It still warms
Climate science faces the capitalist Inquisition
17 March 2010
For asserting, with mounting evidence, Copernicus’ theory that the Earth moves around the Sun and not vice versa, Galileo Galilei was hauled before the Vatican Inquisition. Tried before 10 cardinals he was found “vehemently suspect of heresy” (seven for, three abstentions), and forced to recant. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest.
After finishing his recantation, the father of modern science is supposed to have looked down to the earth and muttered, “It still moves”.
I thought of Galileo, when I read that Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe of the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has called for climate scientists associated with the IPCC to be investigated for criminal violations.
It’s all part of a McCarthyist campaign now being mounted by the same political backwoodsmen who support ‘creation science’ to have leading climate scientists run out of government employment.
A month ago, for example, the yokels of the South Dakota legislature passed a resolution calling for “balanced teaching of global warming in the public schools of South Dakota”. The “balanced teaching” argument is the same one that was used to smuggle creationism into the science classes in the hayseed states of the US. The draft resolution stated “a variety of climatological, meteorological, astrological, thermological, cosmological and ecological dynamics” affect climate. Astrological? Thermological? We’re marching back to the dark ages here.
And then there’s the Utah House of Representatives, which has passed a resolution rejecting climate science. One supporter of the Bill told the press “environmentalists were part of a vast conspiracy to destroy the American way of life and control world population through forced sterilisation and abortion”.
Galileo was not the first scientist to have opposed the old Ptolemaic ‘geocentric’ model by which the universe revolves around the earth. Copernicus had advanced the correct ‘heliocentric’ view almost a century before, but very, very quietly, because as an official of the church he was well aware that it was theologically challenging.
So Galileo ran up against the fact that the geocentric view fitted nicely with the Christian theology that was the underpinning of European social order. It wasn’t just the Catholic Church, by the way. Luther also worried about Copernicus’ conclusion and denounced him as a “new astrologer” who would “overturn the whole art of astronomy”.
A major problem was that ordinary folk could see, with their own eyes – contrary to the laughable “theories” of pointy-headed latte-sipping elitists – that the Earth stood still and the Sun went around it. And Galileo’s use of early telescopes to make observations of the planets was denounced by many as false science, much as computer modelling is by the climate “sceptics” today.
By boldly asserting his theory as truth rather than as a fanciful hypothesis, Galileo was laying down a direct challenge to the prevailing order. Oh, and he spoke disparagingly of the academics who opposed him and sometimes fudged a bit. He was lucky to get house arrest. If he’d had email and it’d been hacked, he’d probably have been hanged, drawn and quartered.
And so it is today. Widespread acceptance of human-induced global warming is, in fact, a threat to laissez-faire capitalism. It’s fair to say that climate science, like the heliocentric universe (and, later, Darwinian natural selection) snuck up on the forces of evil and darkness. Nowadays these folk like to be seen as pro-science in the limited sense that the scientific method leads to saleable products. They went ballistic when science showed that smoking causes lung cancer. Now they’re being told that burning, over a mere century, the atmospheric carbon locked up under the earth over hundreds of millions of years causes warming and they’re incandescent with rage. (Did I mention that many of the scientists and columnists now being funded to oppose climate science are the same ones who took the tobacco company dollar?)
The more rational elements of the capitalist class at least admit that something should, in all prudence, be done, as long as it’s market-based and somebody can make a profit from it – hence the push for the response to be carbon-trading type schemes. The couldn’t-give-damn-about-anything greedheads just deny that there is, or could be, any human-induced effect at all (and, as a fall-back, even if there was, it’d be a Good Thing).
For the greedheads, the horror is that climate science flew in under the radar. While they were busily engaged, looting the world, it proceeding on a broad front with thousands of lines of evidence and inquiry towards an incredibly disturbing and subversive conclusion: that human population and fossil fuel use had grown unchecked to such enormous levels they were now a significant factor affecting climate. It followed that human activities would have to be significantly regulated.
This thing is going to get very nasty before it’s over because the greedheads don’t like being told what to do, and they don’t care what social forces they unleash to get their own way.