In Which I Am Smarter Than Neil deGrasse Tyson (About Painful Animal Sex)

Sam Wilkinson

According to a faithful reader, I'm Ordinary Times's "least thoughtful writer." So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

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33 Responses

  1. Autolukos says:

    Go watch footage of elephant seals mating (Netflix has a number of options) and tell me they’re enjoying it, Neil.Report

  2. Kim says:

    Pretty much all males enjoy sex. That’s how Mama Nature makes the whole thing work, after all.
    Females enjoying sex is kinda a weird aberration.Report

  3. davidly says:

    He’s an intelligent fella for sure. Unfortunately — and not entirely unlike his colleague Dick Dawkins as a celebrity scientist(tm) — his apparent function is veering regularly into areas outside his specialty. And his mea culpas aren’t always so cut & dry.

  4. Glyph says:

    Between this and the intersex venomous snakes last time, I for one am glad that Sam is keeping on top of the Weird World of Violent Animal Sex beat for OT.Report

    • El Muneco in reply to Glyph says:

      Now that Stephen Fry is out at QI (so to speak), we’ve lost one of our great resources, so it’s good to have someone picking up the slack.Report

  5. Chris says:

    I’ve dubbed the whole NGT, Richard Dawkins, and pretty much any physicist who’s ever spoken about anything but physics Twitter as “smug Twitter.” NGT is its apotheosis, and his greatest Smug Twitter tweet is this one:

    The Leap Day is misnamed. We’re not leaping anywhere. The calendar is simply, and abruptly, catching up with Earth’s orbit— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) February 29, 2016

    One of the rules of Smug Twitter is that its inhabitants are almost always wrong, often in absurdly obvious ways which reveal that the person was just being pointlessly smug. In the example, what might we call “abruptly catching up” with something in colloquial English? A “leap,” perhaps?Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

      I am still loving the fact that I can hate on NGT all I want now and people won’t automatically assume I am a (maybe racist) knuckle-dragging hater of all things science.

      Seriously, he hasn’t just started being this way. He’s always been this way. People just loved f***ing science too much to notice.

      Regarding your tweet in question, I loved this response (which matches yours) from the husband of a former Leaguester:


    • Vikram Bath in reply to Chris says:

      In Tyson’s defense, I’m not sure how long I could go being told I’m brilliant by everyone I meet before I veer outside of what I know and make a fool out of myself. In fact, I’ve done that even without the temptation offered by people calling me brilliant.

      And then add Twitter on top of it, and you can’t help but say stupid stuff.Report

      • Chris in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Oh sure. I suspect the same sort of thing happened with Dawkins: people kept treating him like a preacher who was right about everything, so he started acting like a preacher who thinks he’s right about everything.

        Also, I say we start the experiment now. You’re brilliant, Vikram.

        Now it’s everyone else’s turn. Let’s see how long it takes before you give us your leap year moment.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

          Can people fall for the fan-based reality that they’re brilliant without believing and presenting themselves as brilliant to begin with?

          Seems unlikely to me. But maybe. Maybe that’s what happened to Kanye…Report

  6. Kazzy says:

    So… I’m going to dissent…

    Is the argument that no one should ever comment on matters outside their lane? Because that will take down like, 72% of the internet. Wait… shit, I don’t actually know anything about this topic so maybe I shouldn’t talk.

    I think this criticism would be much more valid of NDT was holding himself out there as an expert on the topic. But he isn’t. He’s just a guy saying something dumb on the internet. Isn’t that what the internet is for?Report

    • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Kazzy says:

      As per usual, I mostly wanted to make jokes, but I do think given his gleeful enjoyment at correcting people’s misconceptions (which he routinely does within physics/astronomy), he should be more careful when straying beyond the boundaries of his own expertise for precisely this reason.

      I think many experts/talents are guilty of believing that their skillset exists much more broadly than it does, as if being good at one thing makes you good at all (or most) things. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen believe that because they’re good at research, they’re good at managing people.

      Anyway, the one thing you can always count on the internet for is real experts correcting feigned experts, which is what happened almost immediately too Tyson.Report

    • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

      intellectual authorities should be extra careful when doing so. I mean, a moment of googling would have cleared that up. Granted, this is not life and death information, but a little care from people who’s authority makes it more likely that many will believe unquestioningly seems a reasonable thing to ask.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Chris says:

        A very reasonable counter, Chris. I considered that myself but wasn’t sure if that was a fair burden to put on people.

        This particular comment seems more pithy observation… a poor attempt at Seinfeldian observation humor… but still. If you want to fancy yourself an expert, it does seem you are going to be received differently and taken to task when you are wrong… even if you are joking about an area of non-expertise.

        The people that really bother me are those who deliberately misrepresent themselves. People like Dr. Phil who seem content to comment on EVERYTHING because they have a certain title… even if they have a fairly limited area of expertise.Report

    • Maribou in reply to Kazzy says:

      Scientists are supposed to hold themselves to higher standards when commenting specifically about science, even if (maybe especially if) it’s outside their specific field. Since part of a scientific worldview involves not running around claiming stuff before you’ve tested it (at least by say, GOOGLING FOR FIVE SECONDS). Part of being rational, objective, and other such imaginary but yet still desirable adjectives.

      Plus Steven Jay Gould did such an admirable job of being a public intellectual that all modern public intellectual scientists are constantly being held to his standard (AND MOSTLY FAILING).

      Alsoplus, Richard Dawkins has been a smarmy bastard since his first popular science book came out, IF NOT EARLIER. (None of the evolutionary biologists I have met – admittedly no more than a dozen or so) have ever had a kind word to say for the man or his efforts at science.)Report

  7. Alan Scott says:

    As I’ve said elsewhere:

    I think there’s a parable in this about the rational/skeptical community and the trouble that some segments of it have when it comes to grappling with feminism and social justice more generally.

    “My basic understanding of logic and some principle of science has led me to this conclusion, therefore it must be true”

    “Have you considered that your chain of reasoning fails to take into account the actual perspectives of women, and that your worship of science-as-totem has actually blinded you to a more complicated truth?”Report

    • I think this is a very good point, and if one wanted to be particularly grim about Tyson’s tweet, it is that it was plainly and obviously written from an entirely male perspective. And his conclusion – that they would have died out years ago – is itself oddly personifying of animals, as if squids really are sitting down to discuss the relative merits of their peculiar sexual intercourse in service of a broader cost-benefit analysis of the whole thing, rather than simply being creatures living short, brutish lives, wherein reproduction is an instinctual part of their year on earth.Report

    • j r in reply to Alan Scott says:

      “My basic understanding of logic and some principle of science has led me to this conclusion, therefore it must be true”

      How true is that characterization? It reads an awful lot of specific intentionality into a whole range of statements and a whole range of conflicts between the hard sciences and feminism/social justice/identity studies writ large.

      Certainly, there are cases of plain old hubris (I would put Dawkins in this category) and cases of being informed by a worldview of clear sexism/racism/whatever (James Watson comes to mind), but there are also plenty of areas where the disconnect arises because the two worlds are simply engaged in different projects.Report

      • Alan Scott in reply to j r says:

        I less often see two worlds engaging in different projects than people with an (often tentative) connection to one world attacking the people and projects in the other.

        There’s a reason I talked about certain portions of the rational/skeptical community rather than hard scientists.Report

  8. Damon says:

    So, wait, rape in the animal kingdom is common, so common that females of some species altered there physical structure to prevent it/discourage it.

    So rape is “natural” then? How can it be wrong if animals do it. We’re all part of the glory that isnature.Report

  9. Damon says:

    And that cat is way cuteReport