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

Intelligent Denials

When it's your job to serve as the president's in-house expert on science and technology, being constantly in the media spotlight isn't necessarily a mark of distinction. But for President Bush's stoically inclined science adviser John Marburger, immense controversy followed his blanket dismissal last year of allegations (now endorsed by 48 Nobel laureates ) that the administration has systematically abused science. So it was more than a little refreshing last Wednesday to hear Marburger take a strong stance against science politicization and abuse on one issue where it really matters: evolution. Speaking at the annual conference of the National Association of Science Writers, Marburger fielded an audience question about "Intelligent Design" (ID), the latest supposedly scientific alternative to Charles Darwin's theory of descent with modification. The White House's chief scientist stated point blank, "Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory." And that's not all -- as if to ram...

Beyond Kyoto

Today -- Wednesday, February 16, 2005 -- marks a date that some hoped would never arrive. The much-reviled Kyoto Protocol, which U.S. businesses have spent a fortune to defeat and which President George W. Bush summarily rejected in 2001, now enters into force without American participation. While glad to be spared from this new regulatory regime, U.S.-based greenhouse-gas emitters can hardly regard the world's mobilization to address global warming (141 nations have joined Kyoto) with equanimity. Now that other countries have acted, changes at home may not be far behind. Indeed, because Kyoto has taken so long to get going (the treaty was originally adopted, but not ratified by participating countries, in late 1997), the conversation today has already shifted to what comes next. All sides agree the protocol has flaws, most conspicuously its exemption of developing countries. Moreover, Kyoto obligations end in 2012, meaning the treaty will only have a minor long-term climate-...

Cell Out

In political speechifying, what goes unsaid can count just as much as what gets blurted out. So when President Bush blatantly ignored the topic of embryonic stem-cell research in his recent State of the Union address, it's no surprise that advocates considered his silence potentially significant. Launching into a discussion of medical research with his stock catchphrase about preserving a "culture of life," the president announced that "we should all be able to agree on some clear standards," and then declared, "I will work with Congress to ensure that human embryos are not created for experimentation or grown for body parts and that human life is never bought or sold as a commodity." Whatever their merits, these "standards" have little to do with the core ethical issue in the ongoing stem-cell debate -- whether or not to expand the use of surplus in vitro fertilization (IVF) embryos, which already exist and don't have to be "created," for federally funded research. "It was no...

Discovery Phase

It's official. With recent news of lawsuits over the teaching of evolution in both Georgia and Pennsylvania, even Time magazine now considers the fight over Charles Darwin's theory a live issue again. The New York Times and The Washington Post have both come out against the new anti-evolutionism, while on FOX News , a braying Bill O'Reilly recently announced that "there are a lot of very brilliant scholars who believe the reason we have incomplete science on evolution is that there is a higher power involved in this." O'Reilly then proceeded to call the American Civil Liberties Union "the Taliban" for opposing the teaching of anti-evolutionist perspectives in public-school science classes. President Bush's re-election and the growing political strength of religious conservatives have done a lot to put evolution back on the radar. But in fact, this battle never ended -- and The American Prospect covered it back in 2002. Today's journalists, however, are on a steep learning curve,...

Not a Geologist

We all have our favorite Bushisms, the top one-liners uttered by our recently reinaugurated president that seem to summarize his view of the world. For some, it's George W. Bush's "axis of evil" line. For others, it's his "Wanted, Dead or Alive" remark about Osama bin Laden (a comment that even Bush now regrets). For me, it's, "I am not a geologist, as you know." The line came on December 29, 2004, after the president finally roused himself to say something about the Asian tsunami disaster. A journalist asked Bush whether the United States had a "mechanism in place" to warn about tsunamis. Bush said it was a "very legitimate" question but that he'd have to look into it. “I think our location in the world is such that we may be less vulnerable than other parts,” he began -- but then explained that he lacked the requisite scientific expertise to discuss such matters. Dear President Bush: Americans don't want you to be a geologist. We only want you to talk to geologists when it becomes...

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