Comments

  1. adamah says

    Great show, guys.

    I Just wanted to say to the caller who was referring to “the supernatural” as if it were a synonym for, and only included, God. That’s incorrect, as there’s only two choices: natural phenomena, and supernatural phenomena.

    Here’s an explanation that may help;

    If you lived in 1,000 BCE and believed in the existence of undetectable rays of visible light that would allow communication, you believed in a supernatural phenomenon.

    It took 1,000s of years later for Maxwell to theorize the existence of radio waves, and a few decades later for Marconi to build equipment to detect them, and at that point, radio waves transitioned from being in the domain of the supernatural to the realm of the natural phenomenon.

    But just like a human who lived in 1,000 BCE would not have sufficient reason to believe in them, they also wouldn’t be able to say they don’t exist. It’s just that it took a few millennia to build equipment to validate their existence.

  2. adamah says

    Oops, make that, “If you lived in 1,000 BCE and believed in the existence of undetectable rays of invisible light…..

  3. africanamericanatheistsandagnostics says

    Does anyone know how to email Matt because I’m very interested to hear his personal views on this political and what are some important issues that are on the table

  4. says

    Great show keep them coming , also were do i buy tickets to your show in Vancouver Matt ? No way i can miss that , you and Dawkins together PERFECT . Cant wait love both of your styles .

  5. Dustin says

    I think that I can help Brian resolve his quandary regarding the relationship between the universe and the supernatural. He has already agreed that it is reasonable to dismiss a claim if there is no evidence for. I understand his position that just because we have not detected something, that does not necessarily mean that it does not exist, but if a phenomenon remains intangible and does not interact with our universe at all, then it does not even matter anyway. Thus we can reasonably dismiss it. For example, if Narnia was a real place that could only be accessed through a single wardrobe, and that wardrobe was destroyed and the portal to Narnia was destroyed with it, rendering anyone in our universe completely unable to enter or otherwise interact with Narnia in any meaningful way ever again, then we can still pragmatically say, for all intents and purposes as far as we are concerned, that Narnia does not exist anymore.

  6. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    Kewl ep.

    @AAAAA: Are you an official from that awesome organization?

  7. MPythonAce says

    And the autistic misconceptions start.

    Autistic people *do* in fact have empathy. The problem is that, not only do most people use empathy as a word for two seperate concepts, but they consider both to be the same thing. Mostly because one follows the other almost instantaniously in the average person.

    1. The ability to read emotions quickly and accurately.
    2. The ability to, once the emotions are understood, feel bad or happy because that is what another feels.

    Me and my Autistic brethren struggle with the first, but have no problem with the second. And that is *exactly* the sort of thing that matters when doing volunteer work. In this case it doesn’t matter if your response is delayed, because you already had it. That’s why you arranged to volunteer in the first place. It’s not like being hungry is a social stucture quagmire that takes forever to understand.

    On a related note, Sociopaths have the first type of empathy but struggle with the second. They can read emotions, but it doesn’t produce the same response. As such, you can consider them an opposite of sorts.

  8. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    @AAAAA: That’s fantastic! I’ve seen members with a link to it in their signatures on other forums. As a non-American black atheist I wish you the best of luck!

  9. says

    will @1:29:23“… say you did find out a god exists; you don’t feel that just knowing that this god existed would give you a little bit more, better feeling of why we all exist?”

    scientists are probably the only general class of people who would be happy just to have the question settled. most people, not just atheists, would be unhappy.

    what will’s really asking: wouldn’t it be great if the god of my dreams were real? how else could he expect anyone to answer yes? no one wants just any god to be real. if the hindu god turned out to be real, not only would christians and muslims be unhappy, they’d never accept the truth.

  10. mond says

    @aarrgghh

    I had a thought along the same lines. Will is using the hidden premise that god would be his notion of what a god could and should be.
    He said words to the effect that god was unknowable but hoped that he existed.
    What would happened if he/she/it/they were a real BASTARD?

  11. says

    @mond:

    “What would happened if he/she/it/they were a real BASTARD?”

    well, if the god of your dreams was a real BASTARD, i guess you’d be pretty happy.

  12. ironchops says

    @1-adamah
    Question 1. Are you saying the same thing about god/gods? That if we can, sometime in the future, devise a way to detect it/them (god/gods) or if it were to manifest or become demonstrable then it would become natural from that point on? Wouldn’t it have been natural all along?
    Question 2. Invisible light, radio waves in this example, were natural from the beginning and were never anything supernatural. Your 1000 BCE guy could have been extremely intelligent and simply ahead of his time but just unable to explain it to the radio wave skeptics in an acceptable way for them to understand, not having any way to physically demonstrate the concept to those folks.

  13. Ethan Myerson says

    @11, this is my understanding of the terms as well. Until the discovery of a means to detect radio waves, and perhaps a theory describing them, it would have been irrational to believe in them. But they still would have been natural, not supernatural. “Supernatural”, as I understand the term, refers to those phenomena that are outside of the natural world (if such a thing is even possible). Things may be ascribed to the supernatural before they’re understood, but that doesn’t mean they actually are supernatural, or that they get to move into the natural realm once understood.

  14. Daisy von Doodle says

    I’d love to give a big shout out to Matt, who referenced autism & Asperger’s. I was a conservative Christian my whole life until about 8 months ago, when the evidence for my Christianity evaporated. My 30 year old son has Asperger’s. I was unable to teach him how to be rational, yet he approaches issues so much more thoughtfully than I ever did. However, because of his Asperger’s, he has a great deal of difficulty in relationships, and often falls prey to conspiracy theories. His inability to connect with others is taking a real toll on him right now. I’m trying as best I can to help him use his reason to make his way through his current issues, but it is extremely hard to do. I hardly understand reason myself. I’d love to see more discussion about the autism spectrum as it relates to rational thought processing. Another big shout out to Phil, who is so insightful & has an innate ability to zero in on the core of issues raised. Please, Phil, stay on the AXP! You contribute so much. Love you.

  15. Monocle Smile says

    @adam and Ethan
    EnlightenmentLiberal has largely convinced me of his position on “supernatural,” but I do agree that the term when used as a colloquialism is synonymous with “phenomenon with little or no data.” It’s not a separate ontological category as so many apologists (and even some atheists) seem to think.

  16. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Oops, make that, “If you lived in 1,000 BCE and believed in the existence of undetectable rays of invisible light…..

    Pedantics-hat:
    Actually, all you need to show that is a thermometer and a prism. That’s how ultra-violet light was accidentally discovered in the first place IIRC.

    As for radio waves? I don’t know how one can show that such things exist with the technology available at the hand.

    Regardless, your fundamental point is true: Believing in something without good reason is foolish.

    And as for the argument whether it’s supernatural or not, my position is that I don’t care, because it generally doesn’t matter, because there’s very little useful meaning in the word “supernatural”. What matters is if you start saying nonsense like “science can’t work on supernatural stuff”.

  17. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal #15:
     
    Article: Wikipedia – Johann Wilhelm Ritter

    Many of Ritter’s researches were guided by a search for polarities in the several “forces” of nature, and for the relation between those “forces” – two of the assumptions of Naturphilosophie. In 1801, after hearing about the discovery of “heat rays” (infrared radiation) by William Herschel (in 1800), Ritter looked for an opposite (cooling) radiation at the other end of the visible spectrum. He did not find exactly what he expected to find, but after a series of attempts he noticed that silver chloride was transformed faster from white to black when it was placed at the dark region of the Sun’s spectrum, close to its violet end. The “chemical rays” found by him were afterwards called ultraviolet radiation.

     
    Article: Wikipedia – William Herschel

    On 11 February 1800, Herschel was testing filters for the sun so he could observe sun spots. When using a red filter he found there was a lot of heat produced. Herschel discovered infrared radiation in sunlight by passing it through a prism and holding a thermometer just beyond the red end of the visible spectrum. This thermometer was meant to be a control to measure the ambient air temperature in the room. He was shocked when it showed a higher temperature than the visible spectrum. Further experimentation led to Herschel’s conclusion that there must be an invisible form of light beyond the visible spectrum.

  18. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

     
    Definition: Online Etymology Dictionary

    early 15c. “of or given by God,” from Medieval Latin supernaturalis “above or beyond nature, divine,” from Latin super “above” (see super-) + natura “nature” (see nature (n.)). Originally with more of a religious sense, “of or given by God, divine; heavenly;” association with ghosts, etc., has predominated since 19c.
     

    That is supernatural, whatever it be, that is either not in the chain of natural cause and effect, or which acts on the chain of cause and effect, in nature, from without the chain. [Horace Bushnell, “Nature and the Supernatural,” 1858]

    Out of curiosity, I dug up what Mr. Bushnell had to say…
     
     
    Book: Nature and the Supernatural as Together Constituting One System of God
     
    The preface humbly lets you know it’s just speculation… of great importance.

    Scientifically measured, the argument of the treatise is rather an hypothesis for the matters in question, than a positive theory of them.
    […]
    While it is easy therefore to raise an attack, at this or that particular point, call it an assumption, or a mere caprice of invention, or a paradox, or a dialectically demonstrable error, there will yet remain, after all such particular denials, the fact that here is a wide hypothesis of the world, and the great problem of life, and sin, and supernatural redemption, and Christ, and a christly providence, and a divinely certified history, and of superhuman gifts entered into the world, and finally of God as related to all, which liquidates these stupendous facts, in issue between Christians and unbelievers, and gives a rational account of them.
     
    And so the points that were assaulted, and perhaps seemed to be carried, by the skirmishes of detail, will be seen, by one who grasps the whole in which they are comprehended, to be still not carried, but to have their reason certified by the more general solution of which they are a part

    And if you nit-pick, you just don’t comprehend how thoroughly rational it all is.
     
     
    In Chapter 2, he cites a definition of natural, then outlines his idea of SUPER-natural.
     

    The nature of a thing is the future participle of its being or becoming – its ahovt-to-he, or its about to-come-to-pass, – and the radical idea is, that there is, in the thing whose nature we speak of, or in the whole of things called nature, an about-to-be, a definite futurition, a fixed law of coming to pass, such that, given the thing, or whole of things, all the rest will follow by an inherent necessity.
     
    In this view, nature, sometimes called “universal nature,” and sometimes “the system of nature,” is that created realm of being or substance which has an acting, a going on or process from within itself, under and by its own laws. Or, if we say, with some, that the laws are but another name for the immediate actuating power of God, still it makes no difference, in any other respect, with our conception of the system. It is yet as if the laws, the powers, the actings, were inherent in the substances, and were by them determined. It is still to our scientific separated from our religious contemplation, a chain of causes and effects, or a scheme of orderly succession, determined from within the scheme itself.

    Nature a closed system of cause-and-effect.
     

    Having settled, thus, our conception of nature, our conception of the supernatural corresponds. That is supernatural, whatever it be, that is either not in the chain of natural cause and effect, or which acts on the chain of cause and effect, in nature, from without the chain. Thus if any event transpires in the bosom, or upon the platform of what is called nature, which is not from nature itself, or is varied from the process nature would execute by her own laws, that is supernatural, by whatever power it is wrought.
     
    Suppose, for example, (which we may, for illustration’s sake, even though it can not be,) that there were another system of nature incommunicably separate from ours, some “famous continent of universe,” like that on which Bunyan stumbled, “as he walked through many regions and countries ;” if, then, this other universe were swung up side by side with ours, great disturbance would result, and the disturbance would be, to us, supernatural, because from without our system of nature ; for, though the laws of our system are acting, still, in the disturbance, they are not, by the supposition, acting in their own system
    […]
    So if the processes, combinations, and results of our system of nature are interrupted, or varied by the action, whether of God, or angels, or men, so as to bring to pass what would not come to pass in it by its own internal action, under the laws of mere cause and effect, the variations are, in like manner, supernatural. And exactly this we expect to show : viz., that God has, in fact, erected another and higher system, that of spiritual being and government, for which nature exists ; a system not under the law of cause and effect, but ruled and marshaled under other kinds of laws and able continually to act upon, or vary the action of the processes of nature. […] There is, however, a constant action and reaction between the two, and, strictly speaking, they are both together, taken as one, the true system of God

    Nature a closed system of cause-and-effect… exchanging *cough* effects in both directions with /another/ system that has its own cause-and-effect.
     
    God, uh, marshals cause-and-effect, under other kinds of laws.
     
     

    it behooves us to see that we do not, in using such a term, slide into a false philosophy which overturns all obligation, by assuming the real universality of cause and effect, and the subjection of human actions to that law. […] that men are only things, determinable under the same conditions of causality
    […]
    The only abuse consists in the assumed universal extent of nature, by which it becomes a fate, an all-devouring abyss of necessity, in which God, and man, and all free beings are virtually swallowed up. If it should happen that nature proper has no such extent ; but is, instead, a comparatively limited and meager fraction of the true universe, the new religion would appear to have but a very shallow foundation, and to be, in fact, a fraud, as pitiful as it is airy and pretentious.

    The new religion science needs to be future-proof: don’t presume cause-and-effect applies. That would be arrogant. Riiight.
     
     

    We also speak of a nature in free beings, and count upon it as a motive, cause, or ground of certainty, in respect of their actions. Thus we assign the nature of God, and the nature of man, as reasons of choice and roots of character […] Nor is there any objection to this use of the word “nature,” taken as popular language. There is, doubtless, in God, as a free intelligence, a constitution, having fixed laws, answering exactly to our definition of nature. That there is a proper and true nature in man we certainly know ; for all the laws of thought, memory, association, feeling, in the human soul are as fixed as the laws of the heavenly bodies.
     
    It is only the will that is not under the law of cause and effect ; and the other functions are, by their laws, subordinated, in a degree, to the uses of the will and its directing sovereignty over their changes and processes. […] they have, in fact, no causative agency on the will at all. They are the will’s reasons, that in view of which it acts ; so that, with a given nature, it may be expected, with a certain qualified degree of confidence, to act thus or thus ; but they are never causes on the will, and the choices of the will are never their effects.

    Oh look. Free will. >.>
     
     

    we use it, very commonly, in a kind of ghostly, marveling sense, as if relating to some apparition, or visional wonder, or it may be to some desultory, unsystematizable action, whether of angels or of God. Such uses of the word are permissible enough by dictionary laws, but they make the word an offense to all who are any way inclined to the rationalizing habit.
    […]
    it does not yet appear that there is, in fact, any such thing known as the supernatural agency defined, or that there are in esse any beings, or classes of beings, who are distinguished by the exercise of such an agency. That what we have defined as nature truly exists will not be doubted, but that there is any being or power in the universe, who acts, or can act upon the chain of cause and effect in nature from without the chain, many will doubt and some will strenuously deny. Indeed the great difficulty heretofore encountered, in establishing the faith of a supernatural agency, has been due to the fact that we have made a ghost of it ; discussing it as if it were a marvel of superstition, and no definite and credible reality.
     
    Whereas, it will appear, as we confront our difficulty more thoughtfully and take its full force, that the moment we begin to conceive ourselves rightly, we become ourselves supernatural. It is no longer necessary to go hunting after marvels, apparitions, suspensions of the laws of nature, to find the supernatural ; it meets us in what is least transcendent and most familiar, even in ourselves. In ourselves we discover a tier of existences that are above nature and, in all their most ordinary actions, are doing their will upon it. The very idea of our personality is that of a being not under the law of cause and effect, a being supernatural.

    No burning bush necessary. Look at the trees. Mundane phenomena are all you need to know they’re not mundane.
     
    Uh oh, straight people are unnatural too!
     

    The same is true, as we may safely assume, in regard to all the other orders and realms of spiritual existence ; to angels good and bad, seraphim, principalities, and powers in heavenly places. They are all supernatural, and it is in them, as belonging to this higher class of existences, that God beholds the final causes, the uses, and the grand systematizing ideas of his universal plan. Nature, as comprehending the domain of cause and effect, is only the platform on which he establishes his kingdom as a kingdom of minds, or persons, every one of whom has power to act upon it, and, to some extent, greater or less, to be sovereign over it.

    Nature is an MMORPG.
     
     

    And yet, it will not do, our philosophers tell us, to admit any such thing as a miracle […] God, in other words, can not be supposed to act on the line of cause and effect in nature ; for nature is the universe, and the law of universal order makes a perfect system. […] Nature, to such, includes man. God and nature, then, are the all of existence, and there is no acting of God upon nature ; for that would be supernaturalism. He may be the originative source of nature ; he may even be the immediate, all-impelling will, of which cause and effect are the symptoms ; that is he may have made, and may actuate the machine, in that fated, foredoomed way which cause and effect describes, but he must not act upon the machine-system outside of the foredoomed way ; if he does, he will disturb the immutable laws!
     
    In fact, he has no liberty of doing any thing, but just to keep agoing the everlasting trundle of the machine. He can not even act upon his works, save as giving and maintaining the natural law of his works ; which law is a limit upon Him, as truly as a bond of order upon them. He is incrusted and shut in by his own ordinances. Nature is the god above God, and he can not cross her confines.
    […]
    We want, we must have, something better – a social footing, a personal, and free, and flexible, and conscious relation with our God […] Do we not know, each one, that he is more than a thing or a wheel, and, being consciously a man, a spirit, a creature supernatural, will he hesitate to claim a place with such, and claim for such a place?

    Gasp, determinism! The horror!

  19. Monocle Smile says

    @Sky Captain
    Gotta love excessively wordy apologists who end up saying nothing of importance. That reads more like a polemic than an academic paper.
    I love all these appeals to special ontologies…as if “will” or “mind” don’t exist in the same reality that we experience.

  20. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To the quotes in post 17.
    I’m struck by how the person – seemingly – argues that god interacts with the world in a non-“cause and effect” way. What the fuck does that even mean? What the fuck could that even mean? According to my dictionary, interactions and “cause-and-effect relationship” might as well be synonyms. Seemingly, they’re so desperate to deny the role that science and critical thinking should have in studying these claimed things, because some part of them realizes that under the light of science and critical thinking, the entire enterprise would crumble.

    I read the supplied quotations, and I feel like I’m no closer to understanding the position of that person. I dare say that the person themself does not understand what they’re saying.

  21. adamah says

    Sorry for the tardy response!

    First off, in my OP, I noted that the word ‘supernatural’ was being used ambiguously by the caller, first to refer to the AGENT ( i.e. the cause), but then to refer to the PHENOMENA (i.e. the effect), itself.

    My point is to point out the two usages of the term, to avoid confusion (and the reference to the agent carries problems of its own, due to the component of implied INTENT that doesn’t always apply, e.g. there is no apparent intent driving radio waves; they just ARE….)

    As the ‘radio wave’ example demonstrates, the phenomena in question needn’t be directly observable with our human senses, but only detectable to testing apparatus in order for it to submit our testing.

    As Matt says, it’s not that scientists are stubbornly refusing to examine evidence of the supernatural; they simply cannot study that which doesn’t present itself!

    Which leads to Iron Chops question:

    Question 1. Are you saying the same thing about god/gods? That if we can, sometime in the future, devise a way to detect it/them (god/gods) or if it were to manifest or become demonstrable then it would become natural from that point on?

    Yea, that’s right, since as I said above, the phenomena or agent must be observable before it can be studied.

    So if God shows up tomorrow, He’d have to appear in some form to have at least some effect in our space-time; God would transition into the potentially-explainable by using naturalistic terminology, and God would thus exist in the natural domain.

    Wouldn’t it have been natural all along?

    No, since God needs to be detectable by us so it can then be studied via scientific methodology; however, the phenomena or agent would instantly transition from being re-categorized from the ‘supernatural’ into the ‘natural’ domain, since it exerts at least SOME effect on the Natural world.

    Restated, by definition, the phenomena has to exert some effect on nature, i.e. to have some effect on the environment, since that’s what the ‘natural’ is referring to.

    That’s why we say the domain of the supernatural is constantly shrinking as we gain ever-increasing knowledge of the natural World. We’re explaining away the supernatural (and remember that in the past, even benign phenomena such as the Northern Lights or weather events were seen as supernatural acts of Gods).

    Perhaps instead of considering radio waves, it may be simpler-to-understand using the example of illness in humans, since in the past, disease was largely viewed as a sign of God’s displeasure with individuals (usually due to some unknown sin, etc).

    Unlike radio waves, the signs of skin disease (eg leprosy) are observable, and hence can easily be studied.

    I wrote an article on Jesus’ views of disease which goes into this:

    http://awgue.weebly.com/why-did-jesus-protest-washing-hands-before-eating.html

    As I explained in the article and above, in modern terms, Jesus believed in the ‘sin hypothesis of disease’ (vs Pasteur’s ‘germ theory of disease which came along millennia later). Jesus believed he cured humans of their diseases by supposedly having been granted the Divine power to forgive humans of their sins (previously only the Hebrew temple priests claimed having the authority to mediate on behalf of the sinner to beg God for forgiveness of their sins, but Jesus and other wandering preachers moved into their game. What’s amazing is how few Xians actually understand the origins of their religious beliefs, but I digress).

    Question 2. Invisible light, radio waves in this example, were natural from the beginning and were never anything supernatural. Your 1000 BCE guy could have been extremely intelligent and simply ahead of his time but just unable to explain it to the radio wave skeptics in an acceptable way for them to understand, not having any way to physically demonstrate the concept to those folks.

    Yep, he’d be entirely correct in his hypothesis, but he’d be completely unjustified in believing in radio waves, since he lacked a means to VALIDATE his belief. Although time would ultimately prove him to be correct, he certainly wouldn’t be rational.

    Maxwell was the first to hypothesize the existence of radio waves (which he suspected, based on mathematical models), but it took a few decades for another scientist (Hertz: it was not Marconi, who commercialized radio) to design and build the actual testing apparatus which VALIDATED Maxwell’s hypothesis.

    Thus Maxwell’s hypothesis was elevated to a THEORY (Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism, confirmed after his death, a breakthrough in science regarded as the most important finding of the 20th century).

    The same approach applies to believing in the God hypothesis, since you’d have to believe before there’s actually any tangible/observable/verifiable evidence to justify such a belief.

  22. adamah says

    EL said:

    Pedantics-hat:
    Actually, all you need to show that is a thermometer and a prism. That’s how ultra-violet light was accidentally discovered in the first place IIRC.

    Nice trick to make a thermometer and prism magically appear, given that the hypothetical person was living in 1,000 BCE, long before either was discovered!

    As for radio waves? I don’t know how one can show that such things exist with the technology available at the hand.

    Uh, say what? R u serious? You don’t own a radio (not even a cheap AM radio)?

    Are you suggesting that Hertz’ testing apparatus wasn’t sufficient to demonstrate the existence of radio waves? Are u seriously suggesting that Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory has insufficient proof?

    Perhaps we’ve made a gross error in naming the unit used in alternating current frequency measurement (the ‘Hertz’) after this fraud?

  23. Monocle Smile says

    @adam
    EL was probably talking about radio waves in 1,000 BCE, not radio waves today. He was making a distinction between radio waves and all EM waves outside the visible spectrum. We discovered UV long before radio waves. It’s pedantic, but that’s EL.

    @EL

    I’m struck by how the person – seemingly – argues that god interacts with the world in a non-“cause and effect” way. What the fuck does that even mean? What the fuck could that even mean?

    Have you ever read anything by a Thomist? I don’t recommend it, but they pull this shit all the time. They use outdated Aristotelian philosophy and create special categories of ontology for the sole purpose of sticking god in there. They don’t actually demonstrate that these categories actually exist or are even coherent. Matt Slick does this as well by creating a false dichotomy of “physical” and “conceptual” only to say that god is “neither.”

  24. ironchops says

    @ EL & MS – I can appreciate not fussing with definitions and paying closer attention to the word usages. I agree that the term “supernatural” has no real meaning. The prefix “super” in front of most terms usually means more or better, ie superstorm, superhornet (FA18) superhot, supercold, etc or something I may be to MS, unwanted, unimportant, a supernumerary. Is supernatural more or better or unwanted or unimportant natural??
    @21 – adamah
    Thanks for the response. I agree with most of what you said in your post but I am still having trouble with 1 thing: If something exists (god or some being/beings or material of any sort from outside of our universe) then it exists weather we know about it or not. Sure, I would be irrational to believe it exists until such time that it can be tested or observed, but it exist.
    Can EL, MS, adamah or anyone who cares to answer please and help my understanding of the following terms:
    Guess (no odds) = a mere estimate with little or no real evidence that something is true or exists.
    Hypothesis (low odds) = a presupposition made on limited evidence (highly subjective and in need of closer examination) that something may or may not be true. (A scientific guess base on at least some research)
    Belief (better odds) = a high level of confidence (subjective, depending on the types of evidence allowed for use) that something is true or exists.
    Knowledge (best odds/above 95%) = a belief backed by reliable repeatable evidence (objective, in that only empirical evidence is allowed) that something is true or exists.

  25. Monocle Smile says

    @ironchops
    I would take “hypothesis” out of that group, largely because it’s in a different category. A hypothesis is a proposition; it is not to be actually believed until substantiated. It is not a presupposition except within the framework of the experiment(s) for the purposes of evaluating the results.
    I generally don’t like distinguishing belief and knowledge because the difference is one of degree only, but if I were to talk about both, I’d agree with you. Knowledge is considered a subset of belief in philosophy.

  26. corwyn says

    @23
    ‘Guess’ a proposed solution made before, or without, examining evidence.
    ‘Hypothesis’ a proposed solution made in a formal way that includes the examination of existing evidence, and is at least theoretically falsifiable and testable.
    ‘Belief’ a claim about a mind state.
    ‘Knowledge’ a collection of facts, i.e. statements about reality which are not in dispute (or should not be in dispute).

    None of these describe (in my usage) odds (see below what does).
    I can ‘guess’ that you flipped 2 heads out of ten flips, or ‘guess’ that you flipped 5 heads out of ten flips. One is much higher probability, but both are guess because they are based on no evidence. A hypothesis might be that the coin is biased to flip heads 60% of the time. Knowledge is what happens when we both watch the coin flips.

    Describing odds (or amount of evidence):
    ‘Confidence’ the degree to which a hypothesis is supported by the evidence (either in general or given a person’s individual subset of evidence).

  27. Twee says

    Hey, I just want to correct Matt about something he said around 57 minutes in (I haven’t watched the rest yet so apologies if this is addressed later). He was talking about empathy and how it can drive someone to help people, and he gave people on the autism spectrum as a example of people who don’t experience much empathy. This is quite a damaging myth, and as someone who’s on the spectrum myself, it’s quite hurtful when I hear people saying this.

    To be clear, people on the autism spectrum can experience empathy as much as anyone else, if not more so. The problem we have, and what may make us *appear* unempathetic, is that we find it more difficult to read social cues (facial expressions, body language, etc.) and also more difficult to express our own social cues. These things come naturally and intuitively for most people, to the point where they don’t have to think about it, but for people on the spectrum it’s something we have to learn and do more consciously.

    This means while when we know what someone is feeling we can empathise very strongly, we may not find it very straightforward to pick up that someone is feeling that way, and when we are empathising we may not be able to convey that to others, or know how to respond appropriately. We may also find it harder to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and predict what they want or think, as the way we think may be quite different, whereas for people not on the spectrum they’re more likely to be similar to others in how they think.

    Framing it as a lack of empathy makes it sound as if we don’t care about other people, which is wrong, and contributes to the stigmatisation of people on the autistic spectrum. In actual fact, people with the condition can experience empathetic feelings so strongly it can be overwhelming.

  28. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Nice trick to make a thermometer and prism magically appear, given that the hypothetical person was living in 1,000 BCE, long before either was discovered!

    Two things, as a pure hypothetical, if I myself with my current knowledge was placed back then, it would be rather straightforward to construct them.

    Further, as to your specific claims. With a brief google search, the Romans were aware of prisms and their ability to create a rainbow, but they didn’t know what it meant. Prisms totally existed. I’d also be pretty greatly surprised if someone had not yet created a crude thermometer by the time of the Romans. So, we’re pushing the date of “discovery” of both tools to at least circa 1 BC. I’d be surprised if we couldn’t go back a while more.

    Uh, say what? R u serious? You don’t own a radio (not even a cheap AM radio)?

    MS got it right. I was being pedantic, and I was unclear. I meant that I don’t know if someone with 1,000 BC tech could show that radio waves exist (via direct experiment and observation).

    Can EL, MS, adamah or anyone who cares to answer please and help my understanding of the following terms:
    Guess (no odds) = a mere estimate with little or no real evidence that something is true or exists.
    Hypothesis (low odds) = a presupposition made on limited evidence (highly subjective and in need of closer examination) that something may or may not be true. (A scientific guess base on at least some research)
    Belief (better odds) = a high level of confidence (subjective, depending on the types of evidence allowed for use) that something is true or exists.
    Knowledge (best odds/above 95%) = a belief backed by reliable repeatable evidence (objective, in that only empirical evidence is allowed) that something is true or exists.

    I suspect that the usage of words is context specific, e.g. changes depending on context. Also, different people would ascribe different numbers to those words. Personally, I might say “I believe X is true” as being at least 95% odds, and “I know X is true” as something like 99.9% or higher odds. (These numbers are just asspulls.) Whereas, for something around 80%, I’d just say “I suspect X is true”, or “X is probably true”.

    Off the cuff, I also think that “guess” vs “believe” vs “know” have more meaning than mere Bayesian estimates. A “guess” is something that is given before one does proper investigation (and “proper investigation” is itself context specific). A “hypothesis” can be a guess that one is exploring. A “hypothesis” can simply be a synonym for “explanation” (supported or unsupported). The English language is rich and diverse, and clumsy.

    In short, I also wouldn’t worry too much about assigning numbers to the words. If it actually matters in some sort of formal argument, then I would just ask for a rough numerical estimate for a particular claim, instead of trying to get agreement concerning the numerical meanings of English words, which is metaphorically trying to pin jello to the wall.

    I think MS makes a similar point regarding the meaning of the word “hypothesis”. Corwyn makes this point even better than me, I think.

  29. ironchops says

    @ 24, 25 & 26
    Yea….the numbers were my best attempt to describe degrees of confidence. Thanks for the input.

  30. corwyn says

    If I may add, if you have a numerical way of describing some things, and have even the most approximate numbers for the instance of those things that you are talking about at the moment, PLEASE don’t convert those numbers to words which encompass some rough category of numbers, use the numbers themselves. If single numbers don’t work, use a range. The number of arguments that could be averted by this one simple principle alone is staggering. If Matt replied to the question “what evidence would it take to convince you that some god exists?” with “100 decibans worth.” the conversation would most likely be over (yes, I know Matt doesn’t *want* the conversation to be over (usually)) or they would be talking about what that means which would be a good thing.

  31. Amitai Medan says

    I understand this is out of context, but disabling comments in YouTube is dangerous. I recently watch a YouTube peace on Jews In Israel. The peace shows stupid and extreme orthodox Jews in Jerusalem. The “Jews” attacked the camera crew and there nothing you can do to fix that impression because comments are disabled. This is not Israel! Most people in Israel are not like that. Personally I am an atheist.
    Please help to fix this.
    10x.

  32. StonedRanger says

    Its not the job of AXP or its crew or staff to fix peoples opinions of Israel or any other country. They have perfectly reasonable explanations for why they have disabled comments on Youtube. Perhaps you should take this up with the people who posted that video. I have been on youtube and seen plenty of videos of people treating other people badly for whatever reason. This will happen whether comments are allowed youtube or not. And frankly if those jews live in Israel and that’s how they treat people then yes, that is a part of Israel no matter how much you want to claim its not. Clean up your own backyard. Its not our job.

  33. tommy80452 says

    My definition of a thiest…One who holds a belief about a god claim.
    One who believes that no gods exist have a belief about a god claim.
    One who believes that a god exists has a belief about a god claim.
    These (to me) are both theists.

    One who does not have a belief about a god claim is an atheist.

  34. Joe says

    I really enjoyed Phil Session! If he’s on the fence about becoming a regular, do me a favor and push him over to the side of staying!

  35. John Evicci says

    Oh man. I usually listen to this in the background while doing other things and I don’t watch the video. So, I just happened to switch over and see the video at the point where Matt was miming the mouth movements to Phil’s voice and I was like, “What the fuuuuuck????????” Freaked me the hell out!