Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mark/Bob/Thomas from London

I'm going to try to explain this very simply, because the amount of mail coming about this is staggering.

Basically, the claim is "Mark from Stone Church is also Bob and Thomas from London and I can't believe you guys can't figure this out. His accent was even obviously fake!"

Yes, the accent was horrible. Yes, it was probably Mark. So what do we do about that? We have NO caller ID. We can't prove that it's the same person. I can't know that he doesn't honestly believe what he's saying, even if he fakes an accent. I can't prove that ANYONE actually believes the shit they say on the phone.

But if the conversation is allowing us to make good points and the caller is cooperative, what reason do I have to ruin it by saying "I think you're a liar. I think you're that same 'Mark' guy..."? And what if I'm wrong?

It's simply a bad idea to go making accusations like that in the middle of the show, when I have no supporting evidence.

Curiously, people seem to hear "Mark's" voice everywhere. In addition to the three in the title there are one or two other callers who people feel are also the same guy. Sometimes I can hear the similarities, sometimes I can't.

Congratulations to those of you who can always hear it and always get it right (though I'm not sure how you know that you're right), but exactly what do you propose we do about it?


  1. I do, however, want to apologize for kicking people out of the chat room over this speculation during the show. It was kind of getting on my nerves, but I believe I was a little overzealous in this regard. This comes after some email discussion that I initiated with Matt and everyone else involved with the show.

    I also deleted one comment about it on the blog on Monday. Memoryhero, I'm sorry to you as well.

    I'm not totally convinced that it's Mark, but I'll keep an ear out as I host for the next two weeks.

  2. The problem is that God is real, but an evil bastard, and also lazy.

    He only made 1 soul, and tortures it for eternity by making it live every life. Every person who was murdered and tortured, every girl that was raped and every rapist, every theist caller and every atheist host, same person.

    The truth is, we are all Mark from stone church...AND THEN JON WAS A ZOMBIE!!!!

  3. Maybe Mark is Chris Langan, the 200 IQ Youtube genius deist to whom callers keep referring. He developed the CTMU proof of god; a proof so abstruse he cannot explain it. That would be a hoot.

    On a related note, I have developed a remote IQ test, which analyzes critical thinking in posts and video explanations, as well as other criteria such as the maturing of reasoning ability over time.

    While I won't provide the IQ's of specifics AE hosts, my testing suggests their IQ's range from 139 - 173.

    Applying my test to Mark - the self-proclaimed Mark, not suspected Marks - I arrive at an IQ of 107. His reasoning ability seems to have improved over successive calls. Most of the christian callers that I have examined range from 74 - 108. Atheist callers easily exceed the 120 IQ, likely due to their enhanced reasoning abilities.

    I wish Chris Langan would actually call in himself, so I could analyze his reasoning ability using my remote procedure. I'd be interested if he comes close to the AE hosts in pure intellect.

  4. Just listened to the latest episode and boy was that accent hilarious. Flowing in and out of Australian, British, and American.

  5. People need to brush up on the concept of professionalism.

  6. "if the conversation is allowing us to make good points and the caller is cooperative..."

    Agreed. As long as the caller isn't being too obtuse, keep it going. 99% is about the audience at home or online.

  7. Someone needs to tell Mark his omnipresent authority figure hates lies... If he's even a theist.

  8. I wouldn't worry about it. Even if it were proven that "Mark" has rung under a pseudonym a few times, I don't think there is anything worth doing.

    But if find this whole things kinda funny really. "Mark" is becoming a bit of a phantasm, lurking on the end of a phone who could strike at ANY TIME (during the weekly hour you do the show). :P

    Maybe some real Brits named Bob and Thomas should ring and pretend to be "Mark".

  9. Speaking of terrible accents, does anyone remember Jeff's AWFUL scottish accent on the Non-prophets? Painful.

  10. If someone is willing to stoop that low, let them for all I care. This constant speculation about "Mark" is a waste of time.

  11. @Mike

    I've had little interaction with Scottish humans, so Jeff sounded fairly authentic to me. But I'm easily impressed.

    .. the hell? My captcha code was "sucked".

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. I had a theist make a similar argument like what they got near the end of the show on the 14th. I think at first I was like them dumbfounded and had no idea what to say. They said since Christianity is the world's oldest religion then it must be true. My response after a quick Google search was well Hinduism is the world's oldest religion but just because something is old doesn't make it true. Their response was "why not it's logical like the kind of logic that you like so much". Theist can have a tendency to say things that are so bad that it is very difficult to come up with a proper response.

  14. @JT

    Haven't you ever heard Billy Connelly?
    Somehow Jeff managed to find a blend of Indian and Russian for his scottish accent. That's impressive.

  15. Yeah, you guys have to get caller ID. Have the studio manager call SW Bell and work that out. Seriously, it could come down to an issue of safety some day.

    Oh hell, what do you guys care, you're moving soon anyway.

  16. Wish you all could get it figured out. Listening to the same POE with the same arguments every week is getting annoying. He has a very distinctive tone to his voice, one that very few have. Glad I'm not the only person who feels this way.

  17. Do you have any particular solutions to offer as to how to accurately identify him, instead of just dropping anyone who sounds like him?

    How would you demonstrate the method is accurate?

  18. I have the answer... ask the CIA to do vocal analysis like they do on intercepted calls between terrorists and what-not. I'm sure they won't mind lending you the equipment.

  19. "Do you have any particular solutions to offer as to how to accurately identify him, instead of just dropping anyone who sounds like him?"

    A few ideas:

    1) Start doing call backs for callers that are suspicious. Just ask for their number, and call them back. You'll know right away if they are who they say they are. Even if you just call them from someone's mobile and have them switch lines for a second.
    2) If that can't be done. Start "inadvertently" mixing up the name and use prior names. See what the reaction is. Lying is difficult!
    3) Obviously the easiest way would be to get caller ID, and reject anonymous calls.

    Guessing maybe someone else has a better solution?

  20. Call back method would be great - have them email or leave a voicemail of 90 seconds with what they want to talk about, and leave a phone number. Then you call them at your convenience.

  21. I agree that as long as your conversations are thought provoking then you've won no matter what. But as with all poe callers, the conversation will never be as interesting as with those who genuinely believe what they say.

    That's why people care enough to email you about it, because if the caller isn't taking this shit seriously, then the short time you have can be spent better on those who are.

  22. I love all of these suggestions...and, in case you missed it, that's THICK sarcasm.

    I mentioned that we don't have Caller ID and people suggest we should get Caller ID. Why the fuck didn't I think of that? That's fucking GENIUS! I can't believe I've been doing a call-in show for 6 years, and actually explained to people that we don't have Caller ID and never once thought "Hey, why don't we get Caller ID?"

    How could I have been so stupid?

    The callback suggestion isn't realistic because:

    1. it limits callers to only those people who are willing to give out their phone numbers
    2. we can't make outgoing long-distance calls
    3. it's just an annoyingly cumbersome way to try to do a call-in show

    My favorite, though, is that I should just inadvertently start mixing up the names when talking to a caller that I'm suspicious about.

    I LOVE that! It's brilliant! There's absolutely no risk that I'll look like an unprofessional buffoon who can't remember a caller's name for 30 seconds and there's no way that people might find that insulting or rude.

    Oh!! (This is the beautiful part!) There are some people who think we've arranged this fake caller and there's absolutely no chance that calling him by another name might reinforce those suspicions or give YouTube idiots like Shock the opportunity to build more conspiracy theories.

    Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the attempts to help...but they almost all read the exact same way: like people who know nothing about the actual show simply assuming that we're a bunch of idiots that don't know what we're doing.

  23. Kenny: "Hi, I'm Kenny and according to this William Lane Craig proof I'm reading from, you atheists can't prove infininities."

    Matt: "Kenny, you're done."

    Kenny: "Okay, wait, I'm really Chris Langan...."

    Chat Room: "It's really Mark from Stone church."

  24. Now that Denis Markuze has been arrested, I'm wondering if these calls will stop... :)

  25. Matt has said it before, and has said it again here, as long as the call is progressing, who the he'll cares who it is and how much of the show it takes up.

    In typing up a few transcripts of Mark of the Iron Chariots wiki, I have listened to quite a bit of Mark. I have to listen to the same section many times to make sure I get the wording just right, and on hearing Bob/Thomas etc I may even think, "holy shit, I think this is Mark" It doesn't mean it is though. I got bored with Mark, and never finished the conversations with the austin stone thread because all of a sudden he was too eager to please or something like that.

    But honestly, if these sound a likes are covering new ground, or having conversations that are progressing, then who the hell cares who it is. There are a lot of people in the world, some may sound alike. Chill already.

  26. should be "who the hell cares". damn auto correct!

  27. "I mentioned that we don't have Caller ID and people suggest we should get Caller ID. Why the fuck didn't I think of that? That's fucking GENIUS! I can't believe I've been doing a call-in show for 6 years, and actually explained to people that we don't have Caller ID and never once thought "Hey, why don't we get Caller ID?"

    I was joking.

  28. It was suggested more than once, Anna. :)

  29. @Anna,

    Nice save.

    Matt I'm surprised you can remember the names of people you've not met before though a dense conversation at all. I'm sure I'd forget pretty quickly.

  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

  31. It's interesting, people throwing around this little name "oh, he's a poe, she's a poe..." when that very phrase comes from a social theory that irrational fundamentalism and parodies of it are indistinguishable. It's a social theory I for the most part hold to be true, and when someone suggests that we do our best to "reveal" the fakers...well, I just don't see why we should care. To dispel Irrational arguments from someone that does not believe them is still beneficial to all. Even if said argument is painfully easy to dispel under the weight of it's absurdities, it can still breed further discussion of interest to all (or protect someone that'll believe just about anything, and trust me, they DO exist).

    What do I propose you do? I propose you do nothing about something with no effect on the free exchange of ideas within the show, matt.

  32. Glad I checked the blog first, just listened to the podcast, and was sure that the speech patterns of Thomas were very close to those of Mark (accent aside!) Was about to write an email to ask just this question, I'll spare your inbox the traffic!

    I have to say, that after having Beth on last week and showing us all her first prank call, you really were setting yourself up to get a faker or two this week anyway. [Maybe Mark/Thomas was hoping to mary you? jk]

    Great show, thanks

  33. Oh, and yes, I definitely thought he was an Aussie in a few places. he certainly had that accent well lubricated - it was slipping all over the place. We'll never be able to make a plane that can travel around the world as fast as his accent did!

  34. Their response was "why not it's logical like the kind of logic that you like so much"

    There are some pretty weird definitions of logic floating around. I've noticed that many people think that logic is any argument that includes the word "therefore"

  35. I don't understand why the fuck people are so hung up on this Mark guy anyway. Last weekend's show was great, IMO--several callers who called in to disagree, and the conversation didn't degenerate into shouting and anyone being kicked off the line. IIRC one guy left in a huff, but I think he and every other caller would have to admit they got a fair chance to talk.

    It's like calling this or that is obviously a POE...the whole point of Poe's Law being, you can't know that you've spotted a faker because there's always someone out there who's both equally dumb and sincere about it.

    I mean, hell--go poke at this guy:

  36. I concur. If you can figure out it's a poe, it's not a poe.

  37. Poe isn't necessarily equivalent with fake religious person.
    The idea is that parody of fundamentalism becomes indistinguishable from real fundamentalism.

  38. yet, with all that said, you do realize that it feels kind of awkward for the audience to listen to a conversation where theres a much-higher-than-usual chance that the caller himself is just playing a game, right? i can understand how this topic must be going on everybodys nerves, but, well, the mere fact that so many people get so distracted by this is a clear sign that...that it is f*****g distracting ;-) of course you can say "then all these people just need to take a chill pill", sure.

    but think of it another way - if you were asked: if you COULD tell that a caller is fake with sufficient certainty (and dont YOU ever bring up a 100% certainty type argument here please ;-), what would you do? judging from past shows, i think you would hang up on him right away for entering the conversation with a lie, no?

    now regarding the phenomenon (is that how you say it in english?) that so many viewers always seem so certain about a caller being - for example - mark, i dont think this can be brushed off by simply saying people arent questioning their perception enough here. i think this has also a lot to do with acoustics. *of course* its harder to tell for the people in the studio, who hear the caller over a speaker system that needs to be setup with full duplex operation and "feedback-freeness" in mind...the usual viewer, on the other hand, listens to the broadcast mix which usually is pretty consistent, and over his own stereo which he knows inside out. so i think one could very well assume that in fact it IS easier to tell for the viewer than for the hosts. i just cant help it, many of the examples that have been discussed here lately, they really felt extremely obvious, to the point where the AE crew insisting that you cant know for sure seemed almost surreal, in a "ok then, how obvious would it have to get?" way.

    am i going anywhere with this? i dont know. maybe i just want to say, dont dismiss the audience feedback 100% here, and ask yourself if you *really* dont care at all whether a caller is fake or not, or if you do care at least bit and shouldnt just "give up" and go along with it.
    i.e. imagine in the next show theres another caller where you arent sure, but the chatroom yet again screams "mark! mark!!! its f****g mark again!!!"...would it really hurt to flat out confront the guy with a sentence like "i do have a feeling you have called several times before with different names, whats up with that anyway?" and see how "realistically" he reacts? youve done this before, and i dont think it ever hurt, on the contrary, sometimes that was all that was needed to show a person that they cant fool around at random with you and made them stop.

    and i think many people would NOT miss mark at this point. the lame ass fake arguments where he seems to just go from one clichee to the next ("so where do you get your morals from?" yeah, right, you sound so convincingly concerned!) are really getting old, and at least for part of your audience, it does damage the show. just a tiny bit, sure, but still :)

    sorry for the bitching ;-) naturally comes with a certain amount of fandom, i guess ;-)

  39. It's not a dismissal. Having more and more people explain real hard that it's annoying doesn't do anything to help. It's not like the hosts of the show need to be convinced to do something.

    It's not a question of 100% certainty either. It's a question of consequences. They don't want to incorrectly hang up on legit theists.

    So far, all we have is a guild of people who claim to be able to correctly identify him without any way of verifying. Even if they're 85% accurate in being able to identify Mark, it's not worth the 15% collateral damage, especially when the calls themselves can generate some good.

  40. If the purpose of the show is to not necessarily convince the caller of his/her faulty thinking but to provide a forum for theistic listeners to hear good arguments, then who cares if the callers are Poes? Even if it is "Mark" all the time, the theists don't know that- all they hear are excellent rebuttals by the staff.
    But seriously,no callerID? I have had it for over 20years now, didn't know it was possible NOT to have it!!

  41. I'd kind of like to hear this Chris Langan cat get a proper take-down on the show sometime. He should probably have an Iron Chariots entry as well.

  42. Even if i think that this is odd, i cant make myself care for who is talking in the phone with the hosts of the show, it can be Mark/Mickey/Jesus, if they bring something worth to the table, and make it a good call, iam all for it.

  43. I'd kind of like to hear this Chris Langan cat get a proper take-down on the show sometime.

    There's no argument to take down. It's just a load of bollocks, spiced with big words and a dash of deliberate obfuscation.
    Further, none of the people who claim that it's a great argument seem capable of explaining what the argument actually is.

    Until otherwise demonstrated, I'm of the opinion that Langan doesn't have an argument at all. If I'm wrong, then please describe, in your own words, what his argument is.

  44. Yeah, when I heard Bob (I haven't heard Thomas yet; was that from this week?), my first thought was, "MARK!!!" Glad it's not just me thinking that. I had considered emailing just to see if the hosts agreed, but decided against it because they should be addressing the arguments, not the person. (Unless they are Charlie bringing up the same gibberish time and time again.)
    As for Chris Langan, I looked at his Wikipedia page. It smelled of rotten fish. Seems the guy had 15 minutes of fame 10 years ago and is now with DI, I recall (correct me if I'm wrong).

  45. Yes, "Thomas" from the latest episode of TAE was definitely "Mark" of Austin Stone fame; I picked up on this right away. Of course I can't claim that with 100% certainty but I have an excellent ear for voices, especially ones that I've heard more than once such as Mark's. "Thomas" is the only caller I've heard that made me perk up and think "Mark", and instantaneously at that.

    Having lived in England for most of my adult life what I can say with almost 100% certainty is that his dialect is not from any region I'm familiar with. It's definitely not a London or cockney accent, nor is it the Southern UK, Cornish, Liverpool, Manchester, or any other region with distinct, regional accents. In my opinion, the accent was faked, and furthermore, that it was Mark (or someone impersonating Mark in a bad British accent which makes even less sense).

    Does it matter? No, of course not. It doesn't matter because he's asking questions that any theist could ask and Matt is still giving the same relevant answers. It's educational either way so who cares? Personally I think Mark adds his own entertainment value to the show and isn't causing any harm. Whatever his intentions at least he's polite, doesn't interrupt, and at least provides interesting conversation.

  46. I don't care if the same guy is calling. It doesn't matter.

  47. I found it funny how much of a big deal some people on here were making of it, especially after the "Bob" call. I now feel reasonably okay thinking they're the same guy, but no, it doesn't really make much of a difference. Just that we the audience have our suspicions raised regarding this particular guy (if it is the same guy). I don't think it's worthy of being complained about, but it was still worth putting out there, especially after the last call. All told, it was a damned good show, though I'm personally jonesing for a Tracy Harris show with good callers - it's been too long!

  48. @Lukas:

    I don't have the slightest clue what his argument is. I just think that because a number of theists seem to be latching on to him as an appeal to authority, he deserves some attention. If only just to point put that, like you said, he's an incoherent mess.

  49. "Does it matter? No, of course not."

    Yes, it does matter. It hurts the show's credibility when some joker is allowed to call in with a different name and/or a "foreign" accent, and everyone can tell it's the same clown, trying to yank the host's chain by pretending he's someone different every time. "NO NO NO YOU'RE DONE" is the only proper way of dealing with this nuisance.

  50. I'm starting to think that this Matt D. character may in fact be a poe. His use emoticon to post ratio in this thread is far to disproportionate.

    Anyone having trouble with the chat btw? I switched to Chrome a couple of weeks ago and can't get it to show up.

  51. Well, I was the one who got his blogpost deleted by Russell on this issue, and I just want to say how nice it is, and gracious, to get an apology. Thanks Russell! I want you to know that my concern about the caller's identity existed in the first place only because I, like many others I'm sure, simply don't want the hosts, whom we like and want good things for, to continue "playing the fool" for a waste of space like "Mark"...

    Matt has now said that the identity of the caller may not matter so long as good rebuttals to bad arguments are the result, and of course, it is indubitably good that weak arguments are hamstrung on the air.

    I think it is worth mentioning that it is a very unenviable position that you hosts find yourselves in on this issue and that I don't think you have it easy by any means. It is a real shame that you don't have the ability to identify the origin of the calls (didn't I hear once though that Mark's ip address had been localized to Canada? How did that come about?)

    Still I think the show loses a bit of snap when, despite the contents of the arguments, you are convinced you're watching a puppet show from one of the sides...and when it happens repeatedly, it's easy to feel your genuine interest to keep watching flag. I think that is worth bearing in mind.

    Perhaps cautiously confronting this guy on some subsequent call (when the suspicion seems high) is not such a poor move after all. I think it deserves some consideration, in a way of course that does not compromise your professionalism. Difficult but possible? You might not even need to press the issue much.

    Something that no one else has mentioned is that whoever this person is: he is certainly running out of accents. He can't keep switching indefinitely. Attempts at non-native English speaking accents would probably fail hard enough as to alert everyone simultaneously...

    Anyhow, simply acknowledging that SOMETHING is probably afoot was all I was hoping for, to recognize that likely someone is trying to play a game at what they think is your expense. You lot are too good a troupe for this kind of nonsense, and I simply don't like to watch those who take the time to spread the message of reason get duped by an ass while simultaneously vociferously denying that it is happening.

    In that regard, just knowing that it is likely occurring may be enough for now. Whatever the case, I wish you all the best.

  52. One potential problem I see in allowing a known poe (ok, a suspected one) to keep calling the show is that it might raise accusations of dishonesty on the show's part, of building a straw man and attacking that.

    I know that it might be technically very difficult, if not impossible, to filter his calls (especially if he calls from different phones every time), but that has never stopped the conspiracy theories.

  53. I do think that having poes on the show is a problem but I fail to see what anyone can do about it.

    First, caller ID won't solve this, it's not like you can't fool those.

    Second, considering that some people call in who are "in the closet" and are terrified if their family\bosses\whatever find out, it could be seriously counter productive.

  54. I see an interesting symetry here (hmm; spellcheck redline on symetry. I'm a very good speller & that seems correct to me. But hey, spellcheck even redlines "spellcheck", so go figure).

    The names Mark, Thomas and Bob. Names previously attached to a canonical gospel, a non-canonical (I think) gospel and parody gospel (Church of Bob; think FSM by a good ole Southern boy.)

    Though the gospels are named for the apostles, it's pretty widely accepted that they were written years later and someone (those blasted counselors at Nicea?) slapped fake labels on 'em. (Robert Price has written and said a lot about the Markian text, etc..)

    And here we are discussing whether Mark, Thomas and Bob are fake labels.

    Further note: Thomas was the one who (allegedly) said "show me the proof". Which we're all about, here and in general.

    Side note: I nominate Thomas as the patron saint of atheists.

  55. @VladThelmpala: It's spelled "symmetry".


  56. @Ian

    Thanks. I should've just looked it up.

    But it's still pretty funny that, among all the words in accepted new usage that the spellcheck program says are spelled incorrectly, it includes its own name. (Sardonic tone: If that IS its real name)

  57. "Mark" is about as real as Mathew, Luke and John, so give him a break.

  58. I debated Mark/Bob/Thomas from London for years on Youtube. How do I know this? Well, I'm not 100% sure, but I am 90% sure because he said he would call the Atheist Experience show on a specific date.

    When I watched the show Mark/Bob/Thomas called in and used all the same arguments he used on my Youtube channel. I recognized the same behavior from Mark/Bob/Thomas that he exhibited on my Youtube channel. He even commented on my channel under at least two different names.

    I think he would rather remain anonymous, and quite frankly so would I. So I have to respect that. But I find it so funny listening to this guy that I debated on Youtube under several different names behaving the same way on the Atheist Experience show. On the Atheist Experience show I think it is a lot of fun watching him fall flat on his face and get called for being a "fake ass" caller on this Youtube video:


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.