But Not Really July 19, 2007

But Not Really

I missed this one last Friday. Larry King had an episode about Roswell, New Mexico and the evidence (or lack thereof) that a UFO crashed there.

Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, was one of Larry King’s guests. Another guest was Dr. Jesse Marcel, Jr., who “was shown UFO debris by his father, Major Jesse Marcel.” Marcel is also the author of The Roswell Legacy.

Best part of the transcript:

KING: Are you open to the possibility, Michael?

SHERMER: Of course. I mean all science is open to that. But — but — but just being open to it and what we would like to be true, does not make it true.

KING: Are you open to the possibility, Jesse, you’re wrong?

MARCEL: I am. But not really.


MARCEL: Not really.

You can also watch it at the 2:13 mark below:

That seems to be the case with religion, too. Just about all atheists are open to the possibility that God exists. You show us a real supernatural miracle, or proof of God’s existence, and we’ll believe.

Ask most religious person if they’d be willing to consider the idea that they might be wrong, and it’s not even an option.

***Update: I’m told this episode will be re-airing Saturday***

(via Masala Skeptic)

[tags]atheist, atheism, Larry King, Roswell, New Mexico, Michael Shermer, Skeptic, Jesse Marcel, The Roswell Legacy, God, Christian[/tags]

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  • Why does Larry King do such a horrible job keeping his guests from talking over one another? Isn’t it kind of his job to moderate the discussions? You can hardly hear anythign anyone is saying because they are always shouting over one another—and not talkign clearly because of it.

  • Maria

    so what evidence did Marcel see that made him believe in Roswell? Was he really shown “debri?” If there really is such a thing he saw than that might be why he believes it. Of course that doesn’t prove that’s what it is, it could be debri from anything. since he won’t tell us the details on it, we can’t make very many conclusions. I’ve met some people who sound pretty definite that there’s “no God of any type”, and I’ve met some religious people that are open to the fact they might be wrong. It really depends where you go and who you ask.

  • Susan

    And of course at the end they’re advertising it by making it all sensationalistic, without even the suggestion that it might be something else just because so many people think it must be aliens.

    Hooray for Michael Shermer holding his own against three believers, though!

  • Jeff

    Just because a man says he is open or not open to some possibility, does not mean that he actually is.

  • Karen

    Oh, boy. Poor Michael, having to face down three true believers. At least he’s used to it.

    I love how they put up a sensationalist newspaper headline – as if that’s any kind of “proof”! Helloooo ….

    This is why anecdotal evidence isn’t reliable, particularly in the absence of tangible evidence that can be tested. You can make the same application to the validity of religious experience.

  • Polly

    That says it all.
    You can have faith AND reason…but not really.

  • Polly, do you know the proof of ever single idea in math or science that you believe in? Have you actually gone through the proofs or the evidence, read all the papers, etc.? Because if you have you are probably the greatest genius in the history of the world. If, on the other hand, you are like literally ever single other person who has ever looked at math or science you take many ideas on faith. Faith in those who published the ideas, faith in those who reviewed them, faith in those who replicated the findings. Unless you have actually mastered the proofs you are accepting them on faith.

    Your statement quite simply turns us all into irrational beings.

  • Polly

    I haven’t visited the moon either, but I know it’s not made of cheese.
    I’m using reason when I decide to take things on the authority of scientist, mathematicians, or even lawyers.
    It’s reasonable to assume that Kepler and Newton and all the physicists since are not engaged in some kind of conspiracy. But, when religion makes claims about the supernatural, I see no evidence. Only the propagation of “testimony.” No repeated examinations of physical evidence, no repeatable experiments, nothing for reason to hang its hat on.
    Faith and reason are diametrically opposed by definition. Once reason has convinced you, faith is out of a job.

  • Polly

    I’ll add something else. If I were to take a branch of science or an economic theory or any other idea and make it the centerpiece of my existence, the foundation upon which I build everything else, the standard against which I measure all other ideas, the lens through which I view the world, I really would do my best to investigate the heck out of it…and I did, and I changed my mind.

    There are some ideas I place a high priority on and am constantly re-checking and re-examining them to make sure I’m not fooling myself. With regards to esoteric math and science, honestly, as long as it works (like my car and PC) I really could care less. If evolution or the Big Bang were replaced by a better theory tomorrow, I certainly wouldn’t shed a tear.

  • Polly, you are the one who said that faith and reason were incompatible, I was simply pointing out that every single person operates and thinks out of the assumption that what they have been told but haven’t verified is true. If that isn’t what faith is give me a better definition. Your assertions backing up your faith don’t really change the fact that you, like every single other person alive and thinking, operates on the basis of faith in something.

    You think that religious believers don’t change their ideas based on experience? You couldn’t have read much on the topic, changing ideas based on experience is a feature of much of religious writing, it is pretty much built into liberal religion, though not fundamentalist religion.

    You might not be surprised if I bring up the widespread belief, especially among today’s atheists, in the claims of evolutionary psychology. Since so much of their production depends on assertions made about the inner life of hominids in the Pleistocene period, something for which there is almost always quite literally no evidence I assume you will be putting them in the same box with moon cheese. If you do prepare yourself for the attack of the Dawkins groupies and the entire defense mechanism of biological determinism.

  • Polly

    Faith is believing in something without any reason given except that of authority.

    I stand by what I said. The fact that I have reasons to belive or disbelieve ideas is in direct opposition to taking things on authority. Lest you think of “science” as the same kind of authority let me explain.
    Do I trust an individual scientist that I don’t even know? NO. Do I trust the process of peer review and competition among scientific ideas? On the whole, yes. It’s not a perfect system, nor does it have to be. It’s much less reasonable for me to think that many people who have performed experiments all came to the same wrong conclusion. Or, as many literalists claim, that there is a conspiracy among biologists to push the “dogma” of evolution even though it has no foundation. These are possible, but implausible.

    I know liberal Christians are open-minded. And I say, good for them (no sarcasm intended). But, they aren’t acting on faith but on direct experience and human reason with respect to their changing opinions.
    As for what was going on in the minds of early hominids, such ideas are interesting but to be taken with a grain(?), no, a heavy dose of salt.
    There are many unimportant (to me personally) ideas that I will never know for sure the validity of.
    The difference comes in when people make claims about the existence of supernatural entities and the after life with certitude, rather than framing their views as baseless conjecture or wishful thinking.

  • Faith is believing in something without any reason given except that of authority.

    I’d disagree, though that is certainly a component of it. Many people believe in something on the basis of a personal experience of some kind, quite often on experiences that can’t be demonstrated to someone else or confirmed objectively. To an extent everything we believe and know is based on experiences that someone has had, even math begins in the experience of the physical word, the interpretation of the experience, confirmation that other peoples’ experiences match ours and the extension of those experiences through reason and logic, which are also based in similar experiences. Math deals with fairly simple experiences and is very careful about the extension of those experiences calling for complete integrity of the proof of those. Physical sciences sometimes approach that level of verification, though not always. As the sciences deal with more complex matters the possibilities of certainty grow more remote.

    I chose the example of evolutionary psychology because that is where I first came into contact with Dawkins and some of his close allies, I didn’t buy it back when it was called Sociobiology and made up ties between people and animals, substituting story telling about the pre-historic period and changing the name seems to have blinded a lot of people to the essentially made-up nature of the practice. The leap of faith required to buy into this stuff doesn’t seem to deter many who believe themselves to be faith-proof. That, along with the potential damage to the culture of democracy, is the reason that I bring them up so often.

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