Introduction to the Paperback Edition
The Republican War on Science first came out in hardcover in the fall of 2005, amidst the unprecedented destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. Even as I went on tour and spoke to large crowds deeply worried about political attacks on science, my own family had fled New Orleans and my mother’s home in the city’s Lakeview neighborhood had been destroyed by ten feet of floodwater. It was a very difficult time, and yet also a crucial one for speaking out about the importance of good scientific information to public policy.
I wish I could say that since those days, the situation I denounced in such strong terms (read the original introduction from 2005 here) had at least slightly improved. Yet if anything, I fear it may have grown worse. The attacks on science, and their sponsorship by Republican politicians, continue apace, with the Bush administration leading the way but key members of Congress following close behind. These politicians, in turn, appear driven by a continual need to appease key sectors of the Republican base that have inconvenient slices of scientific information constantly in their sights.
I wanted the paperback edition of my book to reflect these ongoing developments. So I went to work, revising the text in light of recent events and composing special update sections for the book’s seven main body chapters. Then I topped things off with a new preface to the paperback edition, which explores why the "war on science" has triggered such unprecedented outrage during the Bush administration (hint: it has to do with how this subject resonates with Katrina and the Iraq war); and what we, as scientists and defenders of science, can do about it.
I often heard from readers of the hardcover edition of The Republican War on Science that the book made their blood boil but didn’t explain how to constructively channel their outrage. Ever since then, I’ve been thinking about this problem, as my subsequent writings demonstrate (see for example here). And I’ve concluded that it’s long past time that political attacks on science be met by an effective political response—which is going to require that scientists themselves stand up, in a concerted way, to defend the knowledge they have brought into the world.
If the hardcover edition of my book raised alarm, then, the newly revised paperback represents a call to arms. I hope you will read it in that light, and then join both the scientific community and myself in helping to restore scientific integrity to our government and public life. Imagine a world in which there are real political consequences for politicians who lie to the public about science, just as there are for politicians who lie about anything else of major policy significance. Maybe, just maybe, we can create such a world—starting with the fall 2006 mid-term elections, and then stretching to 2008 and beyond.
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