Sunday, 23 February 2014

Concluding Comments - 2014 Greer-Heard Forum

A panel discussion concluding the Greer-Heard Forum.

Excellent response by Tim Maudlin to William Lane Craig's assertion that moral objectivity requires theism, @ c30mins, who also makes a good point about blind luck in his concluding comments.

"Let a thousand flowers bloom", Craig says in his concluding comments, which I tend to agree with, although theism does not have a good record on that score!

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Rosenthal on Murray

Mooch the cat

Following my previous post on William Lane Craig's question of the week, Animal Pain Re-visited, I wondered about the distinction that Michael Murray drew between first order and higher order mental states. I could see that Murray was right in the sense that there is a debate about the distinction, but I couldn't see he was right about what that distinction entailed. In particular he wrote:
Do we know that any of the possibilities I describe (that animal pain is like blindsight—experienced but not felt (response 1)—or like “lobotomy pain”—felt but not undesirable (response 2)) are true in the case of animals? Absolutely not. But do we know that they are not the case? I argue that we don’t. That is, for all we know, animal pain works as described in one of those options. The scientific data do not resolve the philosophical question. And thus we don’t know if we have a problem of animal pain.
Do people disagree about this? Yes. However, I think that most scientists who think about these questions do not have the full range of distinctions that philosophers of mind do when reasoning about these matters. So I think that the scientists who disagree don’t fully appreciate the relevant philosophical subtleties. (However, some neuroscientist/philosopher collaborations have been looking at exactly such issues, indeed suggesting that the prefrontal cortex plays just the sort of role I suggest when it comes to phenomenal consciousness—whether of pain or other sensory states. See for example, Lau and Rosenthal, “Empirical Support for higher-order theories of conscious awareness,” Trends in Cognitive Science, August 2011, vol. 15, no 8.) - my emphasis
Murray says that Lau and Rosenthal's paper suggests that the prefrontal cortex 'plays just the sort of role' he suggests - that is, that pain is experienced but not felt, or felt but not undesirable - so animal pain should not count as evil.

Having read Lau and Rosenthal's paper, I still could not see that it supported this view. However, I may not have understood it (!), so I asked philosopher of mind and co-author of the paper David Rosenthal if he cared to comment on it. He very kindly gave me this response, which I quote in its entirety; I think it speaks for itself:
Mark Jones has kindly called my attention to a blog post by Michael Murray about pain and nonhuman animals, at  In that post, Murray appeals to higher-order-thought theories of consciousness, such as that which I have advanced ( and, in particular, to "Empirical Support for Higher-Order Theories of Conscious Awareness", coauthored by Hakwan Lau and me, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 15, 8 (August 2011): 365-373.
I have written a few remarks in that connection and sent them to Mark Jones with my permission to quote them.
The term 'phenomenal consciousness', as currently used in philosophical, psychological, and neuropsychological research, is used to cover both the qualitative character of mental states--e.g., what differs between seeing red and seeing green or between a pain and a tickle--and the subjective awareness that goes with conscious cases of such states.  The point of most higher-order theories of consciousness--including the one I have advanced in many writings and the version Lau and I defend by a very compelling array of empirical findings--is that these two factors do not always occur together.
The appeal to phenomenal consciousness, therefore, is theoretically loaded in an unfortunate way, tying together two mental phenomena--qualitative character and subjective awareness--that need not cooccur.  In the context of Murray's post, it effectively begs the question.
The qualitative character of pain, e.g., can occur without subjective awareness.  The pain, with its qualitative character, would be a first-order mental state; the subjective awareness on our theory--supported by a very great deal of empirical work--can occur distinctly, and is a higher-order state whose content is in some suitable way directed onto the first-order pain state. Genuine pain can, and does, occur without being conscious.
But the qualitative character of pain--even in the absence of subjective awareness--is plainly a bad thing.  It impedes pleasurable activity and enjoyment and other mental processing, it distracts and commands attention, and it impedes a very great many normal bodily processes. Pain can occur without being conscious pain, and because of the effects of such nonconscious pain, it counts by any reasonable definition as suffering, often very intense suffering.  Suffering need not itself be conscious.  
Anybody who insists that pain and its attendant effects are not very bad for the creature even when the pain is not conscious pain seems to me to be looking for an excuse not to bother with what is plainly a significant case of suffering.  There is no sound empirical reason nor any or valid theoretical reason to count pain as suffering only if the pain is conscious.  This is simply a matter of defining suffering away by stipulation.
Lau & Rosenthal appeals to prefrontal cortex in humans as the likely neural mechanism for the higher-order processes that result in subjective awareness.  There is solid empirical evidence that this so for primates generally and likely in many other mammals.  But that finding for humans does not preclude other neural mechanisms' being responsible for such higher-order awareness in other animals.  The studies have not been done so far except for primates.  So prefrontal cortex is not known to be necessary for subjective awareness--of pain or any other types of mental state--for nonprimates generally.
(End quote)

Of course, I understand Murray's point that his appeal is only one suggestion he is making to mitigate the problem of evil, and others may be successful, but I think this one approach, championed by Craig in at least one debate, does not work and should be abandoned.

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Monday, 3 February 2014

Craig adds to the Pain

Mooch the cat (and friend)

In a debate with Stephen Law, William Lane Craig claimed that science shows that animals aren't aware of the pain they are in, and this might be an answer to the perennial theistic problem of evil. It's not at all clear to me how that follows, and Stephen Law subsequently pointed out, with the help of a film made by skydivephil, that Craig simply had the science wrong anyway. Jerry Coyne also posted on the subject, noting:
But there’s no difference between feeling pain and being aware that you’re feeling pain. Pain is a “quale” (plural “qualia”)—a conscious and subjective sensation—which demands awareness, unless it’s simply a sensation that you have learned (or evolved) to avoid.  But if you’ve learned or evolved to avoid it because it’s unpleasant, then you are indeed aware of feeling pain! Finding a sensation unpleasant demands sufficient consciousness to experience qualia.
I tend to agree, although I could concede there may be a difference between the pain felt by animals that have self-awareness about pain, like humans, (what Craig calls third-level pain) and those that don't (second-level pain). However, I cannot see that self-awareness alone renders the pain morally relevant. Oddly Craig did ask himself this question on a question of the week some time ago:
So let’s grant, for the sake of argument, that Murray has got it right about the science concerning animal pain: sentient animals do experience pain, but they (apart from the higher primates) are not aware that they are themselves in pain. What ethical implications for the treatment of animals would this affirmation have?
The only answer I can see him offering is this:
Inflicting unjustified pain on animals would be morally prohibited to us by God. Yes, remember that on the view we’re discussing, sentient animals do experience second-level states of pain, which should not be needlessly inflicted. So stunning animals before killing them for food is, indeed, a good idea. Even with regard to animals which do not experience second-level pain, the theist can maintain that we should not needlessly impair or kill them.
...which appears to concede that animal pain is morally relevant (it's 'a good idea' to avoid it), even if his distinction between second-level and third-level pain stands.

Craig has now added a follow-up with a response from Michael Murray, who originally drew the distinction. Craig seems to think the strongest point that Murray makes is:
...that non-human animals do not have a first-person perspective on their experiences, including experiences of pain, that is to say, they cannot adjoin to their experiences the prefix “I think/feel that. . . ,”so that animals, even if in pain, are not aware that they are themselves in pain.
Once again, he does not argue here why that makes the pain morally irrelevant, but he does think that:
Dr. Murray shows that his critics have not shown that animal suffering of a morally significant sort really exists.
That's a pretty weak claim; likewise one presumes that Craig and Murray also think that no-one has shown that baby suffering of a morally significant sort really exists either, if the distinction is simply that the organism cannot adjoin to their experiences the prefix "I think/feel that...". Further, it is a betrayal of the cautionary principle: that if animals, and babies, display the symptoms of pain, we should assume they are feeling pain.

Murray appeals to the possibility that animals have pain without any “negative-feeling”, based on reports of humans that have reported such a thing after disruption to their prefrontal cortexes. Well I'm no scientist, so I will leave that one to them, but it seems far from clear why we need to prove the precise nature of animal pain before we consider it relevant to our moral calculations. Murray's argument is simply that:
...perhaps most animals do not experience negative-feeling-pain (because they lack a PFC).
But either animal pain is not negative, in which case avoiding it is neither a good idea nor a bad idea, contra Craig above, or it is a negative, in which case the problem of natural suffering is not answered by this argument.

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Friday, 13 December 2013

Universities UK Legal Opinion

There has been a lot of hubbub in the UK press and elsewhere about Universities UK's guidance notes on imposed segregation at University hosted events; bizarrely, they think it is sometimes permissible. See posts from, for example, Nick Cohen, and Ophelia Benson. The BBC reports:
The case study involves an external speaker invited to talk about his orthodox religious faith who subsequently requests segregated seating areas for men and women.
The guidance states that university officials should consider both freedom of speech obligations, as well as discrimination and equality laws when considering the request.
Universities UK says: "If neither women nor men were disadvantaged and a non-segregated seating area were also provided, it might in the specific circumstances of the case be appropriate for the university to agree to the request."
UUK have now published the legal opinion of Fenella Morris QC to support their stance. The key paragraph appears to be no.8:
As set out above, universities that make decisions about the arrangements for external speakers, are required to strike a balance between competing rights and interests. In doing so, they will be obliged to have regard not only to the statutory duty imposed by Parliament in relation to freedom of speech, but also the great importance placed on freedom of speech both in the European jurisprudence and in the HRA. Further, whether the reason advanced for placing a stipulation of segregation of an audience for a particular speaker relies upon the fact that it is the manifestation of a religious belief, two rights – Articles 9 and 10 – will be invoked. These two important rights must be balanced against a right of freedom of association of those who do not wish to be segregated while hearing a particular speaker. Although it would be too simplistic to suggest that the two former rights will always outweigh the latter, it is likely that in many cases the significance of the two former rights will be greater than the latter in terms of where a person sits in order to be part of the audience for a particular speaker if not allowing segregation would prevent the speaker appearing. (my emphasis)
This does seem to go further than many people would think is allowable in a liberal society, I think. Note that the advice does not here mention gender segregation, so the effect of it is to allow the possibility (indeed, to say it is likely) that racist or homophobic speakers should be allowed to dictate how a British University hosts an event, segregating black from white, or heterosexual from homosexual, if their views are religious.

I have to say that there may be some truth to this opinion, since we are talking about a balancing of rights. But to me it shows how dangerous it is to allow religious freedom to trump other freedoms; there really does need to be a hierarchy of rights in such circumstances, and freedoms based on our immutable nature must be given precedence over freedoms based on more mutable beliefs.

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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Unfair Discrimination Ruling Upheld

The Christian guesthouse owners who advertised their double bedrooms as available only to “heterosexual married couples” have lost their appeal to the Supreme Court. The BBC reports the following reactions:
Lady Hale, deputy president of the Supreme Court, said: "Sexual orientation is a core component of a person's identity which requires fulfilment through relationships with others of the same orientation."
Mike Judge, from the Christian Institute, said after the hearing: "What this case shows is that the powers of political correctness have reached all the way to the top of the judicial tree, so much so that even the Supreme Court dare not say anything against gay rights."
Gay rights group Stonewall said in a statement: "We are pleased that the Supreme Court has defended the laws protecting gay customers that Stonewall fought so hard to secure.
"Some might suggest that, rather than pursuing this case, a far more Christian thing to do would be to fight the evils of poverty and disease worldwide."
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, so the following is a layman's interpretation of what has been reported. 

This is good news for all supporters of equal rights, and confirms that the religious consciences of those who offer services to the public cannot be used as an excuse to discriminate unfairly. The press release does note, however, that "The Court’s judgment does not favour sexual orientation over religious belief: had the Respondents refused hotel rooms to the Appellants because of the Appellants’ Christian beliefs, the Appellants would equally have been protected by the law’s prohibition of discrimination". The appellants claimed that they were not discriminating on sexual orientation but on the couple's married status (they were not married, in their Christian eyes), but in law since civil partnerships must be treated as marriages, there is nothing else on which the couple can lawfully discriminate:
Regulation 3(4) [of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007] provides that for the purpose of the provisions defining whether discrimination has taken place, when comparing the treatment of two people, the fact that one is a civil partner and the other is married is not a material difference in the circumstances.
The appellants also claimed freedom to manifest their religion under Article 9 of the ECHR. To this, the Court said:
EASOR’s interference with those rights is justified as a proportional means of achieving a legitimate aim: the protection of the rights and freedoms of people such as the Respondents.
Obviously there is a trade-off of rights necessary when applying the law, and thankfully the Courts are dismissing attempts to unfairly discriminate on the grounds laid out in the legislation. This can result in indirect discrimination, against the bigoted, but also against those who unfairly discriminate on religious grounds. I assume that even though religious conscience is protected by the legislation, it is deemed subsidiary to the discrimination against the gay couple because in this circumstance the first is deemed indirect discrimination and the second direct. By the same logic, a gay couple who refused to allow Christians to stay in their guesthouse on the ground of their religious homophobia would also find the courts ruling against them.

So this ruling is not evidence that sexual orientation is given priority over religious conscience in the hierarchy of rights (if this reading is correct). Nevertheless, I do fully expect believers and religious leaders to claim persecution based on this result!

The full judgement is here.

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Thursday, 14 November 2013

A Dangerous Infection

Sadly disease has struck the shelves of some of the nation's leading magazine retailers, in the shape of the WDDTY bacterium; this is its footprint:

Watch out for it. It's spread by a Lynne Mctaggart, whose rather silly but dangerous views can be sampled here: When 'Science' is a Dirty Word. Note the scare quotes; it's indicative of a schizophrenic approach to the subject. I cannot find details of her scientific qualifications anywhere, but presumably she must have them. She says:
We have been accused of being unscientific, of pedaling [sic] unproven and harmful alternatives, as opposed to the real thing, true ‘scientific’ medicine.
This is true; they have been accused of being unscientific, and they have been peddling unproven and harmful alternatives. She then makes three points, which she says add up "to one indisputable truth: there is nothing remotely scientific about conventional medicine". The points are:

  1. Most of the science behind standard treatments is fiction. This has no supporting reference.
  2. Most treatments haven’t been proven to work. The BMJ are cited here, with no reference. Maybe it's the Clinical Evidence research?
  3. Most treatments cause harm. Again no reference.

Well, these points are not completely off the mark, I don't think. Ben Goldacre says in Bad Pharma that 'Medicine is broken', and goes on to deliver this withering assessment:
Drugs are tested by the people who manufacture them, in poorly designed trials, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analysed using techniques which are flawed by design, in such a way that they exaggerate the benefits of treatments. Unsurprisingly, these trials tend to produce results that favour the manufacturer. When trials throw up results that companies don’t like, they are perfectly entitled to hide them from doctors and patients, so we only ever see a distorted picture of any drug’s true effects. Regulators see most of the trial data, but only from early on in a drug’s life, and even then they don’t give this data to doctors or patients, or even to other parts of government. This distorted evidence is then communicated and applied in a distorted fashion. In their forty years of practice after leaving medical school, doctors hear about what works through ad hoc oral traditions, from sales reps, colleagues or journals. But those colleagues can be in the pay of drug companies – often undisclosed – and the journals are too. And so are the patient groups. And finally, academic papers, which everyone thinks of as objective, are often covertly planned and written by people who work directly for the companies, without disclosure. Sometimes whole academic journals are even owned outright by one drug company. Aside from all this, for several of the most important and enduring problems in medicine, we have no idea what the best treatment is, because it’s not in anyone’s financial interest to conduct any trials at all. These are ongoing problems, and although people have claimed to fix many of them, for the most part they have failed; so all these problems persist, but worse than ever, because now people can pretend that everything is fine after all. - Goldacre, Ben (2012-09-25). Bad Pharma: How drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients (Kindle Locations 43-55). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition. 
Goldacre goes on to document in rather harrowing detail how poor the process is for bringing drugs to market. Unfortunately for Mctaggart, none of that makes her magazine's claims any more believable. Just because medical science has problems does not automatically mean that the alternative does not. For centuries humorism held sway in the medical establishment, with people happily undergoing purges and bloodletting and getting better through regression to the mean. What put an end to it? Science. The only way to progress matters medicinal is to add more science, not to blithely disregard it. But her entire modus operandi is to discredit science in order to promote unscientific alternatives.

Her poor reasoning comes to the fore when she discusses comparative statistics on harm caused by real medicine and alternative 'remedies':
So that risk is: 0.01/1 million for natural substances vs 1000/1 million for drugs.  In other words, the risk of lethal harm from modern medicine is 100,000 higher than that of herbal or nutritional medicine.
This beggars the basic question: which form of medicine is the least scientific?
It should surely be obvious to anyone that a remedy that does nothing is far less likely to cause harm than one that does something. There are, of course, sins of omission, so people are harmed by taking a 'remedy' that does nothing. But her statistics simply highlight that she is peddling treatments that do nothing.
Drugs constitute a one-size-fits-all model, whereas every human being is unique. Drugs that work on me may not work on you and vice versa; most drugs can’t be made smart enough to, say, slot only tab A into slot B without affecting slot C, D and E, because humans are holistic.
Yet, somehow this 'one-size-fits-all model' is fine for the companies that sell Vitamin C, herbal 'remedies' and homeopathy? Of course! By this logic she should have to send a tailored copy of WDDTY to each of her subscribers, lest she is accused of neglecting their uniqueness. She signs off:
True science seeks to drive a stake into science, particularly scientism.
Nevertheless, mainstream science, particularly mainstream medicine, has grown ever more fundamentalist, dominated by a few highly vocal people who believe that our scientific story has largely been written and that the job of science is simply to confirm it.
Thankfully, an enormous body of resistance carries on in defiance of this restricted—highly unscientific—view. May they and all the true scientists like them continue to light our way.
In fact, those who value science and the nation's well-being are trying to organize resistance to this infection; anti-biotics are being developed around the blogosphere! Check out WWDDTYDTY for analyses of WDDTY articles, and Josephine Jones is maintaining a master list of issues relating to this unfortunate publication.

Sadly for Mctaggart, as GP Margaret McCartney said:
I'm astounded that Lynne thinks this is an evidence-based publication. It's anything but. The problem with evidence is that it can tell you things that you'd rather not know. A lot of the time medicine does do harm but that's why doctors and scientists are duty-bound to put their research findings out there and to stop doing things that cause harm. What we shouldn't do is abandon medicine and the scientific method and go straight for alternative medicine with no good evidence that that works either.

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Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The Problem of Theistic Philosophers of Religion

Roman Catholic Dr Tim Stanley has written a paranoid piece attacking Richard Dawkins and 'atheist trolls' who constantly mock his beliefs. He writes:
When you insult my faith you go right to the heart of what makes me me. When you're trying to convince me in 140 characters of sub-GCSE philosophical abuse that God doesn't exist, you're trying to take away the faith that gets me up in the morning, gets me through the day and helps me sleep at night. You're ridiculing a God without whom I suspect I might not even be alive, and a God that I prayed to when my mother was going through cancer therapy. You're knocking a Church that provides me with compassion and friendship without asking for anything in return – perhaps the greatest, most wonderful discovery of my adult life. You see, people don't generally believe in God for reasons of convenience or intellectual laziness. It's usually fulfilling a deep need – filling a soul with love that might otherwise be quite empty and alone. In short, when you try to destroy someone's faith you're not being a brilliant logician. You're being a jerk.
Well, maybe not so paranoid. He has a point, does he not? If Stanley is typical of theists, and I suspect he may be, then they invest much more emotionally in their faith than non-believers do in their belief systems. Attacking their beliefs is an attack on them, if they identify so closely and emotionally with them. This is not to say that non-believers are not passionate about science, or truth, or rationality, or even humanism, but they appear to be typically less emotionally invested in them. They might 'pray' to science to help their mother get through cancer therapy, but that prayer would lack the personal element that marks out theism.

Stephen Law has written in his book Believing Bullshit about the emotional factor in forging people's beliefs: might harness the emotional power of iconic music and imagery. Ensure people are regularly confronted by portraits of Our Leader accompanied by smiling children and sunbeams emanating from his head (those Baghdad murals of Saddam Hussein spring to mind). Ensure your opponents and critics are always portrayed accompanied by images of catastrophe and suffering, or even Hieronymus-Bosch-like visions of hell. Make people emotional dependent on your own belief system. Ensure that what self-esteem and sense of meaning, purpose and belonging they have is derived as far as possible from their belonging to your system of belief. Make sure they recognise that abandoning that belief system will involve the loss of things about which they care deeply.
Such practices have been part of atheistic ideologies, of course, but they are the bread and butter of religion.

So it seems obvious to me that theists operating in philosophy are going to struggle to do philosophy when it touches on their faith beliefs. If such a philosopher ring-fences their faith beliefs, and has a heavy emotional investment in them, this automatically biases their work, and the less bias a philosopher can bring to their analysis, the better the philosophy. I questioned the coherence of 'Christian Philosophy' here, whilst accepting it as a term for philosophy conducted by Christians. This does not mean that I think Christians, or theists, cannot be good philosophers. Clearly they can. But just as scientists use the scientific method to counteract the problems even the best of them have investigating reality, so it would benefit philosophers to adopt practices that counteract their biases. This also applies to non-believers, but more so to believers.

Paul Draper and Ryan Nichols have a piece in the latest issue of The Monist, called Diagnosing Bias in Philosophy of Religion. Ryan Nichols writes about it here, for those who want to read some more about it. The abstract says philosophy of religion is:
... too partisan, too polemical, too narrow in its focus, and too often evaluated using criteria that are theological or religious instead of philosophical. Our diagnosis is that, because of the emotional and psychosocial aspects of religion, many philosophers of religion suffer from cognitive biases and group influence.
The piece investigates some evidence that supports my intuitions about theistic philosophers. I don't think it's an open and shut case, but it is suggestive, I think. As per the abstract, they discuss four symptoms of poor health in philosophy of religion:
[I]t is too partisan, too polemical, too narrow in its focus, and too often evaluated using criteria that are theological or religious instead of philosophical.
Partisanship seems obvious, on both sides. The polemicism they worry about includes the sort of language that is often used: the language of conflict and opposition. On focus, they write:
Typically, religion is unreflectively equated with some form of theism or even classical theism, and atheism is equated with naturalism or even physicalism, ignoring the broad and plausible territory between those extremes. Alternatives like "generic theism" (that is, theism combined with a rejection of all alleged special revelations), pantheism, ietsism, and deism are rarely mentioned, and when they are mentioned they are usually dismissed as positions that very few people hold, which is not only spectacularly false, but hardly an appropriate constraint on philosophical inquiry. Even worse, it is often just assumed that the only viable forms of theism are Muslim, Christian, or Jewish.
This is very true. William James dismissed Islam as a live option for belief and, of course, in a similar way most religious believers do not take other religious beliefs as seriously as those they have faith in. I mean, they do not invest the time and emotional energy in the many religious beliefs from around the world that theists in those countries take as seriously as their own. This means that many possible philosophical positions are dismissed out of hand because of pre-existing beliefs. This is a problem for everyone, not just believers, of course, but one would expect a religious believer's emotional investment to make it a bigger problem for them.

Then they point out that too often positions are criticised based on religious beliefs, such as incompatibility with scripture:
Reinforcing such behavior is the fact that the motto of one of the premier journals in the field is "faith seeking understanding." This motto echoes the belief of some of the most influential philosophers of religion (e.g. Plantinga 1984) that philosophers who happen to be Christians should take the truth of Christian doctrines (as they happen to interpret them) as a starting point for philosophical inquiry.
They look at psychological studies to see if they support these contentions. They note that for confirmation bias:
...the strongest effects were among sophisticated, smart participants, and participants with strong prior commitments about the issues.
So if stronger prior commitments are reflected in those with more emotional investment in a belief, they would suffer the strongest confirmation bias:
We have several reasons to think that similar results are sure to be found when the above experiments are replicated with arguments about religion, especially when using philosophers of religion as participants. First, philosophers are emotional creatures like other humans. Second, professional philosophers of religion would score high on tests of sophistication about arguments in philosophy of religion as opposed to control participants. Third, many religious philosophers of religion, having committed their whole lives to a body of religious doctrine, have strong emotions about their religious beliefs. The last two observations set religious philosophers of religion apart from other groups of  philosophers —from, say, four-dimensionalist metaphysicians.
I think there is some truth to this, although there seem to be many controversies in philosophy that raise high emotions and are not exclusively religious. Consider the existence of objective morals, the free will debate and the hard problem of consciousness, for example. But many theists, like Stanley, make a point of highlighting the importance of their faith, suggesting it is more deeply held than non-belief. I'm inclined to agree with them. If a theist holds this position then they would have to agree, if they accept the studies cited, that they are more prone to certain biases. Draper and Nichols continue:
There are good reasons to believe that the emotional attachments that many religious philosophers have to their religious groups are exceptionally strong. 
Among the group memberships a professional philosopher might have, few if any compete with religion for social, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive importance.
If religious philosophers of religion have social and psychological tendencies at all similar to those found in religious people in general, then symptoms like excessive partisanship and narrowness of focus, and perhaps even the blurring of religious and philosophical criteria of evaluation, are to be expected.
Echoing Stanley's sentiments, they point out:
The attachment system operates in Christianity, for example, by making Jesus, God, or Mary functional attachment figures and fictive kin.
For religious persons, including religious philosophers of religion, who are attached to God the Father and who have an emotional conviction that their Father loves them, reading an argument that their Father does not exist primes negative emotional responses (whether above or below levels of conscious awareness).
They caution:
Bias is no doubt a problem in all areas of philosophy, but given the large percentage of religious believers in philosophy of religion, the emotional depth of religious attachments, and the strong connection between bias and the emotions, there is good reason to believe that it is much more damaging to inquiry in philosophy of religion than to inquiry in most other areas of philosophy. 
I think that most theists would agree that they have a more emotional attachment to their beliefs than non-believers, so I think they should agree with this diagnosis. Draper and Nichols make some strong recommendations to counteract any bias:
Our first recommendation is for philosophers of religion to distance themselves in every way possible from apologetics, whether theistic or atheistic.
This seems sensible, and may be why I sense that quite a few non-believing philosophers of religion are antipathetic to 'new atheism'. They may consider it too polemical, too atheistically apologetic.
Second, we recommend that philosophers of religion use argument construction less often as a method for making cases for the positions they hold, and more often as a method of testing those positions.
This is a fascinating recommendation, and a difficult one to pull off; but when a philosopher puts forward a really good argument against their own position, you know that good philosophy is occurring. I know I'm not very good at it! But I admire those who are.
A third recommendation is to make a conscious effort to allow, as J.L. Schellenberg puts it, the voice of authority to grow dim.
Indeed. Argue the case; don't defer to Aquinas or Descartes. I realise I say this in a blog citing Draper and Nichols, but then, I am no philosopher!
Finally, our fourth recommendation, which is the hardest of all to follow, is to make a conscious decision to accept genuine risk.
I really think that this is where many with faith would draw the line. The point of faith, I think, is to separate doctrine and dogma, to put them beyond risk. This is counter to this recommendation.
Even if a scientist is sure of some cherished hypothesis, testing that hypothesis by experiment is (in many though admittedly not all cases) inherently risky. Apologetics by comparison is very safe insofar as pursuing it is very unlikely to result in the apologist rejecting any of the central doctrines of the religious community he or she serves. Philosophy should be riskier - the philosopher of religion must be prepared to abandon cherished beliefs.
Theists can risk their beliefs, however, or none would ever lose their faith. Draper and Nichols compare the contrasting attitudes of Rudolf Otto and Gary DeWeese.
Otto says, "The earth disappeared from under my feet. That was the result of my studies at Erlangen. I went there not so much to quest for truth, but more to vindicate belief. I left with the resolve to seek nothing but the truth, even at the risk of not finding it in Christ" (Almond 1984, 12). Although Otto remained throughout his career a theologian by title, he was an exemplary philosopher of religion in many ways. He is famous, of course, because he wrote one of the greatest works in the history of the philosophy of religion, namely. The Idea of the Holy. It is abundantly clear that, had Otto not rejected apologetics in favor of a more philosophical approach to religious inquiry, he would not and could not have written this masterpiece.
As Christian scholars we are of course free to entertain all manner of "what if" questions, some heterodox, some heretical.... While we're free to entertain such thoughts, I believe we are constrained by our faith to answer them in certain ways. If it seems to me that if a particular claim is well-argued but it contradicts a significant tenet of the faith . . . , then I should seek to refute rather than defend it.

I think theistic philosophers might argue that non-believers are as susceptible to the problems outlined by Draper and Nichols. In this piece, for example, Christian philosopher Randal Rauser considers the naturalist response to Thomas Nagel's recent book as indicative of something:
What happens if you violate naturalism? Here I’ll be brief because the fallout from Thomas Nagel’s book Mind and Cosmos has been well documented elsewhere. Just consider Andrew Ferguson’s fascinating article “The Heretic: Who is Thomas Nagel and why are so many of his fellow academics condemning him?” It is no surprise that scholars are heaping insults on Nagel, a worldclass philosopher and atheist, for daring to challenge philosophical naturalism. After all, this ain’t just mere epiphenomenalism. This is a theory that goes to the very foundations for many of these folk. Kind of like challenging the incarnation at a Christian school, eh?
I'm not sure this is a true analog with religious belief, but it may be. And if it is, then the religious will have to give up any claim to special respect for their beliefs, à la Stanley. Either they claim they have a more emotional connection to their beliefs than non-believers, and accept the psychological consequences of that, whatever they turn out to be, or they agree that non-believers can treat their religious beliefs as any other non-religious belief; Dawkins and 'atheist trolls' are free to attack them without believers claiming a 'special' identity with their beliefs.

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