Open Thread for AETV #855 – Matt and Tracie

Today I will probably briefly touch on an Islam 101 seminar that was hosted by the local Islamic Community Center. I attended with Beth and Russell and some other ACA folks. We’re going to put together a more detailed blog article describing our individual thoughts and reactions to the seminar that will be posted here later. So, I probably won’t be going into great detail, since that is “to come.”

I also want to hit confirmation bias a bit and talk a little about how it impacts the apologetic worldview and also how it can corrupt research studies as well.

And finally, we’ll get to the ever-popular public dialog via studio phones with callers.


  1. Jared says

    Hey guys! I know you’ve heard it a million times, but your show is fantastic. AE is the reason why I am now an atheist. Thank you for opening my eyes when I was struggling with doubt about my religious upbringing.

    My question is for Matt, and I apologize if its been asked (and answered) before – prior to becoming an atheist did you ever give any credence to the more sophisticated arguments that apologists make for the existence of a god (ie TAG)? And if so, did you ever challenge any non-believers to debates about the subject? No doubt someone with your intelligence would be able to trip up the average person with logical fallacies and non-sequiturs, much like William Lane Craig does.

    Also, Tracie you’re the best! Love the way you approach theists. I’d love to meet you guys sometime. If I’m ever in Austin I’ll definitely have to stop in at Threadgills and have a beer or two (or three) with you all.

    Take care!

  2. says

    Lots of odd equivocations in that first call…

    Artificial vs natural with supernatural vs natural
    Humans creating life with a God creating life.

    We teach what’s solidly known in schools, and reserve the fringe stuff for doctoral studies.

  3. Robert75 says

    Recommended reference for genuine seekers (aftershow question):

    The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-Believer
    Selected and with Introductions by Christopher Hitchens
    Published by Da Capo Press

  4. says

    Tracie, terrific show! I was hoping to find out–what is the name of the book you mentioned–the one that studied the various studies about religiosity and health?

  5. samuelclemens says

    Oh dear lord I just looked at Ray Comfort’s Facebook page and my aunt has recently commented. I can certainly commiserate with the last caller in that I don’t want to ever have to broach this subject with some family members.

  6. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says


    Caller: We can create stuff like cells…
    Tracie: How do we create cells?
    Matt: I didn’t know we could do that.

    In 2007, Craig Venter’s team took an existing bacterial cell, transplanted a replacement genome into it, and bascically rebooted it as a functioning cell of different species.
    In 2010, his team synthesized the 1.1 million base pair genome of Mycoplasma mycoides from scratch, and transplanted that, to end up with a partly-artificial cell, and cultured a colony from it.
    Article: Nature – Researchers start up cell with synthetic genome
    I don’t know what he was referring to about “can’t reproduce” and “they’re non-living”. Under artificial conditions, lipid bilayers can spontaneously self-assemble (empty bubbles)… Robert M. Hazen’s done lectures about incomplete attempts getting from geology to chemistry to self-replicating molecules, like RNA – but those wouldn’t be “cells”.

  7. ChaosS says

    I remember hearing that the word “Islam” literally translates to “surrender to god” which I’ve always found kind of silly, like someone saying “surrender to minotaurs.” Are Muslims such cowards that they quake in terror at mythological monsters? Wouldn’t a courageous person fight evil no matter what the odds of success?

    I’m really glad I wasn’t born in one of those countries (you know the ones I mean), because I’d be one executed freethinker.

  8. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Anthony (final caller asking for more info):

    Educational YouTubers:
    – Evid3nc3 (he briefly summarizes Armstrong’s “A History of God” in a vid or two)
    – QualiaSoup and TheraminTrees
    Video: Jeremy Beahan – Which Jesus: Examining Diffrences in the Gospel Narratives (54:20)
    One of the hosts of the ReasonableDoubts podcast, giving a lecture on redaction criticism – the sort of thing you’d see in Ehrman’s books.
    Video: Intelligence Squared Debate – The Catholic Church is a Force for Good in the World (1:59:09)
    For the motion: Archbishop John Onaiyekan, Ann Widdecombe
    Against the motion: Christopher Hitchens, Stephen Fry

  9. Antithesys says

    Tracie can explain things so beautifully and eloquently. Her soliloquy about whether God would really mind a doubter was a perfect encapsulation of what may be the most important step in abandoning faith. It might be overlooked a bit more than it should…but it takes true, honest courage to conclude that it’s okay to doubt God. It may be the bravest thing anyone ever does. We don’t think of it like that because we’re on the other side and realize there’s (probably literally) nothing to be scared of, but if you fear this deity that can take away eternal happiness for seemingly trivial infractions, questioning that belief…that fear…is exceptionally difficult. If that caller takes Tracie’s words to heart, he won’t have nearly as hard a time getting over that hurdle as most of us did.

    Matt gets people in the door and Tracie keeps them there.

  10. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Maybe this one?

    Book: Richard P. Sloan – Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine
    The Epiphenom blog covers studies like that a lot too.

  11. Matzo Ball Soup says

    Yeah, it means “surrender”:

    You’ll also hear people claim that it means “peace”, but I think this is a misleading claim based on a misrepresentation of Arabic morphology. (I don’t know Arabic, but I studied (Modern) Hebrew in college.) Semitic languages are notable for deriving groups of semantically related words from a single three-consonant root (by adding prefixes, suffixes, patterns of vowels, etc.). For instance, the root LMD in Hebrew gives you a bunch of words that have to do with learning: lamad = ‘he learned’ (infinitive: lil’mod), limed = ‘he taught’ (infinitive: lelamed), talmid = ‘student’, melamed = ‘teacher’, talmud = ‘the Talmud’, and so on.

    Anyway, the Arabic word for “peace” is “salaam”, as is well known. Surrender is somewhere in the same semantic field as peace, I guess. :-/ But to say that “Islam” actually translates to “peace” would be dishonest, at least if my understanding of the linguistic issues is correct. The “salaam”-word is, of course, cognate to Hebrew “shalom”. In Hebrew, at least, the root SLM seems to have connotations of “wholeness”. Peace is apparently one of these; but the pi’el verb made from that root means “to pay” – i.e., to make something (a debt in this case) whole, or at least that’s how it was explained to me. And you certainly wouldn’t say that the word leshalem (‘to pay’) means “peace”.

  12. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Are Muslims such cowards that they quake in terror at mythological monsters?

    One Pentecostal relative of mine actually agreed that ‘freely’ choosing Christianity under threat of torture was like submitting to the mafia. She thought she could ‘feel’ hell’s existence. And faith was about hope.
    Presumably thinking: there’s nothing you can do to change the situation, only hope to be on the monster’s good side by following instructions in a book about it.
    Article: Pentecostalism and Anxiety/Depression

  13. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Dunno. I felt you were a bit harsh on the first caller, or at least addressed his argument incorrectly. I understand his argument as: Well, we’ve seen humans create life, or something close to it, from rocks. (It’s true.) We’ve also seen unguided natural processes create something close to life from rocks. (Also true.) Thus, they’re equally plausible, we have the experiments to show that both are plausible, and thus both should be in science classrooms.

    I think at face value this is mostly a legit argument. However, the devil is in the details. A child in school will not be able to take the nuance without a full understanding, which the caller would not give. Maybe maybe directed panspermia is true for life on Earth, but where did that life come from? The buck has to stop somewhere, and the only plausible root explanation is the unguided process.

    Whereas, if you just gave the caller’s argument to children, they might understand science as saying that a special creation by a god-thing external to space-time is plausible and supported by science, which is bullshit. Tracie addressed this well when she noted (albeit IMHO indirectly) that: We have evidence that the “natural” exists. We don’t have evidence that the “supernatural” exists. Thus “natural” causes are far more plausible than “supernatural” causes.

    The problem is the conflation in the argument of humans as intelligent designers and gods as intelligent designers, and the confusion that this might cause in students. Yes, intelligent design of life by humans is very plausible. Intelligent design of life by an agent external to space-time which did not arise from an unguided process? Not so much.

  14. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Two billion years ago, self-sustaining nuclear chain reactions began, and only in one region on Earth.
    Humans have shown that an intelligent being can build reactors… Teach the controversy!
    Article: SciAm – Nature’s Nuclear Reactors

  15. Monocle Smile says

    Three things:

    1) I don’t necessarily think that either one of those things you listed is actually true. Those are not accurate depictions of either abiogenesis or the Venter stuff.

    2) Subjects like abiogenesis and cutting-edge biology research don’t belong anywhere but university-level courses.

    3) You’ve highlighted one of many issues with “intelligence” arguments. They necessarily rely on intelligence being a one-dimensional sliding scale. It’s much more complicated than that. The first caller’s logic, in its CORRECT form, is: We’ve seen HUMAN intelligence create life, therefore it took HUMAN intelligence to create life on Earth as we know it.

  16. Narf says

    Holy crap, man. Don’t insult Matt by comparing him to William Lane Craig. 😀

    Heh, more seriously though, I don’t think William Lane Craig is particularly intelligent. He’s had a great deal of education of a narrow fundamentalist Christian sort, and he’s picked up some speaking skill, mostly from repetition, I imagine. His actual mental processing power isn’t anything to admire, though, from what I’ve seen. Pretty much all of his personal contributions to his arguments are utterly vapid, such as his statements that supposedly get us from the deistic god that Kalam supposedly proves to his triune, Christian god.

    The only reason that believers are impressed with WLC is because he’s relying heavily upon their childhood indoctrination. Anyone from outside the faith thinks he’s a moron, barely better than Ray Comfort.

  17. AhmNee says

    I’d think the smaller leap would be “We’ve seen human intelligence create life, therefore we are god.”

  18. says

    Yes, we would need evidence that any higher order beings exist before we could even call it a possibly reasonable hypothesis. Natural chemical processes do exist, and so we can investigate the ability of natural chemical processes to produce anything-X. But to assert that some sort of higher level beings were involved, we’d first have to demonstrate such being exist, and then be able to examine them to determine if they could be the cause of life on Earth.

  19. says

    Yes, it’s Sloan’s book. He does a brilliant job of scrubbing the research, and explaining how to evaluate studies for validity. Unfortunately his book stands alone in a sea of books promoting religion/spirituality and healthcare.

  20. says

    Thanks. That sounds like what Matt suggested–that we can produce living things from other living things. But the caller seemed to be saying that wasn’t the case. Without specifics from the caller, impossible to say what he meant to reference, but your information is certainly an interesting addition, and as much a possibility of what he was trying to describe as anything I would have been able to dream up…???

  21. says

    The Imam at the seminar was super clear that “peace” is not an accurate translation, and he did go into “surrender to god” and the “peace” that comes with that. So, they were very honest about that–just to clarify.

  22. says

    It’s his assertion that something more intelligent than people seeded life on Earth that is the problem. It requires a demonstration (not just an assertion) that such beings exist and would be likely to have seeded life on Earth. We can study chemistry and learn about the atmosphere and environment of Earth’s past. And so these can be tested to see what they yield. But how do we examine these beings that aren’t from Earth who are seeding life on other planets, such as Earth? How exactly do we examine these beings, when we aren’t even able to verify their existence? To me, the first step then would be to find some way to verify such beings exist. And to my knowledge such efforts are on-going through our space programs. Once we find this “more complex” life–we can then begin the process of trying to determine what it does/can do. So, if NASA turns up the remains of an advanced alien civilization one day–that has in their archives information about how they traveled the universe planting life all over (or anywhere), bingo! We have something now to study. But just sitting in a chair dreaming up advanced aliens that nobody can even say exist at this point, is hardly the basis for a “scientific” hypothesis or a valid area of research. The only research justified so far–is ongoing through the space program. No further research is rationally justified (asking “what do these aliens do?” for example) until we have aliens to compare the claims against. If we skip ahead of demonstrating there ARE such beings, to chatting about what they do/have done–we’re now speculating out of pure ignorance, because we don’t have any actual knowledge of these beings or what they are like. Speculation sans actual information, is not research or a basis for inclusion in science classrooms.

  23. Narf says

    Natural chemical processes do exist, and so we can investigate the ability of natural chemical processes to produce anything-X.

    No they don’t. Flames do not naturally burn wood. The flames burn, and by Allah’s will, the wood is consumed. 😀

    Where the heck did I hear that? Was it mentioned on TAE or NPR, at some point, or was it one of my other atheist podcasts? Apparently, there are Muslim apologists out there pushing this sort of insanity.

  24. says

    meh, The meaning of islam is basically of submission to god. aka. blind following of what god states. which is basically the best description you can think of for religion

  25. says

    it is a really bad argument. because humans copy nature all the time, from structural design, to chemistry to social understanding just to understand how nature works.. there is nothing supernatural of these processes since they al conform to nature. There is proof that it can ll be created naturally in the right circumstances,

  26. Pan Narrans says

    Could I pose the same question as mitchbenn? I do not see the show in my feed either.

    Btw, If you happen to be the Mitch Benn of radio4 fame, can I take this opportunity to say thank you!


  27. corwyn says

    Because it is only Monday?

    TAE is solely volunteer, presumably they have day-jobs. Perhaps a donation is in order?

  28. Narf says

    They’re usually up Monday night, yeah. Sometimes a bit later, but it’s usually about a 24-hour turn-over time.

  29. Russell Glasser says

    Yeah, I have in my notes that “Islam” = “Surrender to God” and “Muslim” = “One who surrenders to God.”

    However, he did also draw the connection that “Islam” and “Salaam” have the same root, meaning peace. I didn’t catch it if he then said “This is a popular but wrong belief.”

  30. Narf says

    And it would be horrible if people used major misunderstandings to transform Islam into a more moderate religion, bringing an enlightenment to the Islamic world, as happened with Christianity …

  31. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Article: Wikipedia – Occasionalism

    “when fire and cotton are placed in contact, the cotton is burned not because of the heat of the fire, but through God’s direct intervention”

  32. says

    The structure seems to be like this:

    If unicorns exist, they can make iced tea.
    We’ve demonstrated that humans can make iced tea.
    Therefore, we should teach that iced tea potentially comes from both humans and unicorns.

  33. Pj says

    I was expecting this snarky response to my own inquiry (#11), and the fact is I HAVE donated.

  34. No One says

    Uhg… I just went through an “discussion” with a Nibiru believer. Think creationist but replace gods with aliens. Same dogma, persecution complex, and logical fallacies. It seems to be part of the human condition.

  35. Deesse23 says

    The structure seems to be like this:

    If unicorns exist, they can make iced tea.
    We’ve demonstrated that humans can make iced tea.
    Therefore, we should teach that iced tea potentially comes from both humans and unicorns.

    Yep, that was exactly his argument. Yet, he forgot that
    1) humans didnt really create life yet (as discussed above)
    2) he needs to demonstrate that unicorns exist, before he asserts they can create anything

    and finally (like it has been pointed out already):
    As long as its a wild guess under investigation by the scientific community, it should be kept to the universities etc. and not YET taught in schools *sigh*

  36. mike says

    +mitchbenn Maybe your monthly donation has not gone through yet and it causing the delay.

  37. corwyn says

    If you are writing things which you *expect* to get a snarky response, maybe you should ask yourself why.

  38. mike says

    +Pj Maybe you haven’t donated enough cuz shit’s not gettin’ done! Time to whip out the chequebook! (chequebook?! maybe credit card instead lol )

  39. John Kruger says

    There are times when I think Matt loses his temper a bit too quickly and does not give the callers enough of a chance. This guy was not one of those times.

    When Tracie flatly asked him what he meant by “Creation” or what his proposed process that was something besides natural causes was, he came back with “I don’t know”. There is no way that guy was having an honest discussion in good faith. He wants something taught in science classes along side evolution, but he does not know what it is?!?! After Matt repeated himself 3 times I could only repeat to myself “hang up on this guy” until the call mercifully ended.

    The only thing I could get out of that caller’s bizarre equivocation whack a mole of an argument was that since we are not absolutely certain about the origins of life all theories about it are equally valid and Creationism belongs in science class. Such a pitiful argument did not deserve even half of the time the hosts were generous enough to give it.

  40. StephenMeansMe says

    The first caller was weird. The only good reason to have creationism anywhere near a science classroom is a historical one: it (IMO) helps illuminate the period where Darwin et al laid the foundations for modern physical sciences to contrast those true theories with the old theories… that scientists believed because there wasn’t a good reason (like there is now) to doubt.

    Evolution wouldn’t make sense without the simultaneous advent of geology. So leveraging off of the (then-recent) insight of geologic processes taking millions/billions of years, Darwin brilliantly extrapolated the effects of selective breeding to natural processes. But it wouldn’t have been possible without that confluence of ideas.

    That’s the only acceptable use for teaching about creationist models: the historical version, not the modern mendacious version.

  41. Matt Gerrans says

    Narf, I don’t agree entirely; I think WLC is pretty intelligent. Unfortunately, he applies all his intelligence to a lost cause and channels it into ridiculously convoluted sophistry as a result. But if ability to craft very clever and complex, yet somewhat cohesive rationalizations, I think he rates pretty well. Especially when you compare him to the intellectual Lilliputians who are his fellow defenders of the faith (eg. Ken Ham, Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron, etc.), he stands out as a veritable Einstein.

    If you mean by “intelligence,” ability to see the big picture and come to sensible conclusions, I guess I agree in that sense. That is a reasonable definition of intelligence, but we also know that religious an astonishing level of cognitive dissonance. That allows otherwise intelligent and insightful people marshal their intellectual abilities to put together amazingly convoluted “reasoning” to draw utterly the inane conclusions they started out with in the first place. I think this phenomenon, in addition to being alarming and frightful, is rather interesting from a cognitive/neurological standpoint.

    I must admit that after seeing several WLC debates now, I am less impressed with his intelligence level as I see the same old act repeated again and again, with little new or spontaneous thinking revealed. I think he’s crafted a convincing little act that he can perform which looks impressive on the first viewing, but looks very hackneyed when you see the exact same thing in every subsequent debate.

    While I don’t think WLC lacks intelligence, I do think he lacks integrity and honesty. He regularly relies on very dishonest and sleazy tactics, like the Gish Gallop, insisting that his point is true if the opponent didn’t address it, not addressing his opponents points, trying to reframe and control the course of the debate to suit his agenda, etc. He also uses a sickening (for me, at least) amount of play-acting in debates, pretending to be astonished at this point or that. If you only saw one debate, you might think it was genuine and sincere (because he’s a pretty good actor), but after seeing the same act repeated, it is really nauseating.

  42. azhael says

    The first caller is painful to listen to. I´m miffed by this idea that because we can produce organic compounds in the lab that are the “precursors of life” or generate simple cell-like structures that therefore this is equal to a god creating life through magic. The very fact that we are able to produce these stuff in the lab is concrete evidence that these are NATURAL. Or does this caller think that people do magic and violate the laws of physics in the lab? Nothing can be done in a lab that is not naturally possible. Period. If it can be done by us, then it is possible in a naturalistic universe and therefore even if we could, as we might one day be able to, create entire functional cells or even more complex life forms, this would be natural and produced by entirely natural, physico-chemical proceses. The fact that it happens in a lab doesn´t change that fact in the slightest. Furthermore, the day we can create life in a petri dish will be the day that life arising from natural processes will become an observed fact.

    The only possible conclussion from hearing how people like him talk about this stuff is that they actually do believe that the chemical processes that go on in a lab are physically impossible magic. At one point he openly states that artificial means are not natural…..i mean…fucking hell.

    I was very glad to see this addressed for the first time in the show, even though there have been other opportunities to do so. Regardless of that, very well done Matt and Tracie!

  43. Matt Gerrans says

    “That is a reasonable definition of intelligence, but we also know that religious an astonishing level of cognitive dissonance.”

    Oops, somehow lost a few words there; maybe this makes more sense: That is a reasonable definition of intelligence, but we also know that religious belief can engender an astonishing level of cognitive dissonance.

  44. Matt Gerrans says

    LOL. So by simply burning a piece of wood, I can bend Allah to my will! Consume this wood, Allah! Or else!

  45. Monocle Smile says

    There was a caller once that literally thought folks like David Copperfield literally broke physics.

    This topic has been partially addressed in watchmaker arguments. Tracie talked about how lakes can be man-made, but that doesn’t mean all lakes necessarily required “intelligence” (again, one-dimensional scale issue) to be made.

  46. Aaroninmelbourne says

    There was something I just remembered about the whole “Suddenly life!” thing that irks me: why “suddenly”? Since when have we started seeing anything non-destructive that was also sudden? We see non-living chemical reactions that spread slowly and turn one chemical into something else (such as a chemical compound), but we see ‘sudden’ changes releasing lots of friction/heat, such as in fires. Why presume that “… there was non-living materials, and then *suddenly* it was life!”

    I would like to ask people who know more about this: is the expectation that life was more a transitional process (non-living, non-organic materials… chemical non-living processes… semi-living processes… to finally something we would call “life”) than a sudden “not-alive-now-alive” process, a reasonable expectation?

  47. Narf says

    I dunno, man. It’s just the way he structures his thoughts and arguments. I get the impression of a trained dog who has learned, though copious educational reinforcement, to spit things out in a vaguely coherent way but without much thought behind the linguistic vomit.

    It’s just an impression, but I don’t get the sense that there’s much brain juice sloshing around up there.

  48. Narf says

    That’s how I always get it. That or Stitcher, which just accesses it through the website.

  49. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says


    Since when have we started seeing anything non-destructive that was also sudden?

    I’m not sure the question is intelligible. Things change form and composition: sometimes fast and dramatic, sometimes slow. How are you deciding what counts as ‘destructive’?
    ‘Sudden’ could mean everyday timescales, or geological (see: cambrian explosion), or some abstract demarcation regardless of plodding steps leading up to it (the first molecule exists that can self-replicate – without needing the previous scaffolding – nnnn-now).
    There’s another consideration: waiting for circumstances to change to facilitate the next part of a multi-stage process. A reaction might be fast, but only possible with the right concentrations, temperature, catalysts, etc. Then back to waiting…
    Video:: YouTube – Briggs-Rauscher Iodine Oscillator

    In any case, this reaction is neat. 😉

    Why presume that “… there was non-living materials, and then *suddenly* it was life!”

    Otherwise there’d be transitional forms. Can’t have that. 😛

    RNA virus, you say? Now there are two more gaps!

  50. Kandal says

    For your convenience (AE #855): Islam 101 Seminar:
    0:00 Intro
    1:00 Announcements
    4:15 Islam 101 Seminar and confirmation bias
    23:25 Caller Chris: Creationism in science classrooms
    44:35 Caller Anthony

  51. Aaroninmelbourne says

    That video’s totally awesome! Thanks for the link.

    In a way you’ve answered the question and it appears to be another case of emotive language hiding inside (and camouflaging the thinness of) a theistic argument: both the idea of life as “constructive” being a human perception, and the idea that it’s “sudden” which, like “meaning”, “higher power”, or “random” are deepities with no real meaning but often pop up in such arguments.

    Another part of the “how could something *suddenly* become alive?!” problem is that even in the life we know, there are non-standard or “transitional forms”: initial life was neither plant nor animal but something ‘in between’ (or more correctly, ‘animal’ is a niche of the original life forms). Even now, the Jellyfish exhibits a little of both: no brain but does have a nervous system; and reproduces like a plant but it has cells like an animal. Then some plants like the Venus Flytrap eat insects by clamping down on the insect when it lands, so they eat meat by closing down and using digestive liquids, but they’re still plants. There’s already the unspoken presumption in many such “how did life come about?” arguments that ‘life’ meant something we would recognize as what there is currently; and yet even our current life forms do not always fit in with particular everyday understandings such as the “plant and animal” delineation.

    So I suppose the way to handle this particular argument is to notice the language and start asking for more clarification: “What do you mean by suddenly? What do you mean by life? With what evidence do you claim that life suddenly began, instead of slowly formed?” and the like.

  52. gwen says

    I agree. I love Tracie’s explanations. They always come across as so very sane and reasonable. The others are no slouches either!

  53. Indiana Jones says

    The first callers thing about an ever increasing complexity irked me the most. I used this in a different context the other day, but it applies to complex processes leading to simple answers rather well I think, and it may be useful:

    I can’t know exactly where earth is going to be with regard to the sun, in 6985167903465987 years in the same way as I could if it were just the earth and the sun. What with all the rest of the other planets etc and all. I can get as arbitrarily* close to an answer as I like with mathematics by slowly refining an approximate answer however. Quite literally as close as I want to get if I have the computer (or pen and paper for that matter) and the time to do it.

    The point is that in principle the answer is easy to state. 10 light seconds thataways (points) but the process of getting there is complex.

    *Another example of arbitrarily close is 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 +….. approaches 1 without ever getting there, but you can get as arbitrarily close as you like.

  54. says

    I broke physics once. So, I just set it back down on the table, sort of balanced so it didn’t look broken, and slowly walked away hoping nobody would notice. I was so embarrassed. :/

  55. unfogged says

    The thing that stood out for me was the caller saying that a lot of the basis for belief was fear and guilt while Tracie’s advice was to consider the questions rationally and to come to the best conclusion he could. It is such a different mindset. Too often believers seem to be suffering from a form of Stockholm or Battered Woman’s Syndrome.

    And Tracie’s final “Yay science” was perfect.

  56. houndentenor says

    I disagree. Some of us hear such arguments all the time and it’s helpful to hear someone better versed in the science and in arguing with theists take these kinds of statements apart. Since Creationism in the science classroom is a hot issue in many parts of the country, it’s useful for us to have models for how to confront such nonsense. I’m sorry that it’s tedious for everyone else, because I really do know that it is, but taking nonsense calls from theists is the main point of the show after all.

  57. Narf says

    True, in general. I still think the call with this particular guy had hit a bit of a wall, though. He wouldn’t get past the fact that we’re not teaching abiogenesis in high school science, and it was therefore irrelevant. We teach things in schools that have been demonstrated to be true by a preponderance of evidence.

    Creationism has not only not been demonstrated to be true by the evidence, but it has also been demonstrated to be false in many ways. When you have someone who won’t let that go, I’m not sure you can do much but hang up.

  58. kestra says

    The best thing to do in a situation like that is set it up so it doesn’t look broken, then sit down and wait for someone else to come along, touch it, and “break” it again. Then you can blame them, and suggest they make it look like it isn’t broken and wait for the next person to come along…

    This works best with chairs.

  59. corwyn says

    Something for when this comes up again. It could certainly be that ‘new life’ IS happening all the time (i.e. once or twice every 100 Million years). But if it did, it would IMMEDIATELY be eaten by already existing life which has a 3.5 Billion year head start.

  60. azhael says

    I meant specifically that any chemistry done in a lab is as natural as the chemistry ocurring in a pond or a volcanic vent. Scientists don´t force the atoms together using some kind of thaumic power involving runes and burnt herbs. The interactions between mollecules occur spontaneously because of their physical properties. The only difference is that in the lab, someone is following the set of rules that physical laws impose in order to achieve a desired reaction or set of reactions and in nature, those just happen by themselves when mollecules that can spontaneously react with one another happen to meet, which is all the time, everywhere…

    I could be wrong but i don´t think that point has ever been specifically made. Mind you, i understand since it´s something extremely obvious that anyone who has ever had even a single chemistry class should know, but nevertheless i´ve heard a few callers over the years speak of chemical reactions as if they could only happen if someone is making them happen.

    I was just about to start yelling at the screen this time when thankfully both of my favourite hosts finally did make the point. Thank you for saving me from the depths of insanity.

  61. unfogged says

    Creationists sound like they are visualizing complex life forms just appearing randomly. I’ve been to a set of local debates where one repeatedly goes on about the odds against a modern cell forming randomly as a single event. No matter how often it is pointed out that a cell is itself a result of an evolutionary process from simpler things and that the “alive” vs “not alive” line gets pretty fuzzy at that level the same nonsense just continues. If a fully functioning living cell can’t form randomly and spontaneously then evolution must be impossible.

  62. houndentenor says

    If we are forced to “teach the controversy” then “aliens left the building blocks of life” as well as “god did it” and make sure all the various creation myths are covered, not just the Christian one. They are all equally valid in the “we don’t have any proof so let’s just make shit up” sense. Or we can just spend a paragraph on “stuff we don’t know but you’re welcome to read more if you’d like so see the appendix for a list of recommended books and peer-reviewed articles” section and get on to the vast amount that we do know that will actually be on the test.

  63. houndentenor says

    If only we could “hang up on them” when they are forcing states to put this crap in the textbooks.

  64. azhael says

    I agree. The reason why new abiogenetic events aren´t popping up is that everywhere where there are organic compounds being formed, there are organisms efficiently metabolizing them. The long, complicated process of increasing chemical sophistication through reactivity and competition can´t happen if the mollecular soups don´t have a chance to “brew” for a very long time….which they don´t.

  65. azhael says

    The first callers thing about an ever increasing complexity irked me the most

    It´s as if these people had never heard of parasites or cave specialists. Almost as if they knew next to nothing about the vast richness of the natural world…hmmm….

  66. Curt Cameron says

    About the increasing complexity thing – that bugged me too, although Matt briefly (and correctly) pointed out that increasing complexity isn’t what evolution means.

    A good summary is that things started out at the extreme low end of the complexity scale, so as changes happen, there’s pretty much only one way to go, so the overall trend is towards more complexity, but that’s not a rule.

    The fact that things started out at the extreme low end is by itself pretty good evidence that it was a natural process.

  67. Matt Gerrans says

    So, in general do you know which of these “grand unified theories” theists believe is the case:

    1. God created the universe and set in place magical rules with particular constant values (like gravity, electromagnetic effect, strong/weak forces, etc.) and the universe continues to operate on “autopilot” with these magical properties applied. God can sometimes intervene and violate these rules, if you “pray hard” for a miracle (as long as it isn’t something visible like restoring a limb).

    2. God created the universe and decided on these magical values/rules and He actively wills all particle interaction in the universe, obeying these rules as a convention. Since God is always in control of every action, He can bend the rules at any time for miracles. This shouldn’t raise a sweat on the brow of an omniscient omnipotent being, though it seems like it would get boring after a few billion years. It does make one wonder about the day of rest thing, though.

    3. God created the universe and …something else. I guess this is the option that would be most popular for the vast majority of theists who prefer not to “over think” (or think at all) these things. ‘Tis not ours to wonder about such things; God does as He will.

    Regardless of which of these options a theist picks, it seems to me that a real all-knowing, all-powerful god would not need any rules or physics at all, but could just make a world with a firmament above and twirl some lights around it by sheer force of will as he pleased. He wouldn’t need laws of physics any more than he needs nipples, a belly button, genitalia or a majestic white beard.

  68. David Morales says

    I am a new atheist. Can someone explain Christians speaking in tongues? I have seen and heard it. But I can’t find out why and how it happens. Some spoke similar and others different. And some can interpret what people are saying. Thanks for your help.

  69. corwyn says

    If we are forced to “teach the controversy” then “aliens left the building blocks of life” as well as “god did it” and make sure all the various creation myths are covered, not just the Christian one.

    Well, whatever scientific creationism means, it most emphatically does not include the Christian creation myth.

  70. Andreas says

    I think what we could keep from the first caller is the idea that aliens (that is, natural “living” things) created life as we know it on earth in a lab, and this somehow ended up on earth to start evolving. Where these aliens come from is a different question – they could have evolved in a natural way, and without yet another alien species involved in the process.

    This could fit in the classroom as a 20 minute “speculation is fun” session, followed by what could possibly be wrong with this, and then a “we don’t know, and we can’t really say anything about this”.

    The “supernatural” is a dead end, and a meaningless term, and absolutely not needed for this discussion.

    I wish that Matt would help the callers to extract the more reasonable parts of their argument, instead of shutting them down. You don’t do that with your kids either, if they tell you a fantastic story.

  71. Andreas says

    (Curt in #21)
    > The fact that things started out at the extreme low end is by itself pretty good evidence that it was a natural process.

    Good point!
    I wish that Matt would ride the speculation train a bit more together with the caller, just because it is fun, and to see where it will lead.

  72. Reid says


    You doubtlessly know that religion in the UK has profoundly less impact on normal life than it does in the States. By default religion is a private matter bordering on secrecy and most non-Clerical public pronouncements are regarded with discomfort and embarassment. Multiculturalism and liberalism (in the UK and not the US sense) has for so long been regarded as right and normal that it’s largely beyond question. However, there is now a gradually emerging awareness that we may be sleepwalking our way towards a conflict of nightmarish proportions all in the name of tolerance and western style political correctness.

    Islam has traditionally been regarded as ‘deeply traditional’ but passive and only of interest to its adherents; as such there is an assumed moral equivalence to Christianity and all other mainstream religions. However, as the now fastest growing and most cohesive religion throughout Europe, it has become far more muscular and assertive. Against the backdrop of dynamic events in the Islamic world, UK Muslims are increasingly vocal and vociferous in their demands for special privilege and treatment; the disquiet this is causing is underscored by such events as the hideous murder of the Soldier Lee Rigby in London.

    In an effort to make sense of this, I decided to learn what Islam actually ‘thinks’ and says about itself rather than listen to Apologists, Media and Muslim propaganda. I attempted to view Islamic events, pronouncements and history against the perspective of their own Holy books: the Quran, Haddith and the Suras; they are free to download and, as I discovered, the content is unquestionably believed and preached in Mosques world wide, including in the US. Unlike Christianity, this religion has been remarkably consistent for 1400 years and, significantly, this includes everything that has ever been said or done with regard to expansion and growth.

    What I found has shook me to my very core and has completely altered all my perceptions of Islam. It is quite clear that no Muslim is or can ever get ‘Radicalised’, that is a purely western concept that has no meaning whatsoever in Islam. Whilst there may indeed be ’soft’ or partially observant Muslims in the West, mainstream Islam is, by definition, closed to all interpretation and change. Everything you ever want or need to know, in every conceivable respect, is meticulously detailed and prescribed and this includes the universal goal and all the methods and means used to attain that.

    Islam strictly divides the world into two distinct camps: Muslims & Kafirs; whenever and wherever possible the latter are to be afforded less respect, dignity, rights or freedom; after all Allah makes clear they are ultimately destined for conversion or hell. Lying and deception to Kafirs is not immoral, wrong or sinful if intended to advance the Islamic cause in any way and that includes it’s outward perception amongst said Kafirs. Every Muslim understands the meaning and implications of the words: MAKARA, TAQIYYA & KITMAN; I suggest you look them up and include them in your perspective of all Muslim statements and Islamic events.

    I have a couple of ‘soft’ Islamic friends, or at least I thought I did, but their reaction to my knowledge of the above terms was both striking and profound; it was as if I’d uncovered a dirty secret and they have since distanced themselves. The bottom line; I didn’t want this to be true, I really didn’t but by any understanding of the term Fascist, Islam applies and will forever pose a threat to all Kafirs.

    In simple terms, it’s a threat because of both Mohammed and Allah’s professed and clearly stated (and constantly preached) intention to ultimately eliminate Kafirs by any means necessary. You can’t say it any clearer than that.

  73. Narf says

    Mostly it’s to improve the quality of the discussion with the theists who will find the videos on YouTube. Just the simple matter of adding one more, easily-accomplished step means that those with something interesting to say will be a higher percentage. Plus, the YouTube comment section is kind of obnoxious to wade through. This format is much better.

  74. Narf says

    The reason why they do it is because the Bible said they would. There’s the bit about it in the second half of the last chapter of Mark, which says that those blessed people will be able to handle snakes, drink poison, and speak in tongues. And clearly these people want to be blessed by God, so …

    There’s also a bit in Acts about the apostles speaking in tongues, but strangely, it’s a completely different sort. In the version in Acts, the apostles spoke in tongues, and everyone understood them in the hearer’s native tongue. The way the Pentecostals do it, they babble, and no one but another of the chosen people can understand them. It’s a little fucked up, but there’s Pentecostalism for you.

  75. Raoul Borans says

    I really think Matt should stop hosting the Atheist Experience. I’m an atheist and I can appreciate Matt’s frustration with some callers but he has become so intolerant that he is actually doing more harm than good on this show. Telling the caller to “shut up” and calling him an “idiot”, shows a serious lack of self control and doesn’t set a very good example for people that are on the fence about changing their beliefs. Matt is a very bright person and he has appeared in many debates where he quite successfully (and calmly) defends the atheist point of view but for some reason he is incapable of managing his temper on this show. I think it’s time for him to decide to leave this forum for those like Tracy, Russell & Jen who are much better at allowing serious dialogue to take place.

  76. Matt Gerrans says

    As you pointed out, that doesn’t really get to the root of things; we still need to know where the aliens come from. We should be even more reticent to invoke the idiotic theistic claim that they are “eternal” or some such lame cop-out. Of course, the alien origins idea is explored in tons of science fiction and it is a fun topic.

    I completely agree with you Andreas, especially after just finishing A Manual for Creating Atheists. Instead of arguing the facts with a lot of these guys, I’d like to see more Socratic method applied to make them think about how they arrived at their conclusions and why they think that process is reliable and reasonable (and whether they use that same sketchy process in all aspects of their life (which is rhetorical, since they can’t, realistically (and yes, I know I’m using too many parenthetical clauses here (so there!)))). I think gentle prodding with questions will get them to think a little more about the ground upon which they stand.

  77. says


    Matt Dillahunty spent an entire show debating with apologist Matt Slick over the TAG argument a few years back:

    As with most presuppositional apologetics arguments, after a whole hour of grinding away at each other, they still hadn’t gotten anywhere.

  78. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    he has become so intolerant that he is actually doing more harm than good on this show. Telling the caller to “shut up” and calling him an “idiot”, shows a serious lack of self control and doesn’t set a very good example

    It might… if he hadn’t spent HALF the show trying to have serious dialogue. And Tracy Tracie was right there, too.
    The show is a magnet for people ho want to hear themselves talk, sharing their magic stories. Allowing them the entire hour is yields more of the same monologue they had parroted for 30 minutes. At the end, even Tracie said she felt guilty for not moving to the next caller sooner.

    for people that are on the fence about changing their beliefs

    Anyone on the fence still weakly creationist should be even more frustrated than Matt. The caller was ineptly arguing for a position they still have some sympathy for.
    In fact, another of the common theist motivations for calling in is to do a better job than the folks they’d seen fail that thoroughly.

  79. Aaroninmelbourne says

    Yes, this idea would work I think. Indeed it’s part of how I started to realize the key problem with any such reasoning: it identifies (or sometimes even creates) a problem, and pushes it one step back into a conceivable (but not evidenced) non-solution, where the original problem remains completely intact, and now, completely unanswerable.

    In the case of “We don’t know where life came from, therefore Gods/Aliens”, the problem is pushed back one step into something we don’t even know exists (intelligent alien life, or gods), and yet the problem remains: if life on earth came from aliens, then that doesn’t actually answer the question where life came from (as we now need to ask, where did life come from that resulted in aliens). Ditto god: if life came from a god, where did this god’s life come from? How did life come to exist?

    In another case, “why is there suffering/evil?”, the question itself is somewhat problematic as it presumes that suffering is a “thing” rather than a subjective response to a circumstance an individual sees as problematic (one person’s convenient new road is another person’s destruction of their quiet neighborhood). In this case, the question creates a non-existent problem, and then pushes it back into a solution that doesn’t answer or solve the problem. Buddhists for example, believe that suffering is the result of bad deeds in a previous life and that only once you ‘transcend’ all these will you stop reincarnating (or some such, the amount of woo just short-circuits my listening skills). Yet it creates a problem, then pushes it back one, and doesn’t answer it: “suffering exists because… you need to get over suffering… which exists for you to get over…”

    A lot can come from including this in classroom teaching. Not just the problem of non-answers but also why you have to have information before you can even construct an intelligible question.

  80. Raoul Borans says

    I think you may have been watching a different show than I was. I’m talking about Matt’s responses to the caller Chris. Granted Chris was going off on some wild tangents but isn’t that par for the course with most of the non-atheist callers? Matt certainly didn’t spend “half the show trying to have a serious dialogue” with Chris. If you re-watch it, Matt interrupts him almost immediately and continues to be belligerent the rest of the conversation until he finally hangs up on him in perfect Dillahunty fashion. Sorry but I think Matt is one of the reasons people think atheists are all angry. He needs to move on.

  81. Andreas says

    > it identifies (or sometimes even creates) a problem, and pushes it one step back

    In many cases, the one step back is actually the correct answer 🙂
    Where does this egg come from? From the chicken. Where does the chicken come from? From the egg.
    You need to go back quite a lot of generations, to get any answers that are not about chicken.
    Or, where does the rain come from? The clouds, evaporation, the ocean, rivers, ..
    In many cases, science has helped us to look far enough to see where the circle ends or begins. But in everyday life, you often can’t tell much beyond a few steps of the circle.

    (this all does not really apply to the above case, i just wanted to post this as a thought)

  82. Lea says

    >”Buddhists for example, believe that suffering is the result of bad deeds in a previous life and that only once you ‘transcend’ all these will you stop reincarnating (or some such, the amount of woo just short-circuits my listening skills). Yet it creates a problem, then pushes it back one, and doesn’t answer it: “suffering exists because… you need to get over suffering… which exists for you to get over…” ”

    Sorry, you’re wrong.

  83. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Granted Chris was going off on some wild tangents

    No. No tangents. It was a script.
    He announced a “rational reasoned argument” and, when refuted or questioned, would not deviate or elaborate.

    I think you may have been watching a different show than I was. […] Matt interrupts him almost immediately and continues to be belligerent

    You only seem to remember 41:00-44:25.
    The call started at 23:25.

    If you re-watch it

    I have, 3 times. Your turn.

    See how long it takes Matt to raise his voice, and what he says when he interrupts. And since you say you prefer what Tracie does, compare with when and how often she raises her voice, and what she says during that call.

    They both grow increasingly direct then finally exasperated. But throughout, they still return to a neutral tone to explain what’s wrong with the argument.

  84. Schlumbumbi says

    Just watched the little outtake piece — hilarious — SJW fake outrage in 3…2…1…

  85. AhmNee says

    Wow, Sky Captain.

    Impressive sympathy for the devil tolerance for the tone troll. Nicely done, sir.

  86. Damo says


    Could I make a slight suggestion? Perhaps put a similar message to the above on the videos. The reason I suggest this is because if I see a video with comments or ratings disabled I feel it loses credibility. Ken Ham is a perfect example, as are a lot of Christian video up-loaders.


  87. Aaroninmelbourne says

    The one step back in the ‘supernatural/theistic’ sense tends to be more where the problem itself gets pushed one step back: it’s not an answer that provides more information, it literally takes the problem and pushes it further away, turning it into a viciously circular argument at the same time (due to its lack of information). We know the egg came first as eggs were around longer than chickens and chickens evolved from earlier animals. Yet using this, an illustrative answer could be, “The question of whether the egg or the chicken came first is answered by the existence of the Great Cosmic Rooster (GCR) who made the Magical Egg, therefore the GCR is a necessary being”. It fails to answer “what came first” as we still have to ask: what came first, the GCR or the egg from which the GCR hatched, and we also have no way of answering it because there’s no information available on the GCR or the egg.

  88. Raoul Borans says

    I don’t need to watch it again. My point is that Matt has become way too intolerant and aggressive in his rebuttals to callers, not just this one in particular. If you think calling someone an idiot or telling them to shut up during an argument is a sound method, then you have a wildly different understanding than I do. And Matt clearly did both those things. It doesn’t matter if he started out calm and ended up calm. In between he was impatient, rude and outright insulting. I stand by my opinion that the show would be better off without him.

  89. Narf says

    Yup, that’s often the problem when talking with serious, dogmatic theists. They follow a script, which they think is airtight, often not completely understanding all of the actual arguments in their script. When you bring up an objection which completely breaks their script, they have to ignore it, because then they would have to seriously think through the arguments, which they haven’t done.

    I’ve had discussions with several proselytizers of this sort, which never went anywhere and left me frustrated at their unwillingness to have an actual discussion. I’ve found the more thoughtful, liberal Christians more interesting, since they’re actually able to follow a line of reasoning and make their own speculations about the implications of certain things. They still have a completely unjustified belief, but they’re not so dogmatic about it. Dogma stifles discussion.

  90. Monocle Smile says


    I think you may have been watching a different show than I was….
    If you re-watch it

    I don’t need to watch it again.

    At least try to make it look like you’re not trolling next time. Script-readers are giant wastes of time, especially when they utterly refuse to deviate from that script. And actually, most theist callers are not of this type. If 20 minutes of patience with an inane argument isn’t enough for you, then stop watching.

  91. xscd says

    “OK, evolution is a fact, but we don’t know where life came from, so why not teach that there might have been a Creator?”

    Because we don’t teach things we don’t know and have no evidence for. Instead of “the universe was created by God!” why don’t we teach, in science class, that a giant dragon flew through space and laid an egg which landed on Earth and from which a thousand species hatched at once, which all then began to evolve into the incredible diversity of life that has now and ever existed on our planet.”

    Answers to where life came from–

    * We don’t know yet, but we have a few ideas based on what is observable to us
    * A Creator did it!
    * The Great Cosmic Dragon laid an egg on planet Earth!

    “We have as much evidence that life was created by a Creator as we have for any other explanation!”

    Yeah, NONE! We don’t teach all of the possibilities–purely imaginary or otherwise–for which we have no evidence and absolutely no reason to believe without evidence.

  92. houndentenor says

    I share your concern. I think of it this way. In the west we have decided to live peacefully by allowing each other to have personal views and lifestyles that we might not agree with. We don’t impose our beliefs on them, and they return the favor. The problem comes when people ignore this modern social construct. When people don’t acknowledge that others can practice a different religion (or any religion or none at all) or make lifestyle choices different from our own (i.e., gay, divorced, living together without being married) and choose to pass laws prohibiting the rights of others or even inflict violence on others that do not conform to their own beliefs, that is a serious problem for a society. I think several European countries have been ignoring the fact that they have taken in immigrants who do not respect the rights of their neighbors. I also realize that given Europe’s history in the last century (and before) many are wary to be publicly heard criticizing another religion or ethnic group because they want no connection to the horrors that came from scapegoating one group (and even mass murder of that group). But this is different.

  93. houndentenor says

    Yes, he does. And he should. There is no reason to let a caller go on for 20 minutes when they have used a logical fallacy or made an unsubstantiated claim in the first few sentences. He is right to stop them at that point and call them out on that particular point. He is also right not to let people talk over him. Perhaps he could be “nicer” about it but frankly some of the other hosts are TOO nice to such callers and the result is one caller taking up 3/4 of the show with an absurd excuse for an argument.

  94. azhael says

    Actually, fuck that, we do have evidence for life arising naturally as progressive increase in sophistication from simple compounds. I realise the subject of abiogenesis is by no means, not even remotely, resolved and that it is a very difficult problem to tackle, but let´s not pretend as if we have nothing on the subject. Even if we have little, we have something, and all of it points to one explanation. It´s all the other ones like gods and cosmis dragons that have absolutely nothing behind them.
    Furthermore, and i see how this could be a subject of considerable debate, i would personally cite the entire field of chemistry as evidence for abiogenesis. It´s our understanding of chemistry that makes abiogenesis not only possible, but probable, whereas “alternative” non-explanations have fuck all to support even their plausibility.

  95. says

    One step further: what need would he (it) have to create anything at all? Positing a god really doesn’t solve the “why is there something rather than nothing” problem the way theists think it does. Gods don’t just have no requirements for space ships, they have no requirements for space.

  96. Narf says

    Why is there a god rather than not a god? You’re just taking the problem back one step.

  97. Narf says

    That’s about the point that I’ve reached too. I even sometimes use similar vocabulary. 😀

    Why is it that creationist organizations don’t have research departments? Why does the “Discovery” Institute only have a propaganda arm? That is why they have no business in science classes.

  98. says

    The type of speaking in tongues that, for example, Pentecostals do (the ones who really do it* as opposed to pretending that they are) is a specific type of inducing an altered state of consciousness. It’s similar to what can be achieved by rituals, ecstatic dance, drumming, fasting, sweatlodges, meditation, repetitive vocalisation (as in mantras, rosary-type prayers, chanting), flagellation or other forms of pain, mobbing/crowd mania, or ingesting certain chemicals.

    I’ve experienced altered states due to most of the things listed. Mostly fun and fascinating for psychologists and neuroscientists to study, but not anything that needs gods or spirits to explain.

    *By this I mean actually going into a type of trance or altered brain state, not actually doing something supernatural because there’s no such thing.

  99. Raoul Borans says

    I’m not sure… are you calling me a troll or the caller on that show? If it’s me. you clearly either don’t know what a troll is or you are just using a cheap shot to ignore my comment. You can call it “script reading” if you like. Maybe the caller just wrote his thoughts down so he wasn’t lost for words.
    This is all besides the point.
    If you are hosting a show where you are expecting to hear from callers that are confused, delusional and even ignorant, you should probably be a little more tolerant in trying to engage in a conversation with them.

  100. says

    You know that it’s hens as lays eggs right?

    Question addressed to the people at large: Why is it always a god that *creates* a universe rather than a goddess that gives birth to it? Never mind. I already know the answer.

  101. Andreas says

    I was not aware that “chicken” suggests a male animal.
    (Could be that is because I’m not a native speaker)

  102. Lea says

    I’m a new watcher of the show, and I’ve gone back and watched a bunch of the archives. Re: the yelling:

    Obviously many of the theist calls are not going to go well but you don’t know ahead of time if the caller will listen and respond or just keep repeating their talking points. For that type of call, I’d rather that once it is obvious they are just repeating and not going to engage, to end that call and move on to the next one, before (or just at) the point where voice-raising and name-calling become the only response left. Once it gets to that point it just becomes boring and irritating. (If I want to hear people yelling “shut up!” and “idiot!” there is no shortage of TV shows offering that.)

    Having said that, I really like the show and think it’s an important resource [*applause*]. The calls I’ve enjoyed most are 1) callers considering deconverting or recently deconverted, 2) callers (theist or non-) with interesting questions or topics, and lastly 3) theists who want to argue their POV but actually listen and respond to what the hosts say.

  103. Andreas says

    What can I say.. I have to agree with Raoul.
    Not necessarily that Matt should stop hosting the show – I don’t really feel like taking a position that far.
    But I am certainly annoyed by the “shut up” and “hang up on your ass” discussion style.

    I watch this show for education and entertainment. The arguments of theist callers are repeating themselves, but it still has a nice entertainment value, and it is socially and psychologically interesting to see the train of thought of the callers. And sometimes there is even a philosophical challenge, even if the callers do not necessarily see the complete picture of that.

    What I expect from the host is to lead the discussion into an interesting direction, and to ask questions that reveal the thought process of the caller, and motivate him/her to think. And if the caller is following a “script”, which some here suggest, then the host should ask questions that encourage to leave that script.

    E.g. in the case of this caller, when he said the first could have been created by whatever other living thing, Matt could have asked how he imagines that to have happened. And when talking about abiogenesis in schools, he could have asked do you know how this is handled in schools today? and what exactly would you change? A creation story as an alternative to abiogenesis, or as an alternative to evolution?

    It should not be the task of the show or the host to always prove a point and always have the last word.

    Then before it gets boring, find a polite way to fade out the caller and move on to the next.

  104. corwyn says

    If you are hosting a show where you are expecting to hear from callers that are confused, delusional and even ignorant, you should probably be a little more tolerant in trying to engage in a conversation with them.

    Seriously? How many call in shows do you listen to?


    Also, go back and listen to Matt from years ago, he has not changed his style much.

  105. Raoul Borans says

    Absolutely my point Thank you. I can’t count how many times Matt has ruined my experience of watching the show by his outbursts. I have seen plenty of episodes where callers have had exceedingly worse arguments and Matt wasn’t present. Russell, Tracie & Jen have made some of the most eloquent points while calmly arguing with unreasonable callers.

  106. edmond says

    I have to agree as well. I certainly don’t think Matt needs to “move on” or stop hosting, he’s fantastic, but he could stand to adjust his “hosting style” somewhat. Obviously, none of us care if he hurts the feelings of the numbskulls he’s yelling at, but other people are watching the show and could certainly get the impression that this is the “atheist way” of doing things. There’s nothing wrong with just giving a tired sigh and saying “Ok, thanks. Next caller!”. I’m sure it’s frustrating to have the caller talk over their answers, but they HAVE a mute button, and they use it often, no caller can talk over THAT. There’s no reason to angrily demand that a caller shut up, when the hosts can easily shut them up with the push of a button. It would certainly help the general “atheist image” if we consistently appear unflappable.

  107. Aaroninmelbourne says

    Since when are religious stories meant to make sense or take on board factual information? There you go again, mistaking religion for something searching for reality!

  108. Matt Gerrans says

    As Delmar (in O Brother, Where Art Thou) would say, I’m with you guys. We know from his various debates that Matt can be very patient and polite with repetitive morons in debate format. For some reason, it breaks down in the call-in format. I guess after years of doing the show, his patience can run thin with callers, but as others in this thread have pointed out, it is still possible to be polite and patient and lead the discussion to some fruitful results. If you have some completely frustrating Sye-Clone, then just say “thank you for your time” and move on to the next caller.

    I also think that arguing the facts leads to this frustration, vs. asking the caller why they believe particular things and in general plying them with the Socratic Method. This should even work with someone who claims that “god revealed it in a way I can be certain” — how can you be certain it wasn’t Satan? Or Loki? Or a leprechaun? Aren’t they all masters of deception? Aren’t they canny enough to trick any human into feeling certain about something? If not, how do you know that? Etc.

    This can all be done without the “Shut up!” and “idiot!” Once you start that kind of response, then the terrorists have won.

  109. Damo says

    Good links thank-you, I will dwell on it some more now that Im presented with evidence, 🙂

  110. xscd says

    What is this? Pile on Matt day?!

    I LIKE Matt. He’s intelligent and crisp and won’t tolerate religious B.S. People seem to think that Matt ought to “tone down” his rhetoric or “be nicer to the religious idiots.” But there are plenty of very religious people who are overbearingly sanctimonious and aggressive, using whatever leverage they think they have to bash atheists (and homosexuals and all other sinners) and feeling oh-so-self-righteous about it.

    The best way for a sheep to present itself to the wolves is not as meek and mild, capitulating and apetizing. Atheists NEED a few fire-breathing dragons like Matt Dillahunty and AronRa to help keep the religious dementors at bay!

    I say this as a former fundamentalist Christian who now despises organized religion and its destructive influence upon society, politics and law, and even though I’m a theist, I’d much rather hang around and support atheists tha religious people. I think that it is much easier to have a coherent, healthy and beneficial belief system as an atheist than it is to try to wade through the deep mire of confusing and often conflicting religious beliefs, ideas and doctrines.

    So GO MATT! 🙂

  111. says

    @ Andreas, I was addressing Aaroninmelbourne’s Great Cosmic Rooster scenario. The GCR who had to *make* the Magical Egg, instead of laying it as a Great Cosmic Hen would do. As he points out, religious stories tend to contravene known facts. They also tend to be grossly sexist. In all the arguments, the religious apologists talk about a male Creator who fashions by magical design, not a female Genetrix who brings forth from herself. It’s just a quirk that was brought to mind by Aaron’s myth which appropriately enough follows the same model.

    *chicken is for both male and female so you were correct

  112. Aaroninmelbourne says

    It’s even better than that… Tracie on a previous episode demonstrated that calling something a “possibility” is itself a claim to knowledge (it’s the one with a bag containing “more than one” dice… is it “possible” to roll a 12? We don’t know until we know how many dice, how many sides each have, and if they even have numbers on them). Like how “theory” is used instead of the word “supposition”, “possibility” tends to be used in place of the word “conceivable” purely because it sounds more important. Kinda like adding the word “process” to the word “cooking” (hats off to the late George Carlin).

    In other words, is it “possible” that a deity created life on Earth? I don’t know if it’s “possible” as we have no information. It is, however, “conceivable”. But then again, anything we conceive of is conceivable so it’s also conceivable that the Star Trek eugenics wars of the 1990s happened and we’re in an alternate timeline. If you can think of it, it’s conceivable, but that doesn’t mean it’s possible.

    Like “supposition” being rephrased as “theory” to make it sound more important and intelligent, so does “possible” get used to give theists a foothold where none exists until they can provide information.

  113. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    I say this as a former fundamentalist Christian who now despises organized religion

    I’d much rather hang around and support atheists than religious people. I think that it is much easier to have a coherent, healthy and beneficial belief system as an atheist than it is to try to wade through the deep mire of confusing and often conflicting religious beliefs, ideas and doctrines.

    I’m a theist

    That’s not rhetorical. You endorse self-described anti-theists (for their public service at least). So you’re familiar with the lousy arguments FOR gods, and at least some of the sociology and history of religions. What is left of the concept that you still find compelling?

  114. AhmNee says

    I’m sorry but I’ll have to disagree with you all. I understand how someone who hasn’t heard the argument before might want to listen to them ramble on even after their particular fallacy has been identified. But the hosts veteran viewers have heard this same crap time and time again.

    What many of the theist callers try to do is preach. They aren’t interested in having conversation, they want to get their message heard, even if it’s only by the hosts and damn the torpedoes if they’re going to allow any well reasoned argument derail their message. And many of them don’t really understand what it is they’re saying. They’ve presumably memorized a position by rote without really thinking about the position. So one of the hosts points out how their argument is flawed. That’s not a queue for them to think about the flaw that’s been pointed out. It’s a queue to barrel on with their “point”. I think the hosts do an as best as can be expected to reign in these callers.

    I also think it’s easy to gripe about how the calls are handled when you’re not the one in the hot seat. Trying to deal with unreasonable people in a reasonable way. All the while considering that you’ve other callers and a time limit to talk about these things. Is the call worthwhile or is it better to send it on it’s way and take another potentially more worthy call?

    I don’t know that I’d be able to keep my cool as well as the hosts. I’ve found myself pacing during some of the calls and wanting to jump down their throats because I want the hosts to pick apart some particular piece of circular reasoning.

  115. Monocle Smile says

    It would certainly help the general “atheist image” if we consistently appear unflappable.

    Fuck that noise. When I attempt to do this, I get set up as a heartless straw Vulcan. We literally can’t do anything right in the eyes of the religious and maintaining this mythical “image” is nothing more than ego-stroking. We’re human, and certain behavior, like incessant dishonesty, should be treated with contempt. No one worth a shit cares about this “unflappable” crap.

  116. Monocle Smile says

    It should not be the task of the show or the host to always prove a point and always have the last word.
    Then before it gets boring, find a polite way to fade out the caller and move on to the next.

    COMPLETELY disagree. I enjoy Dogma Debate, but when they have theist callers on and Aron isn’t in the studio, I have to shut it off. David and Rachel are just too nice and polite and they let borderline pathological liars prattle on and get away with all sorts of bullshit. Every time I try to trudge through one of their discussions with an apologist, I come out thinking that if I wasn’t a skeptic and understood the information, I wouldn’t even be remotely swayed by the hosts and would feel the theist came off better.

    As stated elsewhere, people like the first caller aren’t interested in discussion. They’re interested in preaching and being heard on TV. Sometimes hostility sends the message that the show isn’t going to tolerate that shit.

  117. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Article: Grammarist – Cue vs Queue
    Some Americans might use cue for both meanings,
    but I didn’t find anything suggesting that the British prefer queue. 😛

  118. Raoul Borans says

    “Pile on Matt Day”? I’m pretty sure Matt can handle a bit of constructive criticism…or maybe not.
    I like Matt also. I think he is one of the most important voices in the atheist movement…and it is a movement. Like with any movement, the important voices can be helpful or harmful because of their recognition and constant exposure. Matt has the knowledge and experience to possibly move atheism into the mainstream culture but I think with every stride forward he makes, he then shoots himself in the foot with his intolerant outbursts. He is fantastic in public debates and seminars. He just doesn’t have the ability to control his temper with the call-in format of the show.
    And to AhmNee who called me a “troll’.
    Stop being so childish.
    I watched the video on YouTube and was upset that I couldn’t leave a comment.
    I saw the link for this site & decided to voice my opinion here.
    If you are so insecure that you can’t tolerate opinions that differ from yours then stay on Facebook where everybody is your friend.

  119. xscd says

    Why do I believe in a god? For purely personal reasons. But the god I believe in bears no resemblance to the gods as conceptualized by us humans in our major religions. God as I believe him to be makes no demands upon us; there is no place of eternal reward nor eternal punishment, no Heaven nor Hell. Most religions have conflicting ideals that adherents much choose between in order to have a coherent belief system, and most of the time it involves an unnecessary angst.

    My beliefs stem from my own perception and experience, as a person who has had one of those so-called “near death experiences.” I believe that reality, even purely physical reality, is based upon consciousness, and that consciousness persists after physical death, but I realize that atheists can easily dismiss that idea and have alternate explanations of what occurs (or in their view, seems to occur) during a “near death experience” in terms of brain activity and chemistry. In my case, I was dead for long enough for the body to cool too much and slight rigor mortis to set in; coming back to life required some effort, and I couldn’t have done it on my own without help.

    But I’m not here to convince anyone else. I’m not evangelical, and I firmly believe that there is absolutely no harm in not only saying there’s no reason to believe in a god, but in actively believing that no form or type of god exists. In addition, I believe that religion as a social force with political aspirations is a bad thing and destructive to society, so I fully support atheists and anyone else who challenges or is trying to help loosen religion’s grip upon society.

    Spirituality as conceived by humans has all the flaws that we humans have, and that’s quite a few. And I love a recent quote I read (can’t remember the attribution)– “You can be sure that you have created God in your own image when it turns out He hates all the same people you hate.”

  120. Narf says

    Ditto. I’ve listened to every episode of Dogma Debate, except for 2 or 3 of the ones in which they had a theistic preacher on, when Aron wasn’t around. There was some wishy-washy new-agey woman in one episode and some black preacher in another episode.

    I couldn’t stand listening for more than 15 or 20 minutes without David and co. challenging the insane shit they were saying. I eventually skipped forward about a half hour, then listened for another 3 or 4 minutes at that point … skipped forward another half hour and listened for a few minutes … still just the preachers babbling insane nonsense with no challenge … skipped forward to a point near the end and listened for the last 10 or 15 minutes, then discarded the episode and never tried to listen to it again.

    It was just too fucking painful, listening to David just roll over and let his guest preach at his listeners. What’s the damned point of having theists on a show, if you’re going to let them get their message out just as effectively as if they had gone on TBN? I like the show in general, but without Aron on, there’s no debate in Dogma Debate.

  121. xscd says

    Thank you very much, Reid, for your comments about Islam. I share your concern, as do many others, in an emerging greater awareness of Islam and its potential threat to society. In the UK, one of the anti-Islam spokesmen I most like listening to is Pat Condell, who has a YouTube channel–

  122. xscd says

    Pat Condell is definitely blunt and opinionated, but he seems to be an important voice against Islam, just like atheists are an important voice against organized religion in general. People in Europe and the UK are dealing with fundamentalist Muslims like those of us in the US are dealing with fundamentalist Christians, but these Muslims seem like an even worse threat, more aggressive, more authoritarian. I think that there in a genuine and merited concern, especially in places that have already been overly influenced by the influx of Muslim immigrants, who stayed relatively quiet and to themselves for years, before gaining in number, power and influence and flexing their social muscle. I think that Islam is a genuine global threat on the rise, while Christianity is suffering a welcome decline in influence.

    Just my view, that’s all. You guys are great, Russell, the whole AXP crew and community. Thank you very much for The Atheist Experience. I’m wondering if you all ever realized at first what an important voice and influence the local Austin, Texas, public-access show would come to be. 🙂

    I apologize for unintentionally embedding the YouTube video in my comment, which I guess I can’t edit (right?). If I do that again, I’ll just make a link to the media using the HTML anchor tag.

  123. Reid says

    I completely agree, your perspective on European history is bang on. Whilst the racist tag can now render any standpoint null and void, being accused of [anything]-ophobia is an increasingly used tool to negate or dilute, by default, all opposing viewpoints. The net result is that our habitual fear of being publicly declared intolerant now frequently steamrollers over otherwise rational discussion.

    Islamists understand this all too well and constantly striving to equate the nonsense word ‘Islamophobia’ with Racism in order to stifle even the slightest opposition or criticism whilst, all the while, working to reshape the host laws and institutions along more Sharia based lines.

    Case in point, this very weekend a long standing conspiracy came to light in the Midlands (UK), where Islamic activists set up a covert structure within school boards and Parent Associations intent on cynically undermining and then removing Head Teachers who would not conform to their Special Pleading demands; replacing them with their own choice. Such special pleading included, sex segregation, subject content, games/gym lessons, school uniforms and prayer time.

    We now actually have so called ‘Islamic Patrols’ attempting to prevent and sometimes physically attacking anyone for doing anything unIslamic in so called ‘Muslim Areas’ . Such offences include women walking alone and/or wearing ‘sexually provocative’ clothing, couples holding hands or drinking alcohol. One American tourist was even attacked for being just American!

    I have slowly come to the conclusion that in order for any liberal democracy (UK meaning of liberal) to function effectively there is nothing inherently wrong with not tolerating the intolerant.

  124. xscd says

    I have slowly come to the conclusion that in order for any liberal democracy to function effectively there is nothing inherently wrong with not tolerating the intolerant.

    Of course not. Tolerance is not obligated to extend to the intolerance of authoritarianism, any more than an abused wife is obligated to tolerate the behavior of her abusive husband. Absolute tolerance can encourage and promote absolute intolerance, and such intolerance should not be tolerated.

    Intolerant authoritarianism, whether religious or secular, is what the threat consists of. Authoritarian conformity, especially to a religion as flawed as its adherents, is a legitimate, dangerous threat that society should work against, in my opinion.

  125. edmond says


    I certainly wouldn’t suggest that the hosts allow people to ramble or preach. But there are more “hostly” ways to stop them besides angrily demanding that they “shut up”. Especially when they have the mute button. And doubly-especially since they’re already aware that an issue with the phones makes it difficult for people speaking at the same time to hear each other. But I completely agree that it’s tough to judge without being the one in the hot seat. If they pointed a tv camera at me, I’d be too deer-in-the-headlights to even introduce myself.

  126. azhael says

    I think Matt does a fantastic job. And that includes when he calls someone an idiot for you know, actually being an idiot, and when he hungs up on someone when they have demonstrated that any further discussion is absolutely pointless. When someone says something as remarkably idiotic as Chris when he said “artificially produced compounds are not natural” you know you are either going to hung up or you are going to spend 3 hours trying to explain to that person why that is absolutely absurd only to find out that they are only going to keep denying it and coming back to that particular piece of complete non-sense to support his baseless argument.
    I don´t like this overly careful attitude of tredding on eggshells so as not to offend someone, specially when that someone has shown to be dishonest, or has been extremely rude him/herself. These higher standards that are demanded of people like Matt are absurd and serve no actual purpose. I in fact think they play in favor of the callers, who have no standards themselves (as evidenced by their willingness to insult, offend or lie) and can take advantage.

  127. Robert, not Bob says

    Matt’s the Voice of Logic. It’s a kind of wish-fulfillment: he says the things I want to say but don’t dare (and I’m in a better position than many atheists). All this “we should be more polite” reminds me “gradualist” whites telling blacks to be patient back in the forties and fifties. Bad thinking needs to be pointed out, and a lot of people aren’t going to even notice if you’re soft-spoken and polite.

  128. Muz says

    People have been saying this for years now. Frankly I think Matt has softened. He was at his crabbiest when the show was shortened and he was feeling very pushed all of a sudden.

  129. Matt Gerrans says

    Great point, Aaron. I am always a little irked when people say that some god is “logically possible.” I think the word “conceivable” is a much better fit. We can imagine these gods and how they would violate all known evidence, physics and logic, but that doesn’t mean they are “logically possible,” it just means we can imagine them, which means they are conceivable.*

    In fact, many gods (especially the one of the Bible and the one of the Qur’an) are logically impossible, if you read the whole book instead of taking the parts you like out of context.

    * By the way, this is another reason why the Ontological Argument is one of the most idiotic of them all: Just because you can describe a god as a “…being than which no greater can be conceived” doesn’t really mean you can fully imagine such a thing. You think you can imagine a car engine, or a computer operating system, but in fact you cannot. You cannot hold in your mind every facet of that device and how they all interact. What you can imagine is a very vague generalization of what these things are. The same as with any god, we can imagine some general idea of it. In fact, with the Biblical/Islamic gods (Yahweh, Satan, Gabriel, Allah, etc.) we can only imagine a very fuzzy and indistinct image what what they might be or how they might manifest, because the descriptions of those gods are really quite bad (not to mention inconsistent), compared to Norse or Greek gods. So the truth is, we can’t really imagine them, so by the Ontological Argument, they don’t exist. QED.

  130. corwyn says

    In my case, I was dead for long enough for the body to cool too much and slight rigor mortis to set in

    I would love to see the medical journal articles on this! According to wikipedia, in humans, it commences after about three to four hours. A NDE of that length must have advanced the medical state of the art substantially. Please tell us more.

  131. xscd says

    According to wikipedia, in humans, it commences after about three to four hours.

    Thanks. I shouldn’t have used the term rigor mortis, because my background is not in medicine or science, although I have tremendous respect and admiration for both.

    I have no idea how long my body was actually dead, because once I became dissociated from my body the sense of time changed. When I later returned to the environment of my death and my body, it was cold and unresponsive, until with some patient help and advice I was able to once again integrate with and affect my body.

    I’m well aware, from several atheist friends who have a purely natural-phenomena based view of life, that they regard this event in a different way than I experienced it, and I’m not evangelical about it at all, so it doesn’t bother me that they or you or anyone else dismiss this event.

    Again, apologies for using a medical term in my description.

  132. Narf says

    You’re running up against massive problems with the definition of death, too. Brain death is death. When people “die” from heart stoppage or something similar, the brain doesn’t instantly stop firing. You still have electrons bouncing around all over the place in there for a good while.

    Plus, say the electrical activity of your brain does actually stop? If it’s then restarted, who knows what sort of fucked up stuff might be running through it during the rebooting process? Imagine the worst possible waking hallucinations, and then kick it up a few notched from there. Our brains weren’t developed to function reliably under those sorts of extreme conditions. Hell, forget waking hallucinations. You’re not awake. I imagine that anything you experience then is no less reliable than any dream.

    Even if it had happened to me, I couldn’t believe it, without pretty much universal confirmation from everyone who had been dead. If every Hindu who had ever “died” came back talking about this guy named Yahweh who was really pissed at him, that would be an interesting set of data points, and we would have to investigate. But that isn’t what we see. Hindus hallucinate about the Hindu gods, when they “die”. Muslims see Allah. Plenty of people see absolutely nothing at all.

    What sort of trickster god does this kind of crap?

  133. Matt Gerrans says

    Well said, again Raoul. I think you make a reasonable point and the “troll” name-calling is ridiculous. The idea that tone doesn’t matter any anyone who criticizes it should be called a “tone troll” is immature.

    Now, the challenge is dealing with people who rely on troll-like behavior without sinking to their level. Here is a great example of the ultimate intentionally intellectually dishonest troll Sye Ten Bruggencate getting a polite smackdown without any “idiot!” or “shut up!”:

    Apologist Sye Ten Bruggencate Leaves Stage During a Debate

    I think the hosts of this show can similarly point out a caller’s disrespectful and/or dishonest behavior. If it doesn’t change, simply hang up and move on to the next caller without yelling at them.

    Yelling serves no valuable purpose in a discussion. If you have to shout someone down, then you are essentially resorting to a form of violence to get your way. That is not the way to go.

  134. Matt Gerrans says

    Well, I think we’re arguing a bit of a false dichotomy. These are not the only two options:

    1. Scream “idiot!” at the caller and yell “shut up!” at them.
    2. Completely wimp out and let the caller spew all kinds of unchallenged assertions.

    It is entirely possible to challenge people while being civil, reasonable and firm. I’m all for that. I’m also all for hanging up on people who want to play games and keep repeating nonsense or playing presup games.

  135. Narf says

    We mostly seem to get one extreme or the other, though, in most atheist media, at least of the stuff I watch. Steve Shives is towards Matt’s end, but he looks a lot softer, since he isn’t directly addressing the person that he’s calling an idiot and an asshole.

  136. sasa says

    Matt’s demeanor does sometimes make me uncomfortable. It’s not so much people getting insulted by his temper that bothers me. It’s more along the lines of- he seems to be a super rational person and also presents himself as such- yet it’s not really rational to get so worked up about some unknown person over the phone talking bullshit. I find that it doesn’t jive well with the overall image he presents (of himself, not of the atheist community- I don’t like that train of thought) and makes me sometimes question his rationality. But hey, we are all human. :shrug

  137. says

    The solution to the problem of people seeing *one* atheist on *one* internet stream, and judging all atheists according to that, is using your own voice to represent your own atheist perspectives, and not relying on someone else to present your position for you. TAE is presented by ACA. The hosts give their own, individual views, and as long as they are representative of the views of ACA–that is *all* the show claims to represent. Anyone outside of ACA who doesn’t feel Matt represents them as they’d like, needs to remind themselves that Matt was never elected to be the voice of atheists everywhere, nor have I ever heard him claim he has, or wants, that authority. Anyone is welcome to activate and represent themselves at any time–certainly Matt is not stopping anyone? When they do speak out, I promise I won’t presume to dictate to them how they should represent their own views or attitudes about their atheism, claiming justification from “that’s what *I* would do differently if it were me.”

    Matt does not have an advanced degree or any relevant credentials that provide him with any more justification for speaking out as an atheist than anyone else. Especially in today’s world, if you want to do an Internet program on ustream, you can. If you want to start debating theists in churches–by all means, contact some and see if they’ll let you come and speak. Matt is doing what he does precisely because other people *aren’t* doing it. Please know that the people working at ACA or TAE would be very happy if *every* atheist got up and got motivated and got involved. Nobody at TAE would think it is a negative thing if Matt couldn’t get booked at a debate at a church because they were already all full up with atheist debates scheduled into 2015. A few people are talking in these comments as though Matt has some magical power to give his atheist views that other people simply cannot possibly attain, and as though the rest of atheism is silenced and stifled by some mysterious damper.

    All Matt did was start volunteering and start doing what nobody else was willing to do at the time. He’s not even on the ACA board anymore, so whatever prestige he’s granted doesn’t come from any actual position of authority, advanced training, or specialized education, and is completely imagined. He’s just out doing what he does on his own in these debates. That’s all Matt–not ACA or TAE. And we’re happy to have him at TAE as well, as long as he’s happy doing it. But the fact is, Matt is this “important voice” because of a ridiculously *severe lack* of atheist voices (very often quiet by choice, not necessity)–and until people step up to alter *that* reality, I see no reason he should not continue to speak as he pleases.

    If anyone doesn’t appreciate his tone or presentation, let them blame their own silence if they’d like to see something different. Those who are not silent should know better than to assert that his is the only voice upon which people can build an image of this community**. So, if you’re speaking out for yourself, please stop expecting Matt to speak for you and let him speak for himself as well. And if you’re not speaking out for yourself, then stop complaining and do something to get your atheist voice into the public dialog either at all or more prominently.

    **Additionally, when someone meets *one* member of a demographic and assumes that all of the other members are identical, that is called “prejudice.” And I have a great deal of concern about attitudes that assert that any minority demographic should alter its behavior and act differently in order to accommodate irrational prejudicial judgments. That’s a bit of misplaced blame: Since Majority-Group-X has this irrational and unjustified prejudicial view of Minority-Group-Y, Group-Y needs to tailor it’s behavior to accommodate Group-X, and fix Group-X’s prejudiced attitude. It should rather be that: Group-X needs to be called out and corrected on their unjustified prejudice and told to correct that.

    Let me just clarify that this is NOT posted to say that people shouldn’t feel free to criticize things about TAE they don’t like. If you don’t like it when Matt yells, and you feel a more productive dialog would be served with calmer attitudes and less hang ups–that’s just your assessment of your preference, and it’s as valid as the person who says they love when Matt hangs up on someone being unreasonable and goofy. But when people start to assert that Matt owes it to a community he does not have the authority to represent, to behave this or that way–those people are confused about boundaries and roles and responsibilities in their own lives and those of the TAE hosts. And when they assert that minority groups that are prejudicially judged are responsible for their own vilification, and that the problem lies with their lack of accommodation of majority prejudices, that’s when I think a person has begun to say things that need to be countered. Christians who subscribed to prejudiced views using small sample sizes are 100% responsible for their prejudiced attitudes, and no atheist is to blame, nor is responsible, for their irrational bigotry.

  138. corwyn says

    yet it’s not really rational to get so worked up about some unknown person over the phone talking bullshit.

    Why not? What is your rational criteria for deciding when one should get worked up about something?

    Personally, I think it is perfectly rational to get worked up about something (anything), if one is more likely to achieve one’s goals by doing so. Conversely, getting worked up about something which is very important, but which not amenable to change by the process of getting worked up, is not rational. Thus, it could very well be that getting worked up about someone talking bullshit is more rational than getting worked up about someone having terminal cancer.

  139. sasa says

    Sometimes Matt gets worked up in a way that you describe- hoping to achieve something- and those are the times when it doesn’t bother me one bit. There are however times (in my subjective opinion, as is my subjective criteria for rationality) when he gets worked up at the same time as he is giving up on the caller. It’s like he gives up and is frustrated by it, so he takes it out on the other person a bit. I get it, when you are driven and passionate you will get frustrated by failing to reach people but those are nevertheless the times when I find him to be uncharacteristically irrational.

  140. corwyn says

    when he gets worked up at the same time as he is giving up on the caller.

    Why is this an example of irrationally getting worked up? You do realize that he has more audience than just the caller, correct?

    times when I find him to be uncharacteristically irrational.

    But you haven’t shown any irrationality yet. Which principle of rationality is he violating?

  141. sasa says

    I’m not really into getting overly analytical with dissecting a personality of someone I know only from TV. I like Matt.

    I will try to explain myself one more time since you asked. Yes, I realize that there is an audience and not just the caller. However, Matt strikes me as a type of a person who devotes his entire attention to the person he is speaking to. Which is a quality I like. The flip side to this is that his filter is set to low. Which is also good in my book. But I get the impression that when he emerges from his focus and adds the audience into the equation, in a context of failing to engage a caller, he gets pissy. It is my personal view and nothing more.

  142. corwyn says

    Then my suggestion would be that your ‘personal view and nothing more’ should not include the word ‘rationality’, unless you are prepared to have a discussion about the actual rational basis for that view.

  143. Narf says

    I think you guys are all getting way too bothered about this.

    Look, we have The Amazing Atheist out there doing his thing. As long as he’s around, the theistic atheist-bashers will have their flaming asshole to point at as an example of atheists being aggressive and angry. It doesn’t matter how much lesser assholery they have to point at, once they have their prime example.

    And sometimes, the aggressive, mocking tone can cause people to examine their beliefs to see if the person mocking them had any kind of point. It helps to have all approaches out there in the atheist media. Broad-spectrum is more likely to have a greater saturation. Someone who becomes more religious because of someone mocking and screaming about their beliefs probably wasn’t going to come around to the gentle approach, either.

    Just let it go, and let Matt do what Matt does.

  144. corwyn says

    Well said. The solution to free speech that you don’t like is, MORE free speech.

  145. AhmNee says

    @ Sky Captain.

    I realized I’d used the wrong word but only after I’d hit submit.

    @ Edmond

    You may even be right that there may be better ways but from my perspective, Matt normally gives everyone a fair shake to make their case and when they refuse to even acknowledge the points he’s made much less discuss them, and instead barrels on with their fallacy … that’s when he seems to have absolutely no time for their BS will verbally rub their nose in it until they face their mistake and at least acknowledge they’ve made one.

  146. AhmNee says

    @ Raoul Borans

    You’re the one who came in here whining about how Matt shouldn’t host the show anymore because you don’t like how he argues with theists. You are a textbook tone troll. That’s not childish, that’s just simple placing the shoe where it fits. And I’m not backing down simply because you’ve decided to challenge me on it.

    @ Matt Gerrans

    I’m sorry Matt, but your example is PRECISELY why the hosts should not be polite. I watched that debate and Sye derailed the entire debate with his petty wordgames. He wasn’t kicked off the stage until after he ran out the entire time that David Silverman had for the debate. There was no exchange of information, there was no conversation. There was Sye insisting that everyone else could be wrong after anything they said like a child going “I know you are but what am I?” Sye turned that debate into a complete farce because it too them that long to politely ask him to leave. If they would have not tolerated his infantile blather and kicked him off as soon as it became clear he was going to continue to derail everything anyone said with his cheap tactic which he seems completely infatuated with, we all would have been better off.

  147. AhmNee says

    To add to what others have said, you’re also completely abdicating the caller of responsibility to actually engage with the hosts and have something more than a one sided conversation.

  148. sasa says

    I like to get worked up on my own, thankyouverymuch. 😀

    But I see this is mainly a crowd that uses “principle”, “basis”, “criteria” and “thus” rather then :D, 🙂 and :P. I’m feeling a bit low brow in such a serious environment and topic. Unfortunately I don’t have a smiley for lowbrow but, you know, one brow lower than the other sort of a thing.


  149. Raoul Borans says

    I’m not asking you to back down, You are more than welcome to your opinion as I believe I am. I’m stating that your use of the phrase “tone troll” is sophomoric. You might as well have called me a “hater”. I’m not sure how you can’t get it through your head that just because I voiced a contrary opinion,that doesn’t make me a troll. Jumping to that conclusion makes an assumption without any evidence to back it up. Congratulations, you’ve made a classic theist move.

  150. Reid says

    Interesting; but you don’t have to be a scientist or doctor to extrapolate a more ‘clinical’ perspective. Consider this:

    Be it sight, smell, touch, taste or sound, all your sense organs convert stimuli to bio-electrical impulses which all route, via your central nervous system to the pertinent components of your brain. It is only once there that the signals are actually processed and interpreted by the brain.

    Your brain controls every aspect of your physical and mental existence, however, the vast majority of brain activity is completely automated and operates well below any consciousness control or awareness. Breathing, bone growth, sperm production, your immune system, digestion, memory, language …. practically everything goes on without your consent.

    You exist largely on auto-pilot with a relatively small percentage of brain activity devoted to consciousness. Furthermore, not only does your consciousness regularly switch on and off (how conscious are you asleep?) it also regularly functions on a smoothly sliding scale between these two extremes. Think about it: sleep depravation, drink, drugs, fatigue, fear, depression, injury, illness, infection, auto-suggestion, trauma, extreme stress, shock, oxygen deprivation, sensory overload etc. all directly impact upon consciousness and perception.

    Furthermore, those same areas of the brain responsible for constructing your model of external reality are also responsible for your dreams (light waves stop at your eye, the ‘images’ you see are produced in your brain): every night your brain chemistry alters to facilitate limb paralysis and sleep. It requires no great leap of understanding to imagine what happens when dream production intrudes whilst conscious (we know that LSD does this); those affected can and do experience hallucinations, paranoid delusions and altered states etc. None of this is even remotely contentious. 

    NDE, by definition, only occurs when the brain/body undergoes changes very far from the norm; death has a wide variety of different causes but generally only occurs the once. Baring in mind all of the above, how is it that anything produced by a brain that has been subjected to such an extreme and exceptional event can be relied upon to represent any form of reality, particularly where, again by definition, unconsciousness was necessarily involved?  

    Science concerns itself with identifying the most probable explanation that best fits the data; in these circumstances a remotely travelling consciousness certainly wouldn’t qualify on any rational grounds.

  151. xscd says

    Any objective analysis of a near-death experience is bound to differ from the event as experienced by the person who had it, in the same way that dissecting a frog and understanding its anatomy and the function of its organs doesn’t give us mich insight into what life was like to the frog from its own perspective.

    In the case of my near-death experience, however strict, objective, physical-phenomena-only based individuals care to analyze (or dismiss) it, which is fine with me, my breathing stopped, my heart stopped (I was acutely aware of both events), and I dissociated from and moved out of my body; it became inert, while I was still alive as consciousness. I could move and could see my body and the details of the darkened room the event took place in (I was alone at home, not in a clinical setting).

    This experience was brought about by a sudden illness and very high fever, and the actual death experience was a surprise to me when it occurred. My body was not injured or damaged, except for some cooling and a little stiffness that occurred after my breathing and heart stopped, and with a strong and persistent effort later, I was able to cause my body to begin to breathe again, and my heart began to beat lightly and sporadically until its rhythm became stronger and stable.

    I omit the experiences I had after leaving my body, because although they were deeply meaningful to me, they are not important or relevant to others. I’m perfectly content for others to “analyze the near death experience out of existence” except as a purely physical phenomenon. That’s fine.

  152. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says


    This experience was brought about by […] very high fever

    One can have experiences, even deeply meaningful ones, without pretending the experience has any relation to the world outside one’s own mind, and without grandiose embellishments: “dead” (not injured or damaged) and “rigor mortis” (a little stiffness) and “long enough for the body to cool too much” / “I was acutely aware” (my sense of time changed).
    The detailed responses you received were not “physical-phenomena-only based individuals” trying to dismiss your testimony to preserve their worldview. They were trying to keep you HONEST. To the extent you’ve emphasized the severity of your condition, you were in no condition to trust your perceptions, however profound. At least read the article on sleep paralysis rather than spin yarns as facile as any from the fundies you despise.
    You’re even spinning ignorance (“I couldn’t have done it on my own without help”) into “goddit”.
    Dissociation, paralysis, and sensing a nearby presence are common occurrences. At the very least, you can draw personal inspiration from any experience without asserting the presence was a tawdry cameo from the king of the universe.

  153. xscd says

    –> Compulsory says: “One can have experiences … without pretending … without grandiose embellishments … you were in no condition to trust your perceptions”

    Well, OK–

    –> Compulsory says: “At least read the article on sleep paralysis rather than spin yarns …”

    I have had a sleep paralysis event myself (just once), when I awakened in the morning but could not move, and heard voices. It was very different from my near-death experience.

    –> Compulsory says: “You’re even spinning ignorance (“I couldn’t have done it on my own without help”) into “goddit”.”

    No, I’m not. I’m aware of the exact nature of the help I received at the time, when I was out of my body, but it was not “God” nor “Jesus” nor any other religion-inflected experience.

    –> Compulsory says: “you can draw personal inspiration from any experience without asserting the presence was a tawdry cameo from the king of the universe.”

    I didn’t mention that God (any god) or “the king of the universe” was in my near-death experience, and in fact neither was. You merely assumed, I suppose. 🙂

  154. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says


    I didn’t mention that God (any god) or “the king of the universe” was in my near-death experience, and in fact neither was. You merely assumed, I suppose.

    Why do I believe in a god? […] My beliefs stem from my own perception and experience, as a person who has had one of those so-called “near death experiences.” […] coming back to life required some effort, and I couldn’t have done it on my own without help.

  155. xscd says

    “CompulsoryAccount” quotes me–
    “Why do I believe in a god? […] My beliefs stem from my own perception and experience, as a person who has had one of those so-called “near death experiences.”

    To respond, although I never expected to drag out this conversation about my near-death experience, the “god” I believe in (really just a being of consciousness) did not appear or figure directly in my near-death experience, and my conception of that being is rudimentary and vague and bears no resemblance to any of the major human religions’ conceptions of god.

    To clarify just for your sake I suppose, I believe in a “largest being of consciousness within which reality exists,” but not in the Christian nor Islamic nor any other religion’s god. It does not matter that I believe in this “being of consciousness” which I conveniently call God. It shouldn’t matter to you or anyone else.

    I was as surprised as you or anyone would be to discover that I was still alive and conscious after my death.

    I’ve come to believe that life is primarily a conscious experience, not a physical one. Our bodies and physical reality form the context in which we have, for the time being, that conscious experience. Our conscious experience continues after death, in other contexts (that doesn’t mean I believe in Heaven or Hell or any of the many rather ridiculous human conceptions of after death environments; I don’t).

    My beliefs matter to me, but should not matter to anyone else. I don’t mind expressing them in summary in some contexts, but I’m not intent upon getting others to believe as I do. I like atheists and anyone who fights against organized religion, because I regard shared religion (as contrasted with private, personal spirituality) as more destructive than beneficial to society.

    So– I believe in a god of sorts, of some kind, but not in any of the gods as conceived by prominent religions. God did not appear in my near-death experience. The “help” I referred to was not from God nor Jesus, nor was it just something I assumed; it’s merely something that no one in an atheist forum would normally care about or be interested in, and that’s fine with me.

  156. Reid says

    I do not in any way dispute your interpretation of events; I’m not of course in any position to do so, but I must also add that I too have a subjective perspective on such out of body experiences.

    A friend of mine, who happened to be an NHS Haematologist, was also a certified hypnotherapist working out of a number of GP surgeries (primarily to support those giving up smoking etc). I was fascinated by this and wanted to both experience and perhaps even learn self-hypnosis. I was so alert and focused on the experience that it took several sessions for me to actually ‘go under’, but eventually I did (and everything was taped).

    The experience began gently enough, I could still hear and feel everything but somehow felt unusually secure, warm and cocooned. I had kind of anticipated this and after a while, mentally detached from what my friend was saying and started to ‘explore’ my new mental ‘environment’. It was at that point that I underwent what seemed at the time to be a remarkable out of body experience – it took me by surprise and momentarily frightened me. I ‘felt’ an etherial essence of me gradually peel up from my physical body, feet first, until I was only anchored at the head. It seemed to take a prodigious amount of courage to let go completely and I soon ‘returned, but only after moving around the room and looking down on myself.

    He eventually brought me back round and we reflected on what I thought I experienced. Although it was over 20 years ago it was so profound that I can still recall the feelings and sensations as if they were yesterday, but at no point did I ever believe that it really occurred anywhere but in my mind.

    I accept that this differs from an NDE but, in the course of my previous career, I also experienced significant perceptual distortions during life threatening events which, despite all my training, directly impacted upon my actions. Whilst fully conscious and hyper-alert I actually saw things that just weren’t there and nearly shot someone as a result. I knew I was experiencing these distortions at the time (tunnel vision, auditory exclusion etc) but I was powerless to stop them as the event itself was out of context, unusual, unexpected & very fast moving. I couldn’t help but see and interpret things through the lens of my own experience and expectations and simply saw what I expected to see. I came within a hair’s breadth of taking someones life and it was very sobering.

    It is because of events like this that you learn that you shouldn’t entirely trust anything you perceive that you’ve experienced when you stray too far from normality, whatever your normality happens to be.

  157. AhmNee says

    You can have the opinion that it’s infantile, sophomoric, childish, immature or however else you’d hope to dismiss the observation. The simple point is you didn’t come with only a contrary opinion. You came with the claim that Matt shouldn’t host the show any longer because he’s a big meany head any makes atheists look bad.

    If you’re not sure what a tone troll is, it’s not your average troll. It’s it’s own special subset, thus the modifier appended. The problem with tone trolling is spelled out well, I think, here:

    So, please “get it through your head” that I’m not simply calling you a troll. I’ve sited my evidence or at least my reasoning. I still think you’re a complete tone troll.

    In conclusion, Suck it, Blue.

  158. Monocle Smile says

    Here’s where I wanted to (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

    Russell asks for a verified miracle.
    Drew: “I think you may be putting the threshold very high”


  159. Raoul Borans says

    Wow, not much thinking going on in that head of yours. My initial comment was directed to a specific part of the video that was posted on the blog. If I’d made the comment that I love the way Matt puts the caller in his place by calling him an idiot and telling him to shut up, would you have called me a “tone troll”? It’s so blatantly obvious that your only motivation is because you’re butt hurt about my comment. Sorry, but you don’t get to be blog monitor. If they create an Atheist Experience blog for kids, maybe you can try your luck there.

  160. AhmNee says

    It’s not my fault you have no idea what a tone troll is. If you said you liked the way it was done, it wouldn’t be tone trolling. That’s like saying if you say something contrary to your stated position and I say you’re being inconsistent, that if you don’t say something contrary to your stated position that I wouldn’t say you’re inconsistent. You’re absolutely right. Because you wouldn’t be acting in an inconsistent way.

    You’re approaching an argument and critiquing the presentation of that argument instead of the content of that argument. That, my fine feathered friend, is what we call tone trolling. It doesn’t add to the conversation in any way.

    I find it a bit ironic your speaking of my “butt hurt” when it’s readily apparent it was yours that drew you here. I’m thinking that an AXP for kids is more wishful thinking on your part, maybe there everyone will play nice like you seem to want. Your lack of self awareness is kinda stunning.

  161. Raoul Borans says

    I’m done wasting my time with you. Quite obviously you don’t have the capacity to understand that I don’t need to address the argument Matt was having to voice an opinion about how he was behaving. In your limited scope I guess I would be guilty as charged but like I said, you don’t get to make the decision about what people should or shouldn’t comment on especially if it was directly addressing the overall “tone” of the argument. See what I did there?
    Now get out your rug and take your nap. You’re getting a little cranky.

  162. Andreas says

    I don’t want to get sucked into this conversation too deeply, but I think you are wrong here.

    > You’re approaching an argument and critiquing the presentation of that argument instead of the content of that argument.

    Except that he is not really attempting to question any argument. If he said Matt is impolite and therefore what he says is wrong, then this might be “tone trolling” – although you certainly won’t see me say that ever. But he does never say that Matt is wrong, and I also don’t see him implicitly suggest that.

    It is like if after eating in a restaurant you say the food was delicious, but the service could have been better.
    The fine line would be if you blame the cook for that.

  163. Lea says

    >> “There isn’t really any “according to Buddhism” on this subject.”

    Actually, yes there is. Dukkha/suffering is THE subject of Buddhism. The Four Noble Truths are the essence and foundation of all sects of Buddhism, regardless of whatever amount of extra cultural superstitions, rituals and other stuff they’ve added to it. The picture drawn in that post is cartoonish and sounds more like the kind of thing Shirley MacLaine / New Agers have made up.

    >> “What Aaroninmelbourne said is true for some Buddhist sects.”

    Please cite which Buddhist sects you are referring to and a source to support his/her claim of the belief that “only once you transcend bad deeds from a previous life will you stop reincarnating” (whatever that means).

  164. Monocle Smile says

    But he does never say that Matt is wrong, and I also don’t see him implicitly suggest that.

    He suggested that Matt quit the show, which IMO is just as bad.

  165. Narf says

    “I wanted something to happen, and it happened.”

    That’s as high as most theists place the threshold. Most don’t even get that specific in the details of what they want to happen. If one small detail of what they wanted comes true in an otherwise complete failure, that still counts. God only said yes to that part of the prayer.

  166. AhmNee says

    @ Raoul Borans

    Quite obviously you don’t have the capacity to understand that I don’t need to address the argument Matt was having to voice an opinion about how he was behaving.

    What you fail to grasp is I totally understand that you’re having an opinion on how Matt was behaving. That in no way invalidates my opinion that you are a total tone troll ™. Your indignation at being labeled as such has been entertaining and a little sad. But it’s to be expected from someone who has shown such a complete lack. A lack of understanding of the term. A lack of self-awareness. A lack of the decorum that you claim to desire.

    But I guess I’m to blame as well. After all, one is never supposed to feed a troll, even a tone troll.

    @ Andreas

    I’m not sure, but it seems like you’re confusing me accusing him of a logical fallacy. That’s not the case. Raoul has an opinion. He’s expressed it. And I’ve responded with what I think of his opinion.

    It’s said that one cannot please everyone. And that’s an adage that holds true more often than not. Trying to find a post I thought had been posted by Russell in the recent past, I found that tone trolling has been a topic here in the AXP blog on multiple occasions. And what it comes down to is people getting their feelings hurt because they didn’t like the way something was argued. So they come in to express their hurt feelings which have nothing to do with the topic, and we all spend time defending this or that about the way the message was delivered, not what the message was.

    Raoul can have his opinion, that’s fine. He can have the opinion that Matt shouldn’t host the show any longer. Conversely, I can have the opinion he’s a tone troll and that his opinion is completely worthless. And it is completely worthless, as is yours, mine and anyone elses. Unless someone else gives a crap about our opinion, it’s just so much noise.

    For my part, I find Raoul’s opinion particularly worthless as it’s been presented and find his contribution to the matter an unnecessary distraction from the conversation. To arguably tone troll a little myself, he could have easily have said “I think the hosts were unnecessarily harsh to the theist caller this week” then discussed what the content of the conversation was actually about. But his whole point of stopping by was to beat up on the hosts for being big ol’ meanies. I find that particular tripe trifling and stand by my opinion that he is as stated, a tone troll.

    I hope that explains my point of view for what it’s worth.

  167. Andreas says


    > A tone troll is someone who, in the course of a debate, dismisses an opponent’s argument based on perceived crassness, hysteria, or anger.

    This particularly applies to a context in which someone tries to dismiss an argument based on its presentation. This is totally not the case here.

    What remains of your statement is that you think that this forum should be only about the content of the show, but not about its presentation. Like you go to the cinema with your friends, then discuss the movie, but you are only allowed to discuss the story, not the acting or the costumes or the effects, or the annoying woman next to you who didn’t switch off her mobile.

    And even if it were right, I think it is generally unhelpful to stick a label on a person. E.g. instead of saying “Jim went skinny-dipping today” you say “The naked Jim”.

    > and we all spend time defending this or that about the way the message was delivered

    How much energy you put into this defending is up to you.
    You could simply say “Well, we’ve heard people complain about this before, but i think this is just how it’s going to be. They all have their character, and it would be boring otherwise.”

    > And what it comes down to is people getting their feelings hurt because they didn’t like the way something was argued.

    I think the motivation is that people want to “identify” with the show, but then see this as a problem. Not any strong kind of identification, but the kind of identification that makes you share stuff on facebook, or show it to your friends and family.
    E.g. if I want to explain to my parents what atheism is about, I might give them a link to this program and say “look, I do not necessarily agree with everything they say, but this should give you some ideas.”
    And then I imagine the response as “so now you prefer to listen to this angry guy instead of your loving parents”, or jesus or whatever, or “i watched this for 5 minutes but this guy was just not friendly.”.
    Or if I post this on facebook, and some people might think “yeah he is this radical atheist fanboy”, etc.

  168. Monocle Smile says


    That last paragraph is laughable. Are you really that concerned with the reactions of morons? If your parents actually said something so asinine, then you need to realize that they’re stupid, stubborn, and wrong and move on. That’s hard because they’re your parents, but that’s what you have to do. And speaking as someone who suffered from innumerable guilt trips from his parents like the one you describe, distancing yourself is the only way to make them reconsider their self-righteous bullshit.

    If people on facebook honestly react that way, they’re probably just digging for a reason to be upset because they can’t critique the arguments.

    At some point you have to stop caring about idiots who plug their ears. The people who are open and willing to listen won’t discount everything just because Matt Dillahunty called a spade a spade that one time.

  169. AhmNee says

    LOL. Undone by my own link!!!
    If I don’t want to be accused of using the definition that presents the logical fallacy, I shouldn’t link the definition that cites it as a logical fallacy. You have me there. My accusation is actually more colloquial.
    From Urban Dictionary:
    1. Tone troll
    A tone troll is an internet troll that will effectively disrupt an internet discussion, because they feel that some of the participants are being too harsh, condescending, or use foul language. They often complain loudly and target specific subjects, even though they may actually agree with their subjects’s point of view.

    That’s actually more the definition I had in mind when making my comment.
    While I accept that your argument about wanting to identify with the show and agree that there may indeed be better ways to handle unruly callers, I tend to be rather permissive of harsh language and personally identify with the show as is. So who is right? There are other more even mannered atheists on the web and youtube if that’s what he’s looking for.

    Raoul didn’t come here for that discussion, however. Granted this is mostly my take on his intent and could be completely off base, though I doubt it. Raoul came here to be abrasive and bitch because feelings.

    he has become so intolerant that he is actually doing more harm than good

    I think it’s time for him to decide to leave this forum

    Matt is one of the reasons people think atheists are all angry. He needs to move on.

    I stand by my opinion that the show would be better off without him.

    I can’t count how many times Matt has ruined my experience of watching the show by his outbursts

    Ipso facto – tone troll.

  170. Andreas says

    @Monocle Smile
    I have to apologize to my parents (if this makes any sense now). I did not show them anything, and I do not honestly think this is what they would say.

    The point is, if someone shares stuff with me (on facebook or real life) then this will shape what I think about this person. It can make the person look like an idiot (by posting conspiracy stuff or woo), annoying (by posting cat pictures), boring, conservative, insensitive, racist or homophobic, etc. This might even be something neutral, e.g. “this person loves cats” or is into football, etc. And if the person is female, what she posts or shares with me might make her look more or less attractive.

    This last aspect alone would be reason enough to choose carefully how you present yourself to others 🙂

    And I think this also happens unconsciously. Is what I am doing something I would brag about in public, or is this rather something I feel bad for and want to do privately? E.g. watching a cheesy teen vampire soap in an all-nighter.

    Religion does not have a monopoly on this kind of self-censorship. There is always the question of how you want to see yourself, and how you want to be seen by others. You can free yourself from some of that, but it does not go away completely. And I don’t necessarily think that it is always a bad thing.

  171. AhmNee says

    And if the person is female, what she posts or shares with me might make her look more or less attractive.

    I hope that is supposed to read:

    “And if the person is female and not related to me, what she posts or shares with me might make her look more or less attractive.”


  172. Andreas says


    > A tone troll is an internet troll that will effectively disrupt an internet discussion, because they feel that some of the participants are being too harsh

    He did not disrupt a discussion, but started a new one (by posting a post that was not refering to any other).
    And at least for this episode, Matt is not a participant of the forum (or, not that I know of). So again, this does not apply.

    > Raoul didn’t come here for that discussion, however. Granted this is mostly my take on his intent and could be completely off base, though I doubt it. Raoul came here to be abrasive and bitch because feelings.

    And so what?
    If the host does something that reduces your enjoying of the show due to feelings, what’s wrong with saying that in this forum?

    This does not mean I agree with everything or that I think that Matt should stop hosting the show, or that Raoul is in the position to ask that. This might be over the top, or it might not. I personally choose to not judge or comment on everything people say.

  173. AhmNee says

    He did not disrupt a discussion

    I’m not entirely sure I agree but I think to go further is to be splitting hairs. I can see where you’re coming from. I trust I’ve made myself clear enough that you can see where I am coming from. We don’t necessarily agree but this is all shades of gray and opinion at any rate.

    I still believe his major motivation was not to have a discussion but to rattle cages and get a reaction. That could simply be because I’m jaded. Who’s to say?

    With Raoul having retreated from the field of battle, I really have nothing more on the subject at any rate. 🙂

    I’ve appreciated our joust, however.

  174. Monocle Smile says


    Atheism is not something to be ashamed of. Watching this show isn’t, either. What other show in the country has this kind of format and actually engages callers and lets them talk? Most call-in shows are sports talk or Bill O-Reilly style, and neither let the caller really say much. What does this have to do with the subject?

    I’m careful about what I present on social media (other than anti-woo stuff, which I post rather often), but that’s only because 1) I’m not out as an atheist and 2) it’s not worth the drama. However, were I out, I’d have no problem posting thought-provoking AXP clips. I wouldn’t post a clip for the caller in question, because it was a stupid call with a stupid script and a stupid argument. There would be no point.

    I live in a backwater crapsack of a town working an okay job and I moved away from all of my friends and family to take it. I used to be a people-pleaser, but now that I work mostly with people much older than I, one life lesson I’ve taken away is that some people are just shitheads and won’t change. Those who aren’t won’t jump to the conclusions that you’re apparently concerned about. So I’ll repeat: you can’t overly worry about shitheads.

    I really don’t give a shit what people post on social media as long as they act more mature than a high-schooler. I don’t generally meet people through facebook; I prefer interactions in person. What determines how attractive I find someone has very, very, very little to do with the internet.

  175. Andreas says

    > Atheism is not something to be ashamed of. Watching this show isn’t, either.

    I never said I’m ashamed of being an atheist. And I don’t hesitate to post my own thoughts on facebook or elsewhere.

    What I am careful with is re-posting or sharing stuff that others have said. Because usually this will contain a mix of stuff, some of which I identify with and other stuff (“baggage”) that I don’t.

    E.g. if someone on youtube is talking about atheism, or any other topic I am interested in, but the first 20 minutes of the video is just this guy talking about his new haircut, then I am not going to share that.

    So, it is not about being ashamed of things I think or believe or what not, but about misrepresenting myself.

  176. houndentenor says

    About Superman and copyright. Superman first appeared in 1938. DC Comics was purchased by Warner Brothers in the early 70s (approximate). Nothing happens with those characters in any medium without their pre-approval.

    About the first caller, it doesn’t surprise me that an American Christian would be unaware that witch hunts went on in Europe for centuries and that it wasn’t just an isolated incident in colonial New England. Why would Christians allow such material any time in textbooks when it makes the church look so bad? The caller’s dismissiveness and then his refusal to distance himself from pronouncements about killing witches and other problematic passages in the Bible but alternatively blaming you for bringing those up is typical.

    Also, when a caller claims to be “Christian” could you try to get them to be more specific? What kind of church does he attend or whatever. There’s a tendency for these callers to play no true Scotsmen while not defining themselves specifically for you to know what kind of Christian theology (and there are thousands of kinds) believe. I think that would be very helpful.

  177. Matt Gerrans says

    This last aspect alone would be reason enough to choose carefully how you present yourself to others 🙂

    Andreas, a recent study found that women are put off by men who use smiley emoticons in their posts. I thought you should know this. And I’m resisting adding a smiley emoticon with all my strength.

  178. says

    WLC seems to be intelligent, it’s just that he’s unreasonably biased with his intelligence. I would just once like to see if he could ever be objective about what he believes is true.

  179. says

    The first caller sounded like he might be a Raelist in that Raelism is the belief that we are the result of extraterrestrial beings. And if I’m not mistaken they also believe in Intelligent Design.

  180. Narf says

    *shrug* I don’t feel the same way, but I’m going on basic impressions here. I’d have to have an actual conversation with the guy to really get a solid feel, and I don’t care enough to torture myself like that.

  181. says

    A good example for the creationism guy might have been the pyramids.
    Until recently, we didn’t know how they were built. If the topic was ever covered in history classes, they may have included hypotheses about how they could have been built. But what would NOT be included is the “hypothesis” that aliens built them. That’s not because science “ignores the possibility”, but because ALIENS ARE NOT KNOWN TO BE A POSSIBILITY. There’s no method there. You can test whether the stones have been mined from a nearby quarry, or whether there’s evidence that they used logs to move them, or if they appear to be created with a primitive cement, etc, but with the “aliens did it” hypothesis, there’s nothing there. There’s no hypothesis. fact, the creationism guy seemed to be making an argument that aliens made life. Some people actually believe that, and they could have used the exact same argument, word for word. There was NOTHING about his argument that indicated “super nature”, since nobody knows what “super nature” is supposed to be, and thus nothing could possibly indicate it.

  182. Tom Wilson says

    Sura 74:30 reveals the Satanic Verses of Jihad.

    My first introduction to the mind of Islam was from the tongue of Minister Louis Farrakhan at the Million Man March in 1996. I didn’t think that he could get a fair representation from the major media (he didn’t) and I wanted to hear what he had to say, first hand.

    I very impressed with his address. In fact, it is one of three the most impressive examples of oratory in my experience, the other two being MacArthur’s farewell address to the Corps of Cadets in 1962 and JFK’s inaugural in 1961, both of which I listened to live.

    Farrakhan’s address was like a Miles Davis improvisation, with the vamp being established by pointing out how the number 19 was represented in the architecture in the monuments and buildings around the Mall and then soaring into his theme, which was the nature of American racism being a form of mental illness (a proposition to which I fully subscribe: both Larry Wilkerson and Colin Powell commented on its pernicious effects in the GOP, which seems to have cornered the market on white bigots). It was an incredible tour-de-force and very effective, rhetorically. The Dan Rathers and Peter Jennings of the major media, to say nothing of FOX News, totally missed the quality of the address.

    I was particularly bemused by Farrakhan’s use of 19 as a rhetorical device. I have studied numerology since 1965, when it was introduced to me as a strategy to combat a mild dyslexia. As a literature major, number has a nearly universal deployment as a figure of speech and as an epistemology minor, it has become apparent to me that number is a priori and an element of the irrational structures of Reason. I was charmed by his interpretation of 19 as meaning “pregnant with possibility” which is not an interpretation I might have made, but within the context of America and his general theme, it made sense.

    It also became apparent to me that the mystical structures of Islam employ an 8 base numerology, which was also at the core of the Pharaohs mystical inquiry. This was a very important innovation: the 360 stone gods of Mecca which were replaced by Allah were the result of the 7 base numerology of the Jahiliah, the age of ignorance before Mohammed. Compared to the influences of the lunar calendar, the 8 base numerology introduced an abstract system of inquiry that featured the boundaries of mathematics, the law, architecture and engineering. A result of the adoption of the 8 base numerology is that Egypt developed a culture with sufficient social organization to put a man on the moon.

    The problem with a 8 base numerology is that it is something of an intellectual cul-de-sac. By the time Joseph of the coat of many colors was brought forward to interpret the dreams of the Pharaoh, Egypt was througouty decadent and in the slow decline characterized by political intrigue and largely barren military adventurism. The reason why Joseph was able to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams was because the god of the Hebrew Bible was expressed by the 9 base numerology which continues to character Western Civilization. Whereas the 8 base numerology is characterized by boundaries and the finite, the 9 base numerology is characterized by horizons and the infinite. Within the context of 9 base numerology, 19 interprets as: God is Truth.

    At that time, my curiosity about Islam was pretty well satisfied with a cursory examination of the Qur’an and. My assessment at that time was that Mohammed was, indeed, the last Prophet of Allah, which was a warrior version of the god that proceeded Abraham and that Mohammed basically reinvented the Law of Moses. The journey into Islam is to turn back into an earlier, more primitive, time. The Qur’an holds no revelation for me.

    Those who are familiar with my blog know that I have been engaged since 1990 or so in an inquiry into the author of The Gospel of Mark, who I propose is Cornelius, the centurion baptized by the Holy Spirit in Acts 10 before Peter baptizes him in water. A fuller discussion on this inquiry is available under various titles. Including The Gospel of Mark according to Willie and Joe. I have been guided in this endeavor by the Holy Spirit and rewarded by little bits of information which tend to support my thesis, but lacking the smoking gun, so to speak.

    In the course of this inquiry over the last few months, I ran across a number of YouTube videos discussing The Mathematical Miracle of the Qur’an and the number 19 in Sura 74:30 “And above it is nineteen”.

    It turns out that Minister Farrakhan was doing something of a victory lap with his use of 19 in his address to the Million Man March. It turns out that a Dr, Rashid Khalifa had posited a mathematical structure in the Qur’an based on 19 that provides for its divine origin that was revealed by computer analsys in 1974.

    Let me stipulate at this moment to the truth of this premise, based on the urgings of the Holy Spirit. The Qur’an did begin as a divine revelation during the 13 years of the Mecca phase of its recitation, but became corrupted by Mohammed for political expediency by the Doctrine of Jihad for what can be termed as purely marketing considerations during the last 10 years of its Medina phase.

    The number 19 is the signature of The One from the very first recitation and it reveals that, not only is the earliest versions of the events describing the Satanic Verses of Sura 53:19 – 23 the correct history, but that the Doctrine of Jihad is, in its entirety, apostasy and a deliberate abrogation of Sura 3:3 by Mohammed to fulfill his ambition and personal glorification.

    When Mohammed fled to Medina, he presented his version of various stories of the Torah to Jewish merchants who were learned in the Torah and was rebuffed by them for the ignorance it demonstrated in Mohammed of the People of the Book. This is one of those situations where the 8 based numerology of the Qur’an collided with the 9 base numerology of Yaweh and Mohammed’s claims of being The Messenger were dismissed. For this, Judaism earned Mohammed’s eternal hatred. From this experience, Mohammed became the Messiah of Jihad and the Satanic Verses provided the strong interpretation subsequent generations of scholars and caliphs have relied upon to justify their agenda of Holy Warfare, which continues to this day,

    If Mohammed had been as honest and humble as is portrayed to the House of Islam, he would have harkened to the wisdom and counsel of his Jewish colleagues and brought his people fully into the Convenant of Abraham, which was his fondest desire. There is much he could have learned at their feet.

    For example, there are 27 references to The Adversay in the Hebrew Bible, 19 times by the name “Satan”. The fact that Mohammed’s original flirtation with the Satanic Verses occurs in Sura 53:19 is God’s signature that these events did happen the way they are described, including Mohammed’s repentance and the post hoc revision of the recitation. What is not recorded by Mohammed is the thrill that the initial success of his apostasy gave him, even as it troubled his heart and earned him a scolding from Allah. Unlike St. Peter, who had Jesus to rebuke him when he began to line up on the side of man instead of the side The One. It is difficult to say how often after this moment that the angel Gabriel brought revelation to Mohammed, because he, Mohammed, invited Satan to employ his tongue because he, Mohammed, rejoiced in the results he obtained among men, But a certain measure can be gained from Sura 9, which is the only sura to begin without the Bismilla, the 4 words of 19 arabic letters that begins the Qur’an and every prayer, because of the apostasy of the Jihad reflected in the Sword Verse of Sura 9:5 and the compunction to worship Mohammed contained in Sura 128 – 129. All of the supposed mathematical miracles of 19 revealed by Dr. Khalia that are seen by Minister Farrakhan et al as the triumph of Islam over the People of the Book and the People of the Gospel are actually a rebuke of Mohammed for his embrace of the Satanic Verses of Jihad and the apostasy of the cult of personality contained in the hadith and sunnah erected for the worship of Mohammed.

    But The One is merciful. Like Moses, Mohammed was the law giver to the House of Islam and brought araby out of the darkness of Jahiliyyah and into the light of The One. Like Moses, he corrupted the revelation he was given for political expediency. And, like Moses, Mohammed was not permitted to accompany his flock into the Promised Land to enjoy the full covenant of Abraham.

    But, unlike Moses. Mohammed was not provided a Joshua who could take his people across the Jordan and into the promised land, As a result, the House of Islam languishes in the Wilderness of Sharia Law, between the bondage of ignorance and the emancipation of The Light and the Life and the Way of the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of Elohim, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit (who informs this commentary). In fact, Mohammed, in the thrall of his Satanic Verses, has abrogated Sura 3.3 by denying the divinity of title “Son of Elohim” in Sura 9:30 and the death by crucifixtion of the Risen Lord in Sura 4:157, both of which are forgivable apostasy, but has denied the Holy Spirit, which is the single unforgivable sin. The nature of this apostasy can be considered in this repugnant YouTube video by Ahmed Deedat, who displays Islam’s true attitudes towards women, generally, in this abrogation of Sura 3:3, wherein he mocks Sarai, mother of Isaac and slanders Tamar, who ensured the transmittal of the seed of Judah to the Throne of David (

    Nevertheless, The One is merciful and the House of Islam has been given the gift of 19, which is above the apostasy of Mohammed, and it is 19 which will guide the House of Islam across the Jordan and into the full covenant of Abraham.

    In the first place, 19 is the Key of David. If you draw the Star of David and place the great I AM in the central hexagon and surround the six elements of the Star with the 12 tribes of Israel, you arrive at 19. Psalm 19 is the manifesto of the Hebrew Bible and is the result of the process set into motion by the Torah and the social milieu which anticipates the Messiah of the Cross, Jesus, Son of God. This is the true inheritance of the House of Islam.

    And 19 is the Key of Saint Peter, which was entrusted to Cephas on the Mount of Transfiguration, one of the 6 mountains of the Gospel of Matthew. The first mountain is the Mount of Temptation, when Jesus rebuked Satan for proposing to forsake the Will of the One. The second mountain is the Mount of the Beatitudes, which, in combination with Psalm 19, describes the fulfillment of the Law of Moses. The third mountain is the Mount of Healing (Mt 12). The fourth mountain is the Mount of Transfiguration. The fifth mountain is the Mount of Final Judgment (Mt 24), The sixth mountain is the Mount of The Great Commission (Mt 28). When you place Jesus, the Risen Lord at the center of these six mountains and surround them with the 12 Disciples, you arrive, once again, at 19, the signature of The One.

    Which brings up the question: Why did The One allow Mohammed to stray so far from the reservation. I don’t know, entirely, but the Holy Spirit has pointed out that the Messiah of the Jihad was the expectation of the People of the Book at the time of Jesus, when He presented the Messiah of the Cross, the Path of the Servant Leader, as being the true intent of The One. In no small measure, Mohammed’s role was a practical demonstration of the fallacy of the Messiah of the Jihad for the world to see.

    In this respect, Malala Yousafzai is the Joshua of the House of Islam. She was a target of the apostasy of Jihad for advocating the education of women and it is the Will of Allah that she survives to press for the emancipation of women from the sexual obsessions and virtual chattel slavery of Sharia Law.

    I have heard it said that the men of the Qur’an embrace Jihad because, without war, women would think them silly. That is the apostasy of the Satanic Verses of the Jihad on the tongue of Mohammed that makes a Kafirs out of the Believer, In this regards, the House of Islam has been blessed by America, where the progressive nature of the 9 base numerology embedded in the US Constitution allows the fullest expression of the promise of 19, and offers a future for the Believer that is truly pregnant with opportunity.

  183. Manik says

    You thought they were harsh on the first caller? I thought that took a lot of patience from both the hosts to give him a chance to speak for that long.

    The caller wanted to make a case for Creationism to be taught in the science classroom, but he didn’t make it. Creationism in its intended sense is that God, that is someone supernatural, created life. That example of humans being able to create cells in a lab still falls under ‘natural’ laws, it is not supernatural, it’s not any kind of Creationism, it’s still science, and absolutely has nothing to do with the argument that Creationism gst to be taught in Science classrooms.