Conservative Attacks on Science

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.

  1. #1 by Ken on June 7, 2012 - 8:39 am

    We do not take science by faith like the left does and we do not glom onto junk and pop-science like the left does.

    • #2 by Glenden Brown on June 7, 2012 - 9:00 am

      Ken – you’re being too cute by far. Conservatives may not take science on “faith” (which is nothing more than a right wing talking point, btw) but you do take things that are whole hell of a lot less reliable on faith, i.e. rejecting the science of evolution in favor of the mythology of the bible. And if you’re going to pretend the right wing rejection of climate science is some sort of noble effort in skepticism, don’t waste your time or mine. When overwhelming majorities of scientists agree on something, it’s a good bet the rest of us should listen and the paid for shills conservatives find to dispute climate science have been disproven more times than anyone can count.

  2. #3 by Richard Warnick on June 7, 2012 - 10:44 am


    If only the Earth’s atmosphere and the oceans weren’t suckers for “pop-science,” our way of life wouldn’t be in danger?

  3. #4 by Richard Warnick on June 8, 2012 - 9:38 am

    Jonathan Cohn, TNR:

    Conservatives never liked left-wing, government-run solutions to problems like unaffordable health care and climate change. These days they don’t seem to like right-wing, market solutions, either.

    It’s an intellectually honest point of view, to which they are certainly entitled. But it does make you wonder. Do they like any solutions at all? Do they even think the problems are worth solving?

  4. #5 by cav on June 8, 2012 - 10:13 am

    Richard, if conservatives actually had brains / morals…a lot of things would be quite different. Sadly. they do not. Also too, conservatives are just thugs by another name.

    brewski and / or Ken, may now retort with a similar, yet misinformed characterization of the left. Pathetic.

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