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.

Open thread on AETV #843: Russell and Tracie

Thanks to Greg and Chip for the reminder to discuss “The Polar Express” today. I’d like to talk a little about the film’s handling of the Problem of Evil, using Santa as analogous to god, and using the character of Billy to represent the underprivileged of the world, and one of the unbelievers. The song “When Christmas Comes to Town,” describes Billy’s short life without any visit from Santa to his poor home, ever, and contrasts that against the message of a young, well groomed girl, who sings about all her happy Christmas memories. The song is sung as a contrasting duet. Here are the lyrics:

Billy:
I’m wishing on a star, and trying to believe
That even though it’s far, he’ll find me Christmas Eve
I guess that Santa’s busy, cause he’s never come around.
I think of him when Christmas comes to town.

Girl:
The best time of the year, when everyone comes home.
With all this Christmas cheer, it’s hard to be alone.
Putting up the Christmas tree, with friends who come around.
It’s so much fun when Christmas comes to town.

Presents for the children, wrapped in red and green.

Billy:
All the things I’ve heard about, but never really seen.

Billy & Girl together:
No one will be sleeping on the night of Christmas Eve.
Hoping Santa’s on his way.

Girl:
When Santa’s sleigh bells ring.

Billy:
I listen all around.

Girl:
The herald angels sing.

Billy:
I never hear a sound.

Girl:
And all the dreams of children.

Billy:
Once lost will all be found.

Girl:
That’s all I want when Christmas comes to town.

Billy and Girl together:
That’s all I want when Christmas comes to town.

After a visit to Santa’s magical world at the North Pole, Billy becomes a believer, and upon his return home finds that Santa has visited his home and left something. However, Billy is never provided with any explanation from Santa about why Santa favors the well-off children in his town, and seems to be years behind schedule visiting the more economically challenged households.

Billy is presented as a timid, shy, and humble personality. And so there is no reason provided to think that Billy has landed on the “naughty” list. And at such a young age, it can hardly be the case that Billy could be held to account  for not believing at times in his life when belief was not even possible, due to his cognitive development (at say ages 0 – 4 or so). Where was Santa then? How is his absence explained? How is Billy responsible for those missing Santa years and visits?

I personally think the story would have been better off eliminating the character of Billy. By including that child, the film presented a glaring error in the character of Santa, and also the narrative of rewarding good children annually with gifts, all over the world. Santa appears to be guilty of discriminating due to economic disadvantage, and no viable explanation is provided. Additionally, the blame is placed up on Billy in some respects for not accepting the narrative, when his brief life experience up to this point indicates that narrative is faulty. And that, also, is never corrected nor explained. If the film is going to present the problem, and reconcile that to Santa’s goodness, it should at least attempt to supply an answer or explanation. Presenting the problem and providing no justification for Santa’s negligence leaves the viewer hanging. Why even ask, if the goal is to explain Santa is good, and then leave no satisfying answer, except that Santa seems to think it’s correct to neglect Billy for the crime of being born poor–until Billy proves he’s worthy, by believing at an older age. Alternately, the Girl appears to have every advantage and not to have been overlooked in her earlier years in a far more prosperous home. She has also been provided, by Santa, every reason to believe in him. It’s an unfair contest on every level.

Anyway, that and calls.

Very happy to be of assistance, sir!

The douche parade continues. We get email…

Thanks, so much for much, for blocking me from The Atheist Experience Facebook page. I really enjoyed your You Tube channel and the Facebook page. If this is how you treat your own people. WOW! I am glad I never donated any money to your fucked up causes. Once again thank you, Martin. I will still be an Atheist…believe it or not, that is much, much bigger than you!

The letter is from this guy, who saw fit to give us a load of shit, and tell us we were being “religious,” for sponsoring a family for the holiday season. Because helping those in need is a “fucked up cause,” clearly.

I don't...HAVE FUN! With your Christian Holiday! I don't celebrate Easter or Halloween either! But, asking us to SPONSOR someone is over the top. Like I said, pick another Holiday. As for your TEXAS tdradition, who gives a shit!

To paraphrase Matt, I am not sure what makes fellows like Mr. Jones think he is one of “our own people” simply because he came to the same, obvious conclusion about the easiest question in the world.

Meanwhile, if anyone wants to do something really fucked up and help a struggling family, click here for details.

Bob Jones…hey, aren’t you the guy who founded that Christian university?

Open thread on episode #841

Russell and Don discussed Christianity’s lies, and the modern propaganda evangelists use to win converts. Have at it.


Addendum: Oh, for fuck’s sake. What is it with entitled, whiny-ass little pipsqueaks this morning? We have a couple of them stuck in moderation, having tantrums and throwing all their toys out of the pram because WAAAAH WHY AREN’T YOUTUBE COMMENTS ENABLED WAAHAAAAAHHHH MOMMY THEY’RE CENSORING ME FREEZE PEACH BWAHHAAAHHH!

Jesus H, grow up.

Pictured: Someone complaining about our comment policy.

Pictured: Someone complaining about our comment policy.

For the douche demanding we explain ourselves, we fucking have, asshole, at length, and in English. It’s right there in Number 3 on this list, and if you’re too lazy and stupid to read the very blog you’re posting your petulant rants to, then don’t expect your hand held in Grown-Up World. And no, moderation is not a “new” policy with us. We were doing it way back when this blog was hosted at Blogspot. With the sheer number of douchetadpoles swimming the fetid swamps of the Internet, common-sense moderation is the least one should expect in terms of proper care and feeding of a sane and healthy blog. And yet even here, on the dreaded FTB (where we seek to tyrannize your mind!), you only go into moderation if you’re a) a first-time commenter (to make sure you aren’t a spammer), or b) if your comment has two or more links (to make sure you aren’t a spammer). That’s about it as far as moderation goes.

Of course, if you write a comment just to throw a shit-fit that we suck because we don’t allow comments the way you think we should, well — it’s remarkable how easily that can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, isn’t it?

This addendum is brought to you by “It’s Monday morning, it’s raining, and I have literally no fucks to give.”

Pictured: Me on a Monday.

Pictured: Me on a Monday.

ACA bringing holiday cheer to a local family

Among the many things about atheists that scare Christians, the idea that we might actually be decent people who believe in giving the less fortunate a leg up in tough times appears to be a big one. How else to explain the angry refusal by the Spartanburg (SC) Soup Kitchen, a Christian “charity,” to allow members of an atheist organization to volunteer? “They can set up across the street from the Soup Kitchen,” raved its director Lou Landrum in a display of Christian Love™ that no doubt had the Baby Jesus brimming with pride. “They can have the devil there with them, but they better not come across the street.”

Perhaps they’re worried we’d upset the little narrative they’re trying to sell, that you need God to be “good.” Funny how they always tend to score an own goal whenever they try to clear the playing field of “opposition.”

Anyway, the ACA is sponsoring a local family in need this holiday season through Foundation Communities, because down here, we wage the War on Christmas™ (← inclusion of Fox News IP under Fair Use) with caring. So there. Below are some details of our sponsored family, and you may click this magical Hypertext of +1 Empathy For Your Fellow Man to reach our Donations page if you’d like to assist. Please add a note stating your donation is for the holiday charity.

Our family:

Javier—Age 31, “My children are my priority for gifts I don’t always have work. My priority is paying bills and I don’t have money to buy gifts of a Christmas meal.”

Ad—Age 29, Wants a blender, plates, and kitchen supplies.

A—Age 7, wants legos, a skateboard, and games

I—Age 6, wants barbies, a toy table and chairs

N—Age 2, wants dolls and musical toys.