Tuesday, September 17, 2013


An interesting essay from Quora, written last year, about the myths surrounding Galileo, heliocentricism, and the Catholic Church. I think the myths he describes have a bit of straw in them - they are the far edge of what is popularly believed about the events, but more moderate versions are also encountered.  Yet perhaps not so.  Some of the comments seem to be criticising from pure prejudice rather than challenging on an intellectual basis.

In either event, what is popularly believed is much closer to the myth than to the evidence he presents here.  Had a Christian, especially Catholic historian presented this it would be held suspect and one-sided.  That an atheist is persuaded of a more complicated view does give it more weight.

The first comment, which takes an opposing view, is quite good, BTW.  Yet I think it neglects how argument was transacted in all countries until quite recently.  When one had the power, one insisted on not mere acquiescence, but on boot-stomping, blood-drinking victory. We consider such over-the-top triumphalism a mark of less persuasiveness in our day and culture, but that was not the case then.  If you think about it, there are many places in the world even in our own lifetimes where that has not been the practice.  If one assents to a few central beliefs the tyrants might let you believe and even quietly teach any number of things.  Yet if you raise your voice up too loudly, you will not be allowed to speak again until you have renounced all heterodoxy according to the strictest interpretation - even if your torturer himself is not so orthodox.

So too in Galileo's time.  Others blithely went on teaching what he had to refrain from attaching any credence to.

1 comment:

Eric said...

If you're interested in the details, Michael Flynn has been writing a series of (rather humorous) articles on "The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown", all about the century-long progress from the first geocentric mathematical model until its establishment as empirically verified fact.