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:
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
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