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A Stern Commentary: Howard Stern Calls Out Rick Perry for His Anti-Science Views

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Howard SternNo shortage of articles have been published about the deep distrust exhibited by most 2012 Republican presidential candidates toward specific scientific findings—notably evolution and climate change—as well as in some cases toward science itself. Rush Limbaugh, who shapes the opinions of a large audience of conservatives, has labeled science as one of the “Four Corners of Deceit,” along with government, the media and academia. (Academic researchers and federal agency scientists are thus doubly deceitful in Limbaugh’s worldview.)

But another radio personality with a big following often speaks out these days in favor of science. Howard Stern may have a reputation as a “shock-jock” with a dirty mouth. But as a broadcaster with almost four decades of experience in terrestrial and now satellite radio, he is well versed in the technology of his medium. And he’s a “big fan,” as he puts it, of other technology he uses in his daily life. What follows is a transcript of a few minutes of a conversation he had with his broadcast partner Robin Quivers at the start of his September 8th show. The conversation began in reaction to the previous night’s GOP presidential debate

Howard Stern: Rick Perry’s a real anti-science guy, kinda like George Bush, he’s like, ya know, (putting on a Texas accent), “I don’t believe there’s global warming and this global warming is ruining our economy, and scientists are a**holes. I believe in God and Jesus.” I hate that thinking.

Robin Quivers: Well, he’s the guy who called the national prayer conference and prayed for the problems to go away.

Howard: Yeah, that’s always good. No, pray that you have some scientists with half a brain. That’s how we win wars. That’s how we win in the economy. Science—

Robin: What does he think he’s driving around in.

Howard: Yeah, right. Well, science—ya know, well, take a look at Apple, the company. I’m a big fan, as you know, I use all their products. Ya know, they didn’t get there by praying to Jesus. They got there by good old-fashioned science. They somehow figured—

Robin: Even the fact that he’s talking—science got him on the air last night!

Howard: Ya know, Apple somehow figured if you touch a piece of glass you can move things around, and whoa. That’s science, and that’s how you build industry, and that’s how you build a company. Listen, you talk about science…(Digression about a sci-fi TV series)

Robin: But Howard, if he [Perry] wanted to turn his back on science, he’d have to go back to the Dark Ages. He’d have to turn off his lights—

Howard: (Sarcastically) No, we don’t need science.

Robin: He’d have to do, he’d become Amish. He’d have to get back into a horse and buggy.

Howard: I believe in science. I’m the candidate that believes in science.

Robin: But all these people are using science and technology all the time while they say, “Oh, it’s no good.”

Howard: That’s right. Well, listen. So far I gotta hear some—

Robin: He doesn’t believe in global warming, but what has he invented? What has he figured out?

Howard: He invented how to keep his hair in place even under the most crucial and taxing situations.

Robin: He didn’t even figure that out, he just used a can somebody else created.

Howard: Oh. That’s true. That is true. He didn’t even figure that out.





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  1. 1. RickRay 5:31 pm 09/8/2011

    When will people in America realize that praying is like wishing for something from Santa Claus or the tooth fairy. They just don’t seem to be able to come into the 21st century with all the fantastic new discoveries in stellar science, technology and evolution. Talk about cognitive dissonance. How do you look at yourself in the mirror every morning without breaking it?

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  2. 2. MrDrT 5:36 pm 09/8/2011

    Howard Stern? You are citing Howard Stern as a source on scientific topics? Lets see…it is called the “Theory of Evolution” correct? You’re publishing mean-spirited scince ignorance ridicule of an aircraft pilot, guys. Rick Perry knew more about science at age 10 than Howard Stern will know in his lifetime. And Gov. Perry has committed himself to life and death situations in his trust of science. Your editors need to wake up to the damage you’re doing to the credibility of Scientific American. This publication was once a bastion of critical thinking. You’re making it another National Enquirer.

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  3. 3. MrDrT 5:39 pm 09/8/2011

    RickRay . . what’s your position on the science that says that prayer has a real impact? I’m sure you researched this topic before you looked down upon 5 billion people on which you have found pity.

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  4. 4. antob7 6:55 pm 09/8/2011

    MrDrT … I’m only a 24 year old musician, but I’m educated and intelligent enough to comprehend what it meant by ‘Theory’ when used in the ‘Theory of Evolution’. Try looking up the word THEORY in a dictionary, because you obviously don’t understand which sense of theory we’re all talking about here. You’re attempting to spin theory as no more than a mere ‘Hypothesis, speculation, conjecture, or an individual view or notion. Unfortunately for you thats not the same meaning of ‘Theory’ as used by academia and the scientific community which is a ‘system of statements held as an explanation of FACTS or Phenomena that has been CONFIRMED or established by OBSERVATION or experiment and is accepted as accounting for the known FACTS; a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed.’

    It’s the same meaning of ‘Theory’ when we say Theory of Gravity, which we all recognize and accept as a given FACT. Evolution is a FACT, plain and simple, and the very fact that you’re incapable of understanding the very nature of what type of Theory we’re talking about her gives evidence that despite the Theory of Evolution being a fact, you have yet to evolve.

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  5. 5. maxelruiz5 8:53 pm 09/8/2011

    I dare all of those who continuously trash science or speak of science as an evil thing to stop visiting the Doctor when sick. How in the world do you think medicine has its basis on? Seriously? The foundations of medical applications begin with sciences such as Physics, Chemistry,and Biology. How do you think an MRI works? At least Google it! A Doctor saves a life and what do they say “thank God”, a Doctor can’t save a life and what do they say “the Doctor is an incompetent” or “it was God’s will”. ????????
    I am very worry that someone like Rick Perry could be or next president.
    How can you talk so much trash about science,yet continue to use it.
    That show lack of integrity. I will have nothing to say if he or his loved one would not attend a Doctor when sick and rely only on the power of prayer. But he is a politician, what do expertise and education do you really think most politician have? Over a couple of centuries ago scientists were persecuted by religion because they thought outside the box and they saw them as a threat, this same cat and mouse game continues in today’s society. I am not an atheist, but if I can believe in God (and Jesus doesn’t count, sorry) and yet, he or she has not given us any proof of his existence, why can you have some at least respect on science, when you see it and use it every day. I am sure next time you turn on your car, your lights, your TV, or get your prostate or pap smear exam, will think of this.

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  6. 6. outsidethebox 9:41 pm 09/8/2011

    I can remember 40 years ago when I was in college and loved and respected Scientific American. And now this is what it has become. Howard Stern. Who made the decision to destroy SA?

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  7. 7. LVM84 1:07 am 09/9/2011

    For those of you critisizing SA for quoting Howard Stern, I think you are missing the point. The point is that even a jackass like Howard Stern gets the fact that science has brought us every single bit of progress and productivity we enjoy in this day and age. It’s so ridiculous it’s humorous. And let’s get real here: Perry and Limbaugh also get it but gain considerable mileage from their electorate / fanbase out of questioning science. They essentially use the term “science” as a euphemism for liberalism. It’s disingenuous but obviously highly effective.

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  8. 8. julieschreck 4:01 am 09/9/2011

    Did anyone else read comment 6 (above) in the voice of Grampa Simpson? The kind of willful ignorance that would insist that a science publication ignore popular culture is no different from the willful ignorance of climate science and evolution. Someone who can make people laugh while also calling upon them to think about important issues is no jackass. Thank you, Howard, Robin, and Scientific American, for the laugh.

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  9. 9. javieralonso 5:07 pm 09/9/2011

    I do not like Howard Stern but I know he is right.

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  10. 10. MrDrT 6:34 pm 09/9/2011

    I believe the scientific method is an extremely important tool to better understand the world and to drive important discoveries. I also understand that well-executed science requires sincere discussion of opposing views and continual challenges as new information emerges. Are you open to legitimate challenges to the theory of evolution or is the case forever closed?

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  11. 11. sunspot 7:46 pm 09/9/2011

    Howard Stern? Really?! Steve Mirsky, are you insane? Out of the thousands of respectable, quotable scientists who oppose Republican ludites, you had to pick to biggest know-nothing in the psycho-media. Then you try to valid Stern by saying he’s “well versed in the technology of his medium”. The weather girl on the News knows more technology than Stern.

    Well thank you, but science will survive without Howard Stern’s support. If not, SciAm should just close up shop and go home. Matter of fact, I think a lot of readers of this column just canceled their subscription, like I did. What could you have been thinking Steve?

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  12. 12. Miles_August 7:16 am 09/10/2011

    For those of you who are confused as to why SA would quote Howard Stern as an authority on Evolution you may not be aware of his groundbreaking contribution in this field. He is the first person to discover the “Missing Link”, Baba Booey. You can’t look at that ape like face and deny our connection to the primates. End of Discussion!

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  13. 13. tomjlynch 4:13 pm 09/12/2011

    Please people! You missed Logic 101. “ad hominum” is a
    logical fallacy. Howard Stern would lower the tone of a pig wrestle, but if he starts with a sound premise and the logic is correct even he can be right. Even a Republican can be right by those criteria; their problem lies in meeting those criteria.

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  14. 14. model2000 1:22 am 09/13/2011

    MrDrT,
    You should call The Howard Stern Show and debate him on this subject. Howard Stern will then rip you to shreds.

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  15. 15. christinaak 11:47 am 09/14/2011

    MrDrT, With all due respect, the evidence for evolution is overwhelming. it is no longer a question of whether evolution has and does occur. look around you, everything imaginable goes through change or evolution. evolution is a universal principle which has widespread application. i suggest you do some reading on general systems theory (ludwig von bertalanffy). another good book is arthur koestler’s “ghost in the machine”. everthing in reality is connected and impacted by evolutionary processes. it would be surprising if biological organisms were not subject to evolutionary processes. ironically, even religion is subject to evolutionary processes (any objective examination of the history of religion from the more primitive animistic conceptions up through today’s more sophisticated and yet anachronistic world religions). that biological organisms have and continue to evolve is an established scientific fact (in the scientific understanding of the word). the only thing that is still not entirely established is the mechanisms involved (which include natural selection and genetic mutation). i personally do not believe that the current neodarwinian synthesis is the last word on the mechanisms involved in evolution. just an observation: i have found in my own experience (and incidentally i was fundamentalist christian for 13 years of my adult life until age 29) that those who are sceptical about evolution tend to be (1) unknowledgeable about the subject and usually deliberately so and/or (2) they are so psychologically invested in their religious beliefs that they are ‘psychologically incapable of understanding and assimilating information which is contrary to their cherished world view. christina anne knight i have developed what i believe is an acceptable clinical definition of religion. Religion: a metaphysical system of superstition and mythology, that is perpetuated via cultural transmission for the relief of existential anxiety, and that is epistemologically dependent on magical thinking and delusion.

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  16. 16. christinaak 11:50 am 09/14/2011

    oops, i meant to say that i DO NOT believe the neodarwinian synthesis is the last word on mechanisms involved in biological evolution. christina knight

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  17. 17. christinaak 11:56 am 09/14/2011

    also my paranthetical comment about religion being subject to evolutionary processes should have said ‘any objective examination of the history of religion and religious thought, from the more primitive animistic conceptions up through today’s more sophisticated and yet anachronistic world religions, demonstrates a pattern of development from simpler to more complex systems.” i apology i sometimes do not proofread what i type. christina knight

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  18. 18. christinaak 12:16 pm 09/14/2011

    another point i neglected to mention is that what those who aspire to hold high public office believe is important. an intellectual tendency to reject established science in spite of the evidence supporting it suggests that a prospective candidate may habitually reject evidence that is contrary to their cherished world view. this could be potentially dangerous. i think it is safe to say that most of the republican field is intellectually unfit to hold any public office. i am an indepedent by the way. i have no great love for the democrats either. however the fascist tendency of the republicans with regard to social issues is disturbing.

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  19. 19. unomas 1:56 pm 09/15/2011

    Your source is hardly credible. And the idea as put forth by your posters of a Republican intellectual inferiority is incredible and repugnant and has no place in an “intellectual debate.” Save it for the Liberal rant websites.

    Republicans do recall the bogus data put forth by the Brits last year when they admitted stretching their “science” to fit their biases.

    This is what Liberals do today. If reality is an “inconvenient truth” why not just create a world of imagination where Liberalism rules.

    Realistic people on our side recognize the value of caring for the environment and acknowledge there may be minuscule changes in temperature over large stretches of time that do not warrant the types of changes to modern life that the “greens” insist upon.

    It’s the “world view” of the Left that is dragging down the larger Western democracies and putting at various kinds of risk, the least of which is from the climate.

    As for science we see alterations constantly by even the likes of Stephen Hawkins. Some things are provable in the laboratory; some are not; therefore some level of skepticism makes good sense.

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  20. 20. unomas 2:02 pm 09/15/2011

    It is an ad hominem to reject the messenger; but some subjects do require some experience and some certification. And Stern’s public reputation makes him an unintelligent choice for the oh-so-smart among you.

    Is there no CREDIBLE climate scientist willing to come forth these and declare these truths? Is that why AL GORE and Stern are the best known spokesmen?

    The Presidency should require people with experience and knowledge, but Liberals also rejected it in that instance.

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  21. 21. Steve3 6:13 pm 09/15/2011

    “Matter of fact, I think a lot of readers of this column just canceled their subscription, like I did.”

    Really???

    You cancelled! I’d like to see you prove you ever had a subscription.

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  22. 22. mrthayer 6:35 pm 09/15/2011

    As I read these comments, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Reading the Stern transcript, I thought, was really funny; reading the comments talking about “liberal this” and “liberal that” makes me depressed. Sad but true fact for all of those commentators: Science doesn’t care about your politics. Nature doesn’t care about your politics. Evolution happened and is continuing to happen. The climate is changing; the extent to which it’s human-caused is being figured out – scientifically. The rest is, as they say, noise. And the strange part is, that someone like Stern has to be the one to put that perspective out there to get noticed in today’s shallow culture.

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  23. 23. sunspot 8:00 pm 09/15/2011

    @ Steve3 comment #21
    Yep. I had subscriptions on and off for 30 years, until John Rennie turned it into a Discover magazine imitator full of science writers instead of “scientist writers”. Lately, I reconsidered a subscription again, since it seemed to be returning to real science instead of “science and society” rants.

    But come on… Howard Stern??! That’s a real turn off. Musta been a slow science news day Steve.

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