Chris Mooney (journalist)

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Chris Mooney
Mooney in 2010
Mooney in 2010
BornChristopher Cole Mooney
(1977-09-20) September 20, 1977 (age 44)
Mesa, Arizona, U.S.
OccupationAuthor, journalist
Alma materYale University
SubjectScience and politics
Notable worksThe Republican War on Science

Christopher Cole Mooney (born September 20, 1977) is an American journalist and author of four books including The Republican War on Science (2005). Mooney's writing focuses on subjects such as climate change denialism and creationism in public schools, and he has been described as "one of the few journalists in the country who specialize in the now dangerous intersection of science and politics."[1] In 2020 he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles on global warming published in The Washington Post.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Mooney was born in Mesa, Arizona, and grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana.[3][4] Both of his parents were college English professors. He attended Isidore Newman School before entering Yale University, where he graduated with a B.A. in English in 1999. His interest in the natural sciences was strongly influenced by his grandfather Gerald A. Cole, a professor at Arizona State University and author of Textbook of Limnology, a noted book in the field.[5] Mooney is the oldest of three siblings.


Chris Mooney at the University of Missouri in March 2014

Mooney helped establish Tapped, the group blog of American Prospect.[6]

Mooney continued his freelance work contributing to Slate,[7],[8] Reason,[9] The Washington Monthly,[10] the Utne Reader,[11] Columbia Journalism Review,[12] The Washington Post,[13] and The Boston Globe.[14] Mooney maintained the column Doubt and About for the magazine Skeptical Inquirer, last contributing in 2006.[15] Mooney started the blog The Intersection which ran on ScienceBlogs from 2006 to 2009, then at Discover Magazine until 2011, before moving to Science Progress in 2011.[16] From 2007 until 2013 he contributed to DeSmogBlog, a blog that focuses on topics related to global warming. Mooney is presently a correspondent for The Climate Desk magazine and for Mother Jones.[17] In October 2014 the Washington Post announced that Mooney would begin writing a new, environmentally focused blog for the paper.[18] In 2017, he was selected as a recipient of the SEAL Environmental Journalism Award for his environmental coverage.[19] In 2018, he was one of four writers selected as a repeat recipient of the SEAL Environmental Journalism Award.[20]

In 2005 Mooney's first book, The Republican War on Science, was released. The book explored the premise that the presidential administration of George W. Bush regularly distorted and/or suppressed scientific research to further its own political aims. The book became a New York Times Best Seller[citation needed] and landed Mooney interviews on popular television programs such as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report,[21][22] as well as podcasts such as Point of Inquiry and Rationally Speaking.[23][24] In 2012 a paper published in the American Sociological Review confirmed the book's thesis that conservatives in the United States have become increasingly distrustful of science.[25] Mooney continued this line of inquiry into a fourth book published in 2012.[26] The Republican Brain generated some controversy, with his argument compared to eugenics,[27] and Mooney was on Up with Chris Hayes,[28] Hardball with Chris Matthews,[29] and Now with Alex Wagner.[30]

Podcast host[edit]

From 2010 to 2013, Mooney served as one of the hosts of the Center for Inquiry podcast Point of Inquiry.[31] In June 2013, due to disagreement with Center for Inquiry president Ronald Lindsay over his remarks at a conference focused on women in secularism, Mooney, co-host Indre Viskontas, and producer Adam Isaak announced their resignation from the Point of Inquiry podcast.[32][33] Mooney, Viskontas, and Isaak started a new podcast at Mother Jones, titled Inquiring Minds, and the first episode of the new podcast was released in September 2013.[34][35] On October 10, 2014, Mooney announced his departure from the Inquiring Minds podcast, in order to pursue a new assignment with the Washington Post.[36]


In 2009, he joined the Center for Collaborative History at Princeton University for the Spring semester as a visiting associate.[37][failed verification] From 2009 to 2010, Mooney was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[38][39] In February 2010, Mooney was named a Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellow at the Templeton Foundation.[40]

Science communication and "Framing"[edit]

In 2007 Mooney and co-author Matthew Nisbet wrote a paper for Science on the topic of "Framing Science".[41] They advocated that scientists and science communicators tailor their messages to account for how the general public filters information based on pre-existing beliefs. Practical examples of this filtering include the impact of fundamental religious beliefs on the topic of creationism and conservative political beliefs on the topic of climate change denialism. Mooney and Nesbit called out atheist activist and author Richard Dawkins, noting his criticism of religion was unlikely to change religious fundamentalist minds and in fact more likely to strengthen their doubt of the scientific data. The framing science proposal created a large, often contentious debate within the online scientific blogging community,[42] though research continues to study the influence of framing.[43]

In the book Unscientific America, Mooney and co-author Sheril Kirshenbaum expressed the concern that some science communicators were pressing the view that one must make a choice between accepting science or accepting religion. Critics of Mooney labelled him as an "accommodationist", or one who seeks to find compatibility between religious and scientific beliefs.[44][45] Mooney defended his position in a number of publications and podcasts by citing that ongoing scientific studies continues to support the hypothesis that people integrate new information based on their pre-existing worldviews, and that failure to account for this fact will lead to continued failures in science communication.[46][47][48]

Written work[edit]


  • The Republican War on Science. Basic Books. 2005. ISBN 9780465046768.
  • Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle over Global Warming. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2007. ISBN 9780151012879.
  • Kirshenbaum, Sheril (2009). Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future. Basic Books. ISBN 9780465013050.
  • The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science – and Reality. Wiley. 2012. ISBN 9781118094518.

Critical reviews[edit]

The Republican War on Science received many positive reviews.[1][49][50][51][52] A review in Scientific American described it as well-researched and closely argued.[1] Michael Stebbins wrote in Nature Medicine that the book should be a wake-up call and stated, "Mooney's documentation of the willful manipulation of science on the part of conservatives to suit an agenda is well supported and nauseating."[50] It was featured on the cover of The New York Times Book Review and selected as an "Editors' Choice" by The New York Times.[53][failed verification]

Storm World was written after Mooney witnessed the devastation of his mother's house in Hurricane Katrina.[54] Tom Hayden wrote in the Los Angeles Times that Mooney deftly handled the complexity of the questions surrounding global warming and its effect on hurricanes while weaving an intriguing and important story.[55] A review in The New York Times Book Review called it "a well-researched, nuanced book" but criticized its organization and lack of "pizazz".[56]

Unscientific America cowritten with Sheril Kirshenbaum addressed scientific illiteracy in America. A favorable review in Science Communication anticipated controversy.[57] Less favorable reviews in the BMJ and the New Scientist supported the authors' analysis of the problem but were critical of the solutions proposed.[58][59] American Scientist and Science published negative reviews, complaining about its lack of depth.[60][61]

Writing about The Republican Brain in The New York Times Paul Krugman stated that Mooney makes a good point: the personality traits associated with modern conservatism, particularly a lack of openness, make the modern Republican Party hostile to the idea of objective inquiry.[62] The book sparked some controversy, with two science writers calling Mooney's argument eugenics.[27]

Other noted articles[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Rensenberger, Boyce (24 September 2005). "Science abuse". Scientific American (book review). Retrieved 2014-04-24.
  2. ^ 'Weird things' on climate beat inspired Pulitzer winner E&E News, May 8, 2020.
  3. ^ "Best selling science author Chris Mooney to present second lecture in University of Alabama Global Sustainability series" (Press release). US Fed News Service, Including US State News. 24 October 2007. ProQuest 471005654.
  4. ^ "About the Author". The Republican War on Science. Basic Books. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  5. ^ Cole, Gerald (January 1, 1994). Textbook of Limnology. Waveland Press. ISBN 0881338001.
  6. ^ Klein, Ezra. "How the American Prospect changed policy journalism". Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  7. ^ "Authors". Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  8. ^ "Writers". Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  9. ^ "Articles". Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  10. ^ "Chris Mooney". Washington Monthly. Archived from the original on 2014-07-15. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  11. ^ "Winning the Frame Game".
  12. ^ "Blogonomics". Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  13. ^ "Liberals and conservatives don't just vote differently. They think differently". Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  14. ^ "The Formula". Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  15. ^ "Special Articles – Doubt and About". Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
  16. ^ Mooney, Chris (15 September 2011). "The Intersection Has Officially Moved to Science Progress". The Intersection. Discover Magazine. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
  17. ^ "Chris Mooney". Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  18. ^ "Chris Mooney joins Business staff". Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  19. ^ "2017 SEAL Environmental Journalism Award Winners". SEAL Awards. 2017-09-26. Retrieved 2017-10-12.
  20. ^ "2018 Environmental Journalism Award Winners Announced". SEAL Awards. 2018-11-11. Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  21. ^ "The Daily Show – Chris Mooney" (video). Comedy Central. 9 December 2005. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  22. ^ "The Colbert Report – Obama's New Science Policy" (video). Comedy Central. 26 January 2009. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  23. ^ "Chris Mooney – The Republican War on Science". Point of Inquiry. Center for Inquiry. 27 January 2006. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  24. ^ "RS79 – Chris Mooney on The Republican War on Science". Rationally Speaking. New York City Skeptics. 27 January 2013. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  25. ^ Gauchat, Gordon. "Politicization of Science in the Public Sphere: A Study of Public Trust in the United States, 1974 to 2010" (PDF). American Sociological Review. 77 (2): 167–187. doi:10.1177/0003122412438225. S2CID 17725502. Retrieved 5 April 2014.
  26. ^ The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science – and Reality. Wiley. 2012. ISBN 9781118094518.
  27. ^ a b Quart, Alissa (23 November 2012). "Neuroscience: Under attack". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
  28. ^ "Up with Chris Hayes". MSNBC. Archived from the original (transcript) on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  29. ^ "Hardball with Chris Matthews". MSNBC. Archived from the original (transcript) on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  30. ^ "MSNBC's NOW with Alex Wagner" (video). YouTube. MSNBC. 5 April 2012. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  31. ^ "Point of Inquiry". February 12, 2010.
  32. ^ Isaak, Adam; Viskontas, Indre; Mooney, Chris. "Point of Inquiry team resigns, saunches new show with Mother Jones" (open letter). Retrieved 2014-04-24 – via Google Docs.
  33. ^ "Statement of Objection to Center for Inquiry CEO Ron Lindsay's Actions Regarding Feminism". Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  34. ^ "Climate desk launches Inquiring Minds: Weekly science podcast to explore where science, policy, and society collide" (Press release). Mother Jones. 20 September 2013. Archived from the original on 25 April 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
  35. ^ "Inquiring Minds". Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  36. ^ "Inquiring Minds podcast episode 55". Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  37. ^ "The Center for Collaborative History – Past Visitors". Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  38. ^ "The 2009-2010 Knight Science Fellows". Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  39. ^ "Knight Science Journalism Fellows". Archived from the original on 25 April 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  40. ^ Chris C. Mooney. "The Rumors of My Fellowship Have Been Greatly Accurate". Archived from the original on 2011-05-18. Retrieved 2011-03-03.
  41. ^ Nesbit, Matthew; Mooney, Chris (April 6, 2007). "Framing Science". Science. 5821. 316 (5821): 56. doi:10.1126/science.1142030. PMID 17412941. S2CID 38781872. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  42. ^ "One Stop Shopping for the Framing Science Debate". ScienceBlogs. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  43. ^ "Articles since 2010 on the 'Influence of framing' s". Google Scholar. Retrieved 30 June 2014.
  44. ^ "Eugenie Scott and Chris Mooney dissemble about accommodationism". Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  45. ^ "Remember Chris Mooney?". Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  46. ^ Chris Mooney. "Accommodationism and the Psychology of Belief". Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  47. ^ "Reasonable Doubts Podcast – Accommodationism with Chris Mooney". Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  48. ^ "The Intersection Blog – On Accommodationism and Templeton". Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  49. ^ Oreskes, Naomi (7 October 2005). "Anti-realism in government". Science. 310 (5745): 56. doi:10.1126/science.1115765. S2CID 153326894.
  50. ^ a b Stebbins, Michael (April 2006). "The wake-up call". Nature Medicine. 12 (4): 381. doi:10.1038/nm0406-381. S2CID 46555187.
  51. ^ Davidson, Keay (18 September 2005). "Research and the right". The Washington Post (book review). Retrieved 2014-04-23.
  52. ^ Horgan, John (18 December 2005). "Political science". The New York Times (book review). Retrieved 2014-04-23.
  53. ^ "Editors' Choice". Browsing Books. The New York Times. 25 December 2005. Retrieved 2014-04-25.
  54. ^ "Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle over Global Warming". Publishers Weekly. 23 April 2007. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
  55. ^ "Storm World Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming". Los Angeles Times. July 15, 2007. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  56. ^ Margonelli, Lisa (1 July 2007). "Wild is the wind". The New York Times Book Review. Retrieved 2014-04-23.
  57. ^ Tenenbaum, D. J. (2010). "Book Review: Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum. New York: Basic Books, 2009. 209 pp". Science Communication. 32: 132–135. doi:10.1177/1075547009359802. S2CID 144619603.closed access
  58. ^ Colquhoun, D. (2009). "Trust me, I'm a scientist". BMJ. 339: b3658. doi:10.1136/bmj.b3658. S2CID 72546131.closed access
  59. ^ Giles, Jim (8 August 2009). "Review: Unscientific America by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum". New Scientist. No. 2720.
  60. ^ Miller, Jon D. (November–December 2009). "A thin broth". American Scientist (book review). Vol. 97, no. 6. p. 509. doi:10.1511/2009.81.509. Retrieved 2014-04-23.
  61. ^ Coyne, Jerry (2009). "Selling science". Books et al. Science. 325 (5941): 678–679. doi:10.1126/science.1179131. S2CID 220084888.closed access
  62. ^ Krugman, Paul (19 November 2012). "Views differ on age of planet". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-04-24.

External links[edit]