Joe has written a new article, this time specifically about me. This is actually the second article he has written in response to one that I wrote, but this one comes six weeks later, and I thought the issue was forgotten. Apparently, Joe has been seething all this time, but he has completely ignored what I actually said, and instead imagined that I was attacking his book. And that's what he's pissed off about. But it isn't true.
Let me give a brief recap. Joe wrote an article called Children of the lack of God, that said basically that atheists don't know what Christians know about their basis for belief, because atheists lack the experience that provides this epistemic basis. He is referring to the mystical experience, which supposedly provides first-hand knowledge of God's presence. My response, called Children of the lack of Objectivity, said that there are different levels of understanding of an experience, some of which are indeed subject to objective examination. As for the meaning of these experiences, I said basically that we are all humans, and we all have similar experiences, but we interpret them differently, based on what we already know or believe. Furthermore, many of us atheists are former theists, and therefore, the claim that we lack the same experience simply isn't true. For some reason that isn't clear to me, Joe sees this as an attack on his book. But I didn't mention his book, and I was responding strictly to what Joe said in that article.
So now in his latest article, Joe has come out with some false claims that I feel should be addressed. First of these is the title of his new article: Children of the lack of reading what they criticize. He might have a case if I was talking about his book, which I haven't read, but that's not what I was addressing (as I just explained). It is true that I haven't read his book, and I have said so many times. I refuse to provide financial support for it, but I'll be happy to read it if Joe wants to provide a free copy. In the meantime, when I make my comments about things that Joe says elsewhere (regardless of any overlap they might have with what is in the book), I am commenting on things that I have read.
Next, Joe makes this claim:
He assumes that there is nothing there to explained so therefore any human feeling is as good as another therefore he knows all about it. That is manifest nonsense. ... Some atheists (small group) do have mystical experiences and the studies show that these atheists react to the experiences the same way that religious people do but they use different terminology, but they are the same experiences.Joe completely failed to understand what I wrote. I never denied that non-religious people have profound (possibly religious) experiences. I did deny that experiences of this type are unknown to atheists. In fact, it's not just a small group of atheists who have these experiences, although it might be a small group that sees the experience as reason to convert. It's because of our previous understanding that we interpret the experience in a different way. But Joe denies that most atheists have the same kind of experience. And this is a point of disagreement.
At this point, it is worth pointing out that Joe bases this mistaken belief on his "empirical studies" - specifically, the M-scale that, according to Joe, purports to objectively measure mystical experience, and distinguish the "true" experience from others that are similar. In other discussions, I have made the point that there is no objective measure of what is inherently subjective. How would the inventor of this scale know whether the scale is accurate in determining a "true" experience? It's impossible. All he knows is how people answer a questionnaire, which is dependent on how they interpret the experience. The M-scale may weed out any answers that its creator feels don't indicate the proper interpretation, but it provides no objective information about the subjective inner experience, just as it is impossible to objectively describe what the color blue looks like. In fact, there is no legitimate way to say that this person's experience is "the real thing", and this other person's isn't, M-scale notwithstanding. This isn't objective scientific analysis. It is religion masquerading as science - just like "creation science".
Joe's defense of the validity of this M-scale is predicated on studies that correlate the experience with positive changes in one's life. But that's meaningless. If this correlation is true, it doesn't establish that the experience comes from God. All we might conclude is that a person's attitude and psychological state probably affects both his interpretation of the experience, and also the way he lives. No legitimate scientist would make the logical stretch from correlation data to Joe's conclusion. Furthermore, Joe cites 200 such studies that supposedly provide "empirical backing" for his claims. But with the possible exception of of Wuthrow and Noble, those 200 studies aren't even about mystical experience. They mostly correlate a spiritual attitude with well-being. They don't really support his thesis in any substantial way.
Joe wraps up his diatribe with this:
This guy has the gal to lecture me on epistemological tool boxes. He's never read any of the studies I use (which are the leading studies in the field) or my book and probably not any book or even an article about mystical experience, He wants to be credited as knowing all about an experience he's never had, he doesn't quote a single source I have 200 studies from peer reviewed journals, He doesn't even know who Stephan Tulmin was and he's so ignorant he thinks Warrant has to be blessed by science before its valid. His knowledge base is grounded in pre conceived notions and atheist propaganda, Mine is based upon resource of a body of literature consisting of 200 peer reviewed studies in academic journals going back 50 years and endorsed by the leading researchers in psychology of religion, My actual book is endorsed by Ralph Hood inventor of the M scale and one of the acknowledged leaders in research in the field. It.s on the cover of the book.What I know about Joe's thesis is what he's told me. And much of it is pseudo-scientific hokum. He may be citing actual studies, but the way he interprets them, and the conclusions he draws, are not scientifically valid.
As a Christian, Joe makes faith-based claims much like many other Christians. The difference is his insistence that he is playing the role of scientific researcher, and claiming empirical validation for his religious beliefs. If this were true, he should have the attention of the whole scientific community. But that's not the case. Instead, what we see is Joe showing up on blogs everywhere, pathetically trying to promote sales of his book.