…about all this science stuff we thought we knew about, but really just parrot because some priestly figure in a lab coat told us so.
Today, he points out that that not one person in a thousand could actually explain how we know heliocentrism is true and could not, if our lives depended on it, describe why heliocentrism would have been controversial to scientists qua scientists. So he cautions smug moderns against our cozy conviction that our ancestors were stoopid.
Before you laugh at your ancestors, TOF invites you to prove that the earth is, contrary to your senses, in wild and careening double motion: spinning like a top and whipping around the sun without (somehow) leaving the Moon and Air behind, and without everyone stumbling around like dunkards. You are not allowed to appeal to authority or to the success of NASA, or suchlike things. You’ve got eyeballs and armillaries, and that’s pretty much it. Go. TOF will wait here.
He then goes on to sketch the very reasonable arguments put forward in favor of a stationary earth and how it was that the scientific community chipped away at this till the Ptolemaic system was overturned. Very interesting stuff.
But…GALILEO! Yeah, funny thing about that. Turns out pretty much everything you know is wrong, if you are one of those suckers who think the lesson of Galileo is Bold Empirical Thinker vs. Obscurantist Church Afraid of and at War with Science for Centuries.
Flynn then continues his tour de force history of how we all came to know what we know about the rotational earth and heliocentric solar system here. Extra bonus: You find out that the Planet Vulcan originated with early attempts to explain sun spots. I hope he writes a book on this stuff one of these days. He’s a natural-born science educator and he gives a perspective seldom provided by the “Our Ancestors Were Stoopid” crowd that dominate so much pop sci writing and TV.
After this, we move on to the opening moves of the conflict between Galileo and… a bunch of people who didn’t like him for various reasons–and the Church’s typically cool-headed response to the teapot tempest.
For me, it reminds me once again that a huge number of the Intellect Worshippers who babble about science vs. religion are really just adherents of a religious system of faith in trusted authority figures whom they blindly believe with no more actual understanding than a Sicilian peasant who trusts Padre when he tells her the Host is the Body of Christ. Stop the average internet atheist in mid-prattle about Galileo as “proof” of the Church’s ancient hatred of science and ask him to describe how we actually know heliocentism to be a better model than Ptolemaism and you will get not an explanation of the evidence, but a recitation of faith in the people who proved it. That’s what “It’s the consensus of the sciences” means.
Now I have no special problem with people who lack competence in a particular scientific field trusting those who do. We all function that way when we trust that our car mechanic knows what he’s doing and we don’t. We do it in a thousand ways. But it’s a bit rich when Intellect Worshippers then turn around and condemn Catholics for having faith while the Intellect Worshipper allegedly relies on “reason” alone. Nope. The Intellect Worshipper is every bit as reliant on faith in a thousand ways. Only his immense pride very often makes him too stupid to even realize it. To do science at all you have to make an unproved and unprovable act of faith the the universe makes sense and that the human intellect can comprehend it.