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Jun 02 2010

Too Stupid to NOT Share

I think most readers here loathe two character flaws quite a lot. That would be hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty.

It always amazes me when people wear their dishonesty on their sleeves, though, because somehow, they don’t seem to see it themselves. Recently I got a letter that was illustrative of a particular sort of dishonesty we see far more often than we should. The writer asked the following question:

“Is there any explanation for why I appreciate the ornate interior of a Church or any structural painting or more importantly natural wonder. As an example, take the Autumn Crocus or Rhododendron, both beautiful flowers with beautiful scents but both are astonishing poisonous & can result in a painful death. Hypothetically, from an evolutionary stand point, we as early herbivores, should have recognized the danger of such plants & evolved to find them offensive.”

Let me butt in here just to note the underlying passive claim being made: “If evolution is true, how can this be?” The implication being “Evolution is not true” (as we see by the end of the below paragraph):

“From a biological stand point, yes they may herald good weather or spring, but some equally herald rot & decay by growing in infertile places or smell foul (e.g. carrion flowers), to the bee they are bright & smell pleasant so the bee will pollinate the flower but we serve no symbiotic biological function. So why then does the Autumn Crocus look so attractive to us, whilst the harmless slug is so revolting, yet so benign? I, or rather the religious part of my brain, likes to attribute this appreciation to the idea of a grand designer, what many might call God. I would not go so far as to call ‘it’ God, but like to think of it rather as some divine equation. (Strange I know).”

And here’s where the crap enters in. Argument from (Willful) Ignorance 101. To paraphrase:

“I could look up research into human aesthetics, but then I might find an actual answer about what drives that mechanism. So, I’d rather pretend it’s a mystery and attribute it to god, and then feign I really do care about the answer by writing to atheists, rather than behavioral psychologists or evolutionary biologists who likely would be qualified to offer the real answer I so desperately wish to avoid.”

And the finale he offered:

“I don’t pretend to have the answers or maybe even the relevant questions, but would dearly like to know your thoughts on the matter. Have you come across this argument or similar arguments before? Do Primates find such natural objects beautiful?”

No, you don’t pretend to have an answer. You pretend you care about the real answer. And then you pretend there is no answer by using a question to make an assertion. Why ask atheists if they have an answer to a question that should be put to an evolutionary biologist or behavioral psychologist?

Who hasn’t seen the lying theist (he claims to be an “agnostic”…but what do you think?) a million times asking the atheist “how do you explain this?,” rather than the expert in the relevant field? If I want to know about a cure for leukemia, I ask an oncologist, not a florist. But how stupid to go to a florist and assert, “But there is no cure for leukemia…do you know of one?” If I want to honestly know about a leukemia cure, why wouldn’t I go to the expert in the relevant field?

Hint: Because I don’t really want to know the real answer. I want to try and stump the atheist.

Here is why this vexes me: I’m not your personal Google Slave. But you seem to want to use me like I am.

In zero time, I found the answer to his mysterious question without an answer. What drives human aesthetics?

http://www.apa.org/divisions/div10/articles/orians.html

I also shared a story about a bird that would shed some light:

“Birds also have demonstrate aesthetic sense. Some birds will build elaborate dwelling places to attract mates. I watched a documentary where researchers moved some of the stones and other gathered items when a male bird left to collect more things to add to the dwelling. On his return, he ‘rearranged’ the objects that had been moved. It seemed he not only was dropping baubles around as shiny or colorful objects, but had some sense of where they actually belonged–although to the human, it looked like a mess of stuff on the ground. One day maybe well gain some grasp of ‘bird aesthetics.’”

I also explained a bit about misrepresenting evolution—by looking at a single trait in isolation. And I explained that some traits that seem harmful can actually have overall benefit. Additionally I wrote the following:

“Ironically I find that this sort of argument also lends itself to having one’s cake and eating it too. If the world were perfect, surely theists would claim that as evidence of divine creation. So, how do flaws also equal evidence of divinity? If it’s perfect, it’s god; if it’s imperfect, it’s god. So, what would a _natural_ universe look like then? Is there anything that would indicate “no god” was involved? If not–then the claim god was involved is useless and meaningless. It boils down to saying “I don’t care what you show me, whatever I see, I’ll just say god did it.”

I thought my reply was fairly civil, but then I got a response that contained something odd:

“If I had one admonishment on the surge in atheist activity lately it would be the tone in which you deliver your arguments. People do not like to be talked down to, & that may seem the easiest thing to do, especially if they represent an idiotic standpoint in your opinion. And with some people, I don’t even think it’s a question of intelligence in grasping your views, I believe some people’s brains are just wired to believe in Divinity ‘I don’t care what you show me, whatever I see, I’ll just say god did it.’. Maybe those people are a lost cause.

“In a sense it worries me that, here we stand on the brink of enlightenment, with the possibility of a new ‘superstition’ free society, thanks to the ideas & work of a great many atheists, including yourselves. And yet simultaneously you alienate those who need explanation & discourse, not condescending rants. I am not having a cheap shot at you or atheists in general, I just hope for the sake of mankind, we can get everyone to agree on a new broad thinking sense of society.”

Again, sort of odd, especially since the writer himself is guilty of what he accuses those “lost causes” of doing? Didn’t he just duck to miss a real answer, and then try to insinuate the cause as god? How is that different than the “god done it” crowd?

Well, you pretty well know the AETV stance on mocking stupidity. I’m arguably the kindest cohost, but even I had to defend Matt’s refrain that “ridiculous ideas are, by definition, worthy of ridicule”:

Here is my reply interspersed with the correspondent’s note:

HIM: If I had one admonishment on the surge in atheist activity lately it would be the tone in which you deliver your arguments. People do not like to be talked down to

ME: Then they would do well to look up the issues they write/speak to us about before they come to us with them. If a person writes/calls and wants to discuss evolution, and has a fundamental misunderstanding of what evolution is and how it functions, then why should I speak to him/he
r as though he/she is informed and can speak intelligently on the issue? Frankly, until they demonstrate they _care_ enough to study the topic to inform themselves before spouting ignorant opinions, I don’t see why I should treat them as though they’re anything but ignorant people spouting ignorant opinions…?

HIM: that may seem the easiest thing to do, especially if they represent an idiotic standpoint in your opinion.

ME: If a person doesn’t want to be addressed as an idiot, and their views are idiotic, I would advise they not make their stupidity public. That, to me, is the most basic and simplest solution to keep them from being put off by negative response. OR, they can grow a thicker skin. For example, theists think I’m evil and going to hell, and I simply think they’re wrong. I’m not “offended” by someone else’s idiotic beliefs. And I also don’t feel obligated to show deference to any person’s stupidity. And I don’t ASK anyone to do that for _me_. If I say something dumb–I may expect to be corrected, and not always kindly. But regardless of the approach, I’d do well to accept deserved admonishment and not blame the messenger, even if he’s unkind. If I walk away more informed and less likely to repeat a stupid claim to someone else, I’ve been done a favor.

HIM: And with some people, I don’t even think it’s a question of intelligence in grasping your views, I believe some people’s brains are just wired to believe in Divinity “I don’t care what you show me, whatever I see, I’ll just say god did it.”. Maybe those people are a lost cause.

ME: Again, they have the option to keep quite if they don’t want people criticizing what they think. They have a right to believe and say what they like. But anyone who expresses their views to someone else _invites_ a response, and to think everyone will agree or be kind in response is extremely naive.

HIM: And yet simultaneously you alienate those who need explanation & discourse, not condescending rants.

ME: Again, I’m free to rant racist crap all day long, but I’m a fool to expect people to embrace me or my ideas if that’s what I do.

HIM: I just hope for the sake of mankind, we can get everyone to agree on a new broad thinking sense of society.

ME: I sincerely hope I will denounce stupidity and harmful ideas to the day I die—no matter who expresses them or how taken aback they are to hear dissent to their assumptions.

Now, what I got back became increasingly agitated and, well, full blown crazy strawman. It seems that what I said above is evidence that I would like the world run as a Totalitarian Police State? Note how he takes my general comments as personal (martyr much?):

“I would say thank you for your reply but I think that would be dishonest. To be frank I found the whole e-mail quite scathing & I’m really not sure what I have done to warrant such discourse. I merely wanted to point out that you should be tolerant of someone’s ideas, because it is ‘your opinion’ that you think them idiotic. You can never persuade someone’s thinking by patronising them or suggesting their intelligence is substandard. I learnt this the hard way working in the medical profession, a lesson that might well be forgotten in the dark lonely halls of academia.

“‘Should not people presenting poisonous ideas be alienated by an enlightened society?’ Really? To be honest I’m suprised that such an apparently intelligent person would deliver such a outrageous statement. First off all what kind of enlightened society do you envisage that would alienate anybody? And the notion that an idea should be poisonous is also ridiculous, it’s only the society that implements such an idea that is dangerous, not the idea itself. What you seem to suggest as an enlightened society sounds like some totalitarian erudite state. In fact your statement might well have come from the mouth of some megalomaniac church leader.

“’To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to lnowledge.’ –Benjamin Disraeli”

OK, “me” again. See, this is the problem: Theism must prefer a society where criticism isn’t leveled at unsupported or unreasonable ideas. Now, the supreme irony is that theists call us evil, Satanic, vile, worthy of condemnation—and they have a history of killing anyone who disagrees, depending on the time and place. But criticism of ridiculous theistic ideas, apparently is the same as breaking people’s doors down in the middle of the night and dragging them off to never be heard from again. Because I say bad ideas should be checked publicly, I’m the voice of Totalitarianism.

So, I tried to explain it to him as though he were intelligent:

ME: I fail to understand what you found personally scathing–since almost nothing I said was personally directed at you. Please be assured that any offense or discomfort you experienced is solely self-inflicted.

HIM: You can never persuade someone’s thinking by patronising them or suggesting their intelligence is substandard.

ME: I agree, but I think if a person is as unreachable as those you described, then a kind approach is no better. I find using them as examples for others less close minded ends up “helping” those who see the humiliation understand how idiotic the theist looks. Then they can safely examine their own beliefs without suffering the same fate. These people write to us daily saying they’ve watched and learned. And as they _are_ reachable, we are helping people–the people who can be reached. I frankly don’t waste time concerning myself about people who don’t wish to be helped. Expending concern on things I cannot improve is wasted energy. I focus on the areas where I can help. And I don’t apologize for that.

HIM: First off all what kind of enlightened society do you envisage that would alienate anybody?

ME: Would you embrace Nazis and racists? Jihadists? NAMBL? Please think before you speak. Again, they have a right to their beliefs–and to express their beliefs. But for society to try to include those beliefs as part of “enlightened” dialog is idiotic.

HIM: And the notion that an idea should be poisonous is also ridiculous, it’s only the society that implements such an idea that is dangerous

ME: No, it’s dangerous to say it’s illegal to think or speak it. It’s intelligent to judge it and say “your concepts are harmful, and if you try to put them into practice, I will oppose you to the last.”

HIM: What you seem to suggest as an enlightened society sounds like some totalitarian erudite state.

ME: Only if you totally ignore what I said. I did not call for thought police. I did not call for silencing anyone by force. I said that if a person spouts ignorance they should expect criticism. That’s totalitarian? That’s public dialog, I thought? And I still say that those who don’t have the capacity to defend their beliefs should think hard before expressing them–else they get shown up as the ignorant fools they are. I’m not asking they be executed or arrested, just shown to be exactly what they are.

HIM: In fact your statement might well have come from the mouth of some megalomaniac church leader.

ME: Except I can show you wher
e churches HAVE tried to silence others via force. That’s NOT what I’m doing. And if you still think it is, then you’re simply incapable of listening.

What I got back was not a response from someone interested in honest dialog. It was further strawmen and a statement from someone who is monologuing, not dialoging. Rather than respond to what I said, he merely kept asserting I’m advocating a police state:

“Just a small point. It’s not public dialog to alienate ‘people presenting poisonous ideas… by an enlightened society’. Alienating a person based on the belief that there is something greater than we understand would entail alienating most of the people on the planet. Totalitarianism ‘recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible.’ When you talk of alienating people based on their ‘poisonous ideas’ you are speaking of totalitarism.

“To alienate 1 : to make unfriendly, hostile, or indifferent especially where attachment formerly existed.”

So, again, saying it’s OK to call stupid things stupid means I “recognize no limits to my authority.” I mean, how can someone type this without spitting milk through their nose and disabling their keyboard? Surely he’d have to be laughing at the time? I know I would have been!

And really, this is where it just became too funny to read further. How could I take it seriously any more? A person saying “your ideas are stupid,” does not a “police state” constitute. Martyr, Martyr, Martyr. You DO NOT have a right to not be offended. You DO NOT have a right to say whatever you like and not endure public response. You simply DO NOT. You may think what you like. You may say what you like. But others may say what they like as well, including that you’re an idiot. Free speech does not just belong to theists! It’s free speech and public dialog–for everyone, Peaches–not just you! I support anyone’s right to believe and say what they like. And the fact you claim you can twist that in your cheese brain into “totalitarian” ideology only further demonstrates your capacity for dishonesty and self-deception.

Is there no strawman too big?

At this point, what else could I say?…

“Criticizing people’s stupid concepts is not the same as ‘recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible.’ Get honest. Mocking stupidity is not a police state. Have you utterly lost your brain?!

“Please drop your ridiculous histrionics. You’re only making yourself look foolish.”

This received the mature response of “I know you are, but what am I?,” as follows (and note the haughty tone–I was so intimidated by his faux eloquence):

“Dearest Woman,

“Given that I have no hystera that would be an impossibility. But for you, on the other hand, it would be relatively natural.

“Good day to you.”

I couldn’t think of anything more along the lines of poetic justice than to give him firsthand access to an experience with what Free Speech means in the modern age. So, I told him he made our public blog, and that I’d be posting his ideas shortly for the judgment of the rational viewing public. My guess is that he’s going to get a horribly Totalitarian response—that is, people actually voicing criticism of these concepts. I do, however, honestly hope he survives it. If it’s too scary, perhaps he can seek political asylum in Switzerland–if he doesn’t mind living with secularists?

47 comments

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  1. 1
    Drew

    The saddest thing isn't his views but just the fact that he doesn't get it. Either that or he does and can't admit he's wrong. Some theists have a nasty history of believing their supposedly infallible holy books make them infallible as well.

  2. 2
    Jennifer Juniper

    I don't know if he meant it this way or not, but the "Dearest Woman" response followed by telling you hysterics come natural to you is UNBELIEVABLY demeaning. Often women are portrayed like this and it is infuriating. A man gets angry and yells or whatever and it's fine, a woman does it and it's "hysterics."Honestly, unless he doesn't know your name, what other possible reason could he have for starting that message with "Dearest Woman."??!

  3. 3
    Cafeeine Addicted

    Heh, I needed that laugh. Thanks Tracie.

  4. 4
    Rex

    I have given this much thought, and I think I have found the term that best describes your partner in "conversation". The term is "Bat Shit Crazy"When you strip away all of the warm fuzzy puppy and kitten feel to religion, and get right down to what exactly the core beliefs of the religious person, that is the best description that I can think of. They are so desperate to defend their craziness, that whenever they are proven wrong in what man can do versus what is "god's realm", they just keep right on making up even more crazy shit, pushing their god further into the gaps, so that they can hang onto their beliefs in a world where almost everything is explainable without god.They are afraid, and they will do or say anything so that they can keep their little god blanket, and suck their thumbs and pretend that reality does not exist as long as they have their religious blankee.I hope that he is reading, because after seeing the exchange, I am sure that he will be able to appreciate it.

  5. 5
    MJ

    The biggest problem of all is that I can't even help him (not that I want to) by critcizing Tracie, because that would be totalitarism too :-P

  6. 6
    tracieh

    Drew:I agree, it’s the flagrant lying—whether to himself or others? Nobody can be as stupid as he’s acting. It’s pure will to defend to the death, no matter what extreme you have to go to.Jennifer: You know, I didn’t even notice that? But to be honest, misogynists don’t actually infuriate me, because I think they’re simply stupid and funny. When they attempt to use anti-female insults, I simply think, “How does it insult me that you make yourself look like an idiot?” I don’t get it. It’s like hurling a racial slur. The person hurling looks like garbage. The person hit with the slur doesn’t even need to reply, because everyone around knows the person who hurled the slur is an ignorant ass. That’s how I see chauvinism. It’s funny he would think that his stupidity should somehow impact me? He’s an ass, and I should be insulted? Nah!  Just point and laugh. That’s the best response to stupidity.Cafeeine:Thanks! Glad it wasn’t only me who found it funny.Rex:I am PROUD to say that I have successfully exported “Batshit Crazy” to the UK! My FB friend in North Ireland actually used it the other day to describe the Culture Minister (see earlier blog on that guy). I was so happy! Austin will soon take over the planet!!!MJ:Yes, you are flirting with Totalitarianism! And note that the guy I exchanged with was more than happy to levy a criticism at atheists? I was merely defending my right to criticize—while he criticized me for criticizing others who routinely criticize me!

  7. 7
    Omer

    Tracie is the nicest thing… Totalitarian? No way. Good stuff! Pointing out the stupid is only justice :)

  8. 8
    Lurker

    I was positive I was reading a Tracie-post until about half-way in, where I started to question if I was reading a Martin-post."But no, Martin's posts aren't this long," I thought. But the more I read the more I thought that this post was much too… ah, strident?.. to be Tracie's.I actually had to scroll down to check the author, which I rarely do – I can usually tell who's writing just from the style.But you know? I like this New Tracie. The New Tracie don't take no crap from nobody. She's nobody's Google slave ;P

  9. 9
    ChaosSong

    I never heard the "How can a poisonous plant be pretty if there is no God?" argument before. I bet he would find that we have indeed evolved to find those plants offensive if he were to eat one.

  10. 10
    tracieh

    Spooky! In rereading the exchange, I came across something eerily prophetic in what I wrote back to this guy…"And I still say that those who don't have the capacity to defend their beliefs should think hard before expressing them–else they get shown up as the ignorant fools they are."It's like hard determinism was driving the exchange to the blog the whole time…!

  11. 11
    Benedikt

    Please excuse the following being somewhat off-topic:As if the usual pseudo philosophical mumbo jumbo wasn't hard enough to read — and I know this is extremely shallow and of course doesn't address the validity of anything he says — does he really have to abuse the ampersand? Seriously? Is this the new ALLCAPS? Perhaps it's due to my background in computer science and all my fault, but whenever I see that sign it completely and utterly destroys my reading flow.I don't think "and" (as in a lose conjunction) but "logical and" (A and B) or "mercantile and" (Barnes & Nobles)… something that binds closely to form a new unit.And even though I know he just means "and" it happens every single time:"bright & smell"; what the heck? that? ", & that"; say what?"scathing & I'm"; yeah, exactly.Am I the only one? >.<

  12. 12
    tracieh

    Omer/Lurker:I actually think my e-mails were pretty tame. It was the eventual ridiculous level this guy went to that made me feel it just had to be mocked—to make a point. You’re right, I normally don’t mock people. But there was a principle involved here. ;-)Chaos:Your rephrase of the argument is priceless. If I’d have replied with that one line, perhaps the entire dialog might have been averted? How stupid does it sound when you put it like that? "How can a poisonous plant be pretty if there is no God?"Benedikt:You’re right. In Atheist Eve I sometimes use an ampersand, but only when space requires. So, yes, normally people avoid it in my experience with e-mail correspondence. I touch type, so it’s not even an option for me—I’d have to actually stop and find it to use it.

  13. 13
    Murphy

    Tracieh 1 : Idiot 0In all seriousness though, I see a much bigger problem than just the situation of people being 'ignorant of the facts', and this guy makes a few appeals to it himself.More and more, I'm hearing people making appeals to solipsism. And it really fucking worries me. “I merely wanted to point out that you should be tolerant of someone's ideas, because it is 'your opinion' that you think them idiotic. “BULLSHIT! If they can be demonstrably shown to be wrong with empirical evidence, or it can be demonstrably shows that what their advocating would directly cause harm, then its not a god damn 'opinion' its a fucking fact!It honestly scares the shit out of me how many otherwise rational intelligent people buy into this line of argument these days. I've even heard a number of atheists say these kind of things. And at face value these kind of replies may seem pretty innocuous, but this whole anti-science movement its getting really out of hand and from what I can see, these kinds of appeals to solipsism are at the pointy end of the wedge. I don't have any idea what to do about it, but I think its a major point that needs to be addressed. Even more so than peoples factual misunderstandings or ignorance of the evolutionary process that seems to be getting much of the attention these days. Ignorance of evolutions is one thing, but these kind of appeals go well beyond that and trash the entire process of science, modern ethics, and just general human development. Do we really need another religious dark age before we learn our lesson.

  14. 14
    tracieh

    Geoff:I also found it really odd that I cited things like racism, Nazism, even a group that advocates for sex with underage boys…and he still said these ideas should be seriously considered/respected in an "enlightened" public dialog.While I don't mind discussing any topic in public dialog–there are some topics that I don't see a point to respecting. As you note–ideas not founded in reality would be one basic criteria…? If you can't demonstrate any reason to think your concepts are true…what exactly am I supposed to be discussing? How do I discuss a god I can't examine? Isn't that just us discussing your baseless claims? Exactly!

  15. 15
    Robin Lionheart

    @tracieh I actually think my e-mails were pretty tame.So did I. And so they were.I suspect your interlocutor read your mild missive and felt a scathing realization that they were wrong about something. So, they perceived your message as "scathing". A common mistake.It's like those theists who read billboards saying "Don't believe in God? You're not alone.", got upset at merely being reminded that atheists exist, and told reporters how "offensive" the billboard was. Of course those billboards weren't offensive in the slightest. But not having enough self-awareness to realize their bigotry was the source of their unhappiness, they instead thought something like, "I'm upset, therefore that upsetting billboard was trying to upset me."

  16. 16
    ls

    Heh. Looks to me like he was just rankled by your incongruent answer – "er, why yes, your questions do have actually quite mundane answers, all of which work far better than the 'god did it' analysis of your religious friends".The rhetorical tone is the dead giveaway. Rhetoric's main purpose is to make a point rather than to gather information (which is why it's such a commonly used pedagogical tool). So it's pretty clear right from the outset that your 'agnostic' has no interest in any alternative answer you might have given him.So when he didn't get the answer that was already implicit in his question, he threw a tantrum instead. Dumbass….BTW, I did also get diverted into the article you cited on the origin of aesthetics. That's actually a kind of a good read (and it would answer the plaintiff's original question were it not for the underlying allegiance to the 'god did it' answer). There's a lot of content in there that had never occurred to me before..LS

  17. 17
    Murphy

    @ TraciehYou actually touch on another point that I regularly rail against with some people. Particularly my mother, who for someone currently doing a masters degree in ethics/law, has a frightfully black and white view of how the world should and does work.Much to some peoples disagreement, I don't believe that everybody, or their ideas deserves respect.Respect, trust, admiration. These are not things that are intrinsic given or deserved. These are things that are earned. I don't understand why so many people have trouble understanding this.

  18. 18
    ls

    >and he still said these ideas should be seriously considered/respected in an "enlightened" public dialog<I noticed that too, tho it looks more like just a vacuous attempt to appear even-handed and liberal. The arbitrariness of theism on what is and is not respectable in public dialogue is certainly no secret, so at least on this point, he's wise to distance himself from it.OTOH, he's still a dumbass to suggest that an enlightened society should give NAMBLA and the National Socialists 'equal time' as just a matter of course. Only a bible thumper would be that stupid.Good stuff!LS

  19. 19
    tracieh

    Robin:You are right on. Here’s a funny reality: Both Jennifer in this comment section, AND Jen on the tv-list noted the misogynistic sign off. It totally went right over my head. And here’s why I think that is. I’m not a very co-dependent person. I rarely think people are _trying_ to rattle me, because I don’t go out of my way to try and rattle other people. This guy tossed a sexist insult, because he expected me to be rattled by it. Instead it sailed right over my head. But even once it was called out to me, I only found it funny. As someone on FB noted, it was like I cracked this guy to the core and melted him down to the most base level. His insult shows up that he hit bottom. He had nowhere to go except for “Oh yeah? Well…well…You’re a WOMAN!” which shows he hates women. But I mean, isn’t that sort of _his_ issue and not really mine? :-)Note that he also used a definition in his responses that blamed some “other” for evoking hostility! It’s the same mindset. It’s like that old interview that was on the TV awhile back where they asked why atheists inspire so much hatred? Like, oh, we’re causing people to hate? Like people have no control over their responses? Yes, I have this magical remote that forces people to hate and to become hostile. I have this power over people…? Uh, I had no idea. But that’s the codependent mind. Just like your billboard.LS:I actually need to read it all. I read some of it and recognized it answered Asshole’s question, but didn’t read it in full. Now I think I will!Geoff:Precisely. Have we learned nothing from our children’s stories? I actually discussed ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ on the air once. It’s that same thing we want our children to understand: Even if everyone else thinks it’s right, if you can see plainly it’s ridiculous, don’t be afraid to be the only one to point and laugh at the naked dude’s penis. It’s really OK. I mean, if he’s OK flaunting it about, be OK noting it’s being flaunted. Yes, if you dance about naked in the street, there will be some people too kind to point and laugh…but it’s by no means a requirement to pretend a funny scene isn’t going down…?

  20. 20
    Spoondoggle

    Dearest Woman,Ugh, I was going for a slight mocking feel at the guy, but that kind of, 'well I can use graceful language, therefore I am inherently superior and correct in all things,' bullshit is ludicrous and now I feel dirty.It is my personal experience that those who eschew that which they consider sophisticated linguistic stylings in their discourse per diem, only employing such airs when it behooves their amour-propre to assail those with whom they are engaged in verbal intercourse with arcane, delphic language to infer a vacuousness which is, in truth, lacking, are truly august mooncalves, which is to say, OUT WITH HIS BRAIN!Aha! Two birds with one stone – I now have no need to open a thesaurus until 2037.

  21. 21
    tracieh

    Spoon:That was beautiful! Thank you!

  22. 22
    Spoondoggle

    Tracie,You're quite welcome… although the entire point of that godawful mess of text was to call him and his ilk the cause of all my megrims, hence this reply to add it in retroactively, rather than just a smile and the ego boost from knowing that my thesaurus-based lulz entertained.

  23. 23
    Patient_Canuck

    Tracie, this is a perfect example of why i watch you on the show… no matter how stupid the question, you go out of your way to answer it, and then go beyond to show the problem with the question. Your patience is commendable and if the author of the email had bothered to read the email instead of just knee-jerk reacting to being corrected, s/he could have learned something.

  24. 24
    G*3

    I got stuck on this bit of nonsense:> So why then does the Autumn Crocus look so attractive to us, whilst the harmless slug is so revolting, yet so benign? I, or rather the religious part of my brain, likes to attribute this appreciation to the idea of a grand designer, what many might call God.But that doesn’t make any sense either. Even if our aesthetic sense made no sense, evolution at least has the excuse that it isn’t a being with intelligence or intent. Why in the world would God make, “the Autumn Crocus look so attractive to us, whilst the harmless slug is so revolting, yet so benign?”

  25. 25
    Kargoneth

    When I read "…I’m arguably the kindest cohost…" I thought "Tracie". Interesting…This is very similar to a recent conversation I had on youtube on the video "The Biggest Stars In The Universe". He wasn't actually interested in answers to his questions and he kept telling me to think, as though I was some kind of moron.I saw some typos (I don't know if posts can be edited after they are made or not, but here they are):- "the option to keep *quite* if they "- "became *to* funny to read"

  26. 26
    tracieh

    Kargoneth:Thanks. I knew there was a "to" issue, but had trouble finding it on my reread. I've corrected. The "quite" I will leave, as it is what I actually wrote in my original e-mail. Thanks!

  27. 27
    Ignacio

    All that could be said about the ridiculous arguments presented has already bee said.Also, all that could be said about this man's misogynistic views has been discussed… except for one thing. A minor detail, perhaps, but revealing.Have I missed some of the dialogue, or that moron could not even tell the difference between "histrionics" and "hysterics"?You told him to drop his ridiculous histrionics, and he replied talking about hysterics. I did not even realize there was any connection between your phrase and his until I read it twice.Reading his points, such ignorance seems to be well within the scope of his previous statements, for sure. However, I find it to be poetic justice that on trying to pretend to be educated, he only shows his ignorance even more.I am not even a native English speaker, while I assume he is. Do I have to know his own language better than him?I lost my faith on a God a long time ago, but now I am losing my faith on mankind.

  28. 28
    Yazbec

    @IgnacioI love your last line there, I am kind of sad to say that it struck home for me. 'I lost my faith in god a long time ago, but now I am losing my faith in mankind'I sure hope that I reach a different conclusion later in life, but I can't see humanity actually getting appreciably better in the future. Do others get that, or do you feel that there is evidence that people are getting intrinsically more enlightened? Things like suffrage and civil rights are good, and gays will have equal rights by the time my 6 yr old is an adult (i feel pretty sure), but is there just too much wrong with people, in general? Are greed and self interest just too strong?I know this is more of a damper than a wet moldy washcloth, but hey, its the good times that keep me going! :)

  29. 29
    tracieh

    Ignacio:I have to take a hit on this one. I had misspelled "hysterionics" in my actual e-mail. And I would have to say this guy just followed suit. (Again, I'm just THAT influencial, perhaps?) But, I wouldn't say the words are that dissimilar. I do see histrionics as someone going overboard about a thing–in some sense, being hysterical about nothing.

  30. 30
    tracieh

    Oh, and let me add that I have not lost faith in mankind, becuase I knew that this person's ideas would be ridiculed. I felt confident in my capacity to assert my position is reasonable, and his is stupid.How could I have known that I wouldn't get a flood of replies saying "Tracie, you totally misunderstood this person. He's right"? I _trusted_ the rational judgment of the readers to say "this guy's an idiot." And you lived up to my expectations.Meanwhile, he's not unlike Patrick Greene, who wanted to go to court over the bumper sticker that said atheists were fools. He wanted to halt that sort of criticism, and when Matt aired his idea, we were FLOODED with viewer mail, from atheists AND theists, who said he was an absolute fool.I would think everyone has a vested interest in free speech. I would say most _average theists_ would go to the wall for a person's right to speak out, even if they disagree with what's being said. That sort of free public dialog should (and I believe _does_ in most cases) cross every boundary–sexual, racial, theological. People WANT the right to speak freely, and so they support the right of others to do so. It is the rare idiot who doesn't value that right–to express what's on his mind. But if you don't grant it to others, you're undercutting your own freedoms.It's like theists who want to have _their_ religion taught in schools. They don't see that it's a genie that, once out, threatens THEIR theology. What happens when that religion taught in the school moves toward Catholicism, and your a Baptist? or toward Baptist, and your a Methodist?Everyone has equal rights, or else all our rights are on shaky ground. And I am confident most people (at least in the US) get it.With regard to gay rights, if everyone would get off their ass and vote their conscience, I think we'd have gay marriage tomorrow. I think most people don't give a crap if gays get married. But if the majority fails to vote, the moral minority wins the ballot.

  31. 31
    Guillaume

    @Tracie-I noticed the sexist insult at the end straight away, it is actually one of the few things I remember of these messy, stupid divagations. And regardless of your gender, you are one of the least hysterical person I have ever "met". On the other hand, hysteria is frequent among fervent believers of both genders. Can we say pot kettle black here? He seems that he is making a lot of projection.

  32. 32
    ThatAtheistChick

    Wow… Talk about a guy who doesn't get it… I'm surprised you didn't get a migraine after the whole conversation.

  33. 33
    Afterthought_btw

    I suspect that he thought you were being mean and nasty Tracie because you used words like: idiot, stupid, racist, etc. Some people seem to be so eager to take offence that there eyes get attracted to these words and ignore the rest of the sentence. You could say something like: I hate idiotic, racist, misogynistic paedophiles.and these people would think you were being strident, shrill, and aggressive!Not to mention, of course, the people who think that if you disagree with them then you are being aggressive towards them (when it comes to atheism, Dawkins is a great example – I know I am not the only one who had been put off reading his books because of his reputed 'tone', and then wondered what on earth the fuss had been about when I finally read them.)To Geoff:In all seriousness though, I see a much bigger problem than just the situation of people being 'ignorant of the facts', and this guy makes a few appeals to it himself.More and more, I'm hearing people making appeals to solipsism. And it really fucking worries me. I think it depends on the kind of solipsism used – I have no problem with the kind of solipsism which (essentially) says:I cannot know anything for certain, but only varying degrees of probability because I cannot be certain of what my senses tell me.Because this pretty much guarantees a willingness to admit that you're wrong. The problem comes when people invoke solipsism in a way such that they suggest that something which is 0.000001% probable has as much weight as something which is 99.99999% probable. I'm washing my hands with someone like this elsewhere on the net atm, after 12 hours plus of patient writing, so if someone has an idea of how to deal with people like this I'm all ears. ::sigh::

  34. 34
    D-train

    Ugh.This guy is an ignorant ass-hat. Not only did he feel the need to slander women, free speech, rationalism, and the proper use of the ampersand (hat tip to Benedikt), but he insults slugs?!Who says slugs aren't beautiful? I think they're marvelous creatures. I'm actually looking to buy a bigger tank to house some of my gastropod friends. If they were capable of doing so I'm sure my pets (Carl, James, and Michael) would feel quite alienated by this persons hurtful comments.

  35. 35
    tracieh

    > Dawkins is a great example – I know I am not the only one who had been put off reading his books because of his reputed 'tone', and then wondered what on earth the fuss had been about when I finally read them.)I had this same experience.> The problem comes when people invoke solipsism in a way such that they suggest that something which is 0.000001% probable has as much weight as something which is 99.99999% probable.I actually demonstrated this in my “supernatural transcendent dice” model. I had one jar with some dice in it, and asked Matt how many he guessed were in the jar. He said “25” if I recall correctly, and I issued some stupid guess, like “100,050.” My point was that, while neither of us could claim to “know” how many dice were in the jar, clearly one claim was outrageous. Not knowing the answer is not some sort of equalizer that makes all guesses equally reasonable. The _jar_ cannot hold 100,050 dice. What we _do_ know about the parameters makes one “guess” clearly stupid, and the other obviously closer to reality. So, yes, just because I can’t “know” an answer does not mean any guess is equally reasonable.

  36. 36
    I Am The Scum

    I like the point G*3 made, above. There are huge theological issues with a god creating something imperfect. If God is infinite in capability (omnipotence), then the results of his creation will be precisely how he desires that they be. After all, he can't attempt to create an orange, and accidentally wind up with an apple, instead. So, if there is something flawed with relationship between humans and poisonous plants, God wanted it to be that way. He wanted us to be tempted into poisoning ourselves. This bears an explanation.The atheist worldview (if there is such a thing) does not necessitate a perfect universe. The theist worldview typically does. Why a theist would appeal to a lack of perfection within the universe as proof of God, is beyond me.Also, the quicker someone resorts to the debate-about-the-debate red herring, the weaker their argument. Is there even a goal here, besides distraction? "Atheists are jerks, therefore, God is real."

  37. 37
    George From NY

    And the notion that an idea should be poisonous is also ridiculous, it's only the society that implements such an idea that is dangerous, not the idea itself.Had he penned no other stupid thing, that bit right there would suffice to unmask his intellectual imposture.

  38. 38
    Murphy

    @Afterthought_btw”I think it depends on the kind of solipsism used – I have no problem with the kind of solipsism which (essentially) says:””I cannot know anything for certain, but only varying degrees of probability because I cannot be certain of what my senses tell me.””Because this pretty much guarantees a willingness to admit that you're wrong”.I totally understand what your saying here, but by the same token, communism looks really good on paper.I remember watching the thunderf00t Vs Ray Comfort videos where TF talks about how a secular reason that lying is bad, is that only so much lying can be perpetrated before the language becomes effectively useless at communication any real information (which is its sole purpose). I see the same thing with ideologies like communism and solipsism. Sure they're nice on paper, but they're so easily and frequently abused as to render them completely useless at delivering any kind of practical results.Even if we lived in a world were we could demonstrably show that we all existed and shared a common reality, people would still be capable of making observational and logical mistakes and and also be capable of not being stubborn arse holes about it, assuming they are subject to the same laws of physics, chemistry and biology they are now. So, I don't see solipsism as being necessary for people to make mistakes or be willing to admit their wrong. In fact, I wouldn't even label this solipsism so much as just a practical matter of physical reality.Inversely, I've never heard a direct appeal to solipsism in any argument that didn't basically boil down too “that may be true for you, but it isn't true for me” or “science can't really prove anything, in 100 years people will look back and laugh at what science says is true today” or “well you can't prove god doesn't exist”. Honestly, have you?I'm not necessarily saying your theoretically wrong, I'm just saying that as a matter of practical application, solipsism causes way more problems than it solves. Kind of like how communism is supposed to make everyone equal, but in practice almost invariably leads to loading bodies into mass graves. There is no way I can empirically against with Descartes statement that “I think therefore I am”. I mean how could I? But as Matt D sometimes points out, even if solipsism was 100% demonstrably true, it would still be a useless philosophy because even if I am just a brain in a matrix like vat, this is still the reality I'm forced to interact with. Solipsism, even if correct, offers no practical insights into life or reality. Given the damage it does to layman understanding of science these days, I think we would be much better off simply throw the whole thing out as garbage.Sorry if some of this rambeling doesn't make complete sense, i'm typing this up between jobs at work.

  39. 39
    tracieh

    D-Train:Your post cracked me up, because I also love slugs and find them attractive. I'm an avid gardener. Many gardeners kill slugs, because they can harm plants. But I LOVE them and do them no harm. They leave silver "money" trails all over my paving, and whether they have a shell or not, I think they're cute as heck! Go on, damage my plants, you cute little things!!!

  40. 40
    ouini

    Best AE post since the analysis of the claim "God Exists."

  41. 41
    Caduceus

    Dearest Women,Due to the fact that your ovulatory cycles have synchronised I wish to withdraw from this public dialog for a period of 5-7 days. At which point I hope to find your estrogen levels returned to normal & that rational conversation can resume.Wishing you well in your hormonal struggles.Caduceus

  42. 42
    Guillaume

    @Tracieh-About slugs (and I know it's off topic): I don't like them much, but don't hurt them as my wife is vegetarian (I am not even allowed to kill a fly in the house). If I did have a garden, I know what I would use to kill them, presuming they'd be a nuisance: a bowl of beer. I read somewhere that they are so attracted to it that they drown in willingly. At least they would die happy…

  43. 43
    Mark B

    "If I did have a garden, I know what I would use to kill them, presuming they'd be a nuisance: a bowl of beer."It works. What you can do is get a shallow can, like for tuna or cat food, place it on the garden soil and stepping on it, push it in level with the ground. Then fill it with beer. The next day it will be filled with slugs.I prefer to keep the garden well weeded and the plants pruned and staked up, so the slugs have less ground cover. This seems to work as well (I don't have a slug problem anyway).

  44. 44
    Afterthought_btw

    Geoff – to be honest I think we pretty much agree, but I don't necessarily believe that solipsism is so easily and frequently abused, and also, there are other philosophies I would throw out as garbage solely due to its possible abuses before that one.Perhaps I have just come across so many people who refuse to even consider changing their mind that I'd rather their philosophy was one which (at least if applied rationally) prevented them being dogmatic. Perhaps I have also just been lucky enough to have not run into that many people who are dogmatic about their solipsism.Only yesterday, I came across someone who came straight out and (proudly!) said that they would not change their mind no matter what argument was made or evidence was presented because they knew god existed – this, of course, being said when they were trying to persuade someone else to change their mind. Whether or not this attitude is caused by their philosophy, or merely because they can't admit it if they are wrong, I don't know, but it's simply impossible to argue against this kind of person. At least with solipsists you can ask them why they are so determined to argue with figments of their imagination!

  45. 45
    Lukas

    "How can a poisonous plant be pretty if there is no God?"Why in the world would God make, “the Autumn Crocus look so attractive to us, whilst the harmless slug is so revolting, yet so benign?”Several people have commented on this and I find it very important. Obviously, this is an argument for the vicious, sadistic nature of god. Why else would he wire us to find poisonous plants beautiful?Or maybe it's simpler to just conclude that this guy is a moron.A man gets angry and yells or whatever and it's fine, a woman does it and it's "hysterics."Maybe we could invent a term for the male version. Testical, maybe?Or penical?

  46. 46
    George From NY

    Red Sox fan.

  47. 47
    Blast Radius

    The funniest part about this, in my opinion is that what he has implied is that GOD created humans in such a way that we are attracted to something that is harmful and repulsed by something which is harmless. It's incredible that those are the very grounds by which he dismisses evolution and yet he is simply BLIND to it. This is nothing short of mental illness.

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