Actually, Stupid Questions Do Exist

Bill Nye recently debated Ken Ham at the Creation Museum on whether creationism provides a viable model for explaining reality. To spare you the 2.5 hours watching it would take, I can sum up Ham’s debate argument in 3 words: “Bible says so.”

Buzzfeed asked some of the creationist attendees to write down questions for Nye, and they are illustrative of the rot at the center of creationist thinking. The questions don’t just reveal the questioner’s profound scientific ignorance, they also reveal how cynically the Evangelical Christians behind the creationist movement misinform the movement’s followers. Seriously, see if you can avoid facepalming to death while reading over these:

Bill Nye, are you influencing the minds of children in a positive way?

Yes, absolutely. However, if you object to teaching kids critical thinking then maybe not. This is probably the only question of the bunch that isn’t based on a fundamental misunderstand of science or evolutionary theory.

Are you scared of a Divine Creator?

No. I’m also not mad at a Divine Creator, or jealous of one; I simply don’t believe in one at all. I don’t even understand the logic behind this question. Wouldn’t fear of a divine creator lead me to believe, or at least claim to believe, in him or her?

Is it completely illogical that the earth was created immature? Ie trees with rings, Adam created as an adult ….

No, it’s not completely illogical. The argument that the earth was created just seconds ago to appear as it does, ie trees with rings, people with past memories, isn’t completely illogical either, it’s just stupid.

Does not the second law of thermodynamics disprove evolution?

No. The second law of thermodynamics would only disprove evolution if earth was a closed system. It isn’t. The guy asking this question has the worst smug expression on his face. I’d love to see that expression change when someone answered with, “does not the sun prove that the earth gains energy externally?”

How do you explain the sunset if their is no God?

I would actually love to have a conversation with this questioner to figure out how she managed to hear the debate over her own mouth breathing.

If the Big Bang Theory is true and taught as science along with Evolution, why do the laws of thermodynamics debunk said theories?

Well, the laws of thermodynamics don’t debunk evolution or the big bang theory. This is a question you can only ask if you’ve never exposed yourself to any information about either subject that didn’t come from a creationist source. Also, that is the worst written question I’ve ever seen.

Where do you derive objective meaning in life from?

Nowhere, there is no objective meaning in life. As people, we have to find meaning ourselves. We can choose to make the world a better place for our children and for ourselves, or we can make it worse. When I say better or worse, I mean from the subjective experience of human beings. The fact that the universe in its entirety doesn’t “care” whether I rape and kill, or whether the people around me are raped and killed, has no bearing on the fact that those outcomes certainly matter to the people involved. A lack of eternal significance to our actions does not lead to the conclusion that our actions are in fact meaningless.

If God did not create everything, then how did the first single cell organism originate? By chance?

Yes. Seriously, have you ever read a book on evolutionary biology written by an actual biologist?

Why do evolutionists/secularists/humanists/non-God believing people reject the idea of there being a creator God but embrace the idea of intelligent design from aliens or other extraterrestrial sources?

I don’t know anyone who embraces the idea life on earth was engineered by aliens or other extraterrestrial (thanks for the distinction?) sources. The idea is more accepted than the hypothesis of a creator God because it requires fewer assumptions. Thinking life evolved elsewhere and then seeded life on Earth doesn’t require positing an entity that exists outside the physical world. Occam’s Razor. Again, have you ever read a book against your own position?

There is no in between [intermediate fossils]…the only one found has been Lucy and there are only a few pieces of the hundreds necessary for an”official proof.”

Wrong. There are countless intermediate fossils. Lucy is a specific skelton, not an intermediate species. There are thousands upon thousands of pieces of fossil evidence depicting man’s evolution. Why is “official proof” in quotations? Is it some kind of ironic proof? Is the wink implied?

If Evolution is a theory (like creation or the Bible) why then is Evolution taught as a fact?

Seriously, what is up with the wording of these questions? The questioner clearly doesn’t understand the distinction between a scientific theory and his theory about where he left his car keys.

Because science by definition is a “theory” – not testable, observable, or repeatable, why do you object to creationism or intelligent design being taught in schools?

Uh, that is actually precisely what science is. If the questioner mean Evolutionary Theory they should go read a book written by a real biologist on the topic. Once again, a question you can only ask if you have no idea what Evolutionary Theory actually is.

Can you believe in “the Big Bang” without “faith?”

Yes. The evidence for the Big Bang is plentiful. Faith =/= acceptance of evidence. Again, why are these terms in quotes?

Relating to the Big Bang….where did the exploding star come from?

Dude, what? That isn’t what the Big Bang even is!

If we came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?

If you came from your parents, why do your parents still exist? If Americans came from Europeans, why are there still Europeans? Seriously guys, READ A BOOK.

Neil Gaiman, Oh How I Yawn Thee

I just finished up Neil Gaiman’s new novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane. 


Prior to this I have only read American Gods, which I enjoyed, but didn’t necessarily find myself enthralled by. Admittedly, my complete lack of interest in mythology probably gets in the way of me enjoying an author who leans so heavily on the fantastical and mythical. That said, I had zero interest in the happenings of poor southern families, but Faulker’s The Sound and the Fury was a great book. In the same way, American Gods worked because its world felt real and its characters were interesting. The whole point of storytelling is getting people onboard with the story the way you are telling it – when you cannot do this, you are a poor story teller.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane just isn’t interesting. It’s not even intriguing in the way purposefully obscure literature can sometimes be. It just feels forced and lazy. Gaiman’s prose is great, but the novel’s characters and plot are like reading a beautiful description of a nap.

The whole thing suffers from what I would call “J.J. Abrams Syndrome.” JJAS occurs when writers start to mistake ambiguity for depth and symbolism for plot. The Ocean at the End of the Lane leaves you scratching your head, not because its themes are so deep and unwieldy, but because you keep asking why they expected this padded short story to be worth $20 and why you paid the $20.

The following sort of exchange happens throughout the book and is supposed to create a feeling of mystery:

A- “Is that what she wanted me to do?”

B- “Is what?”

A- “Do X?”

B- Shrugs and smiles but doesn’t answer.

Such wonder. Wow such laziness. I think I’ll still read Sandman, but if it sucks I am going to seriously question the sanity of the Cult of Gaiman.

How (Not) To Be A Man: A Quick Guide

How to be a man:

Step #1: Be born with an X and Y chromosome.

Step #2: Ignore everything on internet lists of “how to be a man” besides what’s in step #1.

The reason step #2 exists is because if you wind up following the advice of many internet manliness lists, you will remain as you were before you read the list (male or female, respectively), except you might gain a new attribute: being a douchebag.

A few weeks ago, Ruckus Apparel posted this list of 75 “real tips” on being a man. The list is mostly just content stolen from Goldman Sachs’ Elevator Guide to Being a Man, which is intentionally bro-y, but at least entertaining and not too full of itself. However, the Ruckus list takes itself quite seriously, which is a shame, since it’s a joke; it’s chock full of tips that contradict one another, and so dripping with the authors’ barely concealed misogyny and homophobia that you’ll want to shower afterwards.

Most of the tips are obvious and have more to do with being a functioning adult than with being a man; for example “know how to swim” or “clean up your facebook profile.” Here are my favorite entries. I altered the order to highlight how stupid some of these are when read back to back.

Well-kept Converse are a very suitable replacement for dress shoes when styled correctly. Understand when it’s appropriate.

This is never appropriate. In 9th grade this look gets a pass, but thats it. Even at that age you still wind up looking like a child afraid to commit to a big-boy outfit.

Never date an ex of your friend. And, If you have a friend that dates your ex – he was never really your friend.

Huh? So being a man isn’t about being mature enough to move on and hope your friend is happy? Also, this entry starts to show the authors’ weird attitudes regarding women. Girls are ornaments, things valuable only aesthetically. The authors are basically saying, “You wouldn’t like it if your bro was playing with your old toy, would you!?” Well . . . not if I was 7 I wouldn’t – but isn’t this list supposed to be about how to be a man?

When in doubt, ALWAYS kiss the girl.

Nothing says MAN like sexual harassment lawsuits. Also, can gay men be men under this list? Or are these oracles of manhood only speaking to straight men?

Clean your car before you go on a date! If you cant take care of your car, how can you be expected to take care of a girl.

Spend the extra money on sunglasses, watches, and ties.  Superficial? Yes, but so are the women judging you. And it tells these women you appreciate nice things and are responsible enough not to lose them.

You are not your fucking khakis. Where you work and what you wear have very little to do with “who you are”.

Drinking fancy beer doesn’t make you cool – but drinking good whiskey does.

But if I throw away all my expensive packaging, how will these superficial women know I can take care of them? Also, why do I want to take care of such boring sounding women in the first place?

You are not your khakis, but you are apparently your sunglasses, watch, and tie and whiskey. Got it.

Never take selfies – Aspire to experience photo-worthy moments in the company of beautiful women.

Important in woman for photo worthy moment: being beautiful. Not pictured: having a genuinely good time, spending time with interesting and/or intelligent people. How does this dude feel about guys taking photos with car show models? Does that count?

All the money in the world doesn’t compare to having a beautiful girl on your arm. Focus more on her and less on money.

I assume they mean focus on her looks, since ladies still haven’t appeared in this list as anything besides an accessory.

Pretty women who are unaccompanied want you to talk to them.

Oh, I’m sure.

If you believe in evolution, you should know something about how it works. Actually, if you believe in ANYTHING, you should know how it works.

Hey, this is actually good advice! I am also going to assume the author doesn’t actually know how evolution works.

Ignore the boos when they come from someone in a lower tax bracket. Pay attention to them when coming from someone in a higher tax bracket.

This is awful advice. The lead singer from Nickleback made $9.7 million dollars last year. Do not listen to someone just because they are rich. Also, weren’t we supposed to focus less on money?

Go to church.

Make your own decisions.


Also, I assume you mean, “make your own decisions” except when it comes to how to be a man.

Always make sure your daughter knows how beautiful she is.

Ignore making her feel like her worth lies only in her looks and not in her intelligence, creativity, or humanity. Between this dude as a dad and re-runs of the Jersey Shore, this little girl is screwed.

Read at least a book a month. Avoid the self-help section. That section is for women.

Yeah. Ok.

Always treat the woman you are with like she is the most beautiful girl in the room.

Make sure she knows you aspire to photo worthy moments with her – also, warn her you are a real piece of shit.

Learn to act like the most confident man in the room, while understanding you are no better than anyone else.

Unless you’re using one arm to drink fancy whiskey, and the other to frame some arm candy, while wearing a nice tie, watch, sunglasses combo, paired with fresh chuck’s and a suit – in that case the world can blow you. 

What Is More Imaginary Than God? Salon’s Version of Atheists just posted the latest in a long line of shockingly lazy articles bashing atheists. Even the title is a straw-man: “What Hitchens got wrong: Abolishing religion won’t fix anything.” True, abolishing religion wouldn’t fix anything – which is probably why Hitchens never argued religion should be abolished.

The fail continues in the article’s first sentence, where the author misuses Marx’s “opiate of the people” line, the actual meaning of which Hitchens was quick to correct. Then the article’s author sets up what he thinks is a compelling thesis:

The fundamental error in the “New Atheist” dogma is one of logic. The basic premise is something like this:

1. The cause of all human suffering is irrationality

2. Religion is irrational

3. Religion is the cause of all human suffering

The fundamental problem with that logic is, well, logic. Here is a pro-tip for the author, don’t presume to critique logic if you can’t form a valid syllogism. Just from a basic logical standpoint, this would be valid:

1. The cause of all human suffering is irrationality

2. Religion causes all irrationality

3. Therefore, religion is the cause of all human suffering

This would be sound logic too:

1. The cause of all human suffering is irrationality

2. Religion is irrational

3. Therefore, religion causes some portion of human suffering

This last example at least approximates Hitchens’ position on religion. The “logic” in the Salon piece reflects the position of exactly no one. Another logic pro-tip: if you write an article attempting to critique the logic of someone you disagree with, don’t straw-man their argument. Hitchen’s never said we should abolish religion, and had the author been intellectually honest and based his “rebuttal” of Hitchens on the man’s actual opinions, I suspect this hack piece would never have been written.

In Call of Duty: Ghosts, Game Plays You!

A recent post over at Kotaku addressed why it matters that the PS4 is, so far at least, consistently pushing out higher resolutions than the Xbone. Fear not, this post isn’t some fanboy rant about which system is better – because I do not really care. Ultimately, both systems will have stellar exclusive games and will be worth owning for that reason alone.

Kotaku references a comparison of both systems done over at Eurogamer, where Call of Duty: Ghosts was compared across PS4, XBONE, and PC. The comparison reveals just what you would expect: PCs still deliver the best graphics. But while reading the Eurogamer article I kept thinking of one thing: Even at its graphical best on PC, Ghosts isn’t exactly a game with good graphics, and more importantly, it isn’t really even a good game. No resolution is going to make the gameplay less derivative. Running Ghosts at max settings isn’t so much like polishing a turd as it is like upgrading your home theatre set up to a wall sized 4K TV and deciding to only watch TMZ and Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo.

But what happened to Call of Duty? Before I really jump into my opinion on the matter (valued at $.02!), I do want to establish up front that the original Call of Duty was, and is one of the most intense and fun FPS experiences I have ever had, and the Chernobyl sniper mission in Modern Warfare is one of the most stressful and memorable gaming levels I have ever played. I dig the Call of Duty franchise, or at least I dig it when it has a sense of its identity – to me, the series has always been about those cornball super action movie moments. The gameplay isn’t realistic, the characters aren’t really sympathetic, and in the place of real drama, we get explosions. But the gameplay was always fun. Holy shit was it fun.

Think back to the first time you played the original Call of Duty. The simple addition of iron sights revolutionized the level of immersion felt by the player, and the sheer number of enemies in each gunfight created an unprecedented level of intensity. Playing Medal of Honor after Call of Duty came around felt like eating canned chicken noodle soup after being introduced to the best pho joint in town – bland, unexciting, and unsatisfying. Some of this is hard to blame on Medal of Honor’s developers, since all the people who once made it great left the franchise to form Infinity Ward and make Call of Duty.

Now, the series was never perfect, but it did originally strive to keep things fresh. When WWII became to video game settings what teen love stories with supernatural themes are to basically everything in the US now, it was the boys (and girls, I assume) over at Infinity Ward who shifted the default FPS setting to the post-9/11 world – a setting which would eventually become just as stale as WWII, with generic “shoot that foreigner!” games clogging the market. But before the series lost its essence and basically became a caricature of the lamest aspects of itself, gamers would have some great moments in Call of Duty.

In Modern Warfare II, the game cuts from a surprise launch of a missile from a submarine, to the viewpoint of an astronaut in space. As this poor bastard we watched the nuke crest the horizon, detonate in low orbit, and kill us right as the screen went black, and we were like, “ho-lee- fuck!” It was epic. Forcing a submarine to surface outside Manhattan in the midst of WWIII in Modern Warfare 3 was equally awesome. These moments felt like being inside a ridiculous, over-the-top blockbuster movie. Were they sophisticated? Did they imply deeper meaning or make some sort of commentary on larger culture? No. They were pure masturbation, and felt great.

But as the Modern Warfare franchise established its story arc in the 2000s, gamers were also introduced to a new CoD series that would take them to through the Cold War: Black Ops. Black Ops was developed by a studio other than Infinity Ward, and I think that we can use Black Ops to diagnose everything wrong with the series now, because everything I hated about Ghosts, I hated about Black Ops too.

I won’t complain about Black Ops’ story, because I don’t remember it at all. This isn’t really a dig at Black Ops though, since I don’t recall the story of different first person shooters that I liked either (see: Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare trilogy, Halo 2/3). Black Ops just felt like an imitation, like someone trying to recreate Call of Duty by checking off a few boxes. The problem was that it totally checked all the wrong boxes because it completely missed what made the series so great. It’s like if someone heard Natalie Portman was a babe (SHE IS) and decided to imitate her look, but the look they chose was Princess Amidala. Ultimately though, the biggest problem with Black Ops is that it’s just a shitty, boring game.

The most on point review of Black Ops I’ve ever read described the game as “barely interactive,” and holy hell do I agree. Two hours into the game I had lost count of the useless quick time events that happened for no reason other than breaking up some dialogue, or to create a set piece that would have been more exciting if the player was actually allowed to play through it. Funny how games you interact with tend to be more fun than games you “play” by occasionally tapping a button.

There is a part in Black Ops where the player is climbing up a ladder and is prompted to hit a button to take out a guard above them. It was sort of neat, and you think, “this will be handy later.” Except it isn’t, because that takedown only appears in the game once and the skill serves no purpose besides jamming some violence into the gameplay at that moment, and that exact moment only. The game is littered with similar moments where an action that would have been a useful and fun gameplay mechanic is useful only in the same way a single corner-piece of a puzzle is. The player is basically a camera rig with a gun. The game doesn’t need you, not really.

I felt similar playing Ghosts. One scene has the player breaching a room in a powerless building, and attached to the player’s gun is a strobe which disorients enemies and creates a really hectic atmosphere in the room. You finish the takedown and think, “I will use that on the next batch of generic enemies because the power is still out in the entire building. Also, I will probably aim for their junk.” Nope. You can’t. The strobe exists for no reason except that specific room. More cool but ultimately useless gadgets include: remote sniper rifles, auto-turrets, a dog. But rather than allow the player to use these items in a creative and open way, the developers restricted their use to only specific moments.

I fully support the trend toward games being more cinematic, but the execution has to make sense. I doubt anyone has ever been watching the scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, when it appears Indy went over the cliff and died, and felt they would be more engaged in the experience if, when Indy crawls up behind everyone, they were suddenly prompted to hit a series of buttons on the remote correctly or the scene would start over. If the movie went on like this, your focus would be on watching for button prompts instead of the narrative. And this highlights the problem with using quick time events to try and make gameplay or in-game cinematics more exciting: the gameplay and cinematics should be engaging on their own. When developers find themselves bored during gameplay or cinematics, the solution isn’t to add in some loud bits requiring the player to smash some buttons, it’s to fix why your game isn’t engaging or fun in the first place.

The difference between scripted moments that stick in gamers’ minds for being memorable, and those that stick out as gimmicks that inadvertently highlight a game’s bad design is narrow, but Call of Duty: Ghosts, like Black Ops before it, gets it wrong.