The Republican War on Mooney
In September of last year, Chris Mooney published his excellent book The Republican War on Science. Mooney documented in copious detail what any sentient person has suspected for some time: that hostility towards science is an integral part of the modern Republican party.
Unsurprisingly, this thesis hasn't played well among Republicans and conservatives, and they have written some nasty reviews of Mooney's book. Two in particular have recently caught my eye.
Mooney can take care of himself, so I will leave it up to him to decide whether a full-blooded reply to these silly reviews is warranted. Here I will only address one point made by both reviewers.
Mooney devotes a chapter to the subject of ID. Writing in Commentary, Kevin Shapiro takes exception to this:
Even the few credible examples of alleged right-wing scientific distortion in the book hardly rise to the level of genuine political abuse. Intelligent Design is an unscientific theory, but the Republican party has hardly made a systematic effort to promote it; the effort has instead been spearheaded by private institutions with only vague ties to some conservative politicians.
Meanwhile, in an essay published in National Review last October, Adam Keiper offered this defense:
The chapter on evolution and intelligent design provides some interesting historical background, but in the end Mooney fails to put the debate in its proper perspective. Conservatives are not politically unified in, not especially motivated by, and in a great many cases simply annoyed at, the intelligent-design debate.
Interesting. Here are two high-profile, right-wing venues trying hard to distance themselves, and the Republican Party, from ID. If only there were more of this coming from conservatives these days.
Sadly, this defense is bogus. Virtually every prominent Republican has come out in support of teaching ID in schools. President Bush supports it. Senators like Bill First, John McCain, Rick Santorum, Sam Brownback and many others openly support it as well. The only Republican senator I know of who has spoken against ID is Chris Shays of Connecticut, and he is frequently derided as a RINO (Republican in name only) by his right-wing colleagues. In the House we find that Ohio representative John Boehner, currently one of the three main candidates to replace Tom DeLay (himself an outspoken, and amazingly ignorant, critic of evolution), wrote a letter to the Ohio state school board pressuring them to include ID in their science classes on the fallacious grounds that the No Child Left Behind Act requires it. He was joined in this effort by Ohio Republican Steve Chabot.
Of course, the Religious Right is four-square behind ID (actually, many of them prefer young-Earth creationism), and since they are a large part of the Rpeublican base their opinions hold great sway over the party generally. Every prominent conservative magazine has published articles either ciritical of evolution or supportive of ID (or both). I don't know of a single one that has published a major article defending evolution. No, an occasional column by George Will or Charles Krauthammer doesn't count.
The main think tank promoting ID is the Discovery Institute, which was founded by ex-Reagan administration people and has its fingers in a wide variety of conservative pies. It is staffed and funded entirely by Republicans. I know of know conservative of any prominence who has criticized them specifically for their activities.
Most damning of all, in every state where anti-evolution measures have been brought before the school board, it has been Republicans who were behind it. I don't know of a single Democrat in any state legislature (we're talking recently, of course, just in case any petulant commenter was planning to throw William Jennings Bryan at me) who has ever introduced an anti-evolution measure.
So it's nice that Keiper and Shapiro want to distance conservatives from ID. Alas, they are a small minority in the modern Republican party.