Eight good essays on Mooney

There is a most excellent online seminar on Mooney’s Republican War on Science going on over at Crooked Timber. The usual gang is reviewing it, with the addition of the inestimable Tim Lambert and Steve Fuller. Wait a minute…Steve Fuller? That Steve Fuller? Steve Fuller. Steve Fuller!


I saw some glimmers of some interesting ideas at the start of Fuller’s ultimately long-winded essay, but they expired even before he started defending the “positive programme behind intelligent design theory” and collapsed into tired pro-creationism mode. When he called George Gilder and Bruce Chapman “technoscience sophisticates”, two people who know no biology and are proud of it, yet rail against basic evolutionary biology, I gave up. I don’t know what a contemptible pseudoscientific poseur like Fuller is doing in there, actually—maybe they should have invited Tom Bethell or some similar anti-science crank in, to give even better balance.

Oh, well. You can skip over that one. The rest of the online seminar is much more sensible.


  1. Cyde Weys says

    Wooohooo! I met Mooney in person last Wednesday and I was struck by how intelligent (and how young!) he was.

  2. Sean Foley says

    From Fuller’s essay:

    “And, at least in the US, the ballot box more reliably removes suboptimal politicians than peer review identifies suboptimal science.”

    Ah, Bizarro World. It’s a cube, you know.

  3. says

    I can’t wait to read Republican War on Science. It’s about time somebody officially called the GOP out for its downright hostility to science. From global warming to evolution and beyond, the GOP is anti-science to the core, to the extreme detriment of our country. Although, I’m not sure the Democrats are all that much better. After all, John Kerry wouldn’t shut up about the fact that he used to be an altar boy, during his failed presidential run.

    Most scientists don’t care about his theological ventures, I’d say.

  4. Francis says

    I actually took a shot at commenting there on some of the more outrageous things i read. other people are welcome to keep me company.

  5. jbark says

    Michael Berube had me believing for a while that the “post-modernism” bogeyman was indeed just that. And that the Sokal Hoax and its legacy might not have actually meant what it seemed to mean.

    But then he bent over backwards to apologize for Steven Fuller and undid all that good will (though I still think Berube himself is great).

    That Crooked Timber entry only cements those feelings.

    And while he seems well regarded in the blogosphere, I generally can’t stomach more than a few sentences of Dsqaured either.

  6. says

    I’ve ordered Mooney’s book from Amazon, and I can’t wait to read it, because I’ve read some great reviews. But, as a bit of an OT thing (although something I imagine is of interest to most pharyngula readers), does anyone know any useful books/websites/essays etc concerning Bush and the way he and his administration have screwed over science since 2000?

    I’m asking because I have a cousin coming to stay (over in Australia) who is a rabid Bush fan, and we’re looking forward to some interesting conversations, so I wanted to be able to get some proof for my assertion that Bush has been terrible for America’s role as a leader in the scientific world. I have a small collection already, but I figured the readers of this blog would have some great examples I may not have heard about, or more accurate descriptions of more well known idiocy.

    I can access journal’s and newspapers and whatnot through my brothers university membership, so any reading material anyone could recommend would be very much appreciated.



  7. dbpitt says

    Great book. I can’t wait to see the documentary. Its going to be done by Morgan Spurlock, the guy from Super Size Me.

  8. says

    This is going to sound like ad hominem, but I really mean it as an observation, with no particular bearing on his actual arguments. Steve Fuller seems to be someone whose brain is fundamentally broken in a way that renders him unable to perceive the badness of his own reasoning. And the brokenness seems to stem from an unshakeable, narcissistic love of his own authorial voice. In Fuller’s world, beauty is truth, and truth is beauty, and holy shit, his writing’s so beautiful, and so he cannot help but write and write and write, generating more beauty and therefore more truth with every additional sentence. The fact that his writing strikes a normal English speaker as smug, meandering, illogical, and factually unsupportable sophistry is something he simply cannot perceive. He’s sort of like a tone-deaf man who thinks he’s got a great singing voice, except that the music he cannot hear is reason.

  9. says

    Fuller seems to be confirming my hypothesis that many PoMos are in fact using it to avoid putting religious beliefs up to scrutiny. (This is particuarly true of some newage [pronounced like sewage] beliefs, but not exclusively such.)

  10. Barry says

    Fuller strikes me like somebody with far too much time and energy, who’s mocking liberal academia by parody. He’s adopted the persona of a guy who’s the epitome of what the right thinks that social scientists are. Bad reasoning, no common sense, no logic, but thousands of words at a drop of a hat.

  11. says

    He’s sort of like a tone-deaf man who thinks he’s got a great singing voice

    Cog’s description of Steve Fuller applies to David Berlinski, too. I finally got around Berlinski’s A Tour of the Calculus, which I was desperately hoping to find enjoyable and insightful (despite his foolish alliance with ID devotees). No such luck. Berlinski spins out paragraph after paragraph of creative but turgid prose, expecting the reader to be stunned by his enormous vocabulary and vast erudition. Stunned? Numbed is more like it. (I just read the section where Berlinski claims to have enlightened a brilliant Hungarian math professor about the concept of continuity. Since that is ridiculous on its face, there must be a symbolic message embedded in the text that is too esoteric for me to decode.)

    I wonder if Fuller and Berlinski are friends? They could talk to each other at great length with nice long words.

  12. Barry says

    Maybe that’s it – they’re both people with vastly overinflated opinions of themselves. In the regular academic world, they’re recognized as puffer fish, not blue whales. So they go to junk science world, where they can act like big fish.

  13. windy says

    In the regular academic world, they’re recognized as puffer fish

    Hey, stop dissing puffer fish!