Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Scopes Trial of the 21st Century

The Lost Angeles Times is reporting that the U.S. Chamber of Congress is attempting to have a trial involving the evidence for global warming. The story, by Jim Tankersley, notes:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, trying to ward off potentially sweeping federal emissions regulations, is pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to hold a rare public hearing on the scientific evidence for man-made climate change.

Chamber officials say it would be "the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century" -- complete with witnesses, cross-examinations and a judge who would rule, essentially, on whether humans are warming the planet to dangerous effect.

"It would be evolution versus creationism," said William Kovacs, the chamber's senior vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs. "It would be the science of climate change on trial."
Here's the problem I have with this comparison. If you look closely at the Dissent from Darwinism list that Discovery Institute trumpets, it becomes clear that the people that dissent from "Darwinism" don't really know what "Darwinism" is. They are mostly psychiatrists, psychologists, engineers, materials scientists, a smattering of molecular biologists and whatnot. There is one palaeontologist on the list and he hasn't published in decades. So, in other words, almost the entire list is populated by signatories who aren't qualified to sign their names.

However, if you look at a comparable list of scientists who have signed the Global Warming Petition Project, you find that many of them are atmospheric scientists, climatologists or palaeoclimatologists—individuals that have a much better understanding of climate change than the average scientist. To be sure, there are probably people on that list (the site is poorly designed) who do not have the necessary credentials to convincingly sign their names.

Let me be clear: I have taken no position on climate change. I do not know enough of the science, nor am I qualified to evaluate it intelligently. I am not objecting to the data, I am objecting to the analogy. When one debates special creation/evolution, there is clearly no evidence for the YEC model. However, if there are over nine thousand Ph.D.-holding scientists who work in atmospheric/climatology fields that don't agree with the anthropogenic global warming position, the analogy doesn't hold. Maybe the earth is warming and maybe it isn't. Maybe that warming has anthropogenic causes and maybe it doesn't. There have certainly been times in the earth's past when it was much warmer than it is now (Jurassic, Triassic) and times when it was much colder (Marinoan), but the continents were arranged differently and there were no people around.

My point is that this is not the Scopes trial of the 21st century because there is nowhere near the concensus that the earth is being ruined by people as there is that evolution has occurred.

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