Open thread for episode 23.08: Tracie & Jen

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  1. larpar says

    @heicart #1
    Thanks Tracie, good show. Hey, did you know that heicart spelled backwards is Tracie H. ; )

  2. jeuandavid says

    In May of last year I got shingles. The rash was across my torso. It was the most painful thing I’d ever experienced; I thought I had broken some ribs. So I can fully understand why some people who get it in their head, or in the eyes, feel suicidal.
    The point of my post is that I discovered that shingles is basically the re-awakening of the chickenpox virus which for whatever reason is stimulated into action in later life.
    I had chickenpox as a child as well as measles and German measles. There is every chance shingles might come back. Had there been a vaccination against chickenpox back in 1960 (and for measles and German measles) on the UK NHS, my parents would have taken it for us kids. AND I would have been spared the pain and discomfort of shingles now as I enter my senior years! Vaccination is essential for all the reason stated.

  3. Paul Money says

    I’ve always thought that posting the response thread before the programme aired was an example of putting the heicart before the horse anyway.

  4. jabbly says

    Not the best of shows I thought but I do have to hand it to Kim for a great example of saying lots of words while at the same time managing to say very little. I’m still not entirely sure what point they were trying to make.

  5. tubewatcher92 . says

    It would be funny if it turned out that autism is caused by a virus, and a vaccine was found for it..

  6. Curt Cameron says

    I got the new Shingrix shingles vaccine last year (series of two shots). Shingles is something I don’t want to mess with. My dad got it 12 years ago and had that painful rash for about 12 months. He was elderly already, and that just took his health downhill. Even after the “post-herpatic neuropathy” (name for the painful rash) went away, his health had deteriorated so much that he died a few months later. I strongly recommend the vaccine to everyone I know who’s over 50.

  7. Jeremy X says

    Was anyone else facepalming at “I’ve proved god exists in the limbic system?”

    Sure, Voldemort exists as a concept in people’s minds. Heck, Voldemort exists as ink on the page. You can measure the atoms of ink. But to say therefore you have physical evidence of the existence of Voldemort is just textbook equivocation fallacy. I’m not sure if that guy just completely misunderstood what atheists mean when they say they don’t believe gods “exist” or if he was just trolling.

  8. Monocle Smile says

    @Jeremy X
    Good question. Even if he was trolling, there are multiple potential motives. He could be an attention whore, he could be an atheist making an unfunny joke, or he could be a theist so butthurt about atheism that he pulls a real-life “checkmate, atheists” move.

    Alex needs some history lessons and some self-evaluation. His “personification” adds absolutely nothing to our understanding. He’s just clinging onto deism to fulfill an emotional need. Been there. Let go, bro.

  9. Monocle Smile says

    Kim is a terrible communicator and needs to actually think about things.

    Jeremy X, I lean more towards the first category now. The guy seems totally clueless. “I’m a nonconformist.” What the actual fuck. Neckbeard-ish. And then he whines about the crackpot last week and brings up WikiLeaks for some stupid reason. What a loser.

  10. RationalismRules says


    He’s just clinging onto deism to fulfill an emotional need. Been there.

    Really? You went through a deist phase?
    Hmm. Curiouser and curiouser…

  11. jeuandavid says

    It’s unsurprising that if Kim described himself as non-conformist to the screeners on a show like this that he was classified as a theist. As a UK resident Kim should know that in Britain, and Wales and England in particular, the term ‘Non-conformist’ has very strong historical meaning. It is an umbrella term for the many and diverse religious groups that broke away from the established church (Church of England) from the 17th C onwards and was especially current during the 19th and a 20th C.

  12. says


    I agree. During the call, my thinking was that this person had called the show, used a ruse to get past our screeners, and his only contribution would be to tell us a religious joke. In the end, if I were to be kind to that or indulge it, can I even imagine how many folks would take it as a green light? While I think most folks call with sincere motives, or at worst biased agendas, and that most aren’t trolls or self-centered, I still often see a topic and think it sounds *to me* like someone wanted to call the show and just cobbled some weak reason together to hear themselves speak. I still take those calls, but try and cut them short if I get on, and see that’s all it seems to be. If we sent out a message basically saying “Hey, a religious joke is a good reason to call”–pretty sure it would be a green light to folks who say “I keep trying to think of a reason to call the show” (and yes, I’ve had people tell me that, and I tell them the best reason is because you already have a reason and don’t need to invent one).

    AFTER the call, when I had time to process it more, I realized that the joke had started with something about a blind altar boy, and thought “Oh dear, did this guy really get on the phone and start a joke with pretending he’d gone blind/was blind as a child?” And I’m not the person who is sensitive to off color humor–my own humor is often totally inappropriate–I’ve apologized for it on the fly before on the show because I joked about a thing that someone might be going through and they might believe I’m making light of a serious situation. But this guy wasn’t just telling an off-color joke–he was calling and saying he was blind/had gone blind. And that’s seriously F-ed up.

    And that’s when I just thought “Yeah, F*** that person.”

  13. Monocle Smile says

    Oh, yeah. I was raised Lutheran and resolved in college to dive deeper into my religion. I joined a weekly bible study for months and regularly attended a campus church.

    The biggest shift for me came when I discovered AronRa. I already accepted evolution, but Aron made a strong case for applying scientific skepticism towards all empirical claims. It took a bit, but there was one bible study session in particular where I realized what it is I was asked to believe about god controlling the world…and I didn’t believe. I couldn’t, knowing what I did about our world (I am an aerospace engineer with a physics minor). I started to think that knowledge was a curse, and the true poison of religion became clear. Knowledge is a curse? What kind of messed up line of thought is that?

    I couldn’t fully break away, mostly because even after this revelation, I still genuinely liked all the people I met through the church. To alleviate the guilt over my continued attendance of the bible study group despite disavowing christianity, my beliefs shifted to a wishy-washy deism. That went away when I went through some personal growth and stopped forcing myself to believe things to justify my existence to others.

  14. Monocle Smile says

    AronRa was particularly interesting to me largely due to the dearth of evolution education I received in high school. I had a couple of good biology teachers, but I was in high school during the Dover trial and chickenshit administrators decided to totally suspend the teaching of anything evolution-related until a couple of years after the verdict. I am retroactively bitter.

  15. Ian Butler says

    Wow, just read up on the Dover trial… in 2005? Plenty to be bitter about! Religion just doubles down when facts get in the way. It’s unfortunately human nature.

    Just saw a doc on Netflix about flat earthers called “behind the curve”, which shows how far our tribalism can steer our intellects off course. As crazy as flat Earth stuff seems, it’s no more so than the beliefs of established religions, we’re just more accustomed to the religious stuff.

    And that caller who started going off about WikiLeaks literally doesn’t know the first thing about skepticism. You don’t have to personally research every conspiracy claim before disbelieving in it. That’s a recipe for madness.

  16. paxoll says

    @MS, RR
    I think, especially in America, essentially everyone experiences a deism phase, even if it is not a formal belief. I think of children who are taught religion through their parents always start with a nebulous God figure. As their indoctrination progresses they become a believer in the specific religion. Most retain some lack of belief in the specifics up until teenage years or beyond, and if their upbringing is very lax in the indoctrination, their belief kinda remains more deistic than anything. Often these people slip into atheism more through apathy and incredulity and will not consider themselves being deistic. But I feel like it is nearly impossible to go from a formal religious theism, to atheism without a period of thinking “religion is wrong” but I feel like something is still out there.

  17. Lamont Cranston says

    Kit says in #17

    My grandmother is blind because of shingles. As soon as I hit 50 I’m going to get the vaccine.

    I am indeed sorry to hear that. Both of my parents had Shingles. Fortunately neither had that kind of serious long term effect. I have had the first shot and will be getting the second one in April. After the first shot my arm hurt pretty bad for several days, but I know that is preferable to the alternative.

    Lamont Cranston

  18. RationalismRules says

    Thanks for sharing. It’s always informative to hear people’s back story.

    My upbringing was in a fundie family. We were initially in a sect, but when I was 7 my dad got shunned, so I was fortunate to not to grow up under full church indoctrination. The family indoctrination was still high level – we didn’t just say grace before meals, we read a bible verse and sang a hymn before every meal (!), and Sundays were full of church-type activity: bible study, prayers, lots of hymn-singing – but I didn’t have peer pressure reinforcing the indoctrination. (My parents never joined another church, and the shunning was permanent).

    Despite the heavy indoctrination, I don’t ever remember believing. I can’t say for certain that I never did, and I’m certainly not claiming that I was an atheist from an early age – more that as a young ‘un I didn’t have any real idea of what a ‘god’ was. I do remember saying prayers before jumping into bed, but I remember it like brushing my teeth: it was what you had to do before bed, not that you understood why you were doing it.

    I know for sure I was an atheist (although probably unaware of the label) by age 15, because that was when I told my parents I was no longer going to participate in Sunday ‘prayer meetings’ because I didn’t believe in it.

    As their indoctrination progresses they become a believer in the specific religion.

    Not all of them. 😉

  19. RationalismRules says

    @Ian Butler

    Wow, just read up on the Dover trial

    Excellent documentary on Dover v Kitzmiller (you’ll need a spare 2 hours, but it’s worth it):

  20. Ian Butler says

    So ‘limbic system argument for God guy’ is linked in the TAE Facebook page, and just as you might expect he’s a full blown conspiracy theorist, who is for example, an agnostic on flat earthers, and on-board with pizzagate. Nuff said.

  21. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Concerning the Dover trial, I’d strongly suggest this presentation as well from Ken Miller, the expert witness at trial for the side of science and evolution.

  22. colinb says

    heicart – I guess that joke was going to have a punchline about the priest feeling grateful for being “tipped off” about a couple of “dead cert” local girls who could be hit on.
    You did good to cut the caller off !

  23. bluestar says

    I think many go through the deist phase along the march to reality. Sometimes even now I may check myself. I mean, when I am asked THE question; ‘Does god exist?’, my first response is ‘I don’t know’. I follow that up with a qualifier; ‘but I am convinced very strongly that no god I have ever been exposed to in my 60 years of life exists’. If the person asking me the question has something new to present, I’ll gladly listen.

  24. t90bb says

    31 Bluestar

    I agree with you and I still occasionally dabble in the sandbox of deism…..I mean I definitely see no interactive god in the universe I experience…so if a god does or did exist I assume its a deistic god. That said i remind myself that just because I have a mystery regarding how any of this got started, it does not mean a gawdd as described by many (eternal. all powerful, loving, intelligent) had a role in it……..

    What we have a real mystery….one that hurts my cranium if I think about it too much. Uncertainty is uncomfortable. And I remind myself as well that if I am wrong and a theistic deity exists….and he cares to have a relationship with me….it clearly knows where to find me.

    Until then I will try to keep an open mind. I agree with Matt that solving a mystery with an even bigger mystery makes little sense.

    Where did all the little trolls go btw????? I almost miss them lol.

  25. AtheistNotAgnostic says

    @t90bb #32
    Don’t say that too loudly. Kafei/Jimmy has a fascinating ability to shove his woo into any conversation at a moment’s notice.

  26. Lamont Cranston says

    t90bb says in #32

    Where did all the little trolls go btw????? I almost miss them lol.

    I might suggest that it can be wise to be careful of what one asks about (for?). 🙂

    I think they might have gotten tired of talking to each other as others stopped engaging them?

    I don’t know. I stopped reading their nonsense courtesy of killfile. You can only stand reading the same question over and over again just so many times and watch the determined effort to ignore actual answers.

    Lamont Cranston

  27. Honey Tone says

    On the vaccination front: I’ve noticed my fellow baby boomers seem to be getting dumber as time goes by. I was talking to a friend of mine I’ve known since high school – we graduated in 1969. He’s been coughing and hacking for about a month now, and it’s not getting better. He didn’t get the flu shot because “it’s only 30% effective ” and “you can’t trust what they put in them.” I’ve heard similar stupidity from a surprisingly large number of fellow boomers over the last few years. All these folks have health insurance coverage.

    I realize it’s a small sample size, but still: subjecting yourself voluntarily to the hazards of flu at our age is just friggin crazy. I guess I’ll be attending a lot more funerals.

  28. nemoeac says

    A thought just struck me about a way to modify Pascal’s wager such that it makes a little more sense. I’ve heard Matt pull it apart and suggest that if one were to really put Pascal’s wager to the test, they should first decide what their goal is – to gain entry to the best heaven, or to avoid being sentenced to the worst hell – and choose to believe in that religion.

    But – what if we were to also consider the Simulation Hypothesis (which is far from proven, but is becoming more credible every day.). Every time this comes up on the show, Tracie says “yeah, yeah, brains in vats” which I think would be the least likely variation of the simulations hypothesis. A more likely variant of the simulation hypothesis would be that we are all 100% artificial with no physical body outside of the simulation.

    Whether we’re simulated or real, I don’t think anyone can dispute that have very near achieved the technological ability to create such a simulation – at least on a small scale. I’ve heard Neil deGrasse Tyson suggest that we could be there in as little as 30 years. Others estimate up to 500 – but few (if any) dispute that we’ll eventually get there.

    Okay, so here comes some rampant speculation and I want to be clear that I’m not presenting any of this as fact – just some speculation about what might be.

    If we are in a simulation – it’s likely that we inhabit a replica of the real world (or our parent simulation). It’s further likely that our bodies are also designed in the image of those whom inhabit the real world. In that sense, our basic hard-wired, subconscious systems would probably be representative of (or reflective of) the inhabitants in our parent reality.

    If all of that is actually the case, then we can look around our own reality and try to make a determination about who is most likely to build the first such simulation and suppose that it may have been a similar group that built ours. So – will it be the scientists/atheists? Will it be the Muslims? The Christians?

    Is it reasonable to assume that whichever group commissioned the simulation project would build in their own version of a God?

    If so – and if we can make a reasonable determination about which group built/programmed our simulated reality – we would also have determined which religion it’s most reasonable to believe in – at least for the inhabitants of OUR reality!

    I tend to think that it would have been built by the scientists/atheists which would further cement my personal opinion that I should remain atheist – but the whole scenario raises a bunch of questions without answering any and just pushing the conversation up a possibly infinite number of levels – so it’s pretty useless as a path to truth – but still a thought provoking game of “what if” (at least for me).

    I think it’s even more likely that once the simulation technology does become available, the Christians and Muslims would both commission the creation of realities in which their God’s (and afterlife’s) are absolutely real – and evidence for them will be obvious and plentiful – another good reason to believe that we don’t currently inhabit one of them.

    Anyhow… if anyone has read this to the end… I have an unrelated question:

    Does the “Notify my of follow up comments”
    feature actually work on this forum? I’ve checked my junk mail and spam filters but still don’t receive any notifications. Is there something special I need to do on the forum side of things – or just contact my ISP. (I do get notifications from several other forums). Thanks!

  29. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @nemoeac #36:

    once the simulation technology does become available, the Christians and Muslims would both commission the creation of realities in which their God’s (and afterlife’s) are absolutely real – and evidence for them will be obvious and plentiful

    Novelette: Chiang, Ted – Hell Is the Absence of God (pdf, 22 pages)
    Audio: Librivox-style reading (1:09:51)
    Wikipedia Summary

    set in a world where the existence of God, souls, heaven, and hell are obvious and indisputable, and where miracles and angelic visitations are commonplace – albeit not necessarily benevolent. The wife of Neil, the main protagonist, is killed by the collateral damage of an angel’s visitation. Knowing that his wife has ascended to heaven, the previously non-devout protagonist struggles to achieve the required love of God to join her.
    The story also follows Janice, a woman born without legs who is made able-bodied in an angelic visitation, and Ethan, who cannot discern the meaning of an angelic encounter he experiences.

    * Author’s a non-believer.
    The story was published in an anthology with commentary at the end.

    I started thinking about angels as phenomena of terrifying power, whose visitations resembled natural disasters […] Later on I remembered [Annie Dillard] once wrote that if people had more belief, they’d wear crash helmets when attending church and lash themselves to the pews.

  30. nemoeac says

    Okay…I’ve had another random thought…and since this is a short thread (and not current), I’m going to post it here (although it is not related to this particular episode).

    If there is a better place for posting off-topic stuff, please let me know and I’ll stop hijacking these threads for my own purposes. (I did have a look but did not notice any sub-forums or other groups in which it would be more appropriate to post in.)

    Preface/disclaimer: This is a question about evolution – so you can go ahead and skip the rest of this post if you don’t like the topic…

    I did not study evolution in schools – but I think I have a decent enough grasp of the principles – certainly compared to those who call in to the show – but also to the average man on the street. That being said though – I obviously don’t know what I don’t know – and I also don’t have the time or energy to study it thoroughly. I also assume that at least some of the people who read these threads know more about it than I do.

    I bring up my question here, rather than posting it to a science or evolution blog for a couple of reasons – mostly though, it’s because I am a member here and not a member of any science blogs and also because I don’t care enough about it to pursue it seriously. A casual conversation here is all I care to participate in so if anyone reading this has any insights they don’t mind sharing, then great! Please do! If not, I’ll just wander away with my own thoughts until someday I find another venue in which the conversation may be appropriate to try again.

    I think I know the basic principles and workings of evolution. In layman’s terms; whenever an organism reproduces, the copy it creates is not perfect. There are a handful (or more) of minor (often unnoticeable) changes which accumulate over time if the host carrying them lives long enough to reproduce. After a very long time and over many, many, many generations, so many changes have been made that the resulting organism would be unable to breed with the original organism (if it were still alive) and at this time, the latest version of the organism would actually have changed so much (when compared to the original ancestor) that it had become a new species.

    So…if I’m correct so far, let me continue… evolution is not something that gets turned on and off. It’s always working and there are always changes being made. Most are innocuous – many are detrimental – and some are beneficial. But in a society like ours, there are (at least not currently) no great selection pressures and this helps to create a vast and varied gene pool amongst the worlds population. We are all more or less equally well-adapted to the current environment but also have millions of differences from each other, right? So…if something were to change negatively in our environment, we would stand a pretty fair chance that we would have some portion of the population who have already evolved a way to survive in the changed environment – but also that much of the population won’t, right? Selection pressure? Survival of the fittest? This is also what happens when we don’t finish our antibiotics. The bacteria that wasn’t immediately killed off had some natural resistance to the medicine, it reproduces and passes on this resistance. Some of its offspring may have an even greater resistance to it – and eventually we are left with a full colony of bacteria that the medicine can’t hurt…. so evolution is the reason we need to finish taking our meds..!!!

    Anyhow – assuming I’m mostly right so far – here’s the (new to me) thought that I had this week. This may be common knowledge and already a well-known part of the theory – or I may be completely wrong with this line of thinking. But either way – I’m interested in knowing whether I’m right or wrong – just not interested enough to do much more work than post the question here 😀

    It’s pretty widely known (outside of some states in the southern US anyhow) that incest results in a much higher than average rate of birth “defects” and I was wondering if this phenomena might be another built-in part of evolution and even the preservation of our species…? If the evolution system “sees” people breeding with other closely related people, it may treat that as a sign that the population is struggling to survive and a trigger to kick its engine of change into a higher gear in the hopes of finding a variation that will work – and then, when the size of the population has grown large enough, and people are breeding with more distant relatives, the evolutionary processes slow the rate of change since its obviously found something that works well for the current environment…? I have to assume that they’ve already done studies that analyze the rate of change plotted against the distance between the 2 parents on a family tree? If so – am I correct that there are more numerous (or more dramatic) changes in the offspring created between brother and sister, versus the changes in the offspring of more distant relatives – with the quantity of the changes decreasing as the separation increases? I guess I would also expect that if something like this were true, it would also be likely to find that when breeding with close relatives, we would see a higher rate of twins/triplets/quadruplets etc for the same reasons and I’ve never heard of that being a thing (but then again, I’ve never lived in Alabama)

    Is any of this already part of the theory? Is this completely wrong? Did I just prove that I don’t know shit? All opinions are welcome – but if you have to tell me I’m an idiot, please do so politely….

  31. dontpanicdent says

    @ Sky Captain (#37)

    I love that Ted Chiang of a A. Dillard line of yours, ‘if people had more belief, they’d wear crash helmets when attending church and lash themselves to the pews.’ It’s such a good description for what a world filled with God would actually be like. That our world isn’t kinda says a lot. Powerful visual and funny, too.

    @ nemoeac (#36)

    I like your thought experiment because it leads us to think about things we normally wouldn’t. The problem I have with the whole sim thing as you relay it, though, is how a future agency is needed to go back in time to creation to set it all up. It’s like the caller with a similar suggestion that didn’t get any play. It makes little logic sense because the existence of the future agents require their own past and how can they then go back to create something new that had to exist in the first place to create them? See? The paradox eats itself alive from the outset.

    That said, I really like the ideas such a thought experiment allows us to ponder. Not surprising things like this lead to hundreds of authors who enjoy exploring them for millions of readers. Neil Gaiman comes to mind.

    @ Bruce Smith (#27)

    Thanks for finding that joke. It always bugs me when a joke’s started but never finished. Turns out it’s actually got a very funny punchline, though, I agree, the TAE call-in show is not the forum for such things.

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