Open Thread for AETV #857: Message from a Deist

Welcome to the Open Thread for AETV #857.

A deist emailed us this week with a message for Christians and a request that we read his message on The Atheist Experience. I won’t take up air time for that, as I explain in my response to him, but I did think it was valuable as a discussion topic about why we reject deism as well as other flavors of theism.

For reference, deism is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of a creator. Deists generally reject organized religion (with some exceptions) and divine revelation as a source of knowledge about the nature of God.

Now, on to the deist’s message. I’ve left the spelling, capitalization, and punctuation as it is in the original.

 

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Open Thread for AETV #856 – Christianity’s Dependence on Ignorance

Featuring Russell Glasser and Don Baker.  Have at it!

Added by Russell:

Our first caller, Drew, did share links to the “miracle” stories he was telling us about.

Per our conversation on today’s show, here are a few links. Luke Muehlhauser’s miracles:
Here’s Dan Barker giving the anecdote about the mute man speaking (scroll to 9:50):
After going back through the chat logs, I found enough clues about the Dan Barker story to get a better sense of what was going on there. Here’s what I wrote back:
 I can definitely say now that you misrepresented Dan Barker’s story, although it is an understandable mistake.
Here’s what Dan says in the video:
“I one laid hands on a person, and said in the name of Jesus you are healed, and that person regained his lost voice.”
You told me that he said he healed a mute person. I can see how you thought that from the context, but apparently it’s a pretty big leap to a false conclusion. Here’s Dan telling the same story in his recent book, Godless.

“It was before one of our meetings, as we were preparing and praying, when Gary, who sang bass in the quartet and whose turn it was to preach that night, whispered to us that he had lost his voice and was unable to sing or talk. We gathered in a circle around Gary and laid our hands on his shoulders, and I prayed out loud for God to heal Gary’s voice, ending with the words ‘Gary, in the name of Jesus, be healed!’

“Gary looked up and yelled, ‘Praise the Lord!’ in a strong voice. He went on to sing and preach that night.”

Now, granted, this story is still interesting. But quite often people do in fact recover from a sore throat, without divine intervention. Without the detail that Gary is actually “mute,” it’s very much in the realm of what the placebo effect alone can pull off. Not particularly miraculous in this sense.

I haven’t read much into the Luke Muehlhauser story yet, so if anybody has any points to make, discuss away.

Open Thread for AETV #855 – Matt and Tracie

Today I will probably briefly touch on an Islam 101 seminar that was hosted by the local Islamic Community Center. I attended with Beth and Russell and some other ACA folks. We’re going to put together a more detailed blog article describing our individual thoughts and reactions to the seminar that will be posted here later. So, I probably won’t be going into great detail, since that is “to come.”

I also want to hit confirmation bias a bit and talk a little about how it impacts the apologetic worldview and also how it can corrupt research studies as well.

And finally, we’ll get to the ever-popular public dialog via studio phones with callers.

Open (late) thread for episode #852

Many apologies for the delay in getting this up. The HD capture completely failed this week, for some reason. Not only did we only get a standard def capture, it wasn’t even properly formatted in 16:9. This one required extra work in post, especially to boost the sound, which still isn’t great. Anyway, talk amongst yourselves, as usual.

“Coincidence” is powerful “evidence” to many people

Observation:

I was closing a spreadsheet, and the moment I clicked on the “X” to close the window, a dialog box popped up on my other monitor, and I thought “Oh, what did I just do?”

The dialog box was simply an alert, letting me know that I have to attend a meeting in 15 minutes. And so I then thought “Oh, OK, it’s not connected to me closing the spreadsheet.” And I went on about my business.

But note what happened.

I saw two events close in time, that initially appeared to be related. Sometimes when you close windows you get a dialog saying “do you want to save?” or some other helpful suggestion related to what you just did, or are doing, with the window you’re working in.

In the background, my brain is aware that such things are sometimes related, and without conscious thought, I knee-jerked to check to see if there was a connection between the dialog box and closing the spreadsheet. My brain is used to this pattern. And it checks to see if this pattern is in play, when it recognizes something that resembles this pattern. If it recognizes no connection between the two events, it notes that they are just unrelated events occurring close in time. And I go on, and give it no relevance.

But sometimes the events are related. As noted—maybe I would click the “X” to close, and the dialog would come up saying “Do you want to save?” It’s a reminder that is triggered by me trying to close the spreadsheet. And I am consciously aware that such reminders occur—and I’m also aware of it in part of my brain that isn’t conscious. In fact, it’s the non-conscious neural map that informs “me” (the conscious aspect of the brain) that “Hey, these things may be related.”

But sometimes we have two events, closely related in time, that have no such trigger—no such causal connection—but our brains find a pattern, anyway. This is what we call “coincidence.” The difference between what happened to me this morning, and a coincidence, is that with a coincidence, the brain is able to identify a pattern—but it’s not a pattern based on causal link. The two events aren’t actually objectively related—they simply have related meaning in the brain of the person observing.

So, you are going home after your mother’s funeral, and you find yourself behind a car, and the numbers on the plate happen to match her birthday month and day—and your brain says “that’s related to mom—who just died.” On another day, you might see that same tag and assign nothing meaningful to it. But today, mom is on your mind, and so, these DMV assigned numbers are “mom’s birthday.” And to some people, additionally, “a message from mom.”

It’s stunning how powerful coincidental meaning can be in the minds of observers. I would say that it’s a pattern in TAE e-mail for people to describe a coincidence and ask us “how do you explain this?” Above, is how I explain it. But that’s not what they’re asking. What they honestly mean is “how did my mom’s birthday end up on this tag right after her funeral?” They want an explanation of the objective event–they want to know objectively how the events are related. The problem is that, objectively, there is no reason to think they are. They are connected in the subject’s mind. And that is all the connection anyone can reasonably derive from that observation. But some people simply cannot accept this. It’s a difficult thing for many people to accept.