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The Republican War on Science

The Republican War on Science

3.5 16
by Chris Mooney

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Science has never been more crucial to deciding the political issues facing the country. Yet science and scientists have less influence with the federal government than at any time since Richard Nixon fired his science advisors. In the White House and Congress today, findings are reported in a politicized manner; spun or distorted to fit the speaker's agenda; or,


Science has never been more crucial to deciding the political issues facing the country. Yet science and scientists have less influence with the federal government than at any time since Richard Nixon fired his science advisors. In the White House and Congress today, findings are reported in a politicized manner; spun or distorted to fit the speaker's agenda; or, when they're too inconvenient, ignored entirely. On a broad array of issues-stem cell research, climate change, evolution, sex education, product safety, environmental regulation, and many others-the Bush administration's positions fly in the face of overwhelming scientific consensus. Federal science agencies-once fiercely independent under both Republican and Democratic presidents-are increasingly staffed by political appointees who know industry lobbyists and evangelical activists far better than they know the science. This is not unique to the Bush administration, but it is largely a Republican phenomenon, born of a conservative dislike of environmental, health, and safety regulation, and at the extremes, of evolution and legalized abortion. In The Republican War on Science, Chris Mooney ties together the disparate strands of the attack on science into a compelling and frightening account of our government's increasing unwillingness to distinguish between legitimate research and ideologically driven pseudoscience.

Editorial Reviews

John Horgan
As the title indicates, Mooney's book is a diatribe, from start to finish. The prose is often clunky and clichéd, and it suffers from smug, preaching-to-the-choir self-righteousness. But Mooney deserves a hearing in spite of these flaws, because he addresses a vitally important topic and gets it basically right.
— The New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
A litany of indictments of misuse and abuse by the current administration, painstakingly documented by a journalist who has made science and politics his beat. Mooney (a writer for Mother Jones, Slate, the Boston Globe) traces the "war on science" back to the Reagan days (remember Star Wars? acid rain? the ban on fetal tissue research?). He goes on to chronicle the anti-science movement that gained momentum in the Gingrich-led Congress of the '90s, which dismantled the Office of Technology Assessment and stacked hearings with fringe scientists ready to deny the ozone hole, global warming and dioxin risks. Mooney catalogues the players, the right-wing think tanks and the administration spokespeople who continue to deny a human role in global warming or species destruction, who argue that condoms are unsafe, that abortion is linked to breast cancer and that "Plan B" will encourage teen sex. Add to these abuses the litmus tests for candidates for government science advisory councils and political censoring of what gets posted as health information on the Web. Perhaps the most chilling quote is from a Ron Suskind interview with a "senior advisor," who defined Suskind and others as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality," adding, "That's not the way the world really works anyone. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality." One can fault Mooney for damning all Republicans in the title-he admits there are the John McCains, for example, as well as problematic Democrats. Sharper editing to eliminate some repetitiveness would also help. Mooney has put the right-wing handwriting on the wall, and the prospect is scary.

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Basic Books
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Hachette Digital, Inc.
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Meet the Author

Chris Mooney, a journalist specializing in the relation of science and politics, is a Washington correspondent for Seed magazine. He has written for the American Prospect, Mother Jones, Wired, the Washington Post, Slate, and many other publications. The Republican War on Science is his first book. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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The Republican War on Science 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't know what our GOP scientist here is talking about but Mooney's work is not an indictment of the GOP historically, but instead the current administration's policies of 'Junk Science' and blatant disregard for sound decision making in the face of overwhelming data. If his cronies could make a buck off of it, my 'republican scientist' friend, Bush would insist the stars in the sky were made of marshmallows. Sadly, there are too many 'scientists' that betray their field by accepting Bush's word as not only political doxa, but natural law. Too many of Bush's 'scientist' supporters are far busier being self-assured and towing the line than they are practicing and supporting real science-driven policies that are sound and well-supported by empirical evidence, not profit. Sir, you should have put your name on your review, maybe you could have squeezed some grant funding out of this lame duck.
leopardiNJ More than 1 year ago
As the title attests this book's theme is highly political. It was written during the second term of the George W. Bush Administration and its primary goal was to establish that "W" was unabashedly "anti-science". Looking back at The Republican War on Science from the perspective of nearly a decade, provides a good example of how one's judgments may be somewhat skewed by proximity. The Republican War on Science would probably have been better titled The Republican War on the Science Establishment. The author, Chris Mooney, a reporter, tries too hard to lump a diverse number of topics into one basket. Stem cell research, creationism, endangered species, abortion, sex education, acid rain, star wars, sugar & obesity, dietary salt, condoms & HIV, second-hand smoke, mercury in fish, ozone depletion and climate change are all dealt with in more or less detail. Granted that all these topics came up during the second-Bush administration, but are they all examples of "anti-science", or were many of the positions taken by the Bush administration simply a bias in favor of industry positions and those of Bush's conservative base? Many of these "wars" have continued after Bush left office and, although some may still be associated with the Republican party, others are clearly independent of, even, U.S. politics entirely. For example, creationism's true "war on science" has persisted for nearly a century and virulent anti-science/reason has become, if anything, more prevalent globally today than it was a decade ago. Also, rather than being strictly "anti-science", some of the positions taken in opposition to "established" science attempted to wrap themselves in the trappings of science, however pathetically, rather than reject science entirely. For example, both the adult vs. embryonic stem cell and anti-abortion movements have not been motivated by the same need to deny the validity of science as is the creationist movement. As Mooney touches on himself early in this book, both the adult stem cell and pro-life movements made the unfortunate decision to augment their fundamentally moral arguments with the trappings of science. They did so because they wanted to escape the bias that all moral argument is "religious" and, therefore, to be shunned in all "objective" discussion. The same could be said for many industry assaults on accepted science norms - industry is not so much anti-science as pro money. Although the author protests that he is not in favor of a technocracy, all too often it is hard to conclude that he, when it comes to the application of science, favors anything else. Perhaps Mooney failed to pursue the thread suggested by those conflicts because he realized it would undermine the basis of the rest of his book? And, for that matter, has the passage time vindicated, despite what the science establishment considered weak science at the time, movements such as the adult stem cell campaign? With more than 100 pages of combined notes and credits The Republican War on Science is unquestionably soundly researched even though its basic premise is flawed. Anti-science and anti-reason are real trends in modern society, but they are not entirely Republican, entirely Bush, or entirely conservative. Richard R. Pardi Environmental Science William Paterson University
Guest More than 1 year ago
The argument made by Chris Mooney in this book, that the current Republican-led federal government has abused and misused science for the benefit of religious conservatives and big business, is wholly convincing. The author gives his work a diachronic perspective by starting with developments withing the GOP several decades ago, leading up to the current situation. He does not imply that Teddy Roosevelt had ANYTHING to do with misuse of science, because that has nothing to do with current developments in the 21st century. Several topics are tackled in the book as case studies, including evolution, stem cell research, sex education, food industries and climate change. The extensive detail of the book can be daunting for those of us unfamiliar with all the politicians and organizations involved. That being said, it appears that the author tried carefully to cover all his bases in trying to make the information available for his readers, rather than simplifying issues too extensively.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book really shows that many Republicans write policy on what they think often times without looking at the facts. Their position of being pro-business and anti-regulation no matter what shown in this book really shows that science research should be directing policy rather than industry and uniformed elected officals. There seems to be the pattern of have an idea and distort all opposition no matter how many people disagree with you.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book warrants at best, the nearest trash can. As a scientist - and a republican - I can assert I know what I am talking about. I think the author patently ignores the fact-based scientific method and choses unscientic stereotyping to infer that to be a member of the GOP (the GOP that produced, for example Theodore Roosevelt) means to be ignorant and unscientific. Not so. Yes, I am the minority in the science world, and I am a centrist really - but if there is a problem with a given administration, it is wholly unscientific to pigeon-hole the whole of the GOP there too.... It would be as if I said 'democrats have wholly incompetent leaders, therefore scientists (democrats?) are having problems with moving Science forward in government because their ability to lead and have vision with discipline is wholly lacking.'... I know - I have to see it daily....