Open thread for AETV #779

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Silly show with Russell and Jeff, multiple calls about what “spirituality” means.  And a creationist who thought that Kent Hovind was the most bestest scholar ever.

think there will be a new Non-Prophets airing on Tuesday at 9 PM central.  Keep an eye on Matt’s YouTube channel, which is where it will be if it airs live.


  1. Kazim says

    I don’t think I caught on to this at the time, but was the creationist that guy from Oslo using a fake name?

  2. Kevin Schelley says

    It sounded like Matt from Oslo to me, it certainly wasn’t a native Mississippi accent.

    On a slightly tangential topic, MA is Massachusetts, MD is Maryland, MI is Michigan, MN is Minnesota, MO is Missouri, MS is Mississippi, and MT is Montana.

  3. davidmcnerney says

    Best part about the creationist guy was that his argument was “the moon is moving blah blah, so X bsquillion years ago it would have to have been at the surface of the earth and that’s just stupid – so radiometric dating must be wrong…”

    Muppet! The moon did used to be on the surface of the Earth. It’s the prevailing theory for the moon’s origin.

  4. says

    I’m glad Russell addressed that stupid Sherlock Holmes quote, because it drives me nuts.

    We get this so often – establish a false dilemma, “refute” the ones you don’t want, and viola! The assertion of your choice is now proved, all without any positively supporting evidence!

    That’s how presuppositionalism works in a nutshell – “Since we need a foundation for logic, and naturalism CAN’T explain it, then therefore God Q.E.D.”

  5. says

    The moon did used to be on the surface of the Earth.

    As if the caller could hear me, I was yelling “You’re right!”, even if the numbers were a bit off.

    It’s also assuming that the rate is constant. The further out the moon is, the larger the spiral gaps are bound to be, until, at some point, the moon simply leaves Earth’s orbit.

  6. 42oolon says

    The receding moon was recently debunked by science journalist Peter Hadfield (Potholer54) as part of Eric Hovind’s Golden Crocoduck nomination.

    He links to a scientific paper that he says shows that the moon has not always been receding this rate.

    The paper:

    “Geological constraints on the Precambrian history of Earth’s rotation and the Moon’s orbit” — George E. Williams, Reviews of Geophysics 2000, doi:10.1029/1999RG900016

    I would suggest a good approach might be to not debate the science (too much) and focus on the caller’s process for reaching the conclusion.

    I can’t recommend Potholer54 enough for age of the earth, “micro” evolution and radiometric dating challenges.

  7. Luis says

    Where do all these agnostics come from and where do they get the idea that atheism is some kind of conviction that no god exists to an absolute degree of certainty?

    Ask a self-proclaimed “agnostic” if they believe a god exists and their answer will almost always be consistent with atheism.

    When I tell them that I’m an atheist, they think that I’m positing a positive claim that no gods exist. When I explain the difference between theism/atheism/gnosticism/agnosticism they finally concede to being atheists.

    Where do these terminological misconceptions come from, and how did they get to be so rampant? When discussing absolute knowledge, nearly every atheist is an agnostic too. Being a gnostic atheist in this context is pretty much indefensible. Like Matt, I believe that in fact no gods exist when discussing useful every-day knowledge in practical terms. Could this be where “agnostics” get this idea from? Maybe they don’t see the difference between discussing knowledge in absolute terms and an every-day practical sense?

    Ugh.. sorry to rant. It’s just mildly annoying when I run into people who claim to be agnostics and then attack me for being an atheist while thinking that I’m something that I’m not.

  8. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Jeff Dee:

    “Matter is just the other side of the coin from anti-matter. And energy is just the other side of the coin from anti-energy. There’s equal amounts of both, and so it adds up to nothing.”

    Article: Wikipedia – Zero-Energy Universe

    The amount of positive energy in the form of matter is exactly canceled out by the negative energy in the form of gravity.

    That article’s terse, but consistent with what I’ve heard in lectures.
    On the other hand, this turned up when googlin’ for a more fleshed out page (Wikipedia – Physical Cosmology):

    There is no definite or clear way to define the total energy of the universe due to the most widely accepted theory of gravity, general relativity. As a result it remains controversial whether one can meaningfully say that total energy is conserved in an expanding universe. For instance, each photon that travels through intergalactic space loses energy due to the redshift effect. This energy is not obviously transferred to any other system, so seems to be permanently lost. On the other hand, some cosmologists insist that energy is conserved in some sense; this follows the law of conservation of energy.

  9. says

    Yeah, my first inclination was “maybe he travels for work.” A change in location doesn’t necessarily mean someone is being dubious, but if he used a different name, I’d be wary. It sounded like the same guy to me as well.

  10. says

    What they seem INEVITABLY to miss–and even another atheist missed it when I was on last time–is that “error in scientific theory-X” does not = “god.” Plug in any error, any theory. Still would not get you to god.

  11. John Kruger says

    I wonder if the various theists realize how much they tip their hand as soon as they mention their source of crazy. I had to shake my head in pity as soon as “Kent Hovind has a PhD in science” was uttered. He even had the gall to list a bunch of other known and debunked creationists. Too sad.

  12. Stephan says

    I had to hold back to not yell “ad hominem” while listening to today’s episode on my daily commute. Come on guys, we are better than that!

  13. fullyladenswallow says

    Twas a good show.
    I was sorta hoping Adam, from the end of last week’s show might have called back as he seemed to have an interesting story about spirituality.
    I would certainly agree that one almost always has to have the other person define what they mean by “spiritual” from the beginning. Beyond that, I would want to ask if the person also believes he or she possesses or is possessed by a soul.
    I think the question I have is, could one use the same sort of argument against the existence god as they might in arguing against the existence a soul or spirituality or at least the existence of a spiritual essence? Seems as though you’d have to address some differing nuances but the core argument would be somewhat the same.

  14. says

    James Randi’s book Flim-Flam has a chapter on the Cottington Fairies which also goes into the muddled thinking of Doyle. He was apparently a big supporter of spiritualism. Big as in a quarter of million pounds big. Back then, that was real money.
    The chapter also uses the case as an outline for common mistakes and exaggerations often seen in cases of extraordinary claims. The book as a whole works well as a primer for how to think about such matters and covers a lot of different topics.

    Quite off-topic, but since it was brought up.

  15. LawnBoy says

    I agree. As much fun as it is to heap scorn on Hovind, the caller thought that Hovind provided evidence. Sure, take a quick pot shot at Hovind, but then address the supposed science.

    I’m sure the caller thinks he got nothing but insults because his evidence was just too strong for you to rebut. And that’s a horribly mistaken impression.

  16. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    It’s not fallacious to show the cited authority has not demonstrated competence on the subject at hand, and certainly not to the extent that he could be reasonably expected to understand the matter better than nearly everyone else who has.
    When the caller’s entire argument is deference to an authority, who is shown not to be one, there’s no argument left.
    If Hovind had a history of relevant achievements in spite of a lack of formal education, that would be different.

  17. sharkjack says

    I have only 1 question.

    Were you quoting the Room at the opening of the show Russell?

    That is all.

    Also I hope this instigates another free will debate on the non prophets. I know most people don’t but I’m just weird that way.

  18. Muz says

    I’m sure it’s well know, but it doesn’t hurt to say it one more time I suppose: Creationists, while crazy, do spend an awful lot of time coming up with obscure little contentions that are pretty interesting and not ‘common sense’ things even secular science types know much about.

    We might know they’re surely wrong and merely reversing the extrapolation of lunar orbital drift is obviously not the whole story. But exactly why it’s wrong isn’t well known.
    So that’s kind of fun. (even though many of them will jump to “If you can’t reverse extrapolate the lunar orbit, then you can do it with cosmic expansion! GODDIDIT!” and you’ll have a few hands full of hair follicles in no time.

  19. says

    Yup. If you’re taking the word of a convicted felon, who proudly uses a cereal box PhD diploma as a credential, over the whole accumulated scientific knowledge of mankind, I think it’s safe to assume you might have motives other than pure interest in scientific accuracy.

  20. says

    Doesn’t it almost always seem like people have this really deep feeling about how spirituality is something interesting and important, which then completely implodes when you ask them what spirituality actually means?

    Listening to this guy I have to reiterate what I’ve come to understand as the definition of what people mean by spirituality: “Something that is good”. Things like the nice feeling you get when you think about the nature and the universe, and how we’re all connected to each other and the universe. There’s no tangible connection that exists between these things but it just feels good to think of oneself as a part of this whole structure, so people slap the term spirituality on it.

    …which is then rendered completely useless when people start adding all kinds of personal superstitions under the term, like pantheism or whatnot. If you can’t express an idea by using terms we can even somewhat agree on, then you probably don’t understand what you’re talking about well enough that you should be bothering people with this idea in the first place 🙂

  21. fullyladenswallow says

    For some reason, I’ve never quite got to that point in talking to someone where the concept implodes for them. As with the religious person who must defend their reasoning (faith?) for whatever reason, the spiritual person (at least the one or two I’ve spoken with) seem to have a ready argument that tends to appeal to emotion.
    “Well, you just have to have had the “experience”, then you’ll understand”. I asked how was that any different than the Christian who says, “you just have to believe, then you’ll know god?” Never really got an answer though. Don’t know; perhaps they went away at least pondering it a bit. I think spiritual folk might have less baggage to ditch than the true believers when it comes to re-evaluating their views.
    The other thing I’ve noticed is that there always seems to be an air of mysticism thrown in for good measure- sort of like having quick access to the inside track to your higher self.

  22. Aaroninaustralia says

    “Spirituality” seems to mean the approval and appreciation of ‘something that is good’ as Geru mentioned above, but with a whole truckload of baggage. In particular it seems to be a “dues ex machina” where a mysterious, unexplained, superfluous agency undertakes some sort of action with the intent of aiding the storyteller who is the beneficiary:

    Dues ex machina: A literary device that allows you to quickly and surprisingly solve a complex problem by introducing, rather arbitrarily, some person or thing. Most supernatural shows use this device. In quasi-mathematical terms you could say that an impossible situation + a dues ex machina = impossible situation solved. Or an impossible universe + God = universe possible. Or a hero about to be killed + stick labelled a magical wand = instantly transported to safety. You get the picture.

    Agency: In sociological terms, an agency is an ‘actor’ with power to undertake some action. For example, we all have ‘agency’ to access the internet. In supernatural terms, good things are the result of, or are being managed by, some sort of conscious agent/being whether that be deities, angels, fairies, leprechauns, witches, sorcerers or any other such thing… remember, the agency must be unexplained and mysterious themselves for it to be ‘spiritual’;

    Intent: The agent must have made the ‘good thing’ happen intentionally and that it was not a mistake, error, or accident and preferably in some way that can’t be explained. “Either the universe was created by God or it’s all just an accident!” shows how in supernatural terms, intention is always presumed. If you’re going to accept the idea that a God created the universe, there’s no reason to dismiss the idea that a God had an accident, the result of which was the universe.

    Focus: That the agent intentionally caused the ‘good thing’ for the benefit of the individual or individuals who benefitted from it. Supernatural explanations or ‘experiences’ never seem to involve third-party witnesses. When was the last time we heard a report of UFO abductions by a non-abductee? Or an independent observer reporting someone else was being haunted? It is always the storyteller who is the focus of the agency’s intentional actions.

    “Spirituality” or supernaturalism in general seems to consistently be this form of dues ex machina. You can take any situation, artificially add an unnecessary, superfluous gap outside of the situation to focus your personal appreciation, and project into that gap an agency that undertook some intentional action, with your personal benefit the focus of that action. You plan an outdoor party and hope the weather is good, and when it is, thank an angel, or a deity, or “the spirits” for “looking after you”. Or you can reverse it to explain away bad outcomes, such as how people explain troublesome children using demons or devils.

    This is the problem with “spirituality”. Personally, I would rather appreciate what’s really happening, instead of being awed at how well I’ve created gaps everywhere to insist good things happen for my personal benefit.

  23. ullrichfischer says

    All the debate about what started it all can ever do, IMHO, is push the question back to a layer of reality to which we do not have experiential access. Occam’s razor seems to discredit the theist idea. Why posit something so complex as a magically intelligent agent, who may or may not be eternally pre-existing when positing simple laws of nature eternally evolving in a multiverse of infinite extent in space and time is so much simpler and more in keeping with what we are learning about the evolution of our observable universe? We have all the evidence for how life evolved and how the universe evolves, so why not project that back to the unobservable layer of reality instead?

  24. curtcameron says

    IIRC, you announced him as being from Jackson, MS. MS is Mississippi, and Jackson is the most prominent city there.

  25. curtcameron says

    Yeah, when you’re doing conservation of energy calculations, potential energy (like gravitational potential energy or potential energy of a spring) counts on the negative side of the balance sheet. So Krauss’s point was that the energy of the universe that’s in the form of mass and its motion, is balanced out by the gravitational potential energy. To the degree we can estimate these, they’re close to exactly cancelling.

  26. leedawson says

    There is a Jackson, Michigan. It’s known for holding the State’s first state prison. It’s now a museum!

  27. says

    “For some reason, I’ve never quite got to that point in talking to someone where the concept implodes for them.”

    I mostly meant some of the ‘spirituality callers’ on the show, how they have this great thing all figured out, but then can’t really even begin to explain it.

    Then again some of these guys sound like there should probably be some sort of “You must be less high than this to call in” rule for the show, to ‘weed out’ people who are only going to talk in deepeties…

  28. davidmcnerney says

    Unfortunately, you’ve got that backwards.

    Logically, you’re spot on. But in practice evidence for the scientific explanation is irrelevant to the faithful – but the lack of evidence or even better the failure of evidence (rare enough as it is) allows them to entrench their idiotic position more.

  29. davidmcnerney says

    That’s General Relativity though.

    If you approach it from the other side, Quantum Mechanics, there is no doubt about the conservation of energy as it falls out of the fundamental equations.

  30. curtcameron says

    I also enjoyed the old NP free will discussion, but I’m not so sure there’s more to talk about. I’ve learned a lot more about different viewpoints since then, and I don’t see the need.

    The reason is that all three guys (Denis, Jeff, and Matt) agreed on what’s going on – they all agree that the choices a person makes are a product of the physical electrochemical processes of the brain, which are deterministic with the possibility of some quantum randomness, and there’s no superstitious mumbo-jumbo going on. The only disagreement is that Jeff is an advocate of re-defining the term “free will” to indicate that our choices are made by us, potentially free from external coercion.

    That is one of the definitions that people can use the term free will for, but the problem with Jeff’s view is that in the religious context, when people talk about free will, they’re invariably talking about the superstitious mumbo-jumbo definition that we all agree is wrong. It seems to me that Jeff’s position is one of appeasement to the theists, to appear that he agrees with them, when it reality we should set the record straight that the idea of free will they have has no support.

  31. says

    Great comment, Aaron, but your repeated misspelling of “deus” as “dues” made my eyes hurt. It’s “deus” as in “deity”. In English that gives you, “god from the machine”, which, of course, makes your description of deities as dei ex machina (the plural) highly appropriate. 😀

  32. says


    Sorry to hear you’ve got attacked by agnostics and that you were affected by that.

    I will try fast to resume their position vs theists or atheists.
    The focus of agnosticism is on knowledge, since we don’t know (on the question of if there is a god(s)) therefore we don’t have a belief if there is a god(s) or not. Theists and atheists have both a belief (theists:believe in a god(s); atheists: believe there is no god(s). I would say that the atheists “weak” position: “I don’t believe in a god(s)” is closer to agnosticism but to be an agnostic you also have to say: “I don’t believe there is no god(s)”. Then when you put together those 2 unbelieves, you become a real agnostic. You cannot have a belief for to have a belief you must know before so because we can’t know if there is a god(s) or not, we suspend our judgment about that question and don’t postulate any believes or unbelieves.

    Also to say to an agnostic, you are atheist is to define for them what they really are with the new created atheist terminology-definition for agnosticism and that provoke the agnostics. It is almost like if a christian would called a jew or a muslim “atheist” because the christian definition of god (their theism) is the trinity…Or a theist that would call an atheist a satanist..Anyway, you get the point.

  33. sharkjack says

    I’ll take that as a yes.

    I thought it was funny too, I just wasn’t sure if you were actually trying to reference the Room or if it was a coincidence.

  34. Rick Pikul says

    Not quite: The rate at which the Moon’s orbit expands varies.

    Right now it is particularly fast, as we are at a point where the resonances result in strong tidal effects. In a little while, the resonance will break meaning that the Moon will slow in its movement and the tides will be smaller.

  35. Kazim says

    Had a good long chat about The Room at the post-show dinner. At least one person had never heard of Rifftrax before, and now he has. So that was productive.

  36. Kazim says

    It is dues ex machina. That’s where you pay dues to some organization with a machine. You know… like entering a credit card number on a web site.

  37. curtcameron says

    But it’s “ex” machina, which means “from.”

    Like when you stop by the ATM to get some cash to pay your ACA dues. That’s dues ex machina. The automated teller machina.

  38. sharkjack says

    Indeed, to think that even one person would have to go through life never witnessing the glory of the Room and it’s rifftrax goodness would, to put it bluntly, tear me apart.

    Access to food, shelter, healthcare and education, freedom and some other stuff are kinda important too, I guess. But we gotta prioritize.

  39. Aaroninaustralia says

    Not far off…

    I typed in Word and then transferred it when I was happy with it. And I have automatic spellcheck on. So it kept changing what I was typing. I picked up the change of ‘machina’ to ‘machine’, but not the ‘deus’ to ‘dues’. And my bad, I didn’t actually check. So you could’ve been reading all about “dues ex machine” instead. Which is pig latin for “tithing to the machine”. Just more proof we really do live in the Matrix…

  40. Sethala says

    On Erik from IL’s call…

    One idea that I’m rather fond of that “explains” free will and an omnipotent god is something that was mentioned in, if I remember right, Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. Essentially, god knew everything, but once he created creatures with free will, he was never able to know what they would do with that free will; it was always a mystery to him until it happened.

    Back to whether free will can exist however, I don’t think I’m convinced at all that our actions are determined at all; I don’t believe we know enough about how our minds make decisions to say for certain that our decisions are purely the result of predictable chemicals. Sure, we may be more likely to pick a certain course of action based on various outside factors, but I don’t think that means the most likely decision is the one always chosen.

    But of course, this is definitely not my area of expertise, and I could be completely wrong…

  41. gralgrathor says

    It’s more to do with tidal friction, due to the configuration of continental plates.

    Initially I thought that Jeff’s counter was no more than an ad-hominem – but he’s right, of course: claiming that Hovind’s an expert on anything is in itself a false claim. Not saying that it’s worth refuting, as it’s self-evidently false, but it’s as good a point to start with as any.

  42. gralgrathor says

    then therefore God

    Doyle’s “exclude the impossible” still works. When theists say “then therefore God”, they *haven’t* yet excluded the impossible. There’s any number of more parsimonious hypotheses they are skipping when they come to their “conclusion”.

  43. gralgrathor says

    Your statement about combining two unbeliefs is probably why Matt usually says he can only pass judgement on *specific* god-claims, like “Yahweh, the god of christian mythology, exists” or “Odin, the god of Norse mythology, exists”. It’s impossible to form a belief about something so ill-defined as the deistic god-concept: it’s defined as anything from “god is love!!1!” to “god is the universe” depending on who’s babbling.

  44. gralgrathor says

    Jeff is an advocate of re-defining the term “free will”

    But like Dennett holds: I’m not so sure it’s really a matter of “re-defining” the term. After all, when we think about the process of making a choice in our every day lives, do we consider factors that are irrelevant to the actual choice? Do we lose freedom because we consider relevant factors in making our choices?

    I say that in in light of our everyday definition of “free will” (ie. the ability to choose), the *theistic* definition is the “re-definition”, not Jeff’s.

  45. gralgrathor says

    Which is the point. Of course the claim “goddiddit” is not the logical conclusion of a reasoned and evidence-based thought process. It’s pre-assumed. First comes the belief in a (more or less) well-defined god, then along comes science and says “but *this* is a more parsimonious explanation” and the god’s definition is further obfuscated to maintain untestability. There is *no* version of the god-claim (at least, when we’re not talking outright science denial) that is *not* basically an appeal to incredulity or ignorance.

  46. annabucci says

    “Theists and atheists have both a belief (theists:believe in a god(s); atheists: believe there is no god(s).”

    This is incorrect. Atheists may have beliefs that have nothing to do with atheism, but their lack of belief in a god or gods is what makes them atheist. Lack of belief does not equal belief.

  47. mike says

    If anyone needs further proof that Patriot University is a diploma mill, just sit back and listen to the quality of the doctorate dissertation papers that come from said “university”(a university about the size of a double-wide and actually doubles as a residential address in the phone book)

    The guys at Irreligiosophy dissect Kent Hovind’s “dissertation”, it is hilarious!

  48. says

    thanks for your comment.

    well on the question of god the “strong” atheists have a belief “that there is no god” and the “weak” atheists don’t believe in a god. I said that the “weak” atheists are closer the agnosticism.

    you never heard the statement from an atheist intellectual “I believe there is no god”?

  49. says


    thanks for your comment.

    well I just more described the way to become an agnostic. When you are at the point ( I would call it no.4) “I don’t believe there is no god(s)” then you realize that we can believe and unbelieve anything about that claim of a god(s)…then we are turning back to the knowledge or unknowledge to determine whether a god exist or not and then we choose unknowledge by default (agnosticism) for we can’t have a knowledge (yet?) whether a god(s) (which one(s)?) exists other not. So we suspend our judgment about that question.

  50. extian says

    I don’t think I’m convinced at all that our actions are determined at all

    You don’t think our actions are determined at all? I don’t think there any philosophers claiming that our decisions are purely the result of brain chemicals – only that we are the products of multiple factors we ultimately do not control and, most importantly, are not even aware of. As you rightly pointed out, we don’t know enough about the brain to fully understand why we make the choices we make. In light of this, can it be said that you “freely” chose something if you don’t ultimately know why you made that particular choice (which would negate your ability to demonstrate control over your choices)?

    I would highly recommend Sam Harris’ excellent (and short) book, Free Will.

  51. Jed Deemer says

    On the creationist guy, I think we’re missing the whole point of the call. Let’s do the math: the current recession rate of the moon is 3.8cm (approx. 1in.) per year; the moon is around 230,000mi. from Earth. 12x5280x230000=14,572,800,000; assuming the moon started on the surface of the earth, it would have taken around 14.5 billiion years to reach its current distance. The guy also bandied about the rate of 10cm per year (or about 2.5in.) Divide our original number by 2.5 and we get around 5.8 billion years.

    Since it’s unlikely (though possible) that he never did the math himself, I suspect this guy was a “Poe” all along. I mean, c’mon! Aren’t there enough real Creotards out there already; do we really need the ersatz variety, too?

  52. Jed Deemer says

    @ericvon germania:

    First, let me assure you it’s my intention neither to offend you nor not to offend you, but your posting is one of the biggest crocks of you-know-what I’ve ever read. Let me explain:

    You start with a misrepresentation of the atheist position (“I believe there is no god”), then try to validate the straw man you’re building by attempting to segment it off from “weak” atheism’s (whatever that is) position of “I don’t believe there’s a god”. Now, I readily admit that, gramatically, the two statements are the same, but I hope you’ll admit that, syntactically, their different breeds entirely; one negation modifies the word “god” (“…no god”), the other modifies “believe” (“…don’t believe…”). Though it’s asserting a negative, “I believe there’s no god” is expressing a positive belief, while “I don’t believe there’s a god” is expressing negative (for that, read “lack of”) belief. The atheist position (neither “strong” nor “weak”; very few atheists use these terms–at least, none that I know of) is simply put, this: WE DON’T BELIEVE THE ASSERTION THAT THERE IS A GOD! To use Matt’s analogy: in the courtroom we on the jury do not vote the defendant “innocent”, we vote “not guilty”. We have no knowledge of god’s guilt or innocence, all we know is, the theistic prosecutors haven’t proven their case.

    All this would have been bad enough, but correctable; however, you go on from allowable ignorance to the truly ludicrous: you state that agnostics whold both the atheist position (“I don’t believe there’s a god”) to what is actually the theistic position (“I don’t believe there is no god”). Obviously, you’re unaware that the double negative actually asserts an emphatic positive (remove the negations, which is what one does in English, and you’re left with “I do believe there is a god”.) I don’t think you meant to say that, but it seems to sum up perfectly the incoherence of the entire agnostic position. I think what you really meant to say was, “I believe neither in the assertion that a god exists, nor in the assertion that no god exissts”. And no atheist would object or even disagree with such a statement.

    But, now we come to the reason for your incoherence: the unbelievable statement that one cannot have belief without knowledge! This is insane. Let me cite just 2 examples as to why knowledge is a subset of belief, and not the reverse: if I were to say, “I know Australia exists, but I don’t believe it”, this would be nonsensical; however, if I say, “I believe Australia exists, but I don’t know it for sure,” this at least makes some kind of sense. If knowledge precedes belief, then belief is superfluous; if I know something, how can I then choose not to believe it? But, if I believe something, or disbelieve, my later knowledge of it will not be affected.

    Finally, (this post is way too long) let me point out a very salient fact: Atheism and Theism are not two sides of the same coin, they’re two entirely different coins, and Agnosticism is not (mixing metaphors here) Baby Bear’s porridge bowl, it’s an irrelevant (and somewhat fatuous) tangent off the real debate.

  53. stevecarlos says

    This was one of the best shows in recent memory. Of course, some of that is due to the quality of callers, which is hard to control. I have learned a lot from the show, but I feel I need to make these two suggestions:

    1. if there are other callers in line, don’t spend a huge amount of time on a single, uninteresting, stubborn caller….I’ve heard hosts talk to a single theist for 20 minutes trying to explain to them the concept of burden of proof, etc….this can’t help the show

    2. and this is the hardest thing, and spurred by how well Jeff and Russell did together on this show…..I greatly respect Matt’s intellect, but he needs to stop monopolizing the show and doing 90% of the talking. He often overruns the other host. He might not be interrupting them, but the other host’s input is for too secondary and given at the end after Matt talks for a long period. How can others pull off the host/co-host balance so much better? While when Matt is not on the show they talk much more and it makes the show better. Matt is actually rude in this way, and I can’t believe it hasn’t been mentioned to him. The other hosts are similarly brilliant, and I bet others would like to hear more from them.

  54. stevecarlos says

    Point 1 above was not an issue this show at all. Point 2 is only brought up because the teamwork of Jeff and Russell stands in stark relief. I’m sure this is not the best place to air this, but oh well. Maybe if others agree in public something will change.

  55. DanTheMilkMan says

    Sounded like the Oslo guy to me too, but he probably changed locations because he admitted to Matt on one episode that he was just trolling. They were out of time and Matt offered to talk to him off the air, and he said not to bother because he was just trolling.

  56. pneumo says

    Oh, it was definitely him.

    He cracked up a bit at one point, as well.

    What the hell does he even want?

  57. says


    thanks for your comment.

    well I just more described the way to become an agnostic. When you are at the point ( I would call it no.4) “I don’t believe there is no god(s)” then you realize that we can believe and unbelieve anything about that claim of a god(s)…then we are turning back to the knowledge or unknowledge to determine whether a god exist or not and then we choose unknowledge by default (agnosticism) for we can’t have a knowledge (yet?) whether a god(s) (which one(s)?) exists other not. So we suspend our judgment about that question.

  58. says

    thanks for your comment.

    well on the question of god the “strong” atheists have a belief “that there is no god” and the “weak” atheists don’t believe in a god. I said that the “weak” atheists are closer the agnosticism.

    you never heard the statement from an atheist intellectual “I believe there is no god”?

  59. says

    @Jed Deemer
    thanks for your comment.

    I am not offended by your analyze and criticism of agnosticism.

    I won’t defend agnosticism philosophy here, nor pointing out where you are wrong in some points.

    The “spirit” of my comment was to explain to Luis why agnostics don’t consider themselves atheists, what was the mental process of becoming agnostic and why they are pissed off of being called “atheists” by the atheists (and by the theists, I could add).

    By the way, I haven’t said I was an agnostic: “to resume their position…”, “is to define for them…”. You are jumping fast to conclusion about me.

    ““I believe neither in the assertion that a god exists, nor in the assertion that no god exissts”. And no atheist would object or even disagree with such a statement.” Are you so sure??!!

  60. Luis says

    It all depends on context. First of all, let’s keep in mind what an atheist is. Strictly speaking, an atheist is a not-theist, or somebody who doesn’t have a belief in a god. If your answer to “do you believe in a god?” is anything other than “yes”, then you’re an atheist. Now, let’s turn to context. What sort of knowledge are we discussing? If we’re discussing knowledge in absolute terms, then I’m absolutely agnostic and a “weak atheist”. I’m fairly confident that most atheists fall into this category (at least in my neck of the woods). I could easily argue that I can’t even be sure there’s a table in front of me. I could be hallucinating, I could be having some crazy neurological experience, I could be a brain in a vat, I could be living in some Matrix world, etc…

    However, as Matt and the AXP crew have often pointed out, absolute knowledge is fairly useless in practical terms. If we scale down our “degree of certainty” from “100% absolute certainty” to “99% reasonably confident”, we enter a different ball game entirely. At a the level of knowledge-certainty I like to call “every-day practical useful knowledge”, I can confidently state, based on the facts we’ve acquired, that no gods exist. This would make me a “strong atheist” and arguably a gnostic too, but keep in mind the framing of my statement.

    When discussing these issues, I think it’s extremely important to lay out the terms, definitions and specify all the contextual details. My position of agnostic weak atheism or gnostic strong atheism entirely depends on the working definition of knowledge being employed and its parameters.

  61. Luis says

    Eric: I’m still not clear on your position regarding *belief*. I’m not talking about knowledge here. If we’re discussing knowledge of the existence of a god(s) in absolute terms, I’m most definitely agnostic too.

    Addressing strictly the singular matter of belief:

    Do you have a belief in the existence of one or more gods?

  62. says


    Thanks for your comments.

    So you want me to make the confession of atheist unfaith, as I see. 😉

    Ya, I agree that it depends how we define agnostic ( a middle point between atheist and theist or a dichotomy gnostic/agnostic, etc)

    You ask me if I believe in god or gods. My answer on that matter is that I can imagine there is a god or gods or no god, but do I believe? I have no clue, so I don’t believe or don’t unbelief in a sense. I know analogies are never good but if you ask me “do you believe in the multiverse theory?” For me that question is irrelevant for I don’t have a clue. So i can imagine they are there and I can imagine they aren’t. My knowledge is too limited on that subject, so I don’t have any belief or don’t have unbelief.

    Things that I do believe (almost gnostic about them)is there is no holly books that I know and no preachers, rabbis, priests, imams that they are from a god. Maybe it is me that is too cocky about that, but that is my strong belief (without being certain, but almost certain).

    End of my confession about belief.

  63. says

    The Kevin in question hasn’t a paper according to a great uni, so what? It doesn’t mean that his book is crap. Maybe yes, I don’t know but to have not published for a great university doesn’t unqualified the guy.

    Btw, who has published something from a qualified Uni in the AE? Just asking? 😉

    Other topic, “Martin Wagner” is Martin; “Kazim” is Russell; what about the others from AE? What are there hiding indentity?

  64. mike says

    Half of Irreligiosophy is back! Chuck has posted a few new episodes with a new partner-Matt(no not Dillahunty!)-they are critiquing another “book”

  65. Sonorus says

    You are correct about the actual definitions. But if you asked most people they would say that theists and atheists have an absolute belief while agnostics are people who aren’t sure one way or the other. You have your work cut out for you correcting what is common usage of those words.

  66. Luis says


    My goal is not to get you to admit to being an atheist to then parade around as If I won some contest. My goal is merely to establish a common understanding of what our positions are.

    We seem to have differing viewpoints on what the terms/words actually mean, so let’s chuck that out the window and get to the root of it and see if we can find some common understanding. 🙂

    Your answer on belief is exactly consistent with atheism. Under my definition (and those commonly used by AXP and other online Atheist groups) you would be an agnostic-atheist such as myself.
    Your analogy is a good one and similar to the child analogy. A newborn baby has no concept of god(s) and cannot “believe” nor “unbelieve” as you put it. They are, by default, atheist in that they *LACK* a positive belief.

    So in the end, here’s where we stand:
    1. Under the definition of atheism as “not-theism” and therefore encompassing of all possible stances that are not equal to “yes, I believe a god exists”, then you and I are both agnostic-atheists.
    2. Under the definition of atheism as a positive believe that no gods exist to an absolute degree of certainty, I’m not an atheist and neither are you. However, 90+% of the atheist community would be disqualified from being atheists under this definition too, since most of them are agnostic regarding absolute knowledge.

    I understand there is stigma associated with the term atheism, and I understand agnosticism feels like a high-ground position of neutrality, but those stigmas exist because theists have manipulated the definitions of very old words to mean something that they’re not. If you’re an agnostic-atheist, as I am (under the AXP definition) I encourage you to embrace that. 😉 Of course, you’re free not to, and I respect that. Hey, at least we got to some kind of an understanding. High five! Peace.

  67. says

    Hi Luis,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Sorry to tell you, but your analogy doesn’t fit. “A newborn baby has no concept of god(s) and cannot “believe” nor “unbelieve” as you put it.” the problem is with god(s) or the multiverse is that we (or is it only I lol) have concept(s) of them!

    My belief (almost gnostic about it) is that is kind of the other way around: it is the new atheist movement who had redefined the word and notion “agnostic” and “gnostic”. As far as I know, agnosticsm has a long life in being a philosophy that postulate that we cannot know a “first cause” therefore we suspend our judgment about that question and gnosticism was an old greek (and egyptian) mystical cult that was still there at the time of Paul and those gnostics were killed for being heretics by the official church of Rome, I think at the time of Constantin.

    But anyway, thanks for your invitation of “becoming” an official atheist, but I am not according to my concept; neither that accept invitations to “become” christian or whatever crap. 😉

    Anyway, in real life I don’t present myself as an agnostic or weird theist or cold atheist but as a Free Thinker. 😀

    High five and peace anyway!

  68. says


    Oh, I overpassed my comment about “I understand there is stigma associated with the term atheism…”..”but those stigmas exist because theists have manipulated the definitions of very old words to mean something that they’re not.” Ya, the term “atheism” and “atheist” depends also where you live and when. In some countries today it could be positive, in others very bad. But since The Renaissance according to the own atheist philosophers,they rejected totally the idea of any sort of god(s), they were as you call them gnostics-atheists, it is not the theists that put those scars on “atheism”, atheist philosophers; the theists (if you want to go back in time) called “atheists” not people who didn’t believe in a god(s) but people who didn’t believe in their brand of god(s). It wasn’t a question of not belief in a god(s). For example, the polytheist romans called the christians “atheists”.

    let the “?” blessed you! (joke) 🙂

  69. pneumo says

    I think there is a difference between not having a great diploma, and being a complete fraud.

    Hovind is the latter, if I have to spell it out for you which I think I have to.

  70. codemonkey says

    Minor nit: In the episode, I think Russell equivocated between “infinity” and “uncountable”. That’s not right. “Countable” in math has a very specific meaning. In math, there are countable infinities and uncountable infinities. A set has countable size if it has the same “size” as the natural numbers (or smaller size).

  71. says

    >…but to have not published for a great university doesn’t unqualified the guy.

    Correct. What “unqualifies” him is that his ideas are wholly rejected by those who *are* qualified to judge his claims–people who have spent lifetimes in the study of the fields he claims to be informed enough to write about. The fact that the community of experts in their respective fields flatly reject his claims as not representing the evidence to date is what condemns him, not his lack of a degree.

  72. says

    >…I’ve heard hosts talk to a single theist for 20 minutes trying to explain to them the concept of burden of proof, etc….this can’t help the show…

    In fact, if the person on the phone has a hard time understanding an issue, there are likely others having a hard time with it as well. The fact a particular item comes up repeatedly and callers display difficulty wrapping their brains around it, actually, to me, means we should spend more time on trying to explain it. And the value of the explanation would be in how well we can explain it for those how have difficulty with it–not how well we can explain it to those who have no (or little) difficulty understanding it. I do agree that at a certain point it’s wise to toss in the towel and recognize that a reasonable number of attempted avenues have been exhausted. But I would, again, expend more effort, not less, on items that seem difficult for the more indoctrinated theists to understand.

  73. says

    I don’t know if your are hosting the show or not (Are you Matt?)
    anyway, I think it is important to be patient and repeat stuff even if it is evident for the atheists and people who are watching the show for many years and it bugs them, for they are people who are theists that are recently watching the show and discover a new way of thinking (critical and skeptic). Also for the theist callers, I think it is important to spend time explaining them how to think critically for I think most of them are honest and if they call is that they are interested in the show. They look like stupid sometimes but my guess is they explore the only defense they have inside of theism and want to get rid of it in confronting it to AE people.

  74. says

    so would you said your argument is only good for people who studied in science? “What “unqualifies” him is that his ideas are wholly rejected by those who *are* qualified to judge his claims–people who have spent lifetimes in the study of the fields he claims to be informed enough to write about.” for they are people who have studied all their life in philosophy or theology who can “disqualified” you (Let’s say you are from AE and for the sake of argument).

  75. Jed Deemer says

    Eric, please do tell me where I’m wrong on any point; it’s not fair to keep me hanging.

    As for misconstruing which category you might fall into, it might have been nice to preface your comments with “I’m an atheist, but….” I can only go with whatever evidence I have. I wasn’t jumping to a conclusion–I was stepping very carefully between rather large piles of what I assumed was not shinola.

    As for “…to resume their position” “is to define…” I don’t quite know what you mean here. The statement makes no sense to me, but I’ll assume that English isn’t your first language, and so make allowances for some lack of communication.

    Am I sure about the final statement? Yes, keeping in mind the petty hyperboly I employed, yes it’s possible some atheists might not agree, but this is a cavil.

    Bye the way, the bit about giving offense was meant as irony bordering on sarcasm. Sorry you didn’t get the joke, such as it was (not much, I’ll admit).