Open Thread for Episode #20.26: Matt and Don

Don shows how many features of religions are best explained by evolution.



  1. Jason Waskiewicz says

    The lighting on Don needs some work. The host on that side is definitely not as well lit as the one on my right.

    I wanted to comment on the caller who asked about accreditation. I was glad you pointed out later that a lot of Christians accept evolution. Admittedly I’m no longer Christian, but I was once, and I attended a Christian college. We were taught evolution, cosmology, and all the things that creationists reject. Sometimes someone in the religion department would question these things, but not seriously.

    But I can add a bit about accreditation. I’ve done accreditation for NCATE. Now, this is in the field of education (schools that teach teachers). But, accreditation works the same. The accrediting agency has a set of standards and their job is to make sure the institution meets those standards. If you see anything else outside those standards, it may be entered as a comment, but is not something used to accredit an institution. An institution may be marked as deficient in one area, like evolution, but still be accredited overall. If the rest of the Biology program is good, the institution may pass.

    Now, I see evolution as fundamental to Biology. It’s not Biology without it. And, it’s worth noting that accrediting agencies normally go in wanting to pass an institution. For an institution to fail accreditation means it is spectacularly bad. So, I can believe that these institutions are getting accredited despite their nutty beliefs. And, sadly, we give a free pass to groups and individuals quite often in this country when they wave the “God” flag.

  2. The YouTube Guy says

    It was really good to see the deist caller come to an understanding a few things. I was actually on the edge of my seat when Matt got to the gumball example. So glad he finally got it!

  3. says

    @Jason Waskiewicz Thanks for bringing up the lighting issue. The co-hosts are a bit dimmer cause the wall to their right is covered in a black sound dampening curtain which reflects less light, obviously. The hosts are flanked by a white wall with a storage cabinet and a book case. The difference is due to the space we occupy and how they function for practical use. We are looking into more permanent solutions to this issue and the overall lighting in general.

  4. StonedRanger says

    Around 1:16:20 Matt talked about birthdays in December getting rolled into the holidays. Oh that it were so somewhere in the woods around Portland Oregon where I live. I got married on Dec 24th, xmas the next day and The Bosses birthday (that’s the wifes nick) is Jan 2. Ive been married almost 35 years this year and it was made really clear that the whole rolling holidays into one day wasn’t going to fly. I have to buy a separate anniversary gift, xmas gift, and birthday gift.

  5. Erin Strunk says

    Bwahaha! I wonder how slammed you guys got for saying the “female orgasm had no purpose” thing. XD I hope Beth (Matt’s Wifey) did send him some resources. I think there’s a great YouTube lecture from Robert Sapolsky about this very subject! Off the top of my own head (and I’m no biology/human behaviorist major) but it makes “intuitive” sense to me that it would help encourage procreation frequency, encourage social bonding, etc.. (Bonobos come to mind!). I think Dr. Sapolsky mentioned in hetero-couplings the rate of female orgasm correlates a bit with how attractive she finds her partner and I’d imagine that would be a way to encourage her to mate more with that particular male with whom she feels has physical attributes that she wants passed down to her children, yadda yadda yadda…There’s LOTS of theories out there that seen really plausible… ANY-HOO! Love this show. It converted me.

  6. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Matt (1:21:55):

    Females are generally better at identifying differences in hues of the red spectrum, and that may, MAY (supposition), come from our hunter-gatherer background where you had to figure out which berries were ripe or not, and most of those tend to fall in the red spectrum, so you can tell when this one was ready.

    A study in 2004 suggested possible red sensitivity from the presence of red genes.
    Article: Arisona State University – Research shows women see colors better than men

    the gene that allows people to perceive the color red, a gene that is found only on the X chromosome. They found that the gene has maintained an unusual amount of variation that is about three times that of other genes.
    “Normally, this degree of genetic variation is suppressed through natural selection,” Verrelli says. “In this case, nature is supporting a high degree of variation instead.”
    The scientists speculate that enhanced color perception was important when women were the primary gatherers in the hunter-gatherer phase of human existence. It would have allowed them to better distinguish among fruits, foliage and insects. Therefore, nature supported the variation, despite some negative consequences to men.
    Because women have two X chromosomes, women can receive one chromosome with the typical configuration of the red vision gene while the other chromosome receives a slight variation. It is the combination of a normal and variant gene, which occurs in about 40 percent of women, that may provide a broader spectrum of color vision in the red-orange range.
    By contrast, men have one X chromosome, and any variation in the single red gene that they receive reduces their ability to distinguish between red and green. This accounts for the relatively high percentage of men – 8 percent – who have a color vision deficiency.

    A study in 2012 did visual tests.
    Article: SmithsonianMag – Where Men See White, Women See Ecru

    women are better at distinguishing among subtle distinctions in color, while men appear more sensitive to objects moving across their field of vision.
    women proved slightly better at discriminating among subtle gradations in the middle of the color spectrum, where yellow and green reside. They detected tiny differences between yellows that looked the same to men. The researchers also found that men require a slightly longer wavelength to see the same hue as women; an object that women experience as orange will look slightly more yellowish to men, while green will look more blue-green to men.
    This last part doesn’t confer an advantage on either sex, but it does demonstrate, Abramov says, that “the nervous system that deals with color cannot be wired in the exact same way in males as in females.” He believes the answer lies in testosterone and other androgens. Evidence from animal studies suggests that male sex hormones can alter development in the visual cortex.
    While Abramov has an explanation for how the sexes see differently, he’s less certain about why. One possibility – which he cautions is highly speculative – is that it’s an evolutionary adaptation that benefited hunter-gatherer societies: Males needed to see distant, moving objects, like bison, while females had to be better judges of color when scouring for edible plants.

    I think news reports got confused about the wavelength shift – in reporters’ examples of who sees hues as redder than the other – but that was tangential to who discriminates mid-spectrum colors better.
    In the original paper, the authors wrote “There were relatively small but clear and significant, differences between males and females in the hue sensations elicited by almost the entire spectrum.”

    Very few studies of color vision, other than those dealing directly with L- and M-cone genes, look for sex differences.
    The sex differences are unexpected, partly because, as we note later, there are large inter-individual differences in cone ratios and cone distributions across the retina. Despite these variations, human color vision is remarkably similar across the population. And yet despite this overall similarity, there are still small, but very real, sex differences.

  7. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    * I think [other] news reports got confused about the wavelength shift

  8. Philllip Moore says

    The Rose Family enslaved the Human family to care for and propagate the Rose Family, and insure their persistence.

  9. Philllip Moore says

    I didn’t know I would post more. I prefer the definitions that Knowledge is the subset of Belief for which there is Justification. Faith is the subset of Belief for which there is no Justification. I know there are other philosophical views. And many views on Justification. Bang a Gong.

  10. says

    Listening to the jumbled ramblings of Jeff the deist makes me wonder how people like this manage to function in the real world. He needs to sign up for Logic 101.

  11. James M. McGuire says

    I would like the show, at some point to address the work of Richard Carrier and Bart Ehrman. Some of the callers ask questions that could be answered by reading their books, or viewing their Youtube lectures. Specifically, the last discussion on this thread is about what is true, and the opening discussion of Christianity’s evolution, are extensively addressed by them.

    They both dismiss the truth of the scriptures, but Ehrman thinks that a real Jesus existed as the basis for the legendary stories, while Carrier thinks that Jesus is mythical and never really existed. They have serious disagreements on a professional level. However, Carrier even recommends Ehrman’s book, “Forged” [with some reservations], which gives detailed historical evidence on these matters.

    Your shows are generally very interesting [especially this one]. I am suggesting this as a way to short circuit long diatribes by callers who have done no research at all.

    Disclaimer: I have no personal, professional or commercial interest in promoting these professors or their work.

  12. solidcitizen says

    I was fascinated by the “beauty” discussion. Don made an excellent point when he asked what a dung beetle considers beautiful. Beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder, I cannot imagine that an alien race would share our standards of physical and facial beauty. They could very possibly be revulsed.

    Humans are so very good at seeing patterns, and then interpreting those patterns as “beautiful” if they match an arrangement me anticipate or hope for. We are also good at isolating random patterns to “force” order upon them. No doubt, then, that we can so easily perceive “beauty” just about wherever we look.

    And that’s a good thing, I guess.

  13. says

    solidcitizen #13: Good points. Culture and context also contribute to concepts of beauty. Christians find beauty in the image of a man nailed to a cross.

  14. Robert,+not+Bob says

    @YouTubeGuy #4 Yes, and it was especially good as he was honest to answer “yes” to the questions before it (when usually the caller knows what answer is called for and evades instead).

  15. OnlyTheEvidenceMatters says

    Jar of gumballs
    “The number of gumballs is either even or odd, right?
    If I don’t believe the number is even, does that mean I believe the number is odd?”

    This wording is making my brain hurt. Is it because he’s not making the claim ‘the number is either x or not x’ that he can say, “I’m not sure.”?

  16. Monocle Smile says

    It’s a case of epistemology vs. ontology. The actual state of affairs and what we believe about that state of affairs are two different things.

  17. Wiggle Puppy says

    @ 16: if someone flips a coin and I don’t see the outcome, and then that person asks me if I believe that it’s heads, I would say no. But that doesn’t mean that I automatically believe that’s it tails. It means that I don’t have enough information to form a positive belief, and that I therefore reject any positive claim about the outcome until I can gather more data. It’s the same with the gumballs.

  18. OnlyTheEvidenceMatters says

    I’m glad that jumbled me up as I now have a much stronger understanding, thank you both.

    Here’s another analogy that could be used.

    Someone says they witnessed a crime , this is either true or not true (excluding delusions and hallucinations or other mental illnesses). If I don’t believe it’s true, does that mean I believe it’s not true?

  19. Wiggle Puppy says

    Yes, for ANY positive claim at all – “God exists,” “no gods exist,” “there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe,” “there is no intelligent life elsewhere in the universe,” “this new medicine is effective for treating high cholesterol,” “the Green Bay Packers will win the Super Bowl next season,” etc – you can (1) believe that the claim is true or (2) not believe that the claim is true. If you don’t believe the claim is true, you may in fact believe that the claim is false, or you may simply determine that there is not enough data to form a belief either way.

  20. Monocle Smile says


    If I don’t believe it’s true, does that mean I believe it’s not true?

    Maybe. One is a subset of the other, but they are not equivalent. Think squares and rectangles. All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. Some atheists believe there are no gods. But this is not required to be an atheist.

  21. says

    Ask a clinically depressed person if they find much “beauty” in the world.

    It seems to me that finding one’s surroundings pleasing is an adaptive trait. Or to have the ability to change them until they are.

    Not that every human characteristic must be adaptive. Our concept of beauty could just be a side effect, like, as Don mentioned, male nipples.

  22. Ed Goodman says

    I came here tonight for the litany of posts regarding female orgasm! Let’s hope that Don and Matt have lived that down by now.

    However, if they haven’t…I saw a study where the likelihood of conception was increased by female orgasm. I saw a (slightly disturbing) video from INSIDE and it showed the tip of the cervix contacting the opposite wall of the vagina where the semen was pooled.

    I saw another one where women were more likely to conceive with sexual partners other than spouses. The link there was that they are also more likely to orgasm with the other men.

    Lastly, on the evolution of beauty: Denis Dutton Ted talk –

  23. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Ed Goodman #23:

    I saw a (slightly disturbing) video from INSIDE

    Article: Wikipedia – Cervix

    A theory states the cervical and uterine contractions during orgasm draw semen into the uterus. Although the “upsuck theory” has been generally accepted for some years, it has been disputed due to lack of evidence, small sample size, and methodological errors.

  24. Orm says

    The gumball analogy comes up quite frequently.
    You should actually have a jar with gumballs on the table to better illustrate this point to some callers 🙂

  25. corwyn says

    If I don’t believe the number is even, does that mean I believe the number is odd?

    It depends on whether our personal subjective believability threshold and non-believability threshold encompass the complete range of confidence values or not.

    Once again, we find that just putting numerical values on things makes the question much easier. “What are the odds that the number of gumballs is even? 50%.” (or whatever). Done.

  26. ironchops says

    Matt asked for the definition of spirituality. I agree there is no clear definition. The words Spirit, Spirited and Spiritually all seem to come from the same root word but seem to have a wide range of definitions. To me the word spirituality is an artistic metaphor for a cross between some aspects sociology and some aspects psychology. I would be more apt to define it is our overarching relationship with each other, humans, and all other life on this planet and in the universe, if other life actually does exists out there. Matt, and others on TAE have used the phrase “mean spirited” What is the definition of this play on words since there are no spirits. Angry while under the influence of alcohol?
    To Jamie-Good job on your recovery. I hope you are better now. It is a miracle that we are here to ask and talk about miracles.
    To Lucas-Love is beautiful, love is universal and love is desired over appearance, mostly, as far as humans go. Love is an evolved/evolving emotion so to answer your opening question, No, probably not.

  27. Dustin says

    For deism… I find a good question to ask is what physics can a God have? And why is it different than the natural universe or nature? What laws make it so a God can exist eternally but a natural world can’t? Is it possible a God existed billions of years before the universe and now no longer exists? Either before he died or as a result of its death created the universe?

    It’s just to point at the special pleading basically. Although I never did believe a God did seem like a better answer than nature. But with learning about a multiverse and dying gods it helped.

  28. louis cyfer says

    at 1hour 24 minutes it’s pastor george again. can’t they screen him out?

  29. Robert,+not+Bob says

    “Spiritual” has many meanings, of course. In my experience it seems to mean either a synonym for mental/emotional that sounds more profound… somehow… or an implicit assumption that mental phenomena are supernatural. For me it’s a junk term.

  30. Ethan Myerson says

    Regarding “Spiritual but not religious”; Like Matt, I’ve seen this phrase come up from people who reject dogmatic religion but who remain uncomfortable with the unknowns of life. But beyond that, I’ve started seeing it more from people who would have just a few years ago described themselves as church-going bible-believing evangelicals. These folks still church-go and bible-believe, but they now describe the situation differently. “Just like you”, they say, “I also have a hard time with the religions of man. I’m really just like you. Churches, man. They mask the truth.”
    It’s the same bullshit, but they feel like they can distance themselves from the stink of it by describing this “spiritual relationship with the creator”, instead of dogmatic adherence to a sect. Never mind that the “spiritual relationship with the creator” still demands that they regulate women’s bodies, whinge about non-binary affronts to their perceptions of gender roles, and claim that “eviloution is a fairy tale for adults”.

  31. ironchops says

    @Ethan Myerson-34: “Never mind that the “spiritual relationship with the creator” still demands that they regulate women’s bodies, whinge about non-binary affronts to their perceptions of gender roles, and claim that “eviloution is a fairy tale for adults”.
    How do you/they know this is what the/any creator wants? If so how do you/they know this? Everything else you stated in your post sounds good. Suppose there is a creator out there and that creator simply wants for us to be kind to, and help, each other survive and enjoy life and that’s it, all the rest is just wrong.

  32. Ethan Myerson says

    Ironchops, I don’t believe there is any creator. I’m saying that’s what I hear from these “spiritual but not religious” types. They tend to say that it’s just some connection to a creator that they believe in, and then in their actions show that this “spiritual connection” is in fact the same as the religious doctrine they’re pretending to eschew.

  33. gnostic says

    On the salty language thing at the end… it’s your show, say whatever you want. If there was a significant chance younger kids would find the content interesting I’d argue for at least thinking about toning it down, but they’re going to be well immersed in all the subtle uses of the word fuck long before they’re going to be interested in discussions of Kalam vs contingency.

  34. Jeremy Tarone says

    Don is looking more and more like my grandfather every day. But then so does the guy in the mirror I see every morning.