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The Anti-Science Left? Nope, The Right is Much Worse

A few nights back I was on the Agenda With Steve Paikin, alongside Michael Shermer and Mark Lynas, discussing the “anti-science left.”

My view is that while there are anti-science views on the left wing, they’re swamped by what’s on the right, and that’s really the nature of things–liberals and scientists are allies (and conservatives and scientists are opposed) due to their psychology.

So I didn’t agree with the centrist, pox-on-both-houses framing of the show (and the opinion of Michael Shermer, who argues this). Still, it was a good, meaty discussion:

Nimitz flight deck with oiler HJ Kaiser fueling cruiser off bow

Deck of the USS Nimitz, image credit Julia Whitty


Yesterday, I hosted the latest Climate Desk Live event in DC. The video is here, and a Mother Jones wrap-up piece is here.

The bottom line: I had a retired admiral and a captain of the Navy explaining why climate and energy, respectively, are a seriously big deal to the military. And then I had the former administrator of NOAA reporting on work he’s done for the CIA recently, about how climate extremes could upend unstable regions of the world, like the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East.

So, I think concern about climate and energy is finding a very new audience–of very serious, pragmatic, get-it-done people. And I couldn’t be happier about that.

Video here, article here. Article that originally inspired it all, by Mother Jones’ environmental correspondent Julia Whitty, here.


On Sunday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston, Indre & I recorded the latest Point of Inquiry live with a stellar guest–Steven Pinker–whose work couldn’t be more timely, because it focuses on the root causes of violence and shows that actually, violence across our global society has been in decline. There is both audio and also video:

At the end of the show there’s an interview with Tom Di Liberto, a NOAA meteorologist who two days earlier had won the America’s Science Idol competition at the meeting–a competition for which I served as emcee. Videos of this will be coming soon–for now, here’s an interview with the winner.

David Brin

David BrinFor the latest Point of Inquiry podcast, my guest is also one of my heroes, a man whose books I read as a kid: sci-fi novelist David Brin.

The interview ranged over a broad area–from Brin’s latest writings, to the future of the Internet and the interstellar quest for other intelligent civilizations.

The title of this post quotes one of the many gems of wisdom and insight from the interview.

Some others that I tweeted or will tweet:

The left-right axis is the “most lobotomizing metaphor in human history”: @DavidBrin1 on @pointofinquiry http://www.pointofinquiry.org/david_brin_uplifting_existence/

Kicking the Hobbit: @DavidBrin1 critiques the romantic impulse in sci-fi/fantasy on the latest @pointofinquiry http://www.pointofinquiry.org/david_brin_uplifting_existence/

“I’d much rather have a free bottle in front of me than a prefrontal lobotomy” @DavidBrin1 on @pointofinquiry http://www.pointofinquiry.org/david_brin_uplifting_existence/

Too often, the “furniture of fantasy” stories is anti-democratic, anti-science @DavidBrin1 on @pointofinquiry http://www.pointofinquiry.org/david_brin_uplifting_existence/

How to change the Internet to ensure that bad ideas actually die! @DavidBrin1 on @pointofinquiry http://www.pointofinquiry.org/david_brin_uplifting_existence/

Check the show out here!


The latest video from Climate Desk Live has just gone up. In it, I introduce our event from last week (on a day of unseasonably hot D.C. weather) and then we hear from Rep. Ed Markey and a distinguished panel, discussing how President Obama can fix the climate problem in the next four years. Here it is:

Note–there are some climate deniers in the comments on the video. But it’s a pile-on, with the forces of reason clearly winning….


Paul Krugman is Reading The Republican Brain

Paul Krugman is Reading The Republican Brain thumbnail

krugmanNobel laureate economist and celebrated New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is one of our chief chroniclers of the extent to which the modern right has become detached from economic, scientific, and factual reality.

So it’s only fitting, I guess, that he has been reading my book The Republican Brain.

And how do I know that?

Well, he has blogged about it twice now, writing:

I’m belatedly reading Chris Mooney’s The Republican Brain: if truth be told, I was afraid the book would be too much red meat for my own predispositions, and wanted to keep my cool. But Mooney actually makes a very good point: the personality traits we associate with modern conservatism, above all a lack of openness, make the modern GOP fundamentally hostile to the very idea of objective inquiry. If they want your opinion, they’ll tell you what it is; doubters of orthodoxy need not apply, and will in fact be persecuted.


Chris Mooney wins again: we’re talking about personality types who aren’t responsive to evidence. Indeed, the more often you show them that their hard-money, anti-spending prejudices have been proven wrong, the more deeply those prejudices become entrenched.

I’m thrilled to have such a distinguished reader, and I’m really glad he seems to be getting a lot out of the book.


Five Things Obama Can Do On Climate…Without Congress

Five Things Obama Can Do On Climate…Without Congress thumbnail

obama-climate-changeI have a big piece up at Mother Jones today. Basically, it’s my report on what Obama can do on climate, most of it without any Republican cooperation whatsoever.

In the course of writing it, I have to say I realized that all the chatter about a carbon tax right now is deeply misinformed, or at least incomplete.

The real climate action in the next four years is going to be at EPA. And the worst of all worlds might be if we get a carbon tax, but as part of the deal, EPA is preempted from taking the strong steps it has already launched.

That’s not a perspective you’re hearing at all right now in the commentariat. So, when Obama’s press secretary Jay Carney recently dissed carbon taxes….well, that might actually be a good thing.

Read here for more on why that’s the case.

Jacques Berlinerblau


Jacques BerlinerblauMy latest hosted episode of the podcast is now up–it’s with Georgetown scholar Jacques Berlinerblau, discussing his new book How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom.

Basically, Berlinerblau believes that the Christian Right has routed secularism in the U.S.–no argument there for many atheists and freethinkers.

But where he goes further is arguing that to fix the problem, atheists and religious skeptics need to be building allegiances with moderate religious believers, ranging from Sikhs to, yes, many Catholics.

So far as I know, few if any folks in secularism are actively trying to build these bridges–because of course, the predominant emotion out there is all about denouncing religion, rather than trying to work with it.

So it is a pretty controversial view–and one that should get some attention. Full show here; book link here.

Climate Change Made Sandy Worse

Climate Change Made Sandy WorseI’ve just done a Mother Jones piece to channel my frustration about how the global warming-Sandy issue is being discussed. In my view, people are making it needlessly complicated.

So my piece is about how it’s profoundly simple: Global warming caused sea level rise, then sea level rise increased Sandy’s damage directly. Period.

Case closed.

And apparently that very direct and kinda fed-up take is working, because the piece is the top article at Mother Jones right now. You can read it here.


There are only so many things you can do, prior to an election, to make a difference.

My cardinal contribution, I think, was captured right here: Along with Shawn Lawrence Otto of ScienceDebate.org, I moderated a presidential science policy debate between an Obama campaign surrogate, Kevin Knobloch, and a Republican, long time Rep. and former Delaware governor Mike Castle. (Castle did not represent the Romney campaign, which declined to participate).

The idea was to show–and we did so, successfully–that you can have a serious, substantive, and important debate about science policy and climate change…in essence, about vital issues totally ignored in the 2012 presidential debates.

Here’s my write up of the ensuing event (video also available at that link), which ends like this:

In the end, the debate seemed to bespeak a less partisan, and also more substantive Washington than the one we’ve grown used to in the last four years—a Washington that might actually get things done. The question, then, is why such events are such a rarity.

Candidates for president debate the economy without being economists, and foreign policy without being diplomats. With science issues like climate change affecting nearly every aspect of life in the 21st century, why shouldn’t they also debate those? This event modeled what such a presidential debate might look like, and showed that politicians—and non-scientists working in politics—can not only talk very intelligently about science policy, but that they can also get along doing it.

“I’ve really developed a liking for Kevin,” Castle said in his closing remarks.

“I don’t agree with him,” he quickly added.

Full article and full debate video available here.