Saturday, January 19, 2008

Catholics and Galileo

I am posting one other set of posts from the Ratzinger Forum. These are of some length but they give a good view of the Galileo affair. This has come up again as to the controversy of the Pope not being able to speak. I am posting these also for own study so I don't forget where they are at on the massive Ratzinger forum. Besides correcting misunderstanding in the press I think this is essential Apologetic material.

Note the Posters of this info give their own comments and interact with the text. I shall put that in italics.

In the frenzy of fast-moving developments this week, the media coverage has hardly given the proper background about Galileo, the scientist whose name has been taken in vain by those who profess to defend him against Cardinal Ratzinger. Here, first, is a commentary - of the sort one usually does not expect to see in a populist TV channel's online offerings - that speaks for itself and sets the context for the misuse of Galileo as a stalking horse by the Sapienza 'scientists'.

The Messy Relationship Between Religion and Science: Revisiting Galileo's Inquisition
By Lauren Green Religion Correspondent,
Fox News .

The secular nature of science." The phrase evokes much praise by intellectuals and people of reason — but should it provoke fear? The phrase is taken from a letter written by a professor at La Sapienza University in Rome and signed by 66 of his colleagues, protesting a scheduled visit on Thursday by Pope Benedict XVI. This week, students joined the protest and have been on an "anti-clergy" campaign to voice their opposition to the Pope — over comments he made in 1990 about the church's inquisition trial of scientist Galileo, which a 20th century philosopher of science called "rational and just."

The Pope has sent his speech to the unviersity — and FOX News Channel Contributor Father Jonathan Morris says, "They misread his 1990 talk on Galileo, but they won't be able to misread this one. It will be rational and challenging, a call to recognize the unique and complimentary roles of faith and science." The Catholic Church's trial of Galileo in the early 17th century is the stuff of real concern for anyone who believes religion and science operate in two different realms of world views. Galileo had found, through scientific observations, that the earth revolved around the Sun and not the other way around, which was what almost the entire world believed at the time

A few forward thinking scientists — and clergy — began to see that a geocentric system didn't fit what they observed, but that a heliocentric system did. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that the earth is the center of the Universe. That is a man-made supposition, and helps prove one of the great themes you will find in the Bible, that man will always look for ways to glorify himself, instead of God. Ironically, for scientists of the 17th century, including Galileo, their craft was about glorifying God. That if God is the creator of everything, the discoveries in science could only bring mankind closer to knowing him — not drive a wedge between them.

Pope Benedict's 1990 comments may have been sorely taken out of context. Benedict is a scholar, who speaks in deep scholarly talk that sometimes takes many paragraphs to unfold, and sometimes several reads to grasp. But his conclusions are usually thought-provoking, as is the case in his 1990 speech on Galileo. Benedict quoted 20th century agnostic-skeptic and philosopher Paul Karl Feyerabend, who wrote about the trial: "The church at the time of Galileo was much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself, and also took into consideration the ethical and social consequences of Galileo's doctrine.

Its verdict against Galileo was rational and just, and revisionism can be legitimized solely for motives of political opportunism." Benedict was illustrating that when he is asked about the Galileo trial he's not asked, "Why did the church try to get in the way of the development of modern science?" Instead he's asked, "Why didn't the church take a more clear position against the disasters that would inevitably follow, once Galileo had opened Pandora's box?" Even though science has opened the door to advances in medicine — which has saved millions of lives and has created great opportunities for mankind — it has also opened the portals to weapons of mass destruction like the atom bomb, or tools of personal trauma like addictive drugs. Benedict added after citing Feyerabend that "The faith doesn't not grow from resentment and the rejection of rationality, but from its fundamental affirmation and from being inscribed in a still greater form of reason."

In other words, science is a great gift, by which mankind has prospered. But as an all-encompassing worldview, science is a poor master. Science is great at telling us how to create, how to help, how to heal. It can't instruct us on why, why not, or who should benefit? That just may be the "greater form of reason" the Pope is referring to. The small group of protesting professors and students at La Sapienza University are doing to the Pope what they claim the church did to Galileo ... silence him.

In a world where the marketplace of ideas is heralded, they have tried to muzzle a man who, as FOX News Rome Correspondent Greg Burke says, "would like nothing better than to sit in a college seminar-type room with (smart) people of different ideas for a good wide-ranging debate among intellectuals." You may not like the Pope's views, his doctrine, or even his wardrobe, but he does have a right to believe what he believes. And that is not a right that any man, or science, can give — or take away.

If the man on the street were asked what he knows about Galileo - assuming he knows about Galileo at all - he might say, "He was a medieval astronomer who was condemned by the Church for heresy because of his scientific views.' That is the reduction made in general history books used by those who acquire a basic education. But like all reductions, it does not tell the real story, and even distorts it somehow. While I am aware that the protesting physicists at La Sapienza willingly fell victim to the 'Wikipedia syndrome', I still would use a Wikipedia entry here - which, as far as I can see, has no egregious errors - for a quick overview and context of what it calls the Galileo affair.


Western Christian biblical references Psalm 93:1, Psalm 96:10, and 1 Chronicles 16:30 include text stating that "the world is firmly established, it cannot be moved." In the same tradition, Psalm 104:5 says, "[the LORD] set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved." Further, Ecclesiastes 1:5 states that "And the sun rises and sets and returns to its place, etc."[59] Galileo defended heliocentrism [the theory that the earth moves around the sun], and claimed it was not contrary to those Scripture passages.

He took Augustine's position on Scripture: not to take every passage literally, particularly when the scripture in question is a book of poetry and songs, not a book of instructions or history. The writers of the Scripture wrote from the perspective of the terrestrial world, and from that vantage point the sun does rise and set. In fact, it is the earth's rotation which gives the impression of the sun in motion across the sky.

By 1616 the attacks on Galileo had reached a head, and he went to Rome to try to persuade the Church authorities not to ban his ideas. In the end, Cardinal Bellarmine, acting on directives from the Inquisition, delivered him an order not to "hold or defend" the idea that the Earth moves and the Sun stands still at the centre.

The decree did not prevent Galileo from discussing heliocentrism hypothetically. For the next several years Galileo stayed well away from the controversy. He revived his project of writing a book on the subject, encouraged by the election of Cardinal Barberini as Pope Urban VIII in 1623. Barberini was a friend and admirer of Galileo, and had opposed the condemnation of Galileo in 1616. The book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was published in 1632, with formal authorization from the Inquisition and papal permission.

Pope Urban VIII personally asked Galileo to give arguments for and against heliocentrism in the book, and to be careful not to advocate heliocentrism. He made another request, that his own views on the matter be included in Galileo's book. Only the latter of those requests was fulfilled by Galileo. Whether unknowingly or deliberate, Simplicius, the defender of the Aristotelian geocentric view in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was often caught in his own errors and sometimes came across as a fool.

This made Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems appear as an advocacy book - an attack on Aristotelian geocentrism and defense of the Copernican theory. To add insult to injury, Galileo put the words of Pope Urban VIII into the mouth of Simplicius. Most historians agree Galileo did not act out of malice and felt blindsided by the reaction to his book. However, the Pope did not take the suspected public ridicule lightly, nor the blatant bias. Galileo had alienated one of his biggest and most powerful supporters, the Pope, and was called to Rome to defend his writings.

With the loss of many of his defenders in Rome because of Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Galileo was ordered to stand trial on suspicion of heresy in 1633. The sentence of the Inquisition was in three essential parts: - Galileo was required to recant his heliocentric ideas; the idea that the Sun is stationary was condemned as "formally heretical."

However, while there is no doubt that Pope Urban VIII and the vast majority of Church officials did not believe in heliocentrism, heliocentrism was never formally or officially condemned by the Catholic Church, except insofar as it held (for instance, in the formal condemnation of Galileo) that "The proposition that the sun is in the center of the world and immovable from its place is absurd, philosophically false, and formally heretical; because it is expressly contrary to Holy Scriptures", and the converse as to the Sun's not revolving around the Earth. - He was ordered imprisoned, but the sentence was later commuted to house arrest. - His offending Dialogue was banned; and in an action not announced at the trial, publication of any of his works was forbidden, including any he might write in the future.

According to popular legend, after recanting his theory that the Earth moved around the Sun, Galileo allegedy muttered the rebellious phrase 'And yet it moves' (Eppur si muove), but there is no evidence that he actually said this or anything similarly impertinent. [The summary of the penalties imposed by the Inquisition of Galileo shows, at the very least, that the Inquisition did not just summarily condemn everyone to being burned at the stakee, as popular fantasy has it.

But it also illustrates the delicate balancing act that the Church hierarchy sought to do, where Galileo was concerned, between upholding orthodoxy in the critical period of the Counter-Reformation, and acknowledging the possibility of a changing world-view because science was extending the frontiers of knowledge.] After a period with the friendly Ascanio Piccolomini (the Archbishop of Siena), Galileo was allowed to return to his villa at Arcetri near Florence, where he spent the remainder of his life under house arrest, and where he later became blind. It was while Galileo was under house arrest that he dedicated his time to one of his finest works, Two New Sciences.

Here he summarized work he had done some forty years earlier, on the two sciences now called kinematics and strength of materials [basic courses for students of engineering even today]. This book received high praise from both Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. As a result of this work, Galileo is often called the "father of modern physics."

The Inquisition's ban on reprinting Galileo's works was lifted in 1718 when permission was granted to publish an edition of his works (excluding the condemned Dialogue) in Florence. In 1741, Pope Benedict XIV [The Sapienza scientists would not appreciate this irony!] authorized the publication of an edition of Galileo's complete scientific works which included a mildly censored version of the Dialogue.

In 1758 the general prohibition against works advocating heliocentrism was removed from the Index of prohibited books, although the specific ban on uncensored versions of the Dialogue and Copernicus's De Revolutionibus remained. All traces of official opposition to heliocentrism by the Church disappeared in 1835 when these works were finally dropped from the Index.

On Oct. 31, 1992, Pope John Paul II expressed regret for how the Galileo affair was handled, saying:

Thanks to his intuition as a brilliant physicist and by relying on different arguments, Galileo, who practically invented the experimental method, understood why only the sun could function as the centre of the world, as it was then known, that is to say, as a planetary system. The error of the theologians of the time, when they maintained the centrality of the Earth, was to think that our understanding of the physical world's structure was, in some way, imposed by the literal sense of Sacred Scripture....

And here is a more explicit context for the Feyerabend statement cted by Cardinal Ratzinger:

By the standards of his time, Galileo was often willing to change his views in accordance with observation. Philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend also noted the supposedly improper aspects of Galileo's methodology, but he argued that Galileo's methods could be justified retroactively by their results.

The bulk of Feyerabend's major work, Against Method (1975), was devoted to an analysis of Galileo, using his astronomical research as a case study to support Feyerabend's own anarchistic theory of scientific method. As he put it: 'Aristotelians [...] demanded strong empirical support while the Galileans were content with far-reaching, unsupported and partially refuted theories.

I do not criticize them for that; on the contrary, I favour Niels Bohr's "this is not crazy enough.'

And here is how the New Scientist, the leading Anglophone journal of general science, reported the Vatican clarification at the time.

Vatican admits Galileo was right
07 November 1992
From New Scientist Print Edition

In 1633, the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church forced Galileo Galilei, one of the founders of modern science, to recant his theory that the Earth moves around the Sun. Under threat of torture, Galileo - seen above facing his inquisitors - recanted. But as he left the courtroom, he is said to have muttered, 'All the same, it moves'. Last week, 359 years later, the Church finally agreed. At a ceremony in Rome, before the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope John Paul II officially declared that Galileo was right.[Of course, as the historical overview presented earlier shows, the Church officially conceded much earlier, and this manner of presenting John Paul II's statement is sheer melodrama!] .

The formal rehabilitation was based on the findings of a committee of the Academy the Pope set up in 1979, soon after taking office. The committee decided the Inquisition had acted in good faith, but was wrong. In fact, the Inquisition's verdict was uncannily similar to cautious statements by modern officialdom on more recent scientific conclusions, such as predictions about greenhouse warming. [Remember, this is the New Scientist saying this!]

The Inquisition ruled that Galileo could not prove 'beyond doubt' that the Earth orbits the Sun, so they could not reinterpret scriptures implying otherwise. The verdict was not one to which the doctrine of papal infallibility applied, and the Vatican was never comfortable with it. Pope Urban approved it, but commuted Galileo's sentence from prison to house arrest. The Church finally admitted he was right in the 19th century.

But the Galileo affair still embarrassed the Church, which now maintains an astronomical observatory at the Pope's summer palace at Castelgandolfo. [The observatory is one of the oldest astronimcal institutions in the world, having been established by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 following three similar institutions dating back to 1774, but tracing its roots to 1582 - antedating Galileo's trial by 50 years - when Pope Gregory XIII created a committee to study the scientific data and implications involved in the reform of the calendar.]

Father George Coyne, who heads the observatory, says the affair was 'tragic, beyond the control of any one party'. It was the height of the Church's battle with Protestantism, says Coine, 'and here was a scientist saying he interpreted scripture better than they did.' The trials were not a confrontation between science and faith, says Coine, because "Galileo never presented his science to the Inquisition. Science wasn't even at the trial."

As for the Vatican Observatory, this is the place to make clear once again the misconception fostered by recent Anglohpone reporting of the transfer of the Observatory from the Apostolic residence in Castel Gandolfo - implying that the Vatican was 'kicking it out' to provide 'more room for the Pope's diplomatic receptions' [as if the residence did not already contain more than enough rooms for such activities -which are, in any case, necessarily quite limited during the summer when the Pope is in residence].

As the official site of the Observatory states:

The Vatican Observatory, one of the oldest astronomical research institutions in the world, has its headquarters at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, outside Rome. Its dependent research center, the Vatican Observatory Research Group, is hosted by Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona, Tucson, USA.

In fact, it was Cardinal Ratzinger who noted in the 1990s, after a visit to these headquarters in Castel Gandolfo, that the bright lights of the Rome metropolitan area at night had long made it impossible for important astronomical observations to be done from Castel Gandolfo, and that the observatory's main research activities had to be moved to a fairly uninhabited mountaintop in Arizona! In short, what the Vatican did recently was simply moving the Observatory headquarters to a building of its own in Castel Gandolfo, not 'throwing out' a scientific laboratory!


Seven Star Hand said...

Hello James,

It is beyond amazing that these "snakes in fancy clothing" still have the gall to continue to defend the abomination that was/is the Inquisition. Now we have a Grand Inquisitor Pope (a.k.a., Glory of the Olives...) who personally defends much of the Vatican-Papacy's most heinous and despicable activities.

Why does anyone need anymore proof that these "people" are lying through their teeth to save their own skins? Christianity has been decisively proven to be a Roman deception, and they know the end is nigh!!

Speaking of more proof...

Here is comprehensive proof that the symbolism of many ancient texts, canons, and concepts is an advanced and extremely ancient spiritual & philosophical technology that predates all extant religions and mystery schools. Consequently, here is proof, beyond disproof, that all three so-called "Faiths of Abraham" are purposeful deceptions.

Here is Wisdom...


Timothy said...

>"the abomination that was/is the Inquisition."

Seems someone prefers to believe the myths the Catholic inquisitions versus the actual truth.

>"Christianity has been decisively proven to be a Roman deception,"

Yep, someone definitely loves a good tale.

>"all three so-called "Faiths of Abraham" are purposeful deceptions. "

Loves a good conspiracy too!

God bless...

Michael said...

The Pope quotes Feyerabend but Feyerabend is not really a mainstream philosopher of science. Of course you could still argue his views are right on merit -- but from what I know his views are considered very fringe, for instance his relativism caused him to place alternative therapies on the same level as regular medicine.

As for Galileo I think the trial had more to do with the conflict on 2 sciences, see my blog post for more details if you're interested