Open Thread for Episode 20.43: Russell and Tracie


Today I want to share two stories that were told to me by different people about their personal experiences and conclusions they drew from those experiences. Interestingly, although they are different stories, they are, in fact, the same story.

STORY 1:

An acquaintance of mine once told me she could tell when bad things were going to happen. She said when she was dating her current partner, they went out to dinner at a restaurant. She soon felt a sense of foreboding, and insisted they had to leave, as something bad was going to happen. And so they left.
“So, then what happened?” I asked, expecting to hear that the building collapsed that night, or several people who ate there were soon hospitalized with food poisoning, or there’d been an armed robbery on the premises an hour after they’d walked out.

“I don’t know. We just left–because I knew something bad was going to happen.”

STORY 2:

An acquaintance of mine once told me she learned she was an empath when she was walking one day and began to feel a sudden and overwhelming onset of negative emotions for no apparent reason. She realized she had just passed a man walking in the other direction and knew that she’d picked up on his emotional angst.

“So, what was he upset about?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I didn’t actually talk to him.”

I could spend time writing about what is wrong with the reasoning here, and on what level these two stories are “the same,” but I won’t insult the reader by explaining the obvious.

Comments

  1. MZ says

    It’s kind of funny that you’ve brought this up. It’s related to something that’s been on my mind lately. (Wooooooo. Just kidding. No, really.)

    For Don and his series on “failures”.

    Humans live, and probobly have always lived, in a constant state of not having sufficient information to make informed choices about what to do to ensure future survival and/or prosperity. Whether it’s which valley to settle in or which corporation to invest in, any possible prospect of advantage that can be taken will be taken. Luck plays an unnacceptably large role in the outcome. Whether it’s astrology or animal entrails or magic or a whisper in one’s ear or religion, the possibility of knowing what the future holds, if it worked, would give tremendous advantage to the person having that knowlege over their neighbors or their rivals or other tribes or other nations. Even if it only apparently worked, excuses could be made, or made up, to explain away those times that the magic didn’t work.

    IMHO this is why prophesy is so important in religion. Theists like to use prophesy to “prove” the truth of their holy books. If a claim can be made that a person or a practice is truly prophetic it can convey a great advantage to that person or to those that are familiar with the technique. I would think that if a person had sufficient personal confidence and charisma that many times the claim would be enough. Few enough people do a fact check, or apply any kind of critical thinking, to prophesy.

    No matter what technology a society has that can predict the outcomes of actions, eventually its rivals will get hold of it so it will always need the next big thing.

    Furthermore I think that this can go toward explaining the nature of the rivalry that exists between science and religion. Both science and religion are in the business of making predictions about the future. Science started out by making apparently trivial predictions. It can be shown, for instance, that two objects of unequal mass fall at the same rate and acceleration. Or that the period of a pendulum depends on its length and the acceleration of gravity, not on the weight of its fob. Trivial? Maybe. But these findings led to the developement of clocks. I would say that clocks changed the world at least as much as Christianity did, if not more so. For religion the major predictions are the ones that need a great deal of fast talk to explain away why they haven’t come to fruition. When will the messiah come? When will the end of the world come?

    In science if an observed phenomenon is sufficiently reliable, that is if it is sufficiently understood, it can be developed into a technology. The technologies that science has produced, aside from their miliatary applications, have the result of raising the standard of living of a much wider range of the population than the technologies that religion has produced. But that’s the subject of another discussion.

  2. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    Sam needs to actually get this genius to call in, that’d be phenomenal. All I got from this was, “We’re attaching god stuff to confirmed stuff.”

  3. Mike K says

    HI all,

    I used to think I was an empath, and to some extent know what was going on with people who were emotionally close to me. The most remarkable experience I had was “knowing” a recent ex-gf was in trouble. It turns out she was doing drugs with some people at the same time, from what she said when I talked to her later. There were other things like that, statistical improbabilities which I attributed to some kind of sixth sense, ESP, whatever label fits. It made me feel special when I was (in reflection) going through a serious bout of clinical depression. That belief of mine lasted for years. I even had an ankh necklace I got from a relative, and I thought I had “charged” it with whatever special energy I had, and it focused my ability.

    Otherwise, I believed I communicated with a god entity directly, and I followed the feelings and “advice” I got from the voice in my head I attributed to god. Tracie’s anecdote about the person who left the restaurant because of a bad feeling really struck a chord with me, because I used to do that stuff. She asked how folks rationalize that, and for me, I just assumed the bad thing didn’t happen because I left, or would have only happened to me, or would have only been bad for me. I even experienced situations which I didn’t avoid and ended up being bad. So I really had it all laid out for myself.

    What changed? I eventually shed the superstitions through gradual education and reflection. Some of that stuff I experienced then, I still can’t explain fully, but I know naturalistic explanations for most of it and accept that the stuff I can’t explain is probably due to my ignorance of other naturalistic explanations. I have since become an atheist, and reject all claims which can’t be explained with sufficient, credible evidence.

    Let me know if you have any questions about what I experienced when I thought I had these “abilities”. Thanks for all the great work you all do.

  4. mond says

    I was getting a real culty feel from Sam.
    Lots of new-agey buzzwords/phrases plus adoration of a ‘charismatic’ leader who would explain it all.

  5. Murat says

    A code for the universe and something about cracking it? I couldn’t catch how that call began but what I heard reminded me of that popular book called “The Secret”.

  6. Marshall says

    Regarding the bit about whether anything could be possible, often the argument against this statement is to find a contradiction as Tracie did. The problem is that once a contradiction is showed it is assumed that this proves that the claim is absolutely false. This assumes that the law of non-contradiction is a valid way to determine whether something is false. But how can the law of non-contradiction be proven without referring back to it?

  7. shadowblade says

    This first caller is what happens when under-educated people take too much bad acid, and then they are left unsupervised near a ‘phone in the care home. My brain is still in a knot.

    And isn’t this episode 20.43, not 20.42

  8. Murat says

    The way that guy stupidly re-broadcasted the conversation at the expense of everybody’s audio comfort was very coherent with how he failed to understand the concept of burden of proof.

  9. Jim Barrows says

    Why don’t people understand that there are three positions you can take on any claim: Belief/Acceptance/Yes, UnBelief/RejectionNo, and “I don’t know”/unknown/maybe. *SIGH*

  10. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    The only Mandela I cared for was Nelson, really great his work was.

    Aww, *hugs Zach tightly.* More than a couple years have passed and death still keeps us in a state of being that we don’t desire. The only thing we can do is understand how the process of life goes and that death isn’t something that seeks us out/or has some intent to make us feel bad. The feelings we experience by losing anyone we care for(or seeing death of any living thing) are real and we should take as much time as necessary to process those emotions to the best of our ability(whether by ourselves or with others.)

    Bret does more jumping than a Kangaroo. He is talking to some atheist(/s) that isn’t even present. Bret should ask instead of assume what the people he’s talking to believe or disbelieve and why that is. That call was just annoying.

    Poor dropped callers.

    Poor Yelmer.

    Damn, poor Daniel.

    Vic with the plug! 🙂

    Peter: I’d say death is more feared, ime.

    Brandon’s call: Yep I’m with Tracie there, it’s all in proportion to how their beliefs impacts the world. I don’t care about the horoscope people unless they start painting me in a way based on their horoscope stuff.

  11. says

    Damn it! Russell accidentally dropped me at the very end! And I was so hyped up too… What I was going to discuss (nature of existence) was actually going to touch on a lot of the bizarre topics that the first caller brought up. I might regret saying this, but I’m quite upset right now, but why do they waste so much time talking to idiots? That first caller and Brett Keane, who was being absolutely disrespectful and probably should have been kicked off once they found out he was streaming. By the way, the thing that Russell was talking about after the first guy, about mathematical systems being proved inconsistent? Yeah, those were Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems. Could have told them that if I had a chance to get on. I’m a pile of salt right now, probably breaking some rules, I know, but whatever. I’ll just try next week. Thankfully Russell will still be on next week and he seems knowledgeable (as a CS major of course) about mathematical concepts and how they might relate to reality. But seriously I was so pumped. Argh.

  12. Jelmer says

    How to destroy the Kalam Cosmological Argument completely and also take on the fine-tuning argument, with a simple proposal.

    The KCA usually goes like this:
    A1: Everything that starts to exist has a cause
    A2: The universe started to exist
    A3: Therefor the universe has a cause
    A4: This cause must be uncaused, and therefor not bound to time or space or matter. It ‘transcendent’ it.
    A5: It must be personal (The universe could not have been brought into being by a mechanically operating set of necessary and sufficient conditions)

    All that is needed to destroy KCA is a NON-personal cause that has all the other attributes that religious people say god has:
    Let’s propose a simple non personal cause for the universe and call it C1:

    C1: for every consistent set of natural laws a universe is comes into existence.

    Now this meta-natural/meta-universal rule commits to all the demands that religious people find necessary for their uncaused causer. It is not bound to our or any other universe (it could cause other universes also). It is also not bound to time or space or matter. In WLC’s words it is a ‘transcendent’ cause. C1 is obviously not physical and…. C1 is at least true for one univers, namely ours

    Now C1 is not meant just as an alternative answer to Kalam, but as a simple and strong tool against the theistic logic on Kalam. Every theistic attack on C1 can instantly be redirected to their answer ‘god’, thus showing how fraudulent Kalam is to ‘proof’ that god exists.
    For instance: if asked what caused C1 a simple reply would be: what caused god? Because if theist find they can ask that question for C1, than atheists can ask that question for god. After all, C1 and god share the same characteristics. Not bound to the natural laws, not bound to our or any universe, not bound to time or space or matter.
    If theists say that the universe should have always existed since the cause of the universe had always existed (an argument that WLC actually gave during the Q&A) then this implies some timeframe or concept of time in which C1 would ‘always’ have existed. But C1 is, again just like ‘god’, not bound to any time. It is meta-natural/meta-universal ‘transcendent’ cause. If C1 causes a univers into existence it doesn’t do that within any kind of timeframe or concept of time, it just does it.
    If theists object that this is ‘logically impossible’ that objection can then immediately be thrown back again at them, since their god has exactly the same problem. How can a timeless consciousness make a decision to create something in the absence of any temporal sequence of thoughts. That also is loggicaly impossible.
    Any argument given by the theist to show the impossibility of C1 can be redirected into the same objection to ‘god’. If the theist askes what came first, C1 or the natural laws, one can ask what came first, gods desire to create the world, or the moment he did so. If the theists argues that it was his desire than this implies some timeframe, how can that be if god is timeless or outside of time? If they respond that he is eternal than he is not timeless, and all kind of other arguments the theist useally comes up with when the KCA is presented fall dead (for instance the impossibility of an actual infinity). If you know your opponent also advocates the fine tuning argument you can respond with what came first, the natural laws or god, because if he needs to fine-tune the cosmos, it seems the natural laws where already applicable in one or the other way.

    What do you think of this argument?

  13. DivineEvil says

    Chris Langan is actually quite close to the complete understanding of the Universe, as his current work available online signifies, however in no place has he actually connected any God or intelligence to his theory. But he’s close. He just need to get rid of human-perspective biases in order to get there.

  14. Devocate says

    I don’t think Gödel’s theorems help when discussing weather the Universe can be completely described by Mathematics. We don’t need a completely self-consistent system of mathematics to describe the Universe, just a sufficient one. If we were to imagine a Universe with a single particle, we wouldn’t actually need ‘2’ to describe it.

  15. says

    @Devocate

    I agree (I think). I just watched today a World Science Festival video (The Limits of Understanding) where they discussed this very topic. They agree that we’re not even completely sure what he proved with those theorems. We know that he disproved the consistency of certain formal systems, but that doesn’t deny the existence of such a system, correct? I feel like saying the Incompleteness Theorems proves the universe isn’t mathematical is akin to saying quantum mechanics proves free will exists. We don’t have enough of an understanding (not to hate, but especially Russell since he didn’t even know the name of the idea) about the concept to use it to make philosophical statements of fact.

  16. hermantf says

    The caller re-broadcasting was dishonest. Russell mentioned that the problem with the echoing and “skype” might be a re-broadcasting issue, and he never admitted to doing that, until he was specifically caught doing it.

    A liar? Maybe not. Dishonest? Definitely.

  17. hermantf says

    Also on the caller that was re-broadcasting. That seemed to be a very simple “burden of proof” misunderstanding. Why didn’t you all just stick to that, rather than go to the whole “primate in the everglades” argument?

  18. dustin says

    The Mandela Effect got its name because a lot of people apparently had the same false memory that Nelson Mandela had died a long time ago, rather than in 2013. Experts (aka some rando with a blog) theorized this was due to something to do with an alternate timeline or parallel universe that had somehow been merged, so some people were from the timeline where Mandela had died a long time ago.

    The same thing also happened with the Berenstxin bears[1]. What letter should the ‘x’ be replaced with? Try and remember, if you’ve seen the show or books. If you look it up, you will find it was spelled a certain way. I was a fan of the show as a kid, and specifically remember it being spelled the other way. Most likely I just misremembered, and never paid close enough attention to to check if I had the wrong spelling, but it’s fun to imagine that I’m a refugee from a parallel universes.

    [1] http://mandelaeffect.com/berenstein-or-berenstain-bears/

  19. rezalution says

    You guys are awesome!! especially Tracie.. your more of god than any unproven deity for me and the divine logic to prove it you are 🙂 uummm if your morals are not filtered by morality then he who follows immorally ..
    yep that when i fell in love with you Tracie X (not in love with you)

    for a devout christian “believer” of blind faith.. or (ignoramus ) the ability to ignore facts surrounding this one subject is astounding …The to attempt to twist and turn them into something you know is counter intuitive is dumb …then abruptly move on to the next ridiculous semiconscious conclusion so as you don’t have sit in the stench of your previous comment

    Can you guys PLEASE push the point below for me I really want some answers here thank you guys so much for your time I’m sure its not in vain in any way …god speed.

    Can someone explain to me the inconsistency in the practice, teachings,,metaphors and over all agreement on definitions of the bible
    I mean where talking about THE book of all books… You’ve had over 2000 years to come to a mutual agreement of what the book entails
    do the minority of priests and bishops that abuse there position just exercising gods will? is it justified in the bible like slavery ?
    do you hate fags or don’t you??.. the evidence shows it to be a matter of opinion and actually fact!!
    does not the immensity of wealth abused by humans baring gods name go against the whole poor man eye needle camels bum heaven thing??

    one last thing the term is “burden of proof” means only that ..by definition you cant asking to disprove is wrong and we won’t prove your argument for you that’s your job !! …. that’s why people like the atheist experience are waiting openly without any malicious or righteous position.. just waiting for ONE JUST ONE person with a coherent and plausible case a more believable adaptation or repeatable positive out come of a valid experiment… SOMETHING ANYTHING that will make us at least question our rationality

    we laugh while we wait 🙂
    thankyou
    neshi

  20. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    They used the PITE thing in order to demonstrate that the burden of proof was on the claimant not on the unbeliever.

  21. Wiggle Puppy says

    @ #8 Gerard:

    “I might regret saying this, but I’m quite upset right now, but why do they waste so much time talking to idiots?”

    My guess is, it’s because if people watching who are open-minded or on the fence see 1) that theists are being completely incoherent and/or dishonest jerks and 2) that atheists are trying to have an open and honest discussion, they may be swayed in their opinion or at least encouraged to investigate further.

  22. stonepeterson says

    Hello Tracie & Russell.

    This is Peter from Charlottesville (one of the lightning round callers from earlier today). By the way, I chose the screen name “stone peterson” because Peter is literally stone in Latin (the Bible is a horrible source of cosmological truth and morality, but I guess it does at least have some upsides when it comes to cultural tidbits like word and name etymology lol!).

    The question I was calling in on (whether moderate/ambivalent believers are probably more scared of the nothingness of death or the possibility of hell/eternal damnation/torture) is something I’ve speculated on. While the answer of course differs from person to person, what fascinates me is the wide spectrum of experiences that fall under the domain of human consciousness.

    Tracie was talking early on in the show about people with intuitive/psychic feelings about bad things happening, etc., and I think, in a way, something like that is the case when people discuss their fears, etc. (or lack thereof) of death (whether they’re referring to the death of someone else or their own demise). Both for people frightened of nothingness/nonexistence and/or eternal torture/hell, I think the reasons are most likely (if not certainly) rooted in something evolutionary. It’s one of the reasons Pascal’s Wager annoys me so much. Religious folks–whether they do so intentionally or obliviously–manipulate potential followers into belief (or at least professing belief, as Dan Dennett discusses) by skipping past sound logic and evidence and jumping straight to emotion. A dishonest tactic used to frighten people (especially young children) into submission, it does nothing more than merely compound all of humanity’s greatest fears (being burnt alive, suffocation, darkness, terror, loneliness, regret, hunger, exhaustion, other physical pains, etc.) into some weird, everlasting amalgam. And so, I think when people say they fear death because of the possibility of hell, it’s more than likely a warped, amplified dread of all the things they may fear in this life.

    As a nonbeliever, although I fear the idea of nothingness/nonexistence, it’s a zillion times more preferable than the idea that any infraction I may have made in this life (including not being convinced of a supernatural deity and/or the supposed sacrifice of his human son in the ancient middle east) means I should be tortured forever in the absolute worst manner possible. Still, I think many people fear the nothingness of death (even though such a state would entail no pain, no terror, etc.) because it’s just something that’s so unimaginably difficult to wrap our minds around (although I think Mark Twain’s quote helps to add a little bit of consolation to the matter).

    When it comes to personal experiences (including supposed premonitions, dreams, visions, hallucinations, near-death experiences, etc.), I think many people misunderstand the views of atheists/nonbelievers/skeptics on the matter. Many people think atheists are coldly rational and quickly dismiss anything outside of the traditional, scientific model of reality. When ever someone says something like this to me, I always want to point out to them that, on the contrary, the type of phenomena that exist on the fringes of human experience (especially when it relates to matters of consciousness) are what fascinate me (and other likeminded people) the most (especially since I studied philosophy as an undergrad). Sam Harris, at some point I believe, articulated this point in one of his lectures/speeches, explaining that although he thinks religious/spiritual claims are generally empty, transcendent experiences like NDEs, meditation, hallucinations, etc. are worth investigating and understanding (even if, in the end, the roots of such experiences are purely biological/material).

    By the way, the last time I called into the AXP, I asked Russell and Jen P. what religious tenets or arguments believers use that they find most annoying. I know Matt said it frustrates him a lot when people say things like “If you didn’t feel the presence of God, you weren’t praying hard enough.” Jeff D., like me, doesn’t like it when people use Pascal’s Wager/threats of hell to win an argument. Russell said his biggest pet peeve is when believers ask, “So where do you get your morality from?” and Jen said that she doesn’t like it when people resort to presuppositions.

    So I’m just curious. This question is for Tracie. Is there any religious tenet or argument that believers use that you find particularly irritating? By the way, I’m not merely limiting this to any of the tenets/arguments related to Christianity. This question applies to all religions or superstitious/outlandish claims (such as the 9/11 conspiracies, alien abductions, etc.).

    Thanks,

    Peter

  23. Mobius says

    The re-broadcasting Youtuber was quite insistent about his straw man of the atheist position. But then, I have known a lot of theists that are that way. This guy, though, was particularly bad in that he refused to even address the position Russel and Tracy were stating. He just kept coming back to his flawed statement. Annoying as Heck.

  24. Mobius says

    When Tracy brought up the “in a world where everything is possible, can something impossible exist?”, I immediately thought of Bertrand Russell’s “set of all sets which do not contain themselves”.

    The caller didn’t understand what he was trying to discuss well enough to even begin to be coherent. And his first “definition” of God was amazingly bad. How could it not lead to a circular argument?

    God is maximal reality.
    Blah
    Blah
    Blah
    Therefore God is real.

    Jeez.

    It sounds a lot like his buddy the guy writing the book is likely into some serious logical fallacies. Of course one can prove things that are in reality false, but “logically true”, if one starts out with flawed assumptions. As Russel kept trying to point out, you have to show your assumptions to be grounded in reality before you can reach logical conclusions that might be true about that reality.

  25. Peggy Clancy says

    That re-broadcasting Youtuber became more rude and louder when Tracie and Russell tried to explain burden of proof.
    It seemed that he didn’t want anything explained to him. He wanted an atheist positive claim to be expressed by the hosts (I’m not sure what that would be, really), then he wanted the hosts to fail to prove this claim, whatever it might be.

  26. Wiggle Puppy says

    I’m surprised that Tracie was so patient with the first caller. She rightly dismissed the guy a few weeks ago who was talking about things “between existence and nonexistence,” and this guy was no better. When people start saying things like “God is the ultimate reality,” you know there’s a whole lot of nothing about to follow.

  27. Evil God of the Fiery Cloud says

    When they said they had a theist Youtuber on I was curious, and will admit when I heard it was Brett Keane I was elated. While I’ll admit some disappointment his rebroadcasting caused tech issues cutting the call short, it went pretty much exactly the way I expected. On the Drunken Peasants podcast (which features the Amazing Atheist and some of his friends. I’m aware people with an alright take on him are probably in the minority here, but bear with me please) they have a segment dedicated to highlighting the absurdity of this guy’s Individual Situation. As someone stated earlier, he was apparently an atheist Youtuber at some point but found Jesus, and now regularly indulges in fallacious arguments that he used to deride as an atheist. It should be fairly obvious from the bits that could be made out that the guy called in to be adversarial and not permit the hosts to get a word in edgewise. While a later call with him might prove to be amusing, the guy’s not interested in having an intellectually honest conversation.

  28. roguetrooper815 says

    Can I make a serious request regarding your format?

    One thing I notice is you guys always spend a LOT of time on the first caller which is usually not the smartest or most productive call. Then you run out of time and end up having to rush through some really thought-provoking callers at the end.

    It would be better if you have a TIME LIMIT for each call. 5-8 minutes per caller gives you plenty of time to frame an issue and discuss it, then wrap it up in time to take more calls, rather than spend half the show on a single, argumentative call.

    Not telling you how to do your job, but it happens every show and it could make your show a lot tighter! Keep it up!

  29. louis cyfer says

    -is there anything in there that is impossible?
    -no.
    -we just proved that there is an impossibility in there.

    answering no proved that the answer is yes? we have a problem. if there isn’t anything in there that is impossible proves that there is an impossibility in there. hmm.

  30. louis cyfer says

    correction.

    -is it possible in this realm that there is something that is impossible?
    -no.
    -then there is something in this realm that is impossible. i just named it.

    let us say he answered differently.

    -is it possible in this realm that there is something that is impossible?
    -yes.
    -give me an example that is impossible?
    -the thing in this realm that is impossible is that there is something in this realm that is impossible.

    she already did that for him. when answering no proves yes, we have a problem.

  31. says

    In response to the question of premonitions I can say that I grew up with the ‘feelings’ that your acquaintances were talking about. One other thing that is important to mention is that I also grew up seeing things that others couldn’t. It is important because I think the two are connected.
    I have been told by many people that I have paranormal gifts and also used to believe that I did, but I am a skeptic and I wouldn’t go around trying to use them because I found them unreliable.
    I would get premonitions, and through conformation bias over the years I thought to trust my instincts. I would always leave or get away from anyone when I had those ‘bad feelings’. The bad feelings that are gotten are incredibly strong, it isn’t just a feeling but a knowing. If you stay there, something horrible will happen.
    I, of course, used to believe that the gods were talking to me and that I did indeed have some special power, if I just learned to use it. Well, after many years I could never learn to control or use it reliably.
    My best guess as to what is going on is that many people are born with sensitivity to magnetic fields, to greater and lesser degrees. I believe the ‘feelings’ people have, religious experiences and ‘hauntings’ are just those of us who are sensitive to those fields, feeling them.
    I still get ‘feelings’ and I still see ‘shadow people’ or have religious experiences occasionally but I think the science makes a little more sense than the supernatural.
    I could be wrong or something else completely but, the science is interesting and until I know, I make sure to sleep far away from any electronics. Oh, and when I ignore the ‘premonitions’ nothing bad happens in any more likelihood that it would any other day.

  32. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Russell (14:53):

    Tryptophan from turkey makes you sleepy.

    Article: Snopes – Does eating turkey make people drowsy?

    In this instance lore somewhat intersects with science, but not nearly to the extent claimed in popular belief. Turkey does contain tryptophan, an amino acid which is a natural sedative (to the extent that L-tryptophan has been marketed as a sleep aid); but to put an ordinarily awake person into a state of slumber it would generally have to be consumed on an empty stomach, in combination with little no other protein (which limits the absorption of tryptophan by the body), and in amounts larger than are typically gobbled even during a holiday feast. That lazy, lethargic feeling so many celebrants are overcome by at the conclusion of a festive seasonal meal is usually due not specifically to the turkey on the dinner menu, but to a combination of drinking alcohol and overeating a carbohydrate-rich repast (as well as some other factors
    […]
    those who took tryptophan-based supplements as sleep aids were, on the average, ingesting between 500 and 2,000 milligrams of L-tryptophan daily. Four ounces of turkey contains only about 350 milligrams of tryptophan, and (unlike people taking tryptophan-based supplements, who take them every day) most folks don’t ingest that much turkey every day of the week.

  33. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Matthew (1:03:50):

    There’s a thing on the internet […] called the Mandela Effect? In short, it’s a simulation theory. […] If simulation theory in some way turned out to be provable ore true, would that somehow in any way affect your belief in God?

    Article: Snopes – The Mandela Effect

    In simplest terms, the Mandela Effect is an instance of collective misremembering. Examples include lines from famous movies that everyone gets wrong (e.g., Humphrey Bogart’s saying “Play it again, Sam” in Casablanca), erroneous dates and numbers (apparently many people answer “52” when asked how many states there are in the U.S.), and historical misconceptions (are you among those who recall learning in school that cotton gin inventor Eli Whitney was black?).
     
    The term “Mandela Effect” was coined by self-described “paranormal consultant” Fiona Broome, who has written on her web site that she first became aware of the phenomenon after discovering that she shared a particular false memory – that South African human rights activist and president Nelson Mandela died in prison during the 1980s (he actually died in 2013) – with many other people.

     

    One theory based on principles of quantum mechanics holds that people who experience the Mandela Effect may have “slid” between parallel realities (à la the science fiction TV series Sliders). After growing up in a universe where it was “Berenstein” Bears, for example, some people one day woke up to find themselves in an alternate universe with “Berenstain” Bears.
     
    Another theory posits that unbeknownst to ourselves, we all exist within something resembling a “holodeck” (a device in the world of the Star Trek series that creates a virtual reality experience for recreational purposes). On this model, apparent memory glitches are actually software glitches that cause inconsistencies in our perception of reality. Can you prove this isn’t the case?
     
    There’s nothing inherently wrong with this sort of speculation – it’s fun, in fact – but it yields no practical explanation or testable hypotheses. Nor is it necessary. We don’t have to conduct thought experiments about the ultimate nature of reality to explain why we misremember things – or even why we misremember some of the same things the same way.

  34. gnostic says

    Man, that Bret guy was painful to listen to. Partly because he sucks at tech. (What the hell, he couldn’t even figure out how to quit Skype?) Mostly though because his argument skills were so bad. I do wish Russell and Tracie didn’t talk over each other so much in rebutting him, though. With the echo from Bret’s crap setup that became really hard to follow. At least you got him off the line once it became clear he wasn’t going to sort out his noise issues.

  35. Jack Thornton says

    That was, well… messy. The single biggest gripe I have with TAE is having two presenters who talk over each other and I’m afraid Russell, you are the biggest culprit today. The Bret call was painful. Tracy was trying to explain the atheist position and Russell kept talking over her about Bret’s set-up, Skype, Bret broadcasting, Bret’s tech ability… and it just resulted in the call going nowhere, allowing Bret an easy win. Then Russ killed the wrong calls… Facepalm.

  36. says

    oh, and i agree with the growing consensus that bret was an obvious !@#$%!, trying to stick to his canned script, which required ignoring the hosts …

  37. Caleathka says

    Checked out that Bret guy’s website (if you can call it that). Just trying to watch the clip he cut and posted from the show and a bunch of links are splashed across the screen. Checked out the comments section for his vid, apparently disabled because atheists are hateful, liars, stalkers and a bunch of other adjectives. There was 1 comment about how the hosts clearly avoided his question to focus on the tech issues. I don’t think this guy has many friends.

  38. Justin says

    Gnostic @ 26

    It wasn’t Skype, it was Google Hangouts, and it’s not that he couldn’t figure out how to quit, it’s that he didn’t want to quit it. If you watch his video of the conversation on his youtube channel, he was in a hangout with like, 5 other people, and didn’t want to drop all his friends so he just straight up lied to Russell and said he “turned it off” when he didn’t. He wanted all his friends there so after the call was over they could sit around acting like they “won” and talk shit. Grade A douchebag, but I hope he calls back next week on his own without audio issues so they can make a fool out of him.

  39. Devocate says

    “Chris Langan is actually quite close to the complete understanding of the Universe”

    An obvious self-refuting claim. No one can know how close they are to the complete understanding of the universe without having an actual complete understanding of the universe to compare to. Therefore the whole claim is disingenuous.

    Scientists in the late 1800 thought they were ‘pretty close to a complete understanding of the Universe’, only a few pesky bits left to figure out. Figuring them out required throwing out all they knew.

  40. says

    Mike K—thanks for sharing. Someone posted a comment on social media saying something like that—that since nothing bad happened, it must have worked. It reminds me of a joke a friend of mine used to use—that doing some specific thing “kept the vampires away…have you seen any vampires?” It didn’t dawn on me till this person commented (shortly before the show), that *nothing* happening was their confirmation that their feelings worked. It still blows my mind that a person reasons this way, as I probably would be left wondering. It seems to be a higher level of trust in instincts than I had. I had that, but just not to that degree. I suppose it’s similar to “sour grapes”—where sometimes if I wanted something and prayed and didn’t get it, I would rationalize god knew better and it was probably best I didn’t get it. That’s about as close as I can recall being to that thinking.

    Marshall – “Regarding the bit about whether anything could be possible, often the argument against this statement is to find a contradiction as Tracie did. The problem is that once a contradiction is showed it is assumed that this proves that the claim is absolutely false.”

    The claim itself was an omni—so showing one example that does not conform *does* in that case, demonstrate it’s false. He said that in this realm *everything* is possible. I asked if it was possible that something was impossible, and he said “no.” The means there is one thing at least within the realm that we agree is not possible, which is what he said could not be. For him to say X cannot be, and then say that X is, you are correct contradicts itself.

    “But how can the law of non-contradiction be proven without referring back to it?”

    Through testing and examination. Do we find in all our observations that things are what they are and aren’t what they aren’t? Or do we find they are what they aren’t and aren’t what they are? You live in the world—you tell me which has been your experience? If nothing else, it’s simply a description of our observation of how we experience reality—like calling something “70-degrees F.” How do we know it’s 70-degrees F? Through testing and examination.

    Gerard – Sorry you didn’t get on. We prioritize theists, as part of the program’s stated purpose. I kept trying to keep the guy on point, but there didn’t seem to be a point outside of meandering over topics he didn’t fully grasp that someone else was going to explain in a few years. I guess my confusion is, if it’s a done deal in two years, why call to argue about it now? Just let the man finish his book, publish it, and end it. Until then, someone who can’t do the idea justice calling to give a half-baked description does not help. Once he’d shared the info that this worldview shattering book was coming out shortly and gave the author’s name—plug done. Going on after that was a waste of the show’s time. I agree. But we can’t know until we know. And he kept saying he was going to get to something someday…so…?

    Got to run, but thanks to Shadowblade for the show number correction. I updated it last night.

  41. RationalismRules says

    @Jennifer Leigh #35 I can imagine that strong personal feelings/visions can be very persuasive, and be difficult to regard objectively, but it sounds like you have managed to find an objective viewpoint to your own experiences, so well done you for taking the skeptical approach!
    It sounds like you’re past this point already, but a great piece of advice for identifying confirmation bias is ‘write it down’. If people actually took notes every time they had a ‘premonition’, it would fairly quickly become apparent just how unrelated those feelings are to actual events.

    I find it interesting that the non-specific ‘premonitions’ that people have seem to be invariably negative – I can’t remember ever hearing someone say that they had a premonition that something wonderful but unspecified was going to happen. Of course you do hear it in specific context eg. “I just knew I was going to get the job”, but to me that relates more to ‘wishful thinking’.
    It makes me wonder whether there is some connection to personal anxiety with the negative premonitions.

    Also, I’ve recently heard that a feeling of “impending doom” is fairly common during pregnancy / labor – a feeling of such strength as to seem a ‘knowing’. I wasn’t particularly surprised – it seems entirely likely that in such a high stakes / high stress situation some percentage of women would at some point experience deep anxiety – however the pregnancy tie-in makes me wonder whether body chemicals may be involved.

    I’m interested that you say you occasionally ‘have religious experiences’. If you are happy to expand on this, I’d be interested to hear more specifically what you are experiencing that you are labeling ‘religious’? (only if you are comfortable sharing, of course)

  42. Dan Gilbertson says

    Hi Russell and Tracie,

    Great show as always! I just wanted to let you guys know that the caller from St.Louis, MO named ‘Bret’ was actually a man named Brett Keane on Youtube. This man called up purely to attack and ask nonsensical and loaded questions to try and one-up you guys. Brett Keane is well-known on Youtube as a liar, a con-man and has committed a number of terms of service violations including false-flagging/false DMCA’ing Youtube channels that criticise him, plagiarising other people’s content such as poems and songs and releasing people’s personal information against their will (which got him permanently banned from Youtube to begin with so his broadcast of your show on his channel was a direct violation of Youtube’s terms of service.) He lied during this episode about broadcasting his call so I believe that is clear evidence of my labelling him as a liar, but there’s plenty of evidence of his deceptions still on the internet if you look around.

    He was an atheist for a long time before his shady and deceptive behaviour got him shunned from the atheist community on Youtube, so he ‘converted’ to Christianity and makes nonsensical arguments like the ones we heard on the episodes that he doesn’t really believe- I know this (and many others know this too) because in the past, Brett would refute the same arguments that he makes today. His shunning from the atheist community made him very bitter towards atheists so he makes tons of generalised insults towards them, like he did on this episode.

    I would strongly recommend that you do not take any more of Brett’s calls. Brett is desperate for Youtube fame- whatever he thinks will get him views, he will do it (and he’ll never stop attempting to do so, I believe he’s had around 20 previous Youtube accounts before they were banned.) A frequent tactic of his to attract views is to stir up drama, which is what I believe he did on your show. He will attempt to make you two seem unreasonable by aggravating you with nonsensical questions and disrespectful behaviour in the hopes that you will kick him so he can claim you two ‘rage-quit’ the discussion. His understanding of technology is also incredibly poor, which would explain the feeding back and the Skype ringtones.

    TL;DR- Brett Keane is a liar and only wanted to call into TAA to cause trouble to get views for himself. Please don’t take any more of his calls. Aside from that, it was an entertaining and informative episode and I look forward to the next one 🙂

  43. Vivec says

    Isn’t Chris Langan the guy that the “Mark from Stone Temple Church” troll kept name dropping? IIRC his username on the old AXP site was “chrislanganfan”

  44. says

    @RationalismRules #49.
    From what I gather, if magnetic waves hit your brain from one direction, you get positive religious experiences and negative terrifying experiences if it hits the other. This has been studied quite a bit and if you are curious you can easily find some of the research that is going on. I, of course, was really interested due to my experiences.
    Some of the religious experiences I have had include feelings of peace, joy and a strong presence. I know that there is something there, watching over me and protecting me. Sometimes there is a white light that fills the room and sometimes the room will be bathed in a soft glow.
    The nightmare experiences include malevolent presences with black shadows in the shape of people throughout the room. This is also a common experience if you look it up on the internet as ‘shadow people’.
    These experiences don’t always happen. I would get the nightmare ones almost nightly when I lived in one of my childhood homes. I thought my house was haunted.
    One interesting thing, which lead me to believe in the magnetic field idea was that the it to be house or room specific. Perhaps the electronics or geological features in that area. To this day, I always get the religious one when I go stay at my dads house.

  45. gshelley says

    It was a shame that neither Russel nor Tracy seemed to have heard of the Mandela effect, as I have wondered if anyone actually thinks that misremembering something is evidence they are from an alternate reality

    The first call was a waste. The hosts showed a lot of patience, but it seemed clear early in the conversation that he wasn’t interested in an honest discussion

    The guy who lied about broadcasting the conversation. The hosts really ought to have a rule – you lie, you’re out

    finally, I’d love to hear about an actual secular 12 step program. I’ve seen plenty of people say that the “higher power” doesn’t have to be conscious, it could even be a table, but other than insisting it can be done, I haven’t seen them demonstrate that it is, rather than they are just ignoring some of the steps
    2) Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
    3) Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
    6) Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
    7) Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
    11) Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
    None of these could apply to an inanimate object. Most couldn’t even apply to some of the other “higher powers” such as the group itself, or “your inner psyche” which I have heard (and seems to be in direct contradiction to the first step)

    do secular AA programs just ignore these steps, do they re-write them so some essential principle is maintained, but it can be secular, or do they just pretend that they are still using them?

  46. says

    Jennifer –

    “My best guess as to what is going on is that many people are born with sensitivity to magnetic fields, to greater and lesser degrees. I believe the ‘feelings’ people have, religious experiences and ‘hauntings’ are just those of us who are sensitive to those fields, feeling them.”

    I don’t know what causes the feelings, but I think there is an even simpler explanation. I’ve seen people with phobic reactions. They go so far beyond reasonable, it’s almost unbelievable to me. I knew a woman who literally froze up one day and could barely speak when she was gardening and came upon a “snake.” It turned out to be a frog, but she did not realize that until after she’d managed to communicate to her son there was a snake and he needed to get help. He brought a few construction workers who were nearby, who found it very funny that this woman was frozen with edgers in hand and barely capable of speaking, once they uncovered a frog.

    Over-reactive feelings can happen. With people with phobias, they happen with obvious triggers. I would not assume they can’t happen without triggers or with minor or random triggers that the person may not be aware of–such as a fleeting negative thought they don’t even take note of or some symbol or structure that sets them off without clear connection.

  47. Andrew Riding says

    I had the delusion of psychic powers for a short while when I was young. The substance of it? I thought if I concentrated on the clouds that I could call storms.

    My friends and I found all kinds of stupid ways to validate it when nothing happened (oh hey, that week there was actually a really serious storm hundreds of miles away from here!) and I was a little more interested in who I could get to believe me than if I could get good at it or put it to use for any reason other than that I was bored.

    So the initial justification? That was something like “people talk about this kind of thing, I think I’ll try it in case I’m special. Hmm, that kind of looks like something happened, that must be what they were talking about.” And that’s as far as it had to go. No deep thought, no questioning what I would have to see to declare that it didn’t work, and not even that much support from other people to feed the idea.

    I had a few people try to explain to me that I was mistaken, but as that didn’t play into the notion that I was somehow remarkable I would at most find it troubling for a day then try not to think about it. I introspection a lot, so I eventually would revisit those thoughts, and that might have a lot to do with the brevity of the experience, but I also had the sense to try and loosely count the hits and misses, with a long enough run of bad luck that I wove it into the same narrative as my power fading. Was much easier to recognize that it was probably crap when I didn’t think it made me special Right Now.

    It’s actually kind of hard to step back into memories where I had almost no formal tools for critical thinking, so I’ve probably contaminated my personal account a little bit like that, but the gaps that were so big I even noticed them at the time were all just filled with this whimsical and ephemeral “I don’t know what’s there, but there must be something!” kind of sensation.

  48. says

    gshelley:

    “The guy who lied about broadcasting the conversation. The hosts really ought to have a rule – you lie, you’re out”

    I wouldn’t mind this. The problem is that in the moment, on the fly, with multiple people having a conversation, when he said he didn’t lie, I honestly could not recall word-for-word what he’d said about the noise and feedback. For all I knew at that time, he may not have answered dishonestly or heard us correctly for all the confusion. It may be certain viewers recalled him making a statement that was dishonest, but I didn’t at the time. Additionally, there is a benefit to be able to go back and listen to the feed again to see, but we don’t have that luxury on the show.

    Maybe not the same situation, but it’s also the nature of what we do to encounter people who will often contradict themselves and honestly have difficulty seeing that, because of indoctrination. It’s not that they are trying to be dishonest, but that they have difficulty reconciling their ideas once they get into weeds they’ve never been in before and, again, are talking on the fly.

    I think it’s difficult–and I’d say even rare–to catch someone on the show in an outright lie–short of the callers that show at the end they’re pranking.

  49. says

    >allowing Bret an easy win

    I’m sorry you view Brett as having “won” that conversation. He called the show without understanding the burden of proof or the atheist position on god claims. By the end of the call, he was no closer to understanding, and couldn’t even make an association between “any claim X” and the claim “god exists”–for some weird reason?

    In the end, as the cohost, this was the problem trying to communicate with that noise happening:

    Part of the time I heard voices that sounded like echos / relay. Part of the time I heard Brett sounding like a regular caller, but sometimes relay. Sometimes the “relay” Brett, when I would pause, was NOT an echo, but was Brett interjecting new information. So, it was not possible to filter out what voices to ignore as simply relay issues, and which to pay attention to. Sometimes when I kept talking and ignored them, I was actually talking *over* Brett and didn’t realize it. Then I’d stop, and he’d stop, and the voices would go on, and it would be relay again. I could never tell who was talking and who was just an echo, and when to stop and let him talk or when I was just pausing to hear echoes.

    It was hideous from the host/cohost perspective, and I have to admit that as much as I was trying to push on with it–it was really horrible and torture trying to talk with all that mess happening in a three-way conversation.

  50. Monocle Smile says

    Brett Keane appears to be another TrueEmpiricism type. Nothing to see here.
    Chris Langan doesn’t know shit about shit. Nothing to see here yet again.
    I did not know anything about the Mandela effect, so that was enlightening. Thanks, Sky Captain.

  51. Wiggle Puppy says

    @50: A humble suggestion for the next time Bret calls: right off the bat, ask him what made him change his mind and move from being atheist to being Christian. If no coherent answer is forthcoming, then hang up.

  52. says

    Thanks for the heads up Dan. What you describe sounds like a very disturbed individual. I can’t imagine any one I know having the time to do what you’re describing, even if they–for some odd reason–had an inclination. The phrase “get a life” comes to mind.

  53. th says

    As for Brett Keane, the caller who pretended he didn’t understand the burden of proof, search him on Youtube and you’ll find stuff like the video “Brett Keane gets OWNED and EXPOSED by the Drunken Peasants! – Best Parts” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TyyBovgCZM). On Google you will find his history too of course (like here https://encyclopediadramatica.se/Brett_Keane).

    Debating the Brett Keane Way
    If you were to ask Brett (of even if you DON’T ASK) he’ll gladly tell you about his perfect record of never being defeated in a debate. This perfect record, of course, skips all of those times he has been defeated in debate. Which happens every time he debates someone. (Quote from https://encyclopediadramatica.se/Brett_Keane)

  54. Gino says

    I’m not an expert in logic, and I’m pretty sure that Sam knows even less than I do, despite his claims. I especially liked the way he kept defining God into existence. Langan’s Cognitive Theoretic Model of the Universe has been kicking around for around a dozen years, and as far as I can tell a few very intelligent and patient people have tried to wade through his dense verbiage and invented words and come up with nothing but gobbledygook. Can you really claim to be the smartest person in the world if you can’t get anyone else to understand what the hell you’re talking about?

  55. Monocle Smile says

    @Gino
    Langan’s book is a cash grab and nothing more. It’s a win-win scenario for someone with a manufactured IQ of “over 200″…people who don’t know anything will throw money and rep your name, and anyone smart enough to call bullshit can be dismissed for not being smart enough to understand it.

  56. Russell Glasser says

    I’m starting to get a very culty vibe about Chris Langan, personally. The only people I’ve ever heard talk about him are weirdly obsessed with him, and they all pretty much admit that they don’t really understand what he’s saying in the end. With the first couple of people I just chalked it up to those individuals, but this is feeling more and more like a pattern. I wonder if Chris Langan has a literal cult following that I’m unaware of.

  57. Mario says

    If you want to have some fun watch how the debate with Brett Keane sounded from the other side: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cN6RuPKPD8

    He was not using Skype, he was using Google Hangouts and the problem with the audio/echo had to do with Brett trying to talk over Russell and Tracie. So what they thought was an echo, it was not an echo at all. When the two parties try to talk over each other in Hangouts, the audio gets really messy and confusing. The constant ringing had to do with the fact that he was broadcasting on his Hangouts show, and people were trying to join in the call in progress. He clearly does not know how to setup these calls. It may look like he was trying to do a prank call, but I just think he just wanted to debate in a dishonest way. He said in his comment section he may call back next Sunday.

    Brett is now trumpeting out there that the Atheist Experience disabled all comments and they delete comments, etc. but someone should go and tell him they can come and post their comments here.

  58. gshelley says

    @56 Heicart
    True enough
    Pretty much every episode, I hear something and think “I could have responded better than that” or think of some obvious point the hosts didn’t raise, either to counter the caller, or to get them to clarify what they mean so they aren’t talking at cross purposes.
    However, I am aware that if I was actually doing it, I’d probably miss nearly everything

    And yeah, I just checked. He didn’t outright lie, he just pretended to not know what they were talking about. Still dishonest.

  59. scorpy1 says

    @Russel Glasser, #65
    “I’m starting to get a very culty vibe about Chris Langan, personally.”

    That makes sense…I’ve never heard of him, but it could also be a baked in defense mechanism, like “I don’t understand it, so sorry if I can’t answer your questions, but please continue to listen to me blather”.

  60. says

    @heicart

    Sorry if I’m mistaken, but this is Tracie right?

    Thanks for responding to my, honestly, selfish complaints. I do think you guys tried to hard to get some substance out of the caller’s ambitious remarks, and I think you were fair to him in doing so.

    I’m a little surprised though, I was marked as an atheist caller? I know that the show interprets agnostics as atheists (and believe me, one week I’m going to get on you guys about that 😛 ), but the last time I called in supporting the god concept (and it wasn’t like playing devil’s advocate, it was honest argumentation that I agreed with), I was filed under theist. How do you guys personally view it? Would you rather file agnostic under atheist at all times no matter what, or would you prefer any calls in support of theistic claims filed under theist, or something else?

    Thanks again for the response, I appreciate how you communicate with the audience. 🙂

  61. RationalismRules says

    @Jim Barrows #12

    Why don’t people understand that there are three positions you can take on any claim: Belief/Acceptance/Yes, UnBelief/RejectionNo, and “I don’t know”/unknown/maybe. *SIGH*

    Because although that’s intuitively how we think about claims, it’s not strictly correct in terms of structured logic.
    There are strictly two positions for any proposition – accept / don’t accept.
    If your response to the claim is ‘unbelief/rejection/no’ you are making a new claim.

  62. says

    To: # 33 roguetrooper815 I thought the same about giving callers set time periods. Great idea. Of course, have some flexibility thrown in. But the caller doesn’t have to know that. At least the callers would get a fair shake, presuming they listened at all. I also thought a clock, displaying whatever time is decided upon would prod them along maybe even help ’em think. At least it might cut out that inevitable agonizing beginning and end periods: Hello . . . Can you hear me? Am I on? I’d like . . . ah . . . to . . . (can you hear me?); ahhhh . . . I’d . . . like . . . to . . . (turn down my what? wait a minute . . . how’s that?) etc., etc., etc. And it always sounds like they’re calling from a Bowling Alley, or they’re doing up the dinner dishes, and sounds of cats and dogs fornicating in the background, or they’re under the car changing oil. Jeez people, the world is watching so get it together.

  63. RationalismRules says

    @Gerard Moledo #72 We can save show call time on agnostic/atheist by dealing with it here.

    Agnostic addresses knowledge. Atheist addresses belief.
    Agnostic (per OED): “a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God”
    This does not exclude any position of belief.

    Agnostic atheist – I don’t know for sure, but on balance I don’t believe there is a god
    Agnostic theist – I don’t know for sure, but on balance I believe there is a god
    Gnostic theist – I know there is a god
    Gnostic atheist – I know there is no god

    There is a widespread popular usage (including by many philosophers) of the term ‘agnostic’ to refer to someone who ‘hasn’t decided’. While this is correct in the sense that they are saying “I don’t know”, they are also atheists, because if you ‘haven’t decided’ you don’t actually hold a belief in any god, therefore you are an atheist by definition (whether or not you like the label).

  64. mond says

    @Geraldo Modelo #72

    Labels are an ongoing confusion.
    That’s why the hosts ideally try to ask what each individual caller believes and why.

    One other common theme on labels is that often it comes down to a personal preference as to which labels a person is comfortable using to describe themselves.

    For example; if your answer to “Do you believe in a god?” is anything other than yes then technically you are an some flavour of atheist but many people do not wish to adopt the ‘big A’ for a multiplicity of understandable (and not so understandable) reasons.

    I would suggest if get on the show again just to simply explain what you believe and why. This allows the conversation to start with a common understanding of what is being believed, claimed etc.

  65. Simon & Mrs Wendy Hosking says

    Tracie asked for some explanation from people who just ‘knew’ things.

    I used to be one of those people (note the past tense here – I like to think I know better now).

    Having left Christianity, I moved into a New Age belief system. Carlos Castaneda, Deepak Chopra – that sort of thing. I could also see auras and even heal people of disease before they even knew they had the disease. How did I know this – well, I could see it. Did I have any other independent verification, well…not really!

    I was surrounded by a community of people that believed the same sort of thing, and a bit like Aaron Ra, I thought I was working in a scientific paradigm. I had lots of books that reinforced this belief (this was pre-internet). I don’t recall being challenged on my beliefs during this time.

    I think part of my delusion was a desire to be someone ‘special’ (sad really).

    Eventually I started seeing too many contradictions and inconsistencies and the cognitive dissonance became too great. I thought of ways in which I could test my aura seeing abilities and pretty much realized they weren’t real without even testing them. I think at some level I must have know it was crap all along, or maybe I realized over time.

    Eventually it was studying my second degree – Nursing (the first was teaching) and learning about ‘evidence based science’ that really did it. The came Dawkin’s God Delusion that finished it off.

    Keep doing all the good work AXP – I love it when you focus on the New Age and Woo, but I appreciate Christianity is the main problem in your country.

    – Simon

  66. Devocate says

    ” it’s not strictly correct in terms of structured logic.
    There are strictly two positions for any proposition – accept / don’t accept.”

    And this is what causes so MANY arguments. Confidence levels in any proposition can range from 0 to 100%, or -infinity to +infinity in log-odds (e.g. decibans), guilty beyond reasonable doubt, guilty by preponderance of evidence, etc. Claiming strictly two positions also leads to a discontinuity which has an unreasonably high barrier to crossing.

    Atheists would do everyone a favor if they just abandoned this idea of not accepting claims, performed a well thought-out evaluation of the evidence, and came to a confidence level that they could express as a number (or range). They would then have answers to all these theist questions like “What would it take to convince you?” “Evidence (that is things which would convince you the theist, if they turn out to be false, to lower your confidence in god) amounting to X.” or “What is your evidence for your position?” “Here it is.”

  67. says

    @RationalismRules

    lol I doubt it’s going to be dealt with completely here, but I’m happy to discuss.
    I’ve been saying this a lot the last couple of weeks but I’ll say it again here so there are no misguided assumptions: I was a soft, agnostic atheist for about 4 years, only been agnostic for 1. I understand the meanings of these terms as used within the atheist sphere. Thing is, I’ve come to disagree with them.

    For one thing, “agnostic” as defined by many if not all dictionaries, including the OED, has at least two usages, roughly: “person that believes nothing can be known, usually concerning God” and “person not committed to a position on an issue”. So right off the bat, dictionaries, for decades now, have recognized the varied usage of the term. The fact that agnostic is so widely used now as a type of middle-ground on the god issue is another testament to how the term’s meaning can be expanded or slightly revised to meet a particular communicable need.

    “But there is no middle-ground between belief and non-belief!”

    I am, controversially, coming to the belief that atheism is not simply “non-belief in god”, but I’m not even going to argue that right now. What I will argue against is the notion that “if you haven’t decided, if you don’t know what you believe, then you’re still an atheist because you still don’t believe it”.

    Just because one doesn’t know if something is true or false, doesn’t mean it is true or false. That’s obvious. But it’s the same thing with agnosticism. Saying “I don’t know if X is true (I hold a belief) or false (I don’t hold a belief)” doesn’t mean “X is false (I don’t hold a belief)” it just means whether or not I hold a belief is unknown–UNLESS a belief requires an awareness/intent/knowledge of it, which I don’t believe is the case.

    I could go further, but I’m gonna stop there for now. Have at it, if you will.

  68. says

    @mond #75/76

    And the first name but that’s okay lol.

    Once on call, I would certainly expand on my beliefs when necessary. The specific issue here is that when you are queued at call-in, you have to identify as theist or atheist, and the calls are arranged accordingly. Optimally, they would want an even number of each group. The problem for me is, as an agnostic that legitimately argues for theistic positions, I would technically be categorized as atheist by their standard, even though the nature of my call would be that of a theist. So what would properly represent me at call-in, without being dishonest to the crew?

  69. RationalismRules says

    @Devocate #78 I agree that confidence levels exist on a continuum. However, the examples you’ve given clearly demonstrate that confidence level is a different issue to whether one agrees or disagrees with a proposition. Guilty beyond reasonable doubt and guilty by preponderance of evidence both apply a level of confidence to reach a binary conclusion on a single proposition.

    Regarding the rest of your argument, it seems to me that the point of being clear about not accepting claims is to be clear where the burden of proof lies. Theists have a tendency to claim that our lack of ability to disprove their god is evidence for it, because they don’t understand falsifiability. Moving straight on to a levels-of-confidence argument bypasses this very fundamental point.

  70. Devocate says

    “the examples you’ve given clearly demonstrate that confidence level is a different issue to whether one agrees or disagrees with a proposition. Guilty beyond reasonable doubt and guilty by preponderance of evidence both apply a level of confidence to reach a binary conclusion on a single proposition.”

    So which is “agree”, “preponderance of evidence” or “beyond reasonable doubt”?

    Agree/disagree would seem to be a personal division line, if it consistently exists at all. All the more reason to ignore it in what can become heated discussions. Is there any argument which is made worse by using confidence levels in place of a binary agree/disagree? After all the point isn’t to establish agree/disagree on the subject of the existence of god; we already know both side’s opinions, and we know those opinions won’t change. Confidence levels on the other hand could change. Street Epistemology does this all the time.

  71. louis cyfer says

    @Jack Thornton russel in notoriously bad at handling the phone. he constantly answers the wrong line, doesn’t know how to hang up and hangs up on the wrong lines. he is also very inconsiderate. tracie told the guy to go ahead, and russel just hangs up on him, clearly disappointing tracie. he talks over people, gets things wrong, confuses and conflates issues, and as you notice gets less action on the phone than when matt is hosting. i just don’t know why they let him host. he would do ok as a co-host, but letting him host is a mistake.

  72. Monocle Smile says

    @Geraldo
    Theist/atheist is a true dichotomy. Full stop. That’s just how things work. There’s no need and no warrant for making this harder than it needs to be. If all you’re going to do is come on and browbeat people who identify as atheist by saddling them with positions they don’t hold (which you seem to do in your post), then it’s going to be a very short, unfortunate call.

  73. X.E. Jellico says

    Ah Chris Langan. He’s the guy with the cognitive-theoretic model of the universe (CTMU). http://www.ctmu.net/ Go ahead try to read the paper, but it doesn’t make much sense to me. The Langan fans probably would say that’s because of his super high IQ. There are references to several Discovery Institute fellows (David Berlinski, Michael Behe, William Dembski) in this paper. The main point of it seems to be that intelligence or consciousness or something like that is a basic property of the universe. The rest of us believe silly things like intelligence is the product of neurons working together. Show me that you can have intelligence or information processing without matter and I’ll take another stab at trying to figure out what he is saying. Until then I will continue to suspect that it’s a big waste of time.

  74. says

    @Monocle

    Why is everyone calling me Geraldo??

    Theist/Atheist as a dichotomy isn’t “just how things work”; they are words and we choose what words mean. Watch one of Matt’s latest videos, “You’re not an atheist, you’re agnostic” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjY619aJ82Y), it’s one of the things I think should unanimously be agreed upon.

    Language and communication are highly complex ideas so they are harder than they seem to be. In fact, I didn’t really want to discuss it here because there is so much to talk about, too much for this kind of comment section, I think.

    Also, I specifically avoided talking about my meanings precisely because I didn’t want to make any controversial claims I couldn’t back up and explain immediately. But, hey, you want to talk about saddling other people with positions they don’t hold, just recognize it goes the other way around too. I could argue that you and RationalismRules are committing a very similar offense by imposing your labels onto agnostics and redefining their position.

  75. Monocle Smile says

    @Gerard
    I caught the disease. Geraldo is somewhat of a portmanteau of your handle. Apologies.

    Also, I specifically avoided talking about my meanings precisely because I didn’t want to make any controversial claims I couldn’t back up and explain immediately

    Oh, so it’s going to be a long, unfortunate call instead.
    RR is using those terms how most people use them and it’s coherent and easy to follow. That’s kind of the point. Matt made the video for this very reason…it’s the concepts that matter. Labels exist to make the concepts easier to communicate. It seems for all the world like you’re trying to make this harder. I have no idea why you label yourself “agnostic” but are somehow not atheist nor theist. Unless, of course, you’re the target of this comic.
    Oh, here we go:

    The problem for me is, as an agnostic that legitimately argues for theistic positions, I would technically be categorized as atheist by their standard

    I have no clue what you mean. Do you actively believe that any gods exist? If your answer is anything other than “yes,” then you’re an atheist, but I would have difficulty understanding why you’d be arguing for theistic positions. Care to elaborate? Because to be honest, this sounds like it’s much easier to discuss in writing than on the air.

  76. RationalismRules says

    @Gerard #79

    For one thing, “agnostic” as defined by many if not all dictionaries, including the OED, has at least two usages, roughly: “person that believes nothing can be known, usually concerning God” and “person not committed to a position on an issue”

    Actually, the OED (online version) gives only one meaning for the noun, and specifically identifies the alternate meaning of the adjective as relating to a non-religious context. (I don’t have access to the full OED, so I stand ready to be corrected)

    I was a soft, agnostic atheist for about 4 years, only been agnostic for 1

    Soft agnostic atheism (“I don’t hold a belief in any god”) encompasses the popular usage of agnostic (“I am not committed to a position on the existence of any god”), so I presume you’re referring to changing how you label yourself, as opposed to a change in your beliefs?

    What I will argue against is the notion that “if you haven’t decided, if you don’t know what you believe, then you’re still an atheist because you still don’t believe it”.
    Just because one doesn’t know if something is true or false, doesn’t mean it is true or false. That’s obvious. But it’s the same thing with agnosticism. Saying “I don’t know if X is true (I hold a belief) or false (I don’t hold a belief)” doesn’t mean “X is false (I don’t hold a belief)” it just means whether or not I hold a belief is unknown–UNLESS a belief requires an awareness/intent/knowledge of it, which I don’t believe is the case.

    You are effectively saying that you can hold a belief without being aware of it, which simply makes no sense in the conscious mind. I can see how you could argue that it might be possible to hold an ‘unconscious belief’ in relation to issues that you’ve never consciously thought about, but as soon as you give it conscious thought how can you possibly not immediately become aware of your belief status? If you interrogate yourself on a particular issue: “do I believe this to be true?” and the answer is “I don’t know”, that means “I don’t know whether it’s true”, not “I don’t know whether I believe it”. To lack personal insight to that degree would be a condition we would identify as a mental illness.

    Of course words have different usages, and those usages change over time. The issue for me (and most atheists I know of) is not calling un-decideds ‘agnostic’, it’s restricting the meaning of ‘atheist’ to ‘active belief in no god(s)’. (BTW that argument subverts your own argument that words have different usage). The term atheist, by dictionary definition, etymology and usage includes all degrees of lack of belief.

  77. says

    @Gerard
    Labels exist to make the concepts easier to communicate. It seems for all the world like you’re trying to make this harder.”

    And I’d argue that the dichotomous labels don’t make it easier to communicate (and it’s in this argumentation that the difficulty lies). One reason, humans are complex and aren’t characterized by simple “this, not this” statements, especially in relation to complex issues. Agnosticism as a position allows for the extension of this complexity and is readily understood by most people as a concept. It’s only when you try to cut away the nuance and apply simplified logic that it becomes difficult to understand.

    “I have no idea why you label yourself “agnostic” but are somehow not atheist nor theist. Unless, of course, you’re the target of this comic.”

    “I have no idea”. Yeah, you don’t know. So what? Why the exasperation? You’re not even asking. Instead, you point to a sarcastic comic for an answer. That’s one piece of evidence out of many thus far that you aren’t much interested in actually understanding my position.

    “If your answer is anything other than ‘yes,’ then you’re an atheist.”

    Did you even read the first (substantial) paragraph of my previous post? Sorry, but that contradiction is another piece of evidence that you aren’t trying to understand what I’m saying. I’m not willing to argue this any longer unless you recognize what I’m referring to. In the meantime, I will give a brief (well, it was supposed to be brief. Hopefully this isn’t marked as spam) explanation of my beliefs because I don’t mind.

    I didn’t figure all of this out until recently, but I’ve come to understand that what made me an atheist was the fact that I believed no god existed. I described myself as a soft (open to being incorrect) agnostic (didn’t know for sure) atheist, and I thought atheist meant I didn’t believe in god. But about a year ago from now, I new thoughts completely shifted my worldview, so much so that I didn’t feel right to call myself an atheist. I learned that the reason I transitioned was because I used to think “I’m pretty sure a god doesn’t exist”. I still didn’t know, I was still open to being shown that a god did exist, but I still just happened to believe that the evidence pointed to there being no god. When those new thoughts came to me, I could no longer believe that a god didn’t exist. However, there also isn’t enough reason for me to believe that a god does exist. I’m caught up between the two propositions that a god does exist and a god doesn’t exist and that’s what makes me agnostic. And I don’t care if by your definition I’m an atheist because I don’t care about your definition. You could define “donkey” as “human” and call me an ass but I wouldn’t give a shit.

    Lastly, I don’t argue for theistic positions for the sake of it. It just so happens that the thoughts I find most interesting support the existence of a god. As a matter of fact, it is exactly those thoughts that took away my atheism in the first place, so of course I prefer to talk about them than the same ideas I’ve heard over and over again in my years as an atheist.

  78. says

    I only paid attention to the definitions, not the parts of speech and the like. I was only concerned with the fact that such a definition is used. (In MW, the latter meaning of agnostic is also applied as a noun to a person)

    I interpreted soft agnostic atheist to mean as I did in my previous post, “open to being wrong”. A 5 on the Dawkin’s scale if you will. That contrasts from stronger atheists who are still agnostic but are very closed off from being wrong. They are very firm in their belief.

    I’ve grown too fatigued to argue this point out much longer, but I will just say that confusion is a natural experience people have, especially when dealing with important and complex issues. Also, how many racists believe they are racist? You can convince yourself that you believe something when you actually don’t. There’s plenty of difficulties in judgement in the human brain, and I don’t think it is very easy to say that one is always aware of what they believe. Also, some more elaboration as to why mental illness would be involved would be appreciated.

  79. Monocle Smile says

    @Gerard

    Yeah, you don’t know. So what? Why the exasperation? You’re not even asking. Instead, you point to a sarcastic comic for an answer. That’s one piece of evidence out of many thus far that you aren’t much interested in actually understanding my position

    I did ask, but you decided to ignore that. Your reluctance to give an actual answer is not appreciated. I’m exasperated because I’m trying to get to the part where you actually give details that matter concerning these “theistic arguments” and you don’t seem interested in divulging them for odd reasons.

    One reason, humans are complex and aren’t characterized by simple “this, not this” statements, especially in relation to complex issues

    I disagree completely. We can break down complex issues into dichotomies in order to more easily explain things. I will grant that theism/atheism contain within themselves all sorts of branching beliefs and ideologies, but we can of course start with a very simple question. If I ask someone if they believe in any gods and they answer “that’s a complicated question,” I typically roll my eyes and walk away because they misunderstand the question.

    Did you even read the first (substantial) paragraph of my previous post?

    Yes, and you are badly, badly mistaken for thinking you’re the first person to cry that “atheism” is “the belief that gods do not exist.” That is a subset, but that’s not all that atheism encompasses and the show has been very clear about this for a long time. I went to your G+ page and read the “ex-atheist” thing you wrote, and once again, you’re using a definition of “atheist” that most of us don’t use. You’re free to do this, but then don’t call the show and rail at them about labels when you agree on the concepts. Of course, I see you don’t quite agree on the concepts.

    Lastly, I don’t argue for theistic positions for the sake of it. It just so happens that the thoughts I find most interesting support the existence of a god. As a matter of fact, it is exactly those thoughts that took away my atheism in the first place, so of course I prefer to talk about them than the same ideas I’ve heard over and over again in my years as an atheist

    This isn’t what I meant by “care to elaborate?” I care about these “thoughts.” Again, your reluctance to get into the important details is a bit tiresome. They matter, probably more than anything else in this discussion. What are these “thoughts?”

    There’s plenty of difficulties in judgement in the human brain, and I don’t think it is very easy to say that one is always aware of what they believe

    I do not accept this. Being embarrassed about one’s beliefs due to (sometimes deserved) social stigma is not the same thing as being unaware of one’s beliefs. If you ask me a simple question of “do you believe x,” I will always be able to answer this question.

  80. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Gerard and everyone else
    IMHO, it’s important to harp on the meaning of “atheist” as being quite inclusive because 1- that is descriptive of many self-identified atheists, 2- this is been a consistent meaning of the word for many centuries, and 3- it’s part of an ongoing battle to dispel confusion and strawmans concerning atheists and non-believers.

    If Gerard tries to narrow the meaning of “atheist”, then please dogpile on. We only ask for the respect to use the label as we ourselves define it. Similarly, if Gerard wants to go by another label, then please respect thtat wish by addressing him as “agnostic” and not “atheist” to the best extent that you reasonable can, and thereby show him the same respect that we ask – as long as he doesn’t start shitting on the “atheist” label.

    PS:

    We know that he [Goedel] disproved the consistency of certain formal systems,

    No he did not. Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorems proved two things: 1- Loosely, any formal consistent mathematical axiomatic system that contains natural numbers cannot prove its own consistency. 2- Loosely, any formal consistent mathematical axiomatic system that contains natural numbers must be incomplete (where “incomplete” means that there are sentences in the mathematical system that cannot be proved true and cannot be proved false in that system). (I forgot the usual numbering scheme of the two theorems.)

    In other words, natural number arithmatic might be consistent, but if it is consistent, then it cannot prove its own consistency, and if it proves it’s own consistency, then we may conclude that it’s actually inconsistent.

  81. Jesse Gandy says

    A part of me hopes that the Atheist Experience never takes Brett Keane’s call again because he’s such a belligerent a-hole, but maybe if Matt is hosting it will be interesting

  82. Matt Lambert says

    Sweet merciful Zeus, Brett Keen Called the show!? That probably cracked me up more than any other A.E. moment. You guys remember G-Man? G-Man was basically one of Brett Keen’s lackeys until he, G-Man, figured out how full of shit Brett Keen is. He’s defiantly going to call in next week so be ready for that. Just as a heads up, his tactics consist of pretending he doesn’t understand anything you say, accusing you of something, pretending he doesn’t understand anything you say again, accusing you of something again, and all the while doing anything he can to make to conversation difficult to have. Don’t be fooled, he understands everything you’re saying, he’s actually refuted all of the logic he uses when he was trying to make it big as an atheist youtuber (Though that’s hard to prove because he’s been kicked off of YouTube for breaking terms of service so many times). The echo and Skype sounds probably weren’t accidents, he knows how feedback works and is perfectly capable of using headphones. I’d almost recommend not taking his call because it’s patently obvious that he isn’t sincere, but there’s quite a bit of entertainment value to be had. For anybody who gets the reference, Brett Keen is like the Guybrush Threepwood of conmen hawking religion. He’s so bad at what he does that it’s fun to watch sometimes.

  83. mond says

    @GM 😉
    One final thing on labels and language.
    The basic difference seem to be that you want to use agnostic as a noun, whereas the show hosts use it as a verb.
    You can do this with many words and the meaning is not lost. eg blonde.
    So I could say I have blonde hair or I am a Blonde. Understanding is retained.
    Now swap that over for pink and it doesn’t really work.
    If I say that I am a Pink, you get the question “A pink what?”
    I would put the word agnostic in the the same category as Pink.
    So when you phone the show and say “I am an agnostic”, the host would want to clarify by saying “An agnostic what?”

  84. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Monocle Smile #93:

    I went to your G+ page and read the “ex-atheist” thing you wrote, and once again, you’re using a definition of “atheist” that most of us don’t use.

    Funny thing about Gerard Moledo’s G+ page…
     
    Google cached it circa Aug 17, 2016.
    It doesn’t render, but the source is visible.
    Digging through that, I found: “In his circles […] TrueEmpiricism, VekL”.
     
    Article: Gerard Moledo’s Blog – Reflections of an ex-atheist

    I think if most, if not all, atheists were honest with themselves, they would recognize that what drives their actions is their belief that no gods exist. Even before I renounced my atheism, I had developed a mild disdain for atheists that would mock, ridicule, and demean others for belief in god. […] because they were disgustingly hypocritically smug in the process. While they went around denouncing god and making fun of others, when asked to give arguments for what they thought, they would always shift the burden of proof on the believer, despite the fact that they were making claims of their own, all while thinking they were intellectually superior.
     
    Even on a lighter level, take people like Matt Dillahunty for example. He does not let up on the slightest amount of any argumentation for a god if it does not prove its existence and will argue entirely against the idea. This is not the behavior of one who simply lacks belief in a god, this is the behavior of someone that believes it is ridiculous to even hold a position, because they are fairly certain that the opposite is true.

    This is consistent with TrueEmpiricism’s history of whining about the burden, defining atheists as superior zealots exposed by their behavior, and obsessing about Dillahunty.
     
    Comment: 20.27 – Transcript of a TrueEmpiricism Rant

  85. Devocate says

    @85:
    “Theist/atheist is a true dichotomy. Full stop. That’s just how things work.”

    That is just wrong. Full stop.

    See how useful arguing like that is?

  86. Cousin Ricky says

    @mond:

    The basic difference seem to be that you want to use agnostic as a noun, whereas the show hosts use it as a verb.

    Do you mean “verb” or “adjective”?

  87. Devocate says

    “If I ask someone if they believe in any gods and they answer “that’s a complicated question,” I typically roll my eyes and walk away because they misunderstand the question.”

    No, YOU misunderstand the question. Unless you can point to the individual binary neuron which controls belief in god, you are just flying in the face of MASSIVE empirical evidence that the question is complicated.

  88. Wiggle Puppy says

    @ Gerard Moledo: Perhaps this may clear things up for you. My response to the question “do you believe in god?” kind of depends on how the question is asked. If the term is poorly defined and the person just means some kind of immortal being with magical powers, then I’m a soft atheist and don’t accept the claim, because I see no general reason to think that beings exist that can defy the laws of physics, biology, and chemistry. If the person, however, comes to me with a more-or-less orthodox version of the Abrahamic god, and they start talking about a god that loves humans and wants them to be happy and actively intervenes in the world to answer prayers and has an important message that it wants all humans to clearly understand, then I’m a hard atheist with respect to that god, because I very obviously do not appear to be living in a world where that god exists.

    If you want to call in to the show and discuss theist positions, perhaps you should just identify as a theist, for convenience’s sake?

  89. gshelley says

    If someone wants to say they aren’t an atheist because they choose to use a definition of “atheist thinks there is no gods”, that’s up to them. It’s a little silly, but it doesn’t seem to do any harm, unless they try to get into a discussion about belief, but there is no reason anyone else should use their definition
    The definition of God is more problematic – the one I have seen on the show (basically a god is something someone calls a god, which is circular and uses a word to define itself, making it meaningless, but that might be the point), would mean that everyone is a theist, and there are no such things as atheists, but that doesn’t seem to be what is being said here.

  90. RationalismRules says

    @Gerard Moledo #92

    I interpreted soft agnostic atheist to mean as I did in my previous post, “open to being wrong”. A 5 on the Dawkin’s scale if you will. That contrasts from stronger atheists who are still agnostic but are very closed off from being wrong.

    I object to your assertion of ‘closed off from being wrong’. It is simply not justified to label people ‘closed off’ just because they are strongly convinced of a position. Being strongly convinced means that strong valid evidence is required to change the position, whereas being ‘closed off’ implies resistance to accept evidence of any sort.

    how many racists believe they are racist?

    “I am not racist” is a statement of belief. If the speaker also holds racist beliefs, then they are wrong to claim that they are not racist. That doesn’t mean they don’t know their belief on that issue, just that the belief they hold is incorrect.

    The closest I could come to imagining a situation of ‘not knowing one’s belief’ is to consider someone who is in the process of losing their religion – you hear people say “I realized I no longer believed…” At one level you might argue that just before that realization they still thought that they believed (in god), whereas in fact they no longer believed (in god). However, I still don’t find this equates to your notion of ‘not knowing whether you hold a belief’ – rather it’s a situation of losing a belief without consciously realizing it, and once conscious thought is directed at the issue the belief position again becomes apparent.

    Regarding mental illness, people who don’t know that they are mentally ill are deemed to ‘lack insight’ – the condition is called anosognosia. It’s quite common in delusional/schizophrenic illnesses and at the extremes of bipolar disorder.
    The point I was trying to make was that someone who consciously considers an issue but cannot identify whether they hold a belief on that issue, lacks insight. I overreached in equating this to the mental illness.

  91. RationalismRules says

    @gshelley #104

    The definition of God is more problematic – the one I have seen on the show (basically a god is something someone calls a god, which is circular and uses a word to define itself, making it meaningless, but that might be the point), would mean that everyone is a theist

    Huh?
    I don’t believe in anything that I would call a ‘god’. How am I a theist?

  92. RationalismRules says

    @Devocate #83

    So which is “agree”, “preponderance of evidence” or “beyond reasonable doubt”?

    Neither, those are both levels of confidence. The proposition is “the defendant is guilty”, so ‘accept’ = “guilty”, and ‘don’t accept’ = “not guilty”.
    (Side note: I just realized I used agree/disagree in the previous post. For maximum clarity accept/don’t accept is better, because ‘disagree’ can be interpreted as ‘accept the contrary proposition’ which is a confusion I’d like to avoid)

    Agree/disagree would seem to be a personal division line, if it consistently exists at all. All the more reason to ignore it in what can become heated discussions. Is there any argument which is made worse by using confidence levels in place of a binary agree/disagree? After all the point isn’t to establish agree/disagree on the subject of the existence of god; we already know both side’s opinions, and we know those opinions won’t change. Confidence levels on the other hand could change. Street Epistemology does this all the time.

    To be honest, I don’t really understand what you’re proposing. I see that Street Epistemology effectively uses confidence levels at the start and end of a discussion to get people to recognize that their assessment of their certainty is (usually) less than they initially thought. But it is simply a fact that we agree/disagree with each other on various propositions. Even ‘partial agreement’ can be broken down into ‘agree with some parts, disagree with others’. Attempting to hold an entire discussion in terms of levels of confidence makes no sense to me (if that is what are actually proposing – I am unsure on this).
    Have you ever tried out this approach on this blog? I’d be very interested to see how it would work.

  93. Monocle Smile says

    @Devocate
    I think you’re making this much harder than it needs to be.
    I agree with you on confidence levels, but it eases communication to have a line drawn on that scale dividing “belief” and “non-belief.” It’s a starting point, not an ending point. Very, very few propositions are going to consistently hover around the dividing line, in my opinion. Regardless, X and ~X constitute a true dichotomy, which was the point I was getting at.

    Note that the only reason I went down this path is because Gerard apparently wants to call into the show to yell at the hosts that they are using the atheist label incorrectly. Do you really want to see that on the show for the 345,211th time?

  94. says

    @98

    Even on a lighter level, take people like Matt Dillahunty for example. He does not let up on the slightest amount of any argumentation for a god if it does not prove its existence and will argue entirely against the idea. This is not the behavior of one who simply lacks belief in a god, this is the behavior of someone that believes it is ridiculous to even hold a position, because they are fairly certain that the opposite is true.

    This line of argumentation, suggesting that a given atheist must actively believe there are no gods because they argue against theists presenting arguments for god and this behavior can only suggest that they believe the opposite, has an interesting tell in it that I haven’t seen many others pick up on.

    See, when I take the example of Matt and consider the question of why he might argue so strenuously against theistic claims, there’s an obvious second answer that comes to mind beyond “he believes the contrapositive,”: he finds these sorts of discussions interesting and sees value in grappling with and addressing faulty reasoning and epistemology on its own. Matt has, of course, suggested that this is the case himself in numerous recordings. But a certain subset of theists can only see the idea that anyone who argues against a belief must believe the opposite, and is merely contriving a reason to continue doing so. What this tells us about those theists is that firstly, they are going about this argumentation thing backwards, since they’re telling us that arguments bespeak prior belief, rather than arguments being used to come to a belief, and that this is the only utility they can see arguments having. It’s projection: the theists are using their arguments as a route to their conclusion instead of a path they follow to the truth wherever it leads, so therefore that is also what Matt is doing, and therefore he must believe there is no god.

    But interestingly, it also tells us that the theist sees no value in the arguments themselves beyond the conclusions they reach. Engaging with an argument, in their view, is simply not something a person would do, unless they have a vested interest in disproving it. Arguments as logic puzzles, as means to the truth, as anything other than a method of gaining a presupposed conclusion are apparently incoherent to these theists. It doesn’t even matter that they’re convincing, which is telling. I doubt someone who views arguments this way would even think of them in a world where everyone already thought like them. They’re strictly rhetorical tools to stifle disagreement, to them.

  95. says

    While some might find it entertaining, Brett ostensibly seems only interested in finding some way of nailing down the hosts on a point based around an opinion he wants them to hold, regardless or not of whether they do.
    He (and, by the looks of it, his audience from a quick view of the YT comments) are arguably about as far away from any form of common ground for finding truth as could be possible. His YT channel at a quick glance seems to be nothing more than a gigantic manifestation of his ego so the idea that he could have any form of productive, let alone honest, discussion with AE seems somewhat far fetched.
    There are many other genuine and open theists that I would rather hear than this arrogant moron.

  96. Devocate says

    “but it eases communication to have a line drawn on that scale dividing “belief” and “non-belief.” ”

    Manifestly not.

  97. tbarjr says

    You guys are on the edge of a rabbit hole you really don’t want to fall down. Brett Keane is about as low as you can go on Youtube. He is a wife-beating manatee who subsists on welfare and scamming what little audience he draws that isn’t from the endless featuring, by which I mean laughing at, of his videos by the Drunken Peasants Podcast. His belief in God changes with who his Patreon patrons are, and his delusions of grandeur have led him to be incapable of reasoning with. This has led to a man that does nothing but eat chili and play Elder Scrolls Online whose psyche is so warped that he has lost not only his grip on reality, but his grip on his own personality. However, as you have already started on this road, I will warn you now, he will start making daily videos about you and possibly DDOSing your show, as he has already done many times to the Drunken Peasants.

    TL:DR: You have angered the Manatee, either beware or be amused.

  98. Monocle Smile says

    @Devocate
    Cool story, bro.

    @Ryan Martin
    That’s excellent analysis, especially that last part. This is why you have apologetic bullshit like Plantinga’s “modal logic” argument. These people don’t construct arguments and then find the conclusions later. They always start with the conclusions.

  99. Monocle Smile says

    Finally watched all the calls. Sam from Minnesota’s voice sounds like TrueEmpiricism a bit (although I guess all mouth-breathers converge on intonation), but yes, he sounds like a Langan cult groupie.

    There was once a guy named Józef Maria Hoene-Wroński. He wrote lots of crap about a wide range of topics and attempted to fundamentally flip the tables on physics, economics, law, music, etc. Know what happened? All of his work was a crock of shit…except for an accidental determinant matrix to determine linear independence. It’s called the Wronskian. That’s it; that’s the only bit of him that survived. Everything else was garbage, and his entire professional life was colored by Sye ten Bruggencate levels of smug self-assurance. I see Chris Langan as Wronski, but even more feeble.

  100. Monocle Smile says

    Brett Keane is a fuck. I hope he never gets a platform on AXP again. What a waste of oxygen.
    Daniel was a gibbering mess.
    I hope Gerard comes back to discuss more.

  101. Russell Glasser says

    I’m hosting for the third week in a row on Sunday. I am pretty sure Brett will try to call back, and I am about 50/50 on whether to bother with him.

  102. gumbo says

    I really wouldn’t bother, he’s clearly got an agenda that does not involve honest discussion.

  103. TheYouTube Guy says

    Brett has been complaining that his comments will be removed here… as he removes all the comments on his video.

  104. blue says

    My goodness. That guy’s video production quality is…well, let’s just put it this way. During the summer my elementary aged kids had a play with imovie. Their project had better sound quality, production values and storyline than his.

    Maybe next week leave him on hold and in the last ten minutes if you’ve had no off the wall theists put him on for a brief smackdown. Maybe. Only if the only other theist was for Kalam and Matt refusing to invoke math.

    I would be against equal time for all calls. I’d hate to have a slavery apologist cut off so an atheist can waffle on about something boring. Theists get preference for a reason.

  105. says

    EnlightenmentLiberal – “Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorems proved two things…”

    Thanks for the clarification. I still have much to learn about the topic. And yes, I’ve purposely avoided making any claims about what the atheist label means, even avoided arguing for it, because I don’t feel it’ll do anything useful in the discussion.
    —-
    Sky Captain – “This is consistent with TrueEmpiricism’s history of whining about the burden, defining atheists as superior zealots exposed by their behavior, and obsessing about Dillahunty.”
    I don’t know too much about TrueEmpiricism and I never read that rant. He’s in my circles because I was in a couple of his hangouts a while back. We’re certainly not the only two with this line of reasoning (especially the idea of atheist superiority. It’s kind of the stereotype), and I even agreed with it, to some degree, when I was still an atheist. Oh and I talk mostly about Matt because he is the most logically clear and concise in his argumentation than any other speaker I’ve seen.
    —-
    WigglePuppy – “If you want to call in to the show and discuss theist positions, perhaps you should just identify as a theist, for convenience’s sake?”
    It might be interpreted as deceptive since it goes against the show’s policies.
    —-
    RationalismRules – “I object to your assertion of ‘closed off from being wrong’.”
    That was probably an incorrect way of phrasing it. It’s more that agnostic simply denotes “not knowing”. But even within the realm of “not knowing”, there is still a visible spectrum of those that are strongly convicted and confident about their atheism and others that are more passive. I was certainly more passive, not near atheists like Hitchens or Dawkins.
    —-
    Ryan Martin – “He finds these sorts of discussions interesting and sees value in grappling with and addressing faulty reasoning and epistemology on its own.”
    I’m not going to argue directly for what I said because it is more of a personal note than an actual claim I’m making. You could be correct, but I’m not convinced that it is the case. But as for all of the other claims you make, you’re doing the same exact thing: analyzing the opposing group and assuming their thoughts based on your interpretation. Also, I too argue for the sake of logical consistency and will jump on the most minor of mistakes (when I have the energy), which is why I’m arguing about something like language. But, I still observe the differences that make me think as I do.

  106. Monocle Smile says

    @Gerard

    especially the idea of atheist superiority. It’s kind of the stereotype

    It’s only the stereotype if you restrict yourself to certain parts of the internet. Ever hear of Bill Donahue? Pat Robertson? Ted Haggard? Jerry Falwell? These are people who have/had the power to inflict real harm on people, which is why I scoff when people whine about “smug atheists.” Here’s another comic, since you reacted oh so well to the last one. Are there atheist dickheads on the internet? Of course. I’ll be the first to agree to this. Can they be ignored very, very easily, since they don’t appear to have any impact on the daily lives of anyone? Yup.

    But as for all of the other claims you make, you’re doing the same exact thing: analyzing the opposing group and assuming their thoughts based on your interpretation

    Absolutely not. Ryan is drawing a conclusion based on extensive patterns of behavior.
    Care to respond to my questions?
    Also, I can’t for the life of me figure out why someone like you, who appears to be capable of reasonable thought, would spend time in a TrueEmpiricism hangout. Masochism, perhaps?

  107. says

    @119, Gerard:

    I’m not going to argue directly for what I said because it is more of a personal note than an actual claim I’m making. You could be correct, but I’m not convinced that it is the case.

    I could be correct? Matt’s on record as saying precisely what I said multiple times.

    But as for all of the other claims you make, you’re doing the same exact thing: analyzing the opposing group and assuming their thoughts based on your interpretation.

    No, I’m analyzing their arguments based on a clear pattern of behavior and coming to evidence based conclusions. It’s really very simple: either the theists I’m talking about really cannot see any other reason to engage with an argument than believing the opposite, in which case everything I said stands, or they can see another reason like the one I suggested based on actual evidence, in which case not only do they not have any business suggesting that engaging with arguments is a sign that a person believes the opposite, it also shows that those theists are willing to ignore other, more charitable conclusions in order to leap to the one that… best fits… the conclusion they’ve already come to… Oh my. Seems I’m right either way.

    No assumptions needed. It’s simple deduction based on what they’re actually telling us.

  108. Wiggle Puppy says

    @119: If you identify personally neither as theist nor atheist, but you want to call in and talk about the validity/soundness of theistic arguments, I have to doubt that it would cause that much of a problem. The reason the hosts don’t like misidentification, as far as I know, ia because they don’t like atheists who pretend to be theist in order to jump to the front of the queue, because they prefer discussing theistic arguments. Matt has said on multiple occasions that he would be fine if no atheists called the show ever. This is not applicable to your desire to discuss theistic claims. Stop being so obtuse.

  109. says

    @Monocle – “Care to respond to my questions?”

    No, I don’t feel like talking to you.

    121. Ryan Martin

    You’re probably right, on some level; I haven’t put too much thought into what you’ve said thus far since it was the last of all the other comments addressing me. But I didn’t necessarily mean that you were wrong in coming to those conclusions about theists.
    What I did mean to point out, at the very least, was that we are both in the business of getting into our “opponent’s” heads and seeing what possible conclusions can be made based on their argumentation and behavior. Thing is, I don’t feel I have the necessary evidence to assert with certainty such conclusions on my end, even though my experience and observation have pointed me towards them. Whatever reasons I do have I can’t yet formulate in a cohesive argument.
    I intend to reread your comments with a fresh mind at a later time.

  110. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    *muffles a cackle in the background at Gerard not wanting to engage MS*

    C’mon, Gerard! Do it for the vine. 😛

    Oh and apologies to hermantf for not being clearer, aarrgghh is correct and I thank them for clearing that up.

  111. says

    @ Gerard, 123:

    What I did mean to point out, at the very least, was that we are both in the business of getting into our “opponent’s” heads and seeing what possible conclusions can be made based on their argumentation and behavior.

    Not really. It depends on the sort of thing you’re trying to do: I happen to find the way people perceive possibility spaces and what the boundaries of that suggests about the way they view things is interesting, but the thing is that I don’t stop there either. However a theist approaches argumentation, the arguments themselves stand and fall on their own, and can be addressed that way.

    Contrast that with Bret Keane’s approach, which is to use speculation as to the motivations of the person disagreeing with him as a means of ending the conversation and making it so he no longer has to provide arguments. For him it’s a way of putting the burden of proof on atheists, which might be viscerally appealing in a tu coque-ey, “I’m not the one who needs to prove it, YOU need to prove it!” childish kind of way, but it says nothing about the support or lack thereof for his position or the atheist’s position. It’s just a means of recodifying the atheist’s position by fiat into something a little less stable epistemologically, without addressing the actual point of disagreement.

    It’s a useful tactic only if your goal is simply to silence dissent. If you’re actually interested in argumentation it’s effectively useless, which is why I wouldn’t have gone there at all, had someone else not done it to others first. It’s Sye Ten Bruggencate levels of deflection: I mean, how does it help you, at all, to argue that atheists only disagree so strenuously because they secretly believe there are no gods? What do you get out of that?

  112. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    but it eases communication to have a line drawn on that scale dividing “belief” and “non-belief.” ”

    Manifestly not.

    IMHO, to the question “do you believe that X is true?”, the answer “I don’t know, maybe, I suspect it’s true, I’m uncertain” is a legitimate answer. In other words, confidence levels. If this is the whole gist of the conversation, I’d suggest that you’re both in violent agreement about the important facts, but you’re quibbling over needless pedantics. IHMO.

  113. itsmejre says

    One of the main aims of showing a private language is impossible, is that even if it were possible it would be completely useless. But this is just one strand of the argument. Intertwined with the remarks about private language is a separate but related discussion about the relationship between public language and private sensations. In fact, these two interwoven strands are so closely related that one could see them as two sides of the same coin. The range of possible interpretations is vast.

    If we accept, as we must, that all psychic states are undemonstrable (like a headache) then we must accept that so is religious experience.

    In terms of any external judgement of another’s experience, you witness no more or no less of another’s headache than a religious experience. Whatever story you create to try to explain away religious experience, it does not magically give you a god’s-eye view of another person’s consciousness.

    Did you notice the bird at sunrise this morning? No? This points out that someone claiming they did not experience something is not a disproof of that something. If multiple individuals can truthfully say they heard the bird at sunrise, another individual saying they did not cannot impeach the testimony of the others because it shows only that the latter individual did not notice.

    People will interpret the experiences they have in terms of the beliefs that they have available to interpret them with. The believer states ‘I think there is a God. So I’m going to interpret those experiences theistically.

    The phenomena of the world, especially of human beings and their beliefs are far too varied and complex to reduce to simplistic definition. That said, if you use a word then you have to use it properly in order to be understood.

  114. itsmejre says

    Neurath considered that “pseudo-xxxxxxxxxxxx”, be they philosophers or scientists, made the mistake of assuming that a complete rational system could be devised for the laws of nature. He argued rather that no system could be complete, being based upon a picture of reality that could only ever be incomplete and imperfect. Pseudo-xxxxxxxxxxx, in Neurath’s view, was a refusal or simple inability to face up to the limits of rationality and reason.[3] “Rationalism”, he wrote (Neurath 1913, p. 8), “sees its chief triumph in the clear recognition of the limits of actual insight.” W-pedia

  115. Monocle Smile says

    @EL
    I may or may not consider that a legitimate answer, but it really depends on the follow up. If they stop there, I get a bad feeling about the discussion and I typically stop. In Gerard’s case, I asked for more elaboration, but he’s refusing to communicate. I’m currently restraining myself from employing ridicule.

    @troll
    I would have to drill a hole in my skull, insert an electric mixer, and go to town on my brain tissue to assert a blatant falsehood like “a headache is a psychic state.” The sensation of a headache is a brain state triggered by neurons in response to a physical ailment, like inflammation. An actual headache is a physical ailment. If you think that our empirical observations are not reducible to material workings, then you fail reality.

  116. says

    @Ryan Martin 127

    I mean, how does it help you, at all, to argue that atheists only disagree so strenuously because they secretly believe there are no gods? What do you get out of that?

    How does it “help”? I don’t know if I view it as supplementary to a separate, more important point, even though it can be used as such. I’ve approached it in the efforts to find the most accurate use of terms.

    For context, the start of my train of thought that lead me to this point was in Matt’s “You’re not an atheist, you’re agnostic video” where he demonstrates the possible usage of the term “non-theist” to mean “not a theist”. That idea clicked with me because if you call yourself agnostic, then you are “not a theist”, which is “non-theist”. However, when he went on to say that he uses “atheist” to mean exactly that, that idea did not mesh with me at all. The reason being that there is more baggage to the term “atheist” than simply “not being a theist”. To reference Neil Degrasse Tyson:

    I’m not so much concerned with the formal definition of the word “atheist” and the formal definition of the word “agnostic”. What concerns me is the behavior of people who call themselves those words….So when I see people who say they are atheists and the energy that they invest in that fact, that’s just simply not me.”

    Now what I’ve tried to do is not necessarily find the source of that “energy”, because there are a number of reasons behind that including what you’ve stated, but more specifically the energy in argumentation about the existence of god. What I’ve found is that many atheists apply at least one of the following: (1) actually do believe that no god exists, (2) are confused themselves about the concept of belief and lack thereof, and (3) are confused about burden of proof. I’ve talked with people that have said things akin to, “It’s not that I believe no god exists. It’s just that, based on lack of evidence, I think that such a thing doesn’t exist.” There is some acceptance of the idea that the inability to “prove a negative” means that there is no burden of proof to the claim “God does not exist”.

    Evidently, it is natural for us to think of propositions as “believe X is true or believe X is false” rather than “believe X is true or not believe X is true”; that is where all of this confusion comes from. However, I think that many atheists are just as confused about the idea as theists, the evidence of which is in the experiences I’ve just described. That coupled with the fervor in trying to disprove any argument that at any level supports the existence of a god implies to me that they aren’t coming from a place of lack of belief in the true or false propositions. I and other agnostics, who do claim a middle-ground, do not conduct argumentation in the way atheists do and these differences, as well as some others that I probably just haven’t mentioned, suggest to me that a more accurate description of atheism in large is the “belief that no god exists”.

    But, like you’ve said, I wouldn’t really argue for that outside of a discussion whose purpose is to talk about the meaning of labels. As a matter of fact, I was avoiding bringing it up before everybody else wanted to start addressing it. All I was doing in the beginning (and what I plan to do eventually when I call in to AXP, contrary to what Monocle claims) was defending the use of agnosticism and arguing for the variable meanings of terms and labels to contrast claims of there being “one true definition of atheism”.

  117. Wiggle Puppy says

    @134: If you do that, I can tell you what will almost certainly happen: they will tell you that yes, of course, definitions are arbitrary, and if you want to use the term “atheist” to mean something different than them, then you can, but they won’t care and won’t want to waste time arguing about it. They tend to be more interested in talking about ideas and concepts than labels and definitions. Please watch Ron’s call from a couple months ago about “theism” from a couple of months back when Matt and Tracie were on. It went nowhere.

    And if you want to know why atheists argue so strenuously, it’s often because we live in a world where unjustified god beliefs cause palpable and real harm to many people in many different ways, and not necessarily because we secretly believe there are no gods. As I said before, one would have to define “god” more solidly for any discussion to make sense. If you want to say that god is synonymous with the universe, then I guess I believe in that god, but don’t see the justification for adding an extra label. If you’re talking about gods as magical immortal beings, then I don’t believe in those. If you’re talking about the interventionist Abrahamic god, then I believe that doesn’t exist. And like I said, if you want to find the source of my fervor, you need only look to the self-flagellation, discrimination, and killing done in the name of these beings.

  118. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Wiggle Puppy #135:

    Please watch Ron’s call […] about “theism” from a couple of months back when Matt and Tracie were on. It went nowhere.

    Ron (TrueEmpiricism) was the first call on ep 20.27. I linked the transcript of his his post-show rant up in comment #98. The episode can be watched via that link as well.

  119. gshelley says

    @wigglepuppy 135
    Was he the one who insisted that theism only referred to a specific kind of god and was unable to get to his actual point (which seemed to be that people weren’t really atheists IIRC), because the hosts refused to accept that, so they spent 20 minutes telling him he was wrong and even looking up dictionary definitions that supported their view?

  120. Wiggle Puppy says

    @139: I love your attitude. Just trying to save you from getting yelled at for trying to argue about definitions for the 50,004th time. If you want to argue that “lack of belief in gods” necessarily (or likely) implies “the belief that no gods exist,” then that’s a conversation worth having, but offering a competing definition for the term “atheism” isn’t. Do you understand the difference in arguing about concepts and arguing about definitions?

  121. Monocle Smile says

    @Gerard

    I and other agnostics, who do claim a middle-ground, do not conduct argumentation in the way atheists do and these differences, as well as some others that I probably just haven’t mentioned, suggest to me that a more accurate description of atheism in large is the “belief that no god exists”

    Then, later:

    And I don’t give a crap about your useless speculation.

    You seem fun. I hope for everyone’s sake that you don’t take up half the show, because it’s not going to be a productive call.

  122. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Gerard

    Regarding Neil deGrasse Tyson
    AFAICT:
    The originator of the modern religious meaning of the word “agnostic” was Huxley. Huxley invented a new word “agnostic” to mean more or less exactly what the word “atheist” meant, but he also included a bunch of PR in order to make it sound more palatable to Christians, less “in your face”, less arrogant-sounding.

    As a matter of facts, when I observe someone making the sort of statements that Neil deGrasse Tyson made, or Huxley made, or Dawkins made, or Bertrand Russell etc., it all follows a similar structure: “I’m not an atheist. I’m an agnostic. Atheists are those people who are sure that no god exists. I strongly suspect that there is no god, but I cannot be 100% sure, and therefore I’m an agnostic. However, in imprecise colloquial language, I’m an atheist.” I’ve seen more or less this exactly said from Tyson, Huxley, Dawkins, Bertrand Russell, etc.

    Simply, I don’t like the idea of a non-atheist getting to define what “atheism” is. I especially don’t like a non-atheist getting to redefine “atheism” to mean something different than what it meant historically. Historically, “atheist” has always had a common meaning of simply “someone who is not a believing member of the dominant religious faith of the culture, used especially in Christian cultures; see also: pagan”.

    Further, because of the introduction of this new word “agnostic” and the surrounding PR blitz by Huxley, it seems like almost a natural consequence that people would believe that the new word must mean something different than the old word, and therefore the natural cultural reaction would be to start carving out new meanings for the word, “agnostic” for someone in the middle, and “atheist” for someone woh believes that there is no god.

    However, nearly all-self identified atheists still use “atheist” to mean simply “someone who does not accept as true that there is a god or gods”, and we should use the meaning of self-identified atheists, and not from people who are not atheists.

    Similarly, there is a consensus regarding the meaning of the word “agnostic” among self-identified agnostics, and IMHO we all should probably use that meaning where possible. It’s sometimes difficult to do because this meaning of the word “agnostic” is largely built on a falsehood regarding the meaning of the word “atheist”. Again, this falsehood is “agnostic is someone in the middle, as constrasted with atheist who is someone who believes that there is no god”, and again, as stated above, this falsehood in the meaning was present since the introduction of the term “agnostic” by Huxley.

    Regarding the belief disblief dichotomy
    I actually agree that the way that the hosts address this issue is confused, and sometimes outright wrong. I’ve had several rants on this topic over time. I’ve spoken to the hosts a few times off-air, and I think that they all actually have the right ideas, but they express those ideas very wrong. I’m not saying that this excuses them from criticism. I am saying this to help you focus your criticism. It’s partly a conceptual framework error on their part, and it’s partly simply bad communication on their part.

    In particular, Matt Dillahunty has often said that you always examine claims like “a god exists” without considering alternative claims like “there are no gods”. That’s wrong. IMAO, Dillahunty and the other hosts do not have a proper appreciation of proper empirical reasoning, which is Bayesian reasoning. Again, I’ve had this rant many times, and nothing much productive happened.

    As I’ve said before, a great difficulty in this conversation is the impreciseness of language. Sometimes, to some people, “disbelief” means “I find the claim implausible, unlikely to be true”, and other times, “disbelief” simply means “I am not convinced that it’s true”. Similarly, many people use the phrase “I don’t believe that” as a polite form for “I believe that it is false”. However, grammatically, “I don’t believe that” is drastically different than “I believe that it is false”.

    It is true that there is a rough cut-off somewhere on the scale of confidence levels between “belief” and “lack of belief, sometimes known as disbelief”. I’d prefer to talk about confidence levels in a Bayesian sense, and for “does a god exist”, you ought to have some confidence-level estimate of the truth of that claim, somewhere on the scale between 0% and 100% (assuming that “god” is sufficiently well defined in the conversation). If it’s very high, like 99%, then it’s appropriate to say “I believe that there is a god”. If it’s 50% or less, then clearly it’s appropriate to say “I don’t believe that there is a god”. If it’s even 80% or less, it’s appropriate to say “I am not convinced that there is a god; I don’t believe that there is a god”.

    For further reading, I suggest the book “Proving History” by Richard Carrier, and this peer reviewed paper on epistemology and science:

    > 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

    PS:
    You’re starting to address a little more than useless linguistic pedantics. I beg of you, please stop talking about useless linguistic pedantics and the arcane nuances between “atheist” and “agnostic”. It’s not productive, and it’s largely a waste of everyone’s time. I strongly suggest this:
    http://lesswrong.com/lw/nu/taboo_your_words/

  123. says

    @Wiggle Puppy 140

    Just trying to save you from getting yelled at for trying to argue about definitions for the 50,004th time.

    Oh, how considerate of you.

    Mind your own business. I’ll go on the show and talk about whatever I want to talk about. If they want to kick me off, they’ll kick me off. But I’m not going to let some random person tell me what to do. That’s all I have to say. Unless you have something else to say that isn’t presumptuous in nature, I will use my liberties to refrain from conversing any further as it’s giving me a migraine.

    @EnlightenmentLiberal 142

    Simply, I don’t like the idea of a non-atheist getting to define what “atheism” is.

    You’re starting to address a little more than useless linguistic pedantics. I beg of you, please stop talking about useless linguistic pedantics and the arcane nuances between “atheist” and “agnostic”.

    I don’t blame you and I don’t wish to make such claims.
    Honestly, I don’t–I thought I did, but I don’t–understand where you’re getting the pedantics from. I don’t think you can’t show me, but it seems like you are, like other people here, presuming my thoughts in which case I point you towards my response to Wiggle Puppy.

  124. says

    In response to Peter’s question, I’ve been afraid of death much more than hell. I’m a young person right now, but I’ve felt dreadful trying to grasp the thought that one day I won’t exist. I’m currently a non-believer, and I grew up devoutly Christian (believing in heaven and hell) if that influences my answer. I’ve only really tried to consider my non-existent future for about three years. I would feel better if I was still conscious after death, even if I experienced a lot of pain. With hell, at least I’d have a mind to experience things, even if they are horrible. Maybe I’ll feel differently when I’m older and tired, but maybe not. Some people say, “You’re too young to think about these things.” I don’t buy that, but at the same time, I see that it does no good to dwell on this at all beyond realizing the importance of living in this present moment to the fullest.

  125. Wiggle Puppy says

    @143: EL was right, you do seem like fun. You shouldn’t let a few internet comments get to you that much. The point is that, as an atheist, I get exhausted with people who want to argue about labels and definitions rather than ideas. I doubt I’m the only one, which is why we’re trying to suggest ways to have a more productive call.

  126. Wiggle Puppy says

    Sorry, that was MS, not EL. My apologies. As for presuming things: I’m not. You stated in comment 133 that you wanted to talk about the fact that terms have variable definitions and that there isn’t one “true” one. You won’t get much push back there, but that isn’t going to accomplish much. If you want to suggest that atheists ‘ passion for argument reveals that they aren’t being honest about simple lack of belief, or that lack of belief implies acceptance of the contrary, then those will probably be productive, but most atheists I know aren’t interested in arguing about definitions.

  127. RationalismRules says

    @Jennifer Leigh #52
    Thanks for the extra info. It’s interesting to hear the ‘experience’ broken down into components.

    From what I gather, if magnetic waves hit your brain from one direction, you get positive religious experiences and negative terrifying experiences if it hits the other.

    So the prevalence of negative premonitions is not because negative experiences are more common, it’s because of difference in interpretation – the negative experiences are interpreted as premonitions, the positive experiences as ‘religious’. That makes sense.

    ‘Feeling of presence’ is a very interesting phenomenon. I enjoyed this article:
    https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn26516-ever-felt-a-ghostly-presence-now-we-know-why/

    For a different perspective on ‘religious experience’, this clip of UK mentalist (ie. entertainer) Derren Brown, deliberately inducing a ‘religious experience’ in a confirmed atheist (and scientist) is food for thought:

  128. RationalismRules says

    Apologies to anyone who tries to watch that Derren Brown clip – I hadn’t realized that the audio goes horrendously out of synch around the 9 min mark. You may want to close your eyes and treat it like a podcast from that point on.

  129. says

    @Gerard, 134:

    That coupled with the fervor in trying to disprove any argument that at any level supports the existence of a god implies to me that they aren’t coming from a place of lack of belief in the true or false propositions. I and other agnostics, who do claim a middle-ground, do not conduct argumentation in the way atheists do and these differences, as well as some others that I probably just haven’t mentioned, suggest to me that a more accurate description of atheism in large is the “belief that no god exists”.

    Aaaand here’s the problem: “fervor in trying to disprove any argument”? No. No, that’s a misconception that you have, and on some level I can see why you might. To be clear, what you’re looking at there isn’t some specifically atheist fervor at all, it’s actually something we share with a lot of similarly investigative minds. Scientists do the same thing, interrogating ideas in order to understand them better. All we’re doing is testing ideas as they’re presented to us.

    The problem is that you’re conflating the conclusion we come to with our aim in investigating: how did you come to the conclusion that we’re “trying to disprove,” theistic arguments, instead of that, say, the conclusion we make is that they aren’t true? Why phrase it as a quest to discard them? Why make that presupposition as to our motives?

    See, I’m an atheist, and I’ll disprove poor arguments all day long. I make no apology about that, and it’s not my problem that the set “poor arguments” happens to contain each and every theistic argument that has been proposed to me. But I do that because the arguments are poor, not because I’ve got some secret ideological reason to do so. This is exactly the thing I’ve been talking about: don’t mistake conclusions made for the reason for them. Arguments can be made to come to the truth, not just to come to presupposed ideas. When I go to research a theistic claim made to me, I actually don’t search “why X claim is not true,” I just search for X claim and see where that takes me. Thus far, it’s taken me to information showing how X claim is not true, where theism is concerned.

    How is that my fault? Theists have been in this desperate scrabble to blame atheists for not agreeing with them forever, it’s sad to see that slimy, dishonest rhetorical tactic becoming a background assumption for an agnostic too.

  130. Ronnie C. Baker Jr. says

    That idiot who was broadcasting the show? He is infamous on youtube as a con man. Brett Keane used to be an atheist and he knew fully well the points the hosts raised in their response. But one day he e-begged to get money for his rent (later it was found he likely spent it on amazon) and his dishonesty unravelled. Weither you dislike him or not, the amazing Atheist had exposed Brett for the fraud he is. I reccomend you watch this video here because it shows Brett’s dishonesty for what it is.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kdzyKBORrk

    I urge everyone curious to watch this, even if you despise the amazing atheist, as Brett Keane associates himself with a number of now well-known nutjobs who have called into the show in the past, such as G-Man and some others.

  131. says

    Tracy’s description of making connections with no verification reminded me of something in my childhood.
    When I was probably about 5 I had a nightmare about boulders, and woke up screaming at a terrifying feeling in my fingers. They seemed to be thin, and brittle; nothing but bones. Pencil fingers that would break easily. I kept them pressed against my chest to protect them from being bumped as I screamed and cried for a while, and my parents worried.

    They took me to a doctor, and I remember telling him that the dream was about boulders. I assumed it had some relevance, even though I hadn’t done any sort of test, clumsy or otherwise, to indicate it.

    I’d postulate that when someone doesn’t understand much of what’s going on, they assume everything they notice is relevant and important.
    This could be an evolved first step in pattern recognition, which should ideally be followed up by a weeding down of hypothetically relevant factors.

  132. Helicopter says

    You guys did a terrible job addressing the Langan fan. Sure, not everything he was trying to say was sensible but a lot of it was and your responses were terrible. You appeared not to be making any effort to actually understand what he was trying to say. Instead, you went right for whatever you thought would shut him down hardest from moment to moment regardless of the context of the conversation at that moment. I’m really disappointed.

  133. gshelley says

    I agree they did a poor job, though probably for different reasons. After the second or third time trying to get him to give his reasons and having him respond by either trying to tell them more about the time he met Langan, or that Langan has really good proof which he will tell people about in a few years, they should have just told him to get Langan to call and ended it.
    When they did finally get something out of him it was basically incoherent gibberish- he might have been impressed by Langan but it wasn’t clear he has any understanding of the arguments (though I do suspect the real ones are probably not much better, based on what he was able to say)
    It’s hardly a surprise they were exasperated by that point.

  134. says

    @150

    There’s also some history here. There was a stretch of time where they were fielding Langan calls virtually every week, and the conversations were always gibberish. When the caller brought up Chris Langan, my first thought was “Oh buy, this again”.

  135. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    Wondering what “lots of things” were sensible from the 1st caller because he was pretty much pushing air past any point of relevance. That caller was very privileged as the hosts gave him much more time than needed for the content of, “He’s gonna end atheism in 1 or 2 years.”

  136. says

    Just came to say I think you guys handled the Langan fan just fine, in fact you were very polite and extremely patient.

    Question for an upcoming show – ‘SE’ aka Street Epistemology [sp?] seems really interesting, what is your take on the movement ?

  137. Monocle Smile says

    Just fyi, every last one of Helicopter’s posts in any thread has been concern trolling. I question the honesty. Pay it no mind.