Open thread: Non-Prophets 12.3 »« Open Thread on #828 – Ad Hominem Attacks & Viewer Calls

Open thread on episode #829: The kinder, gentler AXP

A couple of days ago, we got another email from an atheist, chiding us about what big meanies we are on the show. It was the usual tone-trolling thing: “You will surely admit that your show creates a great deal of anger and resentment in many of your viewers.” Why do guys like that automatically assume they speak for “many” of you?

It all boiled down to Oh no, MY FEELS! He didn’t have any particular examples to give, only that he was convinced our M.O. is to get on the air and make people feel as bullied and devalued as we possibly can.

So, considering how pleasant — almost to the point of the whole episode being a complete emotional flatline — today’s show was, I have to say that some viewers must just watch us highly selectively. We had two theists on the phone today, and the calls could not possibly have been more cordial. The only way they could have been friendlier is if we’d exchanged baby shower invitations at the end. Of course, we have a lot of calls that get heated as well. You can find those all over YouTube. But this is the nature of live television. Sometimes up, sometimes down, sometimes hot, sometimes cool. But if you’re going to be foolish enough to characterize the whole show based on what you see go down on a specific episode…well, don’t be foolish.

Anyhoo, discuss amongst yourselves.

Comments

  1. Chris Mailey says

    I’m feeling a little verklempt….

    To be perfectly honest, I like the cordial calls with theists who bring up interesting points and seek to have genuine discussions, but I absolutely LOVE those calls where uppity Christians think they can dictate to you how to run your show (or try to tell you that you shouldn’t even have a show) for the same reason why I watch NASCAR – I like to see the crashes. That’s entertainment, especially when Jeff or Matt get on them about it. So…when’s the baby shower?

  2. says

    I believe this is an example of confirmation bias. If I wanted to believe that the hosts are mean to the theistic callers I could find examples of various hosts being short-tempered and even being angry with callers. It has happened. (justifiably so in most if not all cases, but that’s just my opinion) I could just as easily find examples when in my opinion the callers allowed someone to blather on about complete nonsense for far too long: in other words being too nice to theistic callers. and all kinds of examples in between.

    The important thing is to act ethically and ignore the critics. It’s something everyone who does anything in public must learn. Do your best and uphold your own standards. Someone is always going to find fault with whatever you do. If you adjust to every criticism, it will make you nuts and your work will suffer. Obviously you don’t want to cut yourself off to all constructive criticism, but not all opinions are worth considering.

  3. Sir Funkytown says

    The callers I dislike the most are the atheists that call in to agree with you. They only seem to want the hosts approval and contribute nothing of value , other than “ain’t believers dumb?”

      • Lord Narf says

        Yeah, if you’re an atheist, you should only call in if you have a point of contention. The only thing I’ve ever come up with is the problem I have with calling omnipotence self-contradictory … the old line, “Can God create a rock so big that he can’t lift it?” I feel it assumes a rather simplistic view of physics. There’s no such thing as an immovable object, and any force will have an impact upon the object to which it’s being applied. We technically have a tiny effect on the earth, when we jump up and down on it.

        It doesn’t seem worth taking up time on the show, though.

        • says

          The rock example isn’t what you should use.

          Can God do anything he cannot undo? If yes, he’s not omnipotent. If no, he’s not omnipotent. QED: Omnipotence is logically impossible.

          Christians have tried to skirt this by redefining omnipotence to mean that God can do any logically possible thing. So, he can wish a universe into existence, but no square circles. Okay, fine, but you shouldn’t keep using the term “omnipotent,” what with the prefix omni- having a pretty clear meaning and all.

          • Lord Narf says

            That sort of relativistic omnipotence also seems unfair. God can do anything, and then he can undo anything. Setting that sort of condition upon the creation of an object also seems like an arbitrary rule that isn’t necessarily an aspect of omnipotence.

            If we’re talking about absolute omnipotence rather than relativistic omnipotence, this doesn’t work.

          • says

            While this is the first I’ve heard of a distinction between “relativistic” and “absolute” omnipotence, as far as I can tell, “omni-” still means “all.” And Christians consistently like to proclaim that God can do anything and has no limits to his superpowers. Which presents the conundrum: If God can do something he cannot undo, then you have a thing he cannot do, and he’s not omnipotent. If God cannot do something he cannot undo, then you have a thing he cannot do, and he’s not omnipotent.

            Don’t really see how much clearer it could be.

          • Lord Narf says

            I just think that the relativistic omnipotence isn’t a fair way of looking at the universe, and I can see why a Christian or worshiper of another omni-laden god would dismiss it out of hand. Also, anything within the material universe is automatically subordinate to anything from God’s divine universe (leaving aside bad definitions of ‘universe’, for the time being), so something that could resist God’s will could not exist within this universe. I would say, myself, that un-undoable is not an attribute that can be added to a material object, even allowing for omnipotence, given our understanding of the universe.

            I think we’re much better off pitting the different omnis against each other, in an argument for contradictions within their god-concept.

          • Lord Narf says

            Let’s see if I can better illustrate the absurdity that I see. Say you have God making an object that can’t be moved … within the relativistic framework of the universe, which isn’t a workable concept, but let’s ignore that part for a moment.

            Anyway, so he makes this immovable object. It’s his power that is rendering the object immovable, so all he would have to do is remove the effect that is making it immovable. It’s his own power doing it, so it’s incoherent to say that he could place something beyond his power to affect. The very idea is incoherent and isn’t a good argument, if you want someone to be able to grasp what you’re getting at.

            The same problem applies to the making/unmaking example. Using his power to place something beyond the reach of his own power is similarly incoherent. Self-opposed omnipotence is problematic, if you’re trying to construct something demonstrable.

            That’s why I find the opposition of … say omniscience and omnipotence versus omnibenevolence and the state of the world he created. You have a comprehensible context within which to work.

          • says

            I don’t think we’re really disagreeing with each other here, Narf. In fact you seem to be recapitulating my point in your own way. For God to move the immovable rock, he’d first have to use his superpowers to delete “immovable” from the rock’s attribute tree. But he couldn’t move the immovable rock without first doing that. So there still exists a thing God can’t do, which is move an immovable rock. God is like Kirk in Star Trek II, cheating to win the Kobiyashi Maru test, by sneakily tweaking the rules as he sees fit. Similarly, if God wanted to undo a thing he cannot undo, he’d first have to change the rules so that the thing is no longer undoable. Which means he’s found a workaround for the initial undoability, but not that the conditions of that initial undoability aren’t still a limitation for him.

            But it sounds like you and I both actually agree that omnipotence, in the way Christians like to think of it, is an untenable concept.

          • Lord Narf says

            Or, to look at it from the other direction, he’s able to do anything, because he can change the rules so that anything becomes doable. That makes him omnipotent. I can see Christians saying that the very thing you’re pointing out as the defeater is actually the confirmer.

            And you know Christians, man. They’ll simultaneously argue for one interpretation that excludes possibility A and allows possibility B, and a second interpretation that allows A and excludes B. Equivocation is their favorite sport. That’s why they love vague words like ‘spiritual’, so much. :D

          • John Kruger says

            You are working too hard Narf. The point is that the term “omnipotent” is not a coherent concept, since it inherently leads to contradictions. It is not so much an argument against god, except that when people want to use that word to describe a god it can be shown that they are just spouting gibberish in the form of incoherent ideas.

          • Lord Narf says

            But it can be made sense of, within certain models of reality. Reality works this way, and God is omnipotent within that framework. Arguments are dependent upon semantics, and if Christians treat the word omnipotent in that manner, then that’s how their concept of omnipotence works.

            Anyway, if we’re going to bring in our own arguments to demonstrate why their basic god-concept is wrong, it should be a much stronger one than self-contradictory omnipotence. Even if the term is defined differently, in a manner that is a more solid contradiction, it still feels like a word game, rather than dealing with the larger aspects of their god-concept.

          • says

            Nothing is impossible according to someones’ imagination or delusions. What I find amazing it just happens to be their god that can do the impossible.

          • Matt Gerrans says

            A good one on this omnipotence conundrum is “can God create a being more powerful than Himself?”

            This one is pretty good because it shows the self-refuting nature of omnipotence as well as having a bit of traction in some of the more popular irrational belief systems. For example, in Christianity, God created angels who apparently have superpowers AND free will (so what makes humans so great?), since Satan and 1/3 of the lot of them all “rebelled” against their creator. Apparently God is not omnipotent enough to uncreate Satan, who is screwing up his plan* for humanity. This makes no sense at all, if God loves all his humans and wants them to get to paradise.

            * It is also worth noting that if you are omnipotent, you don’t need plans for anything because you don’t need to plan when you can just instantaneously make everything be the way you want it. Plans are for us lowly humans who must try and figure out a process for making things the way we’d like them to be. Plans, by their very nature are not guaranteed to succeed and are not a tool needed by omnipotent beings.

          • Lord Narf says

            A good one on this omnipotence conundrum is “can God create a being more powerful than Himself?”

            *sigh*
            No it’s not. That’s a relativistic cheat, the exact same as the first example I gave. Martin, even while arguing against me, implied that that’s a bad argument.

            For example, in Christianity, God created angels who apparently have superpowers AND free will (so what makes humans so great?), since Satan and 1/3 of the lot of them all “rebelled” against their creator.

            That’s a point against the free-will excuse that Christians make to many arguments, not a point against omnipotence. How does that have anything to do with omnipotence?

            If anything, this is a demonstration that the god of the Bible is not omnipotent and omniscient. He’s not particularly benevolent, either. One of the things that Christians don’t get is that their stories are not about an omni-max god. Those attributes were glued on, after the fact.

            Apparently God is not omnipotent enough to uncreate Satan, who is screwing up his plan* for humanity. This makes no sense at all, if God loves all his humans and wants them to get to paradise.

            This is also only applicable when you introduce other attributes like omnibenevolence. It has nothing to do with the argument at hand.

            You have to introduce other attributes to make this a problem. An omnipotent god would be powerful enough to unmake Satan, but clearly he doesn’t want to, so he did something else with Satan. No contradiction there.

            * It is also worth noting that if you are omnipotent, you don’t need plans for anything because you don’t need to plan when you can just instantaneously make everything be the way you want it. Plans are for us lowly humans who must try and figure out a process for making things the way we’d like them to be. Plans, by their very nature are not guaranteed to succeed and are not a tool needed by omnipotent beings.

            Wrong. That only applies to omniscient gods. You’re mixing up your omnis. If a god is omnipotent but not omniscient, he could be flailing around wildly without knowing what he’s doing half of the time … kind of like what we see in the Bible.

          • says

            Mr. Narf

            If you don’t mind, could you give a brief description of what you mean by “Relativistic omnipotence” versus “Absolute omnipotence”?

            I’ve heard apologists talk about a definition of omnipotence that’s “logically possible”… is that what you mean by “Relativistic”?

          • Mr. Narf says

            No. When apologists use the term ‘logically possible’, they’re just saying that any logical flaw you find in it is automatically invalid, since that’s not what they meant. It’s bullshit. They’re essentially claiming to have solved the problem, without doing any of the work.

            What I mean by relativistic is typified by the “Can God create a rock so big that he can’t move it?” cliche. An omnipotent god can create a rock that weighs 15 quintillion tons. An omnipotent god can then move that 15 quintillion ton rock. An omnipotent god can in fact create a rock of infinite mass, if he can find the space to put it in. And he can then move a rock of infinite mass. Setting up a direct opposition of infinite potentiality gets you nowhere.

            That’s where I pulled out the explanation about the bad example of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. There’s no such thing. An ant moving around has an impact upon the rotation and orbit of the earth, even if it’s a minuscule impact.

            Logically speaking, Martin’s preferred example of making and unmaking an object is the same as the rock statement. An omnipotent god can make anything, and an omnipotent god can unmake anything. Setting up a condition of that same god not being able to unmake the thing that he just made, as an attribute of the object, is the sort of relativistic cheat that I’m referring to. We’re dealing with equal, opposed infinities here. It just doesn’t work, as I see it.

            Even allowing for some of the quirks of set theory, with the concept of greater and lesser infinities, you’re still stuck, since we’re dealing with the same sort of infinity, unless someone has an idea on that which I’m not seeing.

            And you see why I wouldn’t want to bring this up on the show, Martin? It would have over half of the audience holding up their cards (if you guys still do that) in about 60 seconds. I find it interesting, but I’m boring and pedantic.

          • Kunaal says

            “We’re dealing with equal, opposed infinities here.” I think that’s sort of the point. When you say a being has the ability to do anything, has any capacity, invariably you will end up with powers that conflict with one another. So which power wins out? The powers being infinite is not sufficient. You can have two functions that both go to infinity, yet one can be greater than the other at any given point. So what’s the d/dx of the powers enumerated in omnipotence?

            The reason why omnipotence runs into problems is precisely because given powers run contrary to one another. And you’re right, there are no immovable objects, and the concept may not even make sense, but so what? We can’t talk about fairness when we have a being that’s supposed to be able to defy any aspect of reality. What do you think a believer would say if you told them something like that? I can just picture it: “Well, of course he can create immovable things. He can do anything!”

            And that’s the crux of the problem. “Anything.” Not just infinite, anything. You say that “un-undoable” is not an attribute that can be applied to anything in this universe, but frankly, neither is “undoable.” Why allow such a being to defy some aspects of reality and not others? Especially since such a being by definition should be able to defy any and every aspect of reality? Even within the framework of your argument, you’re still placing restrictions on this hypothetical being based on the physical laws of reality, while simultaneously claiming to him an attribute that should allow him to break any such law. And if you’re going to say that such a being is bound by the laws of reality, or even by logical absolutes whatsoever, you’re already denying the omnipotence of such a being.

          • Narf (the abdicator) says

            You’re still ignoring the matter of scope. It’s easy enough for a theist to say that their god can do anything within the bounds of reality, and then if he wants to do something outside of those bounds, he can temporarily change the rules of reality to allow it.

            One way to look at it is that the culmination of god’s will is infinite. If god actually sits there, pushing one infinitely powerful hand against the other, then he isn’t actually doing anything, as a net effect. So if one infinitely powerful hand can’t overpower the other, then it isn’t infinitely powerful? That’s silly.

          • Kunaal says

            Part of what I was trying to get across is that “infinite” is not sufficient to encompass omnipotence. Supposing God encounters other infinite stuff (and there is obviously other infinite stuff), he should still be able to exceed that stuff in accordance with his omnipotence. If it were really just that his powers were infinite, I wouldn’t even be talking about this. But it is not merely that he has infinite power, but that he has every specific kind of power, can do absolutely anything at all. There’s no scope when it comes to a being like that.

            Like I said, the problem is, when you say a being is all-powerful—in other words, that it can do anything or has any kind of ability that can (or cannot) be conceived—this includes by definition that it should have the ability to exceed its own power. Since that very concept is nonsensical, the attribute of omnipotence is therefore nonsensical itself. I’m sure that this is not what believers mean when they say their supreme being is all-powerful, but this is what they give, because any other definitions place limitations on their god, and that’s something they’re unwilling to concede.

            By the way, I, myself, have that power. I can create something I cannot destroy, or lift, or whatever. What’s more, I can do so rather easily. I can’t undo ANYTHING that I do, much less everything. I can exceed my own abilities, and I do so routinely. And, no matter how powerful I get, I will always have that ability. Until what, I become all-powerful, and then I don’t have that ability anymore? Because at that point, abilities are simultaneously limitations, and that’s where we run into problems. Not having limitations is itself a limitation.

            The biggest problem with omnipotence is that when people don’t place limitations on their gods, those gods can be defined out of existence. If a being is not bound by any laws—governing its existence, reality itself, or otherwise—then it doesn’t have any properties and therefore doesn’t exist. Obviously, when people speak of God, they’re automatically assuming bounds, but whenever they try to enumerate those bounds, they strike down their god’s omnipotence, and they invariably do so in a more material way than I have done so in this post.

          • Kunaal says

            Actually, I just thought of something else. All of us seem to have a good grasp of what omnipotence is and how it’s used. Since we’re talking about something conceptual, for which everything we need to know about the concept is included in the definition, and since we all disagree on what the implications are even though we’re only using sound logical constructs and there’s no real-life data being analyzed, then that’s a decent piece of evidence suggesting that the concept is nonsensical.

          • Narf (the abdicator) says

            Well, yeah, of course the very concept of an omnipotent being is stupid. The idea that something omniscient and omnipotent has an inferiority complex and needs to be worshiped by his little peons … and cares deeply what we do with our genitals … that’s a much better angle to attack their god from, rather than the logical consistency of the concept of omnipotence.

            The core of my problem with the omnipotence argument comes from the absolute (quantitative)/relative (analog) difference. Theists mean it in an absolute sense, and you only run into the logical conflicts when you throw it into a relative context. Thus, they’ll reject the argument out of hand, since it can be viewed as an equivocation, in a way, at least from the perspective from which they view the concept.

            Also, I guess you could say that I have a problem with the argument, because it won’t work. The omniscience/omnipotence/omnibenevolence/fucked-up-world-we-live-in conflict makes Christians much more thoughtful and gets them really thinking about whether or not their worldview makes sense.

        • jdoran says

          I look at it as the various omni concepts being things that cannot be expressed within logical reasoning and therefore not possible for anyone to say anything meaningful about. It’s like the “the next sentence is true. The previous sentence is false”.

          • chris lowe says

            If God made Christopher Hitchens explain to me how it would be that Hitch would have blown Him out of the water and wiped the floor with Him in a debate?

    • jacobfromlost says

      “Stop with the weird labels. “Tone trolling” sounds like something a little kid would invent.”

      I’m concerned that the way you deliver your criticism of the label “tone trolling” may offend some people and undermine your objective.

      Also, think of the children!

    • Lord Narf says

      We didn’t create the label, man. It’s been around for years. It’s a good, descriptive term, so there’s no reason not to use it.

    • mond says

      Yes, lets stop evolving language and using it in new and interesting ways and adjusting it to the modern world,
      Ye shalt speak as thou art from the dim and distant past.

  4. says

    The problem with the supernatural is that once detected, by its own definition it ceases to be supernatural.

    The supernatural is supernatural for a reason – it is not bound by naturalism. It is beyond our ability to detect and observe it. If it can be detected, then it can be studied under the realm of science. It can be tested, catalogued, predicted and used as a functional theory, property or law of the Universe, and added to the existing pantheon of human knowledge. At that point, it’s no longer supernatural.

    The plane of human understanding regarding once-thought supernatural ideas — from electricity to diseases — has shrunk considerably over the past 500 years and there’s no reason why it won’t continue to shrink as science learns more and more about the observable Universe.

    In fact, the only way the supernatural can exist and not be within the realm of science is for its effects to be completely and utterly random, which might be the case if you want to include quantum reality but it’s not much of a fun thing to believe in since it adds no useful information to human beliefs — it’s just inconsistent, meaningless noise.

    • Lord Narf says

      In fact, the only way the supernatural can exist and not be within the realm of science is for its effects to be completely and utterly random, which might be the case if you want to include quantum reality but it’s not much of a fun thing to believe in since it adds no useful information to human beliefs — it’s just inconsistent, meaningless noise.

      Hell, even quantum reality works in statistically measurable ways. I would expect something similar of the supernatural, even if we could only measure it by its effects upon the natural. I haven’t been able to come up with any explanation of supernaturalism that is in any way coherent, which a supernaturalist would accept.

      • says

        I haven’t been able to come up with any explanation of supernaturalism that is in any way coherent, which a supernaturalist would accept.

        That’s what you get when dealing with Quantum Apologists. The very process of observing their position and trying to pin them down on something changes what their position is.

        • Lord Narf says

          Heh, that’s definitely a thing, yeah. I’ve talked to plenty of theists who deliberately do all they can to prevent someone from using clear language to define their beliefs. Clarity and precision are the enemy.

          Good label for that sort of apologist. I think I’ll use that.

    • John Kruger says

      In my experience, the “supernatural” is not a lot more than people using a device to believe in things that seem to break the laws of nature as we understand them.

      Do you want to believe in a person that has no body (aka a spirit)? No problem! The spirit is “supernatural”, so you do not have to worry about how all the things it takes to be a person are contingent on physical things, it gets to break the rules.

      As the joke goes: What do you call a supernatural event that is testable, repeatable, and verified? A natural event.

      • Lord Narf says

        This reminds me of one of the reversals of Clarke’s Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

        This particular reversal was popularized by some webcomic, I think: Any sufficiently examined magic is indistinguishable from science. Essentially, we should expect magic, if it existed, to follow some sort of rules; have some sort of mechanism; have some sort of consistency … in short, to be explainable by laws similar to those that we use to quantify natural phenomena.

        Using the world ‘supernatural’ is a cop-out, when an honest person would admit that they’ve got nothing.

        • EnlightenmentLiberal says

          “Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science!”
          http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20081205

          I don’t know if it’s “the first” to say something like that, but it’s my favorite.

          I fully agree. The terms “natural” vs “supernatural” are completely useless words. They’re only used in a weasel sense where I think they’re entirely wrong for exactly the reasons Lord Narf just stated.

          Put another way, if it’s observable, I don’t care if it’s natural or supernatural. I am going to form expectations of future sensory experience based on past sensory experience according to inductive and deductive reasoning, and the basic scientific method. “Supernatural or natural” is just a completely useless and irrelevant question. (The logical positivist in me says it’s also malformed and meaningless.)

    • KsDevil says

      Isn’t the term “super” a relativistic term?
      Couldn’t “natural” be a relative term to common events in nature and “super” natural be a relative term for non-common events in nature? After all, they both reference nature as the primary.
      It’s super natural but it’s still a form of natural.
      It is not external of nature.
      Ultimately, it’s all just word play in the English language and for coherent conversation, we have to agree which of the many definitions that exist for words are being used.

      • Lord Narf says

        I don’t know if I would say ‘relativistic’. Maybe category? Relativistic terminology tends to place things along a gradient, while the usage of supernatural is an attempt to put something into an entirely separate box.

  5. says

    Hmmm…This is a tough one as it will surely just come down to one’s personal opinion of what is crossing the line and what is not.

    My interpretation of what he’s saying, is that perhaps sometimes they way you speak to callers, with sarcasm and possibly condescension (depending on who you ask), isn’t necessary, nor beneficial to your cause. Your cause is to wake people up, right? It’s going to be a little harder to do that if people see these traits being evoked. So I’m not getting into morals, but more-so that the way you conduct yourselves during calls could be harmful to your actual cause. (Perhaps you don’t care if people get offended or not, but that’s the way I interpreted the email and I myself have had similar thoughts before).

    But I do agree that one should not judge the entire show, or the hosts, based off of a handful of examples or selective ones. I think exercising a bit of tongue biting sometimes could be beneficial to what you’re trying to achieve, is all. Whether you think the caller deserves it in your view or not.

    • says

      My interpretation of what he’s saying, is that perhaps sometimes they way you speak to callers, with sarcasm and possibly condescension (depending on who you ask), isn’t necessary, nor beneficial to your cause. Your cause is to wake people up, right? It’s going to be a little harder to do that if people see these traits being evoked. So I’m not getting into morals, but more-so that the way you conduct yourselves during calls could be harmful to your actual cause. (Perhaps you don’t care if people get offended or not, but that’s the way I interpreted the email and I myself have had similar thoughts before).

      Reality is a little more nuanced than that.

      It could be that the person won’t “wake up” until they’ve been shamed or embarrassed, or provoked into “I’ll show those guys! I’ll figure out how to refute this!”, that may not happen otherwise.

      There’s also the American Atheists approach of mobilizing supporters. Those bits that are “fun” like that, tend to go viral, pulling in more viewers/supporters, and statistically, more converters. They also can help more of us become interested in the secular battle, and participate more.

      It’s not like they’re automatically condescending/sarcastic to callers… the ones who receive that typically have earned it… typically by those who taking a more friendly tone probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

      The point is, it’s not automatically unambiguously harmful to the cause use sarcasm and/or condescension, nor is it automatically unambiguously beneficial to the cause to cease usage of sarcasm and/or condescension.

    • jacobfromlost says

      Another principle you might consider is that MANY more minds will be changed in the audience (the lurkers, etc) than in people you are directly talking to.

      Moreover, we live in a human community with a variety of perspectives and approaches. If you talk to someone until you are out of breath and they still INSIST on some stupid, unsupported nonsense, they should expect to get some blow back from rational people who just don’t have the patience for that nonsense anymore.

      And, quite frankly, shouldn’t be expected to have the patience for it. If we were THAT gentle (as a species) with idiocy throughout our history, we never could have gotten this far.

      There is a time to say ENOUGH, and if we refuse to stand up to bad ideas (some REALLY bad ideas) because we are afraid that some of the people with the really bad ideas won’t change their mind, then we have just relinquished all of our power as free intellectual agents to the stupidest people among us.

    • Lord Narf says

      My interpretation of what he’s saying, is that perhaps sometimes they way you speak to callers, with sarcasm and possibly condescension (depending on who you ask), isn’t necessary, nor beneficial to your cause. Your cause is to wake people up, right? It’s going to be a little harder to do that if people see these traits being evoked. So I’m not getting into morals, but more-so that the way you conduct yourselves during calls could be harmful to your actual cause. (Perhaps you don’t care if people get offended or not, but that’s the way I interpreted the email and I myself have had similar thoughts before).

      However, there are people who end up being brought around by mockery. Different people react to different stimuli. We’ve heard from many atheists who were brought out of their religious beliefs by people mocking those beliefs. Some people will actually examine their beliefs and see what someone could mean.

      • says

        You’ve all made very good points, and I may have to reconsider my position :)

        Though, I guess we’re getting to my main point – if we were to find out, absolutely, that acting a certain way effects how many conversions you got, would you do whatever benefits that goal? for example if we found out it WAS more beneficial to refrain from the sarcasm and shaming even if ‘deserved’ ?

        • Lord Narf says

          If it was possible to get a reasonably accurate sense of which approach was more likely to get a positive result … I still don’t think I would go with an absolute approach that everyone should follow.

          The point is moot, anyway, since we can’t get an acceptably accurate sample. Often, people can’t reliably express the exact reasons for their decisions and opinions, even for simple processes. With something as complex and gradual as giving up religious beliefs that have been brainwashed into them from childhood, what kind of degree of accuracy do you think people are likely to have, for putting their finger on the exact thing that did it for them?

          Even without that, you’ve still got to consider the personalities of those who want to do public outreach. Some of them can’t do sarcastic, and others can’t do nice. The approach should be fitted both to the behavior of the theist and the personality of the atheist. We have some atheists doing one approach and others doing the other approach. Then, we have some fluctuating back and forth. I’m fine with the distribution that we have now.

        • says

          Though, I guess we’re getting to my main point – if we were to find out, absolutely, that acting a certain way effects how many conversions you got, would you do whatever benefits that goal? for example if we found out it WAS more beneficial to refrain from the sarcasm and shaming even if ‘deserved’ ?

          One may be able to make an argument that, if overall, there’s more benefit than harm in taking a different route, that it’d be better to do that… but the reality is more complicated than that.

          We can look at it this way – if we all stopped mocking/sarcasming/shaming, we’d essentially be abandoning those people who’d only be catalyzed through those means. There’s a significant amount of people who’d just shrug off disagreement, never driven to look deeper into their belief system to “debunk the atheist”, if the conversations are mellow and cordial. Maybe this is rare, but they do exist.

          A multi-pronged approach is better, to cover all angles. My problem with accomodationalists is their insistence that everyone must do things their way, whereas my position is that both approaches are needed.

  6. CaptainWhaleLiver says

    I have an example.
    This is Call #1 (calm, gentle, and reasonable-sounding): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qs3RKZjSzYg
    This is Call #2 (abrasive, loud and AGGRESSIVE): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAuFJKQh83Y
    Compare the tone of voice in the two and also compare the body language.
    (If you watch these two calls on mute side by side you will be INTRIGUED to see the difference in posture and facial expression.)
    Now, you might be asking, who cares?
    Well, try “focus grouping” these two calls with your Christian friends (or just Christian acquaintances) and ask them to comment on which one was more effective in getting them to think about their beliefs.
    My Christian friends couldn’t get 2 minutes into Call #2 before they couldn’t watch any more: they said it was unpleasant, hard to watch, something like that.
    Even my atheist friend was like, “This is just pure fanaticism. I can’t watch this.”

    Just put yourself in a Christian’s shoes and watch Call #1. It’s an extremely effective call. I love it. But calls like that are very rare on the show.

    • Monocle Smile says

      I don’t buy that at all.

      Most Christians don’t understand that they believe horrible, offensive things about other people as part of their doctrine. I think this needs to be understood. Threats of hell are shrugged off in our society far too easily simply because “god” is involved.

      I realize Jeff Dee doesn’t go over well with some people, but I think he’s very important on these matters. Believing that generally decent people deserve to be tortured forever and spreading this message is utterly contemptible. Most people are ignorant of this, and Jeff’s reactions, in my opinion, treat threats of hell with the contempt they deserve.

      Your atheist friend evidently doesn’t understand the definition of “fanaticism.”

      • Lord Narf says

        I was about to say the same thing, before I read your response. Do we know how far into the charade that call was? Were the hosts aware that “Mark” was probably a troll, by then? That might have had some impact upon their treatment of him.

        • jacobfromlost says

          I think they just treated him as real until that very last call where Matt called him out, and then “Mark” basically admitted it by falling back on an argument from another of his various names and personas (he invoked Chris Langan when that was an obsession of a completely different name/persona that “Mark” used previously). Directly after that, “Mark” came clean in the chat and in the blog, and then never called back.

          But all that said, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of the hosts react in any way that crossed the line.

          • Lord Narf says

            He called back, just not under that name. He tried a few different accents, but he was very unconvincing with them.

          • jacobfromlost says

            “He called back, just not under that name. He tried a few different accents, but he was very unconvincing with them.”

            He didn’t call back after Matt called him out. I realize he used various names, I just referred to all of the calls as “Mark” for simplicity.

          • Lord Narf says

            Directly after that, “Mark” came clean in the chat and in the blog, and then never called back.

            That’s the comment I’m objecting to. One of the odd accent calls came after he was outed. I’m recalling a short one, in which Matt called him out. Damned if I can remember which episode it was, though.

          • jacobfromlost says

            That comment came AFTER I already said “Mark” was outed on the show. See: “I think they just treated him as real until that very last call where Matt called him out,”

          • jacobfromlost says

            The show on which Matt called him out was on 9/11/2011.

            The blog where he came clean was posted on 9/13/2011.

            He never called back after 9/11/2011.

    • Thorne says

      After listening to both, I don’t see how anyone can claim to be made uncomfortable by the “body language” or “tone” of the hosts in that second video. I can, however, understand them getting uncomfortable with the CONTENT of Matt’s answers, and with Jeff’s reversal of their usual condemnation. If you’re going to threaten me with hell, I’m going to be upset, too. And if my pointing out that your threatening me with hell is contemptible makes you uncomfortable, tough shit!

      I will grant that, in the second video, Matt’s comments were somewhat more aggressive, in that he was trying to force the caller to stand his ground, to say what he really believed. I certainly wouldn’t classify it as abrasive, or loud. If anything, the caller was the aggressive one, at least in the beginning, when he deliberately threatened the hosts with eternal punishment.

      No, if that’s your idea of an aggressive, abrasive response then I think you have your sensitivity meters set way too high.

      What I find I have a problem with is when these theists call in and use all kinds of elaborate word-mazes and bizarre definitions based on the preconceived notions of their beliefs to try and trip up the hosts into saying something which they could then point to and say, “AHA! That means my god is real!” You would think they would understand that smarter people than they have been trying to justify the belief in gods for thousands of years without success. The problem, of course, is that I end up laughing so hard that I have to keep replaying the show in order to hear more of their “arguments”.

    • Raymond says

      Let’s see. The first call was going fine until the caller threatened to punch Matt in the head, and the second call was going fine until the caller damned the hosts to hell. From what I’ve seen, it’s you get what you give on this show, and in nearly every case, the hosts are polite until a caller gets aggressive. That’s what I saw from the two clips, and what I’ve seen in all the episodes I’ve watched.

    • petrander says

      Seriously? You thought that call #2 was LOUD, AGGRESSIVE, ABRASIVE!?

      I have heard MUCH worse calls than that. Calls that made me curl my toes and feel that they were going to far.

      THIS particular call is golden. Both Jeff and Matt are reasonable but confrontational at the same time.

      If your christan friends couldn’t bear watching, it must have been, because they were uncomfortable with hearing a rational dissection of their beliefs.

  7. Fred Boulton says

    Thank you for your post of reason!

    Humans never fail to disappoint me with their strange beliefs. What is it that turns otherwise, seemingly intelligent people into rambling, raving, incoherent, superstitious, 1st-grade nincompoops?

    Many people plan their whole lives around nonsense! They read their horoscopes, choose “lucky” numbers for lotteries, throw salt over their shoulders, avoid walking under ladders, etc. Many seek out “mediums” to read their future, put them in contact with dead loved ones.

    The more delusional pray to gods, sing silly songs of praise, bow down before invisible beings and look forward to an eternal life in a heavenly place after they die in return for their worship.

    What an insult to “Nature/Life” this is!

    • Thorne says

      What is it that turns otherwise, seemingly intelligent people into rambling, raving, incoherent, superstitious, 1st-grade nincompoops?

      Umm, I think it’s called religion!

  8. JimH says

    Re the first caller – Emanuel – He was making a pro-Christianity argument that it has been around for a long time and is still followed. If this comes up again, perhaps ask “why don’t you convert to judaism?”. That’s the longest running currently followed faith therefore the most reliable, right?

    • Max Entropy says

      Hinduism is currently practiced by about 1 billion people and has been around longer than Judaism which only has about 30 to 40 million followers. Advantage: Hinduism.

      • Corwyn says

        But I think he then was trying to move to, “well, we know better than that now” Hinduism may be a better option, I think, in that it is both older and still followed by a large percentage of the total population.

        • says

          I did call him out on the fact he had noted that older religions, while they may have enjoyed a good long run, were eventually supplanted by scientific knowledge. Why think that Christianity will ultimately be exempt from the same fate?

          • Corwyn says

            And thus, since Christianity has not been (in his mind), it is therefore reinforced.

            I would challenge the idea that Science has killed off *any* religion, it is generally other religions (backed by force) that overcome those religions which are defunct.

        • says

          What bugs me the most about his line of argumentation (outside of simply being an Appeal to Popularity), was that, if we look at the core of the reasoning, there’s simply nothing to support this standard as having any merit.

          Why would something more likely be true intrinsically because a lot of people believe it? There’s no mechanism there. If a lot of people believe something that’s true, it’s typically because of an actual application of science-based investigation, and education to the masses, which ends up being evidence or observation based… not purely popularity-based.

          This line of reasoning must necessarily presuppose that the religious beliefs being true is the only means for which it would be believed, and things like persistent-memes, cultural upbringing, threat of duress towards dissenters, and our core superstitious nature – our brains being massive pattern-recognition engines that often sculpt intuitive and flawed heuristics that “wing it” when it comes to parsing reality – don’t exist.

          To even broach this as a possibility to supporting the beliefs is massively grasping at any straw around.

          • jacobfromlost says

            “Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already.”
            ― Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

    • KsDevil says

      I took his call to mean he is trying to validate his existence by standing on the shoulders of the greater masses yet still fearing a fall.
      He seemed to be looking for answers to questions he hasn’t congealed yet. The search for truth is not always a straight path. But the search is the thing. Perhaps after running into several dead end fallacies he will find the way out of his maze.
      Until then, he needs the sounding board that this show provides.

  9. Paul Wright says

    I like the show the way it is. I’ve been tuning in every Sunday night ( I live in the UK ) for several years now and this is how I see it :

    Firstly, I’m a true advocate that you treat as you find. Sometimes the hosts are debating with someone who is articulate and well versed on whatever subject is being discussed. These calls tend to be quite civil. Other times, a person calls who doesn’t even know their own bible and throws out all kinds of fallacious arguments over and over. If Matt or Jeff is on, they tend to get annoyed and I fully understand why. Re treading the same dumb arguments must be irritating to say the least. Other hosts like Tracie or Jen for example never seem to loose their cool. I think this is one of the shows strong points. Almost every week throws up a different combination of hosts, each of whom have their own way of dealing with callers and all of whom do a great job as they’re all well read on the subjects, well, except maybe quantum mechanics :p

    Secondly, the hosts are only human at the end of day. They are not infallible. So there are always going to be times when they come off as ‘ The Bad Guy ‘ after dealing with a caller a little too bluntly or maybe a little too sarcastically. I remember one show from a few years back where a tipsy Christian women called in and during the call Matt dropped an F bomb. She protested her disgust and hung up. Matt seemed a little flustered immediately afterwards because I think he knew he had crossed a line of polite discourse. I personally was not offended by that incident. On the contrary, it’s one of my favourite YT clips from TAE.

    Finally, you just can’t please everyone all of the time. It’s all about striking a balance between good honest debate which will inform the audience and be entertaining at the same. I think TAE achieves this balance perfectly.

    • KsDevil says

      I don’t like the show the way it is. There never seems to be enough time to get to enough callers to provide a greater diversity of discussion.
      I suppose I might feel the same way even if the show were 2 hours long. It always seem to end well before I am ready.

      • Lord Narf says

        The extra half-hour that they used to have made a huge difference. Tracie did several shows in which she spent 45 minutes at the beginning, covering a topic (I still love the three-part series she did about the henotheistic origins of the Jewish god), and it still felt like there was plenty of audience interaction after the topic section of the show.

        Two hours might even be a little overkill. We’d have to see what they would do with it, though. A few of the Non-Prophets episodes went well over two hours, and they remained riveting, the whole way through. It just feels like two hours might be a little much, with the call-in format. I dunno. I could be wrong, since I’m going on pure feeling here.

        • Russell Glasser says

          Speaking for myself… if I go for an hour and a half I’m already fairly fatigued. I don’t think two hour shows would be good at all. The listeners might want it, but we are some mere mortals who have to do all that talking without a break.

          • Lord Narf says

            Yeah, I see what you mean. Having people call in, for the last half hour of a two hour show, is no good when the hosts are calling it in, themselves.

          • Russell Glasser says

            You’ve heard what we sound like on the after-show, right? Imagine 1:30 of show, followed by 30 minutes of “Yeah yeah, thanks for your call, here’s what I got from your summary while I was skimming stuff on the internet.”

          • Lord Narf says

            Heh heh heh heh heh. Yeah, we occasionally get some gold in an after-show call, as happens … oh, once or twice a year, maybe? Usually, it’s nothing much worth worrying about, as you give people a “Hi, thanks for being interested in talking to us; sorry we couldn’t get to you; bye.”

  10. Mr. Dave says

    The basis for the complaint may not even be on an entire episode, but perhaps a collection of video clips the e-mail writer saw. I’ve noticed a number of clips on YouTube that seem to have been selected for the drama or contentiousness in them. Remember, the internet and services like YT thrive on drama and spectacle as one of the hooks to draw in views. There’s going to be an audience for the worst behavior on the show, so I’m a bit surprised that there isn’t a YT channel called “AXP’s Best Bitchslaps” or something similar. Of course, it wouldn’t do much to showcase atheist diplomacy to the fence-sitters out there.

    • jacobfromlost says

      I think you are quite wrong. We have many, many examples of fence sitters who were swayed by confrontational argumentative approaches.

      We only feel “icky” about confronting bad religious ideas because in society we are taught it is impolite to bring up politics or religion.

      Who cares about being polite when truth is the issue? If the party you are arguing with doesn’t care about what is true and what is not, then NO approach will work with them.

      And again, when arguing with a believer, I think it is folly for your goal to be to persuade THAT person’s mind. Your goal should be to persuade the minds of audience members, and we know the show is working on that front and always has been.

      • Mr. Dave says

        I don’t think you understand my points, which was to first suggest the source of where the letter writer got the impression of host conduct. The second was to point out a facet of the most popular videos in general, which is high drama content. The last was just an observation that if the only videos people were to see was the confrontational videos, they’re not going to see the side of the hosts when they are being very accommodating and at the same time, convincing. I enjoy when they put down an ass-hat just as much as anyone else, it’s just if that’s all people see, then they’re less likely to think it’s possible to have civil discourse. Who knows, perhaps one reason the show gets some of the more interesting callers, is because they have seen one of the more “diplomatic” videos, only to wander into the lion’s den with a fatally flawed sense of confidence. Ah, drama, the spice of the internet.

        • jacobfromlost says

          “I don’t think you understand my points”

          Trying not to be rude, but the points you made are very, very old arguments, even in regards to AE. They have been addressed dozens of times before–in the blog, on the show, in the chat, on youtube clips, and elsewhere.

          If your points were valid, the show wouldn’t have grown over these last many years but petered out. If your point were valid, some of the hosts of the show would be hosts now. If your points were valid, all those hundreds of e-mails they have gotten over the years wouldn’t exist…and yet they do.

          You seem to be sharing concerns as if the show started yesterday and we don’t have years and years of data to consult.

          • jacobfromlost says

            “some of the hosts of the show would be hosts now.”

            *some of the hosts of the show WOULDN’T be hosts now.

            (I’m sure everyone knew what I meant.)

          • maudell says

            I’m pretty sure Mr.Dave is saying that he thinks the show is fine. A lot of criticism comes from people who are ignorant of the show and just find an AXP fan channel with ‘epic fail of the creatard idiot’ titles. I think you have in fact misunderstood the initial point of Mr.Dave. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard hosts use his argument in the past.

    • Raymond says

      I agree. I had a conversation with a woman a few days ago about one such clip. In the clip Tracie was in her mode, picking apart an argument. The woman complained that Tracie was a bitch because she didn’t let the host talk. Once I told her that it was a clip of an hour-long show, and that the host had plenty of face time later in the show; she rescinded her complaint. It’s an inevitable problem given our current technology and the swing between dramatic and non-dramatic content on the show.

    • bigwhale says

      It seems a lot of callers say “I’ve been watching the show on youtube” lately. I do cringe when I hear it because it would be better if they watched full episodes to see the variety of calls and that they aren’t only picking the idiots, they just have to deal with whoever calls.

  11. says

    Both calls are very effective. The difference is that Caller #1 waited till the end to say “how about I come down there and punch your fat head in,” whereas Caller #2 led with the “guess which place you’re going” threat. The hosts weren’t mean in either instance, although they registered exasperation with Caller #2′s inability to articulate any basis for his beliefs, and rightly (if emphatically) identified as dehumanizing the attitude of Christians who cut off contact with people who don’t share their beliefs, and regularly inform others that they’re going to hell. I saw nothing to support the claim that the hosts dispensed “pure fanaticism.”

  12. says

    It sounded to me like the last caller was trying to do his best to “trap” the hosts into some kind of corner where he could leverage some kind of argument for a god/soul. I’m glad the hosts saw right through it.

    The first caller was earning a Masters in “moving the goalposts”. One would think that pointing out that those religious that were held as true for longer than current-day Christianity, and the fact this has happened repeatedly across history, would demonstrate quite readily that this approach has no merit.

    … but nope, apparently. Argued from someone who clearly doesn’t care about whether the process produces good results or not. It’s about achieving his results, and bending whatever rules are needed to get there.

  13. says

    I love Martin’s point about Herodotus. Herodotus is generally regarded as the “Father of History”, in the sense that he was presumably the first one to systematically record accounts of important factual events. But certainly his stories are ‘seasoned” here and there with “spicy” rumors and gossips about divine interventions, miraculous events and juicy sex scandals among royalty.

    But still, at this day and age, there are “researchers” who believe they’ve found evidence, in Herodotus, that ancient astronauts existed. For example, they take an instance from the narration of the battle of Marathon circa 490BC, between Athenians and Persians, in which there’s this greek warrior, who instead of a spear he uses a weird crescent weapon that emits light rays. So they go and say “here, there’s proof that in ancient Greece they had handguns that fire laser beams”. And the list goes on and on.

    In that context, it’s insane to presume that in the future, someone who will watch Frank Miller’s “300″ will actually believe that this was how things happened when ancient Greeks fought Persians. There are basic historic facts in it, but if we take everything in literature and art as factual, we’re in serious trouble!

  14. says

    If our criteria for religious truth is length of time people have believed and modern day believers, then Christianity isn’t anywhere near the top choice. Hinduism is older and still practiced by about a billion people. Buddhism is also older and still practiced. Zaroastrianism is far older than either of those but only practiced by 200,000-1.5 million people (estimates vary). Christianity wins if it’s a popularity contest. None of those are valid in determining the truth of any of them, but the first caller’s reasoning was flawed (and it’s obviously not why he believes anyway) and I wanted to point that out.

  15. mattyarbrough says

    Just a point to make on why people have this perception of there being a contentious tone to the show. The nature of the net, and youtube in particular, is to gravitate towards drama. Contentious clips will get watched more thus return higher in search results thus get watched more etc etc. So people who don’t to even a little bit of homework other than watching the top few clips will get a highly skewed sense of the show. I do miss the two hour format, the callers today really lent themselves to that sort of more in depth discussion.

    • Lord Narf says

      There’s been some vague talk about them switching over to production in their ACA building, as they’re doing with Non Prophets Radio. I don’t know how solid that is or what kind of timetable we’re looking at, if it is solid. If they made the transition, though, I’m sure they would go to a much longer format. There are also things they would lose by leaving behind public access, so it’s a hard decision.

      • jacobfromlost says

        From what I’ve gathered from the hosts in the chat over the last year or more, they had planned to move to their own building much sooner (around the time they did that guerrilla show with Jen and Matt at their own building)…but the tech they bought for the transition was faulty or something.

        Ultimately I think it’s just the fact that everyone is a volunteer, and they all have lives and jobs that take priority. I also think that if there were tech problems from whatever was first purchased, there may be money problems in getting the right equipment also.

        From what Matt has said in the past, the plan definitely is to move the show to their own building as (I think) that was one of the main reasons for buying it.

        But as for time table? No man knows the day or the hour…

      • says

        Personally, I think that they should. They’ve acknowledged that the overwhelming majority of their viewers watch online and that they rarely ever get local callers (they were having a party in the chatroom last week when someone from Austin called in). As such, with all of the downsides of the public access studio (limited time, don’t get 5th Sundays, lose to the religious programming all the time, have to worry about other shows messing up settings, etc.), I don’t see a reason why they wouldn’t want to get all of that control back, assuming that they have the equipment in their building to use. I support them either way, I just can’t see much to recommend staying in the public access studios, especially since public access is a dying breed across the country anyhow. Eventually, they’re going to be forced to go out on their own whether they like it or not, I’d much rather be in control of when that transition happens than have it imposed on me.

        • says

          Google Fiber is (eventually) coming to Austin and that will make on-line streaming a dream for the show in the new building. I just hope there is proper funding to keep it all going. There are still a lot of people on this planet to tempt to the godless side.

          • Lord Narf says

            I thought Google was moving into the breakfast cereal market, until I read your comment a second time.

  16. jacobfromlost says

    And yet the most viewed clip of “The Atheist Experience” (so far as I can tell) has no confrontation AT ALL.

    • says

      Incidentally, this was actually the first clip I ever saw of the show. It came across on Fark’s “video” tab.

      I wasn’t impressed when I first saw it. The hosts pretty much blew up the mics with their voices, and what did I care what other atheists had to say? I already agree with them.

      I went back a few days later, and watched it again, checked out related videos… and then more… and then saw figured out they had full episodes… and I was hooked.

      Since then, I’ve gone from being a mostly apathetic atheist, to an atheist activist doing multiple ongoing projects, being an “out atheist”, trying to set a good example, etc.

      • Lord Narf says

        The first one I saw was one from the show that Matt did solo, I think. Maybe Tracie was there; I can’t remember for sure. It was a story he covered about some Muslim woman who was executed for witchcraft, for making someone impotent. Rather upbeat start to my viewership.

        • jacobfromlost says

          I can’t remember the first clip I saw, but the Robby clip with Keryn and Ashley never fails to make me laugh.

          It’s the only clip that tears me right down the middle in terms of possible idiot, or possible prankster…and that tearing tickles my funny bone every single time.

          And I still can’t tell.

          watch?v=40eZGn6-pXo

          • jacobfromlost says

            I think Robby is a dude.

            But the “Jack Stick” joke sort of indicates a troll…although an idiot might actually think that is funny, so I’m still torn.

            (What I find so funny is how seriously Ashley and Keryn seem to take the “heb’yu” call all the way to the end, and as soon as Robby hangs up, Keryn says, “What?” that is so very clearly referencing the ENTIRE call, lol. It’s as if they had a 5 minute conversation with a lunatic on the street and as soon as you get out of earshot you whisper, wtf was that? lol)

  17. says

    I think it was an OK show. Martin and Russell seemed a bit under the weather, probable tired from work or something. They’re both genuinely nice guys, and patient. Plus, the call from the French guy was a little boring, IMHO, and that hurt the pace. I don’t know, maybe you should put clips from Ben Hur with Christians thrown to lions in the roman arena. This will certainly stir things up! :) A prop or two could make the trick, where’s the crucified bunny, or the flying spaghetti monster? Nah, just kidding…

  18. says

    This “tone troll” crap is getting ridiculous. You guys are supposed to be championing free thought and skepticism, but you all seem to be big proponents for this annoying new label. So far it seems it’s just a way to demonize someone right off the bat, before they have a chance to elaborate or defend themselves. A person who just happened to ask the wrong question, who in the end might have been willing to hear you out and change their minds. This kinda’ crap has been polluting PZ’s forum for a while. Sad to see here. Always thought AXP was above this divisive crap.

    • says

      From what I’ve seen in the shows, it’s exceptionally difficult for the hosts to remain calm and objective. I applause their patience and the level of sensitivity towards the mentality and the peculiar set of mind of a believer. Several times, this delicate balance between understanding someone and yet having to explain to him why they’re wrong, providing good arguments, is lost. Then the host becomes rude and theist callers complain.

      I think that what Martin did, putting this matter into discussion, illustrates the honesty of the people who host this show. Instead of adopting a certain code of behavior – many shows have opted for the confrontational and sarcastic approach to make a name of their own – they clearly demonstrate that the tone of each show is symptomatic and depends entirely on the arguments at hand, the people who call in, various parameters.

      As I see it, the core of the philosophy of the show is very positive and promotes a genuinely pedagogical approach and a spirit of mutual understanding. On the other hand, it is always interesting to see how people perceive the image of the show. If they prefer confrontational and more heated discussions, that’s a characteristic of human beings, they just want to be entertained. As AronRa simply put it ‘some people love to see a train wreck”. I highly doubt that Matt and the other hosts will adopt a fake confrontational stance just to see their views rise. They’ve proved that many times, and I think that’s why people see this show, because it’s an oasis of honest delivery of reality, unlike most biased mainstream media.

      Now, as far as the forums go, it is understandable that some people will employ different means of expressing their ideas, sarcasm and humor being some of them. Especially in these two cases, it’s easy to misunderstand them, since humor takes some dexterity to employ cleverly to get your meaning across, and is easier to fail to do so.

      Ultimately, from what I’ve seen so far, I think that it’s mostly theists who tend to be oversensitive and feel they’re oppressed. It’s typical, when you run out of good arguments, to act like that. On the other hand, there are certainly arrogant atheists who are jerks. We’re just smart apes, we’re not perfect, what can we do?

      • says

        What a great post Lambros…… totally agree.

        I actually love when Matt hosts….usually….., and I was `surprised at how gentle calm and measured he is when I’ve seen the videos of him in debates. I guess there he is a guest and here it’s his “home”

        I guess I don’t understand just why he gets so heated….. I mean the point of the show is to get theists to call in and explain why they believe in sky faeries or whatever….. we’ve all heard their arguments before….. it’s not like he’s suddenly surprised by anything he hears…. so why the visible annoyance?

        And for my part I love to hear the theists try to explain themselves…. that’s the “new” part for me…. I know most of the atheist responses backwards so that’s not why I listen….

        • Lord Narf says

          I guess I don’t understand just why he gets so heated….. I mean the point of the show is to get theists to call in and explain why they believe in sky faeries or whatever….. we’ve all heard their arguments before….. it’s not like he’s suddenly surprised by anything he hears…. so why the visible annoyance?

          In part, at least, it’s a performance. Do you think Jeff is truly upset, every time he goes off on a theist for bringing up the threat of Hell? While it’s old hat, for Jeff, he needs to express the outrage that he felt, the first time he had to deal with the issue, so that the theists will feel that it’s so offensive.

          In part, though, there’s also genuine frustration. Matt is a very transparent person, I believe. Whatever he’s feeling at the moment, you’ll generally know about it. I’m sure the Matt at the debates is not the normal Matt.

    • says

      So far it seems it’s just a way to demonize someone right off the bat, before they have a chance to elaborate or defend themselves

      Then you clearly haven’t been paying attention. “Tone trolling” is when you ignore the substance of an argument, in favor of the tone in which its delivered. It’s a kind of fallacy, really, where you ignore the argument in favor of peripheral issues.

      If I’m making a sound argument, it doesn’t become invalid simply because I call you a nasty word. Refusing to engage with an argument simply because of how it’s delivered is bullshit. Moreover, it’s entirely possible to be massively offensive and insulting without ever employing “bad language”.

      • says

        Yeah, that makes sense if you’re having a debate or argument. But the AXP is a show that’s by it’s hosts own words is meant to spread positive atheism. The hosts want theist callers to call in. How is getting angry and dismissive spreading positive atheism?

        • says

          You’re forgetting the fact that a lot of theists aren’t really skeptical thinkers. When I started watching the AXP I was already an atheist, but I didn’t know how to combat theist arguments. They felt weird and off, but I couldn’t explain why. The AXP started me off researching logical fallacies and common theist arguments. From what I learned from that I use in everyday life now. So, the hosts are usually dealing with theists that are just starting off, probably more hindered than I was since they’re living in delusion.

          Coming off as combative right off the bat doesn’t help “positive atheism”. Especially when these theists probably don’t know how they’re coming off. No need to label them trolls, just point them to an FAQ or spend a few sentences explaining how they’re coming off (which the hosts usually do).

          Jesus Christ.

          • says

            Agreed. But I don’t think the hosts come off angry and combative right off the bat. I can think of plenty of examples where they were far more patient than the caller deserved. It does get frustrating playing whack-a-mole with someone who changes the topic in every sentence because they can’t back up what they just claimed is an undeniable fact. In fact, it’s the theist callers who are rude most of the time, not the hosts. There’s no reason for a host to sit quietly and listen to someone’s 20 minute word salad when there’s a serious logic problem with their first sentence. People call into the show somehow thinking they are entitled to run the show on their own terms. No show, call-in or otherwise, works that way. The hosts are right to interrupt them and refuse to move on until the caller answers questions or explains a point. And they have every right to end any call at any time. In fact, the problem usually is not that people are being treated rudely, but that too many theist callers are allowed to ramble on about nothing when there are other callers on the line. I realize that’s a tough call to make on a live show and I doubt I would do any better (in fact, I suspect I’d be more likely to engage one idiot for the full hour which would be a huge mistake).

  19. says

    Hmmmmm ….. the only time I don’t like TAE is when Matt gets snappy and angry at callers.
    That’s my 2 cents. He gets incredibly irate when someone interrupts him but has no problem constantly
    interrupting the caller.
    I understand that like in a game of chess he already knows where the caller is going and can answer it
    without hearing them out, but we… you know…. the listeners/viewers might actually you know like to hear the caller dig the hole or say what their position is before being buried…… plus I always think it’s just way more cooler to calmly and politely tell people they’re full of shit…….. but I understand that people here prefer the Jerry Springer type of debate…. obviously it’s more entertaining…..

    Brian in Sweden

    • says

      The problem is that if you don’t cut in, some of these people can take up an entire episode on their own. Also, if they’re building a logical argument and you’ve got a problem with their first premise, you should cut in. There’s no point in hearing the rest if the first part fails.

      I get that it can sometimes go overboard, but it’s a delicate balance. It can so easily go the other way too, if you let it.

      • says

        Yeah, that’s exactly why I think it’s extremely difficult for anyone to be calm and patient and yet, Matt and the other guys handle it superbly. When someone calls in and eats 30 minutes mumbling, circling around with meaningless tautologies, making no point at all, I’m amazed at how patient the hosts are and keep on providing logical arguments to actually help the caller.

      • Lord Narf says

        Also, if they’re building a logical argument and you’ve got a problem with their first premise, you should cut in. There’s no point in hearing the rest if the first part fails.

        There’s another problem with that. If you let people ramble, then come back to their initial argument a minute and a half later, they’ll often deny that they said what they said, despite the fact that it’s on tape. You need to challenge someone the moment they say something wrong, before they can forget, either honestly or not.

    • says

      He gets incredibly irate when someone interrupts him but has no problem constantly
      interrupting the caller.

      This is something he’s commented on before. It’s a problem with the phones (the callers can’t hear the hosts when they’re talking for some reason), not the interruption, firstly… but it’s not like he flies off the handle as soon as someone interrupts. It usually takes awhile (depending on his starting-mood, of course), before the frustration brews.

      I don’t agree that the whole argument should be allowed. They should be stopped the instant something is wrong with the argument… otherwise, it easily turns into a Gash Gallop… and the reasoning why the argument is invalid gets lost in time.

      • says

        Yeah, I mean it’s common problems, feedback from the TV, voice delay in long distance calls, all sorts of trivial things. And anyway the hosts most of the times tell the caller he’s being put on hold.

        That being said, sometimes you just can’t get through, like this one. This is a perfect example of a discussion that’s going nowhere, simply because the caller cannot even start making an argument from borrowed wisdom. Notice how incredibly patient Matt is.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDmQINlntJ4

        And then there’s this all time classic. The man just can’t be quiet for a sec!!

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSTQ4ZJsg1s&noredirect=1

        It’s OK to be polite and courteous and all, but c’mon, if you can’t handle the truth, grow up and wake up from your delusion. BTW it’s exactly clips like these that make me appreciate Matt so much. Even when he bursts out, I think it’s justified, he’s human after all.

        • Lord Narf says

          David Smalley just had Eric on for over 3 hours, on Dogma Debate. It was so painful to listen to, and they weren’t aggressive enough with the guy. David and Jerry DeWitt are just too nice to properly deal with someone of Eric’s level of assholery. They’re talking about a followup episode, but I’m not sure I can listen to it, if Aron isn’t on to corral the guy, once he starts throwing out fallacy after fallacy.

  20. M the Atheist says

    To Matt and others,

    A good topic for a show would be to ask fellow atheists to call in and discuss the direction the current movement is going in. I recently watched a video by GirlWritesWhat that explained very well what happened to the atheist movement in the last few years.

    To be brief, she claims that to say one should prefer atheism and adopt it rather than various forms of theism is because it does less harm is the canard that atheism fell for that allowed our movement to be hijacked and fractured and lead it off course.

    Atheism should be about using reason, logic, testing and experimentation, hard factual reasoning. Not about theism being more harmful than atheism. Just because many no longer adopt theism or abandon it because atheism is less judgmental or atheism jives with their life-styles better than theism is a Trojan Horse.

    I would suggest that not should y’all be nicer or less mean but rather y’all not counter theistic arguments with the argument that theism does a lot of harm, or atheism is less judgmental and does less harm. This is an emotional argument and lends people to use their feelings rather than their reasoning to pick sides. This is also a slippery-slope that leads people in the atheist community to argue that “something hurts my feelings and things should not hurt my feelings in this movement.”

    Atheism is about using reason and logic and not using one’s feelings to guide their actions. We can see the harm coddling to every groups feelings has already done to the atheism community, with the fracturing of and creation of atheism plus. And since you are ironically citing theists telling you that you do not concern their feelings enough and not nice enough, I would ask you to ask atheists if their feelings are to be concerned.

    If one mocks theists for whining about their hurt feelings one should also mock atheists for their hurt feelings. Ask the atheist community if their feelings matter any more or less than theists’ feelings. Make an episode directed at our own community for a change instead of education theists. See what we have to say.

    LLaP

    M.

    • says

      I recently watched a video by GirlWritesWhat…

      Strike one.

      Atheism should be about using reason, logic, testing and experimentation, hard factual reasoning. Not about theism being more harmful than atheism.

      Why can’t it be both.

      This is an emotional argument…

      No, it’s not. Some forms of harm may be problematic to objectively quantify, but many aren’t. There’s certainly nothing emotional about whether or not it’s harmful for a person to be ostracized from their community, discriminated against because of their beliefs or crime being covered up because the perpetrator is a religious authority.

      Atheism is about using reason and logic and not using one’s feelings to guide their actions.

      Why does one exclude the other? Surely, any actual human being uses a combination of both. You seem to be on some strange straw-Vulcan trip, making out emotions to be a bad thing.

      E.g.

      If one mocks theists for whining about their hurt feelings one should also mock atheists for their hurt feelings.

      Do you really think that all feelings, regardless of cause or context, should be mocked? You don’t think it’s at all possible that some feelings might be legitimate and others problematic?

      • M the Atheist says

        One, GWW is a great reasoner, despite her lack of credentials. After graduate school I realize that credentials are nothing to boast about and there are many great minds in the private sector that never finished their Master’s or Doctorates but still devise great microbiological products. Granted, they are kept industry secrets, but money can compensate for prestige for a lot of people.

        Two, I am not saying that emotions are bad for people, but in an atheist community once emotions are allowed as a way to weigh certain aspects of an issue, to weaken the outcome, the one using hat tactic weakens themselves and makes that tactic fair use for others in the future. Also, one cannot argue that deism is illogical on one hand and then say that logic is bad on the other. You cannot cite Vulcan logic as the hammer used to smash theistic beliefs and then say Vulcan logic is bad because emotional arguments are more effective at gaining converts.

        What is the goal then? Converts through rational means, which is slower, or converts through emotional means, which is faster?

        As for your statements about “problematic” and “ostracized” etc, the root of these activities is not simply religion, religion is simply a symptom of the greater deeper biological problem. I have found answers to a great many issues in science and biology, no need to attack and destroy someone’s religion when they come to their own realization of religion’s inherit flaws on their own after learning to reason for themselves.

        So many people have given-up racism after learning it did not biologically matter. So many gave up creationism after learning it could not possibly be true for themselves. So many gave up sexism after learning that men and women are more similar than they are different. etc etc etc.

        There is no need to ATTACK their beliefs directly or rudely; make your statements calmly, coolie, reasonably … yes, if you have to like a Vulcan. But make them consistent and without an appeal to emotion … just Reason.

        Thanks

        LLaP

        M.

        • M the Atheist says

          PS. All emotions are legitimate and all emotions are problematic. This does not negate their existence or value only their use. I hope you can understand this.

    • Lord Narf says

      Atheism should be about using reason, logic, testing and experimentation, hard factual reasoning.

      *bzzzzzt*

      No, it’s not. Atheism is about not believing in gods. If you want it to be more than that, you have to add something else. Perhaps you’re thinking of skepticism. While skepticism usually leads to atheism, there are plenty of non-skeptical, new-agey atheists with whom I barely agree about anything, outside of the question of the existence of gods.

      They’re not generally a part of the organized Atheism Movement, of course, since that is driven by the skeptical sort of atheists. That doesn’t change the definition of atheism, though.

      Not about theism being more harmful than atheism. Just because many no longer adopt theism or abandon it because atheism is less judgmental or atheism jives with their life-styles better than theism is a Trojan Horse.

      This is definitely a thing, though. While we can’t say that people who are atheists for stupid reasons aren’t atheists, we can say that they’re not skeptics, and they have not come to their atheism by way of rational consideration. They’re atheists, but they’re not my sort of atheists.

      I would suggest that not should y’all be nicer or less mean but rather y’all not counter theistic arguments with the argument that theism does a lot of harm, or atheism is less judgmental and does less harm.

      There’s something you’re leaving out, though. That’s not the reason that the hosts are atheists. They don’t say that.

      That explanation comes out when theists ask why we have to be outspoken and try to take away people’s hopes and dreams, or whatever bullshit a particular theist throws out there. It’s a damned good reason to be an outspoken atheist and fight against the theocratic nuts who are trying to overrun our secular country.

      Atheism is about using reason and logic and not using one’s feelings to guide their actions. We can see the harm coddling to every groups feelings has already done to the atheism community, with the fracturing of and creation of atheism plus.

      The Atheism+ Movement isn’t about coddling people’s feelings. It’s about basic human decency and cleaning up our own backyard to not allow some of the more vile members of our group to destroy things for the rest of us.

      Just as the Catholic church shouldn’t allow their priests to go around raping their underage congregants (not raping the adults would also be nice, but we’ll take it one step at a time), our movement shouldn’t allow the Men’s Rights Advocate douche-bags to go running around harassing any woman who doesn’t know her place, driving many of them out of our movement and scaring them away from attending conferences.

      That’s the sort of thing that Atheism+ is focused on.

      • M the Atheist says

        Okay, technically atheism is the lack of theistic belief; which is closely related to skepticism, and one tends to lead to the other. Fair enough, I tend to get them lumped together; in my mind. Agnostic, anti-theist, etc. equals fun with words.

        I just find it ironic that skeptics, in various communities, are not skeptical of their own belief systems; one should question themselves and their own systems before questioning others. But the inclusion of atheists that are atheists for reasons other than skepticism are the Trojan Horse; they came in under the name of atheism and now want the movement to adhere to their belief system with no tolerance of other atheists’ belief systems; e.g. Feminists and MRA’s beliefs, if one should be respected and accepted then the other should be too, or we could all just focus on atheism and say we will save the other stuff for other gatherings.

        The harm religion does should not be shoved down religious peoples throats, IMO public atheists should function more like missionaries; acting on a more personal one to one level, espousing the personal good and benefit conversion could do for the individual and not citing mass suffering due to religion; this only drives people into a state that says “well one person can’t do crap about it and if I could it would better be served through the network of religion.” etc.

        Now you are hitting a bit close to home and doing guilt by associating. It has never been established that Shermer or the elevator guy were MRA’s and even if they were it would be like branding all Catholics pedophiles because of the actions of a few. Also, the violent assaults and disruption of events by Feminists does not mean all feminists are violent and angry; one does not lead to the other. Judge a person by their actions and not their associations. Also the Catholic church never got rid of those criminals it only made them pay for their crimes and then promptly forgave them, as they are bound by ethics to do.

        A+ is not JUST about atheism, it is also about racism, sexism, LGBT-ism, and a bunch of other ism’s that are not atheism; thus the flaw and the Trojan Horse.

        PS. GWW is a great reasoner and has come to the same conclusions that I had to pay a lot for and had to spend dozens of hours reading to learn; and just because she is a female MRA does not make her bad or on the wrong team. MRAs are just as good and bad as Feminists; they play for the benefit of their team.

        PPS. The single greatest negative factor for a person is not race, sex, class, or intelligence; but being a child of a single parent home. The damage done by this neo-family circumstance is being felt a lot nowadays.

        PaLL

        M.

        • says

          Also, the violent assaults and disruption of events by Feminists…

          Violent assaults by feminists? Specific example, please.

          MRAs are just as good and bad as Feminists; they play for the benefit of their team.

          What do you think feminism is? Give a brief description, please.

          • says

            I swear its like debating with ignorant apologists…. hearing their renditions on feminism is like hearing “ATHEISTS ARE JUST REBELLING AGAINST GOD BECAUSE THEY WANT TO SIN” for the Nth time.

          • Lord Narf says

            Heh, saw that coming.

            Part of me wants to say you jumped the gun, but that’s just the misanthropic part of me that wanted to watch the inevitable, flaming train-wreck. Probably best that we nip it in the bud and prevent an entire thread derail. Damn you for having a better sense of judgement than me, Russel. :P

            Yeah, someone who puts the feminist movement and the MRA’s on equal moral-footing isn’t going to be able to have a rational discussion on the subject of equal rights.

        • Muz says

          The harm that religion does is a useful argument given the many arguments religions use to their (supposed) necessary moral superiority.
          Of course you point out the harm they do. And you point out it is part of their philosophical framework for these harms to occur, not ‘no true, christians’ doing them.
          Atheism typically makes little claim to the opposite (more has to address claims of its own harm).

          GWW can’t be that good a reasoner given some of the stuff she says.
          This thing about Trojan Horses is nonsense (and heavily implies notions of secret infiltration plots to usurp or destroy, which I suspect you might actually subscribe to). The feminists were always there. You just want them to shut up again, perhaps?

          I suspect you’re in the wrong camp if you want to find atheists who just want to tolerate other atheists ‘belief systems’. Matt and co seem mostly about grinding out the best moral standard via rational inquiry. Which means things are going to get questioned and some are going to lose.

  21. Green Jelly says

    That last caller “Angel” is a repeat caller, I can’t believe the hosts didn’t pick that up. He is an annoying guy who has featured in many very old episodes, and just keeps hopping form one random question to another. He used to be called Rueben. /watch?v=5mlFIO2XBvU

  22. says

    >A couple of days ago, we got another email from an atheist, chiding us about what big meanies we are on the show. It was the usual tone-trolling thing: “You will surely admit that your show creates a great deal of anger and resentment in many of your viewers.” Why do guys like that automatically assume they speak for “many” of you?

    I have really pondered this a lot since doing TAE and seeing the mail. It’s almost always critics that use this line, too. I’m not saying nobody ever says anything positive where they add “I’m sure you hear this a lot, but…” But I really do see many more people presuming to speak directly for a larger group of others when they criticize. I also have seen this in sock puppet issues on threads–where someone will claim to be speaking for a larger group, and I see it as nearly always a clue they’re acting alone.

    I think it’s a weird variant of the Argument from Popularity. I think in some situations it *is* reasonable to talk about what most people do/might do, depending on context (opinion statements come to mind–like trying to choose a pleasing color for a local park mural or somesuch). But when the point is simply to use popularity to say you’re right about particular fact statements–it’s a fail. It doesn’t matter how many people hold to a fact statement in so far as gauging the truth value of that statement.

    In cases like this one, the person seems to have tied “The Universe is Me” into “Argument from Popularity” to get something akin to “I think this, therefore lots of others must think this, therefore I’m right.”

    It’s just odd.

      • Lord Narf says

        Yes, because large numbers of people never post to the board itself, yet e-mail those who do, all the time …
        :D

        I’ve encountered that sort of thing, a few times. “Well, get a few of those to speak up, and make sure they’re people who have at least said something before, so we’ll know it’s not just you sock-puppeting.” Strangely, none of the confidants ever seem to want to speak up.

  23. says

    After watching this entire episode I can only construe, “Don’t be mean to Christians” as “don’t disagree with them”…cause there was nothing mean spirited in the video I saw, not even in subtext. SMH.

    • Lord Narf says

      It was kind of funny having that one pop up on this episode, yeah. It was one of the gentler ones I’ve seen, in dealing with the theistic callers. *shrug*

      • says

        I’ve even so far as to say the “MOST” gentlest evah, as with my short hair trigger when it comes ot BS, I would have pulled a Jeff Dee on thier asses.

  24. says

    Another observation: Immanuel argued the longevity fallacy but didn’t look at the fact that the countries that are far older than America are no longer extremely religious. If we were as old as let’s say, The UK we may be where they are right now in terms of religiosity…

    • says

      When a court of law says it’s libel, it will be libel. Even if the allegations turn out to be wrong, Shermer will find it very difficult to make a libel case against PZ, because it would have to be proven that PZ knew for a fact that the allegations were false, but went ahead and published them anyway with the sole intent to damage Shermer. And while we can all debate the appropriateness or the wisdom of the way in which PZ chose to post the allegation, it is the case that he sincerely considers his source honest and trustworthy.

      Beyond that, it isn’t the ACA’s policy to issue statements on situations we aren’t involved in, especially where there may be legal action pending and all of the facts are not yet on the table. It’s a habit you’d do well to pick up.

      • Lord Narf says

        Ditto. I have no opinion, one way or the other, until the legal smoke clears, and we have any vague idea what the reality is. Seems foolish to weigh in on this one, at the moment.

        • says

          Not sure what this is referiing to but yeah, if the matter in question hasn’t been fully fleshed out as you guys are proposing, then making any firm statements would be silly.

  25. chris lowe says

    In one of the, if not THE hot button issues of our time is to be discussed on live TV then what does “nice” have to do with any of it? The people of AETV are inviting you to call in and are willing to discuss or debate just about anything. I think this offer starts on a level playing field. But if the tone of the caller is abusive and angry and the discussion degrades to trash talk and zoo mouth, then it is the CALLER who has to own it.
    In this emotional and hotly contested debate of opposing world views, discussions are bound to be aggressive. Why would it, or why should it be in a Good Morning America cooking show kind of format? Saccharine buddy-buddy posing would be inappropriate for the hosts as they are there to defend the positions they put out there. They do not take a childish stance on this very serious topic so why should they put up with someone who does? Those that whine that these hosts are mean should maybe look in the mirror. What’s the point of suffering fools gladly?

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