Questioning the scientific consensus in pursuit of the truth is an important part of how science has advanced through the centuries. But what happens when the scientific consensus becomes an ideology that trumps the pursuit of truth? Answer: Those making legitimate inquiries are ostracized, the careers of dissenters are destroyed, and debate is stifled.
Unfortunately, I am referring not only to the current proponents of the theory of man-made global warming. In 2001, I offered a legislative amendment about teaching the subject of evolution. I caught more flak for this simple amendment than for almost anything else I championed in the Senate. What heresy did I propose? Here is the full text:
"Good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science; and where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject."
It was so radical a concept that, less than an hour after it's unveiling, liberal Democrat Ted Kennedy signed on to it. He said during the debate that my amendment's language was "completely consistent with what represents the central values of this body. We want children to be able to speak and examine various scientific theories on the basis of all of the information that is available to them."
My amendment passed 91-8. The next day, the High Priests of Darwinism went berserk. How dare the Senate suggest there is any controversy surrounding evolution? The amendment, they argued, was an attempt to bring God into the classroom.
Kennedy quickly recanted and vowed to have the amendment stricken from the reported language of the final bill. It wasn't.
A recent Gallup poll found that only 14 percent of Americans agreed that "humans developed over millions of years" and "God had no part." A Zogby poll this year found that 78 percent of Americans agreed that schoolteachers "should teach Darwin's theory of evolution, but also the scientific evidence against it." The same poll also found that 86 percent of self-identified liberals agreed that "teachers and students should have the academic freedom to discuss both the strengths and weaknesses of evolution as a scientific theory." But the scientific "community" claims there is no controversy, and that debate should be banned.
It is one thing for ideologically driven science to indoctrinate children in classrooms. It is another for politicians to use science to destroy national economies and redistribute global wealth. I refer, of course, to the latest scientific non-controversy, man-made global warming.
Climate change's Pharisees reassure us that the global-warming science is still settled. Never mind recent revelations of gross misconduct on the part of Britain's Climatic Research Unit. Never mind its repeated refusal to release vital climate data. And never mind the legitimate questions that climate-change skeptics have been asking for some time. There's nothing to see here; move along.
Yet we all know that the world has been both much hotter and much colder than it is today, and that temperatures have changed dramatically over the millennia for a multitude of reasons. And there is so much we don't know about this complex field, which is made even more difficult by our inability to make predictions and test climate hypotheses, except with computer simulations that have questionable assumptions built in.
Given this uncertainty, I think most Americans find the experts' cocksureness unsettling. Despite the bravado and billions of dollars in media hype supporting the climate alarmists, only 37 percent of respondents agreed that man is causing global warming in a recent Rasmussen poll.
Why? Well, maybe because Americans don't like being told what to believe. Maybe because we have learned to be skeptical of "scientific" claims, particularly those at war with our common sense - like the Darwinists' telling us for decades that we are just a slightly higher form of life than a bacterium that is here purely by chance, or the Environmental Protection Agency's informing us last week that man-made carbon dioxide - a gas that humans exhale and plants need to live, a gas that represents less than 0.1 percent of the atmosphere - is a dangerous pollutant threatening to overheat the world.
In some respects, the case for evolution is improving: We may indeed have evolved to the point where we can detect hot air of a different kind.