King of Night Vision

December 15, 2009

Glenn Beck has spectacular optics. His laser eyesight enables him to pierce the most muddled of issues. Here’s a video of him comparing the stonewalling of climate skepticism to the persecution that Galileo experienced. We’ve seen this comparison many times before, of course, but it seems so misplaced to me that I just have to note it again. It is true that Galileo was persecuted for trying to advance a theory that appeared to run at cross-purposes with entrenched power structures, but isn’t that about as far as this comparison goes?

Lots of people have noted the alleged dissimilarities between Galileo and the skeptics, observing that Galileo was a scientist and the people persecuting him were involved primarily in the church. The skeptics, they charge, aren’t really scientists. I suppose that’s a fair criticism, though I suppose the counter-charge is that the scientific establishment isn’t being terribly scientific, that they’re acting more like religious figures, prostrate to the gods of AGW.

Others have noted that persecution is a far cry from being stonewalled or having your research rejected by top journals. That may also be a fair criticism, depending on your views about the extent to which there was underhandedness in the peer-review process, and the extent to which the scientific journals are rigged to yield a particular result.  Maybe it is persecution to continually reject someone’s research.

But it seems to me that the most damning argument against this comparison is that it isn’t clear what criteria would make it apt. Isn’t it true that whenever someone takes on the establishment, she’s always in the position of underdog? That’s the definition of taking on the establishment. And isn’t it also true that whenever someone taking on the establishment tries to get her papers or her research through the establishment, she’s always disregarded for a while? That, too, seems inevitable.

If that’s true, then it’s hard to say what about this particular circumstance would make it just like Galileo’s circumstance. The dude was thrown to the wolves. He was put on trial for heresy, found guilty of heresy, imprisoned and held under house arrest, and his work was banned. That’s not at all like what’s going on in the climate debate.

Just a thought.

Incidentally, I hope nobody mentions to Glenn Beck, student of history, that one of the two plenary rooms at COP15 is the Tyco Brahe Plenary Hall. That’d certainly send the sun spinning recklessly around the earth.


  1. I think the comparison is ridiculous as well. What is even more ridiculous is that Beck doesn’t even know the relevant science. He claims Galileo argued that the Earth wasn’t flat along with other more accurate things. Why should we take a denier serious when he patently doesn’t know what he is talking about? Isn’t a first condition of engagement literacy in the topic being discussed?


  2. GORE: It definitely is, and it’s a relatively new one. People think about geothermal energy – when they think about it at all – in terms of the hot water bubbling up in some places, but two kilometers or so down in most places there are these incredibly hot rocks, ’cause the interior of the earth is extremely hot, several million degrees, and the crust of the earth is hot …

    GORE: I haven’t read all the e-mails, but the most recent one is more than 10 years old.

    GORE: “These figures are fresh. Some of the models suggest to Dr [Wieslav] Maslowski that there is a 75 per cent chance that the entire north polar ice cap, during the summer months, could be completely ice-free within five to seven years.”

  3. Don’t hold your breath. Ben would NEVER put Gore in the Ass-Clown catagory, no matter what. I’m sure there’s a formula for ass-clownage, surely subjectively based, and Gore would score way, WAY too high. Or is that too low……..guess I’d need the scale.

    Glenn Beck? Totally an ass-clown. Gore? Certainly. Ass-clownage knows no idealogical boundrys.

  4. Glenn Beck simply doesn’t know anything about the relevant science. He doesn’t even know the basic facts about scientific figures long since gone (Galileo demonstrated the Earth is not flat). Gore sometimes overstates the implications of current climate science but he understands the basic ideas. Lumping them together is without merit and simply rhetorical.


  5. a million degrees here…a million there

    pretty soon you’re talking real climate 🙂

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