reason or “Reason”, or even a reasonable and rational person. And ‘The Atheist Savant’ demonstrates that very nicely.

  29. Dhay says:

    I wonder whether the App has been designed (or will in practice function) as not only a training tool, a tool demonstrating to the suitable the standard methods to use and the standard to aspire to, but also as a selection tool, one that will gently confront those unsuitable who self-bluff.

    If it doesn’t put off the unsuitable, the efforts of the suitable might well be negated or reversed.

    I just wonder: it’s somebody else’s problem.

  30. Ilíon says:

    I wonder whether the App has been designed …

    Designed!?!?! Heavens (pardon my French), no! It “arose” via random copy errors of an executable that originally was a QBASIC program.

  31. Dhay says:

    Either the list compiler’s come back off of holiday, or there’s been a talk or gathering where they signed ’em up afterwards: there were 32 on the list on 19 August, and in the 6 days since then the total has rocketed (genuinely, this time) to 135. I thought it was increasing surprisingly slowly.

    (17 of them — about an eighth — are publicly anonymous. Hmm.)

    Now there’s only 9,865 to go to reach the target.

  32. Dhay says:

    What I notice about videos demonstrating how a Street Intervention should be carried out is that the technique demonstrator gets in an early question along the lines of, “On a scale of one to a hundred, how confident are you in your beliefs?”; then there’s that “friendly chat”; then to wind up, there’s that same question, “On a scale of one to a hundred, how confident are you now in your beliefs?” Invariably – or invariably on the videos which get released, at any rate — the interviewee gives a lower figure.

    And the sales pitch of the video is, it sells to the potential Epistemologist that: “You too can cause a ‘drop in confidence’ like the demonstrator in this video achieved.”

    Pure gold is where the interviewee says “100%”; the worst that can happen is that the interviewee says “100%” again; realistically a drop in confidence from 100% is virtually guaranteed.

    Let’s look at why: –

    Here’s the classic anecdote from Allallt, demonstrating how in a Street Intervention type situation it’s not System 2 type rational thinking but System 1 type intuitive recall-the-answer-NOW non-rational thinking which kicks in – even for someone proud of their rationality:

    I was asked to complete a survey on the street a few years back that was full of scientific claims all written out in long hand. One of them was something like this: Which of the following sentences best describes …

    But the person who read these out to me read them out fast and pressured me into a speedy answer. That means I will have been attempting to answer these questions semantically, not from my understanding. What that means is that I will have been trying to select the answer that has the sounds that are the most familiar, instead of trying to articulate my understanding. …

    Another question was … Again, I was under pressure and robbed of the time to recall if it was … or … Under pressure, this can be confusing. I know the answer to both these questions, and did at the time, but I reckon I got them wrong because of the environment I was asked and because of the way they were presented.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/one-in-four-americans-believe-the-sun-revolves-around-the-earth-oh-no/#comment-7292

    So that initial answer of “100%”, “95%”, “85%” or whatever is not going to be a thought-out answer; for the “100%” guy, the underlying intuition is likely to be eg that, heck, I attend Mass each Sunday, assent to and can rattle out the Nicene Creed, I’m a ‘good Christian’ as I understand it (etc etc), so obviously my answer’s 100%: but nobody’s 100% (except the guy who wrote the definitive Systematic Theology book) and with a little bit of extra time for System 1 to push more intuitive knowledge to the mind’s surface, or for System 2 to start working properly, the afterthoughts come to mind – we use condoms, the Assumption of Mary has always seemed an assumption too far, etc , etc – so that 100% (or whatever figure it was) inevitably drops.

    And it drops not because of the Epistemologist’s skill and rational argument, not because the interviewee has lost faith – or, er, “confidence”, whatever that is – but simply because they have had longer to reflect on and get realistic about the figure and are now reporting it more realistically. (Insofar, I stress, as a figure plucked from the air can be realistic at all – and a reported “100%” is very likely to be hubristic overconfidence.)

    *

    There’s something else going on as well. The Epistemologist has been nice to the interviewee – the need to be non-confrontational is stressed to the Epistemologist – so the almost automatic response of a nice interviewee will be to give them something back; the interviewer obviously wants a lower confidence score; it’s no skin off the interviewee’s back, give it to the Epistemologist, five or ten or more percentage points, send them away happy. That the interviewee has really changed their confidence level may well be an illusion.

    To give back is human nature: charities rely on it when they post you a rubbish ballpoint pen you never wanted and will never use – expecting a cheque back. Personally, I just feel insulted, but it must work on a lot of people or they wouldn’t post them.

    If you think about it, the interviewees self-select for their niceness and their pliancy in the face of others, hence self-select for the likelihood of a giving a reduced score; the nicer, the bigger the bonus; crabby and/or self-assertive people select themselves out of any interview by walking past.

    *

    Any idea on the Epistemologist’s part that the interviewee has permanently changed their confidence level is likely to be a delusion. Any illusory change due to interviewee niceness, as above, will quickly disappear by next morning – or soon after the interviewee encounters their more confident and better informed peers, or a minister, pastor or lay preacher, or in church next Sunday.

    Or the New Age karma-believer will go back to their favourite book and refresh.

    In any event, we can expect the interviewee’s confidence level will slide rapidly back up as the Epistemologist’s promptings progressively disappear from memory – to adapt the OT proverb, ‘the days pass and the Epistemologist fades.’

    *

    What would I myself answer: given not a lot of reflection time, I would quickly realise that plucking a number out of thin air is highly subjective, about as unanchored as you can get to any objective criteria, so worthless; so what objective answer could I give without a scoring system, do, interviewer, tell me; and whose scoring system should I use, do dear interviewer tell me, for I know I would score rather differently on different denominations’ scoring lists, the which would not only include different things but weight the same differently.

    In Northern Ireland it has been common for Protestants to regard the Pope as the Anti-Christ and reckon all Catholics destined for hell; Catholics return the condemnation; both of these, and certainly the more extreme Biblical Literalist YEC types, would probably label moderate me as “not a true (or real, or even) Christian” – and this is just the extremes, with many other positions and their idiosyncratic scoring lists that could be used. (I don’t know if denominations do have such a scoring system – probably not – but if they had, they would surely score differently.)

    There are “scientific” scoring systems – or at any rate, scoring systems devised by scientists in order to score their experiments, but my first impression is that these are cobbled together and subjective – whether these have been tested for objectivity, and how one would recognise objectivity, I do not know; so I consider these systems to be of dubious objectivity, useful for standardising experimentation rather than as an objective measure of religiosity or of ‘confidence’ levels.

    If I were to turn Socratic questioning back on my Epistemologist, a person who presumably values, prioritises and uses science and critical thinking, I would point out this problem, I would ask whose subjective or “scientifically objective” scoring system the Epistemologist thinks I should use, and what the boxes are and whether I tick them, and what score attaches to each box; and I would ask them how I can tell that they are using the correct scoring system. What method do they use, and by what method do I assess that method.

    From long experience, my own System 1 intuitively recognises that the Epistemologist’s question type and question is essentially unanswerable except by bullshit; I have learned to automatically dismiss both question and questioner and to walk past.

    *

    It occurs to me that although the Epistemologists are being encouraged to make a difference in the confidence that Christians (etc) have in their religious beliefs (with a nod towards anti-vaxxers, climate change questioners, Wiccans and New Agers), Street Epistemology is primarily a confidence trick played on the Epistemologists themselves, a rather devious way of tricking these atheists into increasing their visibility within the community, into publicly “coming out” as atheists.

    Their reward for doing so is the expectation that they, too, can make a difference – that difference being indicated and roughly measured by a drop in interviewee ‘confidence’ score.

    Make a difference? Probably not.

  33. Dhay says:

    Looks like the “crutch” is substandard; the App is prone to both premium content loss — loss of Cave Levels 2-10 — and loss of progress retention.

    I observe that anyone with insufficient brainpower (wetware progress retention) to remember such a simple matter as where they got to, and how and why, is incapable of coping adequately with the greater demands of a street interaction.

    155 on the list so far, at a rate that will reach that 10,000 in about five years — only 9,845 to go. Unless, that is, this is the early rush, and numbers tail off as the novelty tails off and the publicity tails off. That has happened once already, hence the flat-lined 66 on the original list, and the few (so far as I can tell) of those 66 who have added themselves to the new list.

  34. Dhay says:

    I see that Peter Boghossian’s 2013 New Year’s Resolution was, “Create 10,000 Street Epistemologists armed with the tools to talk each talk 100 people out of their faith.” [sic]

    http://www.facebook.com/peter.boghossian/posts/10151289512907906

    Ah, a target of one million: 1,000 each would be an utterly pie in the sky figure, so make it an equally round and very ambitious 100 each.

    He “listed 53 potential Epistemologists on 21 December 2013” — see an earlier response — so that particular Resolution failed, abjectly. It always was going to fail, it just wasn’t realistic.

    Also not realistic is Boghossian’s idea, presumably still part of the “10,000” concept, that the Epistemologists would “each talk 100 people out of their faith”. I’ll repeat the last bit: “talk 100 people out of their faith”.

    That’s not a reduction of 100 peoples’ confidence level by 5, 10, 20, or 30 percentage points, that’s a reduction of 100 peoples’ confidence levels by 100%, or to negligible values; it’s conversions.

    Is that realistic? Can it be achieved? Has Boghossian demonstrated that it can be achieved?

    I was about to comment that for a New Atheist movement based upon Evidence and Reason (capitalised, of course) … except I see that Boghossian’s personal “10,000” movement is not based upon Evidence and Reason: the banner title of the Atheos FaceBook page tells us it is “An adventure (lower case) in Truth and Reason (capitalised, of course); with “Truth” substituted for “Reason”, and “Evidence”, with “Evidence conspicuously absent.

    (No, I don’t think that’s a nit-pick: they’re not supposed to argue facts.)

    I note that evidence that Epistemologists can each (or on average, or any one of them) achieve 100 conversions to atheism or away from previous religion (or New Age, pseudo-science, etc etc, belief) is likewise conspicuously absent.

    *

    Achieving 100 conversions instead of 100 conversations or 100 reductions in confidence levels (whatever they are worth — see responses above) is a much, much harder task. I suspect the prospective Epistemologists don’t realise what Boghossian intends for them, and what a hard and endless task (unmeasurable, too — how do they know when they have achieved it) they have signed up for.

    *

    I wonder whether the list, in part, functions as an unofficial Hall of Fame for those who are uncommitted but have completed the ten levels. “Look, I finished the App!”

  35. stcordova says:

    Boghossian has a lot of religious faith in his unrealistic ambitions. He needs a street epistemologist to talk him out of his self-delusions. LOL!

  36. Dhay says:

    Here’s one or two faith claims which the Epistemologists could practice on, discussing and deciding the strengths and defects of the epistemology used by the person quoted, and deciding what better epistemology each might be persuaded to adopt:

    It happened when I was listening to the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album while lying on my parents’ couch. Suddenly I began to shake and sweat. For reasons I still don’t understand, it dawned on me at that moment that there was a God, and I was going to heaven when I died. My atheism seemed to wash away as the album played on. The crisis lasted about 30 minutes and when it was over, I had left atheism behind for good.

    I edited that first one slightly to make the epistemological issues clearer. The second was long, so I chopped it quite a bit, again to make the epistemological issues clearer:

    The proof that [Taoism] was the one true religion was manyfold, and seemingly irrefutable. … I had powerful mystical visions, which only confirmed further that I was on the right track. … Profound insights about the world would strike me whenever in such a state, leading far more readily and powerfully to an understanding of myself and the world than studying or reasoning ever did.

    And:

    I’m starting to think nothing would [get me to change my mind about whether God exists], which, in a way, goes against the grain, because I’ve always paid lip service to the view that a scientist should change his mind when evidence is forthcoming.

    And what faulty or valid epistemology does Socrates use, in The Republic, Book 2, when he makes this claim:

    Stories that ascribe evil to the gods are untrue and should not be taught.

    If Socrates’ epistemology is faulty here, how do you know it is valid elsewhere; how do you know that; how can you tell?

    And:

    Consciousness is the one thing in this universe that cannot be an illusion.

    Enjoy those exercises, and do focus on identifying and correcting any faulty epistemologies, as all good Epistemologists should, rather than arguing facts.

    *

    Another little spurt, with 179 currently on the List, and 156 bold enough to make some sort of name and location visible. Of the 156, I see that many provide just a pseudonym and a very general or no location. (Presumably many of the hidden belong to the — sshh, don’t mention the name, it’s secret — Muskogee Atheist Community.)

    Well done, guys, at the average rate so far you’ll get to 10,000 in a little under six years (if everybody’s still active (or has become active) in six years) — only another 9,821 to go.

  37. Dhay says:

    I see that Peter Boghossian was lecturing on the core ideas in his A Manual for Creating Atheists (at the Kamloops Convention for atheists, to atheists “from far and wide”) as far back as May 2013, and the book got published that December.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/boghossian-bites-off-more-than-he-can-chew/

    So Boghossian has been promoting his ideas, for rather more than three years, the book’s been out more than two and a half years, and since then … since then the number of Epistemologists keen enough to sign up to the List underwent an initial rush to (a mere) 53 then rapidly flatlined at 66; now that the App has recently been launched, and the List re-launched, List numbers have rushed erratically to 182; we’ll see where the numbers go from here, but I observe that 182 is quite a low total to be still at after two and a half or three years.

    *

    PS: The answers to the obvious question are:
    Jerry Coyne (Facts reversed, but not his epistemology)
    Richard Carrier (When younger)
    Richard Dawkins
    Socrates
    Sam Harris

    You might also like to examine the reliability of the epistemologies underlying a couple of common claims (select your own, I’m sure you’ll find them):
    No free will; free will [insert your variety].
    Self; no self.

  38. Dhay says:

    In assessing the value and validity of the Socratic Method, it is useful to look at where the Socratic Method epistemology took Socrates himself.

    In Plato’s early dialogues, Socrates refutes the accounts of his interlocutors and the discussion ends with no satisfactory answer to the matter investigated.

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/republic/#H1

    Or putting this another way, the Socrates and his Method that Plato portrayed in his early dialogues was portrayed as capable of challenging and refuting the other guy’s views, but not as capable of reaching any conclusion, mutually agreed or otherwise.

    The Socratic Method of putting on your opponent’s lips the words you want to argue against is easier done as an author (Plato is the author), hence where your opponent is a mere ventriloquist’s dummy, so to speak, than it is on the street with a real live person throwing unexpected answers back at you; so the question arises why, even in the ideal circumstance of being able to script his opponents’ replies himself, Plato (or “Socrates”) could not arrive at constructive answers to the philosophical problems dialogued, only undermine the others peoples’ answers.

    Of course, this might well be exactly what the Street Epistemologist aims to achieve: to tear down, but not to build constructively. Anything’s better, eh?

    *

    A cynic might note that the App also functions as a way to ensure greater publicity for, interest in, and sales of, Boghossian’s book on the same subject; the which, going by the mere 66 on the original List, got rapidly ignored.

    *

    This week the List has grown by a further two budding — we don’t know if they are actual, we don’t know how many have as yet ventured onto the street, or how many ever will — Street Epistemologists to a magnificent total of 184; that’s an increase of one on each of the first two days of this last week, then none since; the total has been static at 184 for five days running.

    The increases seem to come in surges — the early adopters of the App reaching a stage where they feel they are prepared enough, or self-confident enough, to join up comes to mind as a possible explanation of the main surge, and the minor surge might possibly be start of term, but I’m guessing at both — so it’s a bit early to tell for sure what will happen in future, but it might well be that this new incarnation of the List is doing, quite rapidly, what the original List also did quite rapidly: flatlining.

  39. pennywit says:

    When I was in undergrad, a street preacher came around the school roughly twice a semester to yell at us about the evil of rock ‘n’ roll, condemn women for wearing pants, and yell (very loudly) about Jesus Christ. I assume street epist … epist … atheist street preachers will be approximately as effective as the street preacher was.

  40. Michael says:

    When I was in undergrad, a street preacher came around the school roughly twice a semester to yell at us about the evil of rock ‘n’ roll, condemn women for wearing pants, and yell (very loudly) about Jesus Christ. I assume street epist … epist … atheist street preachers will be approximately as effective as the street preacher was.

    Brother Jed?!

  41. Dhay says:

    pennywit > … yell at us … I assume street epist … epist … atheist street preachers will be approximately as effective as the street preacher was.

    Their effectiveness has yet to be seen, but their methods will be very, very different from yelling. See responses above.

    *

    In my last response I quoted that, “In Plato’s early dialogues, Socrates refutes the accounts of his interlocutors and the discussion ends with no satisfactory answer to the matter investigated.” Which primed my ears, when finally catching up with a recorded program on The Greeks last night, to hear and note that “Many of Socrates’ discussions ended in aporeia: no way forward; a dead end.” Which nicely adds to my response.

    *

    The program added that the Greek philosophers (in general, but definitely including Socrates and his Socratic Method) questioned everything; I note that the Street Epistemologists will question only what they are opposed to.

    Assuming the presenter and researchers were correct, that means Street Epistemology is not in the Greek philosophical tradition, nor even in Socrates’.

    *

    184 on the List, still; 9,816 to go to reach the 10,000 target; at the current rate that should take forever.

  42. Doug says:

    At the current rate (a gain of 184-52=132 since the first archive.org of the page on 23 Dec, 2013, almost 1000 days ago), it will take more than two centuries to reach 10,000.

  43. Dhay says:

    > There is a potential downside of this app. If you have interacted with Gnu atheists in the past, you already know they all tend to sound the same. Dime-a-dozen. But I’m concerned once they all begin relying on their app that this problem will only get worse.

    A recent BBC Radio series, “In Search of Eden” included a 15-minute episode, entitled “Digital Eden”, which discussed the impact of technology on our thinking: if you listen between 09:20 and 11:45 (and don’t tarry so long that the BBC iPlayer podcast expires), you will find report of a properly conducted experiment (repeated once for the recording by the presenter as an illustration) in which a series of people were asked three fairly difficult questions — “What are: 1) the capital of Mongolia, 2) the currency in Iceland and 3) the smallest of the seven continents?”). Some questions were asked with the questioner wearing unmarked clothing, and others asked wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “Google”.

    What was found was that the “Google” T-shirt had a marked effect, substantially reducing how long the person questioned persisted in thinking about the questions. And rightly or wrongly, the researchers concluded that just seeing the word “Google” prompted the people questioned to think they didn’t need to think, didn’t need to remember, they could just look it up.

    The biggest obstacle to reason appears to be, not Christianity in particular or religion in general (as some atheists, including those publicising the recent Reason Rally, seem to imply) but Google.

    I wonder whether technology in the form of the App — just look it up, rather than remember it — will also be an obstacle for the Epistemologists.

  44. Pennywit says:

    Gary Birdsong

  45. Dhay says:

    After an eight-day gap, finally another person has added themself to the list of Street Epistemologists: that’s 185 of them; only another 9,815 to go.

  46. Dhay says:

    One name on the new Street Epistemology List that intrigued me was “Perth. W.Australia” at address “Via Perth, Western Australia, Australia” — surely a blunder there, and the blunder having remained uncorrected for three weeks, despite the site claiming users have full control of what appears, could well indicate here’s someone who signed up but then rapidly lost interest, hasn’t even looked at the List.

    As of this moment, there’s 187 potential Street Epistemologists on the new List, 166 of them visible. Some visibles are rather more visible than others, some of them just revealing a name or partial name, or a pseudonym, with no town or even country stated.

    Of those 166 visibles, I see that just over half of them (84) joined in the four-day period of 22-25 August, which presumably tells us when the new List became open to all-comers; before that, it was open to any from the original 66 on the moribund old List who might still be interested, to get them in prestigious pole position on the new List. The proportion of invisibles has stayed roughly constant at one invisible per seven visibles, so it looks like we can scale that 21 a day early rush of visibles to a 24 a day rush of all Epistemologists signing up in the period.

    Has that early 24 a day rush been sustained? No, for in the last thirteen days only a further five have joined. With 9,813 still to go to hit target, extrapolating the recent trickle, the target should be reached in about seventy years.

    The days pass, and the Street Epistemologists … fade.

  47. Dhay says:

    Ooh, ooh, a nice map has appeared showing where all the Epistemologists are (by nearest town); now they can see clearly how few and far apart they are. And there’s been a rush of 8 newbies so far today, bringing the average for the last fortnight up to one per day (14) and the current total up to 197, with a mere 9,803 still to get.

    https://streetepistemology.com/the-10000/

  48. Dhay says:

    There’s good news for Street Epistemologists; no longer need you or your interlocutor wonder what a reliable epistemology looks like, or how one can validate it as reliable; Richard Carrier has recently announced that:

    … all correct epistemologies are mathematically modeled by BT [Bayes’ Theorem]. All. There is no valid epistemology, that is not simply described by BT.

    http://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/11244

    The Street Epistemologist should guide their interlocutor towards finding and using only reliable epistemologies; but according to Carrier all — that’s all — reliable epistemologies are described by Bayes’ Theorem.

    Epistemologists, the self-appointed authority on correct/valid/reliable epistemologies has spoken: to know what a correct/valid/reliable epistemology looks like, you have to know Bayes’ Theorem yourself, and you have to know how to use it to validate your interlocutor’s epistemologies (or where appropriate invalidate them — easy enough to do, the invalid ones are those which are not simply described by Bayes’ Theorem — so you can know to keep on guiding your interlocutor, and in what direction.)

    And if your interlocutor is also to end up knowing what a correct/valid/reliable epistemology looks like, and actually having one such, you are going to have to bone up on how to teach Bayes’ Theorem to the mathematically backward interlocutors you can typically expect to meet, and …

    As mentioned in ” Preparing useful materials “, set a time limit on the interview. Ideally between 5 and 15 minutes. Avoid talking for more than 1 hour.
    From “The Complete Street Epistemology Guide”

    … and how to teach it, plus whatever else you planned to do, in the five to fifteen minutes (or up to an hour maximum) short time you have allocated yourself.

    There might be a problem with learning Bayes’ Theorem; although Carrier has explained Bayes’ Theorem in simple laypeoples’ language in at least one of his books, it seems that some expert users of Bayes’ Theorem Carriers have ended up very confused by his explanation, even by his allegedly sometimes idiosyncratic terminology. Carrier has apparently corrected their misunderstandings, to his satisfaction, so I don’t suppose you will have difficulty in understanding, then repeating to your interlocutor, the simple explanations Carrier has given.

    Good luck with Bayes’ Theorem, don’t for a moment forget that there is no valid epistemology that is not simply described by it, and go get out there!

  49. TFBW says:

    I wonder how Carrier knows that “all correct epistemologies are mathematically modeled by BT.”

  50. Doug says:

    Don’t be silly: he applied BT, and the calculation came out with probability 1, of course.

  51. TFBW says:

    My expectations are lower than that.

  52. Michael says:

    Richard Carrier has recently announced that:

    … all correct epistemologies are mathematically modeled by BT [Bayes’ Theorem]. All. There is no valid epistemology, that is not simply described by BT.

    So why doesn’t he use BT to resolve the dispute with Myers et al.? Instead, he has chosen to hire lawyers to present his case to a jury. That Carrier will take a lawyer over BT to resolve an issue so centrally important to him tells us his posturing about BT is just that – posturing.

  53. Dhay says:

    The number of signed-up Epistemologists, as I indicated above, tends to increase in surges and lulls. When I reported “8 newbies so far today” on the 25th last, the final increase by end of day (BST) was 14, the third biggest daily increase so far; then it went relatively quiet again, with 6 in the next three completed days, for a total of 22 in the last week of completed days — albeit with a total for the fortnight of only 25, nicely highlighting what I said about the surges (after talks?) and the lulls.

    The List has been open for two completed months, now, so we can get some idea of where Epistemologist numbers are heading. With the proviso that the figure for a day was a snapshot from whenever I last viewed the List that day, and might well be a couple or so out — it all smooths out long-term, of course — the two monthly increases in Epistemologist numbers so far are (or are close to):
    By 24/08/16: 128
    By 24/09/16: 60

    209 Epistemologists so far, 9,791 to go, at an overall average rate which should see the target reached in as soon as 8.5 years, but a last-fortnight average which tells us to better expect 15 years.

    The expected time to 10,000 varies so much on a short time-scale that I will just give the occasional update (with intervening summary history) from now on. It’s what happens long-term that matters, though I think I can already discern a trend.

  54. Dhay says:

    From 6.8 What to avoid in the Guide:

    Constructing hypothetical scenarios: Avoid introducing hypothetical scenarios, because they are weaker than real scenarios. … … While thought experiments … are common in philosophical arguments, you’ll do better in epistemological dialogue by keeping the dialogue firmly grounded in reality, rather than allowing it to drift off into metaphysics and hypothetical worlds.

    That’s absolutely right. When you start spinning fantastical hypotheticals such as …

    1. Imagine that al-Qaeda is filled, not with God-intoxicated sociopaths intent upon creating a global caliphate, but genuine humanitarians. Based on their research, they believe that a deadly batch of vaccine has made it into the U.S. pharmaceutical supply. They have communicated their concerns to the FDA but were rebuffed. Acting rashly, with the intention of saving millions of lives, they unleash a computer virus, targeted to impede the release of this deadly vaccine. As it turns out, they are right about the vaccine but wrong about the consequences of their meddling—and they wind up destroying half the pharmaceuticals in the U.S.

    https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-limits-of-discourse

    … your interlocutor knows here’s a right nutter.

  55. Dhay says:

    When physicist Luke A Barnes reviewed Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True, back at the end of 2011, he did so from the position that in order to comment on Coyne’s claims, not being a biologist himself, he had to focus not on the biology and whether Coyne got his facts right but on, well, what you Epistemologist guys would call Coyne’s epistemology, how he knows what he claims to know, and whether that epistemology is reliable or not.

    In short, Barnes carries out an epistemological analysis of Coyne’s Why Evolution is True.

    Here’s the link to the first of three parts, which links onwards to the others:

    https://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/book-review-why-evolution-is-true-by-jerry-coyne-part-1/

    You should find it a very interesting education in how to question someone’s epistemology. Enjoy and learn.

  56. Dhay says:

    From 4.4 Building rapport in the The Complete Street Epistemology Guide:

    Adopt collaborative stance with the interlocutor. You are there to seek truth and reliable ways of knowing what’s true …

    Let’s see what Plato’s Socrates says is the essential preparation for this task of seeking truth and reliable ways of knowing it; the necessary preparation is stated in The Republic, the same book as Peter Boghossian’s Cave metaphor appears, so I’m sure you’ve all read it.

    Until age 18 the would-be Guardians — those who are being trained in how to apprehend Truth ** so that they can go into the Cave to rescue its allegedly benighted inhabitants and bring them into the light of Truth — should be engaged in basic intellectual study and physical training (ie complete full normal schooling, as we would say today) …

    … followed by two years of military training. Next, they receive ten years of mathematics until age 30, and then five years of dialectic training. Guardians then spend the next 15 years as leaders, trying to “lead people from the cave”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_(Plato)#Book_III

    You guys have been through all this extensive education, haven’t you. Ten years of maths — tick. A further five years of dialectics — tick. There’s not a one of you under age 35, is there. Think, who would know better than Socrates what’s the necessary preparation.

    *

    ** Yes, it’s capital-T Truth, not truth: Plato’s Socrates means something very different by Truth than anything you and I mean by truth, so do beware.

    *

    A quick update on the List, which as I said above has a rather erratic rate of increase, with surges, trickles and some very quiet periods — at the moment it’s very quiet, with only 12 newbies added in the fortnight ending 16 October, and only one newbie in this last (the second) week.

    There was a clumped surge in invisibles since last report: I presume those newbies are located either in Muskogee or in the Middle East (ie ex-Muslims inspired by Boghossian’s recent article about how New Atheism can fight Islamic extremism — you’re sensible not to tell Boghossian who or where you are, guys, he’d shop you.)

    The average rate of joining since the 24 July start has now dropped enough that it now corresponds to reaching 10,000 in ten years; or at the average rate since that 26 August ‘knuckle’ when the original rush sharply reduced, 16 years; or at the average rate in the last fortnight, 31 years. Looks like a tail-off.

    But it’s erratic, and numbers could spurt upwards again, so watch this space.

  57. Dhay says:

    From 4.4 Building rapport in the The Complete Street Epistemology Guide:

    Adopt collaborative stance with the interlocutor. You are there to seek truth and reliable ways of knowing what’s true, not to prove yourself right and them wrong. Frame the dialogue as a partnership. For example: “How can we figure out whether there is a reliable way to know that this is true?”

    So you, who are probably not a philosopher or trained in epistemology (your degree will certify your competence if you are) will work collaboratively with someone who almost certainly is not a philosopher or trained in epistemology “to seek truth and reliable ways of knowing what’s true”.

    In principle, that’s a project doomed from the start, the blind guiding the blind. If you get anywhere, it will be because you or your interlocutor has extraordinary natural talent, such that you can individually or collaboratively overcome your initial ignorance and incompetence.

    *

    Of course, once these truths have been discovered, and once these reliable ways of knowing what’s true have been discovered, we can be sure that, being truth and being reliable ways, they will be truths and reliable ways which are truths and reliable ways for everyone — that is, they don’t need to be derived from scratch and first principles at each and every Street Epistemology encounter, they can be put into a database, they can be added to the Atheos App.

    Thinking about it, I realise that Peter Boghossian has been collaboratively finding truth and reliable ways of knowing what’s true via Street Epistemology since before he wrote his A Manual For Creating Atheists book about it; his findings will be in the book, won’t they. And there’s been 66 signed-up Street Epistemologists active for more than three years, their accumulated knowledge of what is truth and accumulated knowledge of reliable ways of knowing what’s true must be quite voluminous by now — I expect it’s in the Atheos App already.

    And with 232 Epistemologists officially signed up, there must now be a veritable flood of truth and reliable ways of knowing what’s true flooding in and being shared. I don’t see it in the The Complete Street Epistemology Guide, so I presume in somewhere else in Resources, presumably in the parts reserved for Epistemologist eyes only. And of course it will be added to the App when that gets updated.

    Guys, it really would be nice if that accumulated knowledge of truth and of reliable ways of knowing what’s true which together with your interlocutors you have collaboratively figured out — it would be nice if you would share it with us poor ignorant cave-dwellers.

    *

    Don’t claim the scientific method is a reliable way of knowing things, even in science; have you not read Feyerabend’s Against Method, in which he points out that all methods sooner or later reach a limit where further progress requires abandoning the current method for something new, use whatever brings progress not any particular method.

    *

    Ah, the reason the accumulated truth and reliable ways of knowing what’s true haven’t yet been shared because they haven’t passed peer review. I look forward to it passing that necessary hurdle.

  58. Dhay says:

    Here’s a quotation from Plato’s account of the trial of Socrates The Apology:

    When I left him, I reasoned thus with myself: I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.

    https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Socrates#Apology

    Does that last part look familiar? Ah yes, it looks very like Peter Boghossian’s definition of faith:

    “pretending to know things that you don’t know”

    Boghossian, judging by the centrality of both the Cave metaphor and the Socratic Method in his Epistemological thought and Atheos App, is evidently a Socrates-phile; so I doubt the similarity is accidental, he’s closely modelled his “faith” definition on this saying of Socrates.

    *

    Let’s pull out what we can from this quote, significant as it obviously is to Boghossian:

    The Socratic method doesn’t lead to truth and reliable ways of knowing what’s true, it’s method for discovering you and your interlocutor don’t ever know anything.

    Boghossian thinks himself superior (adults’ table) to Christians because he is a know-nothing.

  59. Dhay says:

    The List has been open for three completed months, now, so we can get some idea of where Epistemologist numbers are heading. Those three monthly increases in Epistemologist numbers (inclusive of the end-dates) are:
    To 24/08/16: 128
    To 24/09/16: 60
    To 24/10/16: 46

    I wonder what the long-term trend is going to be.

  60. Dhay says:

    Richard Carrier recently announced that:

    … all correct epistemologies are mathematically modeled by BT [Bayes’ Theorem]. All. There is no valid epistemology, that is not simply described by BT.

    And I commented that when the Street Epistemologist guides their interlocutor towards finding and using only reliable epistemologies, they should take to heart Carrier’s claim that all reliable epistemologies — every last one of them, no exceptions — are described by Bayes’ Theorem.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2016/04/21/street-epistemologists-get-their-needed-crutch/#comment-14871

    At the time, I was being tongue-in-cheek about Epistemologists using Bayes’ Theorem, but if you look in The Complete Street Epistemology Guide you will find that Section 2.3 What it’s based on tells the Epistemologist in “we Epistemologists do this” language that:

    We also compare and evaluate the probabilities of competing explanations using Bayesian inference …

    So Bayes’ Theorem wasn’t overlooked after all; “compar[ing] and evaluat[ing] the probabilities of competing explanations using Bayesian inference” is in the Guide as something which Epistemologists should do, and some — enough to call “we” — already have been doing.

    Allow me to doubt that.

    You have to evaluate probabilities before you can compare them; the Guide’s wording and meaning has it arse-backwards.

    Bayesian probabilities are not anything you can evaluate qualitatively, they are numbers; they have to be calculated from other numbers, so: do you Epistemologists go out armed with numerical values for a number of prior probabilities — there’s no indication in the Guide that you do, or any resource that I can find to say what are the official SE-approved prior probabilities and their SE-approved values — so that you can plug these priors into Bayes’ Theorem to evaluate numbers to compare with a second or subsequent calculation of the probability of the alternatives; or do you just supply spur-of-moment make-it-up-as-you-go prior probabilities from your own ignorance, or else ask your interlocutor to supply make-it-up-as-you-go values from their own ignorance.

    No, I don’t think you go out prepared to calculate and compare the probabilities of competing explanations using Bayesian inference. You don’t go out armed with the requisite information and numbers.

    Nor do you go out prepared to do calculations; the equipment list in 3.2 Presentation and materials includes “writing materials such as a whiteboard and marker, or clipboard and pad of paper” (also a timer, and your contact details cards): no calculator.

    So it all gets worked out longhand on the whiteboard or notepad, does it; there’s no mention of a pre-printed formula for Bayes’ Theorem, so that’s going to have be written out first, or your interlocutor won’t know what figures should be plugged in where; so you’ll be working from memory writing out a complicated formula on something like that little whiteboard depicted in the Guide. Then, to show correct working, as one should, you write the formula again, this time with the various values substituted for the various terms … doing a mental calculation of the time and space needed, I don’t think you can possibly get one calculation let alone the two or more separate calculations needed if you are to compare the evaluated probabilities of competing explanations using Bayesian inference — doing that mental calculation, I say that if you say you are already doing this on your whiteboard (or notepad) or that anybody has ever done so in the street with an interlocutor, and all within ten to fifteen minutes, you are bullshitting.

    The Guide looks very reassuring, telling the Epistemologist that they will be using inductive reasoning, deductive reasoning, an expert on fallacies, will understand testimony and the problems testimony sometimes has; they will know about coherentism, foundationalism and pragmatism, falsifiability and defeasibility tests, and Occam’s razor and the Outsider Test; in short, the Epistemologist is being told they will be (“we are”) superbly expert in just about everything. Well talked-up, I say, well puffed. Well, perhaps you really are that person who can do all this, and actually does it, and competently.

    But Bayes’ Theorem is also on the list of things you are apparently expert in, you know how to use it, and you or some other Epistemologist like you already does use it: except that on the evidence of your recommended whiteboard size and lack of a calculator, I’d say that that’s a pretension rather than a reality, and that you are probably guilty of a faith claim, where faith here is as Peter Boghossian defines it: “Pretending to know what you don’t know”.

  61. Kevin says:

    I wish I could be an interlocutor for a street epistemologist. I think the results would be humorous enough to justify the time spent.

  62. Dhay says:

    Kevin > I wish I could be an interlocutor for a street epistemologist. I think the results would be humorous enough to justify the time spent.

    Looking at 5.7 Guiding the dialogue in The Complete Street Epistemology Guide:

    Stay engaged in guiding the dialogue, whether it is casual or serious. Think of yourself as the passenger in a car talking to the driver about why they are going this way. You wouldn’t grab the wheel and steer the car yourself, but you might ask questions about how they know which way to go, or offer a suggestion if they are having trouble knowing where they are going.

    Remain vigilant of possible forks in the road that may move the conversation too far away from the objectives. Guide the dialogue away from: … ; facts, politics, apologetics ; …; by saying: “I’m not an expert on…” facts, politics, apologetics …

    https://streetepistemology.com/publications/the_complete_se_guide
    [pdf download]

    This talks of guiding rather than steering, but that’s just word-play; I reckon that what the Epistemologist is here exhorted to do is accurately described in ordinary English usage as (by constant engagement and vigilance to make a strong attempt at) “steering the conversation”.

    The Epistemologist wants the conversation to go their way, towards the Epistemologist’s objectives, will make every effort to turn the conversation that way; and will make every effort to turn the conversation away from facts — so goodbye to any pretence of using Bayes’ Theorem, which uses fact numerical values as priors — to turn the conversation away from apologetics, and to turn the conversation away from their own beliefs and claims, away from anything that can be challenged.

    I suspect that if you frustrate an Epistemologist in their attempt to steer the dialogue towards where they are single-mindedly determined it should end up, they will treat you as hostile, judge further dialogue pointless because obviously unproductive of what they want to achieve, and withdraw from the dialogue. The best you can normally expect, I think, when an Epistemologist is determined to follow the Guide, is that the dialogue end after the notional ten minutes with no progress on either part.

    Of course, you might find one who would revert to traditional methods and give you an apologetics/anti-apologetics dialogue based on facts, evidence, history and logic (at best or stereotypes, memes and tropes at worst), but they wouldn’t then be doing Street Epistemology.

  63. TFBW says:

    I know it’s all a sham, really, but I’d still like a chance to talk to a self-professed Street Epistemologist. Does the Guide talk about what to do in the case where your interlocutor says something along the lines of, “you want to talk epistemology? Outstanding! That’s one of my favourite subjects!”

  64. Dhay says:

    It seems to have already happened, when Peter Boghossian, the inventor and expert on Street Epistemology, what it is, how to apply it, etc, debated Tim McGrew in 2014.

    Blogger aRemonstrant was scathing:

    https://aremonstrantsramblings.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/when-street-epistemology-met-a-real-epistemologist/

  65. Dhay says:

    My last update of the increase in Epistemologist numbers reported that in the third completed month, to and including 24/10/16, was 46 (including two early unusually large daily increases, 15 and 7 (five invisible)); the increase in the 30 days to and including 02/11/16 was a mere 21.

    I wonder what the long-term trend is going to be.

  66. Dhay says:

    Here’s a YouTube video in which Anthony Magnabosco, lecturing on Street Epistemology to the Secular Student Alliance at the University of Texas, San Antonio, talks about appropriate responses by Epistemologists to their interlocutors’ claims, with examples; the first example, running from 6:20 to 8:30 approximately, is how they might respond to a claim Magnabosco had encountered on that same campus, namely “Pornography should be banned”.

    It’s interesting for several reasons. Note first of all that the potential responses he elicits from the audience and most of those that he supplies himself are the “wrong” responses in a street dialogue, responses which will probably antagonise the interlocutor and derail the dialogue.

    Also note that he and his SSA audience take it for granted that those responses are only “wrong” because they lead to that failure to dialogue: pornography is something, he says, “which we all enjoy”; and the suggested responses from Magnabosco, and from the students, which the SSA students might reasonably be expected to come up with include “Hell no!”, “It’s healthy! There is nothing wrong with porn.” (“We probably all agree with that, but as far as engaging …”), and “I can assure you porn is awesome!” (“While you really might think that …”).

    Magnabosco and his SSA audience are atheists, but A+, or SJWs and Feminists they certainly are not; many atheists, particularly those on the A+ wing, would condemn him and them for this. The SJW and Feminist Richard Carrier, who has criticised Peter Boghossian for “Godless Misogyny” would surely disapprove of Magnabosco.

    (“Godless Misogyny” is a section heading of Carrier’s blog post entitled Peter Boghossian on Gay Pride and Hobnobbing with an Online Misogynist; see also Carrier’s first reply in the Comments:
    Q: So why did you teach a course based on this misogynist’s book together with the said misogynist?
    RC: Because I thought he would engage in reasonable discourse about it, might change his mind, and our students would learn something. He engaged in no discourse about it at all. That was one of the last straws that made me realize he can’t be improved by open dialogue. I just had to cut him loose after that. … … http://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/7079 )

    (I also spot: “Similarly, in Peter Boghossian’s otherwise useful book A Manual for Creating Atheists, he included a chapter that attacked all feminists as reactionary postmodernist enemies of reason and reality.” Why Atheism Needs Feminismhttp://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/6788 )

    The audience laughs or titters as if in agreement, or in actual agreement with the suggested responses; but it occurs to me that any woman (or man) unhappy with the culture on show at that lecture will either not turn up to further meetings, or cottoned on a few meetings ago and didn’t turn up this time. Is it any surprise that atheist groups and conferences seem dominated numerically by males.

    *

    The thirty-day increase in Epistemologist List numbers to and including 04 November 2016 was 19. There were no surges in that period – three newbies was the most in a single day (one of) – and most days nobody joined.

    I wonder what the long-term trend is going to be.

  67. Dhay says:

    That video clip is worth further comment. Firstly, Anthony Magnabosco, suggesting appropriate responses to “Pornography should be banned” takes it for granted that that’s wrong, pornography should not be banned; there’s not a suggestion that Magnabosco considered before, during or since that dialogue, or the audience should themselves consider and evaluate, the arguments for and against; or whether there are qualifiers, like perhaps child pornography should be banned and why so; or the issue of what counts as pornography and who decides where the line falls.

    Perhaps Magnabosco has a training video or video’d lecture that I haven’t seen – I haven’t looked far – in which he uses Street Epistemology techniques to challenge the epistemology of someone who eg claims (see last response) “There is nothing wrong with porn. It’s healthy!” and gets them to seriously reconsider their position; or perhaps it’s somewhere in the App; but somehow he comes over as too much of a misogynist to expect to find he has: “I can assure you porn is awesome!” is his attitude.

    Nor do I expect to find any training video, lecture or App material in which an Epistemologist sought to challenge the epistemology of someone who claims something along the lines of “There definitely is no God”, or “The historical Jesus is a myth”, or “Evil disproves the existence of God”, and got their interlocutor to reconsider their position: it’s all very very one-sided, and although there is lip-service to the necessity for the Epistemologist to be doxastically open themselves and to put their own beliefs and claims up for reconsideration, I see no sign of that.

    I note a recent Truthdigarticle about Noam Chomsky praises him as a Left-Wing intellectual who criticises not only the Right Wing, but also his fellow Left-Wingers. Whatever you might think about Chomsky, he certainly talks of taking a skeptical attitude toward everything

    “I try to encourage people to think for themselves, to question standard assumptions,” Chomsky said when asked about his goals. “Don’t take assumptions for granted. Begin by taking a skeptical attitude toward anything that is conventional wisdom. Make it justify itself. It usually can’t. Be willing to ask questions about what is taken for granted. Try to think things through for yourself. There is plenty of information. You have got to learn how to judge, evaluate and compare it with other things.

    http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/noam-chomsky-has-never-seen-anything-like-this/

    …whereas Epistemologists seem very selective and partisan regarding what claims they will question and challenge – hence are certainly not disinterested seekers of truth.

    *

    Secondly Magnabosco, who early says “I’ve literally had this conversation with somebody on this campus, and it went almost exactly like I’m going to outline”, outlines that he responded to his interlocutor’s “Porn destroys people’s lives” with – Magnabosco made this response, so obviously it’s claimed to be the ‘best’ response to use (and the little “light bulb” icon indicates that too) – is: “If evidence were to show otherwise **, would you still want to ban porn?”

    “If …”, “… were …”: this is not saying that any such contrary evidence exists and might be produced – on the face of it Magnabosco himself has no idea whether such evidence exists – it certainly does not actually produce it, quote and discuss the methodology (think epistemology and you will know why methodology is important) and the researchers’ conclusions and their relevance to the interlocutor’s “destroys lives” claim; nor does it deny that there might be or is evidence for the interlocutor’s position, or that there might be or is evidence both ways, and the jury is out; all we really learn is that Magnabosco is ignorant of whatever evidence is out there or just doesn’t care, is bullshitting.

    We also learn that Magnabosco has a talent for spotting dummies: instead of throwing back the obvious challenge and critically examining such evidence as Magnabosco might produce **, the response he elicits is “Hmmm….” (8:36); Magnabosco is certainly picking the low-hanging fruit if he can get that response so quickly and easily.

    (** Had the interlocutor done so, we may be sure Magnabosco would have “guided” the dialogue rapidly in other directions, away from producing evidence, following the advice in 5.7 Guiding the dialogue to steer away from facts (which will include research papers and their findings), from politics and from apologetics (which will include any contention of contentious issues – like this one.))

    Or perhaps Peter Boghossian has discovered a successful soft-pressure technique and Magnabosco developed it; a technique which makes some people sufficiently suggestible that a mere suggestion that there possibly – possibly, not probably – might be an evidenced argument for a position contrary to theirs, that mere suggestion of a maybe makes them immediately feel their position has been undercut.

    Quick question: do you think Anthony Magnabosco would make a very good used-car salesman?

    *

    The process of relentless questioning what you thought you knew and what other people think they know, of seeking out and relentless questioning existing alternative viewpoints and brainstorming new viewpoints to also relentlessly challenge is process which is very destructive of and undermining of any certainty. I should know, I went through such a process in my early twenties, and it seemed there was nothing – including my then atheist philosophical materialist certainties – which could withstand doubt and which could stand up as a certainty.

    Philosophy professor Matt McCormick has commented that “proving one claim always relies upon other claims that can, with some ingenuity, be called into question. Very little seems to be beyond some form of doubt, so for the determined skeptic, some sort of worries can always be engineered. Of course, that skeptic has much worse problems to deal with than the mere fact that we cannot prove God’s existence or non-existence to his satisfaction. His worries cut equally across all putative knowledge claims, whether they are trivial or momentous. So the theist need not respond to the skeptic as if the skeptic’s challenges are the theist’s alone to bear.”

    (I changed two letters (only) in that quote.)

    “Very little” seems to be beyond some form of doubt; or, re-phrased, just about everything is susceptible to some form of doubt. Whereas Epistemologists seem very selective and partisan regarding what claims they will question and challenge – hence are certainly not disinterested seekers of truth.

  68. Dhay says:

    In an 2014 post, Michael quoted from Peter Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists:

    It is crucial that the religious exemption for delusion be removed from the DSM. Once religious delusions are integrated into the DSM, entirely new categories of research and treatment into the problem of faith can be created. These will include removal of existing ethical barriers, changing treatments covered by insurance, including faith-based special education programs in the schools, helping children who have been indoctrinated into a faith tradition, and legitimizing interventions designed to rid subjects of the faith affliction.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/so-are-christians-supposed-to-be-mentally-ill-or-not/

    Read it carefully: “existing ethical barriers”; “legitimizing interventions designed to rid subjects of the faith affliction.”

    Do think about it; and do think about Boghossian being already engaged, when he wrote the book, in interventions — “interventions” is Boghossian’s description of what has been handed down to you, little changed, now called “dialogues” — Boghossian was already engaged in “interventions designed to rid subjects of the faith affliction”.

    If, in the absence of that DSM change, there were and are “existing ethical barriers”, those interventions were (and still are) ethically barred; they were and are unethical.

    And if a DSM change would legitimize Street Epistemology interventions, that clearly indicates that Boghossian realises that without a DSM change his interventions were — and “dialogues” still are — not legitimized, ie they are illegitimate.

    And that raises a question about Peter Boghossian: he engaged in his interventions fully recognising them to be illegitimate and unethical.

    Likewise today’s Street Epistemologists engage in practices which Boghossian has publicly recognised, indeed proclaimed, are illegitimate and unethical.

  69. Dhay says:

    Why should “interventions designed to rid subjects of the faith” be illegitimate and unethical in the absence of a change to the DSM? Peter Boghossian doesn’t tell us why medical ethics should be in any way relevant to an intervention or to that now-renamed intervention, the dialogue, but it’s hidden in plain view:

    Through the remainder of chapters four through six, Boghossian covers Motivational Interviewing techniques, the Transtheoretical Model of Change, the Socratic method …

    http://godlesshaven.com/a-manual-for-creating-atheists/

    When I look up what Motivational Interviewing techniques and the Transtheoretical Model of Change are, I find they are primarily for use by psychotherapists (and their lesser cousins, behavioural therapists and counsellors) in the treatment of people suffering from cocaine addiction, alcohol addiction, child abusers and the like. The Socratic Method can be used in conjunction with these.

    Boghossian will have learned of these techniques etc as part of his Doctorate of Education project and thesis:

    Boghossian’s thesis looks at the use with prison inmates of the Socratic method for critical thinking and moral reasoning with the intention to decrease ongoing criminal behaviour.
    (Wikipedia.)

    Looks like prison inmate re-education Boghossian-style is a euphemism for what amounts to therapy; therapy given to people perceived as undesirables who need their way of thinking redirected; their attitudes have been medicalised as in need of therapy.

    Boghossian’s Street Epistemology “interventions” as per his book were explicitly framed as treatments for people with medicalised psychological problems requiring attitude change.

    Anthony Magnabosco’s Street Epistemology “dialogues” are modelled closely on Boghossian’s “interventions”, and are implicitly framed as treatments for people with medicalised psychological problems requiring attitude change.

    It’s one thing to give psychotherapy, behavioural therapy or counselling to someone who has requested it. It’s quite another to give psychotherapy, behavioural therapy or counselling to someone who hasn’t requested it, and hasn’t a clue that they are being treated as a patient.

    Indeed, they are being treated like a cocaine addict, alcoholic, child abuser or criminal.

    It’s unethical.

  70. TFBW says:

    It would be unethical if he were a professional. I think “quackery” is the appropriate term otherwise.

  71. Dhay says:

    “Quackery” may well be the appropriate term, not that quackery is ethical.

    I disagree strongly with your first sentence: what is unethical practice by someone who is appropriately knowledgeable and trained, who is of proven competency, and who is subject to the codes of practice and oversight provided by a professional ethics body, that same practice is very unethical practice by someone who is ignorant, untrained, of unproven competence, and who doesn’t even know that medical ethics apply to medical practices.

    One very basic part of medical ethic is that you don’t give a medical intervention to someone without their informed knowledge of what that intervention is (including its aims, what it treats, and the risks or side-effects, if any). That’s basic.

    There are various exceptions to this, for example when an urgent life-saving medical intervention is required and the informed consent of the patient, next of kin or the patient’s Living Will cannot be obtained in time; there is an exception when a mental health patient is so deluded and so in need of protective custody and treatment that (in the UK) two doctors must independently examine and certify to authorise the confinement and treatment. But …

    These exceptions do not apply in a Street Epistemology situation; the interlocutor gives no informed consent to be treated as a patient; there is no informed consent obtained — or even sought — for a medicalised psychological intervention to treat the interlocutor’s alleged delusions.

    *

    If the Epistemologist does think their interlocutor medically deluded — if I read Boghossian’s quoted paragraph correctly, he thinks religious faith is a DSM-worthy medical problem, and presumably his Street Epistemologist followers, non-medically trained as they are by Boghossian’s book and Boghossian’s App, also think this … if the Epistemologist does think their interlocutor medically deluded, what the heck are they doing providing medical treatment, unqualified.

    And if the Epistemologist doesn’t think their interlocutor medically deluded, what the heck are they doing providing medical treatment.

  72. Dhay says:

    The Epistemologist List numbers have now reached 250, or 2.5% of Peter Boghossian’s desired 10,000. So it’s time to take a snapshot:

    The average rate of increase since the List was launched projects to reaching the target in about 12 years.

    On or about 26 August 2016 there was a sharp ‘knuckle’, where the rapid initial increase of Epistemologist numbers leveled out into a series of spurts and sometimes lengthy lulls; the average rate of increase since that ‘knuckle’ projects to reaching the target in about 20 years.

    The average rate of increase (22 newbies) for the most recent thirty days, to and including 13 November 2016, projects to reaching the target in about 37 years.

    The average rate of increase (8 newbies) for the most recent fortnight, to and including 13 November 2016, projects to reaching the target in about 46 years.

    I wonder what the long-term trend is going to be.

  73. Dhay says:

    The second paragraph quoted by Michael from Peter Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists continues to lament that the DSM contains “the religious exemption for delusion”:

    Removing the exemption that classifies a phenomenon as an officially recognized psychiatric disorder legitimizes research designed to cure the disorder. These classifications also enable researchers to assess their treatments and to continue to build upon what works. Of course there will be institutional and social barriers discouraging research into controversial areas, but with this one change the major barrier—receiving approval from the IRB to disabuse human subjects of faith—would be instantly overcome.

    Although Boghossian’s first sentence is rather garbled, the meaning is recognisable in context: Boghossian wants the “religious exemption” removed because right NOW research designed to “cure” the “disorder” is not legitimate, and unless and until the exemption is removed, if ever, research designed to “cure” the “disorder” will continue to be illegitimate.

    Reading on, Boghossian is very aware very aware that the IRB (the ethics board) would certainly not approve research into how to “disabuse human subjects of faith”.

    But Boghossian, knowing full well that research into how to “disabuse human subjects of faith”, and likewise the practice of how to “disabuse human subjects of faith” (Street Epistemology) — knowing that neither of them would get permission from the ethics board, Boghossian has ploughed ahead with that very research and practice which he knows full well is unethical, is illegitimate, and for which he does not have the permission he obviously desires and needs.

    *

    I wonder whether Boghossian’s complaints at the “religious exemption” are because he initially wanted to conduct research into how to “disabuse human subjects of faith”; but got refused permission, it’s unethical; so he had to settle for a proxy which presumably is ethical, namely how to disabuse prisoners of the propensity to re-offend. He seems to have used the same methods in his interventions on the prisoners as he has applied in his Street Epistemology interventions on Christians, and to have researched them on the prisoners.

  74. Dhay says:

    H/T Crude, who has the book, for Peter Boghossian’s next, the third paragraph, which is also revealing:

    There is perhaps no greater contribution one could make to contain and perhaps even cure faith than removing the exemption that prohibits classifying religious delusions as mental illness. The removal of religious exemptions from the DSM would enable academicians and clinicians to bring considerable resources to bear on the problem of treating faith, as well as on the ethical issues surrounding these faith-based interventions. In the long term, once these treatments and this body of research is refined, results could then be used to inform public health policies designed to contain and ultimately eradicate faith.

    http://dangerousidea.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/on-religion-and-persecution.html?showComment=1394830518809#c39048460734082599

    Boghossian wants the “religious exemption” removed from the DSM because that would enable clinicians — medically qualified people — to bring “bring considerable resources to bear on the problem of treating faith”; in ordinary English, that obscure sentence probably means the clinicians would then be able to apply for and get research funding from bodies such as the NIH.

    Not just clinicians, he says, but also people with no medical qualifications: according to Boghossian, “it would enable academicians” (such as himself — he probably has himself especially in mind) to “treat” faith medically, enable mere academicians to provide medical treatments to religious people.

    If I read him right, Boghossian points out that there would be “ethical issues surrounding these faith-based interventions”, and that these ethical issues need “considerable resources” to resolve. That being so, why does he think he has sorted out the ethical issues single-handedly and without consultation, and without reference to the IRB (the official ethics board) — he must have resolved these ethical issues, mustn’t he, for it would otherwise be very unethical for Boghossian to proceed with and continue with his interventions, or for Street Epistemologists to proceed with or continue with their dialogues.

    Again, he stresses that eradicating (!) faith is a public health matter; that’s to say, he acknowledges that Epistemological interventions/dialogues are a public health matter, and amount to medical intervention and treatment.

    “Street Epistemology” appears to be a euphemism for unqualified people providing medical treatment to people who haven’t asked for it and are unaware they are being given treatment. Although it sounds like it’s philosophy (or even science), real cool stuff, it’s quack medicine performed without a licence.

  75. Dhay says:

    > … and ultimately eradicate faith.

    In his 20 November blog post entitled “Why Roger Ebert could have given God’s not Dead 2 Four Stars” Randal Rauser points out that although the film was panned by the critics, it’s a very successful (in audience terms) film of its genre, “that under-appreciated category known as the Christian propaganda film.”

    In the film the heroine, Grace, is attacked on all sides, but especially by the:

    … bile-filled atheistic ACLU lawyer … [who] … in particular embodies the evangelical’s paranoid projection of Christian-hating liberals … when Grace’s lawyer says that people view her Christian faith as a plague on society that needs to be eradicated, you know he isn’t exaggerating.

    http://randalrauser.com/2016/11/roger-ebert-given-gods-not-dead-2-four-stars/

    If it’s a propaganda film, that bile-filled ACLU lawyer is going to be a ‘pantomime character’, a savagely drawn caricature with no equivalent in real life.

    But as a re-reading of my quote in the response will show, that way-over-the-top character does have a real-life counterpart, an equivalent in real life: his name is Peter Boghossian.

  76. Dhay says:

    The List has been open for four completed months, now, so we can get some idea of where Epistemologist numbers are heading. Those four monthly increases in Epistemologist numbers (inclusive of the end-dates) are:
    Month to 24/08/16: 128
    Month to 24/09/16: ..60
    Month to 24/10/16: ..46
    Month to 24/11/16: ..24

    I wonder what the long-term trend is going to be.

  77. Dhay says:

    I see that on the first page of A Manual For Creating Atheists it says:

    The goal of this book is to create a generation of Street Epistemologists: people equipped with an array of dialectical and clinical tools …

    http://humanitas.org/?p=3351

    Note that “and clinical”: Peter Boghossian wants his Epistemologists to go out as untrained doctors — to go out as untrained doctors and to do what trained doctors wouldn’t do because, as pointed out above, it would be unethical for doctors to do so; and as also pointed out above Boghossian knows full well, and laments, it would be unethical for anyone to do so.

    In case anyone still misses the point that Street Epistemology is not about a mere dialogue as chat — not in Boghossian’s eyes, and not as sold in his book — here’s another quote from the first chapter:

    A Manual for Creating Atheists offers practical solutions to the problems of faith and religion through the creation of Street Epistemologists—legions of people who view interactions with the faithful as clinical interventions designed to disabuse them of their faith.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/peter-boghossian-has-a-talent/

    Street Epistemologists are “people who view interactions with the faithful as clinical interventions”; and no, “clinical intervention” is not equivalent to what the military call a “surgical strike”, it’s a clinical intervention, one requiring but lacking the approval of the appropriate clinical ethics board.

    When you Epistemologists examined your own epistemology, the epistemology underlying your claim that for you to practice Street Epistemology is OK and ethical, perhaps that epistemology should have included reading and understanding Boghossian’s book.

  78. Dhay says:

    UK Fire & Rescue Services all have Firesetter Intervention Officers who visit homes where there are children who are playing with matches, fascinated with fire, or setting small fires. The idea is that by spending half an hour with a child, at as early an age and stage as you can, before firesetting becomes ‘normal’, the young person can be gently diverted away from developing into an extremely dangerous arsonist adult.

    So there’s lots of firefighters (in pairs) performing behaviour-changing interventions: what they are not performing is medical interventions, they are not performing clinical interventions; although they are properly trained in what they do, they are not, they know they are not, and they will never claim to be, medically or clinically trained or qualified.

    They have proper training, management, supervision, and accountability to management. And they are always performing the intervention at the informed express request of the guardian(s).

    *

    Contrast this with the Street Epistemologist, who goes out to perform those interventions which Peter Boghossian describes as medical interventions, as clinical interventions, which are currently unethical and illegitimate and which will remain unethical and illegitimate in any expectable short- and medium-term future — until the DSM gets changed, if ever.

    The Epistemologist has probably not received training, but trained themself, and did so using distance learning — reading Boghossian’s book, running through the Atheos App content, reading the Guide, and watching YouTube videos; a few — a few — might have had an hour or so’s talk or lecture from eg Anthony Magnabosco. For a medical or clinical intervention, that seems or is woefully inadequate.

    I see nothing in Boghossian’s CV to say he is competent to teach or practice the medical or clinical intervention which he claims Street Epistemology is. As regards Magnabosco, I have no direct information — though in the last video I saw he described himself as a 46 year old stay at home dad; so if he ever was qualified, he’s not keeping up the Continual Professional Development usually required to maintain professional qualifications; so I can reasonably presume him likely likewise unqualified to teach or practice medical or clinical interventions such Boghossian claims Street Epistemology is.

    Training, then, is essentially a No.

    Management, supervision, monitoring and accountability to management? I’ll take that as also a No, what with Epistemologists being so few and very far between.

    Interventions performed with informed consent? No. Definitely No: it’s stealth and deception.

  79. Dhay says:

    Interesting: in Hemant Mehta’s 25 November 2016 post entitled “Would You Change Your Mind if There Was Strong Evidence Suggesting You Were Wrong?” he makes a claim:

    The man he speaks to is opposed to the legalization of marijuana, and Anthony [Magnabosco] wants an answer to a simple question: If someone could present him with five good reasons for legalizing it, would the man change his mind?

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2016/11/25/would-you-change-your-mind-if-there-was-strong-evidence-suggesting-you-were-wrong/

    But if you actually watch the video, short version or long, it’s not Magnabosco who’s asking for five good reasons, it’s the interlocutor asking for those five good reasons, asking repeatedly, asking from very early on then asking very persistently throughout.

    The interlocutor’s right up front that, yes, he would change his mind – if only those five good reasons he’s asking for (well, two actually, not five, he says he can supply three himself) were forthcoming.

    Stated using the words of Mehta’s paraphrase, yes, the man would change his mind if someone could present him with five good reasons for legalizing marijuana, he says so very clearly.

    The evidence contrary to Mehta’s claim quoted above is right there in the video Mehta himself provides, embedded in his post; it’s plainly obvious, so he can only arrive at his perverse claim via severe listening (and reading – there’s subtitles) difficulties, or severe comprehension difficulties, or the use of unreason. (This list might not be comprehensive, perhaps you can think of other reasons.)

    OK Epistemologists, test time: by what usage of evidence and reason and by what epistemology does Mehta arrive at his claim. Is it a reliable epistemology? If so, why; if not, why not, and what questions, suggestions or other of your techniques would you use to guide Mehta towards a reliable epistemology?

    And if Mehta were to reply that he depends upon advertising and that getting clicks requires maximising readership by twisting stories to pander to his readers’ preconceptions, what would your next reply be?

  80. Dhay says:

    So religious people are alleged to be delusional, are they; they are allegedly in need of intervention and corrective treatment, are they? That’s one short step away from treating other allegedly mentally ill and aberrant groups — homosexuals and trans-sexuals come to mind — as in need of intervention and corrective treatment.

    Can’t stomach that sort of intervention and corrective treatment for LGBT people? Then you are surely one short step away from not stomaching it for religious people. If not, why not? Do you have a good epistemological basis for your beliefs and claims?

    And are you guilty of able-ism, of despising and discriminating against those you suppose less able than yourself?

    Yeah, yeah, one of your best friends is religious, we’ve heard it all before.

  81. Kevin says:

    Oh that’s completely different, because…well because…um…no evidence for God! *runs away*

  82. Dhay says:

    Perhaps predictably, I find that Street Epistemology guru Peter Boghossian reckons that as a priority:

    … we need to completely defund gender studies departments. These places are toxic cesspools of misinformation pumping out dangerous, dangerous nonsense.

    https://areomagazine.com/2016/12/08/peter-boghossian-on-critical-thinking-the-atheos-app-and-the-post-modern-influence-on-universities/

    Touchy, isn’t he, when the allegedly mentally ill, reality-denying, aberrant groups fight back at him.

  83. Dhay says:

    In the centre section of my long response above dated November 8, 2016, I commented on an intervention performed by Anthony Magnabosco, one in which he asked “If evidence were to show otherwise [than the interlocutor’s “Porn destroys people’s lives”], would you still want to ban porn?” and in which the interlocutor’s response was not the intelligent person’s response of asking for the allegedly-possibly-existing evidence, if it exists (and the contrary evidence, too, if you please, to weigh the evidence on both sides), but a ‘light-bulb moment’: what a dummy!

    And I added:

    … perhaps Peter Boghossian has discovered a successful soft-pressure technique and Magnabosco developed it; a technique which makes some people sufficiently suggestible that a mere suggestion that there possibly – possibly, not probably – might be an evidenced argument for a position contrary to theirs, that mere suggestion of a maybe makes them immediately feel their position has been undercut.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2016/04/21/street-epistemologists-get-their-needed-crutch/#comment-15386

    Well, it should have been obvious that this was dry sarcasm: why should Boghossian have developed and passed on such a technique; it’s just a quirk of Magnabosco’s, surely, that Magnabosco thinks interlocutors might or should just roll over and think he’s really got something when he presents a mere suggestion that there might be convincing evidence to the contrary; Boghossian is a Doctor of Education teaching Philosophy (when not on sabbatical), so he won’t conceivably be pushing this in all seriousness as a method of argumentation, will he.

    Actually, he is.

    Take a look at this extract from an interview Boghossian has very recently given to Areo Magazine for a piece entitled “Peter Boghossian on Critical Thinking, The Atheos App, and the Post-Modern Influence on Universities”; the extract is from the part dealing with critical thinking, how critical thinking is currently being taught wrongly, and how he thinks critical thinking should be taught:

    Peter Boghossian: I think the whole way we’ve taught critical thinking is wrong from day one. We’ve taught, “Formulate your beliefs on the basis of evidence.” But the problem with that is people already believe they’ve formulated their beliefs on evidence — that’s why they believe what they believe. Instead, what we should focus on is teaching people to seek out and identify defeaters.

    What is a defeater? A defeater is:

    > If A, then B, unless C. C is the defeater.

    We should teach people to identify conditions under which their beliefs could be false. This is profound for a number of reasons. If I’m correct, then it would be the holy grail of critical thinking. …

    The first thing to note is that “Formulate your beliefs on the basis of evidence” is now to be abandoned in favour of “seek out and identify defeaters”. That’s not only a complete turn-around from the usual ‘no evidence’ or ‘insufficient evidence’ claims of prominent New Atheists, it’s a complete turn-around from his own views of as recently as January 2013, when an article quoted Boghossian as saying …

    In the next [PowerPoint] slide I’ve compiled a comprehensive, historical and contemporary list of all of the evidence and all of the reasons that one should consider when examining whether or not there’s a god or gods. [Blank slide, laughter and applause.] There is no evidence. Nada. Zip. Nothing.

    https://ffrf.org/outreach/item/16754-think-what-would-make-you-into-a-believer

    … which relies on that “formulate your beliefs on the basis of evidence” approach which he now rejects.

    *

    Note, you Epistemologists, how extreme Boghossian is in his expressed views: he doesn’t identify ‘insufficient evidence’ for a god or gods, there is – emphatically – ‘no evidence’, nada, zip, nothing.

    If you read further down that article you will find Boghossian advocating that all Gender Studies professors should be sacked because “These people are pumping out complete bullshit and indoctrinating a generation of students to believe total nonsense.” and “One of the first orders of business is that we need to completely defund [implied all] gender studies departments. These places are toxic cesspools of misinformation pumping out dangerous, dangerous nonsense.”

    Boghossian is plainly someone who has not acquired the typical philosophers’ trait of valuing and expressing subtlety and nuance: for him every issue seems to be black-and-white, no shades of grey, certainly no rainbow.

    And “Formulate your beliefs on the basis of evidence” doesn’t seem to have any place in his recommended way of teaching how to do critical thinking, not even as a supplementary method to augment and inform his new method – hence it has no place in the Boghossian method of practicing critical thinking. The former gold standard of New Atheist thinking, evidence, is now unvalued – Poof, gone!

    *

    For Boghossian, the use of “If A, then B, unless C“ to “seek out and identify defeaters” is no less than the “holy grail of critical thinking” – he tells us it is. So let’s have a look at it.

    “C is the defeater”: that is, C not an undercutter but a defeater, something that (to put the matter in stronger language) puts A and B to rout. The obvious question is, for any given example of a C, in context of its A and B, is a defeater because it actually defeats A and B – which immediately raises the question of how one can know it does, especially as one is not now allowed to formulate C on the basis of evidence – or is it a defeater because you say it is a C and C’s are automatically defeaters whether or not there is evidence or even despite the evidence. When evidence is ruled out, any C goes!

    (A belief is any statement you assent to – at least, that’s how Neuroscientist Sam Harris and team used “belief” in their two scientific experiments – and proposing C as a defeater certainly implies you assent to C, so C falls within the scope of that now officially rejected “Formulate your beliefs on the basis of evidence.”)

    Anything now goes: C can be a non-sequiteur like 2+2=4, true but irrelevant; C can be false like 2+2=3, if evidence is now irrelevant; C can be fanciful such as “Santa’s sleigh is drawn by unicorns”; or C can be an unevidenced mere suggestion that there might possibly be evidence contrary to A and B, such as Magnabosco’s “If evidence were to show otherwise, would you still want to ban porn?” – which is where I came in: Magnabosco’s nonsense nicely fits with Boghossian’s nonsense.

    *

    Well, I might have been uncharitable in interpreting what Boghossian’s formula means in practice, so let’s look at what Boghossian uses as a clarifying example:

    [Interviewer]: So if you had put that formula into action with “If A, Then B, Unless C” what would that look like?

    [Boghossian]: A pedestrian example could be when someone thinks they see a goldfinch in their backyard. The traditional route here is to say, “Formulate your beliefs on evidence. What evidence do you have to believe that’s a goldfinch?” and they say: “Well I see the bird is yellow. I know there’s a high incidence of goldfinches in this area, so by induction I can see that it’s probably a goldfinch.” But unbeknownst to them it’s not a goldfinch but a canary.

    So instead of saying, “formulate your beliefs on the basis of evidence,” we should say: “how could that belief be wrong? Give me three possibilities how the belief that it could be a goldfinch might be in error.” This type of questioning — applied to any belief — helps engender a critical thinking and an attitude of doxastic responsibility.

    https://areomagazine.com/2016/12/08/peter-boghossian-on-critical-thinking-the-atheos-app-and-the-post-modern-influence-on-universities/

    Golly gosh, Boghossian, generations of schoolchildren have been taught to use a rather better version of your method, eg to determine the character and motives of Lady Macbeth: the successful 16-year old English Literature examinee will identify several possibilities, and detail their arguments and counter-arguments against each of them on a ‘on the one hand… but on the other hand…’ basis, before judging one (or two) the most likely, giving reasons; the way this is better than your method is that they will be expected to provide quotes as supporting evidence, or they will fail the exam; anyone with a good education will already be using a better version of your method.

    Boghossian suggests having at least three “defeaters” (C1, C2, C3, … Cn) rather than just the one C of his formula; and it is plain that I was right first time about C being a mere possibility, because he is explicit that his three (or whatever) “defeaters” are but possibilities. Let’s see: it’s possibly a canary; Descartes was right about that pesky demon; this is a Bostrom-style simulated universe, so nothing is what it seems.

    Note, “possibilities”, not probabilities; this matches anything, however wild, wacky or improbable, so long as it is possible.

    So for Boghossian, anything, however wild, wacky or improbable, so long as it is possible, counts as a “defeater”. That’s not a defeater as I understand it; I doubt any competent philosopher would understand “defeater” that way, either; I rather think Boghossian is engaging in bluff and bullshit.

  84. Dhay says:

    I just love this bit:

    [Boghossian]: A pedestrian example could be when someone thinks they see a goldfinch in their backyard. The traditional route here is to say, “Formulate your beliefs on evidence. What evidence do you have to believe that’s a goldfinch?” and they say: “Well I see the bird is yellow. I know there’s a high incidence of goldfinches in this area, so by induction I can see that it’s probably a goldfinch.” But unbeknownst to them it’s not a goldfinch but a canary.

    Ah, fiat trumps evidence.

    And it’s so easy to parody:

    A pedestrian example could be when someone thinks they see a goldfinch in their backyard. The traditional route here is to say, “Formulate your beliefs on evidence. What evidence do you have to believe it evolved?” and they say: “Well .. [the usual evidence and arguments supporting evolution].” But unbeknownst to them it’s not evolution but Intelligent Design.

    QED?

  85. Dhay says:

    I note that in the Areo interview Peter Boghossian gives not a single defeater C — let alone three, C1, C2, C3 — for his B that:

    One of the first orders of business is that we need to completely defund gender studies departments. These places are toxic cesspools of misinformation pumping out dangerous, dangerous nonsense.

    I don’t know how much more can be done to show that these “disciplines” are really a situation in which the emperor has no clothes. And that’s putting it charitably.

    We only get to know about his A and his B. Did he even look for a C or three? Does he not practice what he preaches.

  86. Dhay says:

    The brief middle section of the Areo interview covers the Atheos App; and that’s interesting too; it includes Peter Boghossian saying:

    What I wasn’t expecting with Atheos is that people were fascinated with questions like “what happened before the big bang?” cosmological arguments, ontological arguments, etc. I thought that those more abstract and obscure issues would not have attracted that much attention.

    Looks like you Epistemologists have surprised Boghossian with your intellectual level and powers of questioning; or put another way, Boghossian didn’t expect much of you.

    From Boghossian, expect inadequate answers and inadequate counters; he disdains to get acquainted with these arguments, and famously thinks that “Being published in the philosophy of religion should disqualify one from sitting at the adult table.” (See http://godless-skeptic.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/peter-boghossian-disqualifies-himself.html) Ironically, from Boghossian you will get a kid’s table analysis of the arguments and kid’s table rebuttals.

    If you want the adult’s table version of why “something from nothing”, cosmological arguments, ontological arguments, etc are genuinely a problem for atheists, try Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition.

  87. TFBW says:

    Boghossian said:

    We should teach people to identify conditions under which their beliefs could be false.

    Interesting idea. How about we call this technique “falsificationism?” I assume that’s a new term, because it’s not mentioned anywhere in the interview. Actually, if memory serves, there was a 20th century philosopher who emphasised the need for identifying conditions under which a hypothesis would be shown to be false, but he used that primarily as a demarcation criterion for science, whereas Bog uses it as a demarcation criterion for doxastic responsibility — a totally different thing (unless you subscribe to scientism).

    This is profound for a number of reasons. If I’m correct, then it would be the holy grail of critical thinking.

    Awesome! The holy grail of critical thinking! Bog found it! Was it behind the couch? I’m betting it was behind the couch. People always forget to look there.

    The problem with traditional notions of critical thinking is that most people believe what they want to believe anyway. They only look in their epistemic landscape for pieces of evidence which enforce the beliefs they hold — thus entrenching them in their view of reality.

    Woah! Nasty. We should call that problem “confirmation bias.” Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Thank goodness that Bog doesn’t suffer from that flaw, or else he’d have to use the second person (we/us) instead of the third (they/them), and we’d know he was just believing what he wanted to believe. Of course, we’d need to demonstrate this with a “defeater” (if A, then B, unless C), such as, “if I’m correct, then it would be the holy grail of critical thinking, unless I’m a crank with a vastly over-inflated sense of my own prowess.”

  88. Dhay says:

    PZ Myers has an intense dislike of his university’s Republican-student rag, the Morris Northstar, and recently posted a note on his office door saying it wasn’t welcome — “Profane remark omitted…” says the rag’s FaceBook page’s current header, which partially reproduces the text — and that he would charge $5 for every copy delivered.

    But Myers peeped inside before binning the three copies he then got, and criticised one of the articles:

    Their recent thrill was a visit by Little Ben Shapiro, which they described in an article titled “Ben Shapiro Visits UMM, Discusses Trannies and Freedom”. Charming. We learn exactly what Shapiro thinks of the topic.

    Transgenderism is a tragic, horrible mental illness that people suffer from. It should be treated with nothing but sympathy. The idea that you can magically change a man into a woman or a woman into a man is anti-biology and anti-fact and foolish.

    What I consider anti-biology is this prejudice that every human being must conform to one of only two types with regards to phenomena as complex and psychologically and socially fraught as sexual behavior and gender roles. But what do I know? I’m just a biologist, while Shapiro is a professional right-wing bozo and utterer of simplistic bigotry.

    The article unfortunately says next to nothing about free speech, except to say that Shapiro is annoyed by the exercise of it: he doesn’t like being labeled a “racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe”. The whole thing is almost entirely about those awful “trannies”.

    But he doesn’t want to be called a bigot or homophobe. Go figure.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2016/12/05/the-morris-northstar-owes-me-15/

    Sounds familiar: someone recently told us that university professors — every Gender Studies professor in every Gender Studies department in every university across the country, or so I deduce from the blanket wish to abolish all such departments and sack all such professors — call him “a racist, a sexist, a bigot, a homophobe”; ah yes, Peter Boghossian.

    https://areomagazine.com/2016/12/08/peter-boghossian-on-critical-thinking-the-atheos-app-and-the-post-modern-influence-on-universities/

    According to Myers, those exact words — “a racist, a sexist, a bigot, a homophobe” — are what you call someone who is “a professional right-wing bozo and utterer of simplistic bigotry.”

    *

    Such a schism: so are you guys fellow-travellers with Myers or fellow-travellers with Boghossian; whichever, do ask yourself why and how you decided that — ie was your decision based upon a reliable or an unreliable epistemology — or do ask yourself why you are uncomfortable making that decision.

  89. Dhay says:

    The List has now been open for five completed months, so we can get some idea of where Epistemologist numbers are heading. The five monthly increases in Epistemologist numbers (inclusive of the end-dates) are:
    To 24/08/16: 128
    To 24/09/16: 60
    To 24/10/16: 46
    To 24/11/16: 24
    To 24/12/16: 19

    I wonder what the long-term trend is going to be.

  90. Dhay says:

    For someone teaching philosophy, Peter Boghossian has quite a contempt of philosophy; here’s him tweeting about an article which argues that philosophy is too Westernised and should be extended:

    Much of the field [of philosophy] is total bullshit anyway, let’s just add more bullshit for arbitrary reasons.

    https://twitter.com/peterboghossian/status/730577051330203652

    Not “some…” but “most…” philosophy is “total” bullshit.

    Boghossian’s not exactly moderate, subtle and nuanced in his thinking, is he; his world looks black-and-white; where’s the ‘one one hand… but on the other hand…’ that shows the issues have been considered carefully and weighed; where’s the ‘If A then B unless C(1…n)’ that he advocates elsewhere, where the various C are “defeaters”‘ — where’s the defeaters, the searching for and finding of which he considers essential to critical thought.

    *

    Rather than just waffle vaguely about whether the allegedly “arbitrary reasons” are arbitrary, allow me to provide the concrete example of Sam Harris presenting a ‘good-intentions-excuse-all-consequences-inflicted’ neo-Buddhist philosophy; if we are to have people who can critique such inhumane rubbish, we need people who understand the Buddhist roots, and that those roots are complex and subtle and nuanced, not black-and-white; we need people who know Eastern philosophy, or Harris bluffs and bullshits with impunity.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/more-creepy-behavior-from-sam-harris/#comment-15756

  91. Dhay says:

    Another milestone: the List numbers have now hit 300 (302 as I type); that’s 3% of the 10,000 target; only another 9,698 to get.

    It was achieved by a post-New Year surge, 17 signers-up in the first fortnight of 2017, following a slump to a record low of 16 per 30 days pre-Christmas. Presumably some of the 17 are weak-willed New Year’s resolutioners deciding to start the App, finish it, or take the plunge and sign up for the List.

    What difference does the surge make in the bigger picture? The average rate since the List opened in late July equates to reaching target in over 15 years; the average rate since the initial rush tailed off in late August equates to nearer 24 years; the average rate in the New Year 2017 fortnight’s surge equates to reaching target in nearly 22 years, so it’s but a slight improvement on that ‘nearer 24’, and it’s probably not sustainable.

    I wonder what the long-term trend is going to be.

  92. Dhay says:

    The List has now been open for six completed months, so we can get some idea of where Epistemologist numbers are heading. The six monthly increases in Epistemologist numbers (inclusive of the end-dates) are:
    To 24/08/16: 128
    To 24/09/16: 60
    To 24/10/16: 46
    To 24/11/16: 24
    To 24/12/16: 19
    To 24/01/17: 36

    There was quite a marked surge soon after the New Year, the highest rate of growth since fully three months ago. How long to 10,000? 15.6 years at the average rate since the List started; 23.9 years at the average rate since the late August ‘knuckle’ when the rapid initial increase slowed; 22.1 years at the average rate for the last 30 days.

    I wonder what the long-term trend is going to be.

  93. Dhay says:

    Surge over: the average rate of increase in Epistemologist numbers in the fortnight to and including 05 February 2017 is back to reaching target in over half a century.

    I wonder what the long-term trend is going to be.

    *

    No doubt Epistemologists, in the main, feel they epitomise the App’s title of ‘Truth and Reason’; but have those who joined in that recent surge considered just how arbitrary and irrational are New Year and New Years’ Resolutions; if you joined in that surge, why not justify to yourself, rationally, that you didn’t do so at that particular time as a matter of superstition; think about it.

  94. Dhay says:

    The New Year’s resolution surge seems now totally over: in the four weeks up to and including 13 February 2017 there were:
    Week 1: 9
    Week 2: 4
    Week 3: 2
    Week 4: 1

    Peter Boghossian’s 01 January 2013 New Year’s Resolution was:

    Create 10,000 Street Epistemologists armed with the tools to talk each talk 100 people out of their faith.

    http://www.facebook.com/peter.boghossian/posts/10151289512907906

    It’s now been four years — evidently that must have been a long-term resolution rather than lasting the usual one year; Boghossian’s resolution came close to rapid failure, kept going by the skin of Anthony Magnabosco’s teeth.

    I note that many or most people who make New Year’s resolutions — lose weight, get fit, Epistemologise, etc — are not resolute, and soon fall away.

    At the current rate of a trickle — a new record low of just three newbies in the last fortnight — ‘The List of 10,000’ should take over 120 years to fill.

    It looks like a slowing trickle: I wonder what the long-term trend is going to be.

  95. Dhay says:

    Back in the “New Atheist Delusions About Delusions” thread I have two posts: one looks at peer-reviewed neuroscience research by Sam Harris, which concludes that the brains of strongly deluded strong Christians strongly believing their strong delusions look identical to strongly rational strong atheists strongly believing that “2 + 2 = 4”.

    So what is this delusion that Peter Boghossian refers to in his book and other writings, this delusion characterising religious people but not atheists, a delusion he claims is clinical delusion, no less! Neurologically, it is without sign, without evidence.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2016/09/20/new-atheist-delusions-about-delusions/#comment-14859

    The other post looks at a recent letter to the New York Times by the chair of the committee who wrote that DSM-IV Manual which Boghossian is so keen to re-write: this evidently very distinguished lifelong (emeritus) psychiatrist writes that “… distress and impairment [are] required to diagnose mental disorder …”.

    Which rules out the typical Christian being clinically delusional.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2016/09/20/new-atheist-delusions-about-delusions/#comment-16794

    What else, I wonder, is delusional — non-clinically, that is, I wouldn’t want to fall to Boghossian’s levels of absurdity — is delusional in Boghossians pronouncements and teachings.

    *

    There’s been a few record lows for numbers of new Epistemologists just recently:
    Successive calendar days with zero new Epistemologists: 8
    Newbies in a 7-day period: 0
    Newbies in a 14-day period: 2
    Newbies in a 21-day period: 6
    Newbies in a 28-day period: 13
    Newbies in a 30-day period: 16

    I wonder what the long-term trend is going to be.

  96. Dhay says:

    The List has now been open for seven completed months, so we can get some idea of where Epistemologist numbers are heading. The seven monthly increases in Epistemologist numbers (inclusive of the end-dates) are:
    To 24/08/16: 128
    To 24/09/16: 60
    To 24/10/16: 46
    To 24/11/16: 24
    To 24/12/16: 19
    To 24/01/17: 36
    To 24/02/17: 10

    The New Year surge in new joiners has passed; new joiners have become more of an erratic drip than a trickle. How long to 10,000? At the new record low (now 9) average rate for the last 30 days, 88 years.

    I wonder what the long-term trend is going to be.

  97. Dhay says:

    The List has now been open for eight completed months, so we can get some idea of where Epistemologist numbers are heading. The eight monthly increases in Epistemologist numbers (inclusive of the end-dates) are:
    To 24/08/16: 128
    To 24/09/16: 60
    To 24/10/16: 46
    To 24/11/16: 24
    To 24/12/16: 19
    To 24/01/17: 36
    To 24/02/17: 10
    To 24/03/17: 14

    There’s been a few record lows for numbers of new Epistemologists during this period:
    Successive calendar days with zero new Epistemologists: 8
    Newbies in a 7-day period: -1 *
    ( * Someone dropped off the List! Completely, not just hid details.)
    Newbies in a 14-day period: 2
    Newbies in a 21-day period: 5
    Newbies in a 28-day period: 8
    Newbies in a 30-day period: 8 **
    ( ** Sliding windows, that’s why it’s less than the 24th of the month figure.)

    How long to 10,000? At the average rate since opening, over 19 years; but there were 188 joiners in the first two months and only 149 in the following six months — quite a slow-down; at the current average rate of 14 joiners in the last 30 days, 56 years.

    I wonder what the long-term trend is going to be.

  98. Dhay says:

    > Successive calendar days with zero new Epistemologists: 8

    Oops, the perils of copy-pasting and amending — that line should have been deleted. There were in fact a mere 5 successive calendar days with zero new Epistemologists in the 25th-24th period, so no new record.

  99. Dhay says:

    I was re-reading NT Wright’s paper, “The Bible for the Post Modern World”, given as the Latimer Fellowship, Orange Memorial Lecture, 1999, when the following sentence jumped out at me as especially relevant to this particular thread, this thread about Street Epistemologists:

    Yes, we must take on board the full postmodern critique of those arrogant Enlightenment epistemologies (ie theories of knowledge) in which a supposed objectivism was actually a cloak for political and social power and control.

    Have you SE guys applied full postmodern critiques to the epistemologies you would substitute for your interlocutors’; or if they substitute their own Mark II epistemology instead of one you supply, do you help them apply a full postmodern critique to it.

    If not, why not?

    You wouldn’t want your supposed objectivism to be a cloak for political and social power and control, would you?

    You wouldn’t, for instance, want your supposed objectivism to be a cloak for promoting a fairly narrowly delimited secular liberal political and social agenda, would you? Such as, for instance, whatever your own political and social agenda is.

    I feel sure that a Street Epistemologist will be promoting an Enlightenment epistemology, given how highly the Enlightenment is regarded in what I presume are your circles; are you personally promoting an arrogant (see quote) Enlightenment epistemology; do carry out that full postmodern critique of your own epistemology, and also of each interlocutor’s epistemology before and especially after your intervention; and don’t forget to carry out a full postmodern critique of Street Epistemology itself.

    Didn’t Socrates say something like, “The unexamined epistemology is not worth epistemologising”.

  100. Dhay says:

    The personalised logo of a newbie who joined on 31 March caught my eye; newbies can choose to have or to not have a logo — at all — the logos used are obviously not a mere choice from a preset list, so his displayed logo is whatever he personally freely chose to upload to the ‘The List of 10,000’ page:

    Sometimes in the morning while sipping my coffee I think about all the people I’m going to piss off today… & I smile.

    https://streetepistemology.com/the-10000/

    Probably this is not someone with sufficient maturity and judgement, or sufficient of those essential non-antagonistic non-piss-taking co-operative qualities — I’d say he shows the wrong qualities to make a competent Epistemologist.

    *

    The List has now been open for nine completed months, so we can get some idea of where Epistemologist numbers are heading. The nine monthly increases in Epistemologist numbers (inclusive of the end-dates) are:
    To 24/08/16: 128
    To 24/09/16: 60
    To 24/10/16: 46
    To 24/11/16: 24
    To 24/12/16: 19
    To 24/01/17: 36
    To 24/02/17: 10
    To 24/03/17: 14
    To 24/04/17: 14

    There’s been just one record low for numbers of new Epistemologists during this period:
    Successive calendar days with zero new Epistemologists: 12

    How long to 10,000? At the average rate since opening, over 20 years; but there were 188 joiners in the first two months and only 163 in the following seven months — quite a slow-down; at the current average rate of 14 joiners in the last 30 days, 56 years.

    I wonder what the long-term trend is going to be.

  101. Dhay says:

    What does it tell you about Socrates and his Method, that he was both a know-nothing and proud of it:

    http://existentialcomics.com/comic/177

  102. Dhay says:

    > About three years ago, John Loftus excitedly reviewed Peter Boghossian’s silly book as follows: “Peter Boghossian’s new brilliant book will change our nomenclature and effectiveness in disabusing believers of their faith. His book will definitely change the religious landscape.”

    Boghossian’s book will, will definitely, change the religious landscape.

    That’s about four years ago, now. The changes, if any, which can be directly or indirectly attributed to Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists and its Street Epistemology spin-off are? Are what?

    *

    The List has now been open for ten completed months, so we can get some idea of where Epistemologist numbers are heading. The ten monthly increases in Epistemologist numbers (inclusive of the end-dates) are:
    To 24/08/16: 128
    To 24/09/16: 60
    To 24/10/16: 46
    To 24/11/16: 24
    To 24/12/16: 19
    To 24/01/17: 36
    To 24/02/17: 10
    To 24/03/17: 14
    To 24/04/17: 14
    To 24/05/17: 14

    How long to 10,000? At the average rate since opening, 22 years; but there were 188 joiners in the first two months and only 177 in the following eight months; at the current average rate of 13 joiners in the last 30 days, nearly 61 years.

    The gaps are getting more obvious: for example, on 23 of those 30 days nobody joined; if it was the other way round, and people joined on 23 of 30 days, I’d say there is a steady interest; but it wasn’t, and there isn’t.

    I wonder what the long-term trend is going to be.

  103. Dhay says:

    Every now and then I start off but do not complete a response; this is a response started at the end of March 2017; except the blog article referred to below got taken down, the FaceBook link died, the response became just a note in my “In preparation” folder, forgotten, now found again.

    Between the asterisks is my original response stub, with minor changes, while at the bottom is a link to a later and fuller response on this same and closely related topics.

    *

    STREET EPISTEMOLOGY FOR POLITICAL BELIEFS
    HOW THE SE METHOD CAN APPLY TO POLITICAL DISCUSSIONS

    The above is the header for a ‘SirElenchus’ blog article, otherwise entitled “Is Street Epistemology Only for Religious Beliefs?”; it’s linked to from the Street Epistemology Facebook page, so presumably it has Boghossian’s approval, or at least that of his senior acolytes.

    http://www.facebook.com/StreetEpistemology/posts/1138751026193713

    I’m delighted: in the blogged example (an online text-based intervention) the interlocutor is a Donald Trump supporter; I look forward to the next intervention, which in the interests of objective truth-finding and avoiding naked partisanship will presumably be with a Hillary Clinton supporter.

    I also look forward to ‘SirElenchus’ and others following in his footsteps performing interventions with A+ atheists (also perhaps with A- atheists such as Peter Boghossian and Anthony Magnabosco) to see whether the Epistemologist can reduce the interlocutors’ confidence in those A+ (or A-) convictions.

    Though it will be interesting when Epistemologists dialogue with people whose political or social outlook differs from their own, it will be yet more interesting when they dialogue with and challenge the views and the epistemologies of people whose political or social outlook is just like their own.

    Are they up to it? The Epistemologists claim a good Epistemologist must be ready to change their own mind, adopt some or all of the interlocutor’s views: can they do so; will they actually do so?

    *

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/peter-boghossians-hilarious-hoax/#comment-18100

  104. Dhay says:

    Steven Pinker, criticising the recent ‘conceptual penis’ hoax paper and reveal by Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay, says of them in Salon:

    As a skeptic myself, I am cautious about the constellation of cognitive biases to which our evolved brains are perpetually susceptible, including motivated reasoning, confirmation bias, disconfirmation bias, overconfidence and belief perseverance. That is partly why, as a general rule, if one wants to criticize a topic X, one should at the very least know enough about X to convince true experts in the relevant field that one is competent about X. This gets at what Brian Caplan calls the “ideological Turing test.” If you can’t pass this test, there’s a good chance you don’t know enough about the topic to offer a serious, one might even say cogent, critique.

    http://www.salon.com/2017/05/22/why-the-conceptual-penis-hoax-was-a-bust-it-only-reveals-the-lack-of-skepticism-among-skeptics

    By this standard Boghossian fails the “ideological Turing test” regarding how he uses “faith”; so as Pinker says, “there’s a good chance [Boghossian doesn’t] know enough about the topic to offer a serious, one might even say cogent, critique.”

    Or in less polished English, he doesn’t know his arse from his elbow.

    Those following his lead regarding “faith”, likewise.

  105. Dhay says:

    The List has now been open for eleven completed months, so we can get some idea of where Epistemologist numbers are heading. The eleven monthly increases in Epistemologist numbers (inclusive of the end-dates) are:
    To 24/08/16: 128
    To 24/09/16: 60
    To 24/10/16: 46
    To 24/11/16: 24
    To 24/12/16: 19
    To 24/01/17: 36
    To 24/02/17: 10
    To 24/03/17: 14
    To 24/04/17: 14
    To 24/05/17: 14
    To 24/06/17: 16 **

    (** Joiners who completely hide their personal details also hide their date of joining; there’s one such who might have joined on or before 24/06/2017, but in the absence of information I have recorded their joining date as the date of my spotting it after my vacation; it all comes out in the wash, as this joiner will swell the figures for next month.)

    How long to 10,000? At the average rate since opening, 23.4 years; but there were 188 joiners in the first two months and only 193 in the following nine months — yes, it’s taken nearly nine months to match the first two months; at the current average rate of 16 joiners in the last 30 days, over 49 years.

    That’s 188 joiners in the two months of the initial rush, 89 in the following three months, 60 in the next three months, 44 in the next (the last) three months

    I wonder what the long-term trend is going to be.

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