Open thread on episode #813

So today it was Russell and Matt, taking, among others, a call from a repeat doof who apparently thinks knowledge works by simple assertion. Oh well…as usual, below is where you say the things you think.


  1. bradman1203 says

    If there is a worse debate style than that displayed (repeatedly), by Corey, I have yet to hear it.

    Oh, wait… I just thought of Ray Comfort. As you were…

  2. Charles Coffey says

    It’s much the same nonsense that they are posting over that the pathos Blog. The idea that Religion is entitled to some special pleading respect, and the later advent that all ideas deserve equal time, are probably two of the most dangerous ideas that humans have ever inflicted on themselves.

    Also, I value what Anthropologists do, but after talking to these folks, I swear I’m beginning to think that sociologists are to science, what Homeopathy is to Medicine.

    Lastly, Russel: Kazim. Peer review to publish a paper isn’t really reproducing results, as very rarely is such a thing done at this stage. When you submit a paper, researchers in the appropriate fields will review the paper looking for problems? Do the cited data actually support the conclusions claimed? Were the techniques and methods used appropriate. Does the paper ignore other more current findings that are germane? Often, this results in corrections to the paper being suggested, which will result either in a revision to the paper as suggested by the reviewer, or a successful defense by the author for the original premise/statement.

    if it passes the review, and it is published, that is when the brand new bullet-proof vest is put on, and people begin to shoot at you. At that point, related researchers look at the paper. Graduate schools and advisers will direct suitable grad students to reproduce works, not only to confirm results, but also to teach them how to Write the grand applications for needed monies, learn the techniques required, and to help them to develop current knowledge in their field. It is this later stage, after the publication to the community at large, that confirmation by reproducing the results, and applying other current research (or even more obscure findings), are brought to bear.

    In fact, and interesting thing about review, is that in the case the work is significant, the review never really ends. The work is constantly used and modified, sometimes changing over time to look much different than the understanding in the paper. It’s an aspect that most laypeople are unaware, that the peer review and the process of the scientific method itself are much the same thing, like matter and energy.


  3. says

    It always drives me crazy when people try to assert that having a gay parent is detrimental to a child! My dad was gay and his issues stemmed not from homosexualty, but drug use. There were some of my dad’s lovers I adored–others not so much. Truth be told, one of them I would have happily ran off and let him raise me. In spite of my dad’s human failing,s I came out all right. I am bisexual but I truly think that is a nature thing. My sis is straight. What the caller suffered from was a perception bias based on what seemed “normal” to him. Also–they seem to fail to understand that kids from staigh,t two parent homes can come out maladjusted as well — some school shooters came from two parent, hetero homes, it’s not a gold standard.

  4. Aaroninmelbourne says

    The caller arguing that “Evolution” somehow means gay people shouldn’t be able to get married raises an important point about how pervasive insidious religious assumptions are in our society.
    This particular meme/argument – that sex is primarily for reproduction; and because it requires (naturalistically) a male and female to reproduce, it therefore means “a male and a female” are the correct parental structure and by extension, heterosexuality is the only ‘correct’ sexuality – is steeped in religious doctrine. It has nothing to do with what the evidence actually shows.
    Due to the nature of this discussion board I will not go into too many lurid details but will rather pose a few thought-starters: what is the reproductive style of various other animals, particularly solitary species versus social species? For example, what’s the reproductive stye of the giant squid? Compare that to how the Bonobo settles arguments? How many species have exhibited homosexual behaviours and under what conditions? What does the size of the human brain suggest about the resources required to raise a human child and how might this affect human lifespams? And what does all of this knowledge suggest about human sexuality and human family structure, particularly concepts of the ‘naturalness’ of human homosexuality and what might constitute ‘natural’ sexual conduct in general?
    For those wanting the basic result of this, here it is: sexuality in a social species is far more about intimacy and social bonds than it is about reproduction. This is why sterile humans, including post-menopausal humans don’t lose their sexual desires. Furthermore, homosexuality is common across species, particularly in social species. In terms of “evolution” (the caller’s particular stance), all it need do is “not do damage to species survival”, it doesn’t have to have a “benefit” (consider hair or eye color as another example of this). Our offspring require massive amounts of resources, compared to animals with small brains. It has been posited that perhaps longer lifespans benefit offspring survival by providing larger families to look after them.
    The point is, none of the evidence suggests the standard “sex is really there for reproduction, therefore children require a mother and a father” which is a religious docrtine that’s been accepted as a societal meme, but is not a concept supported by the evidence. Human sexality and family structures are far broader than that.

  5. says

    The burden of proof isn’t just some kind of word game, there’s several reasons why it needs to be on the person making the claim.

    1) It’s frequently possible to posit something false that is not falsifiable. Shifting the burden of proof here would mean, on an epistemological level, that we’d be believing true things falsely, which renders the epistemology useless.

    2) The person making the claim is much more likely to have access to the evidence. If the person believes something, then the person should have had some sort of experience or observation, and thus should have at least an idea of how to gather supporting evidence for it. The people who didn’t observe the phenomenon don’t have this opportunity.

    3) As stated on the show, multiple contradictory claims would have to be held as true, resulting in an epistemological failure.

    4) Allocation of harm. If other people have to take the time to research and falsify your ill-conveived, and/or purposely misleading claims, that wastes the one and only life we have. Multiply this by tens of thousands of fraudulent or incorrect claims from across the planet, and it adds up. Reserving the burden of proof on the claimant ensures that, in a world full of hoaxers, the harm is contained to those who are irresponsibly careless with their claims, and/or deceptive.

  6. says

    His position didn’t appear to be well thought out… which isn’t unusual for some reason.

    Their “concern” relies so much on a cartoonish oversimplification of the world, where hetro parents are unquestionably perfect, and we don’t have a million studies yet that find homosexuals aren’t going to suddenly turn into mass child rapers at a moment’s notice.

  7. Kazim says

    I got email from Corey today. Here it is.

    I wasn’t rude or offensive. I don’t know why you hung up. To honestly answer Russell’s question… Am I always right? I guess I am, and if I said that last night, Russell would have hung up on me anyway. Matt say’s M&M’s created the universe: How does he know, they did not, since he claims he does not know? Your logic Matt, I am sorry, is self-refuting.

    What do I even DO with that?

  8. garnetstar says

    Can someone tel me which other episodes Corey is on?

    I think I’m in love.

  9. Kazim says

    I thought he had called more than twice, but then I realized that the reason is that he’s been popping up in our email regularly since December 2011. He has generally been kind of a snotty asshole, and it turns out that I highlighted some of his idiot mail here:

    There are a few dozen more. I recognized the name when he called, and suggested Matt not take the call, but I didn’t remember details until I checked.

  10. Vall says

    I think he’s the perfect candidate for the “were you there?” response you guys mentioned. “Yes, I was there, and because I was, I KNOW that you weren’t.”

  11. garnetstar says

    Thanks, Russell. Now I know I’m in love. He’s my soul (so to speak) mate.

  12. Lord Narf says

    I’d sum it up far simpler than that.

    What is the average number of sexual acts per child born, in the human species, right now? Several hundred to one, perhaps? Clearly, the primary purpose of sex can’t be those children, in our species, when other species of mammals average something like 1 to 1 or possibly even higher.

  13. kestra says

    The entire JAQ-off argument about “But *are* gay parents *as good as* straight parents?” fails on So. Many. Levels.

    Firstly, if you take as gospel (pun!) that “children do best when raised by a mother a father,” then congratulations, you are an activist for the wrong cause! You are arguing against divorce, NOT same-sex marriage.

    Secondly, so, okay, great, it is well known that children of stable married couples, based on population-level statistics, tend to do “better” on metrics like school achievement and mental health. What about children with grandparents who are active in their upbringing? If that family structure is *even better* than two opposite-sex married parents, then should we say you can’t raise children if you don’t have at least one living grandparent? What about when a spouse dies? Does the surviving spouse go from “fit” to “unfit” as soon as they are involuntarily un-coupled? Are you going to criminalize single-parenthood, or advocate for shot-gun weddings? If not, why not? Your sincerely stated belief is that is what’s best for children. Don’t you care about children?

    Just because your 50s-gender-roles nuclear family is ideal in your head, doesn’t mean that model can be easily and widely replicated. Every family has challenges, and every family structure is constantly evolving and changing. You can’t legislate that, and you shouldn’t try. Plenty of same-sex couples live and raise children in states where they cannot access the legal rights of a marriage contract. If you’re not prepared to illegalize those relationships again and remove children from their parents (and some people are certainly trying to do just that), then you don’t really believe in your own arguments, you just don’t like gay people.

  14. mond says

    Any truth in the rumour that Matt is now to be know as ACA President Emeritus and will be moving into a room in the ACA building to live out his dotage?

  15. AvalonXQ says

    I disagree with Matt’s comments about free will being incompatible with a Creator. The fact that a Creator chose to create one world rather than another doesn’t remove responsibility from an individual who freely chooses to commit an evil act. Unless Matt is advocating that the Creator could have chosen from two universes that are identical except for the same individual having made different choices — which is, I think, not something that Christianity espouses.

  16. Lord Narf says

    This is one of the big problems with omnipotence. Claiming omnipotence means that a creator can do pretty much exactly that. Particularly with a theistic god who sticks his fingers into the creation and fiddles with things, periodically, that’s quite possible.

    I don’t know if Matt included the conditionals in the specific iteration that you’re referring to, but what he generally says is that free will is impossible with an omnipotent, omniscient creator-god. With those conditionals, he’s correct.

  17. AvalonXQ says

    It really depends on how you tweak your definitions of “free will” and “omnipotent.”

    Basically for Matt’s argument to hold, omnipotence has to include “the ability, for any possible choice, to make two different Bobs who are both actually the same person but make a single different moral choice in Situation X.”

    I don’t believe a being has to be able to choose arbitrarily between Bob 1 and Bob 2 in its design to be considered omnipotent, and I don’t think most Christians would consider this to be within the definition either — for the same reason that manifesting a non-round circle isn’t within the standard definition. If Bob 1 and Bob 2 are both actually the same person but God can create either, than Bob doesn’t have free will regarding Situation X.

    So, allow me to formalize it like this: in creating a being with free will with respect to Situation X, God is necessarily constraining His power in that, by granting the being free with respect to Situation X, He does not have the ability to select from multiple outcomes for Situation X while still creating the being. In other words, the free will and nature of the being constrain God with respect to the outcome of Situation X such that it is no longer in His control, but rather in the control of the being.

  18. Lord Narf says

    You’re completely leaving out omniscience. If a god knows how everything is going to turn out and can change reality however he wants, there’s no free will.

  19. AvalonXQ says

    I haven’t left out omniscience at all.

    Again, my formalization is:
    (God giving free will to B with respect to X) –> (God is constrained in determining the outcome of X)

    Further if B1 and B2 are possible beings who have free will with respect to Situation X and yet choose differently, then B1 and B2 are essentially different beings; that is, choosing to create B1 is different from choosing to create B2 in some way other than their choice for Situation X.

    What I’m saying is, the existence of free will means that God does not have a free choice of options in Situation X. His choice to create a free moral agent constrains this.

  20. Lord Narf says

    If the being in your scenario has a free choice which this god doesn’t already know the end result of, then the god is not omniscient. If the god already knows the end result, and the being can’t help but make that decision, then there’s no free will. Free will that is determined to end with a given choice is not free will.

    Omnipotence is just a reenforcing factor.

    Any vague claim of indeterminism isn’t a way out for Christianity, either. Prophesy wouldn’t work, then.

  21. AvalonXQ says

    “If the god already knows the end result, and the being can’t help but make that decision, then there’s no free will. Free will that is determined to end with a given choice is not free will. Free will that is determined to end with a given choice is not free will.”

    No, that’s incorrect. I already explained how I was formalizing free will; it doesn’t cease to be free will just because its outcome is known, providing its outcome isn’t CONTROLLED. So, yes, the Creator knows what the outcome will be but doesn’t CHOOSE the outcome (because there is no way for the being to create being B and still choose any outcome for Situation X other than the one that B will freely choose).

    Do you have a problem with my formalization?

  22. wholething says

    I have been waiting for somebody to ask me the “Were you there?” question so I can say “Yes, in the Hebrews 7:10 sense that Levi was in Abraham when Melchizedek met him.

  23. edmond says

    What is the difference between an outcome that is known, and an outcome that is controlled? An outcome where every step is pre-planned and will take place according to a known, pre-set path IS controlled. An uncontrolled outcome would be one that is unknown. There is no difference.

    Omniscience puts God in the position of being the reader of a novel, or the viewer of a movie, where he has already seen and memorized the work to the end, and knows every step that every character will take. With omniscience, no character (human) can make a choice or take an action that is not pre-known. They can never surprise God by taking unexpected actions. If ANY being, god or not, has omniscience, then free will is not possible. We would all be puppets, characters fulfilling a script. Only when the future is unknown and uncontrolled can we actually be free.

    Now, a reader may know the outcome of a novel without being in control of it, but God is not simply the READER of the novel, but he is the author too. He WROTE the script. No one will ever deviate from what he predestined. No one COULD. He is the puppetmaster of his own show, having created the past, present and future of all reality according to his will. None of us could do anything which he did not create.

  24. AvalonXQ says

    “What is the difference between an outcome that is known, and an outcome that is controlled? An outcome where every step is pre-planned and will take place according to a known, pre-set path IS controlled. An uncontrolled outcome would be one that is unknown. There is no difference.”

    You know, I’ve never seen anyone justify this assertion; it’s always just asserted as self-evident fact. And I simply don’t agree — there is nothing about knowing an outcome that suddenly means you controlled it.

    By what mechanism does omniscience necessarily imply a lack of free will, and why do you assert that the ability to surprise is a prerequisite to free will?

  25. Lord Narf says

    And I simply don’t agree — there is nothing about knowing an outcome that suddenly means you controlled it.

    For a mortal, sure. For an omnipotent, omniscient creator-being, it absolutely means he controlled it. Even if he simply didn’t act, his lack of action means he allowed to happen what he knew would happen, if he didn’t interfere with a specific event.

    You keep doing this, jumping contexts. You excuse this omniscient, omnipotent being for things that are understandable for humans but for which he doesn’t get a pass, because of the attributes you’re applying to him.

  26. Lord Narf says

    No, that’s incorrect. I already explained how I was formalizing free will; it doesn’t cease to be free will just because its outcome is known, providing its outcome isn’t CONTROLLED. So, yes, the Creator knows what the outcome will be but doesn’t CHOOSE the outcome (because there is no way for the being to create being B and still choose any outcome for Situation X other than the one that B will freely choose).

    Do you have a problem with my formalization?

    I find your formulation irrelevant. I didn’t even work my way through it all the way, because you’re encountering major definitional problems before you even get to that.

    Your definition of free will is useless. If it’s a deterministic outcome, it doesn’t matter whether or not it was directly controlled by this omnipotent creator being. Furthermore, if it’s in any way deterministic/known, then it’s still the result of the way that the omnipotent, omniscient creator god created the universe. It was still controlled by him, as a result of his initial creation of the causal chain. That still means determinism and not libertarian free will.

    I don’t buy that any sort of free will is an excuse for a god allowing evil, and I find your stilted, limited free will even less of an excuse.

  27. AvalonXQ says

    Essentially I’m denying the proposition that I understand Matt was making that God chooses Bob’s actions because God could have created Bob to behave differently. Free will means that God could not have created Bob to behave differently: by creating Bob with free will, it’s Bob’s choice and not God’s.

  28. Lord Narf says

    And we (Matt and I) deny that free will can exist in a universe created by an omniscient, omnipotent creator god. It doesn’t matter how much you assert that we have free will, when it’s not apparent that we do.

    There’s some point in the logical progression that you’re missing, and I don’t feel like walking through it. It’s true that an omnipotent, omniscient creator god creating Bob means that Bob will do everything that the god created him to do. Yes, free will would mean that Bob will potentially behave differently than the way that the god created him to behave. That’s why we know that either Bob doesn’t have free will, or the creator god who created him isn’t omniscient and omnipotent.

    So much else in Christian dogma is nonsensical. Why should we accept free will as a given, particularly when some Christians deny that we have it.

    I know what free will means. I also know that it doesn’t fit within the definition of God given by almost all Christians. It’s like you’re … adding in a second thing that contradicts the first thing and saying that it somehow modifies the first thing, rather than understanding that they’re contradictory. I’m not sure where the glitch is.

  29. says

    Ugh. That whole call was aggravating. So much wrong.

    1. As if we needed evidence that atheists can be just as stupid as theists, the caller from France can serve as Exhibit A.

    2. Marriage and adoption are two separate issues. At one point in the Scandinavian countries they allowed civil partnerships but no adoptions were allowed except by married opposite sex couples. Single people were also not allowed to adopt.

    3. In America we have done things a bit backwards. In many states gay people have been allowed to adopt and in some states gay couples were allowed to co-adopt decades before they were allowed to have civil unions or marriage rights. It is possible for a gay couple to co-adopt without being married. I suppose it would also be possible to allow gay marriage but not the right to adopt. Adoption isn’t a right. We don’t just allow anyone to adopt. There is a rigorous screening process and I think most of us agree a necessary one. It’s too bad that people having babies the more old-fashioned way don’t have to go through such a process. Many of society’s ills would be eliminated if unfit parents weren’t allowed to procreate.

    4. As Russell pointed out (thanks, Russell!) there is no evidence of harm to children by growing up in same sex or single sex parent households. Moreover, every person I know who is either single parenting or co-parenting with a same sex partner takes great pains to make sure that their child or children have adults in their lives of both sexes. It’s not as if a lesbian couple is going to raise their children with no male role models. I have never heard of anyone doing such a thing, so that argument is moot.

    Basically the caller has prejudices against gay people as is trying to rationalize them using the naturalistic fallacy. There’s also a little of the “we’ve always done it that way” fallacy thrown in. Modern parenting is a social construct. Some of it is probably helpful but if you read any anthropology it’s obvious that what we do now is not how it was always done. If I believed children were harmed by being raised by a same sex couple then I’d object to such adoptions, surrogacy, etc too. But there is no such evidence. The studies show the opposite. and since we all know people raised in “traditional” families who are messed up (to say the least) the argument just doesn’t hold up. The caller needs to ask himself why he has this objection to gay rights, because that’s what it comes down to.

  30. John Phillips, FCD says

    What gives with this weeks video, it’s marked as private on Blip and offline in my downloader. Are you restricting access now?

  31. terrycollins says

    God! I really hate Blip! What do you guys have against Youtube? You could at least post a copy there.

  32. says

    I agree we need to get it together with our YouTube channel much better than we’ve been doing. The ACA has been going through some transitions lately, and hopefully now that most of it’s over we can get back to being more reliable about things like this.

  33. John Phillips, FCD says

    When clicking the Archive page link for #813 the video is still not accessible with ‘Video marked as private’ error message instead . Though perhaps not surprising that you have a non-working link on your archive page for #813, as it is not in the Blip AE episode list yet either.

  34. changerofbits says

    I also heard that he worked out a deal with ACA Board where he could keep the infallibility of the ACA Presidency, but with the caveat that it only applies to acts of prestidigitation. But, Jen is now in control of the Sceptre of Atheist Wrath and the Crown of Infinite Skepticism, which were obtained by opening the Ark of Rationism using the Three Rings of Logic held by Tracie, Russell, and Jeff, all while Matt lay sleeping too close in proximity to the Woo Vortex of Scientology near LA. Muuuaaahhhaaahhhaaahhhaaa!

  35. Corey says

    If I claim that I know how the universe came into being (GOD) and have to demonstrate my knowledge…. Then why if Matt and Russ make a claim that they don’t know…. Why do they not have to demonstrate their ignorance?

  36. Lord Narf says

    I think this is the point at which I just dismiss you as being either a complete moron or a troll.

  37. grainger says

    You’re making two claims, Corey. Your claims are;

    “I believe in god”

    “God is real”

    Matt and Russ only claim is

    “I do not believe in god”.

    They don’t claim god isn’t real. They would need to provide evidence if they were to make that claim.

    We could get into a discussion about why you should believe they’re really atheists, and why we should believe you’re really a theist. But it would be boring. We only want to talk about whether God is real or not.

  38. changerofbits says

    Corey, unless you think Matt and Russell are lying, they have demonstrated their ignorance by definition. They didn’t make a claim about how the universe was created, they simply claimed that they don’t know.

    Think about it, if we atheists knew how the universe was created (an easily understandable answer, provable by clear evidence), don’t you think we would use it like a club to disabuse you of your God answer? We don’t know, but we also don’t think you’ve got the right answer.

  39. bigwhale says

    The theory of evolution means that straight couples should raise kids? Makes as much sense as saying a theory of gravity means we shouldn’t build airplanes.

  40. Heaven says

    This was the show about jumping from high buildings, wasn’t it? I always wonder why someone claiming that he or she can fly want to start from the top of the high building. If you can fly, just start on the ground and fly to the top!

  41. says

    I’m just a wee bit bummed you have the comments turned off on youtube but I understand why. I live in Nevada and I almost always am working during your actual broadcast so youtube is how I see your shows usually. I just wanted to say I love the show and think both Russel and Matt are great! The rest of the hosts and cohosts are just fine I just think you two make a really really good team. I love the fact you want truth and not just faith.

  42. Lord Narf says

    Yeah, it’s fun tangling with the theists who watch the show, but the YouTube comment section is about the worst place to do it. By turning off comments on YouTube and directing them here, we have a much better forum for having a coherent conversation with them.

  43. Mr. R Herring says

    This episode spoke on the question of refuting the philosophical nothing. I wanted to add something on that from the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer on the word necessary in the PSR. I’ll first make the statement about philosophical nothing, though it references the necessary from the argument below it.

    Philosophical nothing, is like the necessary, an abstract idea that does not exist in reality. You can’t give it properties. You (and not even God) can use abstract ideas as building blocks for matter. Or do anything physically to it. This is why science agrees, you can’t create matter from an abstract idea that you could only conceive of because it is the opposite of what you know. Science uses the word nothing to mean the vacuum of space, which has energy and creates virtual particles ect. Just like science doesn’t use theory to mean just an idea.

    The word necessity in the cosmological argument (in the versions from contingency) is the opposite of contingent. Necessary in the cosmological proof is basically God described as the opposite of the universe. The opposite of all we know scientifically ect. Thus a contradiction in and of itself, as it is merely an abstract opposite. And sure you can imagine the opposite of everything, that’s fine. But you can not start giving this abstract opposite of reality, real attributes and still call that logical. Which is what the cosmological argument still claims to be after doing so.

    And i’ve included a link, if you are familiar with the PSR and cosmological proof type arguments, you can probably skip to Chapter VIII for all the interesting ways Schopenhauer deals with the cosmological proof. My post is basically a contemporary rephrasing of § 49. Necessity.