Tom Gilson

Why I’m Not Answering Non-Serious Objections to Too Good to be False

I’ve been looking forward to serious skeptical answers to Too Good to be False. Unfortunately after a couple responses, especially a recent one on YouTube by “Paulogia,” I’m still looking forward to it. This wasn’t one of them.

There’s an expectation that an author will answer challenges such as Paulogia delivered in that video. I don’t intend to do that, though, except with those serious skeptical responses I’m still waiting for. This blog post explains the reason for that, along with illustrations demonstrating just how unserious Paulogia’s objections are.

I’m writing this as a catch-all, to use not only for Paulogia’s video but also for other, equally non-serious objections I fully expect to follow his in the future. I’ll post a link to this blog post under Paulogia’s video, and when the next non-serious objection gets written or recorded, I’ll post this link there, too.

My Initial Response to Paulogia

My purpose here is consistent with the two comments I’ve written under Paulogia’s video. The first was:

Wow. What a train wreck. You should read the book next time. The points you rebutted had some superficial resemblance to my arguments, but only superficial. … If you’d listened to my interviews more carefully you could have done a better job of understanding what I was saying. … You spent the whole video rebutting arguments I don’t make. In one case you strongly supported a key premise of one of my arguments, even as you thought you were delivering a knock-out blow against it.

Paulogia’s followers have answered with over 110 comments in the 21 hours since then. Most of them were mocking. I don’t pay attention to those. Some of them were requests like “Could you provide an example.” I’ll do that now.

It’s worth my time to show why such non-serious arguments aren’t worth any more of my time.

My purpose here will be my own, however. It’s not going to satisfy Paulogia’s tribe, because I’m not going to give them the answers they want. I know how impossible that would be, anyway. Experience shows that atheists on sites like Paulogia’s don’t want answers as much as they want something to mock and scorn.

My purpose here rather is to show what a non-serious response looks like. It’s worth my time to show why such arguments aren’t worth any more of my time.

Silly Objections.

The silliness appears very early in the video. Paulogia quotes me saying I was looking forward to hearing how skeptics would answer the book. He answers, “If you’re writing a book you should already have a good idea of what the opposite side is going to come up with.” This is silly. He can’t be serious. It would be rather (ahem) difficult to know before writing the book how skeptics would respond after reading the book.

At 1:00 he says he hasn’t read the book. That’s not a good start for a serious response. See here what silliness follows from it.

Fallacious Fallacy Charges

At about 3:00 he says “Your entire approach is based on the argument from silence fallacy.” No, actually, I know that fallacy, and I didn’t commit it. See pretty much all of part 1 in the book, but especially pp. 77-78. See also pp. 98-102, give or take some additional surrounding material.

He devotes more than 2 1/2 minutes to showing that I commit the Muslims’ “literary miracle” mistake. He wants his viewers to think that my friend David Wood has already disproved my whole argument. He’s wrong. See all of part 2 in the book.

At 9:00 he says, “Tom’s entire argument depends on the listener believing that Jesus actually says what the Gospels say he said.” Wrong again. See pp. 98-102 again.

Supporting My Case, and Not Even Knowing It!

Beginning at about 11:00, and for almost 2 1/2 minutes, he tells us that perfect characters are “un-relatable,” and “boring.” If he’d been serious about my argument he’d have known I say precisely the same thing, 4 pages’ worth of it starting on page 126, and that it’s one of my key points of evidence for the case I make. He’s unknowingly helping my argument along!

I’d explain how, except the problem with what he’s saying there is too obvious, if he’d only give it some thought. And I’m sticking to my purpose stated above. If Paulogia spends that much time unknowingly supporting my argument, while thinking he’s rebutting it, he can’t be serious about what he’s doing.

More Mistakes He Wouldn’t Have Made If This Were a Serious Response

At 16:00 he notes that “some of some of history’s greatest writers suffered from mental illness.” Well, of course! I deal with that on pages 117-120.

At 17:00 He talks about the telephone game, closing that section saying, “Meanwhile, all evidence points to the supernatural parts [Tom is ]so impressed with being the parts that grew.” Really? On page 103 I note that I “barely mention” Jesus’ miracles. It’s not about “the supernatural parts” at all.

At 18:30 he wonders, “Is Tom unaware that the Gospels are literarily dependent?” No, Tom is not unaware. See pages 129-137.

At about 25:00 he mentions Superman as a counter-example to my case. Been there, done that. See pages 124-125.

Why I’m Not Answering These Objections

This is just a sampling; I don’t want to bore you with the whole list. I’m not answering his objections any further than this, either here or on his YouTube page. It would be a foolish waste of my time. If he or his tribe want to know what my answer would be, they know where to find it. I’ve even given them page numbers now.

Paulogia thinks he’s given himself a pass by saying he’s only responding to the interview: “I was very clearly responding to the interviews, not the book,” he writes in a tweet. “It’s the job of a book tour to make one’s book seem compelling and unique, and describe the best arguments and most important points. It’s not like there are spoilers to protect.”

I agree with that. Describing an argument is not, however, the same as recompiling it along with all its supporting evidence, the flow of its reasoning, and the attention paid to potential objections. He treats it as if it’s the job of a book tour to make one’s arguments compelling and complete.

I didn’t do that in this interview or any other. There’s a reason for that. This argument is completely new to our generation, which means there’s no way to present it in shorthand. I build it starting with a long list of evidence occupying 90 pages. With that on the record, I take another 60 pages or so developing the argument, examining its various angles, and responding to objections I expect to hear. I didn’t reproduce all that in the interview. Is that any surprise?

What’s the Point of Tearing Apart a Partial Argument?

So Paulogia ripped apart a partial argument. I’m not impressed. Partial, incomplete arguments, with most of their supporting evidence missing, are easy to tear down. I can’t see the entertainment value in it. I’d be bored. Why not find out what an opponent really says, and answer that instead?

He also mangled the argument by interpreting it through his bias. If he’d studied what I was really saying, he might not have made that mistake.

And What Would Be the Point of Re-Writing the Real One?

Given this kind of non-serious response, what should an author such as myself do in turn? I could try to correct it, but I’m not going to do that, for three reasons.

First, a non-serious objection doesn’t deserve a serious response.

Second, most of the correction I’d have to offer would involve telling them what I actually argue and how I argue it, instead of what they incorrectly think I say. But I’ve already said what I actually argue and how. It’s in the book. I do not need to re-write the book for them.

Third, the time will come when someone offers a serious skeptical response. I look forward to that, when it happens. I expect serious responses to call for seriously considered responses on my part, and I don’t need to kill my energy for it by wasting time on silliness.

Already Explained All This

I’ve already told Paulogia this, in my second and near-final comment under his video. (My final comment will be nothing more than a link to this blog post.) I wrote,

I should add this as well, to help explain why I don’t plan to get involved in comments here. Your video is full of rebuttals of things I don’t argue, as I’ve already said. For me to engage in meaningful conversation on it would require me explaining, one point after another, “What I really said was … ” But I’ve already said what I really said. I wrote it in the book and I’ve summarized it in several interviews. This is not the place where I want to re-write the whole thing all over again. Those who want to know what I really said should be able to figure out where to find it. Those who don’t want to know don’t need me explaining it for them here or anywhere else.

Image Credit(s): Jen Theodore.

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7 thoughts on “Why I’m Not Answering Non-Serious Objections to Too Good to be False

  1. This post assumes that the Paulogia video was a review of your book. This was not the case. The subject of the Paulogia video was your video interview with Frank Turek, and the statements that you made in the course of that interview. As such, this post misrepresents both Paulogia and your book. The post should be withdrawn in the interests of fairness, accuracy and transparency.

  2. I’m sorry, but no. The Paulogia video was a review of my argument, which he critiqued without understanding. He offered some very weak disclaimers asking to have it explained to him if he’d missed something, then proceeded to treat my Turek interview as if it were my argument in toto, and getting it badly wrong as a result.

    See what I quoted here, for some easy examples. “Your entire approach is based on the argument from silence fallacy,” he said. Also, “Tom’s entire argument depends on the listener believing that Jesus actually says what the Gospels say he said.” That’s critiquing my entire approach, not just an interview.

    I could give more examples, but that’s enough to show he thought he was addressing a whole lot more than the interview.

    And now you’re trying to relieve him of responsibility for that?

  3. Besides that, let’s suppose (for the sake of argument) he was reviewing the interview as an interview, as you say he was. In that case he did a poor job, too. Any review should be done with the subject’s purpose in mind. A historical novel doesn’t get the same detailed scrutiny as a work of non-fiction history, because everyone knows it has a different purpose.

    And now I must fill you in on the publishing industry’s dirty little secret. This isn’t just me, and it isn’t just Christians. Watch any talk show with any author as guest, and you’ll find this is true, with very rare exceptions (C-SPAN’s Book Talk, for example.)

    This might spoil your whole view of the world, but I’ll take the risk. It’s a secret, we try so hard to keep it hidden, but you need to know it anyway: When authors do interviews like this, we want to inform listeners about the book and give them a taste of what’s in it, in hopes that they’ll buy it.

    (Some members of Paulogia’s tribe have spoken disdainfully of my desire to sell books. Fact is, I’m not the only author who’s ever wanted to do that, and not the only one who’s given interviews with that hope in mind. Just about every author who writes for the general public either does interviews like that or wishes someone would let them do it.)

    For non-fiction books, that “taste” often includes information the user can value or even use immediately without buying the book, but no one pretends to think it’s comprehensive, or that it’s intended to be. No one thinks it’s a complete statement of an argument, all evidence included, all objections addressed. No one.

    To critique an interview for not accomplish the purpose of a book is like critiquing a wrench for not accomplishing the purpose of a hammer. Maybe you need a hammer and all you have is a wrench; maybe you complain about it; but what you don’t do is say it’s a lousy wrench for that reason.

    So if he’d actually been reviewing it as an interview, he might have said, “I’m not impressed. I don’t think Tom has anything new to offer. I don’t see how it could be anything more than an argument from silence.” If he’d said that, I’d have nothing substantial to object to. They’re statements about how well the interview did in whetting his appetite and making him want to buy the book. In fact, they’re primarily statements about himself and his own reactions, about which he could hardly be wrong.

    Had he taken a serious approach like that, I’d have offered a serious answer, perhaps explaining in more detail why it really isn’t an argument from silence. I’ve already explained here, though, why I’m not doing that in this case.

    He listened to an interview and critiqued it as if it were intended to be a full statement of an argument. He critiqued a wrench for not being a hammer.

  4. Tom, your latest comment beggars belief.

    There’s no need to be condescendIng to me, Readers and viewers DO know that interviews such as this are designed to sell the author’s book. Yes. It does happen all the time and the purpose is to promote enough interest for the viewer/reader to buy the book. So the interview needs to stand on its own feet. In fact, from an author’s perspective, the choice of venue and interviewer is critical depending on whether you want a serious discussion, a thin whitewash, or something in between. You opted for the whitewash that was never going to challenge you, never going to ask difficult questions, or offer a counter-perspectibe, always agree with your point of view.

    So, this Interview is what but reader/viewer has to go on. And Paulogia’s video was NOT about your book, per se, but about your comments in this interview.

    So, if the interviewer AND interviewee allow the Interview to proceed as you did, theN you have no-one else to blame but yourself. You had your chance and you blew it. Better that you learn from the experience than pass off your mistake as someone else’s responsibility.

  5. I said at the end,

    “He listened to an interview and critiqued it as if it were intended to be a full statement of an argument. He critiqued a wrench for not being a hammer.”

    Apparently you think I’m responsible for doing the wrong kind of interview, which opened the door for him to do that. I was the one who was wrong even he did that.

    Interesting. You’re welcome to your opinion. But Paulogia himself said he was criticizing my argument, and he did it without knowing what it was.

  6. It’s also occurred to me to wonder how the second sentence here follows from the first, or the third from the second:

    “The purpose is to promote enough interest for the viewer/reader to buy the book. So the interview needs to stand on its own feet. In fact, from an author’s perspective, the choice of venue and interviewer is critical depending on whether you want a serious discussion, a thin whitewash, or something in between.”

    I’m not saying with the respect to the third sentence, “It doesn’t follow from the previous, therefore I am okay with a thin whitewash.” That assumes in the first place there is something needing whitewashing. I am saying that there are different kinds of “serious discussion,” and that it’s not entirely clear to me why it needs to be serious in the sense of presenting the totality of an argument in order to accomplish the acknowledged purpose.

    The second sentence is a definite non sequitur. For an interview to accomplish the acknowledged purpose, often it’s better to survey the whole scope of the book in breadth rather than a smaller portion in depth. And usually it’s better to leave the listener wanting to know more.

    That leads to one of the curiosities to me about Paulogia: It’s how incurious he seemed to be. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to him to wonder how a person might make a case in the manner I said I was making one.

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