Open thread on AE #745 / NPR 11.2 / GB 2.2

Would you believe… two weeks in a row with all new episodes of every show??

THIS WEEK!  On ACA media!


  1. says

    From AE Caller:

    A non-belief is a kind of belief

    And a non-truck is a kind of truck.
    Potato salad is a non-truck.
    Therefore, potato salad is a kind of truck.

    VROOM VROOM, baby!

    Secondly, investigating the Big Bang could very much be useful. We could discover some mechanism for parallel universes or faster-than-light travel, or something, based on something we learn about singularities (like the Big Bang). The unfathomable idiocy of the caller’s objection is that a ton of useful discoveries have been accidental, such as the effect of microwave radiation on water molecules (Microwave oven, anyone?).

    That’s the point of exploring and investigating – you never know what you’ll find. If we knew what useful applications were in store for us when investigating a new phenomenon, we’d already know it, and wouldn’t be investigating anymore.

    I’m so glad that we have plenty of people who aren’t anti-intellectuals, such as that caller. We’d still be living in caves.

  2. andrewhawkins says

    I think what the last caller was trying to get at was how discussions about cosmology are problematic because they result in infinite regressions. How he got from that to “we shouldn’t study it at all” was kind of perplexing though.

  3. Orlando says

    I’ve found a lack of intellectual curiosity fairly common in the christians I’ve known. There are exceptions, but many whom I’ve known prefer to live within their christian bubble. Kind of like conservatives living within the epistemic bubble of Fox news, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, etc.

    This was a good show.

    I haven’t yet listened to the latest bitches podcast, and I generally do not watch Amazing Atheist videos, but he made a recent video demolishing the worldwide Youtube sensation “I hate religion but I love Jesus” video.

  4. InvincibleIronyMan says

    Talking about your second caller:

    I’ve had people tell me that their beliefs are unfalsifiable, and that they believe what they believe for personal reasons (I feel it in my heart etc.) and then go on to make arguments based on those beliefs which have a directly harmful effect on other people.

    For example, arguments against abortion based on the existence of the soul. Not just late-term abortions, mind you, which fall into a moral grey area, but *all* abortions, even when we are talking about nothing more than a ball of undifferentiated cells. A zygote has no brain, no nervous system, no mind, and therefore cannot suffer. So for someone to flat out admit that they have no rational reason to believe in the existence of the soul, but that they do believe in the soul because they “just feel it in their heart”, and then to argue that therefore all abortions are wrong even in cases of incest and rape, seems to me to be an unconscionable act of totalitarian brutality. All for the sake of childlike wishful-thinking and feelings of warm-fuzziness on the part of someone who has no stake in the matter whatsoever.

    That’s just one example that we know about. There are many things about the world, and about ourselves, that we don’t know about, and we don’t know to what extent they may affect people and the quality of their lives. Saying “God did it” kills all motivation to find them out.

    Frankly, I am not happy to live in a world where the quality of my life and that of the people around me can be harmed just so I can indulge someone else’s desire to live in blissful, and willful, ignorance.

  5. InvincibleIronyMan says

    Excuse me for posting twice, but I thought of another example:

    I have heard Christians (eg. William Lane Craig) make the claim regarding genocidal acts in the OT, such as the slaughter of the Midianites, that killing innocent children did them no harm because their souls went straight to heaven!

    So even the idea of what constitutes harm can be hideously distorted by these irrational beliefs.

  6. Orlando says

    My atheism is unfalsifiable, therefore atheism is true and theism is not. As bad as Alvin Plantiga defining god into existence ala TAG.

  7. gfunk says

    The caller who based his belief on “is it unfalsifiable” and “does it then make me feel good?” confounded his illogic with that of Matt and Tracie when they were arguing that his belief in something irrational might lead to harm and he came back with “any belief can cause harm.”
    That might be the case, but that doesn’t actually speak to whether a belief is true. A lot of truths aren’t very pleasant.
    I see this a lot in these sorts of arguments- people essentially just get lost in the thread and start misapplying criteria.

  8. InvincibleIronyMan says

    Leaving aside your reply’s apparent complete lack of relevence to my original post:

    How can atheism be unfalsifiable when it contains no propositional statements? At least, not in my understanding of the term. I think you may be a little bit confused.

  9. Green Jelly says

    Second caller “Why shouldn’t one believe what one hopes to be true” – It is unfalsifiable that the next lottery ticket you buy isn’t going to be worth a million dollars. Not until you buy it. And if you believe it is true, then you should buy it, cos if you don’t then you surely don’t believe it is true. If you didn’t buy it, then you would never know if it was true or not, and under that condition you would have to go with “true”, and buy the ticket.

    So, the reason “one shouldn’t believe what one hopes to be true” is the same reason one shouldn’t keep buying lottery tickets until one hits the jackpot.

  10. Orlando says

    Reminds me of the story – I think it was in the Torah:

    Every day a Rabbi looks at the sky and implores, “please, God, let me win the lottery.”

    Day after day, the same plea, “please, God, let me win the lottery.”

    Finally, after making his plea the Rabbi hears a booming voice from the sky “Alright, my Son, but meet me half way – buy a ticket.”

  11. InvincibleIronyMan says

    Lenny Bruce it wasn’t, but I thought it was quite amusing!

    Anyways, I hate that song!

    Back to Green Jelly’s original comment, and the second caller: neither of them seems to quite grasp the issue.

    I uncharacteristically bought a lottery ticket the other day. I didn’t buy it because I believed that it would win. Neither did I believe that it wouldn’t win. On balance, I considered it highly improbable that was a winning ticket, but I don’t mind too much because I know the money goes to good causes. So basically, if I ask myself “did I believe it was a winning ticket?”, then the answer is no, I didn’t. But I still bought the ticket.

    Do you think that’s odd? I really, really don’t.

    Here’s the crucial point: not believing the proposition “it is going to win” is *not* the same as believing the proposition “it is not going to win”.

    (Yeah, you may need to read that twice, but I’m not sure how to put it better)

    Anyway, I think Green Jelly and caller number two are a bit confused about this.

    I suppose I better check the darned lottery numbers now, before I forget about it entirely. I’ll let you know if I win anything!

  12. InvincibleIronyMan says

    Nope. Nothing. Nada. Oh, well. I didn’t believe it was going to win anyway, so I’m not terribly disappointed.

    You know, I wonder if the misconception I highlighted in my last reply is responsible for any gambling addictions?

  13. Orlando says

    The usual christian lottery ticket logic is, you can either buy a ticket or not, which is a 50/50 proposition, so you have a 50% chance of winning.

    It follows that there is a 50/50 chance god exists because he either exists or not.

    Okay, enough inane philistinism. I need to climb out of the ghetto of conception (where all the pro-life arguments start, in the foul rag and bone shop of the soul). Yeats is rolling in his grave.

  14. jacobfromlost says

    Orlando: but many whom I’ve known prefer to live within their christian bubble. Kind of like conservatives living within the epistemic bubble of Fox news, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, etc.

    Me: I have a conservative aunt who forwards email rumors to me every few months, and they are always filled with dubious claims against liberals/democrats (or dubious claims in favor of conservatives/republicans). A few months ago I thought maybe I would try to inject some rationality into these emails, so I used snopes to verify that the emails were false and sent her 3 or 4 links demonstrating this. She sent me a message back thanking me, and she suggested she was gullible. Then I got nothing for a few months, then I got a “Florida doctor writes op-ed against health care reform” email from her, which snopes confirmed was correctly attributed…but I think she kind of missed the point. (And over that month, I could just imagine her getting dozens of emails that were all false, and this was the only one that ended up being true–at least in its attribution–so she forwarded it.)

    Having gotten a couple more emails from her today, I went over to snopes and went through several dozen email rumors, and ALL of the false ones were against liberals/democrats or in favor of republicans/conservatives. I couldn’t find a single false internet rumor in FAVOR of democrats or AGAINST conservatives. NOT ONE. I thought maybe that fact alone would make her think twice before forwarding these things again, but apparently it didn’t, as I have more of them in my inbox and don’t want to make a big family thing out of it.

    But there apparently is a myth out there that the media cannot be trusted (except Fox and Limbaugh), and so the only way to get reliable information is with mailing emails from person to person to get the “truth” out there. It really is like they live in a completely different universe.

  15. jacobfromlost says

    Kazim: You mean like having 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife?

    Me: It’s like rain on your wedding day if you are a Meteorologist, and your fiance decided to marry you based on your uncanny weather-predicting abilities…but you predicted clear skies on the wedding day, and amid the torrential downpour your fiance shouts, “I knew I should have married Steve from Channel 5!” and leaves you at the alter, unmarried, as your tears mingle with the rain. 🙁

  16. Orlando says

    Agree completely. I laugh every time conservatives mention Liberal Media Bias. I have never seen the media so tilted towards the conservative end of the spectrum. Even well-meaning MSNBC pundits parrot right wing talking points as if they are fact.

  17. Hunchback Jack says

    This was a great show.

    The long second call brought up some great points. “Why shouldn’t I believe something that can’t be disproven, if it makes me happy and doesn’t hurt anyone?” is a great question, and I think Matt and Tracie handled it brilliantly.

    The last call was interesting. “what happens if the Big Bang Theory is disproven, and gives ammunition to religion?” My response would be that if science reveals evidence that causes us to discard the Big Bang Theory – even if that indicates the evidence of an intelligent creator – then that would be an *incredibly* exciting and significant discovery.

    The only reason to stop scientific inquiry is because you’re afraid of the answer. Science doesn’t do that.


  18. gfunk says

    Although I understand where the last caller was coming from, it is a spineless, dangerous position. Your opponents will always attack you when you change your stance, but don’t curb progress by shying away from the best current explanation for something because you are afraid they might misuse good science as an intellecually dishonest support of their cause. Plus, your weak stance would only be encouraging them.

    Instead, you need to stand up for the science and (in this case) point out that even if the big bang ends up being fundamentally wrong, it doesn’t mean “god exists.” It just means we found a better explanation.

    On a side note, I think it is a good sign that “the origin of the universe” is one of the few relative unknowns that intelligent theists have to latch on to. The territory for their supernatural explanations is getting much smaller.

  19. Hunchback Jack says

    “Instead, you need to stand up for the science and (in this case) point out that even if the big bang ends up being fundamentally wrong, it doesn’t mean “god exists.” It just means we found a better explanation.”

    I agree completely. But I would go further.

    Even if new evidence indicated that not only was the Big Bang Theory inaccurate, but that there may have been an intelligent creator involved – that is, it gives theists legitimate ammunition against atheists – then it’s *still* all good.


  20. atheist from hell says

    Interesting show. Just finished it. The second theist caller was painful. The first was good though.

    But it was really weird how the last atheist caller was concerned about the possibility of big bang be dis-proven and that giving ammunition to religious nutjobs. Well, big bang is not going to be disproved, it will be enhanced by further research on astrophysics and particle physics. When that happens religious nutjobs will scream “see, you atheist-communist-scientific-elite have no clue about anything. On the other hand our belief in creationism will remain solid, like for ever.” They say something similar about the age of the earth. We should just ignore these dimwits and should instead work towards enhancing the scientific theories even further.

    I also was a bit intrigued by another point she made. She asked why do we ask such grandiose questions; like what is the origin of everything? In doing so are we not behaving like the religious folks.

    It is true that religious folks ask such grandiose questions. I am not sure if scientists ask the same questions. IMO, scientists ask simple questions that enables them to push the frontier of science one step at a time. Over a long periods of research scientists accumulate so much knowledge that the most current unanswered question seems like a grandiose question to the one who is still stuck at the first set of questions.

  21. MarkB says

    Even if the evidence leads to the conclusion that a god exists…wouldn’t we want to know that?

  22. says

    At the end of the second call, I think you guys were pointing out that the caller was equivocating on the word ‘reason’, but I’m not sure because you ran out of time. Or maybe my understanding of logical fallacies isn’t what it could be. So, were the two of you trying to explain that he was pretending to use ‘reason’ in the sense of ‘deduction’, but was really using it in the sense of ‘explanation’? In other words, he has a rationalization for his beliefs (they make him happy), but not a reasonable cause for why he believes them.

    Hmm… now I feel that I’m being unclear. It’s so hard to explain ‘reason’ without using the word ‘reason’! Anyway, I’d be interested to know if I’m on the right track here.

    Oh, and to the last caller: just because you don’t like Big Bang theory doesn’t mean other people aren’t allowed to be interested in studying it. What a waste of vitriol.

  23. atheist from hell says

    I mostly agree with you. But living in a bubble is not limited to Christians and conservatives. People in the left do that too.

  24. atheist from hell says

    Well, winning the lottery with out buying the ticket would be a miracle. I might be able believe in God if that happens.

  25. InvincibleIronyMan says

    Interesting that you refer to the last caller as “she”. I didn’t catch the name myself, and I have yet to go back and check, but all through the call I was wondering whether it was a man or a woman. I would have said it was a male voice, although it was rather high. It’s just that the timbre sounded a bit odd.

    Maybe it was just the quality of the telephone line, or lack thereof. Maybe it is just my suspicious mind working overtime. My earphones are pretty good ones, so I don’t think it was those. But having messed around with voice-changing software myself just for fun, I kept thinking that it was a male voice pitched up.

    “Mark from Stone church”, using voice-changer, anyone? 🙂

  26. InvincibleIronyMan says

    I can’t help but notice that some people are referring to the last caller as a “he” (eg. KathyO) and others as a “she” (eg. atheist from hell).

    I didn’t catch a name at the beginning of the call (I will now go back and listen again), so I spent most of the call wondering if it was a man or a woman. I would have said it was a “he”, but to me the timbre of the voice sounded a bit odd.

    Maybe it was the quality of the phone line. Maybe it’s just my suspicious mind working overtime. I have pretty good earphones, so I don’t think it was those. However, having messed around with voice-changing software myself, just for fun, I found myself thinking several times that it sounded like a male voice pitched up.

    “Mark from Stone church”, using a voice-changer, anyone?

    Any takers? 🙂

    Or is it just my suspicious mind?

  27. atheist from hell says

    I checked the last call again. Now I am not sure if it is male or female.

    But that was not mark from stone church. However the second theist caller might be.

  28. rrpostal says

    It had been a while since we’d heard from “Reuben”. Good to know he he’s just as purposefully irritating as ever. That guy get’s one thing stuck in his head that he thinks is clever and simply won’t let go. Ever. No matter what. It’s usually “why are humans so super special?”. This time it was not as time consuming trying to tear his chew toy away from him and swat him with the newspaper of science.

    Could it be that what he was talking about was when Jeff and/or Martin disagreed with his use of the word “believe” instead saying they “accept” evolution? I do remember a call or two like that. I can see Reuben twisting that one up in his head.

  29. Orlando says

    Maybe the AE show should have an All-Star line up one episode: that guy from Santa Barbara, CA who used to read the Kalam argument (forgot his name) and pronounced infinite “infin-inite”, Reuben, Cesar, and Mark in his many incarnations.

  30. says

    Kathy: I believe you have it. A person with Alzheimer’s believes and expresses a load of “unreasonable” things–however there is a “reason” they do that. If I say that there are explanations for their statements–the fact they suffer from a debilitating brain disease, that is correct. But that’s not the same as calling their views or statements “reasonable.”

  31. says

    Should have added that this ties into the caller, because he asserts he enjoys believing a particular thing. That may be a “reason” to hold the belief–but it does nothing to demonstrate the belief is “reasonable” from the standpoint of logical justification or evidenciary support.

  32. says

    Additionally, I reject that this is even a religious question except for religious people who force that to be the case. Many theists have no problem with scientific theories–thus demonstrating that the caller is only concerned about a particular slice of theistic wingnut–who is likely going to condemn any competing ideas (from his literal reading of a holy text), regardless of whether they’re founded or not.

  33. Orlando says

    Kenny, from Santa Barbara. He was always an interesting caller and reliable surrogate for William Lane Craig.

  34. Thomas says

    Still working on Non Prophets and the AETV episode, but I have to comment on Tracie’s opening answer to Matt’s question. It just amazed me how similar our experience is – I too was more than willing to admit that maybe the Bible wasn’t right, and that maybe Jesus wasn’t God, and so on and so forth. But did God exist? Of course He did! What a silly question! And if you had asked me I would have told you so – based on the ill-informed assumption that “none of this (meaning existence, the universe, etc) could have happened by accident!” and of course my personal feelings and “intuition.” But it was all so vague and uninformed, obviously.

    What really amazes me to this day is that I really wasn’t raised as a fundamentalist, per se. I certainly had heavy fundamentalist influences – but I didn’t go to church regularly, never had Bible study regularly at home. But my mother and grandmother (and later, private Christian school in lieu of regular church going) did me in.

    I’m just happy I got out. I wish more around me could do the same.

  35. Andrew Ryan says

    “Ironic would be 10,000 spoons and all you need is a knife, but then the next day you find out a spoon would have done the job…”

  36. Jolly says

    I get emails occasionally telling me that I have won a lottery I never entered. Never considered it might be proof of a god. I wonder if Catholics have a saint for gambling?

  37. otrame says

    I found the questions about “what if we find out the Big Bang is wrong” interesting. In my mind, as an atheist, it is the nearest approximation of the truth that we can manage that is my dogma, not Darwin or the Big Bang or what ever.

    I do not reject the possibility of the existence of god(s). I reject faith. I will go where the evidence leads me.

  38. jacobfromlost says

    It definitely wasn’t Mark.

    The caller’s name was Devin, if I remember, and he sounded like a teenage boy to me. (I think Devin is a boy’s name, but I don’t think it matters much.)

  39. jacobfromlost says

    After saying it doesn’t matter, I contradict myself by looking it up (curiosity always gets the better of me). Apparently it can be either a male or female name, but is more commonly a male name. The female variant is usually “Devon”. There are some interesting connections with the etymology and “god”, “the divine”, “a man who divines”/”soothsayer”, etc, in Hindi, Sanskrit, Old French, and Modern French if anyone else wants to look it up also.

  40. jacobfromlost says

    Right. There seemed to be some kind of fundamental lack of understanding of what science is floating in that caller’s question.

    Moreover, anything that would overturn BB would be new evidence and observations, the SAME kind of thing that got us to the BB in the first place. Any evidence that indicated a Creator God would have to be substantially more significant that the quantum level equivalent to “look at the trees” that was suggested in this blog lately.

    If the stars suddenly rearranged themselves to read, “I am the Creator God”, that would be a start. If dozens of other empirically testable phenomena occurred directly attributable to belief in the correct “Creator God” (and to nothing else), then I ask you this:

    Who would be left to CARE that the Big Bang theory was wrong? And why would it matter? SCIENCE wouldn’t matter in the way it did previously because it would have become something quite different: that is, empirically testable phenomena that all connect directly to a Creator God and belief in a Creator God. Science would still be the same process, but the results would be totally different in light of these new observations and new experiments. Want a cure for cancer? Just pray for it, and you’ve got it, or the cancer is cured, or you pray away ALL cancer and it doesn’t matter anymore.

  41. Orlando says

    I reject the possibility of all gods that have been presented to me. They all derive from primitive societies’ attempts to explain the world, and these primitive constructs are passed down through the generations as traditions.

    Our understanding of current and past primitive societies provides ample evidence, as does the refutation of all physical god claims by science. But most damning to the supernatural is our understanding of psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Gods are a very human invention.

  42. jacobfromlost says

    It’s like a “no smoking sign” on your cigarette break in the breakroom at the cigarette factory.

  43. m6wg4bxw says

    At 29:27 in the show’s (MP3) audio, Matt said, “My position is that beliefs should be reserved until evidence supports the claim.” Statements like this bother me because they suggest that the formation of belief is a deliberate act. This is puzzling to me because Matt, at times, has also clearly expressed that belief is not a matter of choice. More common, though, are statements like the one I quoted above.

  44. Orlando says

    I choose to believe Matt because this is his thread and I can’t pronounce your name. Not good reasons, perhaps, but I made a choice nonetheless. Uh oh, my spider sense tells me a free will debate is looming ahead like a locomotive heading my way.

  45. Mandrellian says

    The other ghastly thing about WLC’s defence of the Midianite massacre is when he tries to paint the Hebrew warriors as the _victims_ for having to enact such horror at God’s command. I’m sure WLC would recoil in horror if someone used the “just following orders/pity the perpetrators” defence in the case of a human being ordering his followers to commit genocide, but no, if God wants it, it’s by definition good (I’m so glad I don’t have to do such tortuous mental gymnastics in order to sleep at night).

    But of course the Craig Defence (as I’ll call it) begs the question: “Why obey a god who orders you to kill defenceless children and enslave & rape young girls, even if they are ostensibly your enemies? Why hold this being who commands the slaughter of the innocent as “great?” Whence respect or love – let alone worship?”

    The answer, of course, is that this God character ever-so-conveniently hates, wants and loves the same things as whoever happens to worship it at any given time – not only that, but this God can also hate, want and love an infinite and ever-changing number of mutually contradictory things, all at the same time. God can also make you think he gave you an idea after the fact, when it was actually yours to begin with! Pretty smooth operator.

  46. Mandrellian says

    If the BBT was ever discovered to be wrong or false and/or was superseded by evidence for an intelligent creator, that would still be a very long way from hard proof for some sect’s particular version of their god, or even for a supernatural creator at all.

    Indeed, if evidence for a creator was ever discovered but didn’t quite spell out who or what the creator was, we on Earth would most probably have to suffer another two thousand years of f&cking theists duking it out via jihad, inquisition and crusade over whose petty little god had actually done the creating and about what opinions it holds on anal sex, all the while dragging the rest of us hapless bastards along with them.

    Hell, considering how much havoc they’ve managed to wreak since the Iron Age based on *no evidence at all*, just think how much carnage they’d be able to cause based on the tiniest little sniff of proof (as they’d interpret it) for their god-who-hates-as-they-do. Factor in modern weaponry and we might not have to wait 5 billion years for the sun to go nova and carbonise the Earth.

  47. m6wg4bxw says

    I posted my previous comment while listening to the show. I considered that a clarification might come later, but chose to post without waiting. Considering how many times I’ve heard similar statements on the show without clarifications, I expected none. In this show, Matt later stated (I’m paraphrasing) that his actual position was against chosen beliefs, but that it was too complex to explain within the context. From this, I gather that he opts for speaking about belief in the way that theists understand, rather than arguing over the point and potentially hindering the discussion about their actual beliefs. Whatever the reason, I’m pleased that he mentioned it.

  48. jacobfromlost says

    The problem is that people call in regarding their “beliefs” all the time, so it would really put a damper on the discussion if Matt had to explain every time that he considers beliefs only those things you consider to be true via evidence that meets a minimum standard. Sometimes that is what callers mean, mistakenly thinking their supernatural beliefs have good evidence for them–and often that is the direction the discussion will take (ie, is it really good evidence, or is it not?).

    Other times the discussion will go the way of the second caller in this episode who said his unfalsifiable beliefs are “harmless” and make him “feel good”, so what difference does it make.

    I think the way Matt uses the word “belief” (for himself) is made clear by the context of these discussions, and the arguments he makes. But he has also made this explicitly clear (many, many times) before.

  49. m6wg4bxw says

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear. I agree with, and attempted to express, most of what you stated. My point was specifically about the (in)ability to choose what one believes, and what the hosts say about it compared with what they actually think. Thanks for the extra effort of finding and posting a video, but it wasn’t necessary.

  50. jacobfromlost says

    “My point was specifically about the (in)ability to choose what one believes, and what the hosts say about it compared with what they actually think.”

    I don’t understand how Matt’s statement, “My position is that beliefs should be reserved until evidence supports the claim,” suggests beliefs (as Matt defines them) are not deliberate. I also don’t understand how beliefs being deliberate means they cannot be a matter of choice at the same time.

    You can deliberately hold the position that beliefs should be reserved until evidence supports the claim, and if evidence does support the claim, one has no choice but to believe it if they hold the definition of “belief” that Matt outlines for himself.

    If you DON’T hold to the definition of “belief” that Matt outlines, and use a looser definition like the one the caller above uses, then beliefs can be a matter of choice, even going against the evidence. The problem is that Matt doesn’t hold to that definition.

  51. yellowsubmarine says

    He was being facetious. Ironic wasn’t quite the word if you’re going to get out the dictionary.

  52. yellowsubmarine says

    Exactly!! Listening to that guy go on about how if the Big Bang is disproven then it will give the religious ammunition was driving me nuts! On the one hand I thought it sounded like he was more interested in continuing to disbelieve in any gods even if science turned up evidence supporting the existence of a god, which is intellectually dishonest and puts him right up there with “if it makes me feel good and doens’t hurt anyone” guy. On the other hand it also sounded like perhaps he was afraid that the super religious was going to hijack whatever discovery is made to make it look like it supports the existence of god. Like that’s any different from what they do already. All the time. With pretty much everything. I dunno. Sounded like a big conspiracy theory and too many energy drinks to me. Totally out there.

  53. yellowsubmarine says

    Which reminds me. I’m pretty sure that the reason we’re trying to figure out what was happening at the very very beginning had something to do with understanding the building blocks of this universe. I wish I could be more specific…. I’m sure I got it off some piece of documentary on you tube. Was it Brian Cox that was talking about it? Something to do with with that quantum thing that we can see acting on things but can’t definitively prove exists. Argh! Curse my terrible memory! It was so itneresting at the time, I just want to share it!

  54. Andrew Ryan says

    1. The caller who kept talking about ‘proof’, and believing in things you can’t prove – I think he was confusing things one cannot prove and things for which there is no evidence. There are lots of things I believe but cannot PROVE; the point is more whether or not I have evidence to support my beliefs.

    2. On a related note, the ‘Big Bang’ caller kept talking about how science claims the BBT has been proven. I believe that the scientific line is that the Big Bang Theory is the one best supported by the evidence. If better evidence comes along, the theory can be replaced. If the caller objects to this he could search himself for better evidence, but given that his complaint seems to rest on ‘how much effort’ is being spent on the search, he probably wouldn’t want to do that.

    3. William Lane Craig’s answer to anyone who talks about an evil God is that the terms ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are meaningless without reference to a God. ‘Good’ is actually defined by God’s nature, so it’s a contradiction to talk about an evil God. Similar to Nixon’s apparent claim that if the President does something, by definition it isn’t illegal.

  55. Mike de Fleuriot says

    Don’t go Christopher Columbus, what happens if you are proved wrong and give ammunition to the flat earth society.

  56. says

    I think there’s two different levels to belief.

    1) Accepting a claim as true
    2) The requirements for accepting a claim as true

    #1 is on autopilot according to #2, but #2 can be more actively controlled, even if it’s a question of habit-building.

    I think Matt in this case was talking about #2.

  57. John K. says

    This is kind of a stock response, but it cuts to the heart of the matter as far as I am concerned.

    An un-falsifiable premise which can make no predictions and has no real world way for it to be wrong is meaningless. There is no way to distinguish such a claim from one that is completely imagined, and since no predictions can be made such theories have no utility. That is the problem with believing in an un-falsifiable claim. In strictly honest terms we have to admit ignorance about such claims, but in any event belief is never rationally justified.

    Both hosts danced around this problem, “are you going to believe in every religion that is not falsifiable?” and such. I prefer a more direct approach to the problems in the methodology. The “feels good” fallacy was covered quite well.

    Just some minor quibbles, I’ll quit playing Wednesday morning quarter back now.

  58. Orlando says

    Good point but every god claim I’ve heard is unfalsifiable.

    So what I heard was a standard model incoherent god. It is just that WE usually say their god is unfalsifiable, and then THEY claim that is why one needs faith.

    In other words, meh.

  59. says

    I think he was confusing things one cannot prove and things for which there is no evidence

    This seems to be a common problem. It pops up again and again. Proof is largely a red herring. Absolute certainty is not available to us and never will be, excepting a few, very specialized, cases, relating to definitions and logical necessity.

    Disproof is easier, since a single counter-example will be enough. This is part of the reason why the criterion of falsifiability is so important; it’s the only thing that’s realistically within our grasp. I wish people would spend a little more time thinking about epistemology. We could avoid so many of these misunderstandings.

    ‘Good’ is actually defined by God’s nature, so it’s a contradiction to talk about an evil God

    I’m actually ok with such a definition, at least for the sake of argument. What he doesn’t seem to realize is that it also makes “God is good” a meaningless statement. Since good is defined as whatever god does, it translates as “God is God.”
    Obviously, it also means that it’s entirely legitimate to ask the question whether we really have a moral obligation to be “good.” Since the term only refers back to the nature of god, I’m not sure how it relates to morality at all.
    Also, if we define good and evil in this way, we’d have to invent some new terms to describe good and evil as they’re commonly understood and applied to everyday human life.

    I suspect this is simply a dishonest attempt to introduce confusion in the discussion, allowing WLC to equivocate between good (the nature of god) and good (being kind and just), shifting between them as it suits him.

  60. jacobfromlost says

    John K.: Both hosts danced around this problem

    Me: I’ve noticed this before also…or, if it wasn’t “dancing around the problem”, it was ineffectively communicating what the problem is to the believer.

    The most effective way I can think to communicate this problem is that a believer’s claims (without evidence) is on the same list as all claims that are unfalsifiable, contradictory, false, useless, unknown, or unknowable. That is a VERY long list of things, and the believer is picking ONE and running with it when it is equal to all the others on that list. They should be running with ALL of the claims on that list…although many of those things are contradictory with each other (that’s when they apparently think it is logical to pick one so their position won’t be contradictory, lol).

    Despite thinking this is an effective way to put it (the list thing), I’ve never had a believer quite understand my point, so maybe my approach isn’t effective either.

    The caller in this instance didn’t even seem to understand what “unfalsifiable” means, as he said we would/could still search for answers that contradict his unfalsifiable claim. If you in any way continue to search for answers that could contradict your unfalsifiable claim, then you don’t REALLY believe the claim is unfalsifiable because, if it were, searching for contradicting claims would be pointless (that is, even if you FOUND contradictory evidence, if you truly thought the claim was unfalsifiable, you would just ignore the evidence as wrong and the claim as right…similarly to WLC statements about evidence being subservient to faith no matter what). And I think Tracie pointed out that there is no way to KNOW if a claim is unfalsifiable or not, so claiming it is is also irrational (just like those who say X is unknowable; such a claim is a contradiction because you can’t claim to know what is unknowable unless you know everything there is to know, in which case you could claim to know the unknown…which would be the only way you could draw a line around what was left and call it “unknowable” in a general sense; if you DIDN’T know everything knowable, claims about what is unknowable would be equivalent to just making sh– up, but in a way that is sufficiently specious to sound correct).

  61. atheist from hell says

    When they say that is why you need faith, you should ask then why did you waste my time debating the God claim.

  62. Hunchback Jack says

    Yes, exactly. That’s my point – that science is about the search for truth, as much as we can understand it, regardless of what that truth may be. We, as atheists, should not be afraid of any kind of scientific inquiry if it gains us better understanding of what is true.

    The caller seemed to think that inquiry into origins would be harmful if the BBT were somehow overturned, because it would give theists ammunition against atheism. That might be true, but if the ammunition is not legitimate – which a simple overturning of the BBT would not be – the we have nothing to be concerned about. It just means we are gaining a better understanding of the universe, which is the point of scientific inquiry.

    Furthermore, if such scientific inquiry actually went further, and uncovered compelling evidence of a creator, then that’s still beneficial. Not to my atheist convictions, perhaps, but to getting to the truth (if that’s what the truth actually is).


  63. Hunchback Jack says

    I think the hosts did convey your “list” idea, in meaning if not in the same words.

    The caller’s answer was, basically, “I choose to believe this one thing out of the list because it makes me feel good and doesn’t hurt anyone”. That is, he felt he could select from the list based on his own preferences, because he believes that there’s no objective way to select *correctly* from the list anyway (ie the “unfalsifiable” claim).

    My response to his position, incidentally, is that I don’t think he really “believes” in God. Belief means thinking that something is true, and if he is choosing one faith among many based on preference alone, he knows there’s no basis for thinking his choice is true. He just wants it to be true; he doesn’t believe it’s true.


  64. CompulsoryAccount7746 says

    Even granting the assertion that a claim is unfalsifiable… That’d mean no detectable effects on reality ever (falsification risks), which makes it useless to accept the claim as true and so, not worth doing. If a superstition works, then it’s either falsifiable or so subtle it’s useless; the same applies to petitioning intervening gods.

    One could get aesthetic enjoyment as from a joke or fiction. But that’s not belief. Unless “belief” is redefined as being a fan of an entertaining canon.
    A) “Why Not?”
    B) “Why bother?”
    A) “Feels good.”
    B) “It would feel good regardless of whether it’s true.”
    A) “I enjoy true stories more than fiction. The idea wouldn’t affect the world at all, so I can get away with lying about that detail, making it more entertaining to me.”
    B) Can try to point out that reality doesn’t really matter to A, but then A can insist that reality does matter; that’s why it’s important to be confident something’s moot before lying about it.
    B) Can argue the premise, demoing ramifications of that specfic belief. This loses individual persuasiveness if one has to cite large-scale/long-term/societal risks and gradual slippery slopes.
    B) Can take a principled stand against routine lying. While A still thinks the risk is insignificant, ironically, B’s maintaining that principle of mind for no real-world benefit appears pointless to him/her.

  65. CompulsoryAccount7746 says

    Oh, forgot the afterlife lottery implicit in most theists’ minds, where everybody’s counterfeiting tickets… Writing this wall of text made some things click. Reading mileage may vary.

            Contrived analogy: If everyone is eventually abducted and forced through an inscrutable unique one-way portal into a mystery location. What possessions, skills, or knowledge should one try to bring? So assuming there’s definitely a place, actions before the trip may matter, and the Dungeon Master won’t let you study the abductors.

            Rumors about the place would be unfalsifiable (being a one-way trip as far as is known), but keeping a parka on-hand at all times is burdensome. Then it’s a matter of how far you’re willing to affect/neglect lives here on a baseless whim (it’d still be wrong to actually believe it’d help, and no amount of Pascal promises would make a claim any less of a random action; believing that believing would help is just as random). Basically doing things that are themselves entertaining/reassuring, with only the pretense of preparedness. Otherwise continue to devote resources here and now, in ways that have evidence that they will help.

            Hmm. Assuming the portal’s not disintegrating everyone, the more you know what goes in, the more you know what to expect (and you can organize groups to coordinate spare supplies, including tools to hunt for return methods). After a while, civilization should be waiting at least. This feels like an Outer Limits or Sliders episode…

  66. says

    Tracie; Thanks for the explanation of your 10-year journey. I think I can say what would have happened if you had been challenged in the way your show does, or other similar shows and people do. It would have been a journey of less than 10 years. I was where you were back then just a few years ago. Thanks for turning back and letting others know what you figured out.

  67. jacobfromlost says

    Yes, it was in there, but I’m not sure the caller understood it…at least not at that point. But by the end of the call, I think he may have been glimpsing the problems with his argument. It may take a few weeks or months to sink in, though.

  68. Orlando says

    There are certain universal laws you atheists must obey:

    1. Man’s reason is absolute. Reality is objectivist (oops, I mean objective).

    2. Logical absolutes exist throughout reality and cannot be violated (except by one thing).

    3. Everything has a cause (except one thing).

    4. Human intention affects reality (law of attraction).

    5. Everything is connected (proven by quantum entanglement)

    6. Atheists are going to hell (especially Jeff). But if hell is separation from god, more please.

    7. Moral absolutes exist.

    8. There are universal laws, therefore there is a law-giver.

  69. says

    You might want to clarify what you’re saying here, because right now, it sounds like the kind of jumble you get from a mental patient who’s off his meds. You know the sort where it makes perfect sense to him, but nobody else has a clue what he’s saying.

    A few comments here:
    1. No, it isn’t.
    2. If it can be violated, it’s not a logical absolute. What you’re saying makes no sense.
    3. This one is wrong twice. Remarkable.
    4. No, it doesn’t.
    5. No, it isn’t. At least, not in the way you seem to mean it.
    6. Prove it.
    7. Name one.
    8. This one is just pure sophistry.

  70. DrewN says

    I’m an atheist and I don’t obey any of those “laws”. I sure hope the atheist police don’t arrest me! Maybe if I plead ignorance? I honestly had no idea any of those things had anything to do with atheism.

  71. Orlando says

    Actually, you do obey the laws, you just don’t realize it. You have no choice: that is why they are laws. Remember, you were given free choice, except where the universal laws come in. A=A. Except the square root of A squared does not necessarily equal the square root of A squared. Make sense?

  72. says


    For the purposes of this discussion, can we agree that mere assertion is not a valid method of argumentation?

    If no, then I’ll assert that you’re wrong and the discussion is over.
    If yes, then please demonstrate that these are in fact laws. And while you’re at it, please clarify what the hell you’re talking about.

  73. CompulsoryAccount7746 says

    Except the square root of A squared does not necessarily equal the square root of A squared.

    A has a definite value. Squaring introduced ambiguity. Rooting gets you to (+/-A)=(+/-A), which is still true. Since the original variable A is still present on both sides, it’s still equal. You can’t deliberately omit different signs from either side to break the equality.

  74. CompulsoryAccount7746 says

    1. A person’s reason is plagued by fallacies and cognitive biases. By comparing notes we can settle for a less wrong inter-subjective approximation of reality. Not perfect.
    2. Logical absolutes apply. There’s not a platonic ideal floating around in space. And asserting an exception doesn’t make it so.
    3. Asserting an exception doesn’t make it so. And technically, events are only reliably correlated. Cause and effect are semantic conveniences.
    4. Wishing for a thing doesn’t make it so. Pray to a jug of milk. Actions affect reality.
    5. Create a system where two particles interact then separate. If you later measure one to determine an attribute that was randomly assigned by the interaction, the other particle will give a related value when measured. Entanglement is not the Star Wars Force.
    6. Asserting doesn’t make it so.
    7. Asserting doesn’t make it so.
    8. Laws in government are proscriptive conventions. Laws of physics are descriptive models, not reality itself (but they’re reliable enough for practical purposes). An observed electron behaves like other electrons because if it didn’t, we’d give it a different label (A != !A).

  75. jacobfromlost says

    I think Orlando is playing god’s advocate. If not, I’m completely confused in light of his other comments on this thread. (Unless someone else decided to call themselves “Orlando”? Is that possible?)

  76. Orlando says

    I commend your perspicacity, Jacob. Also, there is another universal law to mention: The Chat Room is never happy. I credit Kazim with that profound insight.

  77. Orlando says

    People simply MUST have something to worship and glorify. This is universally true. Atheists worship Dawkins and Matt and Tracie and so forth. I myself worship that which underlies reality: the Higgs Boson. And his demigod, The Boson’s Mate.

  78. CompulsoryAccount7746 says

    So -2 = 2? The square of both = 4.

    A = A
    A might be 2 or -2. Either way, it’ll be equal.
    You just lost track of the sign in squaring/rooting it. You can’t deliberately change the value of one side independently of the other. Whatever A is, it’ll be the same everywhere in the equation.

  79. CompulsoryAccount7746 says

    There are enough delusional babblers in the world without attention-seeking morons like you pretending to need an education.

  80. Orlando says

    If you could keep this conversation just between us I’d appreciate it. I don’t get much time on the ward computer – the psych assistant thinks I’m checking my responses on ChristianMingle.Com – and I’d hate to lose my internet privileges. There’s not much else to do in Arkham, Massachusetts, although they bus us to Miskatonic University once a week to use the library. I’ve been reading a lot of Virginia Woolf lately.

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