Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fake fair-play

As a mopping up operation, I’ll respond to a general claim by Ben, from his surrender to error blog. He begins by quoting me:

“...if you have good reason to believe that your own position is correct, then, by definition, a contrary position is wrong. Everybody does that.”

He then says:

“Oh do they? Someone sounds a tad defensive. Some of us are actually open to renegotiating our positions in confrontation with other people. We actually enjoy and appreciate keeping those doors in our minds open, because we know how easily mistaken human knowledge is due to things like confirmation bias.”

There are two obvious problems with his faux humility:

i) His counterexample is not a true counterexample. Those who “renegotiate” their positions are still judging the options by what they believe to be right or wrong. They are simply judging the options by a different set of beliefs than they used to. But no one is, or even could be, open-minded about everything. And some of the most dogmatic men in the world are guys who keep changing their positions every few years.

Notice, for example, that Ben is quite close-minded about the existence of confirmation bias. He takes for granted the reality of confirmation bias.

ii) And, of course, Ben is a militant atheist. Yes, he goes through the motions of appearing to be fair and equitable by penalizing Christians and atheists alike, but I can’t help noticing that however many red cards he may issue to the home team, the scoreboard always favors atheism at the end of the game. That’s why team members make poor umpires.

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