Situational Science

Doonesbury is perfect today. Ever had this problem?


Then what you need is…situational science!


The Discovery Institute should love it, too—respect for the side of the scientific argument that is completely unsupported by any evidence is exactly what they are demanding.


  1. LM Wanderer says

    Garry Trudeau still has it. He kept us informed during the Viet Nam, Gulf War I, Gulf War II wars and now during the war on reality.

    LM Wanderer

  2. the valrus says

    “The Discovery Institute should love it, too�respect for the side of the scientific argument that is completely unsupported by any evidence is exactly what they are demanding.”

    Lay it on with a trowel, why don’tcha.

  3. Shyster says

    I’m not sure that it’s what you had in mind, but I often relied on situational science when I was in school. Having no idea what the formulas in physics or chemistry meant, I was often forced to make stuff up to answer exam questions.
    Wait… I thought too soon. That is what the administration is doing. Only now the atmosphere, the earth and the future are the exam questions. My bad.

  4. mr.ed says

    I talked to a family member from the “other side” who was honored that Trudeau finally saw the truth, entirely missing the irony.

  5. Mouse says

    You always seem to find the most awesome stuff.

    I’ve been a silent stalker of your blog for quite a while now, so I thought I’d leave a comment from a random high school student who is, sadly, stuck in Kansas.

  6. says

    So here’s a question for you; as I discuss Global Warming with my chemistry class I mention the politicisation (sic?) of it without trying to be overly partisan (Damn repulicans…had to get that out of my system).

    This strip would definitely help make the point. Who among you would use it if you were in my position? A college professor teaching a chemistry course in a very conservative area of the country?


  7. says

    So here’s a question for you; as I discuss Global Warming with my chemistry class I mention the politicisation (sic?) of it without trying to be overly partisan

    Mentioning it at all offends die-hard Republicans. :)

    Damn those partisan facts …

  8. says

    I can’t make heads-or-tails of my department’s budget lately. It has so many “gaps.” Must be due to the work of the Intelligent Balancer. It’s a blessing, and means that we have plenty of money to spend! The Accounting Department is sure to accept that explanation. Thanks, Dr. Null!

  9. Rey says

    Oh God, please tell me you’re kidding Mr. Ed. Please?

    I’m afraid not. After I read that strip the second time, I started thinking that the sarcasm probably would fly right over the heads of some people. I thought, that second-to-last-panel, in addition to being a long list (filled with a fair number of “controversies” that people might not even be aware of), needs at least one “controversy” that has so obviously been settled by science that it’ll clue anyone reading it into the notion that Gary is not intending Dr. Null to be a serious voice of authority. Perhaps the “germ theory controversy”. But no.

    Interestingly, the throwaway gag in the top two panels goes a long way towards setting the tone of the satire in this strip. And it’ll be cropped from many newspapers for space.

    Remember when you’re dealing with fundamentalists and Bush-believers, you’re dealing with people who, if they do not completely lack a sense of humor, at least lack the ability to detect sarcasm and irony. It could be physiological, perhaps one day they’ll find the genes that code for irony receptors.

  10. says

    Australian science broadcaster Robyn Williams was quoted in my local daily newspaper today as asking why the the proof of climate change and evolution must be so much stronger than, say, weapons of mass destruction or children overboard?

    It seems people are more prepared to accept “evidence” if it fits in with their presuppositions (i.e. that Iraq had WMDs or that refugees are subhuman). Doonesbury really got it right.

  11. CousinMacul says

    I just read the Julia Sweeney article and this is what jumped out at me.

    “She quit the church but not the quest. She hiked in the Himalayas. She read Deepak Chopra and pored over the books of Richard Dawkins.”

    I don’t get it. Dawkins has been my hero since my early twenties, and Chopra (confession: the first time I read or ever even heard of Chopra was when he was debating Michael Shermer) is a complete clown of the upteenth magnitude.

    Am I missing something? Trying to give her the benefit of the doubt, the best I could come up with is:

    Reading Dawkins and Chopra made her realize that New Age Spiritualism is just as flawed as Papal canons –> hence the premise must be flawed –> therefore atheism.

    I would like clarification on that point before jumping to conclusions, but I am confused.

  12. bmurray says

    She searched both ends of the spectrum, as anyone starting from scratch might.

  13. Don Culberson says

    from Rey:
    | And it’ll be cropped from many newspapers for space.

    Mobile, Alabama.
    Three colleagues and I were off to Raleigh, NC this weekend to a workshop (PKAL) on planning for the construction of new science facilities, a thing we intend to see happen here at our college in the next few years. The army of reality carving out a stronghold in the bible belt… maybe. I saw the Doonesbury strip in some newspaper in a airport and was delighted, shared it with a chemist friend and we had a great laugh. I wondered (doubted?) if it would show up in the local (Mobile Register) newspaper. Sure enough, when I got home this evening and searched the local mullet wrapper, it was nowhere to be found… bad enough, right? But wait… what WAS published was a CLASSIC letter to the editor basically espousing the “teach the controversy” inanity. The cleverest writer here could not have put together a better example of all the DI/ID crap squeezed together into a concise, moron digestible, plate of publishible claptrap. /sigh… coincidence?

    No real point to this short note… just a brief venting… I guess I’m feeling less morose… off to bed… gotta encourage students to think tomorrow…
    Uncle Don

  14. Rey says

    When I said “cropped”, I was referring to the top two panels (common practice for squeezing more strips into the Sunday funnies), I didn’t really think any paper would censor the whole strip (it’s not like he directly attacks creationism or anything). Here in Boise, like in many other papers, Doonesbury was, a few years ago, ghetto-ized onto the Opinion page, due to folks complaining about it being on the funny pages provoking them to thought (surely why we don’t have the Boondocks). But it’s never been cut from our paper, to my knowledge.

  15. jepalmer says

    Aa, I’m a college professor in a very conservative part of the country and I’d use it. :) I teach both evolution and global warming, and we discuss the word “controversial” often – specifically, the difference between “controversial in society, because it upsets nonscientists for nonscientific reasons” and “controversial within the scientific community.” I respect students’ right to believe whatever they want, but don’t let them call it science, unless it actually is. This cartoon is good for illustrating that point — as long as you make it clear, repeatedly, that it’s the claim to scientific validity you’re attacking, not the belief (sigh). Honestly, most of my students haven’t heard enough about either topic to be strongly opinionated anyway. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

  16. says

    Aa: Sure, use the cartoon, but I think one way to help diffuse the “problem” with climate science is to talk about the science/technology distinction and how public policy are technological (to the extent that they are informed by science). In gist, distinguish between “what do we know?” from “what do we do?”. It becomes clear then where the values are (in the latter) and if you use something like the “rule based on law” principle you can even clearly see where people differ, and thus have to defend their values explicitly. (Of course, doing the latter gives some people the screaming willies, but so what?)

  17. says

    Jepalmer and Keith,

    Thanks for the advice, I’ll use it but need to think carefully how…and giving some students the screaming willies could be a lot of tun.