Chris Mooney’s book “The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality” has drawn harsh criticism from people on the right. In a recent article he observed:
So what do conservatives have to say in response to this science? Honestly, the objections are quite weak, and frankly provide a wealth of new evidence in support of the book’s argument—that conservatives tend to simply reject science and evidence when it threatens their beliefs. The main conservative counterargument relies on little more than misrepresenting the book and its arguments.
A slightly more serious conservative critique came from Andrew Ferguson of the Weekly Standard who, in a cover story, dismissed both me and Jonathan Haidt, based upon various methodological critiques of psychology studies, especially those relying on subject pools of undergraduates. Ferguson is calling into question the sampling and methodological practices that are used regularly in papers published in the leading journals of the field. In other words, he’s attacking science.
So what’s left? Not much, other than the standard conservative distrust of what academic scientists are up to—coupled with a pretty impressive amount of overconfidence. After all, conservatives seem to think that they are competent to critique–not in the scientific literature, but in the media and on blogs–an entire field. And then, to dismiss it based on those critiques.
A lot of people are clearly threatened by what my book is saying. And no wonder, for the claims it makes are deeply inconvenient, both to conservatives but also to quite a lot of media centrists. (Liberals get a drubbing too in much of this research—for being indecisive and wishy-washy–but somehow they don’t seem particularly worried about that. Which itself is interesting, no?)
Fundamentally, Mooney’s argument holds that conservatives and liberals see the world in different ways and react to it differently. And in responses to his book, conservatives and liberals have responded very differently.