Mooney, Chris 1977-

views updated

Mooney, Chris 1977-


Born 1977, in Mesa, AZ. Education: Yale University, graduated 1999.


Journalist, writer, and public speaker. Freelance writer. Formerly worked at Seed magazine, Washington correspondent, and the American Prospect, senior correspondent. Appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, CSPAN's Book TV, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, NPR's Science Friday, and The Al Franken Show.


Los Angeles Times Book Award, 2005, finalist in the category of "Science and Technology"; Science and Technology Web award, Scientific American, 2005, for The Intersection Web blog; "Preserving Core Values in Science" award, Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, 2006.


The Republican War on Science, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2005.

Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle over Global Warming, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2007.

Also author of a column for the Web site of the Skeptical Inquirer magazine. Contributor to periodicals, including Wired, Science, Harper's, Seed, New Scientist, Slate,, Mother Jones, Legal Affairs, Reason, American Scholar, New Republic, Washington Monthly, Columbia Journalism Review, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe. Also author of the Web blog Doubt and About at and the Intersection Web blog at


Journalist Chris Mooney has specialized in writing about science, including the political influence on science in America. His first book, the best-selling The Republican War on Science, focuses on what he sees as an antiscience movement promoted by Republican politicians, both on the national and the local levels. Although the author notes that Democrats have also contributed to the problem at times, he outlines a continuing record of the Republican Party putting politics before science, often to the detriment of the general public.

The author traces this assault back to the administration of President Ronald Reagan. "As Mooney tells it, today's Republican ascendancy was made possible by the merger of business interests and religious conservatives in the 1970s and 1980s," noted Adam Keiper in the National Review. Nevertheless, the author's book primarily provides "a litany of indictments of misuse and abuse by the … administration" of George W. Bush, according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor.

The wide list of abuses against science by Republicans presented by the author is based on what Mooney perceives as the Republican Party's effort to maintain power and reward allies by placing politics above science. At times, they have even put their faith in politically motivated pseudoscience. Specifically, the author discusses such issues as how the government has taken scientific findings and added their own spin or distortions to fit a Republican speaker's agenda. Mooney also claims in his book that the Republican-run government of President Bush willingly ignores scientific findings that they find problematic for their political purposes. Among the specific science issues Mooney addresses are stem cell research, climate change, abstinence education, missile defense, environmental regulation, and even product safety. Claiming that the Bush administration has been particularly guilty of ignoring or going against overwhelming scientific evidence and consensus, the author examines how the administration has staffed federal science agencies—which were once renowned for their independence under either Republican or Democratic administrations—with political appointees who include fringe scientific theorists.

Brenda Maddox, writing in the New Statesman, noted that the author describes how one aspect of the Bush administration is the "sound science" policy approach. This approach takes the idea of "certainty beyond doubt" as the standard for good science. "Short of this (unattainable) goal, they feel justified in demanding that any proposed policy harmful to their interests be scrapped," wrote Maddox. In his book, the author uses the issue of global warming as one example of the administration putting the fallible "spin" on their discussion of science. When the National Academy of Sciences released its report concerning the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the report noted that, as the panel had found, humans were indeed influencing the world's climate. Nevertheless, Senator James Inhoffe, who requested the report, downplayed the findings saying, according to Maddox, that they "cannot be unequivocally established."

Reviewers noted that Mooney has a liberal bias in his reporting on the issue of science and politics. Nevertheless, they had high praise for The Republican War on Science. Writing in Audubon, Todd Neale called the book "a must-read for anyone who cares about restoring honest debate to some of the most pressing issues of the day." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the author's "readable … volume is the first to put the whole story, thoroughly documented, in one place." Some reviewers also addressed Mooney's bias directly. Calling the book "a diatribe, from start to finish," New York Times Book Review contributor John Horgan nevertheless commented that "Mooney deserves a hearing in spite of these flaws, because he addresses a vitally important topic and gets it basically right."

In his next book, Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle over Global Warming, the author once again takes a look at politics and science, but this time with an emphasis on the science of whether or not global warming is causing an increase in the number of severe hurricanes. According to Mooney, the spotlight turned to the relationship between global warming and hurricanes following a series of violent hurricanes in the U.S. South, including Hurricane Katrina which hit Louisiana and Alabama in 2004 and led to the devastation of New Orleans.

"First came the four storms hitting Florida in 2004—including the terrifying monster that was Ivan—then came Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005, a record year for hurricane destruction," the author noted in an interview on the publisher Harcourt's Web site. "Each of these three Category 5 storms ultimately caused over $10 billion in damage to the United States. Katrina caused an estimated $81 billion in damage and killed fifteen-hundred people." The author added that, at the same time, "new scientific research began to suggest that hurricanes have dramatically intensified due to global warming. Suddenly everything came together …, helping to transform the image of a cyclonic storm into a new icon of global warming."

In his book, Mooney discusses arguments on both sides of the issue of whether or not these hurricanes were influenced by global warming. He follows the careers of the scientists involved in the controversy and also traces how the issue has become amplified and skewed by politicians, special interest groups, and the media. Referring to Storm World as "a well-researched, nuanced book," Lisa Margonelli went on to write in the same New York Times Book Review article: "Mooney tells the story as an escalating battle between William Gray, a leading hurricane forecaster from Colorado State University who disputes the existence of human-caused global warming, and the M.I.T. theorist Kerry Emanuel, who suggested in late 2005 that warming was already making storms stronger."

The author's story about politics, science, hurricanes, and global warming also has a personal side as the author reveals that his own mother's house was destroyed by a hurricane. The author goes on to point out that, despite research and modeling suggesting a relationship between the violent hurricanes and global warming, conclusive evidence has yet to be established. Nevertheless, as the author reveals, environmentalists and media passed judgment and appointed the blame to global warming.

Jeffrey Beale, writing in the Library Journal, noted that the author "is balanced and objective throughout" his presentation of the story and the facts. Referring to the book as an "absorbing, informed account of the politics behind a pressing contemporary controversy," a Kirkus Reviews contributor went on to write: "Mooney closes with several useful recommendations."



American Scientist, March 1, 2006, Daniel J. Kevles "Ideological Assaults," review of The Republican War on Science, p. 180.

Audubon, January-February, 2006, Todd Neale, review of The Republican War on Science, p. 77.

Booklist, June 1, 2007, David Pitt, review of Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle over Global Warming, p. 14.

Book World, July 29, 2007, John McQuaid, "Winds of Change: Is There a Scientific Link between Global Warming and Hurricanes,?" review of Storm World, p. 7.

California Bookwatch, August, 2007, review of Storm World.

Choice, May, 2006, V.V. Raman, review of The Republican War on Science, p. 1622.

Christian Century, November 15, 2005, Michael Ruse, "Science under Siege," p. 29.

Commentary, January, 2006, Kevin Shapiro, "Unintelligent Design," p. 69.

Discover, August, 2007, Josie Glausiusz, "Can Global Warming Be Blamed for More Severe Hurricanes and Thunderstorms? A New Book Tries to Unravel the Science," p. 70.

International Affairs, September, 2006, James Bergman, review of The Republican War on Science, p. 1032.

Internet Bookwatch, November, 2006, review of The Republican War on Science.

Isis, September, 2006, David Sepkoski, review of The Republican War on Science, p. 590.

Issues in Science and Technology, winter, 2006, Daniel Sarewitz, "Scientizing Politics," review of The Republican War on Science, p. 91.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2005, review of The Republican War on Science, p. 722; May 1, 2007, review of Storm World.

Library Journal, June 15, 2007, Jeffrey Beall, review of Storm World, p. 92.

London Review of Books, September 22, 2005, Daniel S. Greenberg, "Those Bastards, We've Got to Cut Them Back," review of The Republican War on Science, p. 17.

Maclean's, July 23, 2007, "Finally, a Book about … Storms and Politics," review of Storm World, p. 63.

National Review, October 10, 2005, Adam Keiper, "A Vast Conspiracy?," review of The Republican War on Science, p. 48.

Nature Medicine, April, 2006, Michael Stebbins, review of The Republican War on Science, p. 381.

New Scientist, October 6, 2007, Jeff Hecht, "Hurricane Warning," p. 60.

New Statesman, October 31, 2005, Brenda Maddox, "Right and Wrong," review of The Republican War on Science, p. 53.

New York Times Book Review, December 18, 2005, John Horgan, "Political Science," review of The Republican War on Science, p. 11; July 1, 2007, Lisa Margonelli, "Wild Is the Wind," review of Storm World.

OnEarth, fall, 2005, Laura Wright, review of The Republican War on Science; summer, 2007, Bruce Stutz, review of Storm World.

Publishers Weekly, June 27, 2005, review of The Republican War on Science, p. 55; February 6, 2006, Matthew Thornton, "Hurricanes Rising," p. 8; April 23, 2007, review of Storm World, p. 37.

Reason, January, 2006, Julian Sanchez, "Unscientific Methods," p. 15.

Science, October 7, 2005, Naomi Oreskes, "Anti-Realism in Government," review of The Republican War on Science, p. 56.

Science Books & Films, November 1, 2005, Sylvia W. McGrath, review of The Republican War on Science, p. 246.

Scientific American, October, 2005, Boyce Rensberger, review of The Republican War on Science, p. 106.

SciTech Book News, September, 2007, review of Storm World.

Skeptic, summer, 2005, David Brin, "Political Science."

Skeptical Inquirer, November 1, 2005, review of The Republican War on Science, p. 64; March 1, 2006, Peter Lamal, "The Rampant Politicization of Science," p. 52.

Tampa Tribune, July 15, 2007, "Hurricane Book's Writer Says Tampa's Luck Running Out."

Times Higher Education Supplement, December 23, 2005, Philip Anderson, "No Facts, Just the Right Answers," review of The Republican War on Science, p. 24.


Doubt and About, (January 30, 2008), Chris Mooney Web column.

Harcourt, (January 16, 2008), "Interview with the author of Storm World, Chris Mooney."

Intersection, (January 16, 2008), "Chris Mooney," profile of author.

Republican War on Science Web site, (January 16, 2008).