THE STUPIDEST THING ON THE INTERNET EVER!

Tim O’Neil, erstwhile wry, dry, rather sarcastic, eccentric, occasionally arrogant Irish-Australian atheist bastard, has tremendous and informative fun disabusing the vast cadre of internet atheists who worship rather than use the intellect of the gigantic myth of the Evil Old Catholic Church persecuting scientists and thereby creating The Dark Ages[TM].  In particular, he focuses his glee on this:

The Stupidest Thing on the Internet Ever
Behold its glorious idiocy!

He then gives his fellow atheists things called “facts” n’ stuff in a highly educational and fascinating romp through the fact that the world basically owes the sciences to the medieval Latin Christians.

Particularly funny is this which you should clip n’save for the next Dawkins worshipper who comes along to tell abou the Church’s “centuries-long campaign of persecution against Science and Reason” etc., blah blah:

It’s not hard to kick this nonsense to pieces, especially since the people presenting it know next to nothing about history and have simply picked this bullshit up from other websites and popular books and collapse as soon as you hit them with some hard evidence. I love to totally stump them by asking them to present me with the name of one – just one – scientist burned, persecuted or oppressed for their science in the Middle Ages. They always fail to come up with any. They usually try to crowbar Galileo back into the Middle Ages, which is amusing considering he was a contemporary of Descartes. When asked why they have failed to produce any such scientists given the Church was apparently so busily oppressing them, they often resort to claiming that the Evil Old Church did such a good job of oppression that everyone was too scared to practice science. By the time I produce a laundry list of Medieval scientists – like Albertus Magnus, Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, John Peckham, Duns Scotus, Thomas Bradwardine, Walter Burley, William Heytesbury, Richard Swineshead, John Dumbleton, Richard of Wallingford, Nicholas Oresme, Jean Buridan and Nicholas of Cusa – and ask why these men were happily pursuing science in the Middle Ages without molestation from the Church, my opponents have usually run away to hide and scratch their heads in puzzlement at what just went wrong.

O’Neil demonstrates that rarest of attributes among Internet Atheists: honesty and the ability to use rather than merely worship, the intellect.  More like him, please.

  • Wally

    But what has the church done for me lately?

    The Dark Ages were a long time ago, before the internet, even.

  • contrarian

    A great scene from Moneyball has Peter Brandt say, “Baseball thinking is medieval…”
    I love this movie, but that scene always makes me cringe. I hope that on this issue and others, popular culture catches up with scholarship. One can only hope that future generations will see people who use ‘medieval’ to connote something unsophisticated or ‘backwards’ as being, well, precisely that.

    • Irenist

      Indeed. While we’re at it, I’d like Mark to stop disparaging the good people of the Bronze Age (e.g., the Old Testament patriarchs) by comparing them to modern jihadists.

    • capaxdei

      On August 8, a Washington Post editorial referred to an ongoing “contest for the most medieval level of intolerance.” Which is funny, and sad, on several levels.

  • A Philosopher

    Fun challenge: give a mathematical theorem proved anywhere between 500 AD and 1200 AD. Only tangentially related to Mark’s point, but it is a nice illustration of a very real crashing halt in many aspects of intellectual progress.

    • dbp

      Honest question: how many were proven between 100AD and 500AD?

      • A Philosopher

        Well, there are at least Menelaus of Alexandria, Ptolemy, Diophantus, and Pappus in that time period. Plenty of substantial results, such as Ptolemy’s theorem that the sum of the products of opposite sides of a cyclic quadrilateral equals the products of the diagonals. It’s certainly a slower period than, say, 300 BC to 100 AD, but still quite active.

        • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

          I’m not sure that anyone would deny that European civilization, in many significant ways, fell apart around AD 400 (or so). Isn’t the eye-rolling absurdity the attempt to pin it so squarely and artlessly on Christianity’s “hatred of science”?

          • A Philosopher

            Of course. I just thought the mathematical case was a particularly striking example of the academic void. A seven hundred year period without a single new result is stunning, especially when one compares that to the eight hundred years on either side of the void.

            • http://armariummagnus.blogspot.com/ Tim O’Neill

              Is it so “stunning” given the void in western science and mathematics from the first century onwards? And is it even surprising at all given the chaos in the west from the third century and then the total collapse of the Western Empire and the centuries of invasion and fragmentation that followed? Notice how all your examples above are from the eastern half of the Empire? And are you really “stunned” that a civilisation that spent the centuries in question rebuilding itself from scattered fragments of the past wasn’t exactly a powerhouse of mathematics while doing so?

              The decline in western intellectual life began three centuries before Christianity come to power and revived when Christian cultural influence was at its height in western Europe. Think about that for a moment.

              • A Philosopher

                There is no void in western mathematics from the first century onward. Heath’s History of Greek Geometry, for example, devotes over three hundred pages to the Greek mathematical accomplishments between 100 and 300. The pro-Christian triumphalist story is almost as silly as the anti-Christian triumphalist story. There’s just no convenient ideological moral to be drawn from the history of mathematics.

                • Ye Olde Statistician

                  Perhaps you think a ‘decline in western intellectual life’ means a ‘total cessation of western intellectual life.’

                • http://armariummagnus.blogspot.com/ Tim O’Neill

                  “Heath’s History of Greek Geometry, for example, devotes over three
                  hundred pages to the Greek mathematical accomplishments between 100 and
                  300.”

                  Read what I said more carefully. I was referring to the void we find in western Europe (ie what was later to become the Western Roman Empire and, later, western medieval Europe), as opposed to the Hellenic eastern half of the Empire. Have a look at where those first to third century mathematicians in Heath’s book where all practising. Notice anything?

                  The western half of the Empire had been the intellectual poor relation long before Christianity came to power. It was disrupted even more than the eastern Empire by the near collapse of the Empire in the third century military anarchy, which is seen in a huge decline in literacy in Greek in the west from then onward. And then came the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century. The chaos which followed gave the people of western Europe a few other priorities above commentaries on Aristotle and left those who did want to pursue obscure technical study little material to work with.

                  So, as I said, the decline in this study in the western half of the Empire began centuries BEFORE Christianity came to power and the revival in it came when Christianity was at its height. This is why the claim that Christianity was somehow the culprit here is clearly garbage.

                  • A Philosopher

                    Well, I wasn’t claiming that Christianity was the culprit. But if that’s how you’re carving things up, then the void in western European mathematics lasts roughly from the beginning of time until about 1200 or so. My point was that there was a global lack of mathematical progress for a seven hundred year period, so the fact that there’s chaos in a place that hadn’t been contributing any mathematics in the first place doesn’t go very far to explaining the void.

                    • http://armariummagnus.blogspot.com/ Tim O’Neill

                      “I wasn’t claiming that Christianity was the culprit.”

                      You were making arguments that sound exactly like the ones used by the idiots who do claim this, and doing so in comments on an article on said idiots. Given that context, you sounded exactly like the idiots in question.

                      “there was a global lack of mathematical progress for a seven hundred year period,”

                      Global? So what’s Al-Khwarizmi – chopped liver? How about Brahmagupta?

                    • A Philosopher

                      I wasn’t making an argument, and a fortiori wasn’t making an argument that sounds like anyone else’s argument.

                      Brahmagupta is a better example than Al-Khwarizmi, who doesn’t provide any new results. As I said in response to Mariana Baca, I think Brahmagupta is probably the best response to the challenge I issued. (Note, to avoid confusions, that the issuing of a challenge is not the same as a declaration that the challlenge cannot be met. And that a lack of X is compatible with the presence of some X’s.)

    • Ye Olde Topologist

      See the chapter on Mathematics by Michael S. Mahoney in David Lindberg’s Science in the Middle Ages (Chicago History of Science and Medicine) The medievals virtually invented arithmetic. (The Greeks had been more into geometry, and Archimedes, e.g., regarded arithmetic methods as ‘cheating.’) Among medieval inventions: numerator and denominator, continued fractions, exponents, fractional exponents, borderline analytical geometry, borderline infinitesimals, solution of motion on an incline, proof of the mean speed theorem……. Remember, the Romans had ignored virtually all of Greek mathematics beyond enough arithmetic to count booty and enough geometry to survey conquered land. Almost none of it was in Latin before knowledge of Greek faded in the West, and the medievals had to virtually re-invent it from scratch.

      http://www.amazon.com/Science-Middle-Chicago-History-Medicine/dp/0226482332#reader_0226482332

      • A Philosopher

        Well, all of the work that you mention is post-1200, so not a successful response to my challenge. I’m certainly not trying to diminish the mathematical accomplishments of the late medieval period. I think, however, that you’re overstating the ancient aversion to arithmetic methods. Diophantus, for example, had notation for exponents, and in general an interest in arithmetic and algebraic issues. Infinitesimals, in essence, are in Eudoxus and Archimedes’ method of exhaustion. Continued fractions are in Euclid.

        • Irenist

          “I’m certainly not trying to diminish the mathematical accomplishments of the late medieval period.”

          Well, all’s well then. Cheers.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          The Greeks did great stuff that never made it to the Romans.

        • A Philosopher

          I’m really enjoying imagining the two “down” votes to my post as coming from rabid anti-Diophantians roaming the internet Scientologist-style…

    • Irenist

      @A Philosopher:

      Interesting that you chose to stop well before any standard definition of the Renaissance, at 1200 AD. I’ll grant you that the collapse of Western civilization slowed things down awfully badly during your cited time period, but if you had extended your question to 1400 AD (when the Catholic Church was still regnant in western Christendom), you’d get Fibonacci (a Catholic layman) and the Catholic clerics Thomas Bradwardine, William of Heytesbury, and Nicole Oresme, all of whom were no mean mathematicians.

      • ivan_the_mad

        “all of whom were no mean mathematicians” Indeed, some might dare to say that they were … above average.

        • Alias Clio

          Heh.

    • HornOrSilk

      This is a silly argument. While there might have been little to no interest in mathematics, that isn’t the all in all of scientific exploration and study. As Lem points out in his Summa Technologae, societies will always have limited resources in sciences, and this means a shifting of interest from society to society, from era to era. So, if it is proven (which it has not) that there was no mathematical advance in this era, it would not prove there was no scientific advance going on — rather, the scientific research was in other areas of practical interest and need.

      Now your pointing to the “lack” of mathematics in this era comes, in part, from the lack of knowledge of the ordinary reader of the history and development of science. It also comes with a rather narrow view of mathematical development: “theorems.” But if one looked closely, one would see advances in mathematics going hand in hand with astronomy and calendar exploration (look, for example, at the mathematical developments needed to continue with the worldview given from Ptolemy to engage the Christian calendar; here we see real advances going on; it was necessary for the computus to work!) It is, thus, a focus for one kind of mathematical work, questioning people who have not studied math if it exists, ignoring other forms and understanding and use of math!

      http://www.math.tamu.edu/~dallen/masters/medieval/medieval.pdf gives some of the theorems developed in the late medieval era (before 1500). So again, fail on so many levels, especially the double focus of a particular (mathematical theorems) to represent the whole (not just math, but science!) Yes I know you said 1200, but we all know why you said that. The change in interest and style of mathematics brought a new revolution with resources used in other sciences returning to mathematical development. But again, that doesn’t mean there was no science, no mathematical development, before then. Looking for an orange and saying there was no fruits in an apple farm is just as silly as your argument.

    • Mariana Baca

      The adoption of the decimal number system and the invention of algebra were biggies of that era. The modern formulation of the quadratic equation dates squarely from the middle of that period. And ok, hey, right at the limit of that time period, Fibonacci was born in 1170. Boethius did work on modular arithmetic and number theory, much earlier, and introduced the study of arithmetic and geometry to universities.

      • A Philosopher

        The decimal number system is in place in Hindu mathematics prior to 500, and doesn’t enter into European mathematics until Leonardo’s Liber Abaci in 1202 (note that my endpoints were chosen to exclude this work, although it doesn’t really contain anything new). “The invention of algebra” is a bit nebulous to pin down, but Diophantus was certainly doing lots of stuff that looks reasonably like algebra. The quadratic equation is probably your best bet. The method of completing the square was known already to the Babylonians, and Diophantus gives a pretty general algebraic solution, but it does look like the first fully general formulation is by Brahmagupta in the 600s. Boethius just barely falls within my period, but he’s just a compiler and popularizer of old results, so he doesn’t provide any helpful examples.

        • Mariana Baca

          Boethius’ De Mathematica does have original work, not just old work. But yes, it is close to your endpoint, too. There was interesting math being done by islamic and hindu mathematicians which were being incorporated into the european canon slowly. And math was being studied in that period, just very little new was proven. But that is one field of study of many. Much work was being done in issues of logic/philosophy, as well as natural sciences and chemistry. Europe in that time period was sort of “post apocalypic” in many senses — modern society had collapsed, and much had to be rebuilt and their priorities were different. It wasn’t really that mathematicians were being censored.

          • HornOrSilk

            Or, as I pointed out, there was the work of Bede, which is not just found in his computus, but also in studies on things like tides. These are good articles on Bede’s math:

            http://plus.maths.org/content/lost-mathematicians-numbers-not-so-dark-early-middle-ages

            http://www.scribd.com/doc/102085405/Early-Medieval-Science-the-Evidence-of-Bede

            This “Philosopher” has a false understanding of mathematics and how to understand its use and development. I really doubt he knows much about the history of science beyond the typical and false presentation given to us for much of the 20th century.

            • A Philosopher

              So what is there in the kind of computations Bede was doing that couldn’t be done using even the methods of the Rhind or Ahmes papyri, let alone mature Greek mathematics? Is it even vaguely plausible that Bede had computational methods that would have been outside the knowledge of, say, Archimedes?

              • HornOrSilk

                That’s a stupid question; it’s like asking what did Einstein do that couldn’t have been done by others who studied physics. Development is based upon the methods and practices of the past, not apart from them. The fact that people didn’t do them and Bede did shows mathematical advancement. Seriously, you know you lost, and so you went on a tangent which ultimately would make no mathematical development!

                Of course, one could ask, “What did Copernicus actually predict that couldn’t be predicted by Ptolemy’s method?” Once you understand the answer to that question, you will see how nonsensical your approach and understanding is.

                • A Philosopher

                  “Lost”? I wasn’t aware this was a competition. I thought it was a friendly (at least on my part) discussion of the history of mathematics.

                  Presumably we can all agree that it’s not a mathematical advance just to perform a calculation that hasn’t been done before. If I, for the first time in human history, add 1.34811 to 2.11983 to get 3.46794, that’s not a contribution to mathematical advance. So if Bede is going to count as advancing mathematics, then is must be in virtue of a method for solving arithmetic problems involving fractions that wasn’t already in place. Hence my question: what computational method did Bede introduce? The ancient Egyptians were already able to do quite sophisticated calculations of this sort, and mature Greek mathematics had an enormous toolkit of methods. That doesn’t prove that Bede didn’t have a new method, but it does suffice to make me curious about what the novelty was.

          • A Philosopher

            Interesting. It had been my understanding that De Arithmetica was entirely derivative from Nicomachus of Gerasa. What are the new results in it?

            I did deliberately limit my claim to mathematics, and I agree things were less dire in many other areas. Logic and philosophy were very active in the Hindi tradition up through about 1000 or so (I’m iffy on dates here, but that’s about where I gather the Nyaya and Mimamsa schools pretty much die out). And I haven’t been at any point trying to make a claim for censorship – just observing the gaping hiatus.

  • Michael Blonde

    What this fails to explain is why the Rennaissance, Age of Reason, and Scientific Revolution were considered so revolutionary at the time, rather than only in the 19th Century, if the late Middle Ages were really an intellectual golden age.

    • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

      From what I understand, historians are far from unanimous in asserting that the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution were considered “so revolutionary at the time.” I remember C.S. Lewis mentioning that some historians argued that there was really no one defined movement or period you could call “The Renaissance”.

      • Rebecca Fuentes

        I seem to recall history professor and author Susan Wise Bauer saying something similar. It was more a series of little renaissances over a period of time in various places. I’ll have to see if I can find a link to it.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      In part, this was self-promotion; in part, a humanist reaction against science and reason. There was virtually no progress in the natural sciences during the humanist Renaissance — which was really about art and architecture. In part, too, the medieval era was rejected because it was too Catholic. The Age of Reason, another self-congratulatory name now rejected by more objective historians, was an age of demolition of philosophy. The Scientific Revolution was less revolutionary than many suppose. Most of its features were present in the 14th century. The most revolutionary feature, the restriction of science to the metrical properties of physical bodies, shifted natural science from a sort of art criticism (understanding how it all fits together) to a servant of business and industry (knowing how to apply it to useful products).
      This was all primarily a consequence of demographics achieving a critical mass of inquiring minds, the medieval printing press accelerating the distribution of new knowledge, the employment of late medieval mathematical notation, and new measuring devices. The medievals knew there was a difference between a form and its quantitative extension — between say ‘heat’ and ‘temperature,’ but they had no instrument with which to measure the latter.

  • Urbane_Gorilla

    For every adamant statement, there are exceptions, and shades of gray. I know of three prominent scientists that were persecuted for their scientific transgressions. Copernicus and Galileo both came out with their belief that the earth circled the sun. Copernicus died before his book was published, but Galileo was brought in front of the inquisition:

    “The committee created to charge Galileo determined that Galileo held
    heliocentrism as a matter of fact and violated the injunction issued to
    him.21.) With that decision, it was determined that Galileo would be
    tried by the Inquisition. The Inquisition did not need to decide if
    Galileo was innocent or guilty, they already knew he was guilty.”

    And then there was Michael Servetus “..a Spanish physician credited with
    discovering pulmonary circulation. He wrote a book, which
    outlined his discovery along with his ideas about reforming
    Christianity — it was deemed to be heretical. He escaped from
    Spain and the Catholic Inquisition”

    There are probably others, but just as the painters of the time were busy painting religious works….because they knew the power of the church and where their pay came from, most scientists were not stupid enough to buck the church and kept silent. (This is really no different than Google, Microsoft, Yahoo et al quietly playing footsie with the NSA…or ‘Good Germans’ turning a blind eye to the atrocities at Belsen or Auschwitz. You do what you have to do.)

    However, saying that, you can find a pretty extensive list of religious scientists here (Bearing in mind again that the church was similar to our military industrial complex today…they hired a lot of people..and that’s where the jobs were): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_thinkers_in_science

    • James H, London

      UG,

      James Hannam (not me!) wrote a very good book called ‘God’s Philosophers’, which covers all the medieval greats. Your unattributed quote is so misleading as to be misinformation. Galileo would have got away with it if he hadn’t written his ‘Dialogue of the Two Principal Systems of the World’, and put the Pope’s words in the mouth of a character called Simpleton, defending geocentrism (which by that time had already fallen out of favour). It was because of that, that the court was out to get him. They told him to prove heliocentrism – he couldn’t. Johannes Kepler was the one who finally proved it mathematically, by discovering elliptical orbits. It was only proved centuries later, by means of very much more sophisticated instruments than Galileo had then. At that point, the church admitted it was wrong, but only got round to apologising a few years ago.

      And yes, it’s pretty obvious Servetus was hounded because of the theology he insisted on packaging with his science (what’s with that, anyway?).

      So, your 2 (not 3) scientists were persecuted for theology we all recognise as twaddle, not for their science. Remember that this was during the Reformation, when people were chopping each other into dogmeat for having the wrong bible.

    • Mr. Brian Batty, O.P.

      You don’t know what you think you do at all, starting particularly with Copernicus. A canon (priest) in good standing, there was never any friction, let alone persecution, of Copernicus by his church for anything related to science. The historical record is clear on that. Copernicus’ work on heliocentric theory wasn’t even published until he was pretty much on his death bed, delaying its publication out of fear of contemporary scientists. And his work was genuinly accepted (as theory) by the Church until long after his death when Galileo aggressively insisted the Church act (NOT the Church pursuing him) on theories that are now known were impossible to prove by the science of the day.
      As is often the case It appears there is a lot of information without much scholarship.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      I know of three prominent scientists that were persecuted for their scientific transgressions.

      Copernicus wasn’t persecuted by any means, and as Tim O’Neil notes above, Galileo (and Servetus) weren’t part of the Middle Ages by any standard. The “Dark Ages Scientific Persecution” is a myth.

    • Alias Clio

      The notion that the Church “was similar to our military industrial complex today…[...] … and that’s where the jobs were” nicely illustrates the problem with present-mindedness: the past is not really like the present at all.

      Until modern times, all a clever scientist had to do in order to find work was – move. First, until the eighteenth century, the power of most monarchs had a very limited reach. Second, there would nearly always be some other, rivalrous European prince to hire the scientist, if he fell out with the one in his own jurisdiction. Third, after 1517, the alternative princes might even be protestants, which would have helped your scientist to avoid problems with the (Catholic) church. Fourth, the Church itself was riven by factions and if a particular intellectual/scientist/philosopher was rejected by one branch of it, he could often find support from another.

      In our time, the effectiveness of modern communications, the need to preserve the niceties of public relations/political correctness, and the near-universal need to appease powerful states, all make it difficult for dissidents of any stripe to hide anywhere for very long.

    • http://armariummagnus.blogspot.com/ Tim O’Neill

      Copernicus was actively encouraged by Bishop Giese of Culm and Nicholas Cardinal Schoenburg and in 1533 Pope Clement VII hosted a lecture on Copernicus’ theory in the Vatican gardens and rewarded the lecturer, Johann Widmanstadt, for explaining what the Pope considered a fascinating idea. Try reconciling that with some fantasy about Copernicus being “persecuted” over his theories.

      Servetus was executed over his theological views on the Trinity and infant baptism – nothing to do with any science. So you’re wrong there as well.

      And that leaves Galileo – a case which is exceptional (and much more complex than “religion vs science) and yet somehow keeps getting wheeled out as though it was typical.

      Try again.

  • lavallette

    Besides, how many of the great scientists of the Renaissance the Age of Enlightenment and Modern Science were Catholics, and/or working within Catholic universities and themselves Catholic clerics: Just a couple example: Gregor Mendel, the Father of Genetics, Louis Pasteur. (and http://en.wikipedia.org /wiki/List_of_Catholic_scientists)

    • Martial Artist

      Monseigneur Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître, a Belgian priest, astronomer and professor of physics at the Catholic University of Leuven, the first physicist to propose, in 1931, what is now referred to as the “big bang” theory to explain the expansion of the observable universe. There may be others.
      Pax et bonum,
      Keith Töpfer

  • JM1001

    What a nice coincidence. I just finished reading James Hannam’s book yesterday. Highly, highly recommended.

  • Mariana Baca

    Distillation of alcohol was invented in Europe in the middle ages. Who needs anything else? ;)

  • Zeke

    My favorite part of the Galileo debacle came in 1992 after the Church “apologized” for the affair, and JPII commented that “Galileo sensed in his scientific research the presence of the Creator who, stirring in the depths of his spirit, stimulated him, anticipating and assisting his intuitions.” Now that’s just plain funny.

    • chezami

      Um, you do know that Galileo was a devout Catholic, right? Or did you just mean to say, “I’m an atheist and I am stupidly committed to the myth of the Catholic “war on science” no matter what that damn Tim O’Neill has to say!

      • Zeke

        Um, yeah, you do know that apparently his inquisitors weren’t getting that “devout” vibe, right? Or is possible to be “devout” and a “heretic” simultaneously?

        As for me, I’ve never heard of the myth that O’Neill and you seem so upset about. I wouldn’t exactly call it a “war” to force scientists to recant scientific findings under threat of torture, or placing the works of many scientists on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, but it sure disproves the tired claim that religion and science are not in conflict.

        • chezami

          You really might try finding out what you are talking about if you want to keep up the appearance that you use rather than merely worship the intellect. That posture, particularly on this thread, makes you look pretty dumb.

          • Zeke

            Lighten up cranky. Don’t get your shorts in a knot because you can’t find any atheists to defend this myth that the Church persecuted all scientists. Sure, that chart is pretty stupid, but it has nothing to do with atheism. Assuming that this is representative of atheist thought makes you look dumb.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Once more.

          Galileo was never threatened with torture. He had no empirical proof of the theory he was touting, and until he puffed it up out of proportion with his interpretations of scripture, had been told only that he must not teach the matter as fact until he had some actual facts. Cf. Bellarmino’s letter to Foscarini.

          Books were placed on the Index for their doctrinal content or imnplications, not because they were science. For example, Bellarmino’s own books on religion were placed there until he cleared up ambiguities and such. Sometimes, this meant no more than a marginal sentence. Dude, it was Machiavellian Italy. One had to go through the motions.

          Galileo’s friend, Archbishop Piero Dini, scoped things out for Galileo and wrote the mathematician on 7 March 1615:
          “As to Copernicus, [Cardinal Bellarmino] said that he could not believe his work would be forbidden, and that the worst possibility, in his opinion, would be the insertion of a note stating that the theory was introduced to save the celestial appearances, or some similar expression, in the same way as epicycles had been introduced. With this reservation, he continued, you would be at liberty to speak freely on these matters whenever you liked… [Regarding Scriptural passages] I [Dini] answered that the Holy Scriptures might be considered in this place as simply employing our usual form of speech, but the Cardinal said that in dealing with such a question we must not be too hasty, just as it would not be right to rush into condemnation of anyone for holding the [Copernican] views which I had put before him … He told me that he intended to invite Father Grienberger to his house that he might discuss the question with him, and this very morning I have been to visit the Father, to see if there were any further news. I found that there was nothing fresh except that Father Grienberger would have been better pleased if you had first given your proofs before beginning to speak about the Holy Scriptures…

          If he had not insisted on the factual truth of the hypothesis two hundred years before the facts were in, there would have been no issue.

          Remember the Copernican model was wrong.. It contained more epicycles than Peuerbach’s then-current edition of Ptolemy, each planet orbited a different center, and none of the centers were actually in the Sun. Mercury librated idiosyncratically across its epicycle, the Moon was on an unprecedented double-epicycle. Try developing a theory of universal gravitation out of that ad hoc hodge-podge!

          Kepler, who had the correct mathematical solution — and was studiously ignored by Galileo — practiced a deviant offshoot of heretical Lutheranism, but was never molested either for his sect or his science, and served as Imperial Mathematician for the Catholic Holy Roman Empire, after Tycho Brahe’s death.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Galileo was always sprinkling his scientific work with theological references. He had been reprimanded by Church authorities regarding an earlier work and told to delete the religious stuff.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    Mathematics in the Middle Ages was primarily practical and focused closely on optics: hence, the invention of spectacles and the correct explanation of the rainbow. In the Late Middle Ages, there was a shift of interest to mechanics.

    This article by a mathematician is of interest.
    http://web.maths.unsw.edu.au/~jim/image.html

    As is this one on the “myth of the Renaissance”
    http://web.maths.unsw.edu.au/~jim/renaissance.html

    Meanwhile, it is possible to read too much into Babylonian and other ancient materials. Much of it consisted of particular solutions to particular problems rather than theorems and proofs as we think of them. Likewise, retrofitting “equations” and “decimals” onto essentially verbal — or even glyphic — texts.

  • Catatholic

    Nobody was prosecuted, just barbecued, a bit. Ok, just a bit fried. Mm, or sautéd. Ok, only chafed, a bit. Not even, the Catholic church was only testing their reflexes. A bit. So nothing happened. She was only teasing them. And if they were under 10, only abusing them, just a bit. But for their own good. To learn to respect the authority.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Not for any scientific attainments, which is the topic under discussion. It would be well to get one’s facts straight. After that, one is entitled to an opinion about them.

  • berock212

    I was very disappointed that this was the stupidest thing on the internet. It has some shred of truth, even though that truth is cloaked in bullshit. I was expecting something a lot stupider though when I googled the stupidest thing on the internet, I mean the internet is pretty big. I would think in all the vastness of the internet we could find something a lot stupider than this.


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