Chris Mooney

Chris Mooney is a Prospect senior correspondent and, most recently, author of Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatened Our Future (with Sheril Kirshenbaum).

Recent Articles

Speech Class

I t's not exactly a lot of fun having to stick up for Jerry Falwell. This is especially the case when he's done something as dumb as calling Muhammad, the founder of Islam, a "terrorist" on a recent "60 Minutes" installment. And yet, in the undignified back and forth over the meaning and nature of Islam that seems to play out between conservative Christians and Muslim groups roughly once a week in this country, it may be that Muslims -- or at least, the Council on American-Islamic Relations -- behaved worse in this instance. All Jerry Falwell did was say something idiotic and irresponsible. This is not news . Neither is it unique to Falwell. For months he has been racing Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson (to say nothing of Ann Coulter) to see who can utter the most provocative slur on Islam. But I would suggest that a Friday e-mail alert from CAIR, whose subject line read, "ISLAM-INFONET: Deaths Result From Falwell's Comments," is an offense of a different order. CAIR clearly twisted...

Impaired Faculties?

W riting in late September, the National Review 's Byron York took a telling swipe at Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Contrasting their relatively cozy treatment of conservative University of Utah law professor Michael McConnell, whom President Bush has nominated for the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, with their rejection of Texas Supreme Court Judge Priscilla Owen, York gleefully noted that McConnell is, if anything, more stridently anti-abortion. "Owen, it seems," York concluded, "just didn't know the right people." The right people in this case would be a raft of leading liberal law professors, including Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago, Akhil Reed Amar of Yale Law School, Elena Kagan of Harvard Law School, and Sanford Levinson and Douglas Laycock of the University of Texas School of Law. Many know McConnell from his years at the University of Chicago, academic conferences or elsewhere. Sunstein, a Chicago connection, defended McConnell on The Wall...

Northern Light

"W e're slightly off course. But we wanted to let the trainee run the boat," jokes Chellie Pingree over the din of an outboard motor. It's a chilly, starlit September night off the coast of Rockland, Maine, and Pingree -- a onetime farmer, divorced mother of three, former owner of a wool-knitting business and progressive Democratic Senate candidate -- is providing navigation advice laced with good-natured jabs. Soon she pauses to explain some nautical terminology: A "gong" is a buoy equipped with a bell that rings when waves slap against it; a "spindle" is a tall metal pole with a reflector light that warns boaters about ledges of rock jutting out of the water. Along with the boat's compass, Trip ("the trainee") is using these landmarks to steer, doing it "the old-fashioned way" because the boat's Global Positioning System isn't working. Our destination: North Haven, population 350, an island 12 miles off the Maine coast that's home to scores of rugged lobstermen. Pingree has lived...

Sins of Petition:

I n late January, The New York Times ran an influential story with the headline "Some for Abortion Rights Lean Right in Cloning Fight." Certain members of the "political left," Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg revealed, had united with religious conservatives to support a ban on not only human reproductive cloning -- that is, on cloning used to create new beings -- but also on what is known as "therapeutic cloning," the cloning of human embryos for research purposes. Republicans and Democrats alike want to prevent the birth of cloned babies. But research into embryo cloning may hold tremendous health benefits for those suffering from degenerative diseases like Parkinson's or diabetes. That's why the Democratic legislation pending in the Senate -- a bill co-sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein of California and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts -- would ban only reproductive cloning. And that's why Stolberg's story, claiming that left and right had joined forces to oppose all cloning...

The Future Is Later

I n his recent book Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution , Francis Fukuyama writes, "Cloning is the opening wedge for a series of new technologies that will ultimately lead to designer babies...If we get used to cloning in the near term, it will be much harder to oppose germ-line engineering for enhancement purposes in the future." For this reason, argues Fukuyama, the current cloning debate amounts to "an important strategic opportunity to establish the possibility of political control over biotechnology." The buck -- or, if you prefer, the biotech -- must stop here. By these lights, Fukuyama can't be pleased with the way the cloning issue is faring in the U.S. Senate. As we go to press, it appears that Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas and Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana lack the votes to pass their Bush-backed bill criminalizing both reproductive cloning and the cloning of human embryos for medical research (often called "...

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