1. says

    On the ‘former friend caller’, believers saying “Their in a better place now” really, really pisses me off.

    It’s akin to saying “Oh well their life up to now meant nothing because it just got a whole lot better”

    I find it the most supercilious, sanctimonious, vicious and hurtful remark ANYONE could make to someone who lost a family member or a friend.

  2. says

    Regarding responsibility of created agents, let’s say I had a lab with the capacity to create a human with any mind I wanted them to have. This human is just as much of a person as I am, with a brain that operates according to the same laws of physics as mine does, and so on. And let’s say I decide to create a person who enjoys abducting people, and then torturing and murdering them, who I know will go out and do just that, and then they do so.

    That person would be no less responsible for their decisions than I am for my decisions, and they are a horrible person. And in intentionally creating a person who will do what I know will do what they will do, then I am at least as horrible as they are. Because in intentionally creating a person who will make certain decisions, I am effectively also making those same decisions as well.

  3. Murat says

    FINE TUNING is a weird concept. I don’t tknow if that term was used first by creationists, or, if some physicist happened to use it and then creationists found virtue in sticking with it.
    Aside from what Matt and Tracie said, I have this idea that FINE TUNING contradicts not just with probability calculations and logic, but even with Christianity and Islam on some level:
    Well, for starters, the claim is that we are living in a “fine” universe, given that this is what it is “tuned” to be.
    Ummm… Is this actually what the ancient holy books suggest?
    Far as I get it, if a religion refers to the concepts of HEAVEN and HELL, then, “our” universe, which is but a “test area”, or, if you will, a “preparatory setting”, can not be the “creation” that is “fine tuned”.
    The only realm to deserve the title should be HEAVEN.
    For any theist hoding a belief of AFTERLIFE, the usage of this term for our “flesh-and-blood” universe is blasphemous.
    Thiesm comes up with many tricks to embrace modern science. And while doing that, it loses the focus. I believe that the mention of a FINE TUNING for the mere realm where we are supposed to spend only our “eternal” days is one such example.

  4. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    I now carry a personal vendetta against Matt & Tracie, they’ve besmirched the name of the man capable of vanquishing athiesm. I’m of course speaking of meme sensation: Randy from Iowa.

    They’re lucky though, Randy took it easy on ’em, he’s merciful like that.


    Mark my words, atheism and the axp’s days are numbered.

  5. Murat says

    James seemed to be referring to Darren Aronofsky’s version of “Noah”, which is more like a “reboot” of the original story.

  6. EvgeniyR says

    Out of all universal constants, only two of them can be considered fundamental to out local Universe – Speed of Light and Gravitational Constant. All other constants are derived and are product of interactions of Energy and Space in accordance with those two. They are generated by the Universal evolution, where stable systems persist and all unstable system die out, therefore it is logically consistent to expect those stable system to being possible to represent with constant values.

    Furthermore, from all the evidence available in all fields and scales of knowledge, Universe has developed to the current state from retrospectively more simple states down to the proposed Singularity, where only fundamental Space and Energy were present alone. Therefore, it is more logically consistent to expect the Universe to originate from some ultimately simple, uniform and homogeneous (well likely eternal and infinite) medium/material, rather than from some ridiculously complex subject like God.

    Therefore, Fine-Tuning argument is invalid and long overdue of its philosophical value.

  7. KK_Me says

    Great show Matt and Tracie! Loved the conversation with Brian.

    The point that if god had 1) a choice what universe to create 2) knew what was going to happen and 3) created it, making him ultimately responsible for what happens is a very difficult concept to accept for theists I talked to. In that scenario I feel we can blame god for all the suffering that goes on, but theists I have discussed this with argue with either free will or god’s mysterious ways (but whom they trust anyway because he, of course, loves us so much).
    In a case of a person sinning, that action would have to be preapproved by god, would it not? Not only that, the choice is taken away: you can’t do good if you’ve already been put on the path of sin. I then usually hear “Yes, but the people made the bad decision out of their Free Will! They had a choice even if god knew what they were going to choose!”.
    To me it’s like a teacher making surprise history test about a subject not yet discussed, knowing his students will fail.

    I obviously still lack good analogies for this concept, so I’d love to hear it discussed more on the show! It’s a fancier way to talk about the problem of evil for sure, but it’s also an area where I see theists rarely accepting the implications of what they believe, which makes it a worthwhile conversation to have in my mind.
    Yes it doesn’t talk about the existence of a god or reasons to believe, but I believe doubting the fairness of the system is helpful in sowing doubt about the system, acting as a skepticism conduit. It was for me.

  8. Murven says

    The fine tuning argument is really hard to defend when you realize that in most of the universe it is impossible for life to exist. Even if you forget about the universe and think only about the Earth: fresh, drinkable water is one of the most important resources for terrestrial life, yet, less that 1% of the water on Earth is fresh water. If you think the Earth had a designer, it is actually very cruel to make humans and other mammals so dependent on fresh water to survive, and place them in a planet where they cannot drink 99% of the water that is available.
    Furthermore, life in the universe seems to be rare (i.e.: our solar system has 8 planets and only one of them seems to be feasible for life, additionally, it seems more likely for planets like Jupiter and Saturn to form around a star than for planets like Earth to form, hence, making life even less likely). It is plausible that if you tune the variables in a certain way you can actually produce a universe in which every planet is in the sweet spot and all hundreds of thousands of them are suitable for life. Such a universe would have a better fine tuning for life than this one, yet that possibility is completely ignored by the proponents of the fine tuning argument.
    Not only we are not in a universe where life is likely, it is plausible that in universes with slightly different tuning life is orders of magnitude more likely compared to this one, completely defeating the fine-tuning argument.

    Finally, let’s deal with the fact that the god these people are proposing is supposed to be all-powerful. Therefore it would have been trivial for this god to create an entire universe in which every single planet is suitable for life, and also, this god could make it so that it would be easy, even trivial for people to travel between planets. In this scenario humans would multiply and prosper and when the current planet is becoming too small for them, they would just move to the next one and start again, because that planet would already have oxygen and plants and animals to eat, etc. Instead this god decided to create a universe in which we can see what is out there, but it is almost impossible for us to go outside our own solar system, but even if we did, most of the planets out there are not suitable for us to live on. Again, instead of fine tuning, this seems to point to a god that is more of a cruel jokester than a loving father.

  9. Bret Frost says

    Good show, great sound, lousy time management as per usual. Too much time spent running in circles repeating the same points to a clueless caller. But hey, it’s your show and the time is there to be wasted. Has anyone one of the volunteers got a watch? Does anyone direct the show? For the first time I stopped watching live and watched the recording the next day, that way I can skip the tedious bits. I think that is the correct way to watch or wait for somebody to put out and edited highlight reel. I’ve watched some of Matt’s lectures and he knows how to make a point and move on. Alas live on this show that skill is binned even though he says it is time for another call, he just keeps talking to the same person eating up valuable time. Just an honest review, hoping that the show will get better.

  10. Robin says

    So basically Brian is dancing around and is whole argument is based on a lack of understanding of probability and plausibility.

    I am curious what his motivations are to belief in a god. Because, what he just spouted is not the reason why he believes.

  11. Murat says

    Given that logic can not provide a pathway to an all-powerful God that can not be held responsible for whatever the heck is going on, the highest probability for an existing God is to be one that is unjust, uncaring, selfish and arrogant.
    This reversal provides some kind of a match with religion.

  12. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    My prime first comment fell through due to a mistype of a word. Poor me.

    Brian made me lose consciousness for a couple minutes, very dreary call.

    Ram was an unexpected appearance, Matt has a penchant for engaging with his type(ie the asian caller from a couple episodes back.)

    Randy left a lot to be desired, as I expected, he was not a fool but he only employed less “basic” arguments for theism. I’m just glad he didn’t pretend to have a valid reason to announce god’s existence. The moral benefit thing is nothing new. Chomsky, your friend may be smart but why didn’t he use a more uncommon argument for his position? Surely he must’ve known that “theists do good things” isn’t going to faze people that’ve heard from hundreds of people that have obviously talked about their experience with other theists and how they are good people too? Also being on the debate club in highschool doesn’t say much for an informal call-in show.

    Here or there, this episode was okay. I appreciate the hosts and bts crew.

  13. John Garcia says

    It’s interesting that the Christian god wants us to know him and his son but not so much about them that we actually understand the world.

  14. RationalismRules says

    To save me combing through past shows, can anyone remember Martin’s equivalent to Matt’s “universe creating pixies”? I remember liking it a lot, but I can’t remember what it was.

    Thanks Matt & Tracie for a great show this week. I enjoyed it a lot, especially Brian’s call. Also, good to see that thermometer filling up so quickly (so it should, given how many people watch the show across the various platforms).

  15. gshelley says

    With regards to Mat’s question “Why is a Damascus experience good enough for Paul, but not me”, would a Damascus experience be good enough?
    If I had such an episode, how would I tell if it was God popping by to say hello, and some hallucination caused by drugs, or brain chemistry? Perhaps God can make such an experience different, so that we know absolutely it was Him, that still leaves us asking “How can we be sure that we really know”, unless he also takes away our free will to question the experience, and our ability to notice we have lost our free will in the matter

  16. Wiggle Puppy says

    @ 11: it was “Gus the magic space hamster” or something like that

    @ 12: in the past, Russell has referenced the Vogons from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, who communicate a uniform message to all humans on Earth at the same time and which people can therefore confirm with one another as something that actually happened, which would eliminate the obvious problems with personal revelation

  17. says

    >With regards to Mat’s question “Why is a Damascus experience good enough for Paul, but not me”, would a Damascus experience be good enough?

    In the past Matt has expressed this in terms of “a god would know what would be required for me to believe.” I don’t think Matt is speaking specifically or literally about having that particular experience, as much as an equivalent experience that would be equally convincing for him. The point of the comment is to ask “Why does X get the evidence they need to be convinced, while Y does not?” This was understood in the broader context where the caller was talking about how different people are led down different paths to god.

  18. says

    @Bret–you’re not going to whine your way into getting the hosts to cater to your personal preferences in how the show should be governed. However, you’re free to continue trying.

  19. gshelley says

    Yeah, I’ve heard Mat say that, and it is pretty much what I would say, but if the caller had been a little more aware, he could have asked if such an experience would convert Matt. Who, based on what I have heard would likely say probably not, but that he couldn’t be sure without having it and that even if he was convinced, the wouldn’t know if it would be justified. Which might have taken the conversation in a different question.
    It’s a similar concept to the idea that everyone really knows there is a god. Even if we did all have that knowledge, and were suppressing it so that we could sin, how would we know if accepting what we believed would be reasonable.

  20. Monocle Smile says

    People like James frustrate me. Why is there some need to rehabilitate one particular old book? All the “value” he talks about have much more accessible venues. I see lots of new-age woo-heads blabbering on about laughable biblical metaphors and how it’s actually true, bu only if you read it while on shrooms or some shit. Does James miss the entire point of the show? Good, Matt cuts right to the chase.

    Oh, James just wants AXP to gently fondle the balls of every christian who calls in by “finding common ground” in Bible stories instead of talking about REAL common ground.

    LOL it seems like James is one of the woo-heads I just mentioned! Noah’s flood was about global warming? BAHAHAHA

  21. Murat says

    @heicart #17

    In the past Matt has expressed this in terms of “a god would know what would be required for me to believe.” I don’t think Matt is speaking specifically or literally about having that particular experience, as much as an equivalent experience that would be equally convincing for him.

    Considering the “asymmetry” between Paul’s and Matt’s personal histories, one converting and the other deconverting at certain phases of their lives, I guess he’s had the “anti-Damascus Road experience”, not by witnessing a particular hallucination in a short period of time, but rather by observing the slow disappearance of one provided to him by society.
    This kind of experience requires personal effort, is self-made as opposed to a holy gift.
    Hence, much more valuable I’d say.

  22. Monocle Smile says

    Tracie kills it with Brian. The guy misses one of the big points of the card analogy…every sequence bears the same probability and we just arbitrarily assign value to particular sequences. We’re doing the same thing with the universe, and we have so little data on whether or not the “fine-tuned” values can even be tweaked. Clearly Brian doesn’t understand that the ‘constants’ are all interrelated, and this is largely because religious apologists as a whole don’t understand this. Sean Carroll vs. William Lane Craig was an absolute embarrassment, both for Craig and for society as a whole for thinking that putting a religious apologist into a debate that featured the word “cosmology” in the topic was sensible in the least.

    Wow, Brian doesn’t seem to understand the topic at all. The universe gives zero shits about humanity, and this is about as obvious as facts get. I’m continuously baffled by religious apologists who use arguments that relate to topics in science, but make the decision to learn fuck all about the actual science. I couldn’t walk through life like that.

    Brian’s okay, I guess, but for someone who’s read stuff from both William Lane Craig and John Loftus, he seems really in the dark about the state of human knowledge around these topics. Protip: religious apologists will NEVER give you the full story about science and they will promote bad philosophy as part of their profession. Stop turning to them for information.

  23. Monocle Smile says

    Randy can fuck off and go beat his meat to religious right-wing talk radio some more. The “statistics” he cites are bullshit and it’s extremely dangerous for him to recommend churches to people with drug, alcohol, and mental health problems. Also, missionary work doesn’t “empower” people; it merely changes their master.

    Randy’s got some brass neck to talk a big game about religious charities and their successes while ignoring the serious problems with some of those organizations. The Catholic pedophilia scandal would have gone much, much differently if it was a secular organization because it takes something like religion to manipulate that many people (including victims) to cover shit up. I just started watching “The Keepers” and it’s more of the same crap.

  24. Murat says

    @MS #23

    There’s another thing about correlating “rise in crime and amorality” to “more people not going to church”:
    If the two data actually have something to do with each other, then, can it not easily be claimed that, the primal “substitute” to church activities is “crime”?

  25. ironchops says

    I wonder what Matt’s position is on the Merriam-Webster definition 1a & b. Does he still little or no use for these definitions? He has stated very clearly his position on definitions 2a, b & 3.

    To Randy’s call – Matt nails it when he said that most religious organizations are simply well established when compared to religious ones however there is a paradigm shift going on now and we are seeing more and more non-religious organizations getting into the game. Just to note, the Moose, The Fraternal order of orioles and the Les Hommes Civic & Social Club are all non-profit organizations and are not religious and like a lot of churches do some (albeit very little) community service work.

  26. Monocle Smile says

    I don’t think Matt cares what the dictionary says. I agree with his position, or more thoroughly, with AronRa’s…that faith is holding a position in the absence of or in the face of evidence. This is effectively how it’s used by religious people, too, although some will object. But I don’t give a shit if a theist claims that faith as defined in the bible means belief based on evidence, because when pressed for evidence, they always come up short, and they eventually admit this. So their faith is in fact not based on evidence despite their earlier claim.

    Furthermore, word usage changes based on context. When a religious discussion is being had and someone says “well, I have faith in my spouse,” they are being deliberately disingenuous by equivocating on “faith.” William Lane Craig pulls similar bullshit constantly.

  27. Murat says

    I think that, slighlty embedded into the word “faith” lies some kind of “resistance”.
    Resistance to whatever knowledge or facts contradicting with the faith, to challenging circumstances, to opposition, etc.
    Faith comes up as a response to reality. People don’t mention faith for things that go unchallenged and undisturbed.

  28. Monocle Smile says

    Yeah, I WTF’d so hard I started suddenly wondering if Randy was just a troll caller. I’m not exactly convinced that he’s ever audited a church’s finances, at least.

  29. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    Chomsky really hyped Randy up, legit everyone was disappointed by him in the stream. I could not stop laughing.

  30. saggyroy says

    I like the new background. With the coffee cups on the desk, you look like “Good Morning America” or something. I think this is good marketing – looks mainstream.

  31. Murat says

    I don’t understand how come churches have always been financially uncontrolled in the USA, and to what extent. This is such a welcoming loophole in the economy to exploit. Not just for those from within the churches, but also for anyone who would need money laundry under a disguise. Where does that trust come from? What pops up in mind first is how the Mafia must have used churches back in its heyday, if not now. Not having state control over their financial affairs makes ANY organization prone to crime.

  32. Wednesday says

    I am a widow, and an atheist. I actually found comfort in my atheism during the early pain of my grief, actually finding this show during that time back in 2011. I could look at my husband’s life and be happy at the dreams he got to accomplish while he was here. He was an artist and I got to give him a “life after death” by sharing his art. If someone is talking about his art after I am dead, I’ve given him an “after life.” Going through becoming a widow helped me be able to offer helpful support to those who are experiencing their own grief. I would love to call in sometime and share how to be there for someone experiencing the death of a spouse, without saying “they’re in a better place” or “they’re watching you from heaven,” or making any assumptions about someone’s view on what happens when we die. Plus these words do not make someone feel better, it just makes them feel more alone.

  33. Devocate says

    Randy is just another ‘liar for Jesus’. Tries to get away with 50%, and then easily cops to less than 1%. He clearly has no idea how many churches there are in the world. Google tells me that there are 37 Million Christian churches. He would need to examine 1 church every minute for 50 years (no sleep) to reach 50 percent. He would need to examine 1 church every hour for 50 years to reach a mere 1%.

    Crime has been decreasing overall in the US for decades.

  34. ironchops says

    To MS27 and Murat28 – That is sort of my point. The word “Faith” has definitions that are completely opposite, not just different. One definition means complete and total confidence (confidence has a lot of good evidence behind it) and the other definition means in spite of evidence. Furthermore the word is ingrained into law. See

    To Murat 32 – Yea, and the ACA can fall victim as well. I have seen churches and private clubs shanghaied and used for nefarious purposes. There was a pastor here in Norfolk who’s church owned 3 nice boats for the “for the youth to promote the church” but had to pay cash to the pastor to actually use them. He pocketed the money and got caught by the IRS. Homeowner associations are also non-profit and are mafiaistic (made up word) as well. They do get audited by IRS and they are regulated by state and local governments but they are notoriously bad at honest reporting and they are able to hide behind privacy laws since they are considered private. In Virginia after hours night clubs are also non-profit. They do pay their employees, who just happen to be members (go figure) and profits are hidden in several other legal ways (rainy day and petty cash funds as well as others).

  35. Murat says

    @Devocate #35
    What he said was so absurd that, I tend to think he couldn’t hear or understand the question well. Maybe he was replying to a non-existing question about another percentage for churches?

    @ironchops #36

    He pocketed the money and got caught by the IRS.

    Wait – so, a pastor CAN be the subject of an IRS inquiry regarding such things? Then, it’s not like churches & their books are totally “off limits” for the government with regards to fraud etc.?

  36. Devocate says

    ” Furthermore the word is ingrained into law.”

    The law version has nothing to do with the epistemological definition.

  37. Devocate says

    “so, a pastor CAN be the subject of an IRS inquiry regarding such things”

    The pastor in question was embezzling from his own church, not the same thing as the church keeping their books secret.

  38. Devocate says

    “What he said was so absurd that, I tend to think he couldn’t hear or understand the question well. Maybe he was replying to a non-existing question about another percentage for churches?”

    Maybe he was replying to what percentage of ice cream flavors he liked. But he was given a chance to re-examine his answer, and didn’t note a misunderstanding, just changed his answer to one, two orders of magnitude different, but still absurd. The actual figure turned out to be closer to 0.00001%

  39. Murat says

    @Devocate #40
    I got the feeling that, he thought he was asked what percentage of churches he could “speak” for, whereas the question was actually about “working” for.
    Anyway, even if he or any other random guy had had experience with 99% of all the churches in the world and claimed they were “okay”, that would still not justify a closeted and unaccountable type of financial networking.

  40. Devocate says

    “he thought he was asked what percentage of churches he could “speak” for,”

    That should be an even smaller number shouldn’t it? And the math still holds. If his interaction with a particular church is less than a minute, he still need 50 years to get to 50%. It is still a lie.

  41. says

    highlight of the episode: tracie’s recounting of her former church’s wholly insular “charitable” doctrine and its undeserved tax exemption, in response to randy’s question @ 1:40:35 …

    if [churches are] doing productive work, empowering people within a community, why should we punish them or give them any kind of disadvantage?

    randy clearly was not prepared for that particularly powerful anecdotal rebuttal. (and to be fair, who was?)

  42. Murat says

    The concept of “charity” refers to an ongoing and accepted flaw in the way society is designed. A structure creating one’s need for other’s “charity” suggests that the state is malfunctioning in its primal duties.

  43. Monocle Smile says

    While that anecdotal rebuttal was indeed awesome, and Randy exposed himself as a bit of a tool by attempting to directly contradict Tracie, I still like the Catholic church example just as much. I hear from obnoxious Catholics how their church is the #1 healthcare provider on the planet, but if that’s the only “fact” you’re bringing to the table during a discussion about auditing and tax codes, I’m going to point and laugh in a rather sadistic manner.

  44. mond says

    Since it was discussed right the beginning of the show.
    I would like to give my personal thanks to both Tracie and Matt for all their time and effort put into the show over many years.
    Both just keep getting better and better.
    (It is quite ‘interesting’ to go back into the archive to some of their early appearances of the show 😉 )

    I am not playing favourites as I have a similar appreciation for all others past and present associated with the show.

    Big Thanks

    That is all..

  45. says

    monocle smile @ 48:

    yes, the undemocratic republic of the catholic church incorporated has long been pretty much the go-to rebuttal against the tax exemption specifically and the claim of beneficence in general, but tracie’s answer, which i’d never heard before, demonstrates that even the little mom-n-pop churches have big problems too.

  46. RationalismRules says

    @Murven #8
    I’ve come to dislike the 99% argument, as it seems to me to rest on an underlying assumption that the goal of any intelligent designer would be large quantities of life spread across the universe. I just don’t see any reason to assume that goal.

    Actually, let me qualify:
    I feel the 99% argument works fine, but only at the broadest level, ie. “the universe is fine-tuned to support life”. If that’s the whole argument, then the 99% is a reasonable counter.

    But if the argument is at the more detailed level ie. “if the constants varied by just a small percentage, life would never have arisen”, then it seems to me irrelevant that the majority of the universe is not life-supporting. The hypothetical designer might have wanted life to be rare (in origin, at least) – for example, as an experiment to see if a small amount of life could eventually conquer a vast (hostile) universe.

    There are various ways to refute the detailed argument, but the key point for me is that we are fine-tuned to fit the universe, not the other way around. Once that paradigm shift is made you can begin to understand that if the constants were different we wouldn’t be here, but something else might be. Which leads to the point that the only reason to consider the fine-tuned constants significant is if we begin from the belief we are of special significance.
    [Insert Douglas Adams’ puddle wherever appropriate]
    I also feel you’re mixing up a couple of arguments in your final paragraph. Fine-tuning is not an argument for a benevolent god, it’s just an argument for a supernatural designer. The “god is good” arguers tend to also hold the position “humans are very special”, in which case the fact that life is rare does not conflict with their idea of god.

  47. Murat says

    There are various ways to refute the detailed argument, but the key point for me is that we are fine-tuned to fit the universe, not the other way around.

    Much as this helps provide the better perspective to those who come up with intelligent design, the terminology still fails to match with the scientific definition of reality: Any kind of “life” just has to keep up trying to remain in tune with whatever its surrounding is. There’s no ultimate level of tune to point out as “fine”.
    When we say “fine tunED”, it reads just like “creatED”, suggesting there is agency behind the cycle.

  48. RationalismRules says


    There’s no ultimate level of tune to point out as “fine”.

    No ultimate level is required. ‘Fine’ is a comparative term, like ‘dark’ or ‘good’. Some species are found only within very limited environmental parameters, others can exist within a far broader range. I would call the former ‘fine-tuned’ to that particular environment. You can call it what you want.

  49. Paul Money says

    Tracie and Matt are a devastating combo, particularly as here when they work so well as a team. A very big thank you to both of them for what they have done to improve my thinking.
    Dillahunty- Harris 2020! You heard it first here.

  50. says

    Would this be a better card analogy for the fine tuning argument?

    It’s kind of like drawing a hand at random from a deck and laying it down face up, declaring whatever random combination of cards it contains to be a winning hand, and then claiming that the most likely explanation for you drawing the winning hand on your first try is that you cheated when you drew them?

  51. Murat says


    What does that even have to do with the fine tuning argument?
    Nobody is declaring anything for us to see if “the combination” matches with. That was the point Tracie made.
    No part of this analogy works for that argument.
    And if I recall well, the part of conversation between Blake Giunta & Matt was already not about that particular argument, but about assumption and certainty in general, as opposed to what the caller got from it.

  52. says

    Even that is presuming too much. We don’t even know if there are any other cards that could have been drawn but were not, nor do we know how many cards we have in hand. We’re still inspecting the cards and trying to figure out what is on them.

  53. t90bb says

    I personally loved Randys call…..Apparently he is some big shot in right wing/christian radio. Apparently he had a large following that were listening to him call in so that he could put Matt and Tracie in their place. The first thing that amused me was his immediate plan to set the bar very low for himself…by complimenting the hosts as “Goliath” and referring to himself as merely “David”.
    He then went on to babble off some statistics in an effort to link lower church attendance to immorality. Being stymied at every attempt he seemed to fall back on the idea that the church does some good things, which really has not been challenged.
    When Matt explained that non religious organizations do good things without the religious entanglement, randy decided to take the position that churches do more, better,
    When confronted that Churches get benefit from tax exempt status and no requirement to open their books and records Randy decided to play his personal experience card… that he does not believe corruption is widespread based on his experiences with churches…lol. Then came the moment Randy shit the bed and showed his true colors. When Matt specifically asked him the percentage of churches worldwide he has had experience with…..HE REPLIED…NOT MORE THAN 50 percent, lol. He was obviously trying to overstate his experience to validate his assertion. 50 percent?? wtf.
    A mind like Randys is a great example of how one ends up believing in a sky genie….it was a classic!!!

  54. RationalismRules says

    @t90bb #61
    Agreed, and I’ll add one thing to your summary: on the issue of tax-exempt churches, his response was to play the victim card.

    After Matt had just made a lengthy point about the significant economic advantages churches are accorded, his response was: “If they are doing productive work and empowering people within a community why should we punish them or give them any kind of disadvantage?”.

    Because, you know, removing an unjustified privilege is ‘punishment’, and putting them on the same level as everyone else is a ‘disadvantage’.

  55. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    I think Murat was thinking of Sam Harris there?

    And wow, Randy wasn’t just undersold by his utube friend but they neglected to mention his kristurn radio links as well and that this was a coordinated call in. Half-truths abounds with those groups. You really can’t trust utube commenters. Though to his merit he did say his friend was powerful, so I guess being a known radio right wing weasel counts.

  56. Murat says

    Some months back, there was this christian radio show person that called in, tried to broadcast simultaneously & caused terrible echo while being on this show AND aiming to cheer another audience.

    This Randy is not iny way related to THAT radio, I hope?

    It’s not cool to disguise debates or other challenges under this particular format.

  57. Murat says

    @66 aarrgghh

    Yes, it was this one. The same guy or his buddy had tried the same the following week as well.

    It was one example by the use of which -regardless to the content of the call- you could clearly see on whose side “morality” was. Dishonest, tricky, abusive approach.

  58. says

    murat @ 67:

    i’d missed or forgotten about brett’s flunky trueEmpiricism (aka “ron” in chicago). another honored graduate of the prestigious “liars for jeezus” seminary gets to be hung up on by russell, and this time with commendable alacrity.

  59. drawn2myattention says

    God’s MOTIVES for creating and finetuning a universe must be the first priority for atheists responding to the fine tuning argument. Means, motive and opportunity: if even one of these is missing, the finetuning argument is “out of gas.” (One is so grateful to Jen Peeples for the phrase.)

    Sit quietly and imagine any kind of universe you please, perhaps one fine tuned for nothing but gravel. Maybe God has a large building project and needs gravel. Imagine a universe containing only a single pebble. Why not? God’s ways are mysterious. Imagine a universe that recollapses into its singularity one pico-second after it emerges. Perhaps in that one pico-second, more intense moral value is realized than we can possibly imagine, or beatific colors are revealed that only God can see. He’s timeless, remember, and can cram eternity into an hour or a pico-second. Imagine a universe wherein every sentient creature suffers as much as possible for eternity. Oops. Christians already got that: it’s called hell.

    Imagine any universe you please, and God (simpliciter) is consistent with it. That’s the problem with an omni-God: he has no limits, so his ways are profoundly mysterious. Oh miserable man, oh miserable apologist! How dare you assign any probability to God, or grind him through a Baysian theorem? It’s blasphemy!

  60. drawn2myattention says

    To clarify my earlier comments: the God explanation will be consistent with any universe imaginable. But now it is falling apart, piecemeal. An explanation which explains everything, explains nothing.

  61. RationalismRules says


    God’s MOTIVES for creating and finetuning a universe must be the first priority for atheists responding to the fine tuning argument.


    Firstly, to conceive of a god’s motives is to assume that human thought processes can match those of a hypothetical god, whereas it is foundational to most god concepts that the god is beyond human comprehension.
    Secondly, even if the god’s motives were understandable by us, there are conceivable motives that could be consistent with a finely-tuned universe – I have suggested one in post #51.
    Thirdly, deists posit a god that simply put in place the physical laws, and then let the rest unfold – how do motives address this?

    I just don’t see how an examination of motives is useful at all, let alone “the first priority”. Perhaps you can explain further?

    Your second post doesn’t help, I’m afraid. It seems to me to be a completely different point.
    I agree that “the God explanation will be consistent with any universe imaginable”, and certainly ‘god’ explains nothing, in the same way that ‘magic’ explains nothing. But neither of these points addresses the argument that the fine-tuning of the physical constants appears to point to an intelligent designer.

  62. drawn2myattention says

    “God did it,” is an intentional explanation, so considerations of motive must play an essential role in deciding whether fine tuning is due to an agency or chance.

    I start with theists’ claim that God always has a sufficient reason for what he does. We, of course may not comprehend them, but God’s reasons are always sufficient for God. And it is just here where the God explanation falls apart. Of course, it rules IN our particular universe, and also every other imaginable universe. But it does not rule OUT any universe.

    An explanation that explains any conceivable outcome explains nothing. It falls apart, piecemeal. So we need independent evidence that a God exists, and has the right sort of motives to create a universe like ours. We can not simply read his existence and motives from the fine tuning, alone.

    Earlier, I mentioned a universe fine tuned to produce only gravel, or one tuned to produce a single type of pebble. If the gravel, or the pebble could consider its cosmic situation,(per impossible), it might follow the theists’ example, and conclude that it was highly favored by God. I don’t see how the theist could object, since God’s motives are mysterious. At least the theist owes us a reason why God would be unlikely to create such a universe. (All of these considerations apply to a deistic God, as well. Such a God explains any and every outcome, and is therefore unacceptably weak.)

    At this point, theists will start importing divine attributes derived from textual revelation, testaments old and new. This is impermissible. We need God firmly in place before the fabulous stories and miracles of these books can be deemed probable. Even WL Craig admits that Jesus’ ressurection is improbable, unless a God with the right motive exists to get him out of that tomb.

  63. RationalismRules says


    We, of course may not comprehend them, but God’s reasons are always sufficient for God.

    Right there you’ve demonstrated that god’s motives are irrelevant to any line of argument.

    If you want to get to the point that the ‘god’ explanation applies to any possible universe, why not simply start with the question “is there any possible universe that the ‘god’ explanation wouldn’t apply to?”. That takes you straight to the point.

    So we need independent evidence that a God exists, and has the right sort of motives to create a universe like ours.

    You’ve just said god’s reasons are always sufficient for god. Now you’re saying we need evidence he ‘has the right sort of motives’. Do you not see the contradiction?

    At least the theist owes us a reason why God would be unlikely to create such a universe.

    No, they absolutely don’t. The fact that one particular action was taken does not tell you anything about the likelihood of other actions. It just tells you that this was the chosen action.
    Making shit up and saying “you need to give me a reason this is unlikely” is just burden-of-proof shifting.
    If this ‘motives’ approach is working for you with the theists you interact with, by all means go for it – whatever works, I say! Maybe it’s working by starting the discussion on a level that religious-types like to discuss – they’re all about attributing motives.
    But it’s worth recognizing that hypothesizing about god’s motives doesn’t actually contribute anything to any counter-apologetics arguments, for the simple reason, as you yourself put it, that “God’s reasons are always sufficient for God”.

  64. drawn2myattention says

    Of course, I’m adopting the “god’s reasons are always sufficient” definition for the sake of argument. As a stipulative definition which atheists are not obliged to accept, it really says nothing more than, God will do what God will do. Additionally, theists are at pains to emphasize that God’s ways are profoundly mysterious. This saddles the theist with a massive level of agnosticism or skepticism about god’s motives or actions.

    My purpose is to draw out the difficulties posed by this skepticism when the theist later claims what sort of universe God would probably want to create and fine tune. This skepticism provides no firm ground upon which to predicate any probabilities. Remember, god’s motives are irrelevant for the theist. “God’s reasons are always sufficient.”

    But then no imaginable universe can be said to be probable, or improbable in any meaningful sense. And probability claims about what God would want and do lie at the core of the fine tuning argument. Such probability claims fall apart when they rest upon massive skepticism about the creator’s motives.

    I had no wish to “make stuff up in order to shift a burden of proof.” Thought experiments, and even imaginary dialogues between opponents, have a long tradition in philosophy and are routinely used to test ideas. Were a theist and myself able to tour hyperspace and inspect various universes, I merely imagined what principled objection a theist could make to my claim that a given finely tuned, but otherwise unremarkable, universe was created and tuned by God. Given the theist’s skepticism about god’s motives, I don’t see how he could respond. He may refuse to make an objection, and then, of course, he has no burden. But my assertion still stands: his own line of reasoning and skepticism about god’s motives can be used to claim that any conceivable universe is fine tuned. Inspect any imaginable universe, or even an infinite collection of empty ones: I guess God must have had his reasons.
    Can we even call this an argument?

  65. RationalismRules says


    My purpose is to draw out the difficulties posed by this skepticism when the theist later claims what sort of universe God would probably want to create and fine tune.

    The fine-tuning argument is not an argument that out of the multiplicity of universes a god could create, this one is more probable than the others. It’s an argument that the fine-tuned constants make it more probable that the universe is god-created than the result of chance.

    Whoever it is you are debating, they don’t seem to understand the fine-tuning argument at all.

  66. drawn2myattention says

    On the supposition of a single universe, the theist would claim that our universe was preferred by God over all other potential universes.

    On the supposition of multiple actual universes, created by God, the theist would claim that God preferred to create them, including our own.

    Theists usually claim that our constants are fine tuned for sentient life, something that God values and wants. This is the very engine of the fine tuning argument: that the constants are more likely on the hypothesis of a God with the right motive than on chance.

    But given the theist’s skepticism about God’s ways and motives, no probabilities can be asserted or assumed.

  67. RationalismRules says


    This is the very engine of the fine tuning argument: that the constants are more likely on the hypothesis of a God with the right motive than on chance.

    So close… except for the redundant “with the right motive”.

    If god’s motives are always sufficient for god (remember this? it’s from your post #73) then what could possibly be a ‘wrong’ motive for creating our universe?

  68. drawn2myattention says

    Yes, theists claim that God’s reasons are always sufficient for God, but it does not follow that we are justified in believing that our universe resulted from his reasons or motives. He may not, in fact, possess any motive to create our universe, so our’s may exist by chance all by itself, or by chance alongside other universes that he did create.

    If he wishes to make the fine tuning argument, the theist needs to say something more than just, “God’s reasons are sufficient, etc., or that, God will do what God will do.” The theist needs to say something further about God’s motives, but because of the theist’s profound skepticism about the ways of God, these remain opaque.

  69. drawn2myattention says

    The theist’s assertion, “God’s reasons are always sufficient for God,” does not make our universe more probable on the God hypothesis, because the atheist can actually accept that proposition and then always say, “IF God has a reason or a motive to create and tune our universe, then it will be a sufficient reason. But the first part of this conditional statement is still wide open: God may not possess such a reason.”