Monday, February 4, 2008

David Marshall's Attempted Rebuttals

Edit - 3-22-10: I wanted to edit this post to include some comments in light of my second reading of Marshall's book and the more extensive 100 + page refutation I've since written. These comments will be in italics. No other changes have been made to the original post.

I have just read the following on Marshall's blog where he wrote a few critiques of my review. I will once again destroy his silly arguments.

His post "Marshall is a Liar I" is a redundant post, and does nothing to refute my arguments. As I've said before, I can be harsh but fair. There are a few times in my review where I applaud Marshall's honesty on a very few topics. His is a gross misrepresentation of my review.

Now on to his attempted rebuttal, in his post "Marshall is a Liar II":

He claims I "misrepresent" his book in several ways. I do not, and his claims that I do are pathetic. I did make a few mistakes in parts of my review, which I have now edited, to make it easier to understand and took out my few mistakes. Though to put it in perspective, I only had to make 4 changes total to the whole review. Hardly a 'gross misrepresentation'.

I will have his comments in bold with my response afterwards.

(1) Contrary to AA's suggestion, I offer no "hype about destroying the atheists' position" here. My goals are more limited: to refute Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens. I also argue that there is good evidence for Christianity (and give a little), and that the Gospel has changed the world dramatically for the better. I do not attempt to formally refute atheism in this 210 page book.

His goal was to show why the "new atheists" are wrong and christianity is better then is often portrayed. Who cares about how I word his goal? In essence that was his goal to refute the prominent atheists! This is no argument whatsoever and is just arguing over wording. I'd also like to point out that I never did say that Marshall hyped his book as destroying the atheists' position. I simply said that was what the reviews I read said about the book; nothing Marshall said. Marshall claims that I didn't really read his book, and yet he seems to be a hypocrite once again because he didn't seem to even read my review (even though I actually did read his book)!

(2) I don't say that "skeptical historians" accept the miracles described in the Gospels as "strong evidence" for their historicity. I’m not even sure what that means.

Oh wow... don't play dumb. On pages 17-18 Marshall says, "Second, jesus often did miracles, calling them 'signs', which (even skeptical historians often admit) show strong evidence of historicity."

He is claiming that even historians admit that jesus' miracles are proof of the bible's historical truth, which is false, as I stated in my review. Now, please, tell me. Does this, or does this not, say that??? That's a direct quote.

Marshall accuses me of being affected by mirages, but his accusation has no basis. Marshall, however, seems to be suffering from amnesia because he apparently can't remember what he wrote in his own book.

In the above case in the sentence about jesus I may or may not have misread anything. I don't feel Marshall has been honest with me about it and so I do not trust his claims. Either way, I left out this passage since it's not a very important passage in his book. I go on to refute his more important claims in my review.

(3) Neither do I call science "narrow-minded." My actual point is that science is a limited way of testing reality: a point scientists in the audience (when I speak) often affirm. I also argue that broader ways of knowing, such as history, are a crucial part of any rational search for ultimate truth.

Yes he does say that science is narrow minded. He does not use that exact phrase, but he says how "we've been bamboozled into accepting (in the name of science, though not always from scientists) a lie about truth and how to find it, an untruth that narrows life and hands truth to tunnel-visioned specialists (page 16)." (Emphasis added)

He is saying that science is narrow minded...narrow in it's application, which I rebut in my post and say why it's not narrow minded...or "tunnel-visioned" since Marshall seems so anal about words. But that is how science is done, and the best way to get reliable results. Once again, I was correct in my interpretation of what Marshall was talking about. It seems that Marshall is so close-minded and clearly didn't read what I wrote that he couldn't understand that I was correct in what his argument was, and of course throws out his usual round of insults for no reason!

As I said above, I did even then understand his argument, but just as he's always done he argues against a strawman version of my counter-argument. So, despite Marshall's delusion regarding this case, I did understand his argument. I think anyone can see this. Is it any wonder I called Marshall a liar in our earlier discussions?!

(4) Nor do I say there is anything "wrong" with accepting things only on evidence! My point is just the opposite.

This is a strawman. I never said such a thing. I simply said that we accept many things without a lot evidence and I cite some examples, and I tried to show how everyday faith is different from religious faith. However, I think I know where he was mistaken about where I said, "What is wrong with accepting things only when there is evidence?" I was simply talking about how science is done...not talking about something that Marshall said specifically.

(5) I don’t assume, as AA claims, that "we can trust every word" of the Bible. That's not the sort of argument I make: I'm an empiricist, and prefer what John Polkinghorne calls a "bottoms-up" approach to understanding the Bible.

The reason I stated this was because of the many statements that Marshall makes about the reliability of the bible. He doesn't ever seem to say that the bible has any real flaws.

This comment was prompted by Marshall's claims in his book about the reliability of the gospels and the supposed accuracy and trustworthiness of them and the testimony contained therein. Again, Marshall didn't even bother to engage my actual argument.

(6) AA reports: "(Marshall) is saying that we should trust what is written in the gospels, because people wrote them, and we're supposed to trust other people."

Arizona is largely desert, no doubt subject to mirages. This appears to be one of them. I defy readers to find any such statement in any of my writings. Some people, of course, are not trustworthy at all – including, unfortunately, Arizona Atheist.

In the section where he is talking about the bible (page 18) and how historians accept miracles as evidence of the factual nature of the bible, Marshall writes, "Is it rational to believe things on the basis of human testimony (Emphasis added)? It'd be a pity if it weren't, because as Samuel Johnson put it. most of our knowledge is based on 'implied faith' in other people."

Because this statement was tied into the part talking about the bible, it appears that he was referring to the bible. But either way, I show in my review why this kind if thinking is not rational. If it's not referring to the bible, this sentence seems out of place, because what else could it be referring to? He is talking about the bible before and after this sentence. Also, the bible is human testimony.

And once again, Marshall uses a personal attack, instead of anything of real value and substance.

Is Marshall once again being deceptive here, or does he simply not know how to properly write a book?

Edit: See below my evidence to show why I strongly think Marshall was either outright lying about what he says in his book, or was simply attempting his theological bullshit in an attempt to make me somehow look foolish since he continuously likes to argue how I cannot read so didn't want to admit my correct interpretation. - This was an original edit made earlier, but I have nothing further to add, except to ask the reader to take note of Marshall's very evasive attitude. On about each and every point he claimed I hadn't understood his argument when it should be obvious to any rational person I did.

(7) True, I do argue (as AA reports) that in the Christian vocabulary, faith doesn't mean what Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett represent it as meaning, belief unsupported by evidence. Rather, faith "begins 'with the conviction of the mind based on adequate evidence'." AA disagrees, accusing the Christian theologians I cite (including Justin Martyr and Thomas Aquinas) of "a bit of a word game because faith, to my knowledge, has always meant 'belief without logical proof,'" even "as far back" as 1906. AA is free to disagree with Justin and Aquinas. (Though he should do so cautiously.) The problem is, he doesn’t appear to realize that Justin wrote in the 2nd Century, and Aquinas in the 13th. How can theologians play "a word game" by distorting a definition that would not be written for seven or seventeen centuries after their deaths?

Yes I consider it a word game, not for past theologians but modern theologians. Sorry I didn't make that clear, but either way, even in bible times, the bible's definition of faith, found in Hebrews 11:1, is "faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Source: My point was that even in the early 1900's faith seems to have always had that meaning, and not the one which theologians wish it had, and I wanted to know when it ever held the one they claim. It sure didn't even back as far as the early 1900's, or even bible times apparently.

Actually, as I've shown in my updated version of the review it seems Marshall is misinterpreting the texts to say something they do not, and these christians actually say the opposite.

(8) Arizona Atheist calls me a "hypocrite" for saying that churches sometimes "set young people up to lose their faith by teaching bad science." He has persuaded himself (somehow) that this is meant as a rebuke of scientists. It is actually (of course) meant as a (gentle, I hope) rebuke of some of my fellow Christians.

After rereading this section of his book I did misinterpret it when I did my review. Though, even in my original review, I state that I'm not exactly sure what Marshall is trying to say, but I think he might be saying such and such. I was tentative in my rebuttal. And, yes, Marshall is a hypocrite in several parts of his book. I detail this in some parts of my review.

This is simply one out of the very few unintentional mistakes I had made in the first draft of the review, but it has been corrected since this was pointed out to me and I reread the passage in question.

(9) Nor do I claim that the Trinity is easy to understand, or that I have a perfect handle on it. My actual point is that a quote on the Trinity by an ancient Christian thinker, which Dawkins mocks for its obscurity, seems to me both clear and lucid. I leave the reader to consider the passage for herself, and make up her own mind about the justice of Dawkins' comments. But the reviewer has (yet again) completely botched mine.

I felt that Marshall's defense of the trinity was pointless, as this is an absurd concept to begin with, and is nothing more then the historical belief in multiple gods which has not been squared away in modern christianity. At least this is my view, from my reading about the history of religion.

This comment about the trinity I left out of the updated critique of the book since it's not important.

Marshall did nothing to refute my points. He didn't seem to even understand half of what I wrote. This was a pitiful "rebuttal". Sorry for the quotes, but it seriously needs them : - )

He didn't bother to rebut even half of my points. This was just a sloppy, and poor attempt at refuting my arguments, which he didn't even come close to doing.

I also find it funny that he said that "Love of truth is something that Christians and sincere skeptics should share in common", because truth is not something religion is good for, and his book is a poor representation of the truth. If that were true religion would not have murdered so many for nothing more then telling the truth! Once again, I expose his inaccuracies about several things in my review.

I don't have much else to add. I still agree with what I said. I will add, however, this relevant point. These very few unintentional mistakes that were made a good two years ago at this point have all been fixed and not one person (even Marshall or his cohorts) have pointed out a single mistake since I fixed them. Arguments and claims to the contrary I've soundly refuted here and on On the other hand, look at the tons of mistakes and misreadings that theists have made in reading Dawkins' The God Delusion or Sam Harris' The End of Faith for example. The theists' books that I've reviewed I've exposed probably about five times more errors in their books than I ever made in my initial review - and they are honestly more formally educated than I am and have more writing experience! I think that says a lot even about my very first attempt at a critique, but my most recent PDF edition firmly puts all this nonsense about errors to rest.

Below are screenshots of his blogs on amazon for reference:

UPDATE 5-21-09

Previously I had posted my evidence against David Marshall here at the end of this post, but I have decided to delete all of the pictures to save room on my Blogger account because I have copied the entirety of the evidence of Marshall’s hypocrisy and lies here.

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