The Lacka Ebbidence Ploy: When Science Fans Become Sea Lions

The Lacka Ebbidence Ploy: When Science Fans Become Sea Lions September 12, 2018

We don’t “follow the evidence where it leads,” we only define it as evidence if it’s going our way in the first place!

I’m not the savviest person when it comes to Internet buzzwords, so I only recently heard what Sea lioning means. According to Know Your Meme , Sea-Lioning is an Internet slang term referring to intrusive attempts at engaging an unwilling debate opponent by feigning civility and incessantly requesting evidence to back up their claims.

Where’s Your Evidence? That’s Not Evidence!

Oh, I thought when I read the definition, that’s just the Lacka Ebbidence Ploy! This is the first, middle, and last resort of the science cheerleader, conspiracy theorist, or neo-atheist: request evidence from your debate opponent, then summarily dismiss said evidence on any grounds whatsoever.

These are quotes from people I’ve engaged with here at Driven To Abstraction and on the Disqus channels:

Show me evidence which supports the official narrative of 9/11? After sixteen years I have been unable to find any.

I’ve seen no evidence that such a thing as objective moral truth exists.

What seems to be lacking is any real evidence that Western women have it bad in any way that we can measure or, indeed, do anything about.

You are welcome to dispute or disprove science—any part of science—with valid evidence, if you are able to do so, and to defend the quality and nature of the evidence you present, rather than resorting as you have done to weak or hollow anti-science rhetoric.

The problem is that in each case, I presented evidence that they handwaved away on whatever grounds they found convenient at the moment. Then they continued to claim that no evidence had ever been presented. Lacka ebbidence!

These discussions aren’t jury trials or science experiments. People like to think that their online foes believe whatever they’re told, while they themselves formulate opinions strictly on the basis of evidence and reason. But this is a dress-up game, where people pat themselves on the back for their objectivity and open-mindedness while they simply rationalize beliefs they didn’t arrive at rationally. This is arguing in bad faith, making your opponent jump through hoops to provide information that will never meet your standard of evidence.

When Skepticism Becomes Denial

And it’s not like this is just an evasion tactic in online debates, either. It’s a ploy people use to deny having to recognize social inequities, too. One of the sea lions I quoted above claimed he wasn’t convinced that women are victims of discrimination in Western society. When I discussed the Lawrence Krauss controversy here, plenty of freethinkers denied that the allegations against him constituted evidence at all. Lacka ebbidence!

That’s why evidence strikes me as a meaningless, axiomatic expression, used by science fans the same way fundies use the word God: it can mean anything they want it to mean. Is evidence hard data? Is it a vaguely coherent process of reasoning? Is it some links to websites?

Behold what I call Shem’s Razor: Evidence is whatever appears to validate what I believe. If it doesn’t validate what I believe, it’s not evidence.

Have you ever been a victim of Sea lioning? Are constant requests for evidence meant to ground an argument in something tangible, or do they just waste time and chew up bandwidth? Where does reasonable skepticism become denial?

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  • SocraticGadfly

    As a non-duopoly left-liberal to leftist, I actually face sea-lioning, or it might be called whataboutism, too, all the time.

    Many Green types DO believe in various conspiracy theories, or some types of pseudoscience. So there’s that.

    At the same time, conventional centrist to center-liberal Democrats make unfounded claims about Trump and Putin, and reject evidence otherwise. This gets especially virulent when, while I admit the power of the CIA, etc., I knock down the idea that Trump is a Manchurian Puppet of a “deep state.” He’s no more that than he was or is Putin’s Manchurian Candidate.

  • Raging Bee

    Show me evidence which supports the official narrative of 9/11? After sixteen years I have been unable to find any.

    Seriously?

  • Raging Bee

    At the same time, conventional centrist to center-liberal Democrats make
    unfounded claims about Trump and Putin, and reject evidence otherwise.

    Such as…?

  • Tawreos

    I guess they never read the huge report that was compiled from the investigation into 9/11.

  • I guess they never read the huge report that was compiled from the investigation into 9/11.

    Of course you mean the government whitewash.

  • SocraticGadfly

    Repeated use of the word “collusion” when no such collusion has been found, and is not likely to be.

    Russia engaged in general election meddling is entirely different than Russia working directly with Donald Trump to get Donald Trump elected.

  • LeekSoup

    Hi Shem. I think it depends what a person is claiming really. You and I had a discussion on another blog that had annoyed me by stating quite categorically that everyone has “spiritual” needs that have to be met. I think it’s reasonable to call out blanket statements like that and ask for evidence, or even a definition of “spiritual” that could be evidenced in some way.

  • Benjamin Muller

    They looked behind the bookcase and everything.

  • I’m not claiming that evidence is never relevant. It’s just that in the context of these message-board wars, we ordinarily know exactly what matter to exclude in the way we define evidence.

    I don’t quite recall the details of our discussion, but I guess you’re still crowing that someone couldn’t give you “evidence” of something you were determined not to believe anyway. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2343f4ebddb725a08797bd02c27a1f4f3a276a026d5aeeccd17757878df41658.jpg
    Congratulations, whiskers!

  • Jim Jones

    I knock down the idea that Trump is a Manchurian Puppet of a “deep state.”

    If by ‘Manchurian’ he means stuffed with cotton(?) and if “deep state” is how far up his ass the puppeteer’s hand is shoved it’s hard to argue with the comparison. Reagan was the same.

    Spitting Image – An Audience with Ronald Reagan

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yovzZkf6OFQ

  • igotbanned999

    You sound a lot like a creationist.

  • Raging Bee

    First, the collusion has already been proven; and second, there are no specific allegations of Russian meddling in the actual election process.

  • Raging Bee

    Why do they call it “sea-lioning” anyway? Why not “penguining” or “sea-horsing” or “manateeing?”

  • Raging Bee

    I don’t think the examples quoted above come from “science fans.” They seem to come from science-denialists, conspiracy-buffs, and various sorts of bigots who want to pretend their prejudices are supported by science, or that there’s no “scientific evidence” to prove their prejudices have any harmful effect on real people.

  • Good question. According to Wiki: “The term arises from a 2014 edition of the webcomic Wondermark, where a character expresses a dislike of sea lions and a passing sea lion repeatedly asks the character to explain.”

    I’ll admit the Lacka Ebbidence ploy is a little different than sea lioning, but the common feature is the disingenuous insistence that evidence will settle the matter.

  • Raging Bee

    Or rather, the disingenuous pretense that one is being rational for questioning a well-known fact or settled conclusion, while one’s opponent is being emotional and dogmatic for questioning one’s motives or honesty in doing so. (i.e., “Why can’t we have a polite and civil conversation about your status as a human being?”)

  • Raging Bee

    So the graphic shown in the OP was the origin of the term? Thanks.

  • TinnyWhistler

    There are “science fans” who like to extend the reach of what “science” can realistically “prove”. They claim that their entire worldview is based on nothing but cold hard “science” with no influence from anything else, that they’ve constructed for themselves a perfect, ironclad philosophy that is impervious to all forms of “attack” from “science deniers” because they built it “logically” so they’re above any reproach, ever.

  • You’d be surprised. One of them comes from a prominent poster on the Religion channel on Disqus who used to frequent my old Anti-Science channel there too. Another quote is from a guy who runs a popular blog here at Patheos Nonreligious.

  • TinnyWhistler

    I’ve been talking with someone who claims that it’s impossible for atheists to “proselytize” because atheists have all the “evidence” on their side.

    When I ask them to demonstrate how being more correct ensures that one is not attempting to convert someone else from one belief to another, they just keep asking me to go run off on a red herring mission to find evidence of Christian mythology.

    It’s been a super fun conversation.

  • SocraticGadfly

    It absolutely has not been proven. Nope, nope, no collusion has been proven. As for allegations of Russian meddling in the process, you are either ignorant of or overlooking the Internet Research Agency indictments of this summer. And, with that, and with having run into you before, I’ll take care of that running into you for a while.

  • TinnyWhistler

    “You are welcome to dispute or disprove science—any part of science—with valid evidence, if you are able to do so, and to defend the quality and nature of the evidence you present, rather than resorting as you have done to weak or hollow anti-science rhetoric.”

    This drives me up a wall. It’s correct on the surface: No scientific ideas should be sacred, everything’s open to debate even though no one’s required to take you seriously because boy howdy are there a lot of crackpots out there talking about how they figured out the answer to everything after a few bong hits.
    However.

    I really hate the word “disprove” in this context. “Prove” and “disprove” are commonly used as shorthand for “provide new information that seems to support or not support the current consensus on the topic” because that’s what science *does*
    “Valid evidence” doesn’t matter so much as a body of peer reviewed work does. If you want to “disprove…any part of science” you need to propose an alternative that plugs as many holes as the current consensus and then show that it plugs a few more.
    We don’t use General Relativity because Einstein found some giftwrapped evidence somewhere and defended the quality and nature of it. We use GR because it explains everything that Newton did, explains why Newton seemed to work where it did, where and why Newton breaks down, and provides answers where Newton can’t.
    Science isn’t a debate. It’s an accumulation of work. If you don’t like someone else’s paper, you don’t walk up to them and demand that they defend the quality and nature of their evidence, you go write your own showing what doesn’t work.

  • LeekSoup

    Nope, not crowing. (But, gee thanks for assuming the worst.) I just remembered the conversation because it was about evidence. In that case there wasn’t any offered. It wasn’t that some was offered that I, or anyone else, rejected.

    Nice pic, though.

  • (((J_Enigma32)))

    Russia engaged in general election meddling is entirely different than Russia working directly with Donald Trump to get Donald Trump elected.

    I suppose you believe those meetings between Trump Jr. and major figures from Russia were really about adoption then, huh?

    No, there’s no solid evidence about it and there probably never will be given how psyops tend to work. But at this point, one can reasonably assume that there was cooperation and communication between the Trump campaign and Russian oligarchs, and from that, that Trump himself knew to some extent. Trump is almost certainly in deep with the Russian Mafia and since that’s the government or Russia right now, it’s not a huge leap to assume some level of collusion.

    As far as I’m concerned, assuming collusion is a reasonably justified belief from an epistemic standpoint.

  • SocraticGadfly

    Actually, in 2016, some senior Kremlin officials said they preferred Clinton to Trump. Putin himself kept radio silence.

    Why would Clinton be preferable?

    “Stability,” in a word.

    Trump is “uncontrollable” in another word. Even if the Steele Dossier is 110 percent true, he’s already shown he’s shameless in the literal psychological sense. Ergo, you can’t even blackmail him well.

    Let’s note for the record that Trump has sold arms to Ukraine, which Obama refused to do. He’s launch cruise missiles at Syria (albeit with advance warning), which Obama wouldn’t do.

    There’s an empirically based “epistemic standpoint” for you.

    ==

    Is it true that Trump has sold properties in both the US and UK to Russian Mafiyya? Yes, from all we can tell. That said, while there’s a certain amount of Venn overlap between Russian organized crime and Putin, the overlap ain’t that big, and Putin’s always the one in the saddle.

    And, again, see above, Ukranian arm sales and Syrian cruise missile firings.

    Why many Dems (and some “independents” and even a few GOPers) have difficulty admitting this, I don’t know.

    As for Trump being touchy whenever collusion is alleged? He’s touchy about anything related to his election. Note his popular vote loss coupled to claims of massive voting fraud. Note the Inauguration Day crowd kerfuffle. His touchiness over collusion claims is of a piece, IMO.

    ==

    Hey, Shem? What I talked about on my first post? Playing out.

  • To get back to your original point, I disagree that it depends on what’s being claimed. If the dissenting party has already made up his mind that he’s not buying it, no amount of evidence is going to convince him. I’ve played the shell game with conspiracists, MRAs, science fans, and plenty of other folks who claim they’re receptive to evidence when they just want to make others jump through hoops for them.

  • I’ve been talking with someone who claims that it’s impossible for atheists to “proselytize” because atheists have all the “evidence” on their side.

    Is there any better demonstration that evidence is sort of like the secular version of magic spells or something? Like facts and evidence aren’t constructed by social interactions and human endeavor, but just float around in the ether waiting for someone to use them to win an online debate.

  • (((J_Enigma32)))

    As for Trump being touchy whenever collusion is alleged?

    You’re preemptively addressing a point I never brought up. I could care less about Trump being touchy about anything. That’s not what I base my reasoning on.

    Actually, in 2016, some senior Kremlin officials said they preferred Clinton to Trump.

    Kay. Because we can totally trust what these people say, right?

    Ergo, you can’t even blackmail him well

    This is a baseless assumption. You can still financially blackmail him. And given how reckless Trump is with money, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn he got more than a few bailouts from Russian oligarchs, which would put him in this position.

    Let’s note for the record that Trump has sold arms to Ukraine,

    He also signed the Russian sanctions. A dog and pony show is a dog and pony show.

    After all, why else would Mueller be digging so deep into everything? Unless you think charges filed against 32 people — 5 US nationals, 26 Russian nationalists, 1 Dutch national, and 3 Russian businesses — is a witch hunt.

  • TinnyWhistler

    What evidence do you have that evidence is a social construction?

    /s

  • Hey, Shem? What I talked about on my first post? Playing out.

    Maybe. Personally, I looked at Trump’s behavior at the Helsinki summit as that of a man who was absolutely terrified of being blackmailed. If he truly is as shameless as you say, he must have gotten a good deal on it in the hotel shop.

  • Evidence is something you find, not something you make. It wouldn’t be evidence, otherwise!!

  • TinnyWhistler

    Ok. I’ll check under the desk for some.

  • SocraticGadfly

    You’re preemptively addressing a point I never brought up. I could care less about Trump being touchy about anything. That’s not what I base my reasoning on.

    Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. I can’t know that in advance and I’ve noted this point before in talking with others with your line of reasoning.

    It’s called anticipation.

    Kay. Because we can totally trust what these people say, right?

    So, we can trust the Russians who contributed to the Steele Dossier. But we can’t trust Kremlin insiders. But we can trust Putin to be Putin. Got it.

    He also signed the Russian sanctions. A dog and pony show is a dog and pony show.

    Dog and pony show from most Doinks as well as most Rethugs.

    Didn’t say it was a witch hunt. Did say that Mueller and any spinoff indictments today have had ZERO about Putin-Trump collusion.

    Take Manafort. He was tried for being a lobbyist and committing lobbying violations. If you’d read non-mainstream media, you’d know that 100 people could have been tried on at least part of what Manafort was charged with by Mueller. The Dutch national? And even more, claims that Dutch intelligence allegedly said this, that or the other? Discussed on Steemit and elsewhere months ago.

  • SocraticGadfly

    You too? Guess we’ll agree to disagree on this issue, and as it being, or not being, an example of what you were talking about.

  • SocraticGadfly

    I think you’re being facetious, but … just checking.

  • LeekSoup

    I agree about how pointless it is to provide evidence to people who have made their minds up and use the demand for evidence as a thought stopper.

    It’s still legitimate to ask people for evidence though, if they’re asking you to consider a view you haven’t been aware of before. Or if they’re asking you to reconsider a conclusion you have drawn (without knowing how you’ve got there). I ask religious apologists to back up their claims with evidence because my lived experience as a devout Christian for many years eventually led me to disbelieve. To reconsider my conclusion will require them to show me some evidence. If they can’t or won’t then I’m done (which is why I don’t think I’m a sea lion).

  • Well, the point is you are though, because you’re demanding people present the kind of evidence you already know they can’t: verifiable, repeatable scientific data. They have their reasons for what they believe, and if they’re not good enough for you and me, well, that’s probably why we’re atheists.

    Like I always say, I don’t think there’s any data that could make me become a religious believer; the world would have to be completely different than it is now for me to make sense of it in terms of a controlling Creator guy. Only one of us is pretending to be open-minded about the matter, and it ain’t me.

  • LeekSoup

    Ironically you’ve made up your mind about me. Not sure what I did to trigger your insults, so I’ll move on and let you stick to writing about how you’re superior to everyone else.

  • Yeah, I can tell you were really bending over backwards to endear yourself to me by recounting your awesome rhetorical victory on some other board, as well as upvoting your amigo here who called me a creationist.

  • You could very well be right. I never claimed to be objective when it comes to Trump. If there’s no collusion, there’s always obstruction of justice; didn’t he learn anything from Watergate?

  • “Valid evidence” doesn’t matter so much as a body of peer reviewed work does. If you want to “disprove…any part of science” you need to propose an alternative that plugs as many holes as the current consensus and then show that it plugs a few more.

    We don’t use General Relativity because Einstein found some giftwrapped evidence somewhere and defended the quality and nature of it. We use GR because it explains everything that Newton did, explains why Newton seemed to work where it did, where and why Newton breaks down, and provides answers where Newton can’t.

    Right. It’s easy for people to swallow the Great Man description of scientific history, where brilliant insights come to the genius and the scientific consensus parts like the Red Sea before him. (My brother said even the recent Turing movie took the same tack.) It’s a lot more difficult to understand the history of science the way Thomas Kuhn described it, where researchers are aligned with competing paradigms and there are complex debates about which questions are more important, let alone which answers are valid.

  • TinnyWhistler

    That’s exactly what sea-lioning generally refers to, especially if the questioner is inserting themselves into a conversation where they’re not invited or wanted.

    Best example that comes to mind is someone posts a “I’ve declared that xyz character is property of The Gays. Straights can’t have them anymore” as a tongue in cheek recognition of the character’s popularity among LGBTQ+ folks and someone else comes along with “But don’t you want equality? 🙁 Isn’t this just reverse bullying? 🙁 I’m straight and I like that character 🙁 Here are 5 reasons why it’s ok for straight people to like this character 🙁 Why won’t you answer me? :(” completely missing the point of a joke not intended for them.

  • making no effort whatsoever to engage with what I’m saying here

    [S]he did engage. When a claim is made–even in a casual conversation on the Internet–depending on the nature of the claim it is often quite appropriate to ask for some evidence, and to do so is not necessarily to troll, and to forbid such a request or classify it all as “sealioning” without some effort at distinction and nuance as to whether a request for evidence is made in good faith is an excellent way to cede epistemological ground to cranks and lunatics. Something you continually claim not to be doing while calling out scientism and false skepticism as you see it.

    I have to agree with LeekSoup that if I’m not allowed to ask for some empirical grounding for broad, wild-assed categorical claims–the example provided in response to you, “Everyone has ‘spiritual’ needs that have to be met”, absolutely qualifies–I see no clear way to confront such startling claims except by shrugging my shoulders. That’s not a conversation, merely a mutual report followed or not followed by a mutual masturbation session, depending on whether or not we happen to agree.

  • Sorry, but I just see this all the time: instead of just reasoning with people, the online pest armtwists his opponent into framing his position as an evidential matter, and then complains about the inadequacy of the evidence. In the discussion in question, I wasn’t making claims about religious or supernatural numbnuttery, and I was trying to reason with your amigo here. But he decided to work the there’s-no-evidence shell game, so I bailed. The scam’s got whiskers on it, that’s all.

    It’s not like this is some sort of prophylactic against cranks and lunatics; the cranks and lunatics work the scam too. You’ve been involved in enough of these moron slapfights with truthers and creationists to know that “I’ve seen no evidence that…” is just the way you know that this person isn’t going to be receptive to anything that his opponents present. Truthers and anti-vaxxers think they’re being prudent and skeptical too.

    So you want me to believe that in these slap-the-fundie sessions, the people demanding evidence are sincerely receptive and interested in assessing the person’s justification for his or her beliefs? And it’s not just that they’ve made God-is-God-ain’t the only relevant question in the entire subject of religion because they know that nobody will ever meet their standard of evidence, and then they can pat themselves on the back for their open-mindedness and never feel obliged to justify what they themselves believe?

  • Raging Bee

    “Some senior Kremlin officials” don’t exactly offset all of the documented instances of Russian support of Trump. Those people didn’t just say they preferred Trump; they took active measures to get him elected, and have been financing his pretense of fabulous wealth and bidness acumen ever since US banks started blackballing him for his repeated bankruptcies and shafting creditors.

    This has been known for a LONG time:

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/trump-putin-yes-it-s-really-a-thing

  • Raging Bee

    Also, Russian foreign policy has been the exact opposite of “stability.” They have, in fact, been DEstabilizing just about every country that doesn’t agree with their policies, from Ukraine to Georgia to the USA. This has also been known for years.

  • Raging Bee

    I think what terrifies Trump most is losing his ability to pretend he’s a bazillionaire with godlike business acumen and dealmaking skills. All of his businesses have failed, all US banks have blackballed him, and only the Russians are standing between him and homelessness. That’s what they have on him, and it’s all they need. That, and Trump is just a stupid bully who gets uncontrollable boy-crushes on bigger bullies than himself.

  • JSloan

    “That’s why evidence strikes me as a meaningless, axiomatic expression, used by science fans the same way fundies use the word God: it can mean anything they want it to mean.”

    I will agree that certain skeptics who fancy themselves as masters of critical thinking will overplay the ‘where’s the evidence’ card, but are we to then throw up our hands and declare that it is meaningless to insist on evidence when a claim is made? Are you saying that blogs like yours should get a pass when making claims that you do not support, or should we extend this view to the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones? Should theists making religious claims go unchallenged? Where should the line be drawn?

    By the way, your new phrase “lacka ebbidence” sounds to me a lot like you are mocking the speech of some ethnic group or other.

  • Long time no see! How are you and your buddy doing in your crusade to get me kicked off of Patheos Nonreligious?

  • sweeks

    “There’s more to life than evidence
    – Dara O’Briain

  • JSloan

    I am not involved in any such activity. What would give you cause to make that accusation?

  • “Get in t’ fuckin’ sack!”

  • Gee, I don’t know what would ever make me think that. I must have gotten you mixed up with someone else. My apologies.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d3b044373847999c2ecd1be6ac111420b7172b04fd47061c7230939522dbec21.png

  • JSloan, meet evidence.

  • JSloan

    This is evidence of thoughts and desires, not of actions. I stand by my statement above.

  • If exceptional intellect is required to merely duplicate the breathtakingly daedal designs & systems present in nature (Biomimetics) then much more the original being replicated. Creation is thus unshakable evidence of our Creator’s necessary existence.

  • Nice write up, Shem! While you’re right to focus on the atheist side of the debate in this regard, primarily because it’s the atheists putting so much emphasis on “ebbidence”, there are some remarkable views on evidence on all sides of the god wars. Who among us hasn’t seen a theist claim evidence for his claim of god’s creation is…god’s creation. Assertion as evidence of the assertion itself isn’t limited to the peanut gallery, either, as some of the most intelligent theists I’ve come across have also employed this strategy in one way or another. My favorite tactic, however, is an appeal to legal theory, as if a courtroom is equivalent in its evidentiary standards to a physics lab.

    You’re right, though, that atheists often simply presume theirs is the evidentiary standard of record. What’s worse, many of these atheists are as intimidated by establishing the logic of their views on evidence as they are in taking a position against the god they supposedly have no belief about. Lacka ebbidence is of a kind with the lacka belief posture: in making no claim, the lackers seem to think, they have no responsibility for providing their own evidence, or even argument. I’ve had atheists berate me for abandoning their one supposed advantage, which is that they think they don’t have to take a position on the matter, perhaps not realizing they already have.

    The “burden of proof” axiom is particularly abused in this kind of rhetoric. The implication of “show me the evidence” is that whatever is shown must satisfy the atheist’s standards. Perhaps it’s because so many atheists deny that they even hold a position in the god wars that they fail to realize that they have the responsibility to establish reasonable standards applicable both to themselves as well as theists.

  • Ellabulldog

    Well we still need a standard for evidence. One that everyone can agree on.

    Or better yet proof.

  • Great to see you again, TJ!

    Who among us hasn’t seen a theist claim evidence for his claim of god’s creation is…god’s creation. Assertion as evidence of the assertion itself isn’t limited to the peanut gallery, either, as some of the most intelligent theists I’ve come across have also employed this strategy in one way or another.

    I certainly don’t want to make it seem like I consider theistic arguments persuasive in the least. Sure, when the fundies claim there’s evidence for God or no evidence for evolution, let ’em have it.

    But I always remember one of your sayings: Reasoning begins with definitions. When we’re talking about a murder trial or a science experiment, we can reliably define evidence. However, people who talk about having an evidence-based approach to knowledge in every avenue of human endeavor obviously aren’t talking about the kind of forensic or statistical data that makes a difference in court or in the lab. Beliefs about social and political issues, especially, are so tied into values that they can’t be reduced to data points. The atheists here try to make it sound like evidence is some sort of pristine mind-independent substance floating around in the ether waiting for us to discover it; but it’s just a vaguely coherent process of reasoning that only has meaning in the context of human modes of inquiry.

    You’re right, though, that atheists often simply presume theirs is the evidentiary standard of record. What’s worse, many of these atheists are as intimidated by establishing the logic of their views on evidence as they are in taking a position against the god they supposedly have no belief about.

    Exactly. They’re just assuming that their beliefs are the default and they’re daring people to jump through hoops for them. That’s being as disingenuous and narrow-minded as any conspiracist.

    Lacka ebbidence is of a kind with the lacka belief posture: in making no claim, the lackers seem to think, they have no responsibility for providing their own evidence, or even argument. I’ve had atheists berate me for abandoning their one supposed advantage, which is that they think they don’t have to take a position on the matter, perhaps not realizing they already have.

    I know I disagree with you on plenty of things related to religion, but I agree that an atheistic perspective can and should be articulated and justified. Most of the channels here at Patheos Nonreligious are dedicated to showing how incoherent and groundless theistic worldviews are, and there’s never an acknowledgment that the same biases and blind spots can be features of our ways of thinking too. I recently wrote an article bashing “street epistemology,” because the working assumption of its practitioners seems to be that only other people have biases.

    When we talk to religious folks, we’re essentially just telling them that their language games have different rules than ours. At least I admit that we’re playing a language game too; we’ve got biases and blind spots; and we’re telling ourselves stories with the terminology that makes sense to us.

    The “burden of proof” axiom is particularly abused in this kind of rhetoric. The implication of “show me the evidence” is that whatever is shown must satisfy the atheist’s standards. Perhaps it’s because so many atheists deny that they even hold a position in the god wars that they fail to realize that they have the responsibility to establish reasonable standards applicable both to themselves as well as theists.

    I agree. I think we should be able to establish how we define the phenomenon of religion and what we consider problematic about it. And we don’t have to pretend that we’re not inclined to nonbelief, or that (as you say) we’re being absolutely objective and parsimonious about religion. The idea that data points are going to change our minds, particularly about the very basis of how we experience reality and interpret that experience, seems to me like a ludicrous overstatement.