Open thread on AE #746 / GB 2.3

This week in ACA media:

  • Matt and Russell talk about truth, postmodernism, and journalism, and also get to explain evolution to a creationist.
  • Beth, Jen, Lynnea, and Tracie talk about Cosmo, porn, and purity bears.  They also have their lives threatened by a fire that misses Dillahunty studios, because God has lousy aim.


  1. Orlando says

    ” Hi, I’m Danny and I’m an atheist, too. I have studied science extensively but have one teeny little question about evolution. If you can’t answer it, then evolution is not perfect and therefore god must exist. I’m an atheist, but I’m worried christians will use this against you (oops, I mean us).”

    “So, if a giraffe stretches its neck to reach leaves on tall trees, then its children will have longer necks, right? If not, then evolution fails and there is a god.”

    “But let me drag this conversation out for 45 minutes or so, and if you still can’t prove evolution to me, there is a god.”

    Signed, Danny the “atheist”

  2. Shane says

    In re AE746:

    Good show.

    – Hindsight is 20/20, but Matt might want to tighten up the giraffe nerve argument: After dissecting more than a few animals, we can trace the evolution from a short, straight gill-related nerve in fish into a long, circuitous larynx-related nerve in mammals, most absurdly on display in giraffes. Rather than saying it’s negative evidence of design (countered by “How do you know it’s not that way for a reason?”), I’d say it’s positive evidence for evolution (“We predicted we’d see stuff like this, and lo, we did”), and argue that a ID proponent would need positive evidence to the contrary. I might also redirect to the video where Dawkins and co. dissect a giraffe and explain the situation, since he probably explains it better, being a biologist and all. 🙂

    – On the topic of cancerous mutations being obviously bad for cancer cells because it kills its host, may I direct your attention to HeLa:

    A HeLa cell (also Hela or hela cell) is a cell type in an immortal cell line used in scientific research. It is the oldest and most commonly used human cell line. The line was derived from cervical cancer cells taken on February 8, 1951 from Henrietta Lacks, a patient who eventually died of her cancer on October 4, 1951. The cell line was found to be remarkably durable and prolific as illustrated by its contamination of many other cell lines used in research.

    The Wikipedia page notes at least one evolutionary biologist who proposed that these cells represent a new species. It’s “life” in the same sense as any other single-celled organism (self-replicating, has its own ecological niche, etc.) and it’s obviously not human — although it’s most closely related to humans, and would appear next to us on the family tree.

    As the good Dr. Malcolm says, “Life, uh… finds a way.

    [One might complain that we gave HeLa it an artificial habitat, but the same is true of many species of seedless fruit that humans have cultivated, which survive because humans maintain them via cuttings from previous plants. If we stopped, they’d die out in a generation.]

  3. scorinth says

    Hearing the hosts going back and forth with the “atheist” over the laryngeal nerve. Just… AAAAAARGH.
    A longer nerve takes more resources to grow, is more exposed to danger, and does its job less effectively. But we still see it. WHY? Because the advantage of having a longer neck outweighs the disadvantages of having a huge, ridiculous nerve. The point is that we’d expect that because evolution does *not* strictly select for efficiency. On the other hand, if God wanted to make a giraffe with loving care and perfection, there is no reason that it would be this way. God would only make a giraffe like this if he was an idiot, insane, or actively trying to fool us.
    It was physically painful to hear somebody actively arguing in such bad faith, even without considering the accompanying Gish Gallop. GRRRRR. The hosts are far more patient than I could be, even though I heard even them starting to lose patience.

  4. says

    Mutations that are not heritable don’t affect evolution.

    A mutation caused by ionizing radiation that causes a thyroid cell to uncontrollably grow is not part of evolution because it’s not a trait carried in the gametes.

  5. scorinth says

    Right. I guess I could have explicitly mentioned that. What I meant was that once you reach the point where you’ve looped that nerve around the aorta, you can simplify it down to either choosing to make both the neck and nerve longer, or you can choose not to, maybe even shortening them, but un-looping the nerve isn’t an option, as you point out.

  6. jacobfromlost says

    When people say to me, “The sun comes up in the west and sets in the east,” I tell them it doesn’t. I take them to face the east in the morning, and we watch the sun come up together. They tell me that’s not the sun they were talking about. Their sun is spiritual and is coming up in the west right now.

    When I get annoyed at them for suggesting something so idiotic, they tell me that I only THINK the sun comes up in the east and sets in the west because I’ve become so emotionally involved in the East-Rising-West-Setting Theory I can’t even begin to see the REAL sun, which is spiritual, rising in the west and setting in the east.

    So I ask them how we tell the difference between a sun that is apparent and visible, and a sun that is spiritual.

    That’s when they say it is POSSIBLE the visible sun is invisible, and the spiritual was is visible, but I just refuse to use my spiritual eyes. It’s POSSIBLE, right?

    That’s when I ask them if they see the visible sun.

    And they change the subject.

  7. says

    When I get annoyed at them for suggesting something so idiotic, they tell me that I only THINK the sun comes up in the east and sets in the west because I’ve become so emotionally involved in the East-Rising-West-Setting Theory I can’t even begin to see the REAL sun, which is spiritual, rising in the west and setting in the east.

    To me, that’s when the discussion from the show bottomed out. I’m not going to second-guess the motives of theists. Nor do I want them to second guess mine.

    Anything digressing from discussing the evidence and argument is a distraction.

    It’s like having theists tell me that I’m just an atheist because I want to sin and I’m rebelling.

    ..and I stand in awe of their apparent telepathic prowess.

  8. Kazim says

    I don’t think he ever said he was an atheist. I assumed he was a creationist from the start and don’t remember being contradicted.

  9. Daemonowner says

    Cancer is heritable in the level of cells, as it proliferates and passes the same mutation on to the daughter cells, and so has a selective advantage. Evolution doesn’t take into consideration the fact that the organism will be harmed later on, it only considers the here and now.
    And evolution on the level of generations of whole organisms does not confer a disadvantage to individuals who suffer from cancer and die, because this overwhelmingly occurs after reproductive age, so cancer can kill off many members of each generation but still be passed on.

  10. John Kruger says

    After hyping all the news stories that could not be discussed for time last week there is no Non-Prophets this week? For shame.

    Godless Bitches is mopping the floor with NP.

  11. jacobfromlost says

    “To me, that’s when the discussion from the show bottomed out.”

    Well, it was the very end of the show. The end is a KIND of bottom, isn’t it?

    Seriously, I totally agree. I think that is what made Matt so angry. If you have a lengthy discussion with someone, and they end with, “You can’t really argue ANY point of view because you are emotionally attached to a single view,” then they’ve just declared themselves in charge of the rules of the debate, declared everyone who disagrees with them emotionally biased and therefore (permanent?) losers, and then declared themselves the (permanent?) winner by default.

    That’s called CHEATING, and it is a totally useless way to argue your way toward demonstrable truth in reality.

    To quote a certain someone from episode 542, “No. You’re making a claim that a god exists, and I’m saying I don’t believe it based on evidence. So what do you do? Rather than providing the evidence…providing the justification…you simply claim, ‘Well you believe in no god based on no evidence, so ha-ha-ha we’re equally stupid!’ NO WE ARE NOT!”

    Replace “god exists” with “intelligently designed yada-yada-yada.”

    If god existing looks exactly like god not existing, and things that are intelligently designed look exactly like things that are NOT intelligently designed, then this IS NOT EVIDENCE. It’s nonsense.

    (Also, if my eyes were intelligently designed, why do I need glasses?)

  12. Andrew says

    Maybe you should rename the show to “The Inept Creationist Arguments Experience”.

    I realize that there’s a fine line between criticism and simply bitching, but JEEEZUS you let that guy go on forever, when 10 minutes into the 30 minute call it was apparent that the discussion wasn’t going anywhere useful. Arguing about whether the concept of “long” is subjective… seriously?

  13. Muzz says

    As an old humanities type I feel I should defend post-modernism somewhat. It doesn’t really mean truth is impossible or unknowable and everything is relative. Yeah there’s quit a few who take it that far and go nuts with it and post-modernism/structuralism is often behind a lot of the dumb thoughts in academia you’ve heard about in the last forty years. but mostly the people I dealt with were quite able to compartmentalise it and recognise its limitations.
    It’s really a critical position and one rooted in the arts and linguistics. It’s for cutting through assumptions of culture and language and philosophically speaking it throws up a lot of interesting questions along the way. You could say that it really doesn’t necessarily offer any answers though, and that’s a problem. Most I knew would err on the side of empiricism once all avenues were exhausted. (since the early nineties I think its prominence has been severely diminished by modern neuroscience and other emerging sciences of the mind/brain).
    So while it does assert that there is no absolute truth (or really, there is a human factor to all knowledge) that ought to be the jumping off point for a dissection of the knowledge and perspectives in question, not just a way to dismiss the possibility of knowledge out of hand. Even thought you will meet people who do that.

    Anyway, the supreme irony is that is was the author of its own destruction (or deconstruction, I suppose, ho ho). For a philosophical movement that sprang from the ideas of Marx and Wittgenstein (a beery schwein) they basically handed everything over to the authoritarians, conservatives, neo-liberals for whom the idea of a pliable reality is something they’ve known about for a while. I did know a few sort of utopian post-modernists who thought if humanity just took onboard these thoughts and we all moved into a post-modern understanding of our truth, many of our problems would be solved and there would be peace and love etc (yeah, don’t ask me how ok). The authoritarians waltz in and say “How about instead we assert our reality is the true one because its ours, hmm?”, which wasn’t quite what they had in mind. But they had no answer.

    I remember, I think it was, John Ralston-Saul pointing out all the post modern language and so on that was cheerfully adopted by corporations, government, PR firms, the military etc. And Communications studies students, in my experience, often ended up in marketing.

    So, while it can get overwrought and silly, post-modernism is mostly harmless and even interesting at times. Plus, for a mild philosophical movement that never did any harm, wasn’t adopted by any dictators for wholesale genocide etc things really couldn’t have gone worse for it the last 15 years or so.

  14. Graeme says

    I mentioned the giraffe’s laryngeal nerve to a creationist once and he came back with:

    “How can you say that it is a bad design? Maybe god has some other purpose for having such a nerve and we just don’t know what that purpose is?”

    To which I could only reply “But if you don’t know what it is designed for, how do you know that it is well-designed?”

    At which point he changed the subject.

  15. CompulsoryAccount7746 says

    post-modernism is mostly harmless and even interesting at times

    post-modernism/structuralism is often behind a lot of the dumb thoughts in academia you’ve heard about in the last forty years

    The authoritarians waltz in, which wasn’t quite what [post-modernists] had in mind. But they had no answer.

    Western koans that negate argumentative high ground have a way of leaving one with no answer.

  16. Kazim says


    I’m familiar with post-modern art, and actually I really like some of it. I read a couple of works by Italo Calvino in college, and I especially love movies that play around with the nature of reality and truth. “Memento” is one of my all time favorites, and I never get tired of the kinds of themes in “The Matrix” and “Inception”, as well as “Stranger Than Fiction.”

    As a concept, I really do not object to the accurate observation that our knowledge has inherent limitations, and we could be incredibly wrong about just about everything.

    Having said that, what hits my berserk button are the people who get so excited about PM that they take it to the extreme, thinking that if we can’t know everything then that frees us up to assign “truth” to any old bullshit that tickles their fancy.
    There’s something Tracie likes to say in this situation, “He who will not answer to the rudder will answer to the rocks.”

    Even if we live in the Matrix, the world we experience is this particular reality, which is definitely influenced in very predictable ways by actions which have consequences to all of us. An official in the Bush administration famously scoffed at people living in the “reality-based community” and insisted that they could invent their own reality by acting as if their desired consequences were inevitable. Look how well that turned out.

    Obviously Bush’s policies are not Kierkegaard’s fault, or Italo Calvino’s. As far as it goes, PM has made a lot of interesting and insightful contributions to philosophy and understanding the way we think. But there are a lot of PM extremists (if it even makes sense to say that) in many disciplines, and I think they have an unfair tendency to try and tear down the knowledge that we’ve legitimately accumulated from other disciplines.

  17. MrCFruitfly says

    I wrote this on the YouTube comments to the latest Atheist Experience. Repeating it here in the hope it gets read by someone of relevance:

    I’ve been following the Atheist Experience for over 5 years now, and I have a lot of respect for Matt Dillahunty. I think he is brilliant. But enough – MATT HAS GOT TO LET OTHER PEOPLE SPEAK on occasion. Last week it was Tracy who got talked all over, this week its Russell again, and I really like to hear what they have to say. Even the dimwit callers deserve more than the 3 second window they get between Matt’s monologues. C’mon Matt take a breath!

  18. CompulsoryAccount7746 says

    Those callers only seem to have 3 seconds because that’s all the content they can manage amidst their stalling phrases and bafflegab. Interrupting dead air’s not a bad thing.

    And if a co-host silently agrees with that Matt’s saying, he’s not talking over him/her. If you don’t like that he’s often the first to respond among the cast, *shrug* okay. How about a “Matt can’t be the host to touch the mute button” rule to handicap him?

  19. says

    Exactly. Selfish Genes and all that.

    Also surprised no one mentioned that obviously multicellular life is, if not more efficient, has a benefit that selects for it

    A) The whole greater than the sum of the parts

    b) Opens up new environments that avoids competition for resources.

  20. CompulsoryAccount7746 says

    … or a max mute count, heh. Having to decide between retorting now vs rationing for upcoming idiocy.

  21. Minus says

    Just to pick a nit here. Nobody knows why giraffes have long necks. Maybe to reach food, maybe for balance while running, maybe for fighting, maybe for loving. Nobody knows.

  22. says

    The current rule is, the caller gets to speak until he/she says something dumb. For some callers, that’s about every 3 seconds.

    There’s no benefit to allowing Gish Gallops.

  23. gfunk says

    The caller basically did the same thing, claiming we are limited to our perception of what is the best design (special pleading), to which the hosts pointed out the paradox that the IDers are making their claims based on their perceptions of what constitutes an intelligent deign (and making this special pleading when something doesn’t fit their terms), which clearly swooped right over his head.

  24. says

    Your PS3 is right below your TV in the entertainment stand. The HDMI ports are about 3 feet apart. I have a 6 foot cable and 30 foot HDMI cable, which one would you like to use?

    Richard Dawkins demonstrates laryngeal nerve of the giraffe:

    It was a good example. Hopefully some views at home understood. Evolution isn’t big on foresight or re-dos.

  25. says

    Are you a post modernist? Of course we know. Of course we’re capable of knowing. It’s patently obvious. We can even observe them putting their next to use.

    If we have no ability to know why they have long necks, then we have no ability to know anything, pretty much.

  26. says

    I forgot that Wired articles establish reality because some guy said so.

    It’s as absurd of a claim as saying that we don’t know why fish happen to have gills that enable them to survive under water.

    The article itself is bizarre because it spends a lot of time detailing all the things we know about the evolutionary history of the giraffe’s beck, and then wraps up the article with “..but we don’t know anyway”. Actually, the very next sentence is actually making the point – that we’re always open to new data/understanding.

    Again, given everything we know about the topic, if we “don’t know” still, then the bar has been set way too high to “know” anything.

  27. says

    Your PS3 is right below your TV in the entertainment stand. The HDMI ports are about 3 feet apart. I have a 6 foot cable and 30 foot HDMI cable, which one would you like to use?

    Depends if you’re trying to trip your friends and family

  28. jacobfromlost says

    “Just to pick a nit here. Nobody knows why giraffes have long necks. Maybe to reach food, maybe for balance while running, maybe for fighting, maybe for loving. Nobody knows.”

    I have disagree with you and agree with JT on this one. All we have to do is observe the benefits a giraffe gets from a long neck in its environment.

    Also, as Matt pointed out recently, evolution doesn’t ANTICIPATE what purposes an animal will need, nor does it anticipate the variety of uses an animal could use any given trait. The very fact that the giraffe HAS a long neck is because it was beneficial in very small increments over a long period of time. There was no “goal” to give a giraffe a long neck, and so we can’t say in hindsight that a giraffe now has a long neck for Single Specific Purpose X. We can only say it was useful for the survival in its development of the species at every point along the way, and that the long neck today is useful to keep the species alive UNTIL IT IS NOT (then the species dies, or those who have less of the trait that leads to death survive and reproduce children some of whom have even less of the trait that leads to death, who have offspring…etc).

    Also, single traits are not limited to one purpose (nor to one weakness). One can say that, in some sense, we have hands because our ancient ancestors needed to climb trees to escape predators, find food, etc. But that doesn’t stop me from typing today, pulling the trigger on a gun, calling 911 with my index finger, making cookies, etc. In all those instances we can say the “purpose” of my hands is to do those things, but it isn’t a purpose a priori–its only a purpose in line with the evidence of their actual use in reality. To say my monkey ancestors developed hands so I can make cookies missed the point entirely, just as saying giraffes developed long necks in order to do X misses the point entirely. Long necks can have multiple purposes simultaneously, and as long as the length of the neck at any given point does not cause the species to die out in its environment, it continues. As long as the neck getting longer across generations is beneficial to the species, then natural selection selects for it. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. As Matt said, there is no “good” and “bad”, but only survival in the context of the environment.

  29. OverlappingMagisteria says

    Believing in “micro-evolution” while disbelieving in “macro-evolution” is like believing in inches but not in miles.

  30. jacobfromlost says

    That’s when I ask why my dog needs cateract surgery. Did the fall of man infect the animal kingdom also?

    Besides, you can’t say things are perfectly designed and could only come from a designer, and then say the designer designed a universe in which humans would Fall, and so now the evidence we have for a designer (like the perfect eye) has elements that aren’t perfect because the perfect designer designed the imperfection into the design, so now both perfect design and imperfect design are both evidence of a designer, lol.

    It’s like saying, “Whatever you see, that’s evidence of whatever I say.”

  31. MrTrex says

    I like that, and if you don’t mind I’m going to use that. But now that we’ve brought up micro/macro, I do wonder if I could get some feedback from some others as I’ve come across this question often. “Science has NO proof of macroevolution” to which I reply “pfft, yeah it does” but then I draw a blank. I’m able to give evidence of so many other things, but for whatever reason I fail when trying to explain macroevolution. Any tips/websites? (I’m familiar with talkorigins 29+ evidences, FAR too advanced for who I’m dealing with. I’ve also linked potholer54 on youtube, but people don’t seem to want to watch videos?)

  32. Aquaria says

    First make them define macroevolution. Then you have something to work with.

    But it still comes back to the inches/miles fallacy. They can’t conceive of the literally hundreds of millions of years in which life evolved. The time span is just too much for their puny, delusion-poisoned excused for brains.

    It’s also why the don’t understand the horror of eternal life.

  33. jacobfromlost says


    Why do humans and chimps have the same junk DNA that does nothing in either of us if we are not related by a common ancestor?

    Junk DNA is found in huge sequences across many groups of species, the only explanation for which is that each group has a certain common ancestor:

    I love the cow/whale connection.

    I would suggest reading “The Greatest Show on Earth”–it’s very accessible and easy to follow, with many great examples.

    I would also suggest researching “evolution” and not “macroevolution”, as the second term is made up by creationists.

    Vestigiality would be another good thing to look into:

    And, of course, you could always look at the old standby, the fossil record. But DNA evidence alone is enough.

  34. tosspotovich says

    Evolution (or “macroevolution” if you must) is the most consistent explanation we have for the fossil record/tree of life. Endogenous retroviruses strongly support the sequencing and branching of the species.

    The E. coli Long-term Experimental Evolution Project ( has observed evolution in the lab. A denier would probably argue that the results are still E. coli so only microevolution has occurred, but if found in nature they would be classified as separate species due to their unique features.

    Unfortunately if Talkorigins is too advanced for the audience then the concept of evolution probably is also. If Bible goggles are preventing them from seeing reason, any supporting evidence will fall on deaf ears.

  35. says

    What’s the best way to get in touch with someone from the Atheist Experience? I tried the email address on the site and leaving a voice mail and haven’t heard anything back.

    In any case, I’m a fan of the show and I noticed the website seemed somewhat dated. I put together a site on drupal that should be easy to update and really nice for users and viewers:

    Let me know what you think, thanks!

  36. sandow says

    When evolution is discussed, the points needs to be made that it’s driven in animals primarily by their access to food resources. When a species primary food resource runs out they find another one or go extinct. The usefulness of the giraffes neck as far as I know is mostly in that it is able to reach food resources that would otherwise be impossible to reach for other similar creatures.

    Species evolved over time based on their ability to avoid danger and access different food resources. We have all sorts of life on our planet in all sorts of places, even underwater. These species were driven to different places and different activities based on their ability to access food there.

  37. jacobfromlost says

    The other thing about that micro/macro evolution claim that I never understand is this: When some theists say that there is evidence for “microevolution”, what mechanism or process do they think keeps a population from becoming a different species over millions of years? I mean, if they are trying to make a distinction between micro and macro in the evidence, what is the distinction? They never offer any.

  38. Orlando says

    Pretty nice test site, but I don’t work for them.

    Try e-mailing tracie; she is good at responding. Tracie Harris

    Hope it was okay that I provided that (*_*)

  39. carlosdelsolar says

    I think this time the creationist caller can be happy to have derailed the show, taking away half of it. Matt and Russell fell on his trap, IMHO. Of course what he said was total BS, but he got his own way in spinning the fallacy “if I can show that evolution is false or weak, therefore a god (my god) must exist”. Then he used the tiresome gish gallop strategy creationists love to use.
    It’s a good thing that the hosts rebut creationist nonsense with good science. People always learn from you doing this. But that has to be done in one or two shakes in no more than five minutes. The show is about atheism, not about biology or astrophysics. When the gish galloping starts, you should put it as Tracie did in one occasion: “Let’s say for the sake of an argument that we discover evolution is false. That doesn’t mean that your god is real!”
    You have to drag them to the point, to our point, that there is no good reason to believe in gods. If they have something worthy to say in that respect, let’s listen to it; otherwise let’s move on to the next call.

  40. gfunk says

    I was slightly disappointed they didn’t lead off with the disclaimer “this isn’t a show about evolution and we are not experts in the field,” but I think they are probably sick of saying that. Regardless, it is still frustrating to hear them engage a conversation as if they are defending atheism with evolution, tacitly accepting the caller’s false premise.

    It didn’t help that the caller didn’t state their position at the beginning; he played it as “I am interested in science and have some questions,” obscuring his motives to some degree and putting the hosts into a less aggressive footing.

    Still, I found it interesting.

  41. sandow says

    Most theists that don’t believe in evolution, don’t know what a species is. The idea that it’s dependent on the ability to breed is something that a lot of them have not heard. If you tell them this, a lot of them will think your playing with words.

    The micro-macro-evolution is an idea presented in a lot of homeschooling and various religious propaganda. If you play the left behind games (they are are terrible beyond description, monuments could be made to their stupidity) they have propaganda between loading screens. In the game they say that macro-evolution is basically just something scientists made up.

    It’s important for them to do this to hijack science. It allows them to “believe” in science but also reject ideas that make them uncomfortable.

  42. Muzz says

    Yeah, New Agers and so forth often love it.
    The thing I’m talking about might be less prevalent in the US because of the general independence of educational money. But when the supposed Political Correctness backlash kicked off, despite being little more than Bush Snr.’s way of looking for a new boogieman to replace the Soviets, it traveled everywhere and gave conservative governments license to squeeze departments all over campuses in Australia and England. A race to bottom for educational institutions who had to be “rational” ensues, turning them towards being MBA mills.
    The demonisation of the broad banner of Post Modernism as some sort sort of nihilistic intellectual cancer out to destroy all western knowledge from the inside, was a very big part of that. It resulted in witch hunt like scenarios of political flacks pulling up institutions if the wording of departmental mission statements sounded a bit too multiculturalist or something.
    Of course, this was in large part a way for conservatives to ram their anti-intellectual agenda through (actually, I don’t know if it’s agenda or a tendency. And I don’t know which would be worse). Post Modernism’s lack of a good lay-comprehensible response in its own defense says a lot about it. But while it’s many things, it really wasn’t going to destroy all western civilisation.
    Things seemed very much on the wane to me by the mid nineties, after Sokal and so forth. But that could say more about where my thoughts were going. As I said, it’s been quite thoroughly usurped by other areas when it comes to saying things about humanity (It might have said similar things, but PM never did an experiment to show that language can change things like the ability to perceive and differentiate colour.)
    The humanities departments were right there when the money men came to close down or slash the science departments too. (which didn’t stop them) Free intellectual enquiry and debate is all they wanted. They were always pro the Academy, whatever one thinks of the philosophy.

    So I guess I’m saying, by all means argue with its ideas or effects, intended or otherwise, and cranks where you find them. But if anyone’s got any fears it’s this wooly “liberal” sophistry out to undermine everything our grandfathers fought for or whatever, creeping un-challenged through education. Well that isn’t really true either, especially not now. I just want to point that out just in case.

  43. says

    You might want to put “Atheist Experience” in the subject line. They get a lot of spam, so their filters are aggressive.

  44. jacobfromlost says

    “The idea that it’s dependent on the ability to breed is something that a lot of them have not heard. If you tell them this, a lot of them will think your playing with words.”

    This nonsense has a lot of consequences, not merely regarding a science education. I recently got into an argument with a creationist (I assume) on an unrelated youtube video.

    He claimed that blacks and whites, “strictly speaking”, were biologically different. Although this is very superficially true, it is no different than saying short people are biologically different than tall people–or that two white people are biologically different from each other. I explained that blacks and whites are not a different SPECIES from each other, therefore, “strictly speaking”, not biologically different.

    That’s when he offered that he knew what a species was, and that lions and tigers could be interbred to form a liger, and they’re different species, so they are biologically different, bla bla bla. (He also inexplicably said that chimps and baboons were both monkeys–as if “monkey” was a species unto itself…and as if a chimp wasn’t an ape–as if this was analagous to saying blacks and whites were both humans. I explained that it was not.)

    That’s when I tried to explain that you can CALL ligers a different species if you want, but the males can’t reproduce per Haldane’s rule (thanks be to wikipedia). Why you would call a group of animals a “species” that cannot perpetuate its line of existence, nor even initiate its existence without human interference, is beyond me. But I’m glad someone is getting their biology education from Napoleon Dynamite cartoons. (I actually told him that, after which he never responded again. I happily took that as confirmation that cartoon was indeed where he got that idea.)

    Which reminded me of this video: /watch?v=JbZKUNvmsCU
    “How could an African American person evolve from a white person? I mean, we’re different skin.”

    Let’s count the problems with that…

  45. Andrew R says

    I describe the giraffe example like this.

    You go in a bunch of living rooms in different houses. In each, the power cable for the TV winds round the table next to it. Then, in one house, the table is several feet away from the TV, but the cord still wraps round it. The plug is right next to the TV, but the cord still goes five feet away from the TV, wraps around the table, then comes back to the TV.

    Now… which is more likely:
    1. Someone thought that was the best way to plug it in, or
    2. Over a long period the table slowly moved further away from the TV, dragging the cord further away from it?

  46. sandow says

    It should be noted that there are inherent problems with running a particularly long circuit. I realize this is kind of besides the point but… Circuit breakers and GFCI work by basically counting the amount of time between electricity going from one part of the circuit back to another. If you run a cable too long of a distance it will count incorrectly that the electricity is not returning and shut itself off. If you frequently have to go outside to turn your circuit breaker back on, it may be because whoever ran it decided to do it in an inefficient way.

  47. says

    I gotta wonder why the comments thread for #747 is not yet up. I would very much like to see the fans of the show try to defend Dillahunty and his public support of religious child abuse in the name of a piece of paper.

  48. gfunk says

    If you’re talking about the mercy killings, I think you misunderstood- Matt wasn’t condoning the practice, he was saying that if you truly accept the doctrine that the world is evil and can Corrupt your children (which he doesn’t), it makes sense to do whatever you can, including “sending them to Heaven,” to avoid any chance that they would be led to Hell.

    If this isn’t what you are talking about, do expand.

  49. says

    No… not the one about the mercy killings. The one with the atheist who called because he wanted to end religion through legislative means (I don’t support that either, it’s Dillahunty’s comments about child abuse that concern me).

  50. gfunk says

    Ah, that makes more sense. Again, you might want to pull an exact quote if you want someone to defend (or condemn) something specifically.

    So, do you mean the Dawkins’esque “indoctrinating a child is child abuse” argument in which Matt basically said parents have the right to teach their kids something they sincerely believe, even if it is wrong (while pointing out this was unfortunate in some cases)?

    That seems like a gray area that deserves cautious consideration. We already take legal action if people act on beliefs that immediately endanger their kids or the community (e.g. prayer over medical intervention), but it can be argued that general religious teachings aren’t threatening enough to warrant stepping into the family unit.

    This may be a crap metaphor, but should we make it illegal for people to teach their kids something like White Supremacy? IMO, it is abusive and they should be shamed for it, but it seems dangerously close to thought crime.

    I don’t have an answer- but I think one reason it throws up red flags for atheists is that in many people’s opinion, we are leading their kids to eternal damnation and countless other problems in the world (because we anger God), so they would love to outlaw our “beliefs.”

  51. says

    Sorry, but I don’t think that child abuse is “a gray area that deserves cautious consideration.” Where do you draw the line? At genital mutilation? At beating children until they bleed? At spanking? At teaching a child about Hell? At coercing a child to attend Sunday School? What do you consider not to be child abuse?

  52. gfunk says

    I think we are out of replies on that thread, so starting a new one (I don’t see a reply button).

    I think you might just have a much harsher definition of abuse than I do. To use one of your examples, I was required to attend Sunday school and I wouldn’t have called it abusive, though you might. I probably wouldn’t have gone if they hadn’t made me, but I also learned a lot (which eventually gave me a foundation that led me to strong atheism) and met a lot of people that were always very kind and generous.

    I also always knew my parents saw teaching of religion as a positive thing, so I didn’t feel abused- my experience would be different if they were threatening me, telling me I was an awful person, etc, and I would consider that abusive. These are the shades of gray I am talking about.

  53. says

    “I think you might just have a much harsher definition of abuse than I do. To use one of your examples, I was required to attend Sunday school and I wouldn’t have called it abusive, though you might. I probably wouldn’t have gone if they hadn’t made me”

    I am confused. You present a scenario where you were “required,” and indeed coerced (since they had to make you go), and you use this as an example of me using a large definition of “abuse.” Why are you arguing my case?

  54. gfunk says

    Well since I don’t agree that is child abuse, and I don’t agree Matt was supporting religious child abuse, I guess I’ll just leave it at that.

  55. says

    Well, you know, I coerce my kid to go to kindergarten, too (well, actually she likes it, but she would have to go even if she didn’t like it).
    See, I don’t believe in paternal rights as such, but I set the bar where you speak about child abuse and requires government intervention pretty high.
    And I’m not talking about beating or spanking, or sexual abuse, before you want to claim that.
    Yes, I would say that making a child mortally afraid with hell is child abuse. I teaching feel-good nicy stories about baby Jeeesus the same?
    Is Santa and the Tooth Fairy the same?
    Why don’t we look at psychology and figure out what actually is harmfull and what isn’t?
    What would I do?
    -Ban homeschooling (it actually is where I live)
    -Make sure there are decent public schools
    -Make sure the kids get a real education in science, sex-ed, and comparative religion
    -Make sure teachers have the time and education to look for signs of abuse in their students (ya know, like they’re supposed to look for signs of sexual and other physical abuse)

    Don’t you think that this would be a more effective and positive action?

  56. says

    “Well, you know, I coerce my kid to go to kindergarten, too (well, actually she likes it, but she would have to go even if she didn’t like it).”

    Yea, who cares about those damn children? It’s not like they’re human beings.

  57. says

    Very funny, “humanist” (what an ironic name, given the hate you peddle). Can we go back to the topic of Dillahunty’s explicit support of child abuse in the name of freedom of religion now?

  58. says

    It’s really interesting that out of a longish post you chose that small snippet to reply to.
    Makes me think that you’re absolutely not arguing in good faith and interested in a discussion of the topic.
    Seems like the only thing you’re interested in is bashing Matt.

    So, yes, those kids. Human beings. Just like their parents with their selfish needs of having a job, getting a college degree, providing the flat, food, clothes and toys they need.
    My absolutely selfish need to enforce rules like “we don’t bite each other” and who also forces the children to clean up their toys.

    Make a point or simply admit that you don’t want to discuss the issue but rather rant.

  59. says

    I would love to discuss the issue with you, but all you’re answering is basically- well, it’s okay because I do it too! That’s not very fertile grounds fcr discussion, is it?

    At least we both agree that there are plenty of things religious people do that is child abuse. So in that regard, you’re distancing yourself from Dillahunty, which is good. But my reply is, how do you draw the line?