FFRF’s “Ask an Atheist” show from yesterday

Here’s yesterday 40-minute discussion with Dan Barker, co-President of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and Andrew Seidel, one of the FFRF’s crack constitutional attorneys with whom I’ve worked in the past. This video can also be found on the FFRF Facebook page if it doesn’t show up here. It will eventually appear on YouTube

Needless to say, I haven’t watched it, but I think it went all right:

29 Comments

  1. glen1davidson
    Posted March 15, 2018 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    No, you’re supposed to learn that Paul McCartney is dead from Sgt. Pepper’s, not that God is.

    Glen Davidson

  2. Posted March 15, 2018 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    It’s on YouTube now:

  3. colnago80
    Posted March 15, 2018 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    One of the best arguments agains YEC is the observed fact that the Andromeda galaxy is 4.5 million light-years away so that light takes 4.5 million years to arrive here. If the universe is only 6000 years old, then we would not see the Andromeda galaxy for another 4.5million – 6000 years.

    One YEC commentor tried to argue that maybe it was much closer 6000 years ago which argument is refuted by the fact that it is known by observation to be moving towards us, not away from us.

    • Adam M.
      Posted March 15, 2018 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      Well, they can always respond that God created the light “in flight”, ‘cuz God wanted to give us stars.

      • colnago80
        Posted March 15, 2018 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        They do argue that. They also argue that (a) the speed of light was much faster a few thousand years ago or (b) the speed of light is an-isotropic and is infinite when approaching from directly ahead.

        • Adam M.
          Posted March 15, 2018 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

          Throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks. 🙂

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 15, 2018 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      Andromeda is 2.5 million ly away
      4.5 million is the approx years until Andromeda & us merge

      • George
        Posted March 15, 2018 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

        About 4 billion years until Andromeda and Milky Way start to merge.

        • colnago80
          Posted March 16, 2018 at 8:07 am | Permalink

          Fisher is correct as to the distance to the Andromeda galaxy and George is correct as to the time to collision.

  4. Liz
    Posted March 15, 2018 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Finding out how people came to be atheist is interesting to me. If I understood that correctly, people can make new species of flies in a few weeks? That is so neat. While I realized at about 16 that I already knew that there was no way Jesus could have risen from the dead or be born from a virgin mother, I thought Jesus still existed as a regular man. I don’t know.

    • yazikus
      Posted March 15, 2018 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      I was talking to a group of students (who I would call nones) the other day – all identified as non-theist, but didn’t take any other labels. I asked one how she arrived at that point and she said, “Well, I could tell you all about how I was raised in a guru cult which could take a few hours, or I could enjoy my lunch and not think about it”. I too, find people’s personal journeys fascinating!

      • Liz
        Posted March 15, 2018 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

        I would have loved to hear that if she went on.

      • Posted March 15, 2018 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        I presume you meant “noñes”.

        • yazikus
          Posted March 15, 2018 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

          Indeed. Pardon.

      • Posted March 15, 2018 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

        Was it SRF or Ananda Village, by any chance?

        • yazikus
          Posted March 15, 2018 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

          She didn’t say, but I’m hopeful it shall come up again. She’s incredibly bright, organized and driven – first year in college and I have to wonder what her education was like up until this point.

          • Posted March 16, 2018 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

            FYI, I taught riding lessons to a bunch of those kids. They were all bright, enthusiastic, conscientious … and woefully unprepared for the harsh realities of the world.

  5. DrBrydon
    Posted March 15, 2018 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    I thought that was very good, Jerry.

  6. Heather Hastie
    Posted March 15, 2018 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Most enjoyable Jerry. When I watch or listen to anything first thing in the morning, I generally fall asleep again within 10-15 minutes. I stayed awake for this one, and it was interesting all the way through.

  7. Helen Hollis
    Posted March 15, 2018 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    A Catholic priest told me once that the worst thing anyone could do is use people or things to suit themselves. I asked him if that rule applied to God. He said in the case of God, he uses “instruments” of HIS creation for HIS purposes.
    He saw my face drop. I told him his God was very human.

  8. Roger
    Posted March 16, 2018 at 4:43 am | Permalink

    Good job!

  9. JB
    Posted March 16, 2018 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” … where is the evidence of that claim? The question gets to the disingenuousness of the statement. By the nature of “extraordinary events”, we do not have enough of them to decide what constitutes good evidence, and thus the statement simply rules out extraordinary events by philosophical fiat.

    But there’s an obvious falsity as well: What of the existence of the universe, appearing ex-nihilio? That is a singular, one-off event of the highest order in our experience, yet does that require extraordinary evidence?

    What *is* “extraordinary evidence”, anyway? — can we even have a definition of this type of evidence, in consideration of its unique nature, not subject to the laws of averages or statistics? Could not someone simply deny the extraordinary evidence as easily as the extraordinary event, as they wish, simply because of the rarity of both?

    These types of questions are not asked — and they should be. The initial statement is often repeated, but I would challenge it. It is disingenuous to, apriori, rule out the possibility of a class of events by clever-sounding semantics, not to mention philosophical sophistry.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 17, 2018 at 12:15 am | Permalink

      JB:

      …By the nature of “extraordinary events”, we do not have enough of them to decide what constitutes good evidence […] the statement simply rules out extraordinary events by philosophical fiat.

      Philosophical fiat? Have you been at the wine? “Extraordinary” is not NECESSARILY synonymous with “rare” – e.g. during the sacrament of the Eucharist, Roman Catholics will claim that bread & wine actually become the body and blood of Christ via transubstantiation. There are 1,200,000,000 Catholics alive & assuming an average congregation size of 100 we can say that approximately 10 million transubstantiation events are claimed to occur weekly.
      JB:

      But there’s an obvious falsity as well: What of the existence of the universe, appearing ex-nihilio? That is a singular, one-off event of the highest order in our experience, yet does that require extraordinary evidence?

      The short answer is “Yes it does”.

      The long answer is
      [1] You write as if a creatio ex nihilo universe is a fact, but that is not so. Perhaps you didn’t mean to do that & you’re just using that option as an example.
      [2] You write as if the singular, one-off nature of universe creation is a factor in your argument & yet we can call on around a dozen different lines of inquiry within science to explore nearer & nearer to t = 0. The event is in the past & yet it still can be observed in various ways.
      [3] William Lane Craig has claimed that the Big Bang supports creatio ex nihilo [presumably by his version of “philosophical fiat” LOL] but there have been many theoretical science-based refutations of WLC’s sleights of hand on that one.
      [4] But let us assume that we agree that the universe was very much smaller once, which is fairly uncontroversial, there is a time close to t = 0**, before which we cannot perform calculations that make sense – we have no idea if the symmetries of the universe appeared together in one instance or forked off from each other at different points.
      ** t = 0 doesn’t necessarily mean the beginning of time
      [5] From a non-theoretical perspective we can look at the observational evidence for inflation & the Big Bang** & we are stuck at around t = 380,000 years which is when it is proposed that photons could move freely for the first time [reionization]. We have no hope of observing the universe earlier than that time with light or radio detectors. We are waiting for a suitable space-based gravitational wave detector, such as LISA, to view nearer to t = 0.
      ** In that order – cosmic inflation came to an end & gave rise to the hot Big Bang although pop accounts have these two as the other way around or as one thing
      JB:

      What *is* “extraordinary evidence”, anyway? — can we even have a definition of this type of evidence, in consideration of its unique nature, not subject to the laws of averages or statistics? Could not someone simply deny the extraordinary evidence as easily as the extraordinary event, as they wish, simply because of the rarity of both?

      You inevitably arrived at this mess because of poorly articulated definitions. Since you chose the creation of the universe as an example I could list all the ways we are gathering data about that extraordinary & singular [from our point of view] event. An extraordinary event does not mean there’s a rarity of evidence.
      JB:

      These types of questions are not asked — and they should be. The initial statement is often repeated, but I would challenge it. It is disingenuous to, apriori, rule out the possibility of a class of events by clever-sounding semantics, not to mention philosophical sophistry.

      apriori [sic]? disingenuous? philosophical sophistry? Is this the second bottle of wine talking?

      I enjoyed reading your comment. 🙂

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted March 17, 2018 at 12:34 am | Permalink

        Correction: I’m no longer a RC so my calculation of the number of transubstantiation events could be out by a few zeros – possibly it equates to the number of RCs who take the sacrament per week. Or is it one transub per blessed chalice? Or is it independent of time & the transformation occurs once in eternity?

        I’m going for the ‘per chalice’ option!

      • JB
        Posted March 17, 2018 at 2:19 am | Permalink

        “You write as if a creatio ex nihilo universe is a fact” — I did not specify creation or a creator.

        “yet we can call on around a dozen different lines of inquiry within science to explore nearer & nearer to t = 0. The event is in the past & yet it still can be observed in various ways.” — You argue my case. The extraordinary event is evidenced in many “ordinary” lines of inquiry that are common, repeatable, and observable by us. There are other examples which I am sure you can discover: such as the claim of a race of 10 foot giants (there’s no need for “extraordinary evidence” — just analyze the bones).

        And again, I think you argue my point when you say “An extraordinary event does not mean there’s a rarity of evidence.” — I agree.

        “You inevitably arrived at this mess because of poorly articulated definitions.” — But I did not arrive at this place because of *my* poorly articulated definitions. So far as I can tell, “extraordinary evidence” has no objective definition and is non-sensical. Why should unusual events *necessarily* require unusual evidence? I could generate hundreds of counterexamples that dispute this polemic.

        BTW, I disagree that the concept of extraordinary is distinct from rarity. The term “extraordinary” would have no meaning otherwise.

        There is one sense in which the example of the example of the appearance of the universe is a problem. The concept of “extraordinariness” means that we can observe examples and then say that the event is sufficiently rare. We have no ability to do that with the universe. So in fact, “extraordinary” has two meanings: a singular event and one which is different than many similar events.

        I say someone is of “extraordinary height” because they are 10 feet tall, far outside several standard deviations from the mean of most people. I can say nothing about tallness with a sample of one.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 17, 2018 at 2:36 am | Permalink

          BJ:

          BTW, I disagree that the concept of extraordinary is distinct from rarity. The term “extraordinary” would have no meaning otherwise.

          I’ve explained about the many instances of supposed transubstantiation – that is an extraordinary claim which is far from rare. It is “extraordinary” because it is supernatural NOT because it is rare.

          I have just shown that you’ve shamelessly cherry picked my line of reasoning. I award you a “philosophical sophistry” badge – the sophistry & other rhetorical devices are entirely yours.

          • JB
            Posted March 17, 2018 at 9:03 am | Permalink

            I see what you were driving at now. I must say, interjecting some crazy belief by Roman Catholics appeared to have so little relationship to the discussion that I thought it best just to ignore it.

            “I’ve explained about the many instances of supposed transubstantiation – that is an extraordinary claim which is far from rare.”

            It is not the frequency of the *claim* but the frequency of the *event* which is at question. If a group of religionists repeatedly made a claim that “Paris disappeared on the night of 12/10/15”, that is extraordinary because cities do not disappear overnight – it is rare, and it is an extraordinary claim because of it’s rarity.

            In this case, as in many others, the “extraordinary claim” can be easily refuted by “ordinary evidence” which occurs in a million ways every day. It just is NOT true that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”.

            The claim of trans-substantiation is “extraordinary” in the sense that it has not ever been once observed that a cracker turned into flesh — it is rare, and the number of claims are irrelevant. But go ahead and do the research. You will be disproving (or proving) it mostly likely by “ordinary methods”, whatever your subjective classification of the original event.

    • Posted March 17, 2018 at 4:28 am | Permalink

      “What of the existence of the universe, appearing ex-nihilio? That is a singular, one-off event of the highest order in our experience, yet does that require extraordinary evidence? …These types of questions are not asked — and they should be.”

      In my opinion, this question is unanswerable and thus not worth asking.

      Besides, one has to care about the answer, and like the young student, this octogenarian would prefer to eat his lunch.

      It makes no difference to me whether or not the universe had a beginning, whether or not it is infinite in extent, whether it will end, or whether or not it was created by God with a Purpose.

      Apart from physics discussed by cosmologists and the microbiology discussed by geneticists, I do not care about any putative theological implications about the universe or about the microcosm.

      • JB
        Posted March 17, 2018 at 9:49 am | Permalink

        “…These types of questions are not asked — and they should be.”

        “These types of questions” refers to the challenges to “extraordinary events require extraordinary evidence” and the final question (“That is a singular, one-off event of the highest order in our experience, yet does that require extraordinary evidence?”) is rhetorical. We confirm this “extraordinary event” in thousands of ordinary ways. It was not a call for investigation as to the ultimate state of the universe.

        However, perhaps I miss your point? It seems like a personal statement that has little to do with the issue.


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