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Science Goes on Trial in Virginia

Not since the Scopes trial in Tennessee in 1925 has science been on trial as it has been in Virginia over the last few years. The Scopes trial was of course about Darwin’s theory of evolution. That trial concluded more than 85 years ago, but the debate goes on with fundamentalists who prefer the teaching of creationism over evolution in public schools. No amount of scientific evidence will convince those who read the Bible literally as to how humankind came to be on this earth. Likewise, in Virginia today there are those who deny that human behavior is jeopardizing God’s creation through climate change.

Just recently the international conclave of climate scientists reaffirmed the belief held by 97 percent of them that climate change is happening, and humans are the cause. An editorial in the New York Times stated, “Virginia’s crusading Republican attorney general [Ken Cuccinelli] has waged a one-man war on the theory of man-made global warming.” In 2010 Cuccinelli sued the University of Virginia under the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act to obtain the research papers of climate scientist Michael Mann who he said produced fraudulent research on climate change in order to receive grant money. A circuit court threw out his case. The University of Virginia spent $600,000 to defend itself in a case that left most shaking their heads in disbelief at the attack on scientific research and academic freedom. Cuccinelli’s cause has been taken up by Del. Bob Marshall (R-13) who is running for re-election and who is one of the leading climate-change deniers in Virginia.

While the Scopes trial and evolution/creationism make for interesting discussion, the consequences for the debate on climate change can have huge repercussions for Virginia. While greenhouse gasses are being released into the atmosphere at a rapid pace, the resulting increase in air and water temperatures are causing, as you may have noticed, frequent and severe weather conditions. The warm temperatures as a part of climate change are causing glaciers and ice caps to melt and causing sea levels to increase worldwide. The Virginia coastline is especially vulnerable. It is sinking greatly at the same time water levels are rising, increasing excessive flooding. The sea level in the Chesapeake Bay area in southeastern Virginia is predicted to rise by more than five feet by the end of the century.

Unfortunately Messrs. Cuccinelli and Marshall are not the only climate change deniers in Virginia. A resolution to study what was happening with excessive flooding along the coastline was rewritten to take out the terms “sea-level rise” and “climate change.” Too many are unwilling to accept scientific evidence documenting climate change but at the same time are willing to believe that there is a United Nations Agenda 21 to take over our country! Maybe the election outcome on Nov. 5 will help resolve the question of whether we are willing to acknowledge that science has something to tell us.