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

The Trail Leading Back to the Wuhan Labs

It is understandable that many would be wary of the notion that the origin of the coronavirus could be discovered by some documentary filmmaker who used to live in China. Matthew Tye, who creates YouTube videos, contends he has identified the source of the coronavirus — and a great deal of the information that ... Read More

The Trail Leading Back to the Wuhan Labs

It is understandable that many would be wary of the notion that the origin of the coronavirus could be discovered by some documentary filmmaker who used to live in China. Matthew Tye, who creates YouTube videos, contends he has identified the source of the coronavirus — and a great deal of the information that ... Read More
World

How to Make China Pay

One of the big questions facing the international community today is how to hold China legally and politically accountable for all its dishonesty and harm to people around the world. According to reports, U.S. intelligence agencies have confirmed to the White House that China has deliberately understated the ... Read More
World

How to Make China Pay

One of the big questions facing the international community today is how to hold China legally and politically accountable for all its dishonesty and harm to people around the world. According to reports, U.S. intelligence agencies have confirmed to the White House that China has deliberately understated the ... Read More
World

All Signs Point to China

Just one big story today: collecting and sorting through what we know about the coronavirus's origins, and what makes sense and what doesn’t in the theory that it originated from someone eating bats or pangolins from the Huanan Seafood Market. What We Know and What We Don’t Know about the Source of ... Read More
World

All Signs Point to China

Just one big story today: collecting and sorting through what we know about the coronavirus's origins, and what makes sense and what doesn’t in the theory that it originated from someone eating bats or pangolins from the Huanan Seafood Market. What We Know and What We Don’t Know about the Source of ... Read More