Open thread for AETV #893: Russell and Tracie


Russell and Tracie take viewer calls.

Edit: Russell here, piggybacking on this post to say I’m going to be giving a talk at St. Charles Community College near St. Louis, MO next week. Here are the details to share on Facebook.

The even will be held on December 2 at 6 PM in the SSB auditorium in SCC, 4601 Mid Rivers Mall Dr. The place is booked until 8:30, and then the group will go hang out somewhere to be announced afterwards. See you there! If you know any Christians in the area, spread the word, since there will be plenty of Q&A time.

Comments

  1. Monocle Smile says

    Hey, EnlightenmentLiberal, were you that first caller? Looks like Tracie and Russell actually agree with you; maybe you should call in next week!

  2. Monocle Smile says

    As someone from Detroit, the mentality of Dan from Grand Rapids is unsurprising. The western part of Michigan, while beautiful (and full of amazing beer), is pretty much an extension of the bible belt. He started out nice-sounding, but got terrifying fast. Tracie reacted exactly like any sane person should. Dan is a coward; he was pretty much whining that people on the internet were mean to his religion. Russell tried to employ the Loftus “outsider test,” and Dan ignored it completely for obvious reasons.

  3. Usernamealreadyinuse says

    The 7 year rule only applies to Hebrew males. Dan from Grand Rapids didn’t seem to recognize everyone else would be owned for life. This means, even if he was right about the seven year rule, which he wasn’t, he would still be wrong about “The Bible.”

  4. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Yes, that was me. No show next week (as the IRC channel kindly informed me). The week after that perhaps.

  5. Narf says

    See you there! If you know any Christians in the area, spread the word, since there will be plenty of Q&A time.

    Heh, yeah, we actually want Christians to show up and give us good fodder for the Q&A period. Particularly with the average believers who have all of the epistemological grounding of an Adam Sandler movie, it’s good to be able to speak to them where they are, rather than allowing the obfuscation of their preachers to blur everything over and numb their thinking.

    I always wonder how so many believers don’t realize what simple, obvious answers there are to almost all of what they think are deep, stumpers for non-Christians. I think you’ll do a rather good job of addressing them and perhaps even making one or two of them think about your answers.

  6. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Might as well post the email that I sent to the show. I plan on also making a facebook account at some point and posting directly to Matt’s wall. (I think that’s the right terminology.) I again thank the IRC channel for helping me get this to a much clearer form.

    Short version:

    I know that the show prefers theist callers, so I don’t know if you would prefer I call in again when Matt is on, or if you want me to do it by email. I’ll send this email to be safe. (I sent one before, but no one responded. Maybe because I called in I’ll get a response now.) Someone also suggested to post to Matt’s facebook page. I’ll do that soon too.

    In the The Atheist Experience IRC chat, nearly all atheists defined “supernatural” as “science cannot investigate supernatural”. I think most Christians define “supernatural” differently. Most Christians define their god to be supernatural. Words do not have intrinsic meaning, and neither side is right. When Matt says that science cannot show supernatural causation – and he often does – many Christians understand this to mean that science can never possibly show that their god exists. This is misleading. It causes many Christians to wrongly understand Matt’s position and the atheist’s position to be dogmatically opposed to the possibility of showing that their god exists.

    I want Matt (and the other hosts) to be better communicators. I want them to recognize that many Christians will understand “science cannot show supernatural causation” to mean that atheists are dogmatically opposed to the epistemic possibility of using science to show there is a god, which is not the actual position of Matt nor most atheists.

    Addendum:

    To be clear, many Christians believe the world is made of two different substances, natural and supernatural, and they assert that their god is supernatural. Under this definition, if their god existed and interacted with us, then science could show supernatural causation.

    I am advocating the perhaps radical position that science is not based on methodological naturalism. Methodological naturalism seems to be an offshoot of Gould’s NOMA, which is simply wrong.

    Now, most scientists do use methodological naturalism, but that is because the evidence indicates that materialism is true. Methodological naturalism is a tentative conclusion from science, not an assumption, just like the tentative conclusion that matter attracts other matter aka gravity.

    However, we can all imagine experiments which might start to overturn the conclusion of materialism, such as Templeton’s prayer study, or someone completing James Randi’s million dollar challenge.

    http://web.randi.org/the-million-dollar-challenge.html
    > The James Randi Educational Foundation will pay US $1,000,000 (One Million US Dollars) (“The Prize”) to any person who demonstrates any psychic, **supernatural**, or paranormal ability under satisfactory observation.
    (Emphasis added)

    When someone says that science cannot show supernatural causation, it makes it seem like James Randi’s challenge is a fraud, which it is not.

    This position that methodological naturalism is not a fundamental tenant of science, but rather a tentative conclusion of science, is advocated clearly and at length in the Boudry paper (link below).

    I understand if you want to define “supernatural” as “beyond the reach of science”. (Seemingly James Randi does not.) However, that makes the claim “science cannot show supernatural causation” into a Dan Dennett deepity. It has two readings: your reading and the Christian reading. Neither reading is objectively right because words do not have intrinsic meaning. On your reading it is true but trivial. It’s tautological and vacuous. On the Christian reading where god is defined to be supernatural, the claim is profound but false.

    This is a real problem. When I talk to most Christians, I have to spend a lot of time trying to unteach them this misinformation which Matt is helping spread.

    I do not understand the insistence to say on the show “science cannot show supernatural causation” when at best it is tautological, vacuous, and empty. Vacuous assertions like this have no impact on scientists in the lab. It puts no restrictions on what scientists may pursue. We know that the assertion causes confusion, and if there is no other value in saying it, then why say it at all?

    What is often meant by methodological naturalism is instead methodological test-ism or methodological observe-ism. Observability and testability are fundamental tenants of the scientific method. Of course we should preach that science depends on making testable claims about observable phenomena.

    PS: Forgive my arrogance for suggesting it, and I think it likely that you won’t read or watch any of it, but I’ll include some further links for completeness.
    [Separate posts to avoid auto-moderation.]

  7. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Hume’s constant conjunction, the usual definition of causation. Note that under this definition, you do not need to show mechanism to show causation. All it takes to show causation is to show correlation and to make good efforts to eliminate or account for possible confounding variables.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constant_conjunction

    Paper.
    Title: How not to attack Intelligent Design Creationism: Philosophical misconceptions about Methodological Naturalism
    (final draft – to appear in Foundations of Science)
    Maarten Boudry, Stefaan Blancke, Johan Braeckman
    https://sites.google.com/site/maartenboudry/teksten-1/methodological-naturalism

  8. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    7 minute youtube video where Richard Feynman answers the question “how do magnets work?”. Specifically, Richard Feynman explains how you can show causation without showing mechanism. (Plus a lot more.)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MO0r930Sn_8

    Girl Genius Webcomics.
    “Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science!”
    A play of words on Arthur C Clarke. The converse is also true.
    Only the comic on the linked paged is necessary. No other context necessary.
    http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20081205

    fin

  9. says

    I’m absolutely sure “Dan” has called before – if you notice, his pattern is to

    1. Claim he’s “questioning”, then
    2. Defend horrible things in his religion, then
    3. Get his face smashed into the wall by the hosts, then
    4. Immediately say “I get what you’re saying BUT-” then
    5. Play dodge-the-fucking-point witht he hosts for as long as he can.

    Sound familiar?

  10. Robert Delaney says

    TO ANY HOSTS WHO MIGHT READ THIS:

    You seem to have a problem with your iTunes uploads.
    The same thing just happened with today’s show as happened with last week’s.
    It will not auto download for anyone who is subscribed because for some reason the date reads as December 31, 2000 (even though when I find it manually in the iTunes store it is listed as Nov 23, 2014 on the itunes site).

    But once I download it manually the date on my phone is shown as Dec 31, 2000, which means iTunes sees it as a old show and therefore won’t alert me to it or download it automatically.

    Luckily this week I knew to look for it manually – but I thought last week’s show had been cancelled for some reason until I thought to come to the blog to check in on it.

    Anyhow, just a heads up – hope you can figure out what the issue is soon.

  11. Narf says

    I’m having a different issue with Stitcher. I can listen to episode 893, but when I try to load more episodes, I get nothing.

  12. Robert Delaney says

    Narf –
    Might be related, who knows.

    To be clear, I can listen to the newest episode (and last week’s episode) from iTunes, I just have to go search for them specifically and download them manually.

    The podcast app won’t list them or autodownload them, because for some reason it thinks they are old episodes (from Dec 31, 2000).

    So it’s either something specific to the iTunes metadata when it was uploaded, or something in the file itself (but the former seems more likely).

  13. says

    I don’t know why people keep arguing for slavery in the Bible as if there was only one kind of slavery. The caller tonight could not get it that beating the slave was wrong or that having sex with them was wrong. Most believers want to call this “indentured servitude” to avoid using words like slavery but it’s still the same thing. If this slave was a voluntary slave why would his master be marking his ear with an awl? Again, why do believers assume that the person in servitude “got into a lot of debt” and that slavery was one way he could get out of debt, so actually his master was doing him a favor?
    It’s as if they want you to agree with them that slavery in the Bible was really anything else but slavery, and that makes the Bible the infallible word of God once again. They have to fight for that book being perfect when it really is anything but perfect.

  14. happyperson says

    I like Russell’s response to the caller re: slavery. if the ‘ethics’ of the bible is for a different/culture, then how is the bible relevant for anything today? it would only be a book for historical curiosity, but the caller probably wants it to be more.

  15. says

    #14 Dennis Pennington

    The calller did say on a number of occasions that he thought those rules in the Bible were wrong… just that they were somehow divinely appropriate for the time. Like the notion of “eye for an eye” wasn’t an escalation of retribution, it was supposedly a limitation to escalation. The’ll argue that these laws on slavery were put in place to improve the situation… not promote it.

    I think the caller’s thesis, if he had one, was:

    1) Atheists are sometimes clinging to bits of information that aren’t accurate – like some supposed contradictions in the Bible.

    2) One thing atheists get wrong is that those passages are talking about slavery, because it’s unlike the slavery we know from U.S. history.

    3) Therefore, atheists are wrong about slavery in the Bible – and that’s an example of something they’re bashing the Bible for that’s inaccurate.

    Or something like that…

  16. Narf says

    @16 – Jasper
    The societal-improvement excuse-makers always annoy me. For fuck sake, we’re talking about an omnipotent deity, not an ineffectual coddler like Obama. The idea that an omnipotent deity has to work within a social framework and propose those mild improvements that his chosen people will accept is ludicrous.

    And why did this omnipotent deity allow his chosen people’s culture to become so fucked up in the first place, such that these half-measures were better than what was going on previously? Just how incompetent is this guy?

  17. says

    To be clear, I don’t agree with them.. it’s just what they seem to be saying.

    When I ask why God didn’t put some kind of “Don’t own people” commandment in, the response I usually get is “Well, they wound’t have listened anyway”, which, if their position on Biblical morality wasn’t shaky enough already, is then severely complicated.

    Then why is “thou shalt not murder” in there? Not everyone listens to that, either… or is the person saying that no one would ever listen to the slavery commandment? That wouldn’t really work as an argument either, because many Christians used to be Bible to argue against slavery, and would have loved a commandment to boost their Biblical argument.

    If only one person, ever, in the history of humankind, is freed because of that commandment, would sticking those three words “don’t own people” in a 1000-page book, not be worth it? Does God care so little for that person?

  18. Narf says

    To be clear, I don’t agree with them.. it’s just what they seem to be saying.

    Heh, well yeah. You’re an atheist. You’re aware of the fact that Yahweh didn’t say shit, and it was just a bunch of people putting words in his mouth, just like everything else attributed to him in the Bible.

    Besides, Jesus changed all of that, when he said for slaves to … err, obey their masters. Wait, that isn’t the right verse. I know he abolished slavery somewhere in here, though. Let me find the right verse for you.

  19. blue says

    Robert, thanks for this. Both this week’s and last week’s aren’t appearing for me. I tried getting new episodes, but it wasn’t listed. Where can you get old episode from?

  20. xscd says

    I can certainly understand Dan’s and other theists’ point of view. If you put aside the question of whether God exists or not and assume that God does exist, you are motivated to find ways to explain or rationalize His behavior and dictates, which can seem confusing, conflicting or simply morally questionable.

    First, you must solve the problem as to where “the law” in the Bible came from: from humans at the time whether considered “inspired” by God or not, or directly from God Himself, but perhaps through the filter of the culture, time and place. One could argue that God’s truth and moral code never change, but that God has tailored his message of that truth and morality to the understanding and cultural biases and beliefs of the people He was addressing. In practical terms, to Israelites facing hostile enemies, “thou shalt not kill” was not really appropriate. For people who needed help harvesting their fields and doing other agricultural chores, having slaves, especially voluntary ones (who would otherwise be in trouble with debt or whatever) was not a bad idea under certain circumstances and with certain rules applied.

    So if God exists, and everything He does or says is perfect, then it is up to us to develop the understanding necessary to resolve certain questions about the Bible, and to deepen our faith that for those things we cannot answer or resolve, it is simply because the answer is beyond our ability to understand at this time. Just as many scientific discoveries have yet to be made, God and His plan are revealed to us in His good time, not necessarily ours.

    Of course, I believe that all of that is pure B.S., but I can certainly understand the theists’ motivation in exculpating their God and their religion from all kinds of questionable or awful things, having been steeped as a child with Christianity within a zealous missionary culture. Because our beliefs affect our practical daily lives so much, and determine in large part our view of the world and the decisions we make, we tend to defend them, often without knowing whether those beliefs are actually true or not. I imagine it must be hard for some religious people to come to the conclusion that not only are their religious beliefs questionable or probably untrue, but that they have wasted a (sometimes large) portion of their life believing and making decisions based upon those erroneous beliefs.

  21. Monocle Smile says

    you are motivated to find ways to explain or rationalize His behavior and dictates, which can seem confusing, conflicting or simply morally questionable

    That’s only true if you go a step further and assume that god and all of his behavior is necessarily “good.” It’s Divine Command theory. It’s not hard to rationalize the behavior of this god if you chalk it up to him being a malevolent, deceitful dick. Everything makes sense then.

    You do make an important point…this is an axiomatic problem. Axioms can certainly be questioned and reformed, but they’re necessary to make decisions. However, for believers, they often take the existence of god and its goodness to be axiomatic and don’t see a reason to question these.

  22. says

    I’ve never bought the apologist stance that all the morally messed up stuff in the OT “was appropriate for the time.” That implies a limited god who just found this tribe wandering around and decided to adopt them, then tried to make the best of what he had. But they claim to believe in an unlimited god. Plus, the Bible explicitly describes a god who had been following and interacting with this particular lineage since literally the beginning of time. To say nothing of the fact that the Exodus describes this deity plucking them up out of society, isolating them for a full generation, and literally laying down the law.

    There’s no plausible way that the law the Biblical god dictated could possibly not be the exact rules he wanted followed. He explicitly redefined the entire Israelite society around his laws in a manner that brooked no dissent. He could hve made *any* laws whatsoever, and these are the ones he chose. Saying otherwise makes no sense at all.

    But you know what does make sense? A bunch of primitives using their mythology to justify the rules they already put in place themselves.

  23. corwyn says

    The James Randi Educational Foundation will pay US $1,000,000 (One Million US Dollars) (“The Prize”) to any person who demonstrates any psychic, **supernatural**, or paranormal ability under satisfactory observation.

    One is not required to prove that it is supernatural. One can merely use a heretofore unknown principle of the natural world, and win the million dollars. When asked by Dawkins if he was worried about that, Randy said that it would be so worth it. So, no, JREF does not necessarily define supernatural differently than Matt.

  24. Narf says

    @24

    I’ve never bought the apologist stance that all the morally messed up stuff in the OT “was appropriate for the time.” That implies a limited god who just found this tribe wandering around and decided to adopt them, then tried to make the best of what he had.

    This is one of the big issues That Christians have to deal with, yes. The people who wrote the texts upon which Christianity is based were not writing about an omnipotent, omniscient god … or even the only god in existence. It’s so obvious, in many parts of the book. The omni-max parts were tacked on later, when the Christians decided to sell their mythology as the one true religion.

    Even as far as recons go, this one was done pretty badly.

    @25

    One is not required to prove that it is supernatural. One can merely use a heretofore unknown principle of the natural world, and win the million dollars. When asked by Dawkins if he was worried about that, Randy said that it would be so worth it. So, no, JREF does not necessarily define supernatural differently than Matt.

    Holy crap, yeah. If I was in his position and had even only … say a million and a half dollars, I would gladly give up a million for someone who could demonstrate that psychic powers were real in any way. That would be so freaking awesome. I would count that as a victory for my foundation.

  25. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @corwyn
    Could you come again? I don’t understand what you are saying. Are you arguing that it’s not a fraud because there’s two other prongs “psychic” and “paranormal” ? I am unmoved.

  26. Esquilax says

    When I ask why God didn’t put some kind of “Don’t own people” commandment in, the response I usually get is “Well, they wound’t have listened anyway”, which, if their position on Biblical morality wasn’t shaky enough already, is then severely complicated.

    I hear this a lot too, and it’s so baffling, because they’re talking about the Old Testament god. The same god who turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt for not listening and doing something as innocuous as turning around. The same god who flooded the world and killed every living being on it bar a few, for not listening to him. The same god who cursed Adam, Eve, and their every descendant with mortality and death, for not listening to him.

    The idea that THAT god wouldn’t give an order because nobody would listen, that after all that killing and punishing, Yahweh suddenly decides that it’s pointless to give an order people won’t willingly follow (but only on that one issue, interestingly) is patently ridiculous, so much so that I can’t fathom the reason any christian would ever use that excuse.

  27. Narf says

    That was supposed to be “Even as far as retcons go, this one was done pretty badly,” back in 26. So many typos today.

  28. corwyn says

    @EL

    Could you come again? I don’t understand what you are saying. Are you arguing that it’s not a fraud because there’s two other prongs “psychic” and “paranormal” ? I am unmoved.

    No. I am not sure how you read that from what I wrote.

    JREF has said that they will payout the $1MM USD, if one CLAIMS that what one is doing is supernatural, and they (JREF) merely agree that it can’t be explained by current scientific knowledge. So they are paying out more frequently than if they required one to prove that what one was doing was supernatural. It can’t really be fraud, if they are paying out MORE often than they appear to be claiming.

    @Narf

    I would gladly give up a million for someone who could demonstrate that psychic powers were real in any way.

    Or even, for example, the Piezo-electric effect. Which would have made a great ‘psychic’ demonstration before any scientist had studied it.

  29. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @corwyn
    Sorry. I was guessing as to your meaning. No malicious intent. Thank you for your explanation.

    I would gladly give up a million for someone who could demonstrate that psychic powers were real in any way.

    Or even, for example, the Piezo-electric effect. Which would have made a great ‘psychic’ demonstration before any scientist had studied it.

    Sounds good to me.

  30. Narf says

    @28 – Esquilax
    It isn’t just compartmentalizing their religious beliefs off from the rest of their lives. They’re compartmentalizing their religious beliefs off from their other religious beliefs. I think that many Christians’ theology must look something like a row of baggage lockers at a major international airport. 😀

    Oh well, such is the wonder of the myyyyyyyysssssssstery of God.

  31. Narf says

    @30 – corwyn

    Or even, for example, the Piezo-electric effect. Which would have made a great ‘psychic’ demonstration before any scientist had studied it.

    Oh yeah. A million dollars is chump change, for what someone should get for actually demonstrating a fantastically useful phenomenon that we can then investigate further and use to improve our lives.

  32. Robert Delaney says

    @Blue (#20):

    In the podcast app, you should have the option to “add old episodes” for any podcast you are subscribed to.
    If you click that and scroll to the very bottom of the episode list, the most recent episodes should be listed.
    The episode numbers are correct (#893 and #892), but the dates for both will be listed as December 31, 2000.
    The episodes in the list are ordered by date, not episode number, so they’ll be the last ones that iTunes has available.

    At least that’s the way it was for me.
    Not sure what the problem is, but hopefully they’ll fix it before the next episode.

  33. mond says

    On the natural vs supernatural debate.Anything currently considered supernatural would fall into the natural category once demonstrated to exist (to be part of nature). Supernatural is an empty set. It’s really a placeholder for ideas and concepts that may/or may not be demonstrated to exist in the future but some people choose to accept as real before the evidence warrants that conclusion.

  34. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @mond
    And this does nothing to address my complaint at all. (I’m the first caller on this episode.) I urge you to read my posts on this topic above (posts #6, 7, 8).

  35. philhoenig says

    @Esquilax #28: If that’s not bad enough, bear in mind that according to scripture, these rules were given to a people who hadn’t yet returned to their homeland after being released from their enslavement, which (due solely to the manipulation of their god) required the killing of all of Egypt’s first-born sons. And these people would have been completely fine with “Thou shalt not kill” but “Thou shalt not own another human being” was anathema?

  36. Billbo says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal #38 I read through #6 #7 and #8 and I still do not understand what your complaint is. Could you sum it up distinctly in a handful of sentences?
    As they said on the show, before you can discuss any of this you need to define your terms. Let’s define “the universe” as a closed set of stuff. Stuff we currently know to be in our universe is various forms of matter and energy and rules on how those interact. We could then define something as being “natural” if that thing was inside our universe set and “supernatural” otherwise. For example, one fish turning into 5000 fishes is supernatural since there is no rule for that in our universe set.
    Are these definitions acceptable to you? Are they acceptable to the Christians you seem to speak for? If not, why not? If so, then we can derive some conclusions about god and science based on these definitions.

  37. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Billbo
    My complaint: There are two different usages of the word “supernatural” in play. When Matt says “science cannot show supernatural causation”, I don’t know which usage he is referring to. However, I know which usage many Christian assume when hearing that assertion. When many Christians hear that, they understand it be fundamentally equivalent to “science cannot show that the Christian god exists even if it exists”, which is ridiculously wrong, and not my position, and IMHO not the position of most atheists. Matt needs to be a better communicator.

  38. Conversion Tube says

    Enlightenment you are right and like what happened on the show I think most Atheists would agree including Matt. However this is a show where they invite Christians to call in and discuss these topics.

    In the perfect logical arguments with religious people we would immediately hit a wall two sentences in and the conversation would end every time and nothing would be resolved or discussed because they cannot demonstrate spirit, super nature or god in any way. Thanks for calling, please call back when you have evidence.

    Every call with a theists would start and stop in this way. But is wouldn’t lead to a very entertaining show.

    So they accept the callers to use some presumptions to at least get to a topic or find a new way to explain why their argument is fallacious or illogical or incorrect.

  39. Monocle Smile says

    @Conversion Tube

    While it’s true that there’s a tendency of the hosts to humor theist callers and speak on their terms to further productive conversation, EL’s point is still extremely important. It’s basically a get-out-of-jail free card. I think Jen has done the most consistent job of pointing out that anything that interacts with our reality, natural or “supernatural,” leaves behind testable evidence. You can’t just let people get away with avoiding this.

  40. Conversion Tube says

    Perhaps they could prepare a quick phrase that encompasses this thought that they all use as some sort of warning message (Shit’s about to get crazy) and then by the third sentence when the first presumption appears they can utter their phrase and say why basically we don’t agree with what you are saying because of your presumption but we will allow it to further the discussion for discussion purposes only, or something.

    I know this still isn’t quite right, I can’t put my finger on it and you will pokes holes in this idea and please do. I would like to understand why what I just thought is wrong.

  41. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    One sentence? How about three.

    Creationists understand the observable word to be composed of two substances, natural and supernatural, and this is how they define terms. If we accept those definitions, then science very well can detect supernatural stuff and show supernatural causation. Thus at best it is a failure to communicate to say “science cannot show supernatural causation”, and often the speaker is wrong under his own definitions.

    The Boudry paper addresses all of this in great detail (link above).

    I missed out on one important point. Consider the Dover v Kitzmiller trial. It was decided wrongly IMHO. In essence, the decision asserted that science cannot touch supernatural causation, but also asserted that anything science can touch is natural. Depending on the flavor, the intelligent design creationism hypothesis very well is scientifically testable. Thus, had it come back positive on the tests, it would have been declared natural under these terms. However, the court decision declared that intelligent design creationism is not a scientific theory by asserting that it’s fundamentally supernatural. You cannot have it both ways – either intelligent design creationism supernatural and unobservable by definition, or it has testable predictions and it’s natural and thus is a scientific theory.

    For example, straight from the decision:

    The court concluded that creation science “is simply not science” because it depends upon “supernatural intervention,” which cannot be explained by natural causes, or be proven through empirical investigation, and is therefore neither testable nor falsifiable.

    That’s completely and fundamentally wrong.

    These shenanigans are unforgivable. We have a completely miserable, inconsistent, and flat-out wrong philosophy of science in the most seminal court decision of the last 50 years (in the US) about these ideas. This is exactly what I’m trying to correct.

  42. Narf says

    Yeah, I guess I can sort of see what they were going for with that particular strategy, but even without seeing the results, 15 years later, that seems like utter bullshit to me. If something has an effect upon reality, it will show up in a proper scientific analysis of reality. I can’t remember who the hell said it, but if God dips his hand into natural reality, I expect it to come out dripping with physics. The only alternative is if the theist in question wants to propose a trickster deity who specifically wants to deceive his followers.

  43. Narf says

    Depending on the flavor, the intelligent design creationism hypothesis very well is scientifically testable. Thus, had it come back positive on the tests, it would have been declared natural under these terms. However, the court decision declared that intelligent design creationism is not a scientific theory by asserting that it’s fundamentally supernatural. You cannot have it both ways – either intelligent design creationism supernatural and unobservable by definition, or it has testable predictions and it’s natural and thus is a scientific theory.

    Did the court rule on intelligent design in a global sense, or intelligent design in the specific formulation that was presented in the court-case?

    In the global sense, I guess you could in theory (non-scientific sense) construct a working model for it, although I don’t see how they would get around the problem of not being able to present a comparison to something that was not designed, when the model requires that everything in the universe be designed.

    I think perhaps the judge might have been ruling more in a manner of practicality. After all, he was writing the ruling to be of practical, legal use, not scientific use. I’m sure he recognized that the people pushing this shit are not going to construct a practical, scientific model. Given that reality, the question of whether or not it’s possible to construct a working model is perhaps irrelevant, from a legalistic perspective.

  44. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    The only alternative is if the theist in question wants to propose a trickster deity who specifically wants to deceive his followers.

    Which of course can also happen in a purely materialistic universe, such as by malicious aliens in a cloaked spaceship in orbit.

  45. Narf says

    Which of course can also happen in a purely materialistic universe, such as by malicious aliens in a cloaked spaceship in orbit.

    You see the problem of proposing even something like that then, yes. What it gets us though, proposing something like that, is that no theist is going to admit that they worship a dishonest god that is just fucking with us, even if his holy book happens to admit it, in places.

  46. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Narf

    A reply:
    https://sites.google.com/site/maartenboudry/teksten-1/methodological-naturalism

    as many scientists and philosophers have amply demonstrated (Miller 2000; Pennock 1999; Shanks 2004), Behe’s notion of irreducible complexity and Dembski’s criterion of complex specified information are simply very bad filters for detecting design, because they single out biological phenomena that present no problem whatsoever for standard evolutionary explanations. Thus, it is true that if we would allow the appeal to supernatural causation on so flimsy evidential grounds as the IDC movement wants us to do, in practice that would be an invitation for more spurious appeals to the supernatural. But this is a general logical point: if we allow a particular form of sloppy thinking on one occasion, we are left with no grounds for disallowing the same reasoning in other cases. Thus, the claims of IDC are invalidated by specific flaws of reasoning and by the simple lack of evidence, not because of some perceived intrinsic problem associated with supernatural explanations.

    I think there’s more to it why the reasoning of intelligent design creationism is sloppy. I do emphasize that the specific problem of this particular brand of creationism should not rule out the scientific applicability w.r.t. all creationism a priori.

  47. Billbo says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal
    I completely disagree with you. If the Christian god is supernatural (as I have defined above) then there is no way for science to show god exists. How is it “ridiculously wrong”? What are these 2 definitions of supernatural you speak of? You are being very vague.

  48. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    What are these 2 definitions of supernatural you speak of? You are being very vague.

    Not my fault you can’t read.
    Me:

    To be clear, many Christians believe the world is made of two different substances, natural and supernatural, and they assert that their god is supernatural. Under this definition, if their god existed and interacted with us, then science could show supernatural causation.

    I understand if you want to define “supernatural” as “beyond the reach of science”.

    Let’s start with this first. We need to settle this before moving on.

    For example, one fish turning into 5000 fishes is supernatural since there is no rule for that in our universe set.

    How do you know that? Are you absolutely 100% convinced of that? Is there no evidence that might change your mind on that?

  49. Monocle Smile says

    Yeah, Billbo…not only don’t you know that turning 1 fish into 5000 fishes is absolutely impossible in our universe, but that’s also a testable claim regardless. There’s an additional layer here that goes beyond demonstrating that a god exists. We can’t even verify the claims people make related to their religions.

  50. frankgturner says

    @Enlightenment Liberal # 45, and others
    I think what it comes down to when a creationist wants their “theory” (which is, at best, a hypothesis) to have any merit, they want it to have testable capacity so it can be claimed as a real science. Which is nice, but those benefits come with a drawback of having to be falsifiable, meaning that hypothetically there has to be something that can be incorrect, even if that is never demonstrated. What it seems to me that many a creationist, heck all sorts of people, even atheists like that libertarian guy on the other board, WLC, steele, etc. is set up a system where they get the benefit of something being considered “supernatural” so that it is essentially un-falsifiable, but has the benefits of being considered falsifiable so it can be considered meaningful, which would mean that it was natural and falsifiable, at least hypothetically. They want to have their cake and eat it too. Much like Sye Ten Bruggencate or any number of other con men apologists, they want an argument in which they can’t loose and are never wrong. That to me is suspicious in and of itself.
    .
    The way I look at it, something that is not falsifiable is meaningless. So if something can never be wrong hypothetically, then it is essentially always wrong. If you can never loose, then you can’t really win either. I saw a message board in which someone was discussing WLC and they mentioned having listened to him for a while, and they noticed that his tone of voice never changes on the words he is saying. They pointed out that what he is effectively doing is a stage show to make it seem like he has said something, but if you break it down, he has not really said anything. So basically apologists are snake oil salesmen using religion to sell their product.

  51. Chirthorpe says

    Dan makes me feel sick. I hoenstly wish Matt had been on for this episode because he puts a LOT of effort into rattling slavery defenders. Russel did a good job as always but…

    Then again, Tracie sounded like she was channeling Matt at one point. That’s something 😛

  52. Ginger TheRedHeeler says

    I’d like to preface my comment by saying that I always find Tracey to be a fabulously intelligent and erudite host but, on this occasion I have to say that Tracey was unambiguously wrong with her definition of legally being able to beat someone to death = slavery. The theist caller was correct in saying that a different time will mean that societies find different behaviour acceptable. I agree totally with the hosts that beating people is never OK and that if your god says that it is OK then your god is an arsehole.

    But, there have been many examples of (just sticking to European cultures) times when it was OK to beat your employee even if they ended up dying. Navies across Europe until the 18th century used flogging to discipline sailors and some sailors died as a result. This was not illegal. While many people were kidnapped (press-ganged) into serving and would, by Tracey’s definition, be considered slaves, they were certainly not then. Even today the definition of slavery used by any academic would have to include ‘owning’ the person. These sailors were not owned even though they were powerless over their own fate.

    Indentured servants (especially Coolies [Indians] or Kanakas [Polynesians/Melanesians]) right up until the 19th century had very little control over their own fate, couldn’t leave their servitude and were routinely beaten and raped. Again they were not considered slaves because they were not owned and had (not always and not for reasons we would now accept) sold themselves into bondage.

    I don’t defend the bible’s definition of slavery as in any way moral or somehow different to American slavery. The bible talks of owning people and claiming them as property. I don’t defend cultural relativism and believe that we can look back in history and say that some practises are just wrong. But I do believe that it is important that we, from the vantage point of the 21st century West, don’t reinterpret everything that has gone before us through modern definitions.

    I see the same thing when I hear people declare that Muhammad was a paedophile. I think it is disgusting to marry off children (or anyone else against their will) and it is a practice which we rightly try to stamp out and punish. But let’s not reinterpret history. Muhammad (and Jerry Lee Lewis) did nothing wrong by their own cultures by marrying girls who would today be considered underaged. There are plenty of reasons to dislike Muhammad and today’s Islam without reinterpreting his 8th century behaviours by 21st century morals.

  53. says

    EnlightenmentLiberal:

    Not that I want to get involved in a long debate, but

    To be clear, many Christians believe the world is made of two different substances, natural and supernatural, and they assert that their god is supernatural. Under this definition, if their god existed and interacted with us, then science could show supernatural causation.

    this isn’t a definition. Or at least, not a useful one: “supernatural is one of the two substances making up the world.” What qualities does it have? What qualities distinguish it from that which is natural? How can we observers tell them apart?

  54. says

    Hey EnlightenmentLiberal, long time. I get your main point, but doesn’t Boudry solve it by simply adding “provisional” before MN? We’re saying it’s a matter of probability. This is hard to get across, so I don’t fault Matt’s communication skills. A theist admits using faith anyway, so the slightest probability is good enough for them. The only way I see to incorporate that into science is to say it is speculative. Dawkins handles this with his discussion of the 0-7 scale of atheism, where he is a 6.9. Are you saying there is more to be said than “there is a tiny possibility of an all-knowing god”?

    To me, the real question is the truth of any particular claim, like Jesus having risen, or existed, or prayer heals, or God needs us to sing his songs, or did Moses part the sea. All of these can be dealt with and they erode the traditions and the foundations for the justifications of violence and oppression. And they can all be handled with an agreed upon methods.

  55. frankgturner says

    @ Lausten North # 58
    I would agree with you except for one point, it isn’t the “truth” of some of these claims that matters to me. They may be great metaphors that taught a moral or personal message to someone despite the potential to be fictional. WHat matters to me is the factual correctness of some of these events. If we had time machines and secret cameras could we directly witness those events, maybe even record them having occurred from a distance.
    .
    A lot of people seem to be committed dogmatically to the principle that something cannot have meaning unless it is factually correct and could hypothetically be witnessed if in the correct place and time. And if there is some supernatural substance, could it be observed and demonstrated empirically? Could we have factual correctness when it comes to observation of the supernatural?

  56. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Lausten North
    Boudry solves it by changing it (naturalism) from a fundamental premise of science into a conclusion of science. Again, to use an example from Boudry – long ago we concluded that perpetual motion machines are impossible, and as a simple practical matter we generally ignore anything that entails perpetual motion machines. However, it’s not part of the fundamental scientific method that perpetual motion machines are impossible.

  57. tgitarezam b says

    the guy calls in and asks what he should do about his cognitive dissonance, then seems hell-bent (no pun) on defending what he has dissonance about. for all those “context” and “slavery” rationalizers like him, remember, your god is perfect. if that god inspired people to write “his” perfect word, and people don’t believe it, and/or have to argue about context and definitions 2000+ years later, “he” didn’t do a very good job communicating. so, what seems more likely: that barbaric people had barbaric morals in a barbaric time in history and made up a god; or a perfect changeless god makes his values relative to each culture and made his “perfect” word so arguable?

  58. Narf says

    @59 – Ibis
    The problem is that we’ll never get a useful definition from the theists. They’re the ones making this shit up, so it’s up to them to clarify. We have to do the best we can … which isn’t very good, when theistic arguments are designed to obfuscate.

  59. Narf says

    @58 – Ginger

    I see the same thing when I hear people declare that Muhammad was a paedophile.

    I think that having sex with an 8 year-old is one of those universal wrongs, to pick on your one example. If you want to talk about 14 or 15, when the girl’s body is at least sufficiently developed to give birth to a child, most of the time, you might have a better case. Mohammad’s one child-bride was lucky she didn’t get pregnant shortly after her first period, which likely would have killed her. That’s bad, no matter the culture in which it occurs.

    Also, pedophilia means being attracted to prepubescent children. Clearly the word fits, even if it wasn’t considered bad in his culture, for some reason.

  60. Jeffro says

    The JW guy was trying to justify the “provision” of slaves being ‘allowed’ to leave after 7 years (if they were willing to leave their family). Not even raised was the fact that only applied to *Hebrew* slaves.

  61. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Finally got off my lazy ass to make a facebook account. Sent a message to Matt. I guess I’ll wait a week to see if I get a bite before calling in again. I just have no idea what is the proper etiquette for something like this, and I recognize that to the guys on the show, I’m just some random irritating nobody.

  62. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Well, apparently Matt is not going to respond to me on comments here, in email, nor facebook messages. Guess I’m calling in on Sunday if Matt’s on.

    Also, I started a blog, and watched the new Matt v Matt (Dillahunty v Slick) debate. I commented on it here:
    https://enlightenmentliberal.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/methodological-naturalism-is-wrong/

    I think I have even a better way to address Matt Dillahunty specifically. tl;dr of my blog post. At one point, Matt Dillahunty said it’s fair to describe him as a philosophical naturalist. Later in debate, Matt Dillahunty said that he does not have a presupposition of (philosophical) naturalism. Thus he must have it as a conclusion and have justifications for that. I presume his justification and reasons involve evidence and science. Specifically, I presume that Matt Dillahunty (tentatively) holds to naturalism because the scientific method applied to the evidence indicates that supernatural explanations always fail, and natural explanations have worked many many times. However, in that same debate Matt Dillahunty also said that science is not equipped to show supernatural causation or the existence of supernatural stuff. Thus, Matt Dillahunty uses science to justify and (tentatively) adopt naturalism, but he also thinks this is a scientifically unfalsifiable proposition. That’s a real problem. Matt seems to be advocating an unfalsifiable and scientific argument.

    I keep bringing this up only because it’s not going away, Matt Dillahunty isn’t changing his tune, Matt Dillahunty keeps mentioning this every week to a huge audience of believers and nonbelievers alike, and goddamned no one that I can find has actually made my points against Matt to hopefully allow him to change his mind.

  63. corwyn says

    @68: EL:

    Before you confront Matt with it, you should probably clean up the hole I see:
    Claiming that supernatural is unfalsifiable is the same thing (in my mind) as saying that not only isn’t there any evidence for it, but that can be no evidence for it; or that there is NO B such that P(S|B) != P(S). (Of course, the claim of unfalsifiability only lasts as long as no one can produce such a B).

    On the other hand, having numerous C such that P(PN|C) != P(PN) means that one can develop a Bayesian probability for philosophical naturalism.

  64. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @corwyn
    What you wrote is seemingly absurd. It might just be a definitional problem. Lets find out.

    I think you’re saying that Matt has access to evidence which increases his probability of philosophical naturalism, but without decreasing his probability of supernaturalism.

    Contrary to Matt’s usual protestations, which might actually come up when I call, in a Bayesian view of the world you do consider “A” and “not A” at the same time. It’s how Bayesian reasoning works. You developer a single probability P(A), which necessarily entails that you have a probability for P(not A) = 1 – P(A).

    I thought philosophical naturalism is defined as the view that there is no supernatural stuff. I thought that supernaturalism is defined as the view that there is supernatural stuff. Thus “philosophical naturalism” and “supernaturalism” form a true dichotomy. This might be the sticking point right here. I don’t know what other meanings of the words you might be using.

    Thus, if Matt has a high probability for philosophical naturalism, it necessarily follows that he has a low probability for supernaturalism. P(PN) = 1 – P(S).

    Thus, if Matt has evidence which increases his P(PN), it necessarily follows that the same evidence decreases his P(S). In other words:
    P(PN | E)
    = P(not S | E)
    = P(not S and E) / P(E)
    = (P(E) – P(S and E)) / P(E)
    = 1 – P(S and E) / P(E)
    = 1 – P(S | E)

    Thus, if Matt holds that he has evidence for philosophical naturalism, he must also hold that he has evidence against supernaturalism. If this evidence is of a scientific nature, then Matt must hold that supernaturalism is falsifiable, and that his available evidence falsifies it. Or you’re using entirely different definitions of the terms.

  65. corwyn says

    @70:

    Thus “philosophical naturalism” and “supernaturalism” form a true dichotomy.

    Yes, this is where we differ.

  66. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @corwyn
    Ok. I admit I’m a little surprised. Could you define terms please? What do they mean to you? Which term are we disagreeing about?

  67. corwyn says

    I take ‘philosophical naturalism’ to mean the idea that all that is, has an explanation which is fully detailed in all particulars.

    That definition took some work, after the problems we have had with phrases like ‘in principle’. What falls under that is anything which can be (roughly) replicated, described statistically, or predicted. There is no requirement, that WE can know the explanation, of course, just that one exist.

    Now the question is, is there anything that exists, which does not meet that criteria? If there is, are all such things supernatural, or only some of them?

  68. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @corwyn
    If you take the axiomatic prong of Münchhausen trilemma, then your definition of philosophical naturalism is self defeating.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%BCnchhausen_trilemma
    It cannot be that there is an explanation for everything. That’s the point of the trilemma. There has to be roots in the explanation graph so that the roots have no explanation (or the graph is empty). The alternatives are infinite regresses of explanations, or circular explanations.

    I do not accept your definition of philosophical naturalism. After that, do you still?

  69. corwyn says

    The trilemma has to do with what WE can know (which I explicitly disclaimed). My definition applies to what is, and how it got that way. Perhaps ‘explanation’ is not the right term.

    I also don’t see any particular reason why there can’t be either an infinite regress, or a circular loop in the process. Inconvenient for us, but not a limitation on the Universe.

    You aren’t required to ‘accept’ my definition, but if you don’t, you can’t learn anything about why I created it that way.