Fellow ScienceBlogling Chris Mooney comped me a copy of the second edition of his book, The Republican War on Science, and I have finally managed to get around to writing a review of it. Here’s the short version: buy this book.
It details exactly what the Bush Administration has done to U.S. science. Chris also does the truth a service; he refuses to engage in Compulsive Centrist Disorder. Yes, here are idiots on the Left who hold anti-science beliefs, but the predominant threat–one that holds the reigns of power in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches–is from the Right. He is correct in that the Right not only attempts to incorporate ideological beliefs contradicted by scientific evidence into policy, but that the Right is attempting to undermine what science is. The examples are numerous, but here’s two: the Data Quality Act and the ‘theistic science’ of the Discovery Institute.
I do have some minor quibbles with the book. First, John McCain is not a defender of science: he has ‘flip-flopped’ on creationism. If you’re looking for a Republican defender of science–and they are rather thin on the ground–Lamar Alexander would be he. Second, the idea that moderate Republicans will ride to the rescue still strikes me as naive. I had hoped the second version would have addressed this, but it does not.
The Bush administration has alienated and spurned moderate Republicans such as former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman and former treasury secretary Paul O’Neill, who wanted to take global warming seriously rather than hide behind distortions and evasions of reliable scientific consensus.
In this context, and considering its trade record, we have no choice but to politically oppose the antiscience right wing of the Republican Party. This does not necessarily entail an outright partisan agenda. Encouraging the electoral success of Republican moderates with good credentials on science could potentially have just as constructive an effect as backing Democrats.
But if we care about science and believe that it should playa crucial role in decisions about our future, we must steadfastly oppose further political gains by the modern Right. This political movement has patently demonstrated that it will not defend the integrity of science in any case in which science runs afoul of its core political constituencies. In so doing, it has ceded any right to govern a technologically advanced and sophisticated nation. Our future relies on our intelligence, but today’s Right¬failing to grasp this fact in virtually every political situation in which it really matters, and nourishing disturbing anti-intellectual tendencies¬cannot deliver us there successfully or safely. If it will not come to its senses, we must cast it aside.
‘Moderates’ such as Lincoln Chafee have made one thing clear: when push comes to shove, they will caucus with Republicans. And currently, as Chris describes, the Republican Party is no friend of science, or for that matter, reason. They have been hijacked by religious fanatics and crazed ideologues. These wingnuts are not an aberration; at this point, they are the core of the Republican Party. Nothing changes until the far-right infrastructure the Right has used to take over the Republican Party collapses. Until then the Democrats are the pro-science party–or at least, the anti-anti-science party…
A completely unrelated aside: Our Benevolent Seed Overlords want a picture of the Mad Biologist for their own nefarious purposes. So I ask you: what do you think a Mad Biologist would look like? Click here to offer your opinions.