When Science Crashes the Party

Post Date: 5 December 2011

Listen now:

Season 2, Episode 38

Janeane Garofalo photographed in Greenpoint, Brooklyn by Seth Olenick on March 18, 2010. Image used with permission.

In the many battle skirmishes between Democrats and Republicans, science is often caught in the crossfire. From military technology to health care to our future in space, politicians have the power to decide — often for ideological reasons — what science gets funding and what gets cut.

Actress, comedian, and political activist Janeane Garofalo joins the show to lay out the political theater as she sees it, and cedes no ground on whether scientific issues should ever be a topic of partisan debate. Neil also talks with Robert Walker, a former Republican Representative for the state of Pennsylvania who sat on the House Science Committee for 20 years.

Co-Host :
Janeane Garofalo, actress, comedian, political activist

Guest:
Robert Walker, former Representative for the state of Pennsylvania (16th district)

Songs featured on this show:
Green Day: American Idiot
John Mayer: Waiting on the World to Change
Pink: Dear Mr. President
Nelly & Fergie: Party People
Korn: Politics
Kerli: Tea Party
Bill Bragg: Which Side Are You On?

  • Jack Denver

    Wow, Janeane Garofalo is very angry! I guess I knew that, but listening to her for almost an hour is very difficult. Perhaps she would benefit from reading “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. Honestly, you can usually get your point across easier with kindness than you can with a two-by-four.

    Also, Neil deGrasse Tyson is not a “journalist”, so it’s really not his responsibility to hit everybody with hard edged questions. Instead of beating up people over their beliefs, he sets the stage for them express their viewpoints without fear of being judged and executed. Even if I don’t believe what they believe, I enjoy listening. That’s probably why Ms. Garofalo is so angry. Nobody likes talking to her.

    • Jeff

      Great point about Neil not being a journalist, Jack. And journalists constantly fail to pin down their subjects and get to the real story, or throw softballs and fail to follow up when the people they interview weasel out of answering a direct question and just regurgitate soundbites. (If they were better at their jobs, maybe Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Howard Kurtz, Media Matters, etc. wouldn’t have to be so good at what they do.)

  • Steve

    Jack.. nobody listens to kindness these days.

    Jeff.. Stephen Colbert plays a character on the Colbert Report and you have to weed through the dialogue to understand the hipocracy he’s trying to portray. He’s said he emulates people like Bill O’reilly. You’re right about Stewart though because he calls people out for how they really are while injecting comedy in to keep the crowd interested.

    • Jeff

      Steve, I’m not sure what you’re saying about Stephen Colbert. Leaving aside his politics, I am addressing the way he frequently points out failings in the news media, usually simply by showing them.

  • Rob

    Neil is the Neville Chamberlain of science. He’ll try to appease anyone to get his toys. Oh, that centrist crap will allow the Luddites to keep pushing him to an astrologer.

    • Jeff

      “The Neville Chamberlain of science.” Really, Rob. Have you ever listened to Neil, or read his books? Or seen the videos of him testifying before Congress? Neil doesn’t need me to defend him, but I think you are judging his role as a host a bit harshly.

  • Jack Denver

    I guess what I’m saying is that there is investigative journalism, and there’s anthropological journalism (I’m sure there’s another word for it, but I went to public school). The investigative journalist asks the hard hitting questions and really puts their subject on trial, the other has a conversation to find out how their subject thinks. That way we can hopefully try to understand people who are different from ourselves, which is something you can’t do if the interviewee feels threatened. The purpose of the interview with the Republican fellow wasn’t to crush his belief system, and I enjoyed listening to it.
    Janeane Garofalo, and those like her, are so full of spit and venom that all they want to do is beat up on those who don’t think like them, and that’s not how you change people’s minds.

    • Jeff

      Jack, maybe you can talk some sense into Rob here. I think your point is on the mark.

  • David

    I, myself, am probably left of center. I am conservative on fiscal matters and more liberal on social matters. I think the problem is that going back and continuing to re-visit the same topics again and again in Congress have annoyed people the most. There should be a law that the same topic (abortion, gun control) cannot be re-visited by Congress for a least 10 years, unless another branch of government has acted and the Congress must respond.

    At the extreme edges of the far left and the far right, I see no difference. They seem to be two peas in the same pod.

  • Chris

    This was hard to sit through. I agree with almost everything Janeane said and yet in the end I have less respect for her.

  • Art

    I think that Janeane has turned the tables… on herself. For one, Neil is a scientific person, not a political person. Trying to look at issues without any forebearing bias is important for finding truth. I’m not saying that any was found, but what ended up being recorded was a republican trying to state information (usually the job of the democrat) and the democrat resorting to straw man attacks, emotional pleading, and interruption techniques she could have only learned from alarmists like Bill O’Reilly (all usually the job of Fox News correspondents). I am extremely pleased with Neil’s ability to let the guest speak and not be tempted by engaging the emotions of election season. We should have more people trying to keep such intellectual cool.

  • Trevor

    I tend to lean liberal, but Janeane really got on my nerves during this episode. Every single statement she made was a jab at the republican party, and it made her sound like an unbalanced crazy person. Agree with Art that the republican was the one who ended up sounding more reasonable and fact-oriented this time.

  • Erik

    I never been in love before, but Janeane made something stir inside my head….(of course I have seen her in movies before, but that have been acting)

  • http://pen.island.com/ Dic LeGobler

    As liberal as one may be, it’s still important to recognize only a handful of people on the right are really scumbags. The majority of conservative folks are just as concerned about the country and the economy as anyone else, and lack of sympathy just makes you look like a fool who is taking on the very shape of that which is being critiqued. This podcast was indeed hard to listen to since Jeanine was only interested in spewing out her rhetoric with no regard to anything that may contradict it.

  • Maria

    If Janeane had a penis like every single one of you who complained about her I am sure not one of you would have complained.
    She was passionately assertive.

    Im sure you hate Rebecca Watson for daring to have a voice too.

    I find it stunning how many supposedly forward thinking intelligent men just can’t stand forward thinking intelligent women.

    Garofalo was spot on and I applaud her for not being “nice” about the utter B.S. that Walker spewed just to make a few little boys feel comnfortable.

  • Tom

    Maria,

    How childish you are…

  • Carl

    Interesting comments here. On one hand, I agree with certain comments who say you’re not going to get your point across by being “mean,” and that’s true enough, though I’m concerned when “centrists” try to preach so-called “radical centrism.” What does that mean? What does it mean to be a “radical centrist” on gay rights. It’s meaningless. Either you’re for gay rights or you’re against them. What I’m tired of is people not making a decision and taking a stand on the issues.

    The Republican coming off reasonable? Newt Gingrich’s lapdog…reasonable? Hardly.

  • Randy

    Janeane was a terrible guest and showed no respect. Attacking Dr. Tyson for asking questions and listening? I’m sorry but she made this episode not very good because she sounded insane. I even agree with many of the beliefs but I did not find her attitude to be constructive or interesting. It was just pointless hate towards republicans and fox news. I listen to this show for reason not to listen to a democrat say how stupid republicans are. Being an irrational idiot will never help get your point across. Anyways I love the show but please never put her back on again it was not enjoyable. She was not funny and was classified as a comedian.

  • Wesley

    Wow. I am a super-liberal, but Janeane was simply rotten. The way she attacked Neil was unacceptable and incredibly rude. I don’t even have a problem with people being angry when talking about politics (and science), but nothing excuses her kind of extreme attacks and inability to even attempt to see the viewpoints of others. Her characterization of centrism is completely unfair; Neil actually brought up legitimate points about the duality of science funding (both Republicans and Democrats will pick winners and losers, and manipulate funding with great nepotism/prejudice), and she just totally attacked him! It’s Neil’s job to play devil’s advocate (of which she kept accusing him)! Duh! Of course he is going to question her and her incredibly polar beliefs! She also got extremely immature and indignant about the word “liberal”; she basically said that all Democrats are intelligent and supportive of science, and that all Republicans are close-minded and stupid? She sounded like a child throwing a temper tantrum, and had the nerve to say that even talking about religion is not adult/mature! Clearly, she has not seen the way that Neil fights for science, and I am incredibly disappointed with this guest. That being said, Neil really held his own and let her reveal how deranged and angry she is. Wish more of the interview of Walker had been in here. I found that to be the most insightful and interesting. Thanks for another episode!

  • http://lotusinfullbloom.com/ Pamela Joy

    I only recently started listening to Dr. Tyson and I am thrilled to hear a passionate,well educated and vetted Astrophysicist. I very much appreciated listening to this podcast, because Ms. Garofalo passionately cited the sacrifice of the human dimension in which these issues get talked about. Ms. Garofalo was bringing the discussion from an I- It equation to an I- Thou relationship. I applaud her. At this particularly challenging time of evolution we are in , the voice and the principles of Social Justice must be strongly and clearly articulated. I am very grateful that she did it in the best way she could at the moment.
    The multiple incidents of killings done by young and deeply troubled (an understatement) gunman here in our midst is a deep indication that something is terribly wrong, (another understatement), There is a deep pit of pain being expressed in these senseless acts. Thus in her fury she was speaking truth to power using the strong lusty voice of the Feminine Principle which must be valued as much as the Masculine Principle.
    There needs to be more of this. I am very pleased that Dr. Tyson let her speak and I only hope he brings much more of this onto his shows.

  • Madeleine

    I’ve been listening to a couple of episodes of Startalk now, and first of all I want to say thank you for a really nice and interesting podcast. Second, I want to say that I particularly liked this episode and Jeneane! I know that some people find her rude and loud, but I have to say that she has all the reasons to be upset about the world in its current state. And as Maria said earlier in the commentary field, I doubt she would’ve been this bashed if she was a man. As a woman you live with injustice everyday due to gender discrimination, and that piles up on you.

    It’s nice with someone who doesn’t worry about being all nice and tidy, and really tells it like it is.

    • Jeff

      Thanks for your comment, Madeleine. I just want to address one of your points: whether she would have been “this bashed if she was a man.” The bashing comments we’ve received here and on Facebook about Bill Maher suggest that our audience contains equal-opportunity bashers.

  • Mats

    @ 42:17, Neil says: “I think science is a fundamental dimension of what America needs to embrace and to appreciate and to be fact-based, as we go forward”. I find that statement extremely interesting (in a global sense) and wonder what he actually lays in that. I, personally, believe that the only way to transcend scarcity (which is artificially created by ideologies by the way) and in effect phase out poverty, wars over resources, most crime and violence, human suffering and boost the space age exponentially is by applying the scientific method for social concerns. By applying the scientific method for social concerns we are addressing human needs, in effect with the advent of advanced technology and automation creating access abundance for all, instead of having an opinion of what’s best for humans, which is the case in all political ideologies and economic theories. Our problems are technical, not political. And no, I am not talking about a Technocracy where scientists and engineers rules the world (even though that would be better!), but rather a society where people are scientific literate and educated on what’s relevant for our survival as a species.

    So, I guess my question is what kind of ‘solution-tool’ does Neil find relevant – more science in politics or science as the decision-maker?

  • http://www.causticsodapodcast.com Toren

    My favourite episode of Star Talk by far. I loved how Janeane didn’t pull any punches but at the same time was salient, funny and self-deprecating. Strongly disagree with comments purporting that she is just spewing venomous rhetoric on all Republicans.
    Janeane was not being “mean” or adversarial, she was speaking her mind and pointing out facts which is presumably why she was asked to be on the show. These are important issues that need to be part of the debate and kudos to Janeane for not backing down. Yes there was disagreement but at the end of the interview I do not get the sense that NDT and JG were anything but friendly.
    Also felt Tyson did an admiral job as host and lastly also tend to agree with “Maria” above.

  • Paul

    I’ve recently become hooked on Star Talk, and have been making my way through the archives. I really enjoyed this show! I’m certainly glad that every show isn’t this confrontational, but it was fun to have such an extreme change of mood and to see a guest really posing intense challenges.

    Clearly, Neil can handle a confrontational guest; I wouldn’t mind seeing Janeane make another appearance.

  • Tracie

    I am a liberal and a woman, but I really did not like how Janeane handled herself. I agree with most of her points. However, the way she presented them made her sound like a raging maniac. There was no reason to attack Dr.Tyson. As others have said, that is certainly no way to get your point across. People are much more willing to listen to you if you’re calm and assertive vs angry and aggressive.

  • http://www.rhinoden.com Brett

    I agree with damn near everything Ms. Garofolo has to say, but the way she says it puts me on the defensive… even though we’re on the same side. Obviously her method could use some work. I even agree with her that Neil is way, way too soft on religion, but come on, there has to be a better to get points across that doesn’t come off as so offensive*.

    *offensive as in, on the offense, not as in, my feelings are hurt and I will cry in my cheerios.

  • Devlyn

    I had the same reaction as some of the initial posters here. I love Startalk but this is one of my least favorite episodes. I too ended up having less respect for Ms. Garofolo and thought she came across as incredibly rude and adversarial. Accusing those who had this reaction of sexism is a straw man in itself. A better reaction might be to learn from seeing how it is that people react to certain debate strategies in order to be more effective in future. If the only ones who liked her delivery and agreed with her point were the ones who were already in agreement than her arguments weren’t effective. Those in disagreement or merely open to hearing various viewpoints were turned off and turned away.

  • Zerk

    Regular listener here, catching up on some old episodes. Just offering feedback for future guests like Robert Walker:

    I hope NDTyson will delve deeper in future interviews than here. Not allowing Walker a chance to clarify positions and address trickier issues is a disservice to folks on ALL sides of big issues. It is such a rare and important opportunity these days to have honest conversations with folks with differing political views. Plus, it’s totally possible to ask these questions in a polite, respectful manner.

    For example, when Walker says he is concerned about the impacts of making far-reaching policy without sufficient evidence (eg climate change), i would love to know what his thoughts are on the probably riskier far-reaching impacts of waiting too long to make policy changes, or *how much* evidence he and his peers will consider sufficient to act upon. He is an intelligent and articulate fellow so i’m sure he’d have a good response, but i can’t imagine what it is! And its a very important aspect of the debate to address.

  • Alius Umbra

    Wow. I guess we won’t be seeing her back on StarTalk radio anytime soon…

  • joseph

    Look, i aint no Democrat and i especially aint no Republican, But neil went OUT. I Love you, Janeane!!

  • Yahya

    You seem to be really sure about that. While I agree with most things Janeane said…

    Downplaying the (reasonable) criticism of someone by calling it gender-motivated is not something I would have expected on this website, but I guess the internet is what it is.

  • Lindas1st

    I love Jeanne Garofalo, I wish we had some politicians in Washington fighting those positions and as vigorously.

  • Nomad

    So the “occupy” message needs to be heeded by everyone? I guess that means wearing Levi’s, sipping Starbucks, and listening to iPods while protesting corporations. I’m mostly left-leaning myself but Janeane sounds too hateful to do much good.

  • Gaerteuth

    Baselessly reducing a criticism of a woman down to “just another stupid sexist man” is not an actual refutation of said criticism.

  • gray

    damn janeane is awesome

  • http://memory.psych.missouri.edu/ MizzouCogNeuro

    Wow. That was really annoying. I love how a group of scientists who all disagree with each other can spend hours debating vast theoretical differences without getting heated, but political debate can’t remain civil for 20 minutes (even on a science podcast). I seek out my main theoretical opponent at conferences so we can discuss posters and presentations together.