836: Sickness

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At least, with p<0.05 confidence.
Title text: At least, with p<0.05 confidence.


This comic was published 2 months after Randall's then fiancée, now wife, was diagnosed with breast cancer (see Category:Cancer), which is likely what inspired this comic - even though Cueball sounds like he is the one afflicted by the sickness. The comic is thus about the existential questions that might arise from such a crisis. The moral could be interpreted as that you shouldn't begrudge your fellow human being, regardless of where they find comfort.

Also, any sentence is instantly funny if, at the end of it, you address your audience as "bitches". It may also be a reference to 54: Science.

"Slings and arrows of fortune" is an allusion to the "To be, or not to be" soliloquy in William Shakespeare's Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Hamlet asks himself whether it is "Nobler in the mind to suffer / The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune" (to resign oneself to one's fate and endure what may come), or to "take Arms against a Sea of troubles, / and by opposing end them" (to commit suicide and end suffering); he ultimately concludes that we would rather face the dangers and pains we know on Earth than whatever unknown new ones may come in the afterlife. Cueball appears to agree with Hamlet, thanking "the people who refused to gracefully accept the ineffability of reality": Religion and spirituality can give him the moral courage to face his death, but he'd much prefer to not die in the first place, and won't have to, thanks to medical and scientific innovation. (Actually he will have to eventually.[citation needed] Medical and scientific innovation simply delay the inevitable events of death and entropy.)

The title text is a pun based on Cueball's newfound confidence, asserting that his statement "because they work, bitches" has a 95% confidence interval.


[The three panels are arranged diagonally, upper left to bottom right.]
[Two people, Cueball and White Hat, are walking past a tree.]
White Hat: So, has this sickness opened you up to looking for answers beyond science?
Cueball: ...no, not really.
[Cueball turns to face White Hat.]
Cueball: We've groped for comfort before the slings and arrows of fortune for millennia, and I begrudge nobody their sources of solace.
Cueball: But Science provides tools.
Cueball: $100 billion a year in scientific studies and medical R&D has bought us some pretty damn powerful slings and arrows of our own.
Cueball: This world is amazing, and I'm going to live to experience more of it thanks to people who refused to gracefully accept the ineffability of reality.
Cueball: I find my courage where I can, but I take my weapons from science.
Cueball: Because they work, bitches.

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Someone evidently didn't understand Hamlet too well. In "To be or not to be" he's contemplating suicide. "Take arms against..." means 'kill yourself so you won't have to put up with life's crappy bits. I would rewrite the Hamlet reference myself, but I'm too lazy. Could someone with a good understanding of the play do it? Please? 01:42, 12 March 2014 (UTC)

Agreed. Change made. Orazor (talk) 08:03, 21 July 2014 (UTC)
"Take arms against a sea of troubles..." does not mean to commit suicide. It means to fight against the struggle referred to the in the previous line "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune". The contemplation of suicide is expressed in the phrase "When he himself might his quietus make / With a bare bodkin" when one could end one's life with a dagger. 08:35, 22 August 2014 (UTC)
Yes, "to take arms against a sea of troubles" in this context does in fact does mean to commit suicide. The struggle refered to in the previous line is whether to put up with the unbearable situation he (Hamlet) has been placed in, or, in the next line(s), to exit the situation via suicide. Elsewise, why would he suddenly transition from "overcoming obstacles" to considering death? Doesn't make sense. For your reference, check out http://www.nosweatshakespeare.com/quotes/hamlet-to-be-or-not-to-be/.Orazor (talk) 10:53, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
Why commit suicide. His mother tries to get him to accept the inevitable that his father's killer is now in power and get on with life instead of pretending to be daft.
A bare bodkin is an arrow tipped with steel, a war arrow. As opposed to a neutered one for harmless purposes.
I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 20:34, 24 January 2015 (UTC)

I'm going to add some more discussion to the explanation, as I have always read this comic completely differently. I saw white hat's question as asking if Cueball considered seeking cures for his illness outside of science, i.e. in pseudoscience. Given the wide variety of "cures" for all manner of illnesses (especially cancer) in alternative medicine, this seems like the most straight-forward meaning of his question "are you looking for answers outside of science". Randall has obviously made plenty of comics about pseudoscience, so it is a relevant theme for him. It also brings the comic together nicely, as Cueball is basically answering "Science has given us plenty of great tools: no need to rely on that crap!". Frankly, I'm a bit confused as to how the explanation went to discussions of suicide. I understand that "Slings and arrows of fortune" is a Hamlet reference that involves a discussion of suicide, but the comic makes way more sense if you understand it as a contrast between the tools of modern medicine and the "tools" of ancient/alternative medicine. I don't really think suicide was what Randall was aiming for. However, I'll leave that all in as an alternative explanation for someone else to remove, if desired. Cmancone (talk) 18:01, 27 September 2016 (UTC)

Having read everything over again, I think the current explanation is fine. I realized that the explanation talks less about suicide than the discussion, and that the explanations understanding of "Beyond science" is a better fit than him asking about alternative medicine. So ignore me Cmancone (talk) 18:06, 27 September 2016 (UTC)

Could the "bitches" be a reference to Richard Dawkings, who said, when asked why do he choose to use scientific method : "It works... Bitches!". Pretty famous line, and the first I heard from him. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Richard Dawkins was probably referring to this comic from 2006: 54: Science. You can read it here: Richard Dawkins on science: 'it works, bitches' (2013). Randall was first. --Dgbrt (talk) 21:03, 29 May 2018 (UTC)