Comments

  1. Raz says

    I’m sorry to drop this on Isaiah from Oklahoma (2nd caller?), but if he’d ever taken any of the hard sciences at university, he’d know that we damn well DO address the “why” of things.The whole of the electronegativity scale describes why certain reactions take place in preference to others. Entropy describes why reactions are pushed to the right and so on and so forth. There are as many answers to the question of “why” as there are questions. Unfortunately, you have to have knowledge of the subject matter for such answers to make any sense.

    Matt, however, was also correct when he pointed out that if the question regards intent, then such a question becomes irrelevant to the hard sciences, because we can’t measure intent and so it’s not a scientific question.

  2. KK_Me says

    Great episode! Just finished listening to the second caller (first theist) on my way to work and I think one could argue he’s an atheist, if he really only uses the god label to describe what is and without adding anything else. I wonder how he would’ve reacted.

  3. Paul Stevens says

    The numbers 11 11 are significant to many people because the armistice for WW1 in 1918 came into effect at 11am on 11th November. 100 year anniversary soon. The war to end all wars (unfortunately not true). If god was true why would there be wars at all. Surely it would be love and peace, especially in Jureusalem. Is there where god is supposed to come from? Makes none sense.

  4. John David Balla says

    Must say that I agree with Matt that Sam Harris puts too much energy into legitimizing the spiritual platitude. The beginning of every Harris podcast begins with this terribly annoying New Age background music that makes me want to exit the page. I do, however, find value in Harris’ endorsement and promotion of meditation. But the way he aligns it with concepts and people that even annoy him does not do his cause justice. So much confusion and mixed message here for an otherwise stellar philosopher.

    The call with David was an excellent and methodical deconstruction of his “pro-self-deception” argument. That said, Matt was a bit jerky in the way he hung up on him. About a minute prior to that, Matt was a bit of a dick with David which is likely why David took on some animosity. Personally, I recognize this irritability in myself so watching someone else do it is a teaching lesson. Anyway, the conversation was rather civil until the last couple of minutes.

  5. dc19 says

    I might be an Atheist, but I’m a bit confused on the term and would like some clarity. An Atheist is someone who lacks belief in God or Gods. My question is about the term God. Because words do not have meaning and have usages, what it someone uses the word God describing true knowledge. If I believe in true knowledge, do I believe in that person’s God? Typically, when someone says they believe in God, I don’t automatically tell them I don’t believe in God, because I don’t know how they are using the term. There are so many different usages of the word God. Not only do you have all these different religions, you have splits within some of these religions and splits within these splits. I feel like God has no correct or incorrect usage. People can use it however they want as long as they explain what they mean by God. I’d appreciate someone explaining this to me. Thanks!

  6. bob says

    Oh my god…OH MY GOD – my middle son’s birthday is 11/11 – the last caller was right and Matt was wrong…Oh my god…OH MY GOD – my last sons name is Matt…it’s all lining up now, praise Jesus!

  7. bluestar says

    I think Matt gets testy when he asks the faith question; “is there anything one cannot believe based on faith?”. It is a Y/N answer. In this case David already acknowledged faith can lead one to a true and a false position. I believe David was going down the path of why HIS particular faith leads to truth. A David called in 22.34 back in August and after tap dancing around the question for a long time he said “No, but I’ll tell you why” ….hang up. I feel the same way when I’m engaged with a Christian and point out a Muslim has the same faith in the Muslim God, so how can faith be a path to truth? and the answer is MY faith is for the one true God, theirs is a false God. At that point, can a conversation be continued?

  8. Brian GA says

    Just wanted to say Phil is great. The way he answered the caller with a dead battery story got the tone just right. Thanks Phil!

  9. Robink says

    Yes I do wish Matt had been a bit more patient with David’s call but I can understand the frustration. Unless someone is willing to engage in a form of reasoning which could actually lead to a conclusion about truth or reality any and all conversation is largely a futile game of self deception. David simultaneously admitted his thought pathway didn’t necessarily lead to truth yet also “knew” that he had the truth. This is a straight up contradiction but not in a mind warped by religion where the brain can effectively lie to itself. This same rationale creates the circular kalaam argument of “everthing needs a cause, therefore god, god doesn’t need a cause” which isn’t evidently contradictory unless you’re a theist.

  10. Monocle Smile says

    I shed no tears for those who argue dishonestly, especially when they do it right off the bat. I’m to the point where I’m okay with being a dick to people who want to score points rather than have a discussion.

  11. Robink says

    Mean to say it IS evidently contradictory*

    I don’t think David was just trying to score points, but he sure turned hostile fast in that conversation once he felt his beliefs under threat.

  12. twarren1111 says

    As for me, there is nothing mystical or woo woo about 1111. If these numbers symbolize anything, they most closely relate to the shortest perfect code. Specifically, the shortest perfect code in which two errors can be detected and one of them corrected. This relates to how spheres pack a space (the ‘kissing number’) and relates directly to the vertices present on a tesseract. For some cool links:
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamming_code
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamming_distance
    Please note the diagram of a tesseract on this link. All the vertices that correlate add up to 1111
    And last but not least, this is an excellent numberphile episode looking at the size of the center space as you go up dimensions. Note that it is only in the 4th dimension, ie with a tesseract, that the empty space in the middle is one unit sphere which is equal to the 16 unit spheres in the tesseract. Once you see this you then have a geometric understanding of why the (7,4,3) is the smallest perfect code you can have. It’s how your RAM works to keep your browser working correctly. If you look at the specs on your computer memory you will see ‘ECC’ referenced on your RAM. That’s referring to this 8 bit (1 byte) code (often repeated multiple times such that , Eg, 256 bits may be used for error code transmission.
    If you want to take it up to the next level, these two videos, one from
    PBS Infinite series shows what polygons you get as you slice thru Pascal’s triangle at a 45 degree angle. This is another demonstration of why we have 4 dimensions (large dimensions- space time….the other 6 dimensions predicted by string theory are thus far probably related to quantum probabilities and are Planck level (compactified)). The second video is from mathologer. He is showing the smallest shadow projected by Platonic solids. What one realizes is that the smallest shadow that can made by a tesseract is a cube. In others, the shadows we see in the world have only been a cube or less. This supports in a fundamental way why we see only three physical dimensions and one of space time. And, if you want to get really funky, as it does apply to how video games render space, it is quaternions (imaginary numbers I, j, k) added to the real numbers (thus quaternion) which geometrically represents our reality. Because I can’t resist, I’ve included a third link from 3blue1brown on this subjects. Grant Sanderson is the GENIUS behind this site. Welch labs also has a great series on imaginary numbers.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYaCtHPCARc (PBS infinite series: dissecting Pascal’s triangle with a hypercube)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEhLNS5AHss (Mathologer: the best hypercube shadows)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4EgbgTm0Bg (3Blue1Brown: what are quaternions and how do you visualize them? A story of 4 dimensions). Give him a try. I bet this is the first 30 minute math video that holds you transfixed. His production values are amazing.

  13. twarren1111 says

    It looks like bc I put in a bunch of YouTube links my original post is being moderated.
    As for me, there is nothing mystical or woo woo about 1111. If these numbers symbolize anything, they most closely relate to the shortest perfect code. Specifically, the shortest perfect code in which two errors can be detected and one of them corrected. This relates to how spheres pack a space (the ‘kissing number’) and relates directly to the vertices present on a tesseract. For some cool links:
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamming_code
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamming_distance
    Please note the diagram of a tesseract on this link. All the vertices that correlate add up to 1111
    And last but not least, this is an excellent numberphile episode looking at the size of the center space as you go up dimensions. Note that it is only in the 4th dimension, ie with a tesseract, that the empty space in the middle is one unit sphere which is equal to the 16 unit spheres in the tesseract. Once you see this you then have a geometric understanding of why the (7,4,3) is the smallest perfect code you can have. It’s how your RAM works to keep your browser working correctly. If you look at the specs on your computer memory you will see ‘ECC’ referenced on your RAM. That’s referring to this 8 bit (1 byte) code (often repeated multiple times such that , Eg, 256 bits may be used for error code transmission.
    Here is where I meant to have the numberphile video from #16 posted

  14. twarren1111 says

    This then was the second part which had links to videos by PBS Infinite Series, Mathologer, and 3blue1brown.
    Thus: I meant for #17 to be first, #16 to be second, and this post #18 to be third.
    If you want to take it up to the next level, these two videos, one from
    PBS Infinite series shows what polygons you get as you slice thru Pascal’s triangle at a 45 degree angle. This is another demonstration of why we have 4 dimensions (large dimensions- space time….the other 6 dimensions predicted by string theory are thus far probably related to quantum probabilities and are Planck level (compactified)). The second video is from mathologer. He is showing the smallest shadow projected by Platonic solids. What one realizes is that the smallest shadow that can made by a tesseract is a cube. In others, the shadows we see in the world have only been a cube or less. This supports in a fundamental way why we see only three physical dimensions and one of space time. And, if you want to get really funky, as it does apply to how video games render space, it is quaternions (imaginary numbers I, j, k) added to the real numbers (thus quaternion) which geometrically represents our reality. Because I can’t resist, I’ve included a third link from 3blue1brown on this subjects. Grant Sanderson is the GENIUS behind this site. Welch labs also has a great series on imaginary numbers.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYaCtHPCARc (PBS infinite series: dissecting Pascal’s triangle with a hypercube)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEhLNS5AHss (Mathologer: the best hypercube shadows)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4EgbgTm0Bg (3Blue1Brown: what are quaternions and how do you visualize them? A story of 4 dimensions). Give him a try. I bet this is the first 30 minute math video that holds you transfixed. His production values are amazing.

  15. twarren1111 says

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesseract

    If you go down the page you will see a geometric form of the tesseract in which connected vertices add to 1111.

    Note the unfolded Latin cross can be used to tessellate or tile a 3 day space.

    Then, check out Dr. Gates lectures on supersymmetry. At one point he will show you how combining the equations of general relativity and the maxwell equations that what naturally evolves via the symmetry of how the math works into what he calls patterns as adrinkas. What is stunning is that if you assume supervsymmetry exists, which is the ‘next level’ of string theory, what naturally arises via geometric manipulations is this version of the tesseract in which the vertices naturally follow a perfect code.

    This is why he calls his talk “The DNA of Reality”

    Too cool. This is a talk he gave at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, ON in 2012. The visuals are amazing.
    https://youtu.be/b6w0K5FIgsU

  16. twarren1111 says

    All in all, this is why morality means the maximization of utilization of information. Once you get a self referential middle then you have complexity. You now have in addition to the polar binary choices of a hypothesis and it’s claims being a certain probability true positive and a certain probability of true negative, what having a self referential middle gets you is the halting problem. The Gödel’s incompleteness theorem. Why? Because the self referential middle gives you the shades of grade and that means you now how a quaternary decision making situation. You now have false positive and false negative to contend with. And this is why you need to always consider all the evidence and use Bayes theorem.

    Hypot (evidence true) = TP/TP PLUS FP. TP:likelihood hypot is true positive. FP is the likelihood your positive evidence supporting your claim is wrong.

    What religion wants to do is use faith to make the FP rate 100% which means they can prove anything. The scientific process wants to accurately know the evidence that gives a TP along with an accurate FP rate. What the scientist tries to get is to see a FP of 0.01 with a TP rate of 99.9. This way their confidence their hypot is true given the evidence is: .99/.99+.01=.99/1=99% chance what reality is.

    The religionists wants to make the false positive claim without evidence like “jeebus!” Be 99%. So then what happens to reality? It becomes .01/.99+.01=.01 or 1% chance the TP represents reality. Here the theist is ecstatic saying see, I’m 99% right it’s jeebus even though they have no evidence supporting their idea. In fact, their evidence actually proves the TP.

    The result is wasted time and energy.
    Ie, stupid rise in entropy.
    Wasted information
    Wasted time
    That’s why faith based testing of claims is immoral

  17. RationalismRules says

    @DC19 #5
    If you want to assess your response to someone’s idiosyncratic definition of god (god = ‘true knowledge’), there are two parts to the question:
    – Do I believe ‘true knowledge’ exists?
    – Do I believe ‘true knowledge’ is a god?
    If the answer to either of those is ‘no’, then you’re still an atheist.

    As Matt mentions, if the term ‘god’ doesn’t add anything to the concept you’re attaching it to, then in what sense is it ‘god’?

  18. indianajones says

    @DC19 I would add to RR and say that I would ask someone to explain WTF they mean when they say God. Then decide whether you believe that that whatever exists. For instance: ‘I worship that tree as God’, well, I believe that that tree exists and by their lights am as theist as all get out.. vs ‘I believe that God created the universe’. That second one I do not believe exists and am atheist.

    Like you said, you don’t know how they are using the term, ask ’em!

  19. dc19 says

    @RationalismRules Thanks! That helps me out a lot. I believe ‘true knowledge’ exists, but I don’t know if ‘true knowledge is god. I think that would make me an atheist. I don’t know how you determine what god is. My friend who defined god in this way didn’t define god as true knowledge, but that is what it seemed she was talking about when she described god. She talked about information, facts, gaining understandings, growing and finding answers to questions, learning and a continuation of that process over time. She also mention no purpose to god/knowledge, no interaction with us, more of something we all become aware of. I felt like she was talking about knowledge or true knowledge, but she was saying that is how she’s come to understand god. I thought it was an interesting description/explanation of god and it had me thinking about what people mean when they say God.

    @indianajones I usually do ask what they mean by God, if they don’t already explain themselves. A lot of times when people talk about god they mention little things that I already don’t believe.

  20. says

    “true knowledge” as god is just another attempt to define a god into existence by equating it with something else already known to exist (like “god is love” or “god is nature”), while adding nothing to our understanding of anything. it’s just a pointless label that creates a pleasant-sounding deepity. worse, it enables the unwarranted smuggling of all the baggage that the “god” label has accumulated.

    if god is simply knowledge, there’s already a useful term for that — “knowledge”. if god is more than knowledge, then those extra parts must be demonstrated and not simply asserted.

  21. Serge Rubinstein says

    I never heard of 11.11.11 except that it is a philantropic game on the belgian TV…9/11 makes more impression on me…

  22. dc19 says

    @aarrgghh She didn’t say god is “true knowledge”. When she was describing god, it sounded like she was describing knowledge. I think she might have said at one point, “like knowledge.” I guess the problem is, I cannot distinguish the god she is talking about from knowledge (they seem the same to me). I’m still a little confused about what a deepity is and will have to read more about that. My brother worked with Daniel Dennett at Tufts, so he can probably help explain it to me.

    This makes me think that gods are defined into existence (God is Love) or defined out of existence (God is the eternal being who created and preserves all things). Its confusing and actually makes me think that God is whatever people want it to be.

    Thanks for your comment

  23. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @dc19 #25:

    I’m still a little confused about what a deepity is
    […]
    This makes me think that gods are defined into existence (God is Love) or defined out of existence (God is the eternal being who created and preserves all things).

     
    Article: Wikipedia – Use-Mention Distinction

    Use: Cheese is derived from milk.
    Mention: ‘Cheese’ is derived from the Old English word ċēse.
     
    The first sentence is a statement about the substance called “cheese”; it uses the word ‘cheese’ to refer to that substance. The second is a statement about the word ‘cheese’ as a signifier; it mentions the word without using it to refer to anything other than itself.

     
    They have a word they’re told is vitally important, but are never presented with a referent or coherent description, though they’re assured one exists. So they flail about for anything to attach the label to, to convince themselves they’re not playing vacuous word games.
     
    Since surely gods must be among the things which exist, it’s just a matter of picking an existing thing to label “God”. Then they can say, “See, [label] exists!” Except, while a similar label may appear in ancient stories, imbued by institutions with gravitas, their referent does not. They ‘found’ a trivial existing “God” – that isn’t the profound fictional “God” they wanted, or others might expect. Through equivocation, they placate themselves and mislead others.

  24. RationalismRules says

    @dc19
    Deepity, explained by Dennett:
    https://youtu.be/FjsC53RGO4Q?t=212
    Also, if you click on the word ‘deepity’ in aarrgghh’s post you’ll find it’s a link to a RationalWiki page that explains the concept in detail.
     

    She talked about information, facts, gaining understandings, growing and finding answers to questions, learning and a continuation of that process over time.

    We already have a label for this – it’s ‘learning’.

    So, if I were in conversation with your friend, I’d be asking something like this: “It sounds like you’re describing knowledge and learning. In what sense is that ‘god’?”

    The point is to explore what makes this ‘god’ different from things / concepts that already exist. If the god is simply an agglomeration of ideas that we already have labels for – like knowledge, learning, understanding, truth, facts – what does calling it ‘god’ add to those existing labels?
     

    This makes me think that gods are defined into existence (God is Love) or defined out of existence (God is the eternal being who created and preserves all things). Its confusing and actually makes me think that God is whatever people want it to be.

    It’s important to keep in mind the difference between the label ‘god’, and an existent thing we might apply that label to (see SkyCaptain’s comment). If there is an existent thing that we might apply the ‘god’ label to, then that thing can’t be simply defined in and out of existence. But if that existent thing is simply something for which we already have a label, then calling it ‘god’ doesn’t change anything.
     
    I have a question for you: how does ‘true knowledge’ differ from just plain ‘knowledge’?

  25. dc19 says

    @CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain: I think a lot of that makes sense. Especially the part where you talk about the word is told to them to be vitally important. I think that is the larger point. I don’t think my friend is trying to mislead others, I think she is just using the term God and knowledge simultaneously because it is her strongest connection to anything. I think knowledge is everything to her and is basically a replacement for God in a sense. She didn’t grow up religious, so i wonder if she’s looking for some sort of connection to something greater and of ultimate importance to guide her life.

    Thanks!

    @RationalismRules: Great video, thanks!
    I’m not sure if there is a difference between knowledge and true knowledge. My thinking was that knowledge can be false. People think they know things when they don’t, but that probably wouldn’t be considered knowledge. I think I put true in front of it meaning it is demonstrable.

    Thanks for your response! I appreciate it.

  26. says

    dc19:

    People think they know things when they don’t, but that probably wouldn’t be considered knowledge.

    you’re on the right track. if what is true is defined as that which conforms with reality (ie, is physically demonstrable), as has been often said on the show, then knowledge can never be false. “false knowledge” describes a misconception, and cannot be a valid claim to knowledge. otherwise, if knowledge is merely a strongly-held claim or belief, then there is nothing that qualitatively distinguishes knowledge from a mere belief but intensity. a claim to knowledge only has meaning if it can be confirmed with something real.

  27. paxoll says

    @aarrgghh
    I don’t really agree. I would tend to side with Matt and that true knowledge (absolute) is impossible. Therefore it really is a matter of the intensity of belief, or perhaps belief universally shared? There is also the problem of “knowledge” that is true, someone believes it is true, but their belief is founded on false reasoning therefore they do not actually have the knowledge. Seems like that could fit the false knowledge label.

  28. says

    paxoll:

    i don’t believe in “absolute” or “true” knowledge. nor do i believe it’s certainty or intensity that transforms a mere belief or claim into knowledge — only (admittedly apparent) confirmation with physical reality, which is always subject to review. it’s the best we can do without falling into pointless solipsism.

  29. Jon says

    Matt has often states that he cares about whether or not his beliefs are true… But what about beliefs we hold that we know to be false, and the reason for holding these beliefs is because they not only benefit the individual but others in society as well…. For example: “Treat every weapon as if it were loaded”. I thought about this after reading The Riddle of the Gun by Sam Harris. JM

  30. says

    The thing about the word “god” is it has current usages that all involve something than both creates the universe and has awesome power within it but is an entity separate from it. Most usages also include the entity as a thinking agent.
    When someone invokes a special meaning for the word god they are always creating confusion, and sometimes deliberately so. If they can get you to agree their special definition of god is a thing that exists then they can create the impression that you are agreeing to the more common meaning of the word. Its an attempt at deceit.

  31. RationalismRules says

    @Jon #34

    But what about beliefs we hold that we know to be false, and the reason for holding these beliefs is because they not only benefit the individual but others in society as well…. For example: “Treat every weapon as if it were loaded”

    You don’t need to believe that a weapon is loaded in order to treat it as if it is. In this case, what you believe is that loaded weapons are dangerous, and until you know whether or not a weapon is loaded, you should treat it as though it is.
     
    I can’t imagine how you can believe something that you know to be false.

  32. says

    Brendon the caller from Australia made of mess of his attempt to use the Kalam Cosmological argument to infer that a Christian God is behind the Universe. Using the same kind of logic I can prove that God is an infinite regression:

    1) Something that exists has a cause; (to borrow from the first part of the Cosmological argument)
    2) Something is the opposite of nothing;
    3) A cause is not nothing therefore it is something that exists;
    4) If a cause is something, it is itself caused;
    5) If the Universe has a cause, it is an infinite regression because each cause has to have a cause;

    Therefore:

    If the cause of the universe is God then God is not a personal God who is concerned with you eating shellfish, sleeping with the wrong people or mixing fabrics in your garments, it is an infinite regression.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *