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

Breaking the Frame

When communications consultant Susan Nall Bales talks to environmental groups, she tells them that they can't fix government policies until they first fix themselves. For Bales, that means these groups must become acutely conscious of the stories that they're telling and the hidden chains of reasoning their narratives can set off in the public mind. In explaining their issues, environmentalists tend to predict a wide range of disasters: catastrophic weather phenomena, species extinction, tropical pests heading north, you name it. The canonical example is probably Paul Ehrlich's 1968 book The Population Bomb , which began: "The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970's the world will undergo famines -- hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death." The point is not whether environmentalists have science on their side; many of today's disaster forecasts, such as global warming, may well be accurate. But Bales can demonstrate why doomsday scenarios, factual or...

Circuit Breaker

As early as this week, the full Senate may vote on the nomination of the conservative lawyer Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Estrada's nomination squeaked out of the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 10-9 party line vote: no Democrat supported it, and now liberal activist groups are calling for a filibuster. News coverage has frequently emphasized that Estrada has been appointed to the nation's "second most important court," but has rarely explained what this actually means, or why the Bush administration's desire to pack the DC Circuit with conservative judges is so troubling. From our upcoming March issue, Chris Mooney reports on this crucial but often neglected court: Conservatives are on the verge of controlling the second most powerful court in the United States. That's the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which has sent more judges -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas -- than any...

John Zogby's Creative Polls

I n a recent New York Times Magazine cover story about animal rights, journalist Michael Pollan reported that 51 percent of Americans believe that "primates are entitled to the same rights as human children." It was a surprising finding, but one that Pollan simply attributed to a "recent Zogby Poll." When Pollan's article came out, you can only imagine the celebration at the Doris Day Animal League, a group dedicated to establishing legal rights for chimpanzees. The league's role in commissioning the survey went entirely unmentioned in the Times story. By hiring the renowned pollster John Zogby, the group had essentially purchased an objective fact, one that entered into the conventional wisdom via the nation's leading Sunday magazine. Whomever you blame for this small propaganda coup, it's hardly unique. Media coverage of polling results often neglects to mention the self-interestedness of the sponsor, and John Zogby is a leading enabler. Today, Zogby International's polling...

Survival of the Slickest

I t must take guts to be a "young-Earth" creationist. After all, imagine rejecting virtually all of modern science based on a literal interpretation of Genesis. Imagine opening yourself up to ridicule by insisting that Adam and Eve lived alongside the dinosaurs, Dinotopia -style, and that Noah crammed brontosauruses onto the Ark -- necessary inferences if you think the Bible is true and that God created the earth less than 10,000 years ago. Sure, these views are way outside the scientific mainstream (though polls suggest nearly half of Americans may hold them). But young-Earth creationism is so rigid in its adherence to religious doctrine that there's almost a kind of perverse integrity to it. Unfortunately, it's hard to say the same for the much more polished -- and less openly religious -- group of anti- evolutionists who have recently upstaged young-Earthers in the public eye. These "Intelligent Design" (ID) theorists, as they call themselves, are epitomized by Stephen C. Meyer, an...

Good Company

"A day doesn't go by but somebody comes into my office and says, 'How do I get into the intelligence system?'" remarks Arthur Hulnick, a 28-year Central Intelligence Agency veteran who now teaches international relations at Boston University. This avid interest is a far cry from 15 years ago, at the height of Iran-Contra, when students nationwide were being arrested in connection with anti-CIA protests. Representing "the Company" on campuses in those days, Hulnick once had a pot hurled at him. Hulnick's experience isn't an isolated one: Since last year's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, student applications to the CIA have skyrocketed. The significance of this trend extends far beyond the narrow realm of intelligence recruiting. Post-September 11, students and professors alike have felt inspired to contribute to the national defense, part of the broader boom in civic engagement documented by Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam in this magazine. [See " Bowling...

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