An Exploration of What it Means to be a “Big Bank”

I want to talk politics a little bit.  I had a revelation the other night when I was up too late and I had one of those serious conversations with and old friend.

As a liberal, one of the things that you wouldn’t expect from me is a defense of the bank bailouts.  And you aren’t likely to either.  My parents (very conservative folks, mind you) raised me to accept the consequences of my actions.  Of course, like any good American, I say that I believe in accepting consequences, but often resent it when I screw up and someone calls me on it.  Usually, afterward, I can acknowledge the justice of the situation, but I still have that good old American sense of entitlement.

That said, let’s look at the bailouts in as objective a light as possible.  Bear in mind that most of this is based on information that I got from a friend who is far more informed about things like this than I am.  I am not an economist.  He is.  I don’t trade on the stock market.  He does.  I asked him what he thought of the bank bailouts because, let’s face it, like many Americans, I am all too aware of my lack of true understanding of the nature of this issue.  I will talk a big talk about how “too big to fail” is bullshit and people should accept consequences.

The first thing he told me–and my fact-checking seems to support this claim–is that the vast majority of the bailout loans have actually been repaid.  The big banks and the big auto companies in particular have already paid off their bailout loans and, indeed, the government seems to have made money on the deal.  This was a shock to me.  I thought we, as the taxpayers, had just given them a bunch of money without expecting anything in return.  Weird.  I think this is a crucial point that neither Obama nor anyone else has really brought up yet.  In fact, I don’t understand why Obama hasn’t stressed this fact.  An often very potent defense of a questionable action is to say, “See?  Look how it all turned out!  It’s like we didn’t spend that money at all!”

Let’s keep this point in mind as we continue here.  I think next we want to look at the very idea of “too big to fail.”  What exactly does that mean?  A lot of people called bullshit on this phrase, but just how big are these companies?  Well, a quick web search might tell us that Goldman Sachs, one of the biggest investment banks in the world has 33,000 employees (that’s 33,000 people who likely would have lost their jobs had they been allowed to buckle under).  They have $923 billion in assets.  And they’re nothing compared to the size of a behemoth like JP Morgan Chase, with total assets of $2.3 trillion and 260,000 employees.

Note: To be fair, JP Morgan did not need TARP money and was the first bank to pay back the bailout dollars.  In fact, they were browbeaten into accepting the $25 billion that they did receive–honestly, this makes me wonder where they’d be as a corporation had the TARP never happened.  But still, plenty of other banks did need TARP money to stay afloat.

Let’s ignore for the moment the question of whether these banks deserved the money–we’ll return to it shortly.  And let’s just consider the possible consequences of one or more of them failing.  Entertain with me the question of what would happen if a huge Wall Street bank just up and vanished.  First and foremost, thousands of people would lose their jobs.  Possibly hundreds of thousands.  Those are, for the most part, just working Americans.  Bank tellers, check processors, maintenance workers, janitors.  Not to mention the small businesses like restaurants that would all fail when a huge chunk of their clientelle (bank employees often go out to lunch at local nearby restaurants–I know this from personal experience).  Lots of smaller businesses depend on those banks being around for their well being, a fact that is not often considered.

But there’s more to this than just that.  Consider, my friends, what these banks actually do.  In the big scheme of things, what does a financial services/investment bank do for America?  The most important piece of information that people seem to neglect to take into account is the fact that the US is not an insular country.  It’s not just the American economy that would be affected.  Goldman Sachs is a global bank.  It’s based in New York, sure, but it’s got assets and works on a global scale.  The economy isn’t just the American economy (and this is something that is very important to think about whenever you talk about the economy).  America can do everything right, but if the world economy falters, there isn’t much we can do.  The fact of the matter is, these banks facilitate the flow of money world-wide.  For good or ill.

And not only that, but you remember the ongoing housing crisis?  All those people losing their homes because they lost their jobs and the housing market sucks?  Consider the phenomenon of  toxic assets.  Your small town bank couldn’t afford your loan so they sold it to a bigger bank.  This was happening for years before the bubble popped–this happened because for all of human history, American real estate never did anything but go up, so that shit was worth lots of money.  If huge banks started failing, the question of who owned your house would become very complex very quickly.  The housing bubble pop might just have been even more violent had those stable–if mind-bogglingly corrupt–banks hadn’t been there to facilitate all those foreclosures.

If Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan Chase or Wells Fargo ceased to exist, or indeed collapsed violently, the entire world economy would be upset.  These entities are very integral to the way the global economy works.  If the Obama administration had allowed those banks to die, if the Fed hadn’t infused them with trillions of dollars–and honestly this was a WAY bigger deal than TARP anyway–just think of what might have happened.  Objectively.  The idea might very well appeal to you.  You might say, “Fuck ’em.  I say take the consequences.”  But really consider what that would mean.  I don’t think anyone knows exactly what would happen, but I think we can make some educated guesses.  If our big banks were allowed to fail, like dominoes, so would many other banks in Europe.  The global economy would grind to a halt.  Unprecedented unemployment rates would likely be seen.  For several years, the entire world would be…just fucked.  There would literally be NO economy.  Perhaps it would bounce back.  Maybe.  But how many people would suffer as a result?  China’s economy is doing just fine, so they would likely become the super power, and the US would flop around like a dying fish for a while, still trying to convince itself that it’s number one, when sadly that’s no longer (and never again will be) the case.

How many might just die as a result?  Unrest, unemployment, starvation, riots.  Maybe I’m being alarmist here, but isn’t it feasible?

So okay, the global economy–as it’s currently structured!–does, in fact, depend on these organizations to a certain extent.  Let’s concede that fact.  Maybe they do have too much power.  But I ask you, who controls that bulk?  Who steers the inertia that these corporations have?  Are these just a few bloated, wealthy individuals?  Or is there something else going on here?

Okay, let’s put together a picture, shall we, of corporate life at a huge investment bank.  Of the major officeholders at Goldman Sachs, only 3 men have had their jobs for more than like six years (since 1999, actually).  Like half of their top-tier executives have been there since barely 2008.  Several have only been there for a year.  Think about that for a moment and ask yourself who controls Goldman Sachs.  The turnover rate for top-tier executives is very high.  This is an absolutely vital fact to consider.

The career of your typical Wall Street bank executive is a constant Darwinian struggle to the top.  Any individual executive will take any and every opportunity to rise through the ranks.  They will throw anyone under the bus.  The person who makes it to CEO or CFO or President or Chairman of the Board is a person who is ruthless, intelligent, and has not the slightest amount of empathy for other people.  And the thing we all have to realize is that Goldman Sachs is kind of like a factory producing an endless stream of sociopaths.  Does the CEO of G-S have any real power to direct the corporation?  Nope.  If the board put him in that office and he showed even the slightest inclination toward morality, toward doing “the right thing,” you can bet your ass that he would be gone quicker than you can say, “corporate responsibility.”  The only reason this never happens is the fact that the corporate ladder is really a corporate filter, destroying the humanity of the people that rise to its peak.  By the time you hit the board of directors of a huge investment bank, you either have no humanity left or there was none in you to begin with.

A few people with morals sometimes manage to slip through the cracks, get fairly high in the hierarchy, and then become disgraced and write a book about corporate greed and corruption, but selling a few books is really just a consolation prize as you try to make your millions as quickly as possible before retiring at 40.

The simple fact of the matter is, however, that no one controls these companies.  An executive’s lifespan, if he’s really, super lucky, is to rise through the ranks, display a ruthless efficiency, make it as far as possible, socking away as much money as possible in the meantime, and eventually getting booted out the other side, hopefully with a fat severance package to retire on.  These companies aren’t family businesses.  They are uncontrollable entities of such massive bulk that they cannot be steered.  They have their own inertia and it is enormous.

Many executives talk big, but have no more control over the future direction of the corporation than a snail.  Their only hope is to perform adequately and efficiently and make a whole lot of money before being replaced.  That’s the simple fact of the matter.  Goldman Sachs doesn’t have an identity as a company.  It’s  a…thing.  A force.  It doesn’t have a face or a conscience.  It’s like a hurricane.  It cannot be controlled by anyone.

The take-away lesson here: global banking companies are very large and very powerful, but ultimately completely uncontrolled and uncontrollable.

Also, I would like to point out that these companies wield their power very differently than privately own corporations like Koch Industries and their ilk.  I think they are beyond the scope of this particular essay.

And this situation is never going to change either.  At least, not from within the system.  The government can’t break up these banking monopolies because unlike Ma Bell, these are global companies.  It’s almost impossible to regulate a global corporation.  How would you do it?  One of the reasons the governments of the world don’t do anything about these monopolies is the fact that they literally don’t know what can be done.  The other reason is much more obvious, however: corruption.

People talk about big government and how much they hate it.  Nobody likes the government, but think for just a second about what a government–or at least a democratic one–is supposed to be.  “Of the People, by the People, and for the People.”  It’s the social contract.  We are going to give up some of our freedoms in exchange for security and stability.  The government is supposed to represent the will of the people.  The government is supposed to be us.  That’s an important thing to consider when one thinks about governments.

But what does it take to become a major political player in one of the only two potent political parties in America?  What does it take to be the CEO of Goldman Sachs?

The same sort of sociopaths are the people who manage to rise through the ranks of political parties as corporations.  And let’s face it, political parties are where the real government lies.  These compromised entities, these monopolizers of politics, control this country.  I’m not sure what their eventual goals are, but I really don’t believe that Republicans and Democrats actually have different goals.  They both exist to create a false conflict in American politics.  They exist to give us the illusion of choice.  If we look back far enough, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to discover that it’s the same sorts of people pulling the strings of both parties, profiting on the fact that half of America hates the other half and vice versa.

We do have to consider that some politicians are actually decent.  But this is only because government is not nearly as efficient a filter for ruthless sociopathic tendencies as corporate culture is.

So let’s put it all together.  The too big to fail companies were bailed out because if they hadn’t been, the consequences may very well have been disastrous.  I don’t like it, but Obama just might have had no other option when it came to the TARP.  Those same companies ARE immoral and sadistic forces of nature, entities of uncontrollable power but there’s neither the will nor the ability on the part of US government to do anything about it.

We are stuck in a very tricky situation here, folks.  It’s almost an unsolvable problem.  You might be inclined to say, “Revolution!” as I was when I was talking to my friend.  But always remember: we live in a global society.  If the people of the US did manage to rise up, overthrow its government, and dismantle Goldman Sachs and the other bloated, malignant, cancerous entities that call themselves banks, what would happen next?  Once you take it all apart, you’ve got to put something useful back together again.  A new social contract needs to be established.  Who’s going to take responsibility for that?  When America had its first revolution, it was the rich people who did that (granted they were almost all romantics at heart and many were philosophers themselves).  It’s safe to say that whoever has the resources to do so is going to be in charge of that whole process.

And then remember one other thing:  if the US government falls, its military will likely dismantle itself (if no one’s paying them, they’re probably going to go home).  We will have no military power and if the US dollar is backed by anything, it’s back by missiles and drones and bullets.  If the US dollar ceases to have value, consider what other countries will do.  We owe a lot of countries a lot of money.  Are they going to idly sit there while we figure out how to rebuild our country?  Are they going to sit there and watch us, defenseless, and let us get back on our feet?

Will China?

It’s a very tricky situation.

“Macht ist sie, diese neue Tugend; ein herrschender Gedanke ist sie und um ihn eine kluge Seele: eine goldene Sonne und um sie die Schlange der Erkenntniss.”
                -Friedrich Nietszche

A Secular Rapture

Just to be clear, this is not a picture of Jesus. It is a picture of the Great Prophet Zarquon. And he is quoting Carl Sagan. Allow me to explain:

At the end of Chapter 18 of Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the Great Prophet Zarquon returns to his flock.

Here is what Zarquon said as he stood in front of a audience of delighted diners just as the universe was collapsing outside the time bubble:

“Hello, look, I’m sorry I’m a bit late. I’ve had a the most ghastly time, all sorts of things cropping up at the last moment. Er, how are we for time? Have I just got a min–” And so the Universe ended.

Slightly edited for convenience.

Douglas Adams is so perfect that to discuss the bit of fun, the gentle teasing that he is directing at Christianity and very idea of the Rapture that has been “nigh” for the last two thousand years, you kind of take a little away from it. I’m going to do it anyway, but there it is. He’s saying that at this point, it’s probably not ever going to happen, and we should just accept that fact. The universe is going to end at some point whether Jesus/Zarquon returns or not. This is empirically verifiable.

It is said that atheists and secular humanists do not believe in anything. That they don’t have faith in a better future in the afterlife. And in a way, there’s a point to be made there. It is a comforting thought. As long as I believe in Jesus, I can go to heaven and be deliriously happy for the rest of eternity. Awesome. Atheists look forward to what, exactly? Oblivion? Non-existence?

I would say that non-existence is certainly a step up from eternity in hell. And there doesn’t seem to be any real consensus about how it is, exactly, that one is supposed to get into heaven.

What do I have to do make you happy, God? Well, it depends largely on who you ask. God’s pretty silent about the topic, but Catholics would argue that you must confess your sins and pray to a saint to intercede on your behalf and take part in a number of sacraments and go to church like fifteen times a week. It’s really a business transaction. The business of guilt.

Calvinists say that it doesn’t matter what you do; it’s all predetermined. It is only the fear that maybe you are destined for hell that keeps you in line.

Modern protestants, I’m increasingly convinced, are insane. What does a protestant have to do to get into heaven? Nothing. All they have to do is believe in God and accept Jesus as their savior. Being a nice person doesn’t really factor into it, it seems.

Regardless, all Christians believe that someday Jesus is going to come back and sweep up all the good, believing Christians and take them up to heaven. Atheists think this is ridiculous. What, they ask, is God waiting for?

I meant that initially, to sound flippant, but the question is valid. What’s the hold-up? It’s been two thousand years since Jesus promised he was coming back and…he’s not here. It’s sort of like Groundhog Day. Humans just keep making the same stupid mistakes, killing each other, not learning their lessons, sinning, calling each other names, and it just never fucking ends. Where is Jesus? Maybe we’re supposed to learn our lesson before we can get out of the cycle. The problem is, we are actually running out of resources.

Here’s the thing. I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in things. I believe people when I think they are telling me the truth. But I don’t believe in things. That’s weird. If I can observe it, I can accept it. Otherwise, there’s going to have to be a heap of circumstantial evidence. Jesus coming back is one thing that I just can’t bring myself to count on. Especially as a matter of faith.

What I want to put to you, dear friends, is that despite this, atheists still believe in a rapture. Rather, we hypothesize, that if certain conditions are met, then yes, humans will get to live in paradise for-fucking-ever.

Yeah. Here’s what we hypothesize: if humans will just figure their shit out, stop killing each other over stupid shit, start treating each other with respect and dignity no matter what they look like or who they are, and begin really throwing every conceivable resource at their disposal at science, philosophy, art, and education, eventually we will all live in an awesome futuristic, super paradise Star Trek world. We will live in a world where all our needs are met. We will be free to pursue whatever career or interest meets our fancy. We will get to fly in awesome space ships that travel faster than light. We will actually ensure that the human species (and many others besides) doesn’t go extinct. That is the Secular Rapture.

The difference between the Christian and the Secular Raptures? One requires that you not do anything and never forget that you are scum and deserve to roast in hell, and as long as you can grovel and snivel at Jesus’s feet, you will go to a place where you will be incapable of being crabby for the rest of eternity. Boring.

The Secular Rapture is something that requires hard work, a thirst for knowledge, genuine innovation, a drive to be better than we are, and some real imagination. One comes about because of God. One comes about because of us. One is beyond our control and is apparently the result of a whim from some selfish human-hating deity (and before you tell me that God loves humans because of Jesus…just shut up, I don’t buy it…he allowed us to kill his son so that we could be forgiven? That doesn’t even make a single bit of sense.). One is completely within our control and might not happen if we don’t get our collective asses in gear. And hell, it might not even happen if we do.

It might just be too late. Just like Zarquon.

Peregrinari inter sidera est mea maxima desiderium.

Obligatory Santorum Joke. Gross.

A few months ago I was completely convinced that Romney had the Republican nomination all wrapped up and that he was just going to casually waltz into GOP-NatCon2012 and delightfully feign surprise as they handed him the gilded nomination certificate, made of the finest Swiss Alps calf-skin vellum, imprinted with the ink of an endangered octopus that only exists off the coast of Madagascar and absolutely must be handled only by the hands of virgin boys from a very specific tribe of shamanistic slave people called the M’Klurdu.

Somewhere along the line, he fucked it all up. To think that both Newt Fucking Gingrich and Rick Fucking Santorum and even Ron Fucking Paul have all outscored him on one caucus/primary or another is utterly bizarre. I did not think it possible. I really thought the graying wizard was going to clean up.

Don’t get me wrong; I hate Mitt Romney. He’s rich and doesn’t understand what that means and that makes him very dangerous in political office. But he’s a closeted Keynesian (for what that’s worth), and he isn’t insane except insofar as he’s a Mormon. Honestly, Mormons are actually somewhat more trustworthy than your work-a-day Christians because I truly believe that every Mormon, deep down inside, knows–really knows–that his religion is looney toons. And I think that, in a way, this leads to far more rational behavior than…well…Rick Santorum.

Gingrich is, of course, not actually a Christian. He’s one of those guys that says he is because people like that sort of thing. No. Gingrich hasn’t done a Christ-like thing in his entire life and the majority of Americans understand this fact. He won’t get the nomination and even if he does, he will never be president.

No, my friends, the only good man that ever stepped up to the plate was Jon Huntsman. Yes, it’s true, he is also a Mormon. But you know how I feel about that. Huntsman truly is a good and intelligent man. A conservative, sure, but a decent human being with a good head on his shoulders and, from what I could see, he was really pro-science. That’s big from my perspective. He just ran a terrible campaign and Americans didn’t give shit. So it goes.

I’m not going to talk about Ron Paul here. It’s too much. There’s just…too much to say.

So I don’t know. I do not know what’s going to happen. If I had a gun to my head and someone told me to accurately predict the outcome of GOP-NatCon2012, I’d still bet on Romney, but I would be sweating bullets from now until Con Time.

My real confusion with this whole fiasco of an election cycle is this: what the hell is wrong with Americans?

The fact that both Gingrich and Santorum have a fighting chance of getting the nomination certificate boggles my mind. I don’t even really have words to express my confusion over this issue. It is absolutely ludicrous. Santorum isn’t a nice person. Gingrich is worse. Romney is clearly the best of the three. I cannot even conceive of a passable argument for either of those two other hateful motherfuckers.

I know why people like them: because people are hateful motherfuckers. But I don’t understand why perfectly decent American people like them more than they like Romney. It’s weird. I mean, Romney’s rich. He fucking loves business. He would have sex with business through a hole in the sheet, he loves it so much. He’s kind of a social conservative but he doesn’t really push the issue, which is appealing for moderate conserv-oes. So aside from the lunatic fringe of the right, why does anyone like these other two nutjobs? Can someone adequately explain this to me? Because I can’t figure it out.

Please tell me it’s not that America is populated with crazy people.

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Herr Präsident.

Lt. John Pike, the Sixth Avatar of Vishnu

Several weeks have passed since the shit went down at UC Davis.  The highlight moment, of course, was that whole thing with orange cloud of agony. Sort of the modern day Prismatic Spray.

I think the media has missed a crucial detail about this whole narrative. And I will address it presently.

First, I think it’s important to note that one of the officers, one Lt. John Pike, with his little red can has earned a certain amount of…let’s call it celebrity.  The internet at large has had a chance to digest this imagery and a consensus has emerged. The internet has judged him at once hilarious and monstrous at the same time. The internet, the place where all media is carried to its logical extreme, has taken this image and this footage and created a sort of inspiring memetic art series. Each image is more absurd than the last. Each one adds to the narrative without fully realizing the full ramifications.

This isn’t just a political thing.

First, the official narrative. If we look at this purely from the standpoint of law enforcement, the official statement is clearly false. I am not being politically biased, I am being intelligent.

The question that has been asked time and again with respect to Occupy Wall St. and the 99% movement is essentially this: has the response from authorities been appropriate to the situation?  The authorities all say “yes” but, of course, they would.  The 99%-ers say no, and I tend to agree with them. To an extent.

Look at Pike. Take a good look at this picture because this is the most important one.  Watch the video.  The justification for the pepper spray is the safety of the officers.  They supposedly felt threatened and this was the justifiable response in that situation.  To hear officials talk, the protesters should be thankful that Pike didn’t start blasting them with rubber bullets for how unruly they were.

But does his posture look like that of a threatened man?  Body language is really difficult to quantify scientifically. That is, it’s hard to quote. So after the fact, all we have is the video and the narratives handed down to us from the authorities and from anyone else that was there.

The problem is, the narrative from the authorities does not match the footage or the images. However, I am about to argue that 99%’s narrative is, while closer to the truth, still not accurate. I am going to propose a third version of the story.

Humans are, by and large, experts at reading body language, barring some sort of neurological disorder.  Most people are empathetic enough to understand when a person looks uncomfortable, angry, happy, sad, etc.

In short, we can all recognize a man casually spraying a noxious orange cloud over a bunch of spoiled college students. The media and the authorities spoon-feeding us the story that this man was somehow afraid for his life is the purest bullshit. What I mean is, anyone with half a brain can see that this guy is not feeling threatened. But, I will point out, neither does he feel glee. He takes neither pleasure nor wrath. He is showers these kids with the casual ease of a gardener spraying pesticide. A sort of beatific…peace.

This is what I want to focus on here, because a friend of mine believes, and I think I agree with him, that Lt. John Pike is very likely a heretofore unknown sixth avatar of Vishnu. Or at the very least, a Buddha, or a Bodhisattva, or a Saint or an angel (if you’re of the western persuasion).

Compare with an image of Vishnu.  Observe the way he stands in close detail.  Not only does the students’ pain mean nothing to him.  The students themselves mean nothing to him.  He cares not one whit whether you experience pain nor joy.  This is a sign of a true enlightened one.  The kids on the ground are the true sinners.  Buddha said that suffering arises from craving.  From  materialism.  Indeed, in our tableau, it is not Lt. Pike that is the sinner, but the college students.  They are the ones who are living in suffering.  The mace which is causing their suffering is symbolic of their obsession with the material world and their refusal to pursue the true enlightenment, to cast off that which causes suffering. To cast off their obsession with material wealth and gains.

He is like a Boddhisattva who has chosen not to ascend to Nirvana, opting to stay behind as a teacher.  A teacher of important lessons which issue forth from a spray nozzle.  Many have denounced Pike for a monster. But he is not. He brings knowledge and wisdom in an industrial can of pepper-spray. Indeed, his benevolence knows no limit for he has put off Nirvana specifically to convey this important wisdom to the masses. The lesson: pain is illusory. By succumbing to it, by allowing ourselves to suffer by wishing for the absence of pain, by craving, we are only distancing ourselves from the enlightenment that could be ours.

And so I believe that this is the truth that the internet has touched upon with all of the fantastically edited versions of this image. But what they say in images, I say in words. This man, Lt. John Pike, is the enlightened one. He is a prophet of a new age. And we should listen. Because he cares. He doesn’t show it, but he cares.

Ein weiser Mann schmeichelt der Narr.

Bill Nye is Awesome.

It brings joy to my heart whenever people really go out of their way to stick up for what they really believe in. Especially when the target of their ire is someone so decadent and depraved and downright evil as Bill Nye the Science Guy. Too much?

I grew up watching Bill Nye. He may actually be responsible, in large part, for my interest in science. Here’s the thing: Bill Nye is not flashy. He is not conceited. He is not pretentious. His show was entertaining, to be sure, but that’s because he is very good at presenting the material in a way that kids can relate to, it’s also because science is really, really cool stuff. He never, ever talks down to his audience. I recently watched one of the new science shows for kids and, while I can’t remember what it is called, I found it very appalling because it was full of jump cuts, an idiotic host, and lots and lots of flash. They were doctoring up science to make it entertaining without realizing that science is interesting in and of itself, but above all, they seemed to be assuming that children are idiots, which is a huge mistake. And this is why Bill Nye is so awesome.

So what is Bill Nye up to these days? Still being awesome, I should think. But specifically, in case you didn’t click through to the aforelinked material, he is getting booed by the people of Waco, TX. That’s right: Bill Nye was booed. Not Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, or Scott Walker. Bill Nye. The Science Guy.

Was he booed because he said that global warming is a real issue that must be addressed? No. Was he booed for saying that evolution is the crux of all of modern biology? Nope. What was he booed for, then? He was booed for saying that the moon reflects light from the sun.

Let’s do that again, because I don’t think even I got it. He was booed for saying that the moon is not a source of light, but rather reflects light from the sun.

This is something that anyone with half an elementary school education knows for fact. Shocked? Confounded? Confused? You’re not alone. So let’s take this thing apart and examine it from all angles because there might be something we’re missing. It is important to note that the source article from the Waco Tribune (I’m having a hard time not typing “wacko,” so just so you know, every time I type “Waco,” that’s what I’m thinking), has been taken down. You can still access it in their archives, but it requires a subscription. Whatever.

Also, we should be aware that he also gave lectures concerning global warming, Mars exploration, and energy consumption. Yeah, I know, what a liberal, right? But for whatever reason, the audience was more annoyed when he spoke on the topic of the moon. Yeah, that moon. The one that rolls around in Earth’s gravity well like an overexcited chihuahua.

What’s the problem? The article at thinkatheist.com seems to imply that he mentioned a bible verse. Specifically, 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.” And then he went on to say that the biblical account is not entirely forthcoming, mentioning that the moon is not actually a light, but instead a giant reflector. This was not received well. So I wonder, what was the source of all the anger toward this particular aspect of his lecture.

As a brief aside, I would like to dissect the verse in question myself a little. In light of modern astronomy and astrophysics, I think it’s interesting to note how the verse downplays the creation of the stars. This is perfectly understandable given the source material and when it was written. In fact, the entire verse is totally forgivable as a myth. The sun is the greatest light in the sky because it’s the brightest. The moon comes in second and all of the tiny stars are generally inconsequential little twinkles sparkling away on the celestial sphere. We know now that the stars are all basically like our sun and some are far more enormous and they are scattered across distances so vast that the human mind cannot fathom them. And so, in a way, the creation of all the stars is the more impressive feat, but this does not matter because to the writers of genesis (or the speakers of the original oral tradition) were not aware of the true nature of the stars.

What becomes problematic is people in the 21st century objecting to someone pointing out that the bible verse cannot be taken literally. It is not disproven, necessarily, by the science, but it’s certainly clarified by the science.

It is entirely possible that Bill Nye was a dick about it, but I find this hard to believe based upon all of this evidence. It is also possible that this was near the end of his lecture after numerous mentions of other bible verses that are inaccurate. What I mean is, this particular instance may have been the last straw for the people of Waco, TX. There is no transcript of the lecture, so we cannot be sure.

Here is what I hypothesize: The people of Waco, TX are, by and large, conservative, creationist, and underinformed about science and the sorts of things that it does. They did not actually listen to the words that Bill Nye was saying, hearing instead, “Here’s a bible verse that is wrong, and here’s why it’s wrong and why anyone who believes in the bible is an idiot.” It doesn’t matter if that’s what he said. It is my suspicion that this is how they heard it. I know this because I used to be a Christian (OH!! Feels so good to get that off my chest!). Whenever a hard-lined, conservative Christian hears even a tiny bit of criticism of the bible, they almost always take it as a personal attack. And so they boo.

It is my sincere hope that Mr. Nye will not judge the people of Waco, TX too harshly. Forgive them, for they know not why they boo.

Sie haben Sterne in deinen Augen