In the last few weeks, we've been chatting in the open threads about a book club. We tossed some ideas around, and our first entry will be Chris Mooney's The Republican War Against Science.
IN THE SUMMER OF 2001, long before his reelection and even before he became a "wartime president," George W. Bush found himself in a political tight spot. He responded with a morsel of scientific misinformation so stunning, so certain to be exposed by enterprising journalists (as indeed it was), that one can only wonder what Bush and his handlers were thinking, or whether they were thinking at all. The issue was embryonic stem cell research, and Bush's nationally televised claim—that "more than sixty genetically diverse" embryonic stem cell lines existed at the time of his statement—counts as one of the most flagrant purely scientific deceptions ever perpetrated by a U.S. president on an unsuspecting public.
From the Rockefeller University interview:
Mooney’s thesis is that the Republican Party is addicted to the misuse and abuse of science, and the party’s domination by the modern conservative movement drives this addiction. Corporate interests and religious conservatives oppose the scientific community’s norms and products. The corporate sector resists any effort to restrict profits (e.g. the tobacco, pharmaceutical, and energy industries), and religious conservatives flatly reject the scientific worldview (e.g. intelligent design). This opposition has led to the systematic misuse of scientific information. The response of the Republican Party includes President Bush’s statements regarding human embryonic stem cell lines, the elimination of the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, and attacks on climate scientists who present ‘inconvenient’ analyses of global warming. Mooney points out that such malfeasance obstructs the ability of the government to make informed policy decisions, and will result in negative consequences for the American public.
Check the science link at TNH and control F search for stem cells, just to see some recent examples from Missouri and otherwise, or look at the Intelligent Design posts for a more dramatic example (one can argue which is the more important of the two, but they're both key). The important thing is that the policy set by both local and federal Republicans is deliberate, insidious and hurtful to Americans, especially in a long term sense.
Is it a Republican or a conservative bias? There are plenty of
liberal and progressive anti-science advocates, too, including the
anti-vaccine lobby. But the stark difference is that progressives are
calling for accountability whereas the Republicans in their current
incarnation are trying to change the definitions of science itself, as
pointed out by the judge deciding the Dover case:
The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts
of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the
Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the
seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and
moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious,
One doesn't have to be a science geek to appreciate the political and social ramifications of an attack on reality-based institutions. Mooney's book is very aptly named, and a Dover victory represents just a battle won, not the war. That still goes on, and with McCain and Bush's endorsements of ID in classrooms, it's Republicans that are waging the battle, and Republicans who need to be called to account. Even those (the majority) who may question evolutionary theory still generally agree to have it taught in science class. But nothing's sacred when it comes to science, and there are plenty of battles ahead.
Feel free to add specifics from the book, examples of your own, or whatever. And welcome to the first edition of the TNH book club.