They're Very Smart, These Scientists

Here is a video and partial transcript of yesterday's episode of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Noelle Nikpour, Republican Strategist, is interviewed by Aasif Mandvi.
Nikpour: "Scientists are scamming the American people right and left for their own financial gain."
(Mandvi asks for Data? Evidence?)
Nikpour: "I think every American, if they really thought about it, would have a gut feeling that some of these numbers that the scientists are putting out are not right.
"Scientists are the only people qualified to comment on scientific theories. This is what raises doubt with not only Republicans, but Americans."
(Mandvi comes up with a preposterous example regarding surgeons, which Nikpour agrees with). He says, "They're very smart, these scientists." Nikpour says, "That's what I'm saying!"

Mandvi goes to a science fair and talks to kids, spoofing that science is corrupting them and they will end up addicted to grant money for their next science fix. He finishes by saying, "Whether science is peddling quantum physics or evolution, the corruption of our children happens every day right under our noses."
Nikpour: "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."
Mandvi: "What is the point of teaching children facts if it's just going to confuse them?"
Nikpour: "It confuses the children when they go home. We as Americans, we are paying tax dollars for our children to be educated. We need to offer them every theory that's out there. It's all about choice. It's all about freedom."
Mandvi: "I mean it should be up to the American people to decide what's true."
Nikpour: "Absolutely! Doesn't it make common sense?"
Some thoughts:
  • Science is often counter-intuitive. You can't rely on common sense in science. You have to experiment and observe to find hard evidence.
  • You don't get to decide what is reality. It is not subjective. Just because you want the Earth to be the center of the Universe doesn't make it so. If you believe that, you are delusional. Reality doesn't bend to your will.
  • Science is not a secret society where you have to learn a special handshake. It's open and relies on peer review to keep things honest and as accurate as humanly possible. 
  • Science is self-correcting.
  • Nikpour uses typical talking points in lockstep with Republican propaganda. Nothing interesting (or factual)
  • She has a complete lack of understanding of the concept of theory and how it is used in the vernacular and in science:
    • Theory and hypothesis are used in non-technical contexts to mean an untested idea or opinion. 
    • theory is a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena: Einstein's theory of relativity.
    • A theory in technical use is a more or less verified or established explanation accounting for known facts or phenomena: the theory of relativity. 
    • A hypothesis is an assumption used in an argument without its being endorsed; a supposition; an unproved theory; a conjecture
  • Public education is supposed to be in the best interest of the child, teaching them facts that will help them be productive members of society. It's not for teaching personal opinions and beliefs.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Weathering Fights - Science - What's It Up To?


  1. I have to admit, I wondered how these interviews are edited. We can easily see that Bill Maher's interviews, for example, are brutally edited to make the other side look bad, to the point where I dislike his work even when I agree with him. But The Daily Show interviews are always edited and presented more smoothly, so it's hard to guess. I have trouble believing that anyone would be stupid and ignorant enough to answer these questions from Aasif Mandvi, of all people, but then the Know-Nothings proud and wilful ignorance never ceases to amaze me, so who knows?

  2. Yes, I know, Anemone, I wonder too. I mean, they've got to know what show they are on, right? But people can be really selectively naive.
    The only thing I am thinking is that there either must be an airtight lawyerly thing they have to agree to before they are interviewed, because I've never heard of anyone suing TDS for slander.
    Or, TDS is not slandering people and is not editing with gross negligence and malice. I suspect this is the case, but who knows?

    From a different perspective, Dawkins and the FFRF and others go on Faux News all the time. Why do they do it? They know they will be yelled at, not be given a chance to speak, etc. What do they think they get out of it? And is it successful? I have no idea. I do know they succeed at looking very calm, rational and legitimate on those shows, contrary to the hosts of the shows who all look like bullying idiots.
    So maybe the republicants think they look good. TDS (and the Colbert Report, if I recall) always pretends to agree with the people, and are very subtle. Maybe they feel they are given a venue to cross over to the "other side" to reel more sheep in (to mix my metaphors).
    Maybe, just maybe, they feel they are winning hearts and minds by being on an "edgy" show where they are allowed to put both feet in their mouth.
    Who knows?! :P

  3. You can e-mail and congratulate Noelle on her fine performance at

  4. HA, Anon! Of course she has a hotmail account. :P