In the 16th Century a mathematician and astronomer named Nicholaus Copernicus saw fit to question the "settled" science of the time - specifically, that the universe was geocentric; or in plain English, that Earth, not the Sun, was the center of our solar system.
The belief that the Sun and other planets orbited the Earth was more theology than science. It was rooted in the belief of the Greek philosopher Aristotle and based on an accepted-albeit-tortured mathematical model that had been developed by Ptolemy.
But Copernicus observed that Ptolemy's model consistently failed to predict the locations of the Sun and other planets, and that it in fact would require some planets to move backwards in their orbits from time to time to be correct, a gravitational absurdity. So Copernicus calculated a new model, one that did make accurate predictions, and which shattered conventional thinking - the Earth and other planets, he opined, orbit the Sun.
Copernicus, in addition to scientific degrees, held a doctorate in church canon law. Some speculate he did not publish his theoretical masterpiece until near the time of his death for fear of persecution. But in fact, church leaders of the time were receptive and grateful for Copernicus' work. In that regard, the famed astronomer is indeed fortunate that the pope at the time was Clement VII and not John Kerry.
Fast forward to last Sunday when Kerry, having jetted to Indonesia to speak to a college audience, excoriated any and all scientists who have questioned the new age theology of global warming.
"We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific facts," he proclaimed. "Nor should we allow any room for those who think the costs of doing the right thing outweigh the benefits."
Consider the weight of those statements in the context of our democracy: "We (government) should not allow any room for" disagreement.
Kerry continued, "The science is unequivocal, and those who refuse to believe it are simply burying their heads in the sand." So Kerry is declaring himself infallible. It's so because he says so, and anyone who disagrees is unprincipled.
In reality many a principled scientist is questioning current global warming theory for the same reasons Copernicus questioned Ptolemy: the mathematical models and the predictions based on them have proved wrong - consistently, in virtually every case. But rather than question their theory, many climate scientists have taken to dubious practices, such as "adjusting" historical and rural temperatures upward to be more consistent with their theoretical model.
Not only is it principled for scientists to criticize and question such inconsistencies and practices, it's their responsibility as scientists.
But in the end it's politics and not science that really drives the global warming debate. And analysis inside the Beltway is that politics is what drove both Kerry and President Obama to showcase the global warming bogeymen in the past week. The issue polls well with suburban, middle class women, and that's an area where Democrats need help in the fall elections.
But it's an odd tactic. In a January Gallup poll that asked people to rank the most important problems facing the country today, poor government leadership/corruption/abuse of power led the list, followed by the economy and unemployment. Global warming didn't even make the list of the 14 top concerns. If stoking fears about an issue so far off the public's radar is the best the Democrats can come up with, they are in for a tough fall indeed.