Monday, March 28, 2011

Ask and ye shall receive, Ray...

On Ray Comfort's post-show blog he wrote:

"Maybe the guys on "The Atheist Experience" were too nice. Someone needs to really take me down. It needs to be someone who is extremely eloquent and knowledgeable, and with a sarcastic and cutting tongue..."

While there simply wasn't enough time to address every failed bit of reasoning in Ray's comments, I think we did manage to hit some of the highlights. He accepts scientific findings, on the same grounds we do, unless those findings challenge or refute his existing beliefs - at which point he labels them faith-based, and rejects them. Yet while claiming he won't believe things on faith, the entire justification for his closed-minded certainty about the existence of god is predicated on that his perception of the experience he attributes to a god are actually reliable.

This is not only hypocritical, it's a particularly nefarious bit of self-deception that results in some of the most painful examples of cognitive dissonance that I've ever seen. In any other area, Ray seems to grasp that independent confirmation is a grand tool for increasing the accuracy of our perceptions of reality, but on the subject of the biggest questions - his own experience not only needs no independent verification, it trumps all information to the contrary.

When presented with a good analogy (the language analogy for speciation), he's rendered silent...just long enough to regroup and reject the claim with another unjustified assertion.

After presenting many bad analogies, logically flawed arguments, appeals to "common sense", implying that we're lying about recognizing design/creation and countless bald assertions, Ray finished the call by refusing to acknowledge a simple and obvious error that would have, hopefully, led to a correction that would have improved his own ministry efforts.

In the conclusion of his book, "You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can't Make Him Think", he evaluates the 4 major world religion by testing them against what the Bible says. When I pointed out that this was a dishonest assessment, as it presupposes Christianity in order to affirm it (and that a Muslim could presuppose Islam in order to demonstrate that the tenets of Christianity don't resolve the problems intrinsic to Islam), Ray denied this and simply stated that it wasn't dishonest, because you have to begin with the Bible.

He responded to an exposition of a circular argument by simply saying "no" and restating that circular argument.

He's so mired in his certainty that he can't even see obvious errors like this - errors which have absolutely nothing to do with the truth of his claims. This was a simple attempt to get him to recognize a logical fallacy, in simplest terms, but he simply can't break free from his chains long enough to view the argument on its own merits.

Meanwhile, he acknowledges that his personal experience couldn't be justification for someone else and that it's the individual's own fault if they didn't have the same experience he has....and he does all of this while claiming that anyone who doesn't reach the same conclusions he's reached is unreasonable or possibly insane.

Clearly he has a different understanding of reason, than I do.

Common Sense, Ray, isn't what you seem to think it is. It's not a reliable pathway to truth, it's a visceral assessment of information with respect to what an individual already understands about reality. It's a quick, gut-check of whether or not the new information is likely to be reliable. It's not the end of inquiry, it's the first step - and until you're ready to go beyond that first step, you don't get to claim to be more reasonable or sane than those who do.

It's a tool that is forged from critical thinking skills and honed by inquiry and investigation. It's a tool that is dulled by appeals to absolute certainty and a stubborn refusal to change one's views as the evidence dictates. Refusing to recognize that there's a possibility that you're like leaving it sheathed.

I don't dislike Ray, though I know others do. Like a puzzle with a missing piece, he used to frustrate me and annoy me - because I was busy trying to solve it. Now, I'm just trying to find that missing piece.

If we do this again, I think I'd like to start by getting his take on logic, reason and fallacies. We may have to go back to basics before we have hope of moving forward.

So, there you have it. Not as eloquent as the Professor you were taunting, nor as sarcastic. If I get the opportunity, I'll ask Richard Dawkins how long he'd have lasted in that conversation before simply pointing out that it's pointless to attempt a discussion with an unreasonable, woefully uninformed buffoon who rigidly asserts his certainty while being blind to his credulity. One wonders if a child with his fingers in his ears is any less receptive to information that Ray.



  1. I am shocked, SHOCKED, that he didn't notice that his every argument was demolished.

  2. Ray Comfort said look at the beauty of the trees, birds, seasons etc.

    What I was thinking "look at the beauty of earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, meteorites, and diseases & plagues."

    I wonder why Ray didn't mention these? (I know why)

  3. At some points I just wanted to face-palm at some of the things Ray was saying. I think you two handled it very civilly.

    I always find it funny that Christians talk about how faith is such a wonderful thing, and yet, in conversions with rationalists, they always say things like, "Well, atheists have faith in X," as if faith is now suddenly something reprehensible (which it is).

    It's as Matt always says, (most) religious people use reason/logic in every other aspect of their life, they just make a special exception for their particular version of religion.

    It's really odd (and somewhat entertaining) to watch them tap dance around questions like "How old do you think the earth is?" because they know exactly where all of the evidence points, and yet they have this pesky Bible telling them something contradictory to the facts.

  4. Yeah, it's somewhat amusing that he seems to think that he's run the gauntlet and is ready to resume his pursuit of gaining notoriety by having Dawkins address him.

    While I certainly don't consider us the front-line for Dawkins, it's simply absurd to think that after having your fallacies exposed on a public access show that you're somehow ready to take on one of the world's most prominent and sought-after atheists.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Matt, I just want to say you and Russel did a great job..far better than someone like Dawkins could hope to do. Dawkins is good at science but he is not a great debater. I think you are easily the best spokesman for our side out of everybody, including Hitchens & others. Keep it up. :)

  7. Matt: I know you guys were strapped for time, but to me it seemed a little unfortunate that you brought up that point with only a minute or two left. Specifically, for those of us who haven't read his book, we have no idea what you were arguing against.

    I am a major fan of yours, and a major anti-fan of the banana man. I fully trust that you didn't take anything out of context. But I don't suppose you could give us some context for your comments there, please? What does he say about the "major four" religions, and how doeshe presuppose the Bible?

  8. Also:

    > If I get the opportunity, I'll ask Richard Dawkins how long he'd have
    > lasted in that conversation before simply pointing out that it's
    > pointless to attempt a discussion with an unreasonable, woefully
    > uninformed buffoon who rigidly asserts his certainty while being blind
    > to his credulity.

    Unfortunately, Dawkins still has you beat on that front. He's lasted 70 minutes

  9. @eraugssi

    This may be what he's talking about:

    Why Christianity? (Way of the Master)

    Section: Inside the plane

  10. @JT: Seems to be. Also, wow, not only is that dishonest, it's OBVIOUSLY ineffective and wrong. W-(

  11. Well, hopefully a few fence sitters watching were exposed to how fallacious Creationism is. That's really all we can hope for, as I doubt anyone will be able to change Ray's viewpoint.

    Great job!

  12. @eraugssi:

    "What does he say about the "major four" religions, and how doeshe presuppose the Bible?"

    It's pretty simple. He wants us to consider them to determine which one of the 4 we should pick. He then assumes that the Bible is true and points out that Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam don't get you to heaven.

    My point was that one could point out that Christianity doesn't address your Karma, or your duty to Allah, etc.

  13. Ray mentioned that you can't be sure that a person is truly a christian, including himself, and that those you learn from may be deceiving you, then how does he know so well that he wasn't deceived by his own "interaction" with god in 1972 as well as with his religious mentors? How can he claim that he is a "real" christian?

  14. All Ray demonstrated is that he's not concerned with the truth, and is - in the respect that an experience of his that is apparently hallucinatory is causing him to otherwise ignore reality - actually insane.

    (I mean, we stick people in straight jackets for making poor life decisions based on the idea that imaginary characters talk to them. Why is Jesus different?)

    So good on that.

  15. Ray comfort has never been a very good apologist, if such a thing actually exists. He is just well known for being confrontational with atheists and wild publicity stunts.

    All his arguments have been consistent and straightforwardly flawed. Many pod casts I have listened to recommend Ray's arguments as a good starting level for counter-apologetics. Matt and Russel debating Ray was like employing a Navy SEAL team to teach a high school gym class.

    At least the onlookers can have fun taking apart the easy arguments and the show can cash in on some of the comfort "celebrity". Based on the evidence, expecting Ray to realize every one of assertions was demolished as he went is just expecting too much.

  16. Well Blasted thing ate my post. I hereby express anger.
    Comments about the show, abbreviated.
    Great Discussion
    Would have liked to hear Ray's answers to Russell. Matt made good points but stepped in over Russell's sometimes before he could make them. Would love to hear what Tracie would have said to him.

    Best moment was "You got me, I took a flu shot".

  17. the "common sense" argument is so ridiculous. Common sense used to state that a metal ship would sink and a metal object weighing tens of tons would never fly.

    But it's all sort of pointless to try to hold him to reason. He will argue for amusement and to annoy you, but if he is ever cornered, he will just fall back on the simple assertion that all these semantics are trivial because he knows God and you would agree with him if you did, too.

  18. Hopefully Ray will come on again some day. You guys spoke with him about different subjects, which was fantastic, but it might be interesting to spend an hour with him just on one topic. He loves to have the conversation bounce around from one thing to another--and that's because all his answers are canned soundbites. What throws him off is to discuss ONE point for an extended period of time. If you brought him on to discuss, say, evolution and only evolution, or, say, the authority of the Bible, I think he'd self-destruct. He's totally unable to have an actual conversation about these issues, let alone a debate.

  19. Favorite quote, just about 21:24 (on the podcast mp3 file):

    Matt: "Why do you believe in medicine and not on other aspects of science like evolution?"
    RC: "Because my health doesn't depend on it..."

    Which can be paraphrased as: "Because if I lie about this, I will freaking DIE! And if I lie about everything else, I'll be pretty much OK."

  20. That's a pretty good summing up of the show Matt. I thoroughly enjoyed the show live and watched it again this lunch time with a work colleague (who, as a science teacher, was very impressed by your definition of the 'scientific method' btw).
    As has already been said, Ray simply wasn't up to addressing any of your arguments in any meaningful way and I personally don't think he's at all bothered about that. I'm with Richard Dawkins and Martin and feel too much attention is given to this person who clearly isn't interested in the truth, having meaningful debates or any other type of philosophical discussion unless it promotes Ray Comfort. Ray Comfort's religion is simply Ray Comfort and if he's good at anyhting, he's good at taking advantage of opportunities that increase the fame, and ultimately the fortune, of the religion that is Ray Comfort.
    Why did he debate Thunderfoot? access Thunderfoot's 70,000 or so subscribers.
    Why has he decided to do the AE now after being asked numerous times in the past?.....because he now sees you in 'the big league' of atheists after being contacted recently by Richard Dawkins.
    He sees the Thunderfoot interview, the AE and the Pat Robertson show simply as stepping stones to increase his fame, notoriety and wealth (although I know he hasn't been directly paid at least for the first two of those) and will take whichever road is necessary to give him the narcissitic fix that I feel he so craves, even if it's through him looking like a buffoon from his banana gaffe.
    Ray Comfort is an enigma. He's incredibly egotistical but can be self depracating at the same time. He can be likeable but professes obnoxious opinions. He talks with feeling but his religious rhetoric is clearly shallow and meaningless and it's for these reasons that I believe him to be nothing more than a charlatan and a leech who lives off other people's hard work and more importantly, fame.

    PS. After just reading his delusional summing up of the show on his blog where he's attempting to put a positive spin on the evening's proceedings, it's simply reinforced my views about the man.

  21. The one thing I wish you hadn't brought up was abortion. Like Ray said, even if he wasn't a Christian he could argue against it. And I agree, even though I support it, there are good secular arguments against it. I think it would have been much better to bring up gay marriage, I know he is against it from reading his blog. That is much harder to argue against from a secular point.

    Still a very good job, plus I think I understand Ray's thinking a bit more. He seems to act like a conspiracy theorist. He has tapped into this secret knowledge: IE his personal experience with god. The rest of us are just being tricked by science. Which for him is like the government for someone who is into conspiracies. They don't think everything the government does is part of it, but there are branches that do.

    Which is why he is able to accept things like medicine, while rejecting things like evolution.

  22. I tell ya, you just can pin this guy down on anything. It's rather telling to read his blog and his "interpretation" of the events - it all seems pretty smarmy and passive-aggressive. After conceding point after point, and backpedaling with terrible analogies, and agreeing that they don't work, he still manages to think (or at least try to sell) that he somehow didn't get his ass handed to him.

    I'd love to hear him on the show again, but from an organizational standpoint, if he's just going to use the appearance to pine after "bigger fish" like Dawkins (and I use quotes because I, like many, don't think Dawkins is that good of a debater), then I might kindly tell him to fuck off. However, I guess it swings both ways in that the AE gets some attention brought in its direction as well.

    If the opportunity does arise though, I agree with Matt that you should really nail down some definitions of logic and reason with him - but be sure to add one thing: get him to answer whether or not he cares about honest, demonstrable truth. All of which needs to be done before any further discussion begins.

  23. I just watched that Dawkins vs Creatiost woman thing on youtube, and it was painful to watch. I think he could do sixty minutes with Ray hands easily. I think he patience was honed by being an educator, answering stupid questions every day.

  24. Well stated, Matt. I really wish you guys could get him down there some day, because I would love to be there for that.

    I listened to the show today and you guys did a good job of showing his hypocrisy and that his own validation for Christianity is just his special revelation. You only had so much time and both you and Russell did a good job of keeping him on point and not letting him dodge questions.

    I can't wait to get down there and see you guys again.

  25. The part of the interview that bothered me the most was when he said Matt was never really a Christian. It's such a ridiculous catch-all.

  26. "The one thing I wish you hadn't brought up was abortion."

    On reflection, I should have gone with same-sex marriage. It's a slightly better line to take.

    That said, my point wasn't that Christians are anti-choice and atheists are was that the beliefs have impact and when people take actions to legislate their opinions in a way that violates other people's rights, they're part of the problem.

    Incidentally, anti-choice secularists are often part of the problem, too.

  27. Great show guys, I know some people didn't enjoy that show as much as others in the past, but no matter how good the interviewers are a bad guest is simply a bad guest.

    In regards to your point to Ray about the negative political influence of religion, perhaps another aspect you could talk about is the proposal to teach Creationism in schools. I'm pretty sure Ray would vote for someone promising to do that and would be a easy point to use to illustrate the absolute negative impact this would have.

    Again, top work Matt & Russel, you guys are brilliant to watch and I look forward to seeing you guys on Ustream each week more than my favourite shows on regular TV.

  28. I found watching the show frustrating at times, precisely because Comfort waltzed right by several points that should have been game-enders. I understand that the hosts were attempting to be civil and allow Comfort to have his say, but I wish they would have called more explicit attention to Comfort’s errors and spent more time explaining precisely why they are errors.

    For example, every single time Comfort fell back onto “well, god has revealed it,” the hosts should have reminded him, “but we’re talking about how to demonstrate it to someone without the experience of direct revelation” and made him re-answer the question without falling back onto revelation. I know the point was established once at the very beginning of the hour, but the point needs to be reinforced every time he tries to weasel out of defending his claims.

    A debate is, presumably, intended to be directed toward those who are on the fence, who are to be swayed to one side or another. While the flaws of things like the argument from ignorance and the watchmaker argument are clear as day to any atheist watching the program (who has probably spent some time thinking about them before), I would imagine that these flaws are not immediately apparent to the average person who may or may not be watching this debate in the future.

    The speed at which things like the watchmaker argument were covered and then swept aside somewhat startled me, and I think it would have been useful to spend some more time discussing the elementary flaws in these arguments (though I understand that time was an issue).

    At any rate, I think both Matt and Russell did a commendable job handling the call/interview, and they should take my comments as “constructive criticism,” if they take them as anything at all. There were a few moments in the discussion that I thought were particularly good, including the two analogies (evolution vs. language and Comfort’s acceptance of medical science vs. his non-acceptance of a science that doesn’t suit him). Again, I wish the point of these nice analogies was hammered home more clearly for a viewer who is not already an atheist, but they were very nicely made.

    I enjoyed the show, and I look forward to seeing other debate-style episodes in the future, if any other apologist is brave enough to call in.

  29. I was surprised nobody brought up the infinite regress of Ray's "something can't come from nothing" argument. He either has to explain why God doesn't apply to this and concede that at least one thing comes from nothing, or be left with the same uncertainty he "dislikes" that the atheists have.

    He also insinuated that Christians such as himself were more moral than everyone else many times without it being questioned.

    Other than those two things great job though, I learned a lot about what Ray is all about from this.

  30. I watched the episode tonight. That was a pleasure.

    On a side note, I loved the language analogy, because I am a bit of a linguist myself.

  31. I don't think Dawkins is a great debater and he certainly wouldn't be familiar enough with Ray's ridiculous routines to make the debate worth anyones time.

    Hitchens would be much more entertaining.

  32. Please be sure Matt and Russel get this.
    I also wish you could have had 90 minuets with Ray, but with the time constraints you were under, I was absolutely stunned at how efficiently you were able duke it out with him.

    So methodically do you correct, not only what is wrong with whatever point he attempts to make, but the MEANS by which he attempts to make it. This is truly what you bring to the table. if i had to watch him debate someone who would simply rebut his point i would have been screaming at my computer "he doesn't get to make that point! back up back up! that dosn't deserve rebuttle!"

    So thank you, Matt and Russel. It may have been a lost cause, but it may also be a sixty minuet milestone in your cause. a turning point in HIS career at the very least.

    Oh and by the way =] I saw your eyes gravitate towards that hold button so many times... .i feel your pain, man, I feel your pain.

  33. You guys did a great job. I think Ray Comfort has a dumb ray that makes everyone who hears him a little bit dumber and you were able to combat it well.

  34. Thank you AE for arranging this debate and special thanks to Matt, Russell and Ray for hosting/guest-ing.

    Just my two cents inspired by the comments of others...

    Apologists don't debate atheists for the goal of converting decided atheists or finding truth, but rather to confirm and repeat the agreed constructed narrative of their religious in-group. Deeply indoctrinated Christians would have believed Comfort "won" because they heard him use their narratives and catch-phrases. Very much like a political line "Repeat, and when it's debunked, repeat again: victory goes to whoever speaks last." Argumentum Ad Nauseam is a theist's best friend.

    Considering that the purpose of debates by people like Comfort is to retell theistic narrative, it's much easier to see why apologists stick to such painfully flawed stories like "personal feelings of revelation beats objective evidence for reliability"; self-refuting narratives like the Watchmaker argument; and theistic wordplay like describing Biblical creation story timelines as “more precise" instead of being "unchanging". They're debating to reinforce narratives rather than to test the validity of ideas.

    The only way to really subvert the narrative of a theist is to turn the narrative on its head... which becomes less viable as the theist becomes more indoctrinated. This is probably why the most indoctrinated are baffled by falling church numbers and rising atheism despite all the retellings and debates, while all the undecided are listening to the discussions and deciding for themselves that theistic narratives don't hold.

    Such debates are thus really for the minds of the undecided whose choice is between "Narratives that will provide comfort and consistency but are often invalid and unreliable" and "Ideas that will provide reliable information but that are constantly under review making them intellectually and emotionally challenging".

    This is why the patience and continuing calm debunking of poor logic; bad ideas; myth mislabeled as fact; and pseudo-science is so important. And the whole team at AE is fantastic at doing just that - keep up the great work.

  35. While you went a bit easier on him than he deserved, I understand the need to at least attempt civility. A good show, it just flew by.

  36. Does Ray really believe the crap he says?
    Who knows.
    Is he really as stupid as he sounds?
    Who knows.

    Does he have a huge following?
    Does he make money from propagating stupidity?
    Is he richer than all the AE hosts put together?

  37. My biggest problem with Ray's argument is the supposition that the universe, and therefore everything, was "created", and then starts his argument. That is step #2. Step #1 is to prove, or at least demonstrate, why you think that the universe was created, as opposed to always existing. If we start with the idea that nothing was "created", the universe has always, and will always, exist, then that negates his whole painter, watchmaker, creation argument

  38. Ray's a solid talker. I think an average religious person wouldn't have thought he did terribly.

  39. I would like to see another episode with Matt Vs Ray that starts with "Tell us what you believe and why you believe it." and ends with "No, no, no! You're done." :)

    Overall, AE is a great show and this was one of the best episodes. So good, I watched it again tonight. Matt and Russell covered several topics and were very civilized. Ray was rather accepting and accommodating, but I think that that is merely because he is SO deluded by his beliefs that nothing will sway them. If God really appeared before Ray and said that Ray was wrong, Ray would not agree.

  40. It has been mentioned a couple of times that Richard Dawkins is an excellent scientist, but
    does not have strong debating skills. There is a clip from The Young Turks in which Cenk Uygur comments on a conversation between Bill O'Reilly and Richard Dawkins. I found it really quite interesting and informative. It is called--Bill O'Reilly Debates Against Science - and WINS! Don't be put off by the title. It explains how O'Reilly uses his well developed debating skills to--flip arguements on their head, ignore logic, and use emotion and debating tactics to his advantage. He does it well. I think that Matt and the AE team would be the perfect ones to take on bill O'Reilly. They wouldn't let him get away with his tricks. It would be great fun to watch Bill O'Reilly spinning his wheels trying to regain control of the conversation.

  41. As I was listening to the podcast today, I there was one bit that made me stop and go back, was when Ray was dismissing science because it changes over the years. Then Matt counters with the fact that the same thing applies to medicine, and Ray admits that he relies on medicine in spite of it changing all the time, and the reason he does that is that his life depends on believing in medicine. I think that was a much bigger concession than was made of it. Of course, being that there is nothing logical about Ray's total argumentation, I doubt this would phase him.

  42. Hi friend,
    I'm Sagar Gorijala from India. I'm an Atheist with a difference and it's I actually proved that god(s) can't exist and I want rest of the World to know my theory and couldn't achieve it and as a fellow Atheist I seek your help in doing so. Here is my theory
    Honestly this won't be something that consumes or wastes your precious time, it's worth more than gold or diamonds. It's for real and this time around theists can't fool around with their ignorance. It has been more than ten long years and I couldn't let the World know my theory. I started it in 1999 December - 2000 January and had it ready in the month of January 2000 since then I tried a lot but couldn't let rest of the World know my theory. If there is a way to join hands with your blogroll please let me know. We are fellow atheists and I need your help.

  43. Everything he said was just a big circle.

    A Christian is a person who believes God. And you know a person believes God because they're a Christian.

    Everything God says is true. You know this because it's in the Bible. And you know the Bible is true because everything God says is true.

    The universe has a creator because it is a creation. And you know it is a creation because creations have creators. And things that have creators are obviously creations. Ergo, the universe has a creator.

    People have souls because they have life. Life is a soul because a soul is also life. Therefore, an afterlife exists (WTF?)


    Of course, I'm just paraphrasing from my own understanding of what he said, but his answers never really had much more depth than that.

    It's like his head is inside of a box. And no matter how simply you try to explain the fallacy of his argument, he just can't understand because it exists in the space outside of the box. And because it's a very small box, his thoughts, and therefore his explanations, are never going to be any wider or deeper than what the sides allow him.

    If you try to tell him to make an argument that doesn't have the presupposition of a god being real, not only would he be unable to do so (for obvious reasons), but he must think you incredibly foolish for requesting it. After all, how can you ask or answer a question about anything when God is everything? Everything he says is just going to come back around to that presupposition.

    Obviously it's very frustrating to listen to, but at the same time kind of sad that a grown adult man can be reduced to such a state of mind just by being exposed to really bad ideas.

  44. I can't help feeling he doesn't believe a word he says.There's just something about him which really makes me doubt his sincerity particularly when I see him on video,but then Poe's Law and all that.

  45. @Matt, Russ, & Crew. Awesome show with the Banana Man! Definitely a part II is neccessary. Solid rebuttals and questions and you guys never let him slither out! When will Kirkoduck be calling in? I watch you guys on YT all the time! All you guys are awesome!


    Video is up

  47. Matt D said: He wants us to consider them to determine which one of the 4 we should pick. He then assumes that the Bible is true and points out that Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam don't get you to heaven.

    My point was that one could point out that Christianity doesn't address your Karma, or your duty to Allah, etc.

    That reminds me of the kid a few years back who, as a science project IIRC, set out to "prove" that Christians were more moral than anyone else. He did, sort of, but sadly the biggest flaw in his methodology was that he used only the 10 Commandments as a basis, putting anyone who does not adhere to some form of Abrahamic religion at a slight disadvantage.

  48. Matt & Russell -- As a practicing trial lawyer, I think you guys were masterful in your Ray Comfort interview. When a witness is determined to be evasive, the best you can do is pin him down on key points, which you did exceptionally well.

    What you ought to do now is go through and annotate the transcript with Ray's concessions (e.g., that the biblical "kind" is the scientific "species").

    Anyway: great job. It's almost impossible to make headway when someone is determined to lie and evade, and you successfully threw Ray off script again and again.

  49. Hi, this is Aaron from Malaysia. I don't get to call in because of the time difference but I download your podcasts religiously (lol!).

    This was a great show! I've listened to it twice already. Matt and Russel did a great job. Their styles really complemented each other and both had moments of brilliance.

    Ray is really good at what he does. He doesn't try to convince the listener into agreeing with him. Instead he uses his random sound byte approach to confuse the listener.

    Matt and Jeff's strategy (was it premeditated?) of never actually going in for the kill proved to be the best against a person like Ray. If they went and whacked him royally on any particular point it would have killed the rest of the discussion and he could go back and claim that they were ignorant of his full message. This way, just about every angle has been covered. Watch (or listen) to the episode again and you'll see what I mean.

    Anyway, great job guys! Hope you guys do a deconstruction of the debate on the NonProphets one of these days.

  50. To be a critic of Science's process of converging on correct answers is to have a problem with the very act of learning, itself.

    When we build maps of geographic locations, we often start with rough outlines and sketches, and as we gather more data, the map is refined. There is no other way to approach knowledge. The map isn't wrong because we improve it.

    We don't say that a person just learning how to play a violin is invalid because they don't start out at 100% at time=0. That would be asinine. The fact they change (improve) over time, isn't an invalidation of their ability to play reasonably well at time=3years. Nor is the fact that they'll be even better at time=10years invalidate their ability at time=3years.

    This objection to science is inane.

  51. I would love to ask Ray, if he would agree that it's possible, Satan (or Loki) is trying to deceive him in his "knowing the truth". That's the problem with personal experience - no one can verify your claims, especially if they don't mesh with reality.

  52. Oh and next time: PIN him down on one subject! It was like watching you trying to catch a rabbit.

  53. To me, the most telling point of the show, was when he asked about the beginning of the universe.  He specifically told Matt he couldn't say "I don't know".
    That's really his entire worldview in a nutshell.  The thought of not having absolute certainty is repulsive to him, you could hear that in his voice.

  54. Watching the interview a second time, I think it was a good stategy to be more polite than aggresive. That might increase the chance of more high profilic nutcases calling in. "People don't like to sit on chairs where somebody else has already pissed on."

    Nevertheless it was a good demonstration what a buffoon Ray is.

  55. @way12go - Speaking as an atheist and a scientific layperson, your "theory" falls short of worthy of the title. It's a page of bald assertions, many of them in contradiction with the best information that the most learned experts in their fields have found. Not that they're automatically right just because their experts, but they've got evidence. You don't. You have a list of bald assertions and a few syllogisms, both without evidentiary support. You've done little more than make an ontological argument with the opposite conclusion.

    Bad argumentation is bad argumentation, whether or not we agree with your stated conclusion.

  56. I'm sorry to say that I found this last video "unpleasant" to watch, to the point where I turned it off half way through.
    Maybe this was my mistake and Ray actually made an interesting argument later on but the "pain" on hearing decades old arguments regurgitated again and again was just to much.

    (for amusement sake, once you guys get your CGI up and running I suggest a tally board so you can record any time you hear a repeat of an already refuted argument)

    The issue I feel with professional apologists like Ray Comfort is that he has a financial interest dependant on promoting his doctrine.
    Even if you show the problems with his arguments he will never concede them because his financial well-being is dependant on them.

    This unfortunately makes for boring conversation/debate as the same old (broken) tools are brought out again and again to prop up their world view.
    There is no value in that conversation except for the apologist, and only for their own self promotion.

    Anyway, sorry for the negativity but Ray is somewhat an embarrassment as I to am from Christchurch.
    So I apologise for inflicting Ray on the rest of the world. (You Yankees can take responsibly for Kirk though)

  57. Ray comfort is absolutely correct. You can never take down a presupposition

  58. I almost fell over laughing when Ray said something like "Oh you're not going to quote some book..." re scientific evidence.

  59. You had a ninja debate, defeating Ray without him even knowing.

  60. Is Comfort his real name? I mean... really? Because... yeah.
    So anyway, I get that the target audience in debates tends to be the bystanders rather than the opposition, but AUGH! How can you stand to converse with such a person? How do you not lose your temper with someone who sits through your logically thought out and examined arguments before saying essentially, "I think you're wrong, therefore you are." How?
    You guys deserve medals for surviving the brown tide.

  61. Giving Comfort time is equal to giving him money.

    Every time he gets atheist attention, he gets more money from his cult followers.

  62. I thought the host choice was great and you guys did a great job. I don't think it would have been professional or lasted very long if you would have insulted his ideas like some of the youtube fans wanted. It's better to let him talk/discuss both his and your side. Its obvious to us that he's the unreasonable one when he says he can't take science of faith yet he never saw the resurrection and yet he believes that with absolute certainty.

    I thought it was great to find out that he does accept science as long as it doesn't disprove whatever it is he believes. His rebuttle saying his health didn't have an impact on his beliefs is a lie though. Why would he get medical treatment or see a doctor regularly for antibiotics if he thought this god stuff is real? He is one of the only "true christians" out there. Dude would just pray for healing.

  63. My only complaint is that you gave Ray as a 'professional' guest more freedom than others. If he was just a caller you would have interrupted to clarify the points rather than 'let me finish' ad nausium.

  64. "Common sense" dictates that the sun goes around the Earth. Just look at the sky! Don't believe the science; unless I see the Earth from afar and watch it go around, I won't believe you.

    I find this to be a useful argument when confronted with this claim.

  65. I try to think to myself: how could he see himself as victorious? Could it be that Matt acknowledged that "even the most intelligent man on the face of the earth can't create a grain of sand from nothing?". Was it because Matt acknowledged that science can be wrong?

    As a former Christian, in my fallacious thinking, I would have celebrated these concessions victoriously.

    Having so many activities in your daily life revolve around trying to convince people to "put on their parachute" and celebrating your own parachute, it becomes easy to look over your presumptuousness. In fact, with enough activity revolving around it, you become completely oblivious to it.

  66. This is for Russell and Matt:

    Go to Youtube and search on Relativity of Wrong, posted by c0nc0rdance. It is a version of Isaac Asimov's famous response to someone on why, when science is "wrong", it is different than the common use of the word wrong.

    Science successively approximates reality. Moving closer to the truth is part of the process. I know both of you know this, but you may enjoy Asimov's articulation of the issue.

  67. I’ve been directed several times by my atheist/skeptic buds to your show. Really enjoy it. From a critical perspective, you guys do a good job of accessing the regular folk. I personally wish all atheists stayed within the “angry white elitist guy” framework . . . a reluctant kudos for the exodus.

    Curious on a few points:

    A. Outside of Comfort’s general mediocrity in discussing evolution (it’s a Calvinist/Sola Scriptura problem), why the conflation of “evolution = no God” and “evolution = unnecessary God?” Your advocacy clearly suggests the former.

    B. The language analogy. I don’t get it. Language is a cultural construction. By definition it requires a shared origin. Your analogy assumes evolution requires agreement?

    C. On evolution proper: Why is it so hip to use evolution as a valued decision calculus? At worst it’s racist, at best it’s anthropocentric. Why do you think science abandoned humyn genus grouping 20 years ago and is silent on “advancement” rhetoric? Yet the atheist spends so much time on its “progressive, moral and intellectual value.” It’s still cool to save the dolphins, but screw the porpoise? I say leave it in the lab and save us from a future filled with Firefly class smuggling ships and nasty Reaver Zombies.

    D. On God and Slavery: Why is scriptural hermeneutics held to a higher standard of “evolution” than your interpretation of science? You concede that knowledge is always in transition, why does the Christian have to stay neatly placed inside the Sola Scriptura box, regardless of epistemology? BTW: Where in the Bible does it say that the Bible is the inerrant word of God (with some kind of grammatical/interpretive harness)? Maybe Moses fucked up on slavery—so did Thomas Jefferson. Would it logically follow that Moses couldn’t have a relationship with God? If so, Thomas Jefferson couldn’t have a relationship with Democracy. And for your delight, assume both are equally pretend flying tea pots full of spaghetti on the dark side of the moon.

    Not sure how long my comment can be. . . I’ll continue later. Again, show is cool.

  68. Great debate, Matt and Russell.

    Pastor: The evidence suggests that grains of sand arose from shells and rocks ground down over millions of years, after the earth was formed by the sun, after the sun was formed from stars that exploded, after the universe created stars from expanding matter, after the universe was formed, after the Big Bang occurred, from an infinitely tiny singularity with infinite gravity. In other words, a grain of sand was not formed from nothing but from something, and is has a long history of pedigree that ends in a question about whether the universe formed from something as well. It is certainly no proof that a particular version of a particular god created a grain of sand from nothing thus showing itself to be superior to humans in at least that respect. The logical corollary is "Can god create an Irish Stew without help from a human?"

  69. Matt:

    I was a little perturbed that you told Ray that you had never met "god" and that your extension to this was almost lost in Ray's gleeful babbling at the apparent concession.

    If Ray had asked me whether I had met "god" I would have replied with something like "I was once quite convinced that I had. It seemed that I had believed the right things and said the right prayers and had all the right signs that god had accepted me. But now that I understand how easily the brain can fool itself, especially when it is feeling ecstatic, I realize that it was just a delusion. How do _you_ know that your similar convictions are not just as much a normal human brain failing?

  70. Even though I had a transcript of the show posted on the Iron Chariots forum on Tuesday. I just finished doing a final listen through and edit on it now.

    In the process of doing this, I have come up with a few observations.

    When I saw how many word transpositions, and simple paraphrases that I had made while typing, it made me wonder how much does a story change when it is taken down days, months or years later if I made these errors just seconds after hearing the actual spoken words? Even if some events of the Bible did happen, how accurately can they really be represented? I know this is not a new idea, but this really highlighted it for me again.

    Ray was not exactly what I expected, at times he actually comes off as a gentleman. A gentleman that I feel sorry for, because his preconceptions keep him from seeing the simple beauty that is evolution, and understanding the true method of science. He has no way of seeing how much wonder he is missing out on in life.

    Also, I think Matt doesn't realize his own genius. One of my favorite parts that illustrates this was just after he gave Ray the analogy of evolution to language.

    Ray- OK

    Matt- OK, ... the ... I wasn't expecting an OK

    It was elegant, and I think Ray did actually understand some of it, but I don't think he retained it or followed it all the way through, very sad.

    And Russell, after coming in at all the right times you would then craft a question to control the flow and try to coax some actual thought from Ray, the Socratic method, brilliant.

    Thank you both for an excellent show.

  71. Once Ray pulled the beautiful flowers proof, yall were sunk.

    I fell to my knees and knew the lord.

  72. Rosemary:
    A good point. And what surprised me was, that Matt has given a similar answer like yours before. So I'm puzzled why he didn't insist on the fact that he then believed to be communicating with god.
    This wouldn't have given Ray the opportunity to pull his 'no true christian" card. I guess it's a valid strategy but then you'd have to stress the point how he knows, he is right.
    I have to listen to it again, but I fairly shure, Ray didn't concede that he might be wrong and that is 'divine' experience in the 70's was a mild stroke or something other than a god reaching out to him.

  73. Scooter,
    Watch out for stinging bees.

  74. This comment has been removed by the author.

  75. Not having yet listened to the discussion, I am hesitant to mention this as it may have been covered. However, reading the comments here it appears that Ray Comfort was willing to admit that he believed in medicine but not other areas of science that would contradict his views. Might that have been an opening to ask how he would explain the recent bacterial mutations that have created "superbugs" that are resistant to antibiotic agents? It seems to me this is a pretty good example of evolution being witnessed in a single lifetime by the medical field.

  76. I'm a bit disappointed by this interview, mainly because Ray Comfort was such an incompetent debater. Once you got past his soundbites, most of his arguments came across as ignorant, contradictory or hypocritical.

    Why can't Atheist Experience ever interview a real scientist is also a theist? At least maybe we can hear some novel theist arguments for once.

  77. SpaceBass,
    bacteria just won't do for these denialists. They'll sit back and smugly ask you to come back when you've got bacteria evolving all the way to a fish. The genetic trail and the plain plausibility of gradual change are something they are very good at ignoring.

  78. Penguinman: At least maybe we can hear some novel theist arguments for once.

    This presupposes the existence of such a thing. Much like the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot, any rumors of its existence have not been substantiated with evidence.

  79. Matt,
    In your interview with Ray Comfort, you asserted that abortion is an individual's right. As a long time viewer of AE, I know that your opinions are always based on well thought out reasons and I'm sure that you must have a rational argument for this stance as well. Unfortunately, I have never seen you specifically address your reasoning for this particular position. You'll have to forgive me if you have, but the sampling of videos on YouTube only encompass so much. This is not to say that you have not given some reasons for your position. You have asserted on more than one occasion that an individual has the right to do what she wishes with her own body and an outside party has no right to interfere with this. In this respect I agree with you. Yet you have also said in speaking with a caller regarding individual rights, "my freedom to swing my arm ends at your nose". Therefore, I must conclude that your opinion is that an abortion does not infringe upon anyone's rights. And this is where I seek further clarification on your position. In order for your position to be valid based on your above statement, this must mean that the fetus has no rights, or that they are at least superseded by the mother. The debate about when a group of cells/embryo/fetus becomes a person is nothing new, but I can at least infer that you do not recognize the personhood of the fetus. The distinction between what we recognize as a person and what we do not is crucial because to one we grant inalienable rights and to the other we simply do not. And this is where we get to the crux of your position. I would simply like to know your reason for not recognizing the personhood of a fetus. Surely it cannot be due to appearance. After all, there are plenty of deformed individuals that we still recognize as people who are deserving of rights. It must not also be due to cognitive abilities. No one would ever suggest euthanizing a mentally handicapped person simply because their developmental skills were impaired. Is it because the fetus would be unable to survive on its own and relies purely on the consent of the mother in order to continue living? I suppose a similar situation exists with those individuals in comas who would be unable to survive without life support. It may be humane to turn the machines off to let them die, but this is only done after it has been determined that they have no chance of ever recovering. A fetus, on the other hand, will develop into a fully functioning human if their life support is not turned off. I simply want to know your reason for not ascribing rights to a fetus as it seems to be the justification for your position on abortion. If it is not one of the aforementioned ones, surely there must be a rational argument you can give me for when we are to first recognize an individual's rights and, crucially, what distinctive change has taken place in order for us to do so.

    Thank you so much for the work that you and everyone else at AE do. It has truly helped me apply a higher standard of critical thinking within my own life and allowed me to seriously reconsider my views on much of what I simply held on faith for so very long.

  80. what was frustrating, for me, was the semantic trickery that Comfort kept using. He must have known he was being dishonest as he was using it as a trick out of corners so many times. When he (had to accept) the good evidence that you gave him, he said a quiet "OK", but then went on ignoring the implications of that evidence. As Matt picked up, he continually kept moving the goalposts. He is merely a con artist, with a better than average command of the English language, but he did not have the honesty to accept that he was trounced at every turn, but merely reverted to regurgitating the creationist soundbites...

    I don't think he is a gentleman at all, and I do think you were too polite to him several times. He is blatantly dishonest, & either willfully ignorant, or (more likely) cherry picking either scientific evidence, or even biblical narratives (his wriggle on slavery was awful).

    But thanks for a great show. I enjoy all the different hosts, and co-hosts on you show, living in South Africa, I hope one day to be able to come over to meet you all at the various different events you organise.

  81. You guys did a great job, far better I think than anyone else he has publicly spoken to.

    I think you guys would have been better off though not wasting time debating evolution with him. Thats his bread and butter, your not going to convince him or anyone else that listens to him. BUT you guys are the best in the world at talking about and exposing religion. How does he know that the god he says he feels/knows isn't Satan or Zeus or Thor or whoever?

    This guy loves to debate evolution, IMHO the debate went best when you you were on other subjects. (Except abortion! ouch lol)

  82. The best part for me was:

    Matt: Are you infallible?

    Ray: God is.

    Matt: Okay. But are you?

    Ray: Of course not.

    Matt: Could you be wrong about God?

    Ray: I could be wrong about God but God is not wrong.

    Matt: Okay. If you could be wrong about God and you are necessarily contingent on your own personal experience, how do you know you're right?

    Ray: Because for 22 years I was wrong! I had to admit my wrong(s) and say God is right, he is justified, I can trust him and I came to know him!

    That bit really tells you what kind of apologist Ray Comfort is. Essentially, he admits that he could be wrong about this mysterious experience with 'the Lord' on one day in the 70's at 1:30 in the morning (my guess is a mild stroke, btw), but right after that he claims, that his god cannot be wrong. Which has nothing at all to do with the question. You see perfectly here, how his defence mechanisms work.
    And to top it all, he knows, he is right because he thinks, he was wrong before this experience. And the the defence mechanism again: God is right, he is justified, I can trust him, blabla.

    That was so sweet! Thank you Matt!

    I would love to see a show devoted to this 'infallibility of god' concept. You could describe all the failings and trial and errors of Jahwe. And, of course, the moral implications of an infallible god in face of the horrific things happening on the planet.

  83. No offense to Russel, but i really wished that AronRa was your co-host.

  84. @sans-dieu

    Neuro-scientific study of conversion phenomena suggest that clinical or sub-clinical temporal lobe seizure is the usual culprit. Self- or other-induced transcendental states also apply. Such states involve the over activity of the left temporal lobes and sub-cortical systems that are involved in irrational love and the under-activity of right parietal regions involved in differentiating self from the external world and internal states with external reality.

  85. Ray wants an example of one species giving birth to a creature of a different species. I got one!!! (I think...)

    Mules!- Arn't they offspring of donkies and horses? So A horse species (Assuming it's the female)in this case gives birth to a non-horse.

    HA. That just occurred to me. I don't know any thing about farm animals and breeding them.

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  87. I love how you guys had bananas on the show. I still find it amusing that in the famous video clip he used a banana, which is ironically an example of evolution by artificial selection rather than a fruit that god supposedly gave us to eat.

  88. When a " Ray Comfort type" Can't see how ,in evolution, sea creatures can become land creatures. I don't see why using the life cycle of a frog, something they can relate to, wouldn't be proof that the mechanism for this is possible Any thoughts?

  89. it might help your audience. You have no hope of persuading a Ray Comfort type because they do not wish to be confused with facts. They have an emotional belief system that they cannot afford to give up so they will filter out, ignore, forget and twist anything that threatens this emotionally held view.

    The only way "in" is to deal with the emotional block. Very few atheist debaters try to do this.

  90. Good episode! I wish it was longer (not rushed) and more organized/structured though. It seemed like both sides were making equal number of points while... well... R. Comfort didn't make any.


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