Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Republican War on Science Paperback – August 29, 2006
All Books, All the Time
Read author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more at the Amazon Book Review. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
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.
Top customer reviews
Focusing a bit on the Bush years (so this has nothing to do with this Administration, or at least not in detail), Mooney explores just how it is that the very thing that fuels our economy, saves our lives and informs our existence can be disregarded by the powerful.
Short answer: It's all for the money, honey.
The long answer--which is very eye-opening indeed--is well worth this read. Well worth it. Some of the players in the mess are still playing, and using the same toys.
I found Mooney's writing to be fairly streamlined--here and there a little dull--but rather full of abbreviations for committees and associations...but that was truly the only annoying thing.
It's also heavily annotated, which may reassure some readers that the book is basically full of dry but disturbing facts, instead of dry but disturbing opinion.
He starts with a discussion of what he calls the politicizing of science, which results in an abuse of scientific truth. He provides a catalog of politicized interferences with science such as attempts to undermine science, suppression of scientific reports, targeting individual scientists, magnifying uncertainty, ginning up contrary “science,” and more.
The ideological merger between religious conservatives and business interests began in the 70s and 80s. Also at this time, notes Mooney, alarmed by the new wave of environmental, health and safety rules, big business developed powerful lobbying groups, (PACs) and a new way of thinking about how to spend their money in sponsoring research and intellectual inquiry. In 1972, Nixon even dissolved the President’s Science Advisory Committee and abolished the office of the science advisor. The attack was well underway! The assault on science continued. In the 1990’s the Gingrich Republicans dismantled the congressional Office of Technology Assessment, which had been created in the wake of the supersonic transport controversy (1972) to provide the Congress with an independent source of scientific analysis. The mantra came to be “sound science.” This term had little to do with scientific rigor; it had “everything to do with blocking government controls on industry by raising the burden of scientific proof required to justify action,” according to Mooney.
The attacks involved the science of acid rain, CFCs and the ozone, and, by the 1990s, global warming. Today we see so much “dubious science and outright nonsense” in respect to climate science – thanks to, at least in part, the “Gringrich Congress” of the 1990s. The political misuse of science did not begin with the 104th Congress in 1995, but the Gingrich Republicans represented a new level of abuse. With these attacks came new terminology, such as “sound science” and “junk science.” The term sound science, for the right, actually was an ideological term connected to a science-abusing regulatory reform agenda resulting in “paralysis by analysis.” The term “junk science” became frequently attached to any research that didn’t mesh with the laissez-faire policy of regulated companies. If you can’t beat them, confuse them became the mantra. Concerning the global warming denial campaign, which Mooney elaborates on at length, he noted very incisively that “climate change has become an issue on which conservatives have elected to fight over science at least as much as over as over economics, relying on stunning distortions and a shocking disregard for both expertise and the most reputable sources of scientific assessment and analysis.”
Not content at inhibiting regulatory reform directly, it became effective to attack the science that might lead to any unwanted regulatory action. Through the efforts of people like lobbyist Jim Tozzi, legislator Jo Ann Emerson, and White House administrator John Graham, we see programs such as the Data Quality Act, the Shelby amendment, and a “peer review” system of Graham’s design – all efforts to quash any attempt to pass industry despised regulations.
Mooney now considers the Endangered Species Act. He devotes an entire chapter to showing clearly how Republicans engaged in a disturbing quest to use science to gut the ESA, and presents evidence of Bush administration tactics to suppress scientific information coming out of agencies such as the Fish and Wildlife Services and the National Marine Fisheries Service. This suppression of science continued with stem cell research, where the quest to “generate arguments sympathetic to a religiously conservative moral agenda” was fully explored. Next we are confronted with the Christian right’s war on sexual health. Here we learn about the false claims concerning abortion – it causes breast cancer and psychological illness, as well as the false claims that condom use is ineffective, or that abstinence programs actually work.
Mooney concludes by providing some insight on what we can do. Perhaps the conservatives can be reasoned with – “begging that they step back from the abyss before it’s too late.” We can restore the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, the Office of Science and Technology Policy can be restored to its previous strength, eliminate the political litmus test for committee membership, roll back the “sound science” regulatory reform movement which is designed to create paralysis by analysis, and so on. These political attacks on science succeed, in part, because they confuse everyone by making us think that a controversy exists when actually there is none. We need journalistic balance, that is, report the facts rather that give equal weight to true science and it nemesis – false science. Mooney laments that “we cannot escape the reality that we face a political problem, one that requires explicitly political solutions.” Let’s hope they’re forthcoming.