Louis C.K., #MeToo, and accountability: Why binary thinking doesn't help

We may not learn and grow beyond the #MeToo era if we keep thinking in black and white, says comedian Pete Holmes.

PETE HOLMES: Obviously we're going through a spiritual evolution right now, and that involves a lot of suffering on everybody's part. And that's where growth comes. We'd all like to increase pleasure and minimize pain, but the truth is, suffering, even collective suffering that we're going through, is often the earmark that some real change is happening.

When I look at what's happening with #MeToo, my heart breaks basically for everybody involved. I think it's interesting -- I did a radio show where we were talking about Louis, and it was so interesting to me to see the comedians that saw Louis as a symbol of artistic freedom. They were arguing, 'He doesn't have to apologize.' And then I was saying, 'You're absolutely right, he doesn't. But wouldn't it be nice? Wouldn't it be great if he did?'

Because, like it or not, he's become a symbol. And I know he never asked for that, but he's become a symbol. And if he shared his growth -- and by the way, I'm a Louis optimist. I think he's capable of doing this, and if he sees this, I hope that he will and I'm hopeful that he will. I actually think he might. If he uses this platform and this becoming of a symbol to share his growth and his suffering and his development and his evolution, like it or not -- I know he never asked for that -- there's probably millions of people that would take that in a positive way, that would unhinge some of their calcified spots and maybe they'd grow with him.

Does he have to do that? No. But this is my point. So to these comedians, Louis represents, 'Nobody tells me what I can talk about.' Because he went back on stage and he was making all these dark jokes. And people were like, why isn't he talking about his abuse and what he did? And they were like, he doesn't have to. And I was like, ah, OK. So to them, he's a symbol of liberty, agency, artistic freedom. Great. Fine. To other people, though -- and we need to sit in the middle of these things, not either-or; it needs to be both-and -- to other people, he represents abusers.

And page one of the abuser handbook, especially if it's in your family, is if you're abused -- and he feels like he's in our family, doesn't he? He's like a relative. He's in our homes, he's on our phones, he's in our ears. He's part of us, and so he feels familial. And if you're going to do something like that, and we all know it, and if an abuser acts like nothing happened, that's page one of the abuser's handbook, is to be at Thanksgiving and just act like it didn't happen. So you're opening up a cosmic wound. So, to this side, Louis becomes a symbol of deceit and abuse.

Where's the truth? It's somewhere in the middle. Because on this side, I see people going -- I feel the fear -- going: If this is how we're going to whip this person for his ugliness -- and his... ugliness is the right word -- how are they going to respond to my ugliness, maybe if it's not even of the same caliber? But it makes us afraid. Is this what we're going to do? Are we going to beat people up? Are we going to spit on them and shame them and strip them of everything? We get afraid.

But I also -- my heart breaks, obviously, for the people that are going (this is bringing up a global unconsciousness): 'When I see him, I see my abuser.' It breaks my heart. But the truth is definitely somewhere in the middle. And it's a lot quieter, I think, than we're being. Because it's real fun to ring all the bells and bang all the pots, and it feels like we're casting out demons, but I think Martin Luther King was right: light casts out darkness, you know what I mean? And we feel so impotent and futile, especially with the president talking about grabbing pussies. And we're like, 'We can't seem to affect that. Well, let's marshal ourselves. Can we clean up this?' And I hope we can and I hope we change.

And then I also can -- I'm trying to also understand both sides, and I think that's important. Because we're a very binary world. We love being either-or. You're either Red Sox or Yankees. You see it even in sexuality, you're either gay or straight, you're either male or female. And this fucking world, especially when psychological wounds are at play, is so much more mysterious than we're giving it credit for. And we want to walk around and go like, 'No, Louis is a monster, let's burn him alive.' And then they're like, 'Louis didn't do anything wrong.' OK, guys, let's settle down and go, what now? What next? How are we going to change and grow from this?

I have a daughter. How are we going to change with it? I don't need a daughter, by the way. Fuck that. I take that back. I cared before I had a daughter. Fuck that shit. I hate when pastors have a gay son and then they become pro-gay. Fuck that shit. Be converted before the conversion experience. That's a big -- you know, like "Green Book"; you go on a road trip with a black guy and you become less racist. Fuck that. We don't have time for you to go on a road trip with every transgender or sexual abuse victim.

Be converted now. Start loving now, and then rationalize it later. We don't have time. There's too many people that need love and understanding for you to go on 75,000 road trips.

  • The collective suffering society is going through with the #MeToo movement is the earmark that real change is happening, says comedian Pete Holmes. Abusers need to acknowledge their wrongdoing and, where possible, be open about their evolution and growth.
  • Comedian Louis C.K.'s abuses and return to the stage have divided the comedy community and society on a broader scale. The debate predominately has two narratives: Either C.K. is a monster, or he is a symbol of artistic freedom.
  • The truth, says Holmes, is likely in the middle, and our need to take a binary stance won't help us confront and grow from these complicated issues.

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Is NASA ignoring proof of Martian life from the 1970s?

One of the scientists with the Viking missions says yes.

Image source: David Williams/NASA
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  • A former NASA consultant believe his experiments on the Viking 1 and 2 landers proved the existence of living microorganisms on Mars
  • Because of other conflicting data, his experiments' results have been largely discarded.
  • Though other subsequent evidence supports their findings, he says NASA has been frustratingly disinterested in following up.

Gilbert V. Levin is clearly aggravated with NASA, frustrated by the agency's apparent unwillingness to acknowledge what he considers a fact: That NASA has had dispositive proof of living microorganisms on Mars since 1976, and a great deal of additional evidence since then. Levin is no conspiracy theorist, either. He's an engineer, a respected inventor, founder of scientific-research company Spherix, and a participant in that 1976 NASA mission. He's written an opinion piece in Scientific American that asks why NASA won't follow up on what he believes they should already know.

In 1976

Image source: NASA/JPL

Sunset at the Viking 1 site

As the developer of methods for rapidly detecting and identifying microorganisms, Levin took part in the Labeled Release (LR) experiment landed on Mars by NASA's Viking 1 and 2.

At both landing sites, the Vikings picked up samples of Mars soil, treating each with a drop of a dilute nutrient solution. This solution was tagged with radioactive carbon-14, and so if there were any microorganisms in the samples, they would metabolize it. This would lead to the production of radioactive carbon or radioactive methane. Sensors were positioned above the soil samples to detect the presence of either as signifiers of life.

At both landing sites, four positive indications of life were recorded, backed up by five controls. As a guarantee, the samples were then heated to 160°, hot enough to kill any living organisms in the soil, and then tested again. No further indicators of life were detected.

According to many, including Levin, had this test been performed on Earth, there would have been no doubt that life had been found. In fact, parallel control tests were performed on Earth on two samples known to be lifeless, one from the Moon and one from Iceland's volcanic Surtsey island, and no life was indicated.

However, on Mars, another experiment, a search for organic molecules, had been performed prior to the LR test and found nothing, leaving NASA in doubt regarding the results of the LR experiment, and concluding, according to Levin, that they'd found something imitating life, but not life itself. From there, notes Levin, "Inexplicably, over the 43 years since Viking, none of NASA's subsequent Mars landers has carried a life detection instrument to follow up on these exciting results."

Subsequent evidence

Image source: NASA

A thin coating of water ice on the rocks and soil photographed by Viking 2

Levin presents in his opinion piece 17 discoveries by subsequent Mars landers that support the results of the LR experiment. Among these:

  • Surface water sufficient to sustain microorganisms has been found on the red planet by Viking, Pathfinder, Phoenix and Curiosity.
  • The excess of carbon-13 over carbon-12 in the Martian atmosphere indicates biological activity since organisms prefer ingesting carbon-12.
  • Mars' CO2should long ago have been converted to CO by the sun's UV light, but CO2 is being regenerated, possibly by microorganisms as happens on Earth.
  • Ghost-like moving lights, resembling Earth's will-O'-the-wisps produced by spontaneous ignition of methane, have been seen and recorded on the Martian surface.
  • "No factor inimical to life has been found on Mars." This is a direct rebuttal of NASA's claim cited above.

Frustration

Image source: NASA

A technician checks the soil sampler of a Viking lander.

By 1997, Levin was convinced that NASA was wrong and set out to publish followup research supporting his conclusion. It took nearly 20 years to find a venue, he believes due to his controversial certainty that the LR experiment did indeed find life on Mars.

Levin tells phys.org, "Since I first concluded that the LR had detected life (in 1997), major juried journals had refused our publications. I and my co-Experimenter, Dr. Patricia Ann Straat, then published mainly in the astrobiology section of the SPIE Proceedings, after presenting the papers at the annual SPIE conventions. Though these were invited papers, they were largely ignored by the bulk of astrobiologists in their publications." (Staat is the author of To Mars with Love, about her experience as co-experimenter with Levin for the LR experiments.)

Finally, he and Straat decided to craft a paper that answers every objection anyone ever had to their earlier versions, finally publishing it in Astrobiology's October 2016 issue. "You may not agree with the conclusion," he says, "but you cannot disparage the steps leading there. You can say only that the steps are insufficient. But, to us, that seems a tenuous defense, since no one would refute these results had they been obtained on Earth."

Nonetheless, NASA's seeming reluctance to address the LR experiment's finding remains an issue for Levin. He and Straat have petitioned NASA to send a new LR test to the red planets, but, alas, Levin reports that "NASA has already announced that its 2020 Mars lander will not contain a life-detection test."

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Credit: IBM
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