Category Archives: Cognitive Bias

Episode 52: Confounding Factors

You will get smarter listening to this podcast. Listen, and I’ll prove it. (Results may vary).

The episode

  • Wait, what? Kent Hovind, creationist and evangelical preacher, is set to be released from prison in the summer of 2015!
  • Don’t forget about a related character: Ted Haggard, who, as it turns out, is completely heterosexual
  • Confounding Factors! (11:10)
  • Ice cream sales and drowning deaths
  • Cold weather and flu infection rates
  • Brain anatomy and schizophrenia
  • The Hawthorne Effect: the difference between how people act when being watched vs not being watched
  • Self reporting data
  • High schoolers self reporting drug consumption.
  • Jimmy Kimmel pokes fun of people at music festivals and fashion week, and also brings on doctors talking about vaccines
  • Self reported alcohol consumption during prohibition
  • Self reported data related to socially stigmatized sexual practices

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Episode 49: David Niose – 2014 Secular Legal Recap

Gabe and Dan talk to David Niose and review legal issues in the US in 2014.


David Niose is is a practicing lawyer, avid secular activist, and author. His 2013 book, Nonbeliever Nation, is about the growing population of secular Americans and their persistent under-representation in elected public office. His new book, Fighting Back The Right, is about driving human-centered public policy and combating the culture of anti-reason.

We discuss:

  • Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District
  • Burwell v. Hobby Lobby
  • Greece v Galloway
  • American Humanist Association v. United States
  • US midterm elections
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Posted by on January 19, 2015 in Cognitive Bias, Guest, New Episode


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Episode 47: The Backfire Effect

Did you guys hear the latest Nontheology episode? No, and furthermore you’d really rather not? Well, too bad, you’re about to.


Listeners can now contact us and leave a voicemail! Feel free to call in at (260) 245-3846. That’s 260-24-KEVIN!

Erik’s fun pamphlet (7:10)

  • Q1: Will suffering end?
  • A1: Listen guys, God is super busy and won’t be able to get back to you in a timely manner.
  • Q2: Can we trust the bible?
  • A2: Duh, the Bible says so.

The backfire effect (15:00)

  • A great summary from a great blog, “When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.”
  • The backfire effect hasn’t been studied for a terribly long time, but there are definitely some good papers floating around the internet, a few of which we discuss.
  • When Corrections Fail: The persistence of political misperceptions (2010) by Brendan Nyhan and Dr. Jason Reifler

“In each of the four experiments, which were conducted in fall 2005 and spring 2006, ideological subgroups failed to update their beliefs when presented with corrective information that runs counter to their predispositions. Indeed, in several cases, we find that corrections actually strengthened misperceptions among the most strongly committed subjects.”

“The American public remains largely divided about how to approach climate change despite widespread scientific consensus that global climate change is largely caused by anthropogenic sources and has the potential to create substantial ecological, social, and economic harm worldwide.”

  • The Millerites and the Great Disappointment
  • What can trigger the backfire effect
  • The implications of the backfire effect
  • Science ftw!
  • The difference between confirmation bias and the backfire effect
  • Chasing Ice is Erik’s favorite documentary. Check out the trailer!

Posted by on October 16, 2014 in Cognitive Bias, New Episode, Wait What?


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Episode 45: Appeal to Tradition

Welcome back to the show! Prepare to be disappointed. Again.

Listen up!

Erik on LGBT visibility in popular sports (3:00)
  • Michael Sam: the first openly gay player to be drafted in the NFL
  • Hot muscly football celebration kiss
Appeal to Tradition/Antiquity (14:30)
Listener feedback (47:55)

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Episode 44: Daniel Dewey – Thinking Carefully About Artificial Intelligence

In this episode, Gabe and Dan have the opportunity to chat with Daniel Dewey about artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligence explosion. Daniel is a researcher at the Future of Humanity Institute, researching artificial intelligence, reinforcement learning, and how machines could have values.

Check out Daniel’s TEDx talk: The long-term future of AI (and what we can do about it)

Listen to this episode

Some links to what we talked about:

The book we mentioned in the episode:

Links to other people whose cool research came up in the discussion:

Thanks for listening!


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Episode 40: Matthew Ferguson – Metaphysical Naturalism and Secular Humanism (Part 1)

We chat with Matthew Ferguson about metaphysical naturalism and secular humanism. It was a lot of fun and maddeningly interesting. This is part 1 of 2 of our discussion.

Matthew is currently a PhD student in Classics at the University of California, Irvine. He has written several scholarly papers about ancient history, and blogs about naturalism, secular humanism, and counter apologetics at his blogs Κέλσος and Civitas Humana.

Listen to this episode

We discussed:

What is a worldview?

  • Comparing worldviews
  • Explanatory scope and explanatory power
  • Worldviews used as a rhetorical tool by presuppositional apologists

What are metaphysical naturalism and secular humanism?

  • What questions do each of these answer?
  • How do they fit together and compliment each other?
  • The relationship with methodological naturalism, physicalism, materialism, and atheism.
  • The role of science in our knowledge
  • Getting knowledge from science and history
  • Can a metaphysical naturalist or secular humanist be religious?
  • Making sense of minds, consciousness, shapes, numbers, propositions, and other abstract object on metaphysical naturalism

How does metaphysical naturalism compare to christian theism?

  • Eschatology
  • Rules to live by
  • Agreeing about reality
  • Authority
  • Religion, religious experience, and the evolution of agent over-detection

Books we referenced:

Matthew was kind enough to provide a metric ton of really great resources for anyone interested in learning more about what we were talking about. Check them out below:

Matthew’s Blogs:


Civitas Humana

Resources for Naturalism:

The Naturalistic Worldview

Defining Theism, Atheism, Supernaturalism, and Naturalism (by Matthew Ferguson)

The Secular Outpost: Arguments for Naturalism (by Jeff Lowder)

The Best Argument Against God (by Graham Oppy)

Sense and Goodness without God (by Richard Carrier)

Naturalism’s Support among Professional Philosophers:

Even If Most Scientists Are Atheist, Don’t Philosophers Come to the Rescue for God and Religion? Turns Out, No. (by Matthew Ferguson)

The Teleological Argument for Naturalism:

Finely Tuning a Killer Cosmos (by Richard Carrier)

The Fallacy of Fine Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us (by Victor Stenger)

Naturalism as the Best Explanation for Irrational Suffering:

The Evil-God Challenge (by Stephen Law)

Naturalism and Mind-Body Physicalism: 

The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology: Biointerface Research Group

The Phineas Gage Case

Naturalism, Secular Humanism, and Ethics: 

Confused Metaphysics: Apologetic Efforts to Corner the Market on Ethics (by Matthew Ferguson)

Naturalism and Epistemology: 

C.S. Lewis’ Milk Jug: Apologetics and the Retreat into Epistemology (by Matthew Ferguson)

Evolutionary Naturalism, Theism, and Skepticism about the External World (by J. Wesley Robbins)

Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism Refuted (by Stephen Law)

Critical Review of Victor Reppert’s Defense of the Argument from Reason (by Richard Carrier)

Dishonest Apologetic Debate Tactics:

Southern Evangelical Seminary Tricks Bart Ehrman after a Public Debate with Mike Licona

A Response to Cliffe Knechtle’s Campus Apologetics (by Matthew Ferguson)


Counter-Apologetics FAQ (by Matthew Ferguson)


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Episode 35: Philosophy of Religion and Jesus v. Salem with Dr. Matt McCormick

Dr. Matt McCormick is an atheist who teaches and publishes on philosophy of religion. He joins us to talk about his experiences examining philosophical religious claims, confronting a public fear of philosophy, and to explain why if you don’t believe witches performed magic in Salem, you shouldn’t believe Jesus performed magic in Jerusalem.

Listen to this episode

The outline of our discussion:

  • Being an atheist in the field of philosophy of religion
  • Demographics of philosophy
  • Teaching philosophy of atheism
  • Why we shouldn’t strive to be apologists for atheism
  • Dealing with a fear of philosophy
  • Salem vs Jerusalem: evidence of magic
  • Accepting a low threshold for magic, and subsequently opening the floodgates for all the other crazy magical claims: Hindu Milk Miracle, Miracles and healings performed by Joseph Smith, miraculous levitations of Joseph of Cupertino (now the patron saint of aviation and also, perhaps comically, of mental handicaps), the miracle of the sun, and on and on and on…
  • Epistemology of accepting miracle claims
  • Faults, biases, and glitches in human cognition (for more: see our other episodes about cognitive biases)
  • Dangers posed to the information age
  • Daniel Dennett’s proposal to teach a comprehensive comparative religion course.
  • The social benefits of being out as an atheist, at least if you’re mildly well-adjusted and not an axe-wielding maniac

Books referenced in the show:

Find out more about Matt, because he’s pretty awesome:


Posted by on October 27, 2013 in Cognitive Bias, Guest, New Episode, Philosophy


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