Atheist Stupid Pet Tricks

As night follows day, when you try to point out that, wrong as the burning of Giordano Bruno (or any other heretic) was, there is no Catholic “War on Science” and he was not a martyr in that fictional war, the atheist brigade shows up to change the subject and shout “O the humanity!  Medievals believed in thoughtcrime!  Medievals used the death penalty!”

Mhm.  Of course, moderns don’t believe in thoughtcrime, which is why nobody would ever suggest jailing people who don’t buy consensus science today, as happened with Galileo, Martyr in the War on Science.

And when it comes to racking up a body count for thoughtcrime, medievals are pikers compared to the Himalaya range of corpses racked up by atheists.

To be super clear, I don’t defend the burning of Bruno.  I oppose the death penalty.  But science programs are not supposed to be about medieval standards of jurisprudence.  They are supposed to be about science.  Bruno was not a casualty in the Church’s War on Science because there never was a War on Science.  The “War on Science” is a founding creation myth of 18th and 19th century atheistic materialism magicked up in order to provide the rationale for making materialism an All Explaining Theory of Everything.  The stupid pet trick consists of claiming that if you reject materialism (“The cosmos is all there is, or ever was, or ever will be”) you are therefore “anti-science”.  This is rubbish.  The Catholic faith not only supports the natural sciences, it gave birth to them, as honest atheists like Tim O’Neill point out.

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  • Grey Pilgrim

    I read an interesting book on nihilism by an Orthodox priest where he says that most of what calls itself atheism in the West today is not really a-theism but rather anti-theism – it’s not that they don’t believe in God but rather that they are against Him. The more well-balanced atheists tend to be actual atheists; they don’t believe in God but also don’t really see the harm if you do believe since there is no actual telos to life so do as you will. The “War on SCIENCE!!” types tend to be the anti-theists – though God doesn’t exist He is a grave threat to our existence so we must destroy Him!!!

    At any rate, that simple insight clarified for me so much of the ‘Science vs. Faith, Atheist vs. Believer’ stuff that bounces around on the Internet these days.

    • guest

      I agree with the Orthodox priest. My father and his family are true atheists – they’re not agnostic, not equivocal in any fashion – they just don’t believe there is anything more than the material world. My dad is also a very rational, tolerant person who understands that others have a right to believe in God and practice their faith – he’s not egotistical enough to think everyone should share his belief system.

      Growing up and to this day, i’ve never heard my father or any of his family say some of the hateful, ignorant things said by the zealot anti-theists who often post on Catholic blogs. My father lives the Golden Rule better than many Christians and I can’t imagine him lowering himself to act that way.

    • Mike Arroyo

      Oh please…..

      That is akin to saying that I must destroy the almighty pink unicorn because people believe in it. Anti-theists state that there is no proof in a deity of any kind. Biblical claims are just that, claims of which there is no evidence. However, if evidence is to be found, then science will be transformed and the debate is settled forever. But those that defend the faith and try with all that they have to make it relevant today are the ball and chain that is around the ankle of human progress.

      There is a war on science. It comes in the form of Ken Hamm’s creation ‘museum’, the drive of teaching creationism/ID in public schools, right-wing politicians that must deny evolution in order to be considered electable, denial of climate change, the war on the right of women to choose what to do with their bodies and so on.

      God is about as dangerous as the pink unicorn.

      • God is about as dangerous as the pink unicorn.

        The belief in God is what militant atheists (at least, those who are consistent) war against, not God, whom they believe does not exist. This is why those who believe in God feel attacked: because you’re not attacking God. You’re attacking believers.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        Don’t forget the war on actuarial science.

  • Billy Bagbom

    Clarity. Balance Passion. Wit. Excellent, as usual, Mr. Shea.

  • WildWillie

    “The cosmos is all there is, or ever was, or ever will be” is simply a definition of the word “cosmos”. What is truly “rubbish” is your claim that this is somehow a “stupid pet trick” to paint the rejection of materialism as anti-science.

    Science is an inherently materialistic endeavor. The natural, material world is the whole of its domain. Whether a rejection of materialism qualifies as anti-science depends on what you mean by “rejection of materialism”. If you mean a rejection of the strict dictionary definition of materialism, that is, a rejection of the idea that the material world is all that there is, then no, rejection of materialism is not anti-science, but merely outside of science. But some take their rejection of materialism well beyond that, rejecting out of hand material explanations whenever they conflict, or in some cases merely fail to support, dearly held non-materialistic beliefs. That kind of rejection of materialism absolutely IS anti-science. And it is certainly no “magicked up” myth. This phenomenon is rampant and is very evident in creationist literature, public opinion polling about evolution, and in informal interactions such as the comment sections of news articles and blog posts, and real-world conversations.

    • chezami

      Yes. The Natural Sciences are an inherently materialistic endeavor. But, of course, that does not mean that they describe all of reality since reality is bigger than time, space, matter and energy.

      I realize how important it is to the creation myth of materialism to reduce all of theism to Billy Bob’s Bible Shack of Cavemen and Dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden. But this is a Catholic blog.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Exactly. As St. Albertus Magus put it:
      “In studying nature we have not to inquire how God the Creator may, as He freely wills, use His creatures to work miracles and thereby show forth His power; we have rather to inquire what Nature with its immanent causes can naturally bring to pass.”
      — De vegetabilibus et plantis (13th cent.)

      But also as Heisenberg noted in Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science
      “What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.”
      By which he meant that a given methodology only discovers what is accessible to that method. Materialist methods will never discover immaterial truths, such as that a closed and bounded topological space is compact. You can’t discover microbes with a telescope.

      • Gary Keith Chesterton

        This reply will be too much for some.

  • Hematite

    There may not be a war ON science, but there is a war WITHIN science that pits those who endanger the integrity of this noble enterprise by angling for power, money, and prestige by doing phony “science” that pro ports to support some popular or scientistic meme. Take the debate on anthrogenic global warming: even if AGW researchers are correct, their methods and tactics have shown some of them to elitist willing to manipulate their data in the name of a “higher cause.”

    Some smaller fish content themselves with straining to “sell” their publications as somehow supporting AGW, mostly by barely supported speculation. I will not be shocked to learn in a few years, that much of this data may have been “cooked.”

    There are other examples such as those “free will is an illusion” articles and the world of “string theory” that, although currently unfalsafible , owes much of its allure to its perceived tendency to avoid the unsettling creationist aspects of the Big Bang theory. To be fair, many physicists are wary of ST.

    So as elsewhere in our current retrograde civilization, the culture of sciences is becoming ethically challenged, and that is very bad news for its future effectiveness, public support, and political independence.

    • Hematite

      I couldn’t edit it for some reason, but I ment to write: …pits…against those fighting to preserve scientific integrity.

    • Mike Arroyo

      There is no such thing as a war within science.

      As for your talking point on manipulated data to support man-made climate change, you do realize that is was shown to be a hoax and it was disproved several times over.

      • Hematite

        I suppose that the “Climate Club’s” long refusal to shair the data used to justify their claims that they refused to publish in refereed scientific journals, amoung other delights, could also be considered. The quasi religious ardor of many AGW devotees and the persacution and silencing of many calimitological “deniers” has made the trust that is the basis of all scientific enterprise a bit hard to come by.

        • Mike Arroyo

          What are you talking about? The data is out there along with peer reviewed journals and so forth.

          • Hematite

            Try reading my posts again. I am talking about behavior not data.

  • Mike Arroyo

    Oh how the apologists cry foul when things are pointed out about their history, their beliefs and how they defend them so by creating legion of strawmen to destroy.

    In the first piece, it is quite insulting to one’s intelligence to say that an innocent man was burned at the stake not for his science, but for saying things contra to the church (as if that makes it any better). Burning people alive, beheaded, shot whatever is not something that civilized people do. Those are the direct actions that “mindless savages” partake in to ‘defend the faith’. If I may be so bold, please explain how human sacrifices conducted by the Aztecs were considered barbaric by Christians but yet, executions of ‘heretics’ is considered civilized and necessary?

    “Mhm. Of course, moderns don’t believe in thoughtcrime, which is why nobody would ever suggest jailing people who don’t buy consensus science today, as happened with Galileo, Martyr in the War on Science.”

    You’re right, this doesn’t happen. However, people are jailed because of their sexuality as in Uganda (along with other nations) due to a religious fervor in that country fueled by American conservative groups. In this nation, consensus science is demonized (by the ilk of Ken Hamm) and bastardized by the ilk of the Discovery Institute and such. Prominent members of government actively deny consensus science and block litigation to slow down climate change for example. So, the thoughtcrimes are happening, just in a different form.

    There is no myth about this. It is just that you have your head so far in the sand, you are unable to see.

    • Hematite

      I’m almost sure that Hitler, Stalin, and all their atheist ilk would schocked by your various concerns!

      • Mike Arroyo

        I’m underwhelmed by your empty rhetoric.

        • Hematite

          I bow to your greater expertise on that practice.

    • Killing Bruno was wrong regardless of the reason. The reason is only being pointed out to correct the false claim that he was martyred for science.
      As for your unintelligibly vague argument, you may not be so bold without defining your terms. What is civilization? Who are you describing as “mindless savages?” What do you mean by “defending the faith”?
      The attempt to draw a moral equivalence between Aztec and Christian religion is so historically illiterate and chronologically snobbish as to be self-refuting, if only because the Church does not execute heretics and hasn’t for centuries.
      The topic under discussion is did the Church wage war on science? One side claims Galileo’s censure as evidence in the affirmative. Mark correctly pointed out that most of the animosity toward Galileo came from other scientists for challenging their Ptolemaic model consensus. The situation in Uganda has no bearing on this fact (being a moral; not a scientific issue), and your accusations against climate change skeptics only prove Mark’s point.

      • WildWillie

        Although the author doesn’t say so directly, it’s pretty clear that the article is in reference to the segment about Giordano Bruno in the first episode of “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage”. Yet the show’s host, Neil Degrasse Tyson, stated very plainly that Bruno was not a scientist, and that his ideas were not based on science or evidence.

        Given that, IF (<– important word there) the author's purpose was "… to correct the false claim that he was martyred for science", then the attempt was a bit misguided, and would have been better aimed at someone who had actually made such a claim.

        • Then why waste precious minutes of a popular program about science on him? It’s because they have this 19th century idea that “free thought” brought about the rise of Science! and the Church opposed “free thought”, and they’re going to ride that mythological horse right into the political winners circle, that’s why.

    • guest

      Issue: Did the Catholic Church wage war on science? Does the execution of Galileo prove that the Catholic Church waged war on science?

      You: “!@@#$$% Aztecs Y%^%&^&^&^& Uganda #$%%@!%&&** Amercian Conservative groups %^^*())__”

      Do you understand the difference between the Catholic Church and her teachings and American conservative groups and all protestant denominations, including fundamental evangelical christianity? Do you understand how the Catholic church is different from those?

      Or do you not bother to learn about the Catholic faith and just lump all of Christianity together, making sure to focus on the most intolerant, anti-science sects? I realize that’s much easier, but it’s incorrect.

      • chezami

        Galileo was not executed.

    • chezami

      What part of “I oppose the death penalty” was unclear to you? Your screed has a pre-recorded quality to it. You should attempt the feat we call “listening”.

      And again with inability to distinguish between Fundamentalism and Catholics.

      Come on. Can’t you do any better than this?

      • Mike Arroyo

        As if Catholics are immune to fundamentalism…..HA!

        • chezami

          Translation: “I have no rational reply to the fact that you are right and i was stupid to claim you were trying to justify the crimes of Catholics, so I will just flip you off.”

          • Mike Arroyo

            Don’t congratulate yourself just yet. I’m underwhelmed but not surprised that you did not address my points.

            You still have not clarified how it is acceptable to burn people at the stake. Again, you state you are against the death penalty, but you are defending the faith that did. You also justify the action itself as ‘he had it coming’ or ‘well, he went against the teachings of the church and so he deserved it’.

            Spanish Catholics talked of the barbarity of the Aztecs, yet they were not opposed to burning heretics….

            You also did not disappoint on your silence on the war on silence. I provided evidence, and you resort to dismissal and hand-waving.

            *Now I’ll flip you off.

            • chezami

              You really can’t read, can you? It is not acceptable to burn people at the stake. That’s what being against the death penalty means. You got a rhetorical track you are bound and determined to drive that train down and nothing’s gonna stop you. Hilarious.

              • Mike Arroyo

                What dressing would you like with your word salad?

                • chezami


                • James H, London

                  Each time he replies, he manages to make less of a point.


            • Ye Olde Statistician

              you state you are against the death penalty, but you are defending the faith that did.

              Dude, it was Early Modern Europe. Wait for the guillotines of the rationalists in the 18th century. What makes you suppose that “faith” has something to do with the universal practice of executing offenders in capital cases?

    • SteveP

      “. . . people are jailed because of their sexuality as in Uganda (along with other nations) due to a religious fervor in that country fueled by American conservative groups.”
      Translation: people of color cannot think for themselves and are listening to the wrong white folks.
      What makes you think Giordano Bruno was not tried under a code of jurisprudence, a code which was the consensus of the time?

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Why do you suppose Bruno was any more innocent of the charges than the Rosenbergs were? What you evidently meant was that you didn’t think treason should be against the law, or that it should not be a capital crime. The point is that his trial and execution had nothing to do with science, as historians of science have been pointing out.

      Imagine Bruno’s fate in England if instead of attacking Christ’s birth by Mary, he had attacked Elizabeth’s birth by Henry. The Tudors would not have agonized for six years trying to get him to repent.

  • margaret1910 forward to…now. These scientific, far more advanced folks..are murdering children who are going to their father’s funerals. Is this better because it is remote? Because we do not light the wood under the feet of the innocent, but just shoot them with drones?

    WRT Bruno, you are right. What was done to him was wrong. But, when you call in “civilized” people, you are dead wrong. We “civilized” people are murdering in large numbers. Much larger than those people that you think are “uncivilized”.

  • Kimmy84

    The supreme irony of the whole Cosmos/Bruno dustup is that we are told to celebrate Bruno because he dared to dream big and was “inspired” to imagine a universe full of suns and planets revolving around them. However Bruno had absolutely no scientific support for his beliefs, that support would not come for hundreds of years.

    I thought belief in things not supported by science is bad? Why make a hero out of Bruno?