I know of Chris Mooney (and others) thanks to links from John Fleck. The title of Mooney’s new book seems apt (mjh to jfleck — a review?).
with Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science | By David Roberts | Grist Magazine | Books Unbound | 27 Sep 2005
My thesis is that this is a political phenomenon that is unique to Republican rule in the United States, and which is epitomized by the
Bush administration. This administration is constantly doing favors for its big-business and religious-right constituents. That prejudice
drives distortions of science on issues ranging from global warming to sex education. …
Poor science education doesn’t help
matters, but I wouldn’t link it directly to the kinds of abuses we’re seeing. The role of fundamentalist religiosity — and
particularly, politically conservative Christianity — is, I think, more significant.
On evolution, on embryonic stem cell
research, on alleged health risks from abortion, and much else, religious conservatives have their own spin on the science, and even
their own “experts.” For instance, they deny evolution and have come up with a scientific-sounding alternative, “intelligent design.”
Because of this phenomenon of science appropriation, Republican politicians sympathetic to the religious right can easily cite their own
favored experts, in the process distorting mainstream scientific understanding. This sets in motion a wide array of abuses. …
Through their instinctive tendency to create a “balance” between two sides, journalists repeatedly allow science abusers to
create phony “controversies,” even though the scientific merits of the issue may exclusively be with one side.
real fear when it comes to the press. Suppose there’s some mainstream scientific view that you want to set up a think tank to challenge
— to undermine, to controversialize. Suppose further that you have a lot of money, as well as an interested and politically influential
constituency on board with your agenda. In this situation, it seems to me that as long as you are clever enough, you should be able to
set your political machine in motion and then sit back and watch the national media do the rest of your work for you. The press will help
you create precisely the controversy that lies at the heart of your political and public relations strategy — and not only that.
It will do a far better job than the best PR firm, and its services will be entirely free of charge.
I think we
have actually seen this happen repeatedly. A good example is the issue of evolution. …
We have to drive a wedge between moderate
Republicans and conservative ones on matters of science, because only the moderates can rescue their party from its current, destructive
addiction to abusing and distorting scientific information.
The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney [mjh: numerous copies on order at the
Albuquerque Public Library but not yet received.]
CJR September/October 2005 – Undoing Darwin
The [evolution trial … in
Pennsylvania over intelligent design] is likely to be a media circus. And, unfortunately, there’s ample reason to expect that the
spectacle will lend an entirely undeserved p.r. boost to the carefully honed issue-framing techniques employed by today’s anti-
As evolution, driven by such events, shifts out of scientific realms and into political and legal
ones, it ceases to be covered by context-oriented science reporters and is instead bounced to political pages, opinion pages, and
television news. And all these venues, in their various ways, tend to deemphasize the strong scientific case in favor of evolution and
instead lend credence to the notion that a growing â€œcontroversyâ€� exists over evolutionary science. This notion may be
politically convenient, but it is false. …
Without a doubt, then, political reporting, television news, and opinion pages are
all generally fanning the flames of a “controversy” over evolution. Not surprisingly, in light of this coverage, we simultaneously find
that the public is deeply confused about evolution.
In a November 2004 Gallup poll, respondents were asked: “Just your opinion, do
you think that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is: a scientific theory that has been well supported by evidence, or just one of many
theories and one that has not been well-supported by evidence, or don’t you know enough to say?” Only 35 percent of Americans answered a
scientific theory supported by evidence, whereas another 35 percent indicated that evolution was just one among many theories, and 29
percent answered that they didn’t know. Meanwhile a national survey this spring (conducted by Matthew Nisbet, one of the authors of this
article, in collaboration with the Survey Research Institute at Cornell University), found similar public confusion about the scientific
basis for intelligent design. A bare majority of adult Americans (56.3 percent) agreed that evolution is supported by an overwhelming
body of scientific evidence; a sizeable proportion (44.2 percent) thought precisely the same thing of intelligent design. …
thing, above all, is clear: a full-fledged national debate has been reawakened over an issue that once seemed settled. This new fight may
not simmer down again until the U.S. Supreme Court is forced (for the third time) to weigh in. In these circumstances, the media
have a profound responsibility — to the public, and to knowledge itself.
Chris C Mooney