Open thread on AETV 769

Tonight, Jeff Dee and Russell Glasser took a lot of calls.  Creationist Matt from Oslo returned, and so did the guy who once told us that imagination is beter than knowledge.  Also a long call on how historians and scientists claim to know things.  Good times.


  1. Loopy says

    I’m not entirely convinced that Matt and Jacob were not, in fact, the same person. Perhaps it’s just the Norwegian speech pattern, but they sounded uncannily alike. Not to mention that this guy has been calling in for the last three weeks straight and calling back even after he’d been hung up on.

  2. says

    First off, I’m digging the hair, Jeff.
    Matt from Oslo is like Mark from Austin Stone Church all over again. I would have hung up on him as soon as he started talking shit about Dillahunty.
    I’m starting to think most of the theist callers are Poes these days. Maybe I’m just a cynic, but the caller who dropped that “Well, you’re going to hell” sure seemed like an attempt to make Jeff asplode.

  3. says

    Sorry to be Captain Pedantic, but that’s not being a “Poe,” that’s trolling because they’ve lost the argument. If it were a Poe, you wouldn’t have been able to tell. That’s the whole point of Poe’s Law.

  4. Zach says

    I wonder if the brothers from Oslo know that the Greeks had figured out the Earth was round long before the Bible was written.

    Oh wait, of course they don’t, because they’re dogmatic idiots.

  5. Zach says

    Apparently I missed that part of the show where you guys talked about it. I’m clearly bad at listening and remembering.

  6. boredbygod says

    It’s funny how obsessed people are with the idea that invalidating this or that aspect of evolutionary theory or natural history will somehow make religion come true. It’s like hoping to get the First Amendment declared invalid because you found a grammatical error in it. You probably didn’t, but even if you did, who cares?

    Interesting thing about the haircut, Jeff: I would have assumed, based on a purely verbal description, that it would make you look laughably silly. The actual effect is awesomely fierce — like one of the meaner Jurassic Park predators, poised to spring. I know you just did it as a stunt, but maybe it’s worth keeping, just to enhance your podium presence in debates. Of course, it would feed into this notion that dinosaurs and humans coexisted…

  7. says

    This may be after old testament parts were written, but part of the point was that, for the era, this wasn’t beyond humanity.

    That’s why, even if the Bible clearly stated, without contradiction, that the Earth was a sphere, that it wouldn’t mean anything more than they had some math wiz Greek with a stick on their side.

  8. says

    The problem with textual evidence for god/miracles/etc, is that of precedence.

    Humans running around doing things is very precedented, so therefore it’s not extraordinary. It’s quite mundane.

    Breaking the laws of physics, miracles, supernatural things and God are all unprecedented. We can’t even verify that these things are real now.

    So when a book asserts that these things are real, then the book is most likely being horribly inaccurate.

  9. Max Entropy says

    Good show but I also suspect that some of the theist callers were not genuine. I think that Bobby from LA was being honest, though. Tragically misinformed, but honest.

    It annoys me when callers claim that they can provide evidence, demonstrate or prove something and then they either provide evidence that is laughably weak or refuse to be specific because of some lame excuse. Speaking of which, the second installment of “Pastor” Stephen Feinstein’s debate with Russell is online.

  10. Andrew says

    I really wish people like the Oslo brothers would stop pretending they value evidence. Because it’s painfully clear that they don’t.

  11. says

    Oh (lack of) god. There is already a steady stream of bullshit flowing from that guy’s blog.

    The pastor’s method of “knowing” things is to pick assumptions and then see into which one he can best squeeze the facts (as he [mis]understands them).

    I hope Russell’s response focuses entirely on the absurdity of the pastor’s method: that using such a method isn’t a reliable pathway to truth but a means of validating one’s pet beliefs.

    There’s a danger in these kinds of debates of getting caught up in trying to reply to every last point (like the ridiculous quibble at the end of the pastor’s post about whether atheism constitutes a coherent metaphysical view of reality).

    It’s not necessary to respond point-by-point down the line. He thinks atheism is a coherent metaphysical view of hum-adha-hum-adha? Who cares? His own method of knowing things — by his own admission — is whacked out and unreliable.

    In my humble opinion, Russell needs to ignore everything else this guy says and cut the legs out from this guy’s so-called epistemology. Why even bother quibbling over how to label atheism when the guy explicitly says that he picks assumptions and fits the evidence to match them?

  12. Gwynnyd says

    I’m not only making popcorn, I’m investing in popcorn futures. This should be good. Go get ‘im, Russell.

  13. Das Boese says

    Even if the bible stated clearly that the Earth is a sphere it’d be wrong. Earth is not a perfect sphere.

    If they’d point out a bible verse that says “Earth is an irregular body but it can be approximated reasonably well by an ellipsoid” I’d be impressed.

  14. says

    I was driving back from the store when someone in a truck in front of me had a “Imagination is more important than knowledge” bumper sticker.

    Apparently caller isn’t alone in this thought process.

  15. Brad says

    I know we can’t comment on the posts themselves, I hope it’s ok to comment on this “open thread”.

    I was bugged by a couple of the examples that the pastor used of assumptions or presumptions in his latest piece.

    He mentions uniformitarianism vs catastrophism, as if they are two entirely valid and self-consistent ways of viewing and interpreting geologic data. I used to think the way that he does about this issue (since I used to be a young-earth creationist), but once I was truly willing to consider that my view might be wrong, it was fairly easy to educate myself about the actual physical evidence for a very long geologic timescale.

    Now I think he ultimately comes to the right conclusion when he says “Do we simply agree to disagree, or do we actually start evaluating our assumptions?” It makes me wonder, though, if they are on the same page regarding the kinds of assumptions we are even talking about.

    Later on he tips his hand about where he is going:

    What are the necessary preconditions of this universe, as we know it? Why are we able to rely on our senses? What are the necessary preconditions for our senses to be reliable? Why must there be reasonable standards? What are the necessary preconditions for any standards at all that avoids the hopelessness of relativity? … And at the end of the day, atheism cannot provide for these necessary preconditions.

    In once sense, this is ripe for strawmanning what an atheist viewpoint necessarily implies (the “hopelessness of relativity” is a pretty obvious giveaway).

    In another sense, some of these might in fact be difficult (but not impossible) questions for atheists to answer. Some would probably get into social or psychological evolution theory along the lines of: “we evolved to be able to rely on our senses simply because that is an adaptive trait”. Maybe some of them don’t have any better answer yet than “we don’t yet know how or why that specific trait evolved.”

    But that doesn’t mean that “God did it” is any better of an answer. To borrow an analogy from Greta Christina, just because you can’t see the full picture yet, doesn’t mean you get to fill in all the gaps using the big blue “God” crayon.

  16. Ahkoond says

    If 2,000 years from now somebody found a book about Harry Potter, in many different languages, in many places around the world, that would still not prove that Harry Potter ever existed other than in the imagination of the author(s) of said book. And if, even after years of thorough research, no proof could be found of HPs existence, saying “you can’t now everything, so it’s probably true” would still not make it so. Along the same lines, would you say that Goldilocks really existed and that bears sleep in beds and eat soup because “maybe back then they did and you don’t know everything so we must accept it as true”? I don’t get how people can be so purposely, so doggedly ignorant and yes, stupid, when it comes to supernatural claims.

  17. Kazim says

    I do appreciate the input, and I’m paying some attention to the comments being offered. I don’t want to take outside remarks too seriously, as it seems like it would be “cheating” a bit. The point of disabling the comments was to avoid having the discussion be a gang-up on one side or the other.

  18. Kes says

    Oslo Bro #1 was so hilarious with the evidence! He decided Tasmanian Tigers weren’t a good example, so he moved on to those dessicated shark carcasses (an example explicitly sited by several YECs as one NOT to use), and then on to… I forget his last bit of fail. But seriously, did it never occur to him that as each of his stepping-stones of “evidence” sink beneath the waves of facts and logic, and he desperately jumps to another stone, only for that to sink away… does he ever wonder, “Is there any *real* evidence at all?”

    Of course, I’ve seen theists get stripped down to that point, and all that’s left is “faith”, and you realize that the “evidence” they assembled was just a flimsy cover for the fact that they believe more or less because they’ve been told it’s true and they like the idea.

  19. koliedrus says

    I work with the public. I see a lot of people on a regular basis who know me by my first name and the knowledge is reciprocated.

    Recently, I’ve come out as an atheist to a vendor because he gets a kick out of me talking all sciency. His eyes light up, he smiles and says, “Wow”.

    He’s married, has kids and told me that now that he knows about the Clergy Project, he’s not okay with putting his 4-year-old in an environment of “bullshit”.

    I encourage him to read his bible. In fact, he informed me that his wife would go ninja on him if he asked her to read 1 Timothy 2.

    I blaspheme regularly in front of him and then we look at the punishments I receive as a result. I’ll gladly go to hell if my actions prove the existence of a creator. SOMEBODY has to take a bullet for the team, right?

    Blasphemy: I’ll put the number at under 1000. Some are better than others like when a close christian friend of mine lost his son to a brain hemorrhage out of the blue. I was told that, “Jesus has a plan”. I responded with, “When that motherfucker comes back, you send him to me so I can beat the shit out of him for what he did to that family!”.

    Actually, that event was a turning point for me. I realized that I was being angry at, basically, a cartoon character.

    Punishments: Those storms that rolled across the continent recently? They missed. Not only that but I’m writing from a laptop that had a storm-related power issue. I must be doing something right. Actually fixing shit that’s broken is a useful gift from Bugs and Kermit.


    This one has caused so many arguments that I’m absolutely sick of the multiple interpretations. I’m done relying on different sources with different definitions.

    My friend up there that responds with “Wow…” a lot? He mentioned “faith” two days ago. I told him this:

    “Whenever I hear the word, I replace it in my mind with ‘Willful Ignorance’ and replay the sentence in my head”.

    So, no. I don’t have “faith”. Anyone who claims that property as part of their daily routine is missing out on some pretty spectacular stuff.

    Personally, I don’t hate religious people. To the contrary. I care so much that I’m willing to sacrifice my “eternal soul” so that they can get their eyes open to the really awesome digs we’re in.

    The End.

  20. TheGentlemanPhysicist says

    I have a nitpicky comment about what we know about the big bang. Most cosmologists I know will say that anything before about 3 minutes has not been observed or tested and cannot be held on the same pedestal as the tested predictions like light element abundances which were formed at around 3 seconds.

    To say we know what happens up to the plank time is pretty much false. There are hypotheses such as inflation that may describe what happened before the three minute mark, but these have yet to make testable predictions. There is such a large energy gap between the plank scale and what we can probe with accelerators where all kinds of crazy stuff can hide.

    It’s a pet peeve of mine when I hear people say the big bang predicts that the universe came from a singularity. In truth the very early conditions of the universe are somewhat outside the scope of the big bang theory. Just as Newton’s theory of gravitation breaks down for black holes, and evolution doesn’t explain abiogenesis, the big bang predictions probably break down at some time between the Planck time and 3 minutes.

  21. TheGentlemanPhysicist says

    Woops, was finally able to finish the episode, it sounds like I agree with your resident physicist.

  22. DW says

    This is just a hunch–I think he’s going to use the transcendental argument.

    He keeps mentioning the “preconditions necessary for intelligibility” without stating what they are yet, so I think it’s going to involve logical absolutes.

    I’m not a philosopher, but it seems to me that a lot of the common “intellectual” apologetic arguments basically boils down to:
    – Philosophical questions can get very recursive. (Ex: How do we know logical absolutes are true?)
    – In order to conclude anything, you have to break the recursion somewhere.
    – God breaks recursion.
    – Therfore God necessarily exists.

    I would love to see a new argument for theism, but I’m not holding out hope for one in this debate.

  23. Kazim says

    The transcendental argument is very tightly tied to presuppositional apologetics, as I’ve recently learned. Practically a guarantee that it will show up in some form.

  24. Aaron says

    There’s a video on YouTube titled “Faith: Pretending to know things you don’t know” by Dr Peter Boghossian you might be interested in. He presents this new proposed definition of religious faith that is more robust and telling than those like ‘gullibility’ which don’t quite hit the mark.

  25. koliedrus says

    There’s also the thing about “Dark Matter” being regular matter in parallel universes. Massive objects induce a gravitational influence that propagates across dimensional boundaries. I understand it as the sound of two billiard balls smacking together. The sound isn’t confined to the two-dimensional surface of the table.

    I think it’s AWESOME that we’re even asking questions like that!

    Messiah-on-a-Stick might explain things if I keep pounding my skull with this hammer.

  26. Jdog says

    I wonder why he spends so much time remarking on how confident he is about his position? It has no bearing on whether or not he’s correct.

  27. jedimasteryoda says

    Poor Bobby from LA, but maybe he’ll get there after a couple of months reading about the difference between earned trust and blind faith…

  28. Mike H. says

    Regarding the point in the show where the caller brings up the carvings of humans and dinosaurs together:

    Even if these carvings were analyzed and found to be genuine, I still don’t think it would be an issue. Humans throughout history have stumbled across the fossil remains of dinosaurs and it would be no stretch of the imagination to assume that prehistoric peoples had done the same.

    Further, it makes sense that, in an effort to explain these enormous and frightening creatures, those humans would create stories (Like in the case of thunder, lightning, earthquakes, etc).

    Even today, I could carve myself riding on the back of a Tyrannosaurus, or a dragon, or a 50ft. tall kitten. It wouldn’t mean a thing.

  29. jacobfromlost says

    Indeed. It is taking the “it is written” fallacy and applying it to “it is drawn”, lol.

    Imagine what they’ll be saying in a thousand years when they dig up “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings”.

  30. jacobfromlost says

    DW: – Philosophical questions can get very recursive. (Ex: How do we know logical absolutes are true?)

    Me: I don’t think they are “true” so much as they are necessary. If they were not necessary, you could have things that exist by not existing. How you can have “true” things with such self-contradiction possible is problematic across the board–not just for a given proposition, but in terms of a proposer being something specific, or the elements of the proposition existing.

    DW: – In order to conclude anything, you have to break the recursion somewhere.

    Me: They do seem to say that, but the logical absolutes can’t be contingent on anything (including a god or a creator), otherwise they wouldn’t be what they are. “Noncontingent”, to me, sounds very similar to recursive.

    DW:- God breaks recursion. – Therfore God necessarily exists.

    Me: If god breaks a recursion on something that is noncontingent, that would seem to make god impossible. They usually get around this by saying the logical absolutes are part of god’s nature, and yet the part of the logical absolutes that are “noncontigent” have no necessary requirements of any attributes people generally give when describing a god.

  31. nude0007 says

    The ica stones have not been authenticated. stone cannot be carbon dated or any other radiometric form that I know of (as I understand it). The patina on the stones was proposed as proof that they were old, assuming the patina formed on tehm over time being exposed to the elements, but it was proven that the patina could be made on them artificially by baking them in mud (I think). More evidence was uncovered that the locals were making the stones and have come forth admitting this fact. It is a good business.
    even if the stones were all real and incredibly old, the fact that they picture dinosaurs doesn’t mean a thing. There is no indication that they are meant to reflect reality in any way.

  32. nude0007 says

    I beat sy tenbrggencate easily myself. his whole argument was that you had to accept or presuppose that absolutes exist. if you refuse to accept that premise, his whole argument cannot progress forward. He just kept repeating himself till i just left.

  33. says

    I read that series by Orson Scott Card that Russell mentioned. It was entertaining enough that I go through all the books, but then felt like I’d been duped afterwards. Knowing nothing about Mormonism, I had no idea it was based on the book of mormon when I started reading it. I became especially pissed off at myself for not figuring out sooner that the final book was basically a disguised screed against atheism. I thought Card was being kind of progressive by including a sympathetic gay character in the books until I learned that what this character does reflects Card’s opinions on what all gays should do: stay in the closet and get married to a member of the opposite sex.

  34. Alex says

    About the “stars made of Swiss cheese” comment… there is always a non-zero probability that all the matter in a star will spontaneously rearrange itself into a giant ball of Swiss cheese. All it takes is a sufficiently long passage of time in a sufficiently large universe for it to actually happen. It is still far more likely than an all-powerful omnipotent supernatural deity popping into existence.

  35. jacobfromlost says

    I know people who read the Narnia books as children and had no idea it was a Christian allegory. (My fifth grade teacher read some of it to us, and I made no connection to Christianity at all.)

    Of course, you can read all literature AS literature, including the bible. No one is required to take any written word literally. 🙂

    And given that people can and have read them without making any religious connection at all (the way you seemed to read Card), it seems it isn’t very effective as a means to get people into the fold, as it were.

  36. says

    I agree that the Narnia books can mostly be taken as pure entertainment. However, as with Card’s “Homecoming” series, I feel like the last Narnia book goes off the rails and is the most preachy and offensive. Also, it sends a dangerous message to kids, and that’s something I can personally attest to. The version of the afterlife as presented in “The Final Battle” was very appealing to me as a kid, and it was something I was all too ready to accept as plausible. So, for a while, I went around with the attitude that this life didn’t matter because there was a better one waiting afterwards.

  37. Robert McCurdy says

    I wouldn’t have hung up. I’d have pointed out the rudeness of those remarks and wondered how he’d react if an atheist rung him with the same comment?
    You have to consider most theist phone the show, don’t have any respect for your views (BECAUSE WE’RE ATHEIST!!), but start out also nice an pleasant… ending with “you’re all going to hell”, or my favorite – “Why don’t I come down there and punch your fat face…”
    Logic and reason is used differently by Christians, to support their faith. Used any other way makes one a Atheist. This disconnect creates an impossible communication block in attempting to show anything science has accomplished and why.
    The only way around this seems to be to find some common ground or neutral point, that both sides agree on

  38. gshelley says

    Given that many of the people watching this show are likely watching it in the internet, it does seem a little odd that they are unfamiliar with the concept of using it to find information.

  39. Jeremy Shaffer says

    Just got a chance to listen to this episode.

    There was something that Emmanuel kept saying towards the end of his call that really got on my nerves. He seemed to agree that we have no idea what amount of knowledge about the universe we currently have and that there is probably no way to ever really know, but he was pretty eager to claim that we have very little knowledge. It seems to me that if we don’t know what level of knowledge about the universe we have and likely could never know, he can’t turn around and declare that we have very little knowledge so easily?

  40. Alex says

    Emmanueal has a point there about the lack of knowledge of the universe. According to cosmic inflation theory, the entire universe may be 10^23 times bigger than the observable universe. Within the observable universe itself, 80+% of matter is dark matter for which we know little of its composition. Therefore, it is fair enough to say we have little knowledge of the entire universe.

    What I have a problem with is the claim that this in any way suggests the need or evidence for a supernatural creator or deity. In my mind, the only reasonable and honest thing we can say is we mostly do not know.

  41. Robert says

    Can’t wait for the thread for today’s show so I’m posting now but the last guy after the show… wow, total pedant and tone troll and didn’t even realize it.

  42. Jeremy Shaffer says

    Therefore, it is fair enough to say we have little knowledge of the entire universe.

    I agree that that is a fair enough point. It was the cavalier attitude he had when making the point that got to me. After making a statement regarding the limitations of our knowledge base it seems like he would be better off being a little more careful when estimating what knowledge we do have. Granted he was saying all of that just so he could make a god of the gaps argument but I’d like to think he’d have the self- awareness to realize the shaky ground he was putting himself on. Well, shakier ground than a GotG argument already resides on.

    What I have a problem with is the claim that this in any way suggests the need or evidence for a supernatural creator or deity. In my mind, the only reasonable and honest thing we can say is we mostly do not know.

    I couldn’t agree more.

  43. ah58 says

    Nice to see that the Oslo guy outed himself as a troll after the July 15 show. Can you guys just hang up on him from now on?

  44. Jdog says

    And now your debater has tipped his hand. He’s trying to generate buzz for his book.

  45. Magical atheist says

    The miracle ever 35 days thing that jeff was talking about was called Littlewood’s law