This is the second strip inspired by Tom Holland’s wonderful In the Shadow of the Sword. Buy it and read it. It’s funnier than this strip suggests.

Oh, and when you’ve bought that book, by one of ours. 50% of profits through August go to Claire House Children’s Hospice. (You get 20% discount with the code ASTOUND at checkout, up to Aug 10th)

Discussion (56)¬

  1. J Ascher says:

    /sarcasm/ There’s no proof better than believers validating what they believe is there? /sarcasm/

  2. Pezski says:

    But of course!

    I wasn’t aware of this book; Tom Holland’s ‘Rubicon’ and ‘Persian Fire’ are superb, so I think I may be getting this one pronto!

  3. jerry w says:

    I’ve yet to ask anyone if they are “trustworthy” and get a negative reply from them. I’m not saying that it couldn’t happen, I’m just saying…..

  4. FreeFox says:

    @jerry: Hey, I’m totally untrustworthy. In fact I’m the best damn liar I know. Trust me. ^_^

  5. Tom says:

    Jesus is the voice of reason all of a sudden! lol

  6. Author says:

    @Tom – He has His moments 🙂

  7. HaggisForBrains says:

    @ FreeFox – 🙂

  8. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    It’s a fact that anybody who says ‘trust me’ cannot be trusted, just as anybody who says ‘believe me’ is about to tell a lie, so a prize to FreeFox for the most dishonestly honest statement ever made on the interweb.

  9. RavenBlack says:

    @Acolyte of Satan: hence the cliche of the phrase “trust me, I’m a doctor.” Though it’s surprising there’s not an even more popular “trust me, I’m a lawyer.”

  10. Martin Cohen says:

    As the old saying goes, when someone says “Trust me”, count your fingers after shaking hands with them.

  11. Another winner, Author. You just keep ’em coming.
    @Freefox Lines from the movie “Passion”:
    “Untie me. I won’t run away. Trust me.”
    “Why should I trust you.”
    “Because….. Because I’m trustworthy.”
    “Oh…. Okay.” She unties him. He runs away. (Okay, maybe you had to be there, but the “because I’m trustworthy” bit cracked me up.)

  12. Nassar Ben Houdja says:

    Listen to the scholar
    Loudly bleat and holler
    Another ignorant goof
    Selling machinations as the truth
    While they worship the almighty dollar.

  13. I love “how to cope with eternal bliss” – because really, how would you? The boredom!!

  14. UncoBob says:

    I second Ophelia Benson’s motion. Where can we get a copy of the magazine. Have a few religious relatives who believe they’re going to need it.

  15. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    I suppose if one defines eternal bliss as never having to feel pain, anger, hatred or misery, then death itself would fit the definition, so it’s eternal bliss all round. Just later rather than sooner, if we’re lucky.

  16. jerry w says:

    “Trust me” ranks a close second in self canceling phrases, right behind “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you”.

  17. Myrrhine says:

    @jerry w: What about, “I’m not racist but…”? and “with all due respect”? Or just, “no offence”.

  18. bitter lemon says:

    I think the delusional self-belief thing is not just confined to muggles. Whichever way you look you will find experts believing in things which can be refuted by plain common sense. For instance, economists believe in the invisible hand; Americans believe they’re free; some scientists believe in global warming; ad infinita

  19. hotrats says:

    The usual crap, a snide elitist dig at ‘muggles’, a reasonable sounding assertion that turns out to be utter bollocks, followed by contentious would-be examples. Americans believe they’re free – what, even the expert ones? And global warming is a religion now? Back under your bridge with you.

  20. FreeFox says:

    @Ophelia: If it were boring it wouldn’t be bliss…(well, actually, I’ve had times in my life when boredom seemed like pretty much the greatest bliss possible, but I admit, they pass pretty quickly.) ^_^

  21. Stonyground says:

    You can trust me to always tell the truth for one very simple reason, I like big butts.

  22. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Hullo Bitter Lemon, which particular knee-jerk reaction were you hoping for this time? I believe your last attempt was to prove your personal hypothesis that atheists are a bunch of anti-Islamists and anti-Semitics. Instead you found a lot of anti-nonsensists and a goodly portion of semantics.
    And what the Hell are ‘muggles’? I thought they sang ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’. Or where they ‘Buggles’? The mind boggles!

  23. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Or is that anti-Semites’? Never could tell the difference.

  24. Your fatwa is in the mail. It should reach you shortly.

  25. FreeFox says:

    @AoS: I believe an anti-semite is anti-semitic…

  26. bitter lemon says:

    tsk tsk @AoS, hypotheses are not proven, they are tested

    FWIW, even though my research design was crap, my preliminary conclusion was that further research was needed, perhaps with a reformulated hypothesis. But apathy and my rats kept me away from this site. It was also kind of an obvious hypothesis, so now I’m trying to come up with a better one. Interestingly, I was talking to an anthropologist yesterday, and I suspect her methods are the ones I ought to use for my research here. Like rather qualitative and observing, as opposed to testing response to stimulus.

    You lot really do intrigue me as research subjects. What are your motivations? What is the pleasure you derive from this site? What gets your group worked up? And so on.

    Unfortunately, I have a couple of looming deadlines, and my rats have been keeping me up at nights. So I really don’t have time for observational research these days. Anyway, don’t mind me watching, just keep doing what you guys usually do.

  27. JohnM says:

    For a while I thought Nassar was beginning to wrest control back from a mental autopilot that likely dominates his existance. This time around there seems to have been a return to control by aforesaid autopilot.

  28. JohnM says:

    @Bitter Lemon

    Are you trying to give the impression that you are a behavioural scientist – yet without actually saying so? Perhaps you are just a research assistant i/c someone else’s labrats. But one with lofty aspirations. If so, good luck with that.

  29. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    FreeFox; yeah, I know. I was on morphine-induced auto-pilot; the fingers were typing faster than the brain could think.

    Bitter Lemon, no need to split hairs. One needs to ‘prove’ an hypothesis for it to become established theory. Anyhow, let me make the basis of your, er, research easier for you. You want to know a) What are our motivations?; b) What is the pleasure we derive from this site?; and c) What gets our group worked up?
    So, I’ll have a go at answering from my own point of view. I’m sure others here will chip in with their ten-penn’orth;
    a) To have a good laugh, and to partake in the occasional intelligent conversation with people I wouldn’t have met in the normal course of my day-to-day life.
    b) Pretty obvious really; Author is a genius, his cartoons never fail to hit the spot.
    c) Are we really a group? I’m sure that different things get each of us worked up. The common factor may or may not be the stupidity spouted in the name of religion; it may be stupidity in general; indeed, some of us may never get worked up about anything.
    Still, I’ve always wondered how it feels to be a lab rat. First impressions are a kind of bemusement with a pseudo-scientist that can’t even decide on what (s)he’s actually trying to research.

  30. FreeFox says:

    @AoS: *coughs* ahem… that is a matter of debate, actually… as Karl Popper pointed out, if you’re honest you can never actually empirically *prove* anything. You can only fail to falsify a hypothesis, and as long as you do you can run with it. But in science the world is only defined by the things we know are *not* the case, and by the things that to the best of our knowledge *might* be true. Even an established theory is only one that for a longish period of time and despite numerous attempts to falsify it, has failed to break apart. Still, it must remain only a provisional explanation, until a better one is found.
    (Also, I get worked up by the stupidity spouted in the name of supposed scepticism just as much, if not more so, than that spouted in the name of religion… you people should know better, after all… see above point about science and the truth… ^_^)

    @BL: Love the toon, enjoy the conversation which in spite of its failings remains in quality and relaxedness a fair bit above most of the forums I know, give me a space to work out my own ideas by having reasonably smart people challenge them which helps me understand myself better and stay intellectually honest with myself. (Well, maybe not *honest*…) ^_^
    Hey, um, you do know though that in social sciences – sociology, anthropology, psychology – it is an inescapable requirement of scientific rigour to clearly phrase both your hypothesis and your school of thought *before* you begin empirical observation? Since it is universally recognized that *all* humans have biases, and you must be both aware of and open with your own biases – as far as possible – before you can hope to minimize their influence on your operationalization and your deductions.

  31. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    FreeFox, that’s why I wrote ‘prove’ rather than prove. Maybe I should have said confirm or verify. Either way, the original hypothesis was deemed to be a failure, which is why Bitter Lemon has shifted the goalposts; (s)he’s determined to find that we are all…..something as yet unspecified.
    As for stupidity, I fully agree with you, which is why I wrote in my answer to Bitter Lemon “The common factor may or may not be the stupidity spouted in the name of religion; it may be stupidity in general“.

  32. FreeFox says:

    @AoS: Ouch. You’re right. Please forgive my too hasty response. *hangs head in shame*

  33. bitter lemon says:

    @JohnM: I work in the integrative neurosciences, but I’m not at all on the cognitive or behavioral side. I was just doing this for fun and curiosity. Even my cognitive colleagues wouldn’t really observe this site. The anthropologist or perhaps behavioral psychologists would be the right people for doing a serious study.

    I find you guys interesting, but sorry this research would not never get funded, not unless I got to fix a few dry electrodes on your scalp first. So well I’m not so interested as to actually design a serious study, this isn’t really research research, more like poking an anthill.

    @AoS in general I find the term “scientist” too vague, I don’t know anyone who actually calls themselves that. But regarding rats, you are right on spot, they are astoundingly intelligent, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what they were actually thinking. Not many people know this but rats may have metacognition, something like intelligence, which has so far only been identified in a few primate species, including humans.

    Anyway regarding the snide remarks about being “i/c of someone else’s rats” I really resent that, these rats are very much mine. Your idea of a research lab probably comes out of some tv series. In a modern lab, there may be any thing like a 100 people, with 2-3 infighting Profs who are the funding magnets. Then there are a million research groups each working on a small focus area. Each of these research groups has one person who handles all the mess, writes up all the research, also handles all the bureaucratic BS, keeps the technicians restrained to planet earth, and listen to incessant crises in low quality research. That person is me, a postdoc. Here’s a picture that is the most accurate representation of science I have ever come across. I’m the overburdened one in the middle.

  34. bitter lemon says:

    @FreeFox: you’re probably right about the social science bit, and I can see the point of reflexivity in human research too. Even my colleagues who work with human subjects, do need ethical approval, and declare what they do, etc. Like I said, humans really aren’t my thing, and naturally there are other protocols that apply to social research.

    You’re right about Popper, but I think the hypothesis idea (even the falsifiability aspect) is only vaguely applicable in many fields these days. Like in modeling, you are not really trying to prove or disprove anything, you are just trying to refine a model so that it is a better explanation of experimental data.

  35. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Come now FreeFox, shame isn’t an emotion I’d have associated with you 😉

    Bitter Lemon, doesn’t “this research would not never get funded” mean hat one day it might?

  36. FreeFox says:

    @AoS: Oh, all masochists are consumed by shame, it fuels us. It’s just that I prefer to provoke it as much as I can, instead of yielding to it and acquiescing. ^_^ (But being guilty of stupidity fills me with a particular shame and self-loathing.)

  37. bitter lemon says:

    doesn’t “this research would not never get funded” mean hat one day it might?

    @AoS: Depends on the hat I guess.

    But seriously I don’t which is the worse crime, the accidental use of the double negative, or misspelling “not ever” as “not never”. Ah.. the torment…the agony of remorse…my sins of grammar… only God can absolve me 🙁

    Oh wait, He can’t, you guys are atheists!

  38. FreeFox says:

    @Bitter Lemon: Don’t worry, He doesn’t care if they don’t believe in Him. ^_^

  39. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Bitter Lemon “seriously I don’t which is the worse crime
    We could go on all year at this rate.

    FreeFox, not according to one of His door-to-door ‘Seventh Day’ sales reps, who took great pains to tell me that God ‘really, really hurts when He is rejected’, and went on to ask, apparently in all seriousness, how I could be so hard-hearted as to ‘wound God, and not care when He cries’!

  40. FreeFox says:

    @AoS: You know… God is great as the Muslims say… which is why I usually prefer addressing specific aspects like Kalfou or Ganesha or Minerva… but I suppose in a way one could say that Seventh-Day-Literalist-Moron was right… that aspect of God that is addressed with the greeting “Namaste” probably is hurt when you reject Him… of course it is the divine bit that infuses your soul, so you mainly hurt yourself… *keeps a straight face* no, really… swear to, uh… ^_^

    (Not gonna go into the whole absolution/salvation bit now, that the mainstream Christians got so thoroughly wrong…)

  41. hotrats says:

    # … only God can absolve me 🙁
    Oh wait, He can’t, you guys are atheists! #

    Finally, you got it. No-one can absolve you.

  42. Father Ross says:

    Jesus and Mo is favourite cartoon. I love the fact they snuggle in with each other. How long has Jesus been reading “How to Cope with Eternal Bliss”?

  43. mary2 says:

    Bitter Lemon,

    I thought the simile/metaphor (can’t remember the difference) for ‘nutjob’ was ‘BATS in the belfry’ – you seem to have rats in yours!

    If it is an anthropologist you are trying to be, you have already failed. You are supposed to watch what we do naturally, not attempt to stir us up – that is child’s play!

  44. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Father Ross, “How long has Jesus been reading “How to Cope with Eternal Bliss”?

  45. HaggisForBrains says:

    @ AoS – +1!

  46. Acolyte of Sagan says:


  47. JohnnieCanuck says:

    He just can’t put it down.

  48. Acolyte of Sagan says:


  49. HaggisForBrains says:

    Ribbet… Ribbet… Croak.

  50. Acolyte of Sagan says:


  51. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    FreeFox, it’s no secret that your comments have oft had me scratching my old smooth dome (that’s my head, before any of you mucky buggers start sniggering) in abject confusion, but never before with a one-word post.
    As Mo says above, “I don’t get it” (again, for the benefit of the mucky buggers among us, I’m referring to the comment).

  52. hotrats says:

    JohnnyCanuck’s avatar, methinks.

  53. FreeFox says:

    it’s a children’s word meant to convey the sound of silence, as you bec ome aware of the background sound of crickets in a silence when a conversation stops.

  54. HaggisForBrains says:

    And I just added the sound of a frog for that authentic Hollywood sound.

  55. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Aah, the tumbleweed effect. I was over-thinking.


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