What do Ted Cruz and Paul Shepherd have in common? A lot more than you think.

This week, not only did Ted Cruz announce he’s running for president, he compared himself to Galileo. No, not the space probe that crashed into Jupiter — the scientist. Cruz said his denial of climate change was the equivalent of Galileo’s fact-based revelation that the earth orbits the sun.

You see, way back in the 17th Century the heliocentric theory conflicted with the religious dogma of the day. Galileo, being a man of science, had immutable evidence that the earth orbits the sun. But an inquisitorial commission ruled he was wrong. The reason? Bible stuff.

The heliocentric theory is “…foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture.”

Fast forward 400 years. The overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree a higher concentration of greenhouse gases is causing the earth to warm.  But Sen. James Inhofe, Cruz’s buddy and fellow climate change denier, says those scientists are wrong. The reason? Bible stuff.

“Well actually the Genesis 8:22 that I use in there is that ‘as long as the earth remains there will be seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night,’ my point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”

In other words, religious dogma trumps science.

In light of that similarity, Cruz is right to compare the modern day with the 17th Century. But he’s cast himself in the wrong role. If denying science makes Cruz a modern-day Galileo then historical context means nothing and I might as well say Ronald Reagan was a modern-day Torquemada.

In a related incident this week, Idaho Rep. Paul Shepherd of Riggins compared gays to slave owners, proving old men can be just as offensive as fraternity boys.  Shepherd described slave owners as good folks who made bad decisions, just like gays. But what he actually meant to say was, “My opinions and slave owners are the same. They’re both offensive and relics of the past.”

It’s the gangsta life of conservative politicians: scorn science, deride decency, and pop a cap in the ass of historical facts.

These guys think they’re being clever.

But in fact, the only thing they’re doing is proving they shouldn’t be left alone in the cockpit.

Here’s a tip: thenceforward, keep your historical references to yourself.

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