The problem with trivial objections is that they leave the central thesis largely untouched. It is fallacious to oppose a contention on the basis of minor and incidental aspects, rather than giving an answer to the main claim which it makes. . . .The fallacy is akin to that of the straw man. Instead of facing the main opponent, in this case it is only a few aspects of it which are confronted. The trivial objections are possibly valid, the point is that they are also trivial, and not adequate to the work of demolishing the case which is presented. The fallacy is committed because they are not up to the task to which they are assigned, not because they are erroneous. . . . .
But there is hope. Despite the above shortcomings of trivial objections they nonetheless can be used to good effect:
If you dwell on your objections, listing them and showing how each one is valid, your audience will be impressed more by their weight of numbers than by their lack of substance. (Pirie 2006 pp. 163-164 — bolded emphasis is my own)
And so it is that probably the best-known anti-mythicist on the web has mastered the tactic of trivial objections to deflect attention from the substance of mythicist arguments.
Responding to an article that was published in the Cambridge online journal published for the Royal Institute of Philosophy, Think, Professor McGrath demonstrates with aplomb the masterful application of the art of the trivial objection.
To fully appreciate McGrath’s finesse we need to identify the core argument of the article being addressed. The author, Raphael Lataster, makes the central point clear in his conclusion:
The approach taken by the mainstream historicists is riddled with unjustified and no longer tenable presuppositions, employs the use of illogical methods such as the overuse of non-existing sources, and surprisingly involves attacks on critics’ personal beliefs and qualifications. By contrast, the work of ahistoricists like Carrier and myself is published in the peer-reviewed literature, and is measured and impersonal. Given the state of the available sources, it is entirely reasonable to be undecided over the issue of Jesus’ historical existence.
Lataster sums up his discussion of Bart Ehrman’s arguments for the “certainty” that Jesus existed (set out with my own formatting):
He claims that he has demonstrated, at the very least, that the Historical Jesus certainly existed. But his case relied on
- assumptions that the Gospels are basically reliable and don’t elaborate on or adapt the earlier Christian sources,
- ill-considered musings about what Jews of the time would and would not have believed,
- and sources that don’t exist and can’t be analysed.