LA Legislator: Scientists Burned People at the Stake!

Whenever I complain about the Michigan state legislature and some of its more neanderthal members, all I have to do is look at Texas, Oklahoma or Louisiana and I feel better. Hemant reports on a state legislator in Louisiana who actually claimed that it was scientists who burned people at the stake for disagreeing with them:

There was a time, sir, when scientists thought that the world was flat. And if you get to the end of it, you’d fall off.

There was another time when scientists thought that the sun revolved around the world.

And they always thought to ensure that anyone who disagreed with their science was a heretic! People were burned for not believing that the world was flat. People were really badly treated.

My point, sir, is that not everyone knows everything. And, in a school, there should be an open exchange of ideas. Knowledge only grows when people can talk about and have this intellectual back-and-forth, this discourse, with all ideas on the table. To restrict ideas is against knowledge and it’s against education. Therefore, at the appropriate time, Mr. Chairman, I move that this bill be involuntarily deferred.

A Democrat on the committee had this reply:

Just a quick addendum to my good friend Sen. Guillory’s comments. Actually, you talk about the world being flat and not the center of the universe? [It was] Galileo and it was the Church that locked him up for nine years for advocating that theory.

So, although I appreciate your comments about [how] there are alternative theories, when you look at history, oftentimes, when science pushes the envelope, the leading person to lock that person up, is oftentimes religious leaders.

See, this is why I could never be an elected official. There’s simply no way I could fake this kind of civility. I could not call someone “my good friend” or “my esteemed colleague” when they say shit like this. I’m much more likely to address them as “the fucking moron from the city of Baton Rouge.”

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  • blf

    Just a few hours ago, I burned a chicken on the split-roast for lunch. Does that count?

    (Well, not actually “burned”. And it wasn’t a spit-roast, but a skillet. Quite tasty (the not-quite-burnt chicken, that is). Does that count? I don’t want to have to eat scientifically-burnt, ah, heretics every day…)

  • observer

    It would be refreshing if not only other legislators, but particularly the media started referring to them in that way.

  • raven

    Wikipedia Expelled:

    In an April interview about the film, (Ben) Stein had said that science had led to the Nazi murder of children, and stated that “Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place. Science leads you to killing people.“[31

    That science is evil is a staple of christofascists.

    The reality is the complete opposite of course. Religion is a proven cause of genocide and mass murder. The Holocaust was a pure xian production, start to finish. Even today, we see violence motivated and facilitated by religion every day in the middle east and occasionally in the USA.

    What science has done is create our modern world, extended our lifespans by 3 decades, and help feed 7 billion people. It’s also responsible for the US leadership role in the world, since we are also the leader in science and technology.

  • NYC atheist

    @3 Raven

    To be fair, science has provided us with much more efficient ways of murdering each other. Your point still stands though.

  • Holms

    I wish people would drop the easily-debunked myth that people thought the world was flat until Columbus / Galileo / Magellan (it varies) demonstrated otherwise. It may be a trivial point compared to the horror of other examples of utter idiocy in government, but it gives me the irrits something severe.

  • raven

    This legislator must be a product of Louisiana’s not so great educational system.

    Ben Stein TBN:

    Ben Stein: When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. [PZ] Myers, talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed.

    Ben Stein claims scientists were staffing the Nazi death camps. Which is absurd and false. Instead of white coated scientists it was jackbooted xian Lutherans and Catholics of the SS. Himmler didn’t like atheists and refused to hire them.

    Ben Stein must be another product of Louisiana’s education system. Hmmm, well he has a degree from someplace called Yale. So does George Bush. Yale might not be in Louisiana but sometimes it looks like it would fit in well there.

  • cervantes

    Yes Holms. There is a common misconception here. Even in the 15th Century, educated people did not believe the earth was flat. The ancient Greeks knew it was a sphere, and even measured its size quite accurately. And Columbus’s claim that he could reach Asia by sailing west was not considered radical because people thought the earth was flat. All sailors, and Ferdinand and Isabella, knew it was spherical. No, Columbus thought the earth was only 2/3 its actual size. If he hadn’t stumbled onto the Caribbean, he and his crew would have starved. He was a lucky fool.

  • raven

    I wish people would drop the easily-debunked myth that people thought the world was flat until Columbus / Galileo / Magellan (it varies) demonstrated otherwise.

    At one time they did. Read your bible.

    1. Ancient middle eastern cosmology had a flat earth. It’s all through the Old Testament and persisted up into the middle ages.

    At some point, the round earth cosmology started to make inroads, thanks to the ancient Greek empiricists.

    2. Even today some people still believe in the Flat Earth. Flat Eartherism isn’t doing so well but it isn’t dead. The flat earth is also in the Koran.

    Boko Harum, the Nigerian Moslem killers group, believe the earth is flat.

  • Glenn E Ross

    Ed sez:

    There’s simply no way I could fake this kind of civility.

    As a former obsessed poker player, I found myself constantly faking civility to prevent being thrown out for violating the rules. (I was not always successful.)

    As a poker player I am sure you have a higher capacity for faking civility than you give yourself credit.

  • eric

    @7: well given the north-south extent of the Americas, it wasn’t luck that Columbus found land, it was a near-certainty he would do so. Not knowing much about the speed and carrying capacities of caravels, or the wind conditions, or the odds of big storms when he sailed, I have no idea whether it was luck he got there before starving or whether that was reasonably expected too.

    @8: the bible is a really poor guide for iron- and stone- age beliefs about the world considered globally. Even if you think the Jews and early Christians adhered to it, they were a very small portion of total people in the first few centuries AD. There is no reason to think that the majority of the Roman world would have followed beliefs from the Torah rather than Eratosthenes and the other Greek natural philosophers. There is also no reason to think that the other early civilizations (Egyptian, Indian, Chinese etc…) would’ve paid much attention to the Torah – if they were even aware of it. According to Wikipedia, the entire concept of ancient peoples believing the world was flat was basically invented in the 1800s. Just to give one bit of anecdotal support for this being true (i.e. that flat-earthism is largely a recent, invented myth), consider this: Dante started writing his Divine Comedy in 1308. It was well-read. It takes the position that the earth is round (because hell and purgatory sits on the antipode to Jerusalem). AFAIK no contemporary critic or reviewer bothered to complain about this because it wasn’t a surprising or odd thought. So round-earthism even in the Christian west was firmly in place by at least the late 1200s.

  • cervantes

    Well of course it was luck that Columbus hit America — he didn’t know it was there, he thought he was in Asia. And yes indeed, he was just about out of supplies by the time he hit San Salvador. At that point he had another 10,000 miles to the Philippines.

  • moarscienceplz

    NYC atheist #4

    Science is knowledge. Knowledge is power. To do good or to do evil. Learning that some diseases are caused by germs simultaneously helps you to cure or to cause disease. An axe can be used to get firewood or to kill people. You can’t blame science for people’s bad behavior. In fact, most scientists are having too much fun doing science to even think about killing people with it. It’s the politicians and the religious leaders who apply scientific advances as novel ways to hurt people. Look at all the clever torture devices created for the various inqusitions. Now there is some real ingenuity.

  • Michael Heath

    Ed writes:

    ee, this is why I could never be an elected official. There’s simply no way I could fake this kind of civility. I could not call someone “my good friend” or “my esteemed colleague” when they say shit like this. I’m much more likely to address them as “the fucking moron from the city of Baton Rouge.”

    I think a primary obstacle to my ever getting elected is my propensity to plainly describe the negative attributes of certain voting blocks. That includes those on the left though not nearly as often as the religious right.

    In the liberals favor is that I don’t think that hurts politicians with the overall left. Most liberals want an open dialogue that includes self-reflection followed by corrective actions. That’s a feature considered a bug by the right, especially conservative Christians who can’t withstand scrutiny.

  • raven

    Science doesn’t kill people. Science is inanimate and just is.

    It’s people who decide what to do with science and for what purposes.

    You can’t give up science without giving up our modern civilization. Oddly enough, some people do that. They frequently end up dead and rather quickly e.g. Chris McCandless.

  • colnago80

    Gee Guillory, are you claiming that it was scientists that burned Bruno at the stake?

  • Modusoperandi

    Hydra. I rest my case.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    Hydra. I rest my case.

    This is one of your best.