Episode 135: Pain and Paradox

Physical pain plays an important biological role, but should we expect it to in a world created by God? Also, a recent paper in the journal cognition posits distinct cognitive attitudes underlying religious belief and factual reasoning, but is the evidence from cognitive science and philosophy sufficient to support this claim?

Counter-Apologetics: Theism, indifference and the biology of pain


Pain serves an important biological purpose. Even animals who lack moral agency experience pain, and moral agents often experience gratuitous pain that serves no biological or moral purpose. Paul Draper’s paper “Pain and Pleasure: An Evidential Problem for Theists” explores the philosophical implications of these facts for theism.

The Biological Role of Pain and pleasure by Paul Draper

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God Thinks Like You: Imagination and Religious Belief


The power of imagination can make fictions seem real to us–even prompting behaviors and powerful emotions. The paradox of fiction asks how we can have such powerful reactions to what we know to be false. The journal Cognition recently featured two papers inspired by the paradox of fiction. One demonstrates how imagined events can fool our unconscious mind into believing the events are real, even when we factually know the experiences never happened. Another claims that religious beliefs are formed by cognitive processes more similar to imaginings than factual beliefs.

Religious Credence is not Factual Belief by Neil Van Leeuwen
If I Imagine it, then it Happened by Shidlovski, Schul & Mayo

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Polyatheism: The Heroic Adventures of Cú Chulainn

This polyatheism is the final instalment in a three part series on the zany adventures of the Irish mythological hero Cu Chulainn.

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Religion in the Headlines – Ebola Edition


Leo Igway on faith healers and bishop Duncan-Williams

ebola conspiracy theories are causing people to stop vaccinating

Props: National Association of Evangelicals calls for greater regulation of predatory lending.



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  1. SandyA says

    I don’t know the details about all the 27 incidents of witchcraft in the UK reported by the BBC, but they probably all took place among new immigrants to the UK from Africa (usually the West Coast countries where superstitions are rife). That’s true of the Victoria Climbie case, and I remember when they found that poor little boy’s torso – he, too, was of African origin. I may be wrong, but I reckon that sort of thinking doesn’t usually last past the first generation of immigrants. I hope so anyway.

  2. Matt Vernon says

    great episode – I’d love to hear more from Leo Igwe.

    P.S. in the medical world we just call them “pet scans” not “P-E-T scans” :)

  3. Ron Crossland says

    Terrific episode. Draper’s argument was well presented given the time constraint. And the credence/factual discussion was very thought-provoking.

    Glad to hear that you are garnering contributions – for that I’m grateful. I’m a long time listener (and donor) who values your hard work.

    Your apology concerning a recent podcast is also welcomed. I was one of the ones who winced a bit by the extent and depth of the “ribaldry.” My reasons for wincing were mostly about my interests in recommending episodes to those who do not know about your podcast, but would benefit from a listen. I’m involved regularly in debates with theists/secularists/fence-sitters and many times recommend one or more of your episodes as a reference they might find stimulating. Many of these folks are opening their minds to more critical thinking, but are sensitive to some of the more graphic references sometimes made on the show. Which means I have to be selective about the episodes I steer them towards.

    Like any show that aims to educate, persuade, inform, and/or entertain, you benefit from considering what helps expand the good effects of your hard work. My thought is that the audience that most needs your show is larger and more sensitive to some types of humor than the audience that already listens and appreciates your inventive and colorful banter.

  4. Corecktor says

    It wasnt until you got involved with Cú Chulainn (which I love the fact it was covered and done nicely) that I realized you were butchering the pronunciation on some things. Not being quite so fluent in my mother tongue I know offhand of a website that may come in hand when it comes to getting it right. Not wanting to trigger any spam filters, the sites name is forvo dot com and it appears to have audio examples of many different words in many different languages along with a map of where the person providing the audio is from for context. Maybe this could serve as a useful tool going forwards.

  5. parasiteboy says

    So is it common amongst philosophizers to use probabilistic style arguments without assigning actual probabilities to the equations? I do see some usefulness in doing so, but in the end you are still just arguing which premise is more likely to be true and just adding on a layer of unnecessary math on top.

    I am coming at this from a biology background in which you have data or at least use a probability distribution as part of your equations.

  6. Ed Atkinson says

    I know time was short, but please do more on Draper’s argument. If you truly are an inquiring show, you should discuss the objections to Draper and give us a sense of how the debate has now developed. Just citing Draper makes that slot appear to be just polemics which undermines it.

    I read the summary by John Danaher, which was great (comment 4). I then tried to find a proper reply to Draper, but failed after an hour or more following the links from the first 2 google pages on searching “Paul Draper’s Argument from Evil”.

    Overall, I can’t say enough at how good Reasonable Doubts is. Counter apologetics is my favourite slot. Thanks, Ed

  7. Katja says

    Hey guys, I really want to give you my money but the link just goes to a “your last action could not be completed” page on the Paypal website. If anyone knows the solution please enlighten me!

    I completely love the show, it’s inspired me to do a PhD next year in the area of moral psychology and religion. Basically I want to be a female Luke Galen.


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