Magazine | August 11, 2014, Issue

Letters

Revenge of the Nerds

I was annoyed by the cover story by Charles C. W. Cooke, “Smarter than Thou,” in the July 21 issue. Much of the article is a diatribe about Neil deGrasse Tyson. I do not know Tyson personally, but I have gained much respect for him through hearing and watching 30 lectures of his for The Great Courses.

As I read the article, I looked carefully for the political opinions of Tyson’s that had caused such vitriol. I found none. Instead, Cooke began with a joke of Tyson’s about visiting aliens’ not finding intelligent life on Earth, then read Tyson’s mind to declare that Tyson meant that he and other “nerds” were not to be included among the “unintelligent” on Earth. Having heard Tyson lecture, I know that Tyson has a good sense of humor and was simply telling a joke.

Then Cooke stated that one of “the defining characteristics of self-professed nerds” is “the belief that one can discover all the secrets of human experience through differential equations.” Cooke made it clear from this sentence alone that he does not understand science or mathematics.

James Stapleton

Emeritus Professor of Statistics and Probability

Michigan State University

East Lansing, Mich.

Charles C. W. Cooke responds: Au contraire. My “diatribe,” such that it was, focused not on Neil deGrasse Tyson per se but on the unlovely cult that surrounds him. Tyson, as I noted, “has formal scientific training.” And “actual science,” I suggested, is “slow, unsexy, and assiduously neutral.” Neither was my target. Instead, I took a shot at those who would not recognize a test tube if it hit them squarely in the face, but who have nevertheless taken to hiding behind Tyson as a means by which to sell their political ideology to the gullible. As for differential equations, am I wrong to observe that scientists and social scientists use them in their efforts to explain human behavior and experience?

Bibliophiles, Unite

David Harsanyi’s column in the June 22 issue on his bibliophilic habits was a gem. I am clipping it and placing it with my books — if I can find the space in my bookcases to squeeze it in . . .

Rabbi Emanuel Feldman

Jerusalem, Israel

A Note on Navajo

In your obituary in the July 7 issue for Chester Nez, the last of the Navajo code talkers, who recently passed, you expressed a desire to thank him in the code. In the Navajo language, “Thank you” is said “Ahéhee’.”

Daniel Brown

Glendale, Ariz.

In This Issue

Articles

Features

Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

Nixon Rises Again

In December 1965, a 27-year-old journalist with slick black hair and pudgy cheeks, a Columbia Journalism School grad who had spent three years churning out conservative editorials for the St. ...

Sections

Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ The real tragedy here is what’s happening to John Kerry’s Nobel Prize prospects. ‐ If the Obama administration were a baseball game, this would be the seventh-inning stretch. He had ...
Politics & Policy

Poetry

THE FINAL IKON He felt that he would find it, Find it yet – The clarity he sought With all his breath. And when he had found it? Why did he grieve? And why did he find ...

Most Popular

Culture

Courage: The Greatest of Virtues

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Or Listener), As the reporter assigned the job of writing the article about all of Sidney Blumenthal’s friends and supporters told his ... Read More
Immigration

My American Dream

This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American. I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a ... Read More
U.S.

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More