Introduction to the Hardcover Edition
The Republican War on Science has its immediate origins in the summer of 2003, when I received a tip to start looking into reports about the stacking of scientific advisory committees by the Bush administration. As a writer who’d been covering issues at the intersection of science and politics for some time, it was a natural topic for me. I started poking around.
In a sense, though, the book’s origins stretch back much further, to a time when I first realized, thanks to my biologist grandfather, that forces existed in American society that were at war with science, and especially the theory of evolution. I think I had the inkling even then that science—this invaluable institution and, more importantly, way of knowing—stood in need of defending.
With this background, I dove into the project, blogging and reporting by day, writing and caffeinating by night. I conducted scores of interviews. I consumed well over a hundred chais at Tryst coffee house in Washington, D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood.
Before too long, the big picture had emerged. With the ascent of the modern conservative movement and its political domination of the Republican Party, two powerful forces had fused. On issues ranging from the health risks of smoking to global climate change, the GOP had consistently humored private industry’s attempts to undermine science so as to stave off unwelcome government regulation. Meanwhile, on issues ranging from evolution to embryonic stem cell research, the party had also propped up the Christian right’s attacks on science in the service of moral and ideological objectives.
In short, the GOP had unleashed a perfect storm of science politicization and abuse, in the process precipitating a full-fledged crisis over the role of scientific information in political decision-making. Yet this insidious threat—to public health and the environment, but also to good governance, sound leadership, and ultimately knowledge itself—remained obscure to most Americans, veiled by the intricacies of the government regulatory process and the complexities of scientific disputation.
I wanted to tell the full story of how science became a political football in modern American life. And I wanted to make clear the dangerous threat this development poses—to science, to our political system, and even to the Republican Party itself.
Out of this process, with a lot of help from a lot of people, came The Republican War on Science. I think my grandfather would have appreciated the result. I hope that you will, too.
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