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Fri, 2012-01-06 11:58Chris Mooney
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Santorum Misrepresents Climate Science. Again.

Rick Santorum was asked about climate change recently, while campaigning in New Hampshire. The video of his response, as well as the transcript, can be found here.

Suffice it to say that while Santorum sounds thoughtful and rational in his response, in fact he gravely misrepresents scientific knowledge and understanding.

Let's turn to the tape.

Santorum starts off well enough:

The question is on how do I get my policies with climate change science.

I get asked this question a lot, and you look at the data and you can see some change in the climate.

But then again, pick a point in history where you haven’t seen a change in the climate.

The climate does change.

The question is, what is causing the climate to change.

And I think most scientists, in fact, I assume all scientists would agree there are a variety of factors that cause the climate change.

I don’t think any scientist in the world would suggest there isn’t a variety of factors, and I think the vast majority of scientists would say there’s probably a hundred factors that cause the climate to change.

Wed, 2012-01-04 05:49Chris Mooney
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Rick Santorum and Science: Bad Combination!

As Republican primary season schizophrenia continues, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum is now in the spotlight, having very nearly beaten Mitt Romney in Iowa. So what do we people who care about science, and global warming in particular, know about Santorum?

Whoa boy.

None of the Republican candidates, with the possible exception of pro-science Tweeter Jon Huntsman, have distinguished themselves as science allies. Even sometime moderate Mitt Romney famously flip-flopped and cast doubt on human caused global warming; Rick Perry, meanwhile, thinks climate researchers are making it all up.

But Santorum? Arguably, his attacks on science surpass all of theirs.

Tue, 2012-01-03 06:35Chris Mooney
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New Proof: Republicans Really Are Anti-Science

As readers know, I’m a regular monitor of polls capturing various aspects of the public’s views on science. These polls consistently show that for the most part, even if people don’t know a ton about it, they basically think science rocks. Americans know very well that science has made their lives immeasurably better, and they show high levels of trust in the scientific community.

There are, however, a few caveats.

Although people like science in general, they’re more than willing to spike it in any particular instance, on any particular pet issue. Evolution, global warming, vaccines—otherwise “pro-science” people will happily deny reality on these subjects, and not necessarily even experience any cognitive dissonance in doing so.

For the most part, I have tended to feel it is unfair to call such individuals “anti-science.” If someone denies science on one particular topic, but nevertheless thinks science is a groovy thing in general, I figure they’re not being anti-science, so much as just being human.

However, new polling data from Lawrence Hamilton, of the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, suggests that the “anti-science” epithet really does apply to many U.S. Republicans—at least on environmental issues.

Wed, 2011-12-21 04:55Chris Mooney
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“End Medicare?” How Phony Bipartisanship Created a Fact Checking Disaster

Just last week, I wrote about the core problem facing the new breed of political fact-checkers: The political right is more factually wrong, meaning that taking a strictly “bipartisan” approach will inevitably leave the fact-checkers themselves guilty of phony “balance.” And it will also lead to them occasionally having their lunches eaten by left-leaning sites like Media Matters, as well as by sensible liberal bloggers.

Little did I know that PolitiFact, arguably the leading fact-checker, would immediately come through with a stunning validation of this point.

PolitiFact just announced its “lie of the year,” the Democratic claim that “Republicans voted to end Medicare.” However, if you peruse analyses from Paul Krugman, Steven Benen, Jason Linkins, and others, you’ll find that the very notion that this is a lie at all is highly debatable. Frankly, the repeated fact-checks of this Democratic assertion seem to boil down to little more than a matter of definition.

It all depends on what the meaning of the word “end” is.

Mon, 2011-12-19 05:58Chris Mooney
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The Climate-Media Paradox: More Coverage, Stalled Progress

For those of us who care about global warming, 2006 and 2007 felt like pretty good years. Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for An Inconvenient Truth, sharing it with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Media attention to the issue soared, and it was positive attention. Given all the buzz, I—and many others—figured the problem was all but solved.

The next steps appeared deceptively simple. Elect Barack Obama, pass cap-and-trade, go to Copenhagen in the snowy winter of 2009 and take it global—or so I advised in Scientific American. I didn’t expect “ClimateGate,” or the dramatic consequences that an overseas non-scandal (for so I perceived it to be) could have for U.S. climate policy.

Nor did I imagine that virtually the entire Republican Party, rather than just some part of it, would come to reject climate science on this flimsy basis. I expected out-and-out climate change deniers like Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe to be further marginalized, not mainstreamed.

Needless to say, I now look back on all this and shake my head.  Clearly, I–and many other people who felt the same way–was missing something rather big. We were far too optimistic in thinking that our governmental and media institutions were up for dealing with this type of problem.

Recently, a new book has helped bring the nature of their failure–and particularly the media's failure–into sharp focus.

Thu, 2011-12-15 07:08Chris Mooney
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Can Fact Checking be Politically “Neutral,” When Facts Are Not Equally Distributed Across the Political Spectrum?

Recently, I sat in on an off-the-record meeting about political fact-checking. I can’t report or quote from the event, but it spurred along some general thoughts that had already arisen in the context of writing The Republican Brain, which focuses a great deal on fact-checking—and thus, helped  propel this post.

Fact checking is a phenomenon that has really taken off over the last half decade or so as, more and more, media outlets as well as independent and/or partisan voices are busily pronouncing on the “truth” of political statements. The reason? Well, there are many, but I would place the growing divide over reality and what is factually true, between the left and the right, as perhaps the leading one.

By far the best known fact-checking outlets are the websites PolitiFact, a project of the St. Petersburg Times, and FactCheck.org, based at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. Perhaps most prominently in the mainstream media, there is also the Washington Post’s fact-checker column, which regularly bestows one to four “Pinocchios” upon politicians’ statements.

These three main fact-checking outlets are then complemented by an ever growing number of blogs and, of course, fact-checkers on both sides of the political aisle.

Here, incidentally, arises a pretty sharp divide—between those who claim to check both political “sides” equally, and those who don’t.

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