My previous post on Peter Boghossian's talk titled Jesus, The Easter Bunny and Other Delusions was written on the basis of an interview he did, and on a description of the talk that he gave. His talk has since been made available online, and I've watched the whole thing. After watching it, I think my criticism from the initial post holds up just fine, and represents the most central problem with his thesis. But the details of his presentation brought up a few other issues.
To briefly reiterate my chief problem with the thesis of the talk that "Faith is an unreliable process". The point that I made is that the thesis is irrelevantly true. A person of faith can easily concede the point that "faith" in general, as a process, is not reliable. After all, a Christian does not believe that faith in Buddha, or Allah, or Krishna will do anything for you; indeed a Christian would hold that faith in such things is guaranteed to lead you astray, and so would concede that "faith" in general is not reliable. People of faith don't have faith-in-faith, they have faith in specific gods. Boghossian's argument proceeds in such a way that assumes if he can demonstrate the unreliability of faith in general, as a process, that this should cause a person of faith to abandon their faith, but this expectation commits the fallacy of division; it can be true that faith in general is an unreliable process and that a faith properly-oriented, faith in the One True God, is entirely reliable. This lone objection is pretty much fatal for Professor Boghossian's entire project.
Boghossian's main examples to demonstrate the unreliability of faith, such as faith healing and transubstantiation, are really extra-biblical tenets that are not -- and never were -- central elements of the Christian faith. And so nothing at all hinges upon their standing or falling, and if and when they do 'fall', that fact mitigates against the reliability of faith in the Christian God not at all.
Another problem with his thesis is that, in a somewhat subtle manner, it assumes a priori that various faiths are wrong. That is to say, if it were true that there is no supernatural reality, or that faith is unreliable at apprehending supernatural reality, then the conclusion that faith (or specific faiths) are dispensable is obvious enough, but no argument has been made. If, however, some faith is substantially correct in all of its claims about transcendent reality, then not only would that particular faith be reliable, but it would be reliable at determining the most important facts about reality, facts which are much more substantial than the truths that modern science reveals about immanent, empirical reality. The fact that this can't be demonstrated to be the case is, of course, unproblematic for people of faith. That's entailed by the definition of faith and the nature of the things it aims to apprehend.
Speaking of the definition of faith, Boghossian largely defines himself a victory by using this definition of faith: "Belief without evidence". If this is how you're defining the term then, again, it's not difficult to get to a place where faith is unreliable. The problem is that you've produced a tautological argument that doesn't say anything. When faith is defined as unreliable, it is in fact unreliable. Of course, Christian faith (for one example) explicitly invokes evidence in its definition of "faith" (Hebrews 11:1), and would reject this concept of "faith", which is only another reason that speaking about "faith" in general terms produces such vacuous results.
And, even outside of the Christian concept of faith, on secular grounds, faith is most often invoked, not as something that goes contrary to evidence, or completely without reference to it, but in line with it. For example, if you have faith that your brother will make it to an appointment with you on time, you base this faith on the fact that your brother has been consistently reliable in the past. You can't be certain that he will prove reliable again, as that remains to be seen, and so you ground your faith in him in the evidence that is available and pertinent. With this much more sensible, realistic understanding of faith in view -- rather than Boghossian's silly definition -- again, his project crumbles.
Also, pointing out that faith is not well-suited to answering narrow questions about immanent, material reality is of about as much consequence as pointing out that biology is ill-suited to answering questions on astronomy. Using Boghossian's methodology of argument, one could argue quite forcefully that biology fails horribly at answering 9 out of 10 different types of questions, it just happens to excel at answering biological questions. Biology is, therefore, an unreliable process. Q.E.D.
At one point in the presentation Boghossian makes the claim that all conversations on the topic of someone's faith inevitably results in the person moving the goal posts, and shifting their claim from "my faith is true" to "my faith is beneficial". Perhaps he was being hyperbolic but he claims that "This is the inevitable trajectory of every single conversation, period." Every single conversation, period? I've had dozens of such conversations, and I can't recall a single one even drifting slightly in this direction, and I could produce the testimony of my interlocutors to confirm that the conversations never go in this direction. And I doubt that I'm the lone exception to this rule.
In closing, let me draw attention to one piece of the presentation that I found somewhat helpful. At one juncture, professor Boghossian encourages his audience to criticize ideas and not people. As a pragmatic concern, if you're trying to convince people of something, attacking them will never be very fruitful. This struck me as a secular version of "hate the sin, love the sinner", which made me chuckle a bit to realize.