Open thread for episode 22.15: Tracie and Eric Murphy

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  1. twarren1111 says

    Is this possible? Is it my birthday on Saturnalia while winning powerball? Tracie two weeks in a row?!?

  2. twarren1111 says

    The word belief is not really a word that a rational person can use when describing ideas or concepts they have that reference the past or present. With a solid rational basis in all ideas, belief then applies only to aspects that reflect predictions as to future events. The proper word for ideas related to past and present is know. Either one knows or doesn’t know. If the knowledge or idea is about whether treatment a vs b is better for a cancer is known if the study is done and results meet 95% confidence. One then knows that either treatment a or treatment b is better. If the results are less than 95% confidence then the answer is we don’t know. I may believe with a larger number of patients tested that one treatment will prove superior in the future but as for the present or past I know. Either I don’t know or I do know. Thus, once one understands that faith is belief despite evidence and despite whether the idea being examined is past, present, or future then one understands the difference between using the religious process to determine the truth of how two things relate vs the scientific process. So what escapes me is why do theists keep trying to know; why do they keep trying to use faith instead of knowledge; why do they waste so much time fighting what religion is vs science? If one wants to make stuff up then ok. That’s faith. That’s religion. That’s irrational. It wastes time and energy. And that’s what evil is. Science is just the opposite. It self corrects because it does not confuse knowing and belief and it does not confuse faith with experiment. This is why science minimizes the waste of time and energy and is thus the only objective road to morality. Religion is the very definition of evil. Why do theists fight this? It’s just math. It’s just thermodynamics. It’s just geometry. It’s just entropy. It’s just the way of nature.

  3. twarren1111 says

    Speciation: google ‘ring species’ as a simple, multiple, easily understood example of speciation documented amongst several different types of animals.

  4. nomdeplume says

    I’m sorry, but Tracie is way out of her depth here and is “explaining” evolution very badly.

  5. twarren1111 says

    Morals come from thermodynamics. Simply put, if you make up your math you’ll find things like slavery, sex trafficking, racism justified before you get out Genesis and Exodus. If you use scientific principles you’ll get to the right answer the fastest. Extreme case in point: each human contains the equivalent of 10 Hiroshima’s in their gluons in all their protons and neutrons. Why is it moral to Stone a Shia girl to death in Afghanistan for being raped by a Sunni man (or a Sunni girl by a Shia Man) and absolutely wrong in Austin, Texas. Why is it 99.99999% moral in Afghanistan where all the neighbors join in but if I fly the SAME girl and man to the parking lot in Austin outside the TV show and it is 0.0000001% moral for the same stoning to take place? When you use faith to MAKE UP your math, you end up wasting time and energy. You end up wasting 10 Hiroshima’s of a human beings energy when maybe she could be our next Madame Curie, our next Fay Dowker, our next Tracie Edwards. Talk about a profound waste. And why? Because of religion. Because of making stuff up. Simply put, the fastest, most efficient way to determine if a relationship between two things, be they people, ideas, dogs, computers, trees and the county government is the rational ratio is the scientific process. It’s extremes that demonstrate truth. Either it’s EVIL to stone that girl to death or it’s RIGHTEOUS to stone that girl to death. Location, Texas or Afghanistan isn’t relevant. Religion gives you EVIL. Science gives you RIGHTEOUSNESS. It’s math all the way down!

  6. twarren1111 says

    1% of us are born without the capacity to use empathy because they’re paralimbic system is shut down permanently. They are literally thinking brainstems, ie, thinking reptiles. The term of art is psychopath which means suffering soul. Not to be political, but our president has demonstrated a 40 out of 40 score on the Hare Psychopath Check List Revised (PCL-R) and thus as he affects us via his affect on his interpersonal relationship to each of us, he merits evaluation (

  7. twarren1111 says

    if I made a donation to the show could I get Eric to move about 6 feet to his left and Tracie about 2 feet to her right? Like Eric to move to where New Mexico shows up on the backdrop and Tracie move behind the spaghetti monster? Hmmmm….sphagetti. On a serious note, to answer Aaron, the only rational fear is when something is going to end your life, all other fears are irrational. Assuming one is not of the 1% incapable of empathy and thus incapable of fear, holding onto non-life threatening ideas that are not rational is because of fear. Remember, anger is fear. Hence, Godwin’s law and why when you confront a rigid, anxious religious based determiner of reality with increasingly rational replies can lead them to actually become violent, in word or deed. Forgive them for they do not know they are just confusing your reality for an actual, physical threat to their safety. So sad.

  8. twarren1111 says

    I meant have Eric move 6 feet to his right. Nothing personal Eric; I think you understand. I catch you enough on Talk Heathens (great show, btw)

  9. twarren1111 says

    Exactly…the last thing any religious based user of reality needs or should want to do is make any comments or claims about scientifically derived reality. That’s the point of religion. Faith is making it up based upon how one has already determined how reality relates. That’s what makes it religion. Why do these people waste so much time trying to ‘prove’ the ‘rationality’ of their ideas when by their own definition and admission they are ‘making up evidence’ which is the essence of ‘irrationality’ and that is what religion is. Just wow. It’s wastes of time and energy all the way around. Complete. This is why science is the source of all objective morality and religion is the source of all evil. It’s math.

  10. twarren1111 says

    I’m a recovering southern baptist. It’s a lot like being a recovering catholic but just with a lot less guilt. Like Matt I eventually transitioned, with the amazing help of Dr. Ehrman’s “misquoting Jesus”, to being an agnostic deist. But, after life events of the last three years and a tremendous amount of self education I know there is no god. Indeed, with what I see going on in our world, how religious methods of determining truth is so harmful, be it religious extremism, climate denial, racism, sexism, etc, etc, I have become anti-theist. And I have arrived her because of how much deception and harm we are experiencing because of those who refuse to respect reality. Gun control. How we handle substances. Education. Criminal justice. So Matt…keep seeking and you’ll lose your fear, which is irrational at its root because your life is not at risk, and eventually you’ll lose that last bit of irrational fear and eliminate the crutch of deism. And I promise you, once you do, a peace that transcends understanding will come over you. And once you realize you’re so happy because you just rid yourself of a tremendous irrational fear you’ll actually understand your deep sense of peace: that you are god, you are what’s good…you.

  11. twarren1111 says

    Justin: there is zero science in the Bible. Science is a process. It’s a verb not a noun. The Bible is not historically accurate, archaeologically accurate and so on. It’s metaphors and fairy tales all the way down. Justin check out Richard Carrier, Robert Ehrman on YouTube. Check out the YouTube channels Rationality Rules, Cosmic Skeptic, Aron Ra, Holykoolaid, Alley 43, Viced Rhino, nonstamp collector to help broaden your database.

  12. Jay Swanson says

    I don not believe a God exists, I was raised catholic and my family adheres to its doctrine, I have issues dealing with deep seeded emotions that pull at me.

  13. zondraxor says

    > I meant have Eric move 6 feet to his right. Nothing personal Eric; I think you understand. I catch you enough on Talk Heathens

    What have you got against Eric? I personally think he should be on AXP more. I do agree though that Tracie is one of my favorite hosts.

  14. tons of mice says

    Are you thinkin,’
    That you are stinkin’?

    You need a perfume,
    To fill the room.

    Forget Chanel’s Coco,
    That’s just loco.

    Ralph Lauren,
    He ain’t happenin.’

    God bound the Pleiades,
    But you don’t need these.

    God is workin’,
    He is on it.

    His new cologne,
    Is whale vomit.

  15. Mobius says

    Speciation is something a lot of people do not understand. Most people seem to have this picture that one generation gives birth to the next generation which is a different species. This is not what happens. Each new generation is just marginally different from its parent generation. But, over many many generations those minute changes accumulate so that eventually enough changes have happened to say that generation 1000 (or however many) is a different species than generation 1.

    A good analogy for this is language. For example, French developed (evolved) from Latin. But there was no point where one generation spoke Latin and the next generation spoke French. Instead, tiny changes in the language occurred over the years so that in the year 1 the population was speaking Latin, but by the year 1000 an early version of French was being spoken.

    As for evolution vs. adaptation, this is just semantics. Evolution IS adaptation, or at least adaptation is a major part of evolution.

    On mutations, there can be harmful, neutral or helpful mutations. Every person born has around 150 point mutations, mutations where one letter in the genetic code is changed. Most of these are neutral since they mostly occur in parts of the genome that have no expression. Of the remainder, most of those are harmful and a quickly eliminated from the gene pool by natural selection. But a tiny fraction of mutations are helpful and these are a source of new genetic material for natural selection to go to work on.

    BTW, large mutations are almost always fatal, either to the fetus or to the young child.

    Oh, and the foxes. IIRC that was a Russian experiment that went on for about 20 years. Yes, in that short a time artificial selection produced a very tame, dog-like fox that was very different from its root stock of wild foxes. Amazing.

  16. jeffh123 says

    The first caller Andrew has an issue. The stars in Orion’s “belt” are not close to each other. Their positions are changing relative to each other, but it takes thousands of years to see the difference.

  17. sayamything says

    Eric is easily one of my top two favourite Talk Heathen hosts. And he likes purple, which is always a plus.

    CS Lewis is partially responsible for me being an atheist. Knowing what I already knew about religion at the time, the book read more as an indictment of Christianity than a support of it. Mostly, I knew there were older “magics” than Christianity.

  18. Jochem says

    I always wonder if Tracie deliberately makes her co-hosts feel uneasy. I fell like most times she brings out the worst in them. Especially the more sensitive types like John. So many times when the co-hosts want to say something, Tracie simply talks over them. At thesame time she demands her co-hosts to talk more, in a permission-to-speak sort of way. She does this in such a dominant fashion that the co-host feels forced to tell something, which will never lead to them being more constructive. It leads to Don trying to force in some one-liners or jokes that never reach the full potential of what he can actually bring to the table. It leads to John falling even more silent than he already is. It’s just off-putting to see Tracie act this way over and over. It’s amazing to me that a person which such a capability for empathy has so little understanding of and feeling for social dynamics.

  19. Phil Augustin says

    I think it’s valid for believers to use miracle as an explanation to how something happened that cannot be explained by science. We just don’t have to accept the claims.

  20. thosch says

    Eric’s “We believe in nossing” @ 1:43:38 got me laughing – he’s a Big Lebowski connoisseur (or an actual German nihilist 🙂

  21. sickasabat says

    It seems that sometimes the hosts miss what the callers are asking.

    When Ben and Elijah asked their question about Dog A and Dog B they were asking how we identify the cut off point where one species (Dog A) is no longer interbreeding with the other species (Dog B). The answer given to this by Tracie is to go and look at recorded speciation events.

    They should have responded by explaining the idea that there is a sudden cut off between species is mistaken. It’s the same old question about transitional fossils. Every creature is a transitional point on the scale from an earlier species to a species in the future. So the transition from Dog A to Dog B doesn’t go: species A -> species A -> species A -> species B -> species B but instead goes: species A -> species A1 -> species A2 -> species A3 -> species A4 (which we’ll call B) -> species B1 -> etc.

  22. says


    >The word belief is not really a word that a rational person can use when describing ideas or concepts they have that reference the past or present.

    Belief: “an acceptance that a statement is true.”
    Know: “be aware of through observation, inquiry, or information.”

    I can’t see how any “rational person” could “know” something and not “believe” it? You are literally stating that a reasonable person can be aware of something, but not accept it as true. I don’t think that’s correct.

  23. says

    @ nondeplume:

    >Tracie is way out of her depth here and is “explaining” evolution very badly.

    Evolution: “Evolution is change in the heritable characteristics of biological populations over successive generations.”

    This is pretty much *exactly* what I said during the show. The only addition I had was to say that artificial or natural selection can place pressure on the breeding population to make certain traits more or less beneficial to survival. As far as I’m aware that’s evolution, but I’m open to correction if you think any of that is incorrect?

  24. Murat says

    It may be a minor detail, but I’m kind of confused about the experiment with dogs that was referred on the show:

    According to what was said, both Dog A and Dog B are made to perform gimmicks. Dog A gets treats in return, Dog B does not. Hence, Dog B stops to perform.

    To me, this sounds not really like a response in line with “fairness”, but pretty much like “learning”. Because we have no evidence that Dog B observes Dog A, compares its situation to Dog A’s, and decides to stop performing… It may well have just stopped performing even if there was no Dog A, because it would’ve simply “learned” that, in its particular case, “performing” was not bringing with “treats”.

    Actually, for the experiment was noted to evaluate “fairness”, I was expecting to hear something like Dog A stopping to perform just because it observed Dog B was not receiving treats even though they both did the same job.

    Now, THAT would have sealed it as a confirmation of the sense of “fairness”.

    I wonder if there was a blunder there with the narration of the actual test.

  25. says

    Jochem @23: Funny, I came into AXP by way of Matt Dillahunty videos, which Youtube suggested to me by whatever logic Youtube uses, so my experience of Tracie was framed by her interactions with the very voluble Matt at first, so I tend not to see her as talking over so much as talked over. I like the ‘talkative’ Tracie more. Does she do too much of that? The hosts talking seems to me to what the show is about, not so much letting the callers yammer on with whatever odd ideas they have. And the host leading over the co-host is a thing that’s going to happen if you have host and co-host roles. People interrupt each other, particularly in informal formats.

  26. sickasabat says


    From a bit of googling I found this summary of the experiment (or a similar one):

    “In treat-heavy conditions, the dogs give their paws for nearly every trial. When neither dog was given rewards, the dogs only gave their paws 20 out of 30 times and they required more verbal prompting to do so. But, when one animal was rewarded and the other was not, the unrewarded dogs only shook 12 times and displayed considerably more agitation than in either of the other tests. “

  27. Likwid says

    Wow, letting Eric ruin one show isn’t enough? Do you just need hosts that badly? Would it really be that bad to just let Tracy do the show herself?

  28. Mobius says

    @24 Phil Augustin

    I think it’s valid for believers to use miracle as an explanation to how something happened…

    I disagree. It is not a valid way of explaining things. It is dishonest. It claims knowledge where no knowledge exists.

  29. sayamything says

    @ Phil Augustin when you are using something as scientific evidence that in itself requires a miracle, then that’s a different story. Remember, this caller was using the story of Jonah and the whale to prove the scientificity-ness of the Bible.

  30. Murat says


    Thanks. It makes more sense with these details of course.

    However, I still tend to imagine one dog standing / protesting for the rights of another when the topic is “fairness”, whereas this (and other such studies I’ve briefly checked) seem to cover the issue only within the context of “humans being fair to the dog in question”.

    Maybe my perception of “fairness” comes with too big chunks of “empathy” and “compassion” whereas things are supposed to work on a much more individual level in nature – which is not a surprise given that we hardly have any beagles in political history.

  31. Walter says

    @twarren @2
    I believe I parked my car in my driveway last night. It could have been a dream, but I do not think so, so I believe I parked it there, then.

    I believe it is there now. It might have been stolen, but that is unlikely in my neighborhood. My wife might have gotten up before me and driven it out to the street, and then come back inside. That is unlikely, but it is possible.

    So based on my BELIEFs about past and current events, I believe my car will be there when I want to go out and drive to the beach. (Which I also believe is still there as I type this).

    So I have stated beliefs that I hold about past, present, and future events/situation.

  32. says

    @24 Phil Augustin

    >I think it’s valid for believers to use miracle as an explanation to how something happened…

    I agree with what others have already said, and would only add a few points:

    1. “Miracle” isn’t an explanation. In fact, it’s a way of saying there is no explanation. It’s no different than saying “magic.” It doesn’t actually act to explain how a thing was done. It simply asserts it happened and you don’t know how. That’s not really an explanation.

    2. If the context is showing me that the Bible is a scientifically accurate book, and THEN miracles are inserted, that is not valid. A miracle, by definition, is something that defies scientific understanding or explanation. If it makes sense in the world we understand through science, then how would it be a miracle? Saying the book conforms to science, and then acknowledging it includes miracles claims, is giving with the right hand while taking back with the left. As I said during the show, it’s no different than saying “It conforms to a scientific understanding of the world, except when it doesn’t.” And as Eric noted, that’s true of *any* book.

  33. jeffh123 says

    nomdeplume — Yes, she is. It seems lately that our hosts are having problems with this subject. Matt at least says “I’m not a biologist.” One guest, several weeks ago, said humans are not apes. Oh, please! Don’t let AronRa hear you say that. Yes we are. Argh!

  34. jeffh123 says

    Explaining something with “it’s a miracle” is like ending a really good book with “and then she woke up.” That killed the TV series “Dallas”.

  35. says

    >So many times when the co-hosts want to say something, Tracie simply talks over them.

    I sometimes do this to callers as well. But often, when I hear we are both talking at once, I stop to say “I’m sorry, please go on.” And I actually let them. If a nervous show caller can manage to express themselves in a conversation with me, why should anyone assume a repeat presenter on the show isn’t at least as capable?

    >At the same time she demands her co-hosts to talk more, in a permission-to-speak sort of way.

    You call it “demanding.” I call it “encouraging.” So, I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t? I talk over them, and I’m in the wrong; I stop talking and invite them to speak and give them an opening, and I’m in the wrong.

    >She does this in such a dominant fashion that the co-host feels forced to tell something, which will never lead to them being more constructive.

    Again, these are adults. I assume they can tell me if they have nothing to add. And in some cases they express just that. Why do you treat them as infantile?

    > It leads to Don trying to force in some one-liners or jokes that never reach the full potential of what he can actually bring to the table. It leads to John falling even more silent than he already is. It’s just off-putting to see Tracie act this way over and over.

    Again, they can speak up if they want to talk more–what’s stopping them? Why do you assume they want to say things, but are holding back–that they’re incapable of saying “Hey, I have something to add”?

    > It’s amazing to me that a person which such a capability for empathy has so little understanding of and feeling for social dynamics.

    I don’t have any clue what makes you think I have “such a capability for empathy”. I don’t believe I’ve ever claimed that about myself. But you seem to insert your views of what cohosts “want” but aren’t expressing, and now you’re saying I have “such a capacity” that I frankly don’t agree I have. I most often feel like I lack normal levels of empathy toward others. But frankly, if the cohosts have a problem with me, they are adults with voices and agency and can express it for themselves–can’t they? Am I really *that* terrifying?

  36. Jeremy X says

    And even the concept of a species of an animal transitioning to new ones isn’t as black and white as detractors sometimes paint. We can define species as a group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals capable of exchanging genes or interbreeding. But, a horse and donkey can interbreed to make a mule. Horse and donkey are different enough, have diverged enough from shared ancestors that, they no longer are considered the same, but still share enough to make infertile offspring.

  37. davidadams says

    While I like the “moral tendencies” argument, I think it is a bit too much of an explanation for the question “Where do atheists get their morals?”

  38. Theisntist says

    I have no problem with Tracie’s handling of cohosts, and can’t help but wonder if her gender has something to do with jochem’s criticism. A few weeks back she had a cohost that dominated the conversation and she did a great job of handling that tricky situation.

    That being said, one call this week perhaps could have been handled better. That was the caller that brought up perinnial philosophy. Tracy looked it up and based on one sentence came to an incorrect conclusion of what that philosophy actually is. The caller tried to correct her but she kept insisting on her snap interpretation. Now, I looked it up and perinnial philosophy is pure nonsense, but that doesn’t mean reading one sentence makes one qualified on the specific nonsense at hand, and listening to the caller’s attempt to clarify would have been a good idea before jumping to what appears to have been a wrong conclusion.

  39. Michael Hildebrand says

    I thought Tracy and Eric had a very poor night hosting the show. First the way they handled evolution was painful. As many years as Tracy had been doing this show, she should be able to talk about evolution much more coherently. Dog breeding example was horrible. Most people who have issues with evolution do not understand common ancestor and speciation. Then Tracy talking about morals was really painful. Her explanation was terrible. Also she didn’t listen to the questions that were asked by the two guys. One asked how do you know a meter is a meter (length of measure). What’s the standard? Both hosts missed the question and made little sense in their explanation. When Matt is hosting it is a completely different show. It is much more interesting, professional, and coherent.

  40. happyclam9 says

    The preacher who reminded Tracie, ‘Just remember, you don’t have to defend anything because you’re not the one making the claims.’
    THANK-YOU!!! I will be keeping this on a post-it note inside my eyelids. 😀

  41. Murat says

    I don’t think Matt’s definition of his position was problematic. “Agnostic deist” is quite self-explanatory. If one believes there to be “some kind of a creator” but can not put their finger on what purpose, features or nature may be attributed to that deity, then the criteria for both agnosticism and deism are matched. Indeed, I’d say “deism” naturally comes with a certain level of “agnosticism” embedded.

  42. says

    Terms like ‘magic’ or ‘miracle’ have an interesting usage by people. Part of what they mean is essentially, “I do not understand how this happened”, which might make it seem like it would be a simple admission of ignorance, but it’s not only that. In such usage, they treat their ignorance as if it were actual force in itself, that can be used to affect the world, and has no constraints on what it can do. Basically, their ignorance is not just the state of their understanding of something, but an actual external force that can do anything, and is an explanation for everything they do not understand.

  43. Marcelo Daniel says

    Tracie named an author for a good primer on 1:10:38, but I can’t hear the name. Can somebody help me? Thanks.

  44. Chromaveric says

    Not sure what the Eric detractors are yammerin about. Looks to me like he did just fine. . I think I’ll go check out Talk Heathen.

  45. says

    Theisntist @ 44

    “… one call this week perhaps could have been handled better. That was the caller that brought up perinnial philosophy. … Now, I looked it up and perinnial philosophy is pure nonsense …”

    this guy has called several times before about perinnial philosophy. he never says anything new and tries to run the hosts in the same circles. it’s never enlightening and just another case of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

    one of my emails sigs comes from churchill:

    “a fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”

  46. Monocle Smile says

    You have a general point, but like aarrgghh said, Tracie has talked to that whiner before, so I’m not shedding any tears.

    Looks like we’ve got a few ax-grinders in this thread who lose their shit when the hosts are any less than their malformed ideas of perfection. Not really adding anything.

  47. says


    Jochem’s post is best ignored. Not someone who’s ever posted before and their only comment is to attempt to gaslight you. It’s a subtle way of undermining the show, rather than coming out directly and saying that they don’t want the show to exist in the first place.

    As Monocle Smile said, ax-grinder.

  48. III says

    ‘Can you bind the clusters of the Pleiades or loosen the belt of Orion?’

    I think what Andrew was planning to get to was that Pleiades will fly apart in 250 million years and Orion’s waist will stay slim and sexy, something we learned after the invention of the telescope.

    I don’t think Andrew was talking about the observable reality that the stars don’t move apart or come together but about the scientific consistency about the fate of Pleiades and Orion – something NOT observable to the naked eye.

    Of course, getting that right is the equivalent of guessing two coin flips in a row correctly. Not great proof that the writer of the Bible had an unexplained understanding of reality.

    The greater issue is about the incredible amount of flexibility anyone has in interpreting language that is already figurative to make it consistent with scientific truths. I know that a common response to this is to point out that the Koran can be “interpreted” to be more scientifically consistent than the Bible or that other religions got the age of the Earth right, but I’d be interested to see someone with some Biblical knowledge point out a passage where the commonly accepted interpretation has changed – more than once – in order to catch up to and be consistent with science. It’s a way of showing that “interpreting” the Bible in this way is like pretending there is a “right answer” to Mad Libs.

  49. III says

    I had the same thought the dog experiment. I think that a conception of fairness is important to a moral system, but the idea that “I am not being treated fairly” is, on any moral scale a less complex idea than “someone who is NOT me is being treated unfairly” which is then less complex than “someone who is not me is being treated unfairly and I think that is immoral”. That last idea is what I consider to be a moral tendency but that is my uninformed opinion; I know nothing about the field.

    There’s a Japanese experiment that shows that dogs and some monkeys seem to recognize “someone who is not me is being treated unfairly”. They prefer people who aren’t dicks to other people. I suppose you could say that the results of this experiment show evidence of the third proposal, but this could just be an extension of self-interest.

    There are several rat experiments that show the best evidence of the last proposal, because they usually involve putting one rat in danger/distress and seeing what rewards a second rat will be give up to rescue/help their rat pal. I don’t know if we have studies like that for dogs or monkeys because we are less comfortable causing them the same kind of distress.

  50. mortuk says

    Not posted before but been watching the videos on youtube for some time and love the discussions.

    The guy who rang recently about flatearth was hilarious, Ive been involved in flatearth discussions for a while now and they always revert to the same simplistic (and wrong arguments).

    Interesting to see how much more of an issue atheism appears to be in the US, compared with over here in the UK. Being an atheist here is nothing of note, but then religion overall isn’t such a big thing here. We have religious people of course but its not like it is in the states, and as its not such a big deal then atheism isn’t considered a big deal either.

    I do love the stance taken by America atheists though and the efforts to push back against religion.

  51. III says

    Theisntist –

    I get why you thought that she cut him off without giving him a chance – but I’ve heard the perennial philosophy guy’s previous calls, and this is Tracie’s second call with him. Instead of answering even simple questions about what he believes (“Do you believe in a God? Any god? Define God however you like? Please just answer the question, yes or no.”) he wants to talk (instead) about how cool perennial philosophy is. This IS the truth of the answer for him and the answer to every question (“Do I believe in God? Well, perennial philosophy is this really cool idea that other people think is true… also, science says people who do hallucinogenic drugs have hallucinations.”)

    After numerous calls, he has yet to talk about these great truths, but man, isn’t it a cool idea that all religions (even religions we know nothing about) stem from the great truths found in mystical experiences? Also, isn’t it cool that this is true even for religions that don’t stem from mystical experiences? Isn’t it even cooler that this is also true for adherents who don’t even have these universal mystical experiences? Ipso facto, by the coolness of this argument, it is logically true and also, science. Mic drop.

    I would like to see one thing change. Both Matt and Tracie default to “I don’t CARE that XXX” when they get frustrated with a caller who pretends to be deaf to the host’s logical objections. The caller is already operating in the realm of emotional “truth” and hears “I don’t FEEL your truth” not “what you’re saying is FALSE or UNRELATED to the truth of the claims that are coming out of your own mouth. Please address the LOGICAL GAPS in the argument you have called us to make.”

    I think if they said “Saying XXX doesn’t advance the point you’re trying to make” or “You are contradicting yourself” would direct the caller away from the idea that the conversation is about sensing truth using their feelings gland.

    … but maybe, when someone is so resistant to logic, the “I don’t CARE that XXX” is an accurate statement of how the host damn well feels, by that point.

  52. says

    I have a question. When I was a Christian I was so happy just all the time. Mostly because I picked the good parts I wanted to belive. I gave all my worries to God I just did the best I could and left the wrest to him. Now that I’m an athiests and there is no heaven and there is no one to carry my burdens (or to expect to) I’m miserably depressed and I kinda miss that blissful ignorance. I though some sky genie loved me unconditionally and even when I had no one else in my life I had that. It wasn’t real but it was enough. Idk what to do I’m so depressed. And if there was a button I could press that would painlessly end my life I wouldn’t give it two thoughs.

  53. Ethan Myerson says

    The caller making that tired (and tiring) Perennial Philosophy argument tipped his hand. He was too willing to dismiss any data points that countered his pet philosophy. That’s not how you demonstrate a thing is true. Tracie called him out on this, with specific counterexamples observable today, and he handwaved them, essentially arguing that original religions still fit his model. What the hell are original religions? What identifiable religion isn’t a derivative of some other religion? Mormonism was begotten by Christianity, begotten by Judaism, begotten by Canaanite religions and Zoroastrianism, begotten by turtles all the way down.
    Basically, the way he wants to get to his version of Perennial Philosophy is by invoking some characteristic shared by all religions, then ignoring the religions that don’t share it, and inventing arbitrary definitions of other religions to claim they do share it.
    Perennialists what to show that all religions point to one single underlying unifying truth. I’d prefer they start by showing that any religion can point to any non-trivial truth.

  54. djacquemotte says

    Tracie Harris (my favorite host),
    I think you would find some interest in the moral framework called “Desirism”. The question that keeps coming up when you describe what morals are is “why are these metrics like fairness and empathy ‘good’?” Why are these to be valued versus other natural traits like the tendency to force copulation. What objectively separates them? Desirism answers this in a way that is fully compatible with evolution, doesn’t special plead, and also includes the phenomena of praise and condemnation, which most moral frameworks do not include. I’d be interested in your thought on it.

  55. AAG says

    RE: Theist Mother and Living Your Best Life

    I can attest that continuing to live openly and with empathy is the best way to change someone’s perception about atheists. Without going into too many details (some are just too personal), my mother came to me one day. She sat beside me, cried, and then told me I was a better person than she would ever be. I held her and reassured her of her goodness, but it was a very eye-opening moment. It was the moment she realized my atheism did not turn me into a bad person.

  56. Agosto says

    Fascinating episode.

    A wonderful video – not short – explaining six independent lines of evidence supporting evolution:
    An early intervention that may have made things clearer to the students questioning evolution would be the point made frequently by Richard Dawkins. Any individual would be considered to be the same species as the previous generation, even the previous 100 generations and would, if it were possible to travel in time, be able to breed with individuals from that generation.

    Another important point is the role played by the genetic diversity present in any breeding population. That, more than the role of individual mutations, enables adaptation under the pressure of natural selection.

    I suspect that the students on the evolution call were studying apologetics and were assigned the task of asking these questions. That said, they were respectful and mostly honest. It was clear when one of them brought up the “meter” that he was referring to the unit of distance (100 cm), not an arbitrary measuring device. He was preparing to draw the conversation toward discussing calibration to external standards. That’s very important for quantitative dimensional metrics like distance, volume, mass etc. Not so important for qualitative metrics like altruism, for which a relative comparison is sufficient to advance understanding.

    Thanks for a great episode!

  57. Theisntist says

    Points taken on the perennial philosophy call, there’s plenty to criticize with the caller and philosophy. But for the record, Huxley and the other ‘perennialists’ give themselves an out by saying all major religions have certain foundational similarities – but make exceptions for, well, exceptions. In other words it’s true except for when it isn’t.

    Anyway, a minor point, which shouldn’t detract from an excellent show, especially the discussion with the students, which was TAE at it’s finest.

  58. loctagge says

    To me, there was a point when a pretty big elephant entered the room and was never addressed.

    Tracie, you mentioned that there are many scientists who believe in God (starting at about 1:23:48) – and even brought up Francis Collins, a respected geneticist, to whom his research invites belief. After that, however, you engaged in some degree of ridicule of followers of religion, who accept science / history, except where it disagrees with them (1:25:25 being particularly painful). I feel that you should have addressed this – the fact that you yourself express your respect for scientists like Francis Collins, until their vision of their own work disagrees with your disbelief in God.

  59. Mobius says

    @57 Agosto

    Thanks for that video link. It was well done.

    The nested hierarchies of life show evolution in action, and the fact that every line of evidence produces the same nested hierarchies is powerful evidence for evolution.

  60. citizen_scriv says

    Tracie – you taking on the host role is the best thing that’s happened to the show in ages. You usually have much more constructive conversations with the callers than some others who just seem bent on ridiculing or fighting with them mostly

  61. KK_Me says

    THANK YOU Tracie! Besides the fantastic show, this episode contains the best explanation of evolution in the history of the show!
    By not focusing on specific arguments and instead focusing on the individual mechanisms most people agree on, Tracie was able to elegantly lead the caller to the necessary conclusion of evolution by natural selection.
    I was really happy to see this approach, as I think it is the most effective way to communicate that creationists believe most of evolution’s mechanisms happen, but then try to wiggle out of the conclusion because of their preconception. While the callers were unusually openminded, I think the hosts were on point this week.
    One example for speciation and transition I usually like to bring up: hybrids like mule/hinny (horse + donkey) or liger/tigon (lion + tiger) are just at the junction where species can still interbreed, but cannot produce fertile offspring. This by no means proves common decent, but it fits the Theory in a way that is observable in the present day.

  62. twarren1111 says

    Wow! Thanks guys for replies to some of my comments. I didn’t expect that!

    For Walter (comment 38): I’m defining the term. Not you or a dictionary. Thus, I either know or don’t know that I parked my car in the driveway yesterday. As I right now have a >95% certainty that I did (I was not drunk, I didn’t have a break down, etc) park there last night I then know (>95%) certainty that it is there right now. Thus, I can predict (.95 times .95) that my car will be there when I look in the future. Now recognize something. I’m talking about the future. And what is .95 x .95? It’s LESS THAN .95. In fact, it is .9025. This is less than 95% level of certainty needed for most scientific claims. Indeed, if you want to win a Nobel in physics you need data to 12 decimals; you need 99.999999999999% or more certainty. For a blockbuster cancer drug to be approved you need 95.0% certainty. Thus, you can predict with 90% certainty your car WILL be there. Thus, you do not KNOW the future. But with the scientific process you can PREDICT. Belief for me means using FAITH to determine the reality of a ratio. And I am quite ANTI-theist. I will allow belief into my vocabulary but never faith. Why? We know too much to use the word faith anymore. And by faith I’m defining it as believing something is reality with or without evidence. I am NOT using faith as trust which is how most theist commit the fallacy of equivocation such as in saying it takes faith to believe in evolution. Nope. That’s just not even wrong as Prof Pauli is wont to say. So, you BELIEVE or PREDICT a 90.25% probability that your car is there. So do the experiment. You look. Now you see your car. So you now KNOW (>95%) chance that your car is there. So you walk into the kitchen. Yes, you can say you know your car is still there bc come on, it probably is. But you could also say that when you look again, which will be the future, that you can’t know but you can predict or believe it is there. You do NOT have faith it is there. Why? Bc you are not allowed the equivocation fallacy of trust for faith. And why use faith when you can LOOK. That is, when you can do the experiment.

    Thus, there is no past or present event or fact or entity in which I believe anything bc I don’t have to. I either know (>95%) or I don’t know (95%) it’s gone. Was it god? Was it leprechaun’s? Or was it stolen? Or taken by your wife? What are your probabilities now? What experiment can you do? Can you call your wife? Are your keys still in the bowl? See? No religion. No faith. Believe and predict are the same and are about the future. Past and present are know and don’t know. And there aren’t any supernatural stuff clogging your frontal lobes!

  63. twarren1111 says

    For heircart (comment 27)

    I see what you’re saying but I’m the one making the claim and defining the words. I outlined this in comment 63.

    I am being a stickler bc I have been so traumatized by religious methods of determining reality. Thus, I have thought long and hard about the words faith, belief and know.

    I am an evolutionary biologist and immunologist by education to BS. Then did MD. Then did 5 years in a cancer immunology lab and then practiced for 17 years as a general oncologist. My father is a psychopath, I was in practice with one for 5 years (imagine an oncologist with NPD!!) and found out my ex wife is most likely OCPD. In having to put all the trauma these people have put me through while also learning about humans by taking care of them in extreme situations, I’ve had to formulate answers that fit everything. What explains my marriage had to explain my practice had to fit with immunology and neurology and physics and math etc etc etc.

    And in doing so I’ve found that it always comes down to how two things (whatever those two things are) and how they relate. Always. Because that’s how it all started and how it will all end. If you can’t explain your relationship in math then you’re. Making stuff up. Not allowed. Anyway…

    I agree that jochem is out to lunch. I can’t imagine how he arrived at each of his conclusions. Indeed, his ideas demonstrate a complete inversion of reality. His claims are not 99% right, they are 99% wrong. I suspect he is a troll.

    I am assuming heicart is Tracie. With that being said, you are an outstanding host. I think you balance Mr Dillahunty’s sometimes harshness quite well. Clearly you are a brilliant person and you consistently give insightful and caring feedback to callers. You are also quite brave in that you call out reality even if the reality you are revealing to the caller is what most people would consider as unflattering. You are also very slow to lose your cool and I’ve seen where your ability to ignore anger for what it is (irrational fear) leads to you making a positive impact on the caller.

    The reason theists call in is because they are uncertain. Always. If they were certain they wouldn’t even pay attn to the show. Thus, by my definition, each and every caller (theist caller) is working through their irrational fear of atheism. Thank you!

  64. twarren1111 says

    Lastly, there are three ways we use to determine the validity of how two things relate. The scientific process, the artistic process and the religious process. The first uses the scientific method. It depends upon peer review. It depends upon agreement as to what threshold is needed to determine reality. It actively seeks out error. Indeed, the whole foundation of the scientific method is everyone involved tries to prove they are wrong before anyone else can beat them to it! It is a process founded in humility and wonder. The arts use three hypotheses only: human against human, human against nature, and human against him(her)self. Yes, the arts also use nature against nature but it’s almost always to elucidate some aspect of humanity. Religion uses faith to determine reality. Faith is basing reality of how two things relate based upon nothing. No evidence, nothing. It means making it up. It is associated with rigidity. It assumes that the ratio the human holds based upon faith is at least as good as to any other ratio. Indeed, the religious process often leads to claims of superiority of one ratio over another. It even leads to disagreement between two people who supposedly are part of the same group (see ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy).

    The end result is that the scientific process self corrects. Rapidly. It wastes the least time and energy. The beauty of the artistic process is that because it tends to blur highly symbolic methods of showing how things relate, the artistic process can lead to dramatic enhancements in those stuck in a rut using purely the scientific method to have their ‘vision’ unexpectantly broadened from an artistic presentation. Religion however gets at the truth, by definition, only via luck. If one is making up how two things relate, rigidly holds on to the relationship, and even gets violent if shown with 99% certainty that their ratio is wrong, then the religious process tends to be the greatest waster of time and energy.

    We have now linked energy and matter to entropy and we have now linked entropy to information and we have now linked all our data from every field of science and the arts from the present back to 10 to the -43 of a second, which is the start of time. We are beyond faith and religion. We know too much.

    And either we abolish the evil tyranny of the religious method of determining reality or we don’t. But we are still going to have to deal with climate change. And a host of other issues. We are all in this together whether we want to see it or not.

    The reason we are developing our big brains with empathy is because ideas are the only free energy we have. And when we work together in harmony we can write symphonies. Build cities. Go to the moon. And when we lie, we get slavery, climate denial, racism. The point of it all is to use information in the wisest way possible. And only science and the arts get us there. Religion leads to destruction.

  65. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Dan Dennet is one of the dullest persons on the planet (spoken and writen0.

    “Well, that’s just like your opinion, man.”

  66. John Chilton says

    Justin: Wow – Tracie and Eric were a great team and really good – the comments were focused and respectful and Eric is sugary polite and respectful. However, there is a ‘respect’ aspect to phoning in … surely. Justin started badly and it went downhill from there – why would you start with “Atheists don’t believe in anything” and then simply not be able to cope with the simplest comeback. The theists should watch a few of the episodes before walking into a train wreck.

  67. Devil Travels says

    I think it is really sad that so many people have never received the benefit of a science class in school. Even more sad would be those same people who never followed their curiosity to seek answers, instead relying on assertions by claimed authorities.
    It’s no wonder they fell victim to the influence of the myth makers.
    Admittedly, I, too, was a victim of the myth makers, back in the 60’s and 70’s when the National Enquirer and the Sunday afternoon speculation TV shows seemed appealing in their claims. all this even as I was watching PBS science shows and watching human launch themselves to the moon.
    Myths are very attractive to a knowledge hungry mind.
    Fortunately for me, I avoided the emotional imprisonment of religion and psudo-science and remained generally agnostic in my interest in such things.
    But I still love to entertain a good myth from time to time.

  68. Liam Dunne says

    Hi ACA,
    You’re a wonderful public service that I enjoy watching across Youtube.
    But, you make it very difficult to pass comment on your output.
    (I understand that you don’t want to be overloaded.
    Surely your link ought to take me to a place related to that video.
    Instead, I end up at a site hosting all of your videos.)

    I want to share my experience with you.
    I think that my background is unlike that of your hosts.
    (It’s possible that it’s nothing new, that you’ve it before.)

    However, your facebook frontend was rude and hostile.
    He/She wanted to be rid of me.

    Do you even care that someone wants to share an atheist experience.

  69. Mobius says

    @Liam Dunne

    As an atheist blog, AXP gets a lot of rude and inappropriate comments. My understanding is that a poster’s first post is held for moderation. If it is deemed acceptable (that is, civil), future posts will be allowed without moderation (unless, I would think, complaints are made).

    This is my understanding of how AXP works. If I am wrong, someone please correct me.

    So, Liam, looks like you have now passed moderation. Your post is up. Welcome.

  70. RationalismRules says

    Good for you for giving a helpful response, but Liam Dunne doesn’t appear to be posting in good faith. He posted a comment on Apr 18th (#59 above). We know it came through moderation the same day, because EL responded to it (also on the 18th). To then post 2 days later “No comment allowed” is bullshit, pure and simple.

  71. Mobius says


    Thanks RR (I have a tiny problem with that nickname since I used to post on a forum where a very fundamentalist poster used that nickname…but that’s my problem, not yours). I had missed the earlier post.

    Perhaps Liam will realize he’s being unfair.

  72. Monocle Smile says

    Francis Collins does not believe in a god due to his research, and arguing otherwise makes you appear dishonest. He himself writes about his own belief in a god, and it’s because he saw a freaking frozen waterfall. That’s it.

    There’s no elephant in the room. You just either missed the point spectacularly or you’re just concern trolling.

  73. says

    Well, as I said on your FB page. The word Moral has been used too much in religious circles and Tracie should avoid engaging using the word Morality and instead replace it with Human Interaction Behaviour (HIB) because that is basically what we are saying.
    So, having said that HIB is mainly society dependant to flourish, that is, we conform to a set of values when we interact with others and if there is a bad interaction there are negative consequences. This is true even at Country levels such as wars, etc.

  74. gregfromseattle says

    Thanks for sharing that interview with Tracie! I don’t think I’d ever heard her share her story in depth before.

    @Marcelo Daniel

    I believe she mentioned Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar.

  75. busterfixxitt says

    Good job as always, you two. I was surprised that you didn’t point out that the names ‘Pleiades’ and ‘Orion’s belt’ are both Greek names for constellations that necessarily predate the authors of Job’s stories.

    They are *constellations* literally ‘con’ = with/connected, ‘stella’ = stars. It’s a (apparently, but not actually) static, identifiable grouping of stars. Citing two passages that poetically note that constellations stay together is trivial. “Them stars what are always next to each other sure do stay next to each other.”

    This fits in with Tracie’s point about observations.

    In fact, if the bible is saying that Orion’s belt will *never* loosen, then it’s just plain wrong. Stars move. In a million years, Orion won’t have a belt and without his belt, he doesn’t look like a person anymore.

  76. fungus says

    Re: Flat earthers

    Their main argument seems to be that they don’t *feel* the earth spinning.

    Next time a caller says that you need to ask them if they’ve ever flown in an aircraft. If so, ask them if they can feel any speed when they”re up there and cruising? Are they constantly being pushed back in their seats by that speed? Is there any wind in their hair? If they drop something does it fly off to the back of the cabin of does it fall vertically downwards?

    Where’s the sensation of speed they’re supposed to be feeling?

    If they haven’t flown then surely they’ve been in a car. Do they constantly feel like they’re in a rollercoaster when they’re cruising along in a car? I don’t think cars would be a popular form of transport if that were the case.

    Bottom line: You can’t feel speed. You can feel *changes* in speed, eg. You can feel when an aircraft takes off and lands, but you can’t feel constant speed.

    (nb. If runways were a lot longer they could take off gently and you’d hardly feel anything).

    Extra thought: What would happen if the Earth suddenly stopped spinning? Answer: All the water would slosh out of the oceans, all the people would fall over, etc.

  77. scranty says

    Good show, but…. The new logo (logotype) is ATROCIOUS. It looks like an engineer designed it with a ruler and a ballpoint pen in 1978. This is just not good enough.

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