The Galileo Syndrome

The House Republicans' attempt to significantly weaken the Clean Air Act's scope through the budgetary process was recently thwarted in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate, but environmentalists can ill afford to breathe easier. An assault on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) enforcement authority is sure to continue, and no small wonder. Consider whom you are dealing with.

Of the 238 Republicans constituting a majority in our House of Representatives, 237 could not even bring themselves to vote for an amendment that would merely have required them to acknowledge that global warming was a reality, human activity had something to do with it, and there was a possible risk to public health. This unanimous certitude about the dubious nature of global warming was quite remarkable given that not a single one of them was a climatologist and they were at odds with a global scientific consensus, the conviction of every other nation, and the overwhelming weight of physical evidence.

Mind you, this amendment introduced by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, did not obligate any specific remedial action or define the degree of risk and what to do about it. The idea was just to put Congress on record that there was a problem that warranted attention.

No dice. The Republicans made clear that if there were any climate change threat at all, it was overblown. Some of them made no bones about their ideologically-driven belief that the entire problem was a giant hoax, concocted by liberal Democrats as a subterfuge to empower big government and transform the nation into a socialist republic.

During the debate on the amendment, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-North Carolina, rose to declare, "Democrats think we have more impact on the climate and the world than God does, and we don't."

Shades of Galileo! If the famed 16th-century scientist could have been transported back to life to hear congresswoman Foxx, he would have felt right at home. After all, he was condemned by the Catholic Church for blasphemy and permanently confined to his quarters in an anti-science hissy-fit because of his contention that the earth revolved around the sun rather than vice versa.

Galileo's response to that injustice was to insist that the Scriptures should not be taken literally when science uncovered contradictory facts in the physical world. It's wisdom that holds true to this day, although you would never know it on occasion in the U.S. Capitol during the spring of 2011.

Galileo was the EPA of his day and was rewarded by being placed under house arrest and removed from the public eye for his trouble. Hopefully, the EPA won't end up as the Galileo of our day, courtesy of the Republican Party.