Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Nye for a Nye, a Ham for a Ham

On Tuesday night, Bill Nye "The Science Guy" debated Ken Ham, founder of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. The topic was Creation: Is it a viable scientific explanation of the universe's origins? You can watch the full debate here, or if you don't have the time (it's a whopping 2.5 hours long) you can watch several highlights here.

Overall, I felt the debate was quite civil. Neither side resorted to direct attacks on the other person, nor did they interrupt while the other person was presenting. Plus, the audience was very respectable--no booing or hissing either of the debaters at any time and holding their applause until it was appropriate (though Bill Nye would have done better to gauge how well they handle a joke). I wish our presidential debates were as tame.

But let's cut to the chase. Rather than give you a play-by-play of the debate, I want to analyze what I feel was the most telling point of the debate last night. At two hours and four minutes into the debate, moderator Tom Foreman took an audience question for Ken Ham: "What, if anything, would ever change your mind?"

Ken Ham, for the first time throughout the whole debate, was stumped. He didn't have any slides, any friends to call on, no research prepared for this question. He paused for nearly five seconds before gathering his wits and saying nothing would shake his faith. When the question was posed to Bill Nye, he responded immediately: "Evidence."

This underscores why the scientific community doesn't take young-earth creationism seriously. Ken Ham isn't searching for the answers; he assumes he already knows them. He's only searching for evidence he can use to support his doctrines. This is the opposite of the scientific method, wherein you begin with a question, make a prediction, and hope you find an answer. If what you find doesn't match your prediction, you change the previous assumptions (after verifying the result, of course).

This also highlights the fundamental difference between these two worldviews. Bill Nye--along with every other scientist--is willing to throw out all his preconceptions of the origins of the universe if verifiable evidence can be shown that they are flawed. Ken Ham will continue to assert that Earth is 6,000 years old despite any evidence to the contrary.

That's why that question stumped him. In the five seconds it took him to reach for an answer, he looked like he had never even considered the possibility of changing his mind. The question was a simple matter to Bill Nye, but it was much more to Ken Ham. It was a moral quandary. Essentially the question was  What if I'm wrong?

And to a young-earth creationist like Ham, that's a frightening thought. The whole of his morality is built on the premise that he is right about his literal interpretation of the Bible. He stacks moral absolutes about good, evil, sexuality, race, etc., on top of that one premise. Ironically, this moral structure has all the stability of a Jenga tower. But rather than construct a different worldview, he prefers to stack his tower higher and higher, and you know what eventually happens in a game of Jenga.

Bill Nye, on the other hand, knows better. He embraces the possibility that on any given day someone could discover something that forces him to change his understanding of the world. He says it himself, that the thrill of discovery for discovery's sake is what drives him. He's not looking to validate his beliefs, he's searching for the answers, whatever they may be. No, he doesn't know what the universe was like before the Big Bang. No, he doesn't know where consciousness comes from. But so what? That's all the more reason to wake up in the morning and work towards an answer.

This debate will have people talking for days. The most frequent question you'll hear is, "Who won?" The answer will vary from person to person and if you ask me, I think that's a flawed way to analyze the debate. Instead, I believe we should ask ourselves, "What did this teach me about the issue? Did I challenge my own beliefs or sink deeper into them?" If you gained no new insights, then I'm sorry you wasted your time.

Too Long to be a Facebook Status

If you felt like Coca-Cola's multilingual "America, the Beautiful" ad somehow dishonored this country, then shame on you.

Advertisements infect every aspect of our digitally connected lives. One brief message may not have an immediate impact, but a continual bombardment gradually changes peoples' perceptions of reality. Too often corporations use this to sell harmful ideas, especially to our youth--ideas like the objectification of women, solving problems through violence, or the predominance of white people (specifically men) as a normality. Eventually these ideas become our culture. It casts a damning light on the United States that some of us felt threatened by one advertisement--a 60-second video--as though it were somehow destroying this culture instead of enriching it.

But, for every person offended by the ad, I've seen someone who appreciates it for crossing cultural boundaries and welcoming the country's growing diversity. At least there's some hope.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

*blows off a layer of dust*

Been awhile since I've been here. Blogging got hard to do because college, and I mismanage my time wonderfully. Mainly, I've been wasting it by making jokes on Twitter with a whole host of other tweet comedians. It's a fun community, and maybe I'll write about it some other time. For now, I just want to try getting into the swing of writing. I made it my new year's resolution to write more, as I've gotten sorely out of practice. Also, I decided to write at least two songs a month in what I call the Dr. Haskell Challenge, named for the teacher I had last semester who told the class he couldn't consider himself a songwriter if he didn't write at least two songs every month. By those standards, I'm faaaaaar from being a songwriter. And since I love music as much as writing, it only makes sense that I should blend the two. Guess I've got work to do.

I suppose the next step after songwriting is finding an outlet for it. I'd really like to start a band here in Cape Girardeau, but I don't know where to find people interested in playing punk rock music. Or if there's even a band scene in this city. But hey, it's a college town. Maybe I'll ask the music majors. Maybe I'll become a music major. Or a theater major. Or double major, music and theater. Maybe someday I'll write that game-changing musical. I don't know.

Yeah, I've been feeling conflicted about becoming a teacher. I suppose I've always been conflicted, and never really got over it. For a while I felt secure with the decision, because I told myself I wouldn't have to give up the other things I love, like music and theater. If I could I would go back and tell myself to major in music and theater before leaving MAC. Sometimes I feel like I've wasted so much time.

On a better note, I'm listening to Against Me!'s new album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, and it's every bit as excellent as I hoped it would be. Stream it here if you're interested, and in the meantime, maybe I'll post a review for it sometime in the near future.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The gun kills no matter who holds it

It's late, and I've got nothing better to do than stay up and think. It's been a whole week since the Newtown shootings already. For the first few days, the entire country grieved with the devastated families in Connecticut. But while those families continue to mourn their losses (as they may do for the rest of their lives), most of the country has moved on to the next topic: guns. Of course, many people have been voicing their opinions about gun control since last Thursday after the dust settled. And by now, many other people are tired of hearing what their friends and followers think should or shouldn't be done about guns in this country.

In fact, I'm sure most everyone I know would prefer it if everyone would shut up about gun politics already. However, I'm still wrapping my head around the tragedy and the questions it has raised about gun control. I've already shared a few of my opinions, but here I would like to more critically analyze certain sentiments that have arisen since the tragedy. And I'm about to indulge some possibly alienating opinions, so if you're tired of the gun debate, you'd be better off if you stopped reading this post right now and moved on to a different one.

Otherwise, I'd like to address a statement made by a spokesperson for the National Rifle Association recently. This is what Wayne LaPierre, representing NRA told the nation in a press conference yesterday:

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." 

He's not the first person to take such a stand. I heard the same sentiment after Tucson and Aurora; by the time I heard variations on the same point after the Newtown tragedy, all the surprise was drained from me. But while my shock has diminished with each repetition, my gut reaction is just as strong as it was the first time. And let me finally give shape to that feeling in the pit of my stomach every time someone reiterates that statement: what a dark sentiment to encourage.

The presumption is that guns aren't the problem. Twisted men who see deadly weapons as the vessels for their ill intentions are the problem. But under this logic, the righteous man also perceives deadly force as the only possible solution to the problem of evil men.

Are the implications clear yet? If we implement this trigger-happy logic, violence is an assumed repercussion. Eventually, the only way to keep the bad guys in check is to arm every good citizen with a weapon. In such a world, we learn to distrust our fellow men and instead keep faith only in the cold steel concealed on our person. But let's take a second to imagine this world where everyone carries around the god-like power to end another life just by pulling a finger . Just think how much safer we'd all be! Wouldn't that weaponized world be wonderful?

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mid-Year Resolutions

Wow, I haven't posted in two months. That's kind of sad. Not a single blog post for the month of May, and just this one for June. But, I had a realization today. July 1 is the exact middle of the year, so what does that make today? The last day of June? Saturday? Well, those too, but today is Mid-Year's Eve! And the way I see it, I need to make some mid-year's resolutions. To make up for the resolutions I didn't exactly keep at the beginning of the year.

  1. I resolve to read more. At least an hour a day from here on out. There are so many books I want to read, but I never set aside time for it. I know I'll have time for reading until this next semester starts back up.
  2. I resolve (again) to write more. That was my resolution at the start of this year, part of which I kept. I wanted to get myself used to writing more extensively, so I made a goal to write something at least 10 pages long, which I did. My memoir for my Creative Nonfiction class ended up being 12 pages long, as a matter of fact. But I can't be content with that, and I always want to improve my writing, so I'm going to try writing more frequently. Here's my new goal: write at least a page a day. Let's see if I can stick with it.
  3. I didn't really have a third resolution. Oh well.
So those are my mid-year resolutions. I think this could catch on. How many people forget about their resolutions halfway through the year anyway, if they even make it that far without dropping them? Readers! I implore your help in spreading this idea--it may change the world as we know it.

Anyway, happy Mid-Year's Eve!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

How They'll Remember Us

We are the Facebook generation,
the sons and daughters of smart phones and YouTube.
Keyboards do the talking for us;
we are the generation of impersonal intimacy.
Speaking in QWERTY, we even invented sexting.
We are a caffeine nation, saving daylight by staying up all night.
We are pirates
proudly flying our bit torrent flags
as we amass piles of files of digital booty.
We want our stuff and we want it now,
so bring it to our doorstep,
We won't even be bothered to go to the movie theaters—
we surround-sounded them into our homes.
We know everything because Wikipedia knows everything—
Our obituaries will be read by Kindle light,
and our epitaphs will be 140 characters (or less),
but what will they do with our accounts,
our usernames,
our space on the World Wide Web,
when our lives are deactivated?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Messages Unsent, part 2

Well, I've got a bunch of drafts of text messages piling up in my phone, and it doesn't look like I'm going to use them anytime soon, so I might as well put 'em on my blog. I haven't updated in a while, anyway.

It's lonely here, surrounded by the people I know so well.
It's lonely here, finding out that you're doing well.

* * *

* * *
Character idea: Guy who records his life by talking into a voice recorder so he won't forget anything, but then forgets how to talk to his friends.

* * *
...Aaaaand no response. #Thanks.

* * *
Well, at least now you know. On to better prospects.

* * *
I just want to be remembered when I'm gone.

* * *
Plaster billboards with the phrase: People suffer and you ignore them. #bucketlist

* * *
Ronald Raygun #SciFiPresidents

* * *
"Are you sure that's his car?" "Dude, I was in it last night."

* * *

I guess a lot of these ended up being little thoughts I had that make no sense without context, or like micro-journal entries. But to add a little clarity, the conversation about the car is a direct quote from two of my girlfriend Allison's high school acquaintances we ran into at Wal-Mart as they were purchasing Saran Wrap to cover some douche's car (I guess she found out he was cheating on her, and wanted to get back at him; I don't really know). The whole situation just stuck out to me. 

Also, I have no clue why Hz. was in my phone. Pocket text, maybe?