My Experience with Christian Apologetics

I took a few courses in biblical studies and Christian apologetics as an undergraduate. The courses definitely influenced my thinking, but not in the way that I expected.

0.  Context

For years, I intended to study engineering. In my senior year of high school, I was admitted to a public school with a decent engineering program. But late in the summer, I changed my mind. I had recently become a Christian and I was dating someone who was going to the Christian college. And apparently that was enough to convince 18-year-old me that I should go to the Christian college to study the Bible. (Aside: Can you believe that 18 year old me was allowed to vote and serve on a jury?)

1.  Apologetics

I signed up for Christian apologetics courses — as well as biblical studies courses — hoping to find compelling arguments to rationalize my relatively new faith. At first, the arguments seemed compelling. I remember being excited to take the arguments to unbelieving friends back home and see what they had to say.

But the more I thought about the arguments, the less Continue reading My Experience with Christian Apologetics

Are Atheists More Reflective Than Theists?

On Saturday, I joined the Veracity Hill Podcast with Kurt Jaros. Kurt and I talked about the studies which suggest that atheists are more reflective than theists. You can listen to the podcast below. Below that you’ll find an outline of our discussion and some suggested reading/researchers.

The Podcast


The Discussion

  1. How exactly are atheists more reflective than theists? How do we measure reflection? How do we measure religiosity?
  2. What do these findings about atheists and theists tell us about atheism and theism (if anything)? How might further research answer hitherto unanswered questions about how atheists and theists reason?
  3. What are some related findings? What does this have to do with philosophy more generally?

The Suggested Reading/Researchers

The paper that Kurt and I mention a few times is freely available to anyone. The title is “Atheists and Agnostics Are More Reflective than Religious Believers: Four Empirical Studies and a Meta-Analysis“. It discusses over 30 studies of over 15,000 people. I highly recommend it.

And here are some researchers that study religion and/or reasoning: Continue reading Are Atheists More Reflective Than Theists?

What Is Reflective Reasoning?

Last week I was talking about intuition. I think of intuition as — among other things — unconscious and automatic reasoning. The opposite of that would be conscious and deliberative reasoning. We might call that reflective reasoning.† In this post I want to talk about reflective reasoning. How does it work? And why does it work? And — spoiler alert — why does it sometimes not work?

1.  An Example

Do some math for me, will you? Multiply 13 x 16. And try doing it in your head. Don’t use scrap paper or a calculator or anything like that.

Take all the time you need. I’ll be here.

Got it? Check your work with Google.

Question: what were you doing when you reasoned your way to the answer?

You were — among other things — reasoning reflectively. That is, you thought about some stuff — like ’16’ and ’13’ — but you also had some thoughts about thoughts about stuff — like “How might I multiply ’16’ by ’13’?”. These thoughts were both deliberate and conscious.

And that is a classic case of reflective reasoning: consciously and deliberately thinking about thought(s).

2.  Reflective Reasoning Works

We can do great stuff with reflective reasoning. Thanks to reflective reasoning, we can retrace our mental steps, spot errors, and fix those errors. We can even construct a narrative of each step in this process.

And these tasks are pretty important — and not just for doing spontaneous multiplication tasks. These tasks help us plan for the future, learn from our past, and explain our reasoning (to ourselves and to others). So if reflective reasoning is responsible for carrying out these tasks, then it is a good thing …when it works, that is.

What about when it doesn’t work? Continue reading What Is Reflective Reasoning?

The Appeal to Intuition: A Fallacy?

You might be familiar with what philosophers call an “appeal to nature“. It is a claim that something is good or right because it’s natural. Sometimes an appeal to nature is a fallacy. In this post, I discuss the possibility that an appeal to intuition is that kind of fallacy.

1.  Different Brain, Different Intuition

First, imagine that your brain and my brain are radically different from one another. If this were the case, then it would be unsurprising to find that your intuitions were different than mine. Indeed, evidence suggests that even minor differences between brains are linked to differences in intuition (Amodio et al 2007Kanai et al 2011).

This implies that our appeals to intuition (etc.) might be contingent upon brains being a certain way. In other words, differences in intuitions seem to be the result of differences in natural properties.†

Continue reading The Appeal to Intuition: A Fallacy?

Experimental Philosophy 2.0: The Neuroscience of Philosophy

If our judgments are dependent on the brain, then maybe we can understand our judgments by studying our brains. Further, maybe we can understand our philosophical judgments by studying our brains. What do you think? Can neuroscience help us understand philosophy? Here are some studies which suggest that it can.

1.  Two Opposing Neural Networks/Judgments

Consider two different networks in the brain: the Default Mode Network (DMN) and the Task Positive Network (TPN). These networks are mutually inhibitory. When one network’s activity increases, the other network’s activity decreases. It’s a bit like a seesaw (Jack et al 2013).

Continue reading Experimental Philosophy 2.0: The Neuroscience of Philosophy