The Courtier's Reply is an alleged type of logical fallacy, coined by American biologist PZ Myers, in which a respondent to criticism claims that the critic is mistaken and ignorant about their position without explaining why the other side is supposedly wrong, and accuses the critic of misrepresentation, without explaining what was misrepresented.
Usage history 
American Professor of Biology PZ Myers coined the term Courtier's Reply in a December 2006 entry on his blog, Pharyngula. He did this in reaction to some of the criticism leveled at the 2006 book The God Delusion, in which author Richard Dawkins argues against the existence of a supernatural creator, by critics who argued that Dawkins' lack of qualifications in the fields of philosophy or theology called into question a number of his arguments. Myers responded to this criticism by analogizing Dawkins to the boy who, at the end of the fable The Emperor's New Clothes, is the sole voice of reason to identify the titular Emperor as naked, and satirizing certain Dawkins critics thus:
I have considered the impudent accusations of Mr Dawkins with exasperation at his lack of serious scholarship. He has apparently not read the detailed discourses of Count Roderigo of Seville on the exquisite and exotic leathers of the Emperor’s boots, nor does he give a moment’s consideration to Bellini’s masterwork, On the Luminescence of the Emperor’s Feathered Hat. We have entire schools dedicated to writing learned treatises on the beauty of the Emperor’s raiment, and every major newspaper runs a section dedicated to imperial fashion; Dawkins cavalierly dismisses them all. He even laughs at the highly popular and most persuasive arguments of his fellow countryman, Lord D. T. Mawkscribbler, who famously pointed out that the Emperor would not wear common cotton, nor uncomfortable polyester, but must, I say must, wear undergarments of the finest silk. Dawkins arrogantly ignores all these deep philosophical ponderings to crudely accuse the Emperor of nudity.
Dawkins himself, in responding to critics of The God Delusion who argued that he is not a theologian, stated, "Most of us happily disavow fairies, astrology, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster without first immersing ourselves in books of Pastafarian theology." Dawkins quoted the Courtier's Reply in a debate with Alister McGrath, and he also referenced it in the preface to The God Delusion's 2007 paperback edition.
English literary theorist and critic Terry Eagleton wrote of The God Delusion: "What, one wonders, are Dawkins’s views on the epistemological differences between Aquinas and Duns Scotus? Has he read Eriugena on subjectivity, Rahner on grace or Moltmann on hope? Has he even heard of them? Or does he imagine like a bumptious young barrister that you can defeat the opposition while being complacently ignorant of its toughest case?" Luke Muehlhauser, the Executive Director of the Singularity Institute, wrote on his blog, Common Sense Atheism, that this criticism is irrelevant when the existence or otherwise of God is discussed, saying, "Eagleton misses the point. If a creator god doesn’t exist, it doesn’t matter whether the imaginary god’s grace is best described by Rahner or someone else. Besides, the millions of believers to which Dawkins writes have never heard of Rahner, either. Christianity as practiced by billions of people is not the Christianity of the academic theologians."
Chris Hallquist of the religious information website Patheos states that reading and understanding theology can be unnecessarily difficult because many theologians deliberately write in obscure ways, stating, "I refuse to apologize for not having read more theology, in the sense of the writings of people like Haught and the people he admires. That's because they frequently don't even try to write clearly. My typical experience when picking up their books is to first notice they are using words in ways I am not used to. Then I start skimming to try to find the section where they explain what they mean by their words (sometimes there are legitimate reasons for using words in unusual ways). Then I end up closing the book when I fail to find such a section."
Philosopher Edward Feser of the American Enterprise Institute, a critic of the New Atheism movement, has called the Courtier's Reply a rhetorical "pseudo-defense", employed more as a "clever marketing tag" in order for members of the New Atheism movement to avoid criticism of their arguments. Feser terms the Reply "the Myers Shuffle".
See also 
- Myers, PZ (December 24, 2006). "The Courtier's Reply". Pharyngula.
- Orr, H. Allen (March 1, 2007). "A Mission to Convert". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
- "'I'm an atheist, BUT...' by Richard Dawkins (1 of 6)". YouTube. July 1, 2007, Retrieved February 4, 2013.
- Myers, PZ (2007-03-28). "The "magnificent P-Zed"?". ScienceBlogs.
- "Richard Dawkins reads the new preface to The God Delusion (paperback)". 2007-06-20. Retrieved 2007-07-18. See also Dawkins, Richard (2007-05-12). "How dare you call me a fundamentalist". The Times (London). Retrieved 2007-07-18.
- Eagleton, Terry (19 October 2006). "Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching". London Review of Books. Vol. 28 No. 20 pp. 32-34
- Muehlhauser, Luke (January 6, 2010). "The Courtier’s Reply, the Not My Theology Reply, and Straw Men". Common Sense Atheism.
- Hallquist, Chris (August 30, 2012). "Unintelligible theology". Patheos.
- Feser, Edward (March 26, 2010). "The New Philistinism". The American. American Enterprise Institute.