Allow me to stray a little from my usual spate of game development posts and zombie videos to briefly comment on the Bill Nye incident in Waco.
While he was giving a series of lectures,
[Nye] brought up Genesis 1:16, which reads: “God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.”
The lesser light, he pointed out, is not a light at all, but only a reflector.
At this point, several people in the audience stormed out in fury. One woman yelled “We believe in God!” and left with three children.
The way in which this story was reported, and the way folks in my social sphere are having a gleeful field day with it, rubs me the wrong way. Here’s why.
Very recently, game designer Dan Cook asked his Twitter game dev followers if they were “religious”. He was presumably looking for a correlation between game design and godlessness. i offered up my list of “religious” (read: Christian) game devs (a number i can count on one hand), but i also made sure to mention that there’s a rampant anti-religious (read: anti-Christian) vibe out there among the people in my social sphere – namely, game devs and tech types.
Ask yourself why you’ll never hear a game dev say “sweet VISHNU riding on a bicycle”.
Over the years, we develop shorthand when referring to or thinking about groups and types of people, because we can’t be arsed to do proper research or to practice empathy. This is how stereotypes work, and they’re quite useful.
Sharks are godless killing machines. Well – maybe not ALL sharks, but the stereotype keeps from being eaten.
What do we know about Waco and its people? Well, first and foremost, Waco is only a few letters off from the arbitrary English word “wacko”, meaning “crazy”, so logically, Waco’s residents must all be nuts. That’s the easy part.
By the same token, residents of Gary Indiana must go through a LOT of razors.
We also know that Waco is home to religious zealotry. A few years back, there was a religious cult in Waco led by David Koresh. The FBI surrounded his compound, which was eventually burned to the ground under mysterious circumstances, and everyone inside the place died.
Now we’ll delve a little deeper to pull in everything we know about Waco’s people in order to properly judge them. First, Waco is in Texas. Texas is full of Christians, because George Bush. Christians don’t believe in science, because it contradicts the Bible. Since science is the exclusive domain of smart, educated people, we can deduce from this that Christians are stupid. And they’re warhawks. And they don’t like gays. They’re a pretty detestable lot, so it’s pretty great that we get to make fun of them.
That Graham … is CRACKERS.
A Working Model for Ridicule
So! We have a city packed with stupid Christians, in a town known for its religious zealotry, attending a Bill Nye lecture. Put it all together, and we get the following read on the story:
Science hero Bill Nye, in the proud tradition of Copernicus and Galileo, descended upon Christian backwater Waco, Texas, to enlighten the locals about a scientific fact that contradicts their creation myth. In response, the attendees decried his assertions as witchcraft, rejected his blaspheming, re-affirmed their love for their invisible and scientifically unproven deity, and stormed out of the venue, kids in tow.
Screw you guys – we’re going home.
The “kids in tow” bit is important. It’s conspicuously mentioned in the article. We don’t get the demographic breakdown of the other dissenters, but we do know that one woman led her three children away. This is mentioned because it’s important to know that Christians reject the findings of science, and that they pass that ignorance on to their children. (And who has children these days, anyway? Pfft. Breeders.)
Let There Be Reflection
Just as a side note, i’ll defend the Genesis verse for kicks. Does it matter if a something described as a “light” is self-illuminating? If you were trapped in a dark place, and you said “Hey Bill – can you shine a light on this keyhole so i can jimmy the lock?”, and Bill – for lack of a light – ingenuously angled a mirror to bounce a beam across the room to the dark keyhole, would you say “Dammit Bill, i said shine a LIGHT -not ‘reflect a beam of light’?”
Let’s edit the verse so that it’s needlessly specific:
God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser reflector to govern the night.
There. Does God exist now?
I’d believe in God if the Bible had more molecular diagrams.
A Different Read
Christians are so stupid that, when faced scientific fact that humankind has long held to be true, they reject reality and cling to ancient superstition. Then they pass that stubborn idiocy on to their offspring. We’ve figured this all out thanks to the magic of stereotypes, and our own actualignorance.
Here’s another way to read this incident, from someone who is a practicing Christian:
Bill Nye is a massive cock. He’s a very bright guy and an experienced speaker – you don’t land your own teevee show otherwise (Glenn Beck notwithstanding). One of the first rules of public speaking is “know your audience”. Nye knew full well that, being in Texas, there was a high probability that he’d be speaking to at least a few Christians that day.
In Texas, you can’t throw a rock without hitting one of them. (And you shouldn’t cast that first rock unless ye are without sin)
Nye also knew that some aspects of science are at odds with, and at times appear to completely contradict, scripture. He knew that there is an ongoing tension between the realms of faith and science. He was aware that this is a touchy subject.
Yet, despite knowing all of this, Bill Nye had an axe to grind with Bible-believing Christians. Instead of simply stating the fact that the moon reflects the sun’s light, he deliberately put that fact at odds with a verse in the scriptural account of creation in order to stir up shit. There’s no other reason why he decided to frame that fact in that particular way. i haven’t heard this piece of his presentation in context, but it’s clear that he wasn’t innocently invoking the Judeo-Christian creation myth with an absent-minded frivolity, as scientists often do (??)
You know how Richard Dawkins quotes Ecclesiastes every once in a while?
No, Bill Nye intended to provoke. And he got what he wanted: the devout, practicing Christians in the room booed him. It’s important to realize here that they weren’t booing science. They weren’t necessarily rejecting the evidence that the moon is not self-illuminating. They were rejecting the callous approach of a speaker who unnecessarily invoked the debate between science and faith in a known hotbed for Christian adherents.
You don’t book a speaking tour in wine country, take the podium in front of hundreds of vineyard owners and wine enthusiasts, and start off by saying “You know what i hate? Grapes.”
Fermentation breeds foolishness. Amirite?
Taking a Stand
When an industry pal of mine gleefully retweeted this story, i gave him this more fair-minded read on it. He said fine and dandy, but was it really an appropriate response to boo the speaker and storm out of the auditorium? If you’ve ever believed in something as strongly as Christians believe in (and love) their fantasy God, then you’ll understand that, yes – it is entirely appropriate to stand up for your beliefs when one among you launches an attack on those beliefs. In other words, if someone is being a dick, it’s alright to call him out on it.
Mexicans are taking our jobs? Don’t be such a douche, Beakman.
Of course, Christians aren’t the only people who believe in this creation story. The concept of an omnipotent god speaking the sun, moon and stars into being is shared by Christians, Jews and Muslims. But no one would dare attack Jewish people for their religious conviction, because many of them were killed in the holocaust, and any criticism of Jews is seen as insensitive. And you’d better not ridicule Muslims, because they’ll burn your embassy down and put bombs on your airplanes. This is the easy shorthand we’ve developed when dealing with those two groups.
But Christians? They’re a safe, easy target. They’re ignorant, backwards-thinking, and simple-minded. More importantly, they’re powerless to stop you from saying whatever you damn well please about them. They love God, “hate fags”, and despite the likes of noble Bill Nye trying in vain to re-educate them, they think the moon is self-illuminating because the Bible tells them so.
Ah. Thank God for stereotypes.
Oops. Did i say “thank God“? i’m such an idiot.