Though Ron Paul seems to have contributed the most to last night's Republican presidential debate, Rick Perry is dominating the headlines for his supposedly inept remark invoking Galileo. Famous for his skepticism of climate change, the Texas governor said, The science is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans' economy at jeopardy based on scientific theory that's not settled yet to me is just nonsense. Just because you have a group of scientists who stood up and said here is the fact. Galileo got outvoted for a spell.
Perry meant to say Galileo was convicted of suspicion of heresy in 1633 for saying that sun is stationary and planets revolve around it, which was in contradiction with the then-accepted theories of Aristotle, Ptolemy and the Catholic Church. But Galileo's heliocentric theory proved to be right.
Perry's remark has drawn mixed reaction, with many despising it as absolute ignorance. Astronomer Phil Plait termed it outrageously awful in a Discover Magazine post saying that Galileo based his theories on hard facts.
That analogy is so ridiculous it's hard to know where to start; but a good place might be to simply say that Galileo had the advantage of being right, Plait wrote. Just because a tiny fraction of people claim global warming isn't real, or that humans aren't responsible, doesn't make them correct. Especially when going up against the overwhelming evidence compiled by a consensus of 97 percent of scientists who study climate as their career.
It would be interesting to know that Perry, in August, told a woman and her son in New Hampshire that evolution is a theory that's out there, and it's got some gaps in it. In Texas we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools. Because I figure you're smart enough to figure out which one is right. Perry hasn't always been too particular about sounding scientifically correct.
I think the governor answered consistent with his philosophy, consistent with what frankly a lot of Americans and a lot of Republicans believe - that the climate its changing. We're not sure that it's man-made. In fact, there's a lot of questions about whether it's man-made, the Perry campaign's communications director, Ray Sullivan, told ABC News after the debate.
With oil and gas interests among his campaign's top contributors, Perry's scientific pronouncements are unlikely to gain acceptance beyond the ranks of climate skeptics.