Galileo wrote, “In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.” The problem is the ideas and clout of that thousand make that single individual a rare and unappreciated gem.
Copernicus defied thousands, if not millions, when he dared suggest the Earth was not the centre of the universe. Galileo was later arrested for teaching the idea.
Climate change alarmists with their own Earth-centred dogmas should put their zeal aside. Heretics are the domain of religion, and no one should be cast out and punished in the name of science.
The geocentric hypothesis started with Ptolemy around 150 BC. For centuries, the whole world ‘knew’ that the Earth stood still and everything revolved around it. Enter Nicolaus Copernicus. Sometime before 1514, he hypothesized that the sun was the centre of the solar system and close to the centre of the universe. But apart from a few friends, he kept his ideas to himself. He feared the scorn “to which he would expose himself on account of the novelty and incomprehensibility of his thesis.”
Copernicus, an astronomer, economist, physician, governor, translator, mathematician and classics scholar with a degree in canon law, still feared ridicule. It was only as he prepared to die that openly he defied the Earth-centred consensus. Although his ideas had become an open secret, he only published On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres shortly before his death in 1543.
Copernicus, a Catholic, was as right about human nature as he was about the solar system. Protestant playwright Wilhelm Gnapheus gave Copernicus a negative caricature in public performances. Lutheran theologian Philip Melanchthon attacked his character, saying Copernicus wrote, “either from love of novelty or from desire to appear clever.” He also seemed to advocate censorship, saying, “wise rulers should have curbed such light-mindedness” as the “absurd” ideas of Copernicus.
Seventy years later, the Catholic church took up that very cause. For his apparent heliocentric beliefs, Galileo Galilei was tried for heresy in 1616 and 1633. He denied holding such a view and said he taught both geocentric and heliocentric hypotheses. In both trials, there was no problem with his scientific work. Incredibly, he was only found guilty of suspicion of heresy. As an apparent denier of the Earth-centred view, the court required him to “abjure, curse and detest” his opinions. They banned his latest book and Galileo lived out his years under house arrest.
It all comes down to gravity. The Earth revolves around the sun because of its giant mass. Similarly, the large mass of scientific opinion tends to keep individual scientists in a conforming orbit. This is but one reason for NASA claims that 97 per cent of actively publishing climate scientists believe in man-made global warming.
That consensus means little according to research chair Doug Casey as he explains in his article Why We Need More Climate Change Skeptics. This millennium has seen a cooling trend, but 30 years of global warming propaganda means that most millennials drawn to study the climate believe in the cause and will be taught by others who also do so. Dissenters have an uphill battle getting a PhD thesis approved, acquiring research grants,and getting published.
Even worse, some climate change alarmists have become the Roman Inquisition of the 21st century. Once again, the Earth is put at the centre of everything, with other issues such as free speech, democracy and scientific freedom relegated to some distant orbit. “It’s completely immoral even to question,” said Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, a United Nations special climate envoy, in 2007. Alas, when the salvation of the Earth is imperative and environmental tenets are dogma, dissenters become heretics. Religion trumps science.
Christopher Monckton has chronicled the publicly-proposed punishments of more than two dozen “global warming bedwetters” (as he once termed them). In 2011, one Australian journalist said climate change skeptics should be branded with cattle irons, while another proposed they be gassed. In 2008, David Suzuki said that skeptics in government should be “thrown into jail,” while NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen wanted deniers “put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature.”
Consensus is overrated. It robs us of discovery. And heretics are the domain of religion, not science. Besides, today’s heretics might be tomorrow’s heroes.
In 1992, Pope John Paul II acknowledged the errors made by the tribunal against Galileo. Then in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI praised the astronomer. His humble reasonings prevailed, despite defying the establishment and the opinions of thousands.
How great our loss if we silence the heretics of today?
Lee Harding is research fellow for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.