Darwin vs the climate change modeller

Lawrence Solomon
FP Comment
February 26, 2009

For a delightful perspective on the global warming controversy, replete with insightful historical anecdotes, I commend you to William Happer’s testimony yesterday before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

I especially enjoyed Happer’s description of Charles Darwin’s exchange with the great physicist, William Thompson, who later became Lord Kelvin and is best known to us today for developing the Kelvin temperature scale.

Darwin’s science was based on careful observation, Kelvin’s on precise mathematical models. In the joust between the two, Darwin’s qualitative conclusions were no match for Kelvin’s formulas, which proved that the Sun was no more than 30 million years old, and that life on Earth could not possibly have evolved over the hundreds of millions of relatively stable years, as Darwin held. Darwin, mocked and cowed, revised later editions of the “Origin of the Species” to remove references to the age of Earth to and conform to the scientific consensus of the day.

Happer, a celebrated Princeton physicist, writes clearly and sensibly. You won’t find a more entertaining summary of the issues concerning global warming than his testimony.

Read the full text of Happer’s testimony

Read more about Lawrence Solomon

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