republican war on science

Thu, 2012-03-29 03:39Chris Mooney
Chris Mooney's picture

Conservatives versus Science: A New Scientific Validation of the Republican War on Science (and Republican Brain) Thesis

UPDATE: The paper discussed below is downloadable here.

For a while now, I’ve been aware of a powerful new paper that directly tests the central argument of my 2005 book The Republican War on Science—and also validates some key claims made in my new book, The Republican Brain. I’ve had to keep quiet about it until now; but at last, the study is out—though I’m not sure yet about a web link to it. 

The research is by Gordon Gauchat of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and published in the prestigious American Sociological Review. In the study, Gauchat uses a vast body of General Social Survey data to test three competing theses about the relationship between science and the U.S. public:

1) the cultural ascendancy thesis or “deficit model” view, according to which better education and engagement with science lead all boats to rise, and citizens across the board become more trusting of scientists and their expertise;

2) the alienation thesis, according to which modernity brings on distrust and disillusionment with science (call it the “spoiled brat” thesis if you’d like); and

3) the politicization thesis—my thesis—according to which some cultural groups, aka conservatives, have a unique fallout with science for reasons tied up with the nature of modern American conservatism, such as its ideology, the growth of its think tank infrastructure, and so on.

The result? Well, Gauchat’s data show that the politicization thesis handily defeats all contenders. More specifically, he demonstrates that there was only really a decline in public trust in science among conservatives in the period from 1974 to 2010 (and among those with high church attendance, but these two things are obviously tightly interrelated).

And not just that.

Tue, 2011-09-27 04:36Chris Mooney
Chris Mooney's picture

Unequivocal: Today’s Right is Overwhelmingly More Anti-Science Than Today's Left

Last week, I took to task a really poor USA Today op-ed making the following claim:

“In short, for every anti-science Republican that exists, there is at least one anti-science Democrat. Neither party has a monopoly on scientific illiteracy. Indeed, ignorance has reached epidemic proportions inside the Beltway.”

I accused the author, Alex Berezow, of constructing a false equivalence between right and left wing science abuse. The latter does occur sometimes, and I’ve given many examples (ionizing radiation risks, vaccines, GMOs, etc). But it has relatively little mainstream influence today—and can hardly compare with the sweeping denial of huge bodies of knowledge (e.g., all climate science, all evolutionary science) that we see on the right.

Joe Romm also reposted my post and weighed in, further trashing Berezow’s weak argument, and particularly on the nuclear power front. Paul Raeburn also weighed in at the Knight Science Journalism Tracker, noting Berezow’s conservative media connections.

In the comments on my post (no longer available, as the blog has just moved to a new URL—please update!), and then in a subsequent post, another conservative—Kenneth Green of the American Enterprise Institute—weighed in. Who is Kenneth Green?

Mon, 2011-08-22 09:10Chris Mooney
Chris Mooney's picture

The Republican War on Science Returns

As author of the 2005 book The Republican War on ScienceI’ve watched recent developments in the presidential race with fascination.

It is not exactly news that many candidates on the GOP side take “war on science” positions, e.g., denying that global warming is human caused, or that human evolution explains who and what we are. Climate and evolution have long been the “big two” issues in the “war,” but I would expect that many of the GOP candidates reject modern scientific knowledge on a variety of other subjects as well. (Just ask them about, say, reproductive health and contraception.)

The standard “war on science” saga has droned on—usually in the background–for years and years. But somehow, it all exploded into political consciousness last week with Texas governor Rick Perry’s attacks on the integrity of climate researchers, and his claim that his own state teaches creationism–which if true would violate a Supreme Court ruling. (Actually, this is not state policy, though I suspect much creationism is being taught in many schools in Texas, in defiance of the law of the land.)

At that point, former Utah governor and outsider GOP candidate Jon Huntsman Tweeted some simple words, which ended up nevertheless serving as a shot heard round the political world:

Wed, 2010-12-01 12:06Chris Mooney
Chris Mooney's picture

How Partisan is Climate Denial?

It was the chief environmental narrative of the 2010 midterm elections. The field of Republican Senate and House challengers, charged bloggers, were a bunch of “climate zombies.” Tea Party backed insurgents were knocking off GOP moderates who took climate science seriously—like Delaware’s Mike Castle—and it was becoming harder and harder to find a good Republican who did accept the scientific consensus on climate change.

Then, when Republicans swept into the House of Representatives, fears about the party’s denialist tendencies compounded further. There was word of “ClimateGate” hearings, aimed at prying loose additional emails and documents from mainstream global warming researchers. Whether or not such hearings actually take place, a vision of today’s U.S. Republican Party as monolithically in denial about what we’ve been doing to the planet has clearly taken root.

It was all, apparently, more than the stalwart Republican moderate Sherwood (“Sherry”) Boehlert could take.

Mon, 2010-11-22 15:48Chris Mooney
Chris Mooney's picture

Will the New Congress Subpoena Climate Scientists?

Originally posted at DiscoverMagazine.com.
Multiple investigations over the last year have failed to uncover any serious wrongdoing in the year old “ClimateGate” fiasco over climate researchers’ pilfered emails. Substantively, the matter is dead. But politically is quite another matter—it remains to be seen how long “ClimateGate” can walk the earth as a zombie.

There have already been attempts to reawaken the corpse. Most prominently, Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli launched a harassing investigation of famed climate researcher Michael Mann’s career at the University of Virginia, demanding a wide range of emails and documents. And since the November 2 elections, there have been concerns that the new Republican Congress may join in the rite. Several top House Republicans have indicated that they may want to hold “Climategate” hearings (although more recently, there has been some apparent backing away from this idea).

The question now becomes whether incoming Republicans will follow through on such plans—or if it’s all just a head feint. If they’re serious, they can expect a powerful response from scientists, much like the strong mobilization against Cuccinelli organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the American Association of University Professors, and many others.

Mon, 2010-10-18 13:49Brendan DeMelle
Brendan DeMelle's picture

NY Times Editorial: Cheney-trained Republicans Have Disappeared In a Fog Of Disinformation on Climate

The New York Times editorial today focuses on the influence of Dick Cheney’s brand of denialism to explain the fact that none of the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate accept the scientific consensus that human activities are largely responsible for climate disruption. 

The editorial “In Climate Denial, Again” notes that GOP candidates this election season are “re-running the strategy of denial perfected by Mr. Cheney a decade ago, repudiating years of peer-reviewed findings about global warming and creating an alternative reality in which climate change is a hoax or conspiracy.”

The current crop of fact-challenged candidates running on the GOP ticket range from the outright deniers like Nevada candidate Sharron Angle to the “wiggly” position demonstrated by the likes of California’s Carly Fiorina - a favorite of the billionaire Koch brothers - who remains “unsure” about the scientific foundation confirmed by all of the world’s top scientific institutions.  

According to the Times, “all are custodians of a strategy whose guiding principle has been to avoid debate about solutions to climate change by denying its existence — or at least by diminishing its importance. The strategy worked, destroying hopes for Congressional action while further confusing ordinary citizens for whom global warming was already a remote and complex matter.”  

The Times editors guess that former Vice President Dick Cheney “has to be smiling” about the lock-step denial and confusion campaign continued by this crop of Republican candidates.  

Thu, 2010-09-09 16:02Brendan DeMelle
Brendan DeMelle's picture

Nature Editorial Slams GOP For Anti-Science Tendencies

There is no getting around the fact that the U.S. Republican Party simply hates science.  It didn’t used to be that way.  But it is now, and the timing of a recent uptick in this phenomenon couldn’t be worse.  

The anti-science strain pervading the right wing in the United States is the last thing the country needs in a time of economic challenge.”

That is the subtitle of an excellent editorial today in the journal Nature, “Science Scorned,” which discusses how dangerous this trend is, pointing out that:

There is a growing anti-science streak on the American right that could have tangible societal and political impacts on many fronts — including regulation of environmental and other issues and stem-cell research.”

Nowhere is the right wing’s anti-science stance more starkly apparent than on the issue of climate change, as Nature notes:

Denialism over global warming has become a scientific cause célèbre within the movement. [Rush] Limbaugh, for instance, who has told his listeners that “science has become a home for displaced socialists and communists”, has called climate-change science “the biggest scam in the history of the world”.

Nature is a highly respected journal, and it is encouraging to see the editors take a strong stand against the GOP’s betrayal of science and reason. Science should never be confused with politics, but the recent antics of the Republican Party leave no alternative but to acknowledge that the Right’s attack on science must be addressed directly by the scientific community. 

Fri, 2007-03-09 14:30Kevin Grandia
Kevin Grandia's picture

DeSmog hanging with Chris Mooney

Here's a photo from a recent visit we had with Republican War on Science author Chris Mooney. Chris was in town to attend a panel discussion on global warming and the state of the media that was co-sponsored by DeSmog and the UBC School of Journalism.

Chris is back in Washington, DC now, putting the final touches on his new book, Storm World: hurricanes, politics and the battle over global warming.
Thu, 2007-02-08 09:47Bill Miller
Bill Miller's picture

Only 13 per cent of Republicans believe humans cause global warming in new poll

Despite last week’s UN report attributing some 90 per cent of global warming to human activity, the latest “Congressional Insiders Poll” of 113 members of Congress has found a sharp decline in the percentage of Republicans who believe it.

Tue, 2006-11-21 14:37Kevin Grandia
Kevin Grandia's picture

Mooney unveils Storm World

Republican War on Science author, Chris Mooney, has unveiled a few details about his new book Storm World today.

Pages

Subscribe to republican war on science