The 2011 Ig Nobel Prizes

Posted: December 4, 2011 in Gibberish
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BOB BURNHAM, host: Welcome to the Moron Quotient, I am your host, Bob Burnham. Ten new Ig Nobel Prize winners were announced at the 21st First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony. The Ig Nobel Prizes celebrate some of the most imaginative  solutions to some of the world’s most vexing problems.

This years winners include a research team from Europe who won the Physiology Prize for showing that there is no evidence of contagious yawning among the Red-Footed Tortoise. The Chemistry prize went to a Japanese team for inventing a wasabi alarm. And the Ig Nobel Peace Prize  went to the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, for solving the problem of illegally parked luxury cars  by running them over with a tank.

Joining me today to discuss some of this year’s prize winners are two genetically engineered lab mice, Pinky and the Brain. Pinky, Brain welcome to the the Moron Quotient.

PINKY, genetically enhanced mouse who is somewhat insane: Hello, Bob. I say, Brain, this is a much nicer place than the institution.

BRAIN, genetically enhanced mouse who is a genius: Quiet, Pinky! Are you pondering what I’m pondering?

PINKY: I think so, Brain. But me and a tortoise? What would the children look like?

BOB: And we are also joined by one of our resident Morons, Ben D. Over of WCRP Radio. Ben, welcome back to the program.

BEN D. OVER, syndicated radio talk-show host: Bob, can I just start by saying that these so-called awards just show how our tax dollars are used to fund and support pointless, silly research. The only people who benefit from this are egg-heads in lab coats who can then waste their time–and our money–on things like how urination affects decision making. This is nonsense!

BOB:  I believe you are referring to the Medicine Prize, which was awarded to Mirjam Turk, Debra Trampe, and Luk Warlop for showing that people with full bladders make less impulsive decisions.

BEN: Yeah, that one. This is junk science, which is nothing more than the left-wing trying to impose its shabby, discredited, sophistical values on free-thinking Americans. It is part of Al Gore’s plan to impose Darwinistic materialism in order to destroy capitalism!

BOB: Pinky, Brain, do you have any thoughts?

PINKY: Me? Well, yeah, if Jimmy cracked corn and no one cares, why he’d keep doin’ it?

BRAIN: I think Mr. Over is missing the point on what science is. Science seeks natural causes to explain natural phenomena, which can then be weaponized to help me overthrow the Earth!

BEN:  And here we see the problem! There is no moral authority to limit science. Scientific materialism is destroying our culture! Modern science results in the denial of objective moral values and the undermining of religious belief. Political ideology should inform our investigations to ensure that we promote sound science focused on economic development and Christian values. Without it we get madmen like Mr. Brain who will use science to attack life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!

PINKY: But Brain’s not a man. He’s a mouse.

BOB: Ben, it seems that what you want is to assign value to a scientific idea based on some ideological authority, rather than testability.

BEN: What I am proposing is that science be informed by policies that promote economic development, Christian values, and Republican ideology! Sound science is based on silencing dissenting voices.

BRAIN: Ben, you have the I.Q. of plaster. The measure of a scientific idea’s worth is its testability, not ideological authority or philosophical coherence.

BOB: Don’t scientific investigations require some sort of freedom from ideology so that scientists and researchers can let their creativity and imagination fly? I mean, doesn’t genius flourish best in an environment freed from ideological purity tests?

BEN: I totally agree. That is why government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers! Look at what happened with Solyndra! Let the free market sort it out!

PINKY: But how can a market be free if it has limits placed on it by ideology?

BRAIN: Egad, Pinky! That peanut-sized brain actually created something that slightly resembled an idea.

PINKY: Aw, gee thanks, Brain, I do try.

BOB: It does seem to me, Ben, that you are contradicting yourself. You just said that scientific ideas should be free to compete in the “marketplace of ideas,” but on the other hand, you made it very clear that science needs to be judged by some “moral authority” that keeps it in line with Republican ideology.

BEN: You’re putting words in my mouth, taking me out of context, and listening too closely to what I say and not what I mean.

BOB:  Then what do you mean?

BEN: What I mean to say is that scientists use science as a weapon against belief by making it into a belief system. It takes more faith not to believe than it does to believe.

BOB: But science is not a belief system. It is a way of explaining the natural world through empirical evidence. Sure, there is drama in the self-correcting nature of science, but trying to understand our world is a beautiful struggle. We should celebrate this struggle, and that’s exactly what the Ig Nobel Prizes do. To deny it is to deny some of humanity’s greatest achievements.

BRAIN: Precisely. And you can never predict what practical applications some of the research might have. Pinky, are you pondering what I’m pondering?

PINKY: I think so, Brain. But wasabi does make my feet itch so.

BOB: And that’s all the time we have for today. As always, Ben, it’s been a pleasure.

BEN: Bob, I’m always happy to bring an intellectually honest perspective to these desperate discussions of yours.

BOB:  And I’d like to thank our special guests, Pinky and the Brain. Gentlemen, thanks for being on the Moron Quotient.

BRAIN: Come on Pinky, we have a lot of work to do tonight.

PIN KY: Gee, Brain. What are we going to do tonight?

BRAIN:  Same thing we do every night: Try and take over the world!

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