Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Silence Galileo Again

"Galileo Silenced Again" is the name of a post over at the Heartland Institute.
In the introduction paragraphs the authors have this to say about Galileo's run in with the Church:

Four centuries ago, “heretics” who disagreed with Church orthodoxy were burned at the stake. Many were the dissenting views that could send offenders to a fiery end.
In 1633, the astronomer Galileo Galilei came within a singed whisker of the same fate, for arguing that the sun (and not the Earth) was at the center of the solar system. He was saved only because he was already famous, had good friends in high government places, and agreed to recant his “heresy” (at least publicly) and submit to living under house arrest until the end of his days.

We’ve come a long way since then. The Church eventually adopted Galileo’s view of science as its own: Nature is the criterion of the truth about nature. ....

Which of course is not true but it is one of the more famous of the Politically Correct truths of the day. The Politically Incorrect truth is that Galileo found himself in the predicament he was in, not because he said the earth was not the center of the universe but because he said it without sufficiently arguing the scientific case against geocentrism. Among the problems with the theory as presented by Galileo was he said the tides were responsible for the earth's motion and he never answered the geocentrist argument involving stellar parallax. Tycho Brahe, who could hardly be called an enemy of science was unconvinced by Galileo. So it really wasn't, as is the popular myth, that the Church was/is against science. But rather the "sin" Galileo was guilty of was bad science and his insistence that the Church take seriously a theory still in its infancy. A theory if you will, that had not yet learned to walk.

There is a delicious irony to the the title, "Galileo Silenced Again." The posting describes the attempts of the authors, to host a scientific session entitled, "Diverse Views from Galileo’s Window: Researching Factors and Processes of Climate Change in the Age of Anthropogenic CO2." The session was to be hosted at the upcoming Fall 2009 Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco.

As the American Spectator puts it, "It was a "go" until it wasn't. The AGU put a stop to the session due to highly suspect causes which seem to toddle about with all the directness of a very young child. Speculation rests on the idea that perhaps the AGU preferred silence to any questioning of the official party line choosing to ignore research that contradicts it.

The Church in Galileo's day was the seat or at least the springboard and ally of many great scientific discoveries. Galileo's case was an exceptional one. The Church acted as a gate-keeper for bad science among others. No gate-keeper and we are overrun by bad science. The theory of man-made climate change has no legs. Would that we could silence Galileo again.


kkollwitz said...

Galileo had good friends in high Church places who had known him and his work for years.

Note also that G. believed with Aristotle that the planets moved in circles, even as his contemporary Kepler was developing the elliptical model.

Galileo was also wrong about the motion of pendulums, as well as tides, as you mention.

Galileo was right about some things, wrong about others. His run-in with the Church had more to do with his personality than disagreement over the as-yet (at that time) unproven theory of Heliocentrism, which was by Galileo's day an idea the West had known about for 2,000 years.

But the conventional-wisdom Galileo story is a fine stick to hit the Church with. Galileo himself would likely be appalled at how his name is now thus used.

eutychus said...

Thanks for the additional info KK and of course you are right about his personality. But at least he didn't claim to have invented the internet. ;-)