1. bigzebra says

    Did you guys change your cameras or something? Both Jen and Russell seem thinner somehow.
    Jen mentioned the problem people face when your public school introduces religion to the classroom. If you need advice on what to do, you can contact the National Center for Science Eduction ( I’m a member, and you should be too 🙂

  2. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    This episode drained my heart, the callers left me hungry for something worthwhile.

    Thanks again to the bts crew.

  3. Railer says

    Why is Home Schooling such a bad thing??

    I’m and Atheist have been all my life, my 2 kids they never spent a day in school, they are now in there mid 20’s with excellent careers and prospects.

    I put it to you Home Schooling is not bad, Perhaps religious Home Schooling might be.

    Great show love ur stuff.

  4. says

    Russel says: “I can’t make everyone happy” and yet, if it is related to a certain set of idea, he is completely unwilling to consider counter discussion.

  5. Monocle Smile says

    @Eric Holp
    After seeing your mug in a few threads, I’m wondering why you refrain from being specific at all times. I’m not sure passive-aggressive stewing is productive.

  6. says

    I’m curious why your opening credits are ‘host’ and ‘co-host’. Why aren’t both hosts called ‘hosts’ or ‘co-hosts’?
    That said, keep doing what you do.

  7. sezit says

    Off topic, but… do any of the Godless Bitches ever think of restarting their show? Or a similar sister show with women of the Atheist Community of Austin? I really loved the show and miss it.

    So, here’s some encouragement from at least this fan who would love to have a feminist atheist podcast.

    (I love AXP too!)

  8. floridaantitheist says

    Regarding Mary from Scotland, I think she is caught up in the worship of love trap, As I commented in a different forum, the world does not need more love as much as we need the obliteration of hatred (through genuine empathy). She said that, after we are gone, all that remains is love. I think this is Christ-inspired bullshit. For example, what I have left from Jerry Falwell’s demise is memories of a wretched con-artist. I certainly don’t have any love for him. I have empathy. I know that he was a human being (albeit, a scumdog). And, on 9-11, if he had been trapped on an upper floor of the World Trade Center, and I had magical superpowers, and there was no one else left to save, I would have saved his life.

  9. Justin says

    Russell: Thanks for reading comments and taking some feedback to heart! We as the audience appreciate that.

    I think the main complaint is regarding specific repeat callers like the guy with the crazy laugh that seem to just call in to take up time on the show. They call in week after week with different claims and most of them seem like they don’t even believe the claim themselves, it’s like they just googled “ridiculous theist claims”, picked out a list, and try to call in each week with a different topic to “entertain” us. I think the idea is there’s more honest theists out there that would like to have a conversation. At least with regard to “crazy laugh guy” I can’t tell if he’s serious but the fact that he laughs so much leads me to believe he’s just pulling your leg. Hamish is a bit different, he doesn’t laugh but several people have doubted the honesty of his accent and of course his arguments. I think if you just keep a mental (or physical) list of certain people like hamish and hyena laugh guy (Chuck from Hawaii? Has he called under multiple names?) and look out for them I think it’d be fair to other theists that might be first time callers.

  10. mi tortent says

    the audio quality is atrocious.only russell though. the caller sounds fine. sounds like he has the mic under his clothes. lots of clothes noises and very muffled sound from russell.

  11. Bret Frost says

    Please will the person at the sound desk eq the vocals to cut the bass out. I know you are amateurs but listen to your output.
    Humans hear speech better when the treble is boosted not the bass.

  12. says

    First caller: should look up what a “meme” is. And no, it’s not a photo with words on it. Find the original Dawkins description.

    Gotta love the ad hoc rationalizations to explain the NDE tests, making the whole scenario unfalsifiable.

  13. says

    Pascal’s Wager is just a risk assessment plot. It’s just that it’s implemented in such a staggeringly incompetent way, that it’s completely useless.

  14. says

    Regarding whether someone could have been born 1000 years ago “with the same thoughts”…. if we grant a purely deterministic universe… maybe… but only in the sense of booting a computer with the same starting conditions.

    The big problem is that our thoughts, and even the development of the brain, are largely influenced by environment and events. Someone born 1000 years ago (or later), could only be possible if the environment, and exact events of one’s life, were replicated down to the molecule without error.

    After that, you start to get divergence in thought patterns fairly quickly, if not a very different personality before too long.

  15. Dirk says

    About that reincarnation call.
    I agree with Jasper of Maine’s point, but I also had another thought.

    If patterns can repeat, they could repeat multiple times. They might repeat simultaneously.
    So what if, out of all the babies born in the last 24 hours, 10 had the “same thoughts” as that baby from 1000 years ago. Did that ancient baby just reincarnate 10 times over?
    Also, it might be the case that 5 of those new-borns were boys and 5 were girls. Now that baby not only reincarnated multiple times, but it also switched gender. Off course with their different upbringing, all the new babies would develop their unique personalities.

    Come to think of it, ignoring the whole nurture problem, this could explain why there are multiple people claiming to be Napoleon or Cleopatra. Heck, maybe Napoleon was a reincarnation of Cleopatra.
    I’m just going to go out on a limb and say that’s not the case.

  16. Minus says

    “Regarding whether someone could have been born 1000 years ago “with the same thoughts”

    We need first to consider what thoughts actually are. Are thoughts possible without language? That is a question open for debate; cf Steven Pinkar”s _The Language Instinct_ for a good discussion. Personally, I don’t think you can have thoughts without language to express them. So our thoughts are totally dependent on the social network and language we live in and there is no way a person born 1000 years ago could have modern thoughts.

  17. Leaping Langosta says

    So people have similar experiences and similar brain patterns, therefore reincarnation. As far as we know, and from all available evidence, thoughts and feelings arise from purely physical, natural, and mechanical means within the brain. So really, we are the heater being thrown into a volcano. Sure, all heaters heat, just as multiple people might think a similar thought or have a similar feeling. But just as the heater can’t come back or “be produced later on” as he states, nor can the human brain after it is gone. Really, we are all just heaters that are eventually thrown into a volcano.

  18. HouTxAthiest says

    Anyone else get the feeling that Dan was one of those in a racist “religion” with his extolling of societal woes and such?

  19. rodney says

    Maybe somebody did climb Mt. Olympus (or said they did), and came back saying that he met with the gods, and they speak through him now.

  20. mi tortent says

    @minus, i think dogs and cats, have thoughts, and i am not sure they have the language for it. dolphins, whales, elephants may have the language, but i am curious as to what you think.

  21. Minus says

    re Mi tortent

    I know my cats figure things out and have emotions. But are those thought? Anyone who says they know what’s going on in an animal’s brain is talking through their hat. (You may ask whether I am referring to the animal’s hat; could be.) We need to figure out how our brains work first before we start on the other mammals. But, seriously, the Pinkar book on language changed my life in the way I think about thinking. Check it out.

  22. Joe E Dangerously says

    I’m not sure Jen will end up reading this but I would like to extend a personal thanks for saying something I’ve been saying for a long time now. At some point it is entirely reasonable to conclude that a thing people are proposing is not real when there just is no evidence for it and no good reason to think it is. I’m an atheist. I am not agnostic. I am simply an atheist. Not an agnostic atheist, just an atheist. I am convinced there is no god. We are, I believe, far too concerned with appearing unreasonable or closed-minded to unreasonable and closed-minded people just so we can have that rhetorical leg up. So what if a theist wants to say we’re just as dogmatic as them? We know that’s not true. At least those of us who understand what these things mean and the ideas that are being expressed. The ONLY reason, and I do mean THE ONLY REASON we are not willing to say “there is no god” is because so many people believe it and that appears to lend credibility to the idea to people who don’t understand how logic works. I don’t care about the Richard Dawkins scale or that absurd worthless idea of “absolute certainty.” I am convinced. There is no god. Period.

    I just don’t understand why we bend over backward to be so accommodating to people who have silly childish ideas based on silly childish mythology. Would any of us seriously claim “you can’t draw any definitive conclusions as to whether Harry Potter is real?” No, I don’t think we would. And if we would we’re being silly and childish. This is just as credible as the idea of supernatural deities. And I think it’s time to treat the reality as what it is. People who believe in gods are not expressing ideas that deserve to be taken seriously. I get that many, many people still hold on to these silly ideas. But I think those of us who have moved forward need to conduct ourselves as though we are the adults in the room and everyone else is acting like children. Everyone will come around to this idea. It will take some time but until they do I see no reason to pretend their notions deserve any credibility. It’s time to move on to the next phase of our cultural evolution. And part of that is not pretending god notions deserve to be taken seriously.

    “I’m not saying there is or is not a Harry Potter. Simply that I am not convinced Harry Potter exists.”

    See how silly that sounds? Good. Now put two and two together and acknowledge that the same applies to gods. Let’s get on with the business of advancing our species.

  23. yinepuhotep says

    One of the things that always surprises me when the whole NDE thing comes up is how no one ever mentions the data that the USAF and NASA accumulated from their centrifuge tests. In every case where astronauts were subjected to the centrifuge without anti-g clothing, they experienced what people mistake for a NDE. All it demonstrates is that when the brain is deprived of oxygen, it produces halucinations. Nothing more. Unfortunately, far too many people take that as some kind of “proof” of an afterlife.

  24. Adam Duckro says

    Do people really not realize that “Mary” from Scotland is just the guy who does Hamish using a woman’s voice?!?!

    I’ve always suspected that Hamish wasn’t genuine. Now after hearing this week’s episode I’m completely convinced. Seriously, the inflection is identical to Hamish, he even burst out laughing at one point and played it off as nerves. Russell, you’re being played man. This Hamish thing is just an act, and this Mary character was obviously the same person. Listen again.

  25. marx says

    I like the way Jen corners the first caller Chritopher at the end of his call.
    The phenomenon of his near death experience is untestable because you shall not put his god to the test.
    “I think faith is the answer”
    What a messed up call!

    Good to see Jen keeping law and order on the last show!

  26. says

    @15 Minus

    I don’t think you can have thoughts without language to express them.

    I reject this claim as ridiculous.

    We know crows, for instance, can solve some complex puzzles. This requires thinking.

  27. RationalismRules says

    @Minus #21

    I know my cats figure things out and have emotions. But are those thought?

    Yes, ‘figuring things out’ requires thought – clearly! How else?

    Not only have crows been observed to solve complex puzzles (@Jasper #22) they have been observed to make tools – not just using a found object as a tool, but altering it to suit the required purpose (!) ie. taking a piece of wire and bending the end into a rudimentary hook in order to retrieve a food reward from a tube. I doubt very much that crows have the language for ‘bend’.

  28. says

    Regarding the Near Death Experience caller, he stated that the doctor who had an NDE had meningitis and the condition of his brain would “poke holes” in the skeptical viewpoint. It should be remembered that no one knows when these experiences occur. The doctor could have had his experience as he was regaining consciousness, because his brain wasn’t permanently damaged. He might have been slowly regaining consciousness for hours or days, so the argument that meningitis would make an NDE impossible is nonsense.

  29. Minus says

    @Jaspar and Rationalism

    I don’t know what goes on in the mind of a crow or a cat. Neither do you. You can call it thought if you like. What I am saying is that many linguists and others have questioned whether human thought is possible without language. They further believe that babies and toddlers cannot engage in full mental activity (thought) before they have developed language. We cannot run tests on humans, but there have been a few unfortunates who have grown up without exposure to language and their brains were horribly undeveloped and seemingly incapable of what we would consider thought. I am no expert in this, maybe you are. Pinkar certainly is and he, and other linguists who discuss this question, make some extremely thought provoking points about thought. Can you formulate thoughts without using words? I can’t.

  30. Monocle Smile says

    Helen Keller.
    It also depends on how broadly you want to define “language.”

    but there have been a few unfortunates who have grown up without exposure to language and their brains were horribly undeveloped and seemingly incapable of what we would consider thought


    I don’t know what goes on in the mind of a crow or a cat. Neither do you. You can call it thought if you like


    there is no way a person born 1000 years ago could have modern thoughts

    I reject the impossibility. While our environment no doubt has a hand in shaping our higher-level processes and we’ve certainly developed new concepts since then due to advances in our understanding of our world, our brains have not changed all that much in a thousand years.

  31. RationalismRules says

    @Minus #25

    I am no expert in this, maybe you are.

    You don’t have to be an expert to have a worthwhile conversation – it’s how we build understanding through language (irony, much?). You started a conversation about whether language is required for thought, and people responded. Why are you now acting all butthurt?

  32. says

    @25 Minus

    I don’t know what goes on in the mind of a crow or a cat. Neither do you. You can call it thought if you like.

    We can heavily deduce it, just like we can with people. It’s called psychology. We can determine what’s going on in its mind by how it’s behaving. On a simple level, we can tell when a dog is scared, versus when its happy. This isn’t that difficult.

    Making tools ins’t an emotional state. It’s a reasoned awareness and plan of action – which is what we label as a form thinking.

    I’m sorry, but the crow counters your position, alongside all other problem-solving animals, unless you’ve abandoned the standard definitions of these words.

    Can you formulate thoughts without using words? I can’t.

    I think this is the issue – you can’t comprehend it, so it cannot be. This starts to become a black swan fallacy. Any non-lingual entity that shows the signs of thinking, aren’t, because we know that only lingual-entities think, because you can’t personally conceive it any other way.

    I don’t doubt that language has a massive influence on how our minds work… but that’s true about everything that’s attached to our minds… or that aren’t.

  33. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    What I am saying is that many linguists and others have questioned whether human thought is possible without language.

    This is trivial to show that it is false. Your claim about cognition is false, and you claim about the consensus of expert linguists is false.

    We all have had the experience where we forgot a word, but we still have some understanding of the concept, in spite of not having the word. Oftentimes, after a few moments, or a few minutes, the word comes back to us. However, we’re still able to think about the concept without being able to name the word.

    Similarly, we invent words all the time. A person must have a concept in mind before inventing a word for the concept. This happens all the time too.

    For further reading:

    It’s pretty well accepted that a person’s particular language, e.g. English vs Russian, influences how they think, but it’s not completely controlling. In modern study, the interesting questions are “how much influence?”, and “how much influence in what ways, in what contexts?”.

  34. neilmatrix says

    I can visualize, ( think of) a Cat, Dog, Door or a house. ( Or anything) Without using language!!

  35. savoy47 says

    Question: When humans first came upon the scene how was one of them able to convince another one that there was an invisible all powerful man in the sky that they needed to worship? And how did that belief spread around the world like a virus?

    Think about that for a moment. Every day in every way was a nonstop struggle to find food, water and a safe space to rest. So how do you convince someone in that situation to divert time and effort better spent working on staying alive to worshiping an undetectable god?

    Answer: They didn’t. There was no need to convince anybody that there were gods. Gods and the spirit world were just as real and obvious as rivers and trees.

    When they slept they dreamed. They dreamed they were in other places real and imagined but when they awoke and told someone they found out that their bodies did not go anywhere. They had no idea what dreams were all about.
    1.) When we sleep we go places and do things. People are alive there that are dead here.
    2.) Our bodies stay behind and do not do those things when we sleep.

    Conclusions – There must be another world where you don’t need a body. We are able to live without a body and people go there after they die.

    They are logical well reasoned conclusion based on shared observations and a complete absence of knowledge.

    The gods were just as real to them and even looked like them. Again this conclusion was based on shared observations. When they looked up the gods were right there you could see them in the sky. Today we know that they are just clouds but they didn’t. Clouds and the night sky were the two biggest, ever present, pattern generators. It’s the ultimate entertainment system delivering a non-stop, life and death soap opera 24/7.

    Life is dependent on finding and exploiting needed resources. The most valuable of all possible resources would therefore be the ability to barter and gain favor with the all powerful cloud tribe.

    Religion now comes into existence. Religion is the condensate of endless futile efforts to barter and negotiate favor with the gods. The placebo effect, conformation bias and the law of averages provided enough “evidence” that their efforts were paying off. Lacking a disproof of gods these efforts will endure forever.

    The second most valuable resource is the ability to convince people that you are in possession of the first.

  36. Monocle Smile says

    Eh, there are some errors there, namely that animism and ancestor worship were the oldest type of religions and god concepts developed later (especially monotheistic creator gods, which didn’t arrive until Zoroastrianism, I think), but I agree with lots of that passage.

  37. billgarthright says

    I don’t think I’ve commented previously. Certainly, I wasn’t one of those people who apparently criticized Russell earlier. (I’m talking about his remarks at the very beginning of this episode.) But I have to say that I enjoyed this episode much more than the previous two times he was the host.

    This time, things moved along quite well, I thought. Nice job! Yeah, we got some crazy ideas, but he didn’t let them ramble on, and they didn’t monopolize the show.

    Russell is a smart guy, and I wouldn’t be able to do his job. (No patience, for one thing.) But I got so frustrated at the previous two episodes where he was host, that I couldn’t finish them.

    I think that he’s so eager to let callers have their say that he’s not willing to call bullshit on them – or not quickly enough, at least. I mean, he’s not willing to object right from the start, even when there’s a clear objection to be made. If the premise is bullshit, no argument based on it can be valid. And crazy doesn’t interest me much (whether the guy’s just a troll or not).

    But this time, things moved right along. Thank-you. And Jen was great, too, of course. But I focus on Russell just because the host controls the tempo of these things. Anyway, I wanted to comment and congratulate both of them. I just finished listening to the show – the whole thing. 🙂

  38. Vivec says

    Wait, okay, not only is Pinker’s writing hotly contested (though people do tend to accept his arguments in a weak interpretation), he’s also arguing against the idea that language shapes cognition.

    How did you come away from a work more or less devoted to opposing Linguistic Determinism and come away believing in Linguistic Determinism?

    Like, Pinker explicitly states that, for example, we can think about all the shades of the rainbow prior to having any words for the discrete shades. Nowhere is he making the claim that thoughts can’t exist without language – he’s making the exact opposite claim.

  39. Curt Cameron says

    @25 Minus

    We cannot run tests on humans, but there have been a few unfortunates who have grown up without exposure to language and their brains were horribly undeveloped and seemingly incapable of what we would consider thought.

    It’s been several years since I read The Language Instinct, but I don’t recall this point, and I think I would remember it. I’m thinking you’re using your own idiosyncratic definition of “thought” here, not what Pinker said.

    Others have posted planning ability in crows, and we can find planning behavior in just about all mammals that correspond to what I would consider “thought.” For example, when my dog decides he wants to chase the cat and she runs around the sofa, my dog immediately goes the other direction around the sofa to head her off. Doesn’t that demonstrate planning?

    Your posts seem to me to be the same as solipsism except applied to a species. I can’t tell what’s going on in your head, but by analogy to my own I figure it’s a good assumption that you have thoughts just like I do. It’s a very small step to extend this to my dog. They obviously plan, have desires, and even dream. Why is that not strong evidence of thinking?

  40. Vivec says

    It’s been several years since I read The Language Instinct, but I don’t recall this point, and I think I would remember it. I’m thinking you’re using your own idiosyncratic definition of “thought” here, not what Pinker said.

    I think there may have been a part about a feral child, named Queenie or some such, but I can’t recall if that was in Pinker’s book or if that was an auxilliary study.

  41. Robert, not Bob says

    The idea that thought requires language is based on a definition of thought as words-in-your-head. That’s tautological.

  42. Dr. Dave J0hnson PhD says

    Russell is a great guy, and Jen is great too. I like all the hosts on the atheist experience.

  43. Meta says

    Hi Guys,
    I think there is a good explanation, why the first caller obsesses about his NDE, is fascinated by deepities and shuts out his logic: narcissism 😉

  44. Meta says

    @Bret Frost @axp
    I have the same problem but because of high tone hearing loss. I use an eq on my pc in this case, but surely the audio could be enhanced.

  45. Meta says

    It strikes me as a bit weird, that Russel sometimes doesn’t even say goodbye to the callers and even just hangs up on some of them in a rudely manner.

  46. Meta says

    It is so funny how some callers just sound like total trolls 🙂 – like that woman from Scotland – like she’s really making fun of that typical esoteric nonsense people say 🙂

  47. billgarthright says

    “Why is Home Schooling such a bad thing??”

    For one thing, you’ve often got people with no educational ability teaching their own prejudices. Of course, parents are already a much bigger influence on children than teachers. But with home-schooling, kids are really restricted to that bubble. For most home-schoolers, that seems to be the whole point. But it’s not a good thing.

    And school isn’t just about textbooks. It’s about socialization. It’s about learning to interact with other people, especially – in public schools, at least – with people who are different from you.

    That’s the big problem with religious schools, too. The whole idea is to keep kids in that bubble. But at least religious schools have other kids in them. At least their students get that much socialization.

    Of course, a bad school isn’t going to be beneficial. And I’m sure that some home-schoolers are good at what they do. (And some are TERRIBLE. I’ve known some of them.) But this is why we ALL need to be concerned with public schools. If your kids aren’t going to be affected, you’re less likely to be concerned about them – and less likely to be willing to pay taxes to support them.

    Note that this is just my opinion. I’m not an educator, nor an expert on child development.

  48. cobbler says

    atheist experience 21.10… .your caller Jeff from Utah. I think he passed himself of as teacher or academic he wanted to come across as an openminded thinking person of academia.
    HOLY SHIT is that what passes for an intelligent person in the US no wonder the world is in trouble .god save America God save the world more likely ….eg he flippantly called Allah a false god amongst many others, but the penny did not drop regarding his own invisible friend .
    in reply to your request for clarification he reasoned that
    ” hey didn’t they bomb the crap out us on 11th September”
    Holy shit batman don’t you people know you bombed the crap out Vietnam over a period of many years not just one day.

    Both are historic events now but there is a huge imbalance in the power of induced fear created by each one … but it never gets mentioned on US TV .

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