Open thread on episode #804: Russell and Tracie »« The Atheist Experience written up in Süddeutsche Zeitung

Comments

  1. nicksonz says

    Miles – if it’s not relevant to you, then why are you calling in to an atheist show?

    As an atheist yourself, you’d rather go to the trouble of refuting what other atheists are doing (in this case, how they’re using the term ‘atheist’), instead of refuting those who actually hold beliefs and worldviews that you think are complete nonsense.

    Go figure that one out.

  2. Dyslexic DNA says

    Miles just came off as disingenuous with his tone and style. The whole prim & proper schtick is played out – you don’t get any earned respect by using the hosts full names, you just come off sounding fake and insincere.

  3. gridironmonger says

    Has anyone ever heard any caller to AXP that used the word “mind” in their opening statement which wasn’t a huge waste of everyone’s time? Oh, Jebus……

  4. Thomas Cocks says

    The new improved completely political accurate atheist experience.
    Episode 1 :
    host: “we don’t believe in deity’s”
    caller: “why not?” host: ” multitudes of reasons that vary from atheist to atheist and i cannot and will not speak for all atheists so that it all i can say on the matter”
    next caller: “if there is a universe there must be a god.”
    Host “i dont believe in deity’s” …. etc… etc

  5. codemonkey says

    Matt, I know you’ve heard this before probably, but let me say it anyway. For the caller on morality.

    I think you could do better. I think you know that it the way you handled it could have been better. I think that you knew that the caller was defining “morality” to include all ought statements – specifically all true ought statements. Thus, not definitionally equivalent to caring about well-being. (However, you and I both agree that all true “ought” statements are statements that promote well-being.) I think you could have been clearer with this up front and been less confusing and more accommodating, especially as how a lot of people would consider yours the “fringe” definition of the word “morality”.

    Second, the question “why should we act to promote well-being?”. I never see Sam Harris answer this question well, and I don’t think you answered this question well here. In the show, you gave a self-centered hedonist justification. Such a naive explanation is not what we should be going for. That would allow and even endorse hurting someone else, abusing the system, if you could guarantee that you would not be caught. I think any attempt to justify promoting well-being on that pure self-interested argument like that is bound to fail.

    Of course, I don’t have much better. I assert it axiomatically, by fiat, and if a person doesn’t care about promoting well-being, then we can’t have much of a conversation. Of course, I could use persuasion and Socratic questioning to make the other person realize that he really does care about well-being, but that’s not making a formal logic argument. It’s making a persuasion, an emotional appeal in the end.

    You and I both know that you cannot justify caring about well-being without eventually resorting to a moral axiom, an unjustified starting point, which itself must be an “ought” statement, such as “we ought to care about (human) well-being”. It must be an ought statement, because otherwise one just used the “appeal to nature” fallacy, aka break Hume’s Is-Ought distinction.

    I’ve tried to explain this to Sam, and I’m now trying to explain it to you. This is what people are really on about when they talk about objective morality.

    I always try to counter this silly argument by noting that they have no better. At the end of the day, the divine command theorist either has to make the “appeal to nature” fallacy and break Hume’s Is-Ought distinction, or they have to make a naked assertion along the lines of “we ought to do what god says”. I ask them “why do what god says?”, and repeatedly ask why, in a (usually hopeless) attempt at showing that they themselves have a starting moral axiom (or that they break Hume’s Is-Ought distinction). I do think it’s an unanswerable question, or at least as unanswerable as our question (“why care about well-being?”).

    Going back to your self-centered hedonist justification. Another problem here I could always ask “why care about yourself – why take actions that grant you pleasure”.

    As the great Feynman once said, in order to prove something, you must first be a framework where you allow something to be true. You have to be in a context with certain statements that are just given to be true. If you don’t allow that, then you can’t have a conversation. The proponents of objective morality just don’t get this. They think there’s another option besides an axiomatic belief system. I will never understand how they can think that.

    Thank you for your time, and please keep up the great work!

  6. jdoran says

    Some pretty decent calls overall, I thought.

    Beth needs to get a little buzzer, attach it to Matt, and sit just off-camera and zap him every time he puts his hand near his mouth. Or a squirtgun or something.

  7. mond says

    How is this for a bit of Miles logic.

    Matt is an American
    Matt is an Atheist

    Some people might conclude all Americans are Atheist, therefore, can Matt stop describing himself as American, its totally misleading.

  8. sasa says

    I think anti theism does have it’s problems as far as definitions go. It includes two statements: “belief is harmful” and “religion is harmful” which totally leaves out the possibility of a theist (non practicing believer) having the opinion about religion being harmful. You can’t really call yourself a theist and an anti theist at the same time. A good definition should be flexible enough to accommodate such an individual. The existing definition accommodates only atheists.

    It also states that religion and belief are inseparable from each other. But belief kind of has the edge because you can’t practice without believing (you can but no one would consider you a theist just for going to church if you’re open about your disbelief) yet you can believe without practicing and would readily be considered a theist. So with belief the stronger of the two components it lends itself to appear that anti theism is a position on the same scale as theism/atheism, just more radical than atheism. But can there even be something more radical than rejecting the whole claim in the first place, which is what atheism does to theism?

    I think that it is inflexible and redundant to include the rejection of belief in both atheism and anti theism.

    Just for fun: what would be the opposite of an anti theist? A pro theist? Who the heck would that be?

  9. says

    Just for fun: what would be the opposite of an anti theist? A pro theist? Who the heck would that be?

    I would think that’d be the pastors/priests.

    But I’m more opposed to those people, so I’d be an antiprotheist.

  10. sasa says

    I also have a strong general dislike for the clergy. On the other hand I appreciate when people practice what they preach. In other words, a hypocritical and manipulative pastor is among my least favorite of people but the “helping the poor and the needy without any gain apart from the “spiritual” pastor I do have respect for. Even if I think he/she is incredibly irrational and maybe even crazy, at least the person is striving for consistency. I’ll take that over the cherry picking, trying to find excuses for stroking my ego type of a theist.

    I find myself in a position where i do feel like religion is generally harmful but am hesitant to “expand” on my atheism by adopting anti theism (or anti protheism) because it seems to me that those definitions have too many exceptions to the rule. Like forcing order to chaos.

  11. gshelley says

    The argument from morality sounded uncannily familiar. As with last time, I think it would have helped if the hosts had asked the caller for their definition of “Objective morality”. They got the basic morality definition and showed it to be circular, and the caller supposedly accepted the hosts definition instead, but I suspect that there was still a circular argument lurking behind the caller’s idea of “objective”, which is to say if asked, would probably have said “morality that comes from God”, or, in the unlikely event of the caller giving the matter thought, would have been on the lines of “morality that is outside of human thought or its effects on people”

    It could also have helped the caller to understand that simply saying “it’s god” doesn’t really provide any answers. He kept asking “why do what is moral?”, presumably on the assumption that “Christians do what is moral because god tells them” is a more satisfying answer than the equivalent “people do what’s moral because the law tells them” would be, and even going a step further, and phrasing it as analogous to Matt’s answer, something like “following god’s law is good because all people benefit” can really only work if you also accept Matt’s answer, which the caller rejected.

  12. says

    Going back to your self-centered hedonist justification. Another problem here I could always ask “why care about yourself – why take actions that grant you pleasure”.

    This is the bit where I’m wondering if we watched the same show. I don’t recall him saying anything about hedonism.

    Given that we’re a social species, a lot of our well being comes from establishing and maintaining relations with others. Therefore, it’s beneficial to our well being to be moral, because it’s significantly more difficult to maintain those relations if you don’t. Some well being is self-gratifying, some isn’t. It’s a mixed bag.

    The part I wish he would have pointed out, is that us trying to improve upon our well being isn’t necessarily a choice – it’s programmed into us through evolution – the survival instinct and being a social species. It’s something we do automatically, naturally (well, most of us).

  13. says

    Sorry, not to spam too much…

    Frankly, I see the “why would you want to be more?” or “why would you care about your well being?” to be a bit of a red herring, like asking someone why they would want to be gay. The fact is, through evolution, species gained a survival instinct, and for humans, a big part of that was the ability to cooperate and live together. Morality is a description of that process, and is mostly on auto-pilot (like sexuality). Asking why it should be done is not terribly relevant – it happens.

    Why would species want to reproduce? Well, they’re wired to do it – wants/philosophical reasoning isn’t really a factor.

  14. says

    I was surprised that the lie stream was perfect here. But then when I hae wanted today to watch it again, the recorded version desn’t work. It buffers 20 minutes to see 1 minute.

  15. says

    seems that Don and the first caller read my comment on the SZ about abosolute, objective and subjective.

    I was listening carefully to Matt and the first caller. I was excited that they spoke about “my thema”. I found it sad that Matt hung up on him because he said that “god created acid battery”. I would have liked to know where he was going and what will come on this discussion. I wonder why Matt hung up…The caller brought good stuff (except his presupposition of a god). I am letting more and more the agnostic label and becoming more and more atheist, but I am not convinced by Matt’s views on moral…I have to watch the video again, but I don’t see why he doesn’t see that the basic on morality is subjective. If for a tribe what it counts it the reproduction of the species, then to have sex is the goal of such a society, whatever. To have sex to reproduce then leads to have sex with girls “under age”. If the goal of a society is to have big fun, then the focus is on eating, drinking, sex protection, etc. (no society will focuss on drinking acid battery, if they were anyway they wouldn’t exist anymore). I have to watch the video again but I really think that Matt is missing the point about a moral objectiity to be subjective, I think he skates between all these notions. And he forget the individual morality vs a social morality (that anyway is subjective). Anyway, I will try to resee the video when it will be available to the AE site.

    for the “anti-theist caller”, a hint: they are anti-theists christians and theists according to what you have said “against religion” hee-llooo??!!

  16. says

    I would have liked to know where he was going and what will come on this discussion. I wonder why Matt hung up…

    Either the caller wasn’t serious about the discussion, or he was a prank caller – either way, the conversation was going nowhere. That was just the signal to move on. We got some mileage out of the call, but it has to end sometime.

  17. mond says

    I have stopped watching on my laptop and switched to the android app on my tablet.

    Very occasional buffering and no ads hamfistely inserted during the broadcast.

  18. steveb0503 says

    Did anyone else get the feeling that “Miles” was none other than “George” from episode 790?
    If so, I just thought I’d bring it to somebody’s attention before it snowballs into another “Mark from Austin Stone” debacle.

  19. aths says

    WHY should we act to improve well-being? Because we like to be well.

    WHY do we like it? Because a state of well-being improves our chances of successful reproduction. We wouldn’t be here if we don’t care about ourselves. But it is even better if we care about each other. As each individual has different skills, he can do something better than others and use it to help others. And get help from others in return.

    Since the level of cooperation differs between individuals as well, and egoists are possible, the others need a sense of justice to avoid exploitation. That sense of justice also governs our moral institution, beside the fact that we find it moral to help someone who is in need.

    Since we come from small groups, we care much more about our neighbors than tribes which live elsewhere. Dawkins explains the inner impuls to help someone we see in need with his gene-centric view: We come from small groups, so the other guy carries some of our genes as well due to the close relationships within the tribe. So if we help that individual, our genes help (partly) themselves, of course without knowing it, as a molecule cannot act on that basis. But a DNA can be coded to make the individual helpful. It is clear to see that such mutations propagate over purely egoistic ones.

    That answers the why question in the sense of ‘how’ we came to develop a morality.

    If you ask why in the sense of a greater purpose, that purpose must be demonstrated before that sense of why is even valid to ask.

  20. jdoran says

    seems that Don and the first caller read my comment on the SZ about abosolute, objective and subjective.

    I assumed he was a prank caller because he called himself “Eric” and used a ridiculous accent to discuss the subject you raised in the blog.

    I think the problem we’re running into is one of fuzzy definitions. Matt uses “morality” in a slightly different way than you do, but both definitions are commonly used. For the sake of making the distinction, it may be helpful to temporarily separate the concepts of “ethics” and “morality”.

    Ethics: the system of principles that guide our morality. Common statements Matt makes are “life is generally preferable to death” and “prevent needless suffering”.

    Morality: how we impose our ethics upon reality. In the cliched “torturing babies” example, if torture is “needless suffering”, then we know it is always immoral to torture babies under our ethical system.

    Ethics are subjective, but the morality for a particular set of ethics is objective. There is always a best implementation of a given set of ethics for any situation, even if we do not know exactly what that implementation is.

    Unfortunately, we don’t have specific words (that I know of) to distinguish between the above definitions. It is common for people to use “ethics” or “morality” to mean either or both of those definitions.

    I am letting more and more the agnostic label and becoming more and more atheist

    You’ve been watching this show for a while. You know that agnosticism is not a position that excludes atheism (or theism). It’s possible to be an agnostic atheist, an agnostic theist, a gnostic atheist, or a gnostic theist. If your answer to the question “do you believe in a god?” is “I don’t know”, then you’re an atheist.

  21. says

    “I assumed he was a prank caller because he called himself “Eric” and used a ridiculous accent to discuss the subject you raised in the blog.”
    —-ya, I have thought or presumed he was a mexican-american. founded also his accent uncommon. I can’t believe they are so much people who like to waste their time in nt searching for the truth and prefer to do parody…

    –you raise a good point now in making difference between ethic and moral. it should be more talked about on the show.

    –was sad though that the callers didn’t go with Dan’s subject. would hae been interesting to hear more about ehtic and moral-

    —i liked when Matt made a precision when he said that morality is not exclusive to mankind and also is not absolute in a sense that if orange juice is good for the health and (let’s say) Don is allergic, then orange juice is good but not absolutly good for everyone.

    “You’ve been watching this show for a while. You know that agnosticism is not a position that excludes atheism (or theism). It’s possible to be an agnostic atheist, an agnostic theist, a gnostic atheist, or a gnostic theist.
    –ya but I use the more classical term of “agnostic” here. and anyway I said “label” myself.

    “If your answer to the question “do you believe in a god?” is “I don’t know”, then you’re an atheist.””
    —hmm the answer to your question if I am following the train of thought of the show would be “I don’t know” then I am an agnostic. are you following the show? ;)

  22. says

    I wonder why it seems atheists are affraid of the label “relativism” in the field of morality, secular morality IS relativist and it is good and intelligent that it is that way!

  23. says

    I think the only wise words of Jesus in the NT was when the pharisees asked Jesus what we should with that adultress and Jesus said: who has never sin throw her the first stone…and it seems, according to most of biblical scholars, it was a forgery :D

  24. jdoran says

    This is because the application of ethics depends on the situation. In the case of someone allergic to orange juice, it is objective that orange juice is not healthier for that person than other forms of the things that orange juice supplies.

    I’m specifically using the term “agnostic” in the classic sense. “Agnostic” applies to whether or not it is possible to have knowledge of a god, not whether or not you actually have a belief in one. Agnosticism and atheism are not mutually exclusive positions. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. ;)

  25. says

    Ethic/Moral: we should more specify about thses two differences.

    “Agnosticism and atheism are not mutually exclusive positions. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. ;)”
    —they are both fruits :D

  26. Gary Walker says

    Regarding the caller who was questioning his beliefs and decided to read the Bible more: “The best cure for Christianity is reading the Bible.”- Mark Twain

    Amen,
    Infidel

  27. says

    “Ethic/Moral: we should more specify about those two differences.”
    –I meant in the show and our common language, we should be more specific when we talk about Ethic (and what it is) and Morality (and what it is).

  28. codemonkey says

    WHY should we act to improve well-being? Because we like to be well.

    So, you’re justifying the claim “we ought to promote well-being” with the proposition “we ought to do what we like”, do I understand you correctly? Then let me ask why ought we do what we like?

    Or are you justifying it with the claim “people commonly have a preference for well-being”? In which case:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_nature

  29. nude0007 says

    morality. I have no problem with someone saying my morality is subjective. I do indeed decide what is moral and try to do it. However, that is different from SELFISH. I could do a lot of things that may actually benefit myself, if I would ignore my morals. The thing is, SO IS THEIR MORALITY. They judge what is written in the bible as moral or immoral. IF they did not, if they just accepted God’s edicts as moral, they would be compelled to murder atheists, gays, unruly kids, etc.. Obviously, they are making subjective moral judgments about what is in the bible. we all get our morals from the same place. You can claim it is some overall universal objective morality or that it is subjective, but it is the same for ALL of us, not just atheists. We get to the point where we come to a situation that doesn’t directly or even remotely benefit us, like walking an old lady across a busy street. It makes us feel good and that is enough. There doesn’t have to be a higher, objective morality to it. Some things are their own regard. Indeed, we say to ourselves “If I help that lady cross the street, It’ll make me feel good” so I do it. Therefore, I have established the morality of that situation and what it means to me.

    The guy who has a problem with anti-theism: why don’t you have a problem with people being lied to and misled? Why DON’T you at least have ill will towards the religions that have persecuted you and others like you, just because you don’t follow their edicts, AND STILL ARE? You never did say anything they actually DID that reflects badly on atheists. You don’t really have anything, do you? Are you so intent on keeping peace and good will towards people that you allow them to trample all over your rights and call your beliefs (or lack of) evil? I think YOU have a serious problem. It is either a greater delusion than religion, or a serious lack of spine.

  30. says

    It’s another labeling problem.

    “Moral Relativism” often refers to the idea that morality changes from society to society.. so that slavery is morally correct in one society, but not another.

    That’s different from saying that the morality of a situation can be relative to a particular context. Killing someone might be considered okay if it’s by their wishes and they’re suffering needlessly, but it wouldn’t be okay if they’re just walking down the street minding their own business.

  31. says

    Misapplication of logical fallacy.

    At no point did I say it’s good because it’s natural.

    I’m talking about a moral framework that definitionally arises naturally – a topic that is well studied by scientists. You’ve got it backwards.

    At what point did Matt bring up a “hedonistic justification” for objective morality? Citation needed.

  32. codemonkey says

    You said:
    Asking why it should be done is not terribly relevant – it happens.
    At no point did I say it’s good because it’s natural.
    I don’t think I can have a meaningful conversation with you. I asked the question “why should we promote well-being”. You answered that the question is not relevant because people as a matter of facts do promote well-being. You started talking about evolution and instinctual moral impulses. That’s the appeal to nature fallacy. It’s a textbook example. It’s the same fallacy that social Darwinists make.

    One cannot cannot derive proscriptive statements from descriptive statements. One cannot derive oughts from is’s. One cannot bridge Hume’s Is-Ought divide. If we can’t agree to that, then all I have left is attempts at persuasion to show that you really don’t think that, and you actually agree with me, and I don’t think this format would allow that to work properly.

    Also, Matt clearly defended his views on morality from a position of self interest at one point during the call. I usually conflate hedonism with that position. I’m sorry if you think hedonism is means something else. That’s what I understand it to mean.

  33. sasa says

    My personal answer to “why promote well being”, and I know that’s not what you’re after but regardless, is: so that you are able to ask that question. That’s why.

  34. says

    @codemonkey

    I totally agree with you, Matt has an Hedonist morality according of what he said on that show and many others without mentioning specificly “hedonism”.

  35. says

    “moral relativism” in opposition to “moral absolute”, no?

    if a society decide subjectevly that we should optimise health and orange juice is promoted for the good health but we see that some people are allergic, then we have a relativistic position in saying, orange juice can be good for certain people and not for the others.

    in your exemples and matt’s you propose all the time extreme exemples. if you travel a lot and go to other cultures, you will see that moral is relative from a society to another, depending on many facts (temperature, population, rarerity of foods, etc) moral is relative, not absolute in any cases. well when a moral is absolute it comes from extremists and that must be condemned.

  36. Lord Narf says

    I don’t think I can have a meaningful conversation with you. I asked the question “why should we promote well-being”. You answered that the question is not relevant because people as a matter of facts do promote well-being. You started talking about evolution and instinctual moral impulses. That’s the appeal to nature fallacy. It’s a textbook example. It’s the same fallacy that social Darwinists make.

    *sigh* No, it’s not an appeal to nature fallacy. There’s a key component missing.

    All he’s saying is that it’s a silly question to ask why we should, when we’re going to do it anyway, whether we should or not. Without the ought, it’s not a fallacy.

    It’s like this theists I was talking to who kept screaming that I was making an Argument from Ignorance, because I rejected his argument for God. The Argument from Ignorance has a structure. It’s roughly “I can’t imagine how else this could have happened, so X must be true.” Rejecting a claim is not making a counter claim, so all he did was make himself look like an ignoramus.

    In this case, Jasper isn’t inserting an ought. He’s just saying that that’s the way we’re programmed, and that’s the way that 98% of the species is going to act, so it’s silly to discuss why we should act that way.

  37. says

    Asking why it should be done is not terribly relevant – it happens.
    At no point did I say it’s good because it’s natural.

    And you don’t see the difference between these two statements?

    I asked the question “why should we promote well-being”. You answered that the question is not relevant because people as a matter of facts do promote well-being. You started talking about evolution and instinctual moral impulses. That’s the appeal to nature fallacy.

    No, it’s not. It’s specifically about making an argument that something is good (or bad) because it’s natural (or not). Observing that something happens in nature is not a fallacy.

    Even suggesting that something isn’t necesarily required, due to what happens in nature, doesn’t qualify.

    I’ll break it down for you.

    Suggesting that something isn’t required != claiming that it’s morally/ethically good
    Suggesting that something isn’t required != claiming that it’s morally/ethically bad

    Even suggesting something like – not drinking water (or other hydration) is physically bad for you because your natural body will die without it, so you should stay hydrated – doesn’t qualify.

    It’s specifically about whether something is morally good or bad, because of a reference to something natural.

    For instance, claiming that we don’t need to wear pentagrams to protect us from birds, because naturally, we’re not actually attacked by them if we’re not, is not a naturalistic fallacy. It’s an actual observation of demonstrably true reality.

    It’s a textbook example. It’s the same fallacy that social Darwinists make.

    Verbally, it’s close, but no cigar.

    One cannot cannot derive proscriptive statements from descriptive statements. One cannot derive oughts from is’s. One cannot bridge Hume’s Is-Ought divide.

    I agree, although this isn’t a problem for what I said. Morality happens. Ants in an ant colony figured out basic behavioral rulesets to get along without any philosophy at all. They don’t have to. Note – this is the opposite of an “ought”.

    You’re the one, who, correct me if I’m wrong, seems to be starting with the presupposition that we “ought” to have a philosophical justification for why we would want to increase our well being – and I’m reading between the lines a bit – that there’s something invalid about not having a philosophical justification.

    I’m not proscribing an “ought”. I’m describing an “is” – morality happens within nature, whether anyone cares to philosophically justify it or not. No one’s starting a picket line demanding a philosophical justification from the bear about why it should want to survive through the winter and protect its young… because it’s just going to do its thing anyway, based on instinct, and is therefore irrelevant to bring it up.

    A naturalistic fallacy would be saying that it’s morally okay for us to run around naked because animals are naked all the time.
    A naturalistic fallacy is saying that since homosexuality is unnatural, it’s therefore bad.
    A naturalistic fallacy is not – saying that we can eat apples because our natural digestive systems can digest them.
    A naturalistic fallacy is not – saying that we don’t have to eat the apples because there’s many other natural options we can digest.

    What I’m saying is that your “ought” isn’t necessary, due to nature, and serves more of a distraction/derailing point than anything that’s actually needed. Since the naturalistic fallacy is specifically proscribing a moral/correct “ought” due to nature, that doesn’t qualify. If you don’t understand the difference, then it’s no wonder you’re abusing the fallacy, and why we can’t communicate.

    If we can’t agree to that, then all I have left is attempts at persuasion to show that you really don’t think that, and you actually agree with me, and I don’t think this format would allow that to work properly.

    I agree – I don’t think that.

    Also, Matt clearly defended his views on morality from a position of self interest at one point during the call. I usually conflate hedonism with that position. I’m sorry if you think hedonism is means something else. That’s what I understand it to mean.

    : the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life

    It’s no wonder why I think that, but it does make your position there make more sense in context.

  38. says

    In this case, Jasper isn’t inserting an ought. He’s just saying that that’s the way we’re programmed, and that’s the way that 98% of the species is going to act, so it’s silly to discuss why we should act that way.

    If only I knew how to make my point in a single paragraph.

  39. Lord Narf says

    So, you’re justifying the claim “we ought to promote well-being” with the proposition “we ought to do what we like”, do I understand you correctly? Then let me ask why ought we do what we like?

    No, that’s not it. It’s very slightly more complex than that.
    We ought to do things that lead to results that we like. It’s one step further removed than your statement indicates.

    Also, you need to freaking lay off of the Appeal to Nature. You’re misapplying it. I think you need to read the Wikipedia page that you’re linking, yourself. The form of the appeal doesn’t in any way match the statements you’re applying it to.

  40. Lord Narf says

    “belief is harmful”

    Need to tighten that one up, a bit. Unjustified belief is harmful, or at least is likely to be. At the very least, if a specific unjustified belief isn’t directly harmful, it will pollute your thinking processes and make you more likely to believe in harmful, unjustified things.

  41. aths says

    codemonkey, you quoted only a part of my posting. We like to be well because it promotes our spreading of genes. We like to avoid unnecessary pain and suffering, because pain is a mechanism created by the evolutionary process to get our priorities right. If somethings hurt, we learn to not do it again. (You see that I greatly simplify the matter, I still hope that my points become clear.)

    With the concept of morality, I see a connection of what we like and what we should do. The issue that we have so many individuals with different experience and opinions. I like to buy inexpensive meat, so should I support industrial livestock farming? No, because I also like to reduce the overall amount of suffering.

    While I am able to experience and think, I want to experience more and think deeper. My well-being ensures that I have the ability to experience different things and think about other stuff than how I could survive. If I would be okay with no new experiences, my genes probably have a lower chance to survive.

    If there wouldn’t be a general consensus to reduce unnecessary suffering and everybody (or almost everybody) would be okay with randomly inflicting suffering to others, we would probably not be here. I see no higher sense in being good, ultimately it is even egoistic as one feels better when one knows one has done something good.

  42. says

    Because I’ve got one more example

    Is it a logical fallacy to say that we ought to bring in the garbage because there are bears around that have the natural instinct to tear into it?

    After all, I’m saying we ought to do something with an appeal to nature.

  43. Lord Narf says

    … then we have a relativistic position in saying, orange juice can be good for certain people and not for the others.

    Uhhhhhhh, not exactly no. For one thing, the health benefit (or lack thereof) of orange juice for someone who’s allergic to oranges isn’t a moral position. It’s a statement of demonstrable fact.
    It’s relativistic in the loosest sense of the word, but that isn’t what people generally mean when they talk about relativistic morality.

    It’s kind of funny. When people talk about moral relativism, they’re usually talking about two competing, authoritarian, absolute moralities.
    Where objective morality comes in is that we can look at the claims, such as that fundamentalist Christianity makes a society better. That claim is demonstrably false, and we can objectively look at the goals of a society and determine that the moral code assembled doesn’t achieve the stated goals.

  44. codemonkey says

    @Jasper of Maine
    Not necessarily. You haven’t made a formal argument, but it might be something like:
    1- I ought to act in a way to prevent things I don’t like from happening.
    2- I don’t want bears to make a mess on my front lawn.
    3- If I leave my garbage out, bears will make a mess on my front lawn.
    4- Thus, I ought to not leave my garbage out.

    However, you’ve haven’t solved my problem. You just moved it by one step. It’s like answering the problem of consciousness with homunculi . It is no answer at all, and you just added an extra indirection. You’ve justified one “ought” claim in terms of another “ought” claim. I can now ask you to justify that ought claim. We can repeat this process ad nauseam.

    At the “end” of this repeated questioning, you are going to end up with an unjustified ought claim, with fallacious circular justifications, with you trying to justify an ‘ought’ claim with only ‘is’ claims, an appeal to nature fallacy, or with a never ending regress of justifications.

    I hope we both can agree that my list is exhaustive and one of those is going to “happen”.

    Further, I hope we can agree that the only rational choice is the unjustified moral axiom. Circular justifications are just silly. Breaking Hume’s Is-Ought divide is just silly. Endless regresses of justifications is just silly.

  45. Lord Narf says

    Heh, yeah, that would be amusing if the only good part was one of the known forgeries.
    I don’t even know that that part is particularly wise, though. If you extend the lesson, then we can’t judge someone who rapes and murders children, because there aren’t any of us who have NEVER gone over the speed limit, in a car.

    I think there are a few genuinely wise things that Jesus “said” in the Gospels, so you’re wrong. :P That’s just me being a contrarian, though.

  46. codemonkey says

    Again, sorry for possibly mistating your views, but this is what I see:

    We like to be well because it promotes our spreading of genes. We like to avoid unnecessary pain and suffering, because pain is a mechanism created by the evolutionary process to get our priorities right. If somethings hurt, we learn to not do it again. (You see that I greatly simplify the matter, I still hope that my points become clear.)

    I agree that we can give a scientific explanation why you want to promote well-being. What does this have to do with whether we should promote well being?

    With the concept of morality, I see a connection of what we like and what we should do.

    I do too, because I assert it axiomatically. Otherwise, I fail to see any connection whatsoever.

    If there wouldn’t be a general consensus to reduce unnecessary suffering and everybody (or almost everybody) would be okay with randomly inflicting suffering to others, we would probably not be here.

    Yes, and?

    I see no higher sense in being good,

    Ok.

    ultimately it is even egoistic as one feels better when one knows one has done something good.

    Yes, and? Still haven’t unambiguously answered my question. Why should we promote human well-being?

    Did you mean to answer with “because that’s what people want”? That just doesn’t logically follow. You can assert that by fiat, but I don’t see a logical argument here, with conclusions following from premises. I also think that it’s evil, because I can find plenty of cases of the people hurting minorities.

    Did you mean to answer with “because otherwise there would be no people”? Again, I don’t see a logical argument here. I just see an assertion by fiat. I also think that in highly contrived cases, I could demonstrate that this would lead to great evil and suffering, so again this shouldn’t be the basis of our morality.

  47. Lord Narf says

    However, you’ve haven’t solved my problem.

    Dude, you don’t have a problem. Which is to say that you obviously have a problem, but you don’t have a valid problem that you’re pointing out within Jasper’s posts. It’s not an Appeal to Nature. Nothing he’s said matches the form of the appeal or even comes close to it.

    You’re just taking us down into the weeds. He’s not making ought claims, so he’s not trying to justify them. You’re just confusing the issue.

  48. codemonkey says

    @Lord Narf
    You demonstrate a confusion on the issues. When I said problem, I was clearly referring to the open question “why should we promote well-being?” as the problem. I clearly said “my problem”. How can it be Jasper’s problem if it’s my problem? I think you need to slow down and read for comprehension.

    In that post, I also clearly stated that it was not necessarily an appeal to nature. It might have been. The formalization I even gave was not an appeal to nature. I was being charitable in my interpretation, and even then said that might not be what was meant. I think you need to give that same charity to me.

    You’re just confusing the issue.

    Project much?

  49. Lord Narf says

    I was being silly with the word ‘problem’. I think that was pretty obvious to most of the others.

    Project much?

    Not really, no. If you consider it confusing the issue, when I make a joke, then whatever.

    The problem is that you keep inserting oughts into Jasper’s statements, when they’re just not there. He’s trying to construct a morality around the way that people are going to act, not telling them how they should act. Every time you try to bring it back around to an ought, you’re completely missing the point and aren’t advancing the argument.

  50. codemonkey says

    @Lord Narf

    The problem is that you keep inserting oughts into Jasper’s statements, when they’re just not there.

    Then we’re not reading the same blog.

    From the recent post by Jasper that started this sub-thread:

    Is it a logical fallacy to say that we ought to bring in the garbage because there are bears around that have the natural instinct to tear into it?

    Again Lord Narf, I suggest you read for comprehension.

  51. Bible Thumper Here! says

    How do you put up with the Hedonistic Treadmill?
    If Natural Selection favors reproduction, and the animal in the population of it’s kind reproduces more than others, that animal is therefore superior, more fit, according to the rules of Natural Selection. Yes?

    Than you all should know that Christians are superior to the Atheist, considering they reproduce more than Atheist?
    ;)

  52. Lord Narf says

    Is it a logical fallacy to say that we ought to bring in the garbage because there are bears around that have the natural instinct to tear into it?

    Again Lord Narf, I suggest you read for comprehension.

    For fuck sake. That’s your example? That’s an arbitrary side-argument that he brought up to demonstrate how ridiculous you were being, running around screaming about Appeals to Nature. That has nothing to do with what he was arguing about when you started with the crap.

    Give me an example from his actual argument, before it devolved into your claims of fallacies.

  53. Lord Narf says

    What I’m saying is, “Try giving me an example from before he started throwing out hypothetical oughts, to demonstrate how even those wouldn’t be Appeals to Nature.”

    Come on man, that was just dishonest. You’re normally better than that.

  54. sasa says

    @Codemonkey
    Seriously, I’m repeating myself but your answer is right there in your question. You ask “why should we promote well being?” but without there being a commonality among the majority of humans you wouldn’t have a “we” to work with. It would be an every man to himself type of situation. Without any grounds for having the “we, the people” category the question would simply not arise.

  55. codemonkey says

    I felt that was unclear. Say what you mean please. I also feel that Jasper was unclear in the original 3 posts.

  56. codemonkey says

    Your justification is that it is a self-defeating policy. What arguments do you have that we should avoid self defeating policies?

  57. phillwatson says

    Am I the only only one that thought not only was Miles a phoney, but he was also Ray Comfort?

    He was certainly either australian or a New Zealander.

  58. Lord Narf says

    Clearly you don’t understand natural selection as well as you think. The word “superior” doesn’t come into it. There are just organisms (plants and fungi evolve, too) better or worse suited to a given environment.

    Yes, in some environments, ignorance and stupidity can be advantageous to the passing on of a given organism’s genes. Watch the movie, Idiocracy. It’s a little simplistic in terms of the mechanics, but it gives you a general idea of what you’re talking about.

    Christians breeding like mad within a society may favor the individual Christian’s genes, but when they destroy the society in which they’re breeding like mad, they’ve failed at the group-selection level. Religious societies have a worse societal health than non-religious societies, so it all balances out, in the end.

    Besides, we’re perfectly happy to deconvert your children, once they reach the age of reason and can examine the evidence for themselves. You can’t home-school them all and keep them completely ignorant of science and logic.

  59. Lord Narf says

    Hmm, I dunno. I can’t be sure one way or the other. I don’t have a good enough auditory memory of George’s voice. If anyone is a Poe, I think it’s that first caller.

  60. Lord Narf says

    ???

    Is that in reference to something on this particular show? I’m not following you.

  61. Lord Narf says

    I was perfectly clear. Show me the part of Jasper’s argument, prior to you pulling out the Appeal to Nature crap, in which he asserted an ought.

    Yes, he made an arbitrary example-argument which included an ought, which still wasn’t an Appeal to Nature, to demonstrate how silly you were being in your claim of the fallacy.
    #1, it wasn’t part of his original argument, upon which you declared Appeal to Nature. It was just a side-example he made that had nothing to do with what he was previously talking about. Pulling that out as an example of him using an ought was just dishonest.
    #2, it still wasn’t an Appeal to Nature.

  62. Lord Narf says

    I dunno. He clearly has issues. There were hints in his voice that sounded Scandinavian of some sort.

  63. sasa says

    It is something along the lines of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-refuting_idea#Indirectly_self-denying_statements_or_.22fallacy_of_the_stolen_concept.22 in a question form.

    Every time you say “why should WE promote” or “how should WE avoid self defeat” there is an assumption that WE exist. Not just because we physically belong to the same species but because you assume that what you are striving for (which is asking questions you deem important) is what others are striving for as well.

  64. kieranthegod says

    Growing up in Europe, you kind of take it for granted that it’s our society that tells us how to think. Laws get changed, judges set precedents, and they’re generally a refection of economic development. After watching last weeks show, I found it shocking how many Americans seemed to think they got their morality from scripture.

    We’ve had the bible for almost 2000 years, and how long has it been since we gave women the vote? or started racial equality? or not locked-up homosexuals in prison? All in the past 100 years. If there’s a clear moral code in the bible; then historically christian countries (like mine), would have implemented these ideas millennia ago.

    A child is born into a society than no longer keeps slaves, fought wars to end slavery and actively teaches her, as soon as she’s old enough to understand it, that slavery is wrong. And then, Oh! surprise, surprise! what a coincidence, that child grows up believing slavery is wrong. And then calls your show to say that, it’s instead because of some obscure, ancient text,
    WHICH CLEARLY SAYS THAT SLAVERY IS RIGHT!

    Their ignorance confuses and terrifies me, I’ve heard it said on the show often that you’re still proud to be an American, and well, though there may be some aspects of you’re country that you can be proud of, don’t still half of you think that the world is less than 10,000 years old? or that evolution is false? We just don’t have these crazy statistics in any other developed nation on earth. I mean, we still get these guys in the U.K., but in really small numbers, living in little pocket communities, not the population as a whole, and certainly not out politicians, our deputy prime-minister is an open Atheist. And sorry, but that’s an appalling reflection of both your countries education system and your culture in general.

    For starters, what does it say about your future breakthroughs in biology, genetics, physics etc, if half the population are cut-off to the founding principles of these subjects. You cannot understand biology without understanding evolution and visa versa, you simply cannot, and you cannot understand physics if you think the universe came into being at the tail end of the stone age.

    I kind-of get the feeling that America is holding the rest of us back… from, I dunno just ignoring all this nonsense and focusing on the real problems in the universe. We’ve built the large hadron collider, tripled our investment in stem cell research, we’re building the first nuclear fusion-collider in France. America, as a population, used to put science first, but now you’re lagging behind the rest of the world dramatically. Do you know of any reason for this? Why is the U.S. so unique among modern democracies? Is it some way of migrant communities retaining their culture in a new land or something? If so, what makes Canada so fortunate? (in these circumstances).

  65. nude0007 says

    Dear Bible Thumper Here! Where can I get one of those Hedonistic treadmills? Sounds interesting and fun. Seriously, such a comment is truly worth of a bible thumper, ignoring the treadmill you are on while decrying the one you think we are on, although few comments on this show express hedonism except jokingly. Perhaps if you would consider the fact that you are actually free to enjoy life in many ways you would not find your life so miserable that you hate others that do enjoy their life so much you whine about it.

  66. indyactivist says

    Miles can’t seem to decide if he has an accent or not. Or whether he is an Australian, a New Zealander, or a South African. He uses at the beginning. Then when he has to think and respond to the hosts, he loses it and is 100% American. Then he is back to it at the end. Can be sure this is the case because of the way he inconsistently says “atheist,” but there are plenty of other words or phrases who give him away. I have done dialect coaching for actors and I can spot a fake a mile away. Don’t try and do accents, people. You can’t be convincing at it.

  67. Psychopomp Gecko says

    Biblethumper, it’s a good thing bacteria don’t believe in the Christian god then.

  68. ralph m says

    I usually listen to the first 10 minutes or so of the Atheist Experience, but I start getting bored with the calls that come in. Very few have something new to add. And I had been considering trying to call in myself for a long while to make a point similar to what Miles was saying, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Scrolling through the comments so far, I noticed what could be called the “No True Atheist Fallacy” at least once!. Miles could not possibly be an atheist if he’s so comfortable and non-confrontational with Christians etc.

    The problem with online atheism and many of the larger atheist communities like ACA is group think. If you don’t believe me and don’t believe there are atheists who are content to leave Christians, Muslims, Sikhs etc. alone as long as they can practice their faith without infringing on the freedoms and rights of others, go into your local Unitarian/Universalist Church and talk to some of the members. I don’t think you would have to look too far to find atheists there. In my hometown Unitarian Church, when I attended a sermon on atheism and agnosticism, a show of hands revealed more than a quarter of those in attendance identified as atheists or agnostics.

    The difference is that an atheist who chooses a very liberal church based more on core principles than doctrines, rather than an atheist organization that forms around core beliefs and no core values, has to do with what we consider most important: what others believe, or how others practice their beliefs…or non-beliefs.

    For myself, I tried the atheist activism route for several years…up till about three years ago, when I realized that my local atheist meetup group was full of guys who I shared nothing in common with, other than being an atheist.

    And, while I was active in online atheism, mostly with the so called atheist facebook groups: Atheist Nexus and Think Atheist, opinions on almost every subject were all over the map, except for some vague notion of secular humanism and faith in progress. The only thing there is to rally around is hatred of religion and mocking the fools who still believe in them. That might work for awhile, especially when you’re a teenager and you’ve just escaped or been exiled from fundamentalism; but as you get older, counter-apologetics and refuting religious beliefs becomes less important than deciding what ideas and principles are worth believing in. So for most, atheist activism should be a temporary stage in life to go through, before deciding what to believe in and what to fight for. It just doesn’t strike me as a good place to stay in when you want to build a worldview on things to believe in, rather than how wrong religion is.

    btw if you believe modern secular humanism and freethought are based solely on reason and objective facts, faith in technology and innovation qualifies as unsubstantiated faith principles….especially in this day and age, when technology has allowed us to deplete renewable and non-renewable resources….but that’s another subject for another day I suppose.

  69. NorskVind says

    I’m not sure you understood the comments made about Miles. They aren’t saying “he’s no true atheist!, blah blah blah,” they are saying he is a troll. We have no idea if Miles was an atheist or not, but they are making the bet that Miles didn’t call in to have a meaningful conversation. I have no idea if Miles was a serious caller or not and I don’t care, I didn’t have to talk to him. After this you start talking about the problems with atheist organizations. One of the problems you list is “group think,” but you never actually define or demonstrate this. In fact, you go on to say the atheist organizations you have observed showed a lot of individualism with people having only one thing in common; atheism. So which is it?

    “For myself, I tried the atheist activism route for several years…up till about three years ago, when I realized that my local atheist meetup group was full of guys who I shared nothing in common with, other than being an atheist.”

    So what? You will find this no matter what group you are in, be it a Unitarian church or a D&D game you set up in a meetup group.

    “So for most, atheist activism should be a temporary stage in life to go through, before deciding what to believe in and what to fight for. It just doesn’t strike me as a good place to stay in when you want to build a worldview on things to believe in, rather than how wrong religion is.”

    This is where I am no longer able to understand you. Atheism is not supposed to tell you what to believe in, it is simply a label saying you do not believe in deities. If you were looking for someone else to tell you how to think, then joining an atheist group probably wasn’t the place for you.

    “btw if you believe modern secular humanism and freethought are based solely on reason and objective facts, faith in technology and innovation qualifies as unsubstantiated faith principles”

    I have absolutely no idea where you are going with this. Neither secular humanism or freethought have anything to do with technology.

  70. says

    However, you’ve haven’t solved my problem. You just moved it by one step.

    You’re right. I haven’t solved it. My point is that it’s not a problem. It’s not a problem merely because you state so. Things can happen without being philosophically justified.

    It’s like listening to a Christian insisting that atheists can’t have purpose or meaning without God. They think that’s a “problem” too.

    It’s like answering the problem of consciousness with homunculi

    No it’s like saying that there is no “problem of consciousness”, by pointing out that there’s no natural requirement for it to come from another plane of existence, and that the question itself might just be mental masturbation.

    It is no answer at all, and you just added an extra indirection. You’ve justified one “ought” claim in terms of another “ought” claim. I can now ask you to justify that ought claim. We can repeat this process ad nauseam.

    You’re starting with the presupposition that these things must be philosophically justified (and is therefore a “problem”). I’m not. Just like the bear is conditioned by evolution to seek out food, I am conditioned by evolution to protect my property/premises, and therefore self defense. This doesn’t need to be philosophically justified. It’s what the universe produced, regardless of any minds to try to justify the actions.

    At the “end” of this repeated questioning, you are going to end up with an unjustified ought claim, with fallacious circular justifications, with you trying to justify an ‘ought’ claim with only ‘is’ claims, an appeal to nature fallacy, or with a never ending regress of justifications.

    Or the fact nature/evolution programmed us with a survival instinct is the first step. And no, that’s not an appeal to nature. You seriously need to read your own link, if you think it is.

    I hope we both can agree that my list is exhaustive and one of those is going to “happen”.

    Incorrect.

    Further, I hope we can agree that the only rational choice is the unjustified moral axiom. Circular justifications are just silly. Breaking Hume’s Is-Ought divide is just silly. Endless regresses of justifications is just silly.

    Isn’t that what I’ve been arguing for? That the justification for why we should be moral (or care about our well being) is irrelevant?

  71. Lord Narf says

    The religious right started an aggressive campaign to take over American politics, in the 70′s. It’s all kind of snowballed, since then. We’re only seeing signs of emerging from it with the past election, and that isn’t a very long track record. I’m afraid that the 2014 elections will go the same way that the 2010 elections did, unless there’s a major public education campaign in the media, which puts the blame for all of the shit that’s happening squarely on the Republicans.

  72. Houndentenor says

    I know that in so many ways being an atheist isn’t at all like being gay, but in social and political terms it’s amazingly similar. There are plenty of gay people who did the sort of hand-wringing Miles does about activist atheists. There still are some, by the way. It’s about self-loathing. Deep down he’s terrified of how people perceive him as an atheist and worries that people like Matt and Dan will make that even worse. If course his solution is silence and accommodation.

    I’d like to point out how nice both hosts were to the theist who called in with questions and concerned. That caller is just looking for answers. Perhaps his search will lead him to being an atheist or perhaps not. Note that the hosts were less concerned with the outcome of his search (as opposed to his minister) than that he keeps searching. Yes Matt can be rude, but I can’t think of an instance when he wasn’t rude to someone who wasn’t at least as rude to him (usually far worse).

  73. Houndentenor says

    Because we have empathy, we are concerned not only for our own well being but the well being of others. Even if that only extended to family and friends, that would quickly create a network (six degrees of separation and all that) that would reach out to almost everyone in our country. it’s not that hard to leap from caring about your own well being, to caring about the well being of those whom you love.

    But moreover, I think there must be a biological urge to protect our own species. More than once I have seen a a small child moving too close to a busy street. These children were strangers to me and yet my instinct was to intervene to prevent harm coming from them. I’ve also had strangers tug only shoulder for me to move away from a curb when a bus that I obviously hadn’t seen was coming. Why would a stranger act that way? We clearly have an interest in preventing harm from coming to other people. It exists at a deep level and it informs so much of what we do as a society. So much so that most of us look askance at people who are skeptical of those who want to promote well-being for others.

  74. Houndentenor says

    In reality the pro-theists would break down very quickly because hardly anyone just believes in the vague idea of a deity/deities (there are a few but not that many). They believe in a specific deity or subset of people who interpret the literature concerning that deity. You’ll fin few theists who believe that all theistic claims are equally valid.

    The problem with being labeled anti-theist is that while all the anti-theists I can think of are content with criticizing theistic claims and practices and with advocating for separation of church and state but would not want to ban religious practice. But the backlash is going to be from theists with a persecution complex (which is a lot of them) who will read any criticism as bashing them and denying them their 1st amendment rights. I don’t know that using another term would change that so just wear your flame retardant suit when criticizing religion and you’ll be fine.

  75. Liquid Logic says

    What I want to know is what is it with people who use apostrophes to pluralize words? It’s no wonder that he can’t type a coherent thought.

  76. Houndentenor says

    If Christian morality were truly objective, then laws would be consistent from one Christian jurisdiction to the next. They aren’t. A good example of this is the era leading up to the Civil War. Both the abolitionist and pro-slavery sides used religion as their rationale. Obviously both can’t be right. Of course apologists will point to imperfect interpretations, but wouldn’t objective morality be clear on such important matters and not require interpretations so at odds as to lead to bloodshed?

  77. Houndentenor says

    Words acquire baggage that causes us to want to avoid them for fear of guilt by association. Relativism is now associated with the far left who believe that we don’t have the right to criticize the practices of other cultures even thought they might be inhumane to the extreme. Since many of us reject the idea that honor killings are okay in other countries, we try to avoid being associated with the word relativism. Obviously law and it’s application must take into account the circumstances. That’s why we have different penalties for manslaughter vs 1st degree murder or having stiffer sentences for repeat vs first time thieves. I suppose that’s “relative” as well but perfectly reasonable and logical.

  78. says

    what it strikes me, :just look on the “alcohol” topic which differs totally depending which christian group or which abrahamic religion you belong.

    alcohol:
    catholic: hmm
    lutherian. great
    reform: let’s drink in our bible studies
    baptist: liquid of the devil
    pentacostal: liquid of the devil or great (depending which brand)
    jews: “Lekhaim!!!”
    muslim: “You are dead!!”

  79. Houndentenor says

    I don’t think it’s so much that we’re holding you guys back so much as it is that you are passing us by. I don’t think Americans realize that we are not the leaders in medicine and science that we once were. Even that time (the 2nd half of the 20th century) was mostly a result of artists and scholars fleeing to America to escape the rise of the Nazis. Many found good university positions and stayed. That effect has mostly dissipated but since American media loves holding the “American #1″ pep rally, most Americans still think the relative positions of America vs the rest of the world are locked at where they were about 1960.

    Besides, Europe combined is both larger (population) and a larger economy than the US. You ought to be beating us at least at some things. That only makes sense. Take the lead and don’t wait for the US to catch up on issues like global warming. The world can’t afford for that wait. Some of us are doing our best here but our politics are often dominated by the anti-science crowd and I’m not sure how we change that any time soon.

  80. Houndentenor says

    The most hedonistic people I know (in terms of spending ridiculous amounts of money on a lavish lifestyle and their own enjoyment) are fundamentalist Christians. My relatives who go on mission trips to the third world often complain that most of the group appears only to have gone to shop.

  81. sc_aa9a01d55f27a023290277c5f249f010 says

    that’s because he WAS fake. the accent kept wandering between UK, Australian, New Zealand, and at one point he completely dropped it. If I recall, he’s called in at least twice before and used the name George.

  82. Baraeris says

    Yes, it was George. he slipped in an out of three different accents during his call and even dropped into his normal voice at one point. Sad that he felt the need to lie.

  83. Lord Narf says

    We get a lot of people for whom English isn’t their first language. Perhaps this guy is one of those. I usually wait to see patterns, before guessing.

  84. ralph m says

    1. Then by what authority are you declaring that Miles is a troll? You make that assertion that he didn’t call in to have a meaningful conversation, and you have nothing to back that statement up with! It may have just been a matter of Miles being someone who has not often spoken in public, especially in a debate setting and not being prepared for doing more than making a few statements.

    2. I made my point clear that I don’t find much “community” in organizations based on a shared belief. And this is especially the case when the shared belief is a non-belief. And that’s why I feel that the only way you keep an atheist group together is with anti-theism, whether it is justified or not. I am well aware there are places where religion is oppressive and omnipresent, so my own experience, living in Canada is certainly going to be a lot different than someone living in a hellhole like Texas.

    There may be more reasons to be an atheist activist in bible belt states than in liberal, less religious places. But that tells me that: just as extreme fundamentalist religions have trouble maintaining membership in places where they aren’t persecuted, so do atheist groups have trouble getting people to organize and rally around atheism where there is little, if any blowback for being an atheist.

    3. The U/U’s. Thanks for totally missing the point! I’ll try again: they are one organization…there may be many others…where the focal point is on shared principles, rather than shared beliefs. The shared principles do restrict the range of metaphysical and even political beliefs that a member could hold. But, in the atheist group, as long as you are an atheist, you could be anything from a marxist to an anarcho-capitalist who wants to completely dissolve government….and that latter group of oddballs seemed to predominate in the meetup group I was with. You can believe that the good of the community supercedes individual desires and freedoms, or you could say:’every man for himself.” And both can still be atheists and have absolutely nothing else in common!

    Even on the more common social issues like feminism – we had a couple of clowns who kept arguing that feminism favoured one group over another and violated basic secular humanist principles….and this was coming from guys who couldn’t understand why so few women wanted to associate with the group. And from what I’ve read online, this sort of pattern of atheist groups being unfriendly places for women and even hostile to concerns over harassment and safety seem to be common complaints in the freethought universe.

    4. When we decide what we don’t believe in or reject a worldview we have grown up with, we have to build a new worldview of what we do believe in, and what is important to provide meaning and purpose in our lives. The point I was trying to make is that there has to be a next stage in life; you can’t stay stuck in condemning what others believe in or what you believed in the past, or there’s something wrong with you.

    5. My beliefs on many issues have continued changing as I’ve gotten older, and the most radical shift I’ve made in the last 10 years is developing an awareness that our present way of life has been built on overconsumption of resources and destroying ecosystems. Because of this, we are either looking at a future that will be one of gradual decline or complete collapse….I’m not sure which….there are too many variables making it too difficult to figure out how people will react to having to live in a new era where you have to do more with less and less.

    And that’s why I started seeing a problem with modern secular humanism and how it is built on a faith-based belief that The Enlightenment was the beginning of a new history for humankind, where human ingenuity would keep making our lives better and better. That future is an illusion! Think of how this blind faith in a better and brighter future forms the basis for theories like Stephen Pinker puts out in his latest book claiming that we began as murderous savages, but are getting better because of technological progress and globalization of trade. I can see how that’s music to a lot of people’s ears….especially those with money in positions of power….but his theory is a joke, and irrelevant if progress cannot be continued in the future!

    The real future in coming decades is going to be some sort of dystopian vision that secular humanism hasn’t prepared for, and has in fact played a major role in creating the modern industrial nightmare. The enlightenment thinkers (whether they were Christians or deists) destroyed the enchanted view of nature and replaced it with one where our natural environment is just a collection of assets waiting to be utilized by us. That is why attempts to deal with environmental crises like a heating atmosphere and acidifying oceans are so feeble and worthless: the premise is that all we need to do is make a few tweaks and adjustments to modern globalized capitalism and everything will work itself out….and it won’t!

  85. Liquid Logic says

    I understand that, and I can tolerate it, but those are usually fairly easy to spot for me. However, if you think that there isn’t enough evidence to make such a determination, then perhaps we should wait and see.

  86. Lord Narf says

    2. I made my point clear that I don’t find much “community” in organizations based on a shared belief. And this is especially the case when the shared belief is a non-belief. And that’s why I feel that the only way you keep an atheist group together is with anti-theism, whether it is justified or not. I am well aware there are places where religion is oppressive and omnipresent, so my own experience, living in Canada is certainly going to be a lot different than someone living in a hellhole like Texas.

    You might do better in something like a skepticism group, then.

    That’s assuming you’re a skeptic. Not all atheists are. I had a roommate who claimed atheism and liked watching The Atheist Experience, because they bash Christians, Jews, and Muslims. He bought into all sorts of wacky, mystical beliefs from Buddhism, plus a few other things like homeopathy. The funniest part was when I laid out for him exactly what homeopathy is. He said something to the effect of, “Well, yeah, that doesn’t work, but the principles of homeopathy are still good.”
    He also got a bit bent out of shape when they had a few Buddhist callers to the show, that one episode, and the hosts tore down Buddhism.

    My local groups have a great deal of shared beliefs, though. We’re almost all liberals, except for the tiny handful of libertarians over in the corner, muttering about Ron Paul. We’re almost all humanists.

    And yes, you’re going to have a harder time keeping an anti-theistic group together, in a more atheistic area, but it’s still worth the effort. Religious fundamentalists aren’t happy to stay put where they are. I don’t know that they’ll have much success, but there are lots of fundamentalist churches, here in America, who are busily trying to spread into more secular countries like England and the Scandinavian countries. I’m sure many of them are focused on parts of Canada, too. You need to keep up a resistance to oppose their advances.

  87. says

    ” I’m sure many of them are focused on parts of Canada, too. You need to keep up a resistance to oppose their advances.”
    –I have spent many years in Quebec city and those evangelical christians were everywhere at the time I was there (1999-2003 around). Fucking a.h. from US to evangelize a place where people get out of christain catholic faith since the 80′s. We wouldn’t imagine all the fundamentalist churches that were and are implanted there since then! And campus for christ in University in Quebec city, which was strongly secularised since end of the 80′s. It is sad…Even W.C. Craig went there 2 times to make conferences. Made conferences how evolution was an hoax, etc. Those people shoule be really quick out of the Province of Quebec!!

  88. says

    ” I’m sure many of them are focused on parts of Canada, too. You need to keep up a resistance to oppose their advances.”
    –I have spend many years in Quebec city and those evangelical christians were everywhere at the time I was there (1999-2003 around). Fucking a.h. from US to evangelize a place where people got out of christain catholic faith since the 80′s. You wouldn’t imagine all the fundamentalist churches that were and are implanted there since then! And campus for christ in University in Quebec city, which was strongly secularised since end of the 80′s. It is sad…Even W.C. Craig went there 2 times to make conferences. campus for christ made conferences on how evolution was an hoax, etc. Those people should be really quick out of the Province of Quebec!!

  89. Lord Narf says

    And from what I’ve read online, this sort of pattern of atheist groups being unfriendly places for women and even hostile to concerns over harassment and safety seem to be common complaints in the freethought universe.

    You’re adding unnecessary details. It’s less online atheist groups, specifically, and more online forums in general. There are a lot of misogynistic assholes who feel more free to be so, online. You get the same sort of thing at conventions. It’s not just skeptic and atheist conventions that have this problem.

    It sounds like the local group you found has suffered a downward spiral from a bit of an echo chamber. I don’t how you managed to get so many libertarians in one place, though. We’ve got maybe 3 or 4 vocal ones, out of a group of hundreds, and there are plenty of other strong voices to tell them they’re being irrational and ignoring all political and sociological data we have.

  90. Lord Narf says

    And that’s why I started seeing a problem with modern secular humanism and how it is built on a faith-based belief that The Enlightenment was the beginning of a new history for humankind, where human ingenuity would keep making our lives better and better.

    I don’t get that message from the humanist groups I’ve deal with. Maybe you need to find a better class of humanist.

  91. Lord Narf says

    Secular Student Alliance. They talk about it all the time on TAE and NPR. I figured you would know it. Sorry.

  92. changerofbits says

    And “Stotch” from #800. The serfisterkatud accent was obviously made up. At least he plays the part pretty well, no yelling insults at Matt…

  93. says

    Secular Student Alliance. The Center for Inquiry also has a branch for student groups. Either one can give you some guidance and support on forming a University Group.

  94. LawnBoy says

    I was wondering if perhaps Miles was trying to parody the anti-A+ arguments. In both cases, the argument seems to be “atheism means only its simple dictionary definition, so any attempt by people to self-describe bath with atheism and another idea means that atheism itself is tainted.”

    And in both cases, the answer is, “we’re promoting atheism in addition to something else, and our doing so doesn’t redefine atheism or say anything negative about atheists who do not support the addition as well.”

    This notion that people who are atheists and X shouldn’t call themselves atheists means that no one can call him or herself and atheist because no one is only an atheist.

  95. says

    I further propose getting in contact with SSA. They have templates put together that they can send you that will aid you through all the requirements for establishing official student organizations, such as declaring student officers, etc.

  96. mike says

    It’s a reference to Miles who complained about the atheists on the show also being anti-theists and I guess what “Thomas Cocks” is trying to show that if Miles had his way, then this is all the hosts would be able to say. ie.
    No matter what the callers said all the AE hosts could reply is:
    “I don’t believe in deities”
    ” multitudes of reasons that vary from atheist to atheist and i cannot and will not speak for all atheists so that it all i can say on the matter”

  97. mike says

    I download the mp3 so I don’t see the show, what exactly is Matt doing to his face that he needs to stop? I don’t get it?!

  98. Lord Narf says

    Ahhhhhhhh, gotcha. I kinda of tuned out most of Mile’s call, I think, so it wasn’t close enough to the top of my mind for me to make the connection.

  99. mike says

    No problem! Now maybe you can help me out with reply #8, jdoran saying something about Matt touching his face? What’s Matt doing exactly that needs to be corrected?

  100. Lord Narf says

    I usually listen to the MP3 version while driving around. I have no idea what they’re talking about. :D

  101. ralph m says

    “You might do better in something like a skepticism group, then. That’s assuming you’re a skeptic.”

    Yes, I would say I identify as a skeptic. My bullshit detector usually screens out stuff that is impossible or at least unlikely.

    “He bought into all sorts of wacky, mystical beliefs from Buddhism, plus a few other things like homeopathy.”

    That might describe the typical Unitarian! Skeptics have to tread lightly, but I draw the line when it comes to a lot of the so called “natural healing,” Homeopathy, at least can’t cause any direct harm – since the medicines are so diluted that people are just drinking plain water, while some natural remedies may have toxic effects, especially if they are combined with prescription medicines. A lot of older people run to the health food store for the same reasons that they go to the doctor – they’re looking for a quick fix for what are often lifestyle illnesses that have been caused by a life of inactivity, overeating, poor nutrition, too much harmful substances like alcohol, cigarettes, drugs etc., or just plain stress and lack of sleep from the modern crazy lives that most people have had to live in the last 30 or so years. It’s hard to improve health without making some life changes first.

    When it comes to Buddhism….it depends on what the people are taking from their practice of Buddhism. Some are just using the meditation techniques for personal improvement, while some have absorbed the idealist philosophy of Buddhism that contends that the world and even the body, are illusions, and only the mind – specifically the enlightened mind having the meditative experience – is all that is real. It’s also missed by many western Buddhists, who learned their practice from other western interpreters of Buddhism that the way Buddhism is practiced in the East is often very authoritarian and oppressive. Outside of Tibet, most Buddhist monasteries in Southeast Asia, China and Japan, seem to have made very little effort to teach anything to common peasants. It was mostly about teaching them a few rituals to carry out and donate money to the monastery.

  102. ralph m says

    There is a problem I see with humanism that I am still trying to get a handle on, and haven’t found much written on the subject — that is, all atheistic worldviews that I am aware of are based on the premise that something magical happened to human thinking 300 years ago, when Descartes, Francis Bacon and others started creating a humanist philosophy that for the first time, even though they were Christians, wanted a philosophy that was centered on human achievement, not dependence on God.

    The difference between modern humanism and Christianity for the most part is whether or not there is a hidden supernatural world that exists separate from the material world. We don’t believe it,, the Christians do, but for the most part live their lives as materialists every bit as much as an atheist! That’s when they start objecting to science – when it clashes with their religious dogma. Otherwise they are happy to have the technologies created by new scientific discovery and have the same attitude about this world that the materialists have. They would naturally object to this assessment, but they have relegated their god to the afterworld, and even the fundamentalists only see God intruding on this world when they’re trying to shake him down to perform a miracle for them. Otherwise, even fundamentalist Christians are also materialists, just like most atheists.

    Where I see this as crucial to the way we live, is that prior to the Enlightenment made its influence known in Europe first and then through the rest of the world through colonization and globalization, is that the old way of thinking was that God was everywhere and this world was also sacred, and using new technologies and exploiting the earth…even mining…were hindered by the worry that digging a new mine, burning a forest and clearing new land for farming etc. might offend God and bring his wrath down upon them. And that in large part is why things stayed the way they were until the 1700′s. It wasn’t just about creating the scientific method. It was also about the way the attitude about the nature of matter changed.

    A lot of the progress made in the last 200 years has come at an extremely high cost. A cost so great that it imperils long term survival of the human race. Most atheists I’ve seen, speaking on environment issues focus on creating new technological solutions to the messes created so far. I don’t see much thought devoted to whether long term survival of economies based on constant growth are even theoretically possible. That’s why I am suspicious that many of the atheist science writers are practicing faith themselves when they just assume that innovation and substitution of resources will allow endless growth to continue.

    I’ve read a couple of books by James Lovelock, who’s Gaia Theory about the biosphere acting similar to a living organism by self-regulating the carbon cycle (at least till we came along) and the other natural feedbacks necessary for all life to flourish, but Lovelock tries to stop the spiritualists from interpreting his theory as some sort of evidence for an earth goddess acting in the world. But, unless people actually believe that Gaia is alive and will punish them if they foul the earth, I’m not sure if sustainable living will work as anything more than a useful slogan for environmentalists.

  103. kieranthegod says

    I sympathise completely, I can only imagine it’s like living in the Truman show, I don’t think i could stand it. But I still don’t understand why this ani-science crowd developed in the first place? Science does so much good in the world, we see these people use it in all aspects of their lives; their iphones, their Doctors, their cars, everywhere! They are extremely prejudice in their criticism, but do they just not understand that it’s all the same science? That we use the same scientific method to create a laptop as to determine the age of the earth, or to justify evolution/ How can they just partition out sections of science but still accept all the rest?

  104. Lord Narf says

    What Jasper said.

    To answer your implied question about how the fundamentalist evangelicals got so powerful, though …
    I like the explanation that the ACA spokepeople usually give. It’s free-market economics, due to the first amendment. Free-market economics strengthens the corporations (religious groups, in this case) at the expense of the workforce and the society.

  105. Lord Narf says

    Yes, I would say I identify as a skeptic. My bullshit detector usually screens out stuff that is impossible or at least unlikely.

    Thus your problem with Libertarianism, yes.

    That might describe the typical Unitarian! Skeptics have to tread lightly, but I draw the line when it comes to a lot of the so called “natural healing,” Homeopathy, at least can’t cause any direct harm – since the medicines are so diluted that people are just drinking plain water, while some natural remedies may have toxic effects, especially if they are combined with prescription medicines.

    Yup, that’s why I would never get involved with a Unitarian church. Too much fuzziness.
    Well, and I was forced to go to Catholic mass, every single week, until the age of 18. I got enough attendance of religious services for one lifetime, even if the trans-humanists are correct, and we can achieve virtual immortality within my lifetime.

    Yeah, true homeopathic remedies are technically directly harmless … it’s just the fact that they prevent people from seeking real medical treatment.

    But some homeopathic cures add other, herbal ingredients, without clearly labeling them as such. I recall one article they covered on Non-Prophets Radio which discovered that there were some homeopathic/herbal cures that were actually screwing with cancer-treatment drugs and preventing them from working properly.

    So, at least we can say that there’s confirmation of a homeopathic/herbal treatment that has been scientifically demonstrated to have an effect … just a negative one.

    … or just plain stress and lack of sleep from the modern crazy lives that most people have had to live in the last 30 or so years. It’s hard to improve health without making some life changes first.

    Ah, so I’m not lazy. I’m just living a healthier, low-stress lifestyle. I like that. :D

    When it comes to Buddhism …

    Yeah, if you stick to the pure philosophy … eh, whatever. I disagree with some of the tenets of Buddhism, but it’s much better than most other religiously-inspired moral systems.

    But, you’ll probably be learning about Buddhism from someone who believes in a lot of the mystical crap, too. The lines can get very blurry, between the philosophy of a religion and its mystical roots. My old roommate got into it in part because of his martial arts classes. He buys into pretty much all of it … chakras, chi energy, etc, etc.

  106. kieranthegod says

    We have a free market in all the other western democracies too though, some of us for much, much longer. But we don’t get any massive religious corporations. The Church of England is technically incorporated into the government (the queen is our head of state and head of church) lol. But no-one takes it at all seriously, in practice the two systems are completely separate. Over there, it’s kind of the opposite, officially neutral but in reality overwhelmingly Christian. It kind of annoys me when i hear Obama talk so much about God and Jesus all the time, especially after something like the sandy hook tragedy, surely some of those parents were Atheists no? Our politicians would never dream of doing something so repulsive.

  107. says

    There’s an argument that could be made that those churches that are government-subsidized feel less of a need to proselytize or market for customers, because their needs are met without competition.

  108. Lord Narf says

    Free market of religion, though. Many of the European countries have an official state church. Those that don’t have an official state church are largely Catholic or Lutheran or something. You have a great deal of institutionalized religion, over there.

    America was colonized early on by crazy Protestant groups, who fled or were chased out of Europe, because their practices were too bat-shit insane. With so many widely disparate groups, there’s a lot more competition for members, and that fuels the extremism. You’ve got to convince the potential congregants that their soul is in peril if they don’t become regular, tithing members of your church, if you want to stay afloat.

  109. kieranthegod says

    Actually it’s only us and Norway that still have it as a state religion in Europe, and Norway is one of the most Atheist countries in the world. It doesn’t matter anyway because the EU bans all member states from practically combining church with state to the exclusion of any other beliefs (we have a constitution too). I see where you’re coming from though… we’ve had a long and bloody history with organised religion in Europe and i guess it could have acted as a kind-of vaccination against this recent evangelical movement coming out of America. I feel really sorry for you guys over there, as an Atheist, i’d never seen a place with so many people so duped by such poison.

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