Sunday, July 31, 2016

Galileo? Schmalileo!

Dear Rev. Know-it-all,

Why does the Catholic Church oppose science, and why did the Catholic Church torment poor innocent Galileo who was just stating the facts?


Cyrus “Si” N. Tifique

Dear “Si”,

You are almost as mistaken as was Galileo. Allow me to reproduce here one of the most cogent and brief explanations of the Galileo/Vatican silliness I have ever received.

The Big Lie is everywhere that the Church fears science and that she shut-up a heroic scientist. Never mind Nicolaus Copernicus’ dedication to Pope Paul III in his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, 1543). And that Copernicus's work was used in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII to reform the calendar. Now, we know that today, everybody is an expert! As they’d say back in the shtetl, “A dog without teeth will also attack a bone.” 

Okay, in brief: Galileo lied to the Pope. He first promised to not publish his work until he could correct a few but large mathematical errors. Then he went ahead and published his work without emendations. He knew that there were flaws in his theory; but he was sure his supposition was true. He lacked evidence to prove that the Earth had both rotation and translation motions. He was able to show some flaws in the full geocentric model, and he did leave us a legacy of observational astronomy; but he did not prove that Earth rotates on its axis or revolves around the Sun; nor did he even answer the arguments against those positions that had been well-known for 2000 years.

Pythagoreans suggested heliocentrism 2000 years prior to Galileo, but he offered no reason beyond numinous clap-trap in its defense. Aristotle had rebuffed the Pythagorean idea for the same reason that, centuries later, the Church would hold in abeyance Galileo’s: it lacked necessary evidence to support it.

I hold that Galileo is remembered and celebrated by academic circles less for his contributions to knowledge than for his usefulness as anti-Catholic propaganda. Consider Galileo’s higher standing in academia against that of Tycho Brahe, and his student Johannes Kepler, who far more ought to be known and read in schoolbooks.

Galileo's own argument for heliocentrism was grounded in the tides: Earth moves since water moves. Can one think of a more laughably inadequate stab at proof? For one thing, it proves little and for another it falls apart as a theory. Galileo dismissed the suggestion that the tides' motion was due to the moon, as put forth by (Saint) Thomas Aquinas and Tycho's student Johannes Kepler.

Consider the case of Galileo versus Galileo, and that the man never saw the contradiction. On one hand he considered that ocean tides might be the consequence the Earth's rotation. He dismissed as astrology suggestions that tides were influenced by the moon. Yet, his theory ran counter to his better arguments concerning why we cannot feel the rotation of the Earth.

Even if one insists against facts that there had been any fault of Rome’s in the Galileo—Pope Urban VIII controversy, the matter serves to point out an anomaly and not a pattern. No related experience preceded or ensued.”

So you see, the church wasn’t going to bless Galileo’s theory until he could prove it. Why wouldn’t they take a leap, and why were they so hard on Galileo?  Simple: the world was being torn apart by religious war that masqueraded as religious reform. Italy and Spain were free from the wars of religion that ravage Germany, France, England and Holland. The reformers were governed by the principle of sola scriptura (bible alone). To call the common understanding of Scripture into question without adequate proof was inviting the chaos that was destroying northern Europe.  The Church told Galileo to calm down until he could prove his theories, lest they lead to social chaos. Galileo stamped his feet like a two-year-old and said “NO! I’m right even though I can’t prove it. I don’t care who dies or lives.” 

The church has always encouraged real science. Most recently, the discoverer of the Big Bang was a Catholic priest, Georges-Henri Lemaitre. The church has always been supportive of learning, but has resisted pseudo-sciences like the pseudo-science of 19th century Darwinism which laid the ground work for Nazism and the Holocaust, or the social pseudo-science of Marxist-Leninism which murdered and enslaved untold millions. Then, of course, there is the pseudo-science of Freudianism which has convinced the world that it is not to blame for the chaos of the present age. Or how about the latest pseudo-science of gender studies? How much harm will that do before we come to our senses?

You like science? Science is an unmitigated good? Tell that to the dead and wounded in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Tell that to the ghosts of the Nazi Holocaust, the Nazis were very scientific. They made a true science of genocide. Science unleashed without a soul is not necessarily a blessing.

The Rev. Know-it-all

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