Back in May, the DAMOP keynote address was delivered by a DoE program officer who basically chided scientists for being politically active, in a “you have only yourselves to blame if your funding gets cut” sort of way. Obviously, she hasn’t read The Republican War on Science, or she’d understand why 48 Nobel laureates publically endorsed John Kerry in 2004.
(Full comments below the fold.)
I didn’t read this book when it first came out because I’m a scientist and I follow the news, and I figured I already knew the story. Why buy a book to make myself depressed? I generally buy books to make myself feel better…
It’s newly out on paperback, though, and Chris Mooney sent me a review copy (thanks, Chris), and I’m a sucker for free books, so I finally read it. And while it is, indeed, fairly depressing, it’s depressing in a valuable way. Scientists who follow the news are a distinct minority of citizens in general, after all, so not everybody knows the story Mooney is telling. If those people want to know why many scientists are pissed off at the current administration, there’s no better explanation than this book.
Mooney lays out a clear and exhaustively documented case that the Republican party in general and the Bush administration specifically are engaged in the widespread abuse and distortion of science on a whole host of issues, from environmental protection, to global warming, to stem cells, to food and nutrition. He also makes a persuasive case that the scale and character of this abuse is completely unprecedented.
The book is crsiply written (it’s a quick read for a book that comes with 71 pages of notes and references…), and the essential science is clearly explained. While the subject is inherently partisan, Mooney keeps the invective to a minimum– this isn’t frothing Bill O’Reilly stuff, but rather a calm and dispassionate explanation of the facts. He even singles out a few Democrats for notable abuses, but points out that the Republican record is far, far worse.
If you would like a concise and comprehensive reference to explain the current tension between science and politics, than this is the book for you. (You could even imagine building a really interesting college seminar around it, and wouldn’t that get David Horowitz’s knickers in a twist?) Just make sure you have something more uplifting on hand to read immediately afterwards.