The Tragedy of Atheist Polemic

and why Christian apologetics thrives in its face

Image from The Dark Knight Rises (2012), WarnerBros.

Further From Truth

Intellectual Virtues And Cognitive Biases

An intellectually virtuous person is one who thinks, reasons, judges, interprets, evaluates, and so on, in an intellectually appropriate or rational way, while an intellectually vicious person is one who is deficient or defective in this regard. Thus where cognitive success requires inquiry, it also typically requires an exercise of one or more intellectual character virtues. (p.18–19)

A substantial body of research in cognitive psychology and decision making is based on the premise that… cognitive limitations cause people to employ various simplifying strategies and rules of thumb to ease the burden of mentally processing information to make judgements and decisions. These simple rules of thumb are often useful in helping us deal with complexity and ambiguity. Under many circumstances, however, they lead to predictably faulty judgments known as cognitive biases.

Cognitive biases are mental errors caused by our simplified information processing strategies. It is important to distinguish cognitive biases from other forms of bias, such as cultural bias, organizational bias, or bias that results from one’s own self-interest. In other words, a cognitive bias does not result from any emotional or intellectual predisposition toward a certain judgment, but rather from subconscious mental procedures for processing information. A cognitive bias is a mental error that is consistent and predictable. (p.111)

Image from The Dark Knight (2008), WarnerBros.

Our Intellectual Mosaic

Humans tend to discount information that undermines past choices and judgments. This confirmation bias has significant impact on domains ranging from politics to science and education. Little is known about the mechanisms underlying this fundamental characteristic of belief formation. Here we report a mechanism underlying the confirmation bias. Specifically, we provide evidence for a failure to use the strength of others’ disconfirming opinions to alter confidence in judgments, but adequate use when opinions are confirmatory. This bias is related to reduced neural sensitivity to the strength of others’ opinions in the posterior medial prefrontal cortex when opinions are disconfirming. Our results demonstrate that existing judgments alter the neural representation of information strength, leaving the individual less likely to alter opinions in the face of disagreement.

Image from Batman Begins (2005), WarnerBros.

So What About Christian Apologetics?

Image from The Dark Night (2008), WarnerBros.

Echoes of the New Atheist Polemic

Image from The Dark Knight (2008), WarnerBros.

Faith Is An Intellectual Virtue

Both faith and doubt have their proper roles in the whole enterprise of knowing, but faith is primary and doubt is secondary because rational doubt depends upon beliefs that sustain our doubt. The ideal that modernity, following Descartes, has set before itself, namely, the ideal of a kind of certainty that admits no possibility of doubt, is leading us into skepticism and nihilism. The universe is not provided with a spectator’s gallery in which we can survey the total scene without being personally involved. True knowledge of reality is available only to the one who is personally committed to the truth already grasped. Knowing cannot be severed from living and acting, for we cannot know the truth unless we seek it with love and unless our love commits us to action. Faith is the only certainty because faith involves personal commitment. The point has often been made that there is a distinction between the cognitive and the affirmative elements in belief, between ‘I believe that…’ and ‘I believe in…’ But faith holds both together; to separate them is to deny oneself access to truth.

The confidence proper to a Christian is not the confidence of one who claims possession of demonstrable and indubitable knowledge. It is the confidence of one who had heard and answered the call that comes from God through whom and for whom all things were made: ‘Follow me.’ (p.105)

Image from The Dark Night (2008), WarnerBros.

In Conclusion: Stop Seeing The Other Side As Jokers



Clear and critical thinking-out-loud about philosophical and theological topics from the perspective of an ordained Christian minister.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Rev. Gordon Tubbs

Clear and critical thinking-out-loud about philosophical and theological topics from the perspective of an ordained Christian minister.