King of night vision

Telescopes belonging to Italian scientist Galileo are displayed at the Galileo Museum in Florence June 7, 2010. A tooth, thumb and finger cut off from the body of renowned Italian scientist Galileo, who died in 1642, go on display this week in Florence after an art collector found them by chance last year. The remains, along with two telescopes, a compass and a wealth of other instruments designed by Galileo, are the main attraction at the refurbished, and renamed, Galileo Museum, which reopens on June 10 after two years of renovation work. Picture taken June 7, 2010. To match Reuters Life! ITALY-GALILEO/ REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico (ITALY - Tags: SOCIETY)

Last week New York Times Vatican reporter Rachel Donadio had a fun but flawed piece about the renaming of a Florence museum. Here’s a colorful graph:

Now a particularly enduring Catholic practice is on prominent display in, of all places, Florence’s history of science museum, recently renovated and renamed to honor Galileo: Modern-day supporters of the famous heretic are exhibiting newly recovered bits of his body — three fingers and a gnarly molar sliced from his corpse nearly a century after he died — as if they were the relics of an actual saint.

There were many errors in the piece but here’s a real doozy:

Even today, centuries after Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, the pope’s theological watchdog, had Galileo arrested for preaching Copernicanism, the church has never quite managed to acknowledge that his heliocentric theory is correct. (For his part, Cardinal Bellarmine was made a saint in 1930.)

Hunh? There are a couple of problems with that line. This November 1, 1992, article from, well, the New York Times says exactly the opposite:

Vatican Science Panel Told By Pope: Galileo Was Right

Moving formally to rectify a wrong, Pope John Paul II acknowledged in a speech today that the Roman Catholic Church had erred in condemning Galileo 359 years ago for asserting that the Earth revolves around the Sun.

But at First Things, R.R. Reno notes that, in another sense, you can’t “acknowledge” that Galileo’s heliocentric theory is “correct” because he believed in circular orbits. Johannes Kepler, a contemporary, rightly theorized that planets followed elliptical orbits rather than circular.

There are other problems, too. The church’s position was that the Copernican theory was not based on evidence. Technically, that is not in dispute. The idea is mocked in Donadio’s piece, however. Galileo’s ordeal is often referred to as a trial for heresy. But, strictly speaking, the Copernican system was never officially declared heretical and Galileo was not condemned for heresy. Bellarmine died in 1621 and didn’t arrest Galileo. And so on and so forth.

I know that we’re supposed to believe that Galileo was an unblemished martyr for science over religion but the story is much more complex than an Indigo Girls song. Getting basic facts right is an important part of learning that story. On that note, I recommend this article, for those with interest in the topic, that ran in Scientific American years ago.

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  • Ray Ingles

    But at First Things, R.R. Reno notes that, in another sense, you can’t “acknowledge” that Galileo’s heliocentric theory is “correct” because he believed in circular orbits. Johannes Kepler, a contemporary, rightly theorized that planets followed elliptical orbits rather than circular.

    Well, so long as we’re picking technical nits, science as such doesn’t claim theories to be ‘right’ so much as ‘less wrong than the known alternatives’. As Isaac Asimov put it: “[W]hen people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was [perfectly] spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.” As even that Scientific American article puts it, “Galileo’s process of reasoning was similar to induction but more sophisticated. It was, in an embryonic state, what is now called the hypothetico-deductive method: the testing of a hypothetical model, which attains ever more convincing likelihood as it passes each test successfully… The mathematicians and the physicists cannot really claim truth, but they have certainly sorted out a lot of things that do not work, and they are building a wondrously coherent picture of the universe.”

    Pointing out that Galileo wasn’t entirely right is strangely incomplete, if it’s not also noted that the Church’s position (on this topic) was much “wronger”. (Other commenters at that “First Things” article have pointed out significant issues with the idea that Galileo’s theory “was not based on evidence”.)

    True, the Times article is fluffy and makes serious historical flubs. But let’s not make more flubs correcting it.

  • Stoo

    Just following on from Ray’s post, a circle is basically a special case of an ellipse (where the two foci coincide). And some orbits (like Venus) are quite close to circular.

  • James

    It’s worse even than this.

    Bellarmine was right. Gallileo was hung up on a silly notion about the tides, and this was a central piece of his theory. The notion was completely false. Tides do not occur because of water sloshing around due to the earth’s speeding up and slowing down, and evidence pointed to the falsity of this premise.

    Theories are holistic things. Part of Gallileo’s theory was very right, of course. But the warrant for this belief was inadequate.

    Science is not so much about “being right” as about a means of engaging in inquiry and grounding of knowledge. By scientific standards, we must, unfortunately, point out how Galileo’s work was justly discredited, and how Bellarmine was correct in insisting on the proper course of scientific grounding and progress. If he did not, we would be in more danger today of accepting fantasies in the guise of science, even though we would have been sooner in acknowledging a heliocentric earth. The latter was no great disaster for mankind; the former would be.

    It’s amazing how benighted we are becoming in our reporting in our simple enthusiasm for throwing mud at Catholics. We may despise Catholics, but it becomes rather pitiful when we end up compromising our very pursuit of truth on such patent fallacies as these – especially when we are so chaining ourselves to pejorative fantasies in celebration of someone who was supposed to have liberated us from prejudice.

  • Martha

    Ray, was Galileo (and more importantly, Copernicus) right about the science and the Church wrong?


    However, it’s more complicated (as usual) than that. Cardinal Bellarmine, who recognised that he wasn’t a mathematician, consulted outside experts who told him that Galileo was less than convincing. In other words, his article was peer-reviewed and rejected :-)

    Now, doubtless the “New York Times” would publish a story about, say, a scientist who was claiming to have a feasible method of cold-fusion worked out, and his struggles with the establishment. But I rather think they would not be wagging their fingers at “Nature” or “Scientific American” or whomever for not publishing an article that had no evidence to back it up, which is what they are doing with this “The Church refuses to acknowledge it made a mistake” here.

    And I’m curious as to how the Freemasons get a pass for strange rituals but the Church gets swiped for relic-hunting in the same article, but never mind that.

    Galileo versus the Inquisition is a great story, and the whole ‘literal reading of the Bible versus the scientific evidence’ is, God knows, a live topic today, so we’re never going to see the end of stories about “Why doesn’t the Church just admit that religion is really all about warm fuzzy feelings and being nice and is a kind of fairy tale for grown ups, but when you want to know what is really going on, SCIENCE!!! is the only game in town”.

  • Martha

    There’s also the matter of Galileo’s personality to throw into the mix: he didn’t make it easy on himself when it came to winning friends and influencing people.

    I don’t know if you recall the question of whether Galileo had independently invented the telescope as he claimed, or instead had stolen – er, improved – on the Dutch work being done with lenses? That, if I recall correctly, was settled in Galileo’s favour.

    But he seems to have been more a populiser of other people’s theories rather than a totally originial pure originator himself; after all, he was using Copernicus’ work rather than coming to this idea independently himself, and he seems to have had a bit of previous where this is concerned, if I may quote a comment in reply to a query on a comment thread over at this blog:

    “Galileo did not like to give credit to anyone beside himself. One of the Jesuits at the Roman College seems to have noticed the moons of Jupiter before Galileo and some German star-gazer before either one of them. This sent Galileo into a fit of vituperation in (iirc) The Assayer. Also, his demonstration of the Mean Speed Theorem had been carried out by Oresme nearly 300 years before. All he did is take Oresme’s diagram and reverse it. Never mentioned Oresme. And his “demonstrative regress” in Tractatio de demonstratione is pulled wholesale from a course on logic offered the previous year at the Jesuit College in Rome by Fr. Paulus Vallius. Vallius got it from Lorinus. It was developed and perfected by Jacopo Zabarella at Padua. Galileo mentions none of them afaik.”

    (Comment by Michael Flynn, 26/07/2010)

  • Martha

    I’m not denying Galileo his place in the pantheon of science, just saying that his popular image as the brilliant scientist and inventor carrying out his own originally conceived experiments and discovering principles left, right and centre isn’t all there is to it.

    He certainly did original work and he certainly did conceive and carry out experiments in a systematic way, but he also had a happy knack for picking up on odds and ends of his predecessors’ work and going “Hey, you know, what about…?” and re-working those bits. As Isaac Newton said “If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”

    Except that Sir Isaac was more gracious about it, and Galileo seems to have had the personality type to respond to criticism (actual or perceived) with “Mine! Mine! MINE!! All my own ideas and work, and I’m right, and if you say different you’re stupid and and ugly and everyone will laugh at you!!!”

  • Ray Ingles

    Gallileo was hung up on a silly notion about the tides, and this was a central piece of his theory… Theories are holistic things. Part of Gallileo’s theory was very right, of course. But the warrant for this belief was inadequate.

    But the tides were Mi>not “a central piece of his theory”. He considered them to be a central piece of evidence for his theory – the “warrant for this belief”.

    And yes – this part of his warrant, regarding the tides, was indeed very wrong. Other lines of evidence – the moons clearly in orbit around Jupiter, the phases of Venus being inconsistent with a Ptolemaic system, the planetlike features of the Moon – were not, however. A theory can be “holistic”, but the case for a theory need not be.

    Galileo did, indeed, overstate his case – but the case against him can be overstated, too…

  • Ray Ingles

    Martha – Galileo was kind of a jerk. That’s not in dispute, and does explain much of why he drew the Church’s ire. But explaining is not the same thing as excusing, right?

    (Oh, and while Newton may sound gracious in that ‘shoulders of giants’ quote, he was probably being snarky and sarcastic. And speaking of “Mine! Mine! MINE!!”, look up Newton, Leibniz, and calculus. Newton’s main advantage over Galileo was that he decided to keep his (genuinely) heretical notions to himself.)

    And I’m sorry, I really can’t see any ““Why doesn’t the Church just admit that religion is really all about warm fuzzy feelings and being nice and is a kind of fairy tale for grown ups, but when you want to know what is really going on, SCIENCE!!! is the only game in town”” in the Times article. Can you point to a specific passage?

  • Stoo

    so we’re never going to see the end of stories about “Why doesn’t the Church just admit that religion is really all about warm fuzzy feelings and being nice and is a kind of fairy tale for grown ups, but when you want to know what is really going on, SCIENCE!!! is the only game in town”.

    Does that actually happen?

    And I guess you’re extrapolating into stories of some other sort? I don’t know what other credible games are in town when it comes to studying topics like the solar system.

  • James


    The tides part was central as evidence, but also a part of the general theory, which included a part regarding the rotation speed of the earth. The “evidence” here has to do with the actual tide tables and times of flood tide and ebb tide; the rotation of the earth being part of the theory. This part was wrong, but obviously doesn’t make the whole theory wrong.

    Galileo was wrong to have put so much emphasis on this theory that he intended his work Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems as Dialogue on the Ebb and Flow of the Sea. Here, the Inquisition actually did him a favour for the eyes of history in demanding he change the title to the former – if it had remained the latter, more of us would be aware of how mistaken he was to emphasize this to such a degree.

    You are right regarding the other evidence; had Galileo emphasized only this, the history of science and religion would have been very different from what is now the case. But this was not the route Galileo chose.

    Martha, in previous centuries before the development of the “author function” it was not as common as it is now to “credit” previous authors of scientific work. I do not know how this stood in Galileo’s time, though. It is possible, was this not the case, that Galileo would not have been considered as “filching” anything and as merely reporting his views, it mattering not so much where they came from.

    It is also worth noting, though, that Galileo was not “right about the science” – as the “science” is not so much about “the fact” as it is about the generation of knowledge and arrival at consensus. Strictly spoken, “facts” are not scientific; “methods” are, ways of transmitting, justifying, and building upon knowledge. Galileo was right about the fact of heliocentricity; he was wrong about the proof of the science (except for evidence in the movement of planets etc.).

    At any rate, the article remains very poor, though perfectly in line with our expectations with the mainstream media when it comes to issues touching on religion.

  • Dave

    Thanks to all for this edifying discussion of Galileo. I wish it were more frequently disclosed in the media that the great figures in science were not saints, and had their feuds. Eg, Lavoisier not only (rightly) putting Priestley’s discovery of oxygen in a non-phlogiston context, but trying to cop credit for the discovery.

  • Susan

    I am bemused about the “flat earth” belief mentioned by Asimov in the first comment. Granted, the significance of the quote was “just a brush of a butterfly wing” but oh so effective in “reminding” people that medieval Catholics were oh so ignorant and anti-science. Except that historians have shown it not to be true. Probably the best book on the subject is INVENTING THE FLAT EARTH:COLUMBUS AND MODERN HISTORIANS by the well regarded medieval historian Jeffrey Burton Russell (who is by the way not Catholic). The book is short (unlike most of his books!) and very accessible. Patricia Garwood, a British science historian, has another book on this subject but her focus is a little narrower and she cites some of Jeffrey Burton Russell work. Both are interesting reads if one is interested in the struggle for science to be recognized as a profession and to take the lead in shaping society’s values. Both point out how and why this false notion was spread although their focus is slightly different. (Garwood is particularly focused on the subject of how individuals and groups come to believe what they believe when they have little ability to have direct evidence. Perhaps a little off topic.)

  • Julia

    The writer at the NASA website indicates that Galileo was fond of using his wit against people and might have not had a problem if that had not been so.

    After all, Copernicus was not only a priest in good standing at his death, he was actually buried with honor in a church.

    In Googling around, I found out that the genius Tycho Brahe didn’t go along with Copernicus and Galileo. He believed that all the planets other than the earth circled the sun. And then the sun with all its circling planets moved around the earth.

    He was a Lutheran but was buried in a Catholic church.
    - – - – - -

    Venerating relics is not just a Catholic thing.

    The Chinese have Mao’s body and the Russians had Stalin for a long time.

    Several years ago I visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY. Lots of relics of heroes there. No actual bones, but lots of things that were touched or worn by the heroes. I think those are considered 2nd class relics.

    But Roy Roger’s horse Trigger was stuffed and displayed.

  • Dave

    Copernicus didn’t authorize publication of his heliocentric work until he was on his deathbed.

    Tycho Brahe’s esquisitely accurate observations, ironically, sounded the death knell for geocentrism by showing the precession of the equinoxes.

    (Man, are we ever off topic here…)

  • Martha

    Ray and Stoo, I accept the soft impeachment. Good job of getting me pinned down on the details.

    It was more this paragraph, which seemed to be subtly rolling its eyes about Cardinal Bellarmine (a “theological watchdog” who has been raised to the altar as a saint by the same Church which has “never quite managed” to admit that heliocentrism is correct); in other words, the Church is stubbornly sticking to denial of scientific fact and what is worse, canonised the persecutor of a hero of Science:

    “Even today, centuries after Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, the pope’s theological watchdog, had Galileo arrested for preaching Copernicanism, the church has never quite managed to acknowledge that his heliocentric theory is correct. (For his part, Cardinal Bellarmine was made a saint in 1930.)”

    You could call Cardinal Bellarmine a theological watchdog, or you could say he was the guy who was stuck with the job of investigating accusations of heresy. But one has the overtones of the Inquisition and fanatic zeal for heresy-hunting which the other description lacks.

  • Julia

    What would failing to admit heliocentrism have to do with being declared a saint? That betrays a strange idea of what goes into being a Catholic saint.

    Bellarmine = Rottweiler Ratzinger in the writer’s opinion.

  • Ray Ingles

    Susan – If you read Asimov’s actual essay, that I purposely linked to, you’ll see that he wasn’t talking about Columbus or the Catholic Church or any of that:

    “In the early days of civilization, the general feeling was that the earth was flat. This was not because people were stupid, or because they were intent on believing silly things. They felt it was flat on the basis of sound evidence… Of course there are plains where, over limited areas, the earth’s surface does look fairly flat. One of those plains is in the Tigris-Euphrates area, where the first historical civilization (one with writing) developed, that of the Sumerians.”

    He goes on to talk about Aristotle and Eratosthenes disproving the idea. I’m sure you’ve heard people criticize the Catholic Church unjustly for the whole “flat Earth” thing, but neither I nor Asimov are guilty of that. If the context brought that up for you, it was unintentional and I apologize.

  • Bill P.

    If I may comment on a journalistic point: I’ve noticed that the AP enjoys perpetuating the mythology of Galileo vs. the Church as a sort proof that the Church is anti-science. The Associated Press ran a story about “Galileo’s missing fingers, tooth found,” (it ran in my local paper on November 22, 2009). It contained a paragraph that was as misleading as it was irrelevant to the story–and one similar to what we often find whenever the MSM mentions Galileo:

    “Galileo, who died in 1642, was condemned by the Vatican for saying the Earth revolved around the Sun. Church teaching at the time held that the Earth was the center of the universe.”

    By accident or design the author makes a few mistakes: There was never nor is there any official Church dogma on particular matters of science. While in Galileo’s day many scholars embraced the teachings of Aristotle, who did maintain a geocentric worldview, the Church made no such formal pronouncement.

    As mentioned by many of you above, one could write reams about the real scientific issues at play—such as Galileo’s faulty assumption that planetary orbits were impossibly circular, or that he held that the Earth’s movement was proven by the motion of the tides, or that Church scientists understood that empirical evidence wasn’t matching Galileo’s mathematical models and wanted the scientist to fess up to this scientific principal. Galileo wouldn’t, and so began his political problems with what colleges today call “academic review boards.”

    In charity I will say that because of the “complexity” of the matter, the AP and others seem to struggle to explain that Galileo was a genius without resorting to the falsification of historical realities–i.e., context. Accident? Or design?

    Either way, my concern is that such AP errors will reinforce for the casual reader the myth that the Church was, and is, anti science. As I noted in my response to my local paper, quite the opposite is true. It has always been a Catholic trait to engage and employ worldly sciences, as can be seen in the writings St. Paul through St. Augustine and St. Thomas, to Fr. Gregor Mendel, the founder of the modern science of genetics, and Fr. Georges Lemaitre, who took Einstein’s work and formulated the cosmic expansion theory—the Big Bang—a theory that not even Galileo could have ever imagined.

    Now there’s a story that the AP should cover.

  • Brian Walden

    Galileo didn’t get himself in hot water over teaching heliocentrism so much that he taught that his theories proved that the Bible erred. It was an ugly incident for both Galileo and the Church, but it’s not what common knowledge makes it out to be.

  • Ben

    Mollie — Loved the Indigo Girls reference. :-) I like how the hyperlink is bringing back allusions into writing because now you don’t have to be so afraid that people won’t know what you’re referencing.

  • James

    I read about the “truth” of the Galileo incident in Copplestone’s History of Philosophy sometime in the early 90′s, and was shocked at my own misperceptions, and of the general way western culture has skewed this story. Of course, Copplestone’s very general book has been around since the 1950′s, and I’m sure that any good history book worth its salt covering the period or the issue would mention it.

    Nonetheless we continue to have these enormous illusions about Galileo – we’re all taught them in school, Galileo functions for us as a kind of Martin Luther King Jr. of the renaissance. When any author begins fuming about Catholicism or the church in general -one usually doesn’t need to wait long until the name Galileo is dropped – simply dropped, as if we are all supposed to know what horrors this is supposed to intend regarding the Catholic church in its approach to knowledge in general.

    We don’t have to read Copplestone any more, and can all turn to the page at the Wikipedia – and nonetheless still this continues.

    It is highly ironic that our use of Galileo as a figurehead for the liberation of truth itself is surrounded with so much bigotry and ignorance. We cling to our Galileo, we perpetuate the myth, because we love ourselves for being so much better than the Catholics.

    What actually happened is illustrative of a “Catholic” approach rather than a “liberationist” approach. The “liberationist” approach also: does not create good science. Science always involves regulatory mechanisms, and regulatory mechanisms always involve some form of suppression. The suppression may be an unpublished article which did not pass peer review; it may be a school inspector firing a teacher who refuses to teach evolution. Our society has enough “concerned moms” and others who are legitimately concerned that their children are not taught fairy tales – or perhaps even more importantly, not taught things which will make them significantly different from the others with whom they live in society.

    Plenty of concerned moms today would become irate if school boards allowed highschools to emit evoloution from the biology lessons, and they would have good reason for being so. Likewise, in the renaissance, plenty of concerned individuals expected some form of oversight in what was propogated as truth.

    At the time, it was the Vatican that played the role of the scientific peer review board, and of the school inspector. The Vatican was sent a manuscript called “Dialogue on the Ebb and Flow of the Sea” whose title argument was what we today would classify as “junk science,” and was quickly proven to be false. It contained, however, a very important gem of truth, which was appreciated, though not deemed to have been established at the time (as it was not). It seems like a very open – and – closed case: junk science, title argument shown to be untrue, case closed, book censured (what was done at that time with junk science). The decision was made, however, that this seminal text would be renamed – and called “Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems” – had it not been renamed, we would perhaps not even associate Galileo so much with this view as others who advocated heliocentrism; and he would have likely gone down in history as the man with the discredited tide theory. He was not permitted to teach the theory of heliocentrism as established fact – yet, he was free to discuss it and compare it with other views. But then again, it was not yet established as fact.

    This was a very “Catholic” way of dealing with knowledge. It was not “liberationist” – which supposedly would have looked at the facts and either promoted the material as true and liberating and edifying mankind – or banned it as false and darkening and blighting mankind. It discerned what was interesting – and worth discussing about the theory – and vouchsafed that this part would remain in our collective memory, rather than the silly tide part. It condoned discussion, but not dogmatic pronouncement of a fact which had yet to be scientifically verified. And it did not throw out the whole lot as “bad.”

    We, however, take an idealized and “liberationist” approach with regard to the whole history itself. We need to teach our children the importance of relatively free pursuit of knowledge, and need to fill the roles of “good guy” and “bad guy.” And we do so with Galileo and Bellarmine. But what a sorry, selective, and botched history this is; and how stubborn we are in throwing out the facts that don’t cohere with our idealized picture. And we need only look to articles like this one, but also many books claiming to be scholarly, to see how this mode of teaching tends to turn us into Catholic-bashers fuming about something that didn’t even happen – at least nothing close to the idealized version that we pass on.

    Good science is produced by a “catholic” approach (kata-halos) that keeps its eye on the whole: the importance of the system of discernment in evaluating, disseminating, and building upon knowledge; the maintenance of marginal, shadowy theory in the sidelines of discussion in case they end up producing anything illuminating. A too overt preoccupation with justice, liberation, and edification to the exclusion of a catholic approach tends to create casualties, and does more to prevent disinterested pursuit of knowledge than it helps.

    We need to be more careful with the myths that we create, especially those myths which are somehow supposed to be about our casting aside of myths. We need to be more honest about the collusion of love and enlightenment, and of hatred and delusion; and see that things are frequently more complicated than our idealized pictures.

    The story of Galileo makes clear to us: that we tend to be more engaged in delusional, bigoted mythological thinking than the very boogeyman of this parable.


    I note that better-informed, more interesting writers single out Giordano Bruno as an interesting figure. He was certainly more colorful than Galileo, and Bellarmine actually had him burned as a heretic. There was a good deal more of the “explicitly heretical” in his teachings, and less of what we can easily recognize today as what we are taught in highschool science classes. Bruno gives us a much, much better case for castigating the church, if this is our aim; and he is a man who was not merely censured, but burned, for his teachings.

  • Dan

    The fatuous smugness of the article sheds light on the attitudes that underlie Rachel Donadio’s articles about the sex abuse scandal. Apparently having become a bit bored herself with sex abuse scandal, she has turned to that old reliable, the Galileo affair, to satisfy herself and her readers that the Church isn’t all that she’s cracked up to be.

  • Julia

    If you consider the times when Galileo lived and the following age, recall the disputes about religion going on around Europe, particularly in England.

    This country was settled by English whose home country at the time had revoked almost all civil rights of Catholics. Catholic priests who were caught were executed. Young Americans were taught a skewed version of Galileo and the Pope. This country inherited the English disparagement of Catholicism and the Pope. Is it so surprising what was taught about Catholics in our public schools? The negative attitude has mostly abated in this country, but some remnants linger on.

    All you have to do is read the English papers on-line to see that although Catholics in England have regained most of their civil rights, the negative attitude towards Popery remains. There are public threats being made by prominent English people against the Pope who is set to visit the UK this fall and a petition to protest the Pope’s visit.

  • James

    Thanks for the link, Julia.

    Rather incindiary language used for things which should illicit concern, but not scare-mongering.

    Why are we allowed to portray Catholics and Pope Pius XII in the manner the latest blog posting does, but must remain silent about the many gays also implicated in Hitler’s atrocities?

    I am no fan of Scott Lively’s book “The Pink Swastika,” because of its highly selective emphasis and the finger-wagging tone and the way it seems to desire to implicate gays in general. This book is largely classified by the gay community as “hate speech” and I am happy that it has not received much coverage in any media – including the Catholic media.

    Why is material regarding Pope Pius XII which ignores the difficult situation in which he found himself, and the manner in which he saved the work of many who were protecting Jews, then so prominently used by critics of Catholics, especially when the gay men surrounding Hitler were indeed directly implicated in his actions? I do not wish to “smear” gays because of their actions, but this wholescale smear campaign of Catholics is very ugly and is the very antithesis of what we should understand with “human rights.”

    The general message that non-Catholics are more concerned with human rights and the dignity of people than Catholics or the pope is hereby made ridiculous.

    Groups that support this hate speech:

    * Atheism UK
    * British Humanist Association
    * Central London Humanist Group
    * Council of ex-Muslims of Britain
    * Doctors4Justice
    * Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association
    * Humanist Society of Scotland
    * International Humanist and Ethical Union
    * Liverpool Humanist Group
    * National Secular Society
    * North London Humanists
    * One Law for All
    * OutRage!
    * Plymouth Humanist Group
    * Southall Black Sisters
    * The Marches Secularists
    * Women Against Fundamentalism
    * Young Freethought

    Not enough to brand them as hate groups, of course, but they’re in the neighborhood.

  • Mike Hickerson

    Over at my Emerging Scholars Blog, we just posted some book recommendations on the history of science, including a couple related to Galileo:

    My quick take on the journalism: since science-and-religion is such a common topic, I’d hope that journalists working on beats that touch on the subject would read up on the actual history of science, rather than presume the popular (and simplistic) Inherit the Wind/Galileo vs. the Church narrative of scientist-as-progressive-good-guy and church-as-retrograde-bad-guy.