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January 31, 2023

Added Review of The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t (2023) by Mike Smith to the Freethought page under Faith and Reason in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

In The Scout Mindset, Rationally Speaking podcaster Julia Galef provides a unique roadmap for avoiding errors grounded in the motivation for one’s reasoning. Using a military metaphor, she describes two mindsets in approaching logical propositions, that of the soldier and that of the scout. Most of us default to a soldier mindset, questioning whether we have to assent to propositions that we dislike, and asking whether we are permitted to assent to ones that we favor. A scout mindset is simply concerned with determining whether or not a proposition is true, however, as when vetting the credibility of military intelligence. Although the soldier mindset boosts self-esteem, morale, and camaraderie, the scout mindset is essential to making good judgment calls. And while most people identify with a scout mindset, more often than not their behavior indicates something else. In this review, Mike Smith notes that this is where Galef’s approach to critical thinking is distinctive in an otherwise saturated genre: Galef provides a number of external criteria and thought experiments for assessing the degrees to which a person really takes on a scout mindset. With this valuable framework as her background, Galef makes a persuasive case that the degree to which one exhibits a scout mindset is more of a matter of track record than attitude, and is contingent on the ability to imagine alternative perspectives as real possibilities. The Scout Mindset contains a lot of useful information for having productive conversations online, fostering an open mind, or communicating across different levels of understanding. This book is top of the line for those looking to improve the clarity of their thought.

New in the Kiosk: How to Change the Minds of Believers (2023) by John W. Loftus

In this paper John W. Loftus shares ten helpful tips on trying to change the minds of Christian believers based on his nearly 20 years of experience engaging in it. He reviews the most common cognitive biases that one bumps against in the attempt to plant seeds of doubt, and notes some of the most pointed questions that one can ask to really get to the heart of the matter. This includes highlighting particular facts about the world that simply cannot be reasonably squared with traditional Christian beliefs. Even if your attempts result in a low rate of success, Loftus argues, every mind changed amounts to less religious harm in the world than there would have been otherwise, and the results of an attempt can reveal rather eye-opening truths even when it is not successful.

Recommended reading: Synopses of Epic, Tragedy, and the Gospels (2022) by Dennis R. MacDonald

In this very affordable magnum opus, Dennis R. MacDonald provides the definitive synopsis or syncrisis of the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John, and the narratives of the Acts of the Apostles in a three-volume set combined into one physical paperback. Volume 1 is a mimetic synopsis that incorporates the lost Gospel Q+ and reflects the historical evolution of the Synoptic tradition (from Q+ to Mark to Matthew to Luke) while focusing on literary imitations of classical Greek poetry to present Jesus as a hero who transvalues characters in the Homeric epics and Athenian tragedy. Volume 2 applies mimesis criticism to compare the Acts of the Apostles with classical Greek literature to detect, among other things, how Luke imitated the Homeric epics to rival Vergil’s Aeneid. It contains original translations of the relevant ancient texts and also includes Luke’s imitations of Euripides’ Bacchae and Plato’s Socratic dialogues. The final mimetic synopsis of the three Gospels of John in volume 3 compares the three compositional stages that produced the Fourth Gospel: (1) the Dionysian Gospel, which extensively imitated Euripides’ Bacchae; (2) the Anti-Jewish Gospel; and (3) the Beloved Disciple Gospel. Together, the three volumes fill often overlooked gaps in the reception of Greek and Latin literature in antiquity.