Leon Botstein

  • Aired:  10/05/10
  •  | Views: 34,777

Leon Botstein has made it mandatory for college freshmen at Bard to take a three-week intensive on a scientific discipline. (6:45)

EVERYBODY.

MY GUEST TONIGHT BELIEVES

AMERICANS ARE SCIENCE ILL LIL

RAT.

SEEMS LIKE SOMEONE HAS TO HAVE

HIT ILLIOUS HUMOR LEECHED.

PLEASE WELCOME LEON BOTSTEIN.

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

HEY, HOW'S IT GOING THERE, LEON?

NICE TO SEE YOU AGAIN.

>> NICE TO SEE YOU.

>> Stephen: HOW YOU DOING?

>> WELL.

>> Stephen: NOW, LET'S

INSTRUCT THE PEOPLE A LITTLE BIT

IN YOUR IMPRESSIVENESS.

YOU ARE A BIT OF A POLYMATH,

WHICH I BELIEVE MEANS YOU KNOW

MULTIPLE TYPES OF MATH, ADDING,

SUBTRACTING, THE WHOLE NINE

YARDS.

YOU'RE A CONDUCTOR.

>> YES.

>> Stephen: YOU'RE THE

PRESIDENT OF BARD COLLEGE.

>> I AM.

>> Stephen: I BELIEVE YOU USED

TO PET A WHITE CAT AND PLAN

WORLD DOMINATION.

[LAUGHTER]

>> I GAVE IT UP.

I GAVE IT UP.

>> Stephen: HUMAN CANNON BALL

FOR A LITTLE WHILE.

NOW YOU HAVE A... YOU WANT TO

SAVE OR REFORM OUR BROKEN SCHOOL

SYSTEMS IN AMERICA.

>> ABSOLUTELY.

>> Stephen: NOW THAT'S WHERE

WE PART COMPANY.

I SAY JUST CUT 'EM LOOSE.

OKAY.

THEY'RE NOT WORKING, JUST

ELIMINATE THEM AND IN THE

JUNGLE.

IF THEY WANT TO LEARN, THEY

WILL.

>> WHO WILL GOVERN THE COUNTRY?

>> Stephen: WE WILL.

>> YEAH, BUT THE REAL PROBLEM IS

THAT IN A DEMOCRACY, IN ORDER

FOR IT TO WORK AND FOR OUR FEEDZ

TO REALLY SURVIVE, YOU HAVE TO

HAVE A POPULATION THAT KNOWS

SOMETHING AND THAT ACTUALLY CAN

PARTICIPATE AND MAKE INTELLIGENT

DECISIONS.

>> Stephen: YOU BELIEVE THAT

WE ARE SCIENCE ILLITERATE AND

THAT YOU ARE MAKING IT MANDATORY

FOR FRESHMEN AT BARD TO TAKE A

THREE-WEEK INTENSIVE EIGHT HOURS

A DAY, FIVE DAYS A WEEK ON SOME

SCIENTIFIC DISCIPLINE.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO THESE

YOUNG PEOPLE?

>> THEY'RE GOING TO COME FOR

THREE WEEKS, AND THEY'RE GOING

TO STUDY WHAT MAKES AN

INFECTIOUS DISEASE INFECTIOUS,

HOW WOULD YOU CONTROL IT, YOU

KNOW, PEOPLE TALK ABOUT BACTERIA

BECOMING...

>> Stephen: THEY'RE FRESHMEN

IN COLLEGE.

THEY'RE GOING TO LEARN ABOUT

INFECTIOUS DISEASE ANYWAY.

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

>> BUT THEY MIGHT LEARN HOW NOT

TO GET IT.

>> Stephen: OKAY.

ALL RIGHT.

BUT SO WHAT'S... FOR WHAT

PURPOSE, SIR?

>> THE PURPOSE IS BECAUSE MOST

OF THE DECISIONS WE MAKE

POLITICALLY ABOUT HEALTH CARE,

ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT, PERSONAL

CHOICES WE MAKE OURSELVES ARE

ABOUT EVALUATING DIFFERENT

CLAIMS.

AND WE WANT TO KNOW HOW SCIENCE

WORKS, WHAT IS EVIDENCE TO

PROCLAIM IT'S TRUE AND EVIDENCE

TO PROCLAIM IT ISN'T?

>> IT FEELS RIGHT.

IT FEELS RIGHT.

WE KNOW THAT IT...

>> THE EARTH FEELS FLAT.

IT ISN'T.

>> Stephen: IT DOES FEEL FLAT.

>> BUT IT ISN'T.

>> Stephen: BUT I HAPPEN TO

KNOW IT'S NOT BECAUSE I HAVE

BEEN UP IN A JET.

AND I HAVE SEEN THAT IT CURVES.

THEREFORE I KNOW THAT IT'S NOT

FLAT.

>> YEAH, BUT YOU COULD...

>> Stephen: CHECKMATE.

CHECKMATE.

>> FEW THERE ARE A LOT OF

THINGS... YOU'RE MADE OF D.N.A.

>> Stephen: I BELIEVE I'M MADE

OF NACHO CHEESE IF YOU ARE WHAT

YOU EAT.

I'M MADE OF D.N.A.?

>> D.N.A. IS THE ESSENTIAL

INFORMATION THAT HAS MADE YOU

AND THIS IS ACTUALLY IN EVERY

CELL.

>> Stephen: OKAY.

>> NOW, KNOWING HOW THAT WORKS

WILL HELP YOU, FOR EXAMPLE...

>>

>> Stephen: LIVE FOREVER?

>> MAYBE.

>> Stephen: MAYBE?

>> PROBABLY.

I'M NOT A SCIENTIST, BUT IT

WOULD PROBABLY HELP YOU...

>> Stephen: WAIT A SECOND.

YOU'RE NOT A SCIENTIST?

>> NO.

>> Stephen: THEN WHY THE BOW

TIE AND THE GLASSES?

YOU'RE REALLY ROCKING THE LOOK,

I'VE GOT TO SAY.

>> BECAUSE WHAT I'M INTERESTED

IN ISN'T EVERYTHING THAT I

SHOULD KNOW.

IN OTHER WORDS, AS A CITIZEN, I

MAY NOT BE INTERESTED IN

AFGHANISTAN, BUT I SHOULD NOW

ABOUT AFGHANISTAN.

NOW WE HAVE WAR THERE.

>> Stephen: ABSOLUTELY.

>> SO SCIENCE, I'M IN THE A

SCIENTIST, BUT I THINK PEOPLE

WHO BECOME CITIZENS OUGHT TO

KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT SOMETHING.

>> Stephen: YOU THINK PEOPLE

SHOULD KNOW A LOT ABOUT A LOT OF

THINGS.

YOU ARE A PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL

YOU HAVE BEEN CALLED.

YOU DON'T MIND PEOPLE THINKING

OF YOU AS AN EGGHEAD, AND I

DON'T MEAN THAT... I MEAN, YOU

DON'T MIND PEOPLE THINKING OF

YOU AS A SMARTY PANTS, BUT

AMERICANS, WE'RE NOT BIG ON

SMARTY PANTS.

DON'T GET ABOVE YOURSELF, SIR.

>> I DO MIND IT.

YOU'RE RIGHT.

THE ATTITUDE THAT THE SMARTY

PANTS IS SOMEBODY ELSE, I'D LIKE

THE THINK THE CITIZEN TO THINK

OF HIM OR HERSELF AS SOMEONE WHO

CAN MAKE INTELLIGENT DECISIONS.

>> Stephen: DO I HAVE TO THINK

OF MYSELF INTELLIGENT, OR DO I

JUST HAVE TO THINK OF MYSELF AS

RIGHT.

BECAUSE I HAVE COMMON SENSE.

>> COMMON SENSE AND SCIENTIFIC

SENSE OFTENTIMES DON'T MIX

BECAUSE THE THINGS THAT WE

INTUITIVELY BELIEVE AS COMMON

SENSE ARE SOMETIMES WRONG, LIKE

THE EARTH BEING FLAT.

SMOKING PEOPLE THINK IS FUN.

>> Stephen: IT'S AS NATURAL AS

SMELLING A FLOWER.

>> TOBACCO IS NATURAL, ORGANIC,

IT FEELS GOOD.

>> Stephen: IT'S LIKE PUTTING

YOUR FACE IN A BOUQUET THAT'S ON

FIRE.

>> BUT BEING SO CRITICAL ABOUT

FIGURING OUT HOW YOU EVALUATE A

PROPOSITION, HOW SCIENTISTS...

>> Stephen: YOU DON'T EVALUATE

A PROPOSITION.

THEY SET THEIR PRICES.

YOU EITHER PAY OR YOU DON'T.

THEY DON'T LIKE THE HAGGLE.

LAST QUESTION, ABOUT CONDUCTING.

>> YEAH.

>> ARE YOU DOING ANYTHING UP

THERE WHEN YOU'RE WAVING YOUR

ARMS?

BECAUSE I HAVE A FEELING I COULD

JUST GO UP THERE WITH A BATON

AND LIKE TRY THE SWAT AWAY A BEE

FOR FIVE MINUTES, AND THE

PHILHARMONIC WOULD STILL MAKE

THEIR WAY THROUGH.

>> IF IT WERE THE TACO BELL

CANNON, YOU'RE PROBABLY RIGHT.

THE PERSON UP THERE IS JUST

SHOW.

THEY COULD DO IT THEMSELVES.

BUT SERIOUSLY CONDUCTING IS

PANTOMIME THAT MAKES SOUND,

ESPECIALLY THE PLAYERS ARE DOING

SOMETHING THAT THE AUDIENCE

DOESN'T REALLY REMEMBER.

IT'S NOT A TUNE THEY KNOW.

AND ALSO IF THEY'RE ACTUALLY...

A LOT OF INSTRUMENTS TRYING TO

MAKE A SINGLE FABRIC.

SO YOU REALLY ARE SHAPING A

SOUND, AND THAT SOUND IS BASED

ON INDIVIDUAL INSTRUCTIONS THAT

EACH OF THEM HAS.

SO YOU'RE ACTUALLY DOING

SOMETHING WHEN THE MUSIC IS NOT

REALLY FAMILIAR OR VERY

COMPLICATED, LIKE AN OPERA.

THINGS HAPPENING ALL OVER, YOU

KNOW, THAT PEOPLE ON STAGE,

THERE ARE PEOPLE, YOU KNOW, IN

THE PITS.

THEY'RE SINGING OFF STAGE.

IT'S DIRECTING TRAFFIC IN A VERY

SOPHISTICATED MANNER.

>> Stephen: YOU DON'T NEED A

CONDUCTOR TO GET YOU THROUGH

THAT SYMPHONY OF WORDS?

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

THAT WAS BEAUTIFULLY DONE.

>> THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

>> Stephen: MR. BOTSTEIN,

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

PRESIDENT OF BARD

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