The Daily Show: what’s science up to?

October 27, 2011 • 5:22 am

Courtesy of reader Daveau, here’s a funny six-minute clip from last night’s Daily Show:What’s science up to?”

Republican strategist: Noelle Nickpour pronounces that “Scientists are scamming the American people right and left—for their own financial gain!”

Lots of global-warming and evolution denial from Republicans, and an interview with Nobel Laureate and well-known grifter Martin Chalfie.  Chalfie addresses the question of whether he’s scamming America, and why teaching science to kids isn’t equivalent to child brain-rape.

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Nickpour:  It’s very confusing for a child to be only taught evolution to go home to a household where their parents say, “Well, wait a minute. . . God created the Earth!”

Daily Show Interviewer Aasif Mandvi:  What is the point of teaching children facts if it’s just going to confuse them?

Nickpour:  It confuses the children when they go home.  We as Americans—we are paying tax dollars for our children to be edu-cated. We need to offer them every theory that’s out there. It’s all about choice; it’s all about freedom.

Mandvi: It should be up to the American people to decide what’s true.

Nickpour:  Absolutely! Doesn’t it make common sense?

76 thoughts on “The Daily Show: what’s science up to?

  1. Greetings America!
    Where down is up and up is down because you really SHOULD teach every theory that’s out there.

    1. If you go to the dailyshow site, in their forum there is a solution to this problem. Or use firefox with modify headers just google it for instructions.

  2. The greatest crime an education system could perpetrate: that these bimbos are not even remotely aware that they might be missing something. Something like, you know, actual knowledge. Or, God forbid, a bunch of brain cells.

    1. What’s even scarier is the impression that some of the loudest voices know damn well that they’re lying, that the science is correct, but believe that perpetuating their religious hold over their flocks is more important than truth.

  3. Is that really Nickpour? If so, how did he get her to say those things?
    Surely she would know who Mandvi is.

    Otherwise, this was hilarious. I hope the little kid at the end understood the joke!

    1. I had never heard of this Nickpour person, but I’m left wondering whether she was play-acting in this interview, saying stuff she knew to be ridiculous for comic effect, or whether she was giving what she thought were good answers.

      It’s like Poe’s law – if your usual output is completely ridiculous, it’s impossible to parody well, because no one can tell which is which.

    2. I believe people like Nickpour agree to go on The Daily Show and Colbert because they know perfectly well that none of their regular viewers will ever see it. So they lose nothing, and it probably gives them street cred with their fellow Fox personalities–“Hey, I went on Jon Stewart and lived to tell about it!”.

      1. You might be right. I see from her website that she apparently hasn’t listed The Daily Show on her list of TV appearances. Either embarrassed or was just playing along with a caricature. Might be interesting to get her opinion on that.

        1. You’re kidding, she’s for real? REALLY for real? Holy crap, I was sure she parodying right wingnuttiness. *shakes head*

          1. Regrettably. Seems, as someone pointed out, that level of ignorance is hard to parody. I don’t know whether you noticed or not in the film clip that during the interview with, I think, the “Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie” that the interviewer was asking him how scientists were different from, I think, child rapists and Chalfie asked someone off screen how he was supposed to answer that question. Presumably he didn’t know that the Daily Show was heavy on the satire but he at least had his baloney detectors on full alert – more than I can say for Nickpour who has apparently been fed a diet of religious schlock for so long she wouldn’t know baloney from filet mignon – or from offal.

  4. If I were religious, I would worship the Daily Show. Could Republican strategist Noelle Nickpour be any more ignorant and confused? She should run for president as the ideal Republican candidate – dumb, dumber and dumberer!

  5. So truth can be established by a show of hands! That simplifies everything. Just get some people in a room and take a vote. (But pick the people carefully.)

  6. The full episode also contained an interview with the always interesting Lisa Randall, as well as a report mocking the media for it’s heavy coverage of the so-called “climategate” emails, and it’s underwhelming coverage of the Koch brothers funded study that was supposed to debunk the idea of climate warming, but ended up reinforcing it instead. What’s not to like?

    1. I was a smidge unhappy during Randall’s interview where Stewart said something like “Surely there’s enough room within what science doesn’t know to make room for God?” Randall just let that slide.

      I would like to see a scientist who is not hyping a new book, maybe JC, go on Stewart to specifically discuss why religion and science are incompatible.

      1. I agree with you about being a “smidge unhappy”, but at least she didn’t appear to
        be an accommodationist; she just seemed to want to discuss science per se, as opposed to science versus religion. But yeah, it would be nice to see her, Professor Coyne, Neil deGrasse Tyson (who I believe has been a guest several times*), or another reputable scientist discussing their views on the compatibility (or lack thereof!) of science and religion.

        *He may have been a guest on The Colbert Report. Sometimes I remember the guest, but forget which show they were on!

        1. Nah, I agree, she was clearly trying to stay on topic. I think Tyson covered accommodationism on Colbert once. The subject bears repeating. Many scientists would be fine, but I have a lot of confidence in our fearless leader’s preparation and debate skills. Maybe JC needs an agent…

  7. Now I get it! It was part of the grand plan all along. Once the Republicans are in power, then we get to vote on what is and is not a fact. Then we vote on Climate Change. If we can get a majority to vote that it is not real and is not a problem, bingo! Problem solved!

  8. Michelle Bachmann became retarded when she heard about the HPV vaccine – oh wait – no, she was born a retard, but that was just one of god’s bad jokes.

    It’s sad to think that these dumbasses are going to be running the country. Well, at least we have far fewer nukes than in the LBJ years and we may even be able to dismantle more before these monkeys get near the button.

    1. It’s sad to think that these dumbasses are going to be running the country.

      “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.

      Definitely a scary prospect but as an example of someone who is doing something substantial to forestall that possibility you might want to take a look at a review of a book – Attack of the Theocrats – profiled on Dawkins’ site which has this summary:

      At no time in American history has the United States had such a high percentage of theocratic members of Congress – those who expressly endorse religious bias in law. Just as ominously, at no other time have religious fundamentalists effectively had veto power over one of the country’s two major political parties. As Sean Faircloth argues, this has led to the crumbling of the country’s most cherished founding principle – the wall separating church and state – and presages yet even more crumbling. Faircloth, a former politician and current executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, moves beyond the symbolism to explore the many ways federal and state legal codes privilege religion in law. He goes on to demonstrate how religious bias in law harms all Americans – financially, militarily, physically, socially, and educationally. Sounding a much-needed alarm for all who care about the future direction of the country, Faircloth offers an inspiring vision for returning America to its secular roots.

  9. Nikpour says:

    “The problem is, only scientists are qualified to comment on science.”

    that’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

    1. I’ll agree with you that that is a feature, although it is also, I think, one that can be somewhat problematic, an example of which is detailed at length in Lee Smolin’s The Trouble with Physics. Sort of raises the ancient question of “who watches the watchers?” Seems that it is everyone’s responsibility to at least understand the general concepts of science – something that Americans fall down badly at as detailed in Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark – and have some understanding of the differences between science, pseudo-science and outright nonsense – and on stilts to boot. Which the religious are doing their damnedest to obscure.

      1. Which is why we should probably be more supportive than we sometimes are of politicians who try to understand and promote solid science. (Gore, e.g.)

  10. I’m going to go out on a limb and speculate that Nickpour is crazy like a fox, not a wingnut.

    I base this on spending an hour today watching YouTube clips of Nickpour in action in a number of interviews on Fox, CNN, Hannity and so on. In each segment she comes across as a moderate conservative Republican who actually makes sense and provides good insight and advice. Advice not taken, I might add.

    Rather than being a brainwashed ideologue like Wendy Wright, Nickpour is far too reasonable and critical of the GOP.

    So, I think she was in on the skit, part of the plan, and played the role of Wendy Wright Clone all too well. If I am wrong I will never admit it. You heard it here.

  11. My tweet on the subject:
    @noellenikpour The american people do not “decide” what’s true; we observe reality, and decide to believe it or not.

    1. Yes, I found that a rather disturbing statement, although to be fair it was made by Mandvi to which Nickpour agreed, but rather too enthusiastically for my taste. Though it certainly seems typical of the fundamentalist outlook. As the NY Times article by Giberson and Stephens noted:

      As one fundamentalist slogan puts it, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.”

      But it also is entirely consistent with the equally problematic philosophy of postmodernism – birds of a feather, maybe:

      It involves the belief that many, if not all, apparent realities are only social constructs, as they are subject to change inherent to time and place.

      While the labels we use for various things – the languages we create – are somewhat arbitrary presumably the phenomena to which they refer are the same in any case; presumably the speed of light is the same in France as it is in China.

        1. Probably a few more; repeat as necessary I guess.

          Reminds me of watching my sister feed Pabulum to her young kids. A case of scraping off their faces with the spoon what didn’t get swallowed the first time and shoving it back in again.

          1. You’re right, but what a waste of time. How much better to simply emphasize the death-blow to pomo that the Hoax was. I highly recommend Sokal’s Beyond the Hoax, in which he goes into great detail about the serious threat pomo represents. It’s ironic and not even widely known to the artsy-fartsy crowd that his motivation stemmed from as liberal a view of humanity as is ever found. Like it or not, lib arts departments on US campuses everywhere are still equating Science (scare quotes implied) with uber-conservative male-privilege you-name-it right-wing boogiemen. (Whatever the non-sexist term for boogieman is.)

            1. Thanks for the book recommendation – definitely worth looking into. In a similar vein, you’re no doubt aware of C.P. Snow’s Two Cultures in which he decried the “breakdown of communication between” the sciences and the humanities. Definitely problematic but definitely an interesting dichotomy and phenomenon with some interesting if not altogether admirable psychology behind the motivations of many in the humanist camp. While I would be the last to assert there is no value in the humanities sphere there seems to be a bit of a “hot-house flower” aroma surrounding it, at least within the universities. Apropos of which and on the principle that one good book recommendation deserves another you might be interested in P.B. Medawar’s The Art of the Soluble which has this:

              If our reverence for Pure Science is a rather parochial thing, a by-product of the literary propaganda of the romantic revival; if no case can be made for it on philosophic grounds; if purity is not part of a scientist’s own valuation of science; they why on earth do we think so highly of it? It is, I think, our humanist brethren who have taught us to believe that, while pure science is a genteel and even creditable activity for scientists in universities, applied science, with all its horrid connotations of trade, has no place on the campus; for only the purest of pure science can give countenance to research in the humanities – research which, though it cannot very well be described as pure, for want of anything applied to compare it with, can all too readily be described as useless. The humanist fears that if we abandon the ideal of pure knowledge, knowledge acquired for its own sake, then usefulness becomes the only measure of merit; and that if it does become so, research in the humane arts is doomed.

              These fears, I have tried to explain, are groundless. Neither is purity nor its usefulness enter a scientist’s valuation of his own research. The scientist values research by the size of its contribution to that huge, logically articulated structure of ideas which already, though not yet half built, is the most glorious accomplishment of mankind. The humanist must value his research by different but equally honourable standards, particularly by the contribution it makes, directly or indirectly, to our understanding of human nature and conduct, and human sensibility. [pg 126]

              And, relative to the above and to Jerry’s recent posts on the “Templeton-funded postdoctoral fellowship”, such studies really don’t seem to redound greatly to the credit of the humanities or give much evidence of valuable contributions – starting off with logical contradictions hardly seems a useful premise or to bode well for the endeavor.

              1. And thanks to you for your recommendations, with the thought-provoking excerpt. My Amazon wish-list grows longer…

                I’ll admit I’m especially ticked off on this subject by the sort of texts and articles my Lib Arts major daughter brings home from college. It’s worse than one could possibly imagine.

                Am I the only one who wonders how university science faculty manage to co-exist with the BS emanating from their L.A. counterparts on campus? A fair amount of the crap that permeates society is coming straight from the bastions of knowledge we imagine universities to be.

                Sorry, I’m still not addressing your input so much as I’m venting, here. Probably due to the Walker Percy & bell hooks articles my daughter currently has to address…

              2. Diane G. said:

                And thanks to you for your recommendations, with the thought-provoking excerpt. My Amazon wish-list grows longer…

                My pleasure; just following another algorithm, another meme I think is worth propagating, that being one from the sci-fi classic Fahrenheit 451.

                Am I the only one who wonders how university science faculty manage to co-exist with the BS emanating from their L.A. counterparts on campus? A fair amount of the crap that permeates society is coming straight from the bastions of knowledge we imagine universities to be.

                The psychology of that process certainly seems rather intricate and quite problematic – memes, like the genes that produce killer bees, can be quite detrimental to surrounding societies. I think it is somewhat related to Feynman’s aphorism about how easy it is to fool ourselves which the evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers has elaborated on in his recent book (not read yet myself but definitely on my own list) Deceit and Self-Deception: Fooling Yourself the Better To Fool Others. And all of that, I think, can be wrapped up in the Biblical aphorism: “Vanity, vanity; all is vanity” – far too easy at times for us to wind up putting the cart before the horse; part of the human condition I expect.

                Sorry, I’m still not addressing your input so much as I’m venting, here.

                No problemo – venting is good, or can be – otherwise we’d have boilers exploding all over the place. Only a problem when the relief pressure is set too low and there’s no steam for useful work. So to speak … 🙂

              3. Diane G. said,

                IME, some of the most self-deceptive seem to live the happiest lives.

                Would seem to be some truth to that. But the realistic desirability of that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?

                How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
                The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
                Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
                Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d;

                Maybe that “eternal sunshine” is a state to be devoutly hoped for and pursued, but I would say that it is a bit of a moral conundrum, one that would seem to turn on the question of the impact of that state on the surrounding society. Reminds me of an oldie but a goodie: “I want to die in my sleep like my grandfather did and not screaming like the passengers in the car he was driving at the time”.

                More prosaically there is this from Philip Wylie’s Generation of Vipers [highly recommended; a jeremiad against a whole catalog of social pathologies]:

                All I shall suggest is that man – individual man – enlarge his attitude toward himself. In order to do so most effectively and rapidly he should use the tool at hand: science. He should employ the scientific method for the purpose of studying himself and teaching himself what he learns about himself. He should apply logic and integrity to his subjective personality – just as he has done to the objective world. … He would learn that when he kids himself, or believes a lie, or deceives another man, he commits a crime as real and as destructive as the crime of deliberately running down a person with an automobile. [pg 20]

                For an extended flavour of the book you might be interested in reading this excerpt available at the City University of New York, link courtesy of Veronica Abbass.

              4. Steersman, I do appreciate the thought, citations, and quotations you put into each post; that Wylie does look fascinating, all the more so for being first published in ’42 (or ’43, depending on which Amazon editorial review you prefer…)!

                Oh yes, the “unexamined life,” and all that. I couldn’t agree more…except that I’ve come to think that a certain (possibly large) percentage of H. sapiens is effectively incapable of critical thinking and even that, blasphemous as it may sound, that attribute may perhaps be adaptive in a social species such as ours.

                I’m definitely of the obligate examining sort, but can’t say I’m any happier than the blithe acceptors of authority I know, some of whom are close family members…

              5. Diane G. said,

                … that Wylie does look fascinating, all the more so for being first published in ’42 …

                Glad you thought so – there does seem to be quite a bit of “fulsome” praise for the book at least based on those recent reviews. And Time was quite impressed with it when it first came out. Although I had some second thoughts after providing that link to the segment on “momism” available at CUNY as I thought it might be construed as promoting misogynism – a charge that was echoed by the Wikipedia article on him but one which his own daughter is quoted there as disagreeing with.

                In addition, a brief review of the book indicates that he had equally harsh words for virtually every segment of the public from educators to scientists to the medical profession to the religious – leaders and flocks, the latter notable for their “fleecability” – to the “common man” himself. I think that the only profession he may have missed might have been “Indian chiefs”. A rather thorough-going analysis, I think, in support of his general contention that we – as a culture and as a society, as various societies and countries – have “a cancer of the soul”.

                …. I’ve come to think that a certain (possibly large) percentage of H. sapiens is effectively incapable of critical thinking and even that, blasphemous as it may sound, that attribute may perhaps be adaptive in a social species such as ours.

                Shockingly true, methinks and I also periodically wonder about the reasons for that. Maybe, as an adaptation, partly similar to the case of a clam creating a pearl – largely if not entirely a rather black one as far as religion goes – as a method for minimizing or reducing the “pain” due to various irritants, a primary one being, I think, the recognition of our mortality. Another less pejorative one is sort of summarized by Scarlett O’Hara’s closing comment: “I’ll think about that tomorrow”. When bare survival is first and foremost in one’s mind reflecting on the nature and sources of our behaviours may be an unaffordable luxury.

                I’m definitely of the obligate examining sort, but can’t say I’m any happier than the blithe acceptors of authority I know, some of whom are close family members…

                Likewise on all points. Generally tend to think that many of the religious have their hearts in the right places but that their brains aren’t really firing on all cylinders. Big part of the problem I think is the literalism with which so many of them view their dogma – a point that Jerry touched upon in his recent “debate” with Haught. And apropos of which and of “obligate” and of “purpose” [regrettably somewhat of a “dirty” word in the lexicon of many atheists at least], Gretta Vosper [Canadian Christian minister, author of “With or Without God”] argued, among other points (I haven’t read it yet), for a “post-Christian church” and that:

                Those who recognize the Bible’s claim to be the [literal] word of God as the monster in the tub with the baby are the ones who must throw that monster out with the bathwater” [MacLean’s, March 31, 2008].

          2. @ DG ~ The choices we make:

            “In the end John was forced to give in. Linda got her soma. Thenceforward she remained in her little room on the thirty-seventh floor of Bernard’s apartment house, in bed, with the radio and television always on, and the patchouli tap just dripping, and the soma tablets within reach of her hand – there she remained; and yet wasn’t there at all, was all the time away, infinitely far away, on holiday; on holiday in some other world, where the music of the radio was a labyrinth of sonorous colours, a sliding, palpitating labyrinth, that led (by what beautifully inevitable windings) to a bright centre of absolute conviction; where the dancing images of the television box were the performers in some indescribably delicious all-singing feely; where the dripping patchouli was more than scent – was the sun, was a million saxophones, was Popé making love, only much more so, incomparably more, and without end”

            1. Hard to beat Huxley.

              Really, the discussions we have here stretch at least back to the Enlightenment and were no doubt occurring before then. I surprise myself by taking part, because I normally just throw my hand up in impatience; and realize how much more I enjoy going out and looking for my fall migrant warblers…

      1. But it also is entirely consistent with the equally problematic philosophy of postmodernism – birds of a feather, maybe


        I once tried to point out to a colleague of mine (in the musical field, where pomo thought has firmly entrenched itself) this very similarity; that is, the similarity between the redneck, Rethuglican religiot’s approach to ascertaining “truth” (take a vote) and the pomo approach. He rolled his eyes.

        The strange thing is that pomo is supposed to be a paragon of left-leaning, liberal, tolerant thought.

        @Diane – Any and all Sokals will be met with the Courtier’s Reply.

        1. Canons to the left of us, canons to the right; into the valleys of ignorance ride the champions of the enlightenment ….

          But reminds me of a passage in Pinker’s How the Mind Works:

          The confusion of scientific psychology with moral and political goals, and the resulting pressure to believe in a structureless mind, have rippled perniciously through the academy and modern intellectual discourse. Many of us have been puzzled by the takeover of humanities departments by the doctrines of postmodernism, poststructuralism, and deconstructionism, according to which objectivity is impossible, meaning is self-contradictory, and reality is socially constructed. The motives become clearer when we consider typical statements like “Human beings have constructed and used gender – human beings can deconstruct and stop using gender”, and “The heterosexual/homosexual binary is not in nature, but is socially constructed, and therefore deconstructable”. Reality is denied to categories, knowledge, and the world itself so that reality can be denied to stereotypes of gender, race, and sexual orientation. The doctrine is basically a convoluted way of getting to the conclusion that oppression of women, gays, and minorities is bad. And the dichotomy between “in nature” and “socially constructed” shows a poverty of the imagination, because it omits a third alternative: that some categories are products of a complex mind designed to mesh with what is in nature. [pg 57]

          The curative and beneficial if not profound aspects of feedback. But seems that false dichotomy is a common logical fallacy but one that appears to be remarkably, and problematically, prevalent within religious communities, particularly the fundamentalist one (either the Bible OR Darwin) and is rife within Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism (either Aristotle and Aquinas OR scientism), although the Catholic Church has a wide stripe of fundamentalism running through it with its dogmatic adherence to the literal interpretation of the Adam and Eve myth (either a literal Adam and Eve and original sin OR close up shop and get real jobs – bit of a sticky wicket that one).

          1. Pinker is relatively generous in ascribing motives to the pomo crowd, IMO. Or am I the only one who detects some need to put down science because they really can’t grasp it on the part of (at least some of) the pomo science pooh-pooh-ers?

          2. Canons to the left of us, canons to the right; into the valleys of ignorance ride the champions of the enlightenment ….

            Nice! But I hope we will fare better…

            1. Thanks. But speaking of faring better and genuflecting towards Churchill:

              Upon this battle depends the survival of [secular] civilization. Upon it depends our own [Western] life and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us now. [Creationists like Ken Ham and William Dembski and William Lane Craig know that they] will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to [them], all [the world] may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth [and the United States] last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’

        2. …the similarity between the redneck, Rethuglican religiot’s approach to ascertaining “truth” (take a vote) and the pomo approach.

          And QFT once more!

  12. I am actually, monocle-poppingly scandalized. Even if she is kind of kidding here, and I desperately want to believe she is, at least I know just believing something doesn’t make it true.

  13. It’s incredible. Some retards are actually trying to convince people that truth is democratic. It doesn’t matter what people vote, the sky will still be blue, and there’ll still be no gods.

  14. Why do idiots have to proclaim they speak for the idiocy of a larger group? Not only Republicans are idiots, but Americans too?

    Why does the rest of the world laugh at idiot Americans? Only idiot Americans don’t understand why – and they happen to have the loudest and most entitled voices.

  15. I can’t believe Noelle Nickpour is a real person; she’s like a fucking Onion skit. Dumb as box of hair. Of course she’s just not one lone nutbag, she’s a high paid strategist for the GOP who sing the same song.


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