I had made the claim that while you don't need to understand something in order to reject it, you do need to understand something in order to critique it.
From an exchange on Debunking Christianity.
Robert Corfield: If someone took seriously the flying spaghetti monster and claimed it existed, do you think you would need to study The Gospel of the FSM and make a thorough study of pastafarian theology to make sure you understand the position in order to critique it?
VR: The FSM was invented as a concept that could not be taken seriously by people attacking, in this case, intelligent design (though it does make for a good reply to fideism). Understanding is needed for critique because we need to get inside the intellectual tempation to believe something in order to provide a response that shows that this apparent justification is illusory. No one I know claims to be rationally justified in believing that the Flying Spaghetti Monster exists. If someone did, we would have to understand why someone thought that--otherwise our critical response is not going to get at what is supporting the belief.
Let's take an example from theistic arguments: various forms of the cosmological argument. People like Dawkins, and Russell before him, presume that you can refute all forms of the cosmological argument by presuming that you can just answer it by asking "Who made God." In other words, they presume that the argument is based on a principle that everything has a cause. The "naive" cosmological argument was attributed to Aquinas as late as 1998, as going as follows, by Theodore Schick.
1. Everything is caused by something other than itself2. Therefore the universe was caused by something other than itself.3. The string of causes cannot be infinitely long.4. If the string of causes cannot be infinitely long, there must be a first cause.5. Therefore, there must be a first cause, namely god.
The most telling criticism of this argument is that it is self-refuting. If everything has a cause other than itself, then god must have a cause other than himself. But if god has a cause other than himself, he cannot be the first cause. So if the first premise is true, the conclusion must be false.
But Aquinas never said that, he said that whatever exists contingently needs a cause of its existence. God, by definition, isn't a contingent being, and therefore needs no cause. Now, there could be all sorts of things wrong with this argument, but that isn't it, and making this mistake signals to readers who do know something about this argument that the critic doesn't know what he's talking about. This is particularly of interest because Russell, for example goes on to say that this reply should be so obvious that the fact that people are persuaded by this kind of an argument requires a psychological explanation. Perhaps we need a psychological explanation for why Russell didn't do his homework.
Remember what I pointed out earlier, that it is easy to ridicule evolution. The evolutionist can rightly respond by saying that such ridicule is based on a lack fo understanding. But Christians and defenders of natural theology will say the same thing about misguided attacks.
Creationists, whatever else you might want to say about them, are armed to respond to the tactics of the New Atheists.