Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Galileo Canard

"The notion that Galileo's trial was a conflict between science and religion should be dead," says historian Thomas Mayer, quoted by Jeremy Hsu — Sloppy records cast Galileo's trial in new light. "Anyone who works seriously on Galileo doesn't accept that interpretation anymore."

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Blogger van said...

The premise of the article - that the trial wasn't a clash between science and religion - is absurd. On what basis does it make this claim? All the article claims to reveal is that Gallileo was attacked using legal jargon, and bungled his defense. But the basic fact that he was attacked by the Church for espousing scientific views remains.

As another commentator wrote:

"organization, be it religious, governmental or anything, that would prosecute and imprison someone who thinks or speaks differently from their view is a bad organization and should be shunned by anyone who loves truth and freedom, period."

6:12 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Galileo was not "attacked by the Church for espousing scientific views" but demanding the Church reinterpret scripture.

About the trial, a.k.a. Darwin's Bulldog, the man who coined the term "agnostic," put his agnosticism into practice and "examined the case and concluded that 'the Church had the best of it'" — The Galileo Affair.

About the man, Galileo "was a believer," "he did not spend one minute behind bars … nor was he excommunicated," and he "died professing the faith under the care of a religious sister and with a papal blessing" — Catholic researcher clarifies facts surrounding life of Galileo.

About the mythos that surrounds the trial, historian Thomas Woods observed that "even if the Galileo incident had been every bit as bad as people think it was, John Henry Cardinal Newman, the celebrated nineteenth-century convert from Anglicanism, found it revealing that this is practically the only example that ever comes to mind"— The Galileo Myth.

Speaking of astronomers, Copernicus was a priest and Kepler's laws were confirmed using the Bologna Cathedral's observatory.

"Galileo" has been a one-word straw man used by anti-Catholics for generations to argue that the Church and science are enemies. Atheism, like any belief system, needs its hagiographies, but the popular story of Galileo is more mythology than fact.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Francis Xavier said...

Galileo at the time of his censure was dabbling with atomism; the (correct) idea that matter consists of elemental particles that do not change.

This was highly unwelcome for the powers that were in the Vatican, who were utterly afraid that atomism might usher in doubt about transubstantiation, and not only limit their power, but also bring the Reformation and blood shed to Italy. So they nailed him for something else.

10:30 AM  
Blogger van said...

Galileo was not "attacked by the Church for espousing scientific views" but demanding the Church reinterpret scripture.

Rubbish. First of all he was warned to abandon his theory of heliocentrism by catholic clerics, even though he claimed it was not contrary to Scripture passages. He agreed to abandon the idea when the Church threatened him.

Later he decided to defend his idea and penned the book, The Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.

Galileo was convicted of "grave suspicion of heresy" based on the book. The book was banned by Catholics for 200 years - along with anything else Galileo wrote.

In fairness he was luckier than some - like Hypatia and Giordano Bruno - or pretty much any scientist living under Spanish Inquisition.

10:40 AM  
Blogger van said...

The other points you made are also pretty weak. Quoting the catholic news agency quoting a modern Chilean catholic priest? Really?

Anyway, re galileo never spending a day behind bars - he spent the rest of his life under house arrest. His house may or may not have had "bars" but it's a pretty moot point, don't you think?

And regarding the peruvian priest quote, that galileo "died professing the faith under the care of a religious sister and with a papal blessing" - do you have another sources for this, other than a catholic priest in 2010???????

Here's a few facts to mull over:

As part of his house arrest galileo was ordered to read the seven penitential psalms once a week. His daughter Maria Celeste relieved him of the burden after securing ecclesiastical permission to take it upon herself. It was while Galileo was under house arrest that he secretly dedicated his time to one of his finest works, Two New Sciences. As a result of this work, Galileo is often called the "father of modern physics."

Following his death, The Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando II, wished to bury him in the main body of the Basilica of Santa Croce. These plans were scrapped, however, after Pope Urban VIII and his nephew, Cardinal Francesco Barberini, protested, because Galileo was condemned by the Catholic Church for "vehement suspicion of heresy". He was instead buried in a small room next to the novices' chapel at the end of a corridor from the southern transept of the basilica to the sacristy.

Even after death they were castigating and persecuting him.

Your whole diatribe smacks of desperation. It's one thing to be a devout Catholic, and to uphold modern catholic tolerance - if there is such a thing. It's quite another to try to whitewash history to your faith's best advtantage.


# ^ a b Carney, Jo Eldridge (2000). Renaissance and Reformation, 1500-1620: a. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-313-30574-9.
# ^ Allan-Olney (1870)
# ^ Shea & Artigas (2003, p.199); Sobel (2000, p.378).
# ^ Shea & Artigas (2003, p.199); Sobel (2000, p.378); Sharratt (1994, p.207); Favaro(1906,18:378–80) (Italian).
# ^ Monumental tomb of Galileo. Institute and Museum of the History of Science, Florence, Italy. Retrieved 2010-02-15.

2:57 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Moderns and post-moderns rightly trend not to judge (or claim not to judge) one cultural based on the norms of another, but do not refrain from judging one time based on the norms of another, a consequence of the unquestioned acceptance of Whig interpretation of history, of which the Galileo narrative is part.

Jusding from the times, the trial was a remarkablt friendly affair. House arrest and weekly recitation of psalms was no huge punishment. Galileo's book was first allowed to be published. He was allowed to discuss (but not defend) heliocentrism, obviously a lifeline. And he only got into trouble after pushing several envelopes.

Your ad hominem against one of my sources, a Catholic priest whom you can't decide is Chilean or Peruvian, reveals your bias. Why mention his nationality? Would a Northern European have been more credible? If you want some balance to the Whig interpretation of history, which sees history as the inexorable progress from darkness to light, you need to read Catholics and Southern Europeans, or American old right libetarians.

7:26 AM  
Blogger van said...

It's not an ad hominem - i'm questioning the credibility of your source. The point is that the guy is:

1. Obscure.
2. Has no evidence to substantiate his claims.
3. Has a heluva conflict of interest - he's a catholic priest!

And regarding Galileo - how's this for revealing bias: "he only got into trouble after pushing several envelopes." What an irascible fellow! How dare he try to advance science and education peacefully. The gall!

Gallileo was a giant compared to the Catholic midgets who persecuted him. He is rightfully remembered, because his actions of "pushing the envelope" inspired many others afterwards, and eventually led to the breaking of the Catholic stranglehold on education and free inquiry. The Church didn't kill him out of compassion, or pity, or fairness. Remember, they had no such compunctions on many other occasions. They spared him for the same reason the Burmese military junta spares Aung San Suu Kyi; the same reason the British took royal hostages throughout the Empire instead of killing them. Execution risks creating martyrs and inflaming discontent; much better to keep them under lock and key, where they can be slowly mitigated.

7:55 PM  
Blogger van said...

Should have been: The Church didn't spare him out of compassion etc...

7:57 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

If you don't trust the priest, admittedly the weakest of the witnesses I have called to the stand, why don't you cross examine the reluctant testimony of Darwin's Bulldog, a notoriously anti-religious figure in English history, who said, "I looked into the matter when I was in Italy, and I arrived at the
conclusion that the Pope and the College of Cardinals had rather the best of it." What might this enemy of religion have meant by this?

About your other comments, the envelopes Galileo pushed were theological, not scientific. He demanded heliocentrism be either accepted or condemned. The evidence was not in at the time; Kepler's theories would be proven later in the Bologna Cathedral. (And remember, Galileo mocked Kepler's ideas of the moon's effect on the earth's tides.)

Also, Galileo mocked the pope in his book, putting his arguments into the mouth of a character named "Simplicio" (the Idiot). This may or may not have been praiseworthy, according to your point of view, but was certainly unwise practically. Still Galileo was given a papal palace during his house arrest. I should have such luck with this blog!

The Galileo affair as we were indoctrinated to understand it in our schools was a creation of Whig history, which is really Whig theology. I've lived almost half my life outside the Anglosphere, in Latin America, the Islamic World, and the Far East, where, despite Anglo-American dominance, the theology of Progress with a capital "P" not yet completely caught on. It would be a good thing if more Anglo-Americans, especially those who call themselves atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, or, laughably, "Brights," would put their self-touted rationality to the test, as Huxley appears to have done, and test the very same biases in which they were raised. It's a dangerous prospect, though; I did so and ended up Catholic.

Admittedly, the "New Atheists" have dumbed things down to such a degree with "arguments" like "Galileo" or "I have no evidence for the Tooth Fairy" that I have little hope. The Church is onto something when she speaks of "invincible ignorance."

Here's neat almost two-decade old document returved from Gopherspace:

10:43 PM  
Blogger van said...

...why don't you cross examine the reluctant testimony of Darwin's Bulldog, a notoriously anti-religious figure in English history, who said, "I looked into the matter when I was in Italy, and I arrived at the
conclusion that the Pope and the College of Cardinals had rather the best of it." What might this enemy of religion have meant by this?

To begin with, Huxley was not "anti-religious", nor "notorious". He actually advocated the reading of the bible in school - because he believed in its moral merits.

But he believed the bible should be edited - to fix its shortcomings and errors - of which we now know there are many. In many ways, he was like Galileo - he couldn't bide fasehoods, particularly when they were propogated so ruthlessly. He believed in reason, in evidenced-based truth, in the scientific method and in free inquiry. The fact that these beliefs clashed with religion, doesn't make him anti-religious. He can't be held responsible for the fact that the Bible was riddled with mistakes and errors, or that the Catholic Church believed in perpetuating falsehoods and supressing opposing viewpoints.

Anyway, on the matter of the quote - I'll tell you what Darwin's Bulldog meant: that Galileo could not produce the proofs and demonstrations that Cardinal Bellarmine required before he would consider the Scriptures and the Fathers seriously challenged.

Huxley never doubted Galileo - he doubted that the Cardinals would heed the man's plea for reform.

Hardly surprising, really.

Anyway, on the "Whig" theory of false history you keep espousing. The history that you and I believe in is actually very similar. It's our interpretation of history that is different. That has to do with ideology and philosophy - not history.

For example, where you see Galileo as being a "lucky" irritant put up in a lovely papal palace, I see him as one of the greatest scientific minds of modern history prevented from learning and teaching.

Where you see him as "pushing the envelope" and trying to force changes to scripture, I see him as
being a man of rare intellectual courage who saw falsehood and who had the balls to speak out about it - unlike the legions of Catholics who to this day cling to stone-age notions that have long ago been discredited.

As for the link - I stopped reading when I got to "old Catholic Encyclopedia". The Catholic Church lost credibility as a witness to its own doings when it burnt Hypatia at the stake.

Imagine if the ancient Greek and Macedonian scientists had been allowed to pursue their peaceful investigations into the natural world without threat of torture and death by Constantine's custodians of ignorance! 1600 hundred years of free and open learning!

And the Church has the nerve to speak of "invincible ignorance???"

7:08 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

"The Catholic Church lost credibility as a witness to its own doings when it burnt Hypatia at the stake."

In The Perniciously Persistent Myths of Hypatia and the Great Library, classicist David Hart informs us that Hypatia was "brutally murdered—and then dismembered—by a gang of Christian parabalani (a fraternity originally founded to care for the city’s poor); that much is true. This was not, however, because she was a woman (female intellectuals were not at all uncommon in the Eastern Empire, among either pagans or Christians), or because she was a scientist and philosopher (the scientific and philosophical class of Alexandria comprised pagans, Jews, and Christians, and there was no popular Christian prejudice against science or philosophy).

"And it was certainly not because she was perceived as an enemy of the Christian faith; she got on quite well with the educated Christians of Alexandria, numbered many among her friends and students, and was intellectually far closer to them than to the temple cultists of the lower city; and the frankest account of her murder was written by the Christian historian Socrates, who obviously admired her immensely. It seems likely that she died simply because she became inadvertently involved in a vicious political squabble between the city’s imperial prefect and the city’s patriarch, and some of the savages of the lower city decided to take matters into their own hands."

7:37 PM  

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