Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Bill Maher: Why Climate Deniers Hate Scientists

July 26, 2014

Maher holds up the new National Review cover, which explains it all.



Reminds me of recent remarks by Jeb Bush that scientists and those that believe in what science says, are “sanctimonious”. (video link hat tip to D.R. Tucker)

Maher tries to steer the conversation into an atheist vs theist frame, and Tyson backs him off, noting that an appreciation of the largeness and complexity of the universe, and our connection to it, is an “..almost spiritual revelation..”.

Wow. The existential angst of the modestly literate “conservative” (Hell, I’m a conservative – real conservatives are no longer welcome in the anti-science crowd) – who looks around him and sees that Sara Palin, Michelle Bachman, and Louie Gohmert are all wearing the same lanyards as he is.
Clips here:

One part insecure hipsterism, one part unwarranted condescension, the two defining characteristics of self-professed nerds are (a) the belief that one can discover all of the secrets of human experience through differential equations and (b) the unlovely tendency to presume themselves to be smarter than everybody else in the world. Prominent examples include MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry, Rachel Maddow, Steve Kornacki, and Chris Hayes; Vox’s Ezra Klein, Dylan Matthews, and Matt Yglesias; the sabermetrician Nate Silver; the economist Paul Krugman; the atheist Richard Dawkins; former vice president Al Gore; celebrity scientist Bill Nye; and, really, anybody who conforms to the Left’s social and moral precepts while wearing glasses and babbling about statistics.

Which is to say that the nerds of MSNBC and beyond are not actually nerds but the popular kids indulging in a fad. To a person, they are attractive, accomplished, well paid, and loved, listened to, and cited by a good portion of the general public. Most of them spend their time speaking on television fluently, debating with passion, and hanging out with celebrities. They attend dinner parties and glitzy social events, and are photographed and put into the glossy magazines. They are flown first-class to deliver university commencement speeches and appear on late-night shows and at book launches. There they pay lip service to the notion that they are not wildly privileged, and then go back to their hotels to drink $16 cocktails with Bill Maher.

In this manner has a word with a formerly useful meaning been turned into a transparent humblebrag: Look at me, I’m smart. Or, more important, perhaps, Look at me and let me tell you who I am not, which is southern, politically conservative, culturally traditional, religious in some sense, patriotic, driven by principle rather than the pivot tables of Microsoft Excel, and in any way attached to the past. “Nerd” has become a calling card — a means of conveying membership of one group and denying affiliation with another. The movement’s king, Neil deGrasse Tyson, has formal scientific training, certainly, as do a handful of others who have become celebrated by the crowd. But this is not why he is useful. He is useful because he can be deployed as a cudgel and an emblem in argument — pointed to as the sort of person who wouldn’t vote for Ted Cruz.

These are the people who insisted until they were blue in the face that George W. Bush was a “theocrat” eternally hostile toward “evidence,” and that, despite all information to the contrary, Attorney General Ashcroft had covered up the Spirit of Justice statue at the Department of Justice because he was a prude. These are the people who will explain to other human beings without any irony that they are part of the “reality-based community,” and who want you to know how excited they are to look through the new jobs numbers.

Here’s a recent clip from Tyson’s discussion of AGW from Cosmos:


Comment thread for the National Review article is choice. Looks like some Maher viewers found it. See samples below.

• The problem with this article is exactly found in the method those it hates are trying to enforce. It chooses people seen in the “nerd” culture, those that are the everyday not on tv followers of science and the scientific method, and makes them out to be the vast majority of NDT’s fans, without evidence that this is the case. I particularly point to the line about the liberal-arts student followed by the line about someone who has never read a peer-reviewed paper. The liberal-arts student generally does know what they’re talking about, and should have read a peer-reviewed paper in something other than their major, it’s at the heart of liberal-arts. Give me numbers that show these people are uninformed, don’t just tell me your opposition is stupid at their core. Cooke isn’t making an argument against NDT’s worldview, just the argument that the vast majority of those who believe NDT might not be an idiot are themselves idiots. While it’s amazing that this would make it into a nationally produced magazine, and not the blog of some loon, I can’t find much value in this piece other than being able to decide who is a dope based on their quotation of, or reverence for, is article.


• Shorter article:

I’m a white Christian and I can’t stand that there’s a black man who’s smarter than me!

Help me, Jesus!


• LOL, listen to this mad white guy who’s upset that intelligence and facts just aren’t on his political machine’s side. Guess that’s what you assholes get for preferring religious beliefs to humanistic beliefs.

•  NDT was the science adviser to the Bush administration. What I’m really seeing in this article is jealousy. That’s it. Maybe if you guys would embrace science a little more and drop that religion based lunacy, you could attract some of that nerd set for yourselves.

• Yes, smarter than thou. Why are old white men (I am one myself) who buy National Review are so afraid of everything. Cainotophobia is a red flag tell of a conservative, thus the label conservative. Their once hegemony world is coming to an end. Officially according to the Census Bureau in 2042 the US will be 49% white. Pew and others have concluded with great polarity that the nerds who created your device you are using now, hip replacements and so on overwhelmingly vote democrat. Yes, smarter than thou. Perhaps try a bong hit once it becomes legal in a state coming soon to you. Maybe you will not be so terrified of change then and embrace modernity

Finally, good news and bad news. Rep. Paul “Science is Lies from the Pit of Hell” Broun will be replaced this fall in congress.
Bad news – his replacement is even crazier.


A Southern Baptist Pastor claiming dangerous and crazy things like the notion that there is a homosexual plot to sodomize children, and that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to Muslims is so common that it barely registers as newsworthy these days. What should be catching the attention of even the most jaded news editors, however, is that a Southern Baptist Pastor who actually said exactly these aforementioned things has just won his GOP primary race, has just won his GOP primary race, for a seat in the U.S. Congress. Say hello to Tea Party Republican Jody Hice.

In the coming 2014 election, Hice will be the official Republican nominee to replace outgoing Georgia Congressman Paul Broun. Hice believes gay people have a secret plot to seduce and sodomize America’s sons, thinks same-sex marriage is akin to bestiality and incest, and compares abortion to the genocide waged by Hitler. Broun (R-GA) has endorsed Hice, which is unsurprising given it was Broun who once claimed, “Evolution and embryology and the big Bang theory are all likes straight from the pit of Hell.”

Presumably, assuming he wins, Rev. Hice will take Broun’s seat on the Science Committee.

UPDATE: Reader John Mashey helpfully offers this by way of explanation, see comment below.



38 Responses to “Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Bill Maher: Why Climate Deniers Hate Scientists”

  1. mbrysonb Says:

    Wow. Once you decide you’re on the side of stupid and misinformed, there’s nothing for it but to attack the informed and intelligent. These guys are flying in circles of continually decreasing radius. Solve as r approaches zero to figure out the awkward position they find themselves in.

    • climatehawk1 Says:

      Here is hoping its radius decreases fast enough for Dems, moderates, et al to start winning elections (yes, even midterm elections). If it doesn’t we are screwed.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      LOL—a good illustration of how the right wing approaches life. Not that progressive folks don’t lobby and play politics, but at least they do so for “good” causes.

      I wonder if NR got any “he’p” on this from the good senator?

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    Double WOW! it’s a crazy world we inhabit, and I think the line from the post that says it best is “…’s amazing that this would make it into a nationally produced magazine, and not the blog of some loon…..”, although I’m sure the loons will be madly reblogging part or all of it.

  3. Robert Sloan Says:

    Neil should frame that magazine cover and keep it for posterity.

  4. ubrew12 Says:

    Cooke: “the belief that one can discover all of the secrets of human experience through differential equations… Prominent examples… Melissa Harris-Perry, Rachel Maddow, Steve Kornacki, and Chris Hayes…” Yes, exactly. When I watch Maddow I’m thinking ‘she’s relying too much on differential equations’ (/sarcasm). Cooke probably paid to dish out ‘confirmation bias’ to Nat’l Review readers, or maybe he really believes that malarkey?

    “One part insecure hipsterism” Nerds and Liberals are always insecure. Now, take Dick Cheney: he seems secure…

  5. What should be noted is that the arguments against MSNBC and their commentators are ad hominems. Nowhere is there a real discussion about the actual content, subject matter or the methodology of the people involved. This is generally considered a low level debating tactic.

    Ad hominem arguments are the basis of right wing thinking. Bill O’Reilly is a classic example, and given the intelligence level of the average Fox News viewer, it’s perfectly understandable.

  6. omnologos Says:

    America has been founded on the belief all the experts who said democracy was practically impossible, were wrong. The Democratic Party is based on the beliefs of a man who rightly saw social darwinism as the enemy of America, and wrongly espoused creationism instead.

    You better learn to live with all that.

    • dumboldguy Says:


    • If the beliefs of William Jennings Bryan were the “basis of the Democratic Party”, then they must all believe in “free silver”, Jim Crow, and a host of other anachronisms.

      By the way, Bryan was the model for the “Cowardly Lion” in the Wizard of Oz (which was a metaphor for the politics of the gold standard). Obviously, you still think that’s a major political issue.

  7. omnologos Says:

    A succinct explanation of why the fashionable automated respect for scientists is all wrong

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Translation, anyone? More fractured logic from a brain that speaks to itself in Italian and can’t quite translate it to English? Fashionable? AUTOMATED?

      With a link to an article on scientific racism, no less? Is that somehow relevant because Neil deG Tyson is both black and a scientist? Lord love a duck!!

      My head is spinning….HELP!!! (I’m going to lie down for a while until it passes—-come get me if anyone figures out this bit of Omnobatshitcraziness)

      • omnologos Says:

        American scientists have a very bad history to fight against. It’s just all too natural for many of their citizens to be skeptical of “science-driven” grand schemes.

        Even Eisenhower warned against them.

        For another example: the “science” of IQ was abused by American scientists in the 1920 to prevent Southern Europeans from being allowed to immigrate.

        Unfortunately the wisdom of Feynman (and Sagan, partially) has been completely lost, and we just jump from one star scientist to another, all of them claiming the whole world is against Science and the Republicans are Bad People. Yawn.

        • Again, bad history. The original purpose of IQ testing was to keep teachers and administrators from labeling problem children as “mentally retarded”. (Thomas Edison was so labeled as a child.) The people who were using these tests to keep immigrants out (that also included Jews) were using data that was proven to be fraudulent. The promoters just made up the data.

          So you’re saying that some scientists promoted racial theories in the 1920s, so all science is bad? You did notice that science eventually disproved these racial theories?

          This reminds me of the right wing clap trap about how “scientists” back in the 16th century all thought that the sun went around the earth. So even if there’s a scientific consensus (like for climate change) it means nothing. Problem here is that the people holding these beliefs in the 1500s were not what we would call scientists. They were religious scholars who never bothered looking at data. The people actually looking at the data (the way a scientist does) eventually rejected the earth centered theory.

          • omnologos Says:

            John – where did I say that “all science is bad”? The worst thing here is your lack of honesty. At least dumbo admits his true self in the chosen moniker.

            I said, American scientists putting themselves forward into Grand Schemes have to be humble and self-conscious as Feynman (and Sagan later in his career) _OR_ expect hostility. This is because many “scientific” Grand Schemes have been attempted and most have failed. Everybody can watch a Tarantino movie and learn the “Scientificity” of white supremacy, as per pre-Civil War America.

            When you get some integrity back, we could discuss the influence of WJB on the New Deal and the Big Society. But then, I surmise it won’t happen this side of the millennium.

            I won’t even start on the anachronism of deciding in 2014 who was a “scientist” in the XVI century 🙂

          • dumboldguy Says:

            If it’s not apparent to all by now, Omno is obviously “not himself” today. Off his meds, perhaps? I, for one, am going to stop talking to him until he regains his usual minimal touch with reality.

          • BL Brown Says:

            Om, If it’s anachronistic to talk about who was a scientist in the 16th century, then those who appeal to scholarly opposition to Galileo as evidence that ‘those scientists’ can’t be trusted are as wrong as John Eric suggested.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          JEV has made some good comments in an attempt to introduce Omno to reality.

          In reality, American scientists have a very good history to be proud of—if any of their science was misused by politicians and capitalists, it’s not fair to blame scientists, because the “grand schemes” you talk about are not “driven by science”, but actually misuse and misrepresent the science.

          “Even Eisenhower warned against them”. WHO is THEM? He was warning more about the military-industrial complex, which is again mainly politicians and corporations, not scientists.

          AHA! Omno perhaps reveals some truth with “…..the “science” of IQ was abused by American scientists in the 1920’s to prevent Southern Europeans from being allowed to immigrate”. Is the truth there that his grandparents or parents wanted to emigrate to the U.S., where so many people of Italian descent have met with so much success? But that they couldn’t, so they settled for the U.K. and he’s now stuck there? Is Omno a bit bitter over that fact and also a wannabee American ?

          And many of the leaders of the Republicans ARE Bad People, Omno. Stop yawning and pay attention, and you might figure that out.

  8. kap55 Says:

    Thanks to Charles C.W. Cooke for admitting that all the smartest people are on the left. I would be happy to explain the implications of this fact, but I suspect that the conservatives are too stupid to understand it.

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