Wednesday, July 11, 2012

More fun examinations of history

Last week, I talked a little bit about Copernicus, and how the way his is taught in school today is heavily misleading. Today, we're going to look at Galileo.

 Now, of course no one is going to dispute that Galileo was a brilliant thinker, a revolutionary scientist, and apparently quite the avid astrologer(that was science back then, folks!) but apparently he was also kind of an ass.

One of Galileo's early contributions to science was a theory about the tides. I won't go into it in detail, but let's just sumurise it by saying he was pretty far off the mark. What's important to note, however, is that he dismissed out of hand the theory of his contemporary, Johannes Kepler. Kepler, in case you're wondering, was the one who first came up with the idea that the moon causes tides. In other words, Kepler was the one who was right.

But Galileo referred to Kepler's theory as "useless fiction", instead defending his own theory by piling on a whole list of increasingly crazy explanations. This is less about who was right and who was wrong, here, at the time Galileo and Kepler were both well-known in their fields, and Galileo was being kind of a jerk. He already had a reputation for this: he had even been nicknamed "the wrangler" because of his argumentativeness.

Now, a lot of people are going to be quick to point out "he was only argumentative because he was right!" if you are one of those people, go back and re-read the previous few paragraphs. This is a story about a time when he vehemently argued a point that was wrong.

Let's move on.

Galileo was a proponent of heliocentrism, basically the idea that the earth revolves around the sun(otherwise known as the correct theory). The modern, secular view of history likes to teach that he was "persecuted as a heretic" for making this claim, because everyone was just religious nutters back then and yadda-yadda-yadda God is stupid. I kid but really the way athiests treat history is a crime.

We are ignoring that Galileo was, in fact, a devote catholic. He did not argue that the bible was wrong and he was not rebelling against some religious dogma. he was, like Copernicus before him, arguing with other scientists, debating scientific theories on scientific grounds.

But, unlike Copernicus, Galileo was kind of a jerk, and that's what got him into trouble.

Copernicus used scripture in his arguments, as did his contemporaries. Galileo referred to the bible as a "book of poetry and songs". Now, I don't much care what a man who lived 400 years ago thinks, but let's remember at the time science and Christianity were enjoying a very deep and passionate love-affair.

Now, it should be noted that Galileo was actually close friends with Pope Urban VIII. I'm not entirely sure the pope is allowed to have non-catholic friends(I don't know much about Catholicism), so if that doesn't convince you of Galileo's firm religious beliefs, nothing will.

As Urban continued his pope-hood, he ended up emboriled in court-intrigue and problems of the state. Basically, we're talking high-level politics, here, the same as you find in any large organization. Corporate, religious, economical, social, or academic, once an organization gets large enough, internal politics become a problem. Urban VIII was actually fearing for his own life when Galileo's enemies(mostly other scientists he had pissed off) brought up the problem.

Let's tackle how Galileo eventually got himself into trouble. I can actually sympathize with Galileo, here. I tend not to be terribly respectful of evolutionists because its a stupid viewpoint that's not supported by science. Galileo felt the same way I do about Geocentric-ism(sun revolving around the earth) he thought it was stupid, and not supported by science, and, hey, today we all know Galileo was right! But I digress.

So Galileo had been asked to present both sides of the argument in his book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. And he reacted about the same way most evolutionists do when asked to talk about creationism: he didn't respect the opposing viewpoint, he didn't take the time to learn about it, and he presented it in a manner that made it look stupid and suggested anyone who believed in it was a fool.

And... this is where poor Galileo runs into problems. Earlier, his good friend Urban VIII had asked Galileo to put his(Urban's) viewpoint into the book. Remember Urban was a supporter of Geocentric-ism. Galileo was, essentially, putting his poorly-researched words about Geocentric-ism right into the pope's mouth.

Do you see the problem?

Galileo had already earned himself his fair share of enemies in academic circles, and now he had basically called the pop an idiot(unintentionally, of course, but still).

Galileo's persecution was not religion attacking science, it was people he'd pissed off going after him because they didn't like him, as a person. They used science and religion and politics and The Inquisition to do it, but it was more about revenge than anything else. Yes, he was attacking a viewpoint that later turned out to be correct, but it was the way he did it that brought about the crapstorm. If he had only been a little less of a jackass, well... speculative history blah, blah, blah.

Anyway, let's try and teach the truth, shall we?

Source: all of the information in this article is drawn directly from the wikipedia article about Galileo's life.

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