My podcast with the Secular Jihadists

Earlier this year I did a podcast with the “Secular Jihadists,” namely Ali Rizvi and Armin Navabi. It was behind a paywall for a while, and I forgot about it until someone reminded me of a tweet by Navabi advertising it. I found the podcast on YouTube (just audio), and so I’ll put it up here. As is customary, I haven’t listened to it and won’t, as I dislike my voice, performance, and so on. I’d even forgotten what it’s about, but I see the topic was science and religion. So, if you want to essay the lucubrations of Professor Ceiling Cat (Emeritus), here it is for the record.


  1. sang1ee
    Posted November 15, 2018 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    If you become a patron, you get the video version. This was a really good discussion and you were great in it, voice, performance and all ;). Sam has also been on the show, as with many interesting guests from the Middle East. Worth checking out.

  2. Barry Lyons
    Posted November 15, 2018 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, I think Tyson finds it unnecessary to criticize religion because to talk about religion is to keep it in the spotlight. You might to say to him, “Neil, look at the harm that religion creates in the world. Look at how it squashes critical thinking.” You know what? Tyson would agree with you. But then he might say, “Let’s not talk about how religion squashes critical thinking. We get rid of religion by placing our attention elsewhere.” I suspect his modus operandi is to keep the focus on critical thinking and the facts of science, and by doing so he believes that a person’s interest in religion will eventually fade away. “Ignore religion. Let’s just talk about the cosmos and the nature of the living world, and after we’ve fired up the curiosity cylinders in people’s minds their critical thinking skills will automatically activate and from that activation people will abandon religion.” Or something to that effect.

    Having said all that, this doesn’t mean people shouldn’t write books that discuss faith versus facts. I love your book, I love Harris’s “Letter to a Christian Nation”, and other books of this kind. And, sure, like you, I do sometimes wish that Tyson would be just a wee bit more vocal about his distaste for religion, but I think I understand why he doesn’t want to take that approach.

    • Barry Lyons
      Posted November 15, 2018 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

      I forgot to mention that around 1:11:25 (“If you start telling kids to question everything”) you essentially say what I just wrote above.

      And I was pleased to hear that you Skype classes. That’s fantastic.

    • rickflick
      Posted November 15, 2018 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

      Well, I’m not sure your assumption is correct. By not talking about religion you are leaving 80% or 90% of people who are religious to fend for themselves. The vast majority of people are religious, so it behooves nonbelievers to set them strait as often as the opportunity comes up. I agree with Tyson to the extent that secularism should be given a positive voice wherever possible. But, it is in opposition to the common view so it will often be confrontational.

      • Posted November 16, 2018 at 5:07 am | Permalink

        Telling somebody they are wrong, especially on a matter of faith, is unlikely to be productive. They’ll take it as an attack on their faith. They may even think of it as a test sent by God – or the devil.

        Tell them how to apply critical thinking in other areas and they may start applying it to their religion too. That’s how it worked for me.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted November 16, 2018 at 7:30 am | Permalink

          There’s a crucial factor missing in the debate about new atheism and its rhetorical tactics. Which is that the people who criticise new atheism’s ‘stridency’ never factor in the onlookers to the argument between religion and atheism. They only think about the person on the other, religious side of the debate, and how they feel.

          I accept that the theist who’s on the receiving end of scathing scientific arguments is unlikely to be swayed by them. They might even batten down the hatches. But there is a much larger group who are forgotten about: the relatively neutral people who watch from the sidelines. And I find that those people _are_ swayed towards atheism by people like Dawkins. Because they tend to watch on, silently, perhaps on their laptop, perhaps sat in the audience of a debate(and audiences almost universally tend to vote in favour of the atheist), perhaps listening on the radio, they tend to be forgotten about. But there are a lot more of them than there are partisans on either side, they pretty much undecided and thus they’re much less likely to react angrily to criticism, precisely because they’re less emotionally engaged in the subject than the people who are arguing back and forth. The latter get all the attention, but really what they think about the others’ tactics is immaterial. The consensus is formed by onlookers, and generally I find that they are pretty receptive to new atheism.

          Having said all that, I don’t see the need for pointless mockery, cruel mockery. People get turned off by that(unless they’re a third of American voters or whatever the figure is who still worship Trump), doesn’t matter how comprehensive the arguments.

          • Posted November 16, 2018 at 8:25 am | Permalink

            Dawkins is an interesting example for me personally, because it was his writing that convinced me that Christianity was wrong, but it was his science writing that did it, not his anti-theism writing, specifically The Selfish Gene.

            Everybody needs to be taught critical thinking skills. If you do that properly, religion will die, because it cannot stand up to critical thinking.

        • rickflick
          Posted November 16, 2018 at 7:52 am | Permalink

          Telling somebody they are wrong when they clearly are, can be a useful way to instruct. On the other hand, pushing opinions on people when they are not receptive could be counter productive. I like the way Matt Dilahunty works on The Atheist Experience. First of all callers call in because they want to debate. They are not unwilling partners. Secondly, no matter how good or poor their level of argumentation, Matt uses the opportunity to educate, not just the caller, but other listeners.
          I’ve always thought critical thinking should be taught in grade school to lay a foundation. It would be much harder for critical thinkers to buy in to myth and superstition in later life.

  3. Adam M.
    Posted November 15, 2018 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    That’s some introduction. 🙂

  4. Steve Barnes
    Posted November 16, 2018 at 4:06 am | Permalink

    Yay! Thanks for posting this.

  5. Dave
    Posted November 16, 2018 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    When people try to say that science and religion are compatible, I just point out that science does not have room for things that ‘work in mysterious ways’…which is just something people say when they mean that the one thing they know for sure about the system they’ve turned their life over to is that they don’t understand it.

  6. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted November 16, 2018 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    I know this won’t help, but I’ve no idea why you don’t like your voice. I think it’s pretty damn cool – laid back and chilled.

  7. Posted November 16, 2018 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    I find the best way to avoid confusion about the word ‘theory’ is to compare it aerodynamic theory. This isn’t the theory that planes can fly, but rather the practical application of the laws of flight.

    Unfortunately, due to poor science teaching, most people have never seen any examples of how evolutionary theory is applied to understanding physiology and behavior of living organisms.

  8. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted November 16, 2018 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Early in the talk Steve Gould’s NOMA was mentioned. I could never escape the thought that it was a kind of gambit. ‘Rocks of Ages’ Something he did not really believe, but saw as a strategy favouring and protecting science. I think it was a wrong strategy, but who am I? And maybe I’m even mistaken, and Gould really thought that, although I think the probability of that is slim.

  9. Posted November 17, 2018 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Very nice discussion. I particularly liked hearing you all talk about universal morality.

    I understand not liking the sound of one’s voice, but I think your speaking voice is good and has improved.

    Are there any videos and/or podcasts where we can hear you speak about speciation?

    I’d love to hear you do a series on “issues in evolution” that focus more on scientific controversies and issues that are complicated for the interested layperson than on religious objections to the theory of evolution. I’ll put that on my holiday wish list and hope that Santa Cat looks favorably on it!

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