Open thread for Episode #923: Emotional Manipulation with Tracie and Don


Don and Tracie talk about the use of emotional manipulation in religious arguments and in the control of believers.

Comments

  1. GalapagosPete says

    The note last week said the show was cancelled due to no producer being available.

  2. L.Long says

    Unless you are imprisoned (or a kid) emotional manipulation is done with the approval and cooperation of the target. I went thru the religious BS as a kid and as soon as I started reading SciFi and saw other things thru TV and the library, the whole emotional (as there are NO FACTS) just bounced off and I started the rejection of the religious delusions. But unlike many cults I was not held in an informational black hole. For those that are free to seek and still buy into the BS, well hope you have a good life.

  3. favog says

    That line from Tristan about everyone being aware of the supernatural from an early age or whatever it exactly was probably made Enlightenment Liberal’s brain explode. You okay out there, EL?

  4. BillBo says

    I have been mentally struggling with something that came up in this episode. Am I wrong here? Consider these statements: 1 I do not believe there are any gods. 2 I lack a belief in the existence of gods. 3. I believe that there are no gods.

    I see many atheists saying these statements are different. Or that 1 and 2 belong to “weak atheists” and 3 means you are a “strong atheist”. They often seem to want to do this because they think that by saying 3 it shifts the burden of proof onto them to show there are no gods. Like in this show I have heard them say it is on the “positive” statement to show proof. And I guess 3 means you are making a positive assertion?

    But I don’t see it that way. To me 1 2 and 3 are identical. The burden of proof is on the one making the absurd or non-obvious claim, positive and negative have nothing to do with it. Since no one has ever seen a god or evidence of one, the burden in this case is on the one making the positive claim. But if someone were to say “I lack a belief in birds”, eg., his negative claim would be the one requiring proof. Just because he chose a weak way to say it doesn’t let him off because his is the more absurd position.

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  6. says

    #9 BillBo

    #6 Can you prove that?

    I almost think it could be done. Consider a container that we’re examining.

    We define “Thing 1” to be a number of particles in an exact configuration, specifically within the container. If we can infinitely subdivide lengths, if one of those particles is off even a little, it’s now no longer “Thing 1”, but could be classified as “Thing 2”

    That means our container/box could have an infinite number of things in it… but since it’s empty, that means there’s an infinite number of “things” that don’t exist within this box.

    Of course, I’m making a number of assumptions, such as whether lengths could be infinitely subdivided. If note, then there’d be a finite number of configurations of these particles.

  7. theodorewarner says

    Con artists use emotional manipulation.
    Christianity uses emotional manipulation.
    ∴ Christianity is a con.

  8. says

    #12:

    Con artists use emotional manipulation.
    Christianity uses emotional manipulation.
    ∴ Christianity is a con.

    I hate to be pedantic, but this is not a validly constructed syllogism.

  9. Curt Cameron says

    BillBo wrote:

    To me 1 2 and 3 are identical.

    I almost agree with you here – the set of things I believe in does not include any gods, so I lack a belief and I do believe that none exist. There’s only a slight difference in meaning, and it doesn’t make a practical difference.

    The burden of proof is on the one making the absurd or non-obvious claim, positive and negative have nothing to do with it.

    Not so much here – the burden of proof in this case has to be on the the side making the claim of existence, because it would be impossible to demonstrate the nonexistence of something as nebulous as a god.

    But if someone were to say “I lack a belief in birds”, eg., his negative claim would be the one requiring proof.

    The problem with this is that what’s obvious is dependent on who you’re talking to. Many (most?) theists would say that the existence of their god is just as obvious as birds. If someone lacks a belief in birds, the birdist can show he’s wrong by just going out and pointing at some birds. The burden of proof is on the birdist. That’s a big difference with gods – we can show that birds exist.

  10. says

    Wow, this first caller is wearing out the floor with all his tap dancing. The hosts are making very clear and reasonable points, and he sees it coming, so he’ll find 3-5 little nitpicks or red herrings to throw them off.

  11. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @favog

    That line from Tristan about everyone being aware of the supernatural from an early age or whatever it exactly was probably made Enlightenment Liberal’s brain explode. You okay out there, EL?

    I’m catching up on episodes. I forgot exactly where I was. I might just start up again with this episode.

    Also, mumble mumble intrinsic methodological naturalism is bullshit mumble mumble.

    @BillBo in 8
    IMHO:

    1 I do not believe there are any gods. 2 I lack a belief in the existence of gods. 3. I believe that there are no gods.

    Formally, the English grammar of of 1 and 2 produce equivalent meanings. They both express a lack of a belief. However, people in practice often use #1 as a polite form to communicate #3. Thus, #1 is often ambiguous in practice.

    There was a recent thread on this topic. It blew up due to unfortunate circumstances. Let me give a brief recap of my position here.

    The major point of a proper system of beliefs, an epistemology, is to aid your decision making. A rational agent is someone who does proper decision making. Proper decision making by definition involves cost-benefit analysis. Proper cost-benefit analysis demands estimations of every plausible scenario.

    You do have an estimate of the likelihood of the truth “a god exists”, and that estimate is a single number somewhere between 0% and 100%. However, English doesn’t work in hard numbers like that, and oftentimes we are not sure exactly what our own estimate is, and so we work in English approximations of those numbers. Examples:

    * 0.1%: I am firmly convinced that there is no god.
    * 10%: I strongly suspect that there is no god.
    * 40%: I lean slightly in the direction that there is no god.
    * 50%: I am (weakly) agnostic on the question. I don’t know.
    * 60%: I lean slightly in the direction that there is a god.
    * 90%: I strongly suspect that there is a god.
    * 99.9%: I am firmly convinced that there is a god.

    (Numbers are for demonstration purposes only.)

    The statement “I believe there is a god” is just an English approximation of your estimation of the truth of the matter.

    So, if I say “I lack a belief that there is a god”, at the very least you know that my estimate that there is a god is less than 50:50 odds e.g. 50% estimation. If I say “I believe that there is a god”, at the very least you know that my estimate that there is a god is more than 50:50 odds e.g. 50% estimation. If I say “I believe that there is no god”, at the very least you know that my estimate that there is a god is less than 50:50 odds e.g. 50% estimation.

    Note: Generally the threshold for declaring a belief is higher than a mere 50:50 odds e.g. 50% estimate of truth. Saying “I believe X is true” with only a 51:49 odds e.g. 51% estimation is foolish and contrary to common usage. It may be prudent to demand a 99% or better estimate before you use the English “I have a belief”.

    Thus, the statement “I believe that there is a god” communicates that my estimation of the truth that there is a god is higher than 99:1 odds e.g. 99% estimate, and saying “I lack a belief that there is a god” communicates that my estimation of the truth that there is a god is lower than 99:1 odds e.g. 99% estimate.

    (Again, numbers are for demonstration purposes only.)

    The burden of proof is a rhetorical rule, not a rule of epistemology. The burden of proof is a cultural rule that we have developed in order to ensure that I don’t have to do the work of someone else when someone else makes a claim. It’s a rule to ensure fairness in discussions. If you find yourself using the burden of proof as a way to dismiss evidence and information at your disposal, then you’re doing it (epistemology) wrong. If you have available evidence and information, the onus is on you to incorporate that evidence and information into your estimates.

    Finally, it’s not a choice to not make an estimate. You are playing the game of life. Refusing to make a choice is still making a choice. Delaying is still a choice. You can either make the best estimate that you can in order to do cost-benefit analysis, or you can be an irrational agent. The choice is yours.

  12. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    #6 Can you prove that?

    Depends on what you mean. Certain interpretations of the challenge are trivial.

    There are no animals on this planet right now which are 1 km tall. There are no animals on this planet right now which are 2 km tall. Repeat ad nauseum. Infinity obtained.

  13. Bugmaster says

    @theodorewarner #12:

    Con artists use emotional manipulation.
    Christianity uses emotional manipulation.
    ∴ Christianity is a con.

    Cats are mortal.
    Socrates is mortal.
    ∴ Socrates is a cat.

  14. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    For the astute reader (which apparently doesn’t include me because I didn’t notice the error while proofreading), I posted this:

    So, if I say “I lack a belief that there is a god”, at the very least you know that my estimate that there is a god is less than 50:50 odds e.g. 50% estimation. If I say “I believe that there is a god”, at the very least you know that my estimate that there is a god is more than 50:50 odds e.g. 50% estimation. If I say “I believe that there is no god”, at the very least you know that my estimate that there is a god is less than 50:50 odds e.g. 50% estimation.

    It contains numerical errors – which I do correct 2 paragraphs down in the same post.

    That is all.

  15. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Tracie from the show
    Regarding the announcements. You’re too hard on yourself. You’re awesome.

  16. Sunburst says

    The emotion religion appeals to with most effect is, I believe, fear. Christianity, for instance, thrives on the fear of hell; it strikes me as a particularly effective form of coercion. In top of that, the Religious Right like to fear monger about persecution of christians by gays, atheists, satanists, evolutionists, the government or whatever, in order to encourage the followers will support its policy. Case in point, Fox News has reached a new low by portraying the Charleston massacre as an attack on Christianity; their cynicism never ceases to surprise me! http://freethoughtblogs.com/ashleymiller/2015/06/18/fox-news-on-charleston-not-about-race-or-politics-about-hating-christians/
    And some forms of Islam (those practiced in Saudi Arabia and Iran, for instance) are notorious for the very harsh punishments they deliver to heretics and apostates; more fear and coercion. I wouldn’t say fear is the only emotion religion taps into, but it seems the most efficient.

  17. thebookofdave says

    @ Jasper of Maine #15

    Yeah, Tristan was really straining to find a god in the basis for our valuation of human life, even warming up a naturalistic appeal at 33:10 into the show. Our limited range of perception of reality by unaided physical senses gets his argument nowhere fast, considering the fact that we extend that range only through the language and products of science, and not by any god. Resorting to it seemed like a desperate attempt to force the conversation back onto his script.

  18. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Regarding Tracie from the show. She said something like: If you have a 2% chance of failure, and you’re scared of that, then you’re unreasonable.

    I appreciate the sentiment in the original context. The original point is that we always take risks. Ex: crossing the street is a risk. One should know knowing that you’re not 100% safe in the decisions you make.

    I agree with that sentiment. However, 2% chance of failure for serious life altering things is quite high. Suppose there’s an independent 2% chance that your car will explode every time you start it. I’m not starting that car, and you shouldn’t either. Even with a 1 out of a thousand, I’m not starting that car. I would be highly hesitant to even start that car with 1 out of a million odds that it’s going to explode. I might start my car 3 times per day on average, for 50 years driving my car, comes out to approx 50,000 times I’ll start my car in my life, which comes out to about a 2% chance that my car will explode sometime in my life at those odds. That’s an unnecessarily high risk.

    PS: The quoted numbers for birth control pills et al. I seem to recall that the failure rates are much much lower than are commonly advertised, but legally they keep the number low in order to cover cases of misuse. I suppose it’s an interesting science-writing question whether one should count cases of misuse as “failure”. Remind me to check numbers on that.

    A 2% chance of failure. Is that an independent 2% chance every time you have sex? In an active sexual relationship, that number is going to compound very quickly to a near 100% certainty of pregnancy. That is not true, and thus it cannot be true that it has an independent 2% chance of failure on every act of sex. Maybe they mean that 2% of users will experience one or more failures during the lifetime of the product. There’s other options that are plausible too. This 2% number right now is very meaningless to me due to the excessive ambiguity.

    I tried to quickly google it, but I didn’t find an answer on the first few links, and then I stopped caring.

  19. Mr. Dave says

    @23

    Perhaps that 2% failure rate of birth control means that 2% might not follow the directions and be at risk of getting pregnant.

  20. Narf says

    No, it would be a lot higher than 2%, if they included details like that, Mr. Dave. When they test the things in clinical trials, from which those results are drawn, they’re taking reasonable steps to ensure proper usage.

  21. frankgturner says

    @ peterbolwerk #13
    It may not be a validly constructed syllogism but I still found it humorous to read. Part of me wonders if he was kidding.

  22. Mr. Dave says

    @25 Narf,

    So if they take steps to remove human error in clinical trials, they’re removing the reality that there are people who might not follow the directions properly, or consistently. I guess that’s part of “your results may vary”.

  23. Narf says

    Well, you kind of have to disregard the people who aren’t using the product as directed. Almost no medications will work properly, if you’re not taking them regularly, particularly those that require you to maintain a certain level of the drug in your blood stream, over an extended period of time. You can’t fault the drug for the behavior of those people.

  24. says

    @22 thebookofdave says

    What was particularly striking is that he, like so many others, enter the discussion with a set of requirements.

    The theist will ask “What’s the meaning of life without God?“, to which we say, “,em>Whatever you decide?“. Then the requirement kicks in, “Yeah but it doesn’t come from a God, so it’s not ‘ultimate’ meaning“.

    Because we can’t meet this requirement, he finds our answers unsatisfactory… but that’s unnecessary baggage he’s bringing into the discussion. If I was raised to think that God’s “ultimate” meaning wasn’t “super ultra ultimate”, because it wasn’t cosigned by 57 quintillion distinct god-unicorns, he’d laugh at me for my ridiculous requirement.

    It’s the same with “value” here. According to him, apparently, “value” doesn’t exist, or itself have value, unless the validated by some absolute source.

    I don’t have that requirement. He does. So we talk past each other.

  25. corwyn says

    @ EL 16:

    The burden of proof is a rhetorical rule, not a rule of epistemology. The burden of proof is a cultural rule that we have developed in order to ensure that I don’t have to do the work of someone else when someone else makes a claim. It’s a rule to ensure fairness in discussions.

    I tend to think of ‘the burden of proof’ as a requirement for anyone making a claim which disagrees with the null hypothesis, as being required to bring some evidence with that claim. Some evidence is required to update our confidence in a proposition away from the confidence value of the null hypothesis.

    If someone claim X exists, one should assign a probability of 0 decibans (or 50% or 1:1) to that claim *before* hearing what X is.[1] Once one knows what X represents, and thus some of its characteristics, that probability estimate should (likely) change. That means that those characteristics are in fact *evidence* for that claim (either positively or negatively). So any intelligible discussion about the existence of X *must* start with the claimant providing evidence. Otherwise, we are just chatting about the probability of something existing that we haven’t even defined yet.

    [1] Ignoring any evidence about the claimant’s known truth-telling probability.

  26. frankgturner says

    @ Jasper of Maine #30
    As far as I know we all have different requirements and assumptions, regardless of religion. That is part of being human. We bring in our own life experiences and personal biases. So we have the potential to talk past each other if we don’t make an effort to understand each other’s viewpoint.

  27. corwyn says

    @23:

    However, 2% chance of failure for serious life altering things is quite high. Suppose there’s an independent 2% chance that your car will explode every time you start it. I’m not starting that car, and you shouldn’t either. Even with a 1 out of a thousand, I’m not starting that car. I would be highly hesitant to even start that car with 1 out of a million odds that it’s going to explode. I might start my car 3 times per day on average, for 50 years driving my car, comes out to approx 50,000 times I’ll start my car in my life, which comes out to about a 2% chance that my car will explode sometime in my life at those odds. That’s an unnecessarily high risk.

    To reinforce what EL is saying here, a 2% chance on something as common as starting a car would mean about 4 million deaths per *day* from exploding cars in the U.S. People are generally terrible at assessing risk in the modern environment. [One estimate I saw was that the likelihood of a *fire* in a car is around 0.3% AFTER AN ACCIDENT].

    I remember a joke about condoms being 99% effective, which means that if you have sex twice a week, that implies one pregnancy per year.

  28. corwyn says

    @ Jasper 30:
    Right, this is just another way they sneak gods into the conversation:

    ‘Absolute meaning’ is *defined* as ‘meaning from a god’.
    ‘Objective morality’ is *defined* as ‘morals from a god’.

    Make them acknowledge that these are their definitions.
    “Is there somewhere absolute meaning can come from other than a god?”
    “No.”
    “So replace that phrase in your original claim with ‘meaning from a god’.”
    “There can be no meaning from a god, without a god.”
    “Yes, that is a syllogism. Now show me that we *have* a meaning from a god (start with showing there *is* a god, if you like).”

  29. corwyn says

    @11 Jasper:
    Of course, I’m making a number of assumptions, such as whether lengths could be infinitely subdivided. If note, then there’d be a finite number of configurations of these particles.

    That assumption is NOT required. Since we are talking about things that DON’T exist, there is no reason why they can’t occupy 1/2 a plank length. If nothing can be shorter than a plank length, that proves that these things don’t exist. QED.

  30. corwyn says

    @8 BillBo:

    1 I do not believe there are any gods. 2 I lack a belief in the existence of gods. 3. I believe that there are no gods.

    If I were being very precise, I would translate those into:
    1) I have a confidence level below that of a null hypothesis on the claim ‘A god exists’.
    2) I do not have a confidence level at all about the claim ‘A god exists’.
    3) I have a confidence level below the threshold of credibility about the claim ‘A god exists’.

    2) as phrased is extremely unlikely for anyone exposed to western culture (I understand that there were some people in the Amazon who lacked any god concept (up until some interfering busybodies asked them about it)).

    1) and 3) therefore should represent differing levels of confidence (I hope) about the claim.

    To put in a more mundane context, if you roll a (6 sided) die, and keep it hidden from me, I can say:
    1. I do not believe that you have rolled a six.
    2. I DO NOT lack a belief that you have rolled a six. I believe its probability is 1:6.
    3. I DO NOT believe that you have NOT rolled a six.

  31. Narf says

    @32 – fgt

    So we have the potential to talk past each other if we don’t make an effort to understand each other’s viewpoint.

    Well, there you go, bringing a set of completely unjustified assumptions to the conversation, just as you accuse the theists of doing.  You seem to be implying that Christians usually engage in religious discussions with atheists in an attempt to understand our viewpoint.  Where do you get off, falsely painting Christian evangelists with the brush of intellectual honesty, challenging their own beliefs and attempting to understand the arguments of the opposing side?  Shame on you.  😛

  32. Hippycow says

    @ Jasper #30:
    Yeah, I like to ask “what is the meaning of life with your god?”

    You are created in the physical universe. Your god mints a new soul for you. Inserts soul into the blastocyst. Waits and sees how well you perform. Compares against his rules. If you do well enough you are dispatched to heaven. Now what? Sit around for the rest of eternity praising the god? What’s the meaning in that? I see no meaning there.

    @corwyn #37:

    I think your example is more apt if you change “six” to “forty-two” or even better, “platypus”:

    To put in a more mundane context, if you roll a (6 sided) die, and keep it hidden from me, I can say:
    1. I do not believe that you have rolled a platypus.
    2. I DO NOT lack a belief that you have rolled a platypus. I believe its probability is 1:platypus.
    3. I DO NOT believe that you have NOT rolled a platypus.

  33. Hippycow says

    …come to think of it, “platypus” is a bit too concrete. “Leprechaun” or “invisible pink unicorn (PBUH)” would be more appropriate to the context.

  34. Curt Cameron says

    corwyn wrote:

    I remember a joke about condoms being 99% effective, which means that if you have sex twice a week, that implies one pregnancy per year.

    Except that birth control stats are always quoted as “with normal use for a year.”

    So if you have sex twice a week with a 99% effective condom, you have a 1% chance of pregnancy after a year.

  35. Curt Cameron says

    I just re-read my post, and I don’t mean to suggest that anyone have sex with the same condom for a year. Use a new one each time!

  36. frankgturner says

    @ Narf #38
    Smart ass. I wish that I could paint evangelists with such a brush, they don’t make much of an effort to challenge each other’s beliefs much less atheists, agnostics, or even just other religious practices. What I was getting at is that anyone has the potential to do that with anyone else, regardless of their beliefs or lack thereof.

  37. frankgturner says

    @ Curt #42
    Actually I would prefer to have sex with the person USING a condom. You don’t have sex with condoms….well I guess that you do but maybe you should take it to dinner and a movie first. I still wonder how the condom eats dinner..
    🙂

  38. corwyn says

    @39:

    No, those actually aren’t well-defined claims. We are trying to create more intelligible conversations, not less.

  39. Hippycow says

    @45 – Well the point is that “god” is so poorly defined (and there are no actual examples to point to) that that it really makes no sense at all to assign any probability to such a thing “existing.” The dice example is useless as analogy and does not do anything to make god claims more well defined, or make the conversation any more intelligible. In fact, it may be obfuscating things by inserting a false analogy which makes it seem clearer, when really it isn’t. When a die is thrown, there are well known results. It’s not a good analogy for something nobody has seen, which is invisible, inert and poorly defined.

    By the way, I think statement #3 would be more correctly phrased as “I do believe that you didn’t roll a six.” This is having a belief about what was rolled (which is unjustified, of course), vs. having no belief.

  40. corwyn says

    @47 Hippycow:

    Well the point is that “god” is so poorly defined (and there are no actual examples to point to) that that it really makes no sense at all to assign any probability to such a thing “existing.”

    Go re-read what I wrote in 31. A completely undefined proposition can be assigned a probability of 0 decibans (50%), any definition beyond that is evidence (for or against) the proposition. This is exactly how to assign a probability to ANY proposition.

    Let’s take Jesus. Christians should (I think) be happy to claim that no other human is like Jesus, that by itself, means that he is a one in one hundred billion chance. If a christian wants to claim more about Jesus (and they generally do). A virgin birth makes Jesus 1:100,000,000 more unlikely. Each claim affects the probability. Let them talk as long as they want, each claim generally reduces the probability. Go ahead and ask them how unlikely each claim is.

  41. Conversion Tube says

    First off I’m bad at math but hear me out.

    Are we committing some math error when we say if there is 2 % chance then it is bound to happen? Its 2 % chance of pregnancy each individual sex act so isn’t it likely to never occur over a small sample of 10 years?

    I mean if you flip a coin and it’s heads 5 times in a row and you think, its bound to be tails this time, well actually no the odds haven’t changed.

    Is it this math error in reverse to say you are bound to get pregnant eventually?

  42. Conversion Tube says

    At EL #16 “”””Finally, it’s not a choice to not make an estimate. You are playing the game of life. Refusing to make a choice is still making a choice. Delaying is still a choice. You can either make the best estimate that you can in order to do cost-benefit analysis, or you can be an irrational agent. The choice is yours.”””‘

    I agree with your entire post but I want to make one finicky edit to the above quote. Say you are walking past a street preacher and he yells claims at you, you briefly hear him but are currently in a conversation with a friend and keep walking. In the quote above we are assuming that the person hearing the claim cares about or wishes to discuss the claim but there are instances where you absolutely do not need to, want to or care to decide. Because a claim passes your ears and enters your brain does not mean you are forced to ponder the claim,

    You can dismiss it out of hand for a multitude of reasons, one being you are too busy with something else right now or it can be said and you can forget what was said or you can lose track and it’s never said again.

    What I’m saying is because a claim is spoken in your presence does not mean you must decide or must refuse to decide, you simply might have other things that interest you. You may have no concern whatsoever about the truth or falseness of the claim. And because you do not wish to ponder it, does not make you irrational.
    Perhaps I’m just being silly now but whenever I hear someone say you are forced to decide one way or the other and not deciding is still a choice, I always think well no, not necessarily. That gives the claimer more importance in my conscious than I chose to a lot them.

  43. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Conversion Tube in 51
    Agreed. We all have developed heuristics for analyzing claims; a lot are even subconscious. Otherwise we would hit analysis-paralysis and never do anything.

  44. Hippycow says

    @ Conversion Tube #49:
    It is a probability thing based on the number of incidences of the event beforehand. So, with this 2% thing, yes, each time there is a 2% chance, but if you say you are going to repeat 100 times, we can calculate the over all odds up front: there is a 2% chance you will get pregnant on the first try plus a 98% chance that you won’t, multiplied by a 2% chance on the next try and a 98% chance you won’t on that try and so on, 98 more times. The chances compound. After you’ve done the math, it turns out that if the odds of getting pregnant on one try were 2% (I don’t think that’s the correct figure though), then the odds after 100 tries would be 86.7%. Of course, as you said, that would have no bearing at encounter #101, where the chances at that point would be 2%.

    More simply, the chance of flipping a tails on one coin toss is 50%. The chance on getting a tails with two tosses is 75%. If you plot out all the possibilities like this, it is easy to see:
    1. heads-heads
    2. heads-tails
    3. tails-heads
    4. tails-tails
    These are all the possibilities. You can see over all that 75% of them have a tails flip. This same idea can be extended with difference values of the chance (besides 50-50) and more tries.

  45. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @corwyn
    I appreciate your replies.

    I will note that one of your posts made me appreciate the difficulty in even working with the word “belief”.

    “I believe that there is a god” IMHO communicates that the speaker has a particular estimate for the truth of the proposition that is very high.

    There’s a difference between “Have a belief in” and “Have a belief about”. You pointed it out quite rightly with the dice. When someone rolls a d6 (six-sided die) but doesn’t show me, I lack a belief that the result is a 6, but I don’t lack a belief about the result. I actually happen to believe that 1/6 is the proper estimate that the result is 6, and I believe that 1/6 is the proper estimate that the result is 5, etc.

    Being consciously aware of an estimate is having a belief. Having a belief about something doesn’t mean the same thing as having a belief in something or having a belief that something is true.

    Damn I hate English in this regard, lol.

  46. frankgturner says

    @ Curt Cameron #41
    It hit me while thinking about it. A woman does not get pregnant every single time that a condom does not work. If you had sex as normal 100 times per year and the condom failed 1% of the time that would not necessarily result in pregnancy 1% of the time.

  47. corwyn says

    @ Tube 51

    What I’m saying is because a claim is spoken in your presence does not mean you must decide or must refuse to decide, you simply might have other things that interest you. You may have no concern whatsoever about the truth or falseness of the claim.

    Neurologists inform me that this is, in fact, incorrect. They say that in order to process the sentence at all, one must ‘believe’ it[2]. Only then can it be processed and determined to be not worth believing. So if you processed the words at all (which you probably did if you heard them distinctly) then you processed them for truth value (or accepted them as true by default).

    2. they may have a different definition of belief than is colloquial.

  48. corwyn says

    @ Tube 49:

    The general formula for solving this sort of thing is consider the chance of a negative result for each of the given number of trials and subtract that from certainty, to get the chance of it happening at least once.

    So 2% chance over 100 trials is: 1 – (1 – 2%)^100 = 1 – (0.98)^100 = 1 – 0.1326 = 0.8673 = 86.73%

  49. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @corwyn in 57, and to Tube.
    I think there’s value in what both of you have said.

    From my own limited access of my own mind and its workings, if I consciously pay attention to some absurd claim enough to understand what is being claimed, I will form an estimate for the truth of the claim. The creation of this estimate is to some extent automatic. I think corwyn is right. The very act of processing and understanding the claim will almost certainly elicit an automatic estimation of the truth of the claim. I am not surprised about this fact of neurology at all based on my understanding of the brain as a neural net, a web of interconnected neurons, approx.

    Of course, this kind of automatic estimate is not as good – not as reliable – as an estimate that is the result of careful introspection and examination. Oftentimes, when we hear a claim, we will give it more time to consider the claim, which allows for examining more internal information, which can produce a better estimate. Further, conscious effort can help us account for possible biases, which will further improve the estimate.

    Some of what Tube said definitely has value. For many absurd claims heard in passing, for most of us, for most of the time, we will give it no further thought, which means our initial estimate stands.

    I really think that a lot of value will be obtained with a proper appreciation of the analysis-paralysis problem, and a recognition that we all have and employ conscious and semi-conscious and perhaps unconscious shortcuts and heuristics to evaluate claims. Oftentimes we rely on gross heuristics and approximations for relatively unimportant claims, but for important claims, we devote much more time to analysis.

  50. BillBo says

    #17 You only showed that there are an infinite number of things that don’t exist on Earth. 😉

    Thanks all for the replys about burden of proof.

  51. frankgturner says

    Does anyone know how to access the aftershow without being logged on live?
    .
    I am pretty interested in that conversation and how it went.

  52. frankgturner says

    @ thebookofdave #65
    Thanks for the link. I will try it again later (right now I am getting a “bit available” message).

  53. ironchops says

    On the subject of Emotional Manipulation.
    Drunks and addicts do it, Kids do it, Our political leaders do it, Gangsters do it, other atheists do it. Why are we just picking on religion? Damn near everybody pulls that stunt at least once in their lives to get what we want. How many times do parents guilt there children about Santa Clause to get them to behave?
    The first call went on too long and the conversation wasn’t very productive to me so I moved on to other stuff.

  54. Yos8 says

    Does anyone else think Don is so uncomfortably awkward to listen to? He seemed so uncomfortable with his nervous chuckling every time Tracie tried to expand on his Failures of Christianity points.. commenting, “OK, just a couple more to go!” with this implicit “please stop talking” undertone. Really makes me feel weird every time he’s on.

  55. Conversion Tube says

    Nope, disagree, Don is great. Don may bring topics that are perhaps a bit dry at times but those topics are still important to articulate to our community. To see Don in a different way and to understand what else he brings to the show please watch episode 887. Long call starting around 32 minutes. What I’m asking is for you to take particular note of the end of the call.

    https://youtu.be/5Xc1f0zQP8Q?t=48m

  56. Conversion Tube says

    Please also understand they volunteer to do the show. Don spends his spare time preparing and providing the information he does. Nobody is getting paid, he doesn’t have to spend his Sunday afternoon doing that.

    Don, keep up the great work.

  57. says

    What a cavalcade of barrenness (this entire blog). The inability or cynicism to believe in anything spiritual I can understand, in view of the horrors of the world, but it never ceases to amaze me how anybody can want to make a mission – a ‘hobby’ – out of their atheism. How can you be so keen to believe you are hurtling towards your extinction at an extremely fast speed (which is basically what this life is, if you take an atheist view)? How can you ‘want’ to believe this?! I hate to be personal, but the musings of atheists so often seem insipid and emotionally barren, devoid of imagination and creativity, as if permeated by this quiet (at times noisy, mind you) air of resignation to your mortality.

  58. Yos8 says

    @Conversion Tube: Agreed, actually. I’m annoyed that you made me relive that episode from last year again, but he was great there. And after listening to this one again, I think that maybe Tracie — who I normally kind of love — was making it awkward for some reason. She was a little hyper throughout the episode. I think I just find Don’s chuckle kind of unnerving. Anyway, appreciated.

    @phillip: I can’t speak for the others here, but who ‘wants’ to believe this? It doesn’t matter what we want (it has no bearing on what’s true or false), and either way, belief isn’t a choice. We simply believe what we believe, and some of us have good reasons for believing the things we believe and some don’t. I personally involve myself in Atheism as a ‘hobby’ because I believe that religion does damage to the world.

  59. Hippycow says

    @ phillip #73 —

    Wow, I never thought of that! Phillip, thanks for revealing the light. Now that I see what a cavalcade of barrenness I’ve been wallowing in, I will mend my ways forthwith.

    Unfortunately this raises an ever thornier problem. I realize that I should choose some god or gods and/or other mystical faith-based stuff to believe in, but which one? Should I choose the pantheon of Christian gods (Yahweh, Jesus, Holy Spirit, demons, and angels)? Should I choose the Islamic pantheon? Astrology? The Baha’i Faith set? The good old fashioned Jewish collection? A few million Hindu gods? Maybe the collection of Sikh gods?

    So many to choose from, but no clear criteria of which ones are the correct set. And such dire consequences for choosing the wrong ones! You’ve just made my life a lot harder. Thanks a lot, douchnozzle.

  60. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @phillip
    I want to improve my own life, and the lives of everyone else. I want to make the world into a better place. The best and only practical way of doing that is to have accurate reliable information about the world we live in and create effective plans on that basis.

    I am not happy that I will die. However, it is foolish to deny an obvious truth because it is inconvenient or undesirable. I will die whether I believe it or not. The first step to mitigating harms like this is recognizing that they exist. Only by recognizing reality for what it is can we go about making effective plans to change it for the better. We first have to recognize that we will die before we can be create medicine, vaccines, and other technologies that extent our lives and make our lives better.

    I am firmly convinced that living in delusion as you do is counter-productive to living a happy and healthy life.

  61. Monocle Smile says

    @phillip
    $20 words for 5-cent thoughts. Congratulations, you can use a thesaurus. Did you figure that out all by yourself?

  62. frankgturner says

    @ phillip
    Have you ever actually watched or even listened to the show or did you just find and read the blog and apply your own straw man idea of atheism to it?

  63. Narf says

    @73 – phillip

    What a cavalcade of barrenness (this entire blog).

    We feel the same about your religious nonsense, and we have better, more rational reasons for feeling that way than you do.

    So, you’ve read this entire blog, have you?

    The inability or cynicism to believe in anything spiritual I can understand, in view of the horrors of the world, but it never ceases to amaze me how anybody can want to make a mission – a ‘hobby’ – out of their atheism.

    You have a distressing inability to use words effectively.  Do you think we’re making this our ‘mission’, or do you think it’s just a hobby of ours?  Those words do not imply even close to the same thing.

    If the latter, you really don’t understand why we would do this for shits and grins, for entertainment purposes?

    As for it being a mission …
    You admit that there are horrors in the world, many of which are perpetrated by religious psychos, and yet you can’t understand why we would want to promote rationality in the world?  Come on, man, use your supposedly superior imagination just a little, here.

    How can you be so keen to believe you are hurtling towards your extinction at an extremely fast speed (which is basically what this life is, if you take an atheist view)? How can you ‘want’ to believe this?!

    You’re projecting your irrationality onto us, man.  Stop that shit.

    We don’t believe things because we have some emotional need to believe in them.  We believe in things because they’re likely true, as demonstrated by empirical, verifiable evidence.  We think that religious nonsense is completely irrational, and we want to live in a world with other people who do things to work towards the betterment of society for rational, justifiable reasons.

    I hate to be personal, but the musings of atheists so often seem insipid and emotionally barren, devoid of imagination and creativity, as if permeated by this quiet (at times noisy, mind you) air of resignation to your mortality.

    Well, fuck you.

    If you want to convince someone of something, don’t come at the person with mindless, unjustified insults.  Even if your ‘emotionally barren’ insult was true — which you would know was false, if you had read the entire blog, as you imply — I would take emotionally barren over intellectually barren, which is what your spiritual nonsense is.  Since that dilemma is false, I choose to be both emotionally and intellectually engaged, which puts me ahead of you by one.

    Your shot at our supposed lack of imagination and creativity is equally stupid.  A lack of gullibility is not the same thing as a lack of imagination.  We can dream up all sorts of fantastic shit; we just aren’t stupid enough to believe in those imaginings, until there’s evidence to support their truth.

  64. Narf says

    @45 – fgt

    Actually I would prefer to have sex with the person USING a condom. You don’t have sex with condoms….well I guess that you do but maybe you should take it to dinner and a movie first. I still wonder how the condom eats dinner..

    I find the transactional nature of your implication of taking a condom out to dinner and a movie, in exchange for sex, to be insulting. It’s even worse that you’re exchanging them as chattel, in the checkout line. Sex slavery isn’t cool, man.

    Set my people free!!!

    Heh heh heh.

  65. Monocle Smile says

    Finally watched the show. Tristan is so wrong on so many counts. No, Tristan, the majority of humans have not always believed in a deity. And no, reality is not dependent on what “appeals” to you. Then he became a train wreck when Tracie brought up the wolf. Suggesting that a wolf could be a “manifestation of god’s intentions” is how you argue teleology (something I reject anyway) by bashing your head through a brick wall.

    LOL at the “we all understand god as children” bullshit. When someone tries to argue that children are born believers, I typically walk away because it takes willful ignorance or dishonesty to assert that conclusion.

  66. phil says

    Tracie’s great. She knows the subject matter, can think as she goes, and doesn’t seem to get as riled as easily as Matt. Well, I like Matt too, and Martin, Jen, and I miss Jeff Dee.

    Don is gay? omg. I had no idea (not that I needed to know). Anyway, congratulations! Now you can get married, and have your marriage recognised. Sadly here in Oz we are somewhat behind. Not that the populace is a pack of mouth breathing anti-gay bigots, but our current gummint is stuck in the 1950s on the issue. We’ll get there, but maybe only after we ditch our catholic prime minister and a few other dinosaurs in government.

    Tracie was talking about why believers fear atheists. She might find this interesting:

    https://theconversation.com/for-believers-fear-of-atheists-is-fueled-by-fear-of-death-41724

  67. Narf says

    Don is gay? omg. I had no idea (not that I needed to know). Anyway, congratulations! Now you can get married, and have your marriage recognised.

    Yeah, he doesn’t talk about it on the show much, but it’s come up a few times. He’s talked about it a lot more times, here on the blog.

    He got married in another state, a couple of years ago. Apparently, he’s been together with his husband for 16 years, although they obviously weren’t married for most of that.

    Now, Texas has to recognize their marriage.

  68. Adam White says

    I absolutely LOVE this show!!! I’ve been watching it for years. First time complimenting on anything here or anywhere. This may be out a line, and I in no way mean to be disrespectful, as I think Tracie is one of my favorites on the show. In this last episode ( #923 ), what is she on? ( sorry Tracie ) if anything, I am thinking some type of cold and/or sinus medicine that has ephedrine in it…? and she took one extra by accident. I literally had trouble making it to the 25 minute mark. She is in super fast forward, turned up to 11 mode. Forget Wonder Woman, here is Super T. and the Atheist League of Logic, and it’s all just…whoa!

    I did however laugh out loud ( really…I really did, really, promise ) and rewound ( spelling? Rewinded. how about that? ) it 5 times when she asks the caller about him about what would happen if was to try and attempt to strangle a tiger…Medication or not, That was Awesomeness with a capital A!!! Super T. Could pull it off, just like that, meow, KAPOW!!!!

    In the end, Keep up this Great/informative/entertaining/life changing, for the best, show. And Tracie, continue to be one of the best!

  69. says

    To #5 –

    >Unless you are imprisoned (or a kid) emotional manipulation is done with the approval and cooperation of the target. I went thru the religious BS as a kid and as soon as I started reading SciFi and saw other things thru TV and the library, the whole emotional (as there are NO FACTS) just bounced off and I started the rejection of the religious delusions. But unlike many cults I was not held in an informational black hole. For those that are free to seek and still buy into the BS, well hope you have a good life.

    Yes, because the moment you turn 18 there is a magical transformation where suddenly everything done to you becomes invalid, and you can now think clearly and unfettered by any history of coercion, threat, and so on. And we can be sure of this because you figured it out—therefore everyone else can because everyone is just like you.

    REALITY: Sometimes we don’t even realize we have the means and tools to change something in our lives or about ourselves. It’s like asking the question “Can you frame a door?”

    1. NO: I have the physical capacity, but I don’t have the knowledge. Even if I have the tools in my home, I’m not aware of the process of how to frame the door, so I’m not sure how to go about it, even fully equipped and not lacking any physical capacity. So, no, I cannot frame a door.

    2. YES: I have the ability to purchase the tools and required physical capacity, which means that if someone clues me into the process of how to do it, yes, I can very much frame a door. I’m sure I can do it if only someone will teach me how.

    Some people don’t even realize there is an alternative to what they perceive to be “reality.” They recognize others don’t agree, but they view them as people who simply lack the information to understand. In other words, if you are certain of the mechanism that causes the sun to rise each day, how motivated will you be to seek out other explanations for why we have a sunrise? I don’t waste even an ounce of time on it, because it’s “reality” to me, and I’ve been wholly convinced that the explanation offered to me is the correct one. I understand there are other cultures both modern and historic that have other ideas about it, but I don’t go looking into those alternatives, because I am convinced I have “the truth” about the sun rise event.

    You may not have been as convinced as some other person. You may have been more emotionally stable. You may have been raised in a less religiously abusive home. You may have had a mentor in your life who encouraged you, that some other person lacked. You may be in an entirely different social and educational situation and an entirely different mental frame of mind than someone else. You may be less social and therefore less influenced by peer pressure. There are literally countless reasons why one person does X where another does Y. Not everyone has the same tools at their disposal. Not everyone has the same capacity. And not everyone has the same understanding of the processes required to even find and apply the information that is available (they may not even imagine relevant information is out there that should be examined).

    You sound like someone who has no grasp of diversity nor any understanding outside your own microcosm of a world. I hope never to have to engage you socially, in fact, as long as this is your limited capacity to understand and empathize with anything that diverges from your own experience and understanding.

  70. says

    #24 – You said ” I would be highly hesitant to even start that car with 1 out of a million odds that it’s going to explode. ”

    However, the odds of dying as an occupant in a car are 1 in 17,625 per year*. Would you still be willing to travel as a car occupant? Logically it should not matter how the death occurs if it’s risk of death being addressed here. I find that people often live out risks daily that defy their actual expressed fear of death. To say you aren’t sure you’d be willing to start a car that explodes one in a million times, but to then get into a vehicle as a passenger with a less than 1 in 20,000 chance of survival seems to be inconsistent.

    *http://www.riskcomm.com/visualaids/riskscale/datasources.php

    Lifetime odds of dying in a car accident in the U.S. are 1 in 112**

    **http://www.nsc.org/learn/safety-knowledge/Pages/injury-facts-chart.aspx

    In fact, every time someone has sex using a condom with someone who has not been tested for HIV, they are assuming an approximate 98% protection rate against HIV, with someone who may be carrying an incurable, fatal virus. And people do this ALL THE TIME.

    Just to add on the birth control stats, the way numbers are presented matters. For example, condoms are considered to have a very high effectiveness rating when used to protect against HIV transmission–giving about 98% protection when used properly. However, protection from condoms for HSV2 is considered low, at about 50%. However the transmission rate of HSV is 10% per year if you have unprotected sex twice a week for a year in a discordant relationship. This means that using a condom results in a 95% protection rate for HSV2, even though condoms don’t work particularly well as protection against that virus (compared to effectiveness against HIV). Beware the mistake a friend of mine fell into. He reasoned that 10% per year results in 100% after 10 years. He did not calculate that 90% odds of not transmitting should then result in a 900% chance it would not be transmitted over 10 years (which demonstrated a problem with his calculation). The odds are calculated with a group of people using condoms, at the end of X-amount of time Y-amount of subjects contracted the virus. It speaks not at all to individuals, it’s population percentages. These odds cannot speak to individual odds. For example, consider some people are using condoms who can’t get pregnant, but don’t even realize it yet. It’s population percentages, not individual odds.

  71. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @heicart
    I think you’re confusing some odds there. You’re comparing apples to oranges. In essence, you’re comparing the odds of rolling a 6 on a single d6 roll (six-sided die roll) to the odds of getting at least one 6 roll on 1000 d6 rolls. You’re comparing the independent odds of a single event when that event will be regularly repeated, vs the odds of one positive event out of many trials over the course of a year.

    At 1 out of a million odds, independent, that my car explodes every time I start it. If I start my car 2 times per day for a year, that comes out to:
    ((1 – 1e-6) ^ (2*365)) = approx .00073 = .073 % chance of death in one year, aka 1 death per 1370 approx.

    It’s appropriate to compare “expected deaths per year”, which is 1 expected death per 1370 year for my car exploding example, vs your quoted 1 expected death in 17,625 years. More than 10x worse.

    I would be hesitant to get in a car that has a 1 out of a million chance (independent) to explode every time I start it. I’m also extremely wary of driving in general. It’s a very dangerous activity. I have no control over whether my car explodes when I start it in my hypothetical, but I have some control over whether I get in a car crash. I practice defensive driving, and my record shows it, which means the appropriate “danger rate” for driving for me is significantly better than your quoted death rate for driving.

    I think you’re making a similar mistake for the HIV AIDS condom example. However, I think if we do a proper analysis of the odds here, I will end up agreeing with you that people who have sex with random random strangers with condoms are engaging in a very risky activity, especially in areas with high portions of HIV positive population. However, that 98% number that is often quoted is not and cannot be the independent odds of failure for every act of sex. As mentioned upthread IIRC, it’s probably like “98% chance of one or more failure for proper use over the course of a year”.

  72. says

    My point is that when you have sex with a stranger, you use a condom because of the assumption they may have anything sexually transmitted. By using the condom you are saying you are aware they can be carrying any of these diseases, and you are accepting a 98% protection rate against HIV (and sure, best case scenario), which you are very aware they may have and which you are trying to protect yourself against as evidenced by using the condom. The idea is “I don’t know you and therefore do not know what you may have, so we will use protection.” We are aware there are deadly viruses in the world that are sexually transmitted. We know that strangers may carry them. We know condoms protect us. And we often see people have sex with others who have not had STD screenings. Every time this happens the person is saying “if you have HIV, I’m cool with using a condom and taking that 98% risk of acquiring a deadly virus.”

    EDIT: But to note, people will irrationally generally say that they would not have sex using a condom with someone known to have an HIV infection–but then will have sex with an unscreened partner using a condom–basically expressing “I will have sex with you with a condom and understand you may have HIV…in fact, I’m using a condom because I understand you may have ANYTHING at this point–since you have not been screened for STDs.” They do not think about the reality that they already have accepted the HIV risk when they had sex with an unscreened person. Somehow the knowledge the person has HIV would alter the entire scenario–even though nothing at all has changed as far as the reality of what they’re doing.

  73. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Tracie
    Agreed. Still, I want to quibble:

    you are accepting a 98% protection rate against HIV (and sure, best case scenario),

    No, that’s like many times worse than the best case scenario. For a single sex act, the failure rate is probably like 0.01% or 0.001% or something, not 2%. It’s the difference between “failure during a single sex act” and “one or more failures during many sex acts over the course of a year”. I agree it’s still a huge risk, and it’s one which I would not participate in.

    In fact, I now thing that this is a bad example. In most other areas, people would not be happy with that level of risk, but most of us really like sex, and so people’s risk tolerance is much higher when sex is involved. It’s not a good example of how people take very big risks in their everyday life. It’s a good example that many people throw their risk standards out the window when sex is involved. Alternatively, we can think of it like this: People value sex very, very highly, much moreso than almost any other recreational activity.

    PS: I also forgot one of the most important parts of my exploding car analysis: opportunity cost. Driving is a very risky activity, and I regularly drive, because of good alternatives in my area. Whereas, for a hypothetical car that has 1 out of a million independent odds of exploding every time you start it, the alternative is there. I know of plenty of other cars that have a much much smaller chance of exploding when you start them. It’s an avoidable risk with basically no cost, unlike driving itself.

  74. Narf says

    @87 – heicart

    However, the odds of dying as an occupant in a car are 1 in 17,625 per year*.

    Is this the time to mention that I haven’t been a passenger in a car in something like … I dunno, it must be well over 5 years now, and even then, it was an isolated incidence.&blockquote; I can’t even remember the last time I haven’t been the driver, but it’s been at least 5.

    Let’s not get into the statistics of my motorcycle, though.  😛

  75. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I’m just horrible today.
    Another fix:
    Before:
    > ((1 – 1e-6) ^ (2*365)) = approx .00073 = .073 % chance of death in one year, aka 1 death per 1370 approx.
    With fixes [2]:
    > 1 – ((1 – 1e-6) ^ (2*365)) = approx .00073 = .073 % chance of death in one year, aka 1 death per 1370 years.

  76. Hippycow says

    Yeah, I’ve been riding my bike to work pretty consistently lately. I guess the odds are better than a car, but I’m guessing that is only because overall people drive cars more miles than bikes.

    I reckon all these stats are considerably different depending on what you do the most. Like, dying in a car is probably much more likely for a taxi driver or real estate agent than average. The odds of “a person” dying while doing X are a lot different than the odds of you dying while doing X.

  77. corwyn says

    @90 EL:

    People value sex very, very highly, much moreso than almost any other recreational activity.

    Economics says otherwise. I am writing here rather than having sex; you were writing here instead of having sex (I presume).

  78. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @corwyn
    Ok.
    Correction:
    *Many people.
    *Not all the time.

    I think it’s still fair to say that in terms recreational activities that come with huge avoidable risks, sex probably rates very highly, on a metric of number of people in the population who partake, the frequency they partake, and the amount of avoidable risk.

  79. Jim who would go to the bar with you if I lived in Texas says

    Episode 923,
    This was a very entertaining show even though Tracie may not believe she did a great job. One of the best because it was different in a good way. This is my first time writing to you and I’m a huge fan of all of you folks. Do you guys ever mind answering personal questions or maybe more specifically, political questions? I’ve noticed that you tend not to delve into politics much and I totally understand why you wouldn’t. Is that an email policy as well? Matt Dillahunty is one of my heroes because I have only been an atheist for about a year or so, but I’m curious if his political views changed as his theistic views evolved? I have thoughts of fundamental southern baptists as likely being conservative in their political views and I was wondering if you were one of them as well, no offense intended. As your atheism took hold, did your politics shift from Republican to Democrat or ineffectual?

  80. Narf says

    Politics is more of a thing with Non Prophets Radio.

    I can answer some of your questions about Matt, though, having listened to the entire backlog of both TAE and NPR.  He’s mentioned a lot about the changes in his outlook, when he went from being a Christian to being an atheist.

    Matt used to be a Ditto-head.  On an episode of NPR, he said something to the effect that he had a bunch of Rush’s books on his bookshelves, and someone was asking him if he owned them ironically or something.  Apparently, at the time, his political outlook was almost completely determined by his religious beliefs.

    Nowadays, Matt is fairly liberal.  I don’t think he’s a hardcore leftist, but he’s definitely well left-of-center, and he’s down with feminism.

  81. New Atheist says

    “To me 1 2 and 3 are identical. The burden of proof is on the one making the absurd or non-obvious claim, positive and negative have nothing to do with it. Since no one has ever seen a god or evidence of one, the burden in this case is on the one making the positive claim. But if someone were to say “I lack a belief in birds”, eg., his negative claim would be the one requiring proof. Just because he chose a weak way to say it doesn’t let him off because his is the more absurd position.”

    Tracy and Matt had a great dice example proving why this isn’t the case. Tracy had a six sided die and put it into a bag with an unknown number of dies with an unknown numbers of sides. The original six sided die may have been the only one or there may have been several with the same or different sides.

    She then proceeded to tell Matt that she could roll an 18, to which Matt was justified in saying, “I don’t believe you.” Interestingly, Matt was also justified in responding likewise to a statement that Tracy couldn’t roll an 18. In both cases, statements were made without evidence, so the null hypothesis still stood. This is true despite the fact that the ability to roll an 18 is a simple yes/no proposition. The person making the claim bears the entire burden of proof and the recipient bears none even if they are rejecting both sides of a 50/50 proposition.

    It really was a fascinating discussion. Perhaps someone else on this blog can recall the episode where they did this.

  82. Monocle Smile says

    @99
    It was episode #814. I only know this because I periodically load clusters of shows onto my phone when on travel, and that episode is in the current cluster.

  83. corwyn says

    @99:

    But if someone were to say “I lack a belief in birds”, eg., his negative claim would be the one requiring proof.

    No, it really wouldn’t. Someone who has a rationally held lack of belief in birds, could never have seen one. Which although it requires some extraordinary circumstance is not implausible. Take aliens as an example if you wish. Their lack of belief requires no evidence (and indeed can have none). The evidence *must* come from bird-believers. It is just that this evidence is not hard to come by in the extremely narrow circumstances in which *we* happen to live.

  84. corwyn says

    @101:

    (and indeed can have none)

    …in the sense of evidence that would cause someone who has actually seen a bird to update their confidence.

    They do, of course, have all the evidence that they have looked everywhere they have ever been, and never seen a bird.

  85. Narf says

    @corwyn
    I completely missed this comment, when it was made.  I’ve been a little distracted, for the past couple of weeks.

    Yeah, the person claiming the existence of birds still bears the burden of proof, even if it’s a stupidly easy claim to provide a preponderance of evidence for.  Wandering into a pet shop and demonstrating all of these little creatures that we call birds and pointing out the ones flying overhead, on the way home, would get the job done.

    Perhaps a claim more in line with what New Atheist is thinking of would be a person claiming that birds don’t exist and that all of the birds we see are actually intelligent rodents in bird costumes … which is another claim and bears a burden of proof.

  86. corwyn says

    @103 Narf:

    And we should note that showing said person a bird, WOULD be extraordinary evidence *to them*. It would be a class of life that they had *never* seen. Same as if I showed you a unicorn.

  87. Narf says

    @corwyn
    And the unicorn also bears the issue of definitions.  For example, that goat with the deformed horns that Ringling Brothers showed around a couple of decades ago doesn’t count for what people mean when they speak of unicorns.

  88. frankgturner says

    @Narf #105
    I’ve speculated in the past that if goats with deformed horns were a relatively rare but common enough occurrence in Europe that said occurence could very well have been responsible for legends about unicorns. Goats are pretty big and goofed and could be mistaken for a horse at a distance.

  89. corwyn says

    It is possible that rhinoceros are the basis for the concept of unicorns. But for any given definition, showing you one would be significant evidence. Obviously rhinos as unicorns is a lot less extraordinary evidence for a lot less extraordinary claim.

    [pedant] Deer, on the other hand have antlers, not horns. [/pedant]

  90. Narf says

    I don’t think ancient people cared as much about the difference, man.

    The rhinoceros is a more probable source.  That sounds familiar, now that you mention it.

  91. corwyn says

    @111 Narf:

    I don’t think ancient people cared as much about the difference, man.

    On the contrary, modern people don’t care much. Ancient people cared a lot. Horn is great for making drinking vessels, or backing your crossbow prod. While antler makes a great knapping tool, or making the nut for your crossbow. Mixing them up gets you killed. These were important raw materials to them.