The dog is a nice touch

The National Review apparently has an article this month, sneering at nerd culture in general and Neil deGrasse Tyson in particular (I haven’t read it, since it’s behind a paywall). It’s called “Smarter Than Thou”, and I guess Republicans find intelligence repulsive, and an intelligent black man is an affront to nature.

But here’s a very nice counter to the claim that Tyson is some elitist snooty guy: he explains the difference between climate and weather.


  1. neverjaunty says

    You’d have to donotlink the article anyway, so the paywall is just as well.

  2. lorn says

    A very nice explanation. Vivid, memorable, pithy (watch the human, not the dog) and both accurate and concise. Bookmark this video so you can post it to anyone having trouble telling weather from climate.

  3. says

    To quote that keen observer of American politics and deep thinker on all things (extreme) right and relevant, Rick Santorum, “We will never have the elite smart people on our side.” So true!

  4. knowknot says

    The bible’s effect on decent, reasonable folks proves that neither intelligence nor education are required in order that a person know everything there really is to know. Therefore, all that other stuff is just pride and indoctrination (!) of smarty pantses.

  5. tomhuld says

    @starskeptic, #5:

    Climate’s what you affect – weather’s what gets you.

  6. spamamander, internet amphibian says

    Neil deGrasse Tyson has a bunny AND a dog? Be still my heart…

  7. MetzO'Magic says

    I really enjoyed the past season of Cosmos, and thought Ann Druyan (Carl Sagan’s wife and writer on the original series) and her team did an excellent job of revitalising Sagan’s legacy for a modern audience. I especially liked the fact that they got Fox to carry it, thereby potentially rubbing some decent science right in the faces of a few wingnuts out there… though it was probably mostly their kids that watched it. We can only hope they asked their parents a lot of awkward questions after each episode :-)

    Trivia: that man walking a dog to illustrate climate vs. weather concept first appeared on Norwegian TV in 2011. Real Climate picked up on it here:

    The dog is the weather

    Here’s the original video:

    Trend and variation

  8. Alexander the Good Enough says

    Obviously, for the National Review crowd, NGT is just a proxy for our President. It’s not just the outrage of there being a Black man, and his family, in the White House. That’d be racist after all. It’s far worse that Obama is also so very much smarter and generally superior in just about every respect to any of the Teapublicans and their ilk that really turns their world upside down.

  9. says

    @ 12 Alexander the Good Enough

    Obviously, for the National Review crowd, NGT is just a proxy for our President.

    Close. I am a librarian and read the full-text of the editorial just now. It’s a train-wreck of misinformation, distortions and false comparisons, including such archaic cold-war language as “fellow travelers” (a reference to communists) and a gratuitous quote of Hayek about centrally planned (socialist) economies. (Who has suggested any such thing? In the United States, this century?!).

    The jumping off “idea” is a false syllogism (for reference, the most famous example of this is “God is Love, love is blind, Ray Charles is blind, therefore Ray Charles is God). The editorial writer, Charles C.W. Cooke (and Not Tyson) characterizes Tyson as “… the fetish and totem of the extraordinarily puffed-up “nerd” culture that has started to bloom across the United States.” Having created his straw-man (Tyson as “nerd”) Cooke proceeds to hack at him. Tyson is not a true nerd, as defined by a character from Portlandia who described himself as “shy,” wears glasses to see and who “gets sick with fear talking to people.” Well, Tyson (and also a number of MSNBC journalists he names, such as Rachel Maddow, Steve Kornacki, Chris Hayes and Ezra Klein) do not resemble the fictitious character so that means they’re all frauds. (I’m paraphrasing but honest to Oden That is the argument Cooke makes).

    The march of the straw-men continues with the assertion that “nerd culture” (which Cooke takes upon himself to define) includes “…the belief that one can discover all the secrets of human experience through differential equations.” To ascribe this idiotic belief to someone such as Tyson takes the cake, platter and tablecloth. But Cooke goes whole-asshole and lumps pretty much everyone on the left as part of this “belief system.”

    Most of Cooke’s criticism boils down to an assertion that Tyson and others use their “nerd culture” of presumably higher intelligence as a “cudgel and an emblem in argument — pointed to as the sort of person who wouldn’t vote for Ted Cruz.” He attempts to characterize Tyson and the show Cosmos as not science but “Politics pretending to be science,” and states “… much of the fadlike fetishization of “Big Data” is merely the latest repackaging of old and tired progressive ideas about who in our society should enjoy the most political power. Much of the time “It’s just science!” is a dodge — a bullying tactic designed to hide a crushingly boring orthodox progressivism behind a veil of dispassionate empiricism…”

    To attempt to prove this point, Cooke quotes Tyson’s statement that he’s not any other kind of “-ist” but a scientist then derides Tyson: “Translation: all of my political and moral judgement are original, unlike those of the rubes who subscribe to ideologies, philosophies, and religious frameworks. My worldview is driven only by the data.” Then he proceeds to list what he considers wacky ideas that “progressives” have including “That every one can attribute every hurricane, wildfire, and heat wave to “Climate change.”” The National Review has an inexhaustible supply of straw.

    He’s on somewhat firmer ground when he criticizes many wealthy and influential people on the left as hypocrites too close to established power (for example, the White House Correspondents’ dinner) and too rich to have credibility when they “believe themselves to be providing a voice for the powerless.” However, Cooke goes on to characterize “nerd culture” as an attempt by wealthy, influential lefties to distance themselves from the reality of their own power: “We’re not the ruling class, the message goes. We’re just geeks.” Close but still so far: after barely touching on what might have developed into an intellectually honest and valid point, he wings off into guilt-by-association land, claiming “nerd culture” acts as a dishonest attempt to dress up a purely political power-grab by leftists as “science” by invoking Tyson. Whether or not anyone ever actually did any such thing, Tyson had nothing to do with it.

    Cooke also makes one absolutely inexplicable statement. Can anyone help me unpack the following because he really lost me on this one: “Our technology may be sparkling, but our politics are as they ever were. Marie Antoinette is no more welcome in America if she dresses up in a Battlestar Galactica uniform and self-deprecatingly joins Tublr.”

    What?! Does anyone have any clue? He did not mention her earlier, nor the French revolution. What’s he on about in that sentence?

  10. HolyPinkUnicorn says


    Our technology may be sparkling, but our politics are as they ever were. Marie Antoinette is no more welcome in America if she dresses up in a Battlestar Galactica uniform and self-deprecatingly joins Tublr.

    What?! Does anyone have any clue? He did not mention her earlier, nor the French revolution. What’s he on about in that sentence?

    My guess is he is saying, or at least trying to say, that elites (those damned Marie Antoinettes of the worlds) are not welcome in America, even when they play themselves off as nothing more than harmless nerds.

    I didn’t read the article, only going off your quotes, so I’m not sure how exactly he gets to a point where scientists (or just the liberal ones?) who talk about AGW are comparable to Marie Antoinette. Or how his version of the ruling class is something that is exclusively filled with leftists. The ruling class is actually way more bipartisan, and is ultimately about money and power, not the purity of one’s political views. It’s why its members are as diverse as Donald Trump, Bill Gates, George Soros, Warren Buffet, or the Koch Brothers–they ultimately all have a death grip on their fortunes and wouldn’t do anything to loosen it.

    Still, I don’t think you could miss the point of NGT’s work more than with something like this Smarter than Thou cover. Tyson’s always pushing to get more money (yes, mostly govt. money) and young people involved in STEM fields because the future of species so heavily depends on it–including conservatives. No, he’s not saying it is easy or simple, but he’s definitely not dismissing people wholesale and declaring them too dumb or conservative to be involved. Cosmos might have been a little too simple for some viewers, but except for the most ardent creationists or AGW deniers, it seemed to be geared towards about as big as a audience as possible.

    How National Review gets offended by that is really beyond me.

  11. myleslawrence says

    I was watching Tysan’s web site a few weeks back where he was talking about this clip with the dog for the Cosmos show. He said they buried snacks in the sand to make the dog zig zag across the sand to illustrate the weather vs climate concept. Tysan has a really nice site at the hayden with a lot of cool videos like that. Check out the one on Manhattanhenge where the sun rises once a year between the buildings in Manhattan – just like in Egypt.

  12. laurentweppe says

    Neil deGrasse Tyson has a bunny AND a dog?

    What? He has a pet bunny? Then it’s clear: he doesn’t eat rabbit meat, therefore he’s a tasteless, uncivilized boor, therefore everything he ever said about climate change, evolution and astronomy is wrong and false and heretical.

  13. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    These are the folks who thought Bill Buckley and George Will were intellectuals. ‘Nuff said.

  14. says

    It’s strange that Cooke seems to think all nerds are leftists given how many seem to be into various forms of libertarianism. Perhaps once a nerd starts making lots of money, like the crowd in the computer et al industries, they cease to be a nerd in his view.

  15. chris says

    I read the article in my local library today. Hello sadunlap!

    It was just a whine piece and not worth anyone’s trouble. I just read it and did not bother putting actual change into the copy machine to get a print copy, but what stood out for me was that the author (Cooke) seemed to think all nerds believed that global warming was real and that GM crops are ruining the earth. Yep, he thought Tyson would have something against Genetically Engineered organisms.