The Republican Brain

  • by Chris Mooney
  • Narrated by William Hughes
  • 10 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Best-selling author Chris Mooney uses cutting-edge research to explain the psychology behind why today’s Republicans reject reality - it’s just part of who they are. From climate change to evolution, the rejection of mainstream science among Republicans is growing, as is the denial of expert consensus on the economy, American history, foreign policy, and much more.
Why won’t Republicans accept things that most experts agree on? Why are they constantly fighting against the facts? Science writer Chris Mooney explores brain scans, polls, and psychology experiments to explain why conservatives today believe more wrong things, appear more likely than Democrats to oppose new ideas and less likely to change their beliefs in the face of new facts, and sometimes respond to compelling evidence by doubling down on their current beliefs.
Certain to spark discussion and debate, The Republican Brain also promises to add to the lengthy list of persuasive scientific findings that Republicans reject and deny.
Chris Mooney is the best-selling author of The Republican War on Science, the host of the Point of Inquiry podcast, and the author of The Intersection blog for Science Progress. He has written several books, as well as articles for Mother Jones, American Prospect, Harper’s, Washington Post, USA Today, and Slate. He has appeared on The Last Word, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Book TV, Science Friday, Morning Joe, and Fresh Air, among other programs.

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What the Critics Say

“Mooney has bravely tackled a gigantic and complex topic.” (The Washington Post on The Republican War on Science)
"Nothing short of a landmark in contemporary political reporting.” (Salon on The Republican War on Science)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

So That's Why!

I have to laugh. A search in Audible using the keywords Republican and Brain turn up “The Republican Brain – The Science of Why they Deny Science” and it also turns up Ann Coulter’s “If Democrats had any Brains, They’d Be Republicans”. One is a serious study and the other is penned by an entertainer. Having seen the performer Ann Coulter and not having much respect for her capacity to reason, I will pass on her book but I will do due diligence and Google her take on Evolution and Climate Change for this review.

It appears that just like many religious right Republicans, she rejects these two convincing science based findings. This book attempts to figure out why a large number of Republicans can ignore solid science. I wanted to know as well. I have Conservative friends and family that I like tremendously but cannot figure out why they reject science and find getting into discussions with them is futile.

There is a lot of solid research here and while the author is a liberal, he occasionally delivers biting criticism of the liberal state of mind. I wonder if Ann can find anything positive to say about a liberal in her book? Essentially the conservative frame of mind has its positive applications sometimes in society, but there is a lot of positives for the liberal bias. One study among many that impressed me talked about brains scans showing emotions being predominant with Republican reasoning and the cerebral area taking the lead with Liberal reasoning. Studies find a cluster of traits shared by many Republicans. One is they do not like uncertainty – liberals do not have a problem with this. It is no surprise that the majority of scientists are more likely to be liberal with the nature of the vocation being amenable to upheaval of certainties when new solid evidence comes in. A religious right Republican is more likely to let the more primitive emotional brain system kick in when presented with solid facts and dig in their heels and deny.

Surprisingly an educated Republican science denier is actually more recalcitrant than an uneducated one when good evidence comes in. They are more adept at bringing in complicated nonsense arguments. This is called being idiot smart. For me, the best way to describe this is to go back a few hundred years to Galileo’s time. His notion that the earth was not the center of the universe went against the teachings of the church. I’m sure many educated religious right people of that time scorned the conclusion that the earth revolved around the sun and came up with some very byzantine proofs to support the sun revolved around the earth view. But Galileo was right and he had good evidence to support his contentions. Darwin and the majority of climate change scientists are probably correct as well.

Liberals and Republicans are human and are capable of similar mistakes with motivated reasoning. I now have a better understanding that my Pollyanna wish to convince a science denier with cogent arguments will ultimately fail because they are reasoning with a more primitive human system that sometimes was the best answer when survival of the group was on the line.
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- Russell

Polls Apart

I confess that I selected this book because I thought it was more about genetics than it is. In truth, it barely touches upon the topic, and then principally from a group selection perspective which the author correctly acknowledges is out of vogue. Having said that, I was moderately interested in the content.
It is far from revolutionary. Different people are differently disposed to think in different ways. This means that each of us has our own in-built bias. That bias makes us prefer certain things over others. It predisposes us to accept certain arguments and it might enable us to accept as true that which is objectively false. None of this is new. Applying it to political psychology might be new, but it is hardly surprising.
Some of the studies are interesting, but without the detail of the testing it is hard to gauge their objective application beyond the test circumstance. And I say all of this as a self confessed "small l, liberal". Does this make me a contrarian or a paradigm liberal? I don't know. I suspect that the psychology of pigeon-holing people doesn't help make that judgment any easier; merely easier for the examiner to analyse.
I stopped worrying about the psychology of what I do a long time ago. Maybe that makes me a conservative. I work in the law. Perhaps that makes me authoritarian. I think I am a lot of many things and made up of many personality traits. That's what makes me human.
I think there is a worthwhile message in this book. Unfortunately, despite a concerted attempt to be balanced, the title is a real set-back. It looks like a device to sell books, and it is not the message of the book. The language is unnecessarily pejorative. The book is better than that and it would have benefited from omitting the rhetoric. This is most correct of the conclusion which even the author recognises as "kum ba yah".
Of course, I am not living in the USA. Politics in Australia is marked by a sameness (nearly everyone, on both sides of the political divide, is a moderate by US standards). There are the truth deniers, but generally we shake our heads and ignore them so they can follow their own truth. We have a Christian Right, but it does not come close to the US, and we have no equivalent to the Tea Party. All of this allows me to be immediately more complacent even though I know that in 15 years we will have what the US has now. I lament that happening, but I remain a true liberal to the extent that I continue to believe that good argument usually wins. Good argument does not equal truth. Maybe you have to be a lawyer to accept this conundrum. I don't know the answers, but I don't think reading this will hurt your chance at understanding. Just suspend your judgment, bite your annoyance down from time to time and it is a worthwhile listen. No complaints about the performance.
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- Ian C Robertson

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-10-2012
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.