Home > Uncategorized > The Galileo Gambit; rule number one is…

The Galileo Gambit; rule number one is…

September 8, 2011

Texas Governor and (so we’re told) God-appointed presidential candidate Rick Perry said:

 ”The science is — is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at — at — at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet, to me, is just — is nonsense. I mean, it — I mean — and I tell somebody, I said, just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell.”

Earth to Rick: when deciding to use the Galileo Gambit, rule number one is “You Are Not Galileo”.  And neither are the carbon-energy industry funded thinktank mouthpieces, or the Fox News bobbleheads who invite them in for unlimited airtime.

Deniers learned long ago that there are always suckers, however.  Just look into the camera and say it like you mean it, and presto! You outweigh independently confirming data and conclusions from multiple fields of actual science.

But here’s the deeper point: when you’re accustomed to deciding whether something is true based on belief, and when belief is a decision you make rather than something compelled by reproducible evidence and demonstrably predictive theory, you can fool yourself.  And that’s the whole point of science:

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”
- Richard Feynman

Science has a number of checks and balances that prevent you fooling yourself.  One is confirmation by experimental data; another is confirmation across disciplines.  If temperature records line up with animal migration records, which make sense in the context of sea ice depth, which fits in with paleoclimatology data, and that’s confirmed by ocean chemistry, which aligns with carbon isotope analysis of the atmosphere, which fits in with multiple weather modeling algorithms, the idea of some conspiracy for grant money (your other hypothesis)… sort of breaks down.

Besides: the real money is in saying what industry wants you to say.  But you already knew that… didn’t you, Rick Perry?


  • Josh Rosenau goes more deeply into Galileo’s situation, correctly describing the scientific climate then as “a time between consensus”.  At the time it was far from clear to the scientific community what the physical reality was – but of course they all knew what would happen if they decided the wrong way.
Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Neil
    September 8, 2011 at 17:59 | #1

    I can understand if people want to investigate the science and even devise their own (hopefully testable) theories about climate change…there is at least a chance that the person doing these things is an honest and thoughtful person trying to be skeptical of any “official pronouncements” (although I rarely see such fervent skepticism applied to right-wing media sources that serve as the main source of these doubts about the science).

    The ones who try to claim conspiracy just get on my nerves, in a big way. Their arguments boil down to things like:
    “Al Gore is fat and rides in jets and limos, and he is (somehow, never explained) going to make billions of dollars selling carbon credits.” Some stoop to accusing thousands of scientists worldwide of fudging data and lying to cause mass hysteria and keep “huge amounts of funding” rolling in (again, never explained or even roughly estimated), some claim that it’s a conspiracy of leftists and environmentalists trying to destroy or take over modern industry or capitalism. The only constant is that there is never a shred of evidence for their claims or a shred of evidence that the motive they attribute to their “enemies” even exists. The most annoying part is, many of these morons try to paint themselves as “skeptics”, although their fantasy world is every bit as vivid and incredible as that of any exorcist of demons or alien abductee…

  2. Jim
    September 8, 2011 at 19:24 | #2

    Very well said, unfortunately, I think very few people that need to hear arguments like this will hear them, or even listen if they do.

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