Pharyngula

Matt Dillahunty, that’s no Poe

This clip is of a caller to the Atheist Experience who makes a series of assertions common among creationists.

Matt Dillahunty answers her well, but at the end he doubts that the caller was for real. Sorry, guy, I’ve heard those arguments a thousand times — they represent a kind of universal creationist ground state. It’s why we have Poe’s Law: because there are sincere people who actually promote this nonsense.

Comments

  1. #1 Xena
    August 22, 2008

    Actually, that caller was a prank from Microbiologychick.

    http://atheistgirls.blogspot.com/2008/07/microbiologychick-has-been-bad-girl.html

    Although she isn’t saying anything that hasn’t been said by callers on that show before.

  2. #2 PZ Myers
    August 22, 2008

    So I have to change my title to “Matt Dillahunty, that was a Poe”?

  3. #3 Colin J
    August 22, 2008

    When you can’t tell the real from the crap, who really is winning?

  4. #4 Qwerty
    August 22, 2008

    Ahhh, the banana. The fictional Eve must have looked at Ray Comfort’s website or listened to him at some time. I think the name is wrong. She should have called herself Lurleen.

  5. #5 GirBoBytons
    August 22, 2008

    Well its up in the air on that one. You should hear some of the callers on that show who are honestly IDiots and buy into all the crap thats fed to them. I really enjoy the show though, you should guest host sometime PZ I would love to see that episode. :P Matt is one of my heros as well hehe.

  6. #6 Son of a Nonymous
    August 22, 2008

    Yeah, I couldn’t tell for sure, either, but the Banana Argument pretty well cemented her as a poe even before Xena’s big reveal.

  7. #7 db0
    August 22, 2008

    Although Poe’s law becomes more accurate by the month it seems, the caller did seem exaggerated. I mean, c’mon, the “argumentum ad banana”? (is there a latin name for it? I could only find the latin sounding Musaceae)

    Only a Ray Comfort can be stupid enough to do this.

  8. #8 SteveM
    August 22, 2008

    Yeah, I couldn’t tell for sure, either, but the Banana Argument pretty well cemented her as a poe even before Xena’s big reveal.

    If you can tell it is satire then it fails Poe’s Law.

  9. #9 Matt Dillahunty
    August 22, 2008

    Your point still stands. I’ve heard the same arguments from real callers (and family members) many times over the past few years. There are three reasons that I hesitantly invoked Poe’s law for this call:

    1. I may have recognized the voice, as I’d spoken to her previously.
    2. Once or twice it sounded like she almost started to laugh.
    3. On our show, it’s rare to get a single caller that jumps from argument to argument without actually responding to my responses (it’s far more common in e-mail/forums). Not unheard of, but rare.

    Not surprisingly, we had another prank caller this past week and I didn’t catch it until someone pointed it out after the show. It’s a tough call. I don’t want to be overly dismissive of stupid arguments because I realize that some people are sincerely and deeply confused…which means I tend to give a lot more leeway in order to fairly address even the silliest of claims.

    On the other hand, my patience has limits. :)

  10. #10 Matt Dillahunty
    August 22, 2008

    GirBoBytons:

    PZ was on a recent episode of The Non-Prophets, and he’s welcome to guest host The Atheist Experience any time he’s in Austin.

  11. #11 Logicel
    August 22, 2008

    Eve gave it away when she did not do what IDiots always do, interrupt. Eve patiently let Matt finish every one of his replies before she opened her mouth. Other than that, she did very well.

  12. #12 not completely useless
    August 22, 2008

    Hey guys, there’s a reason for Poe’s Law. It’s impossible to create a (clearly identifiable) parody of fundamentalist arguments because those are the same arguments that actual fundamentalists use.

    Therefore, the “not completely useless” corollary: No matter how bizarre the claim, there will be some fundamentalist who believes it for real.

  13. #13 Alan Chapman
    August 22, 2008

    Despite the unprecedented access to information which we presently enjoy, Creationist flummery remains prolific. What excuse is there for such intellectual laziness? They seem to think that memorizing talking-points from the religious tracts they find stuck under their windshield wipers is equivalent to getting a formal science education.

  14. #14 Patricia
    August 22, 2008

    The guests I’d love to heard are Miss Betty Bowers and Pastor whats his name from the Landover Baptist Church. Matt has a great show, I listen to it on Free Thought Radio Network.

  15. #15 Nerdette
    August 22, 2008

    I loved the sarcasm, though I’ve found that it can sometimes back fire in arguments against the IDiots.

  16. #16 Pierre JC
    August 22, 2008

    Love that backwoods accent, Eve. (“Sin” is pronounced “see-unn.) Are you parents siblings?

  17. #17 Dutch Delight
    August 22, 2008

    PZ, please include a warning not ingest fluids while watching.

    I had trouble enough keeping my monitor dry when The Banana Argument was started by Eve, but even without this blow to my composure I was completely helpless to withstand Dillahunty’s conclusive retort.

  18. #18 TaoDeInsane
    August 22, 2008

    I have to agree with Dutch Delight. The second I heard the word ‘banana’, I said “Oh shit! Not the bananas!” and started laughing. I had to rewind about 8 seconds because I was giggling too hard to listen properly.

  19. #19 andrew
    August 22, 2008

    I disagree. I don’t think they handled the call particularly well, especially at the end. I don’t think sarcasm and contempt are effective or productive in talking with TBs. It would have been a good chance to talk about morality and the superfluousness of a god for morality rather than saying ‘yeah we like to sin’….even if it was a Poe.

  20. #20 GirBoBytons
    August 22, 2008

    Well I can imagine it’s hard to listen to some of these peoples claims and sincere beliefs without getting irritated or keeping a straight face. Sometimes I don’t know how you do it Matt. Hey, there you go PZ next time you are in Texas you need to go and do the call in show. I had heard he was on one of the Non-Prophets episodes but didnt catch it. Yes I know, shoot me right now. :P I’m just now trying to watch all the Atheist Experience episodes. Gonna take a while seeing as I only started watching a couple of months ago…I repeat…still trying to catch up. (There are a lot of episodes if anyone hadn’t noticed) I figured I would start with the Atheist Experience then start listening to the Non-Prophets. :)

  21. #21 Hank
    August 22, 2008

    Everyone should watch The Atheist Experience and listen to The Non-Prophets! Dillahunty, Harris, Glasser and the gang are great!

  22. #22 Patricia
    August 22, 2008

    *I’d love to heard* WTF did that come from? Sheesh.

  23. #23 Steve D
    August 22, 2008

    The xians don’t seem to realize that modern seedless “desert” bananas are parthenocarpic. New banana plants are produce asexually from virgin female plants!
    That means banana plants are GAY! Gay I tell you! Gay! The xians are putting gay things in their mouth. They don’t even realize it! In fact, I think some of them like it!

  24. #24 Denis Loubet
    August 22, 2008

    Nobody like me. (Sniff) ;-)

    –Denis Loubet
    of The Non-Prophets

  25. #25 Kaitlyn
    August 22, 2008

    Here we see Poe’s Law inaction.

  26. #26 C.W.
    August 22, 2008

    I never understood why Matt Dillahunty bothers to have a co-host. He always overrides them in the debate. IMHO he’d be more persuasive on his own.

  27. #27 Spinoza
    August 22, 2008

    I guess I’m the only one who thinks that this kind of prank/joke is stupid?

  28. #28 Patricia
    August 22, 2008

    Awww, poor Denis…*SMOOCH*
    All better now?

  29. #29 Blake Stacey
    August 22, 2008

    db0 (#7):

    Although Poe’s law becomes more accurate by the month it seems, the caller did seem exaggerated. I mean, c’mon, the “argumentum ad banana”? (is there a latin name for it? I could only find the latin sounding Musaceae)

    That would make it argumentum ad musaceam, I think (accusative singular of the first-declension noun musacea).

  30. #30 SASnSA
    August 22, 2008

    The xians don’t seem to realize that modern seedless “desert” bananas are parthenocarpic. New banana plants are produce asexually from virgin female plants!

    Don’t you see Steve? It’s the Immaculate Pollination! Christ has come back as a banana! But, shh, don’t tell the Catholics, us heathens would never get to eat them again.

  31. #31 Kazim
    August 22, 2008

    C.W., I had plenty of talking time during that episode. The only reason I didn’t talk much during that clip was because I had conspired to have “Eve” call in, and you’ll notice I couldn’t even keep a straight face.

  32. #32 Kazim
    August 22, 2008

    Denis:

    I love you, man!

  33. #33 harv
    August 22, 2008

    Yes, Eve was real. But did she have a belly button?

  34. #34 Paul W.
    August 22, 2008

    Denis,

    We love you. Come over tonight and Leni will lick your toes.

  35. #35 David Marjanovi?, OM
    August 22, 2008

    Pastor whats his name from the Landover Baptist Church.

    Pastor Deacon Fred, may God bless him and America in no particular order.

  36. #36 Chris Crawford
    August 22, 2008

    I just had an idea about the banana story. Yes, it’s true that the banana is a perfect fit for your hand, and it also fits perfectly into your mouth. But is that because God designed the banana to fit us — or that God designed us to fit the banana? How do we know that God isn’t himself a giant banana who made bananas in His own image, and then created us to serve the banana by planting millions of banana trees?

  37. #37 sean
    August 22, 2008

    Denis Loubet: You are the coolest dude on the show – dont’ be sad…

  38. #38 wrpd
    August 22, 2008

    I became suspicious when I heard her response to the banana-in-the-ass and the “something that looks like a banana” comments. I think a real fundie would have reacted much more strongly.

  39. #39 Steve P.
    August 22, 2008

    This show is on nationwide?! I thought it was just an Austin show. Awesome.

    See? Good stuff from Texas, people.

  40. #40 M. Lee
    August 22, 2008

    I listen to the podcasted version of the Atheist Experience(as well as the Non-Prophets, donchaknow), and usually hit the fast-forward button when some creobot steps in with the same old cannard, thus I missed a good deal of this call. Yep, rationalist in zealot clothing can toss ya for a loop sometimes^^

  41. #41 Crucie F.
    August 22, 2008

    Here’s a [hilarious] YT video with comments that
    illustrate Poe’s Law at work: Boycott Bill Maher’s Religulous

    And my shout-out to the Atheist Media Blog

  42. #42 Crucie F.
    August 22, 2008

    Here’s a [hilarious] YT video with comments that
    illustrate Poe’s Law at work:

    Boycott Bill Maher’s Religulous
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02CRWsfxQdE

    And my shout-out to the Atheist Media Blog
    http://atheistmedia.blogspot.com/

  43. #43 Lee Bowman
    August 22, 2008

    Poe’s Law aside, there actually are viable arguments for design in nature, that might be construed as creationists claims, but are not.

    One of the problems of the “argumentum ad banana” is that the guy who presented the spiel was Ray Comfort, not exactly an unbiased, science based commentator. And while PZ is correct that the points made are time worn and somewhat monotonous, so are the rebuts.

    Matt Dillahunty gives the standard reply, so I’ll start by quoting him:

    “Do you realize [nitwit], that the bananas that you eat, the banana that you’re looking at, are actually cultivated plants, created by humans, that don’t exist in the wild?”

    Created? Um, no. Cultivating by ‘selective breeding’ of various extant subspecies to promulgate genetically altered combinations does not create anything. It merely alters it as allowed within its taxonomic group.

    “They can’t reproduce on their own.”

    Nor can a plethora of other parthenocarpic fruits, deliberately bred to be triploid. What’s your point? That since interventionary breeding and cultivation are needed to grow them, that humans “created” the present day banana?

    “God didn’t make the bananas you eat. We did.”

    “So you can make a banana appear in your hand right this minute?”

    “No … but I can make something that looks like a banana appear in my hand.”

    (pause, no response from the lady or the audience) Too embarrassed to laugh? Or simply a little cognitively slow perhaps? …

    Typical Burns and Allen. Did she take lessons from Gracie I wonder? For those too young to remember,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NW6GWEi3g3U

    On the other hand, maybe this exchange is an example of Poe’s law …

  44. #44 Lee Bowman
    August 22, 2008

    Whoops, correction due to memory slip:

    He was straight man for her, rather than the other way around. Oh well, you get the picture … ;-)

  45. #45 Troy
    August 22, 2008

    Part of the powerful counter-argument concerning disbelief WRT abiogenesis is that it includes the idea that EVERY LOCATION in the ENTIRE UNIVERSE is running parallel trials in the formation of self-replicating life forms.

    And the fact that life appeared here on Earth rather soon after its formation suggests that abiogenesis isn’t that odd a bird in the scheme of things.

    We may have knowledge of only 1 successful trial, but IMHO absent further information we can assume that our experience is the mean, median, and mode.

  46. #46 AAB
    August 22, 2008

    Actually I wish you didn’t say ‘yes we are sinners’ because these people take it seriously. I say it is worth everyone’s time to rationally argue with the creationists from beginning to end. It may be tough but .. wait I don’t want to say it is tough because they may even intereprete that wrong.

  47. #47 Toddahhhh
    August 22, 2008

    Denis, are you practicing your opening for the Non-prophets with the argument from insecurity?…shame on you, you totally rock! You and Matt are my favorites, although maybe you could pull into the lead if you did some more co-hosting on The Atheist Experience (that goes for you too PZ). Anyone not aware of this group needs to take a look at their group and their shows. I was this close to moving to Austin just to be part of it, but decided it’s going to be easier to build my own group here and try to copy it locally, you guys are the reason why I’m an activist now. Keep up the excellent work!

  48. #48 craig
    August 22, 2008

    I totally thought the caller was real, because I’ve had the exact same things said to me before by co-workers.

  49. #49 Donovan
    August 23, 2008

    I think the caller was real. There is one simple reason for her stupid argument. What good argument is there? Some of the world’s greatest minds throughout history have worked hard and poured tremendous effort into trying to prove some god exists. They have all miserably failed. Some bible-belt baptist hick is not going to succeed. All arguments claiming the existance of the supernatural are stupid, not just the “I see trees, therefore [insert insane delusion]” or “What about the banana?” arguments.

  50. #50 Cafeeine
    August 23, 2008

    @43

    Created? Um, no. Cultivating by ‘selective breeding’ of various extant subspecies to promulgate genetically altered combinations does not create anything. It merely alters it as allowed within its taxonomic group.Nor can a plethora of other parthenocarpic fruits, deliberately bred to be triploid. What’s your point? That since interventionary breeding and cultivation are needed to grow them, that humans “created” the present day banana?

    The whole thrust of the argument is that the banana’s shape, form and substance were divinely inspired for our alimentary needs. For the purpose of this argument, yes, humans “created” the banana, through breeding and cultivation. The pre-existing natural banana would not have made a good example for Ray.

  51. #51 JoJo
    August 23, 2008

    Before you dismiss the banana argument, consider this. The three icons of American culture are the ’57 Chevy, apple pie, and baseball. What is the epitome of watching a baseball game? Eating a hot dog in the right field bleachers. A hot dog, in a bun, was designed purposely by The Lord to fit in the hand and to pass into the mouth to be eaten. If you deny the divine invention of hot dogs, you’re not only an atheist, you’re anti-American. :P

  52. #52 Edwin
    August 23, 2008

    If God made the banana, Satan made coconuts. :D

    That said, I think the caller was fake.

  53. #53 Lee Bowman
    August 23, 2008

    The whole thrust of the argument is that the banana’s shape, form and substance were divinely inspired for our alimentary needs.

    But the question still remains as to how the current design came about. It was not humanly designed, merely altered by a selection process, taken from existing genes. The fact is that the alleles which resulted in a more palatable configuration were already present in the genome. It’s also possible that the relatively recent substandard form was not an original form, but one that had degenerated over time.

    For the purpose of this argument, yes, humans “created” the banana, through breeding and cultivation.

    The term ‘create’ is nebulous. The standard definitions fall short, regarding common usage.

    [1] To cause to exist, bring into being.

    [2] To give rise to; to produce.

    By those definitions, the man who signed the purchase order for the World Trade Center in effect created it, since without that act it would not have existed.

    [4] To produce through artistic or imaginative effort. comes closer, but a more precise definition regarding the act of designing from scratch would be:

    [5] To conceive and/or design and/or produce something that did not previously exist in a similar form. In other words, from scratch.

    Nonetheless, although it’s the standard pat answer to the banana’s origin, cultivation and selective breeding do not constitute a true creative action.

    The pre-existing natural banana would not have made a good example for Ray.”

    As stated, it’s current form was merely lying dormant, and available for selection, as are other many other possible cultivars. In fact, there are quite a few variants grown in different locations, which differ from the one we commonly see.

    The argument for design regarding fruit is simple enough. They’re part of the support system form insect and animal life. That begs the question of how and why did they come about? Further, why do they all possess distinct flavor, digestible (most), and aesthetic qualities that would not be requisite for mere survival?

    I know I know; chance mutations.

  54. #54 Levi
    August 23, 2008

    Dillahunty-Glasser ’08!

  55. #55 Levi
    August 23, 2008

    Lee Bowman: fruits are sweet and digestible because the digestive tracts of animals are a great seed dispersal mechanism. The fruit “want” to be eaten, so to speak, so the seeds can end up in a pile of crap (great fertilizer, by the way) kilometers away from the tree that produced them.

  56. #56 Spinoza
    August 23, 2008

    I find it sad and amusing that people are leaving comments saying “I think it was real.” or “I think it was fake.”

    … apparently being an atheist doesn’t entail reading the first few comments on an blog-post before commenting? (duhhhhh)

  57. #57 Jake
    August 23, 2008

    Well, I love these guys, they’re funny and informative, though sometimes I cannot believe how much patience they have! It truly is amazing.

    In fact, I’m having to go to America in 2010, and providing WWIII hasn’t happened or any other various amounts of awfulness, I’m specifically going to Texas to just hang out with these guys at one of their various drinking sessions and/or dinners.

    Keep up the good work guys!

    Jake
    (Yet another Australian fan)

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.