U.S. Chamber of Commerce seeks trial on global warming
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.
What a bad idea for science.
This doesn’t bring the Scopes trial to my mind, as mentioned in the article — that wasn’t primarily about whether evolution was valid science. This is more like the story of how the Indiana House once unanimously passed a bill to make pi a rational number (3.2; the bill died in the senate). Our legal system doesn’t get to decide what is sound science or not; if it attempts to make such a decision, mother nature won’t care at all and won’t serve any contempt-of-court sentence for disobeying the judge.
The legal system doesn’t argue the same way that science does, which is why this is a common tactic for anti-scientists. Creationists putting Darwinism “on trial” in literature is not uncommon. The absurdity of calling evolution “Darwinism” aside for the moment, these “trials” include appeals to ridicule that might sound convincing to some, because there is much about science that isn’t intuitive. In physics, one could probably convince a lay person that quantum mechanics and relativity are wrong using a legal style of argument, just by pointing out some of the counterintuitive, nonclassical (or non-Galilean) aspects (A single particle goes through both slits? Absurd! Twins can age at different rates? Preposterous!) But QM and relativity are true, regardless of how much they contradict classical experience.
It can’t merely be lining up experts, either, because there is no science so well-established that you can’t find a somebody, somewhere, who has a degree and disagrees with the mainstream. There are physicists who disagree with QM and relativity, just as there are biologists who are creationists (or cdesign proponentsists). The bench isn’t very deep of course (there are more biologists named Steve who agree that evolution is true than all who are touted to disagree), but they are out there. What matters is the empirical evidence, and the people best qualified to tell us this are the scientists who do the kind of work in question, not a judge. True, the judge might/should rule in favor of the scientists in this kind of case, but if he didn’t, that wouldn’t change the fact that smoking causes cancer, evolution is true, photons interfere with themselves, pi is irrational and humans are causing global warming. That’s what the evidence tells us.