Louisiana Republican Recalls Imaginary Time When Scientists Burned Heretics At The Stake

A Louisiana state senator recently offered a puzzling rationale for why schools in the state should be allowed to teach creationism.

Last month, Louisiana lawmakers considered a measure to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act, a 2008 law that critics have characterized as a way of giving teachers latitude to introduce creationism and other unscientific theories into state classrooms.

In an April 22 hearing, state Sen. Elbert Guillory (R) made it clear that he would vote against the measure, SB 74. In footage uploaded to YouTube last week, he can be seen using a bizarre tactic to support his argument — namely, citing a nonexistent version of history where scientific truth reigned supreme and dissent invited brutal consequences.

“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,” Guillory said. “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.”

Some of Guillory’s assertions might sound familiar: Throughout history, people who have dared defy conventional beliefs about the shape of the Earth, and its relation to other celestial bodies, have indeed faced imprisonment, torture and even burning at the stake. But that cruelty was, of course, applied mainly by religious leaders to punish scientists for theories and observations that were seen as heresy.

When, for example, Galileo’s empirical observations led him to argue in the 1600s that the planets actually revolved around the sun, the Catholic Church fought back by putting him on trial and eventually sentencing him to life in prison. In 1992, 359 years after that —> Read More