Chris Mooney, 'The Republican War On Science' Chris Mooney about what he calls "the Republican War on Science." From evolution to climate change to stem cell research, he says politicians are mishandling science in pursuit of a larger political agenda.
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Chris Mooney, 'The Republican War On Science'

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Chris Mooney, 'The Republican War On Science'

Chris Mooney, 'The Republican War On Science'

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You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION/SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow.

Critics of the Bush administration who are these days making the case that the government manipulated the data about weapons of mass destruction to meet its political goals--and that is starting a war in Iraq--may see a similar pattern in the world of science. In February of 2004, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a statement, backed by an impressive roster of scientists, accusing the Bush administration of manipulating scientific findings to support its policies on issues from climate change and energy to endangered species and stem cell research.

My next guest picks up on this theme in his new book, "The Republican War on Science." He says that this administration, with roots in the Reagan and the Bush I White Houses and the Gingrich-controlled Congress of the mid-1990s, has systematically and deliberately trampled upon scientific consensus that doesn't mesh with its political goals. Some of their offenses include misrepresenting scientific finding, suppressing research papers and government scientists, and magnifying scientific uncertainty.

So for the rest of the hour, we're going to be talking with journalist and author Chris Mooney about his book "The War on Science" and what he's found in his investigation of the Bush administration's use, or misuse, of science. Our number, 1 (800) 989-8255. If you'd like more information, surf over to our Web site at

Chris Mooney is the author of "The Republican War on Science," published this year by Basic Books. He's also Washington correspondent for Seed magazine, and he joins us today from our NPR studios in Washington.

Welcome back to the program.

Mr. CHRIS MOONEY (Author, "The Republican War on Science"): Thanks for having me on again.

FLATOW: We were just talking about evolution at the top of the hour. Why did the president pick up on this theme almost immediately when he got into office?

Mr. MOONEY: Well, you know, President Bush, I think, has a base to appease, a religious conservative base. And so when he is asked about the evolution issue, he kowtows to intelligent design, because this is something that religious conservatives, I think, really care about. And Senator Frist said something very similar to what President Bush said. Both said, essentially, that intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution in science classes. And this kind of thing--catering to anti-evolutionists--really goes back to Ronald Reagan, who I think brought it into the political mainstream of the Republican Party.

And I think it is a Republican phenomenon. You know, if you look at what happened in Kansas and Dover, Pennsylvania, this week, the Kansas board that decided to denigrate evolution--that was six Republicans. And the Dover board that was voted out for denigrating evolution, that was eight Republicans. This is not a coincidence.

FLATOW: Yet on the other hand, I can quote from George H. W. Bush, the first President Bush, saying in 1990, quote, "Science, like any 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." Was he out of step with his own party at that time, or how do you read that statement?

Mr. MOONEY: Well, I think it's an admirable sentiment, and I think that, generally, scientists have not been so peeved--or were not so peeved--at the administration of George H.W. Bush. I think the reason for that is that George H.W. Bush was generally a different kind of Republican--more moderate, more in the McCain cast, perhaps--and, as such, he was not the same kind of Republican, I think, in terms of how he governs as either Reagan or his son. And that is very important to science, because there's not as much catering to the conservative base among the moderate Republicans, and the conservative base is where I think a lot of the misuses of science are coming from. And there I'm talking about religious conservatives and, also, industry.

FLATOW: You know, just the title of your book, "The Republican War on Science," makes it sound as if the Democrats can do no wrong anywhere.

Mr. MOONEY: I don't mean to suggest that the Democrats have never misused science, or that the political left has never misused science. I think, to some extent, everyone cherry-picks favorable information to support a particular point of view. And, actually, I think, you know, just to give a Democrat example, I think John Edwards in the 2004 presidential campaign was really out of line when he suggested that if people voted for the Edwards-Kerry ticket that people like Christopher Reeve would get out of their wheelchairs and walk again, because they were pro-stem-cell research. I mean, that really exaggerates what's known, and scientists cannot promise specific cures on a specific time line. So that's a misuse of science by a Democrat. It certainly happens.

But I think we have kind of the perfect storm from the Republican Party right now, because the Bush administration is systematically catering to interest groups that are meddling with science across a wide variety of areas, and the key interest groups, again: religious conservatives and regulated business.

FLATOW: What does it actually mean--when you say, `politicize science,' what do you mean by that?

Mr. MOONEY: Well, I mean political attacks on scientific information or on the scientific process. And, you know...

FLATOW: Give me a good example. Give me a good example of what you mean by that.

Mr. MOONEY: Sure. Well, one great example--one of the case studies of the political misuse of science under the Bush administration--and this was originally reported by The New York Times, exposed by The New York Times--is that the White House attempted to edit the content of an Environmental Protection Agency report on the environment, and specifically the climate change section. So political people trying to doctor the scientific information expressed about climate change, and changing it very dramatically so that it no longer reflected the mainstream scientific position, which is that humans are causing global warming right now. So that is political interference with the scientific process and with scientific information.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm. 1 (800) 989-8255. You say that the politicization of science in this administration goes back to August of 2001, when President Bush set the current federal policy on stem cell research. And we all remember when he went on TV and told Americans that more than 30 genetically diverse embryonic stem cell lines existed. And you say that counts, in your book, quote, "as one of the most flagrant, purely scientific deceptions ever perpetuated by a US president on an unsuspecting public."

Mr. MOONEY: Yeah. It was actually more than 60 that he promised the public, and this turned out to be flat wrong. And within days, scientists were saying, `Where did he get this more-than-60 number?' And it turns out that it was just an error. I can't say that the president lied. Maybe he just made a mistake. However, he should not have made such a mistake because he has the access to the best scientific advice that he wants. And this was a relatively simple confusion. And so I don't think that it's very excusable. And I would also add that there has been no apology. And this information was crucial to the policy decision. There's also been no retraction of the policy, despite the fact that its informational basis has been thoroughly undermined, because it's not allowing nearly as much research to go forward as the president promised, because there aren't nearly as many lines as he promised, and those that are available are genetically limited and contaminated.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm. So you're not saying that the president cooked the books on this one--I mean, that he said, you know, `Come up with a number for me that's palatable, and I don't care how you do it'?

Mr. MOONEY: Well, I don't really know what happened behind the scenes. I know that the information is wrong, has been clearly shown to be wrong, and that on--the president announcing a policy decision before a national audience shouldn't make this kind of error.

FLATOW: You call this the new war on science that has its roots in the old war, going back to the Gingrich-era Congress in the mid-1990s. The mantra of that Congress was that policy must rest on, quote, "sound science." Now that sounds reasonable. What's the problem with sound science?

Mr. MOONEY: Well, `sound science' is, I think, a PR catchphrase that is often used by the political right. And it sounds like it means `good science,' but I think that when you look at how they use it, it doesn't actually mean that. It means something more complicated and much more problematic. It actually means, `Don't take action on the part of government unless there is a very, very high burden of scientific proof that has been satisfied.' And that's very different from just saying, `good science,' because sometimes government has to take action even in the face of inadequate information, because sometimes inaction itself has consequences. And I think that the sound science movement is essentially saying, `Don't do that.' But you have to look carefully at how they're using sound science and what kinds of policies it's being used to support.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm. 1 (800) 989-8255 is our number. I guess the best example of sound science might be the political debate over climate change, where--you talk about that a lot in your book.

Mr. MOONEY: Certainly. Well, this is one of the key politicized scientific issues of our time, although now evolution is really giving it a run for the money. But, you know, climate change is an issue where a number of Republicans and the administration have consistently, unfortunately, sought to undermine, in various strategic ways, the scientific consensus view, which is that humans are causing greenhouse warming, and that this is happening now.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm. You also say that the president and the White House has allies in Congress who are very willing to distort science.

Mr. MOONEY: Oh, definitely. You know, it depends on what area you decide to choose. Senator Santorum, for example, from Pennsylvania has been a big ally of some of the anti-evolutionist activities that have been going on. Senator Inhofe from Oklahoma, who's running the Environment and Public Works Committee, has been a big global-warming skeptic and actually went so far as to suggest that the whole global warming thing might be a, quote, "hoax."

FLATOW: Mm-hmm. 1 (800) 989-8255. Let's go to the phones. Let's go to Ethan in San Francisco. Hi, Ethan.

ETHAN (Caller): Hi. It's nice to be on the air. And I just wanted to say, you know, when--you know, Bush was very popular with the Catholic right-wing community, partly because they wanted a president who would put prayer back in school, get rid of the evolution theory and such other things. Now, basically, he's done nothing good to show, and he's gotten us into a pointless war and, you know, now they're eating their words.

FLATOW: And so you're saying what, Ethan?

ETHAN: Well, basically, I'm saying that our president has basically no ethics. He'll do whatever it takes. You know, almost every major country in the world besides the US has gone to the Kyoto conference, and meanwhile Bush and Congress and all his people are, you know, like, repeatedly saying global warming does not exist, even with all the evidence to back it.

FLATOW: All right. Thanks for calling.

ETHAN: All right.

FLATOW: 1 (800) 989-8255. Chris, it's pretty easy to take shots at the president now, isn't it?

Mr. MOONEY: Sure.

FLATOW: I mean...

Mr. MOONEY: We just heard...

FLATOW: Yeah. I mean--and in writing the book, did you get a lot of cooperation from people who would tell you things even though they feared that they might be in trouble with the administration if people found out about it?

Mr. MOONEY: Well, increasingly, what you find--and I certainly talked to some of them--is that there are a lot of whistle-blowers and disgruntled scientists and experts leaving various government agencies because they are fed up with the way, essentially, political people are either changing science or looking over their shoulder and so forth. It seems to be a governmentwide problem. We have it at a wide variety of agencies. So one of the most recent ones is Susan Wood, an expert on women's health drugs, left the FDA, sort of saying that what was done on the issue of Plan B emergency contraception was out of line. Before that, we had Rick Piltz, and he left the Climate Change Science Program, saying that the White House was politically editing the science documents.

So--and, you know, then you can talk about other examples and other agencies, but it seems to be a governmentwide problem, where political people are messing with the science.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm. You also talk about the beginnings of something you call in Congress the `science court' approach. Describe what you mean by that, where scientists are brought before Congress as if the congressional committees are going to be judging whether the research is good or not.

Mr. MOONEY: Well, I think this is a very disturbing trend, and it's something we saw a lot of under the Gingrich Congress and that we still see now. Essentially, it's political theater in which scientists with very different points of view are brought to testify they sort of--each makes their points very loudly, and people watching, including the members of Congress, are like, `Wow, there's a big, you know, debate here. We're not sure who's right; you know, we're just not going to take any political action.' And, in fact, what you can do is sort of stack the debate so you have a couple of outliers, and then you'll have one person representing what most scientists think to be the case, and it makes it look like there's debate or confusion when, in fact, a mainstream position in the scientific community itself has largely been reached. This is certainly the case on climate change, where there are some outliers who certainly do believe what they're saying, but the mainstream scientific community has reached a pretty firm consensus conclusion, and certainly a strong enough conclusion to be used to justify policy action.

FLATOW: Talking with Chris Mooney, author of "The Republican War on Science" and he's also Washington correspondent for Seed magazine, on TALK OF THE NATION/SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News.

We've seen some of that--the idea of creating a debate or a controversy. I know in intelligent design the mantra is `Teach the controversy,' where--the controversy about whether, you know, evolution is valid or there are holes on it where scientists would say there is no controversy. But by even just mouthing those words, you create the illusion there is one.

Mr. MOONEY: Right. They're saying, `Please teach the controversy that we ourselves carefully manufactured.' It's really...

FLATOW: Is that true in other political/science interfaces?

Mr. MOONEY: Yeah, I think it's true of a lot of issues. I mean, you've hit on a very good one, which is--you know, because they actually use the language `Teach the controversy'; that is part of the intelligent design movement's official talking points, because their whole goal is to sow doubt about evolution and sure enough, you know, if journalists cover this as a controversy, then they have effectively won. But I think that climate change is very similar, where there is again an attempt to undermine, denigrate or raise doubts about what is by now a very strong consensus conclusion--again, humans are causing warming; it's been ratified by the National Academy of Sciences, the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union--all of the expert bodies in the area.

FLATOW: You write that actually this is a threat, the way that science is being portrayed and treated--politicalization of it--is actually threatening the integrity of American democracy.

Mr. MOONEY: Exactly. I believe that that's the case. And the reason that's so is because in a technologically advanced society like our own, we really rely upon a good strong relationship between democratically elected leaders and the scientific community or people who have scientific expertise because we cannot expect our political leaders to be PhDs themselves, so they really have got to get good quality information, and that information has to inform their decision making on technologically complex issues. And I think what's often called the politicalization of science is perhaps better understood as a strategic attack on the necessary channels of communication.

FLATOW: Where does the president's science adviser stand in all of this, though? Shouldn't he be like a sounding board for scientific issues?

Mr. MOONEY: Well, you know, the president has a science adviser, Dr. John Marburger. He's been in place since 2001. There was some complaint about him getting into place late, but he's been there for a long time now. Unfortunately, I think that when the nation's leading scientists said there's a problem with the Bush administration and science, as you mentioned, the Union of Concerned Scientists had a number of Nobel laureates and other luminaries of science criticizing the administration very strongly, Dr. Marburger decided that his role was to defend the administration. But I think that that was unfortunate because the critiques of the scientists--I've looked into them--I think that they are very valid. And you know, in that position you would hope that Dr. Marburger would agree on the science.

FLATOW: Well, he can't critique his boss. You either agree or resign, I would think.

Mr. MOONEY: Right, exactly. And what I'm saying is that, you know, there is a time to be a team player and there's a time to stand up for the integrity of science, and I think that given all the political abuses that we've seen, this is the time to stand up for the integrity of science.

FLATOW: Talking with Chris Mooney, who's author of "The Republican War on Science," published this year by Basic Books. He's the Washington correspondent for Seed magazine. We're talking about his research and view on the shortcomings of the Bush administration; it goes back historically, he's saying, to the Reagan administration and possibly as history--we will probably trace more of it. We have to take a short break, so we'll come back and take more of your calls and talk more with Chris Mooney, and see what you'd like to talk about in conversation with him. So stay with us. We'll be right back after this short break.

I'm Ira Flatow. This is TALK OF THE NATION/SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News.


FLATOW: You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION/SCIENCE FRIDAY. I am Ira Flatow.

We're talking this hour with Chris Mooney, Washington correspondent for Seed magazine and author of "The Republican War on Science," out this year from Basic Books. Our number, 1 (800) 989-8255.

You also, Chris--before--we're running out of time, there's so much to talk about. Let's talk about some of the tactics that you mentioned that are used to discredit good science and have it labeled as junk science. It's almost like you're saying we're in a 1984 situation where things are backwards.

Mr. MOONEY: Definitely. Well, there's a wide variety of techniques that are used, and one is to label good science junk science. But there's a number of things going on. I think that there are, on the one hand, they're attacks on, actually, the results of science--misrepresentations, distortions, exaggerations, selective citation of scientific uncertainty, which is very frequently--you want to undermine a strong scientific view, you say, `Oh, wait. Well, it's uncertain.' Well, everything is uncertain, but actually we know a lot as well.

And then at the same time, another form of abuse is trying to meddle with the process of science rather than the results, so you get slanting of scientific advisory committees so that they will be politically tilted, and you might get a different result than you would get otherwise, or you get demands for more and more review before the government can take action, and this is essentially using science to achieve paralysis by analysis. So there's a variety of different techniques used. I think that the war on science is opportunistic and people will settle on any technique as long as they think it'll be effective in attacking information they don't like.

FLATOW: Well, what is wrong with the scientists that they bring forward? You never see--well, I shouldn't say `you never' 'cause never is a long time--but people are always bringing, you know, other scientists who just dispute what your facts are.

Mr. MOONEY: Well, this is why science is so politicized. There's always dissent within the scientific community, and this is a good thing. We want this situation to exist. But the politicization or the political abuse of science occurs when politicians say, `You know what? I'm going to appoint myself to choose these couple of outlier scientists and say that they're right and ignore what the entire mainstream scientific community is telling me.' That is not the role of politicians to decide which scientist is right. Politicians need to listen to good well-established scientific advisory processes, such as those that come from the National Academy of Sciences where a number of experts get together and decide what their best take is on the state of knowledge. Politicians need to use the best available science, not the science that they cherry-pick out of convenience.

FLATOW: Let's talk about what you say in your book as remedies, things that need to be done. And one of the things you point out is that we need to reinstate something like the Office of Technology policy that was disbanded.

Mr. MOONEY: Sure. Well, this was one of the landmark moments in what I call the war on science. The Gingrich Republicans took control of Congress and they promptly got rid of Congress' well-established and world-renown scientific advisory body, the Office of Technology Assessment. We need to bring it back; Congress is flying blind essentially without science advice, and it shows. And bringing back something like the Office of Technology Assessment would, I think, partially help to depoliticize science in the sense that you would have a well-established scientific advisory body with a bipartisan board of directors who are members of Congress that would give Congress its assessment of the best state of knowledge, and it would be much harder for members of Congress to go out and listen to a think tank or a lobbyist or an interest group and get a contrary spin on the science because Congress' own science advisers would have given them a statement on whatever topic it is.

FLATOW: What about you point out the need for scientists to speak out more?

Mr. MOONEY: Right.

FLATOW: This is something--we're always looking for scientists to tell us what's on their mind. It's hard to, you know, find them.

Mr. MOONEY: They're waking up a little bit, because not only are they extremely outraged about the political misuses of science in the Bush administration, but now they're also outraged about the anti-evolutionist brush fire that is essentially sweeping the nation. So they're worried about it on the national level and they're worried about it on the local level, and so scientists are really starting to energize. They need to do more though. They can sign statements, you know, talking about how the president's administration has misused science. That's a start. But signing statements isn't enough. They have to get involved at the local level in these evolution/creationist fights and they need to stand up for the state of scientific knowledge and they need to explain to the public what they know. They need to engage because they know a lot of great stuff, but they're losing these battles because it isn't translating. Their knowledge is not translating to the public. So scientists have to think about being better communicators; publishing great papers is not going to be enough anymore.

FLATOW: But you also need more than just them being great communicators. You need the media to understand the--and be able to understand the fine points of policy--Don't you?--and fine points of the science when people are trying to come up with different points of view.

Mr. MOONEY: Sure. I lay part of the blame--only part. Part of the blame for this problem I think does lie with the media because the media gets taken in all too frequently by politicizing of scientific views and strategies. And we mentioned this a little bit before, but essentially they're often strategic attempts to create the semblance of scientific debate where it doesn't actually exist, such as evolution or climate change.

Now there are issues where scientific debate does exist, and in that case journalists should cover it in a 50-50 kind of fashion. You know, one side, it says this, one side it says the other. But they shouldn't be involved in constructing a phony he said/she said debate because that misleads the public about the state of scientific knowledge and that's not a journalist's responsibility.

FLATOW: What do you think of Michael Creighton's efforts to discredit climate change through a critique basically disguised as a novel?

Mr. MOONEY: Well, you know, what I'd like to say about Creighton is that since he wrote a novel, you know, I could write a novel in which smoking didn't cause lung cancer because in the world of novel writing, you are god. You control the laws of the universe, but I don't think my writing such a novel would be a very helpful contribution to political discussion, and that's basically my take on his contrarian book about climate science.

FLATOW: 1 (800) 989-8255. Let's go to Colin in Wayne, Michigan. Hi. Welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY. Colin, are you there? Wayne, Michigan? I hear you. No? OK. Let's switch gears. Let's go to Mike in Oxford, Ohio. Hi, Mike.

MIKE (Caller): How you doing?


MIKE: I originally came in on evolution, but global warming is just as good because I think it presents the same types of problem, and I see the problem is we aren't properly educating students. You know, religion teaches stuff as fact, and unfortunately in science classes we do the same thing. I mean, science is a process, and you go through stuff. So I mean, you know, we believe in evolutionary theory because there is absolutely nothing else that will fit, so if you're talking about going through ideas--providing the ideas that would make sense if we taught how science is done right and why we accept certain theories as being the best we have. And the reason I'm stressing the best we have is because, for instance, Newtonian mechanics and quantum theories are very exact. String theory is highly speculative. Evolution and global warming are somewhere in the middle, yet they're all lumped together as theories and so people naturally come along and say, `Hey, well, it's just a theory.' You know, that's one part of it.

You know, but you know, the media have a lot to do with it. You know, for instance, since we're talking about global warming, on the issue of global warming as far as I can tell there's a very short, concise, scientific definition. It's pumping of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere so that it heats the Earth. Now I'm not going to argue--it's obviously that there's climate change. There's glaciers melting, you know, there's longer summers. Insects are coming out earlier in the spring. There's all sorts of things to indicate climate change. But there isn't a whole lot of evidence to show even though we're dumping tons of, you know, greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that the atmosphere is warming at all. John Christy and Roy Spencer for years, you know, have been refuting all of the things that have come along. Now they until, I think, last May were who Nature used to vet the science on it. So I mean, you know, unless scientists are using different definitions, which never gets to the public, that's part of what's causing the confusion.

FLATOW: Chris?

Mr. MOONEY: Well, I was agreeing with the caller throughout most of it until we got on to the details of climate change. And the reason that we say that humans are causing climate change is because scientists cannot explain what we're seeing just by invoking natural causes. They need to overlay on top of that the human greenhouse warming effect, and then they're able to find models matching observations, and they find that they have a very good, strong explanation. The caller mentioned the Christy work, which is not on the whole atmosphere; I believe it's on the troposphere.

MIKE: It's on the lower atmosphere.

Mr. MOONEY: Oh, OK. I'm not sure if that's right or not, but you know, this work has been challenged but actually very recently.

MIKE: Yeah. I mean, that's what happened. Nature used another set and they got upset and wrote an open letter to it. But again, you know, I mean, the point isn't that I...

FLATOW: You made an interesting point before that we didn't pick up on is that we're not teaching our kids to be critical thinkers enough.

MIKE: I think we're teaching science the same way people teach religion, that it's truth.

FLATOW: Well, I think we--my own personal opinion is we're teaching science too much like flash-bang, you know, demonstration in the classrooms.

MIKE: Right.

FLATOW: We don't teach you how to actually collect data and do things and make those--you know, make the observations enough as real scientists do. You know, too much a little--I think...

MIKE: And you know, Ira, you're real good about it, but you know, I listen to the way you run your show when you have one expert on, and people are much looser with definitions than they are when you have two or three on. I mean, I thought it was a wonderful show about a month ago when you had two or three scientists talking about the hurricane. They were very precise; they were very nuanced in what they were saying. And you know, you don't always get that.

I mean, with respect to the reporter you have now, I mean, you know, Christy and Spencer might in fact have it all wrong. They might in fact be in the pocket of big oil that's in Alabama, or you know, whatever you want to say. But you know, to say that, you know, we are seeing the effects of global warming and we can't explain it so it's gotta be greenhouse gases--and you have an expert on the atmosphere saying, `We're seeing no pattern in the atmosphere,' I mean...

FLATOW: You have to admit that the overwhelming number of scientists believe that global warming is happening.

MIKE: And I think global warming is happening. But you know, there's a difference between saying we're having a whole bunch of local conditions causing the Earth to warm up, and saying the Earth is warming up because the atmosphere is warming up. I mean, it's different. I mean, think about what your hurricane people say.

FLATOW: But your definition of global warming is very narrow.

MIKE: That's the only--that's the scientific definition.

FLATOW: Well, I know, but the fact that it just shows up as greenhouse gases--the oceans are acidifying, the ocean temperatures are change--it's not just, you know, the narrow definition I think that you're bringing into it--at least the evidence is just not the level of carbon dioxide.

Mr. MOONEY: This is--I mean...

MIKE: And again, Ira...

FLATOW: Hang on. I have to let--let me take a break 'cause I have to give an ID.


And now we can go ahead. Let me get Chris in 'cause you--you've called into question his veracity as a reporter so let me have him reply. Chris?

Mr. MOONEY: Well, not really calling into question my veracity I don't think, but I think what I'm hearing is what I call, you know, the selective citation of scientific expertise. So a couple of experts are cited in order to challenge the global warming account. That's what our caller is essentially doing. What I'm saying is there are always people who dissent from what is now the mainstream accepted scientific position. You can always find them and you can always selectively cite them. But I think that certainly politicians should not be engaged in this game of cherry-picking experts; they should be listening to the National Academy of Sciences, they should be listening to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, they should be listening to consensus. And that's really all that I'm saying, because otherwise it's really easy to politicize science and politicize expertise.

FLATOW: Thanks for calling, Mike. 1 (800) 989-8255 is our number. Do you see any change in the state that we're going through now?

Mr. MOONEY: You know, people have complained about my book and it outrages them, and I don't tell them anything that makes them feel any better. And so, you know, I'm not that optimistic. I think that there's an incredible amount of distrust right now between the scientific community and the administration. I think it's an unfortunate situation. But I don't see it getting any better, and I think that is largely because the administration will not admit there's a problem here. We have the nation's leading scientists saying they're distorting information again and again and again. It's now up to 48 Nobel laureates. You would think this would tip off the administration: Hey, we've got a problem here. But they won't accept that. Until they accept that, you know, I don't see how we're going to get any reconciliation.

FLATOW: So you think that we're just going to be duking this out now.

Mr. MOONEY: We've been duking it out for a while and, you know, I don't see any change. In fact, if anything I see more problems, and now I see the evolution fight picking up, which is another huge political science quagmire, and you know, that is just really kicking into gear. You know, the Dover fight was the first big one. Now we're going to have a huge Kansas fight and after that I'm sure there'll be another state, another locality; this is all going to go on until the Supreme Court comes in again.

FLATOW: That's interesting 'cause this is, you know, going back '80s years I mentioned before. This is an 80-year-old fight. Why is it rearing its head now again? It's sort of been quite for a while.

Mr. MOONEY: Because the United States has an indigenous anti-evolutionist movement that has been with us for almost, as you point out, a century. And their commitment to attacking evolution in various ways, 'cause the forms of attack they take evolve, interestingly, but their commitment...

FLATOW: Let me point--well, let me just jump in 'cause we have just a couple of minutes. Could it be that we went through a brief age of liberal science that started with Roosevelt in the New Deal and lasted through post-World War II, and then in our history this may be looked at as a blip on the radar?

Mr. MOONEY: Well, gosh, let's hope not. I mean, this was a great--and some would even say heroic era when science was used essentially to win the war, raid out a bomb and so forth, and then the science was wielded in peacetime to help advance society and, you know, it fed into the space program and put a man on the moon and all these good, wonderful things that we see as great American achievements, even if maybe the bomb was not the greatest of achievements. But you know, I'd hate to lose that tradition; I really would. I think that there is a danger--I'm not ready to say that we've completely lost it yet. But there certainly is a falling off now from that...

FLATOW: And we also see the rise of China and India and creating their own research institutions where they--you know, companies not hiring scientists from this country anymore.

Mr. MOONEY: Right, well, it was sort of inevitable that the rest of the world was going to catch up to us in science to some extent, but we're certainly not helping the matter by constraining our own scientists when it comes to something like embryonic stem cell research.

FLATOW: Right. Thank you very much for taking time to talk with us today.

Mr. MOONEY: Thanks.

FLATOW: Chris Mooney, Washington correspondent for Seed magazine and author of "The Republican War on Science." It's certainly a book that'll get you thinking.


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Have a great weekend. We'll see you next week. I'm Ira Flatow in New York.

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