This quotation comes from Richard Whately’s Elements of Logic, 6th edition (1836), pp. 248-49:
Similar to this case is that which may be called the Fallacy of objections; i.e. showing that there are objections against some plan, theory, or system, and thence inferring that it should be rejected; when that which ought to have been proved is, that there are more, or stronger objections, against the receiving than the rejecting of it. This is the main, and almost universal Fallacy of anti-christians; and is that of which a young Christian should be first and principally warned. They find numerous “objections” against various parts of Scripture; to some of which no satisfactory answer can be given; and the incautious hearer is apt, while his attention is fixed on these, to forget that there are infinitely more, and stronger objections against the supposition, that the Christian Religion is of human origin; and that where we cannot answer all objections, we are bound, in reason and in candour, to adopt the hypothesis which labours under the least. That the case is as I have stated, I am authorized to assume, from this circumstance; that no complete and consistent account has ever been given of the manner in which the Christian Religion, supposing it a human contrivance, could have arisen and prevailed as it did. And yet this may obviously be demanded with the utmost fairness of those who deny its divine origin. The Religion exists: that is the phenomenon; those who will not allow it to have come from God, are bound to solve the phenomenon on some other hypothesis less open to objections; they are not, indeed, called on to prove that it actually did arise in this or that way; but to suggest (consistently with acknowledged facts) some probable way in which it may have arisen, reconcileable with all the circumstances of the case. That infidels have never done this, though they have had near 2000 years to try, amounts to a confession that no such hypothesis can be devised, which will not be open to greater objections than lie against Christianity.
The key phrase here is “reconcileable with all the circumstances of the case.” It is quite easy to tell a just-so story if the facts are kept in soft focus. Dealing with the facts in all their particularity is a different matter entirely.
Whately’s insight is remarkable, for it is indeed very easy to become so fixated on difficulties or objections as to lose sight of the weight of the positive evidence and of the fact that the whole of the evidence, taken together, creates more difficulties for the opposing side. To be incredulous regarding some view, theory, or hypothesis on account of some difficulty it involves, while at the same time (and perhaps in consequence of this very thing) ignoring the greater difficulties that stand against its denial is to be credulous regarding that denial. As Whately remarks in his correspondence:
I wish to adopt finally the conclusions that shall imply the least credulity. But when will people be brought to understand that credulity and incredulity are the same?
Elizabeth Jane Whately, ed., Life and Correspondence of Richard Whately, D.D., vol. 2 (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1866), p. 68.
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