Mooney, Chris. 2005. The Republican war on science. Basic Books. New York. 342 pp.

Review and commentary by Tom Baugh

Chris Mooney is a journalist specializing in science and politics and in this book he has firmly linked these two subjects in a stew that also includes Christian fundamentalism, traditional American anti-intellectualism, political and corporate greed, and corruption in the US Republican Party and the American republic. It would seem that with the preceding not much more could be said, Mooney however, finds a lot to say. In commenting on The Republican War on Science, Ross Gelbspan (author of Boiling Point and the Heat is On) says that the book ‘poses a profound warning about the sabotage of scientific integrity by dishonest ideologies and delusional fanatics.’ As Mooney points out in example after example, however, there is not much integrity concerning science, or much else for that matter, among the current neocon masters of the US republic during the administration of George W. Bush. Mooney spends a great deal of time discussing the ways in which political opportunists, stroked by far right ideologues and supported by Christian fanatics, “have disregarded, distorted, and abused science on the issues of evolution, embryonic stem cell research, the relation of abortion to health risks for women, and sex education.”

In discussing the research that led to the book, Mooney says, “With the ascent of the modern conservative movement and its political domination of the Republican Party, two powerful forces had fused. On issues ranging from the health risks of smoking to global climate change, the GOP had consistently humored private industry’s attempts to undermine science so as to stave off unwelcome government regulation. Meanwhile, on issues ranging from evolution to embryonic stem cell research, the party had also propped up the Christian rights attacks on science in the service of moral and ideological objectives.”

In the Republican War on Science Mooney covers a lot of territory from the influence of the primitive mythology of Creation Science on conservative politics to the misnamed Intelligent Design movement (nothing much intelligent about it). Perhaps the most substantial contribution of this book, however, is Mooney’s focus on the techniques used by the Bush administration and its supporters to erode science credibility by lies and the stemming of research to serve Bush’s Christian base and corporate greed. In his interview with Mooney says “Republicans have shown a marked preference for politically inspired fringe theories over the findings of long-established and world-renowned scientific bodies.” In reflecting on the science agenda of the Bush Administration, Ronald L. Numbers, co-editor of the Cambridge History of Science, says “Politics and science have never occupied entirely separate spheres, but American politicians have rarely tried to manipulate science in the heavy-handed manner of, say, Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia.” The implication is clear and the comparison obvious. The assault on science by the current Bush administration goes hand in hand with the assault on freedoms practiced by the same political gang. The two together accompany a collapse of democratic institutions in the US and the slip through corporatism into an American brand of fascism.

Perhaps US President George W. Bush should have paid more attention to the words of his father George H.W. Bush who, in 1990, said “Science, like any other field of endeavor, relies on freedom of inquiry; and one of the hallmarks of that freedom is objectivity. Now, more than ever, on issues ranging from climate change to AIDS research to genetic engineering to food additives, government relies on the impartial perspective of science for guidance.”

As the Green Institute has pointed out, the use or abuse of science is critical to the welfare of the world. In this regard, Mooney says that “While we cannot allow scientific experts to rule us directly, we nevertheless need them desperately. Our leaders simply cannot do their jobs competently without considerable reliance on expertise that they themselves do not possess.” While many find hope in the fact that US President George W. Bush will have served his legally allotted two terms by January 2008, we must ask, however, what will happen to the literally hundreds of thousands of his adherents and operatives in power in all branches of federal, state, and local governments, and boards and commissions through the US. These ‘embedded’ religious fanatics will continue to exercise tremendous power on a wide range of issues, including science, for decades to come.

Please cite this review as follows:

Baugh, Tom. 2008. The Republican war on science-A Book Review. The Green Institute.