Ever heard of geocentrism?
It's the belief that the Earth is at the center of the universe and that the sun - and everything else in creation - revolves around the Earth. It's considered pretty stupid right now, given that Galileo, Copernicus and Kepler debunked it over 500 years ago.
Nevertheless, stupid ideas can take on a new life if some idiot puts enough money behind them.
Case in point: what happened earlier this month to former "Star Trek" actress Kate Mulgrew.
A couple of geocentrist whackjobs with a little bit of money hired her to narrate a documentary called The Principle without telling her what that documentary was about. That documentary claimed, in defiance of all modern science, that the sun revolves around the Earth, although Mulgrew didn't realize this from the words that she read and what the producers told her about the movie.
As news of her role in the documentary started to make the rounds on the internet, Mulgrew decided to take action. In a statement posted to Facebook just a few days after new broke about the documentary she wrote that she was "not a geocentrist... nor in any way a proponent of geocentrism."
Mulgrew then clarified her reasons for helping out with the film, saying that she was a "voice for her hire, and a misinformed one."
It really doesn't take too much thinking to understand why Kate Mulgrew was so quick to separate herself from the documentary and its producers. Geocentrism was disproven 500 years ago, and the only people who still believe in it are fringe nuts and religious fundamentalists.
Really, when it comes down to it, believing that the sun revolves around the Earth is about as sensible as believing in Bigfoot or the reptile Illuminati, and anyone, like Kate Mulgrew, who wants to be taken seriously as a modern, thinking person should reject the idea outright.
The same really is true of climate change denial. Over 97 percent of scientists agree that global warming is real and that human beings are causing it by burning fossil fuels
There is no debate. Climate change is a fact, just like the Earth revolving around the sun is a fact, and anyone who says otherwise should be treated like a crazy person.
But the opposite is true: in some circles, denying climate change is about as mainstream as it gets, and for Republicans it's the default position. According to some estimates, around 58 percent of Congressional Republicans deny the existence of man-made climate change including 100 percent of last year's freshman Republicans in the House of Representatives.
That leads to some crazy things. Just yesterday, for example, all four Republican candidates for North Carolina's Senate seat said "no" when asked by a debate moderator if climate change was a fact. One of them even went so far as to say "God controls the climate."
That's right. While people in the scientific community are debating whether or not human beings will go extinct within this century as a result of climate change, the only answer some people in the Republican Party have to the question of climate change is "God controls the climate."
This is ridiculous. Can you imagine what the reaction would be if all four Republican candidates for North Carolina's senate seat said the sun revolves around the earth?
Of course, climate denialism in the Republican Party would be ridiculed without the help of the right wing media, led by Fox So-Called News. Not a day goes by without some Fox host laughing off climate change like it's some kind of joke.
This is exactly what happened on yesterday's episode of The Five. When host Bob Beckel brought up a graph put together by NASA showing the sharp rise in carbon dioxide emissions over the past few decades, he was ridiculed by Eric Bolling and the rest of The Five team
Really, though, the joke's on Eric. By denying climate change and laughing off evidence that shows it's real, he's put himself in the same category as the Illuminati conspiracy theorists and the geocentrists who think the sun revolves around the Earth.
And that graph he made fun of? It actually is from actual real scientists at the actual real NASA, and is routinely used by scientists all over the world to show the dangers of fossil fuel emissions.
If Eric were smart, he'd do what Kate Mulgrew did when faced with the controversy over the geocentrist documentary - he'd deny any association with whacko climate deniers. But he won't, and neither will any other climate change denier in the Republican Party. There is just too much money at stake.
Ultimately that's the one thing separating the climate deniers from the geocentrists and the flat-earth society crazies: the climate deniers have money from the fossil fuel industry. Nobody's making money claiming the Earth's the center of the universe, but there's millions to be made lying for the coal and oil barons.
When crazy people like the directors of the geocentrist documentary that got Kate Mulgrew in trouble get access to money, it's easy for them to spread their bad ideas among the general public. But luckily, since the financial support for geocentrism is so thin, the idea that the sun revolves around the earth will never really be anything more than a fringe conspiracy theory.
But that's not the case with climate change denial. There is a whole trillion dollar industry - the fossil fuel industry - that has a vested interest in keeping the public in the dark about climate change. All it has to do to make sure Republicans and the right-wing media tow the party line about global warming is pass out a few million dollars.
In an ideal world, people who deny climate change would be laughed at just like people who think that the sun revolves around the Earth.
But we don't live in an ideal world: we live in a world dominated by the fossil fuel industry, and until we wrench our society from its clutches, global warming denial will continue to live on.
That's why it's time for the rest of us, the people who know that global warming is real and probably worse than we ever imagined, to call out the climate deniers for what they are: whackos, who deserve no more respect than people who think the sun revolves around the Earth.