Sunday, 23 June 2013

Denying deniers history lesson

In the thread of comments that followed the engineering disasters that was Ron Voisin's insect collection, there was this strange one (my bold):

Ian H, a very good reply to Margaret’s comments. I would like to add the following.
Science has been driven by bigotry for centuries. Copernicus would not publish his book confirming the Sun as centre of the solar system until after his death for fear of retribution. Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for agreeing with him.
Modern science is full of this same bigotry AGW and passive smoking are two such examples.
I will reiterate what I have said many times before; Margaret do you really think we should reduce the Western economies to levels that they were in the nineteenth century because of AGW theory, which has fallen at every single hurdle when it has been put to the test? Do you think impoverishing old people by hiking their fuel bills is good? You see I don’t, which is why I and many others are so vociferous on this website.
The warmists remind me very much of the unilateral nuclear disarmers of the 80′s, in fact I am sure they are the same people, they were wrong then and they are wrong now!

Firstly,  "science has been driven by bigotry for centuries" is a very weird comment to make.  I am not sure what to make of it.  What we can say is something about the next two statements.  Copernicus did wait before publishing his magnum opus, in 1543, the year of his death.  Three years previously, his pupil Rheticus has published a summary of the heliocentric theory.  After that, with the idea out and about, there was no need for Copernicus to wait other than to ensure his idea was as good as it could be.

One issue is the whimper with which the publication was greeted.  This is in stark contrast to the reception that On The Origin Of Species garnered.  Copernicus would probably have been disappointed, initially at least, to learn that no one really bothered too much.  It was at least a year before anyone in theological circles became interested. And remember the idea was for calculating the calendar more than anything and was more complicated than the Ptolemaic model.  But one thing is for certain, the bigotry, if any, was not driving the science but suppressing it.  A similar thing could be said for Darwin's reluctance to put his idea out there, keeping it hidden for fifteen years, shared with only a handful of others.

The second statement is also arguable.  Although we don't know for certain what did alert the religious authorities to Bruno, it almost certainly was his heretical views on religion and not his interest in the Copernican system. Bruno was a bit like one of those internet trolls that pops up trying to make trouble. He had a peripatetic adulthood, partly because he must have known that the authorities would catch up with him one day.  They did and he went to the stake for it.  The list of charges are in the main religious and he died a heretic's death. 

Galileo did not meet with the same fate as Bruno because Galileo did not stray into areas of church doctrine.  He could defend his science, but after 1615 he could not teach it as fact.  Galileo's offence was to ridicule the Pope rather than teach the heliocentric model of the Solar System.

Enough of a history lesson for Mr Harding.  One wonders what his agenda is, however, since he links the two favourites of the Heartland Institute together, anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and passive smoking.  I used to be agnostic on both of those matters but I am now convinced, not through personal faith in anything but because the evidence tells me what to think.  And what I don't think is that anyone has seriously suggested that we turn our economies back to the mid-nineteenth century.  Eventually oil and gas will run out, then coal.  Then we might be forced to return to the mid-nineteenth century, or rather the mid-eighteenth.  This little planet has only finite resources.  Burn those oils and Mr Harding will see where we get to.  I am sure he doesn't understand what he says.  And I am equally sure he has listened too long to the Heartland Institute. 

The comment is a spiteful, petty and short-sighted one.  Typical for a WUWT commenter.  The mentality of the average WUWT that commenter is pretty juvenile through and through.

And ignorant.  Since bigotry does not seem to be a driving factor in science, rather the opposite most of the time.  Yes, we can find a few exceptions but the majority of scientists are not working on anything remotely political or bigoted.  Harding, and others, should search for a few facts first.  Then put their fingers on the keyboard.

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