*Sigh* On David Marshall's Review of My Book: The Blind Leading the Blind

Over at Amazon.com Dr. David Marshall, a Christian apologist, author, lecturer, debater and editor, reviewed my new book, The Outsider Test for Faith.I find it strange that it's one of the most helpful "reviews" so far (as of this writing). Since Marshall has edited his review in response to my criticisms I'll edit this post as well. Let me just say I think I already effectively dealt with all of his so-called "substantive" objections in my book, all of them. In fact, he repeats a few of his arguments as if he didn't even read the book. What intellectuals must do, rather than repeat an original argument, is to respond to the objections. It's called offering counter-arguments. He didn't do what an intellectual is required to do. As far as I know, he may not even know that he didn't do this.

In fact, this isn't a real review at all. It's a hatchet job. It wouldn't even marginally pass as a book review in any magazine. It's a knee jerk reaction to the things I wrote of Marshall's arguments in my book instead. In his "review" he's more interested in offering a response to them than reviewing the book as a whole. Since Marshall mischaracterizes me I have seven things to say for starters:

1) As a believer Marshall is a science denier as I argued in the book, plain and simple. He just won't admit this. I don't expect him to. He can't. 2) In his original review (now edited out) he claimed I learned of GK Chesterton's argument for a kind of outsider test from his book. No! I haven't even read it. 3) If my book is shallow (as he said in his original review) or intellectual lazy as he claims, he needs to account for the blurbs written about it.

Take for instance what Dr. Richard Carrier said of my book on his blog:
Though this idea has been voiced before, Loftus is the first to name it, rigorize it, and give it an extensive philosophical defense; moreover, by doing so, he is the first to cause a concerted apologetic to arise attempting to dodge it, to which he could then respond. The end result is one of the most effective and powerful arguments for atheism there is. It is, in effect, a covering argument that subsumes all other arguments for atheism into a common framework.
4) Tom Gilson, the Christian editor of the book where his chapter on the OTF is in, agreed with me, saying: "The core of David's argument is that Christianity has passed the OTF millions of time." So if I can be faulted for criticizing an argument he didn't make then at least Tom saw the same thing I did. *cough* 5) Marshall says I didn't respond to his four arguments that Christianity passes the test. Really? Then he must not have read chapters 9 and 10 where I argue against his faith either. 6) Even if he's correct about a couple of the nits he picks at, nitpicking about them does not undermine the over-all thrust of the case I present. That's what most believers do, even the intellectuals. They nitpick at a book rather than focus on the main thrust of it. If they can find a couple of nits to pick at they believe their faith has escaped refutation, which is typical when it comes to the cognitive illness of faith. My book was not written for him. It was written for people who want to be honest about their faith.

7) Marshall says my book is "an intellectually lazy work." Hmmmm, where have I heard that before? Ahhh, yes, he wrote an earlier Amazon "review" about my anthology The End of Christianity, saying it was an "intellectual lazy book" too. Well, well. Since I only wrote one chapter in it then I'm in great company, with the likes of well-credentialed scientists, biblical scholars, philosophers, historians and atheologians. Dr. Hector Avalos is one of them. His response is this: "I can say that he (Marshall) is probably the last person in the world who should accuse anyone of 'intellectually lazy work.'" When Christian apologists say such things about us no one should take them seriously. They are like the blind leading the blind. I mean this. No one should take any Christian apologist seriously who claims these two works of mine are shallow (as he said in his original review) or intellectually lazy. This is empty rhetoric. It's the same kind of rhetoric we would expect when an ex-Mormon or ex-Scientologist storms their gates with the truth. Yet, because of "reviews" like Marshall's most believers will not read them. You see, that's the REAL goal, and it works. The rank-and-file Christian trusts Marshall rather than me. After all, I'm just a lowly baby-eating atheist. ;-)

I had asked, "Apart from science, what else should we trust?" Marshall responds in this "review" that we should trust our eyes. Yes, indeed. Science is based on them, and on our other senses, like touching, hearing, tasting, and smelling. Scientists have developed instruments like the microscope and telescope and so many others I can't list, in order to heighten and amplify our senses. So science is based on our senses. Science is based on objective evidence along with sound reasoning about that evidence. What else can we trust? That is my question. On occasions our senses might deceive us and we reason incorrectly sometimes, but faith offers us nothing by comparison. Faith has no method. With faith practically anything can be believed or denied, even against the objective evidence, as so many religions exemplify in our world today. All someone has to do is examine the faith of a Mormon or a Scientologist to see this clearly. That Marshall sees this with regard to these other faiths is clear. That he does not see this with regard to his own faith means he's, well, blind.

There are two things Marshal said that were positive and appreciated though.

In his review he wrote: "I think he [John] held his own in his recent debate book with the very sharp Randal Rauser." He's referring to God or Godless?: One Atheist. One Christian. Twenty Controversial Questions.He had a pre-publication copy of it for a blurb. So let me get this straight. I held my own against "the very sharp" Dr. Rauser, but in his original review (now edited out) Marshall said I did a shallow job when it came to his arguments. Really? Does Marshall think his arguments are that much superior to the "very sharp " Dr. Rauser? Or instead, does he think the "very sharp" Dr. Rauser is as shallow as I am?

In a comment on page 2 after his review Marshall says to me:
...there's a lot more to say, and I do plan to say it. That's not a threat, because I don't see you so much as an opponent here, as someone who has raised some interesting issues (as you often do) that deserve discussion.
So let me get this straight as well. I often raise interesting issues but my arguments are shallow (as originally claimed) or intellectually lazy? How can anyone raise interesting issues if said person is not informed about the kinds of issues that are interesting? I would think that anyone who raises interesting issues knows enough about the arguments, both pro and con, that he knows what issues to raise in the first place.

*Sheesh* He really fears my book might lead believers astray. I don't see why, since he claims his faith passes this test, something I argued against in chapters 9 and 10 of the book itself.

Now, if Marshall decides to continually edit his original review based on my criticisms then I probably cannot keep up. If he does this again let me state for the record that doing so is an illegitimate way to have a discussion or a debate.