Aug 06 2012

Open thread on episode #773 (corrected no.)

Have at it. Sorry this didn’t get posted until today. I for one was totally having nerdgasms all last night about a little party going on on Mars.

One new development in AXP-land has arisen that didn’t get talked about on yesterday’s show. You know that YouTube fan channel that I have, on previous occasions, reminded people that we don’t run in the hopes they’ll stop writing whiny letters to us because they’ve been banned there? Well, we run it now. Jen took it over and some changes will be underway, chief among which is that for each new episode uploaded, comments on YouTube will be disabled and people will be redirected to the relevant episode threads here if they wish to comment. Don’t like that? Oh well. It’s Jen’s call, and I can certainly understand that she has neither the patience nor inclination to moderate the asylum that a YouTube comments thread can become. Such moderating is most easily accomplished here.

So, have at it.


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  1. 1
    Jasper of Maine

    Yes! Redirect more theists my way! I don’t really go after them – I’m more like a venus flytrap or pitcher plant.

    1. 1.1

      Hello! I’m a Theist and I’m very intrigued. But, please don’t see me as uneducated and an idiot due to my belief. I have 1 question, so here goes:

      Look at the Bible, washing with running water, the use of quarantine, the earth is a sphere and hangs on nothing, the knowledge of polar icecaps in the hot Middle East, paths in the sea [sea currents] the mountains under the ocean, stars numbering as many sand grains as on the world’s seashores [trillions], blood clotting peaks in the 8th day of life, putting lids on jars in dwellings of sick people, the hydrological cycle, night and day exist at the same time. A lot of these things didn’t become 100% accepted until the 20th century.

      Now, if “there is no God” than how could men from the Ancient Middle East, who were “not” guided, know, and write, about this?

      Thank You for your Time and God Bless :)

      1. jacobfromlost

        “Now, if “there is no God” than how could men from the Ancient Middle East, who were “not” guided, know, and write, about this?”

        You’re using confirmation bias to see what you want to see and ignore what you want to ignore. The bible says the earth is a “circle” and “hangs on nothing”, not a sphere. The earth doesn’t hang at all, and it isn’t a circle. The bible says the earth is on pillars, that god holds it up as well, that earthquakes are god shaking the pillars, that god laid the foundations those pillars hold up, and that the entire earth can be seen from high places. It also invokes the “storehouses” from Enoch’s flat-earth cosmology, suggesting that wind, dew, rain, etc, are stored in these storehouses outside of the dome (what the bible calls a “firmament”). I assume you don’t believe there is a solid dome covering the earth? Moreover, if you look up strong’s H7549, you’ll see that the Hebrew word used in the OT for “firmament” means a solid dome, and that the Jews at the time believed this firmament was solid and supported waters “above”, just as the bible says in Genesis.

        Also, your assumption that many of these things weren’t accepted until the 20th Century is flat false. Many of the things you cite could have easily been discovered with the mildest of evidential inquiry…and in fact were. We have evidence. (It’s also unfortunate for you that the cure for leprosy found in Leviticus still doesn’t work. How do you explain that a Biblical cure meticulously recorded thousands of years ago doesn’t work? Or do we have to wait a few thousand years before we discover this “cure” works?)

        1. Justin

          :) Very interesting response. I have asked most Atheist this question, and all they do is curse me out and insult me. You however gave an insightful response. Thank You. But the Bible is filled with metaphors, metaphors you obviously mustn’t take literally.
          Like your comment about seeing the whole earth from the high places. Think: An explorer on Mt. Everest, he says” I can see the whole world from here…[Echo,echo]
          And you don’t need to reinstate that the Earth hangs on nothing, when I already stated that. And the Earth, from satellite imagery, does look like a circle, from a distance. Perhaps the author was speaking in terms of Heliography, I can only assume…
          And would you provide what specific cure of leprosy are you speaking of?(Sorry I’m still on Chronicles)

          Also, what’s your opinion on the similarities between Israel and the Standard Model? How there are 12 Leptons and 12 Tribes of Israel. The Strongelectroweak symmetry breach and the Exodus. The Electroweak symmetry breach and the loss of the united kingdom after Solomon. Etc. Every Atheist I ask never responds or, again, just insults me and curses me out.

          Thank You for your Time and God Bless :)

          1. Indiana Jones

            My opinion of 12 Leptons and 12 tribes of Israel is simply that there happen to be 12 each, so what? There are also 4 Gospels that tell the story of the resurrection and 4 chemicals that make up DNA, again, so what?

            When Exodus can tell me something about elctro weak theory that was unknown by other means before, the bible will become interesting scientifically. Same goes for Solomon or anything else.

            Go read The Illuminatus trilogy, Foucaults pendulum and/or The Davinci code (same as the other 2 but for kiddies really). They are all variations on a theme of making up a secret society out of the bible (or whatever) using the same sort of logic you seem to be a fan of. ie “This is similar to that! Spooky and meaningful huh?”. Co-relation is not Causation.

          2. Justin

            Thank You for your Response Indiana Jones :) Well, just in case your interested,
            here’s a link : http://www.abarim-publications.com/GenesisStandardModel.html#.UCfDHPKspBk

            Now it may seem like more looney tune drivel, but there are some interesting charts there.
            Now in the Revelations it talks of how the Beast is given the power of the “air and waves”. Airwaves obviously are radio waves.

            Now there seems to be a lot of satanic imagery being shown in Hollywood, lately.
            -Jay-Z’s music video “On Da Next One”
            -Lady Gaga videos
            -The Avengers Movie
            -The Madonna Superbowl performance
            Some, if not most, would say “shock-value” yet what bothers me is that why would Beyonce call herself Christian and donate to Christian charities, when she wears a satanic symbol on her ring.
            There even is a children’s show called Sponge bob Square pants” where there is a lot of satanic imagery shown.

            So what’s your view on this?

            Thank You for your Time and God Bless :)

          3. Jasper of Maine

            Now in the Revelations it talks of how the Beast is given the power of the “air and waves”. Airwaves obviously are radio waves.

            This is exactly what I’m talking about.

            You’ve taken two words “air” and “waves”, where “waves” is referring to water, and twisted that into meaning something you wanted it to mean – “airwaves”. “Airwaves” is a colloquialism. Radio isn’t waves of the air – but that little fact doesn’t seem to matter. As long as you can take a vague phrase in this book of a thousand pages, twist the meaning, then hammer it into another meaning, then manipulate and re-interpret it into another meaning – and tada! Now the Bible is talking about complex numbers!

            It’s not just a twisting of a word – it’s multiple consecutive twistings/reinterpretations to the point where you can connect anything to anything else.

            What you’re engaging in is a form of Conspiracy Theory. You’re taking a bunch of desperate facts and tying them together with extremely tenuous connections.

            While looking up the “air and waves” thing, I found other people saying that the very same verse predicted tsunamis, instead of radio. That just reinforced my point that through enough manipulation of the meaning, you can make it say whatever you want.

            This is why we find such arguments to be pathetic.

            >Now there seems to be a lot of satanic imagery being shown in Hollywood, lately.
            -Jay-Z’s music video “On Da Next One”
            -Lady Gaga videos
            -The Avengers Movie
            -The Madonna Superbowl performance
            Some, if not most, would say “shock-value” yet what bothers me is that why would Beyonce call herself Christian and donate to Christian charities, when she wears a satanic symbol on her ring.
            There even is a children’s show called Sponge bob Square pants” where there is a lot of satanic imagery shown.

            Okay. You’re free to think this.

            So what’s your view on this?

            I think it’s bullshit. Satan isn’t real.

          4. LaPlace

            Why would the creator of the entire universe, DNA and life itself need to speak in metaphors?

        2. jacobfromlost


          You: But the Bible is filled with metaphors, metaphors you obviously mustn’t take literally.

          Me: How do you know the whole thing isn’t a metaphor like any other book (or like all the fantastic things attributed to Gilgamesh in his epic)? How do you determine what is literal and what is a metaphor? Wouldn’t you agree that the resurrection is a metaphor since no extrabiblical accounts take note of such an extraordinary event, nor do they take note of all the holy people who rose from the dead and wandered around (not even Matthrew, Luke, nor John take note of the saints’ resurrections–what an oversight!).

          You: Like your comment about seeing the whole earth from the high places. Think: An explorer on Mt. Everest, he says” I can see the whole world from here…[Echo,echo]

          Me: Too bad the bible makes the context clear, as well as the cosmology.

          You: And the Earth, from satellite imagery, does look like a circle, from a distance. Perhaps the author was speaking in terms of Heliography, I can only assume…

          Me: And if we later scientifically determined the earth was a flat circle, you would say the bible was correct in determining the earth was a flat circle. (And if it was scientifically determined to be a flat square, you would have said the “four corners” references made the bible correct. And if we later determined the earth was a cube, you would say the four corner’s references prove the bible right and it was only referencing one side when seen from a distance.) Confirmation bias. What element is determining what is TRUE here? The science, not the bible.
          You’re retroactively apply the truth that the science found and cramming it back into the bible. If the spherical nature of the earth was actually in the bible, why did St. Augustine actively argue for a biblically flat earth, and determine that even if people were walking upside down on the underside of it that it didn’t mean they were “sons of Adam”. (What they would be, I don’t know, as he doesn’t explain. Maybe they evolved all on their own?)

          You: And would you provide what specific cure of leprosy are you speaking of?(Sorry I’m still on Chronicles)

          Me: Then you shouldn’t be referencing Revelation below.

          You: Also, what’s your opinion on the similarities between Israel and the Standard Model? How there are 12 Leptons and 12 Tribes of Israel. The Strongelectroweak symmetry breach and the Exodus. The Electroweak symmetry breach and the loss of the united kingdom after Solomon. Etc. Every Atheist I ask never responds or, again, just insults me and curses me out.

          Me: Because you’re not making any sense. I have twelve eggs in my refrigerator. Is that proof god is a chicken? If I break one, does that prove god isn’t a chicken (because there are 11 instead of 12)? Also FYI, the Exodus never happened. The Egyptians never recorded having any Jewish slaves, there is no evidence of the Exodus (archeologists have been looking for a very long time), and archeologists have found evidence of where the Jews actually were during that time. The bible, once again, is debunked.

          1. Justin

            Well, that is very good insight. :)
            But “the four corners” are North, East, West, South. It cannot say that it’s a circle, but at the same time have four corners. It was simply making a reference to the compass.
            And about Egypt, well I could imagine Egypt must have been a much larger Empire. Not the actual “small” Egypt we see today, but a much larger, vaster, empire. Much like Ancient Rome, compared to modern Rome.
            Could you provide for me where the Israelite’s were, please and thank you.
            Also look at how there are 12 Leptons and only 2 remain, and how 12 Tribes and only 2 remain. What is it about the Link I showed you that you do not agree with?
            And what can I tell you about St. Augustine other than he wrote information after Revelation, the last book of the Bible.
            And again, what is your opinion on the information I have given you based on Revelation?
            But Thank You for your insight.
            And thank you for your Time and God Bless :)

          2. Orlando

            But the bible predicts that Paul Ryan will be the GOP VP pick. Paul, or Saul of Tarsus. The Road to Damascus is the road to the vice-presidential candidacy. Because the bible speaks in metaphor.

          3. jdog

            I’m sorry, but there being some numbers in an anthology of myths you like that happen to be the same as some numbers found elsewhere isn’t a good reason to believe the myths are true.

      2. Atheist Bunneh

        You’re going to get the same answer as those Muslims who crow about “Quranic Science:”

        They didn’t know those things. YOU do and have chosen to read these into vague passages in your holy book. If your holy book really predicts science, then what’s the specific next scientific breakthrough?

      3. Martin Wagner

        Isn’t it interesting that all of these alleged scientific facts that are supposed to appear in ancient holy books are only recognized after mainstream science has made the discovery centuries later? Then suddenly it’s, “See! The Bible/Koran/Upanishads knew this stuff all along! Therefore God.”

        If any ancient person had, using nothing but their Bible as a guide, learned to build a working aircraft, perform an appendectomy or discover quasars, then there might be something scientifically interesting in holy texts. Otherwise, it’s confirmation bias and post hoc reasoning (and very poor post hoc at that).

        1. Justin

          “Very poor post”
          I agree, I’m not a smart person :/
          But what do you think about what I’ve put down about Revelation.
          The satanic imagery being shown on T.V., Movies, children’s shows, etc.
          Kind of suspicious don’t you think?

          1. Lord Narf

            Which Satanic imagery in children’s shows are you talking about? I’ve been watching the wrong channels. Please, hook me up. That sounds awesome.

            Just about all of the Satanic imagery that I’ve seen used in movies is associated with the villains … you know, kind of like it is in Church plays and such. It reminds me of some of the quotes I’ve heard about Harry Potter, used by the fundie nut-jobs who are trying to boycott it. I’ve heard them quote Lord Voldemort to demonstrate what sort of morally corrupt lessons are being taught by the books.

            Those are things said by the villain of the series, you morons. It’s SUPPOSED to be morally bankrupt, so you know who you’re supposed to be opposed to.

            And before you get started on magic used in Harry Potter, several of the protagonists in the Bible used what amounts to magic. In a mythical world (such as that of the Bible), it’s perfectly viable to have magic used by both good people and bad people. Even Harry Potter has several “curses” that aren’t used by good people, potentially representing that they come from some sort of evil power, metaphorically speaking.

            Anyway, you DO know that Revelation was written to represent the times in which it was written, right? The anti-Christ was the Roman Empire or the Roman emperor of the time. The wars and rumors of war were meant to refer to the constant warfare happening AT THAT TIME in history. Sure, you can pull bits out of Revelation to show that we’re living in the times of which it speaks … because it speaks of things that have been happening almost nonstop, for the whole of human history.

          2. Jasper of Maine

            It’s kind of a dumb prediction anyway. Just write a book and predict normal things and *poof*, anything else the Bible says is true is true!

          3. Justin

            Well, I know most of you call it nonsense.
            My opinion is that the evil eye is the new image of the beast as told in revelations.

            Here’s a link to a puma commercial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDvCQyJw00g

            And Lord Narf, J.K. Rowling has said, I quote:
            “I believe in God, not magic.”

          4. Lord Narf

            You’re mixing medieval superstition with Biblical canon, man. You may as well include Dante’s Inferno as official Christian theology. Your evil-eye stuff is taking you out a bit into psycho-land.

            And I’m well aware that J.K. Rowling is a Christian. That makes the fundie frothings about her books even more hilarious. The fundamentalist Christians of the time went insane about C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books, too.

          5. Jasper of Maine

            Well, I know most of you call it nonsense.

            That’s bound to happen when one is asserting lunatic crackpot claims with little to no evidence – but rather truckloads of supposition and conspiracy-theory paranoia.

          6. Kaj

            There’s an in-joke among TV and movie makers called the “Tommy Westphall Universe.” Basically, there have been so many crossover and in-jokes referring to other fictional universes that they can, if analyzed carefully, be drawn into the same universe.
            For instance, “Cancer Man” in X-Files smoked Morley Cigarettes, and so did “Spike” on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. These little things are nods to others in the industry.

            I cannot help but wonder if slipping in imagery designed to prod the conspiracy nuts hasn’t become the new in-joke….

          7. Jasper of Maine

            I wish there was an effective and succinct way of explaining to these people how their line of thinking is deranged.

            They don’t even realize that they’ve built themselves mirages. They don’t understand how they could be mirages, they are so mired in the constructing their vast interwoven networks of tenuous incoherent connections between vague statement to vague statement.

            It’s like some lunatic version of “Six degrees to Kevin Bacon”

          8. Eric

            Satanic imageries: well you are right,they are there in movies, tv,music, etc So what? They are there intentiously to provoque believers and/or make fun of their beliefs. I doesn’t proove anything else then that. As for the meaning of the word “Satan”, it means in Hebrew “the opponent, the adversary” (so when you are talking about satanic, of course it is satanic, it means we are against your belief or we make fun of it. it doesn’t proove it is a malicious metaphysical force that was prophecised..), it meant everything or everyone that were against the Jews of that time and their god…in christianity that god became flesh and by the same occasion “satan” as well when he tried to tempt Jesus of Nazareth…but anyway those “imageries” that you are talking about are taken from a book that no christians had or used until I think very late near the time of Constantin, if I remember well the book of “revelation” at the primitive christian time was the “revelation of james” (apocrypha). anyway the “revelation of John” was the latest book accepted in the canon and was really contreversial at the time of Constantin and even much later at the time of the Reform. Luther didn’t considered that book inspired, he translated in German as the deuterocanonic books (books from the Old testament accepted by catholics but denied by jews and protestants) but he did it only as relics from that time. The most he considered revelation of John was not an inspired book but a coded message for jews at that time against the roman empire (search for the book “Jerusalem against Rome”; as for the other big protestant reform, Calvin, he commented all the books from the Bible except the book of revelation of john for he thought it was crazy and wanted nothing to do with it. So in that sense The revelation of John is not to be taken seriously, neither the imageries in it…in a sense that book is almost “satanic” to the Bible itself. oh and as for “the book of revelation of John” that “predicts” the return of “christ”, I think it is a movement that started by an interpretation made by a guy name Darby in the end of 19th century, no “serious theologians” believe that crap.
            So at your place I wouldn’t pay much attention to that book in any perspectives…

      4. Crudely Wrott


        Perhaps observation and contemplation, inference, deduction? Experimentation and observation? Memory? Oral transmission of knowledge? Application of mental capability?

        Humans have had functional brains and sophisticated language similar to what we possess today for a very long time. Longer than the time that has elapsed since knowledge could be compiled in writing. Writing was a late comer in human achievement. Relatively speaking, doncha know.

        Any sufficiently capable understanding and the abilities that accrue thereby will appear, if only briefly, as magic. Sometimes the illusions persist, especially when questions of death are addressed. Apologies to Clarke.

      5. Jasper of Maine

        Gah – can’t believe I missed this. I was subscribed to this thread, but it seems to have stopped sending emails.

        Look at the Bible, washing with running water, the use of quarantine,

        Yes – the Bible plagiarized lots of known knowledge that people figured out. And? Some of this stuff can be figured out fairly easily.

        the earth is a sphere

        Nope – never says anything like that. You have to specifically ignore any references that contradict this idea (being on four pillars, seeing all of the world from the tallest mountain, etc).

        You’re already engaging in cherry picking.

        and hangs on nothing, the knowledge of polar icecaps in the hot Middle East

        You think people didn’t travel? No! Clearly we need MAGIC to explain this!

        Here’s the relevant verse (I think): “The One who builds His upper chambers in the heavens And has founded His vaulted dome over the earth, He who calls for the waters of the sea And pours them out on the face of the earth, The LORD is His name.

        I don’t see how you get polar ice caps out of that. See, this is the problem. If something is vague enough, one can spin it to match anything you want in reality.

        This isn’t even remotely compelling. In fact, it’s dishonest. If they were talking about ice caps, why didn’t the Bible just say “The Earth is like a ball and there’s ice on the top and bottom”? Why does it have to take this weird vague bizarre description?

        Apparently, God can’t explain things very well.

        , paths in the sea [sea currents] the mountains under the ocean, stars numbering as many sand grains as on the world’s seashores [trillions], blood clotting peaks in the 8th day of life, putting lids on jars in dwellings of sick people, the hydrological cycle, night and day exist at the same time. A lot of these things didn’t become 100% accepted until the 20th century.

        Okay – skipping to the end of this list.

        You’re looking at it backwards. This is the problem with starting with a conclusion and cherry picking reality to support it.

        If we just found this book, and started looking into it… and let’s say that it apparently and precisely stated a bunch of facts about reality (as opposed to incredibly vague). What conclusion could we draw from that?

        The most reasonable conclusion is that they investigated the world and managed to figure some things out.

        You, on the other hand, for some bizarre reason, gloss right by the reasonable possibilities, zip by the improbably possibilities, and make a b-line straight towards the single most improbably, lunatic, crackpot, delusional insane possibility available – that an all-powerful all-knowing omnipresent universe creating entity who is obsessed with chopping off the ends of peoples’ dicks, did it.

        I don’t know why you people do that. Starting with a conclusion and cherry picking reality is an incredibly inaccurate approach to epistemology.

        Seriously, a magical sky pixie is the best explanation you can come up with for how the Bible would contain this information (assuming it was true and accurate not manipulated beyond recognition)?

        Eratosthenes calculated the diameter of the Earth within 10% error back around 200BC using math and a stick. Clearly, these concepts weren’t beyond humanity.

        Or do you think that proves that the Greek gods were real?

        Now, if “there is no God” than how could men from the Ancient Middle East, who were “not” guided, know, and write, about this?

        Good question. Apparently, your approach to this answer is to make shit up and call it true. Let’s just make things up!

        You’ve got one big whopping Argument from Ignorance there.

        Thank You for your Time and God Bless

        Thanks. I get SAVING_POISON +1, and HIT_ROLL +1 with blesses.

        1. Justin

          Have you seen the videos on You-tube?
          And what if it does so happen to be radio-waves?
          Just take a look…I denied it too, until I did my research.
          Have you looked at the Puma commercial?

          1. Jasper of Maine

            Assuming we had the ability to question the original authors and ask them what they meant, and it turned out they did predict radio waves…

            … so what? What we’d then have is someone who can predict the future.

            What’s the connection between that and the existence of a god?

            You’d done research, but you haven’t employed any critical thinking to evaluate the data, because I’m observing gaping holes of logic throughout your arguments.

          2. Justin

            Well, I have nothing more to say.
            But I must admit, Atheist are probably the most bold and brave people on Earth. To see that they were made out of an “accident” and to continue to live happily is amazing. You guys are BRAVE.

            Though don’t assume I believe in God out of fear, I have actually seen God at work before my eyes. I have seen my own prayers answered.

            Anyways,I will keep you in my prayers.
            Thanks for your Time and God Bless You All :)

          3. Lord Narf

            No, we just accept reality, instead of wishing for things that aren’t true. It would be less scary for you, too, if you would stop using loaded, emotional words like “accident”, which your preachers and brain-washers have taught you to keep your mind in chains … to not allow you to think about the subject rationally.

            And thanks for leaving us with a big, steaming pile of confirmation bias. God answering your prayers is no different from Pat Robertson making a couple hundred predictions, then crowing over the three or four he made which came true. I’ve seen friends do this … praying for things constantly, mostly unanswered. The prayers that were answered are proof of God acting … and the greater number of prayers that weren’t answered are proof of God’s divine wisdom to realize that those prayers are better unanswered, because they’ll make the person stronger or wiser. It’s a pathetic con game that people play on themselves, and it’s just fucking sad to see, from the outside.

          4. Jasper of Maine

            But I must admit, Atheist are probably the most bold and brave people on Earth. To see that they were made out of an “accident” and to continue to live happily is amazing. You guys are BRAVE.

            I don’t see it as an accident. I don’t see the recurring winters as accidents. I expect the snowfall because that’s the result of how the universe works – it’s not an accident that it snows or rains or shines. Likewise, indications are that life probably occurs based on how the universe works. I wouldn’t categorize that as an accident either.

            Though don’t assume I believe in God out of fear, I have actually seen God at work before my eyes.

            No, you have observed events, and through a filter of confirmation bias, placebo effect, priming, interpretation error, imagination inflation, and a host of other psychological effects, have constructed yourself a nice little delusion that there’s an invisible entity doing things.

            Belief in God is always utterly indistinguishable from delusion. I’d think that’d tell you something.

            I have seen my own prayers answered.

            Like what? Things that normally happen? Things that were likely to happen?

            What about the prayers that weren’t answered? How did you rationalize that away?

            There’s 4 possibilities for answered prayer:

            1) God answers the prayer immediately
            2) God answers the prayer some indeterminate time
            3) God doesn’t answer the prayer
            4) God answers it in an opposing fashion

            Here’s the problem. That covers ALL possibilities in reality. Theists have an answer for every possibility, which makes the prayer model appear to work, even if prayer has no influence on events at all. It’s unfalsifiable.

            Prayer working is indistinguishable from prayer not working, meaning, it may as well be delusion.

          5. Jasper of Maine

            I’d also point out that there’s a lot of sharpshooter fallacy involved with one’s perception of the efficacy of prayer.

            If you make a lot of prayers, eventually, merely by statistical probability, some of those are going to appear to come true by coincidence.

            Because you dismiss failed prayer, you discard it from your memory, meaning, that at the end of the day, you’re going to only remember the successes. The failures will fade from memory, and in the long run, all you’re going to remember is that prayer appears to work.

            You end up building an illusion of efficacy in your mind.

            It’s not something you do on purpose, but it’s the result of starting with an a priori belief, and when things don’t match that belief… well it must have just been flukes, or God works in mysterious ways, or any number of ways to dismiss and rationalize why your belief about the power of prayer wasn’t working in that particular instance.

            You’ve constructed a self-fulfilling perception of prayer in your mind that doesn’t actually require prayer to work at all.

            This is standard psychology.

  2. 2
    Max Entropy

    “What is it? Is it satanic? Is it some spiritual thing, people who are atheists, they hate God, they hate the expression of God? And they are angry with the world, angry with themselves, angry with society and they take it out on innocent people who are worshiping God.” – Pat Robertson


    1. 2.1

      “Wha? WTF kind of demented asshole would claim that shooting is because atheists hate G- *looks at name*

      Oh, Pat Robertson, nevermind.”

      -this was about a tenth of a second of my life I just wasted.

  3. 3

    I hate it when people hide their pet woo theories behind. It only serves to mystify the people you’re supposed to communicate with. Of course this is often seen as a positive rather than a negative aspect which is probably why this call ended in a complete communication breakdown. Every time the hosts asked for clarification they got what the caller probably felt was the best possible answer he could give, which only served to frustrate the hosts looking for something they could understand. It’s the difference between really pinning something down for scrutiny and just keeping a bunch of vague things in the air so that whoever is listening can maybe get a feeling what the speaker is talking about and then give meaning to it themselves.
    Still there was no malice whatsoever as far as I could tell.

    I can’t say the same for the second caller. I guess he just wanted to have his say on TV, but he didn’t seem remotely interested in any dialogue. It was pretty funny to listen to him being dealt with though.

    the last bit about atheism and agnostics was one of the best and most consise ways I’ve ever seen that handled, so overall it was a pretty good episode.

    1. 3.1

      Well if you don’t define a position you don’t have to defend it.

  4. 4

    Isn’t the new ep. #773, with 772 being skipped due to the 5th Sunday of the month?

    1. 4.1
      Martin Wagner

      I’m not sure. Don’t remember if we number the weeks or the episodes. If I’m wrong I’ll change the post title.

      1. TerranRich

        You’ve always numbered the weeks.

        1. Nicholas

          Obviously better to number the eps.

          1. Martin Wagner

            I would think so, because otherwise that could lead to confusion with people going “Hey, where’s Episode X?” But I don’t make that decision.

      2. Prophiscient

        The episodes have always been numbered per week. There was no episode 772, so this was 773. That episode number is also visible at the start of the video.

        1. Martin Wagner

          Shows you how much attention I pay.

    2. 4.2

      Because there are four gospels so the fifth sunday is unbiblical? I’m just riffing on the bible predicts the future thing.

  5. 5

    Dare mighty things. Dare mighty things.

  6. 6

    Why would YouTube comments need your moderation?
    Let people self-moderate them through likes and dislikes.

    1. 6.1
      Martin Wagner

      Like I said, it’s Jen’s thing. I’d be pretty much happy to let the comments roll as they may and trust the regular viewers to beat down the fundie trolls, but this — at least for the time being — is how she wants to do it.

    2. 6.2

      Why would YouTube comments need your moderation?
      Let people self-moderate them through likes and dislikes.

      You’ve never read youtube comment sections, I assume?

      1. Brono

        I do frequently, whats your point? why does it need to be moderated?

        1. Jasper of Maine

          The ACA has a vested interest in official channels not being cesspools – it doesn’t reflect well on them.

    3. 6.3

      Do you ever read YouTube comments? The few that actually contribute to a discussion are drowned out in the sea of idiocy that inevitably floods any video’s comments AND if you’re actually trying to have a civil and reasonable discussion you get to do it 500 characters at a time.

      I get the feeling the reason YouTube comments will be disabled and discussion re-directed here is because YouTube makes for a shit public forum.

  7. 7

    WTF was wrong with that guy obsessed with “Theory”? Why did he call up to yell at them?

    Holy crap.

  8. 8

    No comments? thats a shame.
    One thing I took a little pride in is how pretty much all Atheist videos have no moderating and everyone gets a say, where as most Christian channels block everything. I always thought of that as a point towards the Atheist community.

    1. 8.1
      Jasper of Maine

      Did you miss the being-redirected-here part?

      1. Martin Wagner

        Evidently he did.

        1. Brono

          No I didnt. Looking from a xtians perspective, diverting the comments out of sight to a moderated atheist blog would be pretty much the same thing.

          1. Brono

            I know I’d be rolling my eyes if I came came across theistic videos doing the same.

          2. Jasper of Maine

            You are of course free to think that, but equating AE going out of their way to create open threads for the episodes – to – blocking all comments is simply unambiguously false.

          3. Martin Wagner

            Except that we do allow theists to comment here. It’s just easier to cycle out the trolls with nothing to say but foulness.

          4. Brono

            Like I stated already, I am speaking from how a theist may perceive it.
            If you came across a Christian video with disabled comments and a link to a moderated Christian blog, would you not be suspicious?

          5. Jasper of Maine

            We are not responsible for their delusions. It’s not our problem if they hallucinate that aggregating comments to one convenient place is equivalent to blocking all comments.

            If you came across a Christian video with disabled comments and a link to a moderated Christian blog, would you not be suspicious?

            Suspicious of what exactly? If I wanted to comment, I’d follow the link and do so.

          6. rrpostal

            I’ve always been the same way. Every time I go to a fundie or woo page and it’s always comments off, or even worse, heavily edited. I’m always proud that atheist sites don’t do that. (I get that they are really being redirected in this case, to a moderated site). But my opinion is just that, and I’m not the one who has to worry about such things.

        2. Brono

          I don’t even like giving them grounds for that delusion. For, imo, no reason.

          1. Jasper of Maine

            As I already stated – the ACA has a vested interest in not having cesspools associated with them. It’s easier to moderate in one place than many. As others have pointed out, this venue is more appropriate for in-depth discussion, as opposed to YouTube’s short character limit.

            So to say “for no reason” is simply false.

    2. 8.2
      Cylis B.

      Just two quick points:
      1) I too like the idea of free-form self-moderating forums, but these shows will undoubtedly be mirrored to YT many, MANY, times. So to think for a moment that they are diminishing that vehicle of discussion is just silly. Which leads me to…
      2) All they are really doing is ADDING a new forum for these discussions. One that is geared and regulated to yield a slightly more in-depth and respectful discourse. I, for one, think its brilliant.
      OK, three points…
      3) I freaking LOVE no 500 character limit!

      1. Prophiscient

        I too like the idea of free-form self-moderating forums,

        If that forum is YouTube, the whole idea that people can “self-operate” other people’s video comments is absurd. The only things that people can do with comments on other people’s channels is replying to them, or making them invisible by repeatedly thumbing them down or marking them as spam. All those things really only make it more difficult for the real moderator to do his job, and they only waste more time of all those other people who want to read those messages later.

        The best way to deal with spammers, trolls and other idiots is simply ignoring their comments until the admin deletes them. Everything else really only costs other people more time.

      2. Prophiscient

        but these shows will undoubtedly be mirrored to YT many, MANY, times.

        On of the reasons why the ACA recently took over TheAtheistExperience is that this will enable the ACA to monetize the videos and to join YouTube’s (nonprofit) Partner Program, which also opens up other possibilities, like live streaming and adding some fancy graphics or a “Donate!” button.

        Now that the show has an “official” YouTube channel, there is no real need for any other copycat to mirror all those videos, so if and when the ACA decides to start monetizing those videos, those newcomers who still want to mirror MANY, many of those videos will probably get a little cease-and-desist letter.

  9. 9
    Mr Trex

    I have a question that I hope Matt will answer, but the truth can come from anyone. Near the end of the show, Matt tells the excited guy that if he goes back to Ron Paul, he’ll “definately be done”. Now, I respect and agree with many of the opinions expressed on this show, and I’m about to open a can of worms here but… Why doesn’t Matt like Ron Paul? I’m for Paul, but that is admittedly due to a strong ignorance of politics, and Paul just seems better. (I know I know, such an important issue to be so uneducated about) I guess what I would like to know is, what is not to like about Ron Paul, and where can I read more? (And please, don’t let this turn into a flame-war or a big argument, I just want to learn more about this)

    1. 9.1
      Mr Trex

      “You’re almost done venting, especially if you go back to Ron Paul”


    2. 9.2

      He doesn’t think the federal government should legislate on civil rights…. he thinks the states should, which solves nothing. He supports DOMA. He is anti-choice. He is against pretty much anything funded by the government, as most libertarians are (even if Paul isn’t really that much of a libertarian to begin with). Shall I go on?

    3. 9.3
      Setár, Elvenkitty

      Ashley Miller has some good posts explaining what is dislikable about Ron Paul.

      If that isn’t enough, it is not hard to find articles on Salon or ThinkProgress that eviscerate Ron Paul. In fact, I think that Salon has an entire section devoted to Ron Paul.

    4. 9.4
      Jasper of Maine

      He doesn’t accept evolution.

    5. 9.5

      i thought he was referring to if you bring up politics again, you’re gone. dude could have said anybody’s name. but his overall tone/energy + politics makes for nothing good on air. caller was trollin IRL

    6. 9.6
      1. Martin Wagner

        And don’t forget to read the comments at Ashley’s article to see the kinds of people Paul attracts. One thing I’ve always found strange about Paul is the almost cult-like veneration his followers have for him. I’ve never quite grasped where that comes from.

        1. Randy

          Besides all that, the purpose of the show is not to plug political figures and their agendas (unless it’s to discuss the religious beliefs or statements made by them). But, the people for Ron Paul are batshit insane morons. They’d be scientologists if they had the money (but they’re usually out of work college students, thus they don’t have money).

    7. 9.7
      Lord Narf

      My personal problem with Ron Paul is his support of nearly absolute states rights. That degree of states rights would create a freaking nightmare.

      You’d end up having a gay man who is married to his husband in one state … they cross a state line, and they both get arrested, convicted, and sentenced to 5 to 10 years in prison for having sex with their spouse.

      All of the insane shit in state constitutions and state laws would be enforceable again, if the federal rulings against them were stripped of their power.

      Atheists would not be allowed to serve in public office, in many states. In some states, they wouldn’t be found competent to take the stand in a court case, including in their own defense.

      Plus, he’s a creationist nut. I don’t trust his judgement.
      The things he actually is for, and would encourage the states to pass in the absence of federal controls, are things that I’m almost completely opposed to.

      Personally, I’m a bit of a cynic. I don’t think he’s actually for states rights. I think he just wants to legislate things that would be in complete violation of the federal constitution, and the only way to get them passed is on a state-by-state basis, after weakening federal authority.

  10. 10

    It think the redirect-here policy is a good choice. The youtube format is really best suited for brief comments and the occasional reply, not long discussions. It’s nearly impossible to really talk about things at any depth.

  11. 11

    @Martin: You speculated with certainty that aliens could/would not travel to Earth because of the amount of resources needed and time involved. Since we don’t have any manned interstellar spaceships atm, I’m not sure what you base your conclusions on other than the state of our present technology, and the fact that the laws of physics does not allow faster-than-light travel. Isn’t it a bit presumptuous that we will never find another mode of transportation we can’t fathom right now? I think the best we can say is that there is no evidence of alien visitations, rather than a statement that suggests it will never be possible.

    1. 11.1

      We have 2 possibilities here.

      1. The aliens have developed ‘ships’ that can get them here at almost light speed. In this scenario the aliens will take absurd amounts of time to get here. That type of time isn’t the sort of thing you spent to troll the primitive earthlings by putting signals into cornfields or abducting a few people (and their livestock) here and there.

      Still this is possible and Martin wouldn’t disagree with that. So don’t go saying Martin thinks it’s impossible, that’s not what his argument is about.

      Alternatively we have
      2. The aliens have developed a way to overcome what is in our current understanding of reality an irremovable obtacle to faster than light travel. The level of understanding required for this is even higher than in scenario 1. Besides making the alien trolling even more unlikely, these creatures would be so advanced that either they would most surely be capable of doing the extracting in ways we’d never know what happened. The assumption of superb intellect and massive stupidity simultaniously like this makes alle these stories highly unlikely.

      It is indeed not possible to rule out the possiblity that life here was ever visited by aliens either before or when man walked the earth, but that’s not what Martin did. He called the stories bullshit. He didn’t say it couldn’t possibly happen.

      1. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain


        The assumption of superb intellect and massive stupidity simultaniously like this makes all these stories highly unlikely.

        Short Story: The Road Not Taken

      2. Warp

        Actually if you have a ship that can travel at almost the speed of light, for *you* the travel time will be short. You could travel (from your own perspective) from here to the other side of the galaxy in mere minutes (even fractions of a second, if you can get close enough to the speed of light and you somehow can nullify the effects of acceleration on you).

        The problem is, if you travel from here to the other side of the galaxy in a few minutes and then come back (likewise in a few minutes), you’ll find out that while only a few minutes has passed for you, over a hundred of thousands of years have passed on Earth.

      3. Doug

        I believe you’re making an assumption here that all members of a society progress at the same rate, and are uniform. By the standards of 1912 AD, much less 1012 AD, we’re living the lives of demigods, and have a much greater understanding of the Universe than was available at those times. However, in our time, we still have GodBots, denialists, prankers, etc.

        I expect this trend, of sentient beings having wrongheaded or puckish impulses, to continue. It leads me to believe other sentient species would have similar traits.

    2. 11.2
      Martin Wagner

      Well, your question is no different than when some Christian apologist brings up the “absolute certainty” red herring: Isn’t there a chance, somewhere among the vast number of things about the universe you don’t know, that a God exists? Well, perhaps, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m still justified i not believing until such a time as credible evidence presents itself in my benighted little corner of the universe.

      Unless some awesome aliens invent a way to break the universal speed limit, alien visitation will remain, if not impossible, most likely vanishingly improbable.

      I also pointed out, in case that wasn’t clear, that if aliens did make the vast undertaking to come to Earth, they wouldn’t go to all the effort just to mutilate some cows and leave graffiti in a few cornfields before scampering off to hide.

      1. TerranRich

        Yes but we already have sufficient evidence to show that there is most likely not a god in control of, or having had created, the universe. We do not have sufficient evidence to support the claim that FTL travel is impossible. Highly improbable? Sure. Can’t say it’s impossible, though. Just like it’s not impossible there’s a god. Just highly unlikely. ;)

      2. terrycollins

        “vast undertaking”

        There. You did it again! It may be a ‘vast undertaking’ by our standards, but how can you claim know how difficult it would be for more advanced civilizations?

        1. Jasper of Maine

          It’s not a question of knowing otherwise. It’s a question of being in violation of the laws of physics, making the prospect incredibly unlikely.

          We knew about the existence magnetism for thousands of years before figuring out how to make electric generators and motors out of it. We’ve yet to find anything that would allow us to circumvent the light limitations. With every day passing with hundreds of thousands of scientists working on the problems worldwide, the probability that we will ever be able to circumvent the problem shrinks.

          They may have adapted to the difficulties, but that’s not exactly the same thing as it being “easier”.

          This line of thinking isn’t dissimilar from the “Yes but how can you know that God doesn’t exist?” Sure, it’s still possible we’ll figure something out, but there’s no point in putting any credibility into the notion yet.

        2. Jasper of Maine

          I would think that proposing something that violates the laws of physics would automatically be rejected without extraordinary evidence.

        3. Martin Wagner

          As I said, once you start proposing an imaginary, hypothetical alien race who are so unimaginably advanced that flying quintillions of miles across space just isn’t even a thing, your question is simply another form of theistic apologetics, with aliens standing in for gods. Until there’s a shred of evidence for such beings, I’ll consider the notion not really worth talking seriously about outside science fiction writing circles.

          1. terrycollins

            ­– once you start proposing an imaginary, hypothetical alien race who are so unimaginably advanced that flying quintillions of miles across space just isn’t even a thing –

            This presumes that the only way to travel here from a distant planet is a direct line through space-time. True, we have not discovered warp drive or how to create worm holes we can travel through, but the point is other methods may exist, and have been theorized. We just have to look at our own history to see that technology advances, and what was thought to be impossible before (like flying) is easy to achieve today. Something like traveling to America from Europe was a ‘vast undertaking’ in the 1700s, but today is relatively simple.

            BTW, I’m not proposing any advanced alien race. Just that if they exist, it is impossible know anything about them or what their limitations are. I don’t see how anyone could.

        4. jacobfromlost

          Martin et al,

          I don’t know what others are saying, but that’s not exactly what I’m saying. I’m saying any such beings hypothetically capable of visiting us would hypothetically be sharing with us a universe in which such a visitation were physically possible, IF their knowledge was such that FTL travel (or a work around) among many other things would not be difficult, THEN they would likely have no reason to bother and many reasons not to bother visiting us (and/or killing us). If the situation was such that no such FTL travel (or work around) was possible even with a detailed Theory of Everything and a couple billion years of study/experiment/evolution, THEN we can see another reason why we haven’t been visited.

          So in either case, I see little reason for us to have been visited, no reason to think such beings exist (or don’t), and no reason to think the light speed problem explains why we’ve never been visited/attacked/had-a-robot-lander-land.

          But I do think that our not having been visited is evidence that no highly similar (to us), slightly more advanced race capable of visiting us has detected us and taken successful action to visit us. That could be for a number of reasons, but the most obvious one I see is that the “slightly more advanced human-like race nearby, capable, and willing/curious to visit” don’t exist.

          (Invoking “sentience” as a poster above did is unconvincing to me, as we are the ones setting the standard for “sentience” and presuming it is some kind of universal goal or endpoint simply because we are the one setting the standard. It may be that from the POV of a more sophisticated consciousness that we are not really sentient at all–at least not in a way that would be interesting or motivate interaction.)

      3. Kaj

        If aliens could really zip around the galaxy willy-nilly, perhaps all we’re getting is the Alien equivalent of the “cream of the crop” that thinks cow tipping is a sport.

        So, maybe we get visited by the alien equivalent of drunk hillbillies ;)

        …okay, I’m just kidding.


        1. Lord Narf

          You shouldn’t be kidding. That’s basically what they’re proposing.

    3. 11.3

      I could see a scenario where the ship itself hatches the aliens when it arrives at its destination. Up until it arrives, it’s totally automated.

    4. 11.4
      John Kruger

      We have digressed into the Alien Experience, but freethinkers like to argue, so no worries.

      Space is about the most inhospitable place for life imaginable. To travel across distances so vast that it would take hundreds of years traveling as fast as we can theoretically imagine is no small hurdle. The theory of relativity predicts not only that travelling faster than the speed of light would make time go backwards, but also the object would have negative thickness in the direction of travel and have infinite mass. As far as we know this is just not possible. Martin’s argument is damn good.

      If you want to jump outside of what we understand, you are not justified in making any assertions at all. Almost anything is logically possible, but there is no reason as of yet to think any aliens could or would visit our planet. Such an idea can only remain in the realm of imaginative fiction.

      1. jacobfromlost

        “If you want to jump outside of what we understand, you are not justified in making any assertions at all.”

        Sure, but my point would be as soon as we posit the possibility of a race capable of visiting the earth, we’ve already “jumped outside of what we understand” because no such beings have ever visited us. I think the entire discussion starts with “if such beings existed,” and then we extrapolate how that could be, and what they would be like if they indeed had that capability, from there.

        Just because we are trying to imagine what such beings would be like, what the universe would be like if such beings existed, etc, doesn’t mean such beings exist. But I also don’t think that just because we haven’t been visited means necessarily that they don’t. We are a very young species with a very high estimation of our own place (and intelligence) in the universe. I just see no justification for that whatsoever, and since that high self-estimation is what usually motivates the idea that SURELY an advanced intelligence would want to visit US…I would say THAT bias is also unjustified.

    5. 11.5

      I may have missed something in this discussion, but there seems to be a glaring omission from these posts. Everyone is arguing about the assumptions being made about the physis and limitations of such on the aliens. No one seems to have mentioned that aliens don’t have to have 70-80 year lifetimes. If they lived for hundreds or thousands of years, then why would they are if a few hundred are spent in a spaeship?

      For a housefly to waste a few months on something of little value would seem a huge amount of time to waste, yet the worlds seafaring traditions owe a lot to the fact that it’s not such a big deal to humans.

      That seems like a far more signifiant unsupported assumption to me.

      1. Sids

        Just noticed someone else made the same point a couple of posts later… feel free to ignore me :-)

  12. 12
    CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain

    Best mix of callers in a while.
    – Vacuous hypothesis believer / importance of weeding out falsehoods
    – Evaluating claims with degrees of certainty
    – Aliens
    – Atheist and Agnostic definitions
    – Importance of knowing what one believes
    – Token ranter
    – The theological integrity of liberal vs literal interpretations

  13. 13
    Dave Littler

    I just wanted to toss this out for consideration. While I agree with just about everything that you had to say about the likelihood of aliens going to all the trouble of coming to Earth, given the cost, time, resources, etc, I feel there’s one bad argument you made in there along with all the good ones.

    Taking it for granted that they’d never see their homes again and that everyone they’d know would be dead by the time they get home presumes a human-like lifespan, which doesn’t necessarily follow. In a species with a lifespan of many centuries, this need not necessarily be the case.

    I’m not saying I know or even believe that such a species exists. I’m just saying that assuming a human-like lifespan for any and all potential space travelers makes for a bad argument without a caveat to cover this.

    What a pedant I am.

    1. 13.1
      Martin Wagner

      A lifespan of centuries opens up a whole different can of worms. How big is the crew, and how much storage space will their ship require for several centuries of food and water? Even if they have an onboard farm to grow their own food, that’s still a lot of raw material.

      Of course, the next step on the reductio ad absurdam is “Well, what if they have a lifespan of several centuries and have evolved beyond the need to eat and drink?” And then you’re basically dealing with aliens who are just like God: because they exist in your imagination, you can just keep changing the rules to allow for their possibility.

      So yeah, still implausible.

      1. Dave Littler

        Again, just to be clear, I’m not arguing that such beings actually exist; I’m just entertaining a hypothetical here for the sake of discussion.

        Basically, I agree with you with respect to the vast expenditure of resources being a dealbreaker in terms of any but the most significant and singular of journeys between the stars even for a civilization capable of arranging one. I’m just saying that assuming that a human-like lifespan for any and all prospective crews makes for a bad argument in and of itself.

      2. Sids

        Or they just have a partiularly slow metabolism, or can subsist on the nutrients that could be found on meteors along the way, or have cryogenics, or they regrow themselves like the immortal jellyfish. Obviously they’d all be unlikely, but considering there’s no reason to think they’d be anything like us (if humans, bacteria and fern trees can have a common ancestor, a species that evolved independently would likely be different to at least a similar degree of magnitude), assumptions on biology seem far less reasonable than arguments on faster than light travel and worm holes.

    2. 13.2

      As long as we’re being pedantic, I’ll jump in also.

      I really think the argument against alien visitation in terms of the speed of light being insurmountable, etc, is sort of irrelevant. If they are that far advanced, those things won’t be a problem, and even if they *weren’t* a problem, I don’t see any kind of contact.

      The biggest problem as I see it is in assuming a self-replicating form (whether biological, or whatever technological extention there might be) of even minor “advancement” beyond our ability to manipulate our environment…would have any interest whatsoever in “visiting” us, or in any way wanting to interact with us.

      If evolution applies to the aliens too, and it would seem it would have to, then an intelligent species far beyond our capabilities of survival wouldn’t be remotely interested in interacting with us–they likely survived by avoiding just such “contacts” with species like us (they would let us be in exactly the same way a smart hiker would not taunt bears, play with snakes, or poke a bee hive with a stick–what would be the point?). We would have absolutely nothing in common, humans probably wouldn’t understand a damned thing they found interesting (or even the nature of their thinking), not to mention expending tons of effort to learn probably nothing (from us) and risk their own survival in the process. What would be the point?

      For these reasons, I think an “alien invasion” as well as a peaceful “alien contact” would be highly unlikely, even if such beings existed. I don’t even see them being “curious” about us, as they would probably know so much more about biology, physics, and anything else, than anything in existence on our planet could add to–including the complex interaction of everything in our ecosystem.

      In essence, our entire planet may be no more interesting to them than a pebble is to humanity as a whole.

      The kind of catch-22 is that if they were capable of easily traveling between the stars to visit us, that very same capability would make it very unlikely they would want to “visit” us. I can easily travel to the bottom of a local pond any time I want, but it would never occur to me to visit pond scum (nor would it occur to me to kill the pond scum–it can do whatever it wants because I just don’t care; it has nothing to do with me or my survival).

      1. Setár, Elvenkitty

        Thing is, this only really precludes formal visits or invasion forces. It doesn’t preclude, say, some alien troll buzzing us or shooting up the landscape because it’s funny.

        Being more technologically advanced, after all, doesn’t preclude the existence of trolls.

      2. jedimasteryoda

        I think their level of cureosity, assuming they’re crusing the galaxy for pleasure, would depend on how rare life, especially intelligent (if we could be so bold), happens to be. Pond scum would be more interesting generally if it were, well, less prevalent than pond scum…

        1. Sids

          True enough, if the Curiosity lander is successful, it will be discovering something about as advanced as pond scum (or less so). It’s deviation from the norm (even just in terms of the proximity of its habitat) is what would make it remarkable.

      3. Dave Littler

        I don’t buy this one.

        Let’s say we developed the means to travel the stars. Whatever the various obstacles are, we’ve sorted out ways to overcome them in this scenario (as would-be alien visitors would need to in the event that they were to visit us).

        Now let’s say that we discovered, in all that vast blackness of space, a single planet with a thriving native population of sentient creatures. Even if they were greatly less advanced than us, can you honestly say that there wouldn’t be those who would be desperately eager to go and have a look, first-hand? Even if only for the sake of scientific curiosity and discovery (which I think we can agree would be prerequisite traits for having overcome the obstacles of space travel)?

        I just think that any species capable of moving from star to star would by definition be too curious not to want to come and have a look if they found another populated world.

        1. Martin Wagner

          I agree that if we discovered alien life, it would be the most profound discovery ever. Remember, we just spent $2 billion sending a robot to Mars to look for traces of microbes, so yes, the argument that pond life just isn’t interesting isn’t true. And I see no reason why an alien race with the kind of scientific curiosity to go into space in the first place wouldn’t feel the same way.

          But an interstellar voyage to contact that life wouldn’t be thrown together half-assed. Assuming such hypothetical aliens thought like us, you’d think the first things they’d send our way would be — you guessed it — robot probes. So where are the remains of alien robot probes?

          1. marko

            Oh Martin, justifying the late post by using Curiosity as an excuse. Just as xkcd predicted. (-;

            Btw, great show, I enjoyed it as always.

        2. jacobfromlost


          Actually it does preclude joyriding trolls, as any species that would have survived to that level of sophistication would not expend such energy risking its own life/survival. Things that survive over time don’t go out of their way to do dangerous, boneheaded things that expend a lot of energy in the process, and things that would survive long enough to manipulate their environment to that sophistication (traveling between the stars) could not have gotten that far with a destructive streak in their behavior patterns. It would have been selected out long ago.


          You: I think their level of cureosity, assuming they’re crusing the galaxy for pleasure,

          Me: I’m not assuming they are cruising the galaxy/universe for pleasure. I’m assuming they’ve evolved to simply exist as a self-replicating form capable of such–it would just be what they are (like we are bipeds). This might not even be a bad assumption in that their “homeworld” as such may not exist anymore, as many such worlds have existed in solar systems where suns have burned out. If they survived to have the capability of stellar travel, they would have first needed to survive to that state before their sun winked out.

          You: would depend on how rare life, especially intelligent (if we could be so bold), happens to be. Pond scum would be more interesting generally if it were, well, less prevalent than pond scum…

          Me: Maybe, maybe not. What if you had the knowledge of how such a thing as pond scum could arise in every which way it could possibly be known, even if it were exceedingly rare? What if you were a member of a species that had a unified theory of everything for, say, 3 billion years? You not only would know about pond scum, even if it were rare, but you would know that you already know everything there ever was, is, or could be to know about it. Do you go out of your way to “visit” it then?


          You are assuming this advanced race never found any other life.

          I’m assuming if they are an advanced race, they’ve not only found other life, but can easily engineer it (and themselves) to the limits of their capabilities (which, if they had a unified theory, may be to the limits of possibility). Earth would be no more interesting to them than a grain of sand would be to all of humanity, which is why we don’t have college courses discussing a particular grain of sand on a particular beach.


          You: so yes, the argument that pond life just isn’t interesting isn’t true.

          Me: Sure, because my analogy had to include humans to make any sense at all. But I wouldn’t see a replicating form capable of interstellar travel as roughly human, certainly not in the area of knowledge.

          You: And I see no reason why an alien race with the kind of scientific curiosity to go into space in the first place wouldn’t feel the same way.

          Me: I’m not assuming we happen to be lucky enough to get a visit from a space-faring race that just left home 100 years ago or 1000 years ago or a few hundred thousand years ago, or a few million years ago. In that case you may be right, but that seems extremely unlikely. I’m thinking about the age of the entire universe, and if spacefaring races exist right *now*, then they’ve likely existed for a very, very long time. Perhaps billions of years. Such a race would not find us interesting at all.

          You: But an interstellar voyage to contact that life wouldn’t be thrown together half-assed. Assuming such hypothetical aliens thought like us, you’d think the first things they’d send our way would be — you guessed it — robot probes. So where are the remains of alien robot probes?

          Me: I wouldn’t think the math would be very probable that another species with an intelligence just slightly better than ours would detect life on our planet and send a robot probe–ie, the chances of our two evolutions occurring “just so” seems highly unlikely, especially given the age of the universe in comparison to the age of mankind.

          I’m thinking if there were intelligences somewhat similar to ours several billion years ago, and they didn’t kill themselves off due to that similarity, by the time they understood enough about the universe around us to easily be traveling among the stars for hundreds of millions, or billions, of years… then I don’t think earth provides anything that special or interesting in terms of learning potential, and going out of your way to investigate anyway would be dangerous and expend too much energy on something with no survival benefit whatsoever. I think, even in terms of life, we are very likely very ordinary, especially to any living civilization/hive/group/whatever-it-would-be that had survived unimaginably longer than our puny few hundred thousand years.

  14. 14

    Great AXP this week, but what about comment threads for GP and THP? GP 2.18 was probably one of the best ever: “I just want to throw up on the person”, Best… Tracie… Quote… Ever!!! And Jamila brings the info hammer on what the American Taliban is doing to spread their revolting idiocy. I feel a bit better about DC knowing Jamila is keeping an eye on things there.

    1. 14.1
      CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain

      I rather liked her coining of “Tracietopia”, the awful place where everyone shares all her opinions. I can’t help but imagine her first totalitarian decree would be “You’re all individuals

  15. 15
    Indiana Jones

    On the aliens thing, the only good sci fi that I have found about it is by Steven Baxter. His sci fi is very hard nosed about what is or is not possible, not breaking light is one of those things. He still manages to have interstellar wars and stuff, but they take a LONG time. He talks about stars being the bright flash that announced the birth of the universe for instance.

    Though fictional, that sort of thinking can also eviscerate any “But it will take forever for them to get here” type considerations. Although maybe not yet, we’re still only at the very very near start of things according to him…..

    1. 15.1

      Baxter’s stuff is loads of fun. I actually hope he’s one of the authors attempting to use “manipulation of the Higgs Field” as a method of decreasing mass to reach crazy-fast velocities.

      I’ll shut up now. I’m only 21 minutes into the podcast so my opinions on the matter don’t count yet.


  16. 16

    Ustream says it’s episode 773.

  17. 17

    The Templeton Foundation is giving $5 million to fund research into life after death? Can’t wait to see the results.

    1. 17.1

      Probably something along the lines of “our study has concluded that no evidence exists to demonstrate that there is not life-after-death. Therefore there is.”

  18. 18
    John Kruger

    Why call in to the show and start railing at max volume? Sounds like a good way to get cut off.

    A scientific theory is an idea about how things behave in the world. The word “theory” says nothing about how much evidence is backing it. It is perfectly fine to use the word “theory” when talking about string theory and the theory of evolution. The difference is that evolution is a theory and a fact, since it has mountains of evidence to support it. The creationist lie is mostly in the “just a theory” part. String theory is indeed un-testable in any practical way so far, but it does provide for some useful ways of thinking about other physical laws that are helpful. It is far more accurate, although not entirely, to say the string theory is “just a theory”.

    There is no ambiguity in the scientific use of the word “theory”, there is nothing to apologize for.

  19. 19

    Moderate all you want.

    People have this idea that their free speech rights allow them to smear graffiti all over someone else’s website.

    You have the right to delete irrelevant or stupid or annoying or any other kind of posts from YOUR website. If I don’t like that I can make my own page and say whatever I want there.

    Anyone who doesn’t understand that has something wrong with them. Unfortunately there are a lot of people with something seriously wrong with them who have internet access.

    1. 19.1

      As Matt has said in the past, it’s a bit like the people that are beating you over the head with a stick, and once you take the stick away they claim you’re oppressing them.

  20. 20

    “I hope there’s a god so I believe there’s a god.”

    “I wish I had lots of money so I believe I have lots of money.”
    Anyone With a Shiny New Credit Card

    I’m seeing some comparative reasoning potential there. “Bankruptcy” comes to mind as one of the possible go-to points.

    Yeah. My kids will have to pay for all the generations of people who thought that their gods would provide an endless bounty of resources. Ffft.

  21. 21

    Somewhat off topic, but I find it somewhat interesting that U-stream posts ads for “Master your psychic powers”, “Tap into your chakras” and “Speak to angels” on the same page as this show.

    1. 21.1
      Martin Wagner

      We’re happy for them to waste their money.

  22. 22

    on the archive page it says Martin and Matt are hosts, but then the description says “RUSSELL and Matt take viewer calls”. I’m scared and confused, and only a little excited.

  23. 23

    I half expected the Definitions of Theory caller to follow up with, “… and hey! What’s the deal with airline peanuts? Am I right?”

    1. 23.1

      Just a question, but when you have to redefine words that already have a definition, doesn’t that kind of show how weak an argument really is? I do understand why science has definitions (as I am one myself), but for people that argue for theism that have to redefine words just sends up a flag for me.

      1. Kaj

        It reminds me of theists that claim the only meaning of Atheism is a “vehement denial of the existence of god”, and when you try to correct them they claim you are making up some other version of it.


        1. Dark_Monkey_316

          I actually had this come up in a discussion with some one last week. He claimed that agnostic is the middle ground of atheist and theist by using the line “Again, different places, different usages/definitions.” (as I quoted the definition from the FAQ from the AE. He sent me to the skeptics dictionary, and pulled out one line from a seven paragraph article. Once I pointed this out to him, I never heard from him again.

          Sad really.

      2. LykeX

        The biggest problem is that often when people “redefine” a word, they don’t really give a new definition. Rather, they add a definition. They want the word to keep the original definition but also get another one. Then they proceed to switch between the two definitions at will, depending on what will serve their argument.

        An example of this is when William Lane Craig defines “good” as “whatever god does” in order to justify his statement that “god is good”. When he does this he isn’t substituting his new definition because he keeps the old one handy.
        As soon as he gets you to agree that, by the new definition, god is good (a tautology at that point), he then switches back and says that god is, by the conventional definition, good.

        Scumbags like WLC do this intentionally, but I think a lot of the rank and file do it because they’ve never learned to think in a structured, disciplined manner. They confuse themselves with the word games and think they’ve come up with a great argument. It’s incredibly frustrating to try to make them see their error.

        Redefining terms is not in itself a problem, but if you do it,you have a responsibility to:
        1) Clearly explain the new definition at the beginning. Don’t just use the term and expect people to read your mind.
        2) Stick to the definition and not reintroduce the old definition later.
        3) Have some reason for why you’re doing it in the first place. It opens up a lot of room for confusion, so don’t do it just ‘cos.

        Of course, there’s little chance that the people who really need to read this actually will.

        1. Dark_Monkey_316

          I actually really agree with you, but I guess I was looking for a little affirmation (am I using that word right?). I agree that theists will do what you said (keeping and old definition and adding one, then switching between the two), but isn’t it when you have to add or alter a definition weaken the argument. Like you used the word good, does that not have a pretty solid definition?

          I bring this up cause I think this could be a good tool for arguing. Saying you have to redefine or add a definition to a word can cause a fallacy (like with good is god and creates a circular argument). Plus does that make me close-minded if I reject a redefinition of a word that already has a solid definition like good does? I mean it’s not like the word God or term Good Christian where they can define it because it has a loose definition.

          1. LykeX

            does that make me close-minded if I reject a redefinition of a word that already has a solid definition

            I don’t know if you should reject it outright, but it’s certainly valid to be suspicious when people do that.

            I think it’s fair to redefine terms, if there’s a reason for it. If they’re doing it just for the hell of it, I’d say it’s legitimate to ask them to stick to standard definition. Anytime you redefine words, you open up for misunderstandings, so you shouldn’t do it unless you gain something in return.

            There’s probably some wiggle room for personal preference, too.

  24. 24

    Man, that Irish lady really needs to lurk moar. And read some Carl Sagan.

  25. 25

    Thanks for mentioning Firefly in the show. It made me discovering it and I have watched all the serie and the Film the last days. It is (was) awesome! Many nice hits against religious dogmas. Not surprising that Fox did everything to stop “their mistake” by canceling some episodes and the contract for the 2nd year even if the critic was excellent.

  26. 26

    Re: the guy ranting about “theory”

    Oh, so THAT’S what it sounds like when someone speaks in all caps.

  27. 27

    Feinstein has just gone full-bore circular. Awesome. Now, to get him to say some patently hilarious things. That’s always the fun part after circular reasoning rears its head, as by that point to circular reasoner has given up on any semblance of rational thought.

    1. 27.1

      Just read Feinstein’s latest response – pretty pathetic. His mangled understanding of the science of cosmology and evolution, his reliance on philosophical obfuscation and question-begging, and his petulant chest-beating about “winning” the debate are simply nauseating.

      Is there a parallel thread for the Glasser-Feinstein debate for comments? This guy’s argument’s are too flawed to go unanswered.

      1. Martin Wagner

        I think once it’s concluded Russell will open the floor. You could post to Russell’s own Facebook page, but assuming you want Feinstein to read what you have to say, that may not be worth your while.

      2. Russell Glasser

        Martin’s right… there’s two posts to go and then I’ll have a great big open thread. You can friend me on Facebook and start some discussion on my wall, if you wish.

        1. Michael B

          I’m wondering if the pastor will have a uncensored message board open once the debate is closed (my apologies if this has been noted).

  28. 28

    What’s the source of the various restrictions on what you can say or display on the show? Seems to be a new wrinkle each week.

    1. 28.1
      Martin Wagner

      Because cable access is by its nature non-advertising-supported, anything that could be construed as an ad, including discussing your “sponsors,” is strictly verboten. But we used to be able, at the very least, to talk about the ACA as long as we didn’t solicit donations and such. The only real serious restriction was that shows could not do a “call to action” (buy this book!). They’ve gotten even stricter recently, and not being one of the producers, I don’t exactly know why.

  29. 29

    Hey guys, I’m a fan of the show from Vancouver BC.

    I’ve noticed people commenting in the past several weeks about how cranky Matt has seemed (I think Matt has even addressed this himself). I think a lot of this has to do with your crappy phone system, and I think many of the calls would be a lot less frustrating if you could fix the phone issues.

    As you know, when a caller is talking they aren’t able to hear the hosts interject. This leads to a frustrating type of exchange, which happens several times in each episode: A caller says something that needs correction and clarification, so the host tries to respond to it, but the caller can’t hear the host and they just keep talking. This is usually the point where Matt starts yelling the caller’s name repeatedly until a.) they finally finish talking, or b.) Matt puts them on hold. If Matt isn’t already in crankytown, this type of thing will almost always get him there.

    Hopefully the studio can fix this issue because I personally think it takes away from the show’s quality. Matt’s fury is a wonderful and terrible thing to behold. I just wish it could be saved for the moments when it’s truly needed, not for moments of frustrating cross-talk caused by the phone system.

    1. 29.1

      I don’t think they have any control over the phone system. It’s the public access studio’s system (which also doesn’t have caller ID).

      I would prefer they leave public access altogether and broadcast over the net from their building. That way they could have a longer show, allow longer discussions with some callers instead of rushing in hopes of getting more than a couple callers on the entire show, have no restrictions on announcements, have better phone lines, have caller ID, perhaps (?) have access to Skype, perhaps (?) even have guests via google hangout, have no restrictions on the “5th Sunday”, have no restrictions to shows only being on Sundays, among many other things. Matt has hinted on several occasions that he wants something like this to happen.

      My sense is that there may be some disagreement among ACA members on whether or not to do this, or perhaps it is just about the timing of a decision and not wanting to announce anything prematurely.

  30. 30
    Tomasz R.

    When it comes to research on life after death then bloody dictators are in the best position to do it. They kill their opponents anyway, so finding subjects for experiments is no problem. Just surrounding execution room (walls, ceiling floor) with some detectors should be easy. Perhaps this type of experiment is what Templeton foundation wanted.

  31. 31

    Theory: well in Humanities it means an articulate point of vue on something based on observation and reasoning. It doesn’t claim to possess the absolute truth, so we have different theories on the same subject, all different in seeking the truth. We have semantic theories, psychoanalysis theories, semiotic theories, etc So I can understand that some people said “It is just a theory”.

    Agnostic: hmmm it is kind of a modern definition to oppose it to gnostic instead of a middle point between theists and atheists. I think it was Huxley at the end of the 19th century who started it, but it became a conventional norm only in the end of the 20th century that dichotomy agnostic/gnostic. As you are all probably know the gnostics were kind of mystics at the time of Paul. They were (it seems) theists without a religion or kind of deists. As for agnostics, they were (and maybe still are) people who believe that we cannot speculate about a first cause or the nature of things because we cannot know. So it is (or was) a believe system. We could say they are (were) extremist skeptics. But I understand the new modern schema agnostic/gnostic. I wonder why Matt thinks the “new” agnostics are kind of scared atheists in closet, I am pretty sure they are plenty of “new” agnostics that are new age believers in a fuzzy intelligent force. But maybe it is “just my theory”.

    Nietzsche (atheist) said about the “old” agnostics, that they were venerating a big question mark. -Genealogie der Morale

  32. 32

    Hey all;
    I was in a discussion regarding a disproved pseudo-science (and why we don’t take it seriously), and I posted the following reply:

    “If you cannot detect, demonstrate, or otherwise infer the existence of something as being a part of reality, it is indistinguishable from something that does not exist.
    Therefore, you are unjustified in believing it to be true.

    If it cannot provide a falsifiable or testable hypothesis, it is meaningless conjecture.

    So, while I’m open to discuss possible hypothesis, I am also willing to dismiss without evidence that which is asserted without evidence.”

    I just wanted to see what you folks thought.

  33. 33

    That is insane. One of the biggest problems with religious people is they always post video’s and disable the comments so that no one can dispute anything they say. Jen should not have taken over the YouTube fan channel if she didn’t have the time and patience that it requires manage a channel. Either you are doing it simply to divert more traffic to this blog or you don’t know what you are doing. Good luck either way, but I believe a lot of people will not watch the video’s if they have to skip around all over the net just to post a comment.

    1. 33.1
      Lord Narf

      Wait, you’re seriously saying that you only watch videos that you can comment on?

      Besides, people can comment on this blog just as easily as on YouTube. The AETV people will allow every Christian to post, who isn’t a flaming, “You’re going to Hell, and God will exact punishment upon you!” type. I’m sure that anyone who can at least frame their threats of hell into Pascal’s Wager will be left for the rest of us to rip apart.

  34. 34
    Sceptical Sceptic

    19:05 Matt finishes a statement.
    19:06 Caller starts his response
    19:08 Matt interrupts him
    19:09 Matt starts stuttering “I’m not…”
    19:15 Annoyed that the caller does not yield, Matt puts him on hold.

    I don’t think that Matt sounded particularly angry at that time, but notice that he does not even contest that. He should know by now that his style is rarely described as “mellow”. Look at the telephone argument: He complains that people do not notice that he is rudely interrupting them. WTF?

    In any case, his whiny tamtrum is just embarassing.

    (Why is this important? It’s not, but I’m frustrated that someone as eloquent and thoughtful as Matt has these bouts of whiny bullying. It weakens his case.)

    1. 34.1
      Sceptical Sceptic

      BTW, the video was posted on Youtube two days ago, that’s why I comment on something from last year.

    2. 34.2
      Lord Narf

      Certainly, Matt has admitted, many times, that he’s been compared to Bill O’Reilly on PCP.

      Was that during the period after he had dislocated his shoulder, white-water rafting or something like that? There was a month or so, something like a year ago, during which Matt was particularly bitchy, because he was in a lot of pain. I don’t recall if this was one of those episodes.

      1. Sceptical Sceptic

        > Was that during the period after he had dislocated his shoulder

        First I heard about that.

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