Pharyngula

Non-Prophet podcast

Now that Atheist’s Talk radio is over for today, you can tune in to Non-Prophets Radio and listen to my interview from yesterday.

Comments

  1. #1 danley
    May 11, 2008

    Coolio. Hey, I loved your article about the puffer fish in Seed.

  2. #2 Martin
    May 11, 2008

    Outstanding interview/discussion with the Austin boys. Who would have thought that “Oranges for life!” could be so funny? Could be the new motto for xians explaining how their god works in mysterious ways.

  3. #3 Kyle S
    May 11, 2008

    I guess they have to go to oranges since the banana was soooooooo 2007.

  4. #4 Shnakepup
    May 11, 2008

    Dammit PZ! First the Skeptics’ Guide, and now this? You’re taking over all my podcasts!

  5. #5 Kapitano
    May 11, 2008

    During the chat, the non-prophets (non-propheteers?) mentioned a BBC documentary by Richard Dawkins.

    I saw it when it was broadcast, but annoyingly can’t remember when that was, or the title. The non-prophets are correct what they say Dawkins spent about ten minutes talking about the evolution of the eye.

    In answering the question “What use is 5% of an eye?” he essentially responded, “Let’s ask two people who are 95% blind” – which I think was a good strategy.

    Unfortunately he then “modelled” evolution with a computer program that generated random streams of letters. He took a shakespeare quote, and every time a stream contained the right letter in the righr place from the quote, fixed that letter in place. In this way, he successively approached the sentence “Methinks it is like a kestrel”.

    A not-very-helpful example of frontloading a test, IMO.

    I think it was broadcast shortly after the publication of “The Blind Watchmaker”.

  6. #6 Hank
    May 11, 2008

    Matt Dillahunty, President of the ACS, is the man. He is a fine voice of reason and rational thought.

  7. #7 Hank
    May 11, 2008

    Matt Dillahunty is the President of the ACA. Sorry for the typo above.

  8. #8 Starbix
    May 11, 2008

    I agree with #6. Matt is a fantastic example of an atheist leader! I sometimes wish I were living in Austin just so I could be a member. The ACA is what inspired me to start my own local atheist group, The Tulare County Atheists.

    Starbix
    “Don’t Panic.” -Douglas Adams

  9. #9 Patricia C.
    May 11, 2008

    Nice interview PZ! I’m going to see Expelled this afternoon. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone notices my scarlet ‘A’ pin.

  10. #10 Todd
    May 11, 2008

    As a regular listener of the fractaly right Non-Prophets (and the ACA TV show The Atheist Experience, also available as a podcast) and reader of Pharyngula I have to say – great interview!

  11. #11 Benjamin Franklin
    May 11, 2008

    I listened to the interview, nice job PZ!

    For your information, you are indeed now listed in IMDB.

    Funny thing about the IMDB listing for the cast in Expelled, Meyer is listed twice, once as Stephen Meyer, and once as Stephen C. Meyer. I never knew that he had a clone.

  12. #12 Etha Williams
    May 11, 2008

    Great interview.

    The abuse of math by creationists (discussed in this interview wrt Behe & Dembski) particularly annoys me. There’s a lot of very interesting computational biology out there trying to model evolutionary processes, but all the public ever sees is these IDiots saying things like “There’s a 1/(insert really big number here) probability that this could have happened, therefore, it couldn’t have happened.” Even if their numbers were correct (which they aren’t), it’s a complete abuse of probability theory. Something that happens 1/n times (where n is a very big number) still happens.

    (In fact, in some cases [continuous functions or functions with infinite options], something with a 0 probability can still happen; eg, the probability of picking a given integer x at random from all the integers is zero since there are infinitely many integers [probability=lim(x-->infinity)1/x=0], but obviously some integer will be chosen; or throwing a dart at a dartboard: there are infinitely many points that the dart might center around, so the probability of it hitting a given point is 0, but it must hit one of them…)

  13. #13 Sili
    May 11, 2008

    #5 Kapitano,

    Dawkypoo’s “Methinks ‘t is like a weasel” is only meant to demonstrate that selection is non-random. The IDiots loooooove to take that example and run with it as an example of frontloading, but as I understand it, it was never meant to illustrate anything but selection. It’s a model and a very simple and limited one at that.

  14. #14 Lev
    May 11, 2008

    Were they not talking about this clip from Dawkins:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEKyqIJkuDQ

  15. #15 Etha Williams
    May 11, 2008

    @#13 Sili –

    Dawkypoo’s “Methinks ‘t is like a weasel” is only meant to demonstrate that selection is non-random. The IDiots loooooove to take that example and run with it as an example of frontloading, but as I understand it, it was never meant to illustrate anything but selection. It’s a model and a very simple and limited one at that.

    My main issue with this example (though I understand and appreciate its intent) is that it may contribute to IDiots’ mistakenly teleological view of evolution — as though selection is inevitably leading up to humans (or in this case the methinks… sentence). It might be interesting to try to do a “survival of the most lexically/grammatically correct” type algorithm to generate random but sensible sentences, though I don’t know how one might even start to make such a thing (IANACP).

  16. #16 Patricia C.
    May 11, 2008

    Back from Expelled…PZ you looked great, and sounded good. They only made you look a bit skewed for a moment. Poor Dawkins!!! He appears to be worse (mad) than Dr. Frankenstien. The hairdo they put on him was awful. Then the shocker, in my fundie town only 36 people turned out! After what everyone here has said about the movie I still wasn’t prepared for the outright lies I heard. Three of the fundies fell asleep, it is actually that bad.

  17. #17 RhysHole
    May 11, 2008

    Damn, now everyone is going to listen to the Non Prophets, Matt Dillahunty will be the next big Atheist and I’ll be forced to once again say “I was a big fan of them years before they were famous”. Causing me to look like a total douche bag.

  18. #18 Tatarize
    May 11, 2008

    I’m astounded Matt isn’t better known. He’s certainly a fantastic individual as far as people with podcasts and public access shows go.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qs3RKZjSzYg

    Actually has 70k views and is absolutely classic. Matt at his best.

  19. #19 efrique
    May 11, 2008

    Etha (#12)
    The abuse of math by creationists (discussed in this interview wrt Behe & Dembski) particularly annoys me. There’s a lot of very interesting computational biology out there trying to model evolutionary processes, but all the public ever sees is these IDiots saying things like “There’s a 1/(insert really big number here) probability that this could have happened, therefore, it couldn’t have happened.” Even if their numbers were correct (which they aren’t), it’s a complete abuse of probability theory. Something that happens 1/n times (where n is a very big number) still happens.

    (In fact, in some cases [continuous functions or functions with infinite options], something with a 0 probability can still happen; eg, the probability of picking a given integer x at random from all the integers is zero since there are infinitely many integers [probability=lim(x-->infinity)1/x=0], but obviously some integer will be chosen; or throwing a dart at a dartboard: there are infinitely many points that the dart might center around, so the probability of it hitting a given point is 0, but it must hit one of them…)

    I agree with you that creos abuse math in some pretty egregious ways. Unfortunately, your analysis presents a few problems of its own.

    (i) You can’t set things up so it is possible to be picking a given integer x at random from all the integers (where by “at random” you mean – as shown by your working – “equally likley”). It’s simply not possible to do so. It is possible to set up probability distributions over countably infinite quantities (such as the integers, the natural numbers, the positive integers, or even the rationals), but not so that they’re equally likely.

    (ii) Continuous models are notoriously tricky things. While there are infinitely many “points” as idealized mathematical objects in a dartboard, there are only finitely many atoms. If you are measuring position relative to some origin, you can only record the measurement with finite precision. At some stage, as two points get closer together, you can no longer tell those points apart. Continuous models are useful tools, but we have to be cautious about ascribing too much “reality” to them, or we can start getting into a bit of a quagmire where we’re talking about spooky unmeasurable quantities.

  20. #20 efrique
    May 11, 2008

    Re #19…

    Unfortunately, my indication of Etha’s words ran afoul. My own words start at “I agree…”; the previous paragraph is all Etha.

  21. #21 Damian Yeung
    May 11, 2008

    I agree when i first heard him I was like “How come this guy isn’t writing books and becoming famous?” But that makes him so much cooler. I also love Jeff Dee. Their both the feistier ones on AE

  22. #22 Hematite
    May 12, 2008

    efrique; I have a short post up on my vanity blog about infinities, I’d be grateful if you took the time to look over it. I’m a computer programmer and my math is iffy at the best of times. I also mention my deep suspicion of dividing by infinity, which might pique your interest.

    Re evolving Shakespeare:
    I’m glad to hear people picking on Dawkins’ evolution simulation. I haven’t seen it but it sounds poorly thought out. As well as being very teleological, the intermediate forms have no value. What good is 5% of a Shakespearian quote? It sounds ripe for misappropriation by creationists.

  23. #23 Ichthyic
    May 12, 2008

    It sounds ripe for misappropriation by creationists.

    you got that right.

    there were MANY threads on the issue last year, and it’s one of slimy sal’s favorite things to pick at (like a scab)

    I’m sure just searching on “methinks it like a weasel” on Pandas Thumb will turn up at least one of the many threads on that algorithm, as well as more detailed ones that have been driven into the ground and back out again.

    start from here, and move outwards:

    http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2006/07/target-target-w-1.html

    at least until you get bored.

  24. #24 Hematite
    May 12, 2008

    Thanks Ichthyic.

    Dembski said:

    it remains the case that no genetic algorithm or evolutionary computation has designed a complex, multipart, functionally integrated, irreducibly complex system

    I think I see the source of his problem. He doesn’t understand evolution. What a tool.

  25. #25 Kazim
    May 12, 2008

    Thanks again, PZ, for joining us on air this weekend. It was lots of fun for all of us and we’re looking forward to future guests of a similar caliber.

    For anyone who enjoyed the show, I’d like to direct your attention to some of the other sites hosted by the Atheist Community of Austin:
    The Atheist Experience TV show
    The Atheist Experience blog

    - Russell Glasser
    Iron Chariots, the counter-apologetics wiki

  26. #26 JJR
    May 12, 2008

    Just heard the podcast yesterday, PZ, really enjoyed it.

    I’m also a regular listener of the Non-Prophets. The show before that one had some gut-bustingly funny bits, too. It’s well worth the 2 week wait in between episodes. Austin’s a great town–never lived there, only visited, but have always liked the atmosphere of the place.

    Speaking of IDiots and Mathematics, John Allen Paulos has done some podcasts spots of late (FFRF, Point of Inquiry), promoting his book IRRELIGION.

    In most of these segments he goes after ID proponents by using the analogy of the probability of getting any particular hand of cards in a poker game; Individually, each particular grouping out of a deck of 52 is pretty improbable, but the fact of the matter is, you will get *something* each time the cards are dealt. Small point, but maybe will make some fence sitters think and have a little light go on in their heads. Paulos goes into a bit more detail about the implications of all this, which I’m unable to reliably paraphrase, but it was a very nice dissection of most ID claims re: “improbability of evolution” B.S.

  27. #27 Jason
    May 12, 2008

    It was great hearing you on the Non-Prophets, I look forward to hearing them every other week and havin you on the show blew away my assumption that the show couldn’t get any better.

    It is so strange, since on the internet, one usually fails when assigning an accurate voice to a face to someone who posts. Since the “debate” on the radio a couple months ago, I didn’t believe it was you.

    Russel Glasser is probably one of my favorite regulars on the show, especially on The Atheist Experience #482, Prediction.

  28. #28 arensb
    May 12, 2008

    Damn. The one time I’m home and available when the Non-Prophets are airing, but decide against listening live and participating in the chat room, is the one time a) they have a guest, b) it’s you.

  29. #29 DingoDave
    May 12, 2008

    I’ve been a fan of the ‘Non-Prophets’ and ‘The Atheist Experience’ for a couple of years now.
    You guys discussed some interesting topics and had a few good laughs.
    What a great suggestion about Matt debating 10 diverse creationists at one time. With any luck all he’d have to do is sit back and watch the spectacle of them ripping each other apart, being the only one to emerge unscathed.
    And Dennis’s quip about having the security staff there, not so much to protect the participants from the audience, but to keep the creationists from attacking each other. Funny stuff.
    ‘Oranges for life!’ lol :-)

  30. #30 James
    May 14, 2008

    I have been listening to the Atheist Experience for a long time now, and really appreciate the fact that you made an appearance.

  31. #31 Badger3k
    May 14, 2008

    Can’t say it was great, since I need to listen to it, but from a high school science teacher in central Texas, thanks for coming on with the ACA. The ACA is fantastic, and they do valuable and informative (and entertaining) shows. Appreciate you taking the time.