Rick Perry, Galileo and Global Warming

Texas Gov. Rick Perry clung to his skepticism of climate change science in Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate when he was asked if he believes man-made climate change is happening.

“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,” Perry said.  “Just because you have a group of scientists who stood up and said here is the fact. Galileo got outvoted for a spell,” he said.

Perry was referencing the Galileo affair of the 1600's when the scientist was accused of heresy for his scientific theories. Through his telescopic findings, Galileo offered support for heliocentrism, the scientific theory first developed by Copernicus that the sun is stationary and the planets revolved around it, but this was in direct conflict with scientific and philosophical theories of Aristotle and Ptolemy, who believed the Earth was the center of the universe, and the Catholic Church, which adhered to a literalist interpretation of Scripture, such as Psalm 104:5 which reads “the Lord set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.”

Galileo underwent a trial in 1633 for his book “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems,” which compared the theories of Copernicus and Ptolemy.  Galileo was convicted of grave suspicion of heresy” and was sentenced to house arrest for the duration of his life.

In 2000, Pope John Paul II issued an apology for the mistakes committed by Catholics over the past 2,000 years.

Perry was ultimately asked what scientists or theories he found enlightening when educating himself on the issue of global warming, but Perry avoided identifying any scientists or theories by turning attention to Texas’ efforts in regulating clean air.

“It is unclear if Perry was identifying himself as the “Galileo” of the global warming debate or if he was merely shining light on a scientist whose theories are now accepted though they defied the institutional thinking at the time.

The Perry campaign’s communications director, Ray Sullivan, told ABC News after the debate to expect the Texas governor continue talking about his skepticism on the issue.

“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 it changing. We’re not sure that it’s manmade. In fact, there’s a lot of questions about whether it’s manmade,” Sullivan said. “And we shouldn’t jeopardize the jobs and the economy and the future of this country on science that’s not proven. That’s what the governor has said, said tonight and will continue to say going forward.”

Climate change is not the only scientific subject where Rick Perry might differ with much of the scientific theory.

In August, Perry 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,” Perry said.  “Because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.”