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A Manual for Creating Atheists av Peter…
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A Manual for Creating Atheists (utgåvan 2013)

av Peter Boghossian (Författare), Michael Shermer (Illustratör)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1875111,650 (3.94)3
For thousands of years, the faithful have honed proselytizing strategies and talked people into believing the truth of one holy book or another. Indeed, the faithful often view converting others as an obligation of their faith--and are trained from an early age to spread their unique brand of religion. The result is a world broken in large part by unquestioned faith. As an urgently needed counter to this tried-and-true tradition of religious evangelism, A Manual for Creating Atheists offers the first-ever guide not for talking people into faith--but for talking them out of it. Peter Boghossian draws on the tools he has developed and used for more than twenty years as a philosopher and educator to teach how to engage the faithful in conversations that will help them value reason and rationality, cast doubt on their religious beliefs, mistrust their faith, abandon superstition, and irrationality, and ultimately embrace reason.… (mer)
Medlem:illmunkeys
Titel:A Manual for Creating Atheists
Författare:Peter Boghossian (Författare)
Andra författare:Michael Shermer (Illustratör)
Info:Pitchstone Publishing (2013), Edition: 1st Edition, 280 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek
Betyg:*****
Taggar:must-reads, read-2013

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A Manual for Creating Atheists av Peter Boghossian

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A positive step beyond Dawkins and Harris. Instead of focusing on religion and God, Peter Boghossian speaks about faith - how to converse in an appropriate manner to encourage positive change in faith-based people. ( )
  illmunkeys | Apr 22, 2021 |
The idea of a Manual for Creating Atheists intrigued me.

[a: Peter Boghossian|7096174|Peter Boghossian|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1442888770p2/7096174.jpg] explicitly places himself in the tradition of the so-called Four Horsemen of New Atheism. This movement has achieved a reputation of mean-spiritedness and abrasiveness which may be an impediment to proper evangelizing. At some level, Boghossian understands this, as he leaves his rather condescending remarks about religious people out of the actual sample conversations.

Now, the true meat of this book is the suggestion to use Socratic questioning to undermine the foundations of the other party's faith. This certainly seems like a valid and useful technique. Success might be somewhat limited as Boghossian only seems to consider a very narrow set of possibilities of why people believe. There is another case that I have found to be very common, and it is in fact one that Boghossian only treats as a by-product of his street epistemology. It is the situation in which the theist, finding their belief attacked, clings even more strongly to their faith in an effort to smother their growing doubt. Boghossian sees this as an acceptable result, as the doubt will eventually lead them to abandon their faith. I am personally not so sure of that. The aspiring street epistemologist might want to consider other cases. Primarily, Horseman [a: Daniel Dennett|6952980|Daniel C. Dennett|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1447369488p2/6952980.jpg]'s notion of belief in belief seemed to be noticeably absent.

The book would be merely an imperfect execution of an interesting idea, if not for some very bizarre rants about the alleged decline of liberalism. Diversity, inclusion and respect for difference are described as parasitic ideologies. Feminism is singled out. It is entirely out of place in this book. Combined with the author's continued involvement with the white supremacist [a: Stefan Molyneux|882627|Stefan Molyneux|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1388630101p2/882627.jpg], I find myself somewhat doubting Boghossian's self-identification as humanist. ( )
  Tom_L | Dec 14, 2020 |
A Review by a Christian Epistemologist ( https://www.robertlwhite.net )

(I don't have a philosophy degree, so feel free to replace that description with "a Christian with an intense interest in epistemology and a podcast based mostly on that topic.")

This is a great, provocative book. More than just about anything, I care about spreading true beliefs in the world, so I agree with probably 90-95% of this book. I'm in a similar position as when I read John Loftus' book The Outsider Test for Faith, which I also enjoyed and really related too. Another way to look at the problem is that we are now discussing the meta problem of epistemology when dealing with Christianity vs atheism, rather than the details of arguments for God, historicity of the Bible, etc. That meta problem is probably my favorite subject!

It makes sense to start with the things I liked about the book...

** The Triumph of Reason **

On my own podcast, I have an episode entitled "Logic Always Wins" and I think Peter Boghossian would approve. You can't escape reason. It is, indeed, the freight train coming your way. As much as you avoid it, reality is unfortunately based on, well, reality, and you are doomed and destined to rub up against. Everything in this book that celebrates reason and damns "pretending to know things you don't know" should be applauded. And I do. We are on the same team, Pete!

** Doxastic Openness **

One of the things I absolutely love about the whole Street Epistemology crew is their focus on the principle of charity in dialogue and remaining open to new ideas themselves (doxastic openness). That's something I strive for as well and I really appreciate here. I would argue close to 90% of both sides of the debate (atheist and Christian) could not be described this way unfortunately and are often instead vitriolic and unsympathetic. While Peter might sometimes come across a bit patronizing to Christians in this book, he at least has sympathy. He truly wants to free people from bad ideas. That can never be a bad goal.

** Recommending Apologists **

I've consumed a fair share of skeptic material, and I probably have never heard one actually, seriously reading Christian apologists, especially with doxastic openness. Peter does just that by recommending William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga.

** Timeless Tools **

Probably the core of the book, Boghossian explains the Socratic method and how to use it. The Socratic method is such a stark contrast to the adversarial way most people debate today, so it's very encouraging to see the recommendation of it as a primary tool. It represents an admirable call to make people think more deeply instead of winning debate points.

Ok, I'm now going to talk about the things I didn't like as much, but I want to stress that Boghossian and I are ultimately on the same page – we both want to spread the habit of good reasoning. I also should note here that, with Peter, I mourn the fact that we don't teach critical thinking in school, or at least not very much of it, even though it's one of the most important tools in life. I sincerely hope that changes too, so I'll join Peter in that fight.

** Definition of "Faith" **

I think it's very helpful, ultimately, that Peter defines faith as "pretending to know things you don't know." It's helpful because I completely agree that is a bad thing to do. My bigger gripe is that he quickly moves to saying that Christian faith also fits that definition.

I recently read a fascinating book called Salvation By Allegiance Alone, which forcefully argues that the Greek word "pistis" in the New Testament should be translated in most cases as "allegiance" or "trust" instead of the rather weak and nebulous "faith." So if Peter is implying that Christianity itself teaches that we should have "faith" in the sense of pretending-to-know-things-we-don't, then I completely reject that, and I think most theologians would as well. I think the Christian faith is much closer to "hope" as Boghossian defines it. A more robust definition of Christian faith would be acting in trust/allegiance/hope *based on* something else, and that "something else" can of course be questioned.

Perhaps Boghossian is right that the way most Christians hold their beliefs is by "pretending to know things they don't know." But he has a much higher hill to climb if he wants to argue that the Bible and Christian theology in general encourage that sort of thing, since prima facie it does not. And his statement on page 28 that people of faith hold their beliefs in a way that are immune to revision is also a gross generalization. Just ask people like Gary Habermas and Mike Licona who, by their own accounts, went through periods of severe doubt, quite seriously looking into other religions, etc. I count myself without that group as well, and even my Christian beliefs look quite different than they did 15 or 20 years ago.

** Peter Makes Bold (Naïve?) Claims **

At least twice in the book Peter flat out says there is no evidence for God:
"Here's the evidence for the existence of God: Nothing. There is no evidence for God's existence." (p. 132)
"...The fine-tuning argument, fail. The Kalam cosmological argument, fail. All refuted. All failures." (p. 28)

To me this is highly questionable coming from someone that puts doxastic openness on such a high pedestal. If the Kalam is such a failure, why is it (from what I've read) the most debated argument for God's existence in the philosophical literature today? If the fine-tuning argument such a failure, why did leading atheist cosmologist Sean Carroll recently say it was the best argument for God's existence (he quickly follows up by saying he doesn't think it's a very good one – but still) ? Why is the argument from consciousness such a failure when atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel thinks that reductive naturalism is doomed since it can't accommodate consciousness? Why is the moral argument such a failure when atheist philosopher Michael Ruse seems to think that reductive naturalism could never be a foundation for objective morality, but most people seem to assume when carefully questioned that at least some morals are objective (like tolerance)?

It's perfectly fine for Peter to think that the evidence, by far, favors God's non-existence. It's also perfectly fine to say that no argument for God ultimately succeeds in his view. But it seems like quite an overreach to say there is zero evidence or deny there is *any* even somewhat quality arguments for God's existence. It's particularly odd to have him say this to a person he's been practicing SE on (as page 132 implies), since SE is supposed to be all about doxastic openness and not making bold, shaky claims to convince the person you're talking to.

I could accept the idea that these claims were simply rhetorical, but that is a tough pill to swallow when the whole enterprise of this book is to be clear and precise and use good reasoning, in other words to get beyond rhetoric.

I have to bring up here his one comment on page 73 regarding Gary Habermas work on Jesus' resurrection. Once again, it's one of the few times in the entire book I was a bit shocked by Boghossian's overreach, and perhaps even naivete or doxastic closure.

"...Yet when [Habermas is] confronted by basic, rudimentary objections (people lied, someone ransacked the tomb, the witnesses were unreliable), he takes the most remote logical possibility and turns that into not just a probability but an actuality."

(He adds to that quote by saying that every apologist is "epistemically debilitated by an extreme form of confirmation bias" and that Habermas exemplifies this.)

If I didn't know I was reading a leading atheist philosopher, I would simply assume that paragraph was written by someone who knew little of Habermas' work (or Licona, Craig, N.T. Wright, etc). The alternative possibilities are often taken quite seriously by these scholars, but some are actually fairly easy to dismiss and are indeed dismissed by even *almost all atheist scholars of the Resurrection as well.* Habermas is famous for basing his case on only the facts that 90-95% of all scholars accept. For example, skeptic scholars on the Resurrection realize that the chance that the disciples lied is so remote that they don't even put that forward as an option, and usually go with some form of hallucination hypothesis. Gert Ludemann and Bart Ehrman would be two examples of this. So why does Boghossian trump out "people lied" as if it's considered a viable option for explaining the Resurrection in the literature today? It isn't.

Perhaps I need to be more sympathetic in my reading of Boghossian in those passages. Perhaps he's simply comparing one remote possibility (people lied) with one that is infinitely more remote in his mind (Jesus supernaturally rose). Fair enough. However, that is not what was implied in that passage. And I think he's still at fault some considering he's writing a book all about doxastic openness, and in these cases at least he seems to be surprisingly unnuanced when referring to "the other side."

** A Scalpel, But Sometimes You Need A Machete **

Probably my biggest issue with the whole Street Epistemology (SE) enterprise is that it can have the side effect of being myopic in its epistemology (ironically). The method intensely focuses on as much detail and precision as possible. You'll see SE practitioners say things like "ok what is the *best* example of [reason for belief]." This is understandable, but it can have the effect of having the patient accidentally setup a strawman of their own beliefs, and then of course it will be knocked down by the SE practitioner. Take any complex, somewhat vague idea, and you can quickly make someone sound silly for believing it, even if it's widely accepted by nearly everyone as true. Even simple physics questions that people haven't thought about deeply enough -- if you prod around and get them to try to articulate, you'll probably get them to contradict themselves or say something silly.

Of course it can be a useful exercise to put people in this position so that you *force* them to think through it more clearly, yes. But I actually don't think it's necessarily the best or quickest way to the truth in the end. And you might actually instill unwarranted doubt about their position (e.g. the physics example and also the spam detector example below) and that doesn't seem helpful. Why not attack the true weak points rather than instill doubt generally or where it doesn't necessarily need to be?

Doing this, you could even be accused of *increasing* the amount of confusion in their minds surrounding the topic. And clarity should always be the goal. To be clear, I'm not talking about the necessary confusion that results from realizing cognitive dissonance that was implicitly already there. I'm talking about adding unnecessary and unwarranted confusion that doesn't seem helpful and might actually be harmful to reasonable thinking.

A lot of larger more complex views are held for cumulative reasons and/or due to a heuristic, sometimes a smart one, sometimes a not-so-smart one. My podcast episode on heuristics is exactly about this (for those interested) and how even a belief like "the earth is spherical" is usually held, properly, by a heuristic by individual people since they usually haven't done the scientific experiments to prove it themselves.

I have a background in computer science and artificial intelligence, so let me give my prime example based on the field of AI to illustrate the problem I'm talking about. Let's say you could question an email spam detector about why it chose to classify a particular email as spam. This bot was trained using a machine learning (ML) algorithm, so it's not using an explicit set of rules to make its judgments; instead it's using a neural net or another ML structure like that. It's also important to note that machine learning-based systems like this (called Expert Systems) far outstrip simpler algorithms that use a set of explicit rules in the real world. So here's the theoretical situation where an SE practitioner is questioning the bot:

SE practitioner: Why did you classify that email as spam?

[Bot processes the weighted properties it uses and tries to answer by picking a salient attribute]

Bot: Uh, it had a lot of all caps.

SE: So do you classify all emails that have a lot of all caps as spam?

Bot: No.

SE: Ok, so let's go back then – that must not be your real reason. Why did you classify the email as spam?

[Bot looks for other reasons within its complex, heuristic algorithm]

Bot: It was from an unknown sender not in the address book.

SE: Ah so this is the real reason you think?

[Bot is unable to fully articulate why it classified it as spam, even though its final answer gave 90% probability]

Bot: Uh yes, I guess so.

SE: Can you imagine someone getting an email from an unknown address and it not being spam?

Bot: Well of course.

SE: So would you agree that you're not using a reliable method of knowing what is spam or not?

Bot: I guess so...

[Bot leaves the conversation unsure of its abilities to know what is spam or not, even though it has a 95% success rate in the real world]

I hope the above illustrates the problem that can arise when we rely on the scalpel alone and get too myopic, precise, and syllogistic. It needs to be noted, of course, that in the case of a spam detector bot it actually does have good reasons for its beliefs, but in the real world people often don't. But my point here is that the scalpel doesn't necessarily get at things properly and can sometimes even add unnecessary confusion. The scalpel method is crucial, but it's not the only tool and it can be misused. Contrast this to the fact that the way we know true things about the world is often more heuristics based and probabilistic due to the complex nature of the world. Abductive reasoning (inference to the best explanation) is probably the primary way we properly reason about the world, and yet you'll hardly see it on display during an SE session.

I should note that Peter briefly mentions System 1 and System 2 thinking (as described by Daniel Kahneman) on page 97 and how System 2 can be used to analyze System 1. That's all well and good and accurate. The problem is, System 1 is similar to an inner AI that is constantly collecting data and can/should be used properly at times as the best decision mechanism we have (the spam detector bot is an example of this). I fully agree we need System 2 to critique and adjust System 1, but it's an anemic epistemology if we throw System 1 entirely out the window. If you disagree, I invite you to listen to episode five of my epistemology series and then give me your response. :)

Speaking of abductive reasoning...

** Ignoring Alternative Explanations **

Another issue with SE is that it conveniently avoids discussing alternative explanations for the most part. It places all the burden of proof on the SE patient and there is a heavy implication that if they can't prove their case, then it's wrong. But anyone with knowledge of Bayes' Theorem knows that you need to know how probable the alternative solution is. What if it also doesn't make a lot of sense or is low probability? The SE practitioner can conveniently avoid that coming up most of the time, due to the way SE works. It just keeps prodding one side only for, once again, a sort of syllogistic proof with a heavy implication that if the proof fails then the hypothesis is not just inconclusive but wrong and should immediately be abandoned.

** So what's my recommended SE alternative? **

I'm not sure I have one, but I do know I want to encourage a robust and well-rounded epistemology as much as I can. When I talk about epistemology, I certainly cover syllogistic, precise reasoning, but I also spend a lot of time on other ways we organize data and make judgments, like abductive reasoning. After all we usually are using those alternative methods as we navigate the complex world we live in, since they are more suited to the task. And if they weren't more suited, then why is the ML expert system bot so much better at spam detection than the rules-based, syllogistic one?

There are certainly times when you should simply ask questions in a Socratic Method sort of way, although I think it should be less flowchart-like than SE recommends (which tends to encourage a myopic epistemology). When there is openness to some challenging questions, then I think ultimately moving into a sympathetic, mutually steel-manning and friendly debate could actually be a great way forward. It has these advantages going for it:

- Both parties are seen as equals and implicitly both parties seem to have a burden of explaining themselves. This contrasts with SE where one person only is the patient and target and has all the burden.

(Review was clipped. See https://www.robertlwhite.net/philosophy/manual-creating-atheists-review for the rest if interested! Really appreciate anyone taking the time to read.) ( )
  robertlwhite | Sep 1, 2020 |
This is a great book for so many reasons. Firstly, it is empathic. Boghassian treats those he is trying to rescue, from what he describes as a "faith virus", with respect, a willingness to listen, and a genuine concern for the welfare of those he writes about and for. Secondly, Boghossian speaks from experience. He clearly has had in-depth conversations with believers, listened to them, and responded to them with targeted "interventions" that fit the person, rather than using blunt instruments to beat people over the head. Thirdly, his approach is philosophically rigorous and rational. So much of what the author says makes sense and resonates with what we know from our own experiences. Fourthly, his suggestion that people move away from discussing conclusions/beliefs to exploring the way we arrive at beliefs, is profound and powerful. Finally (at least for this list - there is so much more that could be said), the book is easy to read. Boghossian is articulate and, despite his expertise in philosophy, speaks in language that is down-to-earth and entirely understandable. Atheists need this book so they can move on from angry rhetoric to respectful conversation. ( )
2 rösta spbooks | Jul 15, 2015 |
Interesting read. My vocabulary grew, and my perspective was shifted. ( )
  Michael.Leamy | Sep 28, 2014 |
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For thousands of years, the faithful have honed proselytizing strategies and talked people into believing the truth of one holy book or another. Indeed, the faithful often view converting others as an obligation of their faith--and are trained from an early age to spread their unique brand of religion. The result is a world broken in large part by unquestioned faith. As an urgently needed counter to this tried-and-true tradition of religious evangelism, A Manual for Creating Atheists offers the first-ever guide not for talking people into faith--but for talking them out of it. Peter Boghossian draws on the tools he has developed and used for more than twenty years as a philosopher and educator to teach how to engage the faithful in conversations that will help them value reason and rationality, cast doubt on their religious beliefs, mistrust their faith, abandon superstition, and irrationality, and ultimately embrace reason.

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