January 18, 2022

In this episode, Kurt speaks with Cameron Bertuzzi of Capturing Christianity. Cameron has done some work criticizing and engagement with Street Epistemology, a growing movement of atheist evangelism.

Listen to “Episode 113: Street Epistemology” on Spreaker.

Kurt:

Good day to you, and thank you for joining us here on Veracity Hill, where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.  It’s so nice to be here with you on episode 113, coming to you from the Defenders Media office in West Chicago, Illinois.  That’s a suburb.  Sometimes, when I tell people I live in West Chicago, they think it’s the western part of the city.  That would be kind of cool, except you know that I don’t exactly want to live in an urban atmosphere.  We are about an hour outside the city of Chicago.  Speaking of Chicago, you should come and visit our city in a few weeks, because on September the 28th and 29th, we are hosting the annual Defenders Conference, and this year’s theme is on divine genocide.  Did God really command the Israelites to kill even the women and the children?  We’re debating four different Evangelical perspectives on this, and it’s really going to be a fascinating time, and it will be a great time for you to sit and learn.  There will be breakout sessions, of course, on different topics.  We have the breakout sessions now up on the website defendersconference.com.  Hotel options are available.  Just this past week, we had six high-school teachers from rural Kentucky register for the event, so we’re very excited about that.  We’ve got a family from Oklahoma, a couple from Virginia, so if you’re thinking, “Hey, what’s the best thing to do in Chicago in the last week of September?” I will tell you what the best thing to do in Chicago is.  The event will be held at the Christian Church of Clarendon Hills, about 30 minutes outside of the city.  The Cubs might be playing as well at Wrigley, so maybe if you stick around on Sunday, you can take in a beautiful Cubs game, drinking a Dr. Pepper of course, at Wrigley Field.  I know our guest today is a big fan of Dr. Pepper, and he hails from Houston, Texas.  Today, we are talking about street epistemology.  What is street epistemology.  It’s a growing movement of atheist evangelism.  That’s how I would sort of describe it.  There’s been a sort of evolution on that a little bit, and our guest knows a little more about it.  He is none other than Cameron Bertuzzi.  He is the founder of Capturing Christianity, an aesthetically and visually stunning website and apologetics ministry that Cameron started not too long ago, just a couple years ago.  It’s a great website.  I want to encourage everyone to go and check that out, and we’ll be sure to put the link in our thread today.  I want to welcome those that are watching online.  If you have comments or questions, I will be keeping track of those, and actually before we have our guest join us, I want to say in studio here, we have a panel, if we can call it that.  AJ is a Wheaton College graduate student.  AJ, thank you for joining us on the show today.  He’ll be keeping track of the comments and questions, and I do sometimes drop the ball on that stuff.  If you do have a comment or question, AJ will be handling that.  Alright, Cameron Bertuzzi!  I mispronounced his name last week, so I just wanted to apologize for that.  Thanks for joining us on our program today.

Bertuzzi:

It’s great to be here, Kurt.  It’s also good to meet you in person.  We’ve been talking a lot, but it’s great to finally meet you.  We’re using Skype, so your face is super small.  I don’t know why.  It’s a little disorienting for it to be so small, but anyway, thanks for having me and inviting me on your show, and for the nice things you had to say about the website.  I’m a photographer.  That’s my background.

Kurt:

You’ve got to have a good-looking website and material.

Bertuzzi:

Exactly, or at least I try to.  It would make more sense to be telling that out.

Kurt:

By the way, Christianity is true.

Bertuzzi:

By the way, I don’t know if the guys knew that.

Kurt:

For those that are following Cameron on social media, Cameron, how did I describe this, your style of engagement, especially in dealing with trolls, is good.  It’s a good type of response.  I thought I put it well.  I used the word “sassy.”

Bertuzzi: You did, yeah.  The way that you described it I thought was really accurate, actually.  I’m not always proud of the way that I interact with trolls, but it kind of is very straightforward to a point.  I like being succinct in general, so I kind of translated that into some of the comments and the images that we post on social media and stuff.  We sort of just get right to the point.  We sell these T-shirts on our website.  I don’t know if the guys can see this.  It says, “By the way, Christianity is true.”  It’s a way of engaging and starting a dialogue about the truth of Christianity, and we do it with a poster or a talk that I did on the resurrection.  So it’s not just a thing that we’re selling that says, “Hey, believe this!”  Not in the same way, it’s a sort of conversation starter.

Kurt:

Okay, before we jump into street epistemology, you talked about how your shirts have this dialogue aspect, and it’s a good dialogue starter, and that’s what street epistemology is about.  Tell me first about your background, and your interest in apologetics.

Bertuzzi:

My interest in apologetics started a few years ago now, and I always forget how many.  It was about five or six years ago at this point, I would say.  Five or six years ago, I learned that my brother became an atheist, and that really took me by surprise.  I wasn’t expecting that to happen.  We had grown up ensconced in a church like most people, and I was not expecting that.  I had gone through a period of doubt, actually, when I was at Bible school.  “Did Jesus even exist?”  These are some of the thoughts that I had when I was in Bible school.  I eventually overcame some of those doubts, and I looked at some of the evidence, and all I did was basically I read Josephus and thought, “Alright, that’s enough for me.”  My story is a lot different than (sic) his.  He took it very seriously.  He started to look into some of the arguments when he watched a few documentaries, and that’s the conclusion that he came to.  So when I learned this, I thought, “Well, I probably need to learn more about this and figure out what I can do to help maybe take him away from his atheism,” because that’s an important thing.  So I met with him, and the conversation didn’t go at all how I had planned.  He had very bad answers to the questions, and sort of rejected it.  So that sent me on a journey to figure out, “Why do I believe that Christianity is true, and are there good reasons to think that it’s true?”  And as I started to get into this, I found a sort of love and passion for apologetics, and I sort of pulled that up into Capturing Christianity, what you see on my website, and in everything that we do, even live discussions between Christians and non-Christians on our YouTube channel.  I love all that stuff.  So that’s the background story on who I am and why I’m doing this stuff as a photographer.  I’m a layman.  I haven’t gone to school.  It’s hard enough to read books.

Kurt:

Sometimes, people pay money to read books, and other times, people just pay a little bit of money to read books.  Alright, so tell me about your interest in so-called street epistemology, because they’re not really epistemologists.  It is a form—I think everyone has an epistemology.  It does happen on the street.  So tell us how you got interested in this, and also what it is

Bertuzzi:

So they’re not epistemologists, they’re street epistemologists, and it’s a bad name.  But before that, my interest in street epistemology sort of began about a year ago now, maybe a little over a year ago now.  I saw a video posted by Jonathan McLatchie.  I don’t know if you’ve had him on your show yet, but he’s engaged with street epistemologists, and I saw a video that he posted of him (sic) dialoguing with street epistemologists on his YouTube channel, and I thought like, “This is crazy!”  You and the guys can watch it actually.  I don’t know if you’ve put it in the notes or whatever for the show, but it’s an interesting watch because Jonathan comes from a very evidentialist point of view.  So anyway, interestingly enough, that’s what got me started with street epistemology.  A few years ago, Peter Boghossian, who is the founder of street epistemology, debated Timothy McGrew.  I hope most of your listeners know who he is.  He’s a Christian philosopher, an excellent guy.  I know you’ve actually had him on your show before, so you should know who he is.  Anyway, Peter Boghossian and Timothy McGrew had a dialogue on an unbelievable show in 2013, so this was several years ago now.  You could say that Timothy had sort of an upper hand, so beyond listening to that episode, it wasn’t like (sic) street epistemology is going to be this thing that’s going to require some kind of sophisticated Christian response.  But then about a year ago, I saw that street epistemology had a movement now, and this is something that needs to be taken seriously in that respect.  It’s having some sort of impact on the culture now, so it needs to have several point of views (sic) I think, not just the evidentialist point of view, but also this other point of view that I think is true, what’s called Reformed epistemology.  We don’t need to go into that today, but I just wanted to sort of address street epistemology from my point of view, and give some more insight into another Christian’s take on it, so to speak.  So that’s my starting point.  We can go into what it is, if you want to do that.

Kurt:

Yeah, so the origin is this book, called “A Manual for Creating Atheists,” and this is what sort of kicked off the street epistemology movement.  It’s been a way for people to learn how to ask skeptical and stumping questions of Christians who are not able to explain why they have Christian faith, other than some sort of subjective experience or something like that.  So it’s cast doubt for a lot of Christians when they debate with atheists.  In fact, I’ve heard one story where there was a pastor who was obviously unprepared to be pastoring, because he deconverted (sic) from the Christian faith and became an atheist as a result of engaging with so-called street epistemologists, so that’s a real shame.  It has been a bit of a movement though, so Cameron, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about them.

Bertuzzi:

I’m actually going to quote from the book that you mentioned, “A Manual for Creating Atheists.”  This is on page 1.  “The goal of this book is to create a generation of street epistemologists, people equipped with a variety of dialectical and political tools who actively go into the street, the programs, the bars, the churches, the schools, and the community—into any and every place the faithful reside—and help them abandon their faith and embrace reason.”  Again, that’s on page 1.  Like (sic) you mentioned at the outset, it’s sort of like atheistic evangelism.  They want to instill doubt in people, and instill doubt about a specific belief, i.e. Christianity, and they’re doing some kind of atheistic evangelism, if not atheistic evangelism, then sort of agnostic evangelism, or skepticism about Christianity.  And in some cases it works, like (sic) you mentioned.  There are cases when people have either completely deconverted (sic), or started to doubt about Christianity, and there are reasons for that.  But let me give another quote which is going to help to provide a little bit more background, and the sort of tone that the book is going to set, and it’s interesting.  But anyway, let me just quote it here.  This is on page 56.  “You will, in a very real sense, be administering a dialectical treatment to your conversational partners in the same way that drug addicts receive treatment for drug abuse.  Drug addicts come to the detox center in state X, receive treatment, and then leave the facility in state Y, hopefully improved.  You will not be treating drug addicts.  You will be treating people who have been infected with the faith virus.”  This kind of stuff is interesting.  I mean, this is a direct quote from the book, and it’s sort of setting the tone, and it’s sort of weird.  It’s a weird tone to set.  They’re painting these people as people that have been infected with this faith virus.  So that’s the basic rundown of what street epistemology is, and we can get into the many details if you want to.

Kurt:

I think it would also be important to say that Boghossian himself is not an epistemologist.  From what I remember from the McGrew debate, he had a PhD in education, I think.  He is not a philosopher.  He doesn’t have a faculty position in philosophy, so the words you’re hearing from Cameron are not from a philosopher.

Bertuzzi:

I think he is a philosopher.  I think he teaches philosophy.  I’m not sure what his background is, so I don’t want to put stuff on him that he did not actually—

Kurt:

I will look this up in the course of our conversation.  Okay, so we’re talking here about street epistemology, and I’d like to get an example of something they might say.  You know what, he is a professor of philosophy at Portland State University!  But from what I remember, he doesn’t have a PhD in any of that.  Yeah, I’m wrong!  I could be wrong; I will look this up.  Okay, so what is an example of someone?  How do you know—if I’m walking down the street, how do I know, “Oh, I’m dealing with a street epistemologist?”

Bertuzzi:

This should be easy to tell because most of the time, these guys are filming themselves, and what they do is they go out and they have a GoPro strapped to their chest, or some kind of a filming device.  It may even just be audio.  What they’ll do is they’ll say, “Hey, I just want to interview you about some deeply-held beliefs that you have.”  And then in the course of offering different beliefs that could be under discussion, they’ll offer in a sort of suggestive way, “If you’re a Christian, we could discuss that.  If you’re a Mormon, we could discuss that deeply-held belief.”  So that’s sort of the way that you would kind of tell up at the front.  It’s a kind of interview saying, “I just want an interview about this subject.”  So you could maybe tell from that.  But as the course of the conversation goes, you’ll definitely be able to tell at some point.  They even have a PDF, a breakdown of all the questions you should ask, what to say, how to respond, and all the stuff like that.  So yeah, it’s relatively easy to tell if you get some familiarity with what they do.  And I recommend, if you are really interested in street epistemology and how to respond to it, go and read that PDF.  I actually have a link on my website.  I have an article that’s called “How to Respond to Street Epistemology.”  It’s almost got ten thousand views, actually.  And at the very end of that, I’ve hyperlinked the PDF, and you can download that.

Kurt:

It’s a 38-page PDF or something like that, right?

Bertuzzi:

And it’s constantly being updated, which is a really interesting point to make.  They don’t just make these updates willy-nilly.  They have a council of people that sit down and talk and make decisions about what changes need to be made in which place.  They’ve just recently decided, “We need to provide a section on epistemology, and a guide.”  Make of that what you will.

Kurt:

So how would a conversation go?

Bertuzzi:

Okay, so the way they start it is they ask you what you believe.  They want to figure out a specific belief in question, and they want to ask something, usually about Christianity or something along those lines.  Most of the conversations you hear—they have a street epistemology podcast.  Most of the episodes they do are about Christianity or some religious claim.  They’ll sometimes talk about different political beliefs.  The method can work on those too because people are just generally not very thoughtful political thinkers, at least on the street.  Anyway, the first thing they do, the first question, is “What do you believe?”  So if you’re a Christian, you’re going to say, “I believe in Christianity.”  The next question is usually, “What is your level of confidence?”  And they’ll try to give a scale, like 0-100.  Zero, do you have all doubt concerning Christianity?  Or 100, are you all-confident, no doubts?  So they want you to place a specific number on your level of confidence that Christianity is true.  That’s one of the big giveaways too, if you’re trying to figure out if you’re dealing with a street epistemologist, is that they’ll ask for a level of confidence, and there is (sic) a couple of reasons why they do that.  Number one is they want to gauge, from the beginning to the end, whether you’ve moved at all in your confidence level, and what that means in practical terms is, “How much doubt have I instilled in this person?  Are they (sic) still at 99 percent or 100 percent, or have they sort of come back a little bit?  Have they gone down to 80 percent, or 60 percent, or have they given it up?”  Which (sic) most of the time, over the course of one conversation, they’re not going to give it up completely, but that’s one of the reasons that they give that (sic) they want to get your confidence level.  To me, I think it actually comes into play later on in the discussion, when they start to ask about your figures and stuff.  It’s sort of a rhetorical thing, and they may not be aware of this, and they may not be using it in that way, but it does sort of give some kind of advantage in certain situations.  So that’s question number two.  Again question one is, “What is your belief?”  Question two is, “What is your level of confidence?”  And then question three is normally something like, “How did you determine that your belief is true?”  So at this point, do you want me to give how I think people should respond, or should we just go through questions that they ask?

Kurt:

Not quite yet, yeah, just questions that they would ask.  We’ve got to keep our listeners waiting for the second half of the program, so we’ve got to hold off.

Bertuzzi:

So that’s question three, “How did you determine that your belief is true?”  And then the last question—and they don’t ask these questions in this order.  This is not some sort of methodical method.  This is kind of like a general broad outline of how the conversation goes, and they’ll ask these.  They don’t read the questions sort of from a script, but it’s an outline of what should happen.  So the last question—this is the meat of the question that they want to get to.  This is how they start to introduce doubt.  Question number four is, “Is faith a reliable method of determining that a belief is true?”  Some variations of this question might be, “If a Muslim came up to me and told me that they (sic) believe in Allah because of faith, then how could we determine which of these ideas is true?”  Or they might ask this as well.  “Does just believing in something give you knowledge?  Is that a good way of getting to 99 percent or 100 percent, just believing in something?  Is that a good way to do that?”  So there are some variations of that last question, but those are the four main questions that they ask, and then from there, you get sort of subtle responses from both sides.  You’ve got to realize that they’re not epistemologists.  They’re not really familiar with the literature, so of course they are a couple of non-experts going into this really deep subject.  Actually, if you listen to the literature.  So yeah, there’s a lot of confusion on both sides.  It looks as if only one of them is confused, but in reality, both of them are sort of fumbling their way through it.  I’m only saying this because the people they interview are not experts for the most part.  Sometimes you’ll see them interview an apologist, but there is (sic) only really a couple guys that actually do that.  The main guy who does street epistemology (whose name is Anthony Magnabosco) will rarely have those conversations with professionals.  So he makes it a point to go and have those conversations with people who are uninformed, a person who goes to church, and goes to worship, and maybe goes to Bible study occasionally, that’s the person that he targets.

Kurt:

Speaking of experts, which you mentioned, Boghossian was actually kicked out of a philosophy PhD program at New Mexico State University, I see here.  It’s a press release from their website.  “Dr. Peter Boghossian is a full-time faculty member at Portland State University’s philosophy department.  He was thrown out of the doctoral program at the University of New Mexico’s philosophy department.”  So I’m fairly confident he has a PhD in education, which nevertheless—he is still publishing in this area, so it’s still worth engaging him.

Bertuzzi:

Well actually, let me sort of clarify.  He’s not really doing this sort of stuff anymore.  He’s sort of moved his focus, from what I understand, more to giving talks on liberalism, actually.  He’s been engaging a lot with social-justice warriors and that kind of thing on Twitter.  If you go on his Twitter, you can see the kind of thing that he does.  So he’s still kind of involved.  And street epistemology to me—again, they have a council of guys, so there is (sic) a lot of ways in which it almost resembles a church, and not even necessarily a church.  It’s a little cultish, actually, which is really interesting.  They put out this video recently, it’s like this trailer about street epistemology, to introduce it, and he actually played the role of somebody in that video.  So he’s still involved.  He’s sort of like the father of street epistemology.  He sort of started it, and he coined the term.  So he’s still involved, but not at the level that he was.  He, I guess, has moved on a little.

Kurt:

So what are some of the philosophical assumptions that street epistemologists have?  Everyone sort of has a round epistemological framework.  And by the way, if you’re not really familiar with that word, epistemology is the study of knowledge, and how we can learn.  So everyone sort of has a round framework, but where do street epistemologists come from there?

Bertuzzi:

I don’t want to speak for all of them, but from what I can tell, from what I can see, most of them are what’s called hyper-evidentialists, and I want to use that term instead of just the regular term “evidentialists” because when you get a sense of the literature and start to read epistemology, evidentialism can mean a whole variety of things, and in some sense, I’m actually an evidentialist.  So I want to use the term “hyper-evidentialist,” which roughly means that your beliefs ought to be proportioned to the public evidence, the stuff that is publicly available to everybody.  So it’s not your memory that’s providing the justification because no one has access to your memories.  Only you do!  You only (sic) have access to your experiences.  What’s publicly available, though, is what everyone’s beliefs ought to be aligned with, and they ought to be proportioned in that way to that available evidence.  An important question we can ask right away is, “Why believe that?  Why would you want to adopt that kind of epistemology?”  And once you start to really look at it, there really aren’t a whole lot of arguments.

Kurt:

What’s their confidence level in that?

Bertuzzi:

Yeah, what’s your confidence level in this epistemological assumption that you’re making?  Like (sic) I said, I don’t want to paint with too broad of a brush there, but it is going to come up.  Let me mention this, as I think this is important to mention.  There was a video that came out two months ago, or one month ago, in that time frame.  Anthony Magnabosco—again, he’s one of the biggest guys in street epistemology.  His YouTube channel, I think, has about 26,000 subscribes (sic).  He had a video that he did at this atheism conference.  I forget the name of it, but the title of the talk was “Street Epistemology: A Turning Point for Atheism.”  And atheists had been on the fence about—is street epistemology really an atheistic thing?  Yes, it is.  He gave a talk on it a month ago, “Street Epistemology: A Turning Point for Atheism.”  And at the 50-second mark, he says this.  “I think that epistemology is going to be critical to the success of atheism.”  That’s a direct quote from his talk.  You can go and give it a watch (sic) if you want to.  Anyway, in this talk, he sort of lays out what street epistemology is.  He’s trying to teach these atheists the method and saying, “You need to adopt this method if you want to convert your family and your friends because it’s a little bit more cordial, it’s a little bit more congenial.  You don’t have to get people upset.  They start to question their beliefs, instead of just combating them with these arguments and evidence that you think you have for naturalism, but that doesn’t work.  What you need is street epistemology.”  So in the talks, he gives the basic breakdown of how street epistemology works, and he breaks it down, I’m going to say, into a two-step method.  I already mentioned the questions, the specific questions, that get to the heart of these two steps, but the first step is to determine how the person came to believe whatever belief they hold.  So with Christianity, they want to determine how to came to that belief, to your belief in God.  That’s step one.  He uses the term “epistemology” as sort of synonymous with “method,” so when they say, “I want to figure out what your epistemology is,” they’re really saying, “I want to find out what your method is, or what is the source of your justification for your belief.”  So that’s step one, is to find out the method, and then the second thing he does is he wants to help the person reflect on whether that method is a reliable method for discovering truth.  So he wants that person to do some introspection, to ask themselves (sic) whether that method is reliable, but what he’s really hoping is that in the course of the conversation, you’re going to say, “Yeah, that method that I use isn’t really a reliable method of truth.”  And it’s interesting, when we were talking about philosophical assumptions, that it sounded as if I was just going off on a tangent.  So when they do that, step two is to help them reflect on their epistemology.  But the question is what are the street epistemologists doing at this point in step two?  Are they guiding their interlocutors a certain, to help them expose whether they believe that their method is unreliable?  So it confirms with that second step—and they can say that they’re not trying to do this—that second step does give a very strong sense that they are hyper-evidentialists, the view that we discussed earlier.  So that’s what I think is going on in a lot of these discussions, and what’s important to note is that these guys are not professional epistemologists, so when they’re trying to evaluate your epistemology (your method that you use), they’re not in a position, really, to know what’s what about your method, or the source of your justification for your belief.  So they might think they know, and over the course of the conversation, it might seem intuitively, “My method wasn’t that great.”  But sometimes our intuition about these types of philosophical matters are wrong.  Sometimes there may be arguments against them that are worth getting into.  So sometimes our intuition can be wrong, even with things that seem so obvious.  And you can think that.  I think that’s sort of a layperson’s position, to like hyper-evidentialism.  There are arguments against it.  There are reasons to think it’s not a good epistemology.

Kurt:

Great.  I know this has been a lot.  We’re going to head to a short break, here, but when we come back, we’re going to talk more about how Christians can respond, and the types of answers we can give, in response to the four lines of questioning that Cameron has laid out.  So be sure to stick with us through this short break from our sponsors.

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Kurt:

Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors.  If you want to learn how you can become a sponsor or a patron, just an individual who might chip in a few bucks a month, head to our website veracityhill.com, and click on that Patreon tab.  Also, if you like our program, or I guess if you don’t like our program, give us a review on Facebook, iTunes, or Google.  We would love to get those search-engine results generating more when people search for things like apologetics, Christianity and politics, something like that, you know, we’d love to be popping up there on podcast suggestions for them.  Okay, we are talking with Cameron Bertuzzi of Capturing Christianity, and on our show today, we are talking about street epistemology, which is a form of atheistic evangelism.  I know Cameron has listened to our show before, so he knows what’s coming up next here.  It’s the segment of our show we like to call Rapid Questions.  If you are getting bored of some of these questions, I want to encourage you to submit new possibilities for these questions.  We’ve got some of the questions that we have for a number of episodes now, but we’d be happy to change some of those.  With one of the questions, I already know the answer that Cameron has, so I can answer that for him.  Cameron, I’m going to start the game clock here, and ask the first question.  Are you ready?

Bertuzzi:

I am ready, unfortunately,

Kurt:

Alright, here we go.  What’s your clothing store of choice?

Bertuzzi:

H&M.

Kurt:

Taco Bell or KFC?

Bertuzzi:

Neither!

Kurt:

What school did you go to?

Bertuzzi:

I went to the Art Institute.

Kurt:

What song is playing on your radio?

Bertuzzi:

I listen to pop rock.

Kurt:

Where would you like to live?

Bertuzzi:

I would like to live in New York.

Kurt: What’s your favorite sport?

Bertuzzi:

My favorite sport is basketball.

Kurt:

What kind of razor do you use?

Bertuzzi:

I use a Norelco, I think, a little electric razor.

Kurt:

What’s your wife’s favorite holiday?

Bertuzzi:

Probably Christmas.

Kurt:

What fruit would you say your head is shaped like?

Bertuzzi:

An apple.

Kurt:

Do you drink Dr. Pepper?  The answer is yes.  Have you ever driven on the other side of the road?

Bertuzzi:

I was actually thinking about that one, and I don’t think I have.

Kurt:

Pick a fictional character you’d like to meet.

Bertuzzi:

I would like to meet Gandalf.

Kurt:

Which celebrity are you most like?

Bertuzzi:

Tom Hanks.

Kurt:

Hokey-pokey, electric slide, or the Macarena?

Bertuzzi:

Pass.

Kurt:

Alright, Cameron.  Thank you for playing that round of Rapid Questions.  What podcasts are you listening to?

Bertuzzi:

Oh man, I’d need to pull it up.  There’s one that I really like.  I think it’s called Capturing Christianity.

Kurt:

Do you listen to your own?  I have a hard time going back on my own interviews.

Bertuzzi:

I think I’ve listened maybe once, and maybe I didn’t listen to the whole thing.  I just listened to part of it.  So I’ve just pulled it up here.  I have Case Files, Conversations from a Blue Dot, Hardcore History, Willa Wonka, Defenders, I have Dogma Debate on here, Hinge (the making of)]—I think that’s a relatively loved podcast—Real Theology.  Oh, this one is a really good one that I wish people knew more about: The Podcast of Moral Apologetics.  That is a really great podcast.  Reasonable Faith, Rethinking Hell, Straight Reason, Stand to Reason, The Street Epistemology Podcast, The Ben Shapiro Show, The Bad Christian Podcast, The Basin, Cold Case Christianity, The History of Christian Theology, Milo Yiannopoulos (though I actually don’t even listen to that), NT Wright’s podcast, The Top Ten Show, Faster than Light, The True ID Podcast.

Kurt:

Oh my God!  I’ve got four on mine!

Bertuzzi:

And Veracity Hill!

Kurt:

Yes, thank you!  Save the best for last!  That is a big list of podcasts that you listen to, for real!

Bertuzzi:

That’s all I listen to, on my commute and also at work.  A lot of the stuff I cheat at work.  My work can get very mundane, so I like to listen to podcasts, or if not a podcast, then an audiobook, so I have a few audiobooks that I’m starting this year.  I listen to “Cold Case Christianity” and “Reason for God.”  Those are a few others.

Kurt:

You said your favorite sport is basketball, so you’re a Houston Rockets fan?

Bertuzzi:

Huge.  I’m a big Rockets fan.

Kurt:

I am presently without a basketball team to root for because I have forsaken the Chicago Bulls, because management have no idea what they’re doing.

Bertuzzi:

It’s funny because I heard you mention that.  One of the podcasts I was randomly picking of you, I thought, “Let me just listen to this one.  It looks interesting.”  I don’t remember which one it was, but you mentioned that, and I thought, “You should be a Rockets fan.

Kurt:

I am happy to be recruited, so I’m open.

Bertuzzi:

We stand the biggest chance of beating the Warriors.

Kurt:

You know, even though the Warriors have superstars, a few years back before they started winning championships, I noticed they were playing like a team.  They passed the ball around.  It was different from a LeBron James team.  That’s one thing I liked about the Warriors, was the passing and the sort of team spirit.  At any rate, people are tuning in not (sic) to listen to us banter about sports and even podcasts.  What is street epistemology?  That is the topic of today’s program.  Cameron has done some research and writing and engagement with street epistemology, so he is here to explain what it is, and how we can be prepared to defend our faith.  What are some of the recommendations you make about how Christians should respond to street epistemology?

Bertuzzi:

Earlier in the show, I mentioned an article that I wrote called “How to Respond to Street Epistemology,” so if you want to learn more about that (since we can’t cover everything now), I would say go and check that out, because I link to a bunch of other articles that I’ve written that are related.  I don’t want to sort of say or reiterate the things that are already on that page, because you can go and read that.  I wanted to do something different today.  I mentioned earlier today, before we went to the break, that Anthony Magnabosco has a sort of two-step process for applying the method, and then you want to gauge, or help them think about, whether that method is reliable.  What we can learn from this right off the bat is that if you have a reliable epistemology, then street epistemology doesn’t actually work.  The thing won’t work at all.  Suppose that the Christian in one of these interviews says that their (sic) belief is based on testimony, specifically the testimony of the biblical authors.  Professional epistemologists—if you go to the epistemology, there’s a website called Stanford (the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy), whose philosophers are actually going on, and they’re writing these articles about these different subjects.

Kurt:

A great, great online encyclopedia of philosophy.

Bertuzzi:

It is, and these guys got their permission to write them, so you know they’re not just some random dude who’s talking about these very intense subjects.

Kurt:

And they’re objective, so the authors just describe.  They don’t necessarily prescribe.  The authors aren’t telling you which view is the correct view.  They just help you understand the lay of the field.

Bertuzzi:

And what’s also cool about it is they’ll have a part where it’s like (sic) objections to those views and then responses to those objections, and then they sort of leave that to you to sort of make your decision or judgment about it.  Anyway, I mention that because in the article on epistemology, they list five different sources of justification, and testimony is one of those.  So anyway, going back to the Christian scenario, there is a guy named Richard Swinburne, whom I was able to interview for my YouTube channel (just some random dude), an excellent Christian philosopher, and he’s 82 I believe, and still sharp as a needle.

Kurt:

He does not have a PhD, believe it or not!

Bertuzzi:

He does not, and I was shocked to find that, but he has something that is equivalent.  This was before they were doing PhDs, apparently.

Kurt:

I think he only has an MA.  I don’t even think he has the D.Phil.  I mean, maybe he does now, but I think even when he got started as a professor at Oxford, he was just one of the sharpest brains on planet Earth.

Bertuzzi:

So he says that unless we have some reason to doubt someone’s testimony, we have to believe it, and rejecting this thesis actually leads to skepticism.  Think about all the scientific knowledge that you have.  Did you go out and perform those experiments?  Pluto is in the news right now.  Have you ever seen Pluto with your own eyes?  Well, there are pictures of it now, so that’s maybe a bad example.  A lot of our scientific knowledge, and a lot of our knowledge more generally, is based on testimony, so if we reject this sort of principle, we’re going to be rejecting a lot of our knowledge.  So to reject street epistemologists, it’s as easy as saying, “My belief is based on testimony, the testimony of the biblical authors.”  According to professional epistemologists, that is a reliable source of knowledge, so what are you going to say to that?  Really, what they can say at that point is to offer a defeater of that belief, and a defeater in the language of epistemology (of the professionals, again) just means a reason to think that your belief is false.  So they would then have to provide—the onus would be on them to find a defeater for your belief, a reason to doubt the testimony of the authors, and at that point, I think we would be needing a defense of the authors, which is something they are not really comfortable doing.  Street epistemologists—there’s a section in the book that is titled literally “Avoid Facts.”  This is based on some studies that have been done about how when people are presented with facts and evidence, they will actually get stronger, and have stronger convictions that their belief is true, so you don’t want to actually talk about the facts.  But there is recent research that suggests that that’s actually false, that when presented with evidence, people generally do update and change their beliefs, which is true.  I mean, the evidence bears it out too in the street epistemologists who are getting people to deconvert (sic).  So that’s what I would say.  That’s a different spin on the way to respond to street epistemology, is to cite testimony, and I know you want to hit me off on that.

Kurt:

Yeah, and I also want to clarify too what we’re talking about when we’re talking about testimony.  So what you’re saying is—let me give an example here.  How do I know that the Earth is round?  Well, when I was in school, I learned that the Earth rotates around the sun, and it does so in an orbit, and it’s a sphere, and I learned this in school out of textbooks.  My teacher taught me it.  So is that the type of thing that would provide justification?

Bertuzzi:

That would be a source of justification, yeah.  Testimony is actually a source of justification.  They tell you whatever they have to tell you, and no matter what happens under normal circumstances, you form a believe that that is true.  And that’s a reliable source, a justified source, of knowledge.

Kurt:

Now there are Mormons who say they have a testimony, and they say that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.  They had a burning-bush experience upon reading the Book of Mormon.  Does that mean that they are justified in their belief?

Bertuzzi:

According to Richard Swinburne’s principle, it depends.  Maybe that’s the way to put it.  I’m looking over this way because I have your screen on this screen, so I hope that’s not confusing for the guys watching.  So anyway, the Swinburnian principle of testimony would suggest that they might be justified, so long as there is no reason to doubt whatever justification or source they are pointing to.  So if they say, “When I read the Book of Mormon, this seems true to me, and this seems like a good, reliable source of testimony,” it could in fact be justified.  And I think what people have a problem with is they don’t want those false beliefs to be justified, but again, when it comes to philosophy, when we’re talking about these really highfalutin things, we’ve got to actually realize that sometimes our intuitions that say that’s weird—sometimes there actually is a kind of reason for the sort of update and change.

Kurt:

What you’re saying here is that in the philosophical literature, it is widely accepted that a person could believe something that is wrong, that is factually wrong, and yet still be epistemologically justified or warranted for (sic) having that belief.

Bertuzzi:

I don’t want to use the term “warranted.”  I would say “justified,” because we could make a distinction between those two.  But let me give an example of a justified false belief.  So you mentioned a round Earth.  Before we had evidence of a round Earth, pretty much everybody believed the Earth was flat.  That belief was not irrational for those people.  That’s what really seemed to be the case!  The Earth really did seem flat.  You just look around, and it looks that way.  So that’s an example of a false belief.  You can have a justified false belief, and that doesn’t change anything.  The question then would be, “Is this person actually justified?” and I think they (sic) are.  It depends on the circumstances of the person, what they’ve done, what kind of objections there are, and evidence and stuff.  They can be justified, but then the question is, “Are there any defeaters?”  So in the case of Mormonism, we could say there actually are some defeaters of Mormonism, so an atheist could say, “There are actually some defeaters of your belief in Christianity,” so that’s where the discussion would kind of turn to.  I can talk about equal-rate theory, actually.  Some people try to use this as a defeater to say, “There’s disagreement here.  Mormons and Hindus and Christians and Muslims—they all disagree, yet they all have access to the same evidence.  So that alone, religious disagreement alone, is enough to work as a defeater of religious belief.  We could talk about that, or we could move on, whatever you want.

Kurt:

We’ve got some questions online here that I’m seeing.  We’ve got a question here from Jonathan Hannah, who asks, “Does hyper-evidentialism equal old verificationism?”  I think the answer here would be no.  There are some similarities.  Street epistemologists and verificationists might be naturalists, but it’s not quite the same thing.  Verificationism dealt with even the meaning of words, and certain words were meaningless.

Bertuzzi:

I think that was more logical positivism, and neither of us are experts in epistemology, so I think it may be better to avoid that question.  What do they (sic) mean by “old verificationism?”  I think that’s where I would go, is to ask them what they meant.  Then at that point, we could maybe evaluate.

Kurt:

But roughly, I would still say there is some difference here between street epistemology and verificationism, if I’m understanding even a broad scope of these philosophical camps.

Bertuzzi: Oh yeah, I think there’s definitely going to be a distinction that you’ve made there.

Kurt:

Maybe, Jonathan, I’ll follow up with you later this week, and we’ll get some drinks and continue with this conversation.  Kyle here is asking about—he’s got a couple of questions here.  He’s curious about the scope here.  “Are we expecting lay Christians to answer the scripted questions of lay atheists?  What’s our intention here?”  I think that we’re trying to—Kyle, that’s a good question, too.  I think we’re trying to raise awareness about a growing movement of atheists that are seeking to bring Christians out of the faith.  So recognizing what some of those questions are, and how to respond to those questions, how to recognize the philosophical sentiments of the questioner, can help to get around some of the questions and say, “Is that even a fair question?”  So helping to prepare people can be important.  For example, when the street epistemologists will ask about that confidence level (0-100), they might be implying that you need a very, very, very high level of confidence in order for something to be true.  They might not be saying that explicitly, but they might be implying it, and sometimes we don’t need a high level of certainty in order to be justified in our belief, to think that our belief is reliable.  Even just explaining those sorts of things can be very helpful for a Christian for making of knowledge, to be engaging with the street epistemologists, so a very good question there.  Was that fair, Cameron?  Is that a good example?

Bertuzzi:

The only thing I would add is that if the response that we’re offering is a valid response, then I don’t really see the issue.  So with the testimony rap that I gave earlier, that seemed like a really valid response.  If it’s a valid, reasonable response, I don’t really see the issue there.  If it’s a moral issue, or whatever issue it may boil down to, I don’t really see one.  It’s not an intellectual issue, obviously, if it’s a reasonable way to go.  So if it’s a reasonable way to go, then probably there is no moral issue to be had.  And that’s one way to respond.  There’s a whole host of ways to respond to street epistemology.  One of the ways is to study the historical evidence for Christianity, and to respond that way.  “Actually my belief is based on evidence, and there is historical evidence.”  There are several ways that you could do it.  You could challenge their epistemological assumption and say, “My belief is actually based on testimony.”  There’s a whole host of ways that you could go.  I’m not personally telling anybody, “Do this!  You have to do this one thing!”  I’m saying, “Here’s the way that I respond.  You can do with that what you will, and figure out the way that you want to go.”

Kurt:

Chris has a question here.  “A high level of certainty: is it required to have faith?  Would we really say this?”  If you’re asking me, yes, I think that’s correct.  A high level of certainty is not required to have a reliable belief, or depending on how you’re defining faith, to have trust in something.  Thank you for the question, Chris, but yeah, that’s right.  I don’t think we need to have tautological certainty about some belief out there that we know with 100-percent certainty.  Good question!  Jonathan has a follow-up, and I’m happy we’re engaging here with our live listeners.  “What would all say to the form of atheism that says it’s the default position, and it’s just lack of belief?”  Cameron, I’m sure you’ve dealt with this before.  What do you think?

Bertuzzi:

I tend to run away from those people, because those questions devolve quickly.  I try to avoid those terms as best as I can.  So instead of asking, “Are you an atheist?  How do you define yourself?” I instead will ask something like, “Do you believe that God exists?”  And if they say no, then we can go further.  So I just sort of avoid that question, but can you repeat what he asked?  He was asking about if atheism is the default position, and I would want to get some more clarity on what he meant, and in what way.

Kurt:

I think he’s talking about how people are born atheists, and they don’t naturally believe in religious things.  Atheism is the default with regard to a burden of proof, and those sorts of issues.

Bertuzzi:

Okay, I think that questions would be different from whether, just psychologically speaking, people would be atheists based on whom they’re living around.  I’ve actually done some research on this.  There is this thing called the indoctrination hypothesis, which is a false hypothesis.  It’s a way of explaining religious beliefs by saying, “Everyone was just indoctrinated into their (sic) religious beliefs, otherwise atheism would be widespread.  That would be the position that people would hold naturally.”  And there’s a lot of sociological evidence that suggests that in actuality, kids—maybe I had the wrong term.  Psychological evidence?  I don’t know.  There’s evidence that children (from America, China, it doesn’t matter where) have an innate propensity to believe in the supernatural, and not even just in the supernatural, but in a super melon, an all-powerful super melon.  And maybe the terminology is incorrect there, but there’s no evidence at all to suggest that there was this kind of indoctrination that we know of for religious belief.  That was one part of the thing that you brought up, and then the second part I forget.

Kurt:

It’s atheism as a lack of belief.  The problem with that one is that rocks are then atheists because rocks lack belief.  So that’s why I don’t take that to be a good definition of atheism, because when we’re talking to people, they certainly do have actual belief that God does not exist, or if they’re agnostics, they’re not sure if God exists.

Bertuzzi:

Yeah, you were talking about the burden of proof, and who has the burden of proof in this case.  I’m actually putting together a list right now of apologetics terms for beginners, and this is one of the ones that I’ve just went (sic) through.  So “burden of proof” means basically, anyone who makes a claim is then burdened to defend that claim.  So if an atheist, whatever they (sic) actually believe, if they say a claim that God does not exist, that’s a claim that they have made, and they are then burdened to defend that claim, and the same is true of Christians.  If a Christian says, “By the way, Christianity is true,” I then am burdened to defend that claim.  And like (sic) I said, whenever I first get out anywhere, I usually defend that claim with some evidence.  So that’s the basic rundown of “burden of proof.”  There’s no get-out-of-burden-of-proof card.

Kurt:

I see that we’ve got more comments and questions now flying in, and I want to thank those that are contributing online, but we’re actually running short on time today.  Cameron, before I let you go, where can people learn more about this?

Bertuzzi:

If they want to learn more about street epistemology and the way that I respond, I actually did a discussion—it was a written exchange, actually.  That’s the kind of thing that I prefer when I’m doing an exchange with a street epistemologist on these subjects.  I want to really sit down and think through my responses.  That’s one of the things that works in the street epistemologists’ favor, is that they’re relying on people to think up whatever they can think up on the spot, and that’s not always the best way to go about these sort of intellectual questions.  Anyway, I did a discussion with a street epistemologist.  You can look at it on my website.  It’s called “My Conversation with a Street Epistemologist.”  And there’s actually a drop-down here on my website.  If you go to Topics, you can see an article about street epistemology.  I’ve done tons on that.  I’ve done an interview about street epistemology generally on Podcast Pastor.  So yeah, that’s where you can go if you want to learn more about how I respond.  If you want to learn more about Capturing Christianity, just go to my website.

Kurt:

You’ve got some great interviews with Christian philosophers, and maybe just Christian talks…at any rate, who are some upcoming apologists that you have on your interview schedule?

Bertuzzi:

I’ve actually cleared the list off because it’s a big list, but we’re basically still going to be doing interviews, but basically with every single apologist in the world.  So here’s the list: William Lane Craig, Douglas Bruhai, Gary Habermas, JP Moreland, Glenn Kopel, Jay Wanaha, David Baggins (who’s a great Christian philosopher), and then John McCoy, and some people know him.  And then we’re going to be filling in a couple more slots.  I don’t know if Kurt maybe is going to be there.  But yeah, that’s what we’re doing in the time leading up to the EPS Conference.  All of these guys are going to be in attendance at this conference, so I figured this is the perfect time to pull in some interviews with these guys.  If you want to see the way that I interview people, I did an interview with (I think I’ve already mentioned this earlier) Richard Swinburne.  You can find that on my website, or you can search on YouTube for my interview with Richard Swinburne.  So yeah, that’s what we’re planning on doing.  We’re going to be interviewing these top apologists.  It’s going to be really great stuff.  What my ministry is all about is sort of bringing the level of the aesthetics to apologetics, making sure that the presentation side of things, in addition to the philosophical side.  I guess you can kind of tell that my side of things is making sure that the philosophical side is literally well taken care of, but I also want the aesthetics to be there as well.  I think that when a person first sees some content on social media, and it’s poorly done, or the lighting looks bad, I think that plays a part in what I’m looking for psychologically.  I want people to be open to it, click on it, and listen to the content.  So that’s what we want to do with the ministry more generally, but also with these interviews.  I should mention this: when I’m doing these interviews, I’m going to be taking their portraits as well.  I’m actually working on a book where I’m going to take all of the apologists that I’ve interviewed along with the portraits that I’ve taken, talk about their ministry, and what they’ve meant to me personally.  That’s something that I’m working on.  Hopefully everybody’s on board with that, and we can make that a reality, but that’s another goal with these interviews, just to put something together like that.  Thanks for asking!

Kurt:

Of course, yeah, awesome!  And you’ll probably stick on the line here while I close up the program.

Bertuzzi:

I just wanted to thank you for inviting me on.

Kurt:

You bet, you bet.  I’ve got a couple of comments that I want to comment on before I close up the program.  Chris Smith here has commented something that I want to address, and then I’ve got another thing that I want to talk about.  He says here, “Indoctrination is a real thing, and religion would dry up without it.”  Well, indoctrination is a real thing, but unfortunately, the attribution simply to “religion” is too narrow of a claim.  Chris, I would offer that indoctrination is a real thing, and that history would dry up without it, or indoctrination is a real thing, and science would dry up without it.  It would set back science, the field of science, for generations, if not more, if people didn’t learn and we didn’t teach people about these fields!  So I don’t think calling out religion per se is a fair assessment.  We have to keep some consistency here.  In fact, religion is very useful for humanity.  It’s useful for the human soul.  It isn’t just practical, but actually reflects what we see in reality.  There’s an objective grounding to it, so I think just calling out religion there—I want to keep some more consistency from some of these folks out there.  Alright, so that’s what I want to say to that comment from Chris.  And lastly, about last week’s episode with Craig Evans, what a fun time, and what a fascinating guy!  There was a fascinating discussion on my personal Facebook profile over this interview, and one of my Facebook friends was able to share with me how one of the questions I asked Evans wasn’t as clear as I had hoped it to be, and that was the question about Lydia McGrew’s statements about Evans.  So I actually wrote an e-mail to Evans as follow-up because I just wanted to confirm.  There was one thing Evans said in his answer that I interpreted to mean talking about the text, and my question was whether Lydia’s critique of him was fair, that Jesus was “on and on and on for many verses.”  And by that, Lydia meant that Jesus goes on uninterrupted, and is that sort of really what Evans believes, that Jesus gives these monologues, where he’s uninterrupted.  So I asked this question to (sic) Evans through e-mail.  “Do you believe that John’s portrayal of Jesus (not the historical Jesus) in the ‘I am’ discourses is of a monologue of Jesus?”  And here was his answer.  “I do find this monologue question odd.  The evangelist John has created discourses in which Jesus is portrayed as speaking, almost as in a monologue.  Even so, Jesus rarely goes on for more than two or three paragraphs before someone asks a question, and Jesus replies.  The Johannine discourses could be described as monologues, but only in a qualified, limited sense.”  The important thing to be gathered from this interview is that he clearly recognizes that Jesus is often interrupted with a question, or an objection from the Pharisees, a question from a disciple.  He’s engaging in dialogue.  It’s like he’s (sic) speaking, maybe giving a lecture, but does that mean that he’s speaking in a monologue?  Well, not quite.  It’s a little tricky, but not in substance, as we might understand a monologue, like the State of the Union address that a president gives.  That would be a monologue, and Jesus is not doing that, and Evans does not recognize Jesus as doing that, going on uninterrupted, so I think the criticism brought toward (sic) Evans’ view there is unwarranted upon seeking clarification.  For those of you that have been following along with that, I’ve actually written a final blog post while I focus on other things.  Some other things have come up in my life that are keeping me busy, so I’ll be taking a break from writing on that topic for now, but I would love to hear if you want me to do some writing and research on another topic, please let me know.  I’ll be happy to receive that input.  Okay, that does it for our program today.  I am grateful for the continued support of our patrons, the folks that just chip in a couple bucks a month, and we would love to get your support for this program.  I’m also grateful for the partnerships that we have with our sponsors: Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, the Illinois Family Institute, Fox Restoration, and Non-Profit Megaphone.  I want to thank our technical producer Chris, and AJ sitting in as well.  Hopefully we’ll see him next week.  I want to thank our guest Cameron Bertuzzi of Capturing Christianity.  We’ll be sure to put a link over at our website to his website.  And last but not least, I want to thank you for listening in, and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.

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Seth Baker

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