The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Put Climate Science “On Trial”

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 1, 2009

According to this article from the LA Times, the biggest business lobby in the United States wants to hold a “trial” concerning global warming science…

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.”

What a joke!!!  It is ironic that Kovacs mentioned evolution & creationism, for reasons you’ll see below.  Folks, this is ludicrous on so many levels…

First, the mere idea that science (that is, the behavior of the laws of nature) can be decided upon or dictated to by the court system (that is, the laws of man) is downright silly.  It reminds me of the mythical notion that one can legislate that the irrational number pi be rounded off to 3. But, apparently, the morons at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce thinks that is how it works.  As I like to tell my students: “The laws of nature don’t care who you are, what you think, or what you believe.  You have two choices: deal with nature on its terms, or futilely wallow in your ignorance.”

Second, this is a tactic used more and more often by various pseudoscientists when attempting to push their woo.  It was first utilized by creationists attempting to cast doubt on evolutionary science – specifically, in recent times, creationists dominating the Kansas State Board of Education tried to hold a “court” where they put “evolution on trial vs. intelligent design (creationism)”. Fortunately, for reasons I’ll outline below, the pro-science side was smart about responding and reputable scientists boycotted the creationist “court” – opting instead to let them wallow, publicly & embarrassingly, in their own ignorance and futility when they were brutally cross-examined by the pro-science lawyer.

Which brings me to my third and final point: I’ve had some colleagues seriously suggest that this might actually be a good idea, and I disagree quite strongly.  The Environmental Protection Agency agrees with me when they state in the article…

The EPA is having none of it, calling a hearing a “waste of time” and saying that a threatened lawsuit by the chamber would be “frivolous.”

EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said the agency based its proposed finding that global warming is a danger to public health “on the soundest peer-reviewed science available, which overwhelmingly indicates that climate change presents a threat to human health and welfare.”

Folks, what this is is an attempt by global warming deniers (I refuse to call them “skeptics” because they base their views off a rigid ideology, not science) to cloud the issue by giving the appearance that there is some kind of legitimate scientific debate about climate change science.  This is precisely what the creationists in Kansas attempted to do – by setting up a bogus “court” and inviting the evolutionary science side to participate, they sought to gain a level of legitimacy they couldn’t otherwise achieve.  If any people on the pro-science side showed up, then they would have been put into a position where they would have had to give equal time to the creationist side.  And, for those of you who have followed the evolution/creationism issue, you know that one thing the creationists love to advocate for is the fallacious notion of “equal time”.

And that is an automatic loss for the pro-science side.  That’s because by agreeing to the platform of the science-deniers, you publicly give the impression that there is some kind of legitimate scientific disagreement about the science in question, be it evolution or global warming.  After all, by buying into their little debating game, you are setting up an environment whereby the public sees two “equally valid” sides to an argument… and that’s precisely what the science deniers want!

In addition, in such a debate format, the science-deniers can play all manner of rhetorical tricks, none of which have to do with logical consistency or the validity of the science in question.  Perhaps the best example of this is the infamous Gish gallop, whereby the science-denier throws out all manner of nonsense claims & misinformation – far too much to adequately correct in the time allotted in such a situation.  This has the effect of leaving the scientists looking like idiots, unable to defend their science.  Something tells me that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as their ideological allies, know all of this already, which is precisely why they’re attempting this lame move.

But it doesn’t look like the EPA is buying.  Good.  They shouldn’t buy into this nonsense.  They should take a page from how the pro-science side handled the Kansas creationist “courts” – ignore the science-deniers, set up your own press conferences where you control the flow of information, and let these woos wallow in their own stupidity.

One Response to “U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Put Climate Science “On Trial””

  1. mb nawor said

    Great blog–I hope you get many, many readers!

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