On Fence-Sitters, and Sound-Bite Criticisms vs. In-Depth, Substantive Defenses
By Ken K. Gourdin
In an effort to lure anyone who might be on the fence into disbelief, some critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are fond of leveling drive-by, sound-bite criticisms of the Church and of its truth claims which require more in-depth analysis to rebut adequately. However, once those on the fence has been convinced by such shallow criticisms, often, they are unpersuaded by the substantive responses (indeed, they are less likely to take the time and effort necessary even to consider such responses).
I once commented on this phenomenon at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion. Not that this matters, but other Board members can give a poster “reputation points” or “rep points” for responses that they deem particularly witty, insightful, and so on. This post is my highest reputation content, having received 15 such points, one each from 15 other posters.
While, in this instance, the topic is religion, the phenomenon this post describes is generalizable well beyond that particular subject. One who knows just enough to be dangerous about some subject – whether that subject be science, philosophy, law, et cetera – might make a drive-by comment that persuades those who, in their lack of knowledge, had been sitting on the fence regarding some issue, and it then becomes difficult or impossible for someone more who is knowledgeable, about the issue and/or about the subject, to change the “former fence-sitter’s” mind.
I commented thus:
This isn’t intended as a criticism of you specifically and personally, [screen name redacted]. It’s simply a general observation of one advantage enjoyed by doubters, critics, skeptics, the disaffected, et cetera (pick your word) over believers: unfortunately, sound bites are more effective at luring those who are on the fence into disbelief than substantive analysis is at persuading those who are on the fence to believe, but it’s not possible to refute sound bite criticisms with sound bite rebuttals in return. Critics know this, and they take full advantage of it.