I have noted in the past that John Loftus has come out as a vocal defender of Peter Boghossian. So it was with great interest that I read Loftus’ comments on the McGrew/Boghossian debate. In his response, Loftus keeps up his bravado, even throwing in the proverbial chest-thump as he dubs himself “Boghossian’s bulldog”. In my response, “Boghossian’s bulldog … or his lapdog“, I pointed out that Loftus’s style is closer to that of a toy poodle than a bulldog. Loftus’ article was nothing more than a lame attempt to kick up some dust. And when the dust had finally settled, I observed that his real contribution is, quite literally, nothing more than “bewildering gobbledygook”.
Them’s fightin’ words and you can bet I typed them in fear and trepidation given that Loftus is such a fierce opponent. (Brrr.)
So how did he respond? Did he tear a strip off me? Did he at least bark loudly? Nope. None of that. He did show up to the threaded discussion. But, curiously, his tail was between his legs. He wrote:
So what exactly did Loftus think McGrew was arguing for? Judging by his bizarre analysis in the article, I suspect Loftus himself hasn’t a clue. This is like a bulldog who launches a fierce attack … only to end up chewing its own tail.
Tom Gilson also commented in the thread to commend me for addressing Loftus’ confusion. Interestingly, Loftus then provided yet another interesting explanation for his incoherent ramblings:
In this comment Loftus explains that his comment was nonsensical (as Gilson says, “nothing … to figure out”) because he had a bad day. I’m sorry to hear that. But when I have a bad day I don’t go on my blog and write nonsense. Instead, I take a day off.
I might have let all this slide, except that for the last year Loftus has been crowing about how wonderful Boghossian’s book is. What is more, he’s been styling himself as Huxley to Boghossian’s Darwin. And now when Boghossian finally dares to engage with one of his Christian critics, and promptly receives the drubbing of his life, Loftus inexplicably falls silent. What kind of bulldog is this?
But wait a minute. In his first comment that I quoted above Loftus did say that his “main objection is still there in the second to last paragraph on my blog.” (emphasis added)
Okay, well let’s take a look then. Here’s the second to last paragraph:
“Boghossian uses rhetoric to his advantage. I like it because I agree with him that Christianity is baseless. He’s writing to motivate those of us who agree with him. I like that too. The problem is that Christians don’t agree with us that Christianity is baseless. His book is not intended to convince Christians because they are not his target audience. So all this blathering about definitional apologetics is just that, blathering. If Christians want to engage books that argue against their faith they exist. Until then, the ONLY valid criticism of the main point of Boghossian’s book is one that can successfully argue his proposals to change the religious landscape won’t work, or on second thought, that if they work it would be bad for the world.”
Loftus says his “main objection” is in this paragraph. But where is it exactly? I feel like a child hunting for chocolate eggs on Easter morn. Somewhere in this tangled mess of verbiage an objection is hidden, a main objection, one that will demonstrate how it is that Boghossian in fact did well in this debate.
So far as I can see, the best candidate is this statement: “the ONLY valid criticism of the main point of Boghossian’s book is one that can successfully argue his proposals to change the religious landscape won’t work…” In this statement Loftus is saying the book shouldn’t be judged on whether it makes true statements or not. Instead, it should be judged on whether it is effective at making converts to atheism. And thus, McGrew allegedly missed the point of the entire book by bothering to attack the veracity of Boghossian’s claims. Veracity, apparently, was not the point.
Faithful readers will recognize that we’ve been down this road before. Loftus has previously retreated to that defense and I critiqued it in “Loftus admits Boghossian doesn’t care about truth. I call that bogusian!” In that article I noted that the practice of using language to elicit effect irrespective of its truth value is properly called bullshit. (Please note, dear reader, that the term “bullshit’ is not being used here merely as an inflammatory epithet. It is, rather, a technical term the analysis of which is based on philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s discussion in his famous 1985 philosophy paper “On Bullshit” which was later published as a small book with Yale University Press.)
Loftus didn’t take kindly to my response. Indeed, he went apoplectic, posting an article with the screaming title: “Dr. Randal Rauser is a Liar! A Liar For Jesus. There is No Escaping this.” Except that I didn’t lie. I pointed out that using language to elicit effect irrespective of its truth value is bullshit. I believe in calling a spade a spade.
So here is the extraordinary conclusion. Loftus the bulldog’s only response in defense of his much-admired Boghossian is to say the man shouldn’t be judged on the truth value of what he says. Instead, he should only be judged on whether he is succeeding in making converts. Truth, it would seem, takes the hindmost.
While the phrase “The emperor has no clothes” tends to get overused, this is definitely one place where it applies. The emperor indeed is wholly lacking in appropriate attire. And as for his
lapdog bulldog, the mongrel does nothing more than bark into space and chew his own tail.
If this is the vanguard of skeptical thought these days, atheists far and wide should be very worried.