Why Republicans Deny Science—And Reality: Request For Help

Update The link to Sam Harris’s abysmal study are now provided.

That is the (modified) subtitle of the sanctimoniously self-satisfied Chris Mooney’s new book, “The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science–and Reality.” I just this morning learned of this latest entry of dismal statistics from Jonah Goldberg’s NRO column (see also this).

Regular readers will be long familiar with the parade of faulty papers which claim that Republicans, conservatives, and Christians are stupid, unthinking, easily led, uncompassionate, and set off on their sad road by delusional beliefs in God or because they once attended a Fourth of July parade (yes, really).

Apparently Mooney, who also wrote The Republican War on Science, has compiled these studies and come to the conclusion that the sheer number of them proves that he and his fellow leftists are just better creatures. As in wired better, genetically superior, purer souls by birth—made of the Right Stuff, worthy of what comes to them, more worthy, perhaps, of life.

Doubt me? From the blurb: “A significant chunk of the electorate, it seems, will never accept the facts as they are, no matter how strong the evidence.” Just you ponder what this sentence implies.

I have not yet read the book: my information comes from Mooney’s other writings, the comments to his book on Amazon (which amusingly pairs Mooney’s book with Rachel Madow’s Drift), and my long exposure to the same genre of papers which Mooney uses as the basis for his book.

I have been meaning for quite some time to compile a list of the posts I wrote exposing the flaws, biases, faulty statistics, unwarranted conclusions, rampant, wild-eyed speculation, bizarreries, and even gaucheries of these papers. But the key word is “time:” I haven’t any. Yet I have begun the list today here (I checked back to 30 June 2010). I’ll later reproduce it under my Start Here tab.

Can I ask your help in reminding me of the relevant posts? Write them in the Comments section or send me an email. Send me other criticisms as well, if you can. Or send me links to news reports or papers which make claims along the Moonian line.

Send this list (a link to this post) to anybody in thrall to Mooney or who thinks well of his ideas.

The New Mismeasure Of Man: Official List

(Say: good title for a book.)

Supplementary papers likeAcademic Pscyhologists Over-Rely On WEIRD People: Overconfidence Results, Women Spot Snakes Faster Before Their Periods, and How To Present Anything As Significant are okay, but not the main thrust. Eschew global warming unless the focus is on what kind of people reasonable, clear-thinking skeptics (i.e. “deniers”) are.

It’s worth reading those reviewers mentioned about. One reviewer claims that one of the main points of Mooney’s book is “The liberal/conservative divide has widened over the past few decades not only because of the conservative revolution of the 1970s-80s, but also because of the growth of cable news and the Internet. The new sources allow conservatives to have easy access to like-minded thinkers and a wide array of ‘experts’ to back up their erroneous claims and create a new reality that conforms to their worldview.”

Yet–somehow—leftists are immune to this kind of mindless herding. Sheesh.

Update Goldberg posted this video (hat tip to Nate Winchester) yesterday (I didn’t know about this study, but it’s one for the books).


  1. Alex

    Reminds of a the super race theory, eugenics, nazism, the second world war, Planet of the Apes…

  2. Ray

    Why do people like Mooney claim to be reality based when they continually produce nonsense like this? I think they protest too much. It’s like Dan Rather still protesting those memos really are true. It doesn’t matter that it has been shown that no 1970s typewriter could have typed those memos. Reality is what Dan rather believes.

  3. Cary

    I think the quotation “A significant chunk of the electorate, it seems, will never accept the facts as they are, no matter how strong the evidence.” is absolutely correct. From truthers, moon landing conspiracy theorist, to George Bush is evil believers. The statement is non-partisan, so I not sure why you highlighted it.

  4. Why is there no Kindle version of “Breaking the Law of Averages”?

  5. JH

    This book is as good as Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg, so I’d never bother to read it. Well, I don’t trust the majority of journalists! Journalism as practiced by David Brinkley is a thing of the past. Blogging, especially those about politics and sometimes about scientific/statistical results, becomes a game of Chinese whispers.

  6. Scott

    To sum up Chris Mooney’s a priori position behind “The Republican Brain”…

    “I think Republican’s are dumb therefore I’m smart.”

    I’m guessing he votes Democrat.

  7. Joke

    Ah! I’m too late, Dave posted the piece from the Crimes already. I can’t help but agree with Cary: there are some staunch conservatives who deny facts and affirm theory. My personal favorite is chem-trails. *ugh*

  8. Since psychologists have recently heard of the Cognitive Reflection Test, we can expect a spate of studies proving conclusively that conservatives are less analytical … at least when they’re Ivy league freshman. So far, they’ve only used it to show that religious people are less analytical but there will be other uses.

    How long will it be before they find that handling a gun will make someone less analytical? How long will it be before they find that driving a gas guzzler makes people less analytical? etc. etc.

  9. Dave Morris

    Looks like we were both too late, I just realised he covered this on the 1st. Whoops.

  10. cb

    Given that Leftists have in the past done nothing but tell lies when it comes to books like these (well, and everything they touch), would someone care to explain what the point is in reading MORE of their books now?

    I get that a list of past evils would be nice, but if there is to be no commensurate action, then why even bother?

    If lying has no consequence, then any and all communication is rendered irrelevant.

    Have you spent time at Jon Ray’s pages (http://jonjayray.comuv.com/tripod.html, etc. etc.), and read just what these people ARE? What about (http://paradigmsanddemographics.blogspot.com/)?

    There is no point is ‘debating’ hippies: they are liars and murderers. ‘Talking’ to a hippie makes as much sense as does talking to cholera.

  11. Outlier

    Republicans versus Democrats? Not well defined. Conservative versus Liberal? On which issue? Right versus Left? A one-dimensional measure which doesn’t fit reality. Religious versus Atheists. Everybody religiously believes in something. Fascist versus Socialist. You would be surprised:

    It isn’t a question of Socialism being good or bad, or Capitalism being good or bad, or even Empire or Monarchy being good or bad. It is just a question of when and how The Evil Bastard can rise to power and parasitize that particular system. Some are more resistant than others, but none is perfectly resistant.

    Mooney is just cheap trash for the gullible. He might as well be dissing Ford and praising Chevy. Read Chiefio for the deep insights.

  12. Luis Dias

    Everybody religiously believes in something

    Do you religiously believe in that absurdity? Do you even know what “religion” means? Methinks you do not.

  13. Outlier

    Luis, you are correct to question that statement since it is merely empirical and cannot be proven, a mere belief. But is it absurd? Why? I don’t think atheists and believers are genetically different; I think you would have a hard time finding any differences except in the content of their beliefs. In material terms, two identical computers with different programs. Your typical atheist and believer probably have surprisingly similar day-to-day values; it’s only the rationale they use to support them which is different.

    Here is a new movie which is unexpectedly relevant to some of the discussions on this blog:
    “George Harrison: Living in the Material World”. Highly recommended.

  14. Luis Dias

    Outlier, I’d venture that if you are arguing that religion stems directly from genetics and that we all are somehow destined to experience it, it kinda cheapens the concept itself, does it not, since evolution doesn’t care about metaphysics but rather with whom survives or not. Ironically, it’s a very “new atheistic” take on the issue. If however you are not, then I’m clueless at why you bring genetics up. To say that atheists and theists believe in the “same things” overall is obviously true and irrelevant. That does not make an atheist a “religious person”. Hope to have cleared your mind on this issue.

  15. Luis Dias

    PS: Having seen that video above, I’m appalled not only to the reporting of the “study” but to the study itself. Wow, conservatives don’t find lolcats and lolRAINBOWS as “beautiful” as liberals. The conclusion should have been (and remember, I’m quite the liberal here) that conservatives generally show a better taste than liberals on what they like. But NO, if conservatives do not appreciate LOLCATS and LOLRAINBOWS, they are ev1l bastards. OKTHNKSBYE.

  16. Steve Standridge

    Ok, I will now have to add your site as a daily “must read!” I just stumbled upon your blog and was heartened that there is at least one conservative high level thinkers – obviously an aberration of the natural order of things if you believe such enlightened thinkers as Chris Mooney and Jon Haidt. Undoubtedly, Mooney’s credentials as a serious scientific scholar (BA in Lit) indicates his works must be scientifically rigorous. All I can say, as PhD nearing ABD status I am constantly finding methodologically suspect research. Moreover, I dare say that much of Mooney’s research had to rely on on the “soft” sciences (e.g., sociology) to support his thesis. Keep in mind, that social scientists are largely lazy. They suck at rigorous statistical analysis, so they default to using qualitative methods. Don’t get me wrong, there is much value in qualitative research and can provide amazing context. But, too often qualitative researchers extrapolate a narrowly focused qual. research study to a larger population – a definite no no. This, in turn, gets cited and is how dubious research findings become lasting and unchallenged “facts.” It’s an insidious cycle. Again, thanks for being a rarity in academia.


  17. Outlier

    Luis, I’ll try to stay on topic here. I haven’t bothered to see how Mooney defines a Republican. We can safely assume that there are Republicans following many branches of the Judeo-Christian religions. We cannot safely assume that there are no Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, or followers of other religions. For all I know, there are Scientologists, Hare Krishnas, etc. There may even be atheists and agnostics. All we can say is that there probably aren’t many Republicans who worship Stalin. So without reading Mooney, I’m pretty sure that what he writes isn’t worth reading. Anybody looking for genetic differences between people with different beliefs (and mostly lumped into one group) has got to be a mental case. Or more precisely, look all you want, but be careful if you believe you have found them.

    OT, spirituality is the new religion 🙂 meaning that religion is taking someone else’s word for what God says, spirituality is finding your own god experience (probably more popular on the left than the right) — insert many smilies here, this is not something I want to debate or defend.

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