Friday, June 4, 2010

Debunking Christianity: On Being Ignorant of One's Ignorance and Unaware of Being Unskilled

I've been commenting on John W. Loftus' Debunking Christianity blog. It's been getting nasty of late. People were just being extremely not nice. It didn't matter what I said or how I answered people would almost ignore my answer and then offer things that just seemed baffling. I was one one thread for a month, How Can We Decide Who Is Wrong?, and yesterday John Loftus cut the the thread saying that it had degenerated to Name calling. The funny thing is then he called me an "idiot" by name. Real pathetic. He hadn't been participating in the discussion and I'm not even sure if he was following the discussion, considering that I was talking to about what I think was 5 people who all seemed to want me to give up and agree with the. Today Loftus posted the following:
As a former Christian, especially when I first converted, I thought I knew the answers to the riddle of existence. The answers were all in the Bible. And I thought I could also understand the Bible well enough to know, especially before I had any advanced learning. Initially I was a Bible Thumper. My motto was: God said it. I believe it. That settles it. Looking back on those initial years I could see clearly that I was not able to think through the issues of the Bible, especially hermeneutics, until after gaining a master's degree. I would have told you upon receiving my master's degree that I was ignorant before then. But I kept on learning and studying. Age has a way of teaching us as well. It seems as though as every decade passes I would say I was more ignorant in the previous one. As every decade passes I see more and more wisdom in Socrates who claimed he was wise because he didn't know. According to him the wiser that a person is, then the less he claims to know. Awareness of our ignorance only comes with more knowledge.

Contrast that with my early Christianity. I knew the answers, all of them. They were found in the Bible. And without any education at all I could have the confidence to speak to college professors I met and not be intimidated at all. And I did. I remember walking away from some conversations thinking to myself how ignorant that professor was. Yep. That's right. At that time I was what psychologists have dubbed "Unskilled and Unaware of it." And it appears to me many Christians who comment here are just as I was. They come here with the answers. Some of them do not even have a college education. And yet they offer nothing but ignorant comments. I can't convince them otherwise. They are like I once was.

But I'll try anyway. One writer said:
The British philosopher Bertrand Russell once wrote that “the trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” This is true whether one interprets “stupid” as foolish (short on smarts) or as ignorant (short on information). Deliberately or otherwise, his sentiment echoes that of Charles Darwin, who over one hundred years ago pointed out that “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”

The Internet is a veritable all-you-can-eat buffet of such misplaced confidence. Online, individuals often speak with confident authority on a subject, yet their conclusions are flawed. It is likely that such individuals are completely ignorant of their ignorance. Cough.
And so let me link to this writer who in turn links to an important study that can help us determine whether we are ignorant or not. The psychological study is called, Unskilled and Unaware of it.

And it just doesn't apply to Christians, but anyone who has an overconfident assessment of their skills and abilities, including atheists.

The bottom line is that the more I know the more aware of how little I know. Get it? But there is no way to help a person who has all of the answers know how little he knows except by increasing his knowledge and experience. It's a catch-22 of sorts. Until you do know a great deal you will never really know how ignorant you are. Therefore only the ignorant are unaware of their ignorance. And only the unskilled are unaware of it too. We see this on shows like American Idol and on Who's Got Talent? Does it not surprise you how many people audition for these shows who completely lack talent and yet claim they are good? Most bad Karaoke singers do not know they cannot sing. It's not until they become better at it can they know this for themselves.

It's not that the ignorant and unskilled don't know they are at least somewhat ignorant and unskilled. They do. Just ask them. When asked even the ignorant will say so. It's just that the ignorant do not understand how truly ignorant they really are. They might think it's a small leap to knowledge when there is a mile (or several miles) to travel for it.

Again, the more we know the more we know that we don't know, and only people who know can truly know this. Got it? And only people who know can discern others who know. I can have a great conversation/dialogue with some Christians here because I can tell that they know what they are talking about (even if I disagree). And I know who they are because of what they say. It's a joy to me. In fact, if approved for publication an unnamed Christian scholar and I will be co-writing a book length dialogue about our differences because I can respect that he knows (well, at least as best as a Christian can do anyway). [I'm not defining "know" here as justified knowledge, but in terms of education and awareness, since, as you would expect, I think he's wrong].

So I'll continually be bothered daily at DC by ignorant people who are unaware of their ignorance, especially Christians. That's the nature of this beast. Worse off, they don't trust me to tell them what they should understand. They will most likely only listen when someone on their side of the fence--whom they respect--tells them.

For now I'm challenging people to consider whether they are ignorant/unskilled and unaware of it. Most Christians who comment here are. I would say this about them as a former professor of philosophy, apologetics, ethics, and the Bible. This is much more true of them now from my perspective.

So the more I know the more I know that I don't know. But I do know this: I know a hell of a lot more than most people about Christianity. Is this a contradiction? Not at all. For the only way for us to know this about ourselves is to become knowledgeable. Someone can only say he knows a lot when he knows he doesn't know that much. And only the knowledgeable can have a proper assessment of this because the ignorant are ignorant of their own ignorance!

One thing though, as much as you'd like to say otherwise, I am not ignorant when it comes to Christianity. I might be wrong, but I'm not ignorant, at least not as ignorant as most of the Christians who comment here. Think of it this way. Why would a Christian scholar want to co-write a book with me if he thought I was ignorant? Why would he dignify ignorance?

I'm re-posting this because I want to make 2 points clear. Loftus and many of those who opposed me were angry that I am convinced that God not only exists but that that God has revealed Himself through the Bible and in the person of Jesus Christ. While these people rail against Christianity they make errors and make false statements yet when I pointed them out, Loftus said nothing about it. Neither would they own up to their mistakes. There were times I made mistakes and misstatements and I owned up to those. Yet, they didn't. I don't want to embarrass these guys more than all I already have so I will keep their names out of it. For example:

a. All Jews believed in Resurrection in the first century.
b. Everyone who claims to be a Christian are Christians and "Christian" has no historic definition.
c. All Pentecostals are members of the Church of God in Christ.
d. I think that only Church of God in Christ is the one true church and there will be no Catholic, Methodists, Seventh Day Adventists in Heaven
e. Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons should  be considered Christian.

When I pointed out that these were stupid ideas and why they are not true, I got nothing. No apology. No explanation why these ideas are true.

The second point is actually pointed out on this current post. Scripture truly teaches that we should not look at ourselves as knowing everything. I know I don't know everything. The Bible says so. But that doesn't mean I don't know Jesus.

 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
       and lean not on your own understanding;
 6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
       and he will make your paths straight. - Proverbs 3:5-6

The heart is deceitful above all things
       and beyond cure.
       Who can understand it? - Jeremiah 17:9

9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. - 1 Corinthians 13:9-12

The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. - 1 Corinthians 8:2
So the question is. Why is it okay for atheists like them to say that there is no good evidence for God and offer no proof that God does not exist yet tell me I'm ignorant and stupid when they can't prove it? I easily showed that they did not read or interpret the Bible in what they say it says, yet they call me ignorant. It'd be amusing if they weren't doomed to hell if they don't put their faith in Jesus.

Debunking Christianity: On Being Ignorant of One's Ignorance and Unaware of Being Unskilled
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