Afternoon InquisitionRandom AsidesSkepticism

AI: Please Tell Me This Is An Act

The Daily Show on Comedy Central is great at exposing hypocrisy and stupidity in politics, society, and pop culture. And as a fan of the show, I tune in regularly to laugh at the humorous way they make their points.

But on last night’s show, when they ran the segment in this video, I wasn’t laughing as much as I was physically uncomfortable. (For some reason, I can’t embed the code for the clip, so you’ll have to click here to watch.)

It wasn’t the children featured at the science fair that made me nauseous. They were awesome! But the footage of the presidential candidates avowing such hardline stances against solid scientific ideas made me queazy (old news, I know), and the interview with Republican Strategist, Noelle Nikpour, made me want to slap myself in the face with my own feet.

Now, I realize that Skepchick readers are among the most scientifically literate people on the planet, and I know that not everyone is as bright or as well-informed as you all. But it is safe to say that Nikpour is representative of a large portion of the political right in the United States, and to demonstrate such piss poor reasoning and apparently have no clue that she’s doing it, is very alarming.

It shines a very bright light on why we are here; why we care about promoting critical thinking and good science. Irrespective of someone’s political views, he or she should be able to reason properly, or at least recognize when they have failed to do so when it is pointed out to them so blatantly.

At any rate, I don’t even know what questions to ask to start today’s discussion. So, you guys can weigh in with opinions about this from any angle you want. You all are always great at that anyway. Or you can shake your head in disgust like I did for an hour after the show last night.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. Ha you americans think you have the monopoly on stupid politicians. Nothing beats Chris Morris’ BrassEye, admittedly it did mainly target celebs and we all know how dumb they are on both sides of the Atlantic. But getting anyone to say in an interview “Now that is scientific fact — there’s no real evidence for it — but it is scientific fact” and having a politician raise a question in the houses of parliament about a fake drug he had been saying is a…'”a made-up drug” (a drug, they were told, not made from plants but made up from chemicals)’

    Have a look at the Cake one and Paedogedden if you can stand your mind melting from the amazing stupidity of people.

    Put even credible people in front of TV cameras and they will say stupid things. So I’m sort of on their side – judge them by what they do not what they say on TV :-)

  2. “But it is safe to say that Nikpou is representative of a large portion of the political right in the United States…”

    Actually, it is NOT safe to say; it’s anecdotal at best. Especially if one uses the Daily Show, which is quite adept at making fun of people with extremist views, as evidence.

  3. I thought this was just another brilliant bit of satire that The Daily Show does so well. This piece didn’t take me out of my comfort zone, but others have so I understand your reaction. I thought this did a very good job of exposing the idiocy of a blanket anti-science agenda especially when he got the talking head to agree that teaching facts to children was a bad thing.

  4. Who is she, anyway? When I look her up, I get Republican Strategist and Consultant. What does that really mean? She is noted for being a talking head as nearly as I can tell. Does she consult *to* the Republicans, or *about* them?

    1. She’s a fundraiser primarily. Most recently she did fundraising for Rudy Giuliani.

      Correction, apparently she’s PRIMARILY an idiot.

  5. I think it was hilarious – except for the “rape” part.
    And I categorically disagree that Nikpou’s lunacy is not shared with a majority of the so-called political right. Strategists like this are successful because they say what their clients want to hear.

    1. agreed. I was horrified that the Daily show would air a rape joke.

      Not. Funny.

      Especially as a scientist that is a survivor, that comparison is so…..ugh.
      no words.

  6. rejection of climate change, rejection of evolution, anti vax, these views are quite common on the right (not that we on the left doesn’t have our own science rejecting idiots, GM food, nuclear anything, ant vax again, anti “big pharma”). These people believe that exactly what she was saying and are a huge percentage of society.

  7. If only it were an act. But I do agree that all theories should be taught in schools. Like my theory that counters the “theory” of gravity. We are actually held to the planet by the sucking void that is Noelle Nikpour’s mind.

  8. Maybe it’s because I was raised in a fundamentalist evangelical household, but this didn’t surprise me at all. In fact, seeing The Daily Show mock her (and others like her) so openly lifted my spirits. I think it’s safe to say that a good chunk of Americans display similarly decrepit reasoning skills.

    I was a bookish and wordy kid, very interested in science and math, but my parents taught me that all truth comes from Judeo-Christianity, and their interpretation specifically. I was a great arguer, but a poor reasoner because I was taught the critical concept of basing conclusions on evidence, not evidence on conclusions.

    I wasn’t taught reasoning until a philosophy class in high school that was added to the semester as a whim. The western philosophy “rational argument” section blew my teenage mind; I had never encountered a formal process of deciding what is true, and suddenly all the pieces of thinking (finally) fell into place. We’re not teaching vital critical thinking skills to our kids, and it’s killing us.

  9. I hope your nausea was assuaged a bit by the interview with Lisa Randall? I do get aggravated with Stewart’s claimed (feigned?) inability to grasp scientific thought (“this is very complicated, and it sounds made up”), and his insistence that we “leave room for God or Faith” in a discussion about science and science denial, sidestepping the issue of the complete irrelevancy of either to the understanding of the topic.

    As for Noelle Nikpour, she’s shouldn’t shock or nauseate you any more than Palin, Bachmann, Coulter, Malkin and the rest of their horrid ilk.

  10. I found it both hysterical and sad. I think it’s great that the Daily Show shines a light on how stupid a lot of Americans are, but you know this satire is going right over their heads.

  11. In the laboratory there are no fustian ranks, no brummagem aristocracies; the domain of Science is a republic, and all its citizens are brothers and equals, its princes of Monaco and its stonemasons of Cromarty meeting, barren of man-made gauds and meretricious decorations, upon the one majestic level!
    – Mark Twain, “Three Thousand Years among the Microbes”

    Whenever I am feeling bad about America (and its occasional reflection and undeniable influence on Canadian culture) I read Mark Twain and I feel better.

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