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

Inferior Design

On September 26, an event that the national media will surely depict as a new Scopes trial is scheduled to begin. Hearings will commence in a First Amendment lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Dover, Pennsylvania, school district over its decision to introduce “Intelligent Design,” or ID, into its biology curriculum. The analogy with the 1925 Tennessee “monkey trial” certainly has its merits. With a newly rejuvenated war against evolution now afoot in the United States, one being prosecuted by religious conservatives and their intellectual and political allies, it is virtually inevitable that the courts will once again serve as the ultimate arbiters of what biology teachers can and cannot present to their students in public schools. The Dover case was filed on church-state grounds, and the Dover school-board member who drove the policy in question made his conservative Christian motivations clear in widely reported public statements (which he now disputes...

Inferior Design

On September 26, an event that the national media will surely depict as a new Scopes trial is scheduled to begin. Hearings will commence in a First Amendment lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Dover, Pennsylvania, school district over its decision to introduce “Intelligent Design,” or ID, into its biology curriculum. The analogy with the 1925 Tennessee “monkey trial” certainly has its merits. With a newly rejuvenated war against evolution now afoot in the United States, one being prosecuted by religious conservatives and their intellectual and political allies, it is virtually inevitable that the courts will once again serve as the ultimate arbiters of what biology teachers can and cannot present to their students in public schools. The Dover case was filed on church-state grounds, and the Dover school-board member who drove the policy in question made his conservative Christian motivations clear in widely reported public statements (which he now disputes...

The Monster That Wouldn't Die

In with the new blockbusters, same as the old blockbusters. That's my reaction to the latest summer-movie fare, of which I've sampled quite a number of films. I'm certainly not the first to complain about this unimaginative season of remakes, adaptations, and sequels. But as a writer who covers science, I have a slightly different gripe against boring, conservative studio executives and the general Hollywood apparatus. As far as I'm concerned, Hollywood can remake Bewitched and Herbie movies all it wants. It can produce endless Batman and other comic-book movies, and seven Narnia flicks to accompany the seven Harry Potter films to which we're already committed. All of this, I can tolerate. But I'm tired of preachy retreads of the Frankenstein myth, first laid out in Mary Shelley's 19th-century classic and recycled by Hollywood constantly in films from Godsend to Jurassic Park . I'm sick of gross caricatures of mad-scientist megalomaniacs out to accrue for themselves powers reserved...

Labs Benched

In late July, two seemingly unconnected events transpired within hours of each other. First, President Bush nominated John Roberts, a conservative whose ideology-to-intelligence ratio remains unknown and perhaps unknowable, for the Supreme Court. Second, the American Journal of Public Health released a special supplement issue on scientific evidence and public policy, largely dedicated to excoriating a little-known but highly consequential 1993 Supreme Court ruling on the admissibility of expert testimony in court, known as Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals. After discussing the perils of Daubert , the connection between these two events should become clear. Daubert was a "toxic tort" case, a type of litigation in which plaintiffs claim that a particular company's actions or products damaged their health. The product at issue in Daubert was Merrell Dow's Benedictin, a drug for morning sickness that, plaintiffs claimed, caused serious birth defects. To prove their case, the...

Thumb War

Joe Barton, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Sherwood Boehlert, chair of the House Science Committee, aren't exactly known for being the best of pals. Their "rocky relationship," as one former Capitol Hill science-policy staffer put it, appears to date back to the early 1990s, when Boehlert led the successful opposition to the multibillion-dollar Superconducting Supercollider project, a massive underground atom smasher that would have been sited at Waxahachie, Texas, in Barton's district. Later Barton would recall that "one of the biggest disappointments that I will ever have was when they killed the [Superconducting Supercollider] on the House floor." Nowadays, adds another staffer, "there's no love lost" between Barton and Boehlert. Some of that animosity seemed on display recently when Boehlert sent Barton a sharply worded letter rebuking him for opening a controversial investigation of climate scientist Michael Mann and Mann's colleagues. It's an inquiry in...

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