In 1497, Savonarola tried to end the Italian Renaissance in a massive pyre of books and artwork (the Bonfire of the Vanities). The Renaissance was about inquiry and optimism, neither of which had much appeal to Savonarola, who thought he had all the answers he needed in his apocalyptic vision of man. For him, how the world worked, and particularly the coming apocalypse, was "settled science" and any questioning of his world view was not only superfluous, it was evil.
Fortunately, while the enlightenment was perhaps delayed (as much by the French King and the Holy Roman Emperor as by Savonarola), it mans questing nature was not to be denied.
But now, the spirit of Savonarola has returned, in the guise of James Hansen, a man who incredibly calls himself a scientist. Mr. Hansen has decided that he is the secular Savonarola, complete with apocalyptic predictions and a righteousness that allows no dissent:
“James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.
Hansen will use the symbolically charged 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking speech to the US Congress – in which he was among the first to sound the alarm over the reality of global warming – to argue that radical steps need to be taken immediately if the “perfect storm” of irreversible climate change is not to become inevitable.
Speaking before Congress again, he will accuse the chief executive officers of companies such as ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy of being fully aware of the disinformation about climate change they are spreading.”
It will be interesting to see if any champions of free speech on the left can work up the energy to criticize Hansen here. What we have is a government official threatening prosecution and jail time for Americans who exercise their free speech rights. GWB, rightly, would never get a pass on this. Why does Hansen?