BPSDBOthers are comparing this story to the famous Tennessee Scopes trial on the teaching of evolution. There are very good reasons to suggest that it has far more in common with the Soviet show trials of dissident scientists.
The bare bones of the story is that the U.S Chamber of Commerce (hereafter CoC) would like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (hereafter EPA) to hold public hearings on climate science.
Incredibly, the CoC wants “‘Scopes’-like hearing on the evidence that climate change is man-made.” For those who are not familiar with it, the “Scopes” reference is to the famous “Scopes Monkey Trial” where school teacher John Scopes was put on trial in Tennessee for illegally teaching Evolution science .
The EPA is dismissive of the petition, particularly as the basis for it are the usual collection of climate change Denier idiocies such as “climate change has stopped.” For more on those details and further analysis see here and the links at bottom.
Now many commenters (see below) have pointed out the irony of the CoC quite accurately identifying themselves as the force of regressive scientific ignorance seeking to use a hearing to attempt to undermine scientific progress and the general social good. The candor of the admission is almost breathtaking. Up to that point the analogy is accurate, and given the comic nature of it most commenters are only too happy to run with that.
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The first point I would make is that the choice of analogy by the CoC is probably more calculated than comic. They know they need at least some base of public support for this, and the overlap between the evolution Deniers and climate change Deniers is extensive. Progressives and the scientifically literate would ridicule the CoC no matter what they called it, whereas Regressives will see the “Scopes Trial” as a rallying cry on a par with Bunker Hill or The Alamo.
Second, where the analogy breaks down is that the Scopes Monkey trial was about the violation of a particular law regarding the teaching of evolution science within the Tennessee school system. Certainly the Creationists hoped to use the trial to discredit Evolution science as much as possible through the court process, but that was not the actual issue of the trial itself. The issue before the court was whether John Scopes had taught evolution.
Of the accounts I have read only Island of Doubt has also seen a much darker side to this, equating the proposal to the McCarthy era hearings before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. A better anology to be sure. It certainly brings in the elements of ideologically motivated hysteria, the callous disregard for truth, and the pursuit of injustice for personal gain and ambition. Those are also key factors in this current proposal. Where it still falls short is that the HUAC hearings themselves were still about the actions of individuals, not the question of what is scientific truth.
In this case however, “It would be the science of climate change on trial.” according to said William Kovacs, the CoC’s senior vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs. Neither the Scopes Trial nor the HUAC hearings are appropriate analogies for that. A far more accurate analogy would be the Stalinist show trials of scientists who disputed so-called “socialist science.” Science itself was on trial then, just as the CoC hopes to do now.
Briefly, one of the elements of the Soviet effort to create a new society was “socialist science“, the pursuit of science in ways that were more in line with Soviet ideology. There was socialist physics, socialist medicine, etc. Unfortunately reality had not read Marx and as a result real science was sometimes not in line with socialist science. Scientists who insisted on siding with reality were put on trial and either imprisoned or executed.
More irony: evolution was a particular sore point for the Soviets. All of that Darwinian competition and survival of the fittest through the inheritance of genes smacked of Western Capitalism. Instead Trofim Lysenko, director of the Soviet Lenin All-Union Institute of Agricultural Sciences offered Lysenkoism. This was a form of evolution whereby organisms acquired new characteristics through the much more politically acceptable mechanism of individual striving. It was by trying harder to reach tall branches over many generations that a giraffes neck grew longer, not decadent competition and inheritance.
This is the vision that the CoC has, a political trial to ensure that there is ideologically pure “science” that conforms to their beliefs. Like Lysenko, they want to declare reality to be subservient to “commercialist science.” Scientists and agencies who disagree are to be put on trial.
To be sure I do not imagine that any at the CoC intend to imprison or execute anybody, nor even fine them $100 as John Scopes was. Rather this would appear to be a tactical move where they simply hope to further delay anything being done about climate (see here and here), just as the tobacco industry did (more parallels). Even so, if you’ll allow just a bit more history, the parallels and irony run much deeper.
Needless to say Lysenkoism was every bit as fraudulent as climate Denierism, and when applied to agricultural sciences failed to produce the crop yields desperately needed to deal with the famines of the 20’s, 30’s and the war years. As a consequence many starved to death who might otherwise have lived.
Climate change is already affecting millions, and we expect that if we do not act now that hundreds of millions more will die of starvation (see here, here, here and here). The CoC may not be intending to have anyone executed, but they are condemning millions to death if they succeed in causing any significant delay in action.
One of the most prominent victims of persecution by the Soviets was the famed geneticist Nikolai Vavilov. Arrested and imprisoned for insisting that facts were facts and you could not bend reality to ideological whims, he died of malnutrition in prison.
So great were his scientific contributions that certain areas that were important centers of evolution and diversity, particularly of agricultural crops, are called “Vavilov Centers” in his honour. These centres of diversity circle the globe largely in the regions that we expect to become deserts if climate change continues unchecked. Vavilov died because of political interference by dogmatic ideologues, now Vavilov Centres may perish at their hands as well.
So no, this is not some court case where one man may be fined $100 for his defiance of religous inspired law. Nor is it even some hearings where the lives of hundreds, even thousands are ruined because of ideological hysteria and personal ambition.
What the Deniers propose here is a Stalinist style political show trial where scientific truth itself is to be judged as anti-capitalist and not in accord with “commercialist science”, and the fate of millions hangs in the balance.
For more information and different perspectives on this story, see
- Memo to Alcoa, Kodak, IBM, Nike, Pepsi, Toyota et al.: Luddite U.S. Chamber of Commerce seeks “the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century” on global warming
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce files for EPA climate disruption trial (updated)
- Climate “Scopes” Trial: The Chamber Makes A Monkey Of Itself
- US Chamber of Commerce calls for ‘Scopes Monkey Trial’ on climate
- The ‘Voice Of Business’ Calls For ‘Scopes Monkey Trial
- Matthew Yglesias » Chamber of Commerce Wants to Put Evolution on Trial
- Chamber Of Commerce Planning ‘All-Out Lobbying Effort …
- ‘Monkey Trial’ Petition Tells EPA To ‘Eliminate The …
- The Climate Post: a climate for monkey business
This warming trend has been particularly pronounced during the pre-monsoon month of May, which is now on average 4.9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was in the late 1970’s. The Indian Ocean warmed to a much lesser extent during this period, enhancing the temperature gradient between the ocean and the land. Earth Gauge
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