Rick Perry was more than happy to embrace the anti-science title in Wednesday’s GOP debate, repeating the claim that the “science isn’t settled” on the question of whether human activity is causing the planet to heat up. Of course, this was nothing new: Perry has been pretty open about the fact that he thinks scientists invented climate change to keep those big research bucks rolling in.
When Perry couldn’t name a single scientist he actually agrees with on climate change, he deferred, instead, to the ghost of Galileo Galilei. “Galileo got out-voted for a spell,” said Perry, intending to demonstrate that just because the majority of scientists have reached a conclusion, that doesn’t make it true.
The problem with that, of course, is that it wasn’t a cabal of scientists who were out-voting Mr. Galilei. True, he did catch flack for breaking with the scientific establishment at the time. But it was the Catholic church that interrogated the Italian scientist, accused him of heresy, and put him under house arrest for the rest of his life. Sadly, I think the irony of the comment is lost on Perry and his fans.
So, really, it wasn’t all that much different than what’s going on with climate change, today. Establishment forces—the fossil fuel industry, anti-regulation conservatives, and religious fundamentalists—have waged a relentless campaign to malign, persecute, and marginalize climate scientists. And Rick Perry has been the favorite presidential candidate of climate deniers because he has been a zealous participant in those attacks.
Of course, we all know how the Galileo story ends. Turns out, he was right about that whole earth revolving around the sun thing. But it certainly wasn’t the Rick Perrys of the world that ushered that into common acceptance.