Originally published Feb. 21.
If you spend any time reading Internet diatribes claiming global warming is the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people" (in Sen. James M. Inhofe's famous formulation) you'll come across the smoking gun evidence that scientists don't know what they're talking about.
That evidence, the conspiracy theorists say, is global cooling. Global cooling got some press in the 1970s, and several scientific papers were published on the premise that the earth was slipping into another ice age.
But a survey of scientific literature of the time shows just seven papers supported global cooling, and even before the era when the consensus of the scientific community around the global warming theory is strong, six times as many papers were written on the subject of global warming.
"There was no scientific consensus in the 1970s that the Earth was headed into an imminent ice age," the National Climatic Data Center survey states.
Not incidentally, the number of scientific papers written about global warming of late numbers in the hundreds.
Part of this issue speaks to the weakness of America's scientific literacy. In science, a "theory" is as close to solid fact as it gets. It's a hypothesis that has been tested, re-tested, and re-tested again. It only becomes a theory when ever attempt to prove it wrong has failed, and it ceases to become a theory if a fatal flaw is identified.
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