Monday, September 27, 2010

Open thread on episode #676

Matt and Jeff in our last 90 minute episode for a while. I'm in the middle of listening right now.

There appears to be a problem with the podcast, because annoying music keeps interrupting the audio. It might be coming from another studio or something.

Now this is ticking me off. 30 minutes into the episode, Pat from Pasadena called in. AGAIN. Last week she called me and Martin and rambled for quite a while about her "non-traditional Christianity" that she knows from "metaphysical" experiences that she picked up through meditation.

I think Martin and I were pretty patient with her last week, but this is ridiculous. She called in again, with completely different hosts who haven't her routine before. She makes NO acknowledgment of the fact that she called last week. She doesn't say a word about the time we already spent on her. She shows no sign of recognizing what we told her then. She just pretty much says exactly the same thing to see what different people will say to her. And predictably, the response is almost exactly the same.


  1. I thought the guitar solo mid-show spiced things up. Maybe there should be a gunshot/guitar solo every time an apologist gets pwn'd.

    (Just kidding, that would be really annoying actually.)

  2. Have Matt and Jeff been taking anger management courses or something? The patience on the show has become exemplary. Way to take in constructive criticism and improve the things. The shift is noticeable and appreciated.

    As for Pat, she clearly did not hear anything said to her last week and must like to lecture at people in the hope they will be dazzled. What part of "anecdotal evidence is not good enough" did she not understand? Ah well, if she had a decent grasp of logic and critical thinking she would not believe those things in the first place.

  3. I predict Pat will call in next week claiming to have levitated above a T-Rex at the moment the asteroid impacted Earth.

    I was surprised Jeff or Matt didn't remember her from the previous week.

    I also missed part of the announcement as the podcast started seemingly some minutes into the start of the show. Funny since I actually wanted to hear the announcements this week.

  4. You need a Pat every now and then to use as a basic lesson in critical thinking.

    I was more frustrated with the guy trying to argue his personal cult figure is the personification of a deity. He seemed so reasonable at first, and just devolved.

  5. hmmm...about 160 years ago a man claiming to represent an unknowable god informed everyone that all other religions are wrong and that he's here to set things straight and unite humanity for world peace encouraging others to follow him.

    Now the caller refused to say WHAT religion that was, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it's the one that has an annoying tendency to preempt you guys. Which raises the question of why he didn't just say it aloud? I think it's because he knows that character of this unnamed messiah is questionable enough to make his "I trust him because of the testimony of his character" to be problematic. And if he knows that that excuse is open to ridicule and still believes it...? Yeah his brother was right, circle jerkuilar logic.

  6. Anyone have any idea what "prophet" AJ was referring to, with 160 years of proven wonderfulness? I understand why Matt & Jeff didn't want to get into it on the air, but now I'm really curious about this. Also I'm wondering why it's been 160 years and there's still no world peace, Christians and Muslims are not united, etc. Google did not help me pin it down.

    Amusing to hear Pat again, repeating the same nonsense. I'd love to see the doctors' reports on the people she brought out of comas.

  7. Well Joseph Smith died in 1844 which is 166 years ago so Ing might be on to something with the Mormons but the guy said something about uniting Islam and Buddhism and as far as I know Mormonism doesn't concern itself with either. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

  8. The only thing I can think of is Joseph Smith. The time is about right (given a decade or so of error), and he'd totally get slam dunked for brining it up as Matt and Jeff would have had some knowledge of the coo-coo for Coco Puffs beliefs our friendly neighborhood magic-pant-mongers espouse.

  9. @L. Tyler

    "This movement was founded by Joseph Smith, Jr., in the 1830s and 1840s"

    160 years is within +/- 10 so I'm putting bets on this.

  10. Ing, Lene:

    The religion in question is probably the Bahá'í Faith.

  11. Maybe I'm getting too jaded. My first concern about the guy following the prophet was how old he can get before being kicked out of the group so that there is less competition for the females. It seems so often that these groups have an "all the fine young women go to the prophet" component. I realize we don't know anything about this situation, I'm just being honest about what came to the front of my mind. Maybe it says more about me than them.

    But that brings up another point. How in the heck is this prophet supposed to "unite mankind" if his followers aren't even bold enough to mention his name or any specifics? Why was there such an undercurrent of embarrassment? It makes the whole thing a meaningless hypothetical exercise.

  12. Epic show was epic.

    Ing: My guess was more along the lines of Baha'i. If it had been the Mormons, he wouldn't have downplayed the timeline. Joseph Smith DIED more than 160 years ago!

    Also, Baha'is are bigger on the religious harmony claptrap. Remember that Mormonism supposedly has its origins in the angel Moroni or God or whatever (I'm too lazy too look it up) telling Joe Smith that all other religions are FALSE!

  13. I think you will find that AJ is Movementarian.

    He would have been wearing his "I love the leader" T-Shirt whilst making the call.

  14. I think you're right with Baha'i. The timeline as well as the same wishy-washy unity of everything under god philosophy. I had never given it more than a glance honestly. I still don't understand the reluctance to tell us what his religion was, though.

  15. Did that guy ever listen to himself and realize that he sounds like he has spirals for eyes?

  16. This was a great show! The callers were great, even Pat, especially the way she was handled! Exemplary! :D

    Of course, the musical interruptions were weird (its always something new that goes wrong...) but other than that I really enjoyed the show

  17. Because Bahai are notorious wishy washy twits who will dance around without making any point in any given conversation with them.

    And of course the inanity and dishonesty of "every belief is for disbelief" Really? Even Atzec human sacrifice? Even sex cults? Even Jim Jones? Pure bullshit.

  18. Matt - "I think this conversation is over"

    Pat - "Why?"

    Jeff - "Because your a loon"


  19. I would like to throw out there that when anyone (even a fake theist) tries to use the Second Law of Thermodynamics as "proof" of a creator, that law has NO application in the physical universe as we observe it. There is no such thing (as far as we've seen so far) as a closed system, which the law requires to be accurate. It is highly unlikely that even the universe is a closed system and anyone claiming otherwise will have a hard row to hoe trying to prove it.

  20. @ricky the thing I love most about when they try to reference thermodynamics is that it was established in EXACTLY the same way that their dreaded evil-ution was: painstakingly long and careful experimentation, combined with examination of physical evidence.

    Course not to mention that if they're assuming that thermodynamics is inviolable, then how did all them miracles happen? And, IF I grant that God can break the laws of physics at will (which I don't), then what you're saying is "The second law of thermodynamics states that entropy always increases, unless God feels like changing something", which is functionally equivalent to saying "The second law of thermodynamics states that entropy sometimes increases, sometimes stays the same and sometimes goes down. It's just not as convincing

  21. With the other audio problems in mind, I thought that it was a part of last weeks show I was listening to. Yadayada....

  22. In response to John K(mostly):
    I've always found Matt to be incredibly patient. The best word I can find to describe Jeff is "loud". He is a wild card. He looks mildly amused the whole time. And then, as with Pat, he seems to have decided he's had enough and then just lets loose with all the anti-bullshit he was thinking up the whole time. It's almost like he has absolute control over his rage and he can just let it go as needed. carefully calculated rage; freaky. Just look at his reaction to Ed vs any other difficult caller (e.g. "ed, ed, ed, ed....")

    ANYWAY, to play nutter's advocate: Matt said, "there is no unknowable component to an unknowable". Sorry Matt, you are wrong. That's on par with the creationists saying "science doesn't know everything so what it claims to know must be false". A+B+C may be unknowbale while A and B are both knowable.

  23. New Rule: Due to the upcoming time constraints, the only response anyone gets who says "I lied, I'm really an athei--"*CLICK*

    "Allrighty, we've got Mel in Albuquerque, you're on."


    Please explain where the additional energy being injected into the system otherwise known as "the universe" is coming from? I've never heard any physicist make such a claim.

  24. Unknowable vs knowable are binary

    If you can say ANYTHING about a subject than it is knowable, ie it is possible to understand it. Even if it as a whole is not understood you have demonstrated that it is understandABLE.

  25. Not everything is a dichotomy such as Theist/Not-Theist, Ing. Things such as "Knowable" and "Unknowable" can be presented as a continuum, or other system of multiple variables.

    To play Theist's advocate for a moment, it doesn't strike me as necessarily incoherent or self-contradictory for someone to claim knowledge of some aspect of god, while still allowing that some aspects, and therefore the whole, is in total "unknowable."

    How they back up their knowledge claims is the real question of course, and whether playing the "unknowable" card isn't just a cop-out to an atheist asking thorny questions.

  26. No but Knowable versus Unknownable IS a true diconomy.

    If A is made up of parts B C and D and we know many things about B, some about C and nothing about D. Then A is still knowable, because we have some knowledge of its properties (B, C). We do not have a perfect understanding of it (D) but the existence of B and C prove it is not Unknowable. D is unknowable.

    If you can confidently assign any property to an object you are saying it is knowable (you KNOW SOMETHING about it).

    Saying that God is unknowable...and then insisting he is benevolent is contradictory. What you should say is God's motivation for suffering is unknowable, but we know other things about him/it.

  27. Saying that God is unknowable...and then insisting he is benevolent is contradictory. What you should say is God's motivation for suffering is unknowable, but we know other things about him/it.

    That's exactly my point--if "Benevolence" is Property A and is knowable, and "Suffering" is property D and "unknowable" then the statement God is Knowable is, in the final analysis, false. Therefore "God is unknowable" is not an incoherent statement.

    The fact that this whole silly tangent would make more sense if the adjectives "Completely knowable" and "completely unknowable" are used should tip you off that Knowability is a continuum, and not a single-valued dichotomy.

    You're quite simply barking up the wrong counterapologetics tree.

  28. No you're just flat out wrong.

    If you can say ANYTHING about a subject with a degree of certainty that's reasonable than you KNOW SOMETHING about them. Something that is unknowable by definition cannot have ANY thing said about it.

    God is unknowable
    God is Good

    Those two CAN'T co-exist because to state "GOd is GOod" you have to deny that his motivations or nature is unknowable. If God is unknowable how can you know he's good? What if he's amoral...or a sandwitch....or a brick. All are equally valid if it's something unknowable.

  29. I would say that unknowable vs knowable is indeed a true dichotomy, because you will most often see the definition of "unknowable" be "not knowable".

    However, it is not particuarly clear what "knowable" means, so in different contexts it could mean partially or completely knowable, and so "unkowable", being the negation, would mean, respectively, completely or partially unknowable.

    As such, there is indeed more than one kind of knowability, but, in any single context, unknowable vs knowable is nonetheless a dichotomy.

    Ing thinks the default meanings should be knowable = partially knowable (i.e. you can know something about it) and unknowable = completely unknowable (i.e. you can't know anything about it). However, I don't see how completely knowable is a less valid meaning for "knowable".

    As such, I think it would be best to use terms like partially and completely to specify the type of knowability in question.

  30. If we were talking about anything other than "God" there wouldn't even be a debate.

    Take atomic decay, or the position of an electron. These things are, in an inviolable sense, unknowable to any degree of certainty.

    However, that does not preclude us from having some knowledge about the rules which govern their behavior, or the ability to make broad predictions about possible contingencies.

    The very fact that you have to come in and say something like "Something that is unknowable by definition cannot have ANY thing said about it" is a real warning flag to me that you are trying to stack the definitions deck to your advantage, thereby opening yourself up to accusations of straw-manning.

    I am trying to help you here. It's a far stronger argument to point out that the apologist is resorting to "mysterious ways" when they don't have a good answer, or they're playing the "unknowable" card as a get-out-of-a-fallacy-free card. In which case you're far better off nailing them on the actual contradictions, rather than trying to bash them over the head with a contradiction that holds only if definitions are accepted to your specific advantage. That gets you nowhere fast, and a canny theist is going to call bullshit on you.

  31. No it's not unknowable, it's RANDOM. We know atomic decay occurs, thus it is knowable. The unpredictability of it's decay is also one of it's qualities that we KNOW.

  32. I think what he meant is that the time at which an atom will decay is unknowable, as with the specific position of an electron.

    Nonetheless, we can offer probability distributions for these things which tell us that some times and positions are more likely than others.

  33. @Skeptical Rationalist

    There is no way to prove that the universe is a closed system, that's all I said. It is possible, but unlikely, that it is, since there are no other closed systems in nature.

  34. Firstly, there's a difference between a closed system and an isolated system; closed systems disallow mass flow, while isolated systems disallow flow of energy as well.

    Secondly, whether or not the universe is an isolated system depends primarily on the definition of the universe, I'd think. If we define the universe as consisting of all matter and energy, how could any mass or energy enter from outside?

  35. @Ricky, re: the universe as a closed system.

    You seem to not understand the concept of a "closed system." The statement "there is no such a closed system" is patently false. A solar system, on any reasonable time scale, is a closed system. It is not receiving appreciable amounts of energy from outside of its own orbits, certainly not enough to decrease the entropy of the system. As its sun proceeds through its sequence, it approaches thermodynamic equilibrium, with less and less energy available to do work. It is just one of thousands of closed systems in the universe--the term does not require that said system always have been or always will be closed, as you may be under the impression.

    At the risk of being hoisted by my own petard, "the universe," by definition, is all that ever was or ever will be. It is all the matter, all the energy, all the gravity, all the dark energy, absolutely everything which exists.

    For that *not* to be a closed system requires that some source of energy be introduced from *outside* the universe.

    You are suggesting that the burden of proof lies with those who would accept that nothing exists which does not belong to the set "everything which exists."

    You are suggesting that something may exist that doesn't belong to the set of all things which exist. That, I should think, is the hard row to hoe, and the burden of proof is on you for such an extraordinary (to say nothing of ludicrous, incoherent and hilarious) claim.

  36. I have been meditating on this, and I predict Pat will keep calling back until she gets a chance to properly plug her book.

  37. This may technically apply to the previous episode. Also, I have to say I do agree 100%. But I feel I must smirk and raise an eyebrow at Matt's admonishment of the atheist that called in pretending to be a theist.Again,I could not agree more... but uh... isn't that how he met Beth?



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