We get email: The difference between being unreliable and 100% wrong

Last week, Matt and Tracie got in a brief argument with a caller named Charles before hanging up on him.  Charles has continued to email us, and although Matt has decided that he’s a fake, I usually feel that genuine stupidity is the less extraordinary claim.  Anyway, I’m going to excerpt selected parts of this exchange, because it illustrates a couple of principles.

First, there is this perenially weird argument that if any one thing is found to be true in the Bible, then the whole thing must be true.  As I mentioned on the latest Non-Prophets, it’s as if fundamentalists live in this sharply divided world like the logic puzzles of Raymond Smullyan.  Everyone in the world is either a knight, who always tells the truth, or a knave, who always lies.  In Smullyan’s puzzles, proving that a person has made one true statement is enough to conclusively prove that everything that person has ever said or will say is also true.

In the real world… not so much.

Second: People who are bad at arguing commonly use a tactic known as “Quick!  Change the subject!”  NEVER allow the argument to continue if they’re dodging the point.

Charles says:

U discredit the bible you say you don’t care what the bible says. Then u validate it saying there are facts in the bible but then say there’s also false things in the bible (which is an unsupported assertion). That sir is a contradiction.

Matt:

No, it’s not a contradiction. It’s true.

There are true things in the Bible (like Herod and Jerusalem). There are false things in the Bible (like the cure for leprosy, the global flood, the genesis story, the exodus).

Imagine that I wrote you a letter and the letter read:

“Dear Charles, The sky is blue. The Earth is a rough spheroid that orbits the sun, which is a star. Mars is the biggest planet in our solar system. You should eat more vegetables. I am the supreme ruler of the universe.”

Some of that is true and some of it is false. So, referencing that letter is useless – because whatever is true, is true whether it’s in the letter or not. The same is true for whatever is false. So telling someone “Hey, it’s in the letter from Matt” doesn’t give them ANY information about whether or not the claim is true or false.

The same is true about referencing the Bible.

At this point I jumped in, not wanting to miss out on the fun.

Charles,

I’m going to walk over to my bookcase right now, pick up the first work of fiction I see, and find a true statement written in it. Ready?

The book is The Key to Rebecca by Ken Follett. This is actually an especially easy one, because Follett writes historical thrillers, and this one takes place in Egypt during World War II.

End of the book, chapter 29: “Rommel glanced up and saw the British bombers approach low from behind the nearest line of hills: the troops called them ‘Party rally’ bombers because they flew in the perfect formation of display aircraft at the prewar Nuremberg parades. ‘Take cover!’ Rommel yelled. He ran to a slit trench and dived in. …Today was September 1, and something had gone terribly wrong.”

Rommel was real. Egypt was real. The British bombers were real. Does that mean, then, that the whole book is to be taken as literal truth? It concerns a fictional agent capturing a fictional spy and falling in love with a fictional girl. The fact is, I can accurately say that the book contains both true facts and made up events and characters, and finding true stuff in this book is no proof that it’s reliable as a whole.

Suddenly, a wild change of subject appears!

Mr Dillahunty, I remember you hanging up on me for saying evolution is a theory (which it is) just a little hint I thought u should know. Evolution is the only one of millions of theories that was taught in every American public school. That should make everyone pause to think about who is making the decisions of what does and does not get taught in schools, and what their agenda is. I have more proof of God’s existence than every text book has of evolution. The type of evolution that people believe would disprove God has not been disproved either. God decided that to this point, we didn’t need to know how he created us. If evolution is proved to be true then I guess we will know how he created us. According to Darwin’s own words, evolution is false.

I’m not having it.

Charles,

I noticed that you’ve changed the subject very abruptly. Does that mean that you now recognize that books like the Bible can contain some true statements and still not be reliable? I’m happy to discuss evolution with you, myself, but first I’d like some acknowledgment that you were paying attention to the things we already talked about.

Charles says:

The unsupported assertion that the bible is “unreliable” totally baffles me. And yes I was paying attention to what was said and I’m going to discredit evolution simply because its a theory not a fact.

Me:

Charles,

Here’s the problem with this conversation. You’re claiming the broad ability to overturn a major pillar of modern science, and yet you seem to be psychologically incapable of comprehending even the most basic questions about critical thought. Apparently you find it “baffling,” and it’s hard to have a conversation with somebody who can’t even share that most basic foundation.

We’re not even talking right now about whether everything in the Bible is true. You started this conversation by claiming Matt contradicted himself by saying that
(1) There are true statements in the Bible, and
(2) The Bible as a whole can’t be used to determine truth.

Several of us have now explained to you why that’s not a contradiction. Matt pointed out that people and books in the real world often make both true and false assertions at different times. I even gave you a live example by finding a fictional book that has true statements in it.

The question isn’t “Is the Bible a reliable book?” at that point — the question is “Do you understand that it is possible for the Bible, or any other book, to say some things that are true, and still not be a true book overall?” Your response was to not acknowledge this question, but to hastily change the subject to something else that you thought would go better for you. But I’m not cool with that.

It’s a really simple question, Charles. Do you understand and agree with what I’m saying about true and false statements, or don’t you? If you’re going to just run away from a subject every single time you don’t like the way the conversation is going, then I don’t really see what the point is of talking to you.

Awaiting an answer that may or may not come.

Trololololol

Hey! Want to piss off some homophobic fundie bigots? Of course you do!

So recently, a dearly beloved snack food came out in support of marriage equality. And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth among people whose lives are filled with anger and fear, that they would never again be able to enjoy their favorite cookie. Truly, my heart bled. Did yours? I bet it did, you softie, you.

And now, a group of folks called Minnesota for Marriage, which is a curious thing for a group trying to prevent certain people from being allowed to marry to call themselves, are declaring war (which, I guess, is what you do when you’re all about love) against General Mills. Because General Mills supports love and equality and marriage for everyone, you see, and that is an evil Satanic homodevil thing to do. And MFM’s Andy Parrish, who wants all his loyal prayer warriors to know he can be reached at Andy@MinnesotaForMarriage.com, will have none of it.

Well, my my. For sure, General Mills definitely needs someone at their backs. So why not? After all, who doesn’t enjoy Count Chocula? (Okay, don’t answer that. But, good grief, Trix! Whose childhood wasn’t positively influenced by the Trix rabbit!)

So here are some fun ideas. You can send old Andy a note letting him know that you appreciate the information that General Mills have come out against the kind of bigotry by which Andy has chosen to define his life, and that you will certainly support their products in any way you can. Better yet, if you’re a gay couple, what fun could be had by sending Andy a photo of yourselves, posing with your favorite General Mills cereal. One of you could be feeding the other a spoonful of Cheerios in a sultry way. Or if you really wanted to make Andy’s head asplode, one of you could be licking flakes of Total off the other’s body with the note “You bet I’m getting 100%!”

Trolling. It is such an art!

Looking forward to seeing what shenanigans ensue.


Quick addendum: General Mills is not the company that makes Oreos. That’s Kraft. Thing is, they’re both proudly pro-equality, the bigots hate them both now, so we should give them our love.


Addendum the Second: According to PZ, this post appears on Minnesota for Marriage’s FB page.

Nothing about blended fabrics, though.

And they’re trying to disown it by saying it was put there by a hacker. (Here’s the proof that that’s a lie and desperate spin, and that they support the scriptural sentiment.) But they wouldn’t take it down until “Facebook’s forensics team” identified the hacker. (eyeroll) So it stayed up until the afternoon of Wednesday, June 27, getting all kinds of high-fives from MfM’s fellow fundie bigots.

But here’s the thing. You don’t get to do this. You don’t get to trumpet your bigotry with a fanfare of Biblical justifications, and then repudiate one of the principal passages from the very holy scriptures upon which that bigotry is founded, because you’re uncomfortably aware that by modern, secular, humanistic moral boundaries, its incitement to murder goes a little too far. If this book is the divinely inspired word of your creator, from whom you believe your “morality” comes, what basis you do have to pick and choose what “morals” he gets to teach you?

If God is your “absolute moral authority,” and he says do this, you can’t say “Yes God, you’re my moral authority, except when you tell me to kill someone.” Because aren’t you then placing your “relative” moral values over those of the “absolute” lawgiver?

Think for yourself. Make your choice. Millennia-old religious edicts or modern enlightened thought? In or out?

We get email: From the “just helping out” file

Yes, I know, you do wonder if some of these are fake. But you know how the internet is. It takes all kinds. Anyway, it’s good to have someone handling the tough research.

hi fellow atheists

I have discovered why the Jews were persecuted and still are over time , Its because the tenants of aten ism were passed on to them from akhenaten or someone close to him. The catholic church is practising atenism Christianity is atenism. Wikipedia states that aten translates as the disk. Soho calls the suns corona the disk of the sun so it’s the aten and for very good reason. I have throughorly researched this and I am highly intelligent as my uncle was a detective in charge of detectives that were set up to deal with juivinile crime in north Brisbane Australia and he was very successful. Please take me seriously. I have written a book and reserve all rights but this is not about the book as I will get it published in good time and and I reserve the rights to the content. Google The Lost Connection. I have to go to work now.

Don’t work too hard!

Open Thread on TAE 767/NPR 11.7

Lots of theist callers on the TV show yesterday.  Matt was in “a mood.”

This Non-Prophets and the previous one have been done as Google Hangout videos. We intend that they’ll find their way to the podcast as audio eventually, but for now you might want to subscribe to Matt’s YouTube feed if you’re keeping an eye out for new shows. We’ve been scheduling them for Thursday Tuesday nights, since we don’t all have to be physically together. Keep an eye on the Non-Prophets chat room and the Atheist Experience Facebook page this Thursday to catch advance warning of how to watch the stream when it’s live.

Vatican ditches God, gets propaganda help instead

It seems that the Vatican is having a little trouble containing damaging internal information leaked by Ratzinger’s very own butler, who remains under arrest in the little nation of Pedophilistan.  Apparently, nobody is believing they’re not a corrupt organization.  Imagine that!

In the crisis, what does the Vatican do?  Get their all-powerful god to come to their rescue?  Don’t be silly.  Everyone knows that will never happen.  They double down and hire someone who really knows how to solve the problem:  a propagandist from one of the world’s greatest propaganda empires: Fox News.  Fox News is now famous for their distortions and misinforming their viewers.  That’s just what the Vatican needs: more lies, better lies.  Lies that someone might actually believe.

Good luck with that, Vatican.  You’ll need it.

Donate to CampQuest – help me defeat this upstart!

“Our daughter told us when she came home from Camp Quest Texas that it was the first time in her life that she felt completely comfortable and honest around kids her own age. She said that the experience was like drawing a deep breath for the first time.”

That’s why we’re doing this. SEND ALL THE CHILDREN!

So – I’m going to keep asking for donations for CampQuest Texas. AronRa is still in the lead, but neither of us have reached the goal.

http://campquesttexas.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=31

The curious thing is that I’ve had more individual donors, but Aron has had more big donors. You don’t need to donate $500 (though please do, if you’re able). Donate $1, $5, $10…

Are you really going to let me lose this? Worse…are you going to let the kids lose?!

UPDATE: So, thanks to you folks, I’ve managed to hit the mark first…but don’t stop donating. We need to make the camp, bigger, and better!

The structure of social revolutions, part 2

A bit more than a month ago, I spoke about Thomas Kuhn’s notion of scientific revolutions.  In the case of Copernicus’ heliocentric model, and in many other cases throughout history, a major scientific discovery was not accepted by the scientific community, or in the public at large, within the generation of the person who discovered it.  This time, I’d like to talk some more about examples of social movements that have followed similar trends, and how this relates to atheist activism.

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