Open Thread – AE 776


Open thread for tonight’s show in which we talked about Hamid’s misunderstanding of the burden of proof, evolution, arguments from ignorance, and more.

I have a house full of sick cats to take care of, so you guys have fun.

Comments

  1. says

    Do you believe Hercules is real?

    No? Why not? Was “no” the default answer?

    Do you think Leprechauns exist?

    “I don’t know, but I see no evidence that they exist outside of stories and folklore,” might be an acceptable answer.

    Matt and Jen did a great job; the long caller seemed difficult (and not in a ‘maybe he’s right sort of way’.) Some people want to try and back you into a corner and then claim the bible is a road map to the answer. Blah.

  2. Stan says

    Hamid has no appreciation for the concept of the burden of proof nor any understanding of the null hypothesis. Is this the kind of apologist to whom we are not meant to feel superior?

    What a tool.

  3. Jason B says

    Im sure Hamid’s call was frustrating to deal with but I sure needd that laugh tonight. Happy I found this podcast. Keep up the great work.

  4. says

    Hamid’s problem is not so much religion, its his utter failure in critical analysis. That is, in my opinion, a far more troubling issue facing this country than inappropriate religious dogma. Its the lack of sound reasoning that leads to dangerous ideology. If the atheist movement only were to simply raise the standard for evaluation of evidence and spark some measure of intellectual curiosity among the masses then that is sufficient. I think Matt is a perfect example of how genuine analysis can set everything else on the right track. Or should I say left track?

  5. Ryan says

    Really good episode, you covered the burden of proof nicely.

    As a pedant I have to point out that he was slightly right when he said that the odds of a ‘starting cell’ popping into existence being extremely low/nigh-impossible.

    Of course the ‘starting cell’ was a red herring; no-one seriously believes that a DNA & ribosome-laden just popped into existence. The details of abiogenesis aren’t really known, but there are a few reasonable hypotheses with very little evidence.

    A plausible hypothesis with little evidence is better than a ‘God’ hypothesis with no evidence, especially since we know some ‘biogenesis’ event must have happened.

  6. K.B. says

    I think people like Hamid would understand the burden of proof better if you replaced the word God with a nonsensical word like shlunk(or whatever) (i.e. Do you believe in shlunks?). Because maybe then they would realize that in order to believe (in) something you first need to know what that something is and why would you believe in it(burden of proof). You can’t believe in shlunks if you haven’t even heard of them before(null hypothesis).

  7. Peter Horsepucky says

    The last call was a good example of how complicated one’s worldview can become when you throw away its logic and consistency. If I had such a confused understanding of so many subjects, and wasn’t willing to admit I didn’t understand, I’d probably be a theist too.

  8. soul_biscuit says

    Regarding the “haha you just pointed at your chest therefore you’re more than your mind” claptrap:

    The place you point to indicate self is largely cultural. For example, when I lived in Japan I noticed that people tended to point to their noses. Do Japanese people keep their souls in their noses?

  9. Muz says

    Burden of Proof guy started kind of interesting and didn’t sound like he was just parroting some famous apologist or other. But then you get down to brass tacks and he’s winning creationist bingo all over the place. We use probability to determine if some death is a homicide? Yikes.

    Anyway, Potholer54(who I think should be recommended above Talk Origins as first port of call for anti creationist and evidence for evolution information) has a groovy video on Ring Species as a further debunking of the whole dog thing.
    They’re species that appear to have split off on either side of a mountain range or something and met again at the other end. They can interbreed along their specific geographical ‘branches’ just fine, and like dogs and cats, appear to be essentially the same animal with some superficial differences. But take the species at the very ends of the branches and you find that they can’t interbreed any more.
    They illustrate the small, steady splitting of species nicely.

    Also the caller talks about no new organs from evolution: There was that lizard species they discovered that was isolated on some Greek island for 25yrs. I forget exactly what happened, but in that time they had evolved themselves a two chambered stomach that enabled them to digest a wider variety of foods better. Or something like that. That’s a good ‘in our lifetime’ one.

  10. John Kruger says

    Don’t be shy with that hold button. Use it for only a couple seconds if you need to break in. I think Matt was starting to do this, but there were a few times I thought he was getting frustrated because the caller kept going on and on when he was trying to interject. Hopefully the hold button can be a good work around for that particular shortcoming of the phone system. My apologies if this has already been attempted.

    Good show all and all. It is depressing when someone gets such a careful explanation of the burden of proof and it obviously goes whizzing right over their head. I personally like to attack the unverifiable nature of Design Theory and how design is identified by simplicity and not complexity, but with so much wrongness to go around it is hard to address it all.

  11. says

    someone gets such a careful explanation of the burden of proof and it obviously goes whizzing right over their head

    I don’t think it was as much that he didn’t understand as much as he didn’t like the answer, and was grasping at straws to find any way he could to get the atheist position having some burden, because he thinks it’s unfair, or something.

  12. chepookadook says

    I love you guys, but I think TAE needs new hosts. You’ve been doing this for too long and have seemingly heard all of the arguments before, so you jump into conclusions way too soon about the point the callers are trying to make. They move their first pawn and you think you can see their whole game. And listen, you may well be 100% right, but this doesn’t make for interesting calls. Sadly, lately, they’ve all been really clunky and unnecessarily confrontational or dismissive. The worst part is you’re not even responding to the callers anymore. You’re just repeating standard, rigid answers to what you think will be their standard arguments. I think some fresh brain meat would be good for the show.

  13. MarkB says

    It doesn’t help that the caller can’t hear the hosts when he’s talking. Maybe they should start using “over” like old-time radio…

    “How do you explain something coming from nothing? Over.”

    “That’s an argument from ignorance. Over.”

    “Not it’s not, you have to explain that or there’s a god! Over.”

    “No no no no you’re done! Over and out.”

  14. says

    So you admit the callers are idiots who are trotting out the same long-refuted twaddle over and over…and yet you think we’re the ones with the problem.

  15. Curt Cameron says

    When the first guy was trying to make some “spiritual” demonstration by showing that when you point to yourself, you usually point to your chest, I was wanting to jump in and note that that’s just a convention in our society. When I went to Japan, I learned that people there point to their nose instead of their chest.

    I could not figure out what point he was trying to make with this little exercise.

  16. Tomasz R. says

    You really need to ask for numbers and equations when callers start taking about probabilities or any other mathematical concepts. Eg. “Probability is low” means nothing without a numerical value given. An information what this number refers to – eg. if it is about this type of life (carbon, DNA/RNA based) originating on this planet or any form of life (how to enumerate possible form?)in the entire univers?

  17. Hayden says

    I think there are better examples to show that rejection of proposition P is not the same as acceptance of proposition Not P.

    The example given of guilty versus not guilty is a good example of a place where we apply this in practice, but I don’t think it is a particularly illuminating example. I think a better example is a coin flip where the outcome remains hidden. If I flip a coin, shut the coin in a book without looking, then assert that the coin landed heads, there should be a couple things that are immediately clear. My assertion of heads is unfounded, and you can reasonably reject my assertion. It should also be clear that your rejection of my assertion of heads does not mean you automatically assert that it is tails.

    There’s also an easy answer if someone tries to make an issue out of a coin being a 50/50 event. This thought experiment is about the flip of a coin, not the flip of a fair coin. The probability of heads versus tails is unknown. The only thing that is known is that the only two possible outcomes are heads or tails.

  18. Hayden says

    I would bet he was going to go somewhere in the direction of “knowing with your heart, not your brain.”

  19. Tomasz R. says

    But it’s the religion that is one of the most popular sources of non-critical thingking. In religion you are supposed to accept whatever the religious authority tells you, no matter if it’s compatible with the reality or internally coherent. You are not supposed to analyze, but just repeat what religion tells you.

  20. John Kruger says

    Perhaps, but he got a detailed explanation of why that does not work and attempted it over and over again in different examples. Am I too generous(?) with my assumption of his ignorance? If this was a test on burden of proof I would have to fail him. If he was being deliberately obtuse I am not sure what he thinks he could be gaining by deliberately ignoring what the actual concept really is. He comes off worse if he actually understands the problem and keeps on repeating it expecting to get different results.

    I am inclined to choose the lesser of two stupids, but who can know for certain?

  21. John Kruger says

    Yes, he was also abusing probability. A low probability usually means a high number of unknowns, leading to a math expression that essentially means the outcome is hard to predict. Low probability means you cannot reasonably guess the outcome with the current inputs, not that a particular result is approaching impossible.

    I find that if someone cannot provide a sample size for the probabilities or percentages they are spouting, or even a particular study that would have a sample size, they are just talking out their ass to sound more sophisticated than they really are. Matt correctly nailed him on that.

  22. says

    Yeah, we need more Sophisticated Theology™!

    I wouldn’t say the answers are rigid. They’re honed. The callers may stumble upon themselves to make the claim in slightly different ways, but they all ultimately end up in same dozen or so categories.

    I see it as fun – see who can guess the fallacy first. I think it’s also necessary. It puts the caller in the position of realizing that their ideas aren’t new and their ideas aren’t so great. It’s just part of the process.

    To cast aside people who know what they’re talking about and who can dissect and argument efficiently every time you think they’re getting stale is a bit silly.

  23. Tomasz R. says

    Is there a culture that points at their sexual organs when asked to point at themselves?

  24. mond says

    His use of the term probability was equivocation and argument from ignorance combined.

    It seemed to me that his use of the term probability was just shorthand for “It just seems really really really unlikely that it could happen without a god; therefore god did it.”.

    Probability instead of being a specific mathematical discipline becomes “How likely I personally think something is to be true.”

    Its use in this case ranks along side with “It’s only a theory”.

  25. Kimpatsu says

    The first caller was a right laugh to me. Doesn’t he know that in Asia, people point to their nose, not their chest, when describing themselves. Watch Jackie Chan do it when he is mistakenly called a gangster in his circa 1985 movie, Dragons Forever. The idea that you point to your chest because that’s where the “real” you ‘i.e., the soul) resides is nonsense. It’s yet another example of parochialism. Kristan from Fort Worth needs to spend some time outside the USA.

  26. mike says

    Ya I have to reluctantly agree with “chepookadook” here, not that TAE needs new hosts, but the hosts are no longer answering each question or point slowly, they ar jumping right to the end.

    I had planned on posting this morn on how Matt&Jen really dropped the ball on the last caller, but I ran outa time, had to work, and now I come back and see 27 comments all in support! I’m shocked, as that last call was painful to listen to. If I did not already know the burden of proof argument using the courtroom guilty, not-guilty, there was no way I would understand what Matt was saying. It doesn’t help that Matt is so quick to lose his cool, he called the guy an “idiot” at one point and during the evolution debate Jen blurted out “where’s your Nobel Prize?” I don’t blame the hosts for being frustrated, answering the same arguments weekly but you still have to explain stuff from scratch to each new caller.

    I hope I don’t get a negative comment from Martin or anyone else as it pains me to write this- I love the show & love all the hosts- but I gotta call it as I see it.

  27. chepookadook says

    Of course I wouldn’t want to cast aside any of them, just listen to fresh atheist perspectives and new ways of putting things. Otherwise, there’s no need for a show anymore. Callers could just be referred to the FAQ page.

    I’ve recently seen some old clips of TAE with Linda Raymond as a guest host and I really liked the cool and collected way in which she socratically led the discussions. Tracie does that brilliantly as well, but lately, even she seems tired of the whole thing. (As is Martin, obviously, judging from his knee-jerk reaction up there.) Why not get people who are *not* fed-up and tired of the same old arguments?

  28. says

    Because they are good at what they do and many of these people aren’t going to bother with a FAQ page (else they wouldn’t have called the show in the first place). They want a discussion.

    If the hosts want to stop, they can any time. You’re suggesting that they should step aside because they you think they’re burnt out. Let them decide that.

  29. says

    I don’t blame the hosts for being frustrated, answering the same arguments weekly but you still have to explain stuff from scratch to each new caller.

    You also seem to be ignoring the obtuseness of the caller within the call. The guilty/not-guilty example was explained several times (which you also seem to ignore), and one doesn’t need to know it beforehand.

    The hostility starts when the caller is being dense, even after multiple attempts at explaining something.

    For instance, at the point that Matt called him an idiot, he’d already earned the title several times over.

    You’re off base here.

  30. says

    I think Hamid was trying to make the point that if you reject the proposition that God exists then you also reject the proposition that God is the only explanation for the existence of the universe, or at least this particular universe. (Presuming the universe itself exists, but only trolls really put up a fight about this point.) However, he was trying to frame this as taking a position that it’s possible for the universe to exist without God, rather than you don’t know that it’s impossible. A lot of claims that may seem superficially similar actually aren’t and the differences can be important. This is what he was missing.

  31. Curt Cameron says

    I’ll also agree to an extent with chepookadook, if that is his real name. Not that we need new hosts, but the hosts should give the callers more rope to hang themselves with.

    I would enjoy a call more if the host were to take a Socratic kind of approach, asking questions that would back the caller into his own self-created corner. Like watching a cat play with its prey, instead of just pouncing on it and eating it.

    I’m sure it’s easier for me to say here than to do in front of the mics, but I’d suggest asking lots of questions, digging for the absurdity in the caller’s way of thinking.

  32. zero says

    The theist caller at around 30:00 mark that could not understand the burden of proof concept and the difference between a belief and lack of belief had me ready to throw my laptop out the window and then cry. I guess I can’t blame him. I didn’t learn these things in public high school or public university despite graduating with a degree in a natural science. We are not taught how to think, usually, until we make that a priority and also begin to teach ourselves. Before that point, most people are running on intuition. Thanks for the awesome show.

  33. zero says

    I’d say that they need better callers with better arguments, but, at the base of it, what William Lane Craig does is only a slightly better worded and buttressed version of what theists hear from the preacher on Sunday. So, I don’t think it is possible. Perhaps the theist callers could be a bit more entertaining with their BS.

  34. DanTheMilkMan says

    I think that first caller was probably trying to repeat something he saw on a religious show and found it clever. But he couldn’t quite remember how it went.

    The second guy was just a douche, experienced hosts or new blood hosts, doesn’t matter, he was going to pretend not to get it no matter what.

  35. Jay says

    As a true crime fantastic I am aware that aspects of CSI are exaggerated, they make it look so easy to catch criminals. They take some DNA and just a few hours later they get a hit when in reality it can take a year or even more but I am still glad you scoffed “havent you seen CSI?” I would simply mocked him and said “If I was put on trial and was totally innocent. I hope you arent one of the jury because I’d be convicted” I often ask those pesky “America’s laws are based off the ten commandments” christians “What cave did you come out of!” I mean it flabbergast me that someone can actually claim that, so I assume they are being dishonest, instantly.
    Then when that man in Florida beat his wife because he thought his wife was cheating on him with Romney asking “WHO IS THAT MAN?!” and even after his wife told him who he was, he still punched her and found out from the police she wasnt lying….that is when I started having doubts. Maybe they arent all just total dishonest? I bring this up because I am skeptical if I should feel the same way about this Hamid caller not knowing how we DETECT murders, suicides, natural deaths, accidental deaths, etc. Let’s say you found a dead body in water…my immediately assumption ISNT “he was murdered” I would have tons of hypotheses. You have to have SIGNS of murder to actually assume it was murder before all the facts such as signs of struggle. Even if the body had stab wounds that wouldnt tell me it was murder unless of course it was in positions that couldnt possible be made such as the victim’s back and of course there is the autopsy. Even in a case of a clear suicide you have coroners exampling the body for any signs of fowl play along with forensics. Like science and history the conclusion is based on multiple different amounts of evidence from multiple different sources.
    It just stuns me that Hamid would say something that is just so blatantly wrong. But then again, he is a creationist who doesn’t understand basic concepts like burden of proof or probability.

  36. Peter Horsepucky says

    This is a good point. “Low probability” by itself is not much of an issue in a universe of 60,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars.

    But I wouldn’t bother with the figures because it simply doesn’t matter that much. Matt brought this up. It’s not enough to show an event is extremely unlikely, you have to show that it is exceeding its expected result over a sample set. For the issue of life arising in the universe, we only have one sample: the universe. Regardless of the odds, you can’t spot a trend from a single sample.

    The most that the numerical chances could tell us is that we are either extremely lucky to be here or we aren’t. Combine that with the fact that calculating the chances to any degree of accuracy is impossible and you have a dead end argument.

  37. NH says

    While occasionally the hosts get hasty with the callers, I didn’t see any of that hear, with one exception: When they told the caller that he didn’t need to explain micro vs macro evolution. I think it might have been interesting to see how he tries to explain it, and it might have made him actually think about it and made it easier to expose to him how it’s flawed. However, I don’t blame the hosts for being frustrated with the caller by that point.

  38. troopdawg says

    I love the hosts and would not want new ones unless somebody in the current rotation decided to leave for their own reasons. They do a great job even if Matt gets a little testy. While watching the episode, I can understand the frustration with somebody like Matt when the caller continuously says his point/opinion on something that there is not an opinion to be allowed. The science community must have rigid rules for truth finding or it becomes to easy to insert ignorance for results and data. When the first caller wanted to try an experiment and really thought it would be that easy is a great example at how amature the callers are, even with well thought out and practiced arguments..

    The one thing this show has taught me is you don’t have to 100% believe a god doesn’t exist, but can just say i don’t know. With those discussions along with Matt’s morality lectures(and lots of other shows), my own world view and thoughts made a lot of sense and I finally found my identity in that regards.

    Matt tried to explain this to the long caller but that dude still thinks atheists are absolute that theists are wrong.

    Sometimes, Matt could Tai Chi the situation a little more, but I get hot headed the same way when somebody gets offensive with ignorance.

    Love the show. Also Martin Wagner’s style of writing because it sounds EXACTLY like he talks. lulz

  39. Tomasz R. says

    If you introduce concepts of powerful magical entities like gods, then anything is possible and logical deductions don’t apply. So even if the universe looked like being created by gods, then it might just mean they planted forged evidence for this, that is so well-made that humans or computers can’t recognize it as false.

  40. theBuachaill says

    Agree with some of the comments above. My main interest in watching the Atheist Experience each week is to hone my own knowledge and debating skills. I find all of the hosts are very well informed and knowledgeable on many topics and different disciplines, and this is a great source of relevant information for other atheists. Just as valuable, and for me most entertaining, is to view the dialectic approach and the correct use of logic being applied effectively and considerately to counter misunderstandings, false arguments and total ignorance. I think most people enjoy Matts shows in particular for this point.
    I too though have been frustrated by the obvious frustrations lately of the hosts; in particular Matt and his quickness to turn abusive. I would prefer to see frustrating callers be quickly boxed in to a point where all Matt or another host has to say is something like, “well X is the basis of your position and this is known to be false, or demonstrably false, or is in conflict with the latest scientific positions, and if we can’t convince you then we can only point you and any viewers interested to reference x.y.z and suggest you educate yourself on this point. Next caller…”
    When the conversation is allowed to drag on in circles it doesn’t do anyone any good; in particular Matts blood pressure.
    Apologies if the criticism is considered unfounded. I get a lot from the shows each week and just enjoy so much seeing the hosts do what they do best.

  41. OverlappingMagisteria says

    Yes! I was gonna chime in with the same point. Let the guy make his point about micro vs macro evolution, then show why it’s absolute bunk. As a long time watcher, I know that Matt and Jen know what creationists mean by micro/macroevolution, but to a new listener (and the caller) hearing them say “we already know what you’re gonna say and it’s wrong” sounds arrogant. At least confirm by saying “is this what you mean by macro/micro?”

    Hope I don’t sound too negative. I love the show and look forward to it every week. This was just a minor frustration this week. Let the caller’s bad arguments implode on their own, if possible. (though that last caller was very frustrating, so I don’t blame you too much. I’s be way worse behind the mike.)

  42. OverlappingMagisteria says

    I agree in principle, but on a call in show that might not work well. Say the caller answered “Oh I do have a number, it’s 1 in 59,200,000,000.” Then you gotta get into a discussion of where the number came from and how it was calculated. Checking math on a call in show is kinda boring.

  43. Nathan says

    I have issue to point out.

    Matt spent a good part of of the call with Hammid explaining why the negative assertion does not have the burden of proof.

    Then around 57 minutes when they are talking about speciation Matt says

    “Your assertion is that it can’t and you need to actually demonstrate that. Demonstrate that it can’t”

    Now correct me if i’m wrong but is he not shifting the burden of proof?

    Perhaps a better way of phrasing it would be “Your assertion is that it can’t, we have a preponderance of genetic and fossil evidence that shows that it has. Can you refute this”

    Maybe i’m being pedantic and arguing semantics, but one day a more switched on guy than hamid may pick you guys up on this.

    Thanks,

    -N

  44. Tomasz R. says

    Although atheist have no burden of proof, one can argue that there should be some “burden of investigation”. Since the religious claims are both potential threats and potential opportunities they shouldn’t be just ignored by atheists, but investigated. So a passive atheist, who just waits for believers to deliver him proofs is not a good way to approach things. And a standard burden of proof approach may be mistaken for such passivity by some people. Spending some time to learn and check, verify some religious promises seems to be a better way.

    Of course most of the burden of investigation should fall on those who profit from religion – churches, priests. They don’t seem to be doing it, but rather repeat their mantras over and over again.

  45. Joshua Luzania says

    Hey everyone, I just wanted to offer a little example to perhaps help the caller (or people like him in the future) realize what he is doing with the burden of proof.

    Pretend that it is given knowledge to you that there is a die with only a 0 or a 1 on it’s faces. However, it is unknown to you how many faces are on the die or the distribution of 0’s and 1’s. Then someone rolls the die in secret, hidden from your view. The only possible outcomes are either 0 or 1. I come up to you and say that I believe that a 1 was rolled because I had a feeling or had a dream. Correctly, you would say you don’t believe me. Do you have to then believe a 0 was rolled? It’s either a 1 or 0. How would you respond if I chastised you and told you that you had to believe a 0 was rolled and were taking on a burden to prove to me a 0 was rolled? This is what we feel like you are doing to us when you tell us that atheists are necessarily taking on a burden of proof for not believe in a god. I would love to hear his response, but likely this is almost entirely atheists on here. Either way I’d love any response.

  46. says

    In this case, he had already agreed that species change over time. He was making a positive assertion there’s a limit on how much they can chance. That woudl require that he explain why this should be so or cite real-world examples of it happening.

  47. Nathan says

    Is there a point where Hamid actually asserts that there is a limit to microevolution?

    Or is he just expressing incredulity for the concept?

    -N

  48. Muz says

    The Micro/Macro Evolution distinction that IDers make like that is begging the question. That ‘kinds’ ultimately never change is implicit in the argument they make, typically. Something they assume but have no argument for (except maybe “Oh Come on, you’ve never seen it!”).
    If Matt did shift the burden of proof it’s merely incidental to cutting to the chase of what the guy is saying (which isn’t to say Matt did shift it).
    Clunky perhaps, but it’s live TV.

  49. Nathan says

    Yeah the creationist concept of “kind” fails when you ask them to define it.

    It is something that i’ve seen the AE guys do every now and then.

    I just think that if we as atheists are going to call creationists on their faulty logic, we shouldn’t do it.

  50. N. Nescio says

    What a bunch of crap.

    If a 4-omnis Creator of life, the universe, and everything wants a personal relationship with me so badly as to be willing to literally die to facilitate bringing me closer to it, then it would have no problem showing up and telling me so and outlining the rules and restrictions it expects me to follow.

    Everything else is just a bunch of people pretending to knowledge they don’t actually possess, and expecting me to take them at their word.

    Burden of investigation? Please. You don’t seriously expect people to spend their precious time living checking out each and every outlandish claim people make about how the world works, do you?

  51. Alan says

    I keep checking back for Kazim’s latest response to Stephen Feinstein but so far no luck :( Did I miss anything? Has defeat been conceded? Or was Stephen’s effort this time not worth a response? Has the debate moved elsewhere? Should I leave it a month or two before checking back again? Enquiring minds want to know.

  52. says

    We have to be given a good reason to even bother. So far they haven’t even done that.

    It’s like writing a grant proposal. You have to give the committee a good argument why they should fund your expedition to do research.

    There’s literally an infinite number of claims. We only have so much time/energy/money.

    When the god claims conflict with reality, one’s claim isn’t start off on a great foot. In fact, the god claims are typically uninvestigatable by design.

    They’ve spent so much time carefully engineering their god to be unprovable, and insisting that we’re being closed minded by not believing unprovable claims.

  53. says

    To clarify what I mean…

    We only have so much time/energy/money to do things. Your position assumes that the religious claims are worth considering in the first place.. that they’re somehow inherently more important than Raelian, Pagan, Buddhist, Hindu or Pantheistic claims.

    Just from a surface scan, they’re laughable. Why should we bother with something that appears to be pure fiction, especially when they have zero evidence support any of their claims?

  54. jdog says

    It might be easier if you went with random handfuls of red and blue chips in a bag if emphasizing the unknown probability is important to you. The die analogy is a bit clunky.

  55. Tomasz R. says

    “We have to be given a good reason to even bother.” The prospects of eternal life? The possibility of being tortured forever? Are these not the good reasons to at least start some investigation to check if these are true, or possible?

    Or even the popularity of religious beliefs alone – if the thing is repeated by billions then perhaps this reason itself makes it worthy of investigation? In a sense the environment you live in forces you to do so.

    “It’s like writing a grant proposal. You have to give the committee a good argument”. Wrong analogy. It’s like you are a businessman and someone hints you or gossips that there’s a great opportunity to earn billions. It may be true or it may be a scam – that’s why in such situation you should investigate.

    The second analogy is when someone goes to the police and tells them he overheard two men talking about planning a bank robbery. If police throws him out because he didn’t meet his burden of proof, then they wouldn’t do their job well.

    “There’s literally an infinite number of claims.” And they have some patterns in common. Humans are patter-recognizers. In case of business analogy – if a businessman investigated for the first time a “technology startup” pattern as a good investment, and “financial pyramid” pattern as a bad investment, then he can use the patterns to recognize the next instances of claims. But if he wasn’t actively investigating the opportunities went away, captured by those who do.

    Considering the police analogy – what if the threat turned out to be real?

    Nobody likes or approves passivity in our modern civilization. You shouldn’t propagate an image of a passive atheist who just waits for a proof to be delivered to him on a golden plate. It won’t be appreciated.

  56. says

    “We have to be given a good reason to even bother.” The prospects of eternal life? The possibility of being tortured forever? Are these not the good reasons to at least start some investigation to check if these are true, or possible?

    No.

    There might be a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow. Shouldn’t you at least start investigating that possibility? Ready? Start chasing rainbows! We can sit here forever and come up with bizarre concepts that have rewards/punishments.

    You’re assuming that these religions and these concepts are inherently worthy of investigation over others. Which religion? Even between Islam and Christianity, there’s two different approaches to attaining an afterlife/hell.

    Of Christianity, there’s something like 35,000 denominations, with most of which differ on their particular claims to attaining afterlife/hell.

    Which one do you think I should investigate? Clearly, I can’t investigate and evaluate 10000 religious claims, so at best it would be pure luck that I’d happen to investigate the correct one.

    Step 1 is that they need evidence that they have a burden to present. After they’ve presented some initial compelling evidence, that’s how we know which of the millions upon millions of crackpot claims to investigate (because I’m not assuming that these religions/conepts are inherently special). The burden is 100% unambiguously on them.

    A job intervewer for a company doesn’t have to investigate all thousand people who apply for a job, just in case they might be worth it. That’s impractical. It’s up to the applicants to present good resumes/references before the interviewer is going to consider taking his/her application to the nex step.

    I know you want to think you’re not shifting the burden of proof, but you are. Intensely.

    Or even the popularity of religious beliefs alone – if the thing is repeated by billions then perhaps this reason itself makes it worthy of investigation?

    That’s an Appeal to Popularity. Should you not be now investigating in Islam and Hinduism and Buddhism and Mormonism, etc? In order to do this successfully, you have to read their holy books. Ready? Go.

    Most people believed the world was flat at one time. Science didn’t set out to disprove that, so much as observe the world, gather evidence, follow that evidence and see what the answer is. That disqualified the flat earth model. But it all starts with observation and evidence… not logical fallacies like the Appeal to Popularity.

    On top of that, if theists actually had evidence, they’d be presenting it. It’d be their #1 thing they’d be bellowing at the top of their lungs. Instead, we get logical fallacies like Appeals to Popularity, Arguments from Ignorance, Cosmological Arguments, Pascal’s Wager (which your entire post appears to be some version of that).

    They have nothing else other than logical fallacies and previously-refuted-a-thousand-times arguments. That says something about the efficacy of their claims.

    In a sense the environment you live in forces you to do so.

    What? How?

    “It’s like writing a grant proposal. You have to give the committee a good argument”. Wrong analogy. It’s like you are a businessman and someone hints you or gossips that there’s a great opportunity to earn billions. It may be true or it may be a scam – that’s why in such situation you should investigate.

    Wrong analogy.

    It’s like you are a businessman and someone hints that there’s an invisible guy who will turn you into energy and give you infinite gold if only you stop thinking, become gullible, accept claims on faith, and pretend that the invisible evidenceless guy is your best friend.

    The thing about business people is that they have (for good reasons) a pretty good nose for scams/insane ideas. This businessman would tell you to shove off.

    In any case, if you’re willing to spend any time/effort on a hint of something that violates what we know about reality, especially based on a claim that has no supporting evidence provided, you’re an idiot.

    The second analogy is when someone goes to the police and tells them he overheard two men talking about planning a bank robbery. If police throws him out because he didn’t meet his burden of proof, then they wouldn’t do their job well.

    False analogy. We know that criminals exist and crime exists. We don’t know that any souls or gods or afterlives exist. If someone gives a tip to the police, they have to act on it because of known real consequences. The religious can’t even demonstrate that there’s any problem.

    They’ve invented a problem, and have invented a cure that they’re trying to sell you.

    It’s possible that I might get struck by a meteor when I go outside. That doens’t mean I’m going to cower in a bunker. The risk is so low, it’s not even worth considering, and that’s talking about a demonstrably real phenomenon (meteor strikes).

    The correct analogy would be if that person went into the police station and was telling them about how they heard that space aliens in a parallel universe were planning to cross the Xeon threshold and destroy the Flabulus galaxy. Then they’d throw you out.

    You seem to be ignoring the pure insane nature of the religious claims. When you’re constructing analogies, make sure you find a way to tie in the fact that they aren’t real common things like robberies, but rather that they’re undemonstrated unevidenced baseless claims that do not correlate to reality in the slightest.

    You’re suffering from a category error. A severe one.

    Claims about bank robberies aren’t anywhere near the level of claiming that an invisible guy who creates universes will have your invisible undetectable brainless-mind tortured forever if you aren’t gullible enough to believe that he exists without any kind of evidnece whatsoever.

    To reiterate – many of these claims that you want us to investigate are, by design, uninvestigatable – at least not without abandoning the capacity to distinguish them from hallucination.

    “There’s literally an infinite number of claims.” And they have some patterns in common. Humans are patter-recognizers. In case of business analogy – if a businessman investigated for the first time a “technology startup” pattern as a good investment, and “financial pyramid” pattern as a bad investment, then he can use the patterns to recognize the next instances of claims. But if he wasn’t actively investigating the opportunities went away, captured by those who do.

    Yes, and that analogy would only be useful if afterlifes/hells have precedent – meaning they have been demonstrated as real already.

    Considering the police analogy – what if the threat turned out to be real?

    Assuming we’re going with that flawed analogy – then we’re screwed. But the time to take a claim seriously, and take some intiative, is when the claim has some intrinsic basis in reality (like bank robberies) and not invisible parallel dimention torture chambers by invisible universe-creating genocidal maniacs.

    The claim has to be at least somewhat sane before it’s considered.

    Nobody likes or approves passivity in our modern civilization. You shouldn’t propagate an image of a passive atheist who just waits for a proof to be delivered to him on a golden plate. It won’t be appreciated.

    You aren’t the boss of me!

    Regardless of the image it portrays, our position is absolutely rational, adhering to the standards of science and evidence. It’s not our fault that theists decided to believe something insane and indefensible.

  57. says

    To augment my job interviewer analogy a bit more.

    If one of the applications, let’s say for an engineering position, had a resume that said:

    I used my mind to transport myself to a distant galaxy and build entire cities with his telekinesis

    You’d rightly throw it out as nuts. You wouldn’t say, “Hey, maybe I should investigate this guy’s claims because he’d be the best engineer ever!”

    No – that application would be in the trash can as an absurd claim.

  58. says

    Outside of a thinly-veiled Pascal’s Wager, appeals to popularity and shifting the burden of proof, your whole argument is one big whopping Appeal to Consequences.

    “You really should investigate this bizarre unrealistic insane claim because if you don’t you risk the bizarre unrealistic inane claim’s consequences coming down upon you!”

    Evidence.

  59. Tomasz R. says

    Considering context of the discussion: we are at Atheist Experience forum, whose hosts have definitely met their burnden of investigation. Many posters have done that too (including me). So it’s surprising and even sounds like a kind of hyporcisy when people are denying that such thing exists.

    Considering the large number of religions: if atheists are around 2.3% of world population (this is the LOWEST number I found on the Internet) then this gives around 161 mln of people. If your number of 35 000 religions is correct it’s still a team of 4600 atheists to investigate a single religion, even if done all at once. You can multiply these numbers if time division would be used (one year one religion per team, next year next religion per team etc.). Atheists are simply badly organized.

    Considering popularity of religions: the reality of religions being popular means that they do influence you. Via people you know or your relatives, via politicians, laws etc. You have to learn to deal with it, and the only viable way to deal with relgion is to investigate it. A good example is a simple fact of varying sex numbers among atheists/believers populations, with atheists having larger percentage of men, while believers larger percentage of women. This means many atheists men have to deal with religiousity on a daily basis, and win personal debates and win important decisions (including ones about an indocrtination of children). You will be hit by religion so you have a burden of investigation.

    The assertion of lack of burden of investigation fails especially horribly when dealing with secret sects or secret cults. Such organizations definitely won’t provide you with evidence you want. Even if they had it! Even to learn some information about them and their claims need to investigate. And we don’t want to leave people at the mercy of such sects, so we should do appropriate work.

    Besides if some religious church had evidence for gods etc. they would have a full right to require money from these who wish to obtain it. 1 mln. $ for a personal, non-transferrable license with an NDA required – are you ready to buy it? So it may be cheaper to investigate by ourselves.

    How do you find weak spots of religions if you passively wait for them to provide you with the information. And some weak spots may be enough to debunk religions. Religions won’t provide you with the information about their weak spots, so just passively wait for information from them means wasting a great opportunity to win. Besides information given by religions might be an apologist’s word twisting, do you even want to hear it?

    Considering “basis in reality”, or “The claim has to be at least somewhat sane” – there are billions of believers who were indoctrinated as children, then reinforced in religious schools, and not having contact with eiter science or court system – two disciplines where evidence is required. They interpret gods as being a part of reality, and don’t feel a need to provide anyone with a proof of their views. But they might be convinced if atheists actively present them with arguments.

  60. Tomasz R. says

    And if someone published quantum mechanics hypothesis in 18th centaury he might be thought of as insane.

  61. Tomasz R. says

    You don’t understand the concept of investigation. A sufficient debunking of a religion doesn’t have to be an iteration on all of its claims; it is definitely less. It may be simply showing that this religion is a result of a hallucination of a madman. Or perhaps a religion has some weak points that lead to the collapse of its dogmas. Generally facts the believers won’t provide you with.

    You also don’t have to investigate by yourself. You can simply learn (but also check it’s validity) from writings of other, more educated atheists. Lot’s of religious dogmas are already debunked, there’s no need to repeat that work.

    And if you have an difficult, yet unsolved dogma you can publish it on an internet forum for others to deal with it…

  62. Tomasz R. says

    So you don’t see the benefits of debunking religions, starting from savings on money now wasted on going to churches, through increased political chances for atheists, to decreasing of danger to civilization from fundamentalists. And of course preventing indoctrination of children and perhaps curing those already infected with religion?

  63. says

    Considering context of the discussion: we are at Atheist Experience forum, whose hosts have definitely met their burnden of investigation.

    That’s where you’re tripping up. We have no “burden of investigation”, no matter how many bad analogies you want to construct.

    Many posters have done that too (including me). So it’s surprising and even sounds like a kind of hyporcisy when people are denying that such thing exists.

    You’re attempting to shift the burden of proof does not make me a hypocrite. If you run up to me and claim that a leperchaun left gold at the end of a rainbow, I have no burden to investigate because I’ll miss out on becoming rich.

    This concept is something you’ve fabricated out of the depths of your imagination because you think it’s unfair that we’ve assumed no burden of proof on wacky claims.

    Considering the large number of religions: if atheists are around 2.3% of world population (this is the LOWEST number I found on the Internet) then this gives around 161 mln of people. If your number of 35 000 religions is correct it’s still a team of 4600 atheists to investigate a single religion, even if done all at once.

    You again are assuming that this is limited to religion. Crackpot claims about afterlives are infatestimal against the number of claims about things like astral projection, alien abductions, thetans, etc. You keep presuming that religious claims are more important than the rest.

    If this is your argument, then the religious claims are already investigated and all our “burden of investigation” is over, anyway. As you pointed out, people like the AE hosts have already done many of them.

    If, however, we have to do it on a personal basis, then your argument doesn’t work.

    .. and all that’s assuming that we actually do have a burden to investigate every insane crackpot claim we hear – which is rediculous.

    Considering popularity of religions: the reality of religions being popular means that they do influence you. Via people you know or your relatives, via politicians, laws etc. You have to learn to deal with it,

    Of course. And we do – by pushing to maintain secular freedoms.

    and the only viable way to deal with relgion is to investigate it.

    Incorrect. If scientologists pressure me, either personally, or through legislation, to adopt some process of clensing thetans, I don’t have to investigate it to see if it’s valid. I only have to reinforce secular values and exercize my rights. Those rights extend no matter what religion and no matter what bizarre set of beliefs are pushed on me. We don’t have to investigate all religious beliefs of all religions before deciding that we (in the U.S. anyway) are free from them.

    A good example is a simple fact of varying sex numbers among atheists/believers populations, with atheists having larger percentage of men, while believers larger percentage of women. This means many atheists men have to deal with religiousity on a daily basis, and win personal debates and win important decisions (including ones about an indocrtination of children). You will be hit by religion so you have a burden of investigation.

    From what I understand, the theist/atheist couples just avoid the topic most of the time – and agree to disagree. They don’t have to deal with it at all. They may choose to, but that’s not the topic – the topic is whether we’re obligated on some fundamental level to investigate bizarre insane claims before the person making the claim has presented any evidence to fulfill their burden of proof.

    If your argument is “You have a burden because I don’t like that you’re being lazy”, you’ve got nothing.

    The assertion of lack of burden of investigation fails especially horribly when dealing with secret sects or secret cults.

    You just aren’t getting it, are you? Do you not understand the difference between mundane claims and extraordinary claims? Do you not understand the difference between claiming that you took a walk, and claiming that you travelled to a distant galaxy?

    If secret cults claim to be able to astral project, I don’t care, nor do I have a burden to investigate. If, however, someone claims that a particular cult is sacrificing babies, then of course we’d need to investigate. That’s an actual mudane precedented claim that doesn’t violate reality that has real consequences for real people. People harming people is normal. The existence of souls, let alone those souls being in any harm’s way is, as far as we can tell, pure fantasy. Guess which I’m going to care about first?

    Such organizations definitely won’t provide you with evidence you want. Even if they had it! Even to learn some information about them and their claims need to investigate. And we don’t want to leave people at the mercy of such sects, so we should do appropriate work.

    Again – investigate what? If they think they’re casting magical spells, that’s their prerogative – and doesn’t concern anyone else, unless that person wants to voluntarily investigate, out of curiosity.

    Besides if some religious church had evidence for gods etc. they would have a full right to require money from these who wish to obtain it. 1 mln. $ for a personal, non-transferrable license with an NDA required – are you ready to buy it? So it may be cheaper to investigate by ourselves.

    This is completely irrelevant to the purpose of this discussion. If they claim to have evidence for a God, the burden is 100% unambiguously on them to make their case, and present the evidence. I have unambiguously 0% burden to go investigate. Whether they’re charging money or not is irrelevant. If they aren’t going to make the effort present that evidence to me, then I have zero obligation to care or take them the slightest bit seriously with their insane crackpot claim.

    How do you find weak spots of religions if you passively wait for them to provide you with the information.

    That’s not my problem. It’s up to them to demonstrate that their claims are correct. All claims are considered “undemonstrated” untli the people, who are more familair with the topic, have more access to the data, generally are much more an expert on the topic their claim is about than you, successfully make their case.

    And some weak spots may be enough to debunk religions. Religions won’t provide you with the information about their weak spots, so just passively wait for information from them means wasting a great opportunity to win. Besides information given by religions might be an apologist’s word twisting, do you even want to hear it?

    Again, that’s not our problem. The religions are automatically undemonstrated until they demonstrate their claims. It’s not up to us to “debunk” them, unless that’s what I want to do with my time. It’s up to them to provide sufficient evidence to support their claims.

    Considering “basis in reality”, or “The claim has to be at least somewhat sane” – there are billions of believers who were indoctrinated as children, then reinforced in religious schools, and not having contact with eiter science or court system – two disciplines where evidence is required. They interpret gods as being a part of reality, and don’t feel a need to provide anyone with a proof of their views. But they might be convinced if atheists actively present them with arguments.

    That’s their prerogative. Once one starts arguing with me, I’ll address their arguments. He or she may change his or her mind, but that’s up to him or her. They don’t have to tell us their religious claims – they don’t have to provide their evidence – and I don’t have to believe them, or investigate them.

    I’d love it if everyone became rational skeptics, but as long as they aren’t bothering me, I’m also fine living in a multicultural society. I don’t have to go around investigating every time someone comes up with some reality-conflicting lunatic crackpot delusional insane belief.

  64. says

    You don’t understand the concept of investigation. A sufficient debunking of a religion doesn’t have to be an iteration on all of its claims; it is definitely less. It may be simply showing that this religion is a result of a hallucination of a madman.

    You don’t understand the concept of investigation. Your “debunking” here is an ad hominem. I’ll just add that to the list of logical fallacies you’ve made. It’s possible for a hallucinating person to get something correct. The question is whether the claims stack up against reality/evidence.

    If the claims don’t survive a 5 second comparison to reality, then they are rightly discarded until the person fulfills his/her burden of proof.

    If you claim that you astral projected yourself to Jupiter and talked with the Zyborbs, and you have no evidence, I’m going to dismiss you – and I am unambiguously correct in doing so.

    This isn’t even relevant to the point – you’ve been trying to shift the burden of proof, wrapping it up intil an emotional appeal – “but what if your soul is at risk?!?!?!!1111″. It doesn’t stop being a shfiting of the burden of proof on attempt #37.

    Or perhaps a religion has some weak points that lead to the collapse of its dogmas. Generally facts the believers won’t provide you with.

    You also don’t have to investigate by yourself. You can simply learn (but also check it’s validity) from writings of other, more educated atheists. Lot’s of religious dogmas are already debunked, there’s no need to repeat that work.

    There’s no need to do any of that, especially when the argument to do so its an intricately interwoven matrix of logical fallacies and appeals to emotion.

    And if you have an difficult, yet unsolved dogma you can publish it on an internet forum for others to deal with it…

    OR, the people making the claim can actually meet their burden of proof, instead of trying to shift it.

    We have plenty of REAL things to investigate, not the untol thousands of new crackpot claims that people cook up while trying to scam people or while high, on a daily basis.

  65. says

    You don’t seem to be getting that hindsight is 20/20 vision. It’s easy to look back and see what claims were correct.

    At the time, however, when you have 10000 seemingly absurd claims, how do you tell which is the correct one (if any)?

    Evidence.

    Since they’re claiming it, they’re in the best position to provide it. If they can’t, that’s not our problem, because we’ll be correctly discarding 9999 claims, and the one that’s correct will most likely have evidence to support it at some point.

    That’s the point in which we start caring.

  66. says

    So you don’t see the benefits of debunking religions, starting from savings on money now wasted on going to churches, through increased political chances for atheists, to decreasing of danger to civilization from fundamentalists. And of course preventing indoctrination of children and perhaps curing those already infected with religion?

    Of course – and if I care enough (which I actually do), I’d lend a hand. Do I have an intrinsic epistemological burden to investigate?

    No.

  67. says

    But I’d add that investigating whether there’s an afterlife isn’t even needed to solve this.

    A good solid education in skepticism and epistemology and critical thinking does a pretty good job, even without addressing the specific claims.

    Whenever I counter something like arguing for the power of prayer, I don’t have to investigate whether prayer actually works in order to identify the logical fallacies and mistakes they’re making on a cognitive level.

  68. Curt Cameron says

    We have a bag with some unknown number of red and blue marbles. Al tells us that he has grabbed a handful of them at random and put them in his pocket. Bob then claims that Al has six blue marbles, but you know that Bob has no way of knowing this – he was not even in the same room when Al put them in his pocket, and Al hasn’t said.

    Should we believe Bob’s claim of six blue marbles, without further evidence? No, we reject it. He could have six, we’re not saying that he definitely has some other number than six, but we don’t accept Bob’s claim that there are six.

    I guess that analogy works, but I think it takes too much time and I’m not sure that everyone would get how this relates to atheists and the burden of proof.

    When the subject comes up, and someone thinks that an atheist is a person who is certain there is no god, I prefer to just use Sam Harris’s explanation of what an atheist is: an atheist is just someone who has examined various god-claims, and found them all utterly unconvincing.

  69. Tomasz R. says

    Your series of responses was one of the worst cases of shifting the burden of proof on yourself. You have made the following claims:

    (on religious beliefs) “they’re undemonstrated unevidenced baseless claims that do not correlate to reality in the slightest.”

    “They have nothing else other than logical fallacies and previously-refuted-a-thousand-times arguments.”

    “the pure insane nature of the religious claims.”

    “They’ve spent so much time carefully engineering their god to be unprovable, and insisting that we’re being closed minded by not believing unprovable claims.”

    “In fact, the god claims are typically uninvestigatable by design.”

    (intelligent design vs. evolution of gods?)

    ” theists decided to believe something insane and indefensible.”
    (you made youself to proof not only that religions are insane, indefensible, but also that theists DECIDE to believe).”

    “The existence of souls, let alone those souls being in any harm’s way is, as far as we can tell, pure fantasy.”

    “On top of that, if theists actually had evidence, they’d be presenting it. It’d be their #1 thing they’d be bellowing at the top of their lungs.” (my answer – the example of secret cults).

    “The claim has to be at least somewhat sane before it’s considered.”

    “our position is absolutely rational, adhering to the standards of science and evidence”.

    which by your own standards you have to prove… In the future I’d avice everyone to second-check their posts for such imperfections. Besides, while using certain names of patterns, to check if they match with the text.

    ———————————

    Going bac to the topic – yes, you can argue that a person doesn’t have a burden of caring for his health, or a burden of managing money. One can legally be a 300kg, cancer-ridden bankrupt person. The same way you can argue that an atheist doesn’t have to be active in investigating religions, but can just sit on his lazy ass. Both cases don’t lead to optimal results though, so in practice we can assume that there are some burdens.

    The dangers of religions are great. Religious freedom as interpreted today means people can believe in whatever they want. “Destroy the world” commanding god – OK, thats allowed, “kill the infidels” god – compatible with religious freedom, “beath the women” also. Therefore the potential danger is there, a need for vigilance is strong. You cannot just passively wait until next-something-like-Taliban cuts your head.

    And benefits are also there, some of which I’ve highlightened (political, financial, personal).

    Besides noone values an ignorant, passive person who doesn’t even bother to investigate such influential institutions as religions. On the other hand knowing religions weak points you are respected even by them, even if it is as a formidabble enemy.

  70. says

    Your series of responses was one of the worst cases of shifting the burden of proof on yourself. You have made the following claims:

    (on religious beliefs) “they’re undemonstrated unevidenced baseless claims that do not correlate to reality in the slightest.”

    … which is the defalut position for all claims. They haven’t demonstrated their claims and fulfilled their burdens of proof yet, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    “They have nothing else other than logical fallacies and previously-refuted-a-thousand-times arguments.”

    “the pure insane nature of the religious claims.”

    “They’ve spent so much time carefully engineering their god to be unprovable, and insisting that we’re being closed minded by not believing unprovable claims.”

    “In fact, the god claims are typically uninvestigatable by design.”

    (intelligent design vs. evolution of gods?)

    ” theists decided to believe something insane and indefensible.”
    (you made youself to proof not only that religions are insane, indefensible, but also that theists DECIDE to believe).”

    “The existence of souls, let alone those souls being in any harm’s way is, as far as we can tell, pure fantasy.”

    Yep – and? I shared with you my opinions on why I don’t accept the claims. I haven’t gone into depth with evidence for those claims – and thus you aren’t required to accept them. Nor are you required to investigate my claims – or are you?

    “On top of that, if theists actually had evidence, they’d be presenting it. It’d be their #1 thing they’d be bellowing at the top of their lungs.” (my answer – the example of secret cults).

    And that’s their problem. If they want me to believe it – they need to meet their burden of proof.

    “The claim has to be at least somewhat sane before it’s considered.”

    That’s basic scientific epistemology – something you’re not familiar with.

    “our position is absolutely rational, adhering to the standards of science and evidence”.

    which by your own standards you have to prove… In the future I’d avice everyone to second-check their posts for such imperfections. Besides, while using certain names of patterns, to check if they match with the text.

    …says the person who pushes the sheer idiocy of “Burden of Investigation”.

    No, I don’t. It’s the default position. It’s irrational to believe something without evidence. Since no evidence has been provided to me to believe the claims, my position is rational – it’s definitional. What you’d be requiring of me here would be to prove a negative – that I haven’t been provided with any supporting evidence – which is dumb.

    This is an awesome change of subject, by the way – a complete red herring as to whether I have an inherent burden to investigate any moronic claim that anyone happens to make, while continuing with ongoing assumption that religious claims are somehow special and deserving of any kind of respect or consideration in the first place, as though they’re more important than the guy claiming he astral-projected to Jupiter.

    And no, if half the planet started saying they astral projected to Jupiter, that wouldn’t make the claims important.

    Going bac to the topic – yes, you can argue that a person doesn’t have a burden of caring for his health, or a burden of managing money. One can legally be a 300kg, cancer-ridden bankrupt person. The same way you can argue that an atheist doesn’t have to be active in investigating religions, but can just sit on his lazy ass. Both cases don’t lead to optimal results though, so in practice we can assume that there are some burdens.

    You’ve just conceded your whole argument. Thanks.

    When it comes to the burden of proof, the idea is that no one else is required to take your claims seriously and/or accept them until they’ve met your burden to demonstrate it. Your moronic “Burden of investigation” was saying that we have a burden to investigate whatever claims the religious were making – that we’re being hypocrites for requiring theists to demonstrate their claims, but we won’t make any effort to investigate those claims, because of your magical “Burden of Investigation” that has no rational basis when it comes to extraordinary claims (we’re not talking about mundane claims).

    You’ve now devolved into discussion whether it’s beneficial or a question of laziness to not investigate whatever wacky crackpot claims people happen to contrive.

    The dangers of religions are great. Religious freedom as interpreted today means people can believe in whatever they want. “Destroy the world” commanding god – OK, thats allowed, “kill the infidels” god – compatible with religious freedom, “beath the women” also. Therefore the potential danger is there, a need for vigilance is strong. You cannot just passively wait until next-something-like-Taliban cuts your head.

    This wasn’t a discussion about benefits and things that would be nice if we addressed. This was a discussion about basic epistemological standards and practices – otherwise, the “Burden of Investigation” is a nonsense term borne of someone who doesn’t like the burden of proof.

    Besides noone values an ignorant, passive person who doesn’t even bother to investigate such influential institutions as religions. On the other hand knowing religions weak points you are respected even by them, even if it is as a formidabble enemy.

    Let me clue you into some basic facts about reality, because you seem utterly clueless as to why the burden of proof is the way it is.

    Do you know why we’re not bothering investigating the “influential” insanity of religions? Because we’re too busy investigating REALITY. To waste time on ridiculous unevidenced claims would only slow us down in making actual progress at learning about the real world. We’re too busy discovering medicines, new technologies, etc, to actually improve the lives of humanity, while the religious are on their knees talking to their imaginary friend trying to get him/her/it to grant a raise, or whatever.

    We only have one life that we have any evidence for. Out of those 10000 claims that people make to us, where only 1 is actually true – who are we going to assign to investigate those claims? Who is going to pay any related bills for transportation, lost time, etc? Who is going to take the time? Because, according to you, someone has to investigate it, since we, at least collectively, have a “Burden of Investigation” to investigate any idiotic claim anyone makes, no matter how absurdly asinine and lunatic the claim is – because, according to you – we’re supposed to take them seriously enough to investigate with zero evidence presented – since that’s what this discussion is about.

    Here’s why the burden of proof makes sense:

    1) The person making the claim is the one who supposedly would have access to the evidence.

    2) The person makign the claim is the one who supposedly has experience with the phenomenon.

    3) It establishes a clear process for peer review.

    4) It puts people to work more on actually investigating reality instead of putting out little fires investigating every moronic claim that’s ever made – it cuts through the noise and clears the way for actual progress.

    5) It pressures people into actual evidence-based investigation – which is actually a demonstrably effective method for consistently and accurately learning about the world, unlike religions that sit around and make shit up and call it true.

    6) If the claimant is wrong, and decided to push a claim that had no suporting evidence, then instead of idiotically wasting the one and only life we know we have of other people, only this idiot’s life is wasted. Better the idiots’ lives are wasted than those who are honestly and appropriately actually investigating reality.

    If the claimant wants, he or she can hire some helping hands, and at least the employee get some pay out of it. But for the rest of us, our lives are too valuable to waste on endless insanity. We need to be given good cause to spend more than a second on bizarre crackpot insane beliefs.

    The scientific method produces results because it works in this way.

    Someone is going to do the investigation. Placing that burden on those who are making the claim is demonstrably effective, but you are so desperate to shift that burden onto others to see that.

  71. says

    If there’s no limit to micro-evolution, then the distinction between it and macro-evolution is meaningless, so asserting that there is such a thing as micro evolution is in itself a claim of limits.

  72. Berry Caluroso says

    The caller who wanted to believe in a “different level of existence” or whatever sounded like he was about to break out in Matrix quotes.

    Also “A forensic pathologist has a body – actually a collection of bodies, some of them large -” made me crack up.

  73. Berry Caluroso says

    Also, re: anti-theism, what does that actually mean? I’ve heard it used variously to describe the position that God shouldn’t exist, the position that religion is immoral, and now the position that God probably doesn’t exist.

  74. says

    The anti-theism label is confusing to me, although I personally use the label to express a view that I am in opposition to theist beliefs because I view them as harmful to individuals and society in general, not because I claim to have proof there is no god.

  75. jdog says

    I didn’t even realize Feinstein had responded (on the 3rd) until a few days ago. I’d follow the link from Kazim’s last post to Feinstein’s blog, see there were still only three posts listed, and wonder when he was going to reply. I missed that I had to click on “August”.

    Though he did exactly what Russell predicted: “Stupid question. God is not in that category.”

  76. Tomasz R. says

    It’s you who lives in the world of fantasy, where religions care about atheists so much to bother delivering atheists proofs of religious beliefs. In reality what they want to deliver are sentences for blasphemy or apostasy. This is what you will get if no active investigation of religions is done, but just passive waiting for their actions.

    It’s religions that are one of the dominant forces in the world, not atheism, the world revolves around them and it will be that way as long as they are powerful. It’s not “Argument from popularity” but a simple evaluation that if something is big, powerful, extremaly common, influencing many things – then yes, it deserves to be investigated.

    By analogy – if you lived in a world dominated by the big dinosaurs, then their claim that they are dangerous (made by loud roars or whatever) is to be investigated by you. Don’t wait for the proof from them!

  77. Tomasz R. says

    A view that gods are evil, independantly of their existance (as literary/imaginary or real beings). Even if gods existed you should be against them, not worship them.

  78. says

    It’s you who lives in the world of fantasy, where religions care about atheists so much to bother delivering atheists proofs of religious beliefs.

    Please cite where I said anything even remotely like that. What I have been saying is that if they do want us to believe them, they have a burden to meet.

    In reality what they want to deliver are sentences for blasphemy or apostasy. This is what you will get if no active investigation of religions is done, but just passive waiting for their actions.

    I agree. However, that does not entail a “Burden of Investigation”. We take legal actions when the cross lines, regardless of whether we’ve investigated whether their batshit insane claims are true or not. If a group is pushing to teach that our souls are being eaten by soul-eating wasps, we don’t have to spend a single second investigating. The act is banned until they can meet their burden of proof.

    It’s religions that are one of the dominant forces in the world, not atheism,

    Irrelevant. Science operates the way it does because that’s the best way we’ve found for it to work. The rules don’t vanish because a large group of people like to throw their weight around.

    the world revolves around them and it will be that way as long as they are powerful. It’s not “Argument from popularity” but a simple evaluation that if something is big, powerful, extremaly common, influencing many things – then yes, it deserves to be investigated.

    It’s not not an Argument from Popularity merely because you say so. Something isn’t true or valid or respectable because I bunch of people say so. If the claim is not backed up by evidence, and even is in violation of what we already know about reality, then no. It doesn’t deserve a microsecond of consideration, let alone insisting that someone WASTES HIS OR HER LIFE on stupid shit.

    Did you even read the reasons why the burden of proof is the way it is? If you don’t mind wasting what life you have investigating stammeringly stupid moronic insane delusional assinine that come out of the woodwork in droves, be my guest. The rest of us have no obligation – not until the individual makign the claim has met a bare minimum of his/her burden of proof.

    It doesn’t matter if one person makes a claim, or a thousand people, or a billion people, or an octillion people. Unless they have evidence, the claim is dismissed until they have evidence with zero obligation by anyone else to look into it.

    By analogy – if you lived in a world dominated by the big dinosaurs, then their claim that they are dangerous (made by loud roars or whatever) is to be investigated by you. Don’t wait for the proof from them!

    You have a staggering inability to grasp the category error you keep making. You keep utilizing mundane claims to make your point, when what you’re insisting that we have a burden to investigate are extraordinary, claims of unprecidented and unevidenced things.

    Dinosaurs were real. Dinosaur-like things could exist. This doesn’t break laws of physics. This isn’t in violation of everything we know about the fundamentals about reality. Creatures eating/hurting other creatures is boringly mundane. If we grant this scenario where we’re living in a world of dinosaurs, the one and only unknown in relation to this context is whether they are dangerous – which requires little to no investigation, especially since we would have grown up within this world, and it would be difficult to not notice these things.

    A more accurate analogy would be someone claiming that invisible indetectable dinosaurs are eating your disembodied invisible indetectable mind in a parallel universe and if you didn’t spent at least an hour a day meditating and imagining that you are fighting them, otherwise your parallel universe mind is in danger! This deserves at least some investigation!

    If you didn’t know that I just made that up, by your own insistence on this “Burden of Investigation”, you would now be obligated to investigate this claim.

    Or, you can do what rational people do, and dismiss it as insane until I’ve met by burden.

    That’s the category of claims you believe we have a burden to investigate – disembodied parallel dimension minds (souls), invisible universe creating pixies (god), our disembodied parallel dimension mind duplicate operating after our biological bodies die (afterlife). How would you even investigate these in any kind of coherent way?

    The minimum requirement for me to care about even bothering to think about investigating something is if it’s already something grounded in reality – like your dinosaur analogy, or the bank robber report to the police.

    Your analogies simply amount to one big whopping Equivocation Fallacy.

  79. Tomasz R. says

    So by your own standards you won’t be investigating claims about extraordinary beings like gods, but you would gladly investigate claims more related to reality, like of prayer healing or good / bad luck after some religious procedure or lack of thereof?

  80. jdog says

    So by your own standards you won’t be investigating claims about extraordinary beings like gods, but you would gladly investigate claims more related to reality, like of prayer healing or good / bad luck after some religious procedure or lack of thereof?

    These are still extraordinary claims based on what we know about reality.

  81. jdog says

    As with most words dealing with supernatural concepts, there are several possible meanings. You’ve given a few, but there are others.

  82. Pacemaker of Peace says

    So much misunderstandings about God.
    So much misunderstandings about reality.
    Answer This Question:
    The earth came from rock. Humanity came from cooling rock from a solar explosion. The earth is a cooling rock covered in water. Where did the water come from?
    Doesn’t that defy the laws of physics?
    How does water cover a cooling rock? Has Science ever explained this?
    And it can’t be condensation, because Scientists know that’s impossible to a degree of oceans. And it can’t be asteroids that came down with ice and the ice melted. That doesn’t work scientifically either.
    Where did water come from?

  83. Aaron says

    An assertion has a burden of proof, whether your assertion is that something is, or that something is not. A lack of belief, or lack of acceptance has no burden of proof because it’s not an assertion.

    Let’s say you’re looking to buy a car. If I tell you that a car has blue paint, that’s an assertion that I would need to show. If I say a car does not have blue paint (i.e “This car is a color, but that color is definitely not blue”), that’s also an assertion I would need to show. If you say that you don’t accept the car has blue paint because I haven’t shown it, that has no burden of proof. If you say that you don’t accept that the car is not blue, it also has no burden of proof. You’re not saying what color the car is (or even saying that the car’s color is other than what I’m claiming), merely that you don’t accept my claim.

    To extend the metaphor a bit further, think of it as a car’s gearbox: a car can be in drive, neutral, or reverse. Saying something “is”, means that it’s in gear: the car is heading in a forward direction. Saying that something “is not” is likewise, the car heading in a reverse direction. The default position however is the neutral position. It heads in neither direction: you’re not making a claim or heading to a conclusion. It’s not aiming for anything, it’s not making a claim. It’s merely saying that it doesn’t accept the claim (the direction) that others are making.

    The problem with many theistic discussions is the implicit assumption that there is no neutral, only that there’s forward or reverse: either you’re claiming that the car is blue, or you’re claiming that the car is not blue. Either there “is” a god, or you’re claiming that there “is not” a god. However, “not accepting” that the person has demonstrated there there “is” a god, is merely remaining in netural. If I claim that there “is not” a god, I’ve made a claim, and I need to demonstrate that. It’s perfectly possible to remain in neutral with both claims: to not accept claims that there “is” a god, and simultaneously not accept claims that there “is not” a god. To put it another way, “Neither side has met their burden of proof of their claims and therefore the question remains inconclusive”.

    Hopefully this is helpful!

  84. Tomasz R. says

    Not really. Extraordinary claims is what quantum mechanics makes. When it comes to “close to the Earth” religious beliefs – there are apparently people who swear they are eyewitnesses to some of this stuff. Is it still not enough to start investigating it?

  85. John Phillips, FCD says

    You know, just once I wish people would actually do some investigating of their own before spewing out the old argument from ignorance or incredulity. In answer to your question, comets for one. Plus, just about wherever you look in space, you find the spectroscopic signature of water, i.e. water is not a rare thing in the universe, quite the opposite. Just Google for water in the universe and you will get nearly 25,000,000 million hits and the first few are particularly relevant.

  86. John Phillips, FCD says

    And the abundance of water should be no surprise to anyone with even a minimal knowledge of chemistry and cosmology. For hydrogen, one constituent of water, is the most abundant element in the Universe and oxygen, the other constituent of water, is the Universe’s third most abundant element. Much of the water being produced as a byproduct of star formation. Again, minimal research would glean this information for anyone more interested in facts than trying, but failing, to score cheap points through their ignorance or incredulity.

  87. mike says

    I’m not off base at all, I’ve listened to every show since 2004, multiple times, and when a caller has a burden of proof misunderstanding, I relish the fact that Matt is hosting. Normally he dismantles the argument like no other to the point where the caller has to concede or remain close-minded. I urge you to go back listen to this caller again, Matt was jumping to the end of his analogies and the caller was clearly not understanding.

    You can’t seriously be trying to justify Matt’s ad homenin reply, as that has no place in a professional TV program/podcast with such high standards as this one. Go back a few years and listen, Matt never comes close to calling anyone names in the past.

    The show has had some real idiots calling in but I don’t think this guy was one of them as the hosts were not not doing a good job explaining the B.O.P. argument.

    I don’t think new hosts are needed as the current ones are excellent, but what is needed is an understanding that many people are first time callers and viewers so rebuttals have to start from scratch with everything being explained along the way. This can be boring to long time listeners and even more boring for the hosts but it is absolutely necessary.

    What that last caller will take away from the show is that the hosts could not answer his questions, got very frustrated, and finally yelled and called him an idiot. Not good.

  88. Pacemaker of Peace says

    I’ve read and comets don’t explain oceans. Scientists have ruled that out. Maybe you aren’t as read up as you think.

    But in all sincerity, explain to me how water is formed on planets with different atmospheres and different gases.

  89. Pacemaker of Peace says

    Comets don’t explain oceans. Scientists have ruled that out. Maybe you aren’t as read up as you think.

    But in all sincerity, explain to me how water is formed on planets with different atmospheres and different gases.

  90. jdog says

    If an unsubstantiated claim interests you enough to investigate the validity of the claim, then there’s nothing stopping you from doing that. The point you keep missing is that there’s no obligation to do so.

    Let’s say that I present you with a list of 10,000 unsubstantiated claims. Is it your responsibility to determine the truth of these claims? Of course not. Should these claims be considered as true (or even “most likely true”) until you investigate? Of course not.

    Quantum physicists have the same burden of proof as faith healers; the difference is that the QP folks have met their burden of proof for some of their claims, so those particular claims are believable.

  91. mike says

    @Pacemaker of Peace

    Instead of sitting back and daydreaming about the origins of the Earth and Universe, why don’t you actually do some reading from people who have researched such things.

    You post this question like it’s a major stumper when all it does is show you’re not smarter than a fifth-grader.

  92. Pacemaker of Peace says

    jdog- Thanks for the link. The photo is incredible and the article, interesting.

    mike- Have fun with nothing to look forward to,
    but eating, sleeping, procreating and dying.

    Peace

  93. jdog says

    There’s more to life than those four things, actually. If you weren’t so blinded by your delusional beliefs, you might find that out.

  94. Indiana Jones says

    Having watched Jasper battle valiantly with you below, I have a question for you Tomasz:

    Suppose I take seriously your claim that I have a “Burden of investigation”. And that this is somehow not just a weaker version of “Burden of proof” which you have conceded I don’t have.

    I looked out my window just now. I saw no evidence for a God. Have I, in your opinion, investigated far enough?

    If so, cool, I commend Jasper to do the same, if only to save themselves some blood pressure rise. If not, just how much investigation do I have to do to fulfill this investigative burden? And how would this not be trying to provide a proof that, again, you have already said I don’t have to do?

  95. John Phillips, FCD says

    You’re not a very intellectually honest person, are you Pacemaker, quote mining my post ignoring that I said ‘comets for one‘ and ignoring the, admittedly, brief one line explanation for what produced most of the water in the universe.

    By the way, you know, one of the things people like Mike and myself do, apart from ‘sleeping, eating, procreating and dying’, is learning things. You should try it sometime, not only can it be great fun and awesomely interesting, it is extremely useful in preventing one looking like an ignorant maroon [/bugs]. But the one advantage of simple ignorance, at least when compared to simple stupidity, is that simple Ignorance is curable. Willful ignorance? Not so much.

  96. Pacemaker of Peace says

    Sorry John,

    “Willful ignorance?” How do you think I came to my question? Why do you think I thanked jdog for the article?
    Thanks for showing me your willful ignorance and hypocrisy.

    Peace

  97. John Phillips, FCD says

    How is it being a hypocrite to notice your obvious quote mining of my first reply and your ignoring the Google search phrase hint I gave, both of which supply answers to your original question. In other words, as others have noted, your question based on an argument from ignorance, was not an honest question, but an attempted and failed gotcha. Hence my remark about willful ignorance. It’s easy to prove me wrong, just admit that you’re original question was based purely on ignorance or incredulity, but that actually you know better now.

  98. BobMc says

    Didn’t know where else I could post this, but is Russell ever going to reply to Stephen Feinstein’s fourth post which he made over a month ago?

  99. G.Shelley says

    The people who are arguing for a historical Jesus always seem to make the same circular argument, that people were talking about Jesus before it was written down, or that if it was false, people would have said so. Both of which assume that it is true in the first place.
    I hadn’t seen many people argue that Paul was written early, so provides actual early evidence of the historical Jesus, even most believers know Paul had basically nothing to say about any historical context for Jesus.

  100. mike says

    PoP –

    You told me to have fun with nothing to look forward to, then you list 4 things that I do have to look forward to! But guess what, you have the same things to look forward to as well, as long as you don’t waste all your time talking to an imaginary friend.

  101. codemonkey says

    And if someone published quantum mechanics hypothesis in 18th centaury he might be thought of as insane.

    Uhh… no. They would not be thought of as insane. Actually quite possibility very gifted. They would be able to demonstrate an amazing amount of knowledge of physics, correctly predict the existence of the photoelectric effect (among other things), and even give an accurate model to it. They would be thought of as amazing, and we might know his name along with the likes of Newton and Einstein. Or maybe they’d be thought of as a weirdo who this crazy idea that seems to pan out now, but is largely untestable, and we’ll see in the future.

    Let’s take it back even further. Let’s take it back to 1 AD. You might still not be taken as crazy. You could demonstrate your superior knowledge of physics – albeit at a much more rudimentary level, and then give step by step instructions on how to test quantum theory. Sure, they couldn’t test it for at least hundreds of years, but you did explicitly give the methods by which they can follow to test quantum theory.

    This is fundamentally different than astral projection, as there is no specified way to test it. Testability aka falsifiability is an important criterion to separate the crazy from the not-crazy.

  102. mike says

    @PoP

    I don’t know where you get off calling anyone here a hypocrite, maybe you don’t know what that means as you don’t seem to understand what “willful ignorance” means either.

    John Phillips pointed out that you are willfully ignorant probably because you are typing on a blog with obvious access to the internet yet you ask basic questions and wonder aloud if science has ever addressed them. Simply typing “water”,”planets” into any search engine and you would have had the answers that you are ignorant of.

  103. jdog says

    “But if this seems like an unreasonable standard to ask you to meet, it is only because it starkly highlights the way that you’ve tried to move the goalposts.”

    Hello, useful response. I will be using you in the future in some fashion.

  104. codemonkey says

    I was just listening to this, and Hamid made an “interesting” argument before the 38 min mark, which the hosts didn’t pick up on. I don’t think they understood what Hamid was trying to say.

    Hamid argued that atheists tend to lead lives as though god does not exist. At first, I thought this was an interesting and valid point. This is what Hamid was going on about w.r.t. the whole guilty vs non-guilty vs innocent thing. His shtick was that atheists may say they merely lack a belief in god, but they operate as though they have a belief that god does not exist. I thought it was true. Atheists go about their lives, giving no thought of an afterlife, trying to make the most of this life.

    As I said, it looked like he had a really good point for a little while. Then I recognized it as a well disguised Pascal’s Wager. I realized that I needed to ask Hamid: “Ok, what does it look like for a person to act as if he believed god didn’t exist? Specifically, which god? You, and unfortunately I for a minute or two, immediately gave preference to the kind of god which rewards prayer and worship. I then realized that there is no good reason to favor the existence of that kind of god over a god that punishes prayer and worship. It’s Pascal’s Wager, and thus this entire argument can be safely disposed.”

    This was painful to listen to for me (up to the 38 min mark), but not because of Hamid’s rantings, but because the hosts didn’t pick up on this point and talk about it. I admit I was hook line and sinker for about 10 minutes there until I typed up this post, and only half-way through did I realize I was Pascal-ed. (Yes, I’m making that a verb now.) Really well done too.

    Of course, it seems to be going downhill from the 38 min mark to a classic naked argument from ignorance. “I don’t know how it happened, and I don’t think there’s any understandable explanation for how it happened .. thus a wizard did it!”

  105. codemonkey says

    Damnit. I paused to comment about 5 or 10 minutes (AFAIK) after Hamid made that point, and as soon as I start up the video again, literally as soon as I start it up, Matt totally nailed it.

    Matt didn’t call it [the Pascal’s Wager] out by name, but he nailed it. However, he only spent like 2 seconds on it. IMHO he should have explained it more clearly though. Maybe more important things to discuss. So many fallacies, so little time.

  106. mike says

    @ThomaszR “The possibility of being tortured forever” What possible reason would you have to think anyone is getting tortured? And this occurs after their dead? How is this possible? This all just sounds ridiculous, so why would anyone give it a moments thought.

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