Monday, October 11, 2010

Open thread on episode #678

Have at it. Personally, I was frustrated by the hour long format; there's a constant tension while deciding whether to cut people off, and as you probably noticed, it didn't get us any additional theist callers. The big studio, while neat, has spotty wireless, so only one person can be connected to the internet. Supposedly we now have four lines instead of three, but the fourth line was intentionally blocked during the show because we don't trust it yet.

We did get the one theist caller at the end, but I had to hang up on him, not because of the insult, but because we had no time left. Can't exactly blame this on the shorter time slot; it does happen even in the 90 minute show that people will not call until the very last minute.

Tracie did a good recap of her recent Intercessory Prayer post, and there were some decent questions. I had a good time.


  1. Yeah, it was noticeable that time constraints were affecting the 'flow' of the episode, but otherwise, a job well done by you 'guinea pigs'.

  2. I wanted to mention, Russel, that in regards to "What the Bleep Do We Know", I don't think all the scientists were pseudo scientists (In fact, one I recognize as being respectable). From what I understood, some of them got the Expelled treatment.

    That freaking woman who shows up a lot apparently has a heavy role in the development of the movie, which is why she shows up a lot.

    I actually found this article from the "Christian Research Institute", where they bash the movie quite a bit:

    Case in point, this is one of the opening paragraphs:

    "What the Bleep Do We Know? extrapolates from quantum physics to answer life’s big questions. That’s its claim anyway. In reality, science is completely incidental to the film’s conclusions. Viewers instead are fed a nauseating stream of nonsense that traces back to the teaching of a woman who claims to channel a 35,000-year-old deity."

    You can probably guess why the Christians didn't like it:

    "The film cuts to Knight, announcing that the concept that we could sin against God would be the height of arrogance. Besides, she says, “everyone’s gods [sic].”
    This type of self-deification may sound novel and promising to the secular mind, but not to Christians.

    ...even though they're wrong about the secular bit, naturally

  3. I've only listened to about half of this episode so far, and the content is great - but there is constant "scuffing" noise coming from the mics. I'm not sure which host it was coming from, but I was amazed that none of the production crew came up to put a stop to it - it was freaking horrible. I haven't heard this on the other episodes - maybe the other mics had filters to keep that sound out, or maybe they weren't clipped to their shirts.

    Also, getting rid of the 7-minute-long announcement block is the best thing *ever*. It's been a huge chunk of bloated gas-baggery, and now it's gone. Thank you.

    Anyway, sorry for the criticism, I do love the show.

  4. I particularly liked the gentleman that had the comment on the emotion he felt during the prayer at the birthday party.
    It much reminded me of a speech I saw from Steven Pinker on the effects of curse words on the brain.
    It is interesting to hear examples how influential some words or phrases have are to certain individuals.
    Like a song that has the phrase “god damn the pusher man” has a lot more force than “gosh darn the pusher man”

  5. A couple of notes:

    First, there's no clear reason why the prayer-in-schools thing would not be the same in Puerto Rico as in the States. For one, Puerto Rico is still bound by the Supremacy clause to the federal constitution, and even though it's not a State, several guarantees from the Bill of Rights have been applied to it. For another, federal law demands that US citizens have the same rights in Puerto Rico as they do in any State (and the Establishment clause is a "right" insofar as people have the right to not have their beliefs dictated by the guv'ment). For another, <a href=">Article Two</a> Section Three of Puerto Rico's constitution is clearly meant to copy the First Amendment, and is even more explicit about separation of church and state than the federal constitution.

    So I highly doubt that state-led school prayer is in any sense legal in Puerto Rico. Final note: there is a Puerto Rican branch of the ACLU, but they seem to be less focused on religious issues compared to other branches.

    With regards to "What the Bleep Do We Know", the guy who did the water "research" is named Masaru Emoto, and his "studies" pop up friggin everywhere in New Age/Eastern woo circles. He's made a ton of money off of his books and talks and overpriced special water. It's a pretty straightforward New Age scam, with the usual complication that he may actually believe his shitty science is real.

  6. I do have a feeling we're going to go through some serious teething pains with the shortened time slot. Anyway, good start, all things considered.

  7. As far as other Atheists calling in goes, I've got mixed feelings about it. While I wish that a lot of the ones who call in with very basic questions that have been covered time and time again wouldn't, it'd also be a damn shame if we didn't hear from George from New York every once in a while =) Plus you occasionally get interesting topics when Atheist parents call in looking for advice, and that's where Russell and Jen shine.

    While I'd love nothing more than wall-to-wall bat-shit crazy theists getting the screws taken to them (verbally, of course), the reality is that - with the show on the internet - they're probably the minority among the audience.

    That said, not a bad start and as always, Tracie gives the best analogies. Believe me, I've been looking for work since December and I've had plenty of people throw my CV in the trash, so I can relate!

  8. Two side notes before my main point:
    I think the first caller was a liar, probably a troll, albeit not a good one. And I read a lot of scientists featured in WTBDWK were actually misrepresented by the producers and their opinions were totally warped from what they really said.

    Main point: I understand that you need theist callers because, well, i guess you could say "if it believes, it leads". So i get that you would take a theist caller before you take an atheist one. However, I do think it is insanely rude, and just plain stupid, to intentionally cut off an atheist caller to get to a theist. I mean, this is the ATHEIST experience, right? But I guess that makes sense; what else could describe our experience in america other than being told to shut up so a believer could speak?

    If i'm the only one, i'll let it go. Really just curious if anyone else feels that way.

  9. James,

    I agree that the first caller was fake or else had insanely crippling nerves (Im guessing the former)

    As for the atheist/theist priority, I have mixed feelings. I understand that atheists need support. I mean, Im fairly new at atheism (since March) and I've had so many questions about how to approach different situations. Lucky for me, I know a few atheists. 4 of them alone I see regularly at work. I can imagine it would be harder if you were the only one you knew and its a little disheartning to think that someone like that would get rushed off to make way for the theist that believes because his alphabet soup spelled out the word "jesus" once or something.

    At the same time, I look at the show's goals that I've heard mentioned as to promote positive atheism and raise awareness of separation of church and state. To me, I think an atheist asking their questions and making their points (while intresting, informative and helpful to the caller and viewers alike) is just preaching to the choir and isnt going to advance those goals quite as much as when they talk with theists and show that they are open minded and can treat the theist with respect.

    An hour a week isnt enough. I think even 90 minutes is too short. I think if the show were longer still or at least done several times a week, it might be a little different. But with so little time, I understand why they would need to meet the show's primary goals first.

  10. @James

    What's the alternative? Letting an atheist ramble on about things the majority of the audience really doesn't care about?

    I would say that the "Atheist Experience" is dealing with hordes of inane theists.

  11. @kait82 I agree it can be preaching to the choir, but so are most social groups. I think, too, the new 60 minute format is no good for this reason too.

    @JT an alternative could be setting a time limit ahead of time instead of cutting off someone midsentance for "a call we would like to get to", which says "i don't give a shit what you're saying buddy". Which you said yourself, the audience doesn't care. But what does that say about us that we don't care what each other have to say? It makes us sound like trolls that just want to hear an argument for entertainment.

  12. James, Im not sure a time limit is the right answer either. I mean, I like the theory, but I dont think it would work well in practice.

    I assume your suggestion is to give equal time to each caller no matter the topic. But some topics and some callers for that matter, are more intresting than others. I think it would take away from the show knowing that just as the conversation was getting good, that they could have to cut to comply with that policy.

  13. I find most atheists just want a soapbox to stand on. I'd much rather hear the hosts ramble about various topics.

    This isn't always the case of course but I think it would best if many of the callers emailed the show rather than calling in.

    Maybe the screeners could make that suggestion or have an automated message when calling in suggesting that alternative.

    Of course if someone really wants to get on you should still let them, some just want to hear themselves talk on TV.

  14. While I wish that a lot of the ones who call in with very basic questions that have been covered time and time again wouldn't, it'd also be a damn shame if we didn't hear from George from New York every once in a while =)

    Hasn't the show suffered enough?!

  15. Regarding the water experiment, when did pseudo-scientists start stealing their ideas from Ghostbusters 2?

  16. @james

    The problem with the time limit would be that it would be a time limit on the theists too (which, for some of them, probably not a bad idea).

    I think we may end up be trading one problem for another, in that case.

    Granted, I don't know of a good solution.

  17. I like the one hour format, it makes for a tighter, more focused piece of work. But I also like obvious advantage of more content that the longer format offers. I think I recall Matt saying there was discussion of getting two consecutive one hour segments. What about two non-consecutive segments. Like one on Wednesday and one on Sunday. That would probably create hair-pulling scheduling problems, but it would be fun from this end. And besides, it's not like you guys don't have lots of spare time to put into the show. If you really loved us, you'd do it.

  18. @JT i think in some cases the time limit is actually more suited for the theists. How many times have we had to hear some creationist or ralien-esque new-ager go on and on and on and on and on and on............and on, respewing his opinions as fact no matter how many times the hosts shoot it down? I think those get more boring than any "preaching to the choir" calls.

    Maybe that's one reason I think it's rude to cut an atheist off mid sentence when they let them ramble on forever.

    It may sound mean, but I think the hosts need to be quicker at determining those lost causes. We've already established on the show, this blog, many forums, that the main point for arguing with morons like some callers is not to convert the caller, but to be an example or to educate those that are listening in. So it does them no real good to let the conversation repeat itself 5 times.

    Another technique from the time limit is switching the format from a "talk show" to a "question and answer show". Caller asks his question and then it's "thanks for calling", hang up and answer it to the camera; instead of keeping the guy on the phone for "just one more question...".

    As an example, listen to a couple podcasts by The Thinking Atheist. This is a guy who, like Matt, used to be a preacher but he was actually a radio preacher. So he's insanely well-versed in the format and controls the conversations very well.

    Thinking Atheist YouTube Channel

  19. Although changing to an hour is obviously an adjustment, I think it is probably a good thing overall. Cutting down the announcements is a good start, and it will also limit the amount of rambling calls that go nowhere and take forever to get there.

    Although I imagine that it puts more pressure on the hosts about what to do with a particular call, sometimes pressure can be a good thing, and I have a feeling that after everyone involved gets used to it, the change will be a positive one.

  20. I'm certain the first caller was a troll. Somebody knew you guys would be in a hurry and thought it would be fun to see how long he could tie up the lines before he got called on it. I had to chuckle a little when you guys would ask a question and it'd be followed by ten seconds of dead air, but I kept waiting for you guys to lean on him a little. Maybe even "If you need more time to think about your answer, email us and we'd love to continue the discussion." Still, it wasn't a huge deal and I liked the show overall.

    Also, I love it when Russel gets a chance to talk about his experiences raising a child as an atheist. I'm never going to have children of my own, but I will probably be a formative influence on a close friend's children, because a family isn't always one couple and their kids. Hearing Russel's stories makes me think about how I'd raise a kid.

  21. @ JT
    I think a time limit would be a good idea, as long as the host knows that he or she can extend it as needed. It would be more of a guideline than anything, but still you could give the caller one or two minutes initially, then extend it in increments of five, if the call seems interesting.

    I have a son, and do not have regular contact with openly atheistic parents. My community is too religious for its own good.

    I would love to hear more, like maybe a future show about being an atheist parent, talking about what you tell your children about death, ways to introduce them to evolution, and the fine between education and indoctrination, etc...

    (I know that much of this was covered in "Parenting Beyond Belief", but it is interesting to hear more than one perspective on the matter)

  22. I don't have a problem at all cutting off atheist calls that are a dime a dozen to get to the rare dyed in the wool sincere believer. Hell, they could call back later if they wanted to that badly. I don't think that atheists talking amongst themselves is a bad thing, it's just that it isn't unique or novel.

    The way the show is now is the only really decent answer. use discretion. You'll never please everyone regardless of what you try. It works now, just 30 minutes less, that's all. A question and answer set up with no discussion would be a horrible idea. I know we're just brainstorming but that would be a significantly worse show.

    Bottom line is that most of us (or more specifically, me) enjoy the discussions between theists and our friendly panel of atheists. The rest is enjoyable because of the personalities and sense of community, but the basic draw of the show, and the thing that makes it unique is this interaction.

  23. Has anyone ever seen the christian "call in" type cable show where there's an ex-mormon (but very christian) guy who get's in some really heated talks with mormons? I don't know what the name of the show is, but I still think it's really interesting when they really disagree. It's rare to see people openly disagree and talk about religion, even when they are both religious. Some of the stuff they say and the thinking is so accurate, yet they turn right around and don't use that same process on their own beliefs.

  24. I agree that, though the first time was a bit rocky, the new format is doable and the hosts will get used to it over time.

    Dropping the announcements is good. Maybe just something like "we also host a blog, a podcast and a variety of local events; for details and links, check the website". I have no problem with repeating the mission statement, since it's relevant as intro to the show for first-time viewers.

    Re call length, I don't think it's practical to pre-set a time limit. "Ask an Atheist", the "son of Atheist Experience" cable access show in Seattle or Portland?, which I've begun listening to as podcasts, seems to do that. About 3 minutes in and, even if the call's interesting, it's "well, we've got to get on to the next call". Sometimes good. Often frustrating.

    Maybe the host (or, better, the screener) could start with some "please try to keep it brief; our time is shorter and we want to get to everyone" type thing. Or, if not at the start of the call, use that if they start to ramble.

    The "make your point or ask your question", then do the rest off air might work for some. But there have often been times where the hosts ask an important followup. Or wish they hadn't hung up yet cuz they'd like to have done so.

    If they ramble, either cut them off or perhaps state "Jack, our time is shorter now. You seem to be stuck on "look at the trees". Could you sum up your point in 30 seconds and we'll comment after your call?" Or "call when you're more prepared" or the email thing.

    Still a great show. I'll miss the extra time, but it's still my fave. I'd love more than an hour a week, as was suggested above. But that, of course, depends on the station and on the AE gang being able to do so.

    Two separate hours would, no doubt, be logistically impossible. Two back to back would solve part of that (but would depend on station ok).

    What about an extra hour once a month or something? You're already pre-empted 2 times a year. So that'd only be regular shows (sans pre-empts) plus 10 hours per year.

    Looking forward to the return of the Non-Prophets soon. Whatever happened to the last guerilla show? I saw a blog comment about it, but didn't see it on the feed.

  25. Just had to share this tidbit from one of those Facebook back-and-forths one can get into. A theist states in his comment:

    "as for my faith, it is my own so please don't critisize my ability to believe."

    Then later down the post writes:

    "as for why christianity is true and the othes "aren't." i read the book of mormon. i ranks along the lines of a 4th grade reading level. i felt nothing inside me, it seemed contrived. john smith created a religion that had it's members tithe 50% of their income. he then murdered the other founding "fathers" of his religion, took their money and flet to utah where he was hung. i read parts of the koran. why is the muslim religion faulty? it was contrived by mohamed as a means to raise a fanatical army that would be un-afraid to die as he sought to conquer the world. next. jainism (sp)... respect life, nothing wrong with that. buhdismn, search for your answers with-in and meditate. sounds fine to me. the jewish people, precursors of christians. the wealthy and powerfull didn't like christ, didn't like his teachings of eqaulity, didn't like someone other then them having power. so they and their descendents remained jewish."

    Self awareness fail.

  26. Haven't actually watched the entire show yet, but I'll opine that it's sad at the loss of time. Whilst the folks that are involved with this great show might not be able to do anything about how much on-air time they've got, I'm sure they can do something about the copy that's available for online viewing and download. Not sure why there was a change in hosting website (you appear to have moved from Blip.TV to UStream.TV, or maybe Blip has now become UStream and changed the way their pages look ?), but it's considerably less user friendly. There are NO options for dowloading that I could see, and the quality of the video was rather poor (low resolution and framerate). The file (which I had to extract from my browser's cache, and guess as to it's format) was only about 1/10th the size of a standard episode.

    On the issue of the hosts requesting that callers keep things brief.. I've noticed that, more often than not, CALLERS CANNOT HEAR THE HOSTS INTERJECTING (which is obviously very frustrating for the hosts, and no less frustrating for many viewers, I suspect.. ;) ). It's pointless suggesting that the hosts should ask callers to essentially "stop rambling" or the like until the production crew get the technical issue sorted that seems to prevent callers from hearing the hosts whilst they (the callers) are talking.

    Many thanks for your efforts otherwise. I ALWAYS learn something from your shows, and find them most enjoyable.


PLEASE NOTE: The Atheist Experience has moved to a new location, and this blog is now closed to comments. To participate in future discussions, please visit

This blog encourages believers who disagree with us to comment. However, anonymous comments are disallowed to weed out cowardly flamers who hide behind anonymity. Commenters will only be banned when they've demonstrated they're nothing more than trolls whose behavior is intentionally offensive to the blog's readership.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.