This blog is now mobile friendly

Now that I have entered the ranks of the smart phone users, I see how irritating it is to try to read this blog on an Android. Luckily, blogspot has custom templates for mobile devices. It’s activated now, so go ahead and read us on your phone, and you shouldn’t have to twiddle your fingers quite so much.

We get the most amazing e-mails…

The following is an anonymous e-mail (wall of text, really) we just received. It was addressed to Jeff, so I won’t waste time responding (hurray)…but this is one tiny segment of what we deal with. It may be a Poe, but the author certainly seems to have all the answers. Enjoy:

Hello, Jeff Dee. I would like to ask you a few questions about your video that was done 6 years ago about same-sex marriage. The first thing you said is that it is not bad for the kids. This is wrong. Every child deserves a mother and a father. The only time a child might not have either a father or mother might be because the parent leaves them (which is wrong) or one or both parents die (which is a tragedy). Gay couples go into a relationship knowing they cannot produce offspring so they should not have the right to adopt kids. Just like an old couple that might be 70 years old should not be allowed to adopt because they are near the end of their lives. And Matt said that nothing bad has happened since gay marriage has been allowed but what if 50% of the population was gay. Don’t you think
there would be something wrong in that situation? Matt also said that Rosie O’Donnel is single and she adopted a child. That is wrong as well. Just because she was able to do it does not mean it was right. And then you said that gays not being able to have kids isn’t a good reason why they shouldn’t get married because there are infertile couples that get married. Well, how would a couple know that they are infertile until they actually get married and try to have kids? Gays automatically know that it is impossible for them to have kids. They know it. Infertile couples do not. Then you said that because animals are gay, that makes homosexuality natural. Well, dogs also sniff each others butts. When some animals are born, the mother will
eat the placenta off her newborn. Does that make it natural for human beings to do that as well? You can’t compare animals and humans. What is natural for an animal may not be natural for a human. As well, animals can’t think. They don’t have the thinking power that humans do. They don’t know that homosexuality is wrong and they don’t need to care about that. When an animal dies, it dies. It doesn’t go anywhere. They rely on instinct. They don’t have rules like humans do. When animals kill other animals, does that make it okay for humans to kill humans? But then why did you say that because animals commit homosexual acts that it is okay for humans to do so as well? And then you used that left-handedness argument which was so pointless. God never said it’s a sin to write with your left hand. No one gets hurt from someone writing with their left hand. And then you said the word “bigots” but that would mean you’re a bigot too since you are intolerant of my religion. Bigot does not just apply to people who are against homosexuality. And just because someone isn’t in favour of homosexuality, it does not make that person a bigot. And the reason AIDS affects gay people is because they can only do anal. In the Bible, anal and oral sex is a sin. That is why even straight people are not allowed to practice that type of sex or else it is a sin. God is smarter than you think. And then you brought up the “small people” argument but that’s a physical trait. Even if they can change it, they shouldn’t because that is how they should be born into this world. Homosexuality is a choice. You can choose on your own if you want to be with the same or opposite sex. But that child in the uterus cannot choose if he/she is born small or regular. And then you said how just because a dictionary defines marriage as man and woman that it can change to say man and man or woman and woman. Well, Christians don’t follow the dictionary. We follow the Bible, and in the Bible it is defined as man and woman. So your dictionary argument was bad. And your legal/law argument as well. Just because the law says something is right that does not make it right. Laws and dictionary definitions change all the time but the Bible stays true, unless God changes it. And then Matt made that horrible argument how if a gay couple secretly gets married that live next door that it wouldn’t affect you because you don’t know about that. So something is okay as long as you don’t know about it? Well, what if the next door neighbour was a father and son and they both went off to get married secretly? So do you think incest is okay? Because who are they hurting this “father and son”. From Matt’s standpoint, if he wants to be consistent, then he can’t say that it is wrong for a father and son to go off and get married secretly. Also, what if the next door neighbour has sex with his dog yet no one knows about it? Does that make it right for that person to have sex with his dog? So do you think it’s okay for your next door neighbour to have sex with a dog since that doesn’t affect you, especially if you don’t know about it? And then you said just because the Bible says that homosexuality is wrong, that doesn’t make it true. Well the Bible says incest is wrong. So you, as an Atheist, can have no right in saying that incest is wrong. Because if society said incest is okay, would you then be in favour of incest? And you brought up the “trade deal” argument. Doesn’t that happen in society today where the man pays for the wedding, the ring, etc? It was just a different way of paying back then because there was no money. They had animals so they had to use that. And then lastly, you said there are no secular reasons why gay marriage should be against the law. But if you think about it, what is gonna stop incest from becoming allowed in law? What about pedophilia? Don’t you think society is getting out of hand? Sure, the gay couple next door may not affect my straight marriage directly, but it does affect it indirectly because it ruins society. Soon it could be allowed that you can have sex with animals. Is it okay to get married to an animal just because it is legal? Nah.

Ask and ye shall receive, Ray…

On Ray Comfort’s post-show blog he wrote:

“Maybe the guys on “The Atheist Experience” were too nice. Someone needs to really take me down. It needs to be someone who is extremely eloquent and knowledgeable, and with a sarcastic and cutting tongue…”

While there simply wasn’t enough time to address every failed bit of reasoning in Ray’s comments, I think we did manage to hit some of the highlights. He accepts scientific findings, on the same grounds we do, unless those findings challenge or refute his existing beliefs – at which point he labels them faith-based, and rejects them. Yet while claiming he won’t believe things on faith, the entire justification for his closed-minded certainty about the existence of god is predicated on faith…faith that his perception of the experience he attributes to a god are actually reliable.

This is not only hypocritical, it’s a particularly nefarious bit of self-deception that results in some of the most painful examples of cognitive dissonance that I’ve ever seen. In any other area, Ray seems to grasp that independent confirmation is a grand tool for increasing the accuracy of our perceptions of reality, but on the subject of the biggest questions – his own experience not only needs no independent verification, it trumps all information to the contrary.

When presented with a good analogy (the language analogy for speciation), he’s rendered silent…just long enough to regroup and reject the claim with another unjustified assertion.

After presenting many bad analogies, logically flawed arguments, appeals to “common sense”, implying that we’re lying about recognizing design/creation and countless bald assertions, Ray finished the call by refusing to acknowledge a simple and obvious error that would have, hopefully, led to a correction that would have improved his own ministry efforts.

In the conclusion of his book, “You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can’t Make Him Think“, he evaluates the 4 major world religion by testing them against what the Bible says. When I pointed out that this was a dishonest assessment, as it presupposes Christianity in order to affirm it (and that a Muslim could presuppose Islam in order to demonstrate that the tenets of Christianity don’t resolve the problems intrinsic to Islam), Ray denied this and simply stated that it wasn’t dishonest, because you have to begin with the Bible.

He responded to an exposition of a circular argument by simply saying “no” and restating that circular argument.

He’s so mired in his certainty that he can’t even see obvious errors like this – errors which have absolutely nothing to do with the truth of his claims. This was a simple attempt to get him to recognize a logical fallacy, in simplest terms, but he simply can’t break free from his chains long enough to view the argument on its own merits.

Meanwhile, he acknowledges that his personal experience couldn’t be justification for someone else and that it’s the individual’s own fault if they didn’t have the same experience he has….and he does all of this while claiming that anyone who doesn’t reach the same conclusions he’s reached is unreasonable or possibly insane.

Clearly he has a different understanding of reason, than I do.

Common Sense, Ray, isn’t what you seem to think it is. It’s not a reliable pathway to truth, it’s a visceral assessment of information with respect to what an individual already understands about reality. It’s a quick, gut-check of whether or not the new information is likely to be reliable. It’s not the end of inquiry, it’s the first step – and until you’re ready to go beyond that first step, you don’t get to claim to be more reasonable or sane than those who do.

It’s a tool that is forged from critical thinking skills and honed by inquiry and investigation. It’s a tool that is dulled by appeals to absolute certainty and a stubborn refusal to change one’s views as the evidence dictates. Refusing to recognize that there’s a possibility that you’re wrong…is like leaving it sheathed.

I don’t dislike Ray, though I know others do. Like a puzzle with a missing piece, he used to frustrate me and annoy me – because I was busy trying to solve it. Now, I’m just trying to find that missing piece.

If we do this again, I think I’d like to start by getting his take on logic, reason and fallacies. We may have to go back to basics before we have hope of moving forward.

So, there you have it. Not as eloquent as the Professor you were taunting, nor as sarcastic. If I get the opportunity, I’ll ask Richard Dawkins how long he’d have lasted in that conversation before simply pointing out that it’s pointless to attempt a discussion with an unreasonable, woefully uninformed buffoon who rigidly asserts his certainty while being blind to his credulity. One wonders if a child with his fingers in his ears is any less receptive to information that Ray.

Better?

Thanks for your questions

I just want to say a sincere thanks to everyone who submitted questions under “Q for Ray” subjects. I know some people are disappointed that we did not directly read questions and attribute them to those who wrote in, but we did read through a lot of them before the show. I think everyone who watched the show would agree that the conversation was plenty jam packed without breaking to read a canned question.

However, both Matt and I read through several dozen questions, took notes, and found themes which helped us to formulate what to say. Some of you probably recognized pieces of your questions surfacing in the dialog. So… it may not have seemed like we were paying attention to you, but we were. Thanks for your support and we appreciate you.

Open thread on episode #702: Ray Comfort

Pre-show remarks: I’m going to go ahead and get this post up now, so folks will be able to comment as soon as the show ends today — or heck, even comment live as it’s progressing. Anticipation for this one has been off the chain. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it in my 12 off-and-on years of being involved with AETV, and I imagine we’ll easily have the largest UStream viewership we’ve ever had. With about 4½ hours to go at the time I’m writing this, already the chat room is packed. So if you haven’t already done so, run to the store, stock up on popcorn or your preferred snack-of-choice, and get ready. I’ll see you back here for the post-mortem.

By the way, you can stop sending us “Q for Ray” questions now. We’ve gotten literally hundreds of them (though the number of viable questions is significantly lower once we weed out all the banana-related ones), and I have no idea how much of the show will be devoted to viewers’ questions and how much will be straight-up debate between Matt and Russell and Ray. So it’ll go how it goes, gang. I’m sure we’re in for a good time all the same.


Postmortem: Well, how about that, eh?

As you can well imagine, watching this was, for us co-hosts, an endless exercise in screaming frustration that we couldn’t be on. There were so many moments where I could have shut Ray down in an instant on many of his usual arguments, though Matt and Russell did fine work, as I’m sure I don’t need to say. I could probably do a whole blog on the first 10 minutes of the show alone. Suffice it to say that it was all roaringly entertaining, and extremely informative, for those who want to know how a mind (and I use that term advisedly) like Ray’s functions. So many of the arguments Ray hopes to employ against atheists are nothing more than ammo we could easily turn around on him. It’s pitiful that he does not recognize this.

In order to keep this post from reaching Atlas Shrugged length, I’ll concentrate on two PRATT arguments Ray loves to bring up, and which we saw dusted off and put through their paces again today. “Something from Nothing” and “A Painting Requires a Painter”.

That things in nature, including the universe itself, appear to be designed, is intuitive to us, because we are pattern-seeking creatures. But where Christians like Ray go phenomenally wrong is in confusing and conflating order and design. Design, at least as Christians use the term, implies intelligent agency and purpose. Order is entailed by the nature of existence itself. As George Smith points out, to exist at all is to exist as something. But order alone is not evidence of intelligent design. The great irony of Paley’s Watchmaker argument is that it demonstrates this. To deduce that the watch in the desert must be a designed artifact, the observer is reaching that conclusion by comparing the watch to its surroundings. The watch stands out because it is wholly unlike the desert. The Watchmaker argument proves, if nothing else, that deserts are not designed.

Ray lives in a curious alterna-reality in which he claims everything is the product of divine design, which prompts the question of how he knows (other than the Bible told him so), what frame of reference he is using to distinguish design from non-design. I wonder if Ray has ever looked at those grains of sand he keeps bringing up under a microscope, though. When you do, do you know what you see? Something like this:

No two are alike. No two have precisely the same chemical or mineral composition. Ray would, no doubt, insist that God is so awesome that he literally can design each and every individual grain of sand as lovingly as a work of art. That in his omnipotence, God can effortlessly lavish such loving attention on even the smallest thing. And that’s the problem when you argue with someone about their imaginary magical friend. There are no rules in magical thinking.

If sand grains were designed, wouldn’t you expect to see more uniformity? Most designers, after all, prefer to work from schematics and templates, from blueprints and preliminary concepts. The photo above suggests a couple of options for those inclined to think like Ray. 1) The grains of sand are the random product of erosion and other natural processes that determined their shape, mass, composition, color, and all the rest of it. Or 2) they were designed by a God who, for reasons best known to himself, intentionally made them look random. But why? In order to trick us, or just to show off his artistic side, or what?

The problem with positing a God over natural processes in a nutshell: With nature, you’re allowed elegant, simple, and in most cases empirically verifiable explanations for what is observed. With gods, you now have to add a whole new host of arguments and explanations to understand why this magic being would have gone about his business one way as opposed to another way. And not one of these arguments comes with evidence that allows you to test it. It’s all down to that old bugaboo, “faith,” in the end. Gods not only don’t explain things, they pile on more inexplicable, unnecessary nonsense.

To be continued…

It’s happening

Barring a last minute surprise, Ray Comfort will be on AETV this coming Sunday via phone.

Been very uncharitable to the fellow here, but to be honest, he’s been uncharitable to atheists. I thought about the fact that, here he is, about to appear on our program after so many people have begged him and us to make it happen — and the most recent post on the blog is one branding him a pathological liar.

But I cannot go back on that, because all his duplicitous and dishonest behavior down the years supports it. This is a man whose entire career in apologetics has involved flame-baiting atheists. It’s the reason he changed the name of his blog to Atheist Central, after all. He repeats all of his P.R.A.T.T. arguments (watch last week’s show for the definition of that acronym) no matter how many times they are annihilated, going the extra step of lying that no atheist has ever addressed them. He lies about science and evolution, claiming evolution does not provide explanations for things that numerous biologists have in fact clearly explained to him over and over again. He’s about cheap publicity stunts, like publishing his own edition of Darwin, rather than learning and bettering himself and the world through knowledge and enlightenment. He is the undisputed poster boy, not only for Christian fundamentalism’s irrationality, but its immorality. Someone who will look you in the eye and lie with every breath is an immoral person, full stop. Perhaps it’s a good thing that he’s making himself the face of belief.

Anyway, much as I think the guy should still be ignored, this is — as of today — going to happen. If you have questions for Ray, send them to tv@atheist-community.org with the subject line Q for Ray. This may likely take up the whole hour. If anything, it could be the best show we’ve had in years.

Ray Comfort – on the show this Sunday

I just got off the phone with Ray and he’ll be on the show this Sunday for an interview/discussion. He’d like those of you with questions to e-mail them to me and I’ll pick some of them to use on the air. I’ll have plenty of my own questions…and I think this may be the fastest hour we’ve ever done.

(NOTE: As I’ve said before, Ray and I might even be friends…despite the disagreement, so while I won’t be taking it easy on him, I’m hoping for a civil, reasonable discussion – including finding areas where we might agree.)

Ray Comfort, pathological liar

Once again, Ray Comfort is telling the readers of his absurd blog that the only reason he has not called into the Atheist Experience is because we have not extended an invitation to him.

But of course, we have. I did so here. This was nearly a year ago. Hilariously, Ray dodged my invitation by linking me to his interview request page. This is typical of his dishonesty.

Another thing that is typical of his dishonesty: If you go to the original post on his blog, you won’t see the comment exchange detailed in my own post that I link to above. Because Ray has completely scrubbed his post of almost its entire comment thread.* (Unfortunately, the post is a little too old to find a cached copy of the original version with comment thread intact, but if any of our readers have l337 internet skillz and know how to dredge one up, by all means have a go.)

So you see, this is Ray’s little game. If we go to his blog and extend an invitation, he will simply delete it, thus enabling himself to continue claiming that we just aren’t inviting him, or maybe we’re scaaared of him, or whatever sustains the deluded fiction upon which he has constructed his life.

Ray Comfort is a liar. The proof’s in the proverbial pudding.


* I’ve been informed (in the very first comment below) that the comment thread was disappeared not by any duplicity on Ray’s part, but by the installation of a new comments module, which can have the effect of losing all your past comment threads. (It’s a reason I don’t switch us to Disqus here.) So, thanks to BathTub and my apologies for the error. Still it does not change the point of the original post: Ray’s continuing claims that we have not made any attempt to contact him are flat lies. According to Jen we’ve had an even more recent exchange with his staff.