When ‘Street Epistemology’ met a real epistemologist


1907631_733047390101016_4612179800882097951_nI would love to write an extensive commentary on the discussion between Tim McGrew and Peter Boghossian but, for reasons I explained the other day, I’m unable to do so right now. Whether there’s even a need for me to do so is questionable since some very good responses have already appeared on the internet. So here are some links to some I think are worth reading.

You can find the discussion here:


Randal Rauser has a reflection on the debate which can be found here Tim McGrew gives Peter Boghossian an unbelievable public drubbing.

I think it would be pretty difficult to disagree with Rauser on the issue of whether Boghossian qualifies as a bigot or not.

Wintery Knight has an overview of the conversation and a poll where you can express your opinion on what you mean by the word faith: Tim McGrew debates Peter “Bogo the Clown” Boghossian on the definition of faith

Nick Peters has responded over at ‘Deeper Waters’ Tim McGrew vs. Peter Boghossian.

J.W. Wartick has written a piece on his blog “Is Faith a False Epistemology?”- Debate Review: Tim McGrew vs. Peter Boghossian.

There are a few comments over at THINKAPOLOGETICS.COM Unbelievable : Peter Boghossian vs Tim McGrew – Debate on ‘A Manual For Creating Atheists”

Graham Veale has a piece over at Saints and Sceptics: Faith: Simple Lessons for New Atheists.

Those are the main ones as far as I can see.

Personally I cannot understand how any rational person could think that Street Epistemology is a valid or useful approach to the ongoing dialogue between theists and atheists after that discussion.

Boghossian’s entire argument in summary:

Okay so Christians don’t agree with my first definition of faith? Here’s a second. Oh, they don’t agree with my second definition of faith? Here’s a third. Oh, the third one is a bit ambiguous and seems to be closer to the orthodox usage of the word? Well let’s go with that then. Let’s see if Christians agree with that definition and if they do I’ll twist it so they’re conceding something they’re really not!


At the end of the show Boghossian asked if the “vast majority” of Christians use the word faith the way he uses it (after three revisions). Here are the results from the Unbelievable poll:

ScreenHunter_369 May. 26 08.49

I guess the question now is whether Boghossian is doxastically open enough to permit the empirical evidence to change his mind or whether he will continue to believe something in the face of evidence to the contrary.

Of course Boghossian finished by trying to get the poll to be aligned to his THIRD definition of faith and not either of the two in his book.

Notice this statement in his finishing comments:

“I think anybody who sincerely listened to this conversation knows exactly that I’m correct and that this is how the overwhelming majority of people have it.”

Boghossian has already given himself a way out of ignoring the empirical evidence. He will write off everyone who doesn’t agree with him with an ad hominem. How can someone who teaches critical thinking be engaging in such tactics?

Today the Christian philosopher Guillaume Bignon tweeted this:

“That a proposition’s being possibly false is compatible with its being very probably true is lost on too many debaters.”

I certainly think Peter Boghossian misses that point and dozens of others as well.

Happy reading and I hope to see you again in a couple of months!

More on Tim McGrew:

Professional publications

Interviews and teaching materials

Tim McGrew’s Recommended Apologetics Reading

Here is an extremely good historical survey of the word faith by Wessel:

How Do You Define “Faith”?

PS. Did you spot Boghossian’s attempt to poison the well at the beginning of the discussion with McGrew? If not, here’s him doing it again in retrospect on Twitter:

ScreenHunter_377 May. 27 10.40

222 retweets for that! Critical thinking is still unpopular! No doubt my response will go unanswered! Boghossian probably has some private, non-standard, definition of ‘theologian’ that he’s using here anyway.

ScreenHunter_378 May. 27 10.43

Next time you see one of these at a Boghossian lecture, you might want to ask for a definition before you sit down!

1e98e89455c2abe7fe97d74e9ec76f6d_viewSorry for all the memes but, could this be the future of ‘Street Epistemology’?



This is an interesting piece I only just spotted on what it’s like to have private email correspondence with Peter Boghossian:

Peter Boghossian sees through me


About aRemonstrant'sRamblings

I graduated in philosophy of religion many years ago and have since acquired my PGCE and now teach religion, ethics and philosophy.
This entry was posted in Atheism, Atheist apologists, Epistemology, Faith, New Atheism, Philosophy, Street Epistemology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to When ‘Street Epistemology’ met a real epistemologist

  1. Linuxgal says:

    In the scriptures (Hebrews 11:1) faith is defined as “the evidence of things not seen”. So faith goes beyond simply believing in divine things despite the lack of evidence. The emotion of assurance in supernatural truths itself is taken to be the evidence of the existence of a God who would create the emotion. So the prerequisite to becoming a man or woman of faith is that one must accept that emotions are valid tools of cognition.

    • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

      Thanks Linuxgal. I have a piece on Hebrews 11:1 in my series on Boghossian. It’s part 3.2. All the best.

  2. Nice roundup. Meanwhile I’ve sparked a whole new post of James Lindsay’s over on God Doesn’t in the wake of the debate, while also getting entangled on Rauser’s site with somebody trying to tell me I was too nasty and “critical” of Boghossian. He tried to argue that when we only criticize, we’re not showing the love of Christ. (This after he had praised a comment where I noted that Boghossian does get something right when he takes on the PC police.) As an example of the Bible’s “non-critical approach,” he used Jesus’ appearance to Paul on the road to Damascus (!?!?) I got out of that one only to be trapped in an endless sub-thread with some atheist trolls who somehow got me on the topic of Christianity and pedophilia (!?) Thinking now might be a good time to stop feeding them.

    • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

      It did not take long to spot that James Lindsay is going to be a complete and utter waste of time.

      I always find the people who complain about criticism don’t mind dishing it out. I often wonder if they ever read the gospels myself and, if they do, whether they just blink at the parts where Jesus is being critical of others.

      You have my sympathy. It’s hard to leave the trolls and not feed them. How about writing an article for your blog instead? You make some great points and express them clearly so I’m sure some reflection on it would be good. I’d also be happy to link it here on my blog if you do.

      All the best.

    • Hi Esther I believe that debate was with Luke correct me if Im wrong…by the way he is a Christian but some of his views like the one he had re,not criticising Boghossian does make you shake your head but he is a deep thinker and Ive seen him defend the faith against the most difficult of questions thrown at him by the atheists on there.

      • I also liked his other comments, which is why I couldn’t understand why he got so indignant/huffy with me all of a sudden. He thought I was being mean. All I did was try to explain why his examples weren’t working. I think he might be a little insecure, but of course I wish him all the best.

  3. I have to say that I watched several “Street Epistemology” videos on YouTube, and it does seem to be a very effective technique to get one to question their faith. Most videos only run about 5 or 6 minutes (and some about 30 minutes) but it is shocking how quickly some believers acquiesce.

    • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

      I would suggest they acquiesce so quickly because they are most often nominal believers. I think the US is full of people who call themselves ‘Christians’ and yet have rarely given it much thought. Street Epistemologists are therefore picking out the low-hanging fruit. Anyone can have success at that game since all belief systems (whether religious or not) have plenty of them hanging around on the lower branches. The videos I have watched of SE in action almost always appear to be engaging with people who have never thought for even five minutes about their supposed faith or it engages with fundamentalists. The videos remind me of how you can make any demographic look stupid. Just watch a video like this one:

      Does that fairly represent American intellect?

      The only time it has tried to engage with thoughtful Christians / theists it has been absolutely laid to waste. Numerous Christians have critiqued Boghossian and Tim McGrew laid him to waste in his discussion with him.

      I set Boghossian a question to answer in 3.1 of my series. I was completely genuine about it and I claim it totally refutes his methodology. I made him aware of it and he refused to respond. Yet he still pretends no-one has seriously engaged with him. The man is in denial.

      Boghossian is simply yet to make it to the adult table. He got left on the kids table and then he left since no-one was taking him too seriously.

      Sorry to break it to you! 😉

      • Street Smart Epistemology says:

        That would be a valid point but it’s clear that you don’t know what the aim of Street Epistemology is, which makes your need to provide commentary on the topic questionable.

  4. I se all you wanna be theologians got you little pink panties in a twist.
    Shocked I say.Shocked

    I see that christians her are just as vapid and petulant as most anywhere.
    You are nothing if not predictable. Hopefully we will soon evolve out of the flawed thinking he speaks of. But perhaps stupidity is a persistent and immutable disease of the human species.

    I think Peter brings a specific problem to relief: Your thinking is flawed, seriously flawed.

    The old adage
    “Impaired judgment cannot recognize impaired judgment”

    Is as applicable to theist ‘thinking’ and ‘critical thought’ as is to a drunk when asked if he is drunk.

    • aRemonstrant'sRamblings says:

      I was tempted to correct your abysmal English but I couldn’t be bothered. The irony of course being that, in your trite comment you have managed to mangle together in broken English, you have not made one single criticism of the content. Not one! Of course you manage to insult and follow it with a couple of assertions and then run away. The only thing predictable here is the urge for some atheists to comfort themselves and their insecure subject knowledge by throwing out a couple of insults in order for them to sleep a little better at night. I went to read your comment a second time to see if I could find anything of substance but what I ended up doing was reading it in a Donald Trump voice. It seemed to fit quite nicely! Thanks for making me laugh!!

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