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The Republican War on Science [Kindle Edition]

Chris Mooney
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Does the Bush administration ignore or deny mainstream research to please its conservative base? Have business groups and certain religious lobbies helped it do so? Does Bush-era treatment of scientists differ from that of Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Reagan? Has a Republican Congress passed laws designed to disable clean air and water efforts, and has it dismantled safeguards, such as the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, meant to give legislators unbiased advice? Mooney's passionate, thoroughly researched volume answers these questions with an urgent "yes." A former American Prospect writer who is making his book debut, Mooney uses interviews and old-fashioned document-digging to explain how, over two decades, right-wing politicians built institutions designed to discredit working scientists; how some energy companies have allied themselves with powerful Republicans (such as Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma) to block or reverse U.S. steps to curb global warming; and how the present administration defies expert consensus on climate change, on mercury pollution, even on how to read statistics. Mooney tracks Bush White House efforts to spread misinformation about stem cells; the work of religious right regulators like Dr. David Hager (formerly on the FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs advisory committee) in restricting access to birth control; and the attempts of the Discovery Institute (and other think tanks linked to the Bush base) to fight the teaching of evolution. In the past five years, Mooney documents, many formerly apolitical physicists, biologists and doctors have come to believe there is a "pattern" of science abuse under Bush, a push back against the methods of science itself. Conservatives may react with indignation; liberals, moderates and working scientists will find few surprises,but Mooney's very readable, and understandably partisan, volume is the first to put the whole story, thoroughly documented, in one place.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Scientific American

Thomas Jefferson would be appalled. More than two centuries after he helped to shape a government based on the idea that reason and technological advancement would propel the new United States into a glorious future, the political party that now controls that government has largely turned its back on science. Even as the country and the planet face both scientifically complex threats and remarkable technological opportunities, many Republican officeholders reject the most reliable sources of information and analysis available to guide the nation. As inconceivable as it would have been to Jefferson--and as dismaying as it is to growing legions of today's scientists--large swaths of the government in Washington are now in the hands of people who don't know what science is. More ominously, some of those in power may grasp how research works but nonetheless are willing to subvert science's knowledge and expert opinion for short-term political and economic gains. That is the thesis of The Republican War on Science, by Chris Mooney, one of the few journalists in the country who specialize in the now dangerous intersection of science and politics. His book is a well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists. Mooney's chronicle of what he calls "science abuse" begins in the 1970s with Richard Nixon and picks up steam with Ronald Reagan. But both pale in comparison to the current Bush administration, which in four years has: * Rejected the scientific consensus on global warming and suppressed an EPA report supporting that consensus.
* Stacked numerous advisory committees with industry representatives and members of the religious Right.
* Begun deploying a missile defense system without evidence that it can work.
* Banned funding for embryonic stem cell research except on a claimed 60 cell lines already in existence, most of which turned out not to exist.
* Forced the National Cancer Institute to say that abortion may cause breast cancer, a claim refuted by good studies.
* Ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to remove information about condom use and efficacy from its Web site. Mooney explores these and many other examples, including George W. Bush's support for creationism. In almost every instance, Republican leaders have branded the scientific mainstream as purveyors of "junk science" and dubbed an extremist viewpoint--always at the end of the spectrum favoring big business or the religious Right--"sound science." One of the most insidious achievements of the Right, Mooney shows, is the Data Quality Act of 2000--just two sentences, written by an industry lobbyist and quietly inserted into an appropriations bill. It directs the White House's Office of Management and Budget to ensure that all information put out by the federal government is reliable. The law seems sensible, except in practice. It is used mainly by industry and right-wing think tanks to block release of government reports unfavorable to their interests by claiming they do not contain "sound science." For all its hostility to specific scientific findings, the Right never says it opposes science. It understands the cachet in the word. Perhaps Republicans sense what pollsters have known for decades--that the American public is overwhelmingly positive about science and that there is nothing to be gained by opposing a winner. Instead the Right exploits a misconception about science common among nonscientists--a belief that uncertainty in findings indicates fatally flawed research. Because most cutting-edge science--including most research into currently controversial topics--is uncertain, it is dismissed as junk. This naive understanding of science hands the Right a time-tested tactic. It does not claim that business interests or moral values trump the scientific consensus. Rather rightists argue that the consensus itself is flawed. Then they encourage a debate between the consensus and the extremist naysayers, giving the two apparently equal weight. Thus, Mooney argues, it seems reasonable to split the difference or simply to argue that there is too much uncertainty to, say, ban a suspect chemical or fund a controversial form of research. The Republican War on Science details political and regulatory debates that can be arcane and complex, engrossing reading only for dedicated policy wonks. Thankfully, Mooney is both a wonk and a clear writer. He covered many of the battles in real time for publications such as the Washington Post, Washington Monthly, Mother Jones and American Prospect. "When politicians use bad science to justify themselves rather than good science to make up their minds," Mooney writes, "we can safely assume that wrongheaded and even disastrous decisions lie ahead." Thomas Jefferson would, indeed, be appalled. Writing in 1799 to a young student whom he was mentoring, the patriot advised the man to study science and urged him to reject the "doctrine which the present despots of the earth are inculcating," that there is nothing new to be learned. He concluded by saying opposition to "freedom and science would be such a monstrous phenomenon as I cannot place among possible things in this age and this country."

Boyce Rensberger directs the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and teaches in M.I.T.'s Graduate Program in Science Writing. For many years he was a science reporter and editor at the Washington Post.


Product Details

  • File Size: 709 KB
  • Print Length: 378 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0465046762
  • Publisher: Basic Books (March 16, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003P9XDWK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #346,200 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
326 of 378 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important and balanced book August 30, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Mooney does a good job at meticulously showing the politicization of science by both sides, but as the title shows, he refuses to make the common journalistic mistake of imposing "false balance" where it is not warranted. Just as you wouldn't say, "people differ on roundness of the Earth", Mooney has the courage and the wherewithall to call a spade a spade - and he doesn't ask you to take his word for it.

The facts are here for anyone with eyes to see. The "perfect storm" of anti-regulatory conservatives and fundamentalist Christians have combined to wage a unified war against science with a vengeance that the disorganized "frankenfood" liberals can only dream of.

Mooney's objective, scientific approach to making his case only makes his partisan conclusions that much more compelling and impossible to deny. In this war of reason vs. ideology, Mooney plants himself firmly on the side of reason, while always being fair. After reading his book, anyone who values science and critical thinking will do the same.
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173 of 201 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Call to Action for People Who Care About Science September 2, 2005
Format:Hardcover
[...]
"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

That oft-quoted statement from Carl Sagan captures the essence of the scientific approach to knowledge. Before an idea can achieve the revered status of "theory," it must survive round after round of skeptical criticism.

Evolution, for example, has withstood nearly 150 years of challenges. With minor modifications to Darwin's seminal ideas, it has become perhaps the most robust theory in all of science.

Religious fundamentalists, who oppose that theory as well as abortion and embryonic stem cell research, are major combatants in what journalist Chris Mooney describes in his new book as The Republican War on Science. Allied with them is a force of neo-conservative soldiers who resist the conclusions of environmental research, especially about global climate change.

Yet neither religion nor business is fundamentally opposed to science. Probably a majority of American scientists guide their lives by faith in a Creator, but they do not consider their houses of worship as observatories or laboratories in which to test the existence of a deity. And most modern businesses rely on science and technology to make a profit.

Thus most readers of this book, including liberal Democrats, will consider Mr. Mooney's brash thesis extraordinary. Though they may view it an interesting model of what is happening in American politics today, they will demand extraordinary research before declaring it a viable theory.

Indeed, the evidence supporting the existence of a partisan War on Science will never measure up to the Sagan criterion. The most the author can hope for is that open-minded people will consider his ideas compelling. In that, he has succeeded admirably.
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88 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important and Timely September 14, 2005
Format:Hardcover
No doubt many reviewers will attack Mr. Mooney's exceptional and timely work claiming a combination of "this is nothing new," and "every one does it." Such attacks simply demonstrate the strength of Mr. Mooney's thesis -- that at the beginning of the 21st century, at least in America, even science is being turned into a partisan spectator sport. The trend, if it continues, harbingers dangerous days ahead and is well worth careful examination. This work presents an excellent place to start.

Mr. Mooney cleverly traces the current situation back to the attacks on "liberal intellectuals" in the middle of the last century. These statements, often a mantra from the Nixon years forward in the GOP, originally began as an attack on the social sciences. Thus, any effort to design government plans to aid the poor were labeled as "liberal." In fairness, this description as least holds some truth as the modern liberal-conservative dichotomy often comes down to government can help solve problems - government is the problem.

Recently, however, particularly in the last 20 years, the same attack has frighteningly been pushed into the "hard" sciences. As such, one can often hear GOP faithful from Senators to Limbaugh lambasting anyone who accepts the evidence for human activity induced climate change as a "liberal," with no concern for their political views. The trend springs in no small part from the close alliance between the GOP and big businesses that see science on subjects ranging from water pollution to climate change as threats to their current business model.

Mooney successfully explains how the media's hunger for controversy and short attention span plays handily into the hands of those who attack science.
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175 of 205 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't Recommend This Book Enough August 31, 2005
Format:Hardcover
I've been psyched about the release of this book for months now, and it doesn't disappoint. Far from it: this is an unbelievably thorough, balanced, and well-researched study of a phenomenon that ALL Americans need to be concerned about, no matter what their political stripes are. While the title may mislead you into thinking that this is a partisan book, Mooney's dedication here is to the integrity of the scientific research process, and not at all to politics. Indeed, his argument is that the politicization of the scientific research process is bad no matter which party does it, but that the Bush Administration and the current incarnation of the Republican Party is particularly culpable of abusing science for partisan gain. Indeed, Mooney heaps praise on the Nixon administration science policies, which were much better than what we have under the current president.

Read this book. It's leaps and bounds better than any other political book out today- Coulter AND Franken included.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing book, too bad its not fiction
amazing book, too bad its not fiction
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars An effective critique of the GOP
This book highlights a variety of partisan Republican political activities that -- in a variety of ways -- show the GOP's misuse of science and its lack of interest in... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Paul S. Hardersen
5.0 out of 5 stars So sad yet so true
As a physician scientist, I am always appalled by the scientific ignorance and pride in stupidity of the religious right. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Thomas P. Knecht
3.0 out of 5 stars Kinda boring
Meh. Kind of boring, kind of dry. Was okay to skim through for things to use during arguments with an especially contrary Republican ex-boyfriend. Ha.
Published 3 months ago by Kau'i Baumhofer
4.0 out of 5 stars The Bottom Feeders, and the Bottom Line
The book recounts a terrifying tale of politicians re-writing science to cater to political, religious and economic desires. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mark LaJoie
4.0 out of 5 stars e
The item was received as anticipated. It opened as expected. What else can one say about a typical digital download?
Published 5 months ago by Robert G. Buice
5.0 out of 5 stars A Telling Tale of the Attack on Science
I read Chris Mooney’s book "The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science and Reality" and was very intrigued by it. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Randolph Eck
5.0 out of 5 stars Gulliver's Travels revisited. Putting paid to hokum.
The best and possibly, for the non-academic reader, the most entertaining dissembling of pseudoscience, since Jonathan Swift's lampooning of crackpots in general, in "The Grand... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Frank Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars Falsification of Science
Lies in the name of political power by people who got
good grades in school science?
When you know that these fellows know better and continue
on the course of... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Roger Bagula
2.0 out of 5 stars Skirts data, but not as well as in The Republican Brain
I enjoyed "The Republican Brain," even though I found some issues and inconsistencies with his data, but it was truly comprehensive. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Richard Baris
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More About the Author

Chris Mooney is a science and political journalist, blogger, podcaster, and experienced trainer of scientists in the art of communication. He is the author of four books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science and most recently The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science and Reality (April 2012). He blogs for Science Progress, a website of the Center for American Progress and Center for American Progress Action Fund, and is a host of the Point of Inquiry podcast.

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