Open thread for episode #848: Brain Dead is Dead »« Trying on atheism


  1. Persephone says

    It seemed to me that Faith was becoming testy about two-thirds of the way through her call because she was unaware that what she thought were bedrock apologetic arguments were really the most basic and easily-debunked 101-level material. This is what organized religion in the United States is like. Church goers are given only the barest essentials of their religion, enough to keep their butts in the pews, but not enough to actually understand the implications of what they believe.

    That testiness was the sound of her ignorance slamming up against reality.

  2. David Heffron says

    What’s the deal with this “hairy platypus” thing? Is it a reference to something specific or just douchbags looking up urbandictionary?

  3. Russell Glasser says

    Sounds like a boring game to me.

    Question 1: Is it God?
    No: It is designed.
    Yes: It is not designed.

  4. Russell Glasser says

    I don’t understand it either. My guess would be that there is a group of two or three friends for whom that is an in-joke, so they get a mutual laugh out of hearing each other say it.

  5. philhoenig says

    Troy’s generally been accepted to have been found in the 1860’s and excavated in the 1870’s. (You can see it here.) Granted, its excavator Heinrich Schliemann loved drama more than verity and in science nothing is ever 100% proven, but I’m pretty sure there aren’t that many archaeologists looking for an alternative site for Troy.

  6. Matt Gerrans says

    Hey guys,

    You are better at this than I would be, I’m sure, but there is one thing in your technique I don’t understand. With Faith, you both (Matt and Martin) gave a ton of great reasons why miracles and the “faith tradition” in general are not believable. During this, Faith would occasionally be heard to chime in with an “uh huh” or the like, but after all of it, after a pause, you let her do a Gish Gallop by switching to big bang cosmology.

    Maybe I’m a bit too pedantic, but before moving on to the next topic, I’d like to see the current subject of discussion have some more definitive closure. Instead of immediately allowing the switch to cosmology, why not ask her if she still holds to her claim in light of your responses? If so, she should show why her belief still holds up.

    In general, I’d like to see each topic resolved and be confirmed as resolved before moving on with more “what about …?” questions. This seems like a more productive way to conduct a discussion to me. Are there good reasons not to do this? Perhaps you don’t want to intimidate people by forcing them to concede a point before moving onto something else? I think it could be done gently, without rubbing people’s nose in it too much, but I think if people get to Gish Gallop, they go away with the impression that not all of their “what abouts” were answered, so therefore their beliefs were vindicated.

    Another thing that might be instructive for these folk who think they have a novel argument that atheists have never considered is to name it for them. “That’s called the argument from design or the Teleological Argument; it goes back to Greek philosophy, but it was re-popularized by creationist in the 1960s.” It is clear you both recognize what the argument is and how to respond to it, but I think it would be worthwhile to point out the name of the argument (so the caller realizes it isn’t some new argument they or their pastor just came up with). This same idea applies to logical fallacies; it seems worthwhile and a lot more concise to point out when people are making an appeal to popularity or appeal to authority, as opposed to having a ten minute discussion of why the argument doesn’t hold up.

    Finally, Matt said at one point “the ‘why’ is the important part” (regarding why people believe things that are not supported by evidence). With regard to epistemology, I’d like to recommend this book: A Manual for Creating Atheists, by Peter Boghossian. The author agrees that getting to the “why” of irrational belief is essential to making headway with the faithful.

  7. John Kruger says

    Faith was a remarkably patient and polite caller, as far as most theist callers on the show go. I suspect that is why she got the leeway that she did.

    To be fair to the hosts, they did get her to admit she had no answer to a couple of points, which is really a rarity for this format. That is about as close to a concession as you can expect. Almost always theist callers will try and shift the conversation in a new direction without any kind of admission when they get cornered like that. At times the hosts will hammer home a point the caller is trying to avoid, but Faith was being exceptionally honest in her discussion and I think that wasn’t quite warranted in her case. She gave a lot of time for the hosts to talk without trying to interrupt, gave her honest evaluations of the arguments, and admitted when she was at a loss, which made it one of the best calls I have heard on the show.

    Naming the arguments and their history seems like it might be worthwhile, but largely fallacy naming is not a great tool. In practically every case if someone understands a logical fallacy and why it is invalid they will be educated enough not to fall prey to using it. Spouting off “that is an argument from popularity” then just comes off as a mysterious and flippant dismissal of a point they are trying to make. Nobody is so foolish as to deliberately employ a failing strategy, so even in cases where the fallacy is understood by the one utilizing it, it is far better to give another example of the same reasoning in more common practice to show why it is wrong than to just throw out terminology that you are likely going to have to explain again or justify further anyway.

  8. Curt Cameron says

    OK, I just listened to the 30-minute radio show. Matt did a great job, as usual, in being rational and thoughtful. The hosts were very gracious to have you on. A couple of things I picked up on:

    * The hosts were really baffled by the idea that someone could be an atheist. It truly seemed to me that they had never considered the idea that someone may not believe in a god, or even specifically the Christian God.

    * The other guy (the show’s producer?) read a question that a listener had called in. He asked Matt whether Matt thought that he still had salvation, since he was baptized earlier in life. Again, they seemed not able to grasp the concept. I also had the impression that the producer didn’t like it that Matt was on the show and was trying to keep talking about this so that Matt wouldn’t be spreading his evil message of disbelief.

    * I wised there was time to get into the data that the host had, about how people who don’t keep the faith were never really saved to begin with. I’d like to know what the hell they were thinking to be able to make a judgment like that. Then again, accepting things on authority, this time the authority of those who did this survey, is what theism is all about.

    The time was rushed, and the hosts sounded willing to have Matt back again. I think that would be a great idea – Matt reached a set of Christians in that interview that have no idea what atheists are, a separate group of Christians who may stumble upon the Atheist Experience show.

  9. says

    Ditto John. I thought Faith was one of the best theist callers and I think Matt and Martin did a great job in the discussion. Given that one of the main goals of the show is to preach positive atheism, this episode was a shining example.

    I agree that explaining the fallacy is more important than naming it. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t do both. Something like: “This is the argument from popularity fallacy. It means that commonly held beliefs aren’t necessarily true because a lot of people hold them. For instance, … “. Now, taking time to do this is a little bit to sit through (gap between Faith’s point, and the rebuttal), whereas Mat and Martin generally jumped right into example of why it’s not a good argument. Meh, I think they did fine.

  10. says

    Ah, the old “watches were designed, so the world was, too!” Last time I checked, watches are not living organisms that reproduce, or that change over many generations because of changes in their DNA. So why would someone look at a watch, a car, a building, or anything else humans have made, and compare it to a living thing that humans did NOT make? You might as well say a tree is a dog because they both have the word “bark” associated with them.

  11. says

    Fundamentally speaking, we can’t even have an intelligible discussion about what it takes to determine whether something is designed.

    Suppose we were to do an attribute analysis – looking at things like complexity, constituent materials, etc. We could deduce which attributes indicate design versus naturally-occurring, by separating out the objects into piles of design versus non-design, and then comparing and contrasting.

    The core of the problem is that we don’t agree, from the start, what’s designed… so how do we sort the objects into those two groups? I think frogs belong in the naturally-occurring group, but many Christians don’t.

    We could decide to compare things like rocks/beaches/planets to things like frogs/cats/trees… but we risk having unintentional biases corrupt the analysis. If we’re not careful, we don’t end up comparing design versus non-designed objects, but rather, biological versus non-biological objects. We wouldn’t end up deducing an accurate set of attributes that indicate design, but rather biology.

    Without that initial agreement as to what belongs in what category, we can’t even begin that analysis.

    As far as I can tell, people like Ray Comfort peddle this idea that we just magically know somehow… we can look at and object, and just … know, apparently without any appeal to the attributes of the object. The position is incoherent.

    The bottom line is, that set of objects that are regarded as designed is entirely opt-in by observation and relayed to the next generation by education. We know cars are designed because we can go to the factory and watch. We know watches are designed because we were told about it. The watches come from indicated companies.

    That’s how it works.

  12. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    The hosts were good, but I felt that a little more correct nuance is in order for questions of design. When we look at a watch on a beach, we know the watch is designed and the beach is not. Here are the reasons that we know this.

    We have seen watches before. We have seen watchmakers before. We have seen watchmakers make watches. We have previously witnessed the design and creation of watches. We understand the process of creation of watches.

    Sand. We have never seen a sandmaker human. Instead, from our knowledge of geology, we know that sand comes from erosion (does it? – or whatever natural process). We have detailed history of how that sand came to be.

    If you find an object indistinguishable from a Chinese teacup in orbit around Jupiter, the odds are good that it’s designed. How do we know this? It’s not because we know of teacup-makers. It’s not because we understand the process of making teacups. This I think is key. We know it’s designed because we understand the process of accretion, stellar formation, and big bang theory. We understand the constituent moving parts, and there is no room in those processes to form a teacup. To consider the possibility by random chance that a teacup came about is a probability that we can compute. We know the starting position and the rules well enough. We know the probability distribution. We can compute that particles coming together in just the right shape to make a teacup during accretion is ludicrous, so absurdly unlikely that we can dismiss it as impossible.

    For humans and life, before Darwin, it was somewhat reasonable to look at the human body, and life in general, and know the initial conditions of big bang theory (or whatever they had because big bang theory came after Darwin), to know of stellar formation and accretion (did they really know that?), and attempt to compute the probability that the parts just randomly came together to form the current species on Earth. Of course that number would be ludicrous, and it would be reasonable to dismiss it as impossible.

    However, then Darwin came along, and presented a plausible mechanism. Then the reasonable thing to conclude is that life is not designed. For teacups: I don’t know of a mechanism that makes teacups during stellar accretion, and I think I have a very good inventory of all operating processes. That’s why I would conclude that a teacup in orbit around Jupiter is not natural, and the only plausible alternative is design, such as aliens. Honestly though, I would be flabbergasted and probably say “I really don’t know, but I have a hunch it’s aliens”. I need to emphasize that people before Darwin thought that they had a really good account of the possible processes are operating, and none of the known processes created species, and that’s how they conclude it’s not natural. The final step is therefore designed, which is the weak link, perhaps an argument from ignorance.

    Still, my main point here is how we identify design. In a scifi show when we set food on an alien planet and identify alien architecture, we do so from a knowledge of stellar accretion, planetary formation, geology, and so forth. Find me cheesy obvious alien architecture, and we can be pretty sure on sight that it’s designed (by aliens, or something).

    That was quite rambling, so I’m done for now.

  13. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Let me add this, although it sounds like unsubstantiated hubris even to me.

    People before Darwin thought that they had a conclusive enough listing and understanding of the initial conditions and natural processes to conclude that life was not naturally derived. I think that I have a conclusive enough listing and understanding of the initial conditions and natural processes to conclude that they do not make teacups in orbit around Jupiter (except as the result of biological organisms putting them there). The hubris is that I think my knowledge is sufficiently broad enough and encompassing enough to make that claim. I think that my evidence is good enough to make that claim, and I think that the people before Darwin who made their conclusions should have been more cautious because of the distinct and known lack of understanding of the initial conditions and the operating processes.

    Right now is the part where I will be revealed to be the fool when someone shows that there are natural processes which make teacups in orbit. I doubt it, but I’ll be the first to admit it when someone presents good evidence.

  14. Phil says

    I love Martin Wagner, it seems like a really nice and honest guy. But… I hate his definition of anti-theist which he uses it to mean something like “gnostic atheist” Why don’t you ask an anti-theist what it means instead? Of course lot’s of people can define it different ways. But I’ve never met an anti-theist that actually uses the word in the way Martin defines it. If you ask the community of anti-theists on reddit. Which is probably the largest group of anti-theists. They will define, at least their community as follows.

    This community is made for those of us who find religion repugnant to human progress, scientific literacy, and civil liberties in general

    And wikipedia seems to use the word to the same sort of definition. Notice it doesn’t necessary address any sort of knowledge claim, although I think it could be worded better to clarify because you could interpret it to mean that way..

    Antitheism (sometimes anti-theism) is active opposition to theism. The term has had a range of applications; in secular contexts, it typically refers to direct opposition to organized religion or to the belief in any deity, while in a theistic context, it sometimes refers to opposition to a specific god or gods.

    For me, it means when I use the word to describe myself, I have to clear up the confusion first (and sometimes I can’t).

  15. corwyn says

    “People before Darwin thought that they had a conclusive enough listing and understanding of the initial conditions and natural processes to conclude that life was not naturally derived.”

    Perhaps, but then the response should be ‘I don’t know’ (which many did say). Saying anything else is just one’s imagination. Your supposition of a magical pixies the sky is just as bad my great green arkelseizure.

  16. Senectus says

    Does anyone have a definitive list of Matt Dillahunty Debates? (kept up to date)
    Or a link to the one he mentions about his debate with a “Cliff” ?

  17. chris lowe says

    Don’t forget that creationists do not admit of evolution, so comparing a designed watch with an allegedly designed organism is perfectly valid premiss. In actuality the creationist is trying to compare creators!

  18. chris lowe says

    You should see the end table I “created” in my basement. God, I’m good… or should I say Good, I’m God!

  19. thebookofdave says

    I’m not sure if a complete list of links to Matt’s debates exists, but the videos are searchable on YouTube. Here’s his latest one with Cliffe.

  20. Galakyllz says

    Excellent show. Martin and Matt – you did great. I just wanted to point out that Martin’s remark during the 28th minute was perfect in regards to why historical interactions with God were okay but that present-day purely private revelations are considered a crack-pot phenomena (paraphrase, obviously). Maybe one day they will admit to themselves how odd that is.

    PS. I love the show (loooong time viewer) but it’s pretty irritating to have to post my comments here instead of on YouTube. Some may see the closed comment section as a way of closing the conversation about atheism. Just a suggestion (as a way of avoiding that appearance): Please make a closing remark about this blog at the end of the show (when the credits are rolling, perhaps) so that people (as they finish the video) immediately know where to go to leave a comment. I think this would be better than only mentioning it at the beginning.

    Thanks for the show! Keep up the great work!

  21. says

    We’ve explained several times why we close comments on YouTube, and there’s always a link to the relevant blog thread in the About section for each video. Of course, some people don’t look at the About section, but we can’t be blamed for that.

  22. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Indeed. I tried to say as much, badly. Am I really justified for saying that I know all operating natural processes well enough to conclude that there are no naturally occurring teapots in orbit around Jupiter? I want to say yes. The form of argument is the same as the argument which concludes that life is not naturally occurring. I want to say the difference is just the evidentiary basis – I have enough evidence to be confident that I have an exhaustive listing of the relevant processes, and the pre-Darwin creationists did not have enough evidence.

  23. senectus says

    You might want to rethink that policy now that you tube comments are linked back into google + profiles. It makes it a lot easier to weed out the crazies and filter your comment feeds

    Just a suggestion…

  24. corwyn says

    But IF you conclude that life is NOT the result of any known naturally occurring process, it still leaves you saying ‘I don’t know’. Because we don’t know of ANY non-naturally occurring processes, we can’t use them as a cause either. Our conclusion therefore must be “I know of no process which can cause life’. Neither natural process nor supernatural can be favored (absent other evidence) since we know of none of either category which is sufficient. We can’t argue that since we know of no supernatural process that can create life that it therefore must be a natural cause. Or vice versa.

  25. corwyn says

    How about rethinking it when someone can show that Youtube comments are as thoughtful as the ones here?

  26. says

    I think that explanatory approach would just come off as condescending. Especially when you add in the fact that in this case the hosts were men and the caller a woman.

    With respect to Matt Geran’s original comment, I think it’s better to let a caller like Faith bring up as many arguments as she has rather than trying to “close” on specific point. She (and the audience for whom she stands) will see that all of her arguments are met with the same level of understanding and rational disputation. Then she can go and think about it in her own time, and hopefully begin to doubt. The other way would just lead to losing face and feeling defeated and humiliated by some kind of rhetorical trick.

  27. Curt Cameron says

    My favorite way to respond to the found-watch design argument is to grant that you would, at first, think it was something designed and made by people. But – and this is the key point – if we looked into it more and found that these watches reproduced on their own, and that reproductions were not exactly like the parents, and the watches that were better at being watches were more likely to be the ones that reproduced, and that they had been doing this for billions of years, and we then dig and find remnants of previous generations of watches which had changed in major ways, but each change was small compared the time it lived, and that even before they were watches there was this evolution process going on with springs and gears reproducing on their own, and all of this we could observe happening without any outside intervention, then we would think that the watch we found had probably happened naturally.

    That’s the situation we have now with life.

  28. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Sounds like a boring game to me.
    God? No: It is designed.

    The tooth fairy.
    Not the stories about it. The fairy itself.

    Okay, maybe learning about the “problem of empty names” is boring. ; )

  29. Matt Gerrans says

    You make a good point, but I like the angle that Matt and Martin used because it illustrates the simple truth that the faithful implicitly admit their god is fictional to some extent. If there is an omniscient, omnipotent creator god, then everything is designed. There is no way for something to be “natural.”

    It also means there is no such thing as “random” as well. For randomness to exist, the god would have to create the randomness as something beyond his (assuming the usual patriarchal type of god, so it must be a “he”) control. Which, like the unmovable rock, is impossible (absolutes like omnipotence lead to these kinds of paradoxes).

    By distinguishing between natural and designed (likewise random and determined), theists are implicitly saying their god isn’t real. This should make them go “hmm…” For this reason, it is a valuable way to look at it.

    Of course, in the real world, where such magical beings are scarce, your line of reasoning about designed vs. natural objects makes more sense and is a good way of determining whether things we discover were made by other peoples, aliens, etc.

  30. mond says

    When it comes down to it. The argument from design is a pure Tautology
    X is designed therefore a designer designed it.

    A simple assertion of design will suffice if you alresdy buy the argument.

  31. says

    About natural laws. I think there is a huge misconception about natural laws and human created laws. We as humans can create laws that govern our society: do not kill, do not steal and so on. The only reason why we call them “laws” is because there is somebody to enforce those laws like police.

    But natural laws are descriptive laws. Those laws are not laws in the common sense. The only reason why they are called laws is because it was observed that nature behaves that way. We cannot know if nature behaves that way for all time or what exceptions are from the law, in essence nature is free to break those laws and there is no one to enforce natural laws.

    Take Newton’s law of attraction as example. F=G(m1*m2)/r^2. This law describes how two masses m1 and m2 behave that have a distance of r. We cannot know if two masses behaves for all time that way, and we know at least one exception: if one mass travels near the speed of light relative to the other mass (Einstein). Maybe there are more exceptions to this law.

    So when somebody ask “this beautiful universe that have such and such laws, who was the law giver?” There are no laws. Nature behaves that way because it is in nature’s nature. We humans discover how nature behaves and we call such behaviour “laws”, lack of a better word.

  32. EnlightenmentLiberal says


    Would you be similarly against an argument that a Chinese teapot in orbit around Jupiter is not naturally occurring – not the result of mindless forces?

  33. Matt Gerrans says

    Actually, the high speed example you give is not an exception to the gravitational law; it is just that you only have the approximate (Newtonian) version of the equation, where the relativistic components have been factored out, because they are small. You could use the more complex relativistic version of the equation and all the low-speed examples continue to work, as well as the high-speed ones.

  34. says

    It isn’t my policy but the ACA board’s. As someone who actually admins on YouTube, I’m aware of numerous improvements to comment filtering that now exist there. I might bring these up to Jen sometime soon, but for now, I have to adhere to the board’s wishes.

  35. corwyn says

    I would claim exactly the same thing. “I know of no known process which can have caused a teapot in orbit around Jupiter.” If one was found, I could honestly claim to be confused. There are however unnatural forces that I could IMAGINE capable of making this, which might shade my guess, natural forces explanations would require a more detail analysis of the precise object.

    What about a face on Mars?

  36. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Thanks for the clarification. However, I strongly disagree with your reasoning about the teacup in orbit around Jupiter.

    What about the “face on Mars”? First off, there’s no face. It was a coincidence due to the particular incidence of light at that particular time. Second, there’s a different in complexity – information content – between a mere hypothetical mountain formation which resembles a face and a full painted finely crafted to-scale teacup.

  37. Kandisys says

    At around the 20 minute mark, it is discussed that it is very hard to find records dating back two thousand years. I would like to submit the account of Pliny the Elder as regarding the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum, an event corroborated by massive amounts of historical evidence. Ergo, the records we do have tend to be independently verifiable by archaeological findings.

  38. Deesse23 says

    In my understanding we call hem “laws” because we know that nature governs us, we are part of it and live within. Therefore natural “laws” are important to us, because they “govern” our live by determining very basic causes and effects (“if i drop something, it will fall with 9.81m/s^2….on top of my head if i dont watch out””).

    To a christian, the world looks entierly different. God governs all, not nature, so “laws” are given by god. As it happens, the real laws (commandments) and natural laws thus are made by the same “person”, god. So – i guess- thats why a x-tian cant see the difference between a law in the legal sense and a descriptive general behaviour of nature that someone postulates to have found.

    For the same reason, everything must have a purpose to them. If someBODY has made all this it must have purpose, noBODY (even less a god) will create anything without purpose. They cant imagine that something is just the way it happens to be. Hence the all so often mentioned argument of “i dont believe that evolution is based on ACCIDENT”. To them accidents dont happen. Its all gods plan, even in the -in the meantime famous- case of the raped girl discussion during the show with Matt and Tracie.

  39. Matt Gerrans says

    “in the meantime famous- case of the raped girl discussion during the show with Matt and Tracie”

    What are you referring to? What episode number?

  40. john mckeating says

    The first caller, Faith, complained that it was 2 against 1 and therefore not fair.
    Is not god on faiths side then?.
    I also got the impression that Faith is an atheist in the making.

  41. says

    I didn’t understand why Faith felt as if she was being ganged up on if she has seen the show before in the past. The questions she asked were not new ones and Matt and Martin have been on the show before, so what did she expect? I think she was just being passive aggressive with Matt and Martin and couldn’t come up with any kind of a valid argument.

  42. says

    One of the many problems with Intelligent Design is if something happens by natural causes then no one is to blame because no one is responsible however if something happens and there is a flaw in the design then the designer is to blame because the designer would be responsible. Another problem with the watch theory is who would the designer be if they didn’t leave any indication of who the designer was. There are thousands of watchmakers in the world and if they didn’t make any kind of distinction as to who made the watch then how could you know who the designer is?

  43. corwyn says

    I didn’t understand why Faith felt as if she was being ganged up on if she has seen the show before in the past.

    She didn’t, of course. She was looking for a bit of face-saving excuse to avoid having to consider that her arguments (and thus the ego investment she had made in them) had been rebutted. If she was concerned she could have asked, at the beginning, for only one of them to respond to her.

  44. corwyn says

    It was a coincidence due to the particular incidence of light at that particular time.

    AFTER the fact. When it was first discovered, one would be in (roughly) the same position as the teacup.

    a full painted finely crafted to-scale teacup.

    I note that the teacup has now morphed into a ‘finely crafted to-scale’ teacup, even though no further information has come from it. YOU are adding that information in order to bolster your case. ‘Crafted’ in fact is EXACTLY the flaw that theists make with the universe, if it is crafted there must be a crafter. You are assuming your conclusion.

    The point is that if you don’t know of any known natural process that could produce the given result, and you don’t know of any known non-natural process that could produce the given result, you have exactly ZERO reason to favor one hypothesis (natural or non-natural).

  45. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I don’t think I was really moving the goalposts. I was referencing the well-known thought experiment.
    *teapot, sorry.

    I’m taking the teapot, and applying it to a different point than the original point of the thought experiment though.

    Human faces are easy. That could happen from chance events. You just need a couple of hills in the right places. A finely crafted Chinese teapot, virtually indistinguishable from what we might find in quality stores right now, is fundamentally different. You could get the face from half a dozen volcanoes or meteors or just the right faults. I know of natural processes which can make the face.

    A better analogy would be what if we found spelled out in clean and precise Arabic numerals the first 1000 digits of Pi on the surface of Mars. That would also impress me. I have a good listing of the natural processes that make surface formations, and none of them can make engravings of Arabic numerals of digits of Pi. Similarly, I have a good listing of the natural processes that make stuff during stellar accretion, and I have a good listing of the other sources of material in orbit around planets, and none of them can make finely crafted Chinese teapots. (Except, of course, as the result of evolution producing intelligent creatures who did it.)

    So again, I must disagree. Maybe the teapot example wasn’t clear enough. Pi in Arabic numerals should be. “I don’t know” is not a sensible conclusion. The only sensible conclusion is that biological creatures which are the result of Darwinian evolution created the large-scale engravings.

  46. houndentenor says

    I find that this quantum physics argument to be quite appealing to rather smart people because it’s squishy and vague which is the kind of religious beliefs that the people I know who have latched on to this want to have. They don’t want specifics or dogma. They are just invested in the “there has to be something else out there” line of thinking. Personally I think this is just another version of the “belief in belief” syndrome. Unfortunately it’s a lot of nonsense, but I hear it a lot and I’m afraid I don’t really know enough about quantum mechanics to debunk it in a way that would be convincing to someone who doesn’t know any more on the topic than I do.

  47. Ziplock says

    Check out “James Calls In” on YouTube – a prank show that has seemed to have taking a liking to the Atheist Experience. Guess he’s getting good at passing the screening process. But it’s getting more consistent, and after the 2 calls on the 23rd, I was waiting for it this time. He’s running out of “accents” and the whole call just reeks of “bait.”

    Although, looking through some of his vids, based on some of his earliest uploads in 2006 that prank you and Perry, he apparently has been a fan longer than I have!

  48. Jeremy G. says

    Martin, I like the shirt you are wearing on this episode! I have the exact same shirt I bought at the Smithsonian Museum 5 or 6 years ago and I get a lot of people asking me questions about what it is when I wear it.

  49. Ethan Myerson says

    Her comment about feeling “ganged up on” was a little strange. It’s not like Matt and Martin called her up out of the blue and started debating her. She called them. She knew there were two folks there when she called (or should have, at least. She said she has been a longtime fan of the show, and it’s nearly always two people).

    If I choose to get into a sparring ring against two opponents, I don’t think I get to say that I feel ganged up on.

  50. Senectus says

    that sort of a response is purely an indicator that she hasn’t really *thought* about what she’s talking about and isn’t used to educated, thought provoking answers.

    Most these guys are so very used to taking in and auto accepting the sermon style flow of answers/information. When they get answers from a well informed individual they suddenly feel inadequate and will automatically respond with hostility or defensively (if they have an underdog mentality in my experience.)

  51. says

    So which one is it; did watches evolve or did God create watches? I believe they evolved because how else can anyone explain clocks.

  52. says

    The only problem with the whole Trinity being on Faith’s side is they’re well known to either not show up or be extremely late and unprepared. I know from past experiences that you just can’t count on those three because they’re too unreliable and incompetent to do anything right.

  53. rodney says

    She was laughing when she said she felt ganged up on, so if we want to be generous, maybe she was just being playful.

  54. corwyn says

    “I have a good listing of the natural processes that make surface formations, and none of them can make engravings of Arabic numerals of digits of Pi.”

    I have a good listing of the non-natural processes, and none of them can make engravings of the Arabic numerals of the digits of Pi on the Martian plateau.

    How is that any different?

  55. corwyn says

    Put another way:

    I have a good listing of all daytime processes that make surfaces formations, and none of them can make engravings of Arabic numerals of the digits of Pi on the Martian plateau, therefore it must have been done at night.

  56. says

    There is also a follow up show where they play clips from this AE show. Awesome. They read John 3:16 just in case. They also dismiss the argument about Daniel’s prophecies not proving the rest of the Bible by calling it “round robin”. They seem sincere, but it’s hard to fathom. Either they don’t know what burden of proof is, or avoid using the term so their listeners don’t google it.

    They say that Matt starts with God doesn’t exist and the Bible is not true so his conclusions are worthless because he didn’t prove that in the first place. He seems to know he just put himself in a corner since his God is unproven, so he throws out a little “creation proves the creator” then crescendos into a “warning of love”, yes really, I quote, and he backs it up with 2 Cor 4:4.

  57. says

    Interesting about the “James calls In” deal, Ziplock.

    The answer of course is obvious: “don’t feed the trolls” but simply move onto another caller after figuring out that it’s a crank. If the call had some value (eg by being a FEA, frequently-encountered apologetic), obviously that’s an opportunity to talk about the issue raised as if it were coming from a legit caller, but to waste time providing the guy with footage by giving him what he seeks (an emotional response) is only insuring it’ll continue.

    Perhaps it’ll take James having his YouTube account suspended, after he receives an excessive number of privacy complaints that were filed against his account to convince him of the questionable nature of his business?

    And depending on where he resides, James may be violating applicable State and Federal privacy laws, where in many States it’s illegal to record phone calls without obtaining the permission of all parties beforehand.

    Kenneth Tarr was another genius who was recently arrested and charged with violating wiretapping laws, by pranking sports coaches and offering them jobs over the phone. The problem is, he didn’t check into wiretapping laws (which make it a felony), and he then posted the videos to YouTube making it an easy case to prove in court (as well as opened him up to be sued for invasion of privacy in civil court by the same victims).

    The doofus is facing 3 years in prison, as well as fines; also facing a slew of civil cases, as well.

    Numbskulls, all….


  58. says

    My favorite approach with those who cite the Paley’s watch thing is to point out the ignorance of the designer for what is being claimed as his designs, i.e. the watchmaker SHOULD be able to explain the purpose of the basic elements of the watch, i.e. what functions the watch-band, hands, watch glass, mainspring provide.

    In the Bible, God fails the test of his knowledge of his own creations, eg atmospheric and cosmological bodies (you all know the Bible’s firmament, that half-dome-shaped firm roof that covers the Earth, and to which the Sun, Moon and stars are attached, and thru which rain and snow fall), or the spherical globe (vs the Bible’s circular flat Earth), the anatomical role of the heart (the center of cognition in the Bible, and not the muscular pump of blood), or the kidneys (the seat of emotion in the Bible, not the organs of urine formation), etc.

    God of the Bible fails a basic knowledge test of his own creations.

  59. bigwhale says

    Actually, people before Darwin knew that life evolved, but they didn’t know how. They didn’t understand variation and natural selection, but the scientific consensus was already that different species were related somehow on the tree of life.

    “by Darwin’s time the concept of descent with modification was hardly controversial – it was only the mechanism, the rate of modification, and the ultimate origin of life that were being debated. Darwin’s major breakthrough consisted in providing a plausible mechanism to drive change in organisms.”

  60. AhmNee says

    It’s kind of analogous to an infinite number of monkeys with typewriters producing the complete works of Shakespeare. Finding a object that so resembles a teapot as to be indistinguishable from one crafted by human hands would be beyond astronomically improbable. But to paraphrase Lawrence Krauss, “Our universe is so big and old that improbable things happen all the time.”

    It would be one hell of a mind boggling thing to find, I’d imagine.

  61. corwyn says

    ” Finding a object that so resembles a teapot as to be indistinguishable from one crafted by human hands would be beyond astronomically improbable.”

    Yes. But that doesn’t make any one particular explanation more likely. If you don’t know how something came to be, it doesn’t matter how unlikely it is, you still don’t know. And your ignorance is never an argument for any one particular explanation. Ignorance is neutral as to hypotheses.

  62. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    So, let me get this straight. When what appears to be an alien space probe made out of metal, fitting the usual design parameters of an “unnatural geometry” like that of a polished flying saucer with exhaust nozzles, comes into our solar system, and transmits a decipherable message to us ala “Contact” the movie. When it lands and we examine the internals and discover that its propulsion is from herebefore unknown physics but repeatable physics. When all of that happens, you’re going to be sitting there and putting your fingers in your ears and saying “Lalala – You’re begging the question by calling it an alien space probe. It could be a naturally occurring feature of our universe. It’s not evidence that there are aliens out there with minds who designed and built this interesting metal object.”?

    That’s your position? Really? Your position is completely untenable.

  63. corwyn says

    I am at a loss for how you got that from what I said. You might see if rereading what I wrote helps. Or look up the description of the argument from ignorance fallacy.

  64. corwyn says

    On a side note, this is the third time you have changed the analogy, as if that was the reason that we weren’t making ourselves clear to each other. The analogy isn’t the problem.

  65. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    It’s all the same basic scenario. Would you say that it’s begging the question and an argument from ignorance for me to declare that the evidence is good that the alien space probe is an alien space probe? I hope yes. If no, then I don’t know where to go from there.

    If yes, how did you arrive at that conclusion? The only way you can arrive at that conclusion – as far as I know – is by determining 1- that there are no naturally occurring processes which create objects like alien space probes, and 2- it’s plausible that aliens with intelligent minds designed and created the alien space probe.

    Now, I say the exact same argument applies almost as strongly to us finding mountain-size engravings of the first 1000 digits of Pi in Arabic numerals.

    The teacup is the same argument, although I admit just a tad weaker.

    If you want to argue that you doubt the photographs, that’s acceptable. If you want to say that a conspiracy in NASA is becoming relatively probable, then that’s acceptable. What I do not understand at all is how you’re ok with deciding that the aliens space probe is an alien space probe, but the 1000 digits of Pi are not similarly intelligently created by aliens (or humans).

  66. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Ack! I hope *not*. I hope that you do not consider it begging the question nor an argument from ignorance.

  67. mike says

    I suppose lol But like most atheists, I don’t think Matt&Martin believe in any devils yet Faith does believe so that would make it 4 against 2. Matt&Martin were the ones being ganged up on by a 2-1 margin!!

  68. says

    “God revealed himself to the Jews.” Oh, really? How does she know? Anybody can write about a particular event and say it was God’s doing, and then write it in a book and say God told them to write it. So, because they bothered to believe in a certain deity and took the time to write about it, that automatically makes it true? They’ve been taught for so long that the Bible is “God’s word,” that it’s all they can think of. It never occurs to them to question this basic premise on which their religion is based. Since it’s an unquestioned truth, any ideas, assumptions, and claims made from it also become an unquestioned truth. It is very hard to get through to such people.

  69. Narf says

    I think most states have fairly lax regulations on this sort of thing. In North Carolina, for example, it’s legal to record a call as long as one of the people involved in the call is aware that it’s being recorded. The point, obviously, is to prevent the recording of third-party calls by anyone who might be listening in … or at least punish them for doing so.

    You just have to watch yourself with interstate calls, if you’re calling someone in a more restrictive state. Even if you’re not physically in the state in which it’s illegal to record calls without full permission all around, things like phone calls tend to open up dual-jurisdictional scenarios, and if someone wants you badly enough, you could be facing extradition.

  70. Narf says

    Sounds like they could use a good crash course in Biblical criticism or something, yeah. It’s not that the Bible is specifically untrue … although many parts of it are obviously untrue, based upon internal contradiction and external evidence. The problem is that the Bible is unreliable, given its anonymous, core four books, its numerous forgeries in the later letters, the archaeologically disproven opening 5+ books of the OT …

    Hell, even Christian scholars know all of that. I’m baffled that anyone escapes a real Biblical education with anything but the weakest of deistic beliefs remaining. It’s a tribute to the inability of many to follow evidence to its logical conclusion. Given all of that, you can’t make statements about the absolute untruth of any given thing in the Bible, but its credibility has been so badly destroyed that it’s worthless as evidence for anything in particular and lends zero weight to an argument, except perhaps for one about what some people of the period thought.

  71. Narf says

    Let me second what most of the others have said. I think Matt and Martin handled Faith beautifully. It was fairly light and conversational.

    It’s been a long-standing policy of the show that callers get what they give. Plenty of other theistic callers start off with an attitude or begin throwing out bullshit by the truckload. They get handled a bit more roughly. Faith seemed to be coming with open-ended questions, and while she couldn’t avoid a little bit of leading, due to her religious mindset, she seemed to mostly be open to the answers.

    I think that was one of the most productive theistic calls that I’ve heard in a while.

  72. Narf says

    One of my favorite responses I’ve heard to this is one from either TAE or NPR. How could you possibly spot a watch lying on the sand and recognize it as designed? From the perspective of a theistic mindset, you’re walking on a watch, through a field of watches, on a path made of watches …

    The fact that you can see a watch lying in the field and recognize it as designed, in contrast to everything around you, dashes the entire premise of the argument to pieces. Paley must have been going senile, when he came up with the classic story-line of the watchmaker argument, because it’s so self-refuting as to be ridiculous.

  73. Narf says

    I tend to use hard and soft atheism, myself. I usually use anti-theism as you suggest, although it’s less of an issue for me, since I’m both a hard atheist and an anti-theist, within most contexts.

    I’ve heard plenty of others use anti-theist as Martin did, but I agree that it can be a bit confusing. We need a better negative label. Mistheism? Intheism? Ichthyism?

  74. says

    Narf said-

    One of my favorite responses I’ve heard to this is one from either TAE or NPR. How could you possibly spot a watch lying on the sand and recognize it as designed?

    I thought they made that exact point on this very episode, IIRC.

    Anyway, I was offering the ignorance of the claimed “intelligent designer’ of his own designs as the coup de grace argument, since you often hear believers repeating the silly-sauce mantra, “Did you know that whenever the Bible speaks about scientific topics, it is NOT wrong?”


    That statement only verifies that the one who says it either is ignorant of science OR what their own Bible says when it touches on scientific principles, or more likely, they’re actually ignorant of BOTH.


  75. Narf says

    I didn’t think that I heard that line. I’ll have to listen to the call again. If they did mention it, perhaps my brain skimmed over it, because of the previous reference point of the previous mention, a couple of years ago. I thought there was the briefest allusion to something of the sort but not a full restatement of the case.

    I locked more onto the discussion of only being able to recognize design when contrasted with non-designed things … which we don’t have at all, within the omnipotent-creator-god paradigm. That’s another good angle of attack, demonstrating how ridiculous the presentation of the theistic assertion of design is, claiming to be able to tell that everything was designed because of X.

  76. AhmNee says

    I think you are begging the question but not for the reason you’re thinking of. Because you’re latching onto “Alien Space Probe” and only seem willing to accept that answer. In this hypothetical, have we ruled out that it could not have come from earth. Have we figured out how to do some sort of dating to find out the age of the object. I think you’re assuming that we’ve ruled out any way that it could have been formed via any known or reasonably supported theory of a natural mechanism. If there’s a propulsion system built entirely of naturally occurring material configured in a completely unusual but not necessarily manufactured manner, is natural process not something that could and should be considered? Maybe these things exist all over in the universe, this is just the first one to be encountered in the “blink of an eye” of human history. It’s not like we’d know if one zips through out solar system every 50,000 years and this was it’s time.

    I guess, in short, it seems like you’re trying to posit a single possibility explanation when there should be a lot of explanations to rule out before we jump to alien probe.

  77. AhmNee says

    Since theist reasoning goes something like 2 + 2 = Cow. I like to think the hosts were outnumbered by a factor of Purple.

  78. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    There’s some merit to what you said, but you’re still being incredibly evasive. Do you think it is possible to conclude to a high degree of reliability and certainty – but not absolute certainty – that if we found the described object, we could conclude that it is a space probe manufactured by some intelligent biological organisms? And then could we reasonably conclude that it is of manufacture of aliens on a planet other than Earth?

    The only other alternative seems to be that you would refuse to conclude that there are aliens until we got an actual alien body. Mere transmissions and probes would never be sufficient, and I think this is obviously highly silly.

    So, what you said has merit, but you’re being incredibly evasive. Please stop being evasive. Do you agree that we can conclude it’s an alien space probe? Do you agree that we can conclude the 1000 large engraved Arabic numerals of Pi are of alien manufacture? Do you agree that we can conclude that what is consistent with a finely crafted Chinese teapot in orbit around Jupiter is of alien manufacture or human manufacture?

  79. says

    Regarding the prophecies in Daniel (or anywhere in the Bible) I think it is very telling that every prophecy can be interpreted in multiple ways. I was raised in a religion that taught every prophecy has three fulfillments. Three unique fulfillments outside of the multitude of fulfillments taught in other religions. At that point how can anyone claim this to be reasonable without providing some specific, detailed evidence that a particular fulfillment is true, or will be true. It seems pretty clear people are simply cherry picking details from history to make their version true.

    +1 for Dr. Who reference.

    Love the goatee grown out Matt, very wizard.

  80. Jacqueline Boss says

    I’d like to see someone answer the watchmaker argument by saying that their brand-name watch was designed by a huge team of people, therefore there must be many gods that designed the universe. Or robots, since I’m sure many watches are made by machines now.

  81. Narf says

    Give it another decade or so and they’ll have to change it to the cell phone argument, since the kids will have never worn wristwatches. :D

  82. Narf says

    It’s even worse than that. Particularly in the Gospel of Matthew, a great commotion is made about Jesus fulfilling prophesy. It’s so blatant in places that I can’t understand how anyone could miss it, if they’ve actually read the book.

    I’ve had Christians ask me slanted questions, asking if I thought the prophesies were inserted into the Old Testament later, to make it look as if the things that Jesus did were foretold.

    Of course not. Don’t be deliberately obtuse. We have a cart-horse scenario here, in the Christian mangling of the situation. The gospels are fictionalized accounts of this wandering rabbi, if they are indeed based upon an actual person (I have no horse in the race for either side; I think that both the mythicist and legendary corruption angles are interesting proposals, and they both lead to the same end result).

    Matthew was obviously penned by some prophesy nut who stuck in as many references to the Jewish messianic prophesies as possible, so zealously that half of what he included wasn’t actually based upon prophesy (numerous non-prophesies pulled out of the Psalms and presented as prophesies when they weren’t) or was based upon a horribly mistranslated prophesy (the virgin birth and others), since the writer of Matthew read the Jewish scriptures in Greek, rather than their original Aramaic. A simple reading of the actual gospel reveals the desperation and the fabrication of the account.

    I was raised in a religion that taught every prophecy has three fulfillments.

    Which religion was that, Matthew? Sounds almost Wiccan or something similar, in its stressing of threes.

  83. AhmNee says

    I don’t think I’m being evasive. We’re talking in really high level hypotheticals without having defined the paramaters very well. So you may be making assumptions about what is and isn’t known about the hypothetical device and I may be making completely contradictory assumptions. I can see how that might seem evasive but what I’m really trying to do is not make too many assumptions about what hasn’t been specified.

    In a way, I think we’re approaching the question from different directions. You’re speaking about what we can conclude and how we can define the object. If so, I think that’s a misinformed approach in the posited question. Instead of placing importance on what can be concluded, we have to be focused on what we can rule out.

    Let me try to be even more clear. What you’re speaking of, an “alien” probe, would only really be referred to as such colloquially. What we’re really speaking of device of unknown origin. We would be remiss to suggest that the device was created by biological beings from another planet unless the actual evidence was at least suggestive of it. Our fringe areas of scientific study suggest multiple dimensions and the malleability of time-space. An “alien” device could prove to be terrestrial from another dimension or time or any number of other explanations whose conclusion shouldn’t be jumped to without examination of the evidence.

    Similarly, the 1000 large engraved Arabic numerals of Pi shouldn’t be automatically deemed non-natural until we’ve ruled out things like apophenia and that it could definitely not have happened through natural mechanisms. Finding the numerals is simply evidence of their existence and not of their origin.

    So unless the evidence is sufficient to show the teapot is of the manufacture of intelligent beings from this or another planet/dimension or whatever else, there’s no more reason to believe it is than there is to believe the universe if filled with such teapots and that this is just the first of many we will find in our continued explorations.

  84. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    First, all of the quantum mechanics we know is very incompatible with travelers coming to our “universe” from another manyworlds “universe”. This is within the same ballpark of plausibility as pixies.

    Because you’re complaining unreasonably about lack of specifics, new scenario. We go to another planet in another solar system. We find a planet with a similar biosphere to ours. We find plants analogous to grasses. On the planet, we find a spot where plants analogous to trees have been cut down, and a clearing has been made. In that clearing, we find that the substance of the analogous “trees” – let’s call it wood – has been rearranged in order to create an object with 4 sides and a roof. Offhand, it bears some resemblance to a log cabin with an entrance over 10 ft high. The only life I’ve seen on this planet thus far is the “grasses” and “trees” and some small mobile animals no larger than 2 ft tall. Can I conclude that there is some alien biological life on this planet which cut down those trees and constructed that log cabin? Can I conclude that the log cabin is a log cabin which has been intelligently designed and created?

    Suppose instead we set foot on the alien planet, and it’s a dead planet. No sign of life. However, during an excavation, we find a bit of two different rocks, where one rock has the shape similar to that of a log cabin, and the other rock fills in the rest of the space.
    Can I conclude that there was once biological life on this planet, including something like trees, and some intelligent biological life, which cut down the trees, and made a log cabin? Can I conclude that I’m seeing a petrified log cabin which was intelligently designed and created?

    Now compare this to us going to an alien planet, and it’s a dead planet. No sign of life. However, during an excavation, we find stone tablets on which have engravings. The engraving are demarked into separate symbols. The symbols are always one from the following set:
    When we interpret the engravings as:
    1 = |
    2 = ||
    3 = |||
    4 = ||||
    5 = |||||
    We see that it spells out the correct digits of Pi in base 5 out to 1000 decimal places. Can I conclude that the tablets were intelligently created? Can I conclude that the tablets were intelligently created by biological life?

    As far as I can tell, the only evidence you will accept for alien biological life truly is a sample of living alien biological substance. I’m not even sure a dead alien body would be good enough. What about my petrified tree log cabin? It could just be a naturally occurring rock formation, just like the Pi stone tablets could be a naturally occurring rock formation (snicker). Or, it could be pixies, or travelers from a manyworlds alternate universe (snicker). Why not just go the distance and say I can’t be sure the dead alien is really a dead alien because the universe might have been created 5 minutes ago and thus the dead alien body was never really alive.

    I think it’s fruitless to convince you at this point, but at least hopefully everyone else will see the folly of your position.

  85. says

    And all that comparing one thing with another and then drawing a conclusion from superficial and biased observation is better known as discrimination. That does sound like the Christian’s scientific method of resolving a problem.

  86. corwyn says

    First, all of the quantum mechanics we know is very incompatible with travelers coming to our “universe” from another manyworlds “universe”.

    Please post the math you used to come to that conclusion.

    Quantum Mechanics to my layman’s understanding can’t even tell us whether or not there ARE other universes. And is pretty much agnostic on the question. If you are prepared to make positive statements on the question, I expect to see QM papers from you in the journals soon (and to not understand them).

    new scenario.

    And I officially give up. You are unreachable (to me).

  87. AhmNee says

    The problem continues to be that you seem to want to put the explanation in before doing the research and that’s pretty much the same thing as claiming it was done by your magical pixies. If you find any of those things you now have evidence of their existence, not of their origins. Your desire to claim there must have been organic life that created it is analogous to superstition. What if it was inorganic life, or any number of other explanations we can’t come up with off the top of our heads? You don’t start with a conclusion and see if the evidence fits. You examine the evidence and come to a conclusion that fits the evidence.

  88. AhmNee says

    “First, all of the quantum mechanics we know is very incompatible with travelers coming to our “universe” from another manyworlds “universe”. This is within the same ballpark of plausibility as pixies.”

    Which make not one bit of difference if that’s where the evidence points. Your assertion that it could only have been created by intelligent, biological life is unwarranted. The explanation for it’s origins is where the evidence leads, not what is most probable. It could have been the creation of the most improbable event in the universe for all you know without examining it. And even if examining it showed us nothing of it’s origins, you still have no idea how it was formed and saying it was intelligently designed by some unknown biological life is still unwarranted.

  89. says

    You don’t have to debunk it. Just point out that the people who built the theories–physicists–do not have published papers that indicate evidence for a god. That is, if they felt the conclusion to draw from their research was some sort of universal consciousness, then that should appear in the published research in the field. It doesn’t. Why do people like Deepak Chopra, who interpret the studies to say they implicate some sort of universal transcendence, have more expertise in physics to speak for the implications of physics research? They don’t. No debunking is necessary, because no physics research has come out to change the cosmological theories to say “god did it.” And until they do, “physics” does not implicate a god. And there’s nothing to debunk except their misrepresentation of physics research. When someone makes these claims, ask for a link to the published paper. Scroll down to the “conclusion/discussion” section and read it. Then tell them you’ve read it, and ask them where in tarnation they see the paper saying what they say it says, and ask why they are claiming this if the authors don’t indicate such conclusions should be drawn from the data–because this is inevitably what you’re going to find.

  90. says

    Narf nailed it. That is the best response. The theist claims nothing is NOT designed. So, what is the basis for comparison? Ironically in every example they give, the “designed” object is an artificial objection (the common definition of “artificial” being “man-made” as opposed to naturally occurring). This means they’re saying that man-made (designed) objects can clearly be differentiated from naturally occurring (nondesigned) things–such as the things found in nature. And that is a negation of their claim that nature is clearly designed.

    “The watch is clearly designed compared to what?”

    How can they answer it without contradicting themselves?

  91. Narf says

    Why would you put your watch in your pocket? Wouldn’t the wrist-straps gouge your thigh or somewhere else delicate? I don’t understand.

  92. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    You complain about lack of specificity, but then complain when I give that specificity? You’re impossible.

    It’s not proper to call manyworlds a proper scientific hypothesis. A better term is “narrative” or “interpretation”. A hypothesis offers us a way to test the idea.

    The basic problem it’s trying to “solve” is this. Every time any quantum thing does anything, there is a probability distribution as defined by the wave equation, and it takes one of the possible values along that probability distribution. (This is my exceedingly layman understanding.) The question is – why does it take that value instead of another value?

    Let me give some background. Schroedinger proposed a way in which we might interpret this according to our classical sensibilities, and our “realism” sensibilities. He proposed that we put a cat in a box with a very sensitive radiation detector and a single unstable nucleus. When the nucleus decays, it triggers the detector, which releases a poisonous gas, which kills the cat. He argued that his understanding of quantum mechanics was that the unstable nucleus cannot be properly called either not-yet-decayed or decayed until a measurement was made. He argues it follows logically that it’s not proper to call the cat alive or dead until a measurement was made of the cat. Finally, he argues that this is an absurd conclusion – a reductio ad absurdum – and used this as a metaphorical attack on quantum mechanics. Of course he agreed that observation matched model, but argued that we’re missing something from the model because of our classical “realism” intuitions.

    Manyworlds is trying to solve the same problem. It’s trying to restore some classical realism sensibilities to quantum mechanics. Schroedinger’s cat is an example of trying to understand quantum mechanics with a classical story by introducing true-randomness and indeterminancy until we measure.

    Manyworlds takes a different approach. It suggests that for every possible quantum event, our universe “branches off” into many separate universes. Each universe corresponds to a separate value of the wave equation. This balloons into a nigh infinite number of universes near instantly. I’ve seen manyworlds described as “deterministic”. It’s deterministic in the sense that there is no randomness in this sense – every possible option is taken in some universe. It’s not positing some naive understanding of parallel worlds like you might see from Star Trek where travel is possible between them. Hell, even time travel in relativity is more plausible than going to another parallel manyworlds-‘verse.

    I don’t understand what you mean by evidence. All valid and sound reasoning is Bayesian. Bayesian reasoning operates by identifying all possible scenarios, including the “I don’t know / other” scenarios. Then you take the available evidence and crank out probabilities.

    I happen to think that the evidence is very good that miracles do not happen. By very similar reasoning, I happen to think that the evidence that travel from “parallel planes of existence” does not happen. Thus, when I crank out probabilities in the Bayesian calculator, I don’t have to worry about those scenarios. Extraordinary scenarios require extraordinary evidence, and travelers from a “parallel plane of existence” or gods is still very extraordinary even compared to the existence and discovery of intelligent alien life. Compared to those, intelligent alien life is quite mundane. It doesn’t violate any known physics, and it is even likely from known physics and chemistry.

    Your position is basically a rejection of Bayesian reasoning, and thus I have to reject it.

  93. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    These are your choices:
    1- reject Bayesian reasoning, or
    2- come up with a plausible alternative scenario, or
    3- argue that we know so little about the topic at hand that there may be plausible alternative scenarios that we cannot name because of our extreme ignorance.

    1 is a complete non-starter.

    2 is interesting. Let’s see where that goes.

    3 isn’t very interesting in this case. We don’t know as little as you think we do. Our knowledge of quantum field theory and the standard model leave very little room for new physics. We’re nearing the end in terms of mundane classical forces.

    Our knowledge of the forces that create stars and planets and geological features on planets is also getting pretty good. We understand stellar formation, accretion, planetary formation, geology, and so on. We know enough that you simply do not get thousands of digits of Pi short of Darwinian life.

    I think a link is in order. PZ Myers makes this point far more eloquently that I can.

    Sure, there are new things left to discover, but we have most of the room lit up. There might be a mouse hiding in there somewhere, but not a god. We’re not looking for mice here. I don’t care exactly how the electroweak force is related to gravity. That doesn’t affect our understanding of reality in terms of stone tablets of Pi.

    The form of your argument is also the form of an argument saying that gods are still plausible. No they are not. Gods are not plausible, and travelers from “parallel worlds” are not plausible, and magic pixies at the bottom of my garden are not plausible.

  94. AhmNee says

    Your position from the beginning has been, to paraphrase,

    “Look at this thing. I can’t be natural. It must be created by X”. You seem to be using the watchmaker argument but instead of positing a god, you’re positing intelligent biological life. You don’e seem to be saying that the object should be studied and that should lead us to the conclusion based on the evidence. You seem to want to brand this object as created by intelligent biological based on your seeming argument from ignorance that you can’t think of how any other phenomena could have created it based on your understanding of “Bayesian reasoning”.

    Your last post where you said, “Then you take the available evidence and crank out probabilities,” is the first time you’ve even alluded to any evidence other than the existence of the item. And that’s where my problem with your line of reasoning lies. In the absence of other evidence that speaks to the origin of the item. The only rational conclusion is the item is of unknown origin.

  95. says

    Just saw the show. Faith I think said that the first person who was ressurected in the bible was jesus, another corrected it that it was lazarus, but I think it was a young girl that was the first ressurection and it was in the OT by I think Elijah if I remember well.

  96. Joe Woolley says

    Just wanted to say roughly at :30 on the watch creator statement. There are many watch makers. They are branded. Even if the universe WAS created which creator was it? ;)

  97. Pierre C says

    It is little known that very few specialists believe that the gospels were written by eye witnesses, In the same manner, very few are aware that by 170 AD, there were dozen of gospels, and that the early church had to weed out the dozens of competing stories. It is only by early 5th century that the church established the current canon.

    Apologists leverage their discourse on the common assumption that the authors of the gospels were eye witnesses.

  98. Jim McGuire says

    Like one of your other commenters, I’ve been stuck at home for a week and catching up with your shows. I had stopped listening for a while because, in part, I was sure you were being inundated by calls from the same person [same voice characteristics] under different names, and that irritated me. This show was one of your best, so I will be tuned in more frequently.

    Three comments about the show are:
    1. It is time we renamed the “No True Scotsman Fallacy
    the “No True Christian” or “No True Muslim” fallacy because
    it is being used as a main justification for the positive good that
    those religions are supposed to be doing. Unnamed, this popped up
    in your intro. Well no “real Christian” would become an atheist.”
    2. I was going to comment on Troy having been [supposedly] found by
    Schliemann, but another poster mentioned it. Atlantis is thought by
    some to have been the Minoan or pre-Minoan city on Thera/Santorini.
    3. You mentioned Jericho, and the danger of cherry picking evidence to
    prove a conclusion. You might like Brett Palmer [The Bible Skeptic]‘s
    series, “The Fall of Jericho” which explains in detail how real
    archaeologists and Bible pseudo-archaeologists use the same
    evidence and come to different conclusions.

    Thanks and keep up the good work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>