A Scopes trial for global warming?

The Chamber of Commerce asks the EPA to put science to the test

Published August 25, 2009 3:15PM (EDT)

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce isn't happy about the EPA's finding that greenhouse gases are a threat to public health. So the group wants to put the science of global warming itself on trial in a proceeding that one of its officials told the Los Angeles Times would be "the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century."

Such a proceeding is allowed under the law, but would be essentially unprecedented, and the EPA is expected to deny the request. The Times reports that the Chamber will likely go to federal court over it.

It's an interesting concept, but the Chamber and its supporters might want to pick a better analogy. The evolution side of things may have lost -- indeed, they asked to lose -- at the initial Scopes trial, but they won in the court of public opinion and, eventually, in court. Plus, five days after the conclusion of the original trial, prosecutor William Jennings Bryan, who'd been embarrassed during an unusual sort of cross-examination by defense attorney Clarence Darrow, died. Maybe not the best precedent for whoever ends up representing the Chamber to follow.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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