Matt McCormick has yet to reply to my third post on his essay in which I directly critiqued his Salem argument in response to his repeated requests that I do just that. But he did post a comment today which suggests to me a shift of tactic away from engaging my arguments and toward marginalizing me. I am going to interact with portions of that comment here.
To begin with, Matt writes:
“The gist of the thoroughly documented phenomena is this. When we encounter information that does not fit well with our preferences, we analyze, critique, and object with more vigor and more critical scrutiny than information that tells us what we want to hear.”
I agree. We often do that. It is such a problem that I even wrote a book about it (You’re not as Crazy as I Think). And one of the things we do to retain our beliefs is marginalize other people as being “irrational” or “ideologues”. This is an effective defense mechanism for retaining our beliefs when others critique those beliefs and we lack the ability to respond. Marginalizing others helps restore equilibrium, but it does so at the cost of truth-seeking.
This seems to be Matt’s strategy. I don’t say that in a “smug” way (I’ve been known to be smug in the past) but rather with a deep sense of disappointment.
For example, in that same quote Matt writes:
“Consider the enthusiasm, skill, and energy that Rauser puts into defended [sic] Wright at great length in these blog posts while effectively ignoring the central thesis, argument, and responses to objections in my chapter.”
This simply isn’t true. I built a comprehensive case against Matt’s argument over three blog posts, culminating in that critique of his Salem argument. Rather than respond to that third post Matt seems to have melted back into the blogosphere. Moreover, I didn’t defend Wright “at great length”. But I did point out that Matt misrepresented Wright’s views, turning them into a strawman. And I pointed out why that was relevant (it meant Matt was misrepreseting arguments for the resurrection). Moreover, I am quite sure that if I defended Matt’s own writing against this kind of misrepresentation he would be delighted that I had done so. So why isn’t he thankful that I pointed out misrepresentation of the views of another?
At this point in the comment the defense mechanism kicks into high gear. Marginalize and neutralize the Rauser threat by making vague accusations intended simply to discredit me rather than engage my actual arguments. Thus Matt writes:
“No rhetorical effort and no convoluted ad hoc rationalizing is spared, as McGrew shows, when it comes to finding a way to salvage the case for Jesus, but any misconstrual, straw man, ad hominem attack, or distraction is permissible when it comes to objecting to McCormick.”
Wait a minute. What in Matt’s views did I misconstrue? Where did I engage in ad hominem attack? Oh irony of ironies: by accusing me without providing documentation Matt is himself in danger of misconstrual and ad hominem.
Let me skip down to the end of his comment. Matt writes:
“But it’s far more common, and Rauser and many of those commenting here are no exception, for someone embedded deep in Christian ideology to have resolved that whatever McCormick has to say must be mistaken because it is not favorable to Jesus. It is the incompatibility of my argument with your favored conclusions that seems to driving many of these criticisms, not a thoughtful or responsible consideration of the arguments themselves.”
This is a serious charge. What evidence does Matt have that I reasoned in that way? What evidence does he have that “ideology” is “driving many of these criticisms”?
And even if ideology was driving the criticisms, so what? To dismiss the critique on that basis is a bald case of the genetic fallacy. In a court proceeding the prosecutor is committed to finding the defendent guilty. We all know this. But does that mean the jury responds skeptically by saying “prosecutorial ideology is driving the prosecution’s case”? Of course not. Rather, we restrict ourselves to the analysis of the prosecution’s case. And so it should be here. Even if Matt had evidence that I was somehow driven by ideology, that would not mean he could ignore my critique. He would still have to consider that critique on its own merits.
While Matt hasn’t established that I’m driven by ideology, based on these criticisms I’d say he’s provided a persuasive case that he is.