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Revenge of the Nerds

By Kim Miller - Posted on 21 October 2008

I'm a nerd. Want proof? I was a member of my high school debate team. Last year, I was absolutely giddy about my new platinum 25th anniversary HP-12c with Reverse Polish Notation.  (For those of you with an actual social life, that's a financial calculator that does everything except bring you coffee.)  In my research for this blog, I went to - I scored in the top 91st percentile. Barack Obama and Joe Biden appeal to my inner nerd.  Why?  I'll elaborate momentarily. 

For a long time, the Republican Party placed some emphasis on science and math. Remember Reagan's Star Wars?  No matter what your opinion on the policy, it inarguably placed a high priority on scientific research. (Note: Reagan's blatant disregard for HIV/AIDS research is why I place the qualifier "some" on my argument here.)  During my time as a voter, the G.O.P. has slowly and steadily devolved toward a non-science platform, the nadir of which is our current President.  Chris Mooney makes the argument adroitly in his book, The Republican War on Science.

In fairness to Sen. McCain, Mooney's book describes John McCain as one of the exceptions to the right-wing rule.  Mooney's book, however, was published well before McCain's choice for running mate.  At no time in my voting years has a candidate been offered up that is more anti-science, anti-math, anti-intellect, as Gov. Palin.  (Don't believe me? She couldn't name a newspaper or magazine that shapes her world view. C'mon... she could have even faked it.  Or, go to YouTube and watch any video where Palin speaks on the subject of her supposed expertise: the energy industry.  It is disgraceful what the McCain talking points tout as "expertise.") McCain's choice of Palin - paired with how his campaign is being managed - is a clear sign that science is no longer a priority when you want to win an election at any cost.

Our country is failing to develop the math skills of boys and girls. Girls who succeed in the field are almost all immigrants or the daughters of immigrants from countries where mathematics is more highly valued.

What does science, math and engineering matter, you ask?  It matters a greatly.  Many of the challenges we face today could be addressed by recognizing science, math, and intellect as a priority: global warming, environmental issues, alternative energy research, animal rights, food safety, stem cell research, the separation of church and state, and the disturbing trend of teaching of "intelligent design" in public schools, just to name a few.

How does the Obama/Biden ticket appeal to my intellect? There are many ways.

Barack Obama's consistent message in his speeches is the need for developing engineers so that we can be more productive, more competitive, and produce more stuff to sell to the rest of the world.

Joe Biden is married to Jill, a Ph.D. in Education.  I expect education to be top priority in an Obama/Biden administration, and I expect that Barack and Michelle Obama and Joe and Jill Biden are capable of speaking about education very intelligently.

Earlier this month, Barack Obama sent a letter to the National Academy of Science, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine, committing to restoring the position of Assistant to the President for Science and Technology (a position that was demoted by President Bush).

Obama's continual message is that research in the area of alternative energy is a win-win proposition.  His message is clear, concise, and consistent on this topic.

There are numerous other examples of how an Obama/Biden administration would nurture and respect scientists, but space is limited.  If you want more examples, I'm happy to oblige.

Obama and Biden speak to my inner nerd because they place a priority on science, math, and engineering, and not just because they're convenient talking points.  It's based on sound reasoning, rationality, and - stay with me here - beautiful, beautiful capitalism. 

I really like that part of Obama's plan also. As they say on the stump the country that out educates us today will out compete us in the future.

Yeah, but do they play D&D??


But seriously -- I've been trying to get an education for a very long time. I hope to get some kind of college degree before I retire in about twenty or so more years time.

It's depressing.

What's also depressing isn't that all of these immigrants are smarter than Americans. Companies hire them because they are willing to work cheaper.

So if an Obama/Biden administration is willing to help both US businesses and people like me who would like to work at a higher technical level but who companies are unwilling to hire because I don't have some kind of sheepskin with writing on it, then I'm all for it. 

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, & wiser people so full of doubts.
-- Bertrand Russel

Nerds rock!  Wishing they would revive the 11c, 15c and 16c.  The form factor is just great for easy usage - buttons have great tactical feedback.  RPN totally pwns!

Oh, and I really liked your post.  Obama not only appeals to my intellect, he also inspires me towards better works.


The war on science used to rank #1 on my list of grievances with the GOP.  It now ranks #2 after inciting hatred of fellow Americans.

I beat you by one point :)
yikes. I don't even want to say what I scored. Jeez, my husband must merit a whole new metric.

Y'all are Wimps!  98% 
(Oh! Wait!  Is this something I shouldn't be proud of?)

Yes, I have an HP 11c I bought off e-Bay to replace the one that was stolen off my desk (by the cleaning crew).

Phew, I'm glad someone scored higher than my 96 percentile. ;)

I, too, am a member in the HP calculator fraternity. I have hooked up my HP48 to a modem via its serial data transfer cable and a null modem adapter so I can dialup to a BBS...

Wow! You have the Anniversary edition HP-12c???? I am sooooooo jealous. :-) *hiding pocket protector*

Obama's focus on education was a huge appeal to me. And that is something that I have especially noticed this campaign cycle is despite their words, the current Republican party wants to keep its voters stupid and uneducated. If they didn't, then they would not continue to attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator. This is not saying that all Republican voters are stupid at all, but merely a critique of the party's arguments.


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The enemy of "the best" is not "the worst." The enemy of "the best" is "good enough."

Barack Obama's consistent message in his speeches is the need for developing engineers so that we can be more productive, more competitive, and produce more stuff to sell to the rest of the world.

Well, let's see -  my husband is a mechanical engineer who, BTW, holds six patents on a new method of cooling computer rooms. It's called high delta T cooling, and it's revolutionizing the industry while saving $$$$ AND energy. Google 'Tower of Cool', and it will take you to links about his invention.

Next, I am the artistic one of the duo. I have always been creative and, at one time, wrote a column for my local newspaper (now defunct). I have since turned my energies to creating fashions for dogs. Actually, there is a big demand for such things, and I get to use my creative energies!! If you'd like to check out what I do, go to (hope this is okay).

So, our household is productive, competitive, AND produces stuff to sell to the rest of the world. See why we both HATE that education has taken a back seat lately? One is Republican, one is Democrat (can you guess who is who?). We are BOTH voting for Barack Obama. Our son registered to vote and chose Democrat because he hates where the Republican party is right now. We have raised him to be a free thinker, someone who champions good causes, and he is now studying to be a journalist (shades of mom)!

I hear you!! All one has to do is watch the McPalin rallies to see how lack of education affects one's judgement. When it comes right down to it, I would much prefer a nation of 'elitists' than a nation of dumbasses!!!

You ended it perfectly!

If McCain-Palin wins, democracy, education and science lose : 

This election is about who will pick the next Supreme Justices. Forget Roe v. Wade, the key issue is democracy vs theocracy, science vs Intelligent Design, sound religion vs fanatism.

Restored funding for the NAS is absolutely crucial. I have a friend who's brilliant (but not near so smart as me, of course) who got his PhD in organic chemistry from Caltech. He decided to move to the UK to conduct his research because there's no longer enough support for the American scientific community. How sad is that?

Obama releases detailed plan for science.

This is big news for science. On Sept. 26, the Obama campaign released their most detailed plan to date for how he will manage US government science and science policy. This is the 11 page plan (pdf).

As for science funding, there is a subtle, but significant clarification. Whereas before the campaign had been stating that they would double the basic science research budget for science agencies across the government, now they are saying that they will "double (the) budgets of key science agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy's Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology over the next ten years."

In addition, Obama is committing to issuing "an Executive Order establishing clear guidelines for the review and release of federal and federally-sponsored research, guaranteeing that results are released in a timely manner and are not distorted by ideological biases."

Here are the basic bullet points for the plan. I encourage you all to read the whole plan.

  • Restoring integrity to U.S. science policy to ensure that decisions that can be informed by science are made on the basis of the strongest possible evidence.
  • Doubling over a 10 year period the federal investment in basic research by key science agencies, with a special emphasis on supporting young researchers at the beginning of their careers, and backing high-risk, high-return research.
  • Making a national commitment to science education and training by recruiting some of America's best minds to teach K-12 math and science and by tripling the number of the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowships.
  • Encouraging American innovation to flourish by making the R&D tax credit permanent, streamlining our patent system, eliminating the capital gains tax on start-ups and small businesses, and promoting the deployment of next-generation broadband networks.
  • Addressing the "grand challenges" of the 21st century through accelerating the transition to a low carbon, oil-free economy, enabling all Americans to live longer and healthier lives, and protecting our country from emerging threats to our national security.

Barack Obama have been endorsed by 62 Nobel winners from physics, medicine and chemistry.

Obama/Biden 2008

Well, if there's anything wrong with being a nerd, I can't find the evidence in this post and comment string.  Every point is brilliant - but then, it's the least I would expect.

This site just gets better and better.  Thank you thank you thank you!!!

P.S. I love that the "prove you are human" trick is the ability to add.....eliminates a few folks right off the bat.

"Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped." - Elbert Hubbard (R-Iowa 1905-1912)

Hmmmmm.... I scored 97th percentile on the Nerd quiz and I was trying to give myself the benefit of the doubt toward the less nerdy side.  

We are not worthy...

Bill Gates: Master Nerd

My hero!

Obama/Biden 2008

Why do "conservatives," as if there is anything conservative about today's Republican Party, decry Democrats as "intellectuals?"  I'm sorry, is having a functioning brain a bad thing?  I must have missed that day at school.  Principal: "Today's hot lunch is chicken nuggets children.  Oh, by the way, don't do any of that fancy reading, writin' or thinkin' cause then you can't be president!"  By denying federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, American scientists are leaving the U.S. in droves to study in other countries and enrich their knowledge over America's success because of the Religious Right!!  Will we ever be free from Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh, and the like?  Let them form their own party-it would be doomed to fail since none of them is, God forbid, an "intellectual!"

The eggheads, nerds, and bookworms, have been mocked throughout American history. The French political thinker and historian Alexis de Tocqueville found on his trip through America in 1831-32. Here lay a supremely American paradox: The same Americans who valued the literacy of commoners were suspicious of experts and tricksters.

By the 1990's, the geek was an acceptable good guy, the nerd an entrepreneurial hero. At this time also "elitism" had become an all-purpose epithet, used by neoconservatives against the "new class", consisting of all political intellectuals with the exception of themselves.

Obama/Biden 2008

The thing is, intellectuals are widely perceived as unable to connect with regular folks. Keep in mind, also, that the really smart ones among us are part of a coveted minority, and can do a number of things with ease that many people struggle with into adulthood. So there's probably some envy coming into play.

Can hard work mitigate this difference? Sure, although there's a point of diminishing returns (speaking from experience-- I hit my limits early in third year calculus). Should everyone have a shot at climbing the academic ladder to better opportunities? Absolutely, and that's also what Barack Obama says. I think his plans, if they get implemented, will help bridge the gap between the so-called "intellectual elites" and everyone scorns them.

I don't know if this will come across quite right-- I shouldn't be typing up posts at 3 AM. 

I would have to disagree with his early education plans.  While these have success for a year or two beyond the age group without continued parental or other guardian support the gains are quickly diminished to nonexistant within a short time frame.

Can there be any true education reform if there is no support for it in the home?  Look out our current HS drop out rates.

There's definitely going to be an uphill battle, but you have to start somewhere.

The point is that traditionally, "intellectuals" were more concerned with theoretical issues that either did not fit real world observations or which were totally irrelevant to the things that people who didn't have the luxury of spending all day in ivory towers discussing hypotheticals had to face.

That is, there's a gap between the hypothetical and the practical. 

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, & wiser people so full of doubts.

-- Bertrand Russel

I'm sorry, is having a functioning brain a bad thing?

Obviously, those who do not have one (and there are plenty of them) believe that it is a bad thing. I think several things are at play here:

1) they are jealous, which leads to anger

2) since their brains do not function well, if at all, the subtleties inherent in most arguments escape them

3) they are incapable of either deductive or inductive reasoning

4) they take the path of least resistance - in the case of elections, it is easier to listen to sound bites than to actually READ the platforms of both candidates

5) because they don't understand, they live in fear - this, like jealousy, causes anger

That's my take on it anyway. People like Rush, Sean, et al understand these things. That's why they are wildly popular. After all, if someone is going to tell them how to think, it alleviates the burden of having to do so themselves. If nerds ran the world, what a better place it would be!!!

I get that.  There's a lack of critical thinking in our educational system, which means it's in our work force and will be for a long time to come.  No group has a lock on this failure to question, but it seems to me that it occurs more often among conservatives than liberals.  Once you've been truly educated to weigh all pros and cons against the range of history, and to open cans of worms, it's hard to go back.  Thoughts?

We have the ability to reason, at least some of us do, but we don't always use it. I agree that teaching children reasoning, evidence-based thinking and critical thinking skills as early as primary school is a start in social evolution beyond preemptive. Formal education motivate children to thrive and continue developing inquisitiveness and critical thinking gratefully encourage creative thinkers who become problem solvers and active participants in our democracy. Unfortunately, conforming to educational or societal standards/rules that do not nurture active learning or creative and critical thinking turn many learners off forever. We all lose out in the process, because a mind is a terrible thing to waste!

Obama/Biden 2008

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