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Only Human

The Birth of Climate Change Denial

In this special episode of Only Human, we partnered with the folks at WNYC's podcast The United States of Anxiety, hosted by Kai Wright.

Starting with the 1925 Scopes Trial — also known as the "trial of the century" — we look at one of the most controversial topics in our time: the debate over evolution versus a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible.

It started with a substitute teacher in Tennessee who taught evolution in the classroom. What followed was a fiery debate that rocketed around the world.

The Scopes Trial reminds us that science has often upset the establishment. 

Attorney William Jennings Bryan sits behind the microphone, in white shirt with rolled-up sleeves, during a radio broadcast of the landmark "Monkey Trial" of John Thomas Scopes in Dayton, Tenn., July 15, 1925. The controversial trial between religion and state determined how evolution would be taught in schools. Scopes, a high school biology teacher, was found guilty of teaching evolution and fined.
(Associated Press)

Then we turn to another controversy: doubt around the whole idea of climate change. And we go to that day in 1988 when NASA scientist James Hansen warned a congressional committee that climate change was real. Back then, Republican President George H.W. Bush touted himself as being pro-environment.

“I’m an environmentalist... And I always will be," he said. "And that is not inconsistent with being a businessman. Nor is it with being a conservative.” 

Today, President Donald Trump considers climate change a "hoax" and is considering withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. It's a radical change in 25 years. We'll tell you how we got there.

Episode Contributors:

Kai Wright

Amanda Aronczyk

Elaine Chen

Karen Frillmann

Jillian Weinberger

Subscribe to the United States of Anxiety podcast on iTunes.

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