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

Warmed Over

The U.S. Senate's leading abuser of science has struck again. Not content with calling the notion of human-caused global warming "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people" (as he did in a July 2003 Senate floor speech ), last week James Inhofe returned with an "update" on climate-change science. In his latest speech , timed to coincide with the final steps toward implementation of the Kyoto Protocol (which the United States won't be joining), Inhofe asserted that "put simply, man-induced global warming is an article of religious faith." Clearly, he hasn't changed his tune. What separates Inhofe's fixation from similar conservative crusades is just how brazenly it ignores what scientists know with confidence about global warming. The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the National Academy of Sciences, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Meteorological Society all broadly agree on this basic point: Temperatures are rising, at...

Cell Block

Two years ago, Evan Snyder, a developmental and child neurologist, was working at the Harvard Medical School, transplanting neural stem cells into the damaged brains and spinal cords of mice and other animals and watching them reconstitute tissue or recover function. “I had just moved to better lab space,” Snyder recalled in June at the Argent Hotel in downtown San Francisco, where he'd gone to attend the Biotechnology Industry Organization's annual conference (BIO 2004). At the time, President Bush had recently announced strict limits on federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research, and Snyder, like many scientists, sensed the federal government's troubled and hesitant relationship with a field he considered deeply promising. Then, in September 2002, in an action that Snyder says “sent out a signal to scientists across the country,” California passed a bill to explicitly endorse embryonic-stem-cell research, thumbing its nose at the White House in the process. Bush had limited...

Earth Last

At a recent hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, the Republican chairman, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, confronted Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Mike Leavitt with a serious complaint. Leavitt had come to the Hill to defend President Bush's 2005 budget, which proposes to slash the EPA's various science programs by nearly $100 million. A staunch conservative, Inhofe once famously dubbed the EPA a "Gestapo bureaucracy" -- but in this case, he stood up for the agency's research-and-development funding. "I'm an advocate of sound science," Inhofe proclaimed. Inhofe has been stressing this theme ever since he took over the committee following the November 2002 elections. He's pledged that on his watch, the committee will "improve the way in which science is used." Last summer he even delivered a 12,000-word Senate floor speech titled "The Science of Climate Change," outlining conclusions he said he'd reached after several years of studying the issue...

Remember the Maine

AUGUSTA, MAINE -- In Latin, the word dirigo , Maine's state motto, means "I lead" or "I direct." On a sleepy summer Wednesday at the Maine State House, with the legislature out of session, this slogan at first seems out of place. Scattered visitors waltz into the capitol without passing through security, having parked their cars in the same small lot as the few legislators who are here working overtime. The low-key scene seems fitting for a state of 1.2 million people, one that sometimes gets cut out of the top right corner of U.S. weather maps. Still, Maine shouldn't be underestimated. Just ask U.S. pharmaceutical companies: Several years ago they failed to take this state seriously, and the mistake could cost them a fortune in profits. Thanks to a cadre of clean-election-financed lawmakers who work closely with (and in some cases hail from) the state's vibrant political activist community, Maine has recently developed a reputation for cutting-edge lawmaking, particularly when it...

W.'s Christian Nation

In November of 1992, shortly after Bill Clinton was elected president, a telling controversy arose at a meeting of the Republican Governors Association. When a reporter asked the governors how their party could both satisfy the demands of Christian conservatives and also maintain a broad political coalition, Mississippi's Kirk Fordice took the opportunity to pronounce America a "Christian nation." "The less we emphasize the Christian religion," Fordice declared, "the further we fall into the abyss of poor character and chaos in the United States of America." Jewish groups immediately protested Fordice's remarks; on CNN's Crossfire , Michael Kinsley asked whether Fordice would also call America a "white nation" because whites, like Christians, enjoy a popular majority. The incident was widely seen as exposing a rift between the divisive Pat Robertson wing of the GOP and the more moderate camp represented by then-President George Herbert Walker Bush. Fast-forward a decade. Republicans...

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