CC008: Tim McGrew and I Discuss Street Epistemology

We are already at episode 8 of the podcast! Can you believe it? This one features renowned Christian philosopher Tim McGrew. I invited him on to discuss Street Epistemology, a topic that should be no stranger to you (that is, assuming you’ve been following the ministry for a little while).

We’ve done quite a bit of work analyzing and critiquing Street Epistemology. For a basic overview of what it is, click here. To see my conversation with a Street Epistemologist, click here. To see my post-debate thoughts on my appearance on Unbelievable with a Street Epistemologist, click here. To see how I suggest you respond to Street Epistemology, see here. To see an interview where I critiqued Street Epistemology at length, see here.

Tim McGrew

A little more about my guest: Dr. Timothy McGrew is Professor and Chairman of the Department of Philosophy at Western Michigan University. A specialist in theory of knowledge, logic, probability theory, and the history and philosophy of science, Dr. McGrew has spoken at Oxford, MIT, and other universities as well as at many churches and seminaries across the United States and overseas. He has also engaged in public debates on the meaning of faith, the rationality of belief in miracles, and the historical reliability of the Gospels.

The Episode

In this episode, Tim and I discuss his appearance on Unbelievable with Peter Boghossian (the founder of Street Epistemology), and break down a video “intervention” from one of the most popular Street Epistemologists around today. Very insightful stuff here. There’s a lot going on beneath the surface in these interviews that, unless you’re really looking hard, you won’t catch.

To watch the entire YouTube video we break down in the podcast, click here.

To listen to this episode, just hit the play button below. It’s that simple! You can always subscribe and listen on iTunes. All of our episodes are pushed there for free. Make sure to share your thoughts in the comments!

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Cameron BertuzziNickPetersillymuddle Recent comment authors
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Cameron Bertuzzi Wavers on Reformed Epistemology – Secular Student

[…] Bertuzzi of Capturing Christianity had a discussion with Dr. Tim McGrew that was critical of Street Epistemology (SE). SE is a dialectic that uses a […]

sillymuddle
Guest
sillymuddle

Good stuff. I feel like Tim McGrew expresses the same thoughts I have, but in a much more articulate way. About SE being like a religious cult: I’ve always thought that things like the Manual for Creating Atheists telling them replace the word “faith” in their own minds are techniques which are aimed at *them*, and not the people who they’re talking to. It’s like something out of 1984: if they manipulate themselves that way, they can’t even think certain thoughts. Couple that with being told *not* to buy books by those who disagree, to avoid discussions of facts. Finally,… Read more »

Peter
Guest
Peter

Wait, who’s telling people not to buy books by those who disagree with them? And where is there shunning in the SE community? Are you referring to SE-practitioners shunning each other when they have disagreements about the method, like cult members would shun those who stray from the group? As for avoiding arguing about facts, that’s because SE is supposed to be about (folk) epistemology, and debate about what is or isn’t a fact is often an active hindrance to that. That’s not to say you can’t start that discussion once the epistemological framework and dependence of beliefs has been… Read more »

sillymuddle
Guest
sillymuddle

> Wait, who’s telling people not to buy books by those who disagree with them? That’s a reference to this bizarre passage, in the “Manual for creating atheists”, “To prevent doxastic closure it’s also important to read the work of noted apologists. The only two I’d suggest are Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig, though I’d urge you not to buy their books; their projects don’t need your support. If you must buy one of their books buy it used and support a local bookstore, this way the author doesn’t receive any royalties.” Let’s just lay aside for a second… Read more »

Peter
Guest
Peter

>If you’re told that are their opponents are so toxic/virus-like that you shouldn’t even buy their books, there’s no way that person is in the mindset to provide a charitable reading. He specifically says that atheists should read their material to avoid doxastic closure, i.e. becoming dogmatic, in the very passage you quoted! And yes, he makes it clear that he personally wouldn’t like to see the authors be supported financially from that suggestion, but if he really wanted to shelter atheists from outside opinions, he wouldn’t tell them to read the material at all – he’d either say it… Read more »

sillymuddle
Guest
sillymuddle

> And this isn’t just some idle thought experiment, it’s what happens in real SE conversations on the regular. Why does person A assume that reasons are mutually exclusive? Ie. That you can’t have multiple pieces of evidence or reasons for the same thing? There’s no reason why person B can’t think that pornography is addictive therefore its harmful. They might also be Christian, and learnt from experience Jesus was a reliable moral teacher. They also might have seen the effects of trafficking of third world girls into the pornography industry. They might be opposed to the objectification of women… Read more »

sillymuddle
Guest
sillymuddle

Eh. Annoyingly I’m on airport wifi and can’t edit my comment: Person A and B are the wrong way around above. Sorry about that!

Peter
Guest
Peter

I get what you’re saying about having multiple strong reasons, each of which could give justifications on their own and none of them being so essential that their elimination would have significant results on overall confidence. But B’s mission is to detect all reasons, not just some (even if they’d be enough already to justify this belief to the person). So to get an idea of how strong the given reason is in proportion to the rest of the (still unmentioned) reasons, B asks about the case of elimination if not outright reversal of that first given one. All of… Read more »

sillymuddle
Guest
sillymuddle

First up: hello, fellow Unbelievable listener! And yes, it would be much simpler if everyone could just express things as probability distributions – that sounds like you’re a fellow Bayesian… > I get what you’re saying about having multiple strong reasons, each of which could give justifications on their own and none of them being so essential that their elimination would have significant results on overall confidence. But B’s mission is to detect all reasons, not just some (even if they’d be enough already to justify this belief to the person) There’s lots of ways “B’s” reasoning can lead to… Read more »

sillymuddle
Guest
sillymuddle

> He specifically says that atheists should read their material to avoid doxastic closure, i.e. becoming dogmatic, in the very passage you quoted! … While suggesting they do it in a way that can’t possibly be open. ie. treating them as so toxic that you aren’t even meant to buy the books. I feel like you are arguing against points I didnt make, but not addressing the ones I did. > I can’t name any Christian apologists off the top of my head who publicly suggests to his followers reading authors like Harris and Hitchens, not even with the caveat… Read more »

Peter
Guest
Peter

Sorry, I thought my comment would tack on at the end. It’s in between yours now.

Nick
Guest
Nick

It is a valid criticism that SEs are smuggling in a corrupt definition of “faith.” Fortunately, I don’t think SEs do this intentionally, so maybe we could provide them with some possible solutions and alternatives? One possibility could be to do what Reid Nicewonder does and ask something like “How does that relate to the truth of this claim?” when faith is brought up. This way nothing is implied about the nature of faith and they can still examine it and inquire about its role of religious beliefs. I’d love to hear what you think about that possible solution. If… Read more »

Peter
Guest
Peter

I don’t know about “corrupt”. If someone says they believe a thing *because of* faith, then to them faith is some kind of reason/method. And that’s not an uncommon definition of faith, it has certainly been and still is the most common one in the general population and not even professional apologists reject it outright (depending on audience). Or what do you suggest are they expressing when they say “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist”? They mean to say that the position of atheism can only be held on massive amounts of faith, i.e. irrational belief. They… Read more »