Open thread on episode #785: Quantum quack attack »« Texas Freethought Convention, with political thoughts


  1. Anonyatheist says

    Enjoying your show live for the first time. I found you on youtube and is good to know there are still smart people that use their brains.

    You probably already talked about this but, if possible, can you refer to the impossibility for an almighty, all knowing being.

    Well, I’m assuming you agree with me on that. Either way I’d like to hear your views on that.

    My point is based on a very simple situation.

    If “god” knows all, then it knows the future.

    If “god” it can do anything then it can change the future.

    Since it can change it then the future is not set.

  2. jdon says

    There two fairly standard apologetics responses to this:
    - Their god is a god of only logically sound omnis. So it’s omnipotent up to the point which is logically possible re: creating stones they couldn’t lift.
    - Mysterious ways. Insert analogy about ants not understanding the Mona Lisa or something.

  3. says

    I agree with the hosts (particularly Matt’s monologue) about the caller discussing physics wandering into speculation; that he was doing so in the wrong forum, to the wrong people, and trying to have a discussion that is hard to apply in any meaningful way. On the other hand, as one of the other physics people in the atheist movement, the caller was talking about something that, if explained well, might have been interesting to discuss. Since there are not a lot of atheist call in shows perhaps he just called in to one he liked.

  4. says

    And caller at the 45 minute mark is just another application of my 2nd Law of Apologetics:

    Anyone who doesn’t accept that evolution is real doesn’t understand evolution or how science works.

    As far as I’ve observed, this law has been 100% accurate, and I don’t mean just to put down anyone who doesn’t accept it. Literally, they demonstrably don’t understand the basics of either. Like, 8th-grade level basics.

  5. says

    In regards to the last caller…

    The reason we still predominantly use BC/AD is the same reason that America still uses the English measuring system (lbs, yards, miles) instead of the better Metric system (kg, meters, kilometers).

    It’s not because the English system comes from a true god. It’s because it’s really freaking hard to get a whole society, with all its books, forms, conventions, thought processes, etc, to change.

    Add to that the general disdain that half of America seems to have for anything European, and it’s even harder. Likewise, half of America uses this ridiculously bad argument as a proof for God.

    Critical thinking. Try it.

  6. westcoaster says

    About the last caller, “Thursday” derives from “Thors day”, so I guess that proves that Thor is real too.

  7. John Kruger says

    In all the technical and complicated stuff the first legit caller was going on about, I latched on to the statement “Things do not come into existence until they are measured.” How exactly can claims be made about things that cannot be measured, particularly claims about their existence?

    I am guessing he was talking about simulation theory, and was going to get to god being the author of the simulator. I have no idea why simulation theory of reality gets so much traction; it is really only an abuse of solipsism as far as I am concerned. Even if we are “living in the matrix”, as Matt says, what the heck difference would it make until you can produce a “red pill”? The un-testable theory cannot be verified. The unverifiable theory has no use.

    Speaking of evolution and theories, I prefer to think of evolution (and gravity) as a theory AND a fact. M-theory, for example, is a theory without much evidence so far. It still can qualify as a scientific theory, but not quite as much a fact. Of course when you start arguing about terms it is a good sign things are getting too philosophical, so I will go no further.

  8. says

    The caller mentioned Loop Quantum Gravity. LCQ has already failed two tests: the first, a general lack of finding any hint of Supersymmetry (SUSY) at the LHC has put a lot of speculative ideas, such as LCQ or String “theory” in serious jeopardy.

    The second is a much more concrete example of LCQ predictions failing. One of the predictions of LCQ is that spacetime is quantized, that is to say, granular, at a certain level. And if this were true, then we would notice different energy levels of light from the same sources far off in the universe arriving at our instruments at different times. This is not what we notice:

    A lot of what the caller was going on about were various interpretations of the extremely high-level math that is a part of high-energy particle physics theories. None of these – I stress this point – none of these theories (which are mathematical theories, which have to do less rigorous work to be called a “theory” than scientific theories) has shown *any* evidence whatsoever that does not disagree with the standard model. All attempts to look for the suspected physics past the standard model based on these (interesting and useful in mathematics) speculative models have failed, and failed miserably.

    Unless and until any of these theorists can show that their model has empirically predictive capabilities past those of the well-established standard model, there is no reason to believe them. Especially when each of their predictions continues to fail. It’s little more than philosophy disguised as math.

  9. sumdum says

    If BC and BCE are exactly the same date, why does it matter we changed the name ? Sure, it no longer has the ‘christ’ in it, but we all know that’s what it is. The common era started with the birth of Jesus, whether it’s in the name or not.
    A more interesting question would be: if we made a completely new year count, at what event would we set year 0 ?

  10. Aratina Cage says

    if we made a completely new year count, at what event would we set year 0 ?

    We already have done that:

    Also, it was mentioned on the show that AD starts at a year 0, but it actually doesn’t. The BC/AD and BCE/CE systems go from 1 BC/BCE to 1 AD/CE, skipping a year 0. Why? Because the BC/AD divide started before most of Europe used the number 0.

  11. extian says

    I believe Richard Carrier has stated that he still uses BC/AD, because he thinks it’s pointless to change it. For one, using CE and BCE can be confusing, since the acronyms are very similar. Second (and as sumdum already pointed out), it’s still referring to the same hypothetical event; even if we change the name, the date still remains, and we all know why they picked that date. Third, Dr. Carrier thinks it’s futile to try to scrub every trace of the religious past out of our language. Should we stop calling it Thursday if we don’t believe in Thor? Should we rename St. Petersburg? Dr. Carrier doesn’t think this is practical, and I agree. I don’t mind using BC/AD, so long as we remind people that these are colloquialisms from the past (and not evidence of actual historical events).

  12. says

    I am in agreement with Dr. Carrier’s stance. After all, we carry a lot of strange, cultural anachronisms with us to this day. Why do we use a decimal system for counting, but when it comes to time and circles, we use a sexagesimal one? Well, the Babylonians did it that way, it stuck, and the French tried to make time decimal but it didn’t catch on.

    There are a lot of nice “it would make standardization easier” arguments for going metric, but that hasn’t pushed the US in that direction beyond the failed start in the 70s.

    And if you think about it, why should it be one way or another? Why isn’t decimal just as arbitrary as binary or hexadecimal or sexagesimal? At least prime numbers are prime in any base – celebrate (or rue) your 41st birthday, not your 40th! It’s the one that truly matters!

  13. scorinth says

    Speaking of catching trolls, one of the most hilarious moments of the show was right after Russel “jumped the gun” on some poor bastard. As a podcast listener of the show, I had to imagine the looks on Matt and Russel’s faces, and, well… Remorseful Russel is Remorseful.
    I wish I knew whether to feel sorry for the guy who got hung up on because he happened to sound like some other asshole, or if I should be cheering for Russel because he detected a troll in the first two seconds of a call.

  14. says

    I’ll also point out that, in the call, as John was saying, the caller mentioned tests that showed that measuring something “brings it into existence” or some such. While this is one of the (many) interpretations of Quantum Mechanics, it is not well accepted, and to my knowledge does not have any more empirical footing than any other interpretations.

    The interpretations are all about one thing: making Quantum Mechanics and its weird, strange world understandable in a classical sense. It should be noted that the quantum world will have none of this, and cares not that some people don’t like it behaving in such a counter-intuitive way. In fact, the evidence is piling up against the notions the caller was putting forth:

    The wave function, measured. Mixture of states, measured. Consciousness? Unnecessary.

  15. terrycollins says

    There was no open thread to last week’s show, so I hope I can ask my questions here. Where was Tracie going with her bear attack question? So basically, if I was the onlooker who came upon a bear about to kill a human, who lives and dies would be in my hands. I can save the human by shooting the bear, or do nothing and let the bear win. Since I share a kinship with the human, my first choice would be to kill the bear. However, if I had seen the human needlessly kill the bear’s cubs, I might hesitate. What is my legal responsibility in a matter like this? Might I be charged with negligent death, supposing other witnesses can testify I had the power to save but did not use it?

  16. Shawn Morris says

    In the same line of reason as the guy who thought our use of BC proves God is real… I was approached by a proselytizer in a parking lot one day. I quickly said “I’m not superstitious” and began to turn away but he said “oh this isn’t superstition, it’s real” so I took the bait. I asked him “so what’s your evidence that God is real?” He quickly pulled out a 1 dollar bill which he had already underlined “In God We Trust” with red ink. I was really shocked that he had such a lame response so I said that hasn’t always been there. But he just changed the subject so I walked off laughing. It’s unbelievable how these guys can fool themselves with such worthless “evidence.”

  17. John Kruger says

    The thread about the Egyptian atheist was also an open thread for that show. I believe Tracie explains a bit more in those comments.

  18. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    Although we, as smart-arse/daft-arse Brits, use both Metric and Imperial measurement for our road signs…. Imperial on the whole, but Metric for shorter distances.

  19. says

    There’s another quite simple explanation. I don’t even think it’s that unreasonable:
    God is omniscient, so he knows what will happen if he doesn’t interfere. However, he also knows the consequences of any action he takes.
    Ergo, he knows the outcome, no matter what he does, even if he does nothing. Not really that problematic.

    I think the omniscience/free will contradiction is much stronger and even that only amounts to a grandfather paradox. Still, since god is omniscient, he would be able to predict which actions would lead to a paradox and avoid them.

    All-in-all I don’t think that’s a productive line of critique. The Euthyphro angle is much better. The only way to get out of that one is to limit the definitions of the “omni” traits and even that presents various problems.

  20. Tomasz R. says

    Considering physics call – this might get interesting if the guy was able to explain it in a general way instead of telling a bunch of random details and names.

    There is a hypothesis that the universe can be thought of as a quantum computer that computes itself (in a self-contained manner – no external “Gods”, or “Matrixes” involved, and in a distributed maner – without any single “God” or “Matrix” directing everything). It makes a lot of sense if you look at it – it solves the question why universe is describable by math – at it’s deepest known level it’s a computer!

    What we experience at our levels is an illusion. But it’s an illusion similar to eg. the way the solid body is an illusion – we know that at a deeper level solid body consist mostly of an empty space, with rare occurences of protons, neutrons and electons in this space. And so the solid body is not even solid – some electromagnetic waves or neutrinos can go through this empty space easily. Going few detail levels deeper (through quarks, virtual particles etc.) – you arrive at the universe as the self-contained quantum computer, computing itself (eg. it’s own future).

    The leading proponent of such interpretation is Seth Lloyd, a quantm computer designer. He claims that quantum computers he designs are just devices that capture natural computational functionality of some small part of the Universe, and skew it slightly towards computing for our purposes, rather than working according to some man-invented mechanics.

    Notice that this whole hypothesis is a strong argument against gods. Citation from the book description:

    “Lloyd’s hypothesis bears important implications for the red-hot evolution–versus–intelligent design debate, since he argues that divine intervention isn’t necessary to produce complexity and life. “

  21. wholething says

    An omnipotent god, by definition, could create a god that thought it was omniscient and omnipotent yet could not detect the creator god. Since it is possible, a sufficiently powerful being could, by definition, also do this. The created god would know that it is possible that it was created by another god that is hidden for mysterious reasons. The created god cannot actually be omniscient because it cannot know whether it had a creator and cannot be omnipotent because it cannot find out.

    The creator god could reveal itself to the created god but the created god could not be certain if the revelation was real, a trick, or a hallucination.

    Even the creator god would not be able to determine if it was a created being, a brain in a vat, a program in the Matrix, or a dream of Vishnu.

  22. wholething says

    A Christian friend tried that argument on me so I pointed out that some of the days of the week were named for Norse myths, and some of the months were named for Roman myths, so the fact that we count years based on Jesus is evidence that he is a myth, too.

  23. mandrellian says

    There was a bit where Matt said he often had to try and keep his sanity/composure when he heard the same apologetic bullshit being brought up by person after person – I sympathise and understand the need to not just bark at people when they present gift-wrapped guano as philosophical dynamite (not until the mention Acts for ninth time anyway!), because they’re often younger or newer believers who are presenting this crap in all honesty. Hell, some even think they’re doing you a favour.

    However, if you think you’ve formulated, been taught or just happened upon what you think is the greatest atheism-debunking argument ever, you’d think (you being such an intellectual and all) you’d have a quick look around to see if anyone’s addressed it or used it successfully before loading up your blunderbuss and letting loose in public – especially on an atheist call-in show with a reputation for being intolerant of bad arguments. The amount of people who think Kalaam is a fracking slam-dunk, for example, blows my mind – it’s like they’ve never heard of Google (or, indeed, the very show they’re calling)!

    In addition to an asence of forethought this approach also displays startling naivete: I don’t think you’ll find many atheists who came to atheism via a single argument which instantly changed their views in the course of one conversation, so why would anyone think a single theo-pologetic argument is going to bring them back? Ditto the vice versa: I suspect the amount of religious people who came to their current beliefs via a single debate with a believer is negligible.

    Finally, the less said about AD/BC guy the better. Does he think Narcissus was real because there’s a psychological condition named after him? Does he think Esther was a real goddess because Easter is named for her? Myths may not be true but we like them and we honour those who told them by using their terminology. If we removed everything from human language and culture that has mythology at its root, we’d have a lot of renaming to do – not least of which being the entire Solar System and large chunks of space.

  24. IrishBrian says

    Entertaining show…. half way through listening to the Podcast (at work :-) )
    Though I do feel that Matt was being a bit more barky (is that a word) than usual….. I understand that Matt has heard all of these arguments before and can see two steps ahead to answer the question before it’s been put but for me (and this is just my taste), I actually enjoy hearing the theist formulating his argument fully….
    All of us who have watched TAE many times know the arguments Matt will use…. so it’s really the callers that provide the “new” interesting bit…..

    I had the feeling Matt was performing a little for the crowd in the studio.

    Anwyay, really enjoy the shows !

  25. says

    It’s quite possible to form a sentence that, while using normal words and grammar, has no clear meaning. The phrase “more powerful than omnipotent” falls in this category.
    As such, you did not ask a coherent question and no answer is possible, one way or another. Your posts simply doesn’t not have any content.

    Of course, the problem occurs because of the concept of OMNIpotence, which is prone to such self-contradictions. That’s why some kind of restriction has to be put on it, like the “logically possible” restriction.

    The problem with that is that it leaves you with the laws of logic being independent of and more powerful than god and most theists don’t like that. They want their god to be at the top of the pyramid, but I don’t think that can be done unless you equate god with logical necessity itself.

    So, either you have a not-quite-omnipotent, personal god or you have a really-omnipotent, impersonal principle. Either way, many traditional god concepts have gone out the window, most notably those of the Abrahamic tradition.

  26. Jenn says

    I can’t believe NO ONE has commented on how hilarious Matt from Oslo’s “Texas accent” was! Definitely one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard on this show. I hope that clip goes down in YouTube history…I think it’s an instant classic!

  27. says

    I just got this mental image of some British lord being very disappointed after Russell accused him of being a troll and hung up :)

  28. mike says

    We all may “know what it really means” now but I disagree that it doesn’t matter. At the current rate the non-religious are growing, it will only take 2 or 3 generations from now wherein young people would not automatically know, to them it would just be before common era, they would have to “google” it(or the 22nd century equilvalent!) to find out that it was based on xian myths.

  29. Tomasz R. says

    So it looks like a monotheist god is an object that makes language nonsensical. If you introduce “god” then perfectly valid sentences become illogical babbling. God is a concept that destroys logic and human way of reasoning.

  30. says

    Indeed, there’s an argument to be made there. The concept of god may well be incoherent. To be charitable, you might describe it as “beyond our limited understanding”, but there’s no practical difference. A concept that cannot be understood isn’t much of one.

  31. says

    I think the caller was discussing research related to Bell’s theorem which generated some reasonably well cited papers in the early and mid 90s when computational physics started to leap forward and continued on since then (at a slower rate). This has lead to experiments (and the theoretical underpinning) showing that non local reality does not seem to work the way we would naively assume it would at small scales (of length and time). Related experiments (and theoretical underpinnings) have shown odd behaviors for local reality as well. There were still talks about this kind of work at last years APS march meeting for instance (which is where one would expect this to be if it were being worked on in the US). These are not unknown to physicists (in the relevant disciplines at least), and are probably interesting for physicists to talk about, but the metaphysical implications of these experiments is not clear (at least to me).

    If you want amusing fiction wich takes some of this into account I would recommend Anathem, by Neal Stephenson. It would be hard to discuss this topic in any detail with people who are not physicists (or at least I have found it to be so), and so I agree with the hosts (as I have said) that the show was probably not a good forum for this topic.

  32. Phillip says

    Being a british lord isn’t what it used to be, Geru. Pretty much anyone can be a lord these days, cf. ‘Lord’ Coe, and ‘Lord’ Archer.

  33. says

    I wish someone had told the astrology guy that the gravitational effects of the people in the room (assuming a few people are nearby) will have a greater gravitational effect on the child than the moon does. Inverse square law for the win!

    Also, the Farmer’s Almanac is mostly bullshit.

  34. Ilumi says

    I actually got pretty curious about this statement, so I went ahead and did the calculations.

    Assuming an 80 kg (176 lbs) person, you would have to be about 1.27 (half an inch) away from another person (whose weight is arbitrary) to exert a gravitational force on them equal to that of the Moon.

    I also went ahead and did the calculation for Proxima Centauri, the closest star other than the Sun. The aforementioned 80 kg person could actually be around 730 meters (just a little under half a mile) to exert a gravitational force on another thing equal to that of Proxima Centauri.

    In other words, today’s caller really needs to brush up on his basic physics.

  35. ah58 says

    Not to mention, if gravity were that influential on our personality development, the altitude of the place we were born would probably trump any other effects.

    I’m actually sort of surprised that the caller even said it was gravitational effects that caused astrology to be true. Most arguments I’ve seen, astrologists simply refuse to define a mechanism through which their “science” works. It’s all mystical mumbo-jumbo.

  36. jacobfromlost says

    Another counterargument to the whole “purpose” thing is that common Christian ideas indicate life has no purpose–at least not in the way they always try to imply. (The purpose thing seems to be the inverse of the “first cause” argument.)

    A purpose, at least as they commonly use it in these discussions, is something that is A) worked for in some useful way through time and B) fulfilled in the future (at which point the purpose is over).

    If the “purpose” of our life is to serve god to get to heaven, then what is the purpose of being in heaven? To continue serving god? Forever? How is that a “purpose” to be worked for in some useful way to be fulfilled in the future? It’s difficult to see how anything could be worked for, or fulfilled, if you are already in heaven–which would mean it is by definition purposeless. And to suggest your “purpose” in life is to achieve a purposeless outcome (heaven), how is that really a purpose in life? It isn’t.

    (The super-simplistic way some theists think of “purpose” never fails to amaze me. When arguing with a particular theist along these lines, I finally appealed to the example of a hammer. Is “The Purpose” of a hammer to pound nails? Or can it’s purpose be as a weapon, a lever, a paperweight, etc, depending on how the user wants to use it and in fact CAN use it? Can it be all of these things at once? Of course. And when the hammer breaks, or is lost to the user, what is it’s purpose then? A “purpose” is not something that is magically woven into the fabric of something…although that is usually what they want everyone to assume.)

  37. codemonkey says

    Dawkins had an interesting talk on purpose. IIRC the “Purpose Of Purpose”. You may want to check it out, ala youtube.

  38. Dago Red says

    How about the names we use for the days of the week?
    They almost all derive from pagan sources — Tuesday (from Tyr), Wednesday (from Wodan) and Thursday (or Thor’s day), etc. I find it “interesting” and really wonder if this indicates that there must be something true in Norse mythology.

    And why do Christians still use “Easter” as the name for their holy day? Easter derives from the name Eostre or Ostara, a pagan Goddess of fertility and Spring. This clearly indicates some cryptic connection between Christianity and this ancient secret pagan faith. It really makes one wonder if Christianity is merely a sham-front for some other much older secret religion. Jesus could easily be Eostre in drag, right?

  39. murk says

    of course this reasoning would only be valid and sound if:
    metaphysical, epistemological and moral commitments can be viewed independently of each other – which they cannot be.

    For example can you answer the question of how do we know without answering what do we know and not depend on the honesty of data reporters which were used to formulate your underlying network of beliefs through which you not only allow / disallow data but also how that data is interpreted?

    (is this a run on sentence:)

  40. Rick Pikul says

    The way I usually explain the meaning of ‘law’ in science is that it is one of the following things:

    An empirical relationship.
    A definition, (e.g. force is the rate of change of momentum).
    A statement of ideality, (e.g. for an ideal gas, PV=nRT).
    An obsolete synonym for theory.

  41. Bugmaster says

    Hey Matt and Russell, I know that yours is not a science show, but still:

    The Law of Gravity is:

    F = GMm / R^2

    It describes the force of gravity, which decreases as the square (not the cube) of the distance between the two masses M and m (G is just a contstant).

    Laws of this type are known as “Inverse Square Laws” (not “Root mean square“, that’s something else), and they govern lots of things, not just gravity — for example, electrostatic attraction, or the apparent brightness of a star.

    If you have trouble remembering whether it’s R^2 or R^3, you can use the following analogy (which is probably totally inaccurate and will get me yelled at by real physicists, sorry about that).

    Consider the light being emitted by a star at one particular instant. You can imagine this light as consisting of photons that are just leaving the star’s surface, all of which are traveling away from that surface in a straight line at exactly the speed of light. Together, they form a spherical shell around the star. A second later, each photon would’ve traveled some distance away. There’s the same number of photons, but they are now spread over a larger area, which makes the shell larger but thinner. Another second later, they will be spread out even further, forming an even larger but thinner spherical shell, and so on.

    The surface area grows as the square of its radius, hence you divide by R^2 to get the “thickness” of the shell — which is the number of photons per square meter of space. The fewer photons there are, the dimmer the star would appear to your eye.

  42. Matt Gerrans says

    My problem with the omniscient, omnipotent God isn’t so much the impossibility of it, but the futility of it. Even accepting the given apologetic answers (lame though they are) for how it is possible, it still remains that such a being would not be able to “want” outcomes or realistically have any other (human) desires, because being omnipotent is inconsistent with “wanting” things.

    I think TNG covered some of this idea with their Q story lines. Q was bored as hell, because there wasn’t much for him to strive for or desire. Whatever he wanted he had the power to will into being.

    The Abrahamic religions are based on a pretty unsophisticated thought process and are therefore based on a heavily anthropomorphic god figure, who seems to be bound by many human emotions, desires *and* limitations. This is pretty explicit in the OT and morphs toward more omniscience the end of it, becomes pretty amorphous in the NT and then modern Christians make up shit to fill in the blanks.

  43. says

    Yeah, I did that too. Distance is really key (and Wolfram Alpha was definitely my friend, here). I didn’t want to bog everything down with the math. :)

  44. aths says

    Matt from Oslo is such a sad troll … I am with Russell on the issue about the caller who he throw out, it was probably that troll again.

    Even though it was a two hour show, there were not too many good call this time. The ‘acts’ guy who got kicked was probably the most interesting, but then he forced Matt to hang up on him.

  45. Alan says

    In Japan, although they have adopted the Gregorian Calendar they still count years in many instances based on the reign of the current emperor. When I visited in 2006 the year was referred to as “Heisei 18″, the 18th year of Akihito’s reign. It was even printed on a ticket I was issued for lining up in a bank. Different cultures have different year starting dates.

  46. says

    There are tons of calenders out there. The Hebrew Calendar says that it’s the year 5773. The Islamic Calendar says that it’s 1433. The Thelemic Calendar starts in 1904 AD, but uses a highly strange notational system that requires a [sub] tag to write. It works with a double notation of individual years and cycles of 22 years. You can read about it here.
    The Buddhist Calendar uses four different numbering systems for years, but honestly, I can’t make heads or tails of it. Feel free to read up on it yourselves.
    Then of course, there’s also the Mayan Calendar that we’ve heard so much about recently. I’m not even going to bother with that.

    Suffice to say, there are plenty of different calendars out there, none of them any more objective than any other*. We use the one we do because the Gregorian Calendar became dominant in Christianity, Christianity became dominant in Europe and Europe became dominant in the world. That’s all.

    * Incidentally, that brings to mind an interesting thing: given the subjective nature of our time-keeping, how would you communicate time to an alien species?
    The Voyager records solved this by using the transition time between different states of hydrogen atoms.

  47. Non-believer says

    I agree that if the caller were prepared enough to make at least an interesting claim pertaining to religion,or Atheism, based on the Quantum Physicists established, and peer reviewed work, it would have been one of the more interesting calls. I wish they would have forced a point out of him so that we could have at least heard an interesting call.

    To me, the quantum mechanics field is the only field being currently worked on that could possibly find the answers to all the most meaningful questions in this Universe. I for one think it is very exciting and even though I am not a Physicist, far from it,it is not boring at all. The problem with that caller was that he spent too much time trying to give references and not enough time making his point.

    I love this show, but truthfully, Matt has me afraid to even call until I have spent weeks preparing my questions. LOL

  48. Non-believer says

    I believe the Christianity was simply made up by the Romans as a control mechanism and based mostly on ancient Egyptian religion. I know for a FACT that most of the dates used for the main holidays came from older religions and mostly ancient Egypt. I think Russell has said he doesn’t think Zeitgeist is accurate but if you haven’t seen it or Kymatica, you should watch them both! They are both very interesting and do have a lot of factual evidence.

  49. says

    I believe the Christianity was simply made up by the Romans as a control mechanism and based mostly on ancient Egyptian religion

    A few points. First, if the Romans wanted a control mechanism, why not simply go with the religion they already had? Roman religion included the idea of the Emperor as a god. Why not simply build on that instead of undermining it with the concept of an “only begotten son of the one true god”?
    Indeed, starting a new religion from scratch would be a massive undertaking, requiring generations of missionary work to establish. It’s not as if people would simply believe whatever they were told instantly. We know from history that even when a centralized religion is heavily enforced, people still hang on to older beliefs for a long time.

    Next, if it was, as you say, based in Egyptian religion, where did this Jewish emphasis come from? It’s not as if Judaism was already established as an authority that Rome could co-opt.
    If you were going to invent a new religion, why start it off as an obscure sect of an already obscure religion, only practiced by a (by roman standards) barbaric people living in the ass-end of the empire? It makes no sense.

    I know for a FACT that most of the dates used for the main holidays came from older religions

    Which is entirely consistent with the idea of a new religion being assimilated into an existing culture. It is, however, not consistent with the idea that it was invented.
    As I’ve asked, where would the Jewish elements come from? They couldn’t have been part of the existing culture, since Jews were a distinct minority. The only explanation is that the Jewish elements came from the new religion.

    But, as I’ve also argued, there would be no reason for the inventors to include Jewish mythology into their religion. Indeed, the Messianic myth that forms the basis of Christianity would directly undermine the Imperial Cult.
    The Egyptian angle would actually be much more sensible, since the Egyptians also held idea of the identity between the god and the ruler.

    So, if you’re inventing this religion, why would you throw away one of the really good bits of the Egyptian mythology only to replace it with a doctrine a) from a religion nobody cares about b) of an outright rebellious minority that c) directly undermines your authority?

    There is no doubt that Christianity was used for political control, but to suggest that it was invented specifically for that purpose is unfounded.

  50. Liam Lambert says

    After recently discovering ‘The Atheist Experience’ i’d like to thank you. Being from the UK, in particular England, atheism is accepted within our society. After only wathing a few of your shows it struck me as to the extent in which people misunderstand atheism and are afraid of considering accepting it.

    I have no quarrals with anyone who believes in religion, but im pleased to see that the atheist view is now being shown online throught your show, and how ‘basic’ questions, commonly based on very simple science are answered; “what is holding up the Earth?” for example.

    Keep up the good work.


  51. says

    I’m so glad Russell brought Sensus divinitatis to my attention. I had noticed it behind a lot of Christian bullying, but I never knew there was a name for it. Here’s a transcription of how Russell described it:

    “Some Christians believe in something called sensus divinitatis, which is that God basically reveals his existence by dumping the knowledge straight into the heads and hearts of every person out there. And so a person who is a true believer will often feel like their feeling about what’s true about god is enough to prove that it really is true, and that every person on Earth actually feels the same thing and anybody who has a different outlook on god is just lying about what they think.”

  52. codemonkey says

    I’m going to start quoting you on this. Thanks!

    btw, what’s the first law? Figure I might as well use the whole set.

  53. JE Hoyes says

    I would have liked to have heard what Johanan from Thiensville had to say about that idea but, every time he started up, either Matt or Russell interrupted him. I guess I’ll just have to google Brian Whitworth and integrated information theory.

  54. Warp says

    A scientific theory is a well-established and widely accepted framework or model that encompasses a large amount of facts, laws of nature, and confirmed observation, measurement and repeatable experiments into a coherent whole that explains some aspect of reality, and which has passed time and again the scientific test and peer review process?

    Well, I have a counter-argument that definition: String theory.

    (PS: This was tongue-in-cheek, and a jab at string theory, not a jab at the definition of “scientific theory” in general.)

  55. hypatiasdaughter says

    @23 Warp
    Which is why String “Theory” is not a widely accepted amongst the scientific community. It is a working hypothesis on which research is being done to find the evidence to support it and should more properly be called the String “Hypothesis”.
    Two historical examples of this same situation are:
    The Copernican model of the Solar System. The behavior of the planets supported the model but it was not fully accepted until Newton’s Universal Theory of Gravity provided a mechanism for planetary orbits;
    And Plate Tectonics. All the facts (how the continental shelves fit together like a jigsaw puzzle and the identical strata on separated continents) made it look good but did not become the working model for geologists until the mechanism for crustal movements was discovered.


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