Open thread on AE TV #752 / GB 2.5 / NPR 10.2

AETV: Russell and Jen get two back to back “first cause” arguments, one Muslim and one Kalam.  What more could a host ask for?

Also, great new episodes from Godless Bitches and The Non-Prophets!


  1. Jeff says

    How is it that a timeless and changeless being can make a decision? Actions necessarily require a change of state and time to carry out.

  2. Eyedunno says

    Almost all of this guy’s argumentation (Kalaam/”nothing can happen if things are infinite”) is frighteningly similar to this one smug guy I used to watch on YouTube, except that that guy added some handwaving like “once you prove god, it’s easy to demonstrate that it’s the Christian God, and I’m gonna live forever, SUCKAZ!”

  3. michaeld says

    I missed most of the episode as usual >.> but I’ll catch it when you put it up. I just wanted to say Russel’s metaphysical ham sandwich FTW!

    Might as well add in the recent non prophets to this post as well. The only thing that comes to mind about it was that I’m not sure I agree with the opposition for smoking bans. To me I’m ok with them in the same sense that I think the government should be able to set other health and safety standards at the workplace. Looking back I can’t for the life of me remember how that came up you guys meandered a bit off topic :P.

  4. Robert says

    I was wondering while listening to both first cause arguments.

    Is not time a construct of the “big bang”, being an expansion of space time.
    Is not then a response to somebody talking about what caused the big bang to counter that causality and time are constructs of our universe and therefore cannot be applied outside of the framework of the universe?

  5. rrpostal says

    Because math, Allah. Such bloody twaddle. All based on the concept that a god is playing a game with our eternal souls where we must believe something we have no evidence for. Good game, god.

    Call 2 is kind of person who understands space and time and math and science far more than he really does. People like this irk me. He can’t just say “I don’t know”, because he thinks he does know.

    I think they both were repeat callers, too. Which is fine. Maybe one day they’ll actually learn where they aren’t quite getting it. Good show, folks.

  6. wholething says

    When a Kalamist was talking about there has to be a first event in time and that God is timeless, Dan Barker asked what was God’s first thought.

    In Why Evolution is True, Jerry Coyne says that his Korean students believe that Jews didn’t get the message right so the Christians got it but lost their way and now the Koreans are now the chosen ones who will bring the world to Christianity.

  7. Yuriel says

    I’m at the part with the guy playing “theist’s advocate” and I think I get what he was trying to ask but never got his answer.

    It sounded to me like he was saying:

    1. It’s often heard among atheists/rationalists/science enthusiasts, etc. that X person doesn’t know if there are other life forms in the universe but that she believes that’s probably the case and we all say that’s a rational position.

    2. Some theists say they don’t know for certain or have evidence to prove that a god exists, but that they believe that is true and we say that’s an irrational stance.

    3. Isn’t that unfair? why the double standard?

    My answer would be that it’s a false equivalence and they only *appear* to be equal cases. The opinion that the universe is far too vast and too old for us to be the only case of life ever to arise is not at all the same as just believing that there’s a magical creator. The latter, while lacking any hard evidence, it’s based on very few and not too far-fetched assumptions about what we already know so far; the former is a massive, ass-pulled host of ludicrous claims with zero evidence. It’s the difference between a kid believing that probably some other kid got the same popular toy in his neighbourhood for Xmas, and another believing Santa Claus is real. Maybe my analogy sucks but I think all the previous stuff is solid. 😛

    As a side note, every time there’s some smug theist bloviating about the obviously self-evident truth “something can’t come from nothing!!,” I’m always screaming inside my head “WHY?! because it’s been your experience that in EVERY UNIVERSE you’ve been in, that’s always the case?” We’ve barely been able to go back until a certain time after the Big Bang, current physics can’t get further back. Yet these people want to lecture us and ask about what was “before time” and “HE exists *outside* of time and space!!”? What does that even mean? how do you know anything about something that exists outside of time and space(assuming that’s even a thing that is possible) and how would you distinguish your god from someone else’s god or a transcendental sprite. Well, you know the rest, I’ve just wanted to vent for a while.

  8. andrewhawkins says

    For crying out loud, even math is based on evidence at its core. Ever since we assigned the word “ten” to the group of fingers we have on our hands (and words for smaller groups) we’ve had math. It’s developed to describe lots of abstractions, but it can all be brought back to our fingers.

  9. andrewhawkins says

    About the second to last caller: I also live in Japan (Osaka) and it is true that it is a very secular society, most Japanese are only culturally Buddhist. However, there’s a kind of groupthink here that makes superstition and credulity really pervasive. Fortune telling, blood typology and other examples of pseudoscience and urban myths are quite popular. People also readily accept anything that’s reported on TV. Recently there were shortages of tomatoes and tomato juice at stores because it was reported that tomatoes stimulate weight loss.

    So while Japan isn’t subject to idiotic, religiously inspired public policy like the US is, people do buy into a lot of nonsense here.

  10. Anteprepro says

    That argument is adorable! And it’s superficially a good one, which is more than most theist arguments can accomplish. It’s a damn shame that “alien life might exist” uses the existence of a massive universe for which it must occur in as one if the major supporting premises for the argument. Because the corresponding argument, “god(s) might exist,” doesn’t use the supernatural realm that they supposedly reside in as evidence indicating that the god(s) might exist: The existence of such a non-natural realm is assumed along with god(s) themselves! In addition, when people say “alien life might exist”, the ones that skeptics don’t criticize are the ones that refuse to go onto detail on what that alien life might look like. If someone goes on and on about how this hypothetical alien life will resemble purple Furbies with Dracula fangs, green skinned black-eyed humans or mobile pet rocks, they would quickly earn just as much ridicule as religionistas. But, funny enough, the people saying “gods might exist” rarely restrain themselves, and thus earn their ridicule in spades. First off, they rarely ever say “might exist”, since the majority of theists at least pretend to be quite a bit more certain than they should be on the matter (at least they do when not in mixed company). Second, they feel perfectly fine assuming that this hypothetical god that might exist is all-powerful, all-knowing, interested in human affairs, in control of human afterlives, came to Earth in the form of a human about 2000 years ago, and is still capable of such intervention and still exists, despite an incredible lack of supporting evidence. This is on par with someone going from “alien life might exist out there” to “and that alien life is on planet Krypton and described exactly right in Superman comic books and Superman is still on Earth fighting crime, but he’s just stealthier about it”. Too much certainty, too much specificity, too many predictions proven false, too worthy of ridicule.

  11. Yuriel says

    Damn it, I just noticed I mixed up “latter” and “former” but I from context it’s still clear enough that my position wasn’t in favour of belief in a god.

    Can’t believe I missed that after a half dozen previews before posting. Time to up it to a full dozen before I publish comments. =/

  12. osmosis says

    Ever since we assigned the word “ten” to the group of fingers we have on our hands (and words for smaller groups) we’ve had math. It’s developed to describe lots of abstractions, but it can all be brought back to our fingers.

    Have to disagree. Once you assign “ten” to the group of digits on your hand, all you have is a base-10 number system.
    The maths, OTOH, are demonstrably true regardless of the number system you use or whether you’re missing a finger.
    Math is the language of the universe, and Greek is the language of math.

  13. osmosis says

    I’m curious, do the Japanese share the “fan death” superstition that is prevalent in other parts of Asia?

  14. osmosis says

    Hah! I saw it right away, and it messed with my mind. I had to conclude that you’d screwed something up, it was the only way to make sense of i.

  15. andrewhawkins says

    Yeah, and an alien species that only had eight digits would use and base-8 number system, etc. My point is maths are based on something real. Once we’ve linguistically agreed on what to call a given quantity of objects, we have the basis for math. Unlike what the Muslim caller was saying, it’s not entirely imaginary and the comparison to the supernatural is false.

  16. andrewhawkins says

    I think that idea originated in South Korea, where it is so common that there are warning labels affixed to fans in the stores. But yeah, I have heard it from a few people here.

    There are also “personal air ionizers” for sale in electronic stores that stem from the SARS scare some years ago.

  17. says

    1) The world is flat (It’s obvious – just look around you)
    2) The world cannot extend infinitely, else how would we get here?
    3) That means the world had edges, but the water would have long drained off.

    Therefore, there has to be some all powerful being that keeps the water from falling off the edges – thus, God.

    That’s how these arguments appear to people who know better. They’d seem compelling to those who don’t. You have to make so many assumptions, based on our common understanding, that likely simply don’t apply anymore, to the point that we cannot rationally make any claims without it being backed up with some actual evidence.

    The “time cannot be infinite else how would we get to now” argument seems to be assuming that there’s some kind of temporal playhead that “travels”. It may turn out that, like the first three dimensions, it’s “now” at all points always. You don’t have to “travel” from negative-infinity to get to the number 3.

    On another note, one thing did come up that I hadn’t thought of before – the idea that the above objection should apply to that God too. If God is eternal, how did he ever get to the point of making a decision to create the universe? Or, without time, how is the decision made at all? As far as we know, you can’t exist without time, so asserting that some thinking/deciding entity exists outside of time is absurd based on our current knowledge.


    Do these people not think the show has taken this argument a brazillion times by now?

  18. JGordon707 says

    OMG! Silva is from my Hometown. That’s so awesome! Maybe not as entrenched as the south, but those guys exist, even in CA! I didn’t think he’d actually use the same argument as Eric pulled a couple weeks back (“from nothing, nothing comes”). A little more light-hearted then last time though >_>

  19. Kazim says

    It was an oversight not to include the other shows in the original post. I’ve updated it.

  20. davidct says

    It uses magic. Magic of course works by any principle you can make up. It is not constrained by time and space. It is non-measurable and invisible behaves exactly like something that does nor exist. If you do not believe in it you are being closed minded. Now everything is explained.

  21. Comment1 says

    I think I get what the Muslim fella was trying to say. I think it was something that some geezer called G. K. Chesterton wrote about, where God is meant to be an irrationality that allows everything else to be rational. Hence the talk of universe/world/life/etc. you always hear. I guess that’s akin to what Einstein called God. Unfortunately it all gets anthropomorphised and God becomes a man who is a god for no apparent reason other than he leaves no evidence.

  22. Comment1 says

    I couldn’t believe fan-death when I heard of it! Skeptoid did an episode about it. It’s amazing how local this stuff is. Whenever I see Americans talking about no God = no morality I just want to point out half the western world.

  23. Tomasz R. says

    This “timeless” stuff is very necessary for first cause argumets.
    If they didn’t have timelessness included, their creator could had as well died some time after creating the universe.

    Also within such argument without timelesness a new entity could as well arise in the future that has enough powers to be called a god, thus obsoleting current religions.

  24. Comment1 says

    Then again in our universe when something begins to exist something else ceases to exist. If I make a fist, I’ve destroyed an open palm. You could just as easily say that time and space destroyed timelessness and spacelessness and the supernatural and the creator and all the rest.

  25. Christopher Petroni says

    You’ve lost one Montana listener!!

    Not really, I don’t live in Montana anymore. Like a lot of Montanans I know.

    And also you haven’t lost me.

    Montana is a beautiful, laid back place. Not only would we not notice if the world ended, we probably wouldn’t care. (And we all have lots of guns stockpiled for the coming Z-Day.)

  26. Warp says

    Listening to the first call was really frustrating because the caller did not answer to almost any of the hosts’ questions, either because he didn’t hear the questions (because of bad reception or otherwise not hearing or understanding them) or he ignored them.

  27. says

    Every Christian that I know does not say that there may be a god, or there’s a possibility of a god; of course, that would make them an agnostic. Christians say that they know there’s a god, that god is personal, they know it’s name, they know it’s attributes, and they speak to it on a very regular basis.

  28. Beekers says

    My typical routes of refuting the Cosmological argument:

    1) How do we know that a consciousness can exist outside of or disconnected from a physical body?

    2) Consciousness only exists to experience and process stimuli, which can only be done in reference to time. Thus a consciousness can be neither timeless nor changeless.

    3) If a timeless (and therefore changeless) entity preforms an action, it must always have been and forever will be preforming that action. This means that the universe must have always been created and therefore must have always existed since the creating entity has always existed and has always been creating.

  29. gfunk says

    I don’t think that is really what the caller was saying- he was making a straw-man (probably unintentionally) that the atheists say it’s rational to “believe” in aliens without having direct evidence but that it’s not okay to believe in God without direct evidence.

    This is wrong, as the hosts pointed out, because one shouldn’t consider it okay to believe in aliens without direct evidence. They can think it is possible or even likely because there are rational reasons- The proposition of extra-terrestrial life doesn’t require any supernatural assumptions; we know WE exist in the universe, and we are observing that the universe has many situations similar to ours, so it is possible that life has arisen elsewhere. BUT, that is still not the same as saying one knows it exists.

  30. gfunk says

    I love your first analogy- I really don’t see how these theists can’t seem to understand their arguments all seem to hinge on ignorance. It’s becoming an almost weekly retread of a caller making a claim based on something we don’t yet know or fully understand while the hosts try to explain “since we don’t understand, we can’t make any claims based on that lack of info.” The old “lightning comes from the gods” example should suffice but never seems to.

    On your second point, even the callers often understand they are making a case of special pleading (everything adheres to these rules, except God), but they seem to think it is okay when, again, they lack knowledge about something. Essentially, God just becomes “that thing which isn’t logical and we can’t understand.”

    Also, the amount of proclamations that “it is obvious” is astounding.

  31. says

    Re: the muslim fellow from Bristol, UK (Samir?)

    He says that “because we accept that multiples of 5 will always end in 5, that’s ‘logical evidence’ (what does that even mean?)” and the same reasoning can be used to justify faith.

    I wish Russell / Jen would have mentioned that that idea can be tested (ie. 5*5 = 25 is one test) and can be tested infinitely, in theory — each additional test lends more weight to that idea, in the same way that repeated scientific experimentation lends more and more support to a hypothesis as the experiments fail to disprove it.

    Stating “I believe without evidence that there is a god and that said god is Allah from the Qu’ran” is an untestable statement, unless the hypothesis is “I believe” (rather than “god exists”).

    It’s an error of category.

  32. Muzz says

    Man, that guy didn’t just trot out kalam on cue. He even said it with the exact same timing and emphasis as William Lane Craig.

  33. gfunk says

    I’ve hear AETV hosts use a similar argument and honestly it seems to be way too intellectual for the theist they pose it to.

    And you run into the same problem that is at the root of so many of these arguments- if you say something like “give and example of a consciousness independent of and/or outside of a brain,” they will just say “God.” When you say God is outside of our universe and knowledge, you can say anything.

    Thus, ham sandwich.

  34. Tomasz R says

    Isn’t this the essence of religion – frequent repetition of slogans? Religious people repeat the same prayers over and over again. During masses there are moments when the priest says something, and after that the churchgoers repeat it.

    That’s actually unnecessary, as one could invent his own prayer texts, or arguments for God but memorizing and repetitions are what churches and promote.

  35. Tomasz R says

    Timeless, spaceless, changeless, immaterial = nothing?

    What he probably wanted to say is an entity that can see the whole time at once, and make modifications in time same way we can make modifications in space. Including the ability to change future – what religions want. But this is a trap for them, because the being outside can also change past: for example change past so that the resurection or Muhammad had never been present in the current version of the past, even if they had been present in the versions of the past with lesser version number.

  36. jacobfromlost says

    It seems to me when someone goes to the “first cause” argument, they are using Newtonian (perhaps even Aristotelian) notions of time and space. They think space is just emptiness that goes on forever, and that time goes forever backward and forever forward.

    They may SAY things like, “We now know time began at the Big Bang,” but they don’t seem to know what “began” means in that sentence. They seem to think there was a time at which time began–ie, that there was just a giant, infinite, empty space, and that there was some kind of “meta-time” in that empty space…

    …and then their imagination breaks down. How do you get from that giant, empty, eternal nothing…to the big bang?

    Well, something had to cause it, obviously, and that had to be something outside of that big, empty, eternal nothing because there is nothing in that big, empty, eternal nothing to cause anything.

    The problem is that there was no “meta-time”, or what Newton might call Absolute Time. Space-time is NOT just one’s everyday notion of space added to one’s everyday notion of time. The Big Bang is not something that “happened” in a big, empty, eternal nothing, requiring a cause.

    To say time (or, in reality, space-time) requires a CAUSE misses the point entirely, as you can’t HAVE causes without space-time. It’s exactly like asking what is north of the north pole. Well, NOTHING is north of the north pole, but the north pole couldn’t exist without other existent factors (such as space, matter, etc). Likewise, there are other factors that contribute to the existence of our space-time bubble (singularities, quantum foam, etc, not all of which we fully understand, but enough of which that we have evidence that “causes” of the entire universe are not needed).

    But once you get to this point, it takes just a little intellectual effort to understand. And maybe they don’t WANT to see that GPS’s work, and if GPS’s work relativity is supported, and if relativity is supported space-time is supported, and if space-time is supported then there is no need for a “cause” to the Big Bang because that’s a nonsensical question in the ordinary sense of “cause” (the very sense REQUIRED for the Kalam nonsense to work).

    And yet they will USE a GPS (and hundreds of other devices that depend on relativity to work) while forcing that “meta-time” on a god by calling him “eternal” and “timeless”.

    So ultimately their argument is “god, therefore god”.

  37. Pastor says

    The first caller may have though he was being clever by categorizing the evidence for his god as “logical”, but what it comes down to is that he’s just found a way to believe in anything he wants. Just say it doesn’t need physical evidence, it has “logical” evidence. Also, he’s equivocating faith and axioms, which are not the same thing. As far as I can tell, axioms don’t add any new information about the subject at hand. Axioms just provide a linguistic framework for consistency while communicating about the subject at hand.

  38. says

    People that think there had to have been a “start” or a “beginning” to time remind me of people who may have insisted that only “natural” numbers can exist, and that negative integers are not possible. “How does one have less than nothing?”

    It’s one thing to say “count in a positive-moving direction”, and its another to say “start at the beginning of the number line, then counter in a positive moving direction”; people who get hungup on the Kalam seem to be in the second group.

    The former does not care about starting or ending, just direction, which seems more consistent with the entropic behavior of the universe. You don’t even need to delineate numbers, decimals, or anything — just progress towards the right. Asking “where do you start” or “how far along are you” implies that you care about the number marking, which would be irrelevant to entropy (overall disorder of the universe increases — it doesn’t check to see how much disorder there is and say “ok, that’s enough.”)

  39. jacobfromlost says

    Agreed. “Logical” evidence can be anything that is logically self consistent, and not contradicted by evidence.

    Therefore the universe was obviously created by a group of extra-dimensional beings. There is evidence all around us! Groups work better at creating things than individuals, and the entire universe is the best creation ever, so it was necessarily created by a group of beings. When we look at matter, it is made of groups of other particles, and the most useful things are always made of groups of things. Even “individual” humans are made of groups of atoms, and dependent upon not only two parents, but four grandparents, 8 great grandparents, etc! The pantheon of extra-dimensional beings are throwing the evidence of their existence in our faces, and we deny them!

    Satire alert.

  40. jacobfromlost says

    That’s very interesting. Maybe the next time someone says 2+2=4 proves god, the hosts should ask if -2 + -2 = -4 proves no god.

    I would LOVE to hear a reaction to that.

  41. pyrobryan says

    I think that’s what he was getting at. It’s acceptable to believe that aliens exist without proof, but not to believe that god exists without proof. Why the double standard?

    It’s really not as cut and dried as that. The fact is that we understand the conditions under which most life exists on this planet. We can see other planets that exist in similar conditions out there in the universe. We understand that the spontaneous generation of life is a likely a very rare occurrence, but given the probability of the vast number of planets that exist in the “goldilocks zone” and in similar conditions, we can conclude that what may be an extremely rare event, given billions of years and billion of planets, there’s a good likelihood that life exists elsewhere. We can’t prove it and I doubt any one claims it as certainty, but we have a basis for conjecture. Also, no one is killing each other based on belief in alien life, no laws are being passed that force someone to live their life based on a belief in alien life that hey may not share, etc.

    God, on the other hand, we have no proof of his existence at all, so we have no basis from which to extrapolate, yet people are killing each other and subjugating each other and attempting to force others to live their lives according to beliefs that they may not hold for themselves.

  42. says


    While hilarious, I think that point, and the hosts during this episode, may have been over-simplifying Samir’s point. He wasn’t explicitly saying “2+2 = 4 therefore Allah” — he was saying demonstrating what he called “logical evidence” (a misnomer?) by showing something conceptual that we assume to be true in spite of (allegedly) being unable to physically “prove” or “see evidence of” it.

    The problem seems to be that the foundation of his argument, this idea of “logical evidence” is nonsensical — perhaps he means “inductive reasoning?” He did try to use the Kalam which is, more or less, inductive reasoning. Also, as I mentioned earlier, 2+2=4 can be physically evidenced / tested, as can “multiples of 5 creating numbers that end in 5 or 0”.

    I *think* you knew that, but I just wanted to clarify.

  43. says

    Perhaps instead of equating the issue of extraterrestrials to the issue of a god’s existence, it would be better to clarify exactly what “aliens are possible” really means:

    When a scientist or anyone says that “alien life is a possibility”, what they’re really saying is “We are tautological proof that life exists, and this life exists on a planet. There are other planets, therefore there might be life elsewhere.”

    The presupposition (“life exists”) is tautological and so it is less of a stretch of the imagination to say that than to say any one of the possible chains of logic that lead to “therefore god exists”, such as (bracketed phrase is the presupposition):

    “[The bible is the word of god]. it says god exists, therefore, god exists”

    “[A miracle happened.] I believe it was caused by a higher power because I can’t explain it, therefore god must exist.”

    “[The bible is infallible.] The bible says God created life. Life exists, therefore God exists.”

    All three of those (and this is by no means exhaustive) are either complex statements or beg the question.

    Logically, “aliens might exist” is *NOT* equivalent to “god might exist”, so it is not a double-standard.

  44. jacobfromlost says

    But “2” doesn’t exist in the sense a rock exists. If they are going to get abstract things confused with physical things, I think asking about -2 + -2 = -4 would be interesting in terms of hearing a reaction.

    If the existence of a rock, or the earth, or physical things within the physical universe requires a cause, then what would the opposite of the existence of those things be or represent? Nothingness? And would that require a cause?

    And is -2 + -2 = -4 the opposite of 2+2=4? (I would ask the caller.) Or is the opposite of the existence of 2+2=4 actually 0+0=0? (I would ask the caller.)

    It’s the falsifiability of the claim that abstractions, like numbers, “exist” in a sense analogous to the way rocks and planets and our universe exists that concerns me. And they might start to understand that problem if you float negative numbers (do they “exist” the same way “2” does?) or even zero (does zero “exist” the way “2” does, or “-2”?).

    It would be an interesting line of questioning that may make them see they are conflating two completely different kind of “existences”.

  45. says

    Also, the amount of proclamations that “it is obvious” is astounding.

    That’s no joke.

    There was one AE episode (Episode 483 starting about 41 minutes in) where the caller’s proof of creation was “Creation is obviously true. Evolution is obviously false.”

  46. Eyedunno says

    There are weird attitudes toward fans in Japan, and I have had Japanese people tell me that babies who have fans blowing on them all night could die from it, and adults could get a cold or some other minor illness. I don’t know if that’s similar to the Korean version or not.

  47. Jonathan says

    It’s always so ironic the kind of logic these Kalam supporters use. I mean it all boils down to “Something cannot come from nothing, therefore some came from nothing (wait wut?) and created everything… from nothing.” It’s like hold the phone here, we are the ones who believe(them putting words in our mouths) that something can come from nothing, and they are trying to refute that strawman by doing the exact thing they are trying to refute themselves.

    That whole part about math being just logical was nonsense too, at its base math is evidence based, its not abstract. We live in a universe full of objects, the fact that we have objects to compare numbers to or to have numbers represent. If we lived in a shapeless universe where everything was just one big piece of formless sludge, we would have nothing from which to compare our numbers to, and so 2+2=4 would be meaningless in that universe. It can all be brought back down to the fact that if you take 2 rocks and put them next to 2 more rocks you would have 4 rocks. that’s how we know 2+2=4. It is evidently true, and to try to say that it is purely logical is to be ignorant of that fact. If anyone needs proof that its evidence based not rationally a priori (Like Descartes made the mistake of thinking it was) try telling a kindergarten class that 2+2=4 and ask them if it makes sense. You’ll see how fast you need evidence to explain it.

  48. Eyedunno says

    Oh yeah, the other thing I wanted to comment on… The difference between Japan and Korea is pretty complicated. The biggest advance in Christianity in Japan was in the 16th century, and it was promoting rebellion by Christian Daimyo, and was stamped out by the Tokugawa shogunate to the point where Christianity only survived up to the reopening of Japan in secret and in isolated enclaves. The Christianity there (wiki Kakure Kirishitan) would be virtually unrecognizable to Western Christians, but much like the Koreans mentioned, these people think they have “the true Christianity”. When it finally became legal to proselytize (at first only to other Westerners, officially), intellectuals in the West were already turning away from Christianity, and the intellectuals who basically built modern Japan learned from their counterparts in the West, and as such, tended to have mixed feelings about Christianity. Then Japan’s Industrial Revolution happened, universal public education was introduced, and Christianity didn’t have a prayer. 😛

    I don’t know much about Korea, but I’ve been told that Korean Christianity targeted the proletariat, and women and children over men, and this was much more successful.

  49. Trooper CX says

    A great episode! Hearing the public claim they know the existence of god or can prove it through crazy math is hilarious. Wonder if they even know how to fix a toaster…

  50. Trooper CX says

    2nd to last caller sounded like mark from the stone church doing a non-prank call.. anybody?

  51. gfunk says

    The thought crossed my mind, and I thought I even heard a bit of a laugh or snort for a split second on one of the points where he got owned, but it’s hardly worth bringing that topic up in here. It just leads to silly speculation at this point.

  52. michaeld says

    Rambled thoughts as I listen…

    I’m so thankful he moved away from the math ergo god argument. I have to admit if there’s any argument I can’t stand that’s probably the pinnacle for me.

    THANK YOU for the 3-4 thing. This infinity thing always bugs me. A circle is infinite, the span between 3-4 is infinite its all kind of useless. Still love the metaphysical ham sandwich. Obviously there are metaphysical flies that feasts on the metaphysical ham and cheese sandwich. The flies then becomes universes when they die.

    How can you step out of timelessness? Wait how can you step out of timelessness and be changeless?

    Dragons are totally frickin awesome and real! I’m mean look its a dragon its too cool not to be real! 😛

  53. Wim says

    I think the discussion on the existence of infinites is a fascinating one and I was sorry to hear the caller from California didn’t really seem to be that well acquainted with the apologetics he employed. I would say his apologetics were taken from William Lane Craig. If you look at Craig’s “Reasonable Faith” site, in the Q&A section, you’ll find several people asking him about the existence of actual infinites (as opposed to potential ones) as they relate to Craig’s god concept.

    For example, look at Craig’s answers to question 197
    “Does God Know an Actually Infinite Number of Things?” or question 108 “Omniscience and Actual Infinity”.

    This makes for interesting reading, both as possible counter-arguments to the Christian caller, who may be calling back, when he talks about his god and the impossibility of an actual infinity, and to see the response to these questions by Craig.

  54. jacobfromlost says

    I heard it as well, but I would only put it about 20% certainty (the other times Mark, Mike, Bob, Andrew, etc, called in, I put it in the 75%-99% certainty range).

    I asked the question in the chat, and several people said it was not, so I’m thinking it wasn’t. But we may be wise to be on our guard in the future, lol.

  55. says

    I wish Russell and Jen had pointed out that both of the first two callers were using the same arguments – or very similar, at least – to come to completely different conclusions. One was a Muslim and one, apparently, a Christian. They can’t BOTH be true.

    So what good is an argument when it can lead you to such different answers. At the very least, it’s not sufficient, and that’s because neither had any evidence backing up what they believed.

    It just seemed to be a perfect time to point that out, since you had two different kinds of theists, each claiming that he was correct by using the same basic arguments. Clearly, those arguments didn’t demonstrate what either of them thought they did.

  56. skm9 says

    Most fun show I’ve heard in a while. Well done and good fun. I’m a bit skeptical the second caller was sincere, but Russel’s time-management with the callers was great. And who doesn’t like a metaphysical ham sandwich. Thanks for the show.

  57. gfunk says

    I don’t agree, they were both arguing for “a” God. Once they have that foot in the door, they would move onto whatever they feel proves their particular flavor.

  58. osmosis says

    Jen, what in the name of FSM is wrong with your left thumb.. it bends WAAAY too far backwards.

  59. Mark says

    Excellent show – the best shows are always the ones where you let the callers have their say, but not too much. Talking over the callers too much just results in them getting frustrated (and so not being good guests) and giving them too much time just ends up frustrating us.

    Best show in a long time.

  60. Comment1 says

    The Korean one is that old people can die from it. Apparently some of them think the fan blows oxygen away or something.

  61. Cassie says

    To be fair to the first caller, he wasn’t trying to make any link between maths and god.

    He was asked for an example of a logical argument, he provided that in the form of 2+2+4. Even though that example is flawed as you are dealing in the abstract rather than in things that actually exist.

  62. rrpostal says

    I think people get that’s what the caller was doing. But really he needed to come up with another example for his “logical evidence”. Otherwise all people could do is over analyze the qualities of “math”. What else would be a “logical evidence”? Every time a difference between math and a god concept came up, he would say “it’s just an example”. Well, maybe bring up a better example, because that one isn’t very helpful.

  63. Cassie says

    “jacobfromlost says:
    March 12, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    That’s very interesting. Maybe the next time someone says 2+2=4 proves god, the hosts should ask if -2 + -2 = -4 proves no god.

    I would LOVE to hear a reaction to that.”

    These kind of assertions seem to suggest that people do in fact not get it rrpostal.

    The hosts on the show also didn’t seem to understand as they kept asking “how does 2+2=4 mean god exists?”

  64. Andrew Ryan says

    I think he was ignoring them or not trying to understand them. It was frustrating, but it’s generally what happens when you try to discuss these subjects with Muslims. It came across like he missed every point given to him.

    His argument didn’t work anyway. He can’t say that evidence is bad because it denies faith, then say you should believe because of logic, given that he also claims that logic is evidence. Why aren’t the ‘logical reasons’ he has for being a Muslim just as much a denier of faith than if, as he said, God just came down and said “Here I am folks!”.

  65. says

    (does zero “exist” the way “2″ does, or “-2″?)

    This sounds like the territory the caller was in last week, with Matt and Tracie, where they were arguing over what it means for there to be “nothing”. #myheadasplode

    I agree that it’s definitely a good line of questioning for furthering the discussion. My point was just that I think the hosts got too hung up on the statement “2+2=4” that it seemed (to me) like they were missing his underlying point, however flawed that may have been.

  66. Andrew Ryan says

    I’ve heard the argument quite a few times that if time was infinite “you’d never get to here”. The people making that argument, whose perspective are they talking about? Where do they think “you” would “get to” then? You’d get to ‘here’ after 30 years, if you started 30 years ago!

    But the question someone already quoted on this thread is pretty good. What was God’s first thought? Did he have one? If not, how did he get to his most recent one?!

  67. says

    My usual approach to this is to accept the whole argument and be willing to posit that something substantially different from what now exists in the universe created it. Why should this be a personal god? Why not a super-law of physics? This gets you out of all the complications of explaining how a timeless mind can exist and make decisions.

  68. says

    That reminds me of a scenario I came up with:
    God is a supercomputer, created by mankind in the future to solve all our problems. This computer will be so intelligent that it will break through into complete understanding of the universe and become functionally omnipotent. It will then go back in time and retroactively create the universe.
    But, here’s the catch: it can only create the kind of universe that would lead to its own creation. Obviously, if it didn’t get created, then it couldn’t create the universe and nothing would exist.

    This also means that while God (v2.0) could, in a sense, grant all prayers, it is restricted by the fact that if it grants them all, it removes our impetus to create it in the first place. It has to leave enough chaos and suffering to motivate humans to create it in the future.
    This gets us around the problem of evil, while maintaining a benevolent and (almost) omnipotent god.

  69. says

    Not to mention the fact that it’s simply not true. Multiples of five only end in zero or five in a base ten system. In any other numbering system, it doesn’t. In base 12*, 3 times 5 is 13.

    So, it’s not really a quality of the universe, but a quality of the specific system we’ve invented to organize our numbers. We can know said system to perfection because we invented it. Multiples of five end in five or zero because we’ve defined the system that way.

    * As notated in base 10 🙂

  70. says

    he was saying demonstrating what he called “logical evidence” (a misnomer?) by showing something conceptual that we assume to be true in spite of (allegedly) being unable to physically “prove” or “see evidence of” it.

    But we can prove it. I just did.

    For positive integers, all multiples of five end in a last digit of either 0 or 5.

    X * 5
    where X is a positive integer. X can be either even or odd.

    If X is even:
    X = 2Y
    where Y is also a positive integer
    (2Y) * 5
    Any positive integer multiplied by 10 will end in 0

    If X is odd:
    (X+1) * 5 – 5

    will be an even integer and so follows the rule above, therefore
    (X+1) * 5
    will end in last digit 0, therefore
    (X+1) * 5 – 5
    will end in last digit 5.

    The same thing will hold true of decimal numbers, provided that you keep the number of decimal places and don’t drop ending zeros.

  71. says

    That might be what they were intending, but they never got that far, so the point never got made.

    No, to my mind, this was a good opportunity that was missed. The first two callers used the same arguments but would still disagree vehemently, since one was a Muslim and one a Christian.

    These vague “logical proofs” not only don’t work, they wouldn’t get us anywhere even if they did.

  72. says

    I agree on the smoking bans. Don’t have a problem with them at all. Actually, as a non-smoker, I’m all for smoking bans in public places. Why should I be forced to inhale other people’s rubbish? The main goal of any smoking ban is to protect people from passive smoking.

  73. jacobfromlost says

    I was being somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Others have called the show many times to say 2+2=4 means god because there has to be a mind behind the numbers to make them exist. I was thinking more along those lines than the “logical argument” one, and also concerned about how a “logical argument” would be falsified.

  74. gfunk says

    When you say public smoking bans, are you talking about truly public (parks, streets, government buildings)? I think people are generally griping about bans in privately owned businesses (tho obviously some people argue against any bans). I don’t know that I agree the government should be able to tell someone who owns a bar that they can’t allow people to smoke. If people don’t like it, they don’t have to go in.

    I benefit from the bans because I hate smoke and I love bars, but that doesn’t mean I think it is “right.”

  75. jacobfromlost says

    LykeX: But we can prove it. I just did.

    Me: Now I think we are confusing “mathematically prove” with “demonstrate with evidence in the physical world”. Which is understandable, since that seems to be what the caller is doing and also wanting us to do.

    It’s almost as if they want to say numbers are abstractions that exist, god is an abstraction that exists, therefore god exist…in a way other than an abstraction (but they leave out the last part to confuse everyone).

    My tongue-in-cheek suggestion of floating -2 + -2 = -4 as proof of no god took the criticism that I didn’t understand what the caller was saying in terms of “logical evidence”, and I could have been clearer, but I think it is relevant to the “god is an abstraction that exists” part of the above. Abstractions AS abstractions can also be utterly contradictory. You can make up another abstract god that is utterly contradictory to the caller’s proposed abstract god, but they can both exist simultaneously AS ABSTRACTIONS (although not literally).

    Once that is understood, then the 2+2=4=god falls apart, as you can just as easily say -2 + -2 = -4 = god, or 0+0=0=god. Indeed, if all those very different yet valid (except for the god part) mathematical expressions are “logical evidence”, why can’t we also use “illogical evidence” for god? Or even say that 2+2=5 is the devil’s work, or sinful? Or that god made 2+2=5 wrong to show us that 2+2=4? Or virtually ANYTHING we want to say since there is no link connecting “logical evidence” with literal evidence of some kind of transcendant being/mind.

    It just seems if we take the conflating of abstract existence with literal existence, there is nothing we can’t claim using “logical evidence”, and no way to falsify any of those claims…while a great many of them directly conflict with each other. And if there is one thing we know about truth, it is that it can’t be directly disconfirmed by something else that is also true. And since abstractions can be anything and still exist as abstractions, then the existence of abstractions isn’t “true” per se, they just are what they are–abstract, and not literal. They don’t need a cause, a creator, or a universal mind to continually endeavor to make 2+2=4.

    That was probably as clear as mud, but…whatever.

  76. andrewhawkins says

    It’s basically confusing correlation with causation. A number of mostly elderly people die in the summer time while sleeping alone in a room with a running fan. Now, it’s fairly easy for an investigator to deduce that the cause was heatstroke or some age-related problem. But since the fan was what all of the cases had in common, someone early on concluded that it must somehow be the cause and the notion spread like wildfire.

  77. says

    You could make that argument for customers, I suppose (although when smoking was allowed, it was really hard to find a restaurant where you could avoid it, at least around here), but what about their employees?

    You can’t so easily quit a job, certainly not when the economy is this bad. So should you be forced to work in an unhealthy environment, just because you really, really need a job?

    This reminds me of when Ron Paul suggested that the solution to sexual harassment in the workplace was just to quit your job. But most people don’t have that luxury. Most people can’t afford to quit their jobs, just because they’re getting humiliated daily or because they might get cancer some years from now.

  78. mike says

    One of the best shows of 2012! You two really destroyed the back to back Muslim&christian callers, the more they spoke the more absurd their arguments were. Its too bad the second caller thought the idea of the ham sandwich was trying to make fun of him when it was just showing how silly his points were becoming. Surely with the more special pleading he did, at some point he had to realise he was just making all this up in his head. He already admitted to no physical evidence and now the ‘logical’ evidence was being fabricated on the spot. I don’t know what’s with Russell but the last few shows he’s been on fire! Very clear concise points that logically connect, its been impressive.

    Two things though, firstly, demonstrating 2+2 physically is as easy as placing 2 apples next to 2 apples then counting to get 4. Secondly with the life elsewhere caller, I think they should have said that a belief is somewhat justified because we have an example of alien life- US ! We are a life form on a planet so there may be others yet we have no examples of gods.

  79. jacobfromlost says

    Mike: Two things though, firstly, demonstrating 2+2 physically is as easy as placing 2 apples next to 2 apples then counting to get 4.

    Me: Not exactly. Does the number 4 exist the same way 4 apples exist? Do the 4 apples in our minds when we talk of 4 apples exist in the same way as the four apples sitting on my desk right now? No. I can eat the four apples sitting on my desk right now. We can’t eat the four apples in our minds as we discuss 2 apples plus 2 apples equals 4 apples.

    And we also have no examples of abstract things, like the number four, creating literal things, like 4 apples on my desk.

  80. gfunk says

    Not a bad point about the employees and I hadn’t thought of that, though the weight of the argument seems to depends on whether they applied knowing what they were agreeing to or if they changed to a smoking environment after you were already employed.
    Of course it also hinges on just how dangerous second hand smoke is. It’s certainly bad, but employing someone to deliver pizzas daily is probably a lot more immediately dangerous.
    Don’t get me wrong, I hate smoke and am not really passionate about this topic. I grew up in the 80s when everyone smoked in my mom’s office. It was disgusting.

  81. says

    Indeed, what I gave was a mathematical proof, but since the caller’s postulate was a mathematical one, what other proof could possibly be given?

    The question of whether the mathematics relate to the real world in any way is a separate one and cannot be determined using only logic. At some point it must boil down to physical evidence, if for no other reason than the fact that we need valid premises to work from.

    I took that to be the caller’s problem. He thinks that you can logic your way to an understanding of the real world without any reference to evidence. I don’t think any serious philosophers accept that idea anymore.

  82. DietThiest says

    Got owned? I thought he was asking kind of a legitimate question in a sense. I mean its pretty common in good chunk communities for marriage to be a religious ceremony so he might not of known other wise. I think at one point I heard him admit to his own ignorance if I’m not mistake.

  83. warren grubb says

    I’m not sure what you thought I was referring to with the “owned” comment- I don’t even remember anymore but it had nothing to do with the marriage caller. It was replying to the question about whether anyone thought one of the callers was actually “Mark.” Can’t remember what the context was, but the hosts zinged him with something and I thought I heard a choked laugh, like he was about to blow his cover.

  84. DietThiest says

    Oh! Then I apologize and made myself look like an ass. I totally misunderstood so I’m very sorry. I thought second to 2nd to last caller was the marriage guy.

  85. says

    Also, I want to further stress that finding a smoke free pub or restaurant before smoking bans was bloody difficult, and as someone who reacts quite badly to cigarette smoke, that meant I basically couldn’t go and have a nice, pleasant evening in a pub.
    To me, smoking bans are just a health and safety measure that makes sense.

  86. Metaphysical Ham Sandwich says

    I’m totally stealing that from Russell for all my online handles.

  87. says

    …the weight of the argument seems to depends on whether they applied knowing what they were agreeing to or if they changed to a smoking environment after you were already employed.

    Sorry, but I had to comment further about that. Does it really matter? Are you actually going to make people choose between the poverty and degradation of living on welfare and an unhealthy job which may well shorten their lifespan? What kind of choice is that?

    And going by the Republican presidential debates, where people cheer the idea of a person dying because he doesn’t have health insurance, they’ll be lucky to get welfare as a choice, instead of just starving to death. And for what?

    True, some jobs are more dangerous than others. Police, firemen, soldiers all have a greater risk of early death. But that’s not something we can change. Indeed, we do our best to make their jobs as safe as possible.

    NO ONE should have to choose between unemployment and an unhealthy, unsafe job, not if we can do anything about it. If there were a good reason why people had to work in such an environment, that would be different. But that’s not the case here. If idiots want to smoke, they can simply do it where they won’t be harming anyone else.

  88. mike says

    Yes, you are right that 4 exists as an abstract thing in our minds. Its conceptual, don’t know if you’re a fan of the now defunct Irreligiosophy podcast but Chuck had quite a time with the E4Faith guys during their debate with resulted in Chuck asking if they thought there were # 4’s floating in space! too funny (they claimed the concept “4” existed outside a mind) I was just annoyed that the caller repeatedly said ‘you can’t physically demonstrate 2+2=4’ when you can, though not in the context we are dealing with. I wonder what the caller would have said if shown the apple demonstration though? He didn’t sound too smart, it was more of a regurgitation of an argument he heard.

  89. gfunk says

    While nauseatingly bleeding-hearted and a bit melodramatic, you make a persuasive argument, ha.

  90. Joven says

    Of course, it doesnt work for God, since he can ‘get to’ here no problem from having an eternity before he created the universe.

    The problem they run into (i think) is they assume a start point, and then from that there’s an infinity to get through before they get to now.

    Its all just repeated crap they heard third hand anyway from some apologist who once heard about Zeno’s paradoxes from someone and none of them have ever actually thought about.

  91. Robert says

    Perhaps you should shorten it to “magic sandwich” and start a youtube show under that heading. ;p

  92. mike says

    The concern for worker’s health was the tipping point, I believe, for the province-wide smoking ban in Ontario, Canada. I hate smoking but I was not really for the ban as I am for less restrictive laws. I think they looked at it as the smoke making it an unsafe workplace so the smoking went against the health&safety act so the ban went ahead. I am all for the ban now and bars and restaurants have not suffered at all. The pool hall/bar that we have way up in North Ontario actually fared better with the ban as more non-smokers would come out knowing that they wouldn’t go home reeking of stale smoke. Matt stating bars have closed is anecdotal at best, if bars didn’t close up here where people have to go out in -20C weather (and colder) I doubt they’d close in sunny Texas.(I do realise this is an Argument from Incredulity but I’d still need the facts on exactly why those bars closed if at all) In the end it came down to workers rights- they have the right to a safe work environment and that trumped the business’ right to do what they want.

  93. Cfb says

    The late discussion on marriage I don’t think properly answered the question about whether a wedding was implicitly religious.. Obviously, the wedding partners can do whatever they want, but I think the caller was envisioning what “society” would expect out of a “conventional” wedding. The answer is the same (that marriage needs to have nothing to do with religion), but the better explanation would have to point to the number of people who show up daily at City Hall for an exclusively secular wedding ceremony conducted by a Judge, Clerk or Justice of the Peace, which nobody would question as illegitimate.

  94. Felipe says

    When talking about the Cosmological argument, I usually prefer to grant as many assumptions as possible, because you can show all the different levels in which the argument doesn’t work.

  95. Scott says

    “Life exists” is not a tautology. It is a true contingency, and is a statement for which we have supporting evidence.

    Sorry, just picking nits. 😉

  96. NoShalamite says

    It’s funny how you can make up absolutely anything and it has to be true using the logic of the first two callers.

    For example. My dog created the universe a couple of minutes ago and make everything intact with implanted memories, etc.

    -How do you know this?

    ~He physically changed his vocal cords and told me.

    -That’s illogical, the god I believe is based on logic.

    ~My dog created the concept of logic and exists outside of logic.

    -Who created your dog?

    ~ He is timeless and exists outside of time, so he didn’t need to be created.

    etc. etc.

  97. bchimself says

    Korean Christians also love to target North Koreans and North Korean refugees, mostly with the promise of eternal life, seeing all their dead loved ones again, and (probably) the infinite food you’ll get in heaven.

    This is troubling to me as North Koreans come from a society that worships their leaders as gods.