Open thread on AETV #758

Dear people who have been writing in to explain that the “I worship the sun guy” was riffing on a George Carlin theme: Yes.  We know.  If we did not already know that, we would have gotten the message after the first three.  You can stop telling us about it now.

Dear people who are surprised that Jen and Martin did not recognize the prank immediately, when the entire chat room was saying it: Hosts do not read the chat room.  Live TV is live TV; you go with your instincts, and sometimes you make mistakes.  There are two people on screen, and they do not have the luxury of bouncing theories off of a hundred chatters before arriving at a conclusion.  Since it would be counterproductive to automatically assume that every caller is faking, any potential fake is treated seriously until such time as a definite judgment call can be made by the people with their fingers on the call buttons.  Sometimes they don’t make the same judgment as the chatters.  We are sorry, but just barely.

Dear people who call the show to practice their comedy routines: You are bad at it.  Seriously, go practice in a local club first, and when you do, come up with some original material rather than ripping off people who are funnier than you.  The TV audience obviously does not like you, and the hosts do not need to be wasting their energy trying to second guess the intention behind every call.  Taking your call involves a certain amount of good faith that you will represent your opinions honestly, and that the conversation will be interesting and contribute to an enjoyable episode.  It’s one thing if you are trying to sabotage the show because you want it to fail, I suppose.  But if you are an atheist who likes the show, please stop and ask yourself the question: Would I enjoy listening to someone else making the call that I am now making?  If you think it is funny to impersonate a theist, I will repeat: You are almost certainly bad at funny.  Please do not waste our time in this manner again.



  1. says

    Yeah, that shithead wasted several minutes of airtime, when we could have been talking to someone genuine. Congrats, that’s how to get perma-banned.

    It was obvious the guy was bullshitting us, but it was hard to put a finger on exactly what his deal was because he was so incoherent. (He was also bounding back and forth between an NDG Tyson piece.) The chat room lit up with links to the Carlin routine soon enough, and eventually the control room fired a message to Jen over the laptop.

  2. Warp says

    Btw, did you know that the guy talking about the sun guy worship was referencing George Carlin? Just thought you may want to know…

    (Just joking, of course. 😛 )

  3. Jeff says

    Why is your main objection in the post that the pranks aren’t funny? Even if they ARE funny, I don’t want them and you shouldn’t either. I want GENUINE calls on the show. Even if they do get good material and practice in a comedy club, it should be made clear that these people are not welcome.

    However, I suppose it is difficult to take such a stance when your primary host married one of the most “famous” prank callers. That call has been fondly remembered by some, including on-air by the hosts, and that probably encourages other people to try.

    I’d just tell the fake callers (and anybody who is planning to becoming a fake caller) to f**k off, plain and simple. You can make a general announcement or do another blog post like this one, if you want to avoid taking a chance by targeting any particular (possibly genuine) caller on-air. What’s the worst that could happen if you did? Advertisers leave in droves? Suspension without pay for the hosts? Boycott of sales of your DVD box sets? You’re doing the show for free, so do you really have anything to lose by taking a stronger stance against these people?

  4. says

    Russell wasn’t saying prank calls are okay if they’re funny, but that if you think pranking us is funny, it isn’t. And we do want honest calls. This guy is someone we won’t let on again.

  5. says

    I actually think the guy’s call was an interesting example of how irrational beliefs get evaluated.
    The belief that the sun is sentient and worthy of worship is actually a lot less silly than what Christians and Muslims and Jews believe in, because at least he worships something that we know exists, and an intelligent sun might be incopatible with our current understanding of how stars work, but as far as I can see it would not violate the fundamental laws of physics like an all-powerful transcendent deity.
    Still, we immediately recognize (Well, I didn’t, but speaking of people who are of sound mind and all that.) that nobody could actually believe that stuff and be serious about it.
    I’m sure there’s a lesson somewhere in that.

  6. Warp says

    “Do you believe in science” is a really ambiguous question. What does that even mean? Obviously when the caller asks that, it doesn’t mean “do you believe science exists?” but something else. Why can’t the question be asked in a more unambiguous way?

  7. says

    I often listen the next day to the podcast version. Jen and Martin did a great job handling callers. Sometimes I’ll wonder if an accent is real, but the hosts have to be pretty sure somethings up, in case the call is authentic.

    I like how Jen and Martin often re-capped the relevant points of a call for 30 seconds before moving on. It works well.

  8. Zengaze says

    Sounded to me like the caller was using a voice morph tech, which suggests his voice may have been known to you before. But the tone and manner in which Jen called him out on it was superb, she called him an asshole without saying it.

    Martin you’re great at what you do, but jens dry wit combined with incisive articulation demonstrated by the explanation of atheism being a byproduct of skepticism was superb.

  9. terrycollins says

    AE doesn’t automatically get a 5th Sunday? Are monthly broadcast schedules the norm for public television stations in the US? I work at a public radio in Canada (which is basically the same without the cameras and larger staff) and we rotate programming weekly. It seems illogical to use a monthly system for weekly shows. You silly Americans.

    Nice episode, with a good range of callers. #1’s scientific ignorance was apparent, and he obviously was not willing to even try to understand the great explanations the hosts were providing. I’ve got some land in Florida for you buddy…

    I knew #2 was a fake from the moment he made that crack about his sun god giving us skin cancer. No theist worth his salt would point out any flaws with their supreme being.

    #3 is wasting his time with such endeavors. Theists ALWAYS claim an atheist’s interpretation of the bible is “out of context”.

  10. Zengaze says

    The “out of context” defence is mind blowing, I’ve heard it used on countless occasions as a shield to thought. When asked to explain in what context it is to be taken you receive various forms of “the mind of the created can’t understand the mind of the creator”.

    To which my retort is usually “so why the fuck are you peddling this bullshit like you understand it”.

  11. Jon B. says

    One of the calls was an atheist who is troubled by abiogenesis. I too was enthusiastically looking forward to the arsenic life results until I realized a few more things about abiogenesis, early life, and the immense complexity and fitness of modern bacteria.

    Whichever process; RNA world, crystals, oil vesicles; that originally spawned life probably spawned many life-roots, perhaps once every million years, or perhaps continuously when conditions were right. We know that there are other variations on our metabolism and genetics, and other life-roots could have chanced on those forms and could have taken off, and could have lived side by side with our version.

    But remember, our branch of life spent 3.5 billion years as single celled organisms, becoming very very good at surviving. We’ve found bacteria and simple organisms from our life-tree everywhere we’ve looked on the planet, happily thriving. All other life-roots and their biospheres would have been eaten by our life-tree because we already know ours is pretty fit. For several billion years, new life-roots could have been spontaneously forming, only to be eaten immediately by a protist alpha-predator. Once photosynthesis took off in our life-tree and we polluted the world with toxic oxygen; once our established life-tree consumed all the free methane and other stray carbon; No. Our world now is chemically and biologically hostile to any new upstarts.

    I was hoping for a while that we could drill into a lost world in some remote region and find an alternate biology, but our version of bacteria has already gotten there and eaten all the original inhabitants.

  12. mary says

    I recognized the sun worshipper’s distortion of a Neil de Grasse Tyson piece. It seems most made the connection to George Carlin. Although, I did not see that during the show as the chat was not coming through on my laptop.
    Here is a link to the NDT clip

  13. mary says

    I thought just the link would show. I did not realize the video would be imbedded. Hopefully, that is not a problem.

  14. Felipe says

    Even when people are poeing (yes, this is a verb, no need to look it up), I think there’s always some chance to get a good point across.

  15. jacobfromlost says

    I think when believers ask, “Do you believe in science?”, they are asking, “Do you believe the conclusions of science are absolutely true?”, or, “Do you have faith that science leads to Absolute Truth?”

    They have a fundamental misunderstanding of what science is because they are projecting their notions of absolute truth onto science, and tacitly implying science is useless because it cannot declare absolute truth–which is exactly the inverse of reality.

    This reminds me of the talk Dan Dennett gave about “The Magic of Consciousness” and how the concept of “real magic” gets inverted through belief. The “real magic” magicians can do in reality is an perceptual illusion–ie fake magic. But when believers talk about “real magic”, they mean supernatural magic (which isn’t “real” magic).

    The entire talk is fascinating ( watch?v=48ol4sHasA8 ). I think an understanding of how illusionists manipulate perceptions, and how our consciousness works in terms of our own beliefs about our perceptions and the perceptions of other people, is crucial to understanding faith-based beliefs.

    I always wondered about the connection between skepticism, and an interest in magic tricks. It always seems that those who know how many magic tricks work are less likely to jump to “David Blaine is supernatural” when they see his street magic, even if they don’t immediately know how the trick is done. (If you did immediately know how the trick was done, what kind of trick would it be?)

  16. jacobfromlost says

    I saw the interview and just watched the trailer. The fact that we still have to have this argument (when was Scopes? 1929?) is very disconcerting, but I think the backlash will be much greater the more people like this McLeroy try to push their agenda.

    Schools are still very highly tethered to textbooks, but that is slowly changing. This is the information age, when e-readers, computers, and even “self-publishing” options are becoming cheaper and cheaper. If textbook companies continue to bow to pressure from crazies, and continue to demand astronomical prices for their products in a marketplace where schools have fewer and fewer dollars, traditional paper textbooks will quickly (perhaps almost instantly once the avalanche starts) become obsolete. (The damn things are big, bulky, heavy, difficult to store, easy to damage, often lost, often difficult to replace after become the “old version” your school is using, and too expensive.)

    The argument of “you have to buy textbooks, and you have to buy the textbooks that Texas approves because they are such a large buyer of textbooks” will soon be ignored because it will be absurd on its face (although it still has some relevance right now). Some textbook companies already supply access to online versions of their books, as long as the texts are also bought.

    The school at which I taught had disposable textbooks for the English department, which allowed students to complete assignments right in the book, as well as mark up the text (highlight, underline, write in the margin, etc). Each one cost about $2.50, which was far cheaper over time than replacing lost, stolen, or ruined texts (even used ones can be difficult to find, and expensive). There was even talk of buying DOUBLE the texts so each student could have a book at home also, and not need to take their classroom book home for homework (and thus forgetting it, losing it, etc). Teachers also had online access that allowed us to print extra pages of whatever we needed at will. This particular textbook company didn’t allow students an online version of the book, but as time goes on, competition increases, etc, there will be no stopping easier and more practical “textbook” solutions. (How long before some version of e-reader is $40 bucks? $20 bucks? $10 bucks? $5?)

    The value in education is the actual education of the students, NOT that the textbook companies make as much money as possible. And if those companies want to make ANY money, then they need to stop catering to crazies as schools will just move to cheaper, more effective, more useful, and more practical alternatives. (And, ironically, the same crazies pushing nonsense in the textbooks are the same crazies cutting school budgets across the country, making it MORE likely that schools will have to find cheaper and better alternatives to those TOMES that would better be used as bricks or doorstops.)

  17. says

    Oh an abiogenesis according to my biochem teacher it is quite possible there were multiple lineages of life made from separate genesis events…but the nature of life back then and horizontal gene transfer caused a bottle neck. The tree of life still stands, it just has roots that grow into the trunk and then fan out into the branches.

  18. says

    But remember, our branch of life spent 3.5 billion years as single celled organisms, becoming very very good at surviving. We’ve found bacteria and simple organisms from our life-tree everywhere we’ve looked on the planet, happily thriving. All other life-roots and their biospheres would have been eaten by our life-tree because we already know ours is pretty fit. For several billion years, new life-roots could have been spontaneously forming, only to be eaten immediately by a protist alpha-predator. Once photosynthesis took off in our life-tree and we polluted the world with toxic oxygen; once our established life-tree consumed all the free methane and other stray carbon; No. Our world now is chemically and biologically hostile to any new upstarts.

    We also possibly have many many “daddies” if we go back far enough into the tree of life. Horizontal gene transfer means that simpler life had less boundaries. My biochem prof actually suggested the idea that Reproduction and Replication were once two separate proto-cell lines that merged.

  19. Brian says

    The sun guy was an asshole, but it was almost worth it to hear Jen give him the smackdown for it.

  20. koliedrus says

    Sucks that trolling is a sport but it should be obvious by now that nothing is sacred. That’s a move in the right direction right there.

    The internet is overflowing with /b/tards. Immediate gratification is the name of the game and it doesn’t matter who the target is as long as you get your lulz.

    I don’t adhere to that mindset but neither do I have problems understanding it. I’ve seen my share of public access theists being taken down a notch or 50. Relentlessly. Practically to the point of cardiovascular distress caused by severe emotional response.

    There’s the kicker.

    You guys handled SunGodBoy like champs. It’s just another one of the reasons we tune in. We know that dipshits will try their best to be dipshits.

    I’d like to suggest a Dipshit Buzzer. Something that the control room can smack to alert the hosts when some jerkoff is trying to hijack the show.

    OUR show, goddamn you SunBoy! Yours and mine.

    A red light on the desk operated by someone in the control room watching the chats as the hosts concentrate on callers.

    Right under the FSM.

    Look. I’m an atheist for many reasons, all of which are parts of my own personal experience. You guys helped put the swirling questions into something that I could finally comprehend. The rest of my life and those of my kids would have turned out much different if it weren’t for your efforts.

    If I ever get to eat dinner with ANY of you, I’ll be as nervous as a first-grader on stage trying to recall my lines.

    I shouldn’t have to feel that way just because your efforts are more noticeable than mine, so I won’t.

    You get my respect because it is well earned.

  21. koliedrus says

    Just wrote to

    I’m fairly sure it’ll have a limited viewership in theaters.

    That’s why I’ve tossed out a plea to have a copy while it’s still relevant to my kids.

    Yes, I’d pay to watch that.

    I bid $US5.00 per download.

    Louis C.K. made it work. I was glad to contribute.

  22. TCSF says

    But remember Beth as “Eve” was totally convincing. I know people who sound just like “Eve” and I thought she was the real deal! Now –that’s– Poe’s Law. The silly guy (oh, all right, the Sun God Turkey) was not remotely in her league.

  23. says

    How about using the three buzzers system they have in reality shows like America’s Got Talent? Set up three buzzers for the control room people, and after the caller gets three votes he gets dropped 🙂

  24. DanTheMilkMan says

    I actually thought the “sun worshipper” was funny, especially when he said something like, “are you saying the Sun isn’t intelligent, is that what you’re getting at?” I laughed for three solid minutes at that comment. I know we don’t need to waste time with fake calls, but even his fake points were better than Bobby’s real (I’m assuming) ones. If you’re going to ban anyone from calling in, I hope it’s that guy, talk about incoherent.

  25. AJ Green says

    Isn’t that kind of like saying you believe Beth is a horrible person based on 5 minutes of television that you watched, forgetting of course that since then she has beome a fully paying member of the ACA, regular contributor to both The Atheist Experience as well as the non-prophets, not to mention spearheading the Godless Bitches podcast. Or are you trying to say that Matt has no right to recognize any positive traits that she may show in her everyday life?

  26. AJ Green says

    Isn’t that how a poe justifies what they do?
    Don’t get me wrong, I love humour, I just don’t see where misrepresenting your position is intended to be humourous. My apologies.

  27. says

    Just for the record: I think it’s funny, and I don’t quite see how anyone could think JT’s original comment was to be taken seriously, so I guess this means that you, sir, are *dum-dum-daaah* a Poe!
    Or maybe I’m taking things a little bit too far here.

  28. Beardius says

    Same here. The first thing I noticed when watching the show was how the Rei almost direct ripped from NDT’s piece with Dawkins in the clip, taken from The Poetry of Science. I didn’t even notice the Carlin references, if i’m honest

  29. says

    It sounds like you have an issue with the basic concept of sarcasm.

    You can have my sarcasm when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.

    But yeah, I didn’t think anyone would take that seriously, since nuance is lost over text.

  30. AJ Green says

    Let me just get this stright, I question why someone is misrepresenting their position, having viewed the person do so on a format where to an outsider it is impossible to distinguish the intention of the position from a genuine one, and apparently that makes me a Poe????

  31. says

    Okay, so you seem to take this very seriously, and I have to admit that it was a pretty obvious mistake on my side to try and employ humour in this discussion with you. I apologize. I’m not calling you a Poe, nor any other names.
    Let me explain seriously where I see our difference in opinion: I think that JT’s comment was so obviously funny that it’s very hard for me to imagine that anyone could take him seriously.
    You took it seriously, so I can probably assume that my position must be as hard to imagine for you as yours is to me.
    So maybe we can at least agree that it’s likely that JT did not mean to misprepresent his opinion but trusted that everyone would get his attempt at humour, which would make his comment not that of a Poe but, in the worst case, a joke that not everybody here understood.
    What do you think?

  32. says

    Great point, Jon B. I was hoping that would be mentioned on the show. Most likely, the creation of life from non-living chemicals is extremely rare. But after it happened once, there’d be very severe competition to any primitive life happening again.

    So even if there were multiple times for such an event, it would be very likely that newer life-roots would simply be eaten – or even just out-competed – by established life forms.

  33. gedanken says

    Looking for a place to post a question so I hope this open thread is ok.

    I am a long time atheist and have a question that I would like to use in a discussion and want to bounce it off friends before I make an ass ot of myself.

    Can you lie to god? My immediate reasoning would be; if yes then he is not much of a god and if no then I cannot believe because I would be both lying to god and more importantly lying to myself.

    This question comes up because out of the many nuanced reasons for being atheist I keep coming back to this glaring one. I can’t believe because I don’t get to choose my beliefs. I believe the bible is so hysterically wrong about so many things and without any evidence I simply cannot believe any of it.

    Does this make sense?

    thanx, you folks are great.

  34. MrPeach says

    Realizing that sun-god Bobby was a troll and all, I’d like to toss out this response to some of what he said in case some other ninny uses it in the future.

    The quote he threw down was, in fact, from Einstein. However, and this is critical, it omits the last sentence of the quote. Here is the full quote below (thanks Amazon book preview):

    “But, on the other hand, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way, the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which indeed is quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.