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On Climate Change, Sort Of

Is mankind making the planet hotter in a discernible, catastrophic way? I don't know. The Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture (CSC) doesn't do climate change, not really.

But climate change is often covered in state science standards and textbooks, and is therefore a subject about which CSC's academic freedom program has something to say. ClimateWire recently asked us about that, as reported in Scientific American. So did the Heartland Institute. And now NPR has highlighted my testimony to the Colorado legislature about academic freedom legislation that would have protected the freedom of teachers to discuss climate change.

Since we may get more inquiries of the sort, here for future reference are CSC's key points on climate change:

  1. Through its fellows, staff and affiliated scholars, CSC claims institutional expertise on matters relating to the origin and development of life, science education, and science education law and policy, including the legal/social phenomena of viewpoint suppression on such matters, but CSC maintains no claim to institutional expertise on climate change.
  2. The core institutional and scientific competence of CSC is the origin and development of life, not climate change.
  3. Thus, at this point CSC takes no official position on climate change.
  4. However, CSC posits that current scientific views on climate change are properly subject to open, public, scientific inquiry, potential revision and even rejection, as the scientific evidence warrants, which is to say that the subject of climate change is a matter of scientific controversy.
  5. CSC supports academic freedom (AF) bills that for the sake of critical thinking allow open inquiry in public schools on scientific controversies. Our own model bill focuses only on biological and chemical evolution, because those topics are our particular interest. Moreover, we think evolution is the area where the lack of academic freedom to critically discuss scientific claims is the most blatant. However, we also have supported proposals in various states to provide broader academic freedom protections to teachers and students to discuss other scientific controversies (e.g., climate change) when covered during the course of normal curricular science instruction. Contrary to some news reports, we aren't pushing for including climate change in academic freedom legislation; but because we support the principle of academic freedom in science, we are supportive of bills that may do this in a responsible manner.
  6. All views on climate change aside, science education theorists like Jonathan Osborne of Stanford say open inquiry in science class is the best way to learn science, what it is and how to do it.
  7. AF bills, by their plain terms and intended meaning, do not authorize or encourage departure from state-mandated curricula, nor do they authorize or encourage introduction of non-science materials, written or spoken, into public school science class.
  8. Unofficially, CSC fellows, staff, affiliated scholars and supporters hold a variety of views on climate change, some of which may conflict, all of which are presumably subject to change.
  9. For example, CSC science coordinator Casey Luskin presently takes a rather mainstream view on climate change, even as he holds a set of minority views on subjects that fall within the broad ambit of Darwin's theory.


In short, CSC has no official position on climate change, but firmly supports increased critical thinking in public schools on the subject, and would see that end furthered by means of academic freedom law. The alternative is dismal.