Galileo Silenced Again

Published November 13, 2009

Four centuries ago, “heretics” who disagreed with religious orthodoxy risked being burned at the stake. Many were the dissenting views that could send offenders to a fiery end.

In 1633, the astronomer Galileo Galilei may have come within a singed whisker of the same fate, for insisting that the sun (and not the Earth) was at the center of the solar system. In the end, he agreed to recant his “heresy” (at least publicly) and submit to living under house arrest until the end of his days.

Growing evidence ultimately proved Galileo was right, and the controversy dissipated.  Theology gave way to nature in determining the truth about nature. 

We wish that were the case today. Unfortunately, lessons learned 400 years ago have yet to be adopted where the Church of Anthro-Climatism is involved. Burning dissenters at the stake may no longer be an option – perhaps because it would send prodigious quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. However, many other ingenious punishments are often meted out, to ensure that dissent is kept within “acceptable” limits, or dissenters no longer dissent.

Just recently, as scientists who specialize in environmental science, climatology, and solar variability, we welcomed the acceptance of our scientific session, Diverse Views from Galileo’s Window: Researching Factors and Processes of Climate Change in the Age of Anthropogenic CO2. The session was to be hosted at the upcoming Fall 2009 Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco.

Our session was to focus on “knowledge that spans an extremely diverse range of expertise” and provides “an integrated assessment of the vast array of disciplines that affect and, in turn, are affected by the Earth’s climate.” Our ultimate goal was to stimulate discussion at this professional meeting, prior to the upcoming UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fifth assessment report.

We developed this session to honor the great tradition of science and scientific inquiry, as exemplified by Galileo when, 400 years ago this year, he first pointed his telescope at the Earth’s moon and at the moons of Jupiter, analyzed his findings, and subsequently challenged the orthodoxy of a geocentric universe. Our proposed session was accepted by the AGU.

In response to its acceptance, we were joined by a highly distinguished group of scientists – including members of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, France and China, as well as recipients of the AGU’s own William Bowie, Charles Whitten and James MacElwane medals. Our participants faithfully submitted abstracts for the session.

But by late September, several puzzling events left us wondering whether the AGU truly serves science and environmental scientists – or simply reflects, protects and advances the political agendas of those who espouse belief in manmade CO2-induced catastrophic global warming.

On September 14, Dr. Nicola Scafetta of Duke University contacted us, to say the AGU had cancelled his previously-approved 12-paper session on Solar Variability and Its Effect on Climate Change, since it did not have enough papers. He asked if the papers from his session could be merged into our session; since they fit our theme well, we accepted his papers.

The merger was approved by the AGU Planning Committee. Thus our Galileo session now had grown to a total of 27 papers and was approved as a poster session at the Fall Meeting.

However, a few days later, after first approving our session and after we had assigned time slots for these new papers at AGU’s request, the Planning Committee revoked its approval and summarily dissolved our session. Now the committee claimed our session was “thematically divergent,” and divided the papers in our original session among six different sessions.

To cover its tracks, the committee created a new session called Diverse Views from Galileo’s Window: Solar Forcing of Climate Change with 15 papers – including the 12 from Dr. Scafetta’s original session that it had cancelled. That reduced the focus of this session to just solar forcing of climate, and eliminated discussions of the impact of anthropogenic CO2 that we had planned for our original session. The remaining papers from our cancelled session were moved to five other sessions, thereby undermining our original intent: comparing solar variability and manmade carbon dioxide as factors in planetary climate change.

In responding to us, the Planning Committee defended its actions by asserting: “none of [the papers in our session] have to do with the Galilean moons of Saturn [sic], which have to do with climate change or solar activity.” That claim reflects either a poor grasp of our purpose or a failure to read our proposal – and leads the question, Why wasn’t this issue raised when they originally decided to accept our session?

Our session proposal had clearly intended to honor Galileo’s observations of Jupiter’s (not Saturn’s) moons, which had led him to challenge the orthodoxy of the geocentric universe. We wanted to highlight how current research into the climatic effects of anthropogenic CO2 is challenging the supposed “scientific consensus” that humans are causing catastrophic climate change.

This arbitrary dissolution of our original session has serious implications for proper scientific enquiry. Our request that the session be reinstated has gone unheeded, despite the fact that the AGU has reinstated at least one cancelled session in the past. We have repeatedly been told that the decisions of the Planning Committee are final, though it has made clearly contradictory decisions regarding our session.

Reduced sunspot activity and solar energy output, stable or even cooling planetary temperatures, concerns over the high cost of proposed cap-and-trade legislation, political developments in Washington and Copenhagen, and other factors have caused more people to question manmade global warming disaster claims. This has led to consternation among scientists and organizations that have supported those claims.

However, as scientists, we are profoundly concerned by this behavior from a professional society that is supposed to serve science and its members. The AGU certainly had the right to reject our proposed session at the outset or before the solar variability session was merged with it. But given the topic of our session and the good faith approach we have taken in accepting papers from the cancelled solar variability session, it seems odd (at the very least) that our session was summarily dissolved, and that the AGU refuses to discuss the matter.

The AGU action is hardly reasonable. Indeed, it is counter-productive to the scientific method and to promoting open scientific discussions. It smacks of censorship. Something is rotten in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Scientific inquiry has once again been silenced … just as it was 400 years ago.
The AGU should be ashamed. Its members should be outraged. 
Dr. Willie Soon is a scientist who studies solar and climate co-variability. Dr. David Legates is a scientist who studies climatology and hydrology.  Both are members of the American Geophysical Union.