Category Archives: Social Commentary

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

…and the science of smug condescension:

Here we see, in action, the signature scientific style of the Neil deGrasse Tyson era. Present a scientific theory in crudely oversimplified form, omitting any uncertainties or counter-arguments. Pass off complex claims as if they are obvious “basic physics.” Then dismiss any skepticism as the resentment of the primitive, ignorant, unscienced masses against their enlightened betters.

Or, you know, file law suits against critics.

It’s not a very good way to get valid scientific results—nor, for that matter, to promote the scientific method. But it’s what we get when we substitute, in place of respect for the actual methodology of science, an attitude of superior posing and smug condescension.

I’d like to say that I was disappointed with the Cosmos reboot, but honestly, I wasn’t that big a fan of the original. But I’d love to buy Tyson for what I think he’s worth, and sell him for what he does.

[Afternoon update]

Some more thoughts:

It seems to me that Neal deGrasse Tyson is a scientist. Heck, I don’t actually know, because I don’t read technical astronomy papers, but I assume he’s published something somewhere, actually done some science in his life. But that doesn’t appear to be his current day job. His current job, near as I can tell, is carnival barker. He’s a salesman, or an advertiser. That’s not science. Inspiring others to want to learn more may be laudable, but it’s not science. Making crap up isn’t science, either, but I’ll let the serial stalkers at the Federalist worry about that.

But here’s a misconception that I’ve discussed before:

Thing is, I’m no scientist. So while I would like to call myself a Science-ist – that is, one who believes in the nature of science and the good results it can produce – I certainly can’t pretend I am a scientist, which is one who does science. Stuff like collecting data, analyzing it, proposing hypotheses, testing hypotheses. You know, stuff that scientists do. Not just looking at cool pictures of galaxies and pretending that makes me smart. (Um, NSFW language at that link)

No. Science isn’t a profession, it’s a way of thinking about the world, and learning about it. Everyone does it, to some degree or another, every day. Check a door knob to see if it’s unlocked? You just did an experiment.

People who believe in “science” as some kind of special realm that “scientists” live in, and that “science” reveals “truth” (as many global warm mongers do, even though they don’t understand the science or, often, even basic math) are members of a religion, that is in fact properly called scienceism. I believe in science as the best means to learn about the natural world, and as the basis for engineering and creating technology, but I don’t worship scientists, and I don’t delude myself that scientific results are “truth.”

Anyway, finally, note this comment:

you make an ass out of neal tyson when it’s pointed out that he has not, in fact, published A SINGLE PIECE of academic work since having talked some committee into accepting the dissertation it took him 11 years (and an expulsion!) to co-author.

no, seriously. if you don’t believe me, you can put his name into the search bar at arxiv.org, where practicing physicists post our preprints:

“Search gave no matches

No matches were found for your search: all:(neal AND tyson)

Please try again.”

In the next comment, he notes that there is in fact one post-doc paper, but it appears that he’s just participating because the actual authors wanted a bigger name on it.

Hope For My Old Age

That’s what I had, until I found out this story wasn’t really true:

Pearson admitted during her arraignment that when she found the 88-year-old Venn trying to turn tricks she and her friends decided it would be funny to sleep ‘with an old guy.’ Word spread and lots of girls paid Venn for sex. Pearson said he only charged five dollars and gave them lollipops afterward.

Nice while it lasted, though.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Just making s**t up?

The point is that it’s not hard at all to prove that politicians, as a class, are some of the dimmest, dullest, and least inspiring group of people you could possibly imagine. It takes a special brand of lazy hack to feel compelled to manufacture evidence to that effect.

Not unusual for him. Also, while many people confuse median and average, Tyson has no excuse.

[Wednesday-afternoon update]

Tyson repeats the “space pen” myth.

Has anyone actually read his PhD thesis? I’m starting to wonder about the quality of it now.

[Bumped]

Don’t Go To Mars

David Attenborough takes a novel and courageous stand. Let’s “sort out life on earth, first.” [Paywall]

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone make that argument before, except a lot of people, for decades.

“America? Let’s sort out life in Europe first.”

“Europe and Asia? Let’s sort out life in Africa, first.”

It’s obviously a mindless prescription for never settling new territory.

Multi-Culturalism And Rape

Rotherham is a part of England that will be forever Pakistan:

Pakistanis first came in significant numbers to Rotherham in the late 1950s and early ’60s, in the wave of immigration that brought men from the Indian subcontinent to Britain, largely to do work that the indigenous white working class no longer wanted. My father was part of this first wave. He worked on the production line of the Vauxhall car factory in Luton, an unlovely town north of London. In Rotherham, many Pakistani men ended up doing dirty, dusty work in the steel foundry.

The new immigrants were from rural villages, typically in Kashmir, the northern province bordering India; they were socially conservative and hard-working. When I was growing up in the ’80s, the stereotype of Pakistanis was that we were industrious and docile.

The Pakistani community in Rotherham, and elsewhere in Britain, has not followed the usual immigrant narrative arc of intermarriage and integration. The custom of first-cousin marriages to spouses from back home in Pakistan meant that the patriarchal village mentality was continually refreshed.
Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story

Britain’s Pakistani community often seems frozen in time; it has progressed little and remains strikingly impoverished. The unemployment rate for the least educated young Muslims is close to 40 percent, and more than two-thirds of Pakistani households are below the poverty line.

If you allow unrestricted immigration with no assimilation, you are basically welcoming your future conquerors.

The Headchopper Next Door

Some uncomfortable truths about Islam:

Mohammed was quite clear about what he wanted. For all the abrogations, the Koran is reasonably clear on what it expects its followers to do. Mohammed’s history was that of a man who tried to convince the Arabs that he had seen an angel by telling them and failed, and who succeeded only when he killed enough of them, not to mention the Jews and any other infidels hanging around the place.

That is the history of Islam.

Germany was not a nation of monsters. It was a nation that behaved monstrously. The average German would not stick his neighbor in an oven in his basement or chain him up as a slave. He would however do these things in Poland because he was contextually contaminated by a monstrous ideology.

As an individual he was a nice man who loved his children, petted his dog and enjoyed street fairs. As a loyal member of a system run by the Nazi Party, he would do monstrous things. And then when the Nazi machine was switched off, he would go home to his wife and children without ever killing anyone else.

He was not a good man. Good men don’t do the things he did. But he wasn’t a budding serial killer. He was just doing what a death cult told him to do.

As I noted over the weekend…

Also, Barack Obama and John Kerry lecturing Muslims on what is and is not the nature of Islam is a theater of the absurd.

Hockey Sticks And “Fraud”

Some reflections from Judith Curry on Professor Mann’s latest court filing.

[Update early afternoon]

Oopsie:

After being caught out claiming he was a “Nobel Prize recipient” in his original complaint (then having to retract it), it seems Mann and his lawyers just don’t have the good sense to know when to stop. In this case Mann has been “hoisted by his own petard”. His very own words condemn him. Again.

No comment.

Public School As Child Abuse

Example #43,675,219:

Stuarts Draft fifth-grader Grace Karaffa appeared before the school board Thursday night, saying she had requested the substance while on the playground after suffering chapped lips.

“I was told I couldn’t use it. Then later that day they (lips) started to bleed so I asked for Chapstick again and I was told that it was against the school policy for elementary kids to have Chapstick,” Grace said.

Grace asked the school board to change its policy. “Chapstick allows the human body to heal the lips themselves and protects them in any weather from drying out,” she said. She concluded her speech by saying, “Please school board, allow us to have Chapstick.”

I don’t know if you have to be a moron to be a school-board member, but it certainly seems to help.

Ivy League Undergrads

They’re apparently not selected for high quality:

I am interested in Roman history, and had a discussion with someone with a background in classics and history at one of the Ivies. They kept quoting garbled and watered down versions of Peter Brown, rather than expressing their own original thoughts and ideas, in relation to the concept of material decline (a la Bryan Ward-Perkins). My impression was that this individual was somewhat taken aback that someone with a science background from a state school wasn’t impressed by the bluffing, and actually knew some of the literature in this area. They didn’t seem to comprehend that my goal wasn’t to seem smart, but to mine them for more information and insight. I came back empty in that regard.

The purpose of an Ivy League education is less about knowledge, and more about credentialing and building networks.

Here‘s Pinker’s TNR piece, which prompted Razib’s blog post.

[Update a few minutes later]

Definitely read the Pinker piece:

…why are elite universities, of all institutions, perpetuating the destructive stereotype that smart people are one-dimensional dweebs? It would be an occasion for hilarity if anyone suggested that Harvard pick its graduate students, faculty, or president for their prowess in athletics or music, yet these people are certainly no shallower than our undergraduates. In any case, the stereotype is provably false. Camilla Benbow and David Lubinski have tracked a large sample of precocious teenagers identified solely by high performance on the SAT, and found that when they grew up, they not only excelled in academia, technology, medicine, and business, but won outsize recognition for their novels, plays, poems, paintings, sculptures, and productions in dance, music, and theater. A comparison to a Harvard freshman class would be like a match between the Harlem Globetrotters and the Washington Generals.

What about the rationalization that charitable extracurricular activities teach kids important lessons of moral engagement? There are reasons to be skeptical. A skilled professional I know had to turn down an important freelance assignment because of a recurring commitment to chauffeur her son to a resumé-building “social action” assignment required by his high school. This involved driving the boy for 45 minutes to a community center, cooling her heels while he sorted used clothing for charity, and driving him back—forgoing income which, judiciously donated, could have fed, clothed, and inoculated an African village. The dubious “lessons” of this forced labor as an overqualified ragpicker are that children are entitled to treat their mothers’ time as worth nothing, that you can make the world a better place by destroying economic value, and that the moral worth of an action should be measured by the conspicuousness of the sacrifice rather than the gain to the beneficiary.

Yes. It’s quite insidious, really.

Grievance Studies Departments

Just how bad is the “scholarship” there?

Because searches are perhaps the most opaque aspect of the academic process, the only way that the public will learn the identities of the other semi-finalists and finalists for the Illinois job is if the applicants themselves reveal it publicly. (The chances of that occurring are about zero: who would want to admit they were beaten out for a job by someone like Salaita?) But defenders of academic freedom should be as critical of the Indian Studies program as they are of the Illinois chancellor.

As Glenn notes, the primary function of such departments is as sinecures for otherwise talentless leftists. It’s all part and parcel of the huge publicly financed scam that much of academia has become.