Comments

  1. Niels says

    Please enable comments on the youtube, not letting people respond because possible negative or troll comments is like not letting hardcore theist call in to the show.

  2. Tomy says

    Lets say there was the rapture.( I know it’s a stupid presumption)Do you think the world would be a better place then?

  3. Roger L says

    Once again the religious is inviting satan into the garden to split the loot when good and even inevitably clash. Evangelicals supports trump not on ideological ground but on the ground of shared interest. Evangelicals wanting Trump into the Whitehouse is analogous to letting the snake into the garden. Is this a part of the story that plays itself out over and over again?

  4. Bert says

    Hi. As a non religious person myself I believe science can answer most questions asked by regions but the idea of a God is a tough. To me the definition of the word God is ‘the Creator’. Science suggests nothing is created or destroyed. So the big bang (or whatever it was that happend around then) had to be created by something. God. And it is logical to think that this God was trying to create a universe and most likely life. Thanks I would love to hear your thoughts Bert

  5. says

    Dammit!! Another dumb theist evolutionary “expert” who doesn’t know his gluteus maximus from his humerus.

    When are they going to figure out that evolution is not an ‘event’!

  6. says

    That was a great talk but now I’m more confused than when I started. So, taking a classic experiment as an example, how did Mendel know that just by breading those certain pea plants together, he’d get the results he got? Wouldn’t that be a post hoc ergo propter hoc argument? I don’t know. What makes a legitimate experiment a legitimate experiment and a fallacy a fallacy? I respect Matt to the nth degree but I was definitely confused by that. If anyone has a background in science, I’d love to hear where I went wrong? Thanks.

  7. itsmejre says

    When will Matt (atheists) finally get it? To say “atheists don’t have a position for which to bring forth evidence” is intellectually dishonest . To deny any existential proposition is to necessarily assume its negation, or say they do not know, claiming neither (agnosticism).

  8. says

    itsmejre, you’re absolutely incorrect with that nonsense. It is perfectly possible, and reasonable, for a person to disbelieve existential claims. And it can be done without acknowledging the contrary proposition. Which is LITERALLY what atheism is. If you do not affirm the proposition that at least one God exists, you’re an atheist. If you DO make the claim that God does not exist, you are STILL a theist, since claiming knowledge requires the belief in it. Basically, ALL anti-theists are atheists, but not all atheists are anti-theists. Kinda like how all Catholics are Christians, but all Christians are not Catholic.

    If I tell you that there is an odd number of blades of grass in my backyard, do you just believe me? Would you bother asking me how I could possibly claim to know that? If you don’t just believe me simply because I said it, do you necessarily believe that the amount of blades are even? Or do you just no have sufficient information to say one way, or the other? The theists says the amount is odd. The atheist says that they don’t believe that because they have no good reason to affirm that position. In which case, the HONEST answer is “I do not know”. You preserve affirming the proposition until you can be convinced that it is true, or false.

    You can claim to know something exists. You can claim that same thing doesn’t exists. You can claim that you do not know if it does, or does not exist.

  9. says

    ” If you DO make the claim that God does not exist, you are STILL a theist, since claiming knowledge requires the belief in it”

    Error. Meant to say you are STILL an atheist.

  10. hermantf says

    I have come across a theist who has the same basic argument that the first caller has: That the evidence for God is cumulative. He says that when you put all the evidence together, you get 99% of the way to God, and that faith is only needed for the final 1%. I’ve asked him to give me his best evidence and best argument. Even after I show him that his evidence and argument is unacceptable, he insists that he can still add it to the “cumulative pile” of evidence. I can’t get him to understand that if something is rejected, it cannot be added to the pile, or as Matt put it, “10 no’s don’t equal a yes.”

  11. Wiggle Puppy says

    @ 4: yep, 100 unsound arguments do not accumulate into one valid one. I could easily make a whole bunch of arguments in favor of the existence of Santa Claus to get to 99% – the fact that so many presents appear under so many trees on Christmas, the fact that his existence is almost universally acknowledged in our culture, the fact that the US government tracks his sled – and then faith would just be required for the last 1%, right? Right??

  12. itsmejre says

    BD

    category mistake
    “If I tell you that there is an odd number of blades of grass…”

    I tell you there are blades of grass in my back yard. If someone where to say “I do not believe there are blades of grass in your backyard but there are blades of grass in my backyard” we immediately see the contradiction. If one does not believe there are blades of grass in my back yard that is only because they think the proposition “there are blades of grass in my backyard” is not true.

    also

    It might be argued that Christians differ from Catholics in that The Roman Catholic Church is built on the belief that Jesus established His church with Peter as its head and every pope since is a successor to Peter. The pope is considered the supreme authority on all matters by Catholics as opposed to Jesus?

    Avoiding the slippery slope?

    We can rule out any religions that are not monotheistic because they do not possess the traits necessary for God to exist*. We can also rule out religions that claim no divine intervention, such as deism, because the existence of evil is supernatural. This also refutes any belief system that says man is basically good.

    *Polytheism can’t be correct because two infinite beings cannot exist, for one would lack a trait of the other, making him non-infinite. Pantheism can’t be correct because it violates his trait of immateriality.

  13. says

    I tell you there are blades of grass in my back yard. If someone where to say “I do not believe there are blades of grass in your backyard but there are blades of grass in my backyard” we immediately see the contradiction. If one does not believe there are blades of grass in my back yard that is only because they think the proposition “there are blades of grass in my backyard” is not true.

    “Only”? Not at all: what if I’ve just lived in multiple places, some with grass backyards and some with concrete ones, or ones with a pool, and thus cannot assume that all backyards are grassy?

  14. Vivec says

    Okay, seriously, can someone give this copy-pasta troll the boot? If the ease of moderation was a factor in moving comments to FTB, surely banning a glorified spambot is called for.

  15. HappyPerson says

    Looking forward to all the peer-reviewed journal articles that will be published by caller O.C.regarding evolution.

  16. says

    the open-ended challenge to god

    jeff: i was like, “god, if you’re really there, show yourself. otherwise, fuggettabboddit.

    matt: did he show himself?

    jeff: in a weird — i wouldn’t say he showed himself — but it was like a really weird set of ah, uh, circumstances that happened afterwards …”

    … is another common example of how the gullible con themselves into theism.

    when you make a completely undefined or open-ended demand like “send me a sign”, you can interpret anything around you into a “sign” — especially when you’re facing a crisis and desperate enough to accept anything — which is why all the “signs” reported by the gullible tend to be completely mundane. (remember “molly” and her butterflies?) god never has to answer the challenge because the gullible answer it for themselves. unsurprisingly, it’s always the answer they wanted to hear. unsurprisingly, it’s never an answer that sounds worthy of a god.

    a more skeptical person who wanted an answer less easily dismissed could make a more definitive request like: “send me a purple dog that wears spats. today. at noon.” or better still: “grow back my missing arm.” yet we never hear stories like this. hmm, i wonder why?

  17. says

    and to put a bow on it, jeff was desperate enough to let god win without actually answering the challenge on its terms:

    jeff: i wouldn’t say he showed himself

  18. itsmejre says

    RM
    Atheists often object that they make no claim but say they merely do not believe the claim god exists.
    Do you disbelieve the claim god exists while holding that god exists is still true?

  19. Nom de Plume says

    Itsmejre is correct. The position I don’t know is agnostisicm, not atheism. If you claim “I don’t believe God exists”, you are siding with the negative, i.e., that “God doesn’t exist.” It matters not whether you know the correct answer, knowledge and belief are not synonyms. Either you “believe” a God exists, or you do not, and if you do not then this is all the same as believing that a god doesn’t exist. Belief is binary. With the even number of blades of grass, it is true that we do not know, not even after you tell us your answer. You may have counted wrong. The default position is skepticism, or IOW “I don’t know”, but this will bot stop us from believing “even” or “odd”. This choice is subconscious, and will be made whether your logical arguments speak evil of that decision or not. The choice is binary, so your brain is forced to choose. This innate tendency can be used as a powerful persuasive tool, and indeed, it is exactly what fuels religion.

  20. Vivec says

    @7,14
    “I’m so bad at epistemology I have to plagiarize someone else’s bad epistemology”

  21. says

    Atheists often object that they make no claim but say they merely do not believe the claim god exists.
    Do you disbelieve the claim god exists while holding that god exists is still true?

    There’s a third option, of course: disbelieving the claim that god exists without believing the opposite. If you don’t have sufficient evidence to believe a claim, you can just suspend judgment until such time as additional data comes in. You don’t actually have to hold a position on every damn thing you come across.

    And if you’re about to tell me that that’s agnosticism and not atheism, then I’d suggest you look up the history of agnosticism before you do.

  22. gshelley says

    In the Matt Slick debate, I though Matt failed in his response to Matt Slick by not answering the “logical absolutes” attack. Which may have been intentional, but Slick didn’t seem to be saying “where do they come from” but “if the brain isn’t magic, how can you know things are real”
    To which the responses are (well, to me at least)
    1) Who cares. Perhaps we are wrong. We still have to deal with the world as we find it, rather than worrying that perhaps A can both equal B and not B
    2) This goes to everything. If our brains are responsible for what we remember, how can we trust our memories, if they are responsible for our vision, how can we trust what we see? If the are responsible for our hearing, how can we trust what we hear? It’s basically a form of solipsism, that unless we invoke a magical non chemical or physical thing that does all our real thinking, feeling and experiencing, we can’t be sure about anything.

  23. Monocle Smile says

    @gshelley
    Slick’s Gish Gallop is designed to push too many bad points to refute in the allotted time, so I feel like Matt appropriately discarded that garbage.
    Slick’s biggest issue (of which there are many) is his insistence upon separating decisions, emotions, senses, etc. from the physical world. It’s kindergarten dualism and has been flatly false for at least a century. I mean, as EL has said a number of times, a computer is basically a rock that makes decisions. Yet presup bastards like Slick contend that a brain can’t make a decision unless it is coated in fairy dust.

    This links to the contention that the “cause” found in the Kalam argument necessarily leads to a “personal entity.” Apologists claim that the act of decision-making has its own special ontology free of space and time. What utter nonsense.

  24. Murat says

    @itsmejre #1
    If I get what you’re trying to say, I believe your point was made and acknowledged in some way by another atheist vlogger named Ozymandias Ramses II, during a talk / debate including AronRa, and also later during a one-on-one with Matt.
    What Ozy said was that, despite the weight and negative connotations of the term “burden”, there is still some kind of necesity for a “back up” to every kind of idea and belief (or, the lack of them) in some way, especially in case there is a debate. And, if I recall correctly, he swiftly rephrased the concept in question as “burden of justification”. Far as I know, Ozy and Matt get along well, and many atheists are fine with being asked a background check regarding their position.
    However, the very specific claims regarding certain gods and the holy books being their word do require specific “burdens”; in which case, any theist attached to any particular religion naturally has more to justify in their bags when facing atheists.

  25. Monocle Smile says

    @Nom de Plume

    Either you “believe” a God exists, or you do not, and if you do not then this is all the same as believing that a god doesn’t exist

    No. This is bad epistemology. You have it conflated with ontology.

  26. says

    Matt lies when he says 12 step programs are deceptive about success rates. Since they don’t take attendance, don’t have membership dues, and don’t even bother with last names, they *can’t* keep statistics. The best they can do is a loose estimate, which doesn’t mean they’re not successful at helping people. It just means they’re not successful at keeping track of people.

  27. gshelley says

    @26
    Yeah. I can understand Matt not wanting to waste time on the argument, he kept saying it was a distraction from what they were supposed to be talking about, but Slick wasn’t willing to let it drop and his belief that it was a killer argument so he didn’t need to even try and argue his case prevented them having any sort of useful discussion.

  28. Monocle Smile says

    @ladyatheist
    There is no lying. AA is definitely deceptive about success rates due to how they determine failure. Also, advocating for your program when you don’t have any real empirical way of determining your own success is deceptive by definition. I don’t care about anecdata.

  29. gshelley says

    Also, Matt was wrong about complexity. A person is more complex than a bacteria. E. coli has 4-5000 genes, a human around 25-35000. Yes, a human isn’t more complex than a tomato, or fish by any reasonable standard, but if we accept bacteria to man evolution, we have to accept that the few hundred genes likely present in the first reproducing life form gave rise to creatures with 100 times as many genes,
    Of course, the Creationist argument that this cannot happen is based entirely on faith, and actually disproved by research that has shown the active site of a protein can become more efficient (not to mention that common sense tells us that if two species differ by a single position in a gene/protein, to insist that the only possible way mutation can go is to change one molecule for the less efficient one is nonsensical)

  30. itsmejre says

    RM

    Atheists don’t use the term to differentiate themselves from believers, don’t make derisive assertions that believers believe in “fairy tales” or “imaginary friends” and are “irrational”. They are neutral on the subject and have no cause to oppose expression of belief in god. They are rarely, openly critical of religious believers. Lastly, they definitely do not actively refuse and reject the truth of whether god exists.

  31. Monocle Smile says

    @gshelley
    Careful…an amoeba has more genetic material than any other known life form, and it doesn’t seem to be close.
    http://www.genomenewsnetwork.org/articles/02_01/Sizing_genomes.shtml
    I do not accept “bacteria to man evolution.” All eukaryotes appear to have a common ancestor. It is likely that prokaryotes and eukaryotes share a common ancestor, but as far as I can tell, the MCRA of bacteria and human was not bacteria itself.

  32. Mobius says

    @29 ladyatheist

    Actually, what you just described is being dishonest about the statistics. They claim they have statistics of their success rate, yet you just said they don’t keep any records…so how could they have statistics?

  33. Mobius says

    @35 Monocle Smile

    I am unfamiliar with the term MCRA. but assume that you are talking of the last common ancestor (LCA).

    This isn’t my field, but IIRC it is thought that eukaryotes evolved from a fusion of two species of bacteria. If so, the LCA of all eukaryotes would be those two bacteria species. If you are talking about the LCA of all eukaryotes and all prokayotes, then you would go back to the very first bacteria.

  34. Monocle Smile says

    @Mobius
    I mistyped. MRCA, Most Recent Common Ancestor.
    I’m unfamiliar with eukaryotes coming from a fusion of bacteria species (there are other prokaryotes besides bacteria), but pulling out E. Coli randomly seems to be misplaced. Also, I do agree with gshelley’s overall point…it is just important to be pedantic here.

  35. Devocate says

    “Science suggests nothing is created or destroyed. So the big bang (or whatever it was that happend around then) had to be created by something.”

    You have just contradicted yourself. If nothing is created, then the big bang couldn’t have been created. So nothing is required to perform that creation.

    That aside, science doesn’t in fact ‘suggest’ that nothing is created or destroyed. Science does have a Law of Conservation of Energy. Which is currently known to be violated over extremely short time frames, and which might just plain be false (if dark energy is, in fact, a cosmological constant, which remains the same (per volume) despite the universe expanding). You can’t use it to prove a god exists which is more unlikely than that it is wrong.

    Additionally, since matter is just energy, and since negative energy is conceivable, all the matter could come from energy which is merely balanced by an exactly similar amount of negative energy. Making the entire grand total of energy in the Universe exactly zero. Thus A Universe from Nothing. See Lawrence Krauss’s book by that title.

  36. gshelley says

    @35
    That is why I specified genes, rather than genomic information. If we are arguing against Creationist talking points, it is important to criticize what they mean as well as what they say.
    I had a quick look and couldn’t see how many genes that amoeba has, but I’d be surprised if it was any where near as much as a human.
    Bacteria is probably a poorly defined term, but unless there has been some changes in the past couple of years, the general idea would be that archea and proto-prokaryotes both evolved from eubacteria and prokaryotes derived from a fusion of one of these with a eubacteria that became the mitochondria. Either way, I think if we were to look at the mrca, we’d probably call it a bacteria.
    Even if not, the point is that the Creationist is claiming that there are thousands of genes carrying out many functions that are not present in single called organisms that there are in people

  37. gshelley says

    @35
    That is why I specified genes, rather than genomic information. If we are arguing against Creationist talking points, it is important to criticize what they mean as well as what they say.
    I had a quick look and couldn’t see how many genes that amoeba has, but I’d be surprised if it was any where near as much as a human.
    Bacteria is probably a poorly defined term, but unless there has been some changes in the past couple of years, the general idea would be that archea and proto-prokaryotes both evolved from eubacteria and prokaryotes derived from a fusion of one of these with a eubacteria that became the mitochondria. Either way, I think if we were to look at the mrca, we’d probably call it a bacteria.
    Even if not, the point is that the Creationist is claiming that there are thousands of genes carrying out many functions that are not present in single called organisms that there are in people
    It’s an argument that bothers me, as it’s almost a straw man (I don’t know what we would really call it. It’s attacking something that isn’t the real belief, but isn’t attacking a weaker version). I felt Steven Novella did this recently in an article he wrote – the creationist had argued that something was a loss of function so wasn’t evidence for evolution, and the response was that it is still evolution. Which is true, but most creationists accept this kind – eyes no longer working etc. they basically have to otherwise the Ark would have been overloaded. It didn’t do anything to address the actual complaint

  38. Monocle Smile says

    @troll
    What a long, boring polemic against “scientism.” Raymond Tallis really doesn’t have anything better to do than tilt at windmills and appeal to his own considerable incredulity, I guess.

    Literally nobody has said we can account for absolutely everything that the brain is and does. But when you have 850 pieces of a 1000-piece puzzle of the Eiffel Tower filled in and some nutfuck says “Wait, it could be Cthulu riding a fucking shark in space” before insisting that the puzzle will never be complete and thus their position is perfectly logical, it is entirely reasonable to point and laugh.

  39. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Ok. Posting in chunks so I cna figure out what is triggering an auto-filter.

    To Post 22, Nom de Plume

    If you claim “I don’t believe God exists”, you are siding with the negative, i.e., that “God doesn’t exist.”

    Concerning some boolean proposition X, where X can be true or false in reality, and there are no other options, there are three general positions that can be held with regard to X. 1- I believe that X is true. 2- I believe that X is false. 3- I don’t know / I am undecided. (There’s other options as well, such as “X is ambiguous”, or “X is malformed”, or “X is Russell’s Paradox”, etc.)

  40. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    There’s also a grammar issue at play here. Unfortunately, many English speakers commonly use the phrase “I don’t believe that” as a polite form of “I believe that it’s false”. It’s a kind of euphemism which is very common in English spoken language today.

  41. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Prescript: Well, I cannot post links apparently. Odd.

    However, in more technical parlance, the grammar is clear. “I don’t believe” is compatible with “I don’t know”, and it’s compatible with “I believe it’s false”. The phrase “I don’t believe” is an expression of one’s own mental state, and it expresses that one’s own mental state does not contain the belief “X is true”. It says nothing about whether one’s own mental state contains “I don’t know about X / I am undecided about X” and it says nothing about whether one’s own mental state contains the belief “X is false” – (dittos for the other possibilities such as: malformed, ambiguous, Russell’s Paradox, etc.).

  42. Vivec says

    I know that it’s generally bad to cite common sense in an argument, but I have no idea what kind of philosophical LSD your mind has to be on to believe that “I believe there is grass in my yard but not in your yard” is somehow contradictory as written.

  43. itsmejre says

    The Hatter

    His time might be better employed were he to concentrate his efforts on performing anatomically impossible acts of perversion in solitary contemplation of his miserable existence instead of burdening others with his feckless inferiority and supercilious remonstrations which are as silly as bumps-on-the-head phrenology!

  44. says

    itsmejre;

    “Atheists don’t use the term to differentiate themselves from believers, don’t make derisive assertions that believers believe in “fairy tales” or “imaginary friends” and are “irrational”. They are neutral on the subject and have no cause to oppose expression of belief in god. They are rarely, openly critical of religious believers. Lastly, they definitely do not actively refuse and reject the truth of whether god exists.”

    Wait…. What?! Why the FUCK would we feel the need to prove that YOUR God doesn’t exist to justify disbelief? Oh, right, you’re incapable of grasping the VERY basic idea of disbelief as opposed to belief in the contrary.

    You a Christian? Why haven’t you tried to disprove Zeus? Khali? Genesh? Horus? By your hilariously flawed logic, you should believe shit until it’s proven true, so the fuck aren’t you Muslim?

    You affirm the proposition that one God exists. The LITERAL definition of a theist. I do not affirm that proposition because I don’t enjoy lying. I do not know if your God exists. I cannot prove to you that he doesn’t, nor am I inclined to even try. That doesn’t mean I believe your God DOESN’T exist. It means ONLY that I don’t believe your God does exist….. How is this concept so difficult to grasp for you?

    You can only approach a single proposition at one time. This proposition is that at least 1 god exists. So our response can ONLY be that we do believe, or we do not believe. Not the we believe that God does not exist.

  45. itsmejre says

    Alvin Plantinga introduced us to the following argument:

    1. Necessarily, if the proposition that Socrates does no exist is true,
    then the proposition that Socrates does not exist exists.
    (Serious Actualism)
    2. Necessarily, if the proposition that Socrates does not exist exists,
    then Socrates exists. (Existentialism)
    3. Necessarily, if the proposition that Socrates does not exist is true,
    then Socrates exists (1,2)
    4. Necessarily, if the proposition that Socrates does not exist is true,
    then Socrates does not exist.
    5. Necessarily, if the proposition
    that Socrates does not exist is true,
    then Socrates exists and Socrates does not exist. (3,4)
    6. Possibly, Socrates does not exist. (Contingency)
    7. If possibly Socrates does not exist,
    the proposition that Socrates does not exist is possibly true.
    8. The proposition that Socrates does not exist is possibly true. (6,7)
    C. Possibly, Socrates exists and Socrates does not exist. (5,8)

  46. itsmejre says

    BD

    It is an existential proposition which is binary. Could you be a little pregnant or kind of dead?

    Are you saying that you don’t believe a God does exist but you might not believe a God DOESN’T exist?

  47. StonedRanger says

    For the love of dog people. Itsmejre is a troll. Go read a couple of past episodes. It doesn’t have an original thought. He comes in here with the same old BS and people who apparently haven’t been here before start to engage it. Please stop.

    Niels @#1
    This show doesn’t not disallow anyone from calling. Its not that big an effort to come here to post your thoughts as compared to the mostly garbage comments you get on youtube. You seem to have found your way here with no difficulty. So instead of just whining, perhaps youd like to engage us with a useful comment.

  48. says

    It is an existential proposition which is binary. Could you be a little pregnant or kind of dead?

    The proposition is binary in reality- that is, one or the other states is true- but one’s beliefs about the proposition are not. Are you truly asserting that one cannot suspend judgment and not believe either side?

    Atheists don’t use the term to differentiate themselves from believers, don’t make derisive assertions that believers believe in “fairy tales” or “imaginary friends” and are “irrational”. They are neutral on the subject and have no cause to oppose expression of belief in god. They are rarely, openly critical of religious believers. Lastly, they definitely do not actively refuse and reject the truth of whether god exists.

    For the most part, this is nothing but irrelevant whining: agnosticism is a term denoting one’s specific knowledge claims, not a term that is dependent on actions. I know you don’t like it when atheists call you on your bullshit, but that doesn’t mean that words suddenly warp to fit what you find convenient.

    As to your last sentence, you don’t get to tell me what I think or believe, troll. You don’t get to dictate my position for me, and if you’re going to be that dishonest then there’s really nothing more to say. You’re just straight up lying, at this point.

  49. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    This show doesn’t not disallow anyone from calling.

    Technically, a few people, a very few people, have been banned from calling into the show again.
    /pedant

  50. Pauli says

    Hey Matt. Sorry about my english… You have said, as i recall, that less suffering for everybody is something that you advocate or keep as a principle for good moral. That however you do not aply that to animals – you see the contradiction. It has nothing to do with your(human) understanding of moral to the subject you cause the suffering to. Suffering is real to them as it is for us. You are the moral yardstick, because you are the whom aplays it and have greater understanding of it. It has nothing to do wth the subjects ability to understand moral whom you are applaying it to, if well-being to others is the goal. You are basicly saying suffering is okey, and you are the one that set standars for it, not suffering itself to everything that can feel it.Thaks.

  51. Pauli says

    I might remember wrong what you have said or mixing you for somebody else. Sorry about that. Nevertheles, you are the one causing pain and suffering, not just for the said animals but for humankind(ecology standpoint) also. So how do settle this your apparent, conscious causing and increasin of pain to goodness of your moral?

  52. John Iacoletti says

    It is an existential proposition which is binary. Could you be a little pregnant or kind of dead?

    No, which is why “agnostic” is not a third position. You either have a belief in a god or gods (theist) or you do not (atheist).

    Where you are going off the rails is that you’re talking about two independent questions, not a single question.

    – Do you believe that some god exists?
    – Do you believe that no god exists?

    It is possible to answer “no” to both. Just like it’s possible to answer “no” to both of these:

    – Do you believe the number of blades of grass in my lawn is even?
    – Do you believe the number of blades of grass in my lawn is odd?

    A skeptic does not believe any claim for which no evidence is provided.

  53. says

    @Pauli

    You have said, as i recall, that less suffering for everybody is something that you advocate or keep as a principle for good moral. That however you do not aply that to animals – you see the contradiction.

    He’s also said that his metric for moral good is not solely dependent on reducing suffering, but is actually made up of a series of moral propositions that occasionally come into conflict, and must be weighed depending on context.

    So the contradiction you’re seeing fails to take into account all the variables in the position you’re discussing, it seems.

  54. Pauli says

    >>He’s also said that his metric for moral good is not solely dependent on reducing suffering, but is actually made up of a series of moral propositions that occasionally come into conflict, and must be weighed depending on context.
    So the contradiction you’re seeing fails to take into account all the variables in the position you’re discussing, it seems.>>

    In other hand there is future well-being of humankind and ending suffering of millions and millions of animals, including mammals whose suffering we can all relate to, and in the other hand personal taste and few jobs. So please, what “variables” am i missing here?

  55. Mobius says

    @38 Monocle Smile

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynn_Margulis#Endosymbiosis_theory

    Margulis’s theory was that the nucleus of eukaryote cells is the result of one bacterium embedding within another bacterium. The basis of the idea is that the nucleus resembles, in many ways, an independent bacterial cell. There are also similar hypotheses that certain organelles within eukaryote cells started out as independent bacteria. Mitochondria and chloroplasts are examples of this.

    BTW…MRCA and LCA seem to be the same concept. I was just not familiar with the abbreviation.

  56. Pauli says

    Matt: >>If the argument is causing harm, then you dont just get rid of factory farmed meat, you also get rid of factory farmed food…>>
    The harm is not coming from farming vegetable and so and so, rather than farming food for our meat, which we can easily live with out. Just farming for vegetarian food is not harm for humankind, it is one part of its salvation which we have in our hands right now. And at the same time it decreases suffering. Win-win i would say, and i still havent heard, in here or in the show, any moral justfication for eating meat; just dancing around the subject in hand: yes, harm isn’t only one thing to consider, yes, suffering isn’t only one thing to consider,.. Tell me what is then, addition to those.

  57. Monocle Smile says

    @Mobius
    Solid link. I was aware of that particular hypothesis for eukaryotic formation, but I guess I didn’t think the constituents would be taxonomically classified as bacteria. Thanks for that.

    @Pauli
    I think you’re a bit confused and you set arbitrary bars. Also, this really isn’t the forum to go on anti-meat rants.

  58. Pauli says

    @Monocle Smile

    This isn’t anti-meat rant. Subject is morality, which was one subject on the episode. And the pars which i’m using are from the episode as well, unlike other bars which were mentioned to exist, but not specifiad nor used in the presented contets.

  59. Devocate says

    “You have said, as i recall, that less suffering for everybody is something that you advocate or keep as a principle for good moral. That however you do not aply that to animals …Nevertheles, you are the one causing pain and suffering, not just for the said animals but for humankind(ecology standpoint) also.”

    Therefore you are claiming that causing pain and suffering to animals, causes pain and suffering to humans. So Matt calling for reducing pain and suffering to humans, must mean that causing pain and suffering to animals must also be reduced.

  60. Devocate says

    “Just farming for vegetarian food is not harm for humankind”

    Yes it does. Vegetable farming (even organic vegetable farming) causes a lot of harm to our environment, and thus to humans.

  61. Robert,+not+Bob says

    Just want to point out: yes, you can be kind of dead. Death is not an on-off switch: it’s a process, that takes time and the point at which we say “this man is dead” is in some sense arbitrary.

  62. says

    In other hand there is future well-being of humankind and ending suffering of millions and millions of animals, including mammals whose suffering we can all relate to, and in the other hand personal taste and few jobs. So please, what “variables” am i missing here?

    The point is that Matt’s position, insofar as I recall it correctly, does not concern itself exclusively with the reduction of suffering. You’re being unnecessarily specific to the point that you’re actually misrepresenting the position you’re attempting to critique.

  63. Pauli says

    To Ryan Martin

    Yes, I understand it concerns other variables and such than harm and suffering as well, and I would like know what they are(what I just asked), because clearly they surpass what I just said about well-being of future humankind and suffering of millions of animals. And like he said more or less: “if I’m convinced that something is true, I can explain why something happens to be the case” that is not happening here, only vague responses that there is something more to it. Furthermore, I’m not being ”unnecessarily specific”, I’m just using those same things(harm,suffering) what was mentioned in the show and asking for clarification what those surpassing elements are. And surely they must be big… P.s. Interested to hear your take on this as well.

  64. Mobius says

    Off topic…

    I just watched the latest debate posted on Matt’s Youtube channel on Is There Evidence for God? From both sides I would have to conclude “No”, since the theist only offered that he had feelings and wished it to be true that God exists. That is, other than a few weak and oft refuted statements such as “We have morality and you must have a god for morality.”

    Also, once again we have a debate with no rebuttal round. That seems to be happening fairly often of late with Matt’s debates. It is unfortunate, IMHO, since it does not allow the other side to address the arguments made in the open presentation.

  65. Pauli says

    To Devocate

    >>Therefore you are claiming that causing pain and suffering to animals, causes pain and suffering to humans. So Matt calling for reducing pain and suffering to humans, must mean that causing pain and suffering to animals must also be reduced.>>

    Yes, farming animals causes pain and suffering to all humans in ecological stand point, and would argue that in many of us in empathy or such stand point also; would not like/refuse to kill animals personally.

    >>Yes it does. Vegetable farming (even organic vegetable farming) causes a lot of harm to our environment, and thus to humans.>>

    Sure, but not in unsustainable way and everybody could eat(sure there is more to it than that, but in principle). There’s no question about that overusage and farming of meat is a global problem which we could dramatically reduce just with our choises as consumers. But like said before: this is not anti-meat rant or alike.

  66. Monocle Smile says

    @Pauli
    “Suffering” is a rather blanket term that needs refinement. Plenty of people suffer willingly every day because there are cases where adversity yields a benefit.
    The “more” that Ryan references could refer to the memetic consequences of a particular action. For instance, I could steal from a rich person without them noticing. You could argue that no suffering occurred. But this contributes to a culture where it’s okay to steal things. So is it moral?

    As for the meat stuff, you seem to be targeting execution rather than the fundamental principle and you hand-wave away the problems pointed out thus far. This is not going well.

  67. Pauli says

    @Monocle Smile

    This question in hand include all humankind, so no wiggle room there to go into. And please tell me the problems that have been pointet out and waved away. I’m just noting out how things undeniably are in present light and asking question, nothing much else. Answer me this: Is caring and taking action for well-being of all humankind without hurting or causing misery to anybody morally good thing? Not a toughie. I’ll dare to answer myself for you: yes it is. And what i’ll guess i’m getting at here, it is not morally good thing not to do so with the minimal effort of eating something that you are not so custom to.

  68. Pauli says

    Matt: “We keep people responsible for their moral obligation” where he gives an example where child is in danger somehow, which would be moral obligation to save him/her if there where no risk involved. Soo, there’s no risk involved in discarding meat from your diet and benefits would be worldwide regarding whole of our species long into the future. I’m sure I don’t have to open further that analogy up with my poor english.

  69. solidcitizen says

    Any suffering, whether in humans or other animals, should be regarded as undesirable. It’s easier to brush away animal suffering because 1) they cannot speak for themselves, and 2) most of us are deeply invested in the human rewards of animal suffering, namely meat hide, labor and other animal benefits.

    But just because an animal is an “other,” does not mean that their suffering is acceptable. The argument that “suffering is inevitable” does not justify and individual to contribute to that suffering.

    We, as a civilization, have for the most part learned that suffering in other races, nationalities, ethnicities is just as unacceptable as our own suffering. We still have a way to go until we realize that animal suffering is unacceptable as well. Pain is immediate and personal, no matter who is suffering.

  70. Monocle Smile says

    @solidcitizen
    It’s also easier to brush it away because 1) there are indeed practices that enable death without any significant suffering, 2) other animals are less sapient, if at all, and 3) other species are wildly different from us than other ethnicities.

    That being said, I’m a huge advocate of opening up the cloned meat industry. We do have the ability to grow meat without a brain stem. It’s perhaps the ultimate solution to factory farming.

    @Pauli

    Why is this even a debate?

    Because you’re portraying this dishonestly. It was pointed out to you that farming in general is harmful to the ecosystem, and you hand-waved it away. You clearly prioritize animal welfare over plant welfare without giving a reason. You also act as if this is a zero-effort choice, which is laughably dishonest, especially when our bodies require vitamin B12.

  71. Devocate says

    @74:
    “Yes, farming animals causes pain and suffering to all humans”

    Then you can’t argue that Matt is advocating for it. His criteria for morality is that it reduces (as much as possible) human suffering. So his morality is against it. You can’t argue that concern for human suffering leads to human suffering.

    “Sure, but not in unsustainable way ”

    Yes, most emphatically in an unsustainable way. Look up the research on topsoil loss.

  72. Pauli says

    To Monocle Smile

    >>Because you’re portraying this dishonestly. It was pointed out to you that farming in general is harmful to the ecosystem, and you hand-waved it away.>>

    Except I answered as follows: “Sure, but not in unsustainable way and everybody could eat(sure there is more to it than that, but in principle). There’s no question about that overusage and farming of meat is a global problem which we could dramatically reduce just with our choises as consumers. But like said before: this is not anti-meat rant or alike..” You can look up the facts if you like, or take it as given and treat this as hypotetical, because this is NOT conversation about enviromental consequences of producing meat in scale which we are.

    >>You clearly prioritize animal welfare over plant welfare without giving a reason.>>

    It’s all there: harm, suffering, humankind welfare… When those has been proven intertwining with plants, I consider again.

    >>You also act as if this is a zero-effort choice, which is laughably dishonest, especially when our bodies require vitamin B12.>>

    Yes, a pill now and then.

  73. Monocle Smile says

    @Pauli

    You can look up the facts if you like, or take it as given and treat this as hypotetical, because this is NOT conversation about enviromental consequences of producing meat in scale which we are

    Maybe it’s the language barrier, but that is not an answer to my post.

    Yes, a pill now and then

    /picard facepalm

  74. Pauli says

    >>“Yes, farming animals causes pain and suffering to all humans”
    Then you can’t argue that Matt is advocating for it. His criteria for morality is that it reduces (as much as possible) human suffering. So his morality is against it. You can’t argue that concern for human suffering leads to human suffering.>>

    Yes, he has a contradiction – that’s why I’m here. He is eating meat and it’s increases human suffering, and his arguments for it aren’t anywhere to be seen. Just mumbling about some other mysterious variables and such.

    >>“Sure, but not in unsustainable way ”
    Yes, most emphatically in an unsustainable way. Look up the research on topsoil loss.>>

    Of course those same fields which are now used farming food to our meat would be still used to produce food for humans with better ratio – it’s pretty much the same goddamn food – thus food for everybody, less suffering.

  75. Pauli says

    This was your post:
    >> It was pointed out to you that farming in general is harmful to the ecosystem, and you hand-waved it away.>>

    >>Maybe it’s the language barrier, but that is not an answer to my post.>>

    Yes, the part you quoted wasn’t answer to your post – the other parts was, for the second time.

    >>Yes, a pill now and then
    /picard facepalm>>

    Milligrams now and then, not kilogram a week, like whit meat.

  76. gumbykevbo says

    I’m Kevin from ABQ that called about theism in alcohol recovery. I’m no fan of AA, but i don’t think Matt’s issue with the claimed success rate is the biggest thing wrong with AA, or even an especially effective criticism. Mainly because it really isn’t a profit making enterprise, so there is no greed motive for false advertising.

    Matt was on the money when he talked about empowering individuals vs. the learned helplessness of AA.

    My opinions are informed by first hand, up close, and lengthy observation.
    While most were the same half dozen or so local groups, I have attended somewhere north of a thousand AA meetings, in over a dozen cities and three countries. I have even chaired perhaps 20-30 meetings. This was over the course of three years, and after the first six months, I became increasingly less of a participant and morphed into more of an observer trying to see through the dogma, what was really going on, and to figure out to the extent it was working, how and why that was.

    I will state that AA is not based on religion….it IS a religion. More so in the US I think, but it still walks like a church, and quacks like a church. AA meetings spend more time reciting their creed, and reading from their sacred texts than Lutherans, and they even like some of the same prayers. (not picking on Lutherans, just attended a lot of their services). They sometimes wrap lots of obfuscation around it, but “Higher Power” is essentially Yahweh by another name. (And in many cases they don’t even pretend otherwise). AA didn’t fall far from the Oxford group tree, which was a fundamentalist offshoot of mostly Methodists. Abstinence from alcohol pretty well stands in as a holy sacrament….if you are not staying dry, you are not saved. Rather than the taint of original sin, AAs must atone for sins of their own making. Honestly, AA meetings have more nonsense than most mainstream church services.

    Matt would be correct if he had said that nobody (including AA) actually knows what success rate AA achieves, and left it at that. Confirmation bias corrupts the perception. The exaggeration, I honestly believe is a matter of self delusion rather than intentional deception. (What I mean when I use the word lie)

    Believe me, I have wasted far too much thought trying to figure out how this could ever be measured.

    Ladyatheist is correct that anonymity makes it well nigh impossible to track the success rate of AA, but there are several other factors that contribute as well:

    First off it is hard to pin down a good definition of successful recovery. Sober time is really the only objective measure, but then you have to pick a number of months or years, and use the same criterion when comparing programs.

    You can’t do it by taking attendance. Any American city big enough to have a cross town bus will have dozens to hundreds of AA meetings per week, and it is very common for individuals to change meetings as circumstances change. And contrary to AA dogma, not everyone who stops going to AA starts drinking.

    AA is essentially free, so people often try several times before they remain sober. If it takes Joe four tries, is that one success, or three failures and a success. The cost is relevant when comparing to programs that people can’t realistically afford more than one shot at.

    Above, I have stuck to problems with AA as most would agree it should be. There are othe problems which vary a lot between different groups. Sexual predation has been a problem (it’s a religion, after all!) . Also many meetings turn into Ego Fests.

  77. Katzerminze says

    I used to enjoy the discussion in the comment-section, but now its closed. That’s sad, because fewer people comment here and you cannot have a discussion conveniently and in relative privacy. This is the biggest reason I only rarely watch this show anymore.

  78. Monocle Smile says

    @Katzerminze
    You still get plenty of traffic in these comment sections and there’s absolutely loads of traffic on the multiple Facebook discussion groups. But whatever.

  79. frankstein says

    OK, I’m sorry but Jeff’s call from Michigan was a painful listening experience.
    My eyes started glaze over about a minute in to the call.
    To be honest, I think Jeff was drunk and I don’t find that to be odd considering what he was relating and where he was currently.
    I’d be willing to bet that Jeff floats from theist to atheist depending entirely on whether he’s on the wagon or not.

  80. Andy Bickley says

    I wanted to pick up on Matt Dillahunty’s point about the carnage that comes out of the back of a Combine Harvester. As the ex driver of a Class Senator Combine Harvester in the UK used to harvest Wheat, Barley & Oats, you might see the results of one or 2 creatures that went through the combine each season, but you could never call it carnage. The stems are cut at about 6″ high and so small rodents like mice would pass straight under, the machine moves at a walking pace so larger animals like rabbits would have no problem getting out of the way.
    Chickens raised for meat will eat approximately double their weight in grain, egg layers 3 times, pigs 4 times, sheep 5 times, and cattle 7 to 9 times. Then only about 80% of the bird is eaten, about 50% of the sheep or cow so these figures should be doubled, meaning it takes about 15 kg’s of grain (a lot more of that if it is grass) to produce 1 kg of beef. Thus the argument that harvesting plants kills animals to is a poor one as 15 times as many animals will be killed in the production of grain to feed animals. If you then consider that that grain could have been used to feed the 1 billion malnourished people in the world instead of being fed to livestock, or you could free up 14/15th of the land for animals and plants to live wild. Added to that the evidence that to reduce Stroke, Heart Attack, Diabetes, and Cancer we as a nation need to eat more fresh whole plants and less animal products, (see: ‘Animal protein compared to cigarette smoking’ on Youtube) with growing populations around the world, this means our current lifestyle, and treatment of the planet is unsustainable.

  81. Pauli says

    Matt: “When position is that you have moral obligation not to eat meat there is burden of proof that needs to be demonstraited” And is has been demonstraited concerning well-being of humankind(ecology standpoint). If that action(not to eat meat) leading to that result, does not include in your personal category of good moral and make it a moral obligation because of the minor personal effort that it requires, in my mind you’re the one who owes an explanation since your humanistic standpoint.
    You gave an example that if child was about to get in harms way, it would be a moral obligation to try save him or her if there were no real risk involved. Not eating meat is exactly that: no risk, manageable effort, lifes in stake.
    I’ve been told that harm, suffering etc. aren’t your only used criteria determing moral issues and that is just fine of course, but in this case, the weight of those other criteria must overrun benefits for billion of lifes – and I highly doubt that.

  82. itsmejre says

    John lacotti

    Jim McCarthy said

    “We know what evidence supports; beyond that is mystery.
    To pretend that we know more than what evidence supports is
    belief. To believe in God or anything supernatural is exactly equal
    to believing that God doesn’t exist. (I’m not talking about the silly
    gods of our world religions or anything man has invented.)
    Now, “God” exists only as a belief. To say that will always be the
    case is to go beyond what evidence supports and it seems to me
    that we have no right to go there.”

    Where do you suppose he fits in the quadrant model of god belief?

  83. Monocle Smile says

    @Pauli
    So you’re going to abandon discussion and just repeat yourself rather than address the problems pointed out? Are you serious?

  84. John Iacoletti says

    @94

    I don’t know. Who’s Jim McCarthy and why aren’t you asking him?

    P.S. You completely butchered my name.

  85. Monocle Smile says

    @Andy
    Feeding grain instead of meat to people doesn’t actually solve the problem. Grain diets are terrible for humans. Furthermore, we don’t have starving people on the planet due to a food shortage. The farms of the planet produce enough food to feed everyone. The problem is distribution.

    Added to that the evidence that to reduce Stroke, Heart Attack, Diabetes, and Cancer we as a nation need to eat more fresh whole plants and less animal products

    This is nutrition woo. Mediterranean style diets or paleo (although it’s too stringent) diets are recommended by almost all nutritionists. The problem is much more centered on quality of food and portions.

  86. Pauli says

    To Monocle Smile

    I’ve now already three times answered to your point: “It was pointed out to you that farming in general is harmful to the ecosystem, and you hand-waved it away.“

    What is that you don’t understand about my answer to that?

    Well, I’ll start for funsies:

    >>Sure, but not in unsustainable way and everybody could eat(sure there is more to it than that, but in principle).>>

    “Sure“ mean: Yes, I understand that farming in general is harmful to the ecosystem.

    “but not in unsustainable way “ means: That farming food just for our own mouths, would be ecologically sustainable farming – not unsustainable as it is currently with farming the same food for our livestocks mouths. (If you don’t know why that is like that, I will tell you – though it isn’t my point being here – after you show some sings that you understant what you are being told to and I don’t have to hold your hand every step of the conversation. And after some fact checking…)

    “everybody could eat“ mean: If we would change our farming focus to that direction there would be food for everybody in the planet.

    “sure there is more to it than that, but in principle“ mean: It is not as simple as I made it sound.

    Did you or did you not understand now, so we may proceed to the next sentence?

  87. Pauli says

    To Monocle Smile

    More simplified…

    “but not in unsustainable way “ means:

    Vegetarian food farming sustainable, good. Current farming unsustainable, bad.

  88. Monocle Smile says

    @Pauli
    When I say you’re hand waving, I mean you’re not demonstrating your claims.
    Demonstrate your claims.

  89. Pauli says

    Monocle Smile

    This is the only “hand waving“ that I know of from you:

    “It was pointed out to you that farming in general is harmful to the ecosystem, and you hand-waved it away.“

    And it most certainly does not mean what you’re now trying to present there. It clearly points to your own previous phrase. Which makes you pathetic little person and I’m finally done with you. Thanks for wasting my time.

  90. Monocle Smile says

    @Pauli
    I’m having a hard time thinking that the language barrier is really this severe. There aren’t two different meanings. The meaning in the quote you posted is exactly the same as my post #100.
    Get butthurt and leave, or stay and repeat yourself some more. Doesn’t make a difference to me.

  91. Pauli says

    To Monocle Smile

    I know there’s no other meaning to it and I haven’t suggested such. Oh please make my day, and explain how the second phrase points to somewhere else – even far as to some claims that I’ve made somewhere – than to the first one. Please, please,..

  92. itsmejre says

    John Lacoletti

    His response was ” I know God exists, but I don’t believe in god”, with a wry grin.

    Sorry for the name mistake.

  93. Monocle Smile says

    @troll
    You got it wrong again, probably intentionally
    I have no idea who Jim McCarthy is, but he sounds like a dumbass.

  94. Pauli says

    To Matt, or whom ever from the atheist experience gang likes to weigh in.
    So I watched a short version of the talk of yours that you recommended in the show and I’m just commenting basing on that for now. Bottom line: It did not answer anything.
    >>we evaluate consequences of our actions respect to specific goals, that’s how we determine right and wrong>>
    So the goal of yours in this situation? It’s not based on simple notion of harm or suffering, I got that. That still is what you are producing with the decision that you have and hold. So again, what surpasses them and what makes your basis right or even better than wrong?
    >>in a specific situation i think there are absolutes, because in a given situation finite pool of possible actions one can take, we can compere results of those actions with each other, some of them, some gonna be better, some gonna be worse. so by definition there’s some subset of actions that represent moral pinnacle for that particular situation>>
    So more, same amount as before, less or stop eating meat? The comparison has already been made concerning humankind well-being, were eating meat is NOT the moral pinnacle, and from which you are left only with selfish stand points. That’s a hurdle you must cross while trying to make your stand right and a moral pinnacle.
    >>its the experts that have studied who are able to see further and they are the best ones to determining which moves are the right moves>>
    Exactly, and they are on our side while still sticking with harm, suffering, well-being,..
    >>we can revise every aspect of what we believe and understand and its all based on evidence>>
    Still not showing what yours are.
    P.s. You could have just told your basis for determining these things, or even better and told up strait how you came to your decision, in the show even briefly. My guess is that they are shit for this matter, you’re screwed with them and you hate to admit it.

  95. itsmejre says

    MS
    Don’t you have a puzzle to finish?
    I believe you said you were almost done with the “I-feel” tower.

  96. John Iacoletti says

    John Lacoletti

    It’s Iacoletti, with a capital i

    His response was ” I know God exists, but I don’t believe in god”, with a wry grin.

    That doesn’t even make sense.

  97. Devocate says

    “Vegetarian food farming sustainable, good”

    WRONG.

    There is good sustainable farming. Most of the examples I know of are not vegetarian (since animals are an important part of the cycle), but there are also some examples of plant only farming that function sustainably. Both work fine. Sustainable farms which include animals are slightly higher in *human* food production since plant only farms don’t really have no animals. they just don’t eat them.

    Bad unsustainable farming exists in both vegetarian and animal formats. Fields of organic carrots can be terrible to the local ecosystem. http://permaculturenews.org/2014/12/06/when-organics-goes-bad/

    I see no correlation between vegetarian and sustainable, and the latter is the important part.

  98. Devocate says

    “Chickens raised for meat will eat approximately double their weight in grain,”

    Leaving aside that it is a terrible idea to feed chickens grain, you aren’t doing a complete energy analysis. In order for the math to work out you need to start with the law of conservation of energy/mass, and figure out ALL the inputs and ALL the outputs of, say, chickens. The energy that went into that grain, has to come out somewhere; the question is, is that energy being wasted or used productively. I grant you that most chicken factories are wasting most of that energy, but that is a flaw in the system, not inherent in the chickens. Chickens produce eggs, meat, feathers, CO2, fertilizer, feathers, heat, and more chickens. Obviously there are more inputs than just grain as well.

    Chickens can be grown on nothing other than compost pile input. In which case, they are producing food, AND better compost (they scratch up the pile improving it, and add their own contribution). That is what sustainable chickens look like.

  99. Vivec says

    @107
    Itsmejre is literally just copy+pasting from other blog posts. He doesn’t actually engage anyone, he just tries to find a quote vaguely relevant to your comment. You’d be better off arguing with cleverbot, and you’d probably get less non-sequitors

  100. Monocle Smile says

    @Pauli
    See what Devocate just did? Contrast with how you addressed objections to your claims. Learn from it.

  101. Vaal says

    Paul TheSkeptic says
    October 9, 2016 at 7:48 pm
    That was a great talk but now I’m more confused than when I started. So, taking a classic experiment as an example, how did Mendel know that just by breading those certain pea plants together, he’d get the results he got? Wouldn’t that be a post hoc ergo propter hoc argument? I don’t know. What makes a legitimate experiment a legitimate experiment and a fallacy a fallacy? I respect Matt to the nth degree but I was definitely confused by that. If anyone has a background in science, I’d love to hear where I went wrong? Thanks.

    Paul,

    You are right on about this. I’m an atheist who enjoys the show, but the pronouncements and rebuffs Matt D. gives on the subject of having evidence for miracles, prayer, Gods etc continue to frustrate me, because, as he presents his objections they have the character of special pleading.

    The caller suggested that prayers reliably coming true could be evidence for the efficacy of prayer. Matt objects, saying it’s a fallacy to conclude that what B following A suggests A caused B.

    The caller responded: “Well, how is a scientific experiment even done then?”

    Matt seemed to misunderstand this as the caller admitting ignorance about how science is done, and told him to go learn some science. But what the caller was obviously getting at is the point that science seems to employ the very method of inference that Matt was rejecting for prayer causing events to happen! In other words, you have an idea that adding A to B will cause C to happen, so you then set up an experiment in which you add A to B. And if C follows, then this is support for the hypothesis! This is basically how we establish causation. And every test of a hypothesis for a mechanism will further rely on inferring causation from one state of affairs following another. “Correlation does not imply causation” is only really a short hand for “don’t leap to fast to causation” but what science does is find ways of winnowing away variables to find the most reliable correlations, especially ones that are expected on a given hypothesis.

    And note that Matt’s objection seems to assume that we need an explanation of the mechanism for how A causes B, before inferring that A causes B. But much of science has involved identifying or inferring cause and it’s effect, and then figuring out the mechanism afterward. No one would say it was unwarranted to have concluded fire causes a pot of water to boil, before we had our current theory of thermodynamics. There are many phenemona in which cause and effect are inferred, but about which scientists have competing hypotheses in regards to explaining the mechanism. Figuring out the mechanism does add further justification for the conclusion A causes B, but it’s not necessary. If people drinking a certain chemical reliably get sick or die, it’s good evidence to infer that drinking the chemical causes people to get sick and die. Then you can go on to figure out exactly how/why.

    The guest tried to explain this by suggesting prayer would yield reliable, repeatable effects – in other words, what if prayer worked in as reliable a method as other phenomena – wouldn’t we start to have grounds for inferring a causal connection? But Matt just wouldn’t follow that road and seemed to reject the premise outright, by pointing out he can produce reliable magic illusions. But one could set up experiments that control for Matt’s ability to use trickery, just as one could control for prayer (e.g. one could have someone pray for a result where experimental controls rule out the result could have been achieved by any person).

    If the results for prayer were reliable, surely this is evidence for – not proof yet but evidence for – a causal link between praying and outcomes, just as any other experiments establish causal inferences.

    But what is the mechanism? Well, here’s a hypothesis: If there is a Christian God who can control nature and will do so when requested, then prayers to that God will produce effects, while control group prayers to other entities will not. You run the experiment, and if you get positive correlation with praying to the Christian God and none to other entities, then you have more evidence in support of the Christian God hypothesis. Of course you can dream up alternate explanations like “It could be aliens messing with us” but that is no more warranted than in any other scientific inquiry. How do you rule out Aliens weren’t influencing the results of the Higgs Boson experiments? You don’t bother because that is an ad hoc unfalsifiable proposition, and you follow the evidence in the direction of the supported hypothesis, unless someone comes up with a test supporting the Alien hypothesis.

    I have often seen Matt raise this “correlation is not causation” objection to the idea we might get evidence prayer and other miracles – with demands one demonstrate a mechanism before inferring causation – but if he has ever gone into detail for why he’s not special pleading I have missed that show. (And if anyone has a link to Matt explaining this, I’d be grateful to see it posted.)

  102. Monocle Smile says

    @Vaal
    I agree. I don’t think Matt handled that call very well. The caller was describing the outline of an experiment and all that was needed was additional rigor and control of variables. It’s not like a scientific experiment looks wildly different from what was described. Causation is just extremely strong correlation, after all.

  103. Vaal says

    Exactly! ^^^^^

    Matt often rightly argues that Absolute Certainty is an impossible red herring. But then he seems to start demanding something closer to it only in the case of miracle or supernatural claims, where suddenly the normal attribution of hypothesis testing and cause and effect won’t do, and “it could always be Aliens instead…”

    It could always be aliens. We never have absolute certainty in ruling out certain competing non-falsifiable explanations.
    But that never stops us anywhere else: we simply look to see if there is evidence in support of a hypothesis.
    If I claimed I could read minds or astral project my consciousness to see objects far away from where my body is, then that’s a testable claim for which there could be potential evidence. You wouldn’t have to first know how it would work to gather evidence in favor of that claim.

  104. Devocate says

    “Causation is just extremely strong correlation, after all.”

    No. No it’s not. If I have two clocks, the chiming of the hours will be VERY strongly correlated. One clock is NOT causing the other to chime.

  105. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Devocate
    Indeed. One shows causation by showing constant correlation in time (cause must precede effect), and where one makes an intellectually honest attempt to try and toggle all other possible variables in the scenario (for example, in your scenario, it means disabling one of the clocks to see if one clock chiming is indeed causing the other clock to chime). But that’s all a proper scientific experiment is. Try to account for and remove all possible confounding variables, and then show a temporal correlation to a very high statistical degree of confidence.

    To Vaal
    I haven’t watched the show, but based on what I’ve seen here, you’re absolutely correct Vaal.

    I think Matt has a blind spot here. I’ve tried to call in and explain it myself once upon a time. I’m actually a bit confused as to exactly where Matt falls on this issue. I think he has the right position internally, but I think it’s very muddled in his head, and he does a very bad job at explaining it. I strongly suspect that Matt doesn’t have a sufficient understanding and respect for this issue.

    For the best breakdown that I’ve seen of these issues, I strongly suggest the following excellent and very readable peer reviewed paper:
    > How not to attack Intelligent Design Creationism: Philosophical misconceptions about Methodological Naturalism
    > Maarten Boudry, Stefaan Blancke, Johan Braeckman
    https://sites.google.com/site/maartenboudry/teksten-1/methodological-naturalism

    There’s one other very important issue IMO, this:

    And note that Matt’s objection seems to assume that we need an explanation of the mechanism for how A causes B, before inferring that A causes B.

    Again, Vaal, you are absolutely correct. That’s simply not how science works. It seems that Matt has a gross misunderstanding of science, but to be fair, this is a very common misunderstanding.

    Science does not need mechanism in order to show that A causes B. Showing mechanism is a kind of explanation, and this sort of explanation is a way of explaining one problem in terms of another problem. For example, I can explain chemistry in terms of particle physics. In other words, I can show that the rules of chemistry are simply a consequence of the rules of particle physics. This kind of explanation is known as a reductionist explanation. However, all reductionist explanations must eventually end in something that cannot be explained via reduction. In this scenario, particle physics itself is not understood in terms of something else. No one can reduce particle physics to something else.

    This kind of demand of explanation is IMHO a particular wrong-headed bias towards materialism. Now, I am a materialist, and like the Boudry paper explains, materialism has been widely successful to explaining the world, which is why I endorse provisional methodological naturalism. However, to demand an explanation is to embrace intrinsic methodological naturalism, and that’s going beyond what the evidence can support; it becomes dogmatic and wrong-headed.

    For a very beautiful video that covers this (less than 10 minutes), I strongly suggest this video by the Nobel Physicist Richard Feynman, one of the best if not the best educators of physics of the century.
    >Richard Feynman and Magnets

  106. Vaal says

    Devocate says
    “Causation is just extremely strong correlation, after all.”

    No. No it’s not. If I have two clocks, the chiming of the hours will be VERY strongly correlated. One clock is NOT causing the other to chime.
    ———-

    Yes it is 🙂

    All we really have in terms of observing causation, or testing hypotheses, is correlation.
    To establish correlation, we try to control/account for/winnow away variables to see which correlation remains.

    In your clock example, we could test the hypothesis that one clock ringing was causing the other clock to ring.
    One obvious step would be to separate the clocks (or turn one off) and see if the other still rings. That would be evidence
    in support of a hypothesis that the clocks ring on their own, and only the time is corrolated.

    But what if Clock A would reliably ring only when clock B was present and ringing? And no matter what time you set Clock A to ring, B would ring reliably along with it. Well, then you’ve got a strong correlation (that has been winnowed out from other weak or non-correlations) enough to attribute causation between Clock A and B. But…it’s simply inference from that correlation, just as, say, testing dieting methods one controls variables to see what strategy correlates strongly with losing weight, and when it is reliable enough, causation is inferred.

  107. Devocate says

    @EL:

    You can DISprove causation by stopping one of the clocks, you can’t prove causation by trying a few experiments and assuming causation if you fail.

  108. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Devocate

    You can DISprove causation by stopping one of the clocks, you can’t prove causation by trying a few experiments and assuming causation if you fail.

    But yes, you can, in the colloquial meaning of “prove” which means “demonstrate beyond all reasonable doubt” aka “demonstrate to an exceedingly high degree of confidence”. That’s exactly how you prove causation. That’s only way that one can ever prove causation. All proper scientific experiments, with single-blind or double-blind, with experiment and control groups, etc., is simply an exercise of this form: attempting to find correlations in time that withstand many attempts at changing other- possible confounding – variables.

    PS:
    And if you’re wanking over some pedantic difference between “prove” and “demonstrate to an exceedingly high degree of confidence”, then you’re still wrong. You just said that you can disprove something with a single counterexample. How very Popper of you. That’s wrong. Your memory is fallible. Maybe you made a mistake in setup. Maybe there are malicious humans who are screwing with your experiment without your knowledge. There are vast possibilities that can explain away your single purported counterexample. In the realm of extreme pedantics, “proof” is just as impossible to obtain as “disproof”. One never has (absolute) proof, and one never has (absolute) disproof. All one has is degrees of confidence, backed by the evidence, according to Bayesian reasoning.

  109. Vaal says

    Chris Hirst,

    I’m aware of that study; I wonder what comment you believe it makes on what I’ve written?

    Thanks.

  110. Vaal says

    Devocate says: “You can DISprove causation by stopping one of the clocks, you can’t prove causation by trying a few experiments and assuming causation if you fail.”

    That seems to be the very type of demand – the demand for “proof” – that the members of the Atheist Experience always point out to be fallacious.

    You never have “proof” strictly speaking: you just have growing confidence based on evidence, and finding reliable correlations is evidence.

    What we now believe/know about the world, scientifically, is generally wildly counter-intuitive and would be mindblowing to pre-scientific people. So we have to be ready to accept very weird things. But how do we proceed to establish causation in any case? Strong correlation – by controlling variables, looking for correlations predicted by hypotheses, etc.

    If the examples for testing causation between the clock alarms I gave were not valid, then no scientific inferences for causation are valid, given they are of the exact same character. It’s just special pleading to reject one and not the other.

  111. Devocate says

    I am not trying to use some unobtainable certainty level when I said ‘prove’. I mean the same thing you do. The simple point is that correlation does not equal causation, and not amount of it changes that. For causation you need at the very least a plausible, mechanism. You are quite simply wrong when you claim otherwise.

  112. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    For causation you need at the very least a plausible, mechanism. You are quite simply wrong when you claim otherwise.

    No, you are simply wrongly.

    Did you watch the Feynman video? You really ought to watch the Feynman video. Let me paraphrase: I slipped on the ice. Why did I slip on the ice? Because ice is slippery. Also because I had bad form and posture, and I slipped on the ice, and I fell.

    Why did I fall when I slipped? When I slipped, I was unable to support my own weight against the force of gravity, and gravity pulled me down.

    Why did gravity pull me down?

    In the Newtonian mode, all matter attracts all other matter. Why does matter attract all other matter? Or how does matter attract all other matter? Dunno. What’s the mechanism? No idea. Do I know that there is a cause and effect relationship between slipping and falling down? Hell yes.

    In the hypothetical quantum model, there might be these things called gravitons that mediate the gravity force, e.g. that are the gravity force. Why do fermions interact with gravitons and bosons do not? Why do fermions emit gravitons at all? How do fermions emit and interact with gravitons? Dunno. No one knows.

    In the relativistic model, matter bends spacetime in such a way as gravity is no longer a force, but instead what we perceive as gravity is simply the straight-line path through warped space and time. Why do matter, space, and time interact in this way? Why does matter cause a bending of spacetime? How does matter cause a bending of spacetime? Dunno. No one knows.

    As I have explained many times, any time that you answer with a mechanism, you are giving an explanation of the problem in terms of some other problem. This is called a reductionistic explanation. You are explaining the problem in terms of something else that the audience is more familiar with. However, reductionistic reasoning can only take you so far. In cases like this, quite quickly you’ll find that you will be explaining something in terms of something else which has no explanation, which has no (known) mechanism. There is no (known) mechanism for the Schrodinger field equation, and there is no (known) mechanism for Einstein’s equations of relativity.

    We simply know that they are true, based on the overwhelming evidence of correlation in time, plus massive attempts at controlling for confounding variables.

    Mechanisms are cool to have, but they’re not necessary.

    To put this another way, imagine going back in time as little as 100 years. Imagine the photoelectric effect. The photoelectric effect is this: When you shine light on metal with a particular setup, it will generate an electric current. For a particular metal, violet light will do this, and red light light will not. The violet light can be extremely dim, and there will still be an electric current, and the red light can be extremely bright, and there will not be zero electric current. At this point, it’s pretty clear that shining violet light on the metal is part of the causal relationship to generating an electric current. This was well known 100 years ago. The evidence was ironclad. The cause and effect relationship was well established.

    However, at a particular point in time about 100 years ago, no one had the faintest idea what was happening. By all of the models that they had at the time, it made no sense, and it violated all of their knowledge at the time. They had no idea about mechanism. That is because the mechanism can only be explained in terms of quantum theory, which had not yet been discovered / invented.

    PS: Einstein would go on to discover / invent a formula that modeled the photoelectric effect, which was the beginninngs of quantum theory, and he would win his Nobel prize for it. What – you thought he won his Nobel prize in physics for general relativity? Hell no. Relativity was quite controversial in the physics community for like 40 or 50 years, in large part because of the difficulty of testing it.

  113. Vaal says

    Devocate, you keep making the same assertion, with no argument.

    Causation is essentially *dependable* correlation.

    Do you really think it was unreasonable that people had inferred that fire caused water to boil, BEFORE we had a modern theory of thermodynamics for the mechanism? If that were the case, then every use of fire to boil water was an unreasonable expectation before thermodynamic theory, which is absurd.

    Think of magnetism: For thousands of years people could observe the causal phenomena associated with magnetism – static electricity causing things to cling, magnets held over filings causing them to attract to the magnet or scatter (depending on orientation), the reliability of compasses, etc. But they didn’t have the mechanistic explanation for it.
    But they had SOMETHING THAT NEEDED EXPLAINING, RIGHT? That is: Why does rubbing two pieces of material together cause them to cling? Why doe holding a magnetic rock over metal filings reliably cause them to scatter or attract?
    If they didn’t first have the causal connection, they wouldn’t need to have pursued an explanation (mechanism) in the first place! And this is rife through scientifici history – often we notice a causal connection first, and THEN seek to explain it.

    If you simply go through the steps of any empirical investigation, you’ll see that all you can test is correlation.
    You can have causal hypotheses, but all you can get in support of the hypothesis is carefully controlled correlation.

    Take a basic empirical narrowing of variables to establish “causation.”

    You eat at a Thai restaurant and not long after you break into a rash. You want to know what cause it, but right now you could say “The rash happened right after eating the Thai food, but all I have is the apparent correlation between eating the Thai food and my rash.” So you investigate further, next time having each of the dishes one at a time. Then, after one – Pad Thai noodles – the rash appears again. Another correlation – “B followed A” is what you have! Next step, in an attempt to separate the variables, you look at the ingredients, and try eating one at a time. Then you get to the chopped peanuts and the rash occurs afterward. Another correlation – B followed A! And lets say you reliably got the rash every time you ate the peanuts, not any of the other ingredients. It seems reasonable to conclude “eating the peanuts causes me to break out in a rash.” Even if you have NO IDEA HOW OR WHY eating the peanuts cause you to break out in a rash.

    Notice, there is NO CHANGE in the structure of inference. Eating the Thai food was followed by a rash. Eating the Pad Thai was followed by a rash. Eating the Peanuts is followed by a rash. Now you want to go further and find out if there is something more specific in the peanuts correlated with the rash. So you break it down chemically, test it’s constuent parts and find…voila!…ingesting the protein portion of the peanut is reliably followed by a rash (though not, for instance, the peanut oil devoid of the protein). Again, your inference of “causation” will be based upon the same inference, A (peanut protein ingestion) reliably correlates with B (rash). And if you come up with a hypothesis that only certain parts or types of peanut protein will “cause” the rash, then your tests of the hypothesis will rely on exactly the same inference: finding that “this protein exposure correlates reliably with rash, not that one.”

    So causation amounts to reliable correlation, whether it is reliable correlation you OBSERVE or you predict (with hypotheses) before you observe it.

  114. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Vaal.
    It’s ok. You might have done a better job explaining (this time (lol)).

  115. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Devocate #126:

    For causation you need at the very least a plausible, mechanism.

     
    @Vaal #128:

    Think of magnetism: For thousands of years people could observe the causal phenomena associated with magnetism […] But they didn’t have the mechanistic explanation for it.

     
    Article: Wikipedia – Thales

    Thales of Miletus (624 – 546 BC) […] Many, most notably Aristotle, regard him as the first philosopher in the Greek tradition, and he is otherwise historically recognised as the first individual in Western civilisation known to have entertained and engaged in scientific thought, (i.e. empiricism).

     

    According to Aristotle, Thales thought lodestones had souls, because of the fact of iron being attracted to them (which occurs through forces of magnetism).

     
    Plausible?
    /Grabs popcorn.
    //Siding with Vaal.