Belated Open Thread for Show 789: Jen & Tracie

I forgot to post an open thread for the show yesterday, and am doing so now. Feel free to post your thoughts on calls like “I Just Wanna Talk about Matt,” “Alternative Medicine,” and “How Do I Get My Theist Mother to Get Me?” Or talk about anything else we discussed that strikes your fancy.


  1. says

    Yes, if you could see how the studio is set up—the side Jen is on shares a wall with our control room. The side I’m on shares an outside wall to the parking lot/open area outside. The cords all run from the control room to the table, and it makes no sense to run them to my side of the table—it would just be (dangerously) running cords and wires across the floor where more people would actually be moving in the studio eventually. It’s just the shortest distance to run everything to the “host” side of the table.

    Matt doesn’t co-host because he is the main host. This means he’s on the show more than anyone—so he doesn’t need to have a slot in the rotating co-host slot—what would be the point? He’s already appearing on 90 percent of the shows. The rest of us rotate. This just means Matt volunteers more time on the program than the rest of us. Rather than slam Matt for it, one might thank him for his dedication.

    Later, when he tried to say Matt was just using the program to self-promote, it’s like he has no history at all of the show. Matt agreed to host it when it was only an Austin public access show with no internet feed, and before there was even any dreams of a live global outreach feed. He did it then, and he does it now. Only now, since it’s got a slightly broader viewership (we maybe have 2,000 live views per show on a good day, so we’re not breaking any viewership records I’m aware of), so clearly that means that’s the reason he does it (before I guess he just had no reason at all?)

    Also, to slam Matt for doing public outreach work for the community—weirdly pointing out he can’t hang up on people in a debate or lecture Q&A…so shouldn’t that mean Matt would shy away from those efforts since he can’t “control” them with a phone box (according to the caller)? It made no sense. ACA works to get out information and help to the atheist community and to society about the atheist community. ACA has many vehicles to do this work. In addition to the varied podcasts it offers, including TAE, it also does a public lecture series and a number of social events regularly. Having someone who is personable and well-spoken enough to be able to lecture and debate is a bonus. The fact it means some others on TAE can/have to step up and host on occasion, should not be taken as a negative, but an opportunity.

    It’s amazing to me how people read into things what they want to see. I recall seeing a few letters criticizing ACA for not having me on Nonprophets ever. I replied to some myself to tell them I’d been invited, but declined, as it really wasn’t the most comfortable format for me. But they don’t see me on there, and just assume I’m somehow banned—not that I’ve been asked and declined. They just see what they want to see.

  2. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Jen (40:08):

    You know that dogs are obligate carnivores. You’re torturing your dog.

    Article: Wikipedia – Dog

    Despite their descent from wolves and classification as Carnivora, dogs are variously described in scholarly and other writings as carnivores or omnivores. Unlike obligate carnivores, such as the cat family with its shorter small intestine, dogs can adapt to a wide-ranging diet, and are not dependent on meat-specific protein nor a very high level of protein in order to fulfill their basic dietary requirements. Dogs will healthily digest a variety of foods, including vegetables and grains, and can consume a large proportion of these in their diet.

  3. MCB says

    I really appreciated the segments with the young lady trying to talk to her mother and the man’s sick dog. I think it was helpful for both of them to be able to call in. It’s tough for me to imagine having so much trouble explaining atheism to your family, and I’m glad she could talk to some people who could relate.

    I think I would have had trouble not laughing when the gentleman suggested that had was trying to cure his dog’s cancer with a vegan diet. It was good that you didn’t, because it was clearly troubling him deeply.

  4. says

    Yep. That’s called the Gish Gallop.

    Another thing I see a lot of is when one of us has offered a careful, scientific explanation of some aspect of reality, there’s a long pause on the other end of the line while the theist, knowing he doesn’t have the knowledge base to refute anything he’s just heard, looks for a way he can still shoehorn his God into it.

  5. docslacker says

    To the young woman, I can sympathize. This sounds so much like my family. I did refuse to get confirmed and, boy, did my mother have a fit! She called me a bad influence on my siblings.
    20 years later my father pretty much admitted he doesn’t believe in gods, but back then he supported my mother. I have always been much happier being true to myself rather than simply going along to get along, and now my mother doesn’t even mention the subject of religion.

  6. says

    Well, there is a lot written about cancer and diet. And some forms of cancer are related to diet. At least the dog had, if I recall correctly, an issue in the colon? So, it wasn’t completely unrelated, like lung cancer or some such. I mean, high cooked meat/dairy in humans can be linked to certain colon cancers, and I am thinking this is what was driving his actions in this case. I just think he’d be wise to look at research in dogs for his dog–but as I’m no vet, and he was consulting with his vet, I’m guessing/hoping he’s doing right by the animal. At least he’s talking to a veterinarian…?

  7. says

    keyword “ADAPT”. you understand this diet is a new thing right? you understand the dog is sick right? you understand what the word adapt means? Now go ask a vet how long adapting takes and what the risks are for an animal in that condition. She was right in telling the guy to stop torturing a sick animal.

  8. MCB says

    I think the dog is probably not being mistreated at all. It would be tough to say without knowing the diet and knowing a lot more about dog digestion than I do, but as long as he is consulting his vet it probably isn’t too bad. Given his behavior, I imagine he probably gives his dog lots of love and attention and that it has probably led a fairly fortunate life. The dog of course has no idea it is going to die, and so probably has a better chance of enjoying the time it has left than the owner. And it sounds like that’s all they can really do at this point.

    It was the idea of reading the China Study and then trying to apply it to dogs that had me laughing out loud. I may not know much about dog diets, or even human ones, but I am fairly sure that diets that are good for humans are not necessarily good for dogs.

    Incidentally if you are looking for anecdotes to share about the dangers of “alternative” medicine, Steve Jobs reportedly lowered his chances for survival by trying new age treatments instead (

  9. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    I wasn’t defending the caller.

    She was incorrect in calling dogs “obligate carnivores”.

    I don’t doubt that an abrupt switch to a vegan diet would be a terrible thing to put a sick dog through.

    There are vegetarian products, but I don’t know how enthusiastically even healthy dogs take to those. Though many regular brands have low meat content to begin with.

  10. Matt Gerrans says

    Who was it that Jen & Tracie were talking about before the intro that needed a hobby and a life? You can’t make those kinds of comments on air and then not tell us who you’re talking about!

  11. terrycollins says

    >She was incorrect in calling dogs “obligate carnivores”.

    Yes, I found this out when I looked up why my dog sometime ate grass. Serving a strict diet of meat to a dog may not be a proper diet, and too much red meat is probably even detrimental.

  12. says

    Just to be clear, and I’m not arguing dogs *are* obligate carnivores, but I see people treating the term as though it means meat-only. It means meat must be consumed by the animal in order to thrive. Cats eat grass for example, but are obligate carnivores. I am not so much into dogs as cats–which is why I let Jen field the dog diet query–she’s the dog person:

    “An obligate carnivore is an animal that by its genetic makeup must eat the tissue of other animals in order to thrive. Obligate carnivores may eat other foods, such as vegetables, grains, or fruit, but they must eat meat as the main source of their nutrients.”

    Again, not saying she is/is not right about the dogs. Just pointing out that obligate carnivores are not meat-only, or even meat-primarily animals. They are simply animals that must eat meat as part of an ideal diet for that animal.

  13. says

    Oh, Jen was telling me that was something she’d said about the prank caller, who sometimes calls in. She said he was upset by her suggestion he get a hobby. I chuckled and said I think he needs more than a hobby–he needs a life. How pathetic for the highlight of your week to become anonymously calling an internet stream program with 2,000 views on its best days, just to say the host is overweight? The sad thing is that he actually continues to call. The screeners blocked him multiple times yesterday–successfully–and he still kept calling. I mean, really, TAE is your fixation? The pinnacle of your life is just to wait for Sunday so you can try to get your voice on a ustream feed to 2,000 ppl if your lucky? I don’t know whether to pity him or just be disgusted by how pathetic he is…? It isn’t like he has no choice. But apparently this is the best thing he has to do with his Sunday afternoons?

  14. says

    LOL…point taken, and how much sadder to sit up late into the night waiting for his chance? Ha! But I doubt he’s from Oslo as much as I doubt his name is Matt. Rather than “Matt from Oslo,” we need to just start referring to him as “Shithead,” I think. 🙂 He’d love it, I bet!

  15. sebastian says

    Judging by the melody of his thick Scandinavian accent I’d say he’s probably Swedish rather than Norwegian. And the show’s on from 23:30 to 0:30 Central Euro time. He’s either a very pathetic and persistent troll or he’s got some mental problems, because that sort of fundamentalist is really, really rare here. Good job blocking him out.

  16. terrycollins says

    The wiki article on dogs makes it pretty clear that they are not “obligate carnivores”, though it is Wikipedia and not a definite source. I wouldn’t mind reading a paper on whether dogs must eat meat, and not protein alternatives. I’m not a vegetarian myself nor to I force my dog to be, but I am wondering where the hosts gained their certainty over the matter.

  17. terrycollins says

    Just an addendum concerning dogs. Supposedly for the peasants, meat was a luxury during the middle ages in Europe, meaning there would not have even been bones to give to the dogs. What did the dogs survive on back then? Perhaps part of the reason dogs have made such good pets since before written history, is their ability to live on whatever is also available to their human companion.

    But anyhow, after more searching I found this CBC article that claims dogs and even cats can be healthy vegetarians:

    “Healthy vegetarian diets can be formulated for cats and dogs.

    For cats, it can be more complicated as they are essentially carnivores, whereas dogs are classified as omnivores. As with home-cooked meals, a veterinarian can be consulted on how to properly feed your animal vegetarian foods.

    Millet, beans, lentils, grains and legumes are the main source of protein in a vegetarian diet. Dogs appear to require a slightly larger proportion of protein in their diets than humans.”

  18. says

    Dogs are certainly not obligate carnivores. They are adapted omnivores. The guy above that tries to say the word adapt means it’s a recent phenomena and anybody that says it’s torture to feed dog something besides animal meat is wrong.

    Dogs have a 4:1 ratio small intestine. That puts them between a cat (obligate carnivore) and human (omnivore). Dogs also secrete amylase from their pancreas. This is the enzyme needed to digest plant material.

  19. Nathan says

    “She said he was upset by her suggestion he get a hobby.”

    Wow, he got upset that he got called out on his trolling and made fun of, that is just a whole new level of pathetic. It’s not even like he is trying anymore, just screaming. I could see young kids calling in to do that and think it’s funny, but his voice sounds too deep, so I’m guessing at least in his 20s or older, that is just sad.

    I had thought that maybe he had given up since we didn’t hear from him this week, but since apparently he still is, props to the screen callers.

  20. says

    thank you..I was looking for the term needed. I knew the term she used wasn’t calling canines strict carnivores, but could figure out if the terminology was correct. I know what the wiki page says, but it’s not termed correctly and I think this is an argument over terminology rather than the dog or it’s diet.

    I had to open a book to find this.
    Herbivores and omnivores usually have one powerful digestive weapon carnivores usually lack…Salivary amylase.Amylase is a special enzyme plant-eating animals produce in their saliva. It’s a critical enzyme needed to initiate the break down of starchy carbohydrates before they enter the stomach.Meat-eating animals also produce amylase. But the enzyme is produced further down the digestive tract (in the small intestine). Without amylase, a carnivore’s carbohydrate digestion is decidedly more difficult.

    My issue with it is the terming of vegan or vegetarian not whether she did or didn’t make it clear whether she was or was not calling a dog a strict meat eater. It’s hard to find a flaw in logic in people with a such a broad vocabulary such as the member of the show….
    I want to know if the dog is on a true vegan diet or merely a vegetarian diet. I missed some of the conversation due to issues with u-stream.
    Vegan is a philosophy that you can not consume ANYTHING made of or that comes from an animal.
    Vegetarian is a diet that allows some consumption of animal products.I believe most people are semi-vegetarian because most will eat fish and poultry.
    The Vegan diet is far from healthy for humans over a long period of time and would starve nutrients an animal such as a dog rather quickly. You may be able to put a dog on a semi-vegetarian diet, but that would still starve nutrients from a dog over time and cause some stomach problems. You could put a dog on a Paleo diet if you left out the tubers, berries, fruits, nuts, seeds and it would provide enough nutrients to keep a dog fit and cause minimal digestion issue.The main idea behind the Paleo diet is that you eat foods in their most natural state, such as meat, eggs, vegetables, tubers, berries, fruits, nuts, seeds and healthy fats. A lot of dog owners have their dogs on something like this and it doesn’t seem to be causing as many issue as say the green bean diet the Internet says to put a fat dog on. I believe pedigree, nutro, and some of the more expensive dog foods or based off this, but i don’t feel like looking it up.

    BUT like i said before i started rambling… it’s more of a war on terms and the correct usage.

  21. Nathan says

    On the caller with the dog with cancer I can sympathize with him, you could hear in his voice that he really cared for his dog. My dog who has been with me through so much and is getting older and his hips are starting to give out and it’s painful to watch him not be able to run and play like he used to, and it’s especially hard when I have to help him onto the couch just to sit with me because I know there isn’t a lot of time left. So I can see why someone who is losing something they love would try this silly pseudoscience, and it pisses me off that people peddle this crap. Penn & Teller did a great episode of Bullshit on this kind of medicine.

    That’s why I talked with my vet and found out what was best for my dog. There are expensive surgeries you can get, but they don’t usually turn out much better, and are hard on older dogs. So my vet just suggested cortisone shots if he really starts to limp and some vitamins that help with joints. Other than that just keep him as healthy as possible, don’t let him play too rough, and most importantly just make him as happy as possibly for his remaining time.

    I’m surprised this guys vet didn’t say something similar, after a certain point there isn’t a lot you can do other than try and make the remaining time as happy as possible, and I don’t see how taking meat away from a dog is going to make it happy. Sure they will eat almost anything, but you can tell which foods they really like and which ones they just eat because they are hungry.

  22. FromHereOn says

    I wish for the “magic receipt” caller, an idea was pushed forward like “what could you possibly infer from that?” or “does it make any falsifiable predictions?”. I love the gravity of the “what kind of god would play games with somebody with some number on a reciept?”

    I think the caller needed some extra help separating his emotional ties to the situation and let his rationality get back in the driver’s seat.

    Also, I have a similar relationship with my dad like Tess; being a closeted atheist. You guys hit that one on the head.

  23. says

    Re: vegan diet for dogs. When my last dog had oral cancer, a holistic vet recommended a grain-free diet. (My dog couldn’t tolerate chemo medications.) My regular vet predicted he’d last three months without medications. He lived a year and had a couple of minor surgeries to remove tumors to make him more comfortable.

  24. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says


    I wouldn’t mind reading a paper on whether dogs must eat meat

    Article: Canadian Journal of Comparative Medicine – The Diet of the Dog (1941)

  25. DanTheMilkMan says

    This caller did get me to wondering, why hasn’t Matt written a book? I’d definately buy it.

  26. terrycollins says

    Thanks CompulsoryAccount7746. This first paper indicates dogs can be quite healthy on a vegetarian diet without being tortured.

  27. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says


    For cats, it can be more complicated

    The relationship between “strict/hypercarnivore” (lotsa meat) and “obligate/true carnivore” (meat dependence) is likely evolutionary complacency, at least for cats.

    “The present day nutrient requirements of domestic cats support the thesis that their idiosyncratic requirements arose from evolutionary pressures from a rigorous diet of animal tissue. These changes favoured energy conservation by deletion of redundant enzymes and modification of enzyme activities to result in metabolites more suited to the cat’s metabolism.”

    Article: Recent Advances in Animal Nutrition (RAAN) Conference Proceedings – Unique nutrient requirements of cats appear to be diet induced evolutionary adaptations (2001, warning: technical)
    Meat’s so convenient, they optimized themselves into a corner.
    This trivia from the paper is scary.

    “Cats are exquisitely sensitive to arginine deficiency, for there is no other example in a mammalian species where consumption of a single meal lacking an essential nutrient can lead to death.”

  28. GrzeTor says

    In the program Tracie presented a certain approach to gathering information about cancer, and cancer cures. It was based on first getting cancer, and then trying to get information, which resulted in information overlad, coupled with huge emotional load while doing information processing.

    I think such approach is wrong. We know the statistics on dieseases such as cancer, heart attakc, alzheimers, so we know the numbers are high. A lifetime chance of contracting a cancer for a person is something like 1/3, and growing with time. It’s also a common knowledge that cancer (as well as cardiovascular diesease, alzheimers etc.) happens and is popular, as everyone knows someone who got it. As such noone has a right to be surprised by it.

    Not only that – these are dieseases that predominately happen in later stages of life. For example – 85% of colon cancer cases are in people 55 years or older, only ~1% in people below 35 years. So except for those few who get them at early age, everyone else has enough time to learn a lot about these dieseases. Learning early is the only reasonable option because:
    1) You learn about prevention, have a chance to apply good prevention practices, and there’s time for them to bring effects.
    2) You have time to learn what to do in case you get it anyway: find the good ways to deal with these dieseases, filter out bad ways of dealing with the dieseases; from all camps (conventional, alternative, complementary etc.).
    So if you get the diesease you know what to do, and what not do do: you act faster, more efficiently, and don’t loose time in a critical period.
    3) You don’t suffer from the emotional load while learning. It’s just some new important information you learn; you don’t suffer a depression from dissapointment of not finding a solution, you don’t suffer from false hope.
    4) The positive side effects are that you may learn to act in advance in other areas of life.

  29. fwtbc says

    An enjoyable website to read for stories like this, and a site worth referring callers like this to is “The Odds Must Be Crazy”

    It’s probably in my top 5 for referring people to, alongside “what’s the harm?”, “Science based medicine”, etc.

  30. Sonorus says

    There is a fundamental problem with finding connections. The caller saw his deceased friend’s birthday on a receipt. That is a coincidence. If there was some reason for there to be such a connection, that would indeed be noteworthy, but that is not the case. Since she would clearly be on his mind, he would eventually have seen numbers or words connected to her somewhere and it just happened to be this particular receipt. Given the vast amount of information we encounter on a daily basis, it would be more surprising if her birth date numbers hadn’t seen these numbers somewhere.

    I’m reminded of the conspiracy theorists who point out the number of movies in which the hands of clocks point to 9 and 11. Considering that there are only 144 combinations of where the hands could be and since there’s no issue with which hand is on which number that brings it down to 72. If one looked at hundreds of movies and tv show, one would necessarily have to find many many instances of this combination appearing, as well as all the others. But since they are looking for that particular combination to make a point, they will attach some significance to it. It doesn’t actually prove anything. It would, again, be more surprising if this particular combination didn’t appear anywhere.

  31. terrycollins says

    Ha! If watching your show has taught me nothing else, it is not to deal in absolutes, and to verify stated facts. The assertions that there are millions of cockroach species and that dogs are obligate carnivores is just your way of checking if we have been listening, right?

  32. GrzeTor says

    Sligthly offtopic: There’s a new debate with Matt recently posted on youtube by an user called shockofgod, with his comments. The clip is titled “Matt Dillahunty loses another debate to wise Christian”.

    I don’t know if it’s legitimate (copyright-wise), but since it is there, I inform you about it. Audio quality is bad.

  33. jonmilne says

    Okay, different debate I’m having. This one is about secular morality. Basically what happened is I had this guy called Bryan email me and ask me what evidence there was that secular morality was an better than religious morality. I pointed him towards this study at as well as the summary here, and concluded:

    “The point here should be obvious: if the constant claim made that “religious people are intrinsically more moral than atheists” actually held any water, then we should see across the board evidence that in all aspects, religious people should score better than secular minded people. And yet we don’t. In fact, not only do we not see any actual difference between believing in a God and not believing in one, but in many actual aspects, secular atheists actually are the ones who score better. Kinda revealing, surely?”

    Bryan responded like this.

    Correlation does not prove causation UNLESS you find a causal mechanism. Atheism has no morals of its own at all. All it has it borrowed from other views, usually Christianity.

    The main reason why some secular nations are doing better in a number of areas is due to economics. They are following principles of economic justice outlined in the Bible long ago, while America is not.

    Korea is the most Christian nation in Asia and the #2 mission sending nation in the world at present. It’s also scored #1 in reading, science and math. It ALSO has a much more biblical concept of economics, guaranteeing public health care cheaply for all, having much more of a concern for the government meeting the basic needs of all (which greatly reduces crime, terrorism, war, societal instability, as well as abortion incidentally).

    There are many factors that influence morality. But, religion is indisputably one VERY big one.

    INCREDIBLE STORY! Former White Supremacist Skin Head neo-nazi Gives Life to Jesus

    God Revolutionizes lives

    Belief in God Improves Prosocial Behaviour (moral behaviour) In 186 Societies.
    Roes & Raymond (2003) found that across a sample of 186 human societies, belief in watchful, moralizing gods was positively correlated with measures of group cohesion & size. In addition, experimental research reveals that even subtle reminders of God & religion also promote prosocial behavior (e.g., Pichon, Boccato, & Saroglou, 2007; Randolph-Seng & Nielsen, 2007; Shariff & Norenzayan, 2007; see also McKay, Efferson,Whitehouse, & Fehr, 2011).

    Large research studies have shown that Christianity helps improve morals in young people (and the same is true in older people).

    Dr. Guenter Lewy professor emeritus of the Univ. of Massachusetts was a secularist who set out to ridicule the claims of Christians that the crisis of the age is a crisis of unbelief and to prove the attack on secular modernity “to be a danger to individual liberty as well as an affront to people of goodwill who happened to be agnostics or atheists.” He intended to write a book “Why America doesn’t need Religion.” But, the research changed his mind and he wrote the book, “Why America Needs Religion.”

    “The fifth chapter, “Religiousness and Moral Conduct: Are Believing Christians Different?,” [asks] the question of whether the Christian faith transforms the lives of those who take their religion seriously. In particular, Professor Lewy examines the questions of juvenile delinquency, adult crime, prejudice and intolerance, single parenting, and divorce, and concludes that the vast majority of social science research supports the finding that the minority of Christians who take their religion seriously (as opposed to the nominal Christians of the Christmas-and-Easter variety) have significantly lower rates of moral failure and social ills than any other groups studied.

    You can read much of this chapter online. Start on about page 95.

    See also: (pg. 12 & 13)

    Some allege that Christians have killed people and committed other crimes. This has unfortunately happened in some cases. In nearly all of these cases, the Christians were disobeying the Bible. Should we get rid of science because some scientists have built bombs, chemical weapons and because some like Josef Mengele have done horrible experiments? No. That would be stupid. Should we get rid of education because some teachers have broken the rules and abused kids? No, that also would be foolish. We cannot condone the wrong behaviors of some Christians, but just like the above cases, it would be extremely foolish and harmful to reject Christianity because of some who are disobeying its principles or misunderstanding it.

    If we must look at how many people died though, the fact is that atheist states have killed ~30 times more than ALL religions in history and this includes all religions that are unbiblical (Hinduism, Islam, Voodoo, Catholicism, etc.)

    So yes, as much help as possible in tackling this stuff would be really really appreciated.

    Much thanks,

    Jon Milne

  34. NorskVind says

    This just looks like someone throwing links at you in the hope that you will give up so they can claim victory. I’ll hop in and help out with the “atheist states have killed far more than christian ones” argument. The stats used in the link he provided are blatantly wrong. is lumping religions that aren’t Christian as atheist and then claiming it’s all atheism’s fault. Atheism isn’t “Everything that isn’t christian,” it’s “No belief in any sort of god.” To claim that Hinduism with it’s vastly large pantheon of gods is somehow exactly the same as believing in no gods is nothing short of a blatant lie.

  35. Warren says

    What stuff in the Bible is he actually referring to? What Heyzeus said was not original. Research some sayings from the greek philosophers, Buddha, Confucious and also look at the first written law code, The code of Hammurabi (sp?). All those come centuries before Heyzeus. Ask him to provide specific verses from the Bible that may have influenced people in positive ways, and why they are unique to X-tianity or groundbreaking.

    Tell him of course atheism doesn’t provide a system of morals. It’s simply a nonbelief in a deity. Atheists get their morals from other places. Humans get their morals from evolution, first off, and then reason and introspection. Just show him the studies done with monkeys on empathy, or altruism demonstrated in other animals (a simple google search).

    When he makes mention of atrocities because people went against the Bible, show this moron specific verses of god endorsing slavery, genocide, etc. Google Evil Bible for a comprehensive list of these verses.

    To tackle the charity thing, research the amount of charity done by other religions and by atheists, or secular organizations. It won’t matter if it’s not as much as X-tianity. Tell him he’s basically making an argument of popularity, basically saying that because Xtians are more charitable, that proves god. But of course it doesn’t.

  36. codemonkey says

    Random response:

    The data shows that religious people in the US have higher divorce and teen pregnancy rates than non-religious. Your data is full of shit. Unless of course you commit a “No True Scotsman” fallacy and say that the ones who do get divorced, who do get teen pregnancies, etc., obviously don’t take their religion seriously.

    Finally, the main point is this. The bible is demonstrably false and fiction, and science is demonstrably not. I believe that (with the proper incentives) most people are basically good, and that they act better when they have fewer and less severe factually false beliefs. Of course, I don’t have studies for this offhand, but this is the answer to the question why we should get rid of christianity and not science. Be very careful how you would respond to this. Are you stating clearly and openly that you are in favor of knowingly and openly promoting a demonstrably false belief system because it might make divorce rates slightly lower? Really? I value truth. I suspect you do not. I might be persuaded to spread a lie to make the world a better place, but it damn well better be an amazing lie that makes the world stupidly better, not just lowering divorce rates and creating some more group cohesion. As an aside, I think that the practical side effects of destroying people’s critical thinking skills does far more damage, and I think that is the biggest ill of christianity.

  37. eyeroll says

    I don’t think any of you should worry about what to feed dogs… dogs eat their own POO! But only when it is frozen, thank goodness.

  38. GrzeTor says

    The laws of Hammurabi are supposed to be given to him by his god Marduk. Not a good example.

    A good example of non-religious morality is stuff that doesn’t come from religions:

    1) Ecology – caring about the environment,
    2) Business ethics – there’s not much about corporations in the holy texts. In facts gods tend to hate people as compared to corporations – they plan to torture humans forever for some minor infractions of their laws, while not punishing corporations at all for the same activity.

    About charity – how is that good? Wasting your money for the financial benefit of CEOs of charity organizations. You should invest in moral activity that brings money instead, eg. selling healthy food.

  39. GrzeTor says

    There’s a bigger damage from religions that just blocking the critical thinkig skills.

    It’s the conviction that it’s OK, and in fact great to call something, someone, some group, some activity, some idea EVIL without having any proof of anything. Did I mention that EVIL needs to be destroyed?

  40. GrzeTor says

    Vegetarians response to your accusations:

    Dr. John McDougall presents “Why Did Steve Jobs Die?”

  41. MCB says

    Nothing you say is going to convince these people. The point I am raising here is particularly abstract. Which means the odds of them understanding it are near zero, because they don’t want to.

    When considering the advantage of secular morality, it is probably worth thinking about why secular reasoning became the dominant mode for moral philosophy in the West over the last few centuries. In short, the reason is that religious morality does not work when people do not agree about religion.

    Brief, sloppy, history:

    Europe in the Middle Ages was a relatively religiously homogenous place, dominate by a highly bureaucratized church. True, works like _The Cheese and the Worms_ have shown us the danger of being overly stereotypical about pre-enlightenment European religion, but I think that basic point is true. You could count on being able to enforce a religious justification for morality because everyone was supposed to be on the same page. In fact, common people weren’t even given the page (the church was not excited about having regular folk read the bible) so that there was little chance of misreading it.

    But over several centuries Europe itself became more religiously diverse and came into increasing contact with people who did not share their religion. How do you discuss morality with someone who does not accept your religion? Better yet: how do you rule people who do not accept the religious justifications for your laws?

    You might think of this question as similar to the philosophical problem religious morality always has: is god right because there is an objective moral code or is morality right just because god says it is? If god is right because he conforms to morality, then that suggests that religion itself does not answer moral questions. God tells us not to murder people because murdering people is wrong, he does not make murder wrong. On the latter view, religious justifications seem unsatisfying. If it is only right because god says it is right, would it be right to rape and murder an eight year old girl if god told you to?

    So, to get back to the point, religion provides little help when trying to discuss right and wrong with people who do not share your religion. The answer is to try to appeal to something more universal than religion. Early modern moral philosophy often focused on the idea that god and imbued nature with a moral order that was accesible to all human beings who possessed the capacity for reason.

    The hope here, is that reason actually provides some common ground to talk about morality with someone who does not share all of your assumptions. You can convince the Christian not to stone you to death for working on the sabbath by appealing to his or her reason.

    In modern America, there really is not much shared ground about religion. Talk of America being a “Christian” nation misses the reality that “Christians” do not all believe the same things about morality. In fact Europeans killed each other over these differences for centuries. In a world where people do not share common religious values, religion is a poor place to ground any public discussion of morality.

  42. lux228 says

    Here is some interesting reading on the vegan diet for dogs.

    “Every single nutrient that a dog
    requires can be achieved without any animal ingredients whatsoever. The vegan diet is indeed a viable choice for dogs, certainly not deserving of the fear,
    anger, resistance and prejudice that the suggestion of it often elicits.”

  43. jdog says

    shockofgod has been releasing highly edited versions of videos with Matt in them ever since he got banned from calling in to the show for being unable to accept the concept of burden of proof

  44. codemonkey says

    I think we’re talking about the same thing, but using different words to describe it. To make any claim without good reason or evidence is a lack of critical thinking skills. To think critically, the etymology, is to be critical of things. To make a claim without good reason or evidence demonstrates that you were not critical of the idea. It’s intimately tied to the idea of falsification of science. If you have an idea, you ought to try to figure out how you know you’re right, how you might know you’re wrong, and have you tried to figure out if you’re wrong.

  45. MCB says

    I have no idea what this has to do with vegetarianism. A vegetarian diet may be a great way to prevent cancer, and it could still be true that delaying cancer treatment is bad for your odds of survival.

    This doctor does not appear to be an expert on cancer, whereas the doctor quoted in the pieces on Jobs is a professional researcher specializing in cancer. This doctor also does not appear to be a professional researcher, and his occupation appears to be primarily selling books about the benefits of a plant based diet. He has published research papers, though again in the area of nutrition and not in the area of cancer treatment or research.

    I have no idea why his statement–the truth of which I do not know–the Jobs’ first cancer cell should have formed decades ago would mean that postponing the latest cancer treatment once his cancer was diagnosed would not have decreased his odds of survival.

    I am far from an expert on cancer or its treatment (which is why I would do what an oncologist told me to), but this does not seem very convincing to me.

  46. tonysnark says

    That atheism has no intrinsic morality is absolutely right. This does not mean atheists have no morals, just that they get their morals from somewhere else.

    Personally I get my morals from basic human compassion, my upbringing and ethical philosophy. I do remember being taught moral lessons by means of Bible stories at school – cherry picked Bible sources that is, as I later found out by reading the Bible! There is as much or more that is morally reprehensible in the Bible as is morally laudable. When one picks and chooses from the Bible like that, it only serves to demonstrate that these so-called Christians are actually getting their morality from somewhere other than the Bible too, otherwise how would they know what stories to pick and which to ignore?

    The only way anyone could think that only Christians have morality is by pure ignorance. Ethical philosophy has a literature that goes back thousands of years. Civilizations have had systems of laws and morals since long before Judaism and Christianity even existed. I despair at people who think morality is about picking items of a list of things that God allegedly does or doesn’t like. That kind of thing is to morality as banging rocks together is to technology. It may have been excusable in ancient Palestine but we have no excuse for it now.

  47. tonysnark says

    The Code of Hammurabi is not given as an example of non-religious morality, but as evidence that systems of morality existed that predate the Bible.

  48. Sonorus says

    Here’s an idea for Matt…get someone to transcribe one of his lectures. Voila…first draft. I realize there’s more to it than that and an editor would be a good idea (for everyone, even professional writers…there’s not enough editing these days and that’s a shame…even Hemingway had an editor). I’d certainly buy his book and having a book opens up all kinds of talk show and other tv appearances for him.

  49. jacobfromlost says

    The “logic” behind the “atheism killed more people” argument is completely vacuous.

    Setting aside whether rejecting an unsupported claim because it is unsupported can ever really motivate you to do anything (I tend to agree with Matt that it cannot, but I think Russell disagrees)…

    You can use the very same “logic” for any random unsupported belief you want. Just look at all the people in the world who killed someone while not believing in Superman. Clearly all those people killed because they didn’t believe in Superman. But some of the people who don’t believe in Superman didn’t kill anyone, you say? Well they borrowed their morality from Superman’s truth, justice, and the American Way.

    Some people killed while claiming to believe in Superman, you say? Oh, well they aren’t true Superman believers because, as we all know, true Superman believers don’t kill people. Only nonbelievers do. Because we just said so. See?

    It’s beyond idiotic, and barely a word game.

    And that’s ignoring the Christian notion that everyone is inherently in need of a savior from their sins–the very purpose of Jesus in the first place. Christians act like “true Christians” don’t sin, or at least don’t do those really bad sins like murder that, you know, require a savior (that they just told you about in their last breath) to forgive! So much for all that talk of sins being equal in the eyes of god. I guess the really bad ones are evidence you are not a “true Christian” and Jesus only saves you from fibbing about your age (in court?) and such. If you murdered someone, or many someones, and feel in need of a “Savior”…I guess you’re SOL. What a disappointing savior.

  50. JE Hoyes says

    The show was taken up with topics that weren’t about atheism. Vegan dogs and alternative medicine aren’t necessarily intrinsic to atheism. The show was too off-topic for me. The dog caller, the receipt caller, the “Matt & superstition” caller and the alternative medicine rambling intro should have been reined in. From what I can remember, the only pertinent question was from the atheist having trouble with her mum.

  51. lankyfrost says

    Wow guys, to me this was the best show in recent memory. Tracie’s comments about the burdens placed on the caregivers, how the pursuing the smallest off-hand suggestion can send them spiraling, the desperate need to find something, anything that will help when all standard options have been exhausted, how much guilt/regret/doubt they have to live with afterwards, and how vulnerable they are to snake oil peddlers… just devastating. Thanks for a great show.

  52. says

    Just because the A-word didn’t come up doesn’t mean it wasn’t about that.

    The Matt-caller was about the “lead atheist” being superstitious and cult-leader-like, which would be hypocritical of him or the show, because of the show’s stance against such things.

    The show is also about skepticism, and the topic of alternative medicine falls well into this topic. The show also addresses epistemology, gullibility and superstition. There’s a lot of crossover between religion and alternative medicine.

    The subtext of the dog-caller was about how to deal with the problem without religion – about taking an evidence/reasoned approach to dealing with disease, as well as a non-religious approach to empathy and compassion.

    It’s addressing the implicit question of “without religion, what do I do about ______?”

  53. leedawson says

    I completely agree. Jen and Tracie work off of each very well and have good chemistry. I wish they would co-host more often (and free up more time for Matt to do lectures and debates, but that’s just me being selfish).

  54. Mike_g says

    Is it just me, or did the supposed dog with cancer-caller remind anybody of Mark from Stone Church (a made-up story as well)?

  55. says

    for terry

    Russell: His point was good but he gave a really bad example and also he was wrong on his example.

    Jen: gave a bad medical advice (I told in a previous post that she is not calified to give medical advice, so she shoudn’t give any on that show). well she doesn’t give only an advice but even more a command when she is not an expert nor qualified….I hope AE will do something about her attitude in that case….

    Martin:like to do jokes when his colleges are blamed.. I can understand that, but as a rational guy I hope he will give some blames to Jen about her attitude on the show…

  56. Clio says

    Great show! I’ve only discovered it here in the last month or so on youtube but have quickly graduated to watching your full episodes!

    I sympathized with the caller who just wanted to make her mother understand – I suppose you could say that I “came out” to my mother when I was 15 or 16 and her immediate reaction was “Oh, honey! You’re going to go to hell!” I pretty much haven’t brought the subject up since (I’m not 28 here in 3 weeks). The only thing on my side, really, is that my family isn’t all that religious, it’s more just “the thing to do because everyone else does it.”

    I really appreciate all the people who work on the show taking time out of their lives to make it happen, especially Matt who is in the majority of the episodes. I agree with a previous poster that if he wrote a book I’d definitely buy it. Matt and all the co-hosts do a great job with the callers, though I am presupposed to like cat-lovers best so I have to admit Traci is my favorite. =^) (I honestly enjoy all the on-air personalities but the cat thing but Traci over the top) ;^)

    Keep up the great work!

  57. says

    “Trick or Treatment?: Alternative Medicine on Trial” by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst is a great general overview of the evidence for the major alternative therapies. In spite of the fact that Ernst is the Professor of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter, none of the therapies really come out very well.

  58. says

    There are hundreds of types of cancer. And you want the average person to become expert on treatments for these illnesses? That would pretty well require us all to become oncologists.

    My husband’s cancer was rare. The stage it was diagnosed at, even more rare, but made it more deadly. He was in his early 30s when he got it. And the standard treatment protocols posted online at sources were already somewhat different by the time we got him to a surgeon to remove the tissue that was infected. That was over 10 years ago, and today, the treatment protocol that followed the cancer is no longer the first line in treating this type of cancer.

    Your suggestion that everyone should be expert at hundreds of types of cancer treatments and every form of cancer they could possibly encounter is ridiculous and not at all realistic or compassionate. You sound like someone who has never had to cope firsthand with cancer; but I won’t accuse, because it’s possible for people to actually experience situations and still come out having learned nothing whatsoever.

  59. says

    Correction in one sentence above that was unclear:

    “the treatment protocol that followed the cancer [surgery] is no longer the first line in treating this type of cancer.”

  60. says

    Just to clarify, the caller did not infer anything from the receipt. His point was that he understood how it could seem relevant to others. He interpreted the situation as pure coincidence, and was only trying to communicate that “this type of thing is what confuses people and makes them believe in some sort of mystical connection.” But he didn’t believe it himself.

  61. says

    Thanks. For me the question is not so much “can I get an animal to do X?” as “Should I try and force this animal to do X?”

    I’ve seen bears walk on two legs, but that doesn’t make them bipedal. If someone told me they had trained a bear to walk exclusively on two legs, I would wonder at *why* they had done this. For me, determining what is best for any species includes accepting facts regarding that species and not trying to superimpose behaviors on the animals that go against the animal’s inherent qualities. Carnivore and Omnivore behavior generally includes killing and eating other species. This is pure fact. If we place a judgment upon that behavior, that judgment *must*–if we are to be reasonable–include the innate nature of the species. If asked why being a carnivore is “wrong”–the response includes merely an explanation of what being a carnivore entails, that has not actually answered the question.

    If I ask “what is wrong with 3?,” the answer “Well, it’s wrong because it’s 1+1+1,” helps me not at all. I know a carnivore kills and eats other animals (assuming it’s not a scavenger), simply expressing “it’s a carnivore” in more detail does not explain anything about the judgment. It’s simply saying “Carnivores are just inherently wrong.” To me “wrong” isn’t just about harmful behavior, but about deviant harmful behavior. An animal adapted to killing and eating cannot be reasonably said to be wrong in what it does, anymore than I should decide bears should be bipedal. They’re not.

    When a linguist goes to study and record the language of a tribe that has not been studied greatly, that linguist will often develop a “grammar.” He will observe the tribe and record what is and is not clearly understood by native speakers of this heretofore unrecorded language, and learn the rules by his observations.

    In English, we have done the opposite. Many years ago, English did not have a “grammar,” and texts were written in Latin. When we began recording in English, we had no “grammar” for that language to work with, and so it was retro-fitted into Latin. This created a situation with counter-intuitive rules, such as “you cannot split an infinitive.” However, in English, not only CAN you split an infinitive, but it’s clearly understood by other native speakers, which means that from the standpoint of an English speaker–it’s fine to split an infinitive. But grammatically, you’d be called “wrong” for doing so, because we don’t consider native speakers as the source of authority for English, but “Latin” as the source of authority. This is actually backward to how a grammar would be made for a language in just about any other context. It would be ludicrous for an anthropologist to start telling the tribe he’s studying that they aren’t speaking their language “correctly,” and try to force them to speak it within a Latin grammatical construct, or else declare they’re “wrong.”

    To me, this is what the ethical vegan does. They seem to want to declare what the species are inherently as wrong–simply because of what they are inherently. “Animals are killed at the hands of carnivores and omnivores.” Yes, that’s because carnivores and omnivores *eat* meat as part of their factual diet. To ask “should” they is like asking if an English speaker “should” split an infinitive. The language is set up to use infinitives that include a gap where another word can be inserted. That’s merely a *fact* of the language. Calling it “wrong,” because you think English speakers should treat their language as though it utilizes one-word infinitives (which cannot be split, via simple fact), is to disregard the inherent quality of the language.

    It’s nearly like expressing a grievance that you live on a planet where carnivores and omnivores were ‘allowed’ to evolve. I don’t know quite how to respond to that, except to say “Welcome to Earth. I’m sorry it’s disappointing.”

  62. mike says

    No one, and I mean no one comes up with analogies as succinct and as apt as Tracie does! Want more excellent analogies? then listen to Godless Bitches were Tracie does it routinely!

  63. dauerc says

    I think “Gish Gallop” refers to professional debate tactics and not the particular problem of callers who draw a blank or worse get angry or defensive when their ideas of the world are proven irrational. Look up “cognitive dissonance” which probably explains this behavior much better. It is a normal and natural function of the brain when it is presented with something that is held as a strong belief but is countered by new information. It is evolutions way of trying to make sense of false information or to protect us from being taken in by false ideas that counter things we hold to be true. As much as many of us wish to believe we are open a free thinkers, cognitive dissonance effects all of us, it is just that it is very apparent to us when a caller on the show goes a little weird in the face of evidence or beliefs that are counter to what they hold to be true.

  64. xman says

    These silly faults are frequently made on both sides– theist and atheist programs alike. Pointless, time wasting for everyone.


  1. […] Atheist Bible Study: If Man Obeyed God by DarkMatter2525:, Two creation stories: Genesis 1:26 Second story: Genesis 2:7 Adam is made. Then Eve is created Genesis 2:19-25. VenomFangX discussing dinosaurs:, Isaiah 45:7 – “The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.” Godless Bitches podcast:, specific show thread about vegan dogs: […]