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Thread: Answering Street Epistemology

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    tWebber
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    Answering Street Epistemology

    Those who practice what is called "Street Epistemology" say that it is a conversational tool that can be used to talk about a person's deeply-held belief. The interviewer tries to find out if the method that the interviewee used to arrive at his belief is a reliable method. Many atheists try to use this technique to try to get theists to doubt the existence of God.

    Here are some sample videos of Street Epistemology:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-M1EyhcRS8&t=451s

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tItsW3AUEmI

    If a Street Epistemologist were to interview you about the method you used to arrive at the conclusion that the Christian God exists, how would you respond to that? If you say what your method is, then you would be asked, "How do you know that your method is reliable?" or "If someone else used that method, would he arrive at the same conclusion?"

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    tWebber David Hayward's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hornet View Post
    Those who practice what is called "Street Epistemology" say that it is a conversational tool that can be used to talk about a person's deeply-held belief. The interviewer tries to find out if the method that the interviewee used to arrive at his belief is a reliable method. Many atheists try to use this technique to try to get theists to doubt the existence of God.

    If a Street Epistemologist were to interview you about the method you used to arrive at the conclusion that the Christian God exists, how would you respond to that? If you say what your method is, then you would be asked, "How do you know that your method is reliable?" or "If someone else used that method, would he arrive at the same conclusion?"
    Street Epistemology has been around for quite a long time. Its originator, Peter Boghossian, published his A Manual for Creating Atheists, on which Street Epistemology is based, back in 2013. Recruiting new Street Epistemologists started in earnest in September 1986 and there's now -- according to their "List of 10,000" -- 785 Street Epistemologists.

    That's enough background, now down to the nitty-gritty: with so many Street Epistemologists so-say actively seeking reliable methods of knowing, and who are "committed to helping others lead more reflective lives with less reliance on unreliable epistemology" -- you would expect that they should now be able to tell you what are reliable methods of knowing, and to be able to detail what reliable epistemology is. If you read their online materials or their Facebook (etc) posts you'll soon realise they haven't a clue.

    Try challenging them on whether there actually is a reliable method for knowing (or what reliable epistemology actually is) -- for knowing anything, it's supposed to be a method for challenging any belief whatsoever, including the belief that the Earth is spherical, 2+2=4 or that the universe is approximately 13.7 billion years old; if, implausibly you get an answer -- their advice is to avoid anything that pins them to any definitive statement -- challenge them on how they can and do know it's a reliable method/epistemology.

    That should be enough, and with luck you might leave one or two questioning themselves and their methods.

    Additional questions could be: what they claim is a reliable method isn't the only reliable method; what if it's not the best, and how would they know if it was; are different methods reliable in some areas of knowledge but not others and if so, how do they know which for which, and what are the reliable methods for knowing that; … add your own, shouldn't be hard, just keep questioning them and put them on the spot accounting for their beliefs.

    That there are reliable methods is itself a belief: ask them what a reliable method for knowing their belief is correct is, and how they can know, and how they can know that, and …

    If you've been watching their videos, you probably know more about their methods and questions than I do. Just turn them back on them. Knowing how you know how you know how... is an infinite regress. Ask them what, if anything can be known without question. Oh, and how they know it can be known without question.

    The interviewer tries to find out if the method that the interviewee used to arrive at his belief is a reliable method.

    If a Street Epistemologist were to interview you about the method you used to arrive at the conclusion that the Christian God exists, how would you respond to that?
    Do I, do you, does anyone, actually use a method? When was the last time you used an actual method, and what was it? Ask this of them, ask for a couple of worked examples of their methods and ask how they know these methods are reliable.

  3. Amen Chrawnus amen'd this post.
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    tWebber David Hayward's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hornet View Post
    If a Street Epistemologist were to interview you about the method you used to arrive at the conclusion that the Christian God exists, how would you respond to that?
    Taking a step backwards to get an overview, why bother?

    Presumably your post asks (in effect) how to "win" such an exchange. That's unlikely: your Street Epistemologist is going to be a super-atheist; what you see in the videos is them picking the low-hanging fruit, the people easily swayed, the over-willing to please -- for a start, they stopped for a stranger; they themselves will be hardened in their attitudes, lost causes not open to much if any doubt, they'll have an atheist support group, and in a week they'll be unchanged and you forgotten -- so were you to "win" you've still lost; and you haven't "won" in the eyes of onlookers because the modus operandi of the, er, interview is to be one-on-one, there normally aren't any onlookers. So how do you suppose you might win, in any worthwhile sense?

    I suppose you can chalk up wasting fifteen minutes of their time, but they have also wasted fifteen minutes of yours, I'd call that a loss. Walk by, why even bother with them!

  5. Amen Cow Poke, Chrawnus amen'd this post.
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    tWebber David Hayward's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Hayward View Post
    Recruiting new Street Epistemologists started in earnest in September 1986.
    Aargh. Make that September 2016.

    Don't consider them a serious threat, their numbers are not exactly rocketing up. By the time the 'List of 10,000' Street Epistemologists reaches that 10,000 target -- I'll ball-park estimate that at after fifty years ± a decade -- half of them could well be dead of old age and their names merely 'ghosting' on the List.

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    tWebber
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    It may help for churches to have some basic answers to issues raised by these extremists.

    1. Christianity isn't an intellectual exercise but a relationship with God.
    2. But people have come via intellectual study of scripture and even when trying to oppose Christianity. C.S. Lewis came through study of scripture.
    3. The scriptures document history and are reliable as other historical accounts. To deny scriptures is similar to denying all other historical accounts.
    4. "I" may not be able to deal with questions of trustworthiness of knowledge. But people who have studied questions of 'knowledge' can deal with your atheist questions
    5. The interviewer only has maybe 30 years of experience ... and now wishes to overturn two thousand years of understanding?

    I saw parts of the video with Tia. The atheist was disingenuous in his line of questioning -- he was not just wanting to hear people's ideas. His goal was of one-upmanship rather than saving people.

    This may not be the best list of ideas but it is a start.

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    tWebber Leonhard's Avatar
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    There's no more reason to debate one of those guys than to debate presuppositionalists. Same tactic, same modernistic nonsense, same Cartesian thought spirals. The conclusions are already made up, there's no possible dialogue for them to demonstrate their position, they're only out to force you into a doubt spiral, without stopping to ask whether that in itself is a reasonable approach.

    Then after that they'll assume that the only reasonable alternative is (Atheism | The Westminster Confession of Faith).

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    tWebber
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    I wasn't suggesting getting into such a debate. My thought was that sometimes people encounter something like this without knowing a way out -- it wouldn't have to be this group.

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    Professor KingsGambit's Avatar
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    Out of curiosity, has anybody here actually run into one of these sophists in the wild? You would think it was a big thing based on how much it's discussed in the apologetics blog world but I suspect it's just a few guys living in their parents' basement.

    A few years ago, I probably would have tried to seek one out but at this point in life I have no interest in arguing for the sake of arguing.
    Last edited by KingsGambit; 07-14-2019 at 04:34 PM.
    For what was given to everyone for the use of all, you have taken for your exclusive use. The earth belongs not to the rich, but to everyone. - Ambrose, 4th century AD

    All cruelty springs from weakness. - Seneca the Younger

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    tWebber The Remonstrant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hornet View Post
    Those who practice what is called "Street Epistemology" say that it is a conversational tool that can be used to talk about a person's deeply-held belief. The interviewer tries to find out if the method that the interviewee used to arrive at his belief is a reliable method. Many atheists try to use this technique to try to get theists to doubt the existence of God.

    Here are some sample videos of Street Epistemology:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-M1EyhcRS8&t=451s

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tItsW3AUEmI

    If a Street Epistemologist were to interview you about the method you used to arrive at the conclusion that the Christian God exists, how would you respond to that? If you say what your method is, then you would be asked, "How do you know that your method is reliable?" or "If someone else used that method, would he arrive at the same conclusion?"
    I would first have to discern whether I wished to engage in an exchange with such an individual. If I did, in any case, I doubt that it would be a prolonged engagement of any sort.
    For Neo-Remonstration (Arminian/Remonstrant ruminations): <https://theremonstrant.blogspot.com>

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    Troll Magnet Sparko's Avatar
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    You know what helps in situations like that?

    Hanging out on forums like Theologyweb - and reading various online blogs like JP Holding's Tektonics, Glen Miller's Christian Think Tank, etc, where you basically come across every argument that such atheists can come up with and see multiple answers to those questions, and also can learn about various evidences for Christianity and God, the reliability of the bible, etc. And you get over your fear of discussing such things in person as you gain confidence online.

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