Over at Common Sense Atheism, Luke has posted an excellent commentary on the recent decision by several well-known philosophers (Keith Parsons and John Beversluis) to give up on the philosophy of religion:
The problem is not that philosophy of religion has lower standards than other areas of philosophy do. The problem is that standards in analytic philosophy in general are (compared to those in science) relatively low.
We need not look very far for examples. Consider the mainstream arguments in philosophy of mind about the possibility of zombies. David Chalmers argues that because he can imagine a world with all the same physical facts but no qualia, therefore physicalism is false. And this argument is highly respected and hotly debated in philosophy of mind, where many of the smartest people in philosophy do their work.
Such an argument from “what I can imagine” would be laughed out of a scientific conference with jeers of “Come back when you have evidence you idiot!” But standards are considerably lower in analytic philosophy, and such arguments are taken seriously and widely debated.
However Luke suggests that there is reason to hope. He points out,
In fact, one way to see the naturalistic project in philosophy since Quine is that naturalists want to raise the standards of argument and evidence in philosophy. We’ve noticed that the high standards in the physical sciences help make them so productive, and so we want to raise the standards in philosophy so that they are as close to the standards of science as possible. Thus, strict naturalists pay close attention to arguments that are roughly scientific in structure and rise close to the same standards of argumentation and evidence, and we pay less attention to arguments with lower standards, such as those that typify, say, theistic philosophy of religion or moral realism.