Do the Powers that Be Really Want to Deny Another Galileo?


Image: Galileo Project, Wikimedia, CC

There's really no rational way a human can dispute the fact that the vast majority of the world's scientists believe that greenhouse gas emissions generated by man are warming the climate. It's one of the most important findings of modern science, and it's supported by an impressively massive body of evidence. But, as you know, many politicians -- who represent large swaths of the nation -- are in outright, public denial of these findings. As are innumerable leading industrial interests. Journalist Mark Hertsgaard has a question for them: How long do they really want to deny a scientific finding as important as Galileo's discovery that the Earth revolves around the sun?Today, in the conservative-leaning political newspaper Politico, he writes the following:

Will it take the Republican Party as long to accept modern science as it took the Roman Catholic Church? The church waited 359 years to admit Galileo was right -- the earth does move around the sun. Not until 1992 did the Vatican officially withdraw its condemnation of the man Albert Einstein called the father of modern science. Today, even children know that the earth revolves around the sun. But that idea was heresy to the 17th-century church ... Now the House Republican majority is launching its own attack on Galileo's scientific descendants. Rejecting mainstream climate science became a GOP litmus test during the 2010 midterm elections. Republican leaders then floated the idea of putting mainstream climate science on trial in congressional hearings.
The motivating forces behind both modes of denial are more similar than it would appear at first -- the notion that the Roman Catholic Church was wrong about the Earth being the center of the universe meant that the institution had to cede some of its authority; it had to lessen the grip of its dogma on the public. Beyond simply admitting it was wrong, it meant dissolving a modicum of its power. Now, the power structure, in this case largely a corporate one, is reliant on a slew of industries that happen to do a whole lot of polluting. Admitting that climate change is real would mean ceding a kind of economic power that has been dominant for nearly 100 years now.

And industry interests, nor the politicians whom they influence, want to disrupt such a power structure. But it doesn't mean the world's best scientists haven't outlined a serious problem, inconvenient though it may be to the powerful.

Hertsgaard continues: "After Galileo reluctantly recanted, legend has it that he muttered, "Eppure, si muove." In other words -- censorship and repression could not change physical fact: The earth moves around the sun, whether the church agreed or not. This is true today: Modern science has conclusively demonstrated that human activities are dangerously overheating the planet -- notwithstanding Republicans' desire to repeal that conclusion."

That's pretty much right -- as the science becomes even more indisputable, eventually even the modern day incarnation of the Renaissance-era Catholic Church will have to fess up to scientific fact. Let's just hope it takes them a little less than 359 years.

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