Everybody with half a brain understood from the beginning that the Virginia Attorney General’s probe of climate research at the University of Virginia (some of which dated back more than a decade) was little more than an anti-science crusade such as the one the Catholic Church waged against Galileo centuries ago.
Galileo’s heretical “crime” was his defense of heliocentrism, which butted heads with the church orthodoxy that God made the Sun rotate around Earth (which btw was the center of the universe). So they locked Galileo in his house for the rest of his life. He’d been dead hundreds of years before the church grudgingly acknowledged he had it right.
Fortunately, it didn’t take the Virginia Supreme Court that long to reject Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s politically motivated attack on former UVa scientist Michael Mann (who’s now at Penn State). The court ruled that Cuccinelli couldn’t have Mann’s university records, because UVa is “an agency” and not “a person.”
The court ruled that the law the AG requested the records under the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayer Act, which necessitates demands for records be made to “a person.” How ironic, in an age when the highest court in the land — and Republican presidential candidates — declare that, of course, corporations are people. Apparently, agencies still are not.
Cuccinelli’s office issued a sour grapes-tinged statement Friday, splitting hairs with the court’s opinion while resentfully acknowledging it would seek dismissal of the case. It was a big setback for science deniers, to whom the attorney general has linked his political future.
Bravo for UVa, the ACLU, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the scores of university professors who waged battle against Cuccinelli’s politically motivated overreaching. He has hitched his star to anti-science agitprop and today, at least, that appears to be dimming.
But watch out. It will be easy, in 2013, to amend the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act so that Civil Investigative Demands can be issued to state agencies. I’ll lay money right now the AG will agitate for that, under the guise of “good government.”
That will give Cuccinelli and the rest of “bad science” crowd another day to fight this fight. What a pity the great Commonwealth of Virginia will serve, once again, as Cuccinelli’s personal ideological battleground.