In a debate in the Louisiana Statehouse over a bill to repeal a law that allows creation to be taught side-by-side with evolution, a lawmaker made a bizarre claim that in the old days it was "scientists" who burned heretics alive.
His comments were met with incredulity, stunned looks, and a fellow lawmaker correcting him before quoting astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
According to the Friendly Atheist, State Senator Elbert Guillory (R) was attempting to make the case for teaching "both sides" in the evolution/creationism debate when he provided a convoluted version of the history of scientific controversies.
"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. There was another time when scientists thought that the sun revolved around the world," Guillory explained. "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."
Guillory added, that "Knowledge only grows when people can talk about and have this intellectual back-and-forth, this discourse, with all ideas on the table."
In response fellow State Senator Jean-Paul J. Morrell (D) dropped some knowledge on the Republican by reminding him of the story of Galileo, as on-lookers laughed.
"Just a quick addendum to my good friend Sen. Guillory’s comments. Actually, you talk about the world being flat and not the center of the universe? [It was] Galileo and it was the Church that locked him up for nine years for advocating that theory," Morrell patiently explained. "So, although I appreciate your comments about [how] there are alternative theories, when you look at history, oftentimes, when science pushes the envelope, the leading person to lock that person up, is oftentimes religious leaders."
Stating that "When you talk about a fair exchange of ideas, as long as those ideas are based in fact," Morrell then shared a quote from deGrasse Tyson.
"I want to say a quick quote that I’ve been saving for this measure," the Democrat said as he smiled. "It’s from Neil deGrasse Tyson, who I’m sure many of you are familiar with: 'The good thing about science is that it’s true whether you believe in it or not.'"
The motion, SB 74, was later tabled for further discussion.
Watch the whole exchange here, uploaded to YouTube by Zack Copplin: