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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (August 29, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465046762
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465046768
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #349,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

331 of 384 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 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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178 of 207 people found the following review helpful By Fred Bortz "Dr. Fred" on 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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176 of 207 people found the following review helpful By A Patriotic Professor on 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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110 of 128 people found the following review helpful By Bern on September 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Mooney's book is an excellent review of the manipulation of science by the Right in America. From denial and manipulation of consensus scientific opinion about climate change to the "intelligent design" lunacy, he covers the right-wing attack on science over the past 25 years thoroughly.
Mooney raises a very important point about science and its treatment in the media. The conventional "he-said, she-said" journalistic coverage of scientific matters by journalists who seldom have any comprehension of the scientific method is sadly misleading. Science, through the mechanisms of peer review and independent replication of observations, is an inherently self-correcting enterprise. Trying to achieve journalistic balance by comparing a view from a consensus of scientific experts against a (usually politically-driven) contrarian does not reflect the true nature of scientific debate. It gives the fringe deniers of climate change, effects of tobacco smoke, or the decidedly unscientific creationists far more influence than their marginal ideas warrant.
If you care about science in North America, I strongly urge you to buy this book.
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89 of 103 people found the following review helpful By J. A Magill VINE VOICE on 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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