You could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true

By Phil Plait | November 1, 2011 7:00 am

Here at BA Central, I have my hands full trying to battle the Forces of Darkness: those who would spin, fold, and mutilate reality for their own gain. They may be motivated by greed, or power, or ignorance, or ideology, but the thing they all have in common is, they’re wrong. They come in many flavors: homeopaths, psychics, creationists, antivaxxers… and yes, sadly, far too many politicians.

And I can rail against them time and again, my arsenal filled with the facts from an entire Universe at my disposal, yet make hardly a dent in their armor.

Sometimes, though, a small dose of satire penetrates right through that shielding and pierces the very heart of antiscience. Thank you, The Daily Show, for fighting this good fight:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Weathering Fights – Science: What’s It Up To?
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook


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Comments (64)

  1. Have you seen yesterday’s Daily Show? Rick Perry stumbled again in one speech at New Hampshire… It’s freaking hilarious.

  2. Dennis

    The fact that that woman is a “Republican Strategist” explains a lot.

    Btw, did she say “financual”?

  3. That lady is a REAL strategist? Wow…. I thought she was part of the act. :)

  4. don gisselbeck

    No doubt she’ll get a good post in the Romney administration.

  5. Thameron

    @ Dennis – Southerners have their own language. It is only they who can make ‘no’ a two syllable word.

  6. Veedle

    Phil:

    Here’s a fact that I roll out when confronted with statistical idiocy:

    100% of births lead to death. Based on that, we should outlaw life.

    Feel free to use it as needed.

  7. Peter Eldergill

    Can’t be bothered to try to search through everything at Comedy Network in Canada to try to find this. I’m not sure why we just can’t watch it on the American feed

    Pete

  8. IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE

    All I’m getting is : “Sorry, this video is unavailable from your location”.

    NUTS!

  9. I loved it when Aasif Mandvi used the surgeons analogy. “It’s like these surgeons are the only ones qualified to do these surgeries and the only ones qualified to say whether the surgery was needed are other surgeons.” …. And the Fox news lady agreed with him!

    I don’t know about you, but if I needed surgery, I wouldn’t want some “political analyst” directing the surgery based on his/her “gut feeling.” I’d want a trained surgeon who was knowledgeable as to how these procedures need to be conducted.

  10. Nederlands is zo veel meer subtiel

    I do not follow ‘Badastronomy’ closely in my G.reader to be send away to a remote link. I follow it to update my English en especially because ‘Badastronomy’ brings me interresting views on things.

    But. This article is just childish.

    To label something with ‘wrong’ is a judgment. And every conclusion based on that is an impression.

    The fake-statement ‘they’re wrong” is no more then an opinion.
    And.
    People Who Think Opinions Can Be Wrong .

    That degrades your words to no more then a tipical petitio principii.

    Opinions are All Equal. Everyone has a …….

  11. Peptron

    Not available outside of the US. Why dost thou torment me so?

  12. Ok, just listened more. Referring to evolution: “We need to offer them [the children] every theory that’s out there.”

    Ok, how about we teach creationist stories from pagean religions alongside Christian creationism. After all, we need to teach all possible options. I’m sorry, I forgot. When they say “every theory that’s out there,” they really mean “just Christian Creationism.”

  13. MartinM

    The Firefox extension ‘Modify Headers’ should let anyone outside the US watch.

  14. Steve Metzler

    We were discussing this video over at Tamino’s site the other day (Open Mind: tamino.wordpress.com). Everyone outside the U.S. should be able to view it here:

    vimeo.com/31199049

  15. Blargh

    @ TechyDad

    Ok, just listened more. Referring to evolution: “We need to offer them [the children] every theory that’s out there.”

    Ok, how about we teach creationist stories from pagean religions alongside Christian creationism.

    Except that what the creationists cdesign proponentsists have is not a theory. It provides neither falsifiability nor any predictive power whatsoever, and thus lacks even the most basic prerequisites for a scientific theory.

  16. Peptron

    @11 MartinM:
    Lately it wasn’t working anymore for me, I think that the proxy they were giving is specifically blocked now. I’d need a new one I guess.

  17. Quatguy

    Arg! “In Canada the Comedy Central videos are available on the Comedy Network”.

    I see that the air date was Oct 26. Searching………………………..

  18. Mathias R.

    wow. for *once* I could see the Video without any modification. What a birthday present :D

  19. DrFlimmer

    The video works fine in Germany (using firefox 7).

    Anyway, this is freaking hilarious, if it weren’t so sad on the other hand…..

  20. Phil

    Is it just me or did she say “edumacated”

  21. Mark

    I can’t see that here in Old Blighty but the description reminded me of this Stewart Lee Clip:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4n-UGQcG3Jw

  22. Gov. Perry publicly accuses a whole professional class, hundreds of thousands of people, of being criminals without offering any evidence, and he’s still considered a viable contender.

    What the [BLEEP] is wrong with people?

  23. @Blargh,

    I know that and you know that, but they insist on saying that Creationism… oops, I’m sorry, ID is a “theory” and we need to “teach all theories.” So let’s give in and let them know that we’ll be teaching the Wiccan creation tale, some tales from Native American lore, perhaps Norse mythology and the Muslim view. After all, we need to teach all the theories, right? (Bets on how quickly the Creationists would make an about face on how we shouldn’t force those religions on their children?)

  24. Bette Noir

    I think the relevant question is, “Rick Perry, Drunk, or on Acid?”

  25. Giffy

    @10 No, some things are just wrong and that is not a matter of opinion but one of fact.
    “Peanut butter is awesome”-Opinion. You can agree or disagree and still be ‘right’.
    “The Earth is 6000 years old”-Demonstrably false. If you think that you are wrong.

  26. Captn Tommy

    The sad thing about this satire is that there are ppeople out the who are will to believe the girl in the red dress.

    Captn Tommy

  27. Village Idiot

    As a comedy bit this was funny as hell. I LMAO! But the exchange with Noelle Nikpour was a composite with real clips and postproduction bits with an actor stand in when her back was facing the camera. Her clips were prob rearranged for the comedic affect. Very funny but one should not accept it as reality. Be a little skeptical.

    Is Noelle Nikpour an airhead……..maybe, but do not use this comedy bit to make your decision.

    Yes, I know that the composite is the “truth” and this is why the Republic-cons need to be defeated. Enjoy the cool-aid people.

    Idiot out——Peace

    (I know ,,,,,,,,,,my name fits)

  28. scgvlmike

    What I found most interesting was Ms. Nikpour’s comment, “This is what raises doubt with not only Republicans, but Americans.”

    Did she just tacitly admit that Republicans are un-American?

  29. Joseph G

    Normally I’m not tempted to use “IM-isms”, but Ell Em Ay Oh.
    This was awesome. I love Aasif Mandvi*, he plays the “straight man” so wonderfully. It takes real dedication to a schtick to get an interview with a Nobel-prize-winning scientists and call him a sick f**k :) But it works. And I’m amazed that Nicpour just walked right into the nonsense he set up for her.
    Well, ok, not THAT surprised.
    That is chilling, though, that “reality is what our religion/political party says it is” attitude.

    * Apologies if I’m not spelling it right

  30. Joseph G

    @ 9 TechyDad: And the Fox news lady agreed with him!
    She appears on Fox News, yes, but her stated position is a “strategist.” That means she’s not just reading off of a teleprompter or even posting rants in a blog, she’s actually expecting the Republican party to take her statements seriously. That’s the scary bit.

    23 TechyDad: I know that and you know that, but they insist on saying that Creationism… oops, I’m sorry, ID is a “theory” and we need to “teach all theories.” So let’s give in and let them know that we’ll be teaching the Wiccan creation tale, some tales from Native American lore, perhaps Norse mythology and the Muslim view.

    Don’t forget the Shinto creation myth – I believe it involves ejaculation. I’m sure the fundies will love that ‘un :)

    @10 Nederlands: But. This article is just childish.

    To label something with ‘wrong’ is a judgment. And every conclusion based on that is an impression.

    I disagree. The problem is that a lot of people can’t seem to recognize the difference between an opinion and a belief about the world. Science tells us what is physically, empirically provable (for instance, that climate change is occurring). Opinion, on the other hand, is an idea about what we should be doing to address the issues. You’re right that an opinion that, say, the government should regulate a certain industry more (or less) is an opinion, and not objectively right or wrong. The problem is, a lot of people seem to think that they can have a valid opinion which simply disregards empirically proven facts. This applies to lots of issues, but I think the global warming “debate” is the clearest example of this.
    This is a very important distinction to make.
    For example:
    “Evolution is a morally damaging idea and I don’t like it” – This is a valid opinion (though I disagree with it very much). However:
    “Evolution hasn’t been proven and is a lie designed to make people more sinful.” – This is provably false, both based on the evidence underpinning the science itself and the nature of peer review which makes any sort of massive multi-decadal conspiracy to lie to everyone impossible.

    I guess what I’m saying is, an opinion can be wrong if it’s not really an opinion, but a fallacy that someone stubbornly insists is an opinion.

  31. Joseph G

    @18 Mathias R: Happy Birthday :D

    For everyone who is having trouble, as Martin M says, try the Firefox modify header addon here:
    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/modify-headers/
    Then see this page here:
    http://cynicsunlimited.com/2010/03/28/using-firefox-and-modify-headers-plugin-to-view-blocked-video-streams/
    which tells you how to use it. Incidentally, the blogger mentions using it to view Daily Show clips in Canada. I know it seems like a pain, but once you have it installed and set up, it’ll be a lot easier in the future.

  32. chance

    Absolutely hilarious! Love it!

  33. Random Excess

    I loved this bit as I often cite both “gut feelings” and “common sense” as insufficient tools for most people when analyzing complex systems. Very tiny variation in initial conditions can lead to dramatically different results. That is true when making adjustment to parameters to maintain stability or correct drift… what feels right, for most people, will not do it.

  34. Maria

    @22 Yes! It’s disturbing how that type of rhetoric is routinely ignored and glossed over.

  35. ARRRGH!

    #27; look at the video again. yes, there’s editing, but her words are clear and uncut.

  36. artbot

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster was originally “created” when the Kansas School Board tried to reword their teaching policy to something like “teach all ‘theories’ of creation/evolution/ID” equally.” Someone (I don’t recall his name) came up with his own silly creation myth that, by law, would have to be taught alongside of all other myths. It was a brilliant move and I believe it genuinely helped point out the simple-minded folly of the school board.

    I am convinced that no one who is (still!) seeking to implement this has thought it through for one second. The idea that they should teach every myth (and that’s not a terrible idea, as long as it’s not called “science”) is so open-ended and such a slippery slope that there is conceivably no end to the possibilities.

  37. Daniel J. Andrews

    There’s a website Nikpour had to promote herself, ostensibly as a strategist, but when questioned about it, it was taken down. However, the memory hole is not very effective on the web. Picture may not (slightly) be NSFW depending on where you work (copy and paste job, so my comment doesn’t end up in moderation).

    arkansasbusiness.com/noelle/

    btw, Steve’s (@14) link worked for this Canuck. Thanks.

  38. Gary Ansorge

    ,,,and then there’s Rick Santorum,,,suggesting assassinating foreign physicists.

    http://mauldin.patch.com/articles/poll-rick-santorum-on-foreign-scientists

    “,,,first they came for the physicists, then they came for the climatologists, then they came for the biologists,,,now we heat our tents with buffalo dung,,,”

    Gary 7

  39. Gary Ansorge

    ,,,maybe this is why we’ve never been visited by aliens,,,they too lose the battle with their version of a primitive limbic system,,,

    Gary 7

  40. Joseph G

    @39 Gary Ansorge: If you’re into classic sci-fi, look for “Fallen Angels” by (I think) Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven. It takes place in a chilling future world where religious fundamentalism and environmental luddism have conspired to make most technology (except that needed for basic commerce or environmental protection) forbidden, even to the point where technophiles and science fiction fans are considered dangerous deviants. A couple of astronauts from a space station (which has been self-sufficient – barely scraping by – for decades) crash on Earth, and an underground of sci-fi fans and various sorts of geeks and nerds plot together to protect them from the government and try to get them back into space using mothballed (and now illegal) rockets.
    The only thing I don’t like about it is that the environmental catastrophe that’s triggered a lot of this is an ice age (apparently this is the “Day After Tomorrow” school of climate change thought) :-P Still, it was written in the 70s, so what are you gonna do.

  41. kurt_eh

    Overheard in a first year Ecology lab.

    “As you can see by my two data points, there is a straight line correlation.”

  42. Ozonator aka Robert Rhodes

    So if I wear a red dress and/or make up stuff, I will actually get paid some of Roy’d-rage’ Spencer’s grant money? I knew that correct AGW earthquake predictions resulted in millions of people suddenly to poor to pay squat. I have also since found out that the Looter Limbaughs get paid to lie and steal – on behalf of Esso-Koch-Fox’s investors, charging by the angry E. coli inch, “‘Yes, we plead guilty … ‘Skeptics will proudly celebrate … Climate Depot takes full responsibility for the fate of your children and grandchildren from any future man-made climate catastrophe” (“Australian PM warns skeptics ‘are too ‘dangerous to ignore’ and are ‘holding the world to ransom’”, By Marc ‘EIB’s pilodinal cyst’ Morano, Climate Depot Editorial”; web crimes by Joseph D’Aleo; icecap.us, 11/6/09).

  43. JB of Brisbane

    #42 Ozonator aka Robert Rhodes – What in the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s name are you talking about?!?

  44. flip

    #42, JB

    No one knows. S/he turns up to posts and splutters word salad everywhere. Every time he’s questioned, he just continues making no sense…

  45. RwFlynn

    I love these kinds of posts because then I can see what varieties of people read the BA Blog. :)

  46. Ozonator aka Robert Rhodes

    Amazingly, this blog and some of my comments made it on the 1st page of the Bing search for earthquakes most recent. Back on my head, “43. JB of Brisbane Says: November 2nd, 2011 at 1:50 am” – I was responding to both my correct AGW predictions posted throughout the web and viewing clip of the “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”. However, “44. flip Says: November 2nd, 2011 at 2:11 am” fails to do he/she/it’s homework getting an “E” for effort.
    For example, 3 recent correct predictions are found in:
    http://wireupdate.com/news/strong-earthquake-hits-off-the-coast-of-oregon-no-damage.html
    http://www.koinlocal6.com/news/local/story/5-9-magnitude-earthquake-strikes-off-Ore-coast/o_B9eYkfUUiv3ngPKh-c3Q.cspx?p=Comments
    And, this proves “Flipper” is getting t-GOP approved eco-grant money and I am still waiting for my share of Goldwater…

  47. PayasYouStargaze

    Oh wow! We haven’t had a visit from the Ozonator in a while. Those ramblings to brighten up my day so.

    If only we could understand its nonsensical gibberish. Except for maybe one sentence:

    Amazingly, this blog and some of my comments made it on the 1st page of the Bing search for earthquakes most recent.

    It’s actually in English. But let that be a lesson to you all, use Google!

  48. Robin

    @kurt_eh (#41): The pain your statement causes me is immense. I’ve seen too many students do 2 and 3 point curve fits, where too many means more than zero.

  49. MKS

    Oh Phil, I hope you haven’t joined the True Forces of Darkness, those who get wet when they attack certain thoughts or worldviews instead of just concentrating on being a good human being and doing good & fun science :)

    Being a real human deserves more than Stalinization (science, too).

  50. flip

    #46, Ozonator

    No matter how high you appear in the google/bing rank that does not make you either legible nor actually affecting the ranking. It ranks high simply because you post on a popular website, not because you or your rantings are popular themselves or make sense. Maybe you need a course in how search algorithms work?

    As for your comments about me getting eco-grant money or getting an E for effort: I am an artist (and not in the US) and have a high-ranking website in my field (I chose to remain anonymous here though) and understand how rankings work. I also have worked as a writer, so I think I know a sensible and easy-to-understand sentence when I see one. Yours make no sense. I actually have googled your other posts previously and find them all equally nonsensical and so do the other people whose sites you’ve posted on.

    Feel free to continue blathering on, I actually have no idea what you’re accusing me of other than calling you illegible and you not liking it. You clearly have the ability to actually post something that we can understand, so why you’re not doing it is beyond me. You might actually get more interest in your ‘predictions’ if people could understand what it is you’re predicting, why and how you do it. But instead we’ll continue to ignore you and write you off as a nutter.

  51. Al

    It’s fine to give adults opportunities to make fools of themselves and even to insult scientists but the actor went way too far when he accosted children at the science fair. What he pulled on them was just plain cruel.

  52. Joseph G

    I’m pretty sure Ozonator is some kind of bot. The very fact that you’re responding to it at all no doubt makes the author of said bot stroke his bushy beard and giggle with glee*.

    *Also insert joke about parents’ basement, etc

  53. John

    That was scary. I’m not sure if the politician was playing along or actually believed what was being said.

  54. Joseph G

    @41 kurt: Overheard in a first year Ecology lab.

    “As you can see by my two data points, there is a straight line correlation.”

    Bahaha!
    I once heard a “sacred geometry” nut (referring to some locations on a map) say something to the effect of “If you look at these three points right here, you can see they make a perfect triangle!”

  55. Ozonator aka Robert Rhodes

    Attacking the blogger and not the science is the 1 step sciency method of extremist Republicans and Christians:
    PayasYouStargaze
    flip
    Joseph G

  56. Joseph G

    Bahahaha. I actually rated the bot’s notice. I feel strangely honored.
    Note that I am neither Republican nor Christian, nor did I attack the blogger or even disagree with him. Fun.

  57. flip

    I have to agree with you Joseph G. My favourite bit is that I can’t even attack the science, given that I have no idea what or if there is any science to his rants. Or maybe the bit where I point out that I’m an artist, therefore have very little ability to attack the science anyway (but have every bit of background to attack the way he *doesn’t* use language that’s comprehensible. Or is it the bit where I’m not American, atheist, and have voted to the left of my country’s version of the Democrats…

    I think he goes into the ‘not even wrong’ pile.

  58. Debra

    Thanks to Steve Metzler @14 for posting the Vimeo link

  59. PayasYouStargaze

    @Joseph G and flip:

    I’m also an atheist and not American, and would tend to lean to the left of the political spectrum. If I attacked it it was only on its inability to use language to present its ideas.

  60. Nigel Depledge

    Ozonator (55) said:

    Attacking the blogger and not the science is the 1 step sciency method of extremist Republicans and Christians:
    PayasYouStargaze
    flip
    Joseph G

    Yeah? Show us your science – using coherent English, if you are able – and we’ll assess it on its merits.

    Continue to blather incoherently and we’ll laugh and point as before.

  61. icemith

    Surprised that some were not able to watch video. Was OK here in Australia, and I am using Safari, of course on a Mac. But it wasn’t the fastest loading.

    Ivan.

  62. Anchor

    It’s fascinating to see retorts from people of a certain and very strongly held political persuasion who are so willing to automatically presume that the segments involving that horribly stupid woman were somehow edited to enhance her stupidity.

    Oh yes, by CONTEXT the idiocy is heightened (which is why the satire works so well) but this sequence is by no means inaccurate.

    The truth – and natural reality – can be unpleasant only to those who have been indoctrinated to deny it.

  63. Anchor

    @49MKS, who says, “Oh Phil, I hope you haven’t joined the True Forces of Darkness, those who get wet when they attack certain thoughts or worldviews instead of just concentrating on being a good human being and doing good & fun science. Being a real human deserves more than Stalinization (science, too).”

    Well, as long as those “certain thoughts or worldviews” of others do not interfere with the rest of us trying our best “being a good human being…doing good & fun science”, even you might acknowledge you may have missed the target of your incindiary “Stalinization” aim by a wide margin, or I will submit you haven’t a clue about what being a “real human deserves”.

  64. Carol James

    I happened to turn on CNN during Obama’s speech from the Rose Garden on the afternoon of Monday, Nov. 7, 2011. Obama said he submitted a bill to Congress in September to give businesses tax break incentives to hire veterans but Republicans voted it down (possibly it was part of the larger jobs bill at that time), but Congress will be given a second chance to vote on the veterans element this week. The bill will cost the U.S. nothing but will help put returning veterans back to work. My husband viewed Obama’s speech on CNN’s web site Tuesday, Nov. 8. However, today we can’t find it in the CNN web site, “Politics” section. In fact, I saw no further news coverage about his speech. I hoped The Daily Show would talk about it, but Jon Stewart did not mention it Monday or Tuesday. I would like to get a message to Jon Stewart in case he simply missed this speech that was so poorly covered by “news” stations. If you know how to contact The Daily Show, please let me know, Thanks, Carol

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