Open thread on AETV #863: with Martin and Tracie »« A Tale of Mercy Ministries

Comments

  1. Monocle Smile says

    Ugh. First caller is painful. This guy studied science from Carl Baugh, Ian Juby, and Michael Behe. He didn’t actually study science.

    This call is getting increasingly shameful. Joel doesn’t know very much about anything and only seems interested in wasting time and going on tangents.

    • says

      It’s the typical apologetic thinking.

      He dismisses evolution as impossible based on what’s essentially an Argument from incredulity, despite the fact that the preponderance of evidence overwhelmingly incontrovertibly supports it.

      But then, he brings up this “god” thing, without any evidence, throws out a dozen assertions about it, each with zero evidence supporting it, proposing something that violates all known scientific and natural laws…

      And that’s the feasible explanation, apparently.

      It’s the classic maneuver of requiring infinite evidence for evolution/abiogenesis, and requiring zero evidence for the god claim.

      • gfunk says

        The irony is that the perceived lack of evidence is itself seen as the evidence- it’s not possible that this occurred by natural causes, so it proves a supernatural cause/creator. It’s why logic doesn’t work with them.

    • says

      It always raises a red flag for me when apologists tell me that they have studied “science.” Beyond public school there aren’t “science” classes. You study Biology, or Physics, or Chemistry. I think that many of them have just read stuff by “Creation Scientists” and then claim they have studied science.

      I had a conversation one time with a guy who told me he studied “science” for over 20 years. He couldn’t even properly explain the scientific method to me. And this was on a forum, not in real time… Oh, well.

      • Narf says

        Heh, yeah, if you can’t even get as far as:

        1. form hypothesis, based upon previous models
        2. develop method for testing hypothesis, which will falsify your hypothesis if the test results go the other way
        3. run tests
        4. draw conclusions
        5. repeat and have others verify your results

        If you don’t have at least that bare structure … which creationism doesn’t have … you’re not doing science.

        Most creationists don’t get most of the bits I included here, and I’m sure I left out some stuff, since I’m going off the cuff. This is before you get into finer details, like the problem with small sample sizes … often a sample of one, in the case of religious proof, in that the sample is a relative of this guy that the person’s preacher knows.

        • says

          The Scientific Method – Apologetic-Style…

          1. form hypothesis, based upon preferred models
          2. develop method for testing hypothesis, which will yield inconclusive results
          3. run tests
          4. draw conclusions based only on results that support hypothesis
          5. repeat and have others who agree with your hypothesis verify your results using same method

          • says

            I thought it was more meta than that:

            1. Identify an established scientific theory that conflicts with one of your religious beliefs.
            2. Relabel your religious explanation as something sciency sounding.
            3. Create a “science” journal to publish your objections to the established scientific theory.
            4. Claim that the established scientific theory is wrong and your religious explanation is the only thing left that “makes sense”.

          • Narf says

            Well, at least they have the repeat part down solid. They’ll keep repeating the same bullshit, decades after it’s demonstrated to be stupid by the basic science that we teach middle-schoolers.

    • Subduction Zone says

      Worse yet he seems to be arguing against abiogenesis and not evolution. Now abiogenesis has not been “proven” or solved all of the way but there is a fairly good understanding of part of the process. Unfortunately the hosts are not well educated enough on this subject to point out this very basic error.

      Evolution works regardless of the first source of life. A fact that even Dawkins has pointed out and one where he has been quote mined from in such movies as “Expelled”.

  2. Coming_Curse says

    I don’t assume that this happened because of my comment but as I mentioned last time Don was on that he was disturbing – he was much nicer this time. :-) More constructive and much less interrupting. To me the show was much more enjoyable this way so thumbs up and more of that :-)

  3. Robert, not Bob says

    The caller claiming to have been raised Jehovah’s Witness and is now “Christian” was weird. I know some people say JW’s aren’t Christians, but they say they are, and he was one…

    • houndentenor says

      Whenever someone identifies his or her religion as “Christian” rather than some more specific label (Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc.) it is usually a fundamentalist Christian attending a non-denominational or “mega” church. And no, they don’t think of the other Christians as real Christians. But then official Catholics don’t think the rest are real Christians either. It’s a common belief, at least in the official teachings of the denominations. Usually people don’t say such things directly, at least not outside their own circles or like-minded believers, but such attitudes are typical.

    • Narf says

      This sounds like one of those weird nondenominational things we’re seeing a lot of, lately. In an attempt to draw more worshipers, they cast off the labels but not the actual trappings of the denomination. I’ve seen several nondenominational preachers about whom, after I examine for an hour or so, it becomes obvious that they’re Pentecostal. They just acquire the global label of Christian for marketing purposes.

      But a Real Christian(^TM) is someone who has been born again and accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior. Or if you don’t speak in tongues, you aren’t saved, because the Bible says you will … so you probably aren’t a Real Christian(^TM) then.

      This is part of the shitty, word-game re-branding we’ve been seeing for a while now. “I’m not talking about religion! Jesus hates religion, too! I have a personal relationship with Jesus.”

      Or “I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

      Apparently, they’ve discovered that all of the denominational infighting turns people off, so they have a new con. Oh, and anyone who doesn’t worship the same way we do isn’t a real Christian, which makes us different from other denominations in that … uh, let me think.

      • says

        If any of them can come up with a meaningful way of extricating jesus’ message from ‘religion’, they’d be able to market that into a massively successful money-making scheme.

    • adamah says

      Maybe it’s an Iowa thing, but I’ve NEVER encountered someone who went to meetings and studied with JWs who didn’t know that it’s pronounced “Jehovah’s Witnesses” (note the possessive), NOT “Jehovah Witnesses” (as the caller said).

      Heck, most JWs I know will correct you if you mispronounce the name of their religion, since it’s a fundamental part of their religion; it’s common knowledge amongst JWs that “worldly people” (in JW speak) don’t know how to properly pronounce the name.

      Of course, people can and do self-identify as being a member of all religions, even if their distant aunt was a member and they only went to a few meetings. And just like callers claim to be atheists (when upon further questioning you come to find out they actually believe in God, not understanding what the word means), same thing happens with religions.

      People…..

  4. Robert Smart says

    Counter argument to the appeal to probability?

    While the first caller was utilizing an appeal to probability with his statements about some naturally occurring thing being 10(^80) would not a simple quip response be that the probability is reality(actuality?) 1 to 1,

    ie. We have observable access to one reality and in this reality (insert example A) occurred, therefore the probability 1 to 1, at least until somebody demonstrates another reality where example A does not occur?

    • Coming_Curse says

      I agree to that in principle although I’m not sure if the numbers are correct (but my abilities in stochastic are too bad to make any judgement on that). The point is that someone could probably come up with something like this:
      There are things that can only occur one single time like – to take a drastic example – jumping off a cliff. If the cliff is high enough this is a non-repeatable experiment (for you as a person) but we can surely think of other possibilities – like (10(^80) )-1 different ways to die falling off a cliff but one example where you take the stairs and live.
      So while you can only scratch the pieces of the dead man from the floor you can assert that there would have been other ways and praise the lord that he fine tuned the universe by creating the stairs, making this incredibly improbable thing happen – although the analogy is quite surely misleading …

      • Thorne says

        There are cliff divers in Mexico (among others, I’m sure) who survive jumping off cliffs every day. There are also BASE jumpers, who jump off of a lot more than cliffs. And those guys in the flying suits. Multiple ways to survive jumping from a cliff.

        One way to NOT survive, though, is to pray for Dog’s help on the way down.

        • Narf says

          But you’ll always have one jackass who survives, with only a couple dozen broken bones … and his one example, amongst the hundreds of deaths of people who did the same thing, will be amazing proof of the miracles that Dog performs …

          Can’t win with these idiots.

    • says

      I find the approach of throwing out probabilities, as a reason to say that something “is too unlikely to happen” to be pretty much useless.

      If they come up with some number that says that the universe only had a 1:10^80 chance of having the natural laws suitable for the generation of life… well, we don’t know that we aren’t universe #10^80.

      This is why I’m enjoying all the new exoplanet discoveries, like the recent Kepler one that indicates a Earth-like planet. If it’s unlikely for any particular planet to spawn life, then with so many planets, it becomes essentially inevitable.

      In both scenarios, the only way nature couldn’t do it, is if the probability was zero. Not very very close to zero, but exactly zero.

      • Coming_Curse says

        What Jasper said … :-)
        Also: Do we even have any method of saying what the possible span for the variables is? This bothers me for quite a while now. If you talk about numbers and probabilities you should always do your error analysis (if you are honestly trying to make a case). So taking for example the gravitational constant – which should definitely be in an equation about fine tuning, shouldn’t it? The value is something like 6.67384 * 10^(-11) m³/(kg*s²) … okay now: for any given universe ( ;-) )… how much variation is possible for this constant? Could we adjust it from negative infinity to positive infinity? Can this constant be only between 6.67383 and 6.67385 * 10^(-11) ? Or is there even less margin?
        Did any person tossing around those numbers and probabilities actually do the math and tell the basis of the calculations? I don’t think so because as far as I understand you cannot honestly assess them. So you probably would have to write it down somehow like this: “The probability of (insert event) is 1:10^80 ±∞” so basically saying its 1:3 (or 1:1) is equally valid.
        But this wouldn’t support the claim to anyone with a slight idea of math who is really interested in what the numbers actually tell … and isn’t just impressed by how big those numbers sound …

        … so … yes … what Jasper said :-D

        • says

          Did any person tossing around those numbers and probabilities actually do the math and tell the basis of the calculations?

          I try to make it a point to ask this. I’ve yet to see the math. I’d love to know what assumptions they make.

          The only example I remember is the silly Drake equation.

      • houndentenor says

        As with all new frontiers in science, we are finding more variety than expected. Until very recently we had no idea if our solar system is typical of solar systems or an anomaly. We also don’t know if life in the universe is common or rare or to what extent it might be common/rare. As we learn more we’ll at least have a better idea. Given the large number of galaxies with billions of stars it seems likely that some sort of life exists somewhere. Is it like life here? Is it different? In what way? We’ll only know when we have found it.

      • says

        I find it useless based on my dice model from long ago. Give me the “unlikely” probability and the necessary number of dice to hit that figure, and I will make that improbable outcome occur repeatedly, with every roll of those dice. I’m just THAT amazing that I can do that.

          • Akira MacKenzie says

            Considering that Jeff’s published system, Pocket Universe, is d10-based, it wouldn’t surprise me.

            Hell, I was a Bethorm backer, so I better stock up.

      • Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

        I prefer to look at it this way: 100m up a bird takes a crap. If, at that moment, you tried to work out the exact location of where it will land, you couldn’t. However, the fact that you now have to take your coat to the cleaners demonstrates that unlikely things happen all of the time!

        Especially if you’re doing the statistics arse-backwards.

      • John Kruger says

        Unless someone is willing to give you a sample size or reference a study with a sample size, you can dismiss them immediately as using numbers to sound like they have done more work than they actually have. Fuging the denominator of a probability is a stock method of fake credibility boosting. I see it in people talking about the historicity of Jesus and the physical constants of the universe being fined tuned for life and lots of other topics. Reckless probability touting should always be a red flag.

        Probabilities are a method of managing unknowns. If an event is calculated to have a low probability, it is a reflection of the model used and the information plugged into that model. It has nothing to do the reality of what is going on. Picking a winning lottery number has a low probability because there are an insurmountable amount of variables that make tracking the picks of numbers practically impossible, and yet winning numbers occur on a daily basis. It is the large unknowns that make prediction difficult. That is what the low probability really means. It does not mean that there can never be a physical lottery result.

    • blue says

      The simple rebuttal to the citing of long odds is to bring their attention to some fact or event which has happened, and then cite the odds for it. For example, there are 8 billion people on the earth, the odds that any given two of them are speaking right now is 64 quadrillion (or whatever the actual number is), isn’t it miraculous that the coversation is happening? The creationist should then bring up the obvious things which reduce the odds – you both live in the same town, or you both have a common interest, you both speak the same language, you are sisters, etc. And that’s the point for these early chemical reactions, too. Not only are they not that random, but they had a billion years and a whole planet for reactions to take place. With a billion years I could spend six weeks finding and talking to each individual on the planet.

      • EnlightenmentLiberal says

        In that vein, my favorite example is to invoke the thought experiment of: Go to Vegas, play 5 card poker for 8 hours per day for 5 days, and record every single hand you were dealt in the order it was dealt. Then, calculate the probability that “it happened” according to your naive model. What’s the actual “probability” that it happened? Depending on your meticulousness in notekeeping, close to 1.

    • Grainger says

      I tend to just go with ‘What is the significance of life?’

      I find it very interesting that the universe has self-replicating carbon-based organisms in it, but I don’t see any reason to find them statistically significant.

  5. Kandal says

    Atheist Experience #862: Easter

    0:00 Intro
    1:10 Announcements
    3:10 Easter and Passover
    13:20 Caller Joel (theist): Evolution
    28:50 Caller Aidan (atheist): Divisive nature of Christianity
    35:50 Caller Octavio (atheist): Multiple topics
    38:25 Caller Zack (troll)
    41:00 Caller Mark (atheist)
    50:25 Caller Nikos (theist): Bible
    56:10 Caller Ed(?): Gods in Kings

  6. blue says

    I’ve been meaning to leave a comment for a while now, I think that most hosts mishandle the abiogenesis question, or leave out some very simple facts/observations.

    The first important point is that the environment then was very different to the one we have now. Creationists seem to expect that if abiogenesis happened before it should still be happening now, that random naked strings of RNA should be self-assembling in your coffee cup. But we have oxygen. Oxygen is reactive and destructive, and it wasn’t free in Earth’s atmosphere for several billion years (I can’t check dates, I’m on an ipad and if I click away from this tab I’ll lose what I’ve typed). There were other differences, but oxygen is a biggie, and easy to remember, and the evidence in the rocks is obvious. Those metres and metres of red rust after the oxygen holocaust are powerful evidence.

    Secondly, the long odds of life evolving aren’t that long (I left a comment further up tangentially referring to this), there was a huge amount of time for these reactions to occur and become self-sustaining – a billion years of earth, but potentially even longer because we know amino acids and sugars and micelles exist in space rocks which can hit Earth. Chemical reactions are also not random, things like to react with other things in characteristic ways. The only example I can think of off the top of my head which is a chemical change which a creationist would be familiar with is vinegar plus baking soda reacting to give water, carbon dioxide and acetate. When those two things meet, they interact in that way, it’s just how they are, it’s “what they want to do when they meet” (ugh, anthorpomorhising chemicals). Also, it’s been hypothesised that these reactions happened at places where chemicals were concentrated, like in a tidal pool, or splash zone, which increases the odds of a reaction.

    Thirdly, these early naked RNAs or leaky micelle enclosed nucleic acids weren’t in our seas with krill and whales and algae and amoebas, there was no competition, nothing was trying to eat them or developing sneaky tactics to get through their cell membrane. As the saying goes, in the land of the blind, a man with one eye is king. If purines and pyrimidines (RNA and DNA base units) were able to form spontaneously in our current atmosphere they’d be eaten in no time. Look at how naked RNA protects itself now, with viral coats.

    Sorry, that was long, but it’s my pet creationist question and I’d love to see it handled better on the show. Apologies for errors, on the ipad I can’t fact check without losing this tab.

    Since I’ve already written a novel, who was the co-host who pulled the hilarious “I went back in time and created the world” argument a few months ago? I loved it. I think she was the co-host’s wife and was called in in a pinch? I’d love to see more of her.

    • Coming_Curse says

      It was Lynnea Glasser in episode #834 when talking to the first caller (Seth). Around ~19:00 she makes this argument. I also liked this approach although to my mind it should not be used as some kind of standard answer to questions like that. We already got pastafarianism for that ;)

    • unfogged says

      There was a caller who argued that because oxygen is in water the nucleotides could never have formed…
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXQwNHQQtDw
      skip to about 2:50 for the relevant part.

      The example I like for reactions not being totally random is magnets; if you throw a bunch of bar magnets together they don’t just overlap randomly, they spontaneously align themselves so that opposite poles join. The number of stable combinations is limited and nobody has to position each one. Unless, of course, you belief that magnet angels hover around each one making sure it lines up properly.

      • says

        There was a caller who argued that because oxygen is in water the nucleotides could never have formed…

        Was about to bring that example up.

        The caller seemed to be clueless about the basics of chemistry. Water is one of the most stable solvents have have because it’s so inert. That’s because the oxygen already reacted… thus, it won’t react again, unless specific other molecules/elements are present (which nucleotides aren’t in that set).

        • unfogged says

          Using his logic the oceans should have exploded as soon as they formed when the sodium in the salt reacted with the water.

        • blue says

          I LOVE the magnets example. Unless you’re talking to someone who thinks you should teach the controversy of intelligent charge.

          The oxygen atoms within water molecules are not the problem, because as you say, it’s in a nice stable compound (as is iron oxide or any number of other oxygen containg compounds). It’s the oxygen in the atmosphere and hence dissolved in the water which is toxic to obligate anaerobes. The wikipedia page ‘The Great Oxygenation Event” is a decent summary.

          I won’t go into the details of oxygen toxicity because your eyes will glaze over.

          Linnaea! Yes! Such a funny moment.

    • BluePrint says

      I agree that most hosts mishandle the abiogenesis question, and would add any scientifically themed argument in general.

      The Most important point is to not engage the caller on the science, but on the reasoning. This time it took Russell 10 minutes to realize they’re arguing about irrelevancies, and do what I think should be done as the first step: Concede. Caller says: “Science can’t explain this”, the host response should be: “OK, now what?”

      The science is almost always the hand waving part of the argument, the attempt to confuse the other from noticing the argument is actually ignorance, an “I can’t explain this so I’ll say someone is responsible.” That’s where the conversation should be, pointing out that “someone is responsible” is not an explanation.

      All the power to scientifically literate people and professionals, but a TV show is not the platform for teaching science to people who only look for a place to plug in their god.

      What I say is: When talking to theists, don’t be an atheist or a scientist. Be a skeptic.

      • Russell Glasser says

        No, it did not take me 10 minutes to realize we were arguing about irrelevancies. “Science can’t answer this” is false. If we were to concede this point right away, this would leave the caller with the impression that abiogenesis is a total mystery to science, which in fact it is not. There are boundaries of our knowledge, certainly, but the state of information we have is a LOT more advanced that creationists give it credit for.

        That is why I generally move on to pointing out that gaps in our knowledge don’t point to a God, but not until AFTER I make sure it’s clear that his assumptions about the science are wrong. Both points matter.

        • BluePrint says

          My intention was in general, but now that I’ve listened again for the specific, Joel did start with “evolution is not a possibility”.
          Pointing out that evolution is what science has to say about biology was a good approach, but once you engaged him on the “division” in opinions about it and replied to his, you lost control of the conversation and started chasing his list of prepared points (not unlike confronting a Gish gallop).
          If at that point you would’ve asked him what’s the alternative to evolution, and list a few notable predictions if necessary, the situation would’ve been reversed. Instead of a computer scientist having to “defend” evolution, it would’ve been the (supposedly) learned anti-evolutionist having to explain away demonstrated results of evolution.

          It doesn’t matter if the caller isn’t told there isn’t a scientific gap to fill with his god, if they’re told that exchanging an ‘I don’t understand’ with ‘someone else understands’, is not gaining knowledge.

      • adamah says

        Being that Safari (the native browser on iOS devices) supports multi-tabs (and has done so for many years now), not to mention the availability of OTHER app that have offered multi-tabbed and multi-windows (like Chrome), it sounds more like a personal problem than a stunning indictment of iOS.

      • b. - Order of Lagomorpha says

        If that’s in reference to Blue’s difficulties with her/his iPad, I’m not sure what the problem is. I have a 1st gen. iPad and I can type on here, go to another tab to look something up and pop back with nary a word gone. As I just did a second ago. *confuzzled*

        • Narf says

          *shrug*

          I wasn’t making any connection of the sort, myself. I just don’t like any of the iOS interfaces. Plus, as a network engineer, Mac-integration is a complete pain in my ass.

        • blue says

          It doesn’t happen every time, but when it does its a major PITA. I don’t know what prompts safari to reliad a tab when I return to it, but it does it often enough to be annoying.

    • Subduction Zone says

      And a not on so called “odds arguments”. Every creationist “odds argument” that I have ever seen has a fatal flaw of some sort that means no math is necessary to debunk it. Every one that I have seen has an error in the premise. Identify the error in the premise and the rest of the argument is simply garbage in garbage out.

      On a related note the only valid “odds argument” that I have seen is one for evolution involving ERV’s (endogenous retroviruses). Creationists won’t even attempt to debunk it. Instead they try to attack the idea of ERV’s themselves, but those have been shown to be what they are by the reanimation of an ERV.

  7. rocketdave says

    Maybe I’m overly cynical, but I’d already assumed Zack was a troll when he called in last week, even though he barely managed to finish one sentence before the call was lost. It’s just that this show has gotten so many trolls that I can’t help feeling skeptical of pretty much any theist who calls in nowadays.

  8. says

    It does make me wonder how many people would be atheists if they understood how abiogenesis might work (particularly those who become theists to answer questions of origins). Evolution is difficult to understand due to the large timescales. I think abiogenesis is also difficult to understand, and thus, rejected.

    The formation of life may have been so gradual that it’d be difficult to figure out exactly when “life” started. We may have started with “protein bubbles” – that would chemically assimilate material from the surrounding water, forming additional protein wall, and allowing water in, but not out. Eventually, it’d “pop” into two or more smaller protein bubbles, and the process would continue.

    … but is that “life”? If I hadn’t mentioned “protein bubble”, one might have thought I was talking about the growth of crystals – assimilating nearby chemicals to form more of the lattice.

    I often bring up icicles or stalactites/stalagmites as examples of the spontaneous formation of structures that aren’t “accidents”. They’re to be expected, based on how the universe works. I suspect that the beginnings of life would be similarly based on how the rules of the universe work.

    As it turns out, the Miller-Urey experiments, as they’ve been repeatedly tested hundreds of times, demonstrate the spontaneous formation of different amino acids – the building blocks of proteins, like DNA/RNA. The first “life” may have been little more than a protein bubble, with simple RNA strands that formed different proteins.

    We already have significant empirical evidence supporting abiogenesis… but since the concept is inaccessible to those like the caller, it’s summarily rejected, even despite the evidence. If they thought about it more in terms of the simpler parts, like I described above, maybe it wouldn’t be so inaccessible.

    What’s troubling about that mental process, is that it’s normal human operation. Most of the time, a more intuitive approach of vetting probabilities/claims against what we already understand to be true or make sense, works reasonably well. So the rejection of something that doesn’t make sense isn’t entirely irrational.

    I think this is why I believe that a comprehensive education spells the end to religion, and why that seems to be the case in reality.

    • says

      I hate to say it, but you might be looking at it backwards.
      The thoroughly indoctrinated use the ‘origin question’ as a crutch for belief, rather than a reason for it.

      Proper science, taught early and taught well, is the best antidote to religious thought, but…the religion gets there first and poisons the well.

      Knowledge of the actual science and its implications are immensely important, but I’m not convinced that anyone has really embraced religion solely due to ‘how did life begin’ without the seeds being planted early on.

      I’m lucky to live in the UK where religion is relegated to sad men mumbling in cold buildings to a handful of old ladies, so I might be wrong.

      • says

        Proper science, taught early and taught well, is the best antidote to religious thought, but…the religion gets there first and poisons the well.

        I’m not sure I disagree. It’s not uncommon to hear of people who looked into – and started accepting the fact of – evolution, after they became atheists.

        But I still think that on a basic level, we have a tendency to not accept things that don’t make sense, or are difficult to comprehend.

        • says

          I’m pretty sure we’re in general agreement here. I think I was just questioning whether ‘knowledge of a particular scientific field’ could be the atheist equivalent to presupp apologetics?

          Is it a reason for your position, or something that shores up your beliefs?

          I should note here, BTW, that I am in no way saying that presupp has anything going for it or could even approach being as good a reason to accept a position as a properly followed through scientific theory.

          I remember finding a YouTube video a while back which put forward the idea that teaching evolution equated to child abuse as it is easier for children to accept god did it, rather than making them try to understand a more difficult concept. I’ll try to find the link.

          • Monocle Smile says

            We all have axioms because of the Munchhausen trilemma, but the goal is to reduce them to properly basic axioms. I have two of them:

            1) Nature exists
            2) It is possible to acquire knowledge about nature

            Everything else…all scientific knowledge…can be built upon these two. Presuppositional apologetics is actually quite a bit different. I’m not saying my axioms are beyond questioning, just that acting as if they aren’t true doesn’t get us anywhere. It’s not “COULD YOU BE WRONG ABOUT THAT?” I only hold these axioms because I feel I have no other practical choice.

  9. pac1261 . says

    While apologists amuse themselves with specious probability arguments, scientists are working on a reasonable model of how life might actually have originated. The crucial insight is that a “modern” functioning cell, with all its complicated biochemical pathways, didn’t just miraculously come together one fine afternoon and start frolicking in the primordial soup. Far more plausible is a series of tiny steps, each based purely on chemistry.

    Two recent discoveries:

    “THE latest twist in the origin-of-life tale is double helical. Chemists are close to demonstrating that the building blocks of DNA can form spontaneously from chemicals thought to be present on the primordial Earth. If they succeed, their work would suggest that DNA could have predated the birth of life.”

    Full article

    RNA precursors have been observed to spontaneously form larger structures:

    ““It is amazing that these nucleosides and bases actually assemble on their own, as life today requires complex enzymes to bring together RNA building blocks and to spatially order them prior to polymerization,”said Brian Cafferty, a graduate student at Georgia Tech and co-author of the study.”

    Full article

    I wish this kind of news got more attention.

  10. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Have to get off chest – For first caller: Repeat after me: Evolution is not abiogenesis. Evolution does not explain the origins of life. Evolution does not explain how the first DNA strand came about from atoms of carbon, oxygen, etc. – that would be abiogenesis, an active topic of research. Similarly, evolution does not explain how carbon atoms, oxygen atoms, etc., came about – that would be stellar nucleosynthesis. Similarly, evolution does not explain where the Earth came from or how it formed – that would be stellar accretion, star formation, and so on. Similarly, evolution does not explain where the first hydrogen atoms (and helium and traces of lithium) came from – that would be big bang theory.

    • Narf says

      Have to get off chest – For first caller: Repeat after me: Evolution is not abiogenesis.

      How about Cosmological Evolution? You know … the Big Bang.

      What about Chemical Evolution? All of that hydrogen had to evolve into the higher elements.

      And if you think I’m being hyperbolic about the stupidity of creationists, watch this:

      • EnlightenmentLiberal says

        Yeah, Kent Hovind is a hoot. I think I watched most of that lecture by Kent Hovind. It was amusing.

        • b. - Order of Lagomorpha says

          It reminds me of the Dover trial–Michael Behe mentioned the Big Bang so many times, the plaintiff’s attorney finally asked him if he had a degree in astrophysics.

          I guess we can’t expect the poor religious-folk to keep all them there science-y words straight and all.

          • Narf says

            I would expect better of Behe, though, from an intellectual perspective. He was just being a dishonest douche bag, I think.

            I think Hovind is really that stupid and anti-intellectual. I don’t know how anyone believes a word he says. He even speaks like the stereotypical slicked-down, sketchy, door-to-door salesman who is hoping to put one over on you before you can close the door and get rid of him.

  11. gshelley says

    On the “Faith as large as a mustard seed” thing. I knew a Christian at school (yes, just the one), who was absolutely convinced that Jesus was real and the earth was only 6000 years old. If yuo’f have asked him how certain he was, on a scale as 1-10, he’d have said “ten”
    I brought up the mustard seed thing and his answer was that this was actually quite a lot of faith, despite mustard seeds being small and he didn’t have quite that much
    I couldn’t get him to see the answer didn’t make sense and was inconsistent with how much faith he really had

  12. 34698ubaerab says

    Hi Russel, this comment is really directed to you and may be a little off topic but I’m not sure how else to get my message to you, so I’m hoping that you get to read this here. I welcome comments from others anyway.

    Whilst I admire you and your colleague’s intellect and efforts in promoting atheism, I think you have a fundamental flaw in your methodology. Like so many atheists who’re debating followers of religion, you’re constantly highlighting inconsistencies in many of your callers’ religious stances with the hope that after they’ve been bombarded with logic, that they’ll start to see “reality”.

    Now while I can see that there are “some” who you’re speaking to or are watching, end up being influenced by your logic do finally face up to reality and dispense with their feel good beliefs. I can also see that the big challenge here is really helping others overcome their Cognitive Dissonance (CD). It seems to me that the underlying problem for so many “believers” in converting to atheism is simply overcoming their CD. So, my suggestion/question to you and other influential atheists is: “Don’t you think you’d be more successful in influencing our religious friends and, quite frankly, our atheist friends into dealing with reality by focussing on educating everyone about all aspects of CD.

    Virtually everyone has to deal with CD including atheists. Religious beliefs are just one form of CD and just happen to be a very common form. Many atheist/religion debates are quite confrontational, focussing on some technical religious point. These debates are often divisive and can entrench a position regardless of how illogical that position may be.

    I propose that we (and by we, I mean you on your show :p) offer everyone assistance in overcoming CD specifically. A CD checklist off the top of my head
    1) Do I want to behave in an emotionally mature manner?
    2) Am I avoiding any information in my position?
    3) Is the principle I’m standing on applicable to “any” situation?
    4) Am I taking a long hard look at information that doesn’t support my position?
    5) Did I react emotionally with a quick dismissal of any information?

    CD is really a technical psychological term that most don’t understand but I think it is the biggest challenge for everyone to achieve emotional maturity. Love to get some feedback on this and love to see more rational behaviour from more people.

    • Russell Glasser says

      Look, man, I’m not a psychotherapist. People don’t call the show because they’re seeking help to work through their personal problems. Theists call the show because they think they have an undeniable case that God exists. We deny it. But if they’re experiencing cognitive dissonance and are happy that way, it’s not my job to try to force the caller out of their own mindset. In some cases that can be done — and has been done — but in the vast majority of individual cases, it’s a waste of time to try to force an individual’s mind to change. And I don’t care to.

      So if you think the purpose of the show is to try to fix the callers, you’re just mistaken. The show is targeted at the audience. I can’t speak for all the hosts, but I myself have three primary objectives: 1. Humanize atheists by being friendly, regular people; 2. Outreach to other atheists so they know they’re not alone; 3. Demonstrate, repeatedly, that most arguments for religion are really bad.

      I don’t need to force the caller to change their mind in order to accomplish objective 3. I just need to make it clear to most reasonable viewers that the caller is not holding up his end of the discussion well. Would you go to a prosecuting attorney and say “Hey, you’re not doing a good job of making the defendant accept the fact that he’s guilty”? You could, but a lawyer would look at you funny and, in the end, wouldn’t care. The lawyer’s job is to convince the judge and jury of the defendant’s guilt. What the defendant believes at the end of the day doesn’t matter to the case.

      • Narf says

        Yup, in most arguments, you’re arguing for the sake of the lurkers.

        Although, it would be interesting to get a psychologist on as a co-host, who can do what this guy is suggesting. We’ll let Ubaerab worry about where we’re going to find one, though, since I’m sure that if Russel had one handy, he would be deferring to the psychologist’s opinion.

  13. 34698ubaerab says

    Showing your audience how poor the argument raised by a defendant seems like an attempt to educate your audience to “not have that same argument” as it is wrong/foolish. That seems to be “the end” that objective three achieves?

    If that’s the case then “the end” my proposal might achieve is really not that far from yours except that it’s broader in one important way. The audience that see folly in the defendants argument will drop that argument themselves but often maintain a whole bunch of other foolish arguments that they have not yet seen on your show or elsewhere. Whereas, if they learnt to think critically/rationally instead then, I think many would just drop the lot and give themselves into seeing the world for what it really is, instead of what they’d like it to be.

    In virtually every debate you have with a caller espousing some religious belief, I see CD and confirmation bias all over the shop. The majority of your audience who share the same argument as the defendant will surely have their own CD and confirmation bias.

    I’m advocating everybody to learn/educate others about one small aspect of psychology (CD), not spend years learning how to become a psychotherapist. Whilst eliminating CD is not a silver bullet, it seems to me that it would yield the biggest bang for your buck in getting people to think critically. Having to have highly trained people like yourself in so many religious arguments does work, but seems more scatter gunned.

    Having said all that, I want you to know that I love your objectives one and two and “like” your objective three. I think you do a great job at achieving all of them and even if you disagree with any or all of my message, I thank you for taking the time to read and respond and I’m still very happy to have you guys/gal do what you do on your show.

    Apologies to anyone who contracted ED during this message!

    Ozzie Dave.

    • corwyn says

      In virtually every debate you have with a caller espousing some religious belief, I see CD and confirmation bias all over the shop.

      Naming a thing doesn’t tell you how to fix it. It is nice that you can name the psychological term which describes the flaw in the thinking that folks are making. But Cognitive Dissonance is by definition not something that people suffering from it, can see. Nor can anyone in the audience similarly afflicted. Until you make a suggestion for how to cure cognitive dissonance, you haven’t really helped.

      • Narf says

        That’s definitely a thing, yeah.

        “You just don’t want to follow God’s commands, because you’re so in love with your sin! That biases your perspective and makes you deny all of the amazing proof that God exists, despite the fact that deep down, you know it’s absolute proof.”

        Uh, yes, you’re right. The cosmological argument is absolute proof that Jesus resurrected, after he died on the cross, and gets a sad when we have funny thoughts about someone of the same sex …

      • 34698ubaerab says

        Someone experiencing cognitive dissonance after holding two conflicting perceptions:
        1) God is a loving caring being.
        2) God accepts all those who don’t follow his rules being eternally punished.
        is not prevented from learning what cognitive dissonance is.

        I grant you that a caller making some claim who is experiencing it at the time, may well be completely unaware and many viewers taking a similar position as the caller may likely suffer it also but that does not prevent anyone from learning what it is. In fact, anyone could probably learn what it is from my first paragraph.

        I think “cure” is a misnomer in the sense that no-one can ever be certain that they won’t hold two conflicting perceptions. More important is learning how to “manage” it. Preventing cognitive dissonance from affecting our decision making ability especially on important decisions ought to be the goal.

        I suggested part of a cure in my first post to see what Russel thought of it. I’m by no means an expert on cognitive dissonance or a psychotherapist, but I don’t think anyone needs to be to learn what cognitive dissonance is and how to take measures to minimise its impact on our decision making.

        Consider making one episode or part thereof dedicated to explaining exactly what it is, how to avoid it and why we should try to avoid it. You could subsequently make a point of requiring your callers to have gone through a simple check-list prior to making their claim. Actually, cognitive dissonance aside, I’d like to see callers made to make a commitment about how they intend to engage prior to making their claim anyway, maybe something like:
        1) Responding to the question being asked and not spinning into some new question instead.
        2) Avoiding straw man arguments.
        3) Basically avoiding a list of behaviours that, in the past have been reasons for being disconnected or put on hold by the hosts.

        Ozzie Dave.

        • Narf says

          Consider making one episode or part thereof dedicated to explaining exactly what it is, how to avoid it and why we should try to avoid it.

          Now, that’s actually a pretty good idea. Maybe Tracie or Don could make a topic of it sometime, if they felt so inspired.

          Actually, cognitive dissonance aside, I’d like to see callers made to make a commitment about how they intend to engage prior to making their claim anyway, maybe something like:
          1) Responding to the question being asked and not spinning into some new question instead.
          2) Avoiding straw man arguments.
          3) Basically avoiding a list of behaviours that, in the past have been reasons for being disconnected or put on hold by the hosts.

          Getting them to make a commitment and getting them to understand the commitment they just made and stick to it are two completely different things. :D You know the theistic callers we get who call in with a logical proof for God, who then jump around to 15 different, unrelated points, never making any sort of connection between those points? I’m not sure they even realize what they’re doing.

          They’ve clearly never had much experience in putting together a coherent argument. So, they think that if they keep throwing shit against the wall until they strike something that you admit you don’t know much about, that particular turd has stuck, and they win. “Okay, so the last 15 things I asserted were stupid to anyone who knows anything about the subject, but what about this!

          They don’t have enough conversational integrity to avoid #1, and they’re too ignorant of the atheist position and thought processes to avoid #2.

  14. adamah says

    The problem is that many believers do NOT actually “suffer” or experience CD, since the human mind has adopted many different strategies to AVOID experiencing it (such as denial, outright refusal to consider evidence by dismissing it out of hand, etc).

    In fact, FAITH is the ultimate palliative cure for many Xians that allows them to overcome any pesky feelings of CD that may arise, avoiding the bothersome feelings of ‘not knowing’ under the rug with trite statements such as, “someday God may reveal that information to us, but for now the answer remains unknown to mortal men”, or the infamous “We must have FAITH”.

    One man’s kiss off answer is another man’s means to avoid CD.

    Adam

  15. 34698ubaerab says

    Yes, they are not experiencing CD but they are “managing” CD. They’re managing it in the same manner that we all do or did until we had “the learning opportunity”.

    I had many such strategies like the ones you suggest until they didn’t fly too well in my professional life and I had to have another look at how I was processing my own decisions. Take it from me that not all learning opportunities are fun filled :) Perhaps your parents put you on the right path of processing your decision making from a young age, but I think most of us only come to it after some cataclysmic life event or with good education.

    Ozzie Dave.

  16. adamah says

    OD said:

    Someone experiencing cognitive dissonance after holding two conflicting perceptions:

    1) God is a loving caring being.
    2) God accepts all those who don’t follow his rules being eternally punished.

    The problem is those two observations are not seen as contradictory by most believers, who rationalize the discrepancy away by saying God sends people to Hell as part of His superior sense of justice, as a show of love for the righteous. Of course, they need to take the next step and ask themselves what kind of nutcase would design such a system, in the first place.

    In fact, some medieval theologians even suggested Heaven had a theatre, where the righteous were given a birds-eye view of Hell and could pass an eternity knowing evildoers were punished. Given the infamous climate of burning heathens and infidels, it certainly makes sense the church understood human psychology well enough to manipulate mob mentality in the name of service to God.

    Adam

    • Narf says

      Yes, because being the sort of psycho asshole who gets a thrill from watching others be tortured is certain to get you into heaven.

      Oh, wait. I was trying to be sarcastic, but that matches up perfectly with Yahweh and his love of the smell of blood and burning meat.

  17. 34698ubaerab says

    I grant you that there are many that process those those ideas exactly as you say and I’ll go a bit further to say that once the first rationalisation has been made about the wonderful god, it’s much easier to make subsequent rationalisations with even less thought and simply focussing on how good it feels. So, once you’ve claimed the feel good habit of simply dismissing anything that contravenes your wonderful perception of the almighty, it’s quite correct to say that you don’t experience cognitive dissonance. This is cognitive dissonance management though. They simply avoid CD.

    All believers (well surely most anyway) at some point have faced CD where they’ve been confronted with something “like” my example and it’s at this time when they start picking up the habit.

    The good news is though, that even if someone is managing their CD very poorly, they can still learn about it and how to manage it much better.

  18. adamah says

    And to take the topic full-circle, many believers are as addicted to the way their FAITH makes them feel (ie the ‘feel-good’ effect of releasing endogenous serotonin in one’s brains to simulate the feelings of being loved), just like an alcoholic (& narcotics abuser) is addicted to the way their substance of choice allows them to achieve their desired state to obtain the same ‘high’ and illusion of being harmonious and one with the Universe.

    Anyone’s who’s “basked in the glory of God’s love” knows what I’m talking about, and cannot deny they enjoyed how their fervent belief made them feel inside… Religion and drugs are for those who cannot handle their reality straight up, stone-cold sober.

    Seeking altered reality via religious beliefs or via substances are BOTH coping mechanisms (not real, either way), but one coping mechanism is heavily socially-stigmatized, whereas the other is heavily-encouraged…. Thanks, but I’ll take my reality straight up.

    • adamah says

      PS, I don’t know why the board is not adding replies properly, but this is in response to Narfs comment about how someone will rarely survive an improbable event (such as falling from a jetliner from 35,000 ft and surviving by landing on a tree which sufficiently breaks their fall to survive).

      Two popes have been canonized recently, based on ‘documented miracles’ ie believers with cancer who prayed to them and were healed as if by miracle. Apparently many Catholics haven’t heard of the not-uncommon phenomena of ‘spontaneous remission’ of cancers, and the Catholic Church is willing to take the credit. The power of self-delusion and believing only what you want to true is something else, isn’t it?

      Ps shout out to Don’s performance on the show last week: I was impressed by his egoless approach, where he didn’t get drawn into the “I’m right, you’re wrong” ego-driven baiting.

      OF COURSE religion is silly, but it doesn’t mean atheists are geniuses and believers are ignorant; it’s not about intelligence, but simply having the intellectual integrity and willingness to state the obvious (and I’m convinced most believers know it, but are trapped by other societal forces and fears which prevent them from stating it, too).

      The ability to declare yourself as an atheist is a LUXURY that some cannot afford, due to fear of the ramifications (lost income, etc).

      • Narf says

        I’m not having an issues. *shrug* Maybe you’re having some sort of problem with your browser. Chrome handles the site beautifully, even the preview feature. When in doubt, if you have a history of this happening, add in a bit of quoted text, with the blockquote tag, which will tie your comment to the one you’re responding to.

        I do that often, even when I’m not having problems. I only ever have it happen when I’m responding to the last comment at the bottom, and I forget to hit reply, since the comment window is right where it would be, anyway.

        (and I’m convinced most believers know it, but are trapped by other societal forces and fears which prevent them from stating it, too)

        The fear is certainly a major contributor, yeah. I was talking to someone at work, a few weeks ago, and she gave me a sort of vague, “Well, I have to believe there’s something after we die, even if none of the religions have it right.”

        If she’s willing to say that every religion has it wrong, but she isn’t willing to admit that an honest look at the lack of real evidence indicates that there’s probably nothing there … when we die, we’re dead; game over … that must be a massive emotional block that she’s dealing with.

        The ability to declare yourself as an atheist is a LUXURY that some cannot afford, due to fear of the ramifications (lost income, etc).

        Oh, absolutely. There’s an important distinction that you made there but didn’t explicitly state. There are a lot of believers out there who are really nonbelievers who are deep in the closet to all of the religious nutjobs around them and in their families.

    • Narf says

      Anyone’s who’s “basked in the glory of God’s love” knows what I’m talking about, and cannot deny they enjoyed how their fervent belief made them feel inside…

      Strangely, I’ve never experienced anything of the sort, despite 18 years of Catholic mass every week, with a supplemental dose of CCD. The only emotion I ever experienced in abundance was boredom.

      Personally, I rely on psychosis for creativity and such. It keeps me from having to dip into illegal narcotics and religious delusion for my inspiration.

  19. says

    I finally got to watch the episode, and I’m currently head-desking at Nikos in London’s attempts to justify the early writers not mentioning the resurrection because Paul had already written about it…

    Russell and Don tried to get to pointing out to him that it’s not reasonable to assume that they’d all read Paul’s work – and even if they had, why would they simply choose to stop writing at a particular point. If that was the case, why did they even write anything at all?

    Why tell half a story which had already been told, then stop at a particular point because it’s already been told?

    I know writers – there’s an ego in play…

    I’m surprised that Don backed down on that one to be honest – It seems like a point that was worth making a little more strongly rather than letting him talk over it.

    • unfogged says

      Why tell half a story which had already been told, then stop at a particular point because it’s already been told?

      Especially when that point is the key part of the claim. Here we have a being who died and was resurrected which is the proof of the promise of Christianity. Paul himself writes that if it weren’t for the resurrection the belief in Christ would be pointless.

      On the one side you have different writers promoting the religion but ignoring the main argument because others have already written about it. On the other side you have different writers ignoring the main argument because it wasn’t part of the particular oral tradition that they happened to know because the various extrapolations on the original story hadn’t coalesced yet. Only faith could lead anybody to the first conclusion.

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