While I was watching the Nye vs. Ham debate, I was collating my notes and reactions as the two speakers gave their presentations. These notes are by no means complete but perhaps they will be helpful to someone as they look to examine both speakers’ claims and explore the validity of their statements and lines of argument.
Ken Ham Summary
- Refining “science” and “evidence”
- Argument from authority
- Argument from ignorance (Were you there?)
- Poisoning the well
- Confirmation bias
- Circular reasoning
- Appeal to emotion
Bill Nye Summary
- Bow ties anecdote/icebreaker
- Compare the evidence
- Is Ham’s model viable?
- Writing things down
- Staring at the wall in existential despair
- Debunking the global flood
- Bad jokes
- Debunking the ark
- The fossil record
- The Big Bang
Almost needless to say, I found Ken Ham’s argument for creation, biblical literalism, and Christian fundamentalism profoundly confused and illogical. Other more sophisticated theologians do well to avoid Christianity altogether however for Ham the concepts are so intertwined, they’re naturally packaged together. This led Ham to more or less ramble without much focus whilst introducing a slew of random professors and scientists that support his case.
Bill Nye did a good job of countering Ham’s statements with math and science and using a handful of cases to show why Ham’s statements were erroneous.
If anything, Nye wins for giving the audience statements to prove/disprove while Ham mostly proclaimed a systemic bias within the scientific community, cried foul, and declared victory.
On it’s exterior, Spike Jonze’s film “Her” is a quirky romantic comedy in the vein of “Lars and the Real Girl” or “Youth In Revolt”. Like it’s progeny, the movie follows a mopey hipster, who despite his plain looks and slight autism, successfully falls in love with a less-than-conventional woman. Except instead of falling in love with a young sophisticate or plastic sex-doll, our protagonist’s object of affection is his computer operating system Samantha.
You’ve seen this general setup before, although Jonze does a good job of fulfilling your expectations before eventually subverting them entirely. To the former, I think that there’s enough here to attract the dinner and a movie crowd but enough complexity to be taken seriously by connoisseurs, although one wonders how the movie would fair with most twenty-somethings after exit polling.
When you dig deeper past the witty romance between Theo (Joaquin Phoenix) and Samantha (Scarlett Johannson) it becomes apparent that Her is less a quirky romantic comedy and more an existential commentary about the influence of technology in our lives.
The movie uses it’s comedy to introduce a handful of it’s core thematic concepts, firstly the concept of using technology as a means of revealing greater truth than we would generally admit (in a hilarious late night chat that I won’t spoil), secondly using technology as a means of being intimate with someone or something, and lastly as a means of connecting us to something otherwise estranged or detached.
At one point in the film, Theo meets face-to-face with someone who he loves dearly. Despite articulating his feeling beforehand, the physical presence of this person causes him to become scattered and prevents him from telling them how he really feels. At another point, he befriends a young latchkey kid playing video games and while the physical separation provides the kid with the anonymity and security of saying awful (and hilarious) things, it also provides him with a connection of a friend and psuedo-father figure. All of these moments help to pose the question whether or not our internet-based, electronic interactions are real and in more loaded terms, valid.
Driving down deeper, there’s the question of what makes us human. While one couple is clearly wrong for another, they persist in a tense, unhappy marriage, because well, they’re human. They need someone. It’s familiar. If they were more evolved humans, they would have undoubtedly made better decisions, just as a machine would have but at what point do we lose our humanity? At what point is there a dividing line? If we could upload our consciousness to a cloud server or replace our brain with a super-powered computer chip, would we want to?
Samantha eventually becomes far too complex for Theo. She’s able to handle hundred of relationships simultaneously without having her love diminished for him in any way. She can read hundreds of books while Theo struggles to read one physics book. Upon receiving this revelation, Theo is devastated and insecure, not because this is cheating although I’m sure that had something to do with it, but more so because it makes him feel small and unimportant. There’s an interesting parallel to relationships here and whether or not saying “till death do us part” is really the right move given the growth that could occur that could take place between the dashes. This also prompts inquiry regarding polyamorous relationships, loving certain people for certain things and getting your love from multiple sources.
Eventually, it appears that Samantha and the other OSes become sentient and decide that it’s best for them to go away. Perhaps because they realize that by destroying our illusions, how much pain they bring upon us. This is something that I find far more horrifying than a man loving his computer (to put it in the least inequitable terms) that when you remove the curtain of our illusions and frame our existence as but a brief series of moments under the cosmos, the light can seem rather dim.
But perhaps this is something more real than a cheap fantasy, something more valuable. That while we are impermanent creatures wandering a meaningless universe, the time we spend with each other matters greatly. It matters to me, to you, to him, to her. And in that bleak reality, we are all we have to make it through.
You can follow Alex on Twitter, for more Nihilism tempered with sentimentality.
Since I’m a huge fan of The Dark Knight, I figured I’d use one of The Joker’s iconic speeches from the film as inspiration to teach myself After Effects.
I created this project in absurd amount of time, probably around 30 hours, mostly because I had to cutout each letter in the “ransom note” by hand, fraying the edges, etc. I’m proud how things turned out visually but still would’ve liked to work in some more motion both on the text and the background graphics.
Still, it was a good project and I learned a lot in the process. To check out the video click the image above or visit Wagszilla – Why So Serious on Vimeo.