Quentin Smith is Wrong
Smith, an atheist philosopher of religion, makes a curious statement regarding hypothetical match-ups between naturalists who are not philosophers of religion (or specialists in the philosophy of religion, which I will call SPR for brevity) and theists who are. Even if judged by a naturalist who is also an SPR, he says, "I expect the most probable outcome is that the naturalist, wanting to be a fair and objective referee, would have to conclude that the theists definitely had the upper hand in every single argument or debate." It seems to me that this is a bit of bad philosophical reasoning.
Smith appears to be what I call a philosophical elitist. (This is something I discussed in an earlier post.) He makes the assumption that the SPR always makes a better argument than the non-SPR. Now this may in fact be the case much of the time. But in every case? I don't think so. Even SPRs can make a bad argument. And they often do. Whether Smith agrees or not, people who aren't an SPR can make a good argument. And they often do. Smith would do well do drop his elitist attitude and examine the arguments. The last time I checked, a valid argument based on well-supported premises beats one that isn't, regardless of who makes the argument. And while an SPR might be familiar with all the theistic arguments and refutations, that doesn't imply that he has a better command of logic than the rest of the world, or that he recognizes their flaws and fallacies. (This seems to be a common misconception among philosophical elitists.) Hell, even a scientist can understand logic and use it in an argument. In fact, some people actually believe that science is founded on logic.