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

Education

An Idea for Student Loans: Get Rid of Them

Here is a three-part plan for something practical the federal government could do to relieve college-loan debt. Step 1: The federal government should stop making college loans itself and cease guaranteeing any such loans. Step 2: It should prohibit educational lending by federally regulated financial institutions ... Read More
White House

The Problem with the Mueller Report

So much for collusion. The media conversation has now officially moved on from the obsession of the last two years to obstruction of justice. That’s because the first volume of the voluminous Mueller report, the half devoted to what was supposed to be the underlying crime of a Trump conspiracy with Russia, ... Read More
White House

MoveOn.GOP?

Some of you will be familiar with a lefty, partisan Democratic organization called MoveOn, formerly MoveOn.Org. It was founded during an investigation into President Bill Clinton’s shenanigans (which were not, Democratic mythology notwithstanding, strictly sexual in nature) and argued that it was time for the ... Read More
Sports

Screw York Yankees

You are dead to me. You are a collection of Fredos. The cock has crowed, you pathetic sniveling jerks. The team I have rooted for since 1965, when I first visited the House that Ruth Built, where I hawked peanuts and ice cream a lifetime ago, watched countless games (Guidry striking out 18!), has gotten so ... Read More