The Republican War on Science

The Bush administration has made no secret of its disdain for science, especially science that pertains to global warming, stem-cell research and endangered animals and plants. The chilling effect this has on science, public health and on the public good is documented in Chris Mooney's book, The Republican War on Science (Cambridge, MA: Basic Books, 2005, 2006), which was recently released in paperback.

As Mooney argues in this well-written book, disregard for scientists and the scientific method has been carefully nurtured by the modern conservative movement, which is a movement anchored in an overall distrust of big government and educational "elites". And of course, most science is funded by government, and a lot of scientific investigation occurs in governmental agencies and universities. But from Barry Goldwater's anti-intellectualism, Ronald Reagan's acceptance of creationism and Newt Gingrich's ridiculous support of science "skeptics," on through the current administration, republicans have demonstrated a strong tendency to believe politically-inspired fringe theories over the rational findings of science and scientists.

Further and not surprisingly, there is always the administration's desire to cater to their political constituency. In the case of the current administration, that consitituency consists primarily of industry, which is often pitted against science; along with the religious wingnuts, who are rabidly opposed to science any time it conflicts with their narrow world view.

In the past five years, the Bush administration has not only blatantly rejected the scientific consensus on global warming and suppressed an EPA report that supported that consensus; it has also filled numerous advisory committees with industry representatives and members of the religious right; begun deploying a missile defense system without evidence that it can work; banned funding for embryonic stem cell research except on a supposed 60 cell lines they claimed were already in existence -- most of which turned out not to exist; forced the National Cancer Institute to state that abortion may cause breast cancer, a claim refuted by many valid studies; ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to remove information about condom use and efficacy from its Web site; and supported George W. Bush's desire for teaching creationism in our science classrooms.

In this volume, Mooney shows how, in the past five years, many formerly apolitical scientists and doctors have come to accept that there is a pattern of scientific abuse under Bush, and a disregard for the very methods of science itself. Even though conservatives may be angry about this, liberals, moderates and working scientists will find few surprises in this book. However, this book is the first to document the entire story in one place.

After reading this meticulously researched and well-argued book, it is clear that we must ask ourselves whether we can rely on the federal government to use our science to protect us. When science isn't being used properly to protect us from something as obvious as global warming or other environmental risks, we have to ask whether our decision-makers are incompetent, ignorant or just plain delusional. And that goes to the very core of what a government is all about.

Chris Mooney is Washington correspondent for Seed magazine and a senior correspondent for the American Prospect. He focuses on issues at the intersection of science and politics, and is author of the bestselling book The Republican War on Science, dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American.


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The FDA became untrustworthy decades ago. Even the CDC is putting out some information they know to be wrong. The EPA is wormy, the Pentagon corrupt, NASA has sold out ... the list goes on and on.

Honestly, can you think of any government agency which is not an enemy of the American people? (I actually can't. Maybe I missed one.)

Does Mooney write at all about what's happened to funding for biomedical research in the last 5-7 years? Donald Kennedy (at Science) has written some excellent summary editorials about the 'perfect storm' whereby we are hemmoraging our intellectual and scientific wealth as a country.

I've often thought this is why you've had so much trouble, Hedwig. You're trying to find a job in a field that relies heavily on government funding, and the current administration "doesn't believe" in your academic specialty. I'm glad this book is out to raise awareness of the damage the Bush administration is doing to science. Everything they touch truly does turn to dirt.