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

A Time of Reversion

Along with inexplicable tragedy, it seems, comes a reawakening of long discredited ideas, theories and impulses. Amidst grief, we encounter reversion. The examples continue to accumulate: Ann Coulter calls for a holy crusade against the holy crusaders who attacked us. (Vintage 12th century.) A writer in the Washington Times calls for the use of nuclear weapons against Osama Bin Laden. (Vintage Cold War.) Americans grasp for meaning in the nonsense verses of Nostradamus (vintage 16th century), and in an Associated Press photo of smoke pouring from the World Trade Center towers that vaguely resembles the face of Satan. Jerry Falwell declares that God, furious, has withdrawn his protection from our sacred nation. (Vintage time immemorial.) And now another awful and execrable idea -- vintage nineteenth-century -- has reared its head: Social Darwinism. Monday in The Wall Street Journal , the conservative Hoover Institution research fellow Shelby Steele contributed an op-ed titled, "War of...

Muddled Muggles:

Perhaps jealous its sales may trounce those of the wildly popular Left Behind novels -- the evangelical publishing phenomenon scribbled by fundamentalists Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins -- many religious conservatives have been up in arms over J.K. Rowling's phenomenally successful Harry Potter series. The case against the books? According to some evangelicals, they promote Satanism and witchcraft. No one in the media seems to have reported what actual flesh and blood Wiccans (or, for that matter, Satanists ) think of these allegations. But when the fourth book in Rowling's series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire , came out last weekend, religious rightists were heard in abundance. Anti-Potterite camps include the following: Move over, Tinky Winky . Some have alleged that the lightning bolt scar on Harry Potter's forehead, which is vaguely S-shaped, stands for "Satan." Always searching out threats to his brand of Christian morals, Jerry Falwell once accused the purple, purse-...

The Barbary Analogy

Right on cue, it seems, the historians have set in, reminding us that two centuries ago the fledgling United States prosecuted a similar war against terrorism. Only, we didn't call it "terrorism," but piracy . The so-called Barbary pirates, harbored and encouraged by the North African nations Algiers, Tripoli, Morocco, and Tunis (The "Barbary states"), gave the early republic fits by hijacking naval vessels and holding their passengers hostage. The pirates demanded tribute money, but they were also driven by a fundamentalist religious vision that seems achingly familiar today. Some hostages taken by the Barbary marauders could save their lives by "taking the turban" -- converting to Islam. What's not obviously parallel, though, is the nature of the American nation that finally resolved to stop paying the pirates' ransoms and fight back. Sure, our government eventually took the war to the "shores of Tripoli" in the early 1800s, much as we've taken it to Afghanistan over the past...

Crankwatch

Amidst accusations of war profiteering by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, it's important to recall that times like these can give rise to another sort of profiteering as well -- one that attempts to cash in on people's grief. I'm not just talking about fake charities trying to bilk those generous enough to donate to the families of September 11 victims. Consider: John Edward , the celebrity psychic medium and host of the Studios USA show Crossing Over , actually had the gall to record unaired segments in which he purportedly contacts the departed spirits of World Trade Center victims as a consolation to their loved ones. In the latest issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine -- unfortunately not online at this writing -- Edward's spiritualist techniques are thoroughly exposed and debunked by the paranormal investigator Joe Nickell in an article titled "John Edward: Hustling the Bereaved." (Full disclosure: I used to work with Nickell at Skeptical Inquirer .) Edward, explains...

Liberals Love Smallpox

There's no doubt that, with the battle over airline security, partisanship is back in a big way. But who would have ever thought a right-wing commentator would stoop to accusing liberals of killing people who haven't died yet through a smallpox outbreak that hasn't yet happened? That's the gist of the latest Marvin Olasky column , outrageously titled "Cause of death: liberalism" and posted on the right wing clearinghouse website Townhall.com . Olasky, an academic at the University of Texas, is generally credited as the intellectual father of George W. Bush's "faith-based" thinking, and tends to be a relatively cautious columnist (i.e., he's no Ann Coulter). But consider what he has to say about the World Health Organization's campaign to eradicate smallpox: Conservatives tend to have a tragic sense of history, liberals a faith in man's ability to move us toward utopia. Because liberalism dominates American and European culture, we stopped inoculating against smallpox, and now we are...

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