Monday, August 04, 2014

Nerds vs. The Empire


Charles C.W. Cooke is a staff writer for National Review. One of his specialties is penning long, scornful rants against various types of effete upper-class liberals who annoy him (quite a trick for a man who uses two middle initials!). In December 2013 we were treated to a highly entertaining broadside about “Pajama Boy,” a character in an advertisement for Obamacare. Now, Cooke has given us an even longer screed about nerd culture. Some excerpts:
[An] extraordinarily puffed-up “nerd” culture...has of late started to bloom across the United States… 
[Nerds share] the belief that one can discover all of the secrets of human experience through differential equations… 
[The nerds want you to know that they are not] southern, politically conservative, culturally traditional, religious in some sense, patriotic, driven by principle rather than the pivot tables of Microsoft Excel, and in any way attached to the past... 
For all of the hype, much of the fadlike fetishization of “Big Data” is merely the latest repackaging of old and tired progressive ideas about who in our society should enjoy the most political power. 
Now, we are to be liberated by the microchip and the Large Hadron Collider, and we are to have our progress assured by ostensibly disinterested analysts. I would recommend that we not fall for it. Our technology may be sparkling and our scientists may be the best in the world, but our politics are as they ever were.

Cooke reminds me a little bit of Bishop Berkeley, the 18th century philosopher who argued that we can’t prove that there is any extant reality, and that we live in a world of pure ideas. The “nerds” Cooke despises are like writer Samuel Johnson, who responded to Berkeley’s argument by kicking a rock and shouting: “I refute it thus!

In a cruder manner than Berkeley, Cooke is standing up for the notion that a large enough group of like-minded people can create their own reality. This notion was put forth explicitly in 2004 by Karl Rove, who declared: “We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”

Eight years later, Rove got to test the strength of the reality his empire had created, in one of the great epistemological clashes of modern history. In the weeks leading up to the 2012 election, election forecaster Nate Silver – whom Cooke identifies as one of the chief “nerds” – had been predicting a solid Obama victory. Legions of conservative writers had lined up to attack Silver, pooh-pooh his methodology, and predict a win for Romney. As the results rolled in, the numbers were eerily close to Silver’s predictions. Karl Rove, standing by on Fox News, was the last holdout, refusing to believe the numbers, declaring stubbornly that Mitt Romney still had a chance. Rove was, of course, wrong, and his on-air meltdown seemed to mark the moment when the bizarre “reality” his empire had created kicked a rock, and found itself refuted thus.

Charles C.W. Cooke is mad at Nate Silver, and mad at all the other “nerds” who cite evidence suggesting that global warming is real and dangerous, that renewable energy is feasible, etc. He does not hold forth on whether the nerds should stop telling us that evolution is real, that inflation is low, etc., but these are all issues on which Cooke’s co-tribalists have attacked the scientific consensus in recent years. Nate Silver may have won a battle against anti-nerd-ism, but the war continues, with the “empire” retreating to ground where the evidence is not quite as overwhelming as an election result. Wherever there is a sliver of doubt, a thin band of standard error, the “empire” of Cooke and Rove makes its stand, disavowing the inconvenient results of science and flinging high-school insults at the effete intellectuals who report those results.

(For a less polite but more trenchant take on the Right's war on reality, see this 2008 piece by John Derbyshire.)

Meanwhile, Cooke’s stand against “nerd culture” is the most recent tug from a very old undercurrent of anti-intellectualism in American society. That attitude continues to hold our country back. STEM education has become an ever more important ticket to success in life, and a skills gap has probably pushed apart the upper and lower middle classes since 1980, but America still lags in teaching its kids to do math. National Review writers throwing casual insults at differential equations, Big Data, and the Large Hadron Collider are not going to kill America’s middle class, of course, but they’re not exactly helping the situation.

The popular “nerd culture” against which Cooke vents his scorn is goofy and superficial, and certainly no substitute for STEM education. It’s pop culture. But its basic message – that it’s cool to think and study evidence and figure things out – is one that America needs to hear. Cooke and the empire he serves are losing their battle against the advancing nerds, but they’re doing collateral damage as they retreat.

62 comments:

  1. Interesting article. Sometimes it's easy to feel resentment towards nerds, because whether it's through web 2.0, stocks or real estate, they are the ones reaping most of the gains in this strong economic recovery, while everyone else sits on the sidelines and watches. Usually it's the 'old left' that attacks technology, intellectualism and STEM culture, not republicans. From Star Wars to the space race to NASA and supply side economics, it's typically been the republicans that have championed technology.

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    1. No sorry you're wrong. Conservatives and Republicuns have created their own private reality where logic and evidence don't matter. Everything is warped because of the corruption of money and anti-government ideology. That's why Nate Silver and Degrasse Tyson are attacked.

      Only six percent of scientists are Republican. Why is that?

      http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/02/anti-intellectualism-that-dares-not-speak-its-name/

      And supply side economics isn't technology, it's a fairy tale.

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    2. You'll notice that it's been 30+ years and Star Wars is still pie in the sky and we're still waiting for supply side economics to kick in and give us all a raise. Also, NASA's biggest backers were Republicans like JFK and LBJ. Republicans pay lip service to technology, but they won't spend the money it takes to develop it.

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  2. I don't disagree with the basic idea in your article, just the slant i.e. that the right is uniquely anti-science. Spend some time talking to people on the right about GMOs, gender roles etc. "Nerdism" seems like a pop version of "scientism" which is how left-of-center academics from the humanities say "these nerds are getting above their station".

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    1. Shadow_Nirvana6:10 AM

      "Scientism", in its pejorative usage, has been coined by and used predominantly by right wingers.

      http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Scientism#Usage_by_cranks

      There are a lot of issues to be careful about GMOs but as Neil deGrasse Tyson mentioned it in his recent talk, these issues aren't about safety, rather than business.

      As for gender roles, are you trying to make the same old argument about how people on the left believe in "tabula rasa"?

      How is pointing to obvious flaws in size, sampling and methodology of several studies, that the fact that psychological gender differences aren't taxonic and showing the problems with using neuroscience imagery as essentialist arguments. Talking about how human evolution cannot be studied from a strictly zoological perspective is also not saying that science doesn't hold answers to questions.

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    2. Shadow_Nirvana6:11 AM

      *these issues aren't about safety, but rather about business.

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    3. Anonymous2:13 PM

      http://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s--JbPyFtla--/c_fit,fl_progressive,q_80,w_636/18k1o612tjeqbjpg.jpg
      Theil-Friedman

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    4. "Spend some time talking to people on the right about GMOs"

      Sure - could you please give me a list of Democratic Senators denouncing them, and seeking to ban them?

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  3. Shadow_Nirvana6:14 AM

    Goddamn I screwed up my comment.

    *How is pointing to obvious flaws in size, sampling and methodology of several studies; showing the fact that psychological gender differences aren't taxonic and showing the problems with using neuroscience imagery as essentialist arguments comparable to saying "these nerds are getting above their station" . Talking about how human evolution cannot be studied from a strictly zoological perspective is also not saying that science doesn't hold answers to questions.

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  4. Shadow_Nirvana6:38 AM

    You know what? I tried... My disgrace shall be remembered for eternities to come. Or until next week, when people stop visiting this post and seeing my failed comment train.

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  5. Digest of recent discourse about "rising anti-intellectualism" on academic macroeconomist blogs:

    Attention-seeking crank: We live in the real world, they live in a fantasy world!
    Ivory tower academic: No, we live in the real world, and they live in a fantasy world!
    [Repeat]

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  6. Anonymous9:24 AM

    Interesting how people comment on an article about another article, without reading the other article.

    If they read said other article, they might note how THIS article has little to do with it.

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  7. Anonymous9:52 AM

    Even my teenager understood the article, and it certainly wasn't a 'stand against “nerd culture”'. Did you even read the article?

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    1. I read it, and it ridiculed differential equations, "Big Data", the Large Hadron Collider, and Microsoft Excel. What a steaming pile of atavistic medievalism.

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    2. I don't think differential equations will feel bad.

      The article *clearly* seems to be written against pseudo-nerds, who use scientific terminology, but not science, to rationalize their predjuices and busy-bodiness. In days past, these would have been phrenologist promoters of slavery or anti-Semitism. Today, they are the people who tell you that a climate model with poor predictive power *proves* that the Chinese people shouldn't be allowed to own cars. Or something.

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    3. student3:22 PM

      Lets set aside all that fancy pants stuck up left wing sciency voo doo talk and put things in terms the straight shooting red state folks can understand.

      Hey dip shit, climate change models aint saying the yellows shouldn't own trucks, its saying the the price of muddin should include the cost of all that smoke that done comes out of its tail pipe. get ur done!

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    4. Climate models don't say anything about cost. But thanks for playing.

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    5. student8:27 AM

      You are right, they dont say anything about cost. I am guilty of mixing economic concepts (externalities) with climate change modeling, so sue me. You know what, while your at it, sue obama, we all know everything is his fault anyways.

      Bottom line is that 95+% of climatologists are convinced that climate change is happening here and now. If science is to fancy for ya, take a look at the distribution of record high temperature over time, take a look at when your daffodils are blooming these days, take a look at how far the ice caps are receding in summer, take a look at how far sea levels have already risen, think about what happens to the temperature of something when you insulate it more. The science simply confirms what an unbiased observer has already noticed. Now is it a coincidence? Maybe, but I would suspect that billions of people pumping shit loads of stuff into the atmosphere for hundreds of years would lead to something.

      Lastly, isnt it funny that the price of fossil fuels doesnt include the costs of the pollution its burning leads to. Hmmm..... perhaps there is an association between that pricing problem and over use?

      You might be able to see that if you pulled your head a touch farther out of your a$$.

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    6. 'I read it, and it ridiculed differential equations,'

      That's a lie. Read the actual quote.

      'the two defining characteristics of self-professed nerds are (a) the belief that one can discover all of the secrets of human experience through differential equations'

      Neither differential equations nor mathematical knowledge in general are being ridiculed, just those people who give off an impression that all the answers to life can be divined by plugging a few numbers into an equation.

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  8. Sad to see you harp on the "skills gap", especially when it's irrelevant to your main point, which is very good.

    There isn't a skills gap. There's a gap between what skilled people are willing to work for and the salaries companies are trying to pay, and employers are trying to make that gap expand through various methods (including complaining about underskilled workers). Hence ads for lawyers getting paid $15/hr.: http://www.city-data.com/forum/work-employment/1838645-craigslist-ad-lawyers-wanted-15-hour.html

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    1. The skills gap is not nearly the whole story of inequality, but it is real.

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    2. I'd love to see you demonstrate this with some data. From my anecdotal experience (which expands several industries and companies, I might add), the skills gap meme is total bullshit.

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    3. Did you not read the thing I linked to?

      What you see in your own experience is already the product of selection bias.

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    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    5. You mean the thing from 2002? From 12 years ago? From when the economy and the labor market was massively different? From before the 2008 GFC?

      My point is very different from the point you're making--and I think both can co-exist. Yes, technology has changed the landscape when it comes to technical skills required by labor (in varying degrees in varying sectors). But post-2008, the skills gap has been used as a talking point in negotiations between employers and employees. If you think finding a job before 2008 and after 2008 is the same, you must be smoking crack.

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    6. I second this, and challenge Noah - you're an economist, you know that to the extent that there is a skills gap, wages would be rising in those areas[1]. Show that[2].

      [1] Not some tiny niche; there is always a niche which is short of the right people.

      [2] Corporate lords (or their lackeys) whining that the peasants want three meals a day is not proof. Of course they want MIT grads working for 'three hots and a cot'.

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  9. Anonymous10:37 AM

    It's funny, actually. I think your highlight picture is actually the most accurate. There has been a flood of what could only be characterized as nerds into both popular culture and the stratosphere of wealth for years now - starting with Gates & Ellison, then Brin & Page, now Zuckerberg, and the real-life Howard Stark, Elon Musk, to name a few.

    These nerds don't play by the same rules, don't vote the way they are supposed to, and don't think the way the "popular kids" are supposed to. And that is just pissing the old popular kids off. I think that this nearly incoherent ramble ("differential equations?") sets up "nerds" as a strawman that represents everything good people aren't.

    Ironically, when he does try to argue that objective data agrees with conservatives, he picks the things for which there is ether little strong evidence either way (Head Start) or he's just wrong (medicaid and the VA don't work - they do, and they're cheap, too), or for which the arguments have nothing to do with science or facts - abortion. Along the way, he makes the case that conservatives don't play in the fact-based world.

    Mostly, it's him bitching that the new cool kids don't like him anymore.

    P.S. - To the other commenter - The right isn't "uniquely" anti-science. Just much more broadly so than those on the left. And for much longer (the seminal book on it was written in '63).

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    1. Shadow_Nirvana4:45 PM

      Isn't Elon Musk the guy who took government help to turn his business around , then decided that he should be railing against government influence on business and economy? Sounds like a typical conservatarian to me.

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    2. Are there any who aren't that way? Denouncing government, while using both hands to stuff government money into their pockets? Pulling down every service one can (including getting special laws passed), while complaining about laws and taxes?

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  10. Like the column, but think you should have found someone other than Bishop Berkeley regarding reality. I think that Berkeley presents a long standing and ongoing dilemma. We all operate on an assumption of naive realism (kick the chair and indeed we hurt our toe). But certainly that reality which we naively assume is not well supported, neither by science, nor by experience in the long haul. Berkeley's assertion that reality is more like an idea emerges again and again when we try to pin down reality.

    The kludge which is our evolved brain does in fact perceive the world in very certain ways and that is a reality we have to cope with, but it is not reality itself.

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    1. Sure. Berkeley actually had a really good point. And I think the response to that point was to move toward pragmatism - chair-kicking - and abandon the notion that we can have absolute knowledge of external reality in favor of the idea that we just have to make the best guess we can make.

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  11. Just read the article, someone is really upset that science is cool and the jocks don't get to put the nerds in lockers anymore. Actually, perhaps he's even more upset that so many of the jocks ARE nerds now and play video games, do well in science, and hope to be scientists or engineers when they grow up rather than staunch conservative businessmen. How things have changed since that author was in high school.

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  12. "Bishop Berkeley, the 18th century philosopher who argued that we can’t prove that there is any extant reality..."

    He did *not* argue that. And Johnson's "refutation" was stupid, and has long been known to have been stupid.

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    1. "As Coleridge put it, matter is like an invisible pincushion that we suppose necessary to hold the various "pins" that are our sensations... Berkeley asked: is the pincushion needed? Dr. Johnson -- no professional philosopher -- hearing of Berkeley's critique of matter, kicked a large stone "with mighty force until he rebounded from it," and said, "I refute it thus." But Berkeley never denied that things were real, hard as stone and heavy as Dr. Johnson. He pointed out -- and he has never been refuted -- that matter is a notion added to what the senses actually report. " -- Jacques Barzun

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    2. Actually Berkeley made a very good point, and Johnson's "refutation" was actually an early step in a general move away from logical positivism toward pragmatism...

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  13. "In a cruder manner than Berkeley, Cooke is standing up for the notion that a large enough group of like-minded people can create their own reality."

    Nope: Cooke never says anything remotely like that.

    "Charles C.W. Cooke is mad at Nate Silver, and mad at all the other “nerds” who cite evidence suggesting that global warming is real and dangerous, that renewable energy is feasible, etc."

    Mo: what he says is that many people merely mouth these positions without understanding the evidence at all, but act as if they are being "scientific" in doing so.

    "Meanwhile, Cooke’s stand against “nerd culture” is the most recent tug from a very old undercurrent of anti-intellectualism in American society. "

    Nope: it is a complaint against faux intellectualism. You know, like the kind of person who brings up Berkeley but has no idea what Berkeley actually argued.

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    1. You're wrong, Callahan. Actually, Cooke is just saying that oranges are smaller than grapefruit.

      Huh? He never talked about oranges or grapefruit in the article? Wow, you and I must just have really different readings.

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  14. Do you suppose that Mr. Cook would be horrified at this argument against "human-centrism" in macro? (the argument quotes Noah a couple of times)

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  15. Nothing new here. The Enlightenment has struggled with the mystical thinking of the Romantics for two hundred years. The struggle with probably continue forever.

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    1. Anonymous9:13 PM

      Hahah, when I read this I immediately thought of commenter "Grey Enlightenment", probably the best persistent purveyor of unwitting comedy on this blog.

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  16. Chris4:48 PM

    Hi Noah-

    I really like your posts, but I think you're missing the point here. Cooke just seems to be cautioning against conflating technical capacity with moral acumen. Science is an extremely important method to uncover facts about the world, but it is ultimately a complement to, not a substitute for, moral reasoning. The Silver/Rove example is beside the point, in my opinion, because that isn't the sort of conflict between "nerd culture" and conservatives that Cooke has in mind. Rather, he's envisioning something closer to Brave New World, where the society's values are basically perverse and thus science becomes a great evil rather than a great good. Maybe you think I'm giving Cooke way too much credit, but I think he regards science as a tool, and mistrusts (wrongly, in my opinion) the values of the individuals who are most frequently skilled at employing it.

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    1. Chris5:01 PM

      Actually, Cooke makes an even better point in his article - that we should be very careful to distinguish actual science from claims that merely use science in order to mask value judgments. Even if you disagree with his description of the class of individuals whom he believes are engaging in this practice, his underlying suggestion should be extremely welcome.

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    2. OK, Charles, got it. ;-)

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  17. First, let me say that science is all about understanding the world around us. That is not inherently either good nor evil, although the steps required to obtain that knowledge could be, but that is not the subject of the article or your comments. Technology is about the application of that knowledge to the world, and of course that has inherent value judgments in terms of what we are seeking to accomplish by that application. In this way Macro is more like technology than science in that it seeks to optimize value functions. BNW is about technology, not science, per se.
    Cooke reveals himself in this article to be a phony when he disregards the opinions of others based on their understanding of the scientific consensus, because they don't totally get the nuances of the science. But, he clearly has no such understanding yet supports fringe characters because he doesn't understand the science either???That makes his position somehow better. Because he is being pure to his superior ideology???
    Anyway this article is pure nonsense wrapped up in vitrol.

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  18. Anonymous9:47 PM

    Cooke's article was chock full of foolishness. Unfortunately, the cultural trend of "nerd culture" conflates things and so makes an easy target for someone like Cooke to also conflate things.

    I swear "nerd culture" has devolved into "I love these particular pieces of massively popular corporate culture and that means I'm smart!" Self-identifying as a Doctor Who fan (I enjoy Doctor Who, but it's really dumb mass-market fare) is used as a marker to be in the same league as someone who could actually meaningfully talk about n-dimensional space.

    The "nerds" have painted a target on themselves. Cooke should have been better than to shoot at the target, but I can see why someone would.

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    1. It's pop culture. What do you expect from pop culture? And isn't this better than what came before it?

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    2. Tom Baker was totally great. I did not read the article past the first few paragraphs, since I could not see what differential equations had to do with Star Trek vs Star Wars.

      I prefer difference equations anyways, since I am going to have to make time to simulate them on my computer. I was teased recently by an Ubuntu user for choosing to install Windows on a VM. So I guess I am not a nerd.

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    3. Anonymous6:59 PM

      Maybe I'm just telling the kids to get off my lawn. What seems different than other pop culture isn't that it's stupid and fluffy (and I don't really object to stupid and fluffy), but the false association between specific stupid and fluffy pop culture and technically sophisticated nerddom.

      On the other hand, if this was 1969, embracing stupid and fluffy pop culture might be enough to make someone feel like a world-changing radical even if all they were doing was listening to the Byrds. That might be equivalent.

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  19. Anonymous11:23 PM

    Noah don't wade into philosophy, modern or otherwise. It isn't your forte and things get ugly real fast. The rest of your article seems right.

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    1. Actually I am the greatest philosopher who has ever lived (short of Winnie-the-Pooh). Prove me wrong!

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    2. Anonymous11:38 PM

      Mike Myers isn't really Scottish.

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  20. I read the Cooke piece. It appeared to be mostly a demonstration of Cooke's ESP ability as he repeatedly shared the private thoughts of others. Is it supposed to be a shining example of work from a conservative?



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  21. Anonymous6:37 AM

    Did Noah even care to read the article he so strindently criticized? I have just read it and it sure seems like a reasonable and well argued text. Like is the case with so many liberals, overcoming an ideological Turing test and seriously engaging points made by someone he doesn't like is above Noah's ability.Or he just can't bring the willpower to do it. The result is lousy, bad fisking.

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    1. The Cooke piece isn't reasonable and it isn't well argued.

      Cooke starts with a Tyson quote that refers to "us" and makes the leap that Tyson and Hayes feel they aren't including themselves in "us," because he assumes they think they are smarter than everyone else. How other than ESP would Cooke know what Tyson and Hayes think? He can't. It's BS.

      Cooke then supposedly defines "self-professed nerds" as (a) thinking all answers of the human experience come from differential equations and (b) they think they are smarter than everyone else. How does he know what these "self-professed nerds" think other than by ESP? He can't. It's BS.

      I've engaged his first two "points" to illustrate that they are completely made up. It's lame.

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  22. "In a cruder manner than Berkeley, Cooke is standing up for the notion that a large enough group of like-minded people can create their own reality. This notion was put forth explicitly in 2004 by Karl Rove, who declared: “We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”"

    Well, for one thing, in the debate in question, Berkeley was the scientifically literate figure, the one who had made important contributions of his own to the theory of vision in Essay toward a New Theory of Vision and to the contemporaneous debates on the foundations of the new infinitesimal calculus and new dynamics in The Analyst and De Motu. His philosophical theories of the relationship of mind to the world were not offered as a form of skepticism - i.e. "We can't know that there are material bodies, etc." - but as an attempted positive account of the world called "immaterialism." A better contemprary analogy to Berkeley might be one of the several contemporary physical scientists who have been attracted to one of the "many minds" interpretations of QM.

    Johnson was the witty, cranky, arch-conservative pundit and literateur, purporting to refute Berkeley's theory by appeal to the ordinary common sense of untutored humanity.

    But more to the matter at hand, if the collection of "nerds" that Cooke singles out were noted for their attemptis to advance democracy by promoting the scientific education of the citizenry while strengthening democratic institutions, then I think Noah's defense of them as the defenders of an enlightened political culture would have more bite. But I have been reading several of those figures for several years now, and in fact, there is a strongly anti-democratic strain in their thinking and what seems to me to be a preference for elite technocracy unencumbered by input from the boobs. I think there is also a naive dimension to their thinking that overestimates the extent to which political choices can be decided, even in principle, by settling the truth about the empirical facts.

    And I do think that their customary styles of argument are off-putting, condescending and "unattractive" to those who don't already agree with them. On the other hand, I think those uncivil habits are common among many folks in contemprary internet culture, self included.

    So I think Cooke lands some solid blows here, although in other ways goes off the rails.

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  23. Anonymous10:03 AM

    It's hard to be a Republican and a Nerd, or a Southern and a Nerd. Honestly, I sometimes think these people are imposters, implanted into the party to make us look bad to moderates. Sigh, But I know that is wishful thinking. I will continue to lie my intellectual friends about being a Republican. I can't take the shame.

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  24. Those aren't actually middle initials standing for middle names. Written out he is Charles "Conventional Wisdom" Cooke. And very reckless.

    I contest the slur of Berkeley "In a cruder manner than Berkeley, Cooke is standing up for the notion that a large enough group of like-minded people can create their own reality.

    You are discussing Berkeley as presented by Borges. The real Berkeley believed in an external objective reality that might bite one in the ass. He called it "the mind of God." There is a modern tradition of cutting the religion out of it and calling it philosophy. This does not work very well with the writings of clergymen. Now your characterisation might be correct on Tlot, Uqbar or Orbus Tertius, but on Earth, Rove isn't Berkeley on TV.


    I am impressed by Cooke's contempt for the fact/value distinction. Consider "driven by principle rather than the pivot tables of Microsoft Excel." Now I like moral principles, but one shouldn't decide the probability of Obama winning based on principle. It also goes the other way. No fan of big data thinks our progress could be "assured by ostensibly disinterested analysts." No sane fan of facts think they can be a subsitute for values, priorities or goals.

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  25. Anonymous10:03 PM

    To label Cooke's article as "anti-intellectualism" is either dense or dishonest. Cooke does not criticize the use of data in general, or Excel in particular, but rather the abuse of these to mask one's underlying values as facts. He argues that value judgments (a) must be made on major social issues, and so (b) ought to be stated.

    I disagree with a lot of what he says, but it's a reasonable argument (underneath all of the hyperbole and pop-culture noise). A similar distinction between "nerds" and knowledge is made by Nassim Taleb, who I wouldn't characterize as conservative or anti-intellectual. The general distinction between the use and abuse of science has been made by Alan Sokal, who is definitely an intellectual and not a conservative.

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  26. Wow, an article calling Neil deGrasse Tyson and Paul Krugman a fake nerd boys. At least he doesn't seem sexist. We usually get this kind of crap ranting about fake nerd girls. Cooke seems upset that some people think certain others are smart and popular, especially since they are people he doesn't approve of. He also seems upset that reality has a liberal bias. Rage against the gods.

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  27. Well, Crook swung wide, and I don't blame people for being alienated, but there are some very good points in there. These points mirror my problems with the "technocratic liberal" culture, often exhibited in the Krugman-Vox-Yglesias-Noah axis of liberal tribalism, where tribal biases substitute for actual objective analysis.

    More precisely, these tribal biases are rooted in the sense of belonging to an elite liberal priesthood, and a fear that identifying with the rabble would damage one's social status. This then taints the actual analysis.

    First, we saw the Export-Import Bank case, where the Tea Party arrived at a technocratically correct policy, that we should get rid of the Export-Import Bank. Rather than admit that, Krugman and Yglesias engaged in a lather of pseudo-analysis to deceive themselves, which Dean Baker easily exploded. Rather than be a real man and admit the tea Party was right, Noah went the middle-school route and mocked people for caring about Ex-Im as a policy issue. If the liberal technocrats are too tribal to admit when the other side is obviously right, and use their intellectual gifts in service of partisan tribalism, then that bolsters the case for libertarianism.

    Even on the Large Hadron Collider, it appears that physicists held on to a non-credible theory (supersymmetry) for the filthy lucre of Collider dollars for the guv'mint. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/supersymmetry-and-the-crisis-in-physics/

    So yes, the absence of moral principle and the presence of tribalism does spoil some of the more ideological/partisan nerds, and Crook's got a good point.

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