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Mar 13 2011

Open Thread for Episode 700

Here you go – have at it.

76 comments

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  1. 1
    Mamba24

    700 episodes, nice. Liked the chocolate guy's argument. lol

  2. 2
    JT

    Because of stupid daylight savings time change that I wasn't aware of, I missed the ustream broadcast. Angry.

  3. 3
    Mamba24

    @ JTYou didn't really miss anything.

  4. 4
    Justin Vacula

    Prank callers need to stop :(

  5. 5
    AzureFrettyArgent

    I couldn't believe the story Jen told about the Catholic website saying the Holy Spirit entered Mary through her ear.The Holy Spirit gave Mary a wet willy?Aural sex indeed.

  6. 6
    Michael

    The claim of Yaweh being a basis of morality is rather odd concerning how Jesus was supposedly conceived. Whether Yaweh was a freaknique and did it in Mary's ear or genitalia, the point is he cuckolded Joseph. If I remember properly he didn't even ask. Just bam, you know who's it is, you hear who's name she was calling (o god), now deal with it. Nor have I heard Yaweh even paying any child support. The very foundation of the Christian lie is mired with debauchery. Joseph: "Mary, I've noticed little Jesus looks awfully similar to Jeremiah."Mary: "Umm, weren't we all made in gods' image?"Joseph: "Well, God and Jerry must be identical twins."I also disagree about murder not being part of natural selection. Seems that the societies that feed upon themselves don't last long, and those that live with at least enough civility to stay alive, well err do survive. Eugenics isn't bad because I think it is, it's wrong because it's ineffective the same way survival of the fittest is not accurate (stronger, smarter, faster) when describing Evolution by natural selection. Which if I remember properly was touched upon in the show. Never know what is useful, who is qualified to say what is useful and what isn't in order to condemn another to death, and empathy.

  7. 7
    rrlane

    How did you not call this episode "The 700 Club"?

  8. 8
    TDR

    I listen to the show by podcast, so I haven't listened to episode 700 yet, but I thought I would chime in with something completely different.I live in Tokyo and during Friday's earthquake I was in a subway station, waiting to change trains, when the quake hit. The whole place was shaking back and forth. It was my first experience of a really big earthquake in the 5 years I've been here. I remember exactly what I was thinking, I was looking at the ceiling thinking "I know Japan has strict building codes, so I'll probably be okay." There wasn't any panic, people were just outside their office buildings waiting. The phone system was overwhelmed but essentially everyone here can use the internet on their cell phones, so people kept in contact via Facebook and email.During times like these some people talk a lot about faith and prayers. But from my experience, the things which made a difference were the strict building codes that kept me alive, and the technology that allowed me to contact other people and let them know I was okay.

  9. 9
    Kharma

    Its a pity that they didn't have the time to talk a bit more to the Israeli Atheist.Would have been interesting on get his thoughts on the Israel Palestine issue.

  10. 10
    Hellbound Alleee

    I've read recently (don't have reference to this, so I don't know if it's a fact), that women in the eighteenth century did not start their periods until they were 21 or 22. If this is indeed true (and it sounds reasonable) that the KJV word "virgin" may indeed mean young girl, which may, in this case, mean also infertile. That would make getting pregnant quite unusual for a young girl. This is, of course, an intuitive leap, because I like making them. Perhaps Mary, if she had existed, was an early bloomer. Maybe there were a few early bloomers out there who got pregnant, because "Bob" knows that plenty of unmarried girls had sex or were raped in those days. Even if that fact were acknowledged, it still would be extremely surprising to see them get pregnant. For the few girls in antiquity (and just a few hundred years ago) I suppose this would be blamed on God, or even the devil or demons and witches. It sure would change the term "virgin birth" to something different.I am looking for the reference. As far as I can see right now, the age of puberty for women and girls in antiquity is a rather unexamined topic. To the library!

  11. 11
    Ronni

    The whole "virgin birth" discussion seems irrelevant to me. Several legendary leaders were purported to have been born of virgins…I wonder if it might be something storytellers said to set their protagonists apart from the hoi polloi.

  12. 12
    Rational Jen

    @Hellbound Alleee – Girls do start menstruating younger now than in previous generations, but I rather doubt it's a difference of 9 or 10 years. The KJV contains many errors, and mistranlating the word for "young woman" as "virgin" is but one of them.

  13. 13
    DavidCT

    The whole "virgin birth" theme is nothing more than the creation of sexually uptight men who have ascribe "purity" to virginity. If Jesus had been the son of Yahweh then he would still have been divine even if his mom had been the whore of Babylon. There is no convincing evidence that these stories are anything but myths. No matter how one translates the earlier documents, the stories are still myths and changing the translations does nothing to make them somehow real. You can update the technology of Batman to make his adventures seem more consistent with reality. In the end he is still a made up character.

  14. 14
    Michael

    Did anyone else get the impression that the first caller was a theist looking to poke holes in secular morality? He was very quick to jump at the chance to label secular morality as just as flawed as atheist's say religious morality is.I think most, if not all atheists would see a difference between, evolution: how living organisms developed and diversified over time and secular morality: a byproduct of increased socialization between growing populations.To say secular morality evolved, is like saying cars or computers evolved. I don't like the analogy. Natural selection, genetic drift and mutations played no part in secular morality. We learned we needed laws to protect our society because without them society broke down. That's not evolution. That's reasoning. The way parents protect their children and society protects it's weaker members is based in part on compassion. Compassion isn't one of the causes or contributors of evolution. However, compassion, sympathy and empathy all play a role in shaping our views on right and wrong.

  15. 15
    Rational Jen

    @Ronni – I think I mostly agree with you. An unusual birth was commonly attributed to heroes and demi-gods, so I find it a bit ironic that Christians cling to this so fervently. If the early Christisns intended the virgin birth story to set Jesus apart from others, all they succeeded in doing is making him a very ordinary demi-god.

  16. 16
    JT

    @MichaelIn a sense, cars/computers did evolve, just not through natural selection or natural means.We have this tendency to iteratively try out some designs by releasing them into the public, seeing what worked and what didn't – and repeat.In a similar sense, morality has evolved in iterative, trial and error steps.It's a very rough comparison, I agree.

  17. 17
    Michael

    @ JTEvolution is specifically in reference to natural selection, genetic drift and mutations in living organisms. Cars and computers "evolve" in the sense that builders use the accumulated knowledge of the previous builders to improve or correct flaws in the design. There is a manmade and imposed purpose. They are looking to build a faster, cheaper, more powerful or better looking device. An iMac and an iPhone didn't mate to produce an iPad. Someone got a bright idea. So when you compare advances in engineering to evolution your purporting that evolution has a purposeful design. Furthermore, engineering allows for borrowing from other completely unrelated technologies. For example the first laptops that had built in wireless WAN. Someone had the bright idea to add a cell phone to a computer, so users could dial into an ISP while on the road. Laptops and cellphones were at one point, completely separate devices. Rubber tires on cars. Waterproof radios for the shower. This is not evolution. Countless non-waterproof radios didn't die out till one came along that was waterproof. It's a worthless analogy and it plays right into the hands of theists trying to prove there is intelligent design behind evolution. One last difference between evolution and engineering. You can't predict evolution going forward. We can use what we know about various species to see how they evolved and predict the various stages they went through, but we can't predict what changes will occur in the future. Whereas, engineers and scientists can predict what technology is on the horizon.

  18. 18
    JT

    @MichaelEvolution is specifically in reference to natural selection, genetic drift and mutations in living organisms.I know, and I've already addressed this. It's similar to how evolution works.It's like if I said "A canal works a lot like a river.", and then you rebut with "No! Rivers are naturally occurring!"Cars and computers "evolve" in the sense that builders use the accumulated knowledge of the previous builders to improve or correct flaws in the design. There is a manmade and imposed purpose.And this is where the "artificial selection" comes to play. No one is omniscient, and frequently designs fail for reasons that aren't realized before. If they were, we'd have perfect cars designed once that never change. The nuances of the process are different, but the overall iterative flow of generations of descent with modification is essentially the same.They are looking to build a faster, cheaper, more powerful or better looking device. An iMac and an iPhone didn't mate to produce an iPad. That's of course assuming we're talking about sexual reproduction with evolution. Even besides that, to a degree they did.The engineers took what "survived" the previous generation and started engineering the next generation with that in mind.Someone got a bright idea. So when you compare advances in engineering to evolution your purporting that evolution has a purposeful design. Do you know what genetic algorithms are? You've got it backwards. We have purposeful design using an evolution-like process, in this case. Evolution works so well, it's hard not to do it.… This is not evolution. … It's a worthless analogy I'm sorry you feel that way. I think it works fairly well. In terms of explaining how we have morality, it's the best term we've got, that's only one word that says so much, that fits the process.It's a perfectly appropriate usage.and it plays right into the hands of theists trying to prove there is intelligent design behind evolution.I don't see how. I understand that they're usually dolts who can't comprehend the proper definition to use versus a context, but that doesn't mean we aren't allowed to have multiple definitions.You can't predict evolution going forward.Sure we can. Maybe not terribly accurately, but you can gauge it a general sense.Whereas, engineers and scientists can predict what technology is on the horizon.… with about the same accuracy as we can predict biological evolution.

  19. 19
    thalamay

    Ephrem the Syrian, taking up a prior tradition that originated in Egypt, says that Mary was impregnated through the ear, having listened to the Word enough to bring it within her.

  20. 20
    Matt

    Are any of you going to TAM? I'm going this year and was hoping to see TAE reps on the list. Any plans?

  21. 21
    Dorkman

    Protip for callers: The best way to acknowledge that the show is in a shortened format is to get on the line, make your point quickly, and get off, NOT to take up thirty seconds explaining how well you understand the shortened format and therefore it is fully your intention to make your point quickly and then get off the line. kthxbaiThe first caller's problem re: evolution and morality seemed to be distinguishing selection as an explanation and selection as a philosophy. Jen did a great job pointing out that Social Darwinism is not NATURAL selection. The real point is that atheists don't invoke evolution to describe their morality, only to answer the very specific question of "where did morality come from if not gods?" The moral traits that evolution selected for were empathy and cooperation — we have no more reason to base our moral system on a natural process like evolution than a natural process like photosynthesis (or, as Russell mentioned, gravitation). Like the adage about the map not being the place, the path is not the destination. And +1 on the "Who's going to TAM" query.

  22. 22
    Steve

    A bit of a correction for Russell. In the aftershow, when he said the Big Bang was a singularity that exploded out from a location, that's not correct. The singularity wasn't an object that exploded in space, it was compressed space, itself, that went through a sudden expansion. I'm sure he knows that, but just misspoke. I just thought I'd clarify it for the readers here.

  23. 23
    Mark B

    "I couldn't believe the story Jen told about the Catholic website saying the Holy Spirit entered Mary through her ear."I hear the Vatican will be sending missionaries to Alaska to try to convince the Eskimos to stop using earmuffs.

  24. 24
    Mike Haynes.

    I was not impressed with the attempted Poe and the wanna-be comedian and his "Chocolate" proof. The show is short enough without having calls like those wasting time and airspace.

  25. 25
    Michael

    It's like if I said "A canal works a lot like a river.", and then you rebut with "No! Rivers are naturally occurring!"Exactly, they're not the same. You're only comparing one aspect of them. That they both have water, but don't you think there is much more to them than that? How they were formed? Why they they were formed? What function do they serve? By your definition, you'd never be able to distinguish between creek and a moat.And this is where the "artificial selection" comes to play. No one is omniscient, and frequently designs fail for reasons that aren't realized before. If they were, we'd have perfect cars designed once that never change. The nuances of the process are different, but the overall iterative flow of generations of descent with modification is essentially the same.The processes are completely different. Technology can leap by bounds in a single generation. Evolution is small changes over long periods of time. Technology can be distributed and benefit the contemporaries of the inventor. Evolution can only be seen to future offsprings.The engineers took what "survived" the previous generation and started engineering the next generation with that in mind. Not necessarily. Sometimes entirely new technology can be invented that had nothing to do with a previous invention. The first car. The first solar panel. The first battery. By your logic, they'd be no firsts of anything. You're solely basing this on the last 30 years, where we've seem great advances in established areas.I'm sorry you feel that way. I think it works fairly well. In terms of explaining how we have morality, it's the best term we've got, that's only one word that says so much, that fits the process.In what possible way does what you're saying explain morality? And why would you think the best term we have is a bad analogy? Human secular morality can be explained by the rise civilization more easily than it can evolution. Human population grows. Human tribes and clans start encroaching into each others territories. Conflicts arise. Clans and tribes war. Some make peace. Some form alliances. Some start to trade. Protocols needs to be developed to manage these interactions. All of this is done through conscious effort and thought.

  26. 26
    MrPopularSentiment

    The "young woman" mistranslation has nothing to do with the KJV, btw. It was an error in the Septuagint, which was picked up by both Matthew and Luke (or a common source) as a prophecy. The virgin birth IS in the Bible – it's in the NT, and the mistranslation is in the OT.

  27. 27
    Michael

    @ JTAnalogies in general make poor arguments. At best they make a cursory comparison. Have you ever heard someone compare addiction with obsession? I don’t care how much you love someone, missing them is not the same as a person doing through withdrawal.

  28. 28
    tosspotovich

    @michaelAn analogy works if it illustrates a point. Two situations don't have to be identical to be analogous, in fact if they were it would no longer be an analogy, just another example.The analogies theists use to compare artificial objects with reproducing ones fails because reproduction is key to the process. That doesn't invalidate analogies with honest intent which clarify a point. Nobody here is advocating argument from analogy that I have seen, anyway.Evidence suggests morality could have evolved. Sociopathic behavior has been attributed to inherited, abnormal brain chemistry. These cases are rare now but were probably more prevalent in societies which met their demise via internal aggression.

  29. 29
    Sue

    One caller repeatedly asked about justifying morality. That is an invalid question. Morality can be axiomatic. Here is what "justification" does for morality: "My creed on the subject of slavery is short. Slavery per se is not sin. It is a social condition ordained from the beginning of the world for the wisest purposes, benevolent and disciplinary, by Divine Wisdom. The mere holding of slaves, therefore, is a condition having per se nothing of moral character in it, any more than the being a parent, or employer, or ruler."

  30. 30
    Muz

    Ahh, positive atheism and the tone debate/don't be a dick etc. I've tried to get a handle on that blow up but you might as well try to catch steam in a net.In fairness to Phil Plait, I don't think I've ever seen him say you can't say certain things or offend people. It's inevitable. But that's the most maddening aspect of the argument. Indeed, based on what I've seen him say, he wouldn't claim the AE gang ever fall into the 'dick' category. To most people who suggest he's ruling out certain kinds or speech, he responds along the lines of "Gosh, I don't think you could have completely misunderstood what I was talking about more." and goes on to defend rudeness and ridicule as valid tactics in particular situations (ones that he employs). But then the question is, so ok what -are- you talking about then? And things devolve into horrid wooliness pretty quick (Phil doesn't often respond substantially, that I've seen, and the feeling is similar when you watch Chris Mooney debate PZ Myers and so on. You can't pin Mooney down on much about why he's mad and how the tone could be shifted in any given circumstance. He behaves as though "you should know" and nothing more need be said).It's a funny situation. Broadly speaking I'm even sympathetic to the sentiment, but when you boil it down to who is it that's speaking wrong and what should be done it's completely useless and cannot point to anything (I think that's part of why Mooney fell for that fake blog about evil atheists; some sort of desperation to find something concrete in what otherwise amounts to a percieved mood in atheist and skeptical blogging and nothing more).The one kernel of reality that seems to have set the whole thing off (DBaD moreso than Mooney's arguments) is that there's a segment of the skeptical community who are theists, like Pamela Gay and so on, and the relationship with the atheists is awkward. Some can point to incidents of genuine alienation and rudeness too. That's it. And that's something specific people can discuss, where maybe it's true the atheists can't talk to these folks and isolate them, knowingly or otherwise (and we know there's people on the net who have to bring it up every time they get mentioned in one or another blog). I have no opinion on that at the moment. But that seems to be the real heart of it. The DBaD tone debate as it stands is a tangential distraction and, I think obviously, a non-starter.

  31. 31
    John K.

    I have always found accommodation of theism to be somewhat dishonest. And, as Russel pointed out, it is not respectful to just pat someone on the head like a small child and assume they can't handle an intelligent discussion of their beliefs. Phil Plait more or less took some extreme examples from blog comments and tried to apply them to the whole atheist segment of skeptics, a fairly shameless straw man. On the other side, holding feelings hostage in an argument is a really cheap car salesman tactic. The only response to "my feelings are hurt because you are challenging me" without surrendering is "you gave me no choice".I don't think anybody should have the right to never be offended. The only side that wants the opposition to shut up is the one that cannot defend itself in other ways.

  32. 32
    Curt Cameron

    What do scholars like Ehrman say about the virgin birth thing? My impression is that the concept didn't come from the writer of Matthew, depending on the LXX mistranslation of alma. Matthew was written about, what, 80 CE? My impression was that the virgin birth idea was probably older than that, coming instead from pagan legends where everybody who was anybody was born of a virgin. I thought Matthew then took that idea, and combed through the writings of the OT prophets looking for anything that could match up with Jesus. But I realize now that I don't have evidence to support my idea.Oh, about the aural sex: there was a guy who went to his marriage counselor, and the counselor asked about their sex life. The guy said "I've never brought this up with anyone, but there's this one thing that I think's kinda weird – she wants me to do it in her ear.""Really? How did that come up?""Well, whenever I go to stick it in her mouth, she turns her head like this…"

  33. 33
    Robert Ronald Wilson

    Since I've chimed in two weeks in a row about calls going on too long and such it's only fair I speak up and say I think Russell handled this week's call really well.For the record I'm not interested in seeing "no no no you're done" type stuff (unless that's what the caller has earned). I also realize that once the call has been screened there's not much you can do, if the person isn't good at getting their point out or if the person feels like they now have an opportunity to try out their 10-page "theory" then it will be a little frustrating at least to get through the beginning.However I thought both Russell and Jen were good at transitioning things in this call and moving calls along and I was really glad when the prank call was practically ignored even though he got through.As for positive atheism, I think The Atheist Experience and ACA are probably two of the strongest examples I have ever encountered and kudos for that.

  34. 34
    Raymond

    One thing that struck me about the whole virgin carry on is that it kinda goes deeper than just this issue.(pun intended)One of the main beliefs in christianity is that the bible is the 'inspired word of god.'This is a massive get out of jail free card as far any criticism of the book is actually concerned.Whatever particular interpretation you are willing to accept; that is the one god has inspired the book to mean to you.Totally circular. But when you circle the wagons it is intended to give you some protection.Give the book the authority that cannot be questioned and all the counter-evidence in the world will make no impact. The book is coated in metaphorical teflon and no criticism sticks for the average believer.

  35. 35
    Michael

    @ tosspotovichMy original post was in response to the first caller on Sunday's show. The caller suggested that because morality was part of evolution, that it would be permissible for us to kill off the weaker and/or unproductive members of our society. I was objecting to his conclusion.

  36. 36
    Ing

    The Marry thing just raises more questions!Why was there need for an Angel to explain things to Marry when she could clearly hear god cuming!

  37. 37
    farmboy

    I'd just love to see a gritty re-imagining of the nativity story from the perspective of Joseph. First his wife's pregnant and tells him an invisible sky man did it ("please don't stone me to death!") then he endures all those hardships for a child that isn't his and when it is finally born doesn't even acknowledge him as his father. Always with that blissful creepy smile on his face telling people they deserve to burn in hell –if they don't obey him. And they say 'The Omen' is terrifying.Maybe that explains the missing thirty years. Joseph imprisoned the boy to keep the world safe, but promised his wife he couldn't kill it –then it escaped. Of course, no apologist will ever accept thát kind of nonsensical fiction. THEN they will suddenly cry for evidence. No, it's all happiness and roses and the slaughter of firstborn sons clearly ripped off from the tale of Moses, also ripped off from an earlier Babylonian story…it's ridiculous.

  38. 38
    Steve

    Could you guys please encourage atheists to NOT call in to the show.. It seems like they are either giving you their life story or asking to teach them how to argue which takes up the entire show.. I'm sure there are Theist callers that want to get in on the phone lines, but the phone lines are full of rambling atheist callers.This isn't a help line for atheists and your problems, from my understanding its supposed to reach out to the general community which is religious, and to promote positive atheism which challenges their beliefs about scripture and atheists/atheism.

  39. 39
    Mandrellian

    I'm with Steve on this – the new shorter format demands a new strategy for long calls. Obviously TAE can't pick who calls, but as there's only an hour (less after announcements & topic intros) I think the hosts could be a little less tolerant of irritating wankers like Chocolate Guy and incoherent ramblers like Conscience Guy (from #699 I think).I'd just like to see people encouarged to get to their point quickly and called on it if they don't. It probably wouldn't hurt to remind people that there are other callers waiting too.Oh, and please be especially ruthless with atheists who call up to fuck around :)

  40. 40
    Mamba24

    How about they just ask that atheists don't call the show unless they have something really important to talk about? I'm tired of the atheists who just call in to compliment the show and ask for advice on relationships or how to argue against creationists. I also hate having to bring up this point every week, but yet those people still call in and bore the hell out of me.

  41. 41
    tosspotovich

    @Michael"I also disagree about murder not being part of natural selection."I'm partially with you there. Over long periods of time, self-destructive behaviour is a force of natural selection, but natural selection acts on the traits of the species whose survival is in question. In the case of the caller's scenario, the community perception of the individual's unsuitability. Would this be sustained objectively over enough generations to eliminate specific genetic weaknesses? I doubt it."I think most, if not all atheists would see a difference between, evolution: how living organisms developed and diversified over time and secular morality: a byproduct of increased socialization between growing populations."I see the difference but there is evidence to support that some people are genetically predisposed towards antisocial behaviour which is core to moral judgement. If these are inheritable traits then our morals can evolve as a function of brain chemistry.If moral behaviour is defined as that which seeks to minimise harm and maximise benefit to others, then killing off the weak or unproductive is patently immoral in regard to the victims (even if the executioner believed it was for the greater good).There is a pretty clear non sequitur by the caller. He says we use evolution to express how morality developed; that the gene pool would be strengthened by removal of the weak; so based on evolution we should weed out the inferior.

  42. 42
    Muz

    I feel the same as those who wish the atheist callers wouldn't ring up so much and tell you their life story. But given the general community building goals of the ACA it seems like an inevitable thing to deal with. Plus it's not really fair on those people who've always wanted someone to talk to about stuff, to be down on them because they don't entertain me.I can only wish the ACA somehow attains the resources to spin off the Atheist Agony Aunt stuff into something separate.

  43. 43
    Michael

    @ tosspotovich"There is a pretty clear non sequitur by the caller. He says we use evolution to express how morality developed; that the gene pool would be strengthened by removal of the weak; so based on evolution we should weed out the inferior."This is why I disagreed with him. Morality is a product of our ability to reason. Evolution is perfectly okay with males mating with whatever fertile female they can get their hands on, regardless of her age. Secular morality on the other hand as raised the age of consent multiple times through the years. Only in the name of religion (particularly Islam) or pedophile can you justify having sex with a minor.

  44. 44
    tosspotovich

    @ MichaelI also disagree (with Jason from Denver) but just wanted to point out that analogies are useful tools and that there is a case for morality being an evolved trait in the sense that the vast majority of us feel empathy for other creatures and particularly humans. We might have to agree to disagree on those points, though.

  45. 45
    Michael

    @ tosspotovichI don't think we actually disagree. I believe you're using a very liberal definition of the word evolve to make the analogy work. My position is, it's such a liberal usage, that you might as well use a different word. I think we both can agree that society, ideas, inventions didn't actually evolve.I like growth of knowledge. It's a phrase that describes how humans collect and share information. An engineer today doesn't have to reinvent the wheel when designing a car, because he can use a design from another engineer. Our forefathers modeled our government, in part, on the Roman Republic. They didn't copy it. They used it as a model, made changes and added completely new elements. Does evolution make changes and add new characteristics, yes, but in a completely different way. So metaphorically you can draw the comparison, but not literally. So why do I object to this? Because when you are attempting to understand something on a deeper level metaphors and analogies simply don't help. If I were to say, human secular morality evolved and you asked me how, there goes my analogy. I can't say they were passed down by reproduction. I can't say morals were subject to genetic drift or mutation. I can't say they changed so much over time that speciation occurred and the new morals can no longer mate with the old morals.All the worlds a stage. Really? Could you use this metaphor to explain geopolitics? I might open a conversation with this, but the metaphor stops at the door. Any serious detailed understanding would require a great deal more information. Can analogies or metaphors provide that information? If I used an analogy of our solar system to describe an atom, would that tell you anything about the properties of an electron? Is Mars a subatomic particle caring a negative charge and no one told me?Analogies draw a superficial comparison. It only tells you that one thing resembles something else in some respect. Typically when they don't resemble them in other respects, we say the analogy breaks down.I realize that you didn't bring up metaphors and I did. They are similar enough that I thought I'd include them in my response.

  46. 46
    Michael

    @ tosspotovichThe other reason I object to the use of analogies as an argument is because they offer no evidence. Saying something is like something else, is not evidence. Comparing the atom to the solar system, doesn't prove anything about the atom. It doesn't prove it's existence. It doesn't define it's properties. It only serves to give a poor visual reference.

  47. 47
    Christopher

    How about this:What we're talking about is iteration with modification toward adaptation. In one case the iteration is reproductive and modification is natural selection. In the other, iteration is artificial production and modification are modifications by design. Strictly speaking this is adaptation of a design by a designer where the 'vector' of adaptation is better operability/capability/market share for the sake of the user rather than for the sake of the device itself. So the analogy merely highlights the similarities in that both involve iteration with modification toward adaptation. In this way they are similar. I don't see a logical or illustrative problem with this description, but the distinctions certainly are salient. It would follow that use of the analogy where the distinctions make difference would make the analogy unsound. I'd imagine, however, there could be uses of the analogy where the distinction might not be salient toward the point being made – in which case use of the analogy is probably fine.-My 2 cents

  48. 48
    Michael

    @ ChristopherSo what do we learn from this analogy? How does it enlighten us about development of secular morality? Does it demonstrate how it occurred? Can we recreate it's stages of growth?If you liken raising a child on strict religious doctrine to child abuse, I can see the comparison. A case can me made. Filling a child with fear of eternal damnation. Teaching them to distrust scientists and to believe in a book written thousands of years ago by people that still thought the world was flat and the earth was center of the universe, thereby perpetuating ignorance. Marrying them off to much older men because the prophets favorite wife was 9 years old. Telling them it's not only OK, but morally permissible to kill other humans that don't agree with their beliefs. I can go on for hours on this comparison. The analogy holds. Demonstrate for me how secular morality came about from evolution. Remember, this debate isn't about how morality evolved (simple meaning to change or expand). This debate was started by a caller that was using evolution (how our species evolved) to explain morality. Two very different things.I've also heard the evolutionary comparison used to describe how technology is developed. I object to this comparison as well. It's a very different thing when you are talking about how an idea evolves using the figurative use of the word evolves verses the actually evolutionary process by which species develop and diversify. If you didn't see or listen to Sunday's show, specifically the first caller, then my strenuous objections may not make much sense. After all these posts, I'm starting to loose my bearing a bit myself.

  49. 49
    Christopher

    Strictly speaking, I wasn't commenting on the aptness of it's use in previous examples – just demonstrating that it is possible to have legitimate use for such an analogy. They are dangerous to use because you have to be very careful to notice when the particular points of divergence are salient to the point being made. The way to delegitimatize the use of a particular analogy isn't to discredit the use of analogies out of hand but rather to point out the particular ways in which divergent points in the analogy make it inapplicable to the point. Note also that they aren't evidence of anything but rather can be illustrative. I hadn't actually seen the show yet and probably won't until the weekend. I just saw some assertions about the use of analogies that seemed to me amiss. I was just trying to point out some points about critical thinking and analogies in general. Your objection seems on "…the evolutionary comparison used to describe how technology is developed." seems incomplete to me. Surely the comparison would involve examining the commonalities and differences. This examination doesn't actually *do* anything for an argument one way or another until you try to make a point about it. That these to things have commonalities as well as distinctions should be fairly obvious. What matters when use is made of the comparison is the applicability of those commonalities and distinctions to the point being made. For example, when introducing the early imacs and pointing out the color choices, Steve Jobs indicated that these design factors were very important since we were moving toward a world where we wanted the PC to be as ubiquitous and 'every-day' as a toaster. Making the analogy about PCs and toasters might be salient if you buy that the ways in which they were becoming similar (standard consumer items) might indicate similar factors in decision making. The analogy doesn't hold up upon further examination of the distinctions – toaster technology doesn't have a synergistic relationship to bread technology the way PCs do with software and that relationship will ensure that performance will most likely always be an important factor in buying decisions and is unlikely to be usurped by color design.

  50. 50
    JT

    @michaelThe other reason I object to the use of analogies as an argument is because they offer no evidence.This really says it all. You're objecting to something it's not supposed to. An analogy isn't an argument. The purpose of an analogy is to bridge understanding.The whole idea is that you already have an understanding of one thing, and you can then "copy and paste" that into another topic to get the person started in comprehending it.To object to calling a canal a "kind of river" because it isn't exactly a river is obtuse. It's not supposed to make predictions. It's not supposed to be testable. You're entirely missing the point of what an analogy is for.

  51. 51
    tosspotovich

    @michael1. I think we can basically agree that analogies are useful for illustrating an unknown concept by identifying the similarities of a known one. The limitations are fairly obvious (if not they need to be expressed to lend credibility) and argument from analogy can certainly be fallacious.2. My argument is that brain chemistry leading to antisocial behaviour is subject to evolution and by extension: morality evolves. This is in terms of biological evolution and in no way an analogy. [I should add that in the field of biology I am an interested layperson so, if there are experts in the midst, feel free to chime in.]

  52. 52
    MAtheist

    @MichaelYou seem to be hung up on the word evolution. Biological evolution does not have a monopoly on that term. Yes, I agree that biology is usually implied, but the term evolution also has a place in math, chemistry, cosmology, etc. and is perfectly valid there. Also, it would appear that you don't think biological evolution had any part in morality. You said, "Natural selection, genetic drift and mutations played no part in secular morality." From my understanding, what secular morality is based on, logic, reason, empathy etc., are direct results or our evolution. I may be misunderstanding you though, so please let me know.As for analogies, I don't see anyone saying they offer a one for one comparison. They are a tool, and I would argue a useful tool. To quote Dudley Field Malone, "One good analogy is worth three hours discussion."On a totally different note, my favorite line in this episode.if you're seeing what I am seeing, then I am covered with colored bars. -Russell

  53. 53
    Mamba24

    When someone says that a certain thing or idea has "evolved", they aren't necessarily talking about biological evolution. Michael seems to think that if someone uses this term, then they must be arguing for biological evolution. But it simply means change over time, usually resulting in better ideas or products or whatever it is you're talking about. That's why scientists and textbook definitions are careful to say "Biological evolution by means of natural selection". Just because something has evolved, doesn't mean that natural selection was apart of the process.As for secular morality, biological evolution is involved, maybe not directly, but if our brains hadn't evolved to have our current size/capacity, then we wouldn't be as intelligent or creative, and we would still be living in trees and Savannah lands instead of civilized societies and cities. We wouldn't have the developed areas of the brain that are responsible for emotional feelings like empathy/sympathy. It is because of evolution that we have the brains we do, and because of this our species have learned to live together in the world today in civilized manners.(For the most part anyway) We have developed moral codes and ethics systems that have also evolved over the millenia….because we have the brains to do so…..because of biological evolution by natural selection.

  54. 54
    tosspotovich

    @michael"If I were to say, human secular morality evolved and you asked me how, there goes my analogy. I can't say they were passed down by reproduction. I can't say morals were subject to genetic drift or mutation."Argument from ignorance. If you can't show how something occured it does not follow that it didn't occur the way I say it did."I can't say they changed so much over time that speciation occurred and the new morals can no longer mate with the old morals."Composition fallacy. Traits don't mate.I can see why you're sensitive to the conflation of biological evolution with other forms but the people posting here seem to have more intellectual integrity than that.

  55. 55
    Mamba24

    A good example of evolution driving increased social behavior and structure is when our ancient ancestors millions of years ago started moving from the treetops into the open savannahs and grasslands. Food would have been harder to come by in the open country and as a result, our apelike ancestors(who at the time would be starting to walk on two legs) would have worked "together" to achieve a desired end….To get food. This is just a primitive example, but it illustrates that small physical and environmental changes that speed up evolution, could drive a species to develop better social skills and interactions in order to have a better chance of survival.

  56. 56
    Michael

    @Mamba24"When someone says that a certain thing or idea has "evolved", they aren't necessarily talking about biological evolution. Michael seems to think that if someone uses this term, then they must be arguing for biological evolution"I didn't purpose this, the first caller on Sunday's show did. I was responding to their comments.

  57. 57
    Michael

    @ Tosspotovich"Argument from ignorance. If you can't show how something occured it does not follow that it didn't occur the way I say it did."I didn't say I didn't know how it occurred. I believe it's a product of reasoning and social interaction. Just like you're not going to find a gene that specifies that blue is my favorite color, I don't believe we will find a moral gene. I believe our intellect allows for us to say, do, feel, believe, love, hate, fear, etc, etc far beyond what our genes dictate.I do believe we evolved as social creatures. The advent of morals goes beyond normal social interaction. Alpha males in other species would have no problem mating with whatever fertile female they get their paws on. We as a moral society raised the age of consent consistently over the years. Evolutionarily speaking we haven't changed much in the last 100,000 years, but socially we changed a lot. 50,000 years ago, I doubt any man would have any problem mating with a 12-13 year old girl. Part of that was life expectancy, part of it was social normalcy. So if we haven't physically evolved much in the last 100,000 years, but we've socially changed a great deal, I wonder what could have caused our moral development? I'm being nice and saying 50,000-100,000 years. It's probably closer to 250,000 years. That's along time of nearly zero evolutionary changes and massive social changes.

  58. 58
    Rob

    @azzure, it reminds me of the Family Guy when Meg does the purity ring thing and her boyfriend does her in the ear.

  59. 59
    Michael

    @ Tosspotovich"I can see why you're sensitive to the conflation of biological evolution with other forms but the people posting here seem to have more intellectual integrity than that."I don't know how to interpret this. Should I be insulted? :)

  60. 60
    Michael

    @Mamba24@TosspotovichI think it's safe to say that our capacity for moral judgement evolved along with the rest of our brain over 100,000 years ago at the very least. But the values we developed over time are the product of our environment. What was morally permissible thousands of years ago would be considered barbaric today. Since genetically we haven't changed in well over 100,000 years, I don't think you can look to human evolution for the answer. The fact that even today, humans are capable of extreme acts of barbarism, strongly suggest that we haven't physically evolved as more moral creatures than our barbaric ancestors, but only socially "evolved" beyond them. Tear down civilization and lets see how moral we all behave. What moral judgements will you make when you're forced to fight for food and shelter?

  61. 61
    JAFisher44

    Looks like Yahweh likes himself some shin-shi shin-shi. Kinda surprised me that prude is usually pretty reserved in sexual matters.For those not in the know:http://www.hulu.com/watch/4135/saturday-night-live-patio-lovers

  62. 62
    Mamba24

    @ MichaelYeah I agree with pretty much everything you said. And you basically agreed with my point as well..-"I think it's safe to say that our capacity for moral judgment evolved along with the rest of our brain over 100,000 years ago at the very least."-This was my whole point, evolution gave us the "capacity" to have moral and social structure in civilized societies. Out of all the human ancestors and relatives like neanderthals, Cro-magnon, etc…It was the modern Homo-Sapiens that developed into civilized species. There was something about our intellectual capacity and creativity that allowed us to dominate the other species and successfully expand. Biological evolution, by natural selection, picked us to survive and reproduce. Has it had a major role in the last 10,000 years? Probably not. Humans morality is "evolving" all the time however(not through natural selection), sometimes in small gradual steps, other times in big leaps. That was my point, that we have secular morality because we have the brains that allow us to do so, but how did we arrive to attain these kind of brains?….Evolution by means of natural selection. So thank Biological evolution for your brain, now go create your moral code using this brain.

  63. 63
    Michael

    Yay! We're reached a consensus. Now how do we fit regressive cultures into the "evolving" morality model?The Middle East, for example, was once the center of scientific and cultural development in ancient Babylonia. They excelled at art, architecture, astronomy, medicine, mathematics, literature and philosophy. Now look at what Islam has done to it. Even in the United States, the rise of conservatism is a regression to the good old-fashion values of yesterday. Though I think most minorities would question just how good they were.

  64. 64
    Mamba24

    Certainly there is regression in the world cultures, but you have to be careful at labeling them. Was the kind of science in Babylonia what we have today?…no. Art, literature, philosophy isn't science. But you are correct about this point, we see it all through history when looking at the rise and fall of world empires. The Romans and Greeks were architectural masterminds. Yes they were also more advanced than other areas of the world when it came to mathematics and literature, and some forms of science… But when the empire fell, so did all the gains in knowledge and skillful craft that came with it.However, just because a society is advanced in science and architecture….doesn't mean that they are a morally advanced society. Slavery was still a large part of life with the Greeks and Romans. Heretics who proposed different ideas that may have been true, yet were unpopular with the masses and status-quo…were burned alive or tortured. If you look at the bigger picture of moral values in the past 2500 years, they have improved considerably. Is there still places in the world that hold irrational beliefs that influence immoral actions and behavior?…You best believe there are. But as civilizations grew and expanded around the world, and our knowledge of the universe and world got better, so did our moral codes. Yes the third world countries and ultra religious are still lagging behind. Some countries seem to be regressing into past values and beliefs that may in fact be more harmful, you could make a case that America is doing this in some ways, or at least has people who are pushing these ideas to support their religious or personal agendas. That's why education is the most important value for our country right now, even more so than scientific research. You can do all the research and make all the important discoveries, but if the people aren't educated to understand those discoveries, or they're taught "what" to think instead "how" to think, then it holds us back as a society. I got a little off topic but my personal opinion is that our moral codes have gotten significantly better over the years, at least in the developed countries that aren't ruled by extremist theocratic authoritarian governments.

  65. 65
    Michael

    The Babylonia example was meant as a culture which at one time was progressive thinking, which has since been turned into almost backward thinking.Rwandan and Darfur fits your third world examples, but what about Bosnia? Now you're talking modern Western European and look at the horrors that were committed there.We aren't talking about lagging behind. We're talking about leaping backwards by centuries. Centuries of social development wiped out in a heartbeat. I believe the estimates were as high as 60,000 rapes, not to mention the genocide. We're talking true horror show here.

  66. 66
    Mamba24

    Indeed you're right. It's a combination of lagging behind for the most part, then the occasional atrocious genocides that can take place in even somewhat developed countries. Bosnia is a good example. Humans aren't perfect, and in times of strive and struggle, it comes down to one simple goal…survival. When times are extremely tough, it can only take one tip of the domino and everything can turn into chaos. Kill or be killed. The rules no longer apply if you want to survive. This is just a fundamental fact of nature. No matter how morally developed a society becomes, mass death and struggle are always within reach.

  67. 67
    Mamba24

    I said.."When someone says that a certain thing or idea has "evolved", they aren't necessarily talking about biological evolution. Michael seems to think that if someone uses this term, then they must be arguing for biological evolution"Michael responded.."I didn't purpose this, the first caller on Sunday's show did. I was responding to their comments."Actually you did propose this, here is the evidence… Michael said.."Evolution is specifically in reference to natural selection, genetic drift and mutations in living organisms." -No it's not. What you are talking about is Biological evolution by means of natural selection. There is a difference between the general term of evolution. (Change over time), and B. Evolution by N.S.(Genetic mutations, genetic drift, etc..) That's what the other guys were trying to point out to you. When someone says that something has "evolved", they're not saying that natural selection was involved.

  68. 68
    Michael

    @Mamba24I’m not sure why we are going back to this, but I’ll explain myself again. BEFORE I made any posts whatsoever, a caller on Sundays show suggested that because morality was part of evolution that it would be permissible for us to kill off the weaker and/or unproductive members of our society. He specifically referenced biological evolution. I was responding to HIM. I understand that the rest of you were not referring to the evolution in the biological sense. But the caller was. In response to your posts, I added that I didn’t like the use of the word evolution in respect to non-biological changes, because the analog breaks down when you try to draw additional comparisons. I might add that all the confusion about who meant what regarding this now ridiculous conversation proves my point.A little while ago, you and I were in agreement that human biological evolution reached its current state between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago. Social "evolution", made possible by our biological evolution and the advent of language about 50,000 years ago, led to an explosion of social development.Now can we please drop this?

  69. 69
    Mamba24

    Michael said.."I didn’t like the use of the word evolution in respect to non-biological changes, because the analog breaks down when you try to draw additional comparisons. I might add that all the confusion about who meant what regarding this now ridiculous conversation proves my point."-Okay well that's your opinion I guess. I personally have no problem with people using the term for non-biological purposes because I DON"T let it affect me or confuse me. I understand how evolution works, whether biologically through natural selection, or by some other process. And I think everyone else shares this opinion with me as well, so your "point" is basically irrelevant to us. It's only relevant to those who agree with you that it's confusing. In the end it doesn't matter, evolution has a definition(change over time), and Biological Evolution by N.S. is a certain type of that definition.Michael said.."A little while ago, you and I were in agreement that human biological evolution reached its current state between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago. Social "evolution", made possible by our biological evolution and the advent of language about 50,000 years ago, led to an explosion of social development."-Yeah I'm still in agreement with that. lol I was just looking through the older posts and came across that comment and remembered what your response to me was and thought it was a little dishonest. But yeah we can drop this.

  70. 70
    Michael

    @Mamba24"lol I was just looking through the older posts and came across that comment and remembered what your response to me was and thought it was a little dishonest"You're accusing me of being dishonest, when you repeatedly left out why I made my original post in the first place. The caller was specifically referring to biological evolution. I stated that I understood that you were not referring to biological evolution when you said morality evolved. However, I was specifically arguing against the callers opinions on biological evolution. Now I admit, in more than one of my earlier posts, I hadn’t yet realize that you didn't realize I was attacking the callers position. In a way, you walked in on the middle of a conversation. And like a bad host, I didn't back up and fully explain what we were talking about. For this I apologize. But please stop inferring that I don't know the difference between biological and non-biological evolution. In a sense, we were having two different conversations. One was my argument against the caller and a second was my dislike of using the word evolution for describing how morality developed in society. If you look at the word evolution in the thesaurus, you’ll find the words, development, fruition, growth, progress, progression and advancement. I can think of more than a few examples where regression, weakening, deterioration, degeneration better describe what’s happening.So how do you measure progress? If you did it by world population, then the larger portion of worlds morality is in decline. Look at Mexico. How many drug related deaths have there been in recent history. Africa (multiple nations) anarchy, genocide, mass rapes are daily events. The Middle East; it doesn’t hit the news as often, but the bombings are still happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pakistan is a ticking time bomb. Israel, Palestine and Iran – not getting better. How about China or North Korea? So where is this evolving, morality you speak of? Is it Europe, Canada and maybe the United States? All combined, that’s still less than 1/6 the world population.There are nearly 7 billion people on this planet. Do you really think it’s going to get better? We are running out of room and resources. Let’s see what morality evolves into out of food shortages and over-crowding. Academic liberals might have "evolved" a superior morality, but the word hasn’t gotten to the rest of the world yet.Sorry for the agressive tone of this last post.

  71. 71
    Mamba24

    @ Michael-lol I understand what you're saying, I have all along. I realize that you were referring to the caller at first….and I agree with your argument in most aspects.(And we agreed to this) I simply disagree with your opinion that morality hasn't "evolved" for lack of a better word in the last few thousand years. No one here is saying that we live in a perfect utopia because we have evolved morally. That's why I specifically mentioned that some societies and countries are lagging behind, or are even regressing into older ideologies and immoral behavior. So your point of, "Well only the developed countries have "evolved" morally, but not the middle east, China, third world countries, etc… I get it, but I would still argue that despite genocidal events and other horrific times, we still correct ourselves and learn from them. With all the atrocities and crime that happen in the world everyday, it isn't nearly as bad as it was 2000 years ago, it's absurd to say that we haven't progressed in certain areas in that time-span. Yes, naturally in today's world, with the population exponentially greater than 2000 years ago, there is still bad things that happen( because there is a shit ton more people), especially in the undeveloped and poverty countries. But we have made progress in most places in the world, no matter how minuscule you happen to think that progress is or how immoral certain countries laws and beliefs still are. So you can sit there and point out all the things that you find immoral and wrong that happen in the world still, but this doesn't translate to no progress at all. I'm not saying that bad events won't happen anymore, regression still happens and history repeats itself. But that doesn't mean we haven't made progress. You're simply pointing out all the bad things that still happen, and ignoring all the good things that happen in the world, then saying "Nope, there are still bad things that happen in the world like rape and genocide, therefore we haven't made any progress whatsoever."…I beg to differ.-Consider this my last post to this discussion because I'm tired of explaining my opinion. I probably won't even look into this thread anymore so that I don't become tempted to respond if you happen to make another post. Good conversation though. Peace.

  72. 72
    J

    I hate to complain, but you guys really should update the blog more often. It has the readership. I know everyone is busy with real life and such, but it's been well over a week since the last post of any substance, and there's like, what, 5 contributors?

  73. 73
    Ian

    After watching the episode, I'm now very curious; what exactly has been the problem with the CGI thing?

  74. 74
    Mamba24

    @ J.-They usually update it everyday or every other day at the least. It's a little uncommon for them not to have posted anything new this week, but they must be busy with their lives as you said. You know…things like jobs.

  75. 75
    Lukas

    Matt, at least, have been busy (I think a friend's wedding, IIRC). The others presumably have their stuff. Even with many contributors sometimes schedules just clash and no one is around. I'm sure they'll update some more when they have the time. Look at the bright side, the non-prophets are back. There was just an unscheduled bonus episode with AronRa and Ashley Paramore from the Secular Student Alliance.Listen to that for your fix.

  76. 76
    zoomzoom12

    Jobs? The AE staff and hosts should be funded by the state as public philosophers. Now if we can just derive the IS from the Ought…..

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