How GOP twists science
I used to
think that there were two things you never discussed in mixed
company -- politics and religion.
It appears now that there's a third taboo subject -- science. I
had always been under the impression that science was not open for
debate, that facts are facts. Right?
Well, not so fast. The Republicans have decided that facts are
only facts if they help the GOP political cause. And if they go
against those tendencies, either political or religious, then those
facts can be disregarded as "junk science."
Such is the meat and potatoes of Chris Mooney's book, "The
Republican War on Science." It's a timely, if not disturbing, look
at how the Republican Party and, most egregiously, the Bush
administration have used "fringe science" to their advantage.
The current Bush administration has taken science and moved it a
century into the past, Mooney claims. No longer do politicians use
science to make informed political decisions, now politicians use
political ideology to make scientific conclusions, even when there
is no evidence.
"Science politicization succeeds because it confuses the public
and policymakers, leading them to believe that a scientific
'controversy' exists where one does not," Mooney writes. "Or that
widely discredited claims are still given serious consideration in
the world of science."
Mooney says the Bush administration uses words that are the exact
opposite of what a legislative proposal is intended to do. And they
base the legislation on what they call "sound science," which again
is the exact opposite of what it really is. Think of the "Healthy
Forests Initiative," which is a cover for the lumber industry. And
the "Data Quality Act" is a misnomer if ever there was one.
The Republicans have long been notorious for putting ideology
before science. The problem is that people fall for it.
Take intelligent design, for example. There is absolutely no
scientific basis for this theory, yet much of the American public
believes this to be a valid scientific theory for the origin of our
universe. And yet they pooh-pooh global warming as just another
Mooney points out that this trend away from pure science and
toward ideology has been part of the Republican strategy for years.
It's just that under the Bush administration it has reached new
levels of absurdity. He even calls one chapter "The anti-science
Former President Ronald Reagan gets a spot in the anti-science
hall of fame for such boondoggles as the utterly impossible and
deficit-creating Strategic Defense Initiative ("Star Wars"). This is
the same guy who dismissed AIDS in the 1980s and would not allow
Surgeon General C. Everett Koop to even mention AIDS during the
entirety of Reagan's first term.
Mooney writes: "Reagan's budget director, David Stockman,
reportedly remarked of White House scientists to a visitor, 'We know
what we want to do and they (scientists) will only give us contrary
Mooney points out that the media are complicit in this, however.
By reporting on fringe scientific ideas, it gives legitimacy to
them, despite the lack of evidence. He suggests science writers do
their own checking on the validity of scientific claims before
merely regurgitating a news release at face value.
In the book, Mooney covers the hot science issues of the day,
including intelligent design, global warming, endangered species and
stem cell research, and shows how Republicans have twisted or
downright manipulated the scientific facts to their political
"Science has managed to answer one of the most profound questions
around -- where does the human species come from? -- but religious
conservatives don't want anyone to know about it," Mooney
"With the spread of ignorance and pseudoscience comes a decline
in critical thinking -- a lapse in our collective capacity to
cut through all the lies and distortions -- and determining which
ideas we should trust."