Religion and Science are Compatible: Just Ask Galileo

Religion and Science are Compatible: Just Ask Galileo May 2, 2016

NOMA Galileo new V tee.001

Pictoral Theology posted the image above, and I’m not surprised that Jerry Coyne thought highly of it. But both the creation and the approval indicate a disappointing level of misinformation about Galileo. Galileo was a devout religious person whose whole life and activity embody the compatibility of religion and science. He also embodied the same kind of confident arrogance and smugness that made enemies of those who disagreed with him, that one too often encounters among those who promulgate the myth that science is at war with religion.

Anyone who thinks that Galileo demonstrates that science and religion are incompatible must be truly and profoundly ignorant about even the basics about Galileo!

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  • Matthew Funke

    Respectfully, I don’t think that’s the point of the illustration. I think the point is that organized religion has historically reacted rather badly to science… and that if it has the power to do so, it will act in a similar way to someone who uses science to question the official dogma. (The only reason creationists haven’t turned their ideas into something our children are taught by government employees in science classes is because they can’t. It’s not for a lack of trying.) In other words, “Ask Galileo how well it went for him when he tried it”, not “Ask Galileo whether or not he agrees with the notion”.

    FWIW, I think Galileo was right on board with the idea that religion and science can coexist in a sufficiently humble mind. (“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use…”) It just appears that large sections of the population disagree.

    • If you look at the details of Galileo’s life and experience, you’ll find very clearly that he does not provide an illustration “organized religion reacting badly to science” either.

      • Matthew Funke

        I was under the impression that he was threatened with torture and placed under house arrest. Is that not true? Or am I missing your point?

        • Yes, you are missing the point. The principle that observation of the natural world would sometimes require that one take scripture as metaphorical was widely accepted. The issue in the case of Galileo was that he was dogmatic about the topic when the evidence was not yet amassed to support his stance, and he characterized the pope as a simpleton (in a context in which papal authority was already being challenged, no less). What the case shows us is that people in authority, especially in bygone eras but even today, don’t respond well to challenges to their authority. And so there is a lesson in the Galileo affair about how to navigate such political and institutional realities. But there isn’t really one about “religion vs. science.” That is a widely-held view, but it is factually wrong.

          • Matthew Funke

            Fascinating! Thank you for clarifying and sharing your insight.

            I would wish that people in authority would be more open to dissent (whether or not the evidence on which the dissent is based is considered conclusive), but as we can see in our own day, one doesn’t have to have a religious title to squash dissent (even when it *is* more conclusive).

          • RbtRgus

            “observation of the natural world would sometimes require that one take scripture as metaphorical”

            Please tell that to the millions of fundamentalist Christians in the USA. They are a bigger threat than extremist Muslims to the USA.

          • The millions of Christians who are not fundamentalists do tell them, and have been doing so for a long time, as I am sure you are aware.

          • RbtRgus

            Can you please make them listen?

          • Make them listen? Of course! So simple! Why didn’t anyone think of that before?

          • RbtRgus

            We wish.

          • J

            I don’t really think there are ‘millions’ of christians who are not fundamentalists. I think there are a few thousand.

          • Then I would encourage you to look at statistics regarding the number of individuals in the United States who self-identify as Christian but not as fundamentalist or even as Evangelical.

            http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/

            https://www.mtholyoke.edu/~edgoodwi/fundamentalistmovement.html

          • No, Galileo had amassed excellent evidence to support his stance – some of the best being the phases of Venus.

            And while he might have seemed dogmatic by the time he published his support openly, he waited a long time to do so, knowing that he lived in a world in which scientists had to fear religious authority, as can be seen in his 1609 letter to Kepler.

          • Then can you explain why Kepler – a Protestant working at the court of a Catholic monarch in the heart of Catholic Europe – was never bothered by the Church? Or why Copernicus was actively sponsored by a bishop and encouraged to publish by a Cardinal? Or why one of his students was invited to give a lecture on his thesis to the Pope in the Vatican Gardens and was rewarded with a rich gift by the delighted and facinated Pope?

            Galileo got himself into trouble because he dabbled in theology, not because he “lived in a world in which scientists had to fear religious authority”. Everyone knew of his heliocentric ideas before 1616 and no-one batted an eyelid about them. Until he began trying to use them to interpret the Bible, which in the wake of the Council of Trent and the religious context of the time, was a very bad idea. You don’t seem to have a solid grasp of the context.

          • Andrew Schefe

            After having his mother be accused of being a witch, maybe Kepler kept his mouth shut?

          • Given we are talking about the Catholic Church here, I’m wondering how the Catholics managed to convince the Protestant burgers of Leonberg to try her for witchcraft. And that accusation was made in 1616. So when we look at the fact that much of Kepler’s most influential work was done after this – such as his Rudolphine Tables – the answer to your question above is “no”.

          • Kepler and Copernicus were never bothered by the Church? I guess you don’t consider the banning of their works in the Index Librorum Prohibitorum a bother?

          • They were placed on the Index as a result of the bother over Galileo’s attempted interpretation of Scripture. If Galileo hadn’t dabbled in theology, no heliocentric works would have come to the attention of either the Inquisition or the Office of the Index. The fact remains that Copernicus was actively encouraged by a bishop, a cardinal and a pope and Kepler was left to his own devices. They were not anti-science per se.

          • I wouldn’t argue that religious authorities have backed scientific progress. All sorts of authorities in world history, benign, violent, well-intentioned, and tyrannical, have backed scientific progress.

            But the religious practice of heretical proclamations against scientific inquiry, especially those leading to wholesale book bannings, are most certainly a conflict between science and religion.

          • Nope. It’s a conflict between one scientific idea that was not well-supported by science and others that were. I know you want to deny this, but historical facts are what they are.

          • Nope. It’s a conflict between scientific progress and an authority that bans scientific books of it’s choosing – in this very case, the books that were proven right and completely changed the way we view the universe. I know you want to deny this, but historical facts are what they are.

          • Ian Wragg

            “No, Galileo had amassed excellent evidence to support his stance – some of the best being the phases of Venus.”

            As Thony Christie points out concerning the phases of Venus:
            “….this is not in anyway a proof of the Copernican system, as there were other competing systems, the Heracleidian, in which Mercury and Jupiter Venus orbit the sun, which, along with the other planets, orbits the earth and the Tychonic in which all the
            planets except the moon orbit the sun which then orbits the earth,
            that were conform with the new telescopic discovery”.

          • J

            Courtier’s Argument.

          • Ian Wragg

            No. It is a historical fact that at the time there were other world systems that were Earth centered but also accounted for the phases of Venus.

          • J

            Ah. I see. Insufficiently deferential to the church. Got it. Nothing to see here about religion acting badly. Of course.

      • J

        Doesn’t he though? The whole trial and house arrest for the rest of his life thing? Seems like yes, he does indeed illustrate religion reacting badly to science.

        Oh or was that just his ‘arrogance’ that led to that?

        • Even if one were to ignore the problems in doing so and to simply say that the Pope in Galileo’s time was opposed to science, that would still not demonstrate that religion is inherently opposed to science. It would demonstrate that it has taken issue with at least some science on at least one occasion. And since no one disputes that, it seems more profitable to use this opportunity to clarify what this particular instance from history does and does not demonstrate. And the old “warfare between science and religion” trope ignores the extent to which Galileo and his supporters were religious, the impact of the Protestant Reformation on Catholic inflexibility and dogmatism, and the extent to which Galileo’s opponents were defending Aristotle rather than “religion.”

          • J

            “simply say that the Pope in Galileo’s time was opposed to science, that would still not demonstrate that religion is inherently opposed to science. It would demonstrate that it has taken issue with at least some science on at least one occasion”

            This is a distinction without a difference.

          • If you think that the only religion is Catholicism, which is quite bizarre, you would still have to deal with the fact that its stance in this specific instance is not its uniform historical stance on matters of science.

            Why do you so dogmatically refuse to draw conclusions to which the evidence points? Or have you only heard about the Galileo incident but read none of the relevant primary and secondary sources?

          • J

            “Why do you so dogmatically refuse to draw conclusions to which the evidence points?”

            Because it doesn’t point that way. You clearly have a burning NEED for Galileo to be ‘smug’ and ‘arrogant’ and ‘dogmatic’ and for the church to be, y’know, maybe misguided but not actually wrong. But none of that is true. You’re just flatly wrong, is all. What you say is not so.

          • Thus far you have presented no evidence for your claims, while mine are drawn directly from the primary source material and is common knowledge to those who teach and research in this area. I have no need for Galileo to be anything, or for the Church to be anything in particular. I’m interested in getting the history right. Why aren’t you?

            Here are some readily-available sources that even someone with as little interest in the truth as yourself ought to be able to scan and learn something from:

            http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/galileo-big-mistake.html

            https://www.ewtn.com/library/HOMELIBR/GALILEO.HTM

  • Scott Paeth

    Jerry Coyne sounding off about something about which he’s woefully ignorant? Perish the thought. Though honestly, most people don’t know the first thing about Galileo beyond the heresy trial, and don’t really understand what really got the church irritated, which was less his astronomy and more his insulting caricature of the Pope. Still not a good reason to arrest and imprison someone, but a far cry from the brechtian mythology most people assume.

    • What mythology do you think people assume? The church made an authoritarian decision to declare a well-documented scientific theory heretical – not based on the science, but based on the favoritism of the Pope. That’s not a mythology.

      • “authoritarian decision to declare a well-documented scientific theory heretical – not based on the science”

        Ummm, no. The Church objected to a non-theologian using science to interpret the Bible and so investigated his ideas. They found that they were scientifically incompatible with the consensus of astronomers of the time and also ruled them theogically “suspect of heresy” (a lesser charge than full-blown heresy). Thus the final verdict that they were “absurd in philosophy” (ie scientifically wrong) and suspect of heresy. They did consider the science and in 1616, the science was very much against Galileo.

        The scientific consensus did not swing towards heliocentrism until the end of the century – about 90 years later.

        • Ummm, yes. You have a bizarre take on history. Here’s the Church’s “scientific” conclusion:

          “Whereas you, Galileo, son of the late Vaincenzo Galilei, Florentine, aged seventy years, were in the year 1615 denounced to this Holy Office for holding as true the false doctrine taught by some that the Sun is the center of the world and immovable and that the Earth moves, and also with a diurnal motion; for having disciples to whom you taught the same doctrine; for holding correspondence with certain mathematicians of Germany concerning the same; for having printed certain letters, entitled “On the Sunspots,” wherein you developed the same doctrine as true; and for replying to the objections from the Holy Scriptures, which from time to time were urged against it, by glossing the said Scriptures according to your own meaning: and whereas there was thereupon produced the copy of a document in the form of a letter, purporting to be written by you to one formerly your disciple, and in this divers propositions are set forth, following the position of Copernicus, which are contrary to the true sense and authority of Holy Scripture”

          There it is – the heliocentric model is contrary to the authority of scripture.

          • “You have a bizarre take on history.”

            No, I have an informed take on it.

            ” Here’s the Church’s “scientific” conclusion”

            That’s the Church’s theological conclusion of a case that involved them carefully checking the science. Note that it’s taking him to task for interpreting the Bible via his cosmology. As I said, this was why he got into hot water while Kepler and Copernicus didn’t. And here is what the 1616 ruling that they were noting said:

            “All said that this proposition is foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts many places the sense of Holy Scripture”

            Here they note it is absurd in philosophy” (science) AND contradicting the Bible. The two points are distinct but related. Cardinal Bellarmine, in a comment on this ruling, noted that if the scientific evidence changed and it could be demonstrated that the earth did go around the sun, the interpretation of the Bible would need to be rethought. But he noted that this was not going to happen before then – which is hardly unreasonable.

            So they considered the science and found it was against Galileo. Then they ruled that his ideas were therefore contrary to the established interpretation of Scripture and that he did not have any basis for trying, as a mere mathematicus with zero theological training, to claim otherwise. And in 1633 it was ruled that he had gone against this injunction.

          • J

            No, you have a bizarre take on history. He’s right, you’re wrong. The shit church had no right to do as it did.

          • Please edit your comment to remove profanity.

            I think that some participants in this thread have forgotten what it was about. No one here has suggested that the Roman Catholic Church was right to have treated Galileo as it did. The issue is whether the facts of the Galileo incident demonstrate that religion and science are inherently in conflict, and the answer is clearly “no.” That answer is not an affirmation that no institution has ever adopted an anti-science stance, or that misuse of institutional power is appropriate, or anything else of that sort.

          • J

            When a church imprisons a scientist then yes, religion and science are in conflict.

          • When a church imprisons a scientist who is dogmatic about matters including ones which he is demonstrably wrong about, then it may certainly still be misusing its authority, but it does not show that that church is in conflict with science per se, never mind that all religion and science are in conflict, especially since the scientist in question was himself religious.

          • J

            Galileo was not dogmatic nor demonstrably wrong about anything.

          • His claims about the tides being proof of the Earth’s rotation was not wrong? His alternative system which still used epicycles was not wrong? His insisting that he was right about the above, and characterizing the Pope who initially supported him as a simpleton, involved no dogmatism?

          • Scott Paeth

            Don’t forget circular orbits.

          • Nick Gotts

            it does not show that that church is in conflict with science per se

            Of course it does. Any authority that attempts to settle scientific issues by book bannings, imprisonment and threats of torture and burning is in fundamental conflict with science. That you fail to see this is utterly bizarre.

          • So the authority of that particular pope, as used in this incident, was in fundamental conflict with the spirit of scientific inquiry. But unless one accepts that what one leader of an institution does must define that institution for all time, even though other leaders in the same role have taken the opposite stance, then it does not show that Catholicism and science are fundamentally in conflict.

          • I haven’t forgotten what the thread is about, James, but the only way you can argue that there was no conflict between religion and science in this incident is by completely separating the concept of “religion” from “religious authority” or “the catholic church”. Regardless of Galileo’s evidence, attitude, or personal religion, the catholic church of his day, the most powerful and influential religious authority of the western world at that time, declared a scientific theory to be heresy. That is most definitely a conflict between religion and science, unless you are arguing about some pure form of “religion” that has no connection whatsoever to humans practicing religion to declare heresies in the 17th century or to attack evolutionary science through school boards in ours.

          • Don’t feed the troll folks.

          • There is no actual consideration of the science in the treatise. The only thing you can point to is a vague “absurd in philosophy” phrase written by a religious inquisition. There’s no real evidence that the Church considered the science at all in this case.

          • “There is no actual consideration of the science in the treatise.”

            In what “treatise”?

            “The only thing you can point to is a vague “absurd in philosophy” phrase written by a religious inquisition.”

            No-one who understands the terminology of the time finds that explicit and specific statement in any way “vague”.

            “There’s no real evidence that the Church considered the science at all in this case.”

            I’m afraid that making bluster statements like that and hoping they are true isn’t going to help you. We have the documentary evidence that shows us this is wrong. Bellarmine put the question to of the scientific status of Copernicanism to a panel of consultants who were tasked with looking at how the theory was regarded by astronomers. We have their statement of report dated February 24 1616. On the idea that the earth moves around the sun it says “all said that this proposition is foolish and absurd in philosophy”. On the proposition that the earth rotates in a diurnal motion it says “all said that this proposition receives the same judgement in philosophy”. The consultants also made assessment of what these propositions meant theologically, but the judgements scientifically – “in philosophy” – were made first.

            It helps to actually have a grasp of the evidence before making load pronouncements about what evidence does or doesn’t exist.

          • You have a problem with the word “treatise” to describe the Consultant’s Report on Copernicanism dated Feb 24, 1616? Fine. We’ll call it a “report”.

            But do read to the bottom of the report to see who “All” refers to. Your “consultants” were not exactly a group of scientists:

            Petrus Lombardus, Archbishop of Armagh.

            Fra Hyacintus Petronius, Master of the Sacred Apostolic Palace.

            Fra Raphael Riphoz, Master of Theology and Vicar-General of the Domincan Order.

            Fra Michelangelo Segizzi, Master of Sacred Theology and Commissary of the Holy Office.

            Fra Hieronimus de Casalimaiori, Consultant to the Holy Office.

            Fra Thomas de Lemos.

            Fra Gregorius Nunnius Coronel.

            Benedictus Justinianus, Society of Jesus.

            Father Raphael Rastellius, Clerk Regular, Doctor of Theology.

            Father Michael of Naples, of the Cassinese Congregation.

            Fra Iacobus Tintus, assistant of the Most Reverend Father Commissary of the Holy Office.

            As you say, It helps to actually have a grasp of the evidence before making load pronouncements about what evidence does or doesn’t exist.

          • “You have a problem with the word “treatise” to describe the Consultant’s Report on Copernicanism dated Feb 24, 1616?”

            No, I just wanted to know what you were referring to. And if you were aware of the consultants’ report, why did you claim that “there is is no actual consideration of the science” in that report when the report clearly addresses both the science and the theology on both key propositions?

            “Your “consultants” were not exactly a group of scientists:”

            Did I say otherwise? The fact remains that they did what they were asked to do and consulted on both the science and the theology relating to the two key propositions and reported back on both.

          • No, you didn’t say otherwise. You simply neglected to say that “consultants” considering the “science” were not scientists. Boy, talk about skewing the argument!

            I claimed that there was “no actual consideration of the science” because a dozen clerics calling it “absurd in philosophy”, while bemoaning it’s scriptural implications, does not constitute a “consideration of the science”.

          • “You simply neglected to say that “consultants” considering the “science” were not scientists.”

            Relevance? They were called “consultants” because they consulted others. Guess who they consulted on the science. They wouldn’t have had to have consulted very widely anyway, since the fact that the consensus was against heliocentrism was common knowledge to anyone with a background in natural philosophy.

          • Relevance? if you can’t see the relevance of a group of clerics declaring a scientific proposition as heresy, with a huge foundational bias in their use of scripture, you have problems with reading comprehension.

          • Can you read English? As I said, their job was to consult and report back. If what this “group of clerics” had reported back was at variance with the opinion of scientists at the time, you’d have a point. But it wasn’t. So you don’t.

            “with a huge foundational bias in their use of scripture”

            They considered the scientific and the theological issues separately, and they reported back on them separately as well. My reading comprehension is fine. Yours is warped by your emotional need to rant at the Church. Try to be more rational.

          • Right … they considered the scientific and theological issues so separately, they were actually able to separate the subjects with a comma.

            Try to be more rational. There is no scientific justification for heresy.

          • “hey considered the scientific and theological issues so separately, they were actually able to separate the subjects with a comma.”

            A semi-colon, actually. See Maurice A. Finocchiaro, The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History p. 146, n. 35, where he addresses this point and makes it absolutely clear that the scientific assessments and the theological ones are distinct from each other.

            ” There is no scientific justification for heresy.”

            So go find someone who says there is and shout at them. We are seriously getting into “old man yells at cloud” territory now.

          • No – this is the issue, the exact issue. When a supreme religious authority declares a scientific theory – even a scientific line of thought – to be “heretical” – when they go on to actively ban the books of numerous scientists …

            how is this not a conflict between science and religion!

          • “how is this not a conflict between science and religion!”

            It’s a conflict between one scientific theory and another one.

          • Ridiculous. Scientific conflicts are never resolved with book bannings.

          • I’m afraid in that in the early seventeenth century they were. Feel free to shout at them for not upholding modern ideas about academic freedom but I’m afraid that’s as irrational as yelling at them for not using iPhones.

          • I’m afraid that in the early seventeenth century they were not. Scientific progress was not resolved it was slowed, stopped, and impeded by book bannings. And if you don’t think that such religious authoritarian bannings of science don’t occur in the age of iphones, you are irrational. There is a very current struggle within the U.N. over the legitimacy of heresy laws in member states in case you hadn’t noticed. On a smaller scale creationists appointed by my own governor (Texas) repeatedly attempt to insert young earth creationism into state text books.

    • Scott Paeth

      Well, as both James and I have noted, first there’s the myth that Galileo was some kind of hero of secularism. He wasn’t, he was a devout Catholic. He was actually quite close friends with the Pope at a certain point, which is one reason why he thought he could get away with ridiculing him in his dialogue.

      And it’s worth noting that, at the time Galileo was publishing, his theory was anything but unassailable. It was an improvement on Copernicus’s prior theory, and he didn’t feel any need to throw any fig leaf over it, pretending that it wasn’t a description of how the planets actually moved. His main contribution to the discussion was his observation of the moons around Jupiter and his eloquent defense of the theory itself. But there were still many issues (e.g., he still insisted on circular orbits rather than elliptical orbits, and so his math wasn’t a significant improvement on his opponents).

      And of course, the Jerry Coyne/Bertold Brecht interpretation of Galileo is based on the idea that he was some kind of closet atheist, which, again, is far from the truth.

      • Who claims that Galileo is a hero of secularism? How could anyone in Galileo’s era be a hero of secularism when even disagreeing with the Pope earned you the threat of torture?

        As to your second paragraph, I see you’ve bought into this recent apologetic trope about the weaknesses in Galileo’s argument. Ignoring apologists like d’Souza, actual science historians will tell you that Galileo’s data was far more advanced than his contemporaries. The moons of Jupiter were the tip of the iceberg.

        • Scott Paeth

          “Who claims that Galileo is a hero of secularism” — Brecht and Coyne and numerous others.

          As for your remark on my second paragraph, this has been my analysis of the issue for a quarter of a century and I pay absolutely no attention to what Dinesh d’Sousa has to say about anything. Again, Galileo’s theories were suggestive at the time, but until Kepler’s elliptical orbits, and significantly, until the advent of Foucault’s Pendulum, it was far from unassailable.

          And again, none of this justifies the way that he was treated by the church, but it’s simplistic to make it into a “science vs. religion” trope given that until the modern era, and certainly until WELL after Galileo, most scientists were also churchmen, and often clergy to boot, and given Galileo’s own very strong religious faith.

          • Your “analysis of the issue for a quarter of a century” is hardly the consensus of scientific historians who will point out that Galileo not only amassed evidence far out-weighing his peers, but did so in ways that now undergird our understanding of scientific methodology. His use of the telescope, his discovery of the moons of Jupiter, his study of the phases of Venus, his work on the concept of inertia, and his own work with pendulums changed the field in ways that not only buttressed the heliocentric model, but changed the way that science is actually performed.

            Speaking of sounding off in woeful ignorance.

          • Scott Paeth

            Well by all means, let me know who you think is a good historian of science that speaks to this issue. You’re clearly very knowledgable on the particulars of Galileo’s thinking, and have clearly studied the issue in significant depth. So give me some citations of people that I should be reading that would supplement my analysis on the question.

          • It was not my intention to show the “particulars of Galileo’s thinking”. As anyone can see, I pointed out the facts about Galileo’s discoveries.

            If you seek a better understanding of Galileo’s gigantic place in the history of science and astronomy, i could certainly give you book recommendations:

            Watchers of the Stars: the Story of a Revolution
            The Copernican Question: Prognostication, Skepticism, and Celestial Order
            Galileo and the Scientific Revolution
            The Scientific Renaissance 1450-1630
            The Prism and the Pendulum
            Galileo: Astronomer and Physicist
            Galileo, Human Knowledge, and the Book of Nature: Method Replaces Metaphysics
            Galileo Galilei and Motion: A Reconstruction of 50 Years of Experiments and Discoveries
            Edge of Objectivity: An Essay in the History of Scientific Ideas
            The Cambridge Companion to Galileo

          • Scott Paeth

            Thanks for the list. I’m familiar with a number of these texts. They don’t really change my take on the issue, since all I’m claiming here is what is evident: That Galileo’s theory, at the time he propounded it, was a theory among theories, and up for legitimate dispute. In fact, the fascinating thing about his dispute with Urban VII wasn’t that the Pope didn’t want the issues discussed and debated, but that he wanted his own views to be represented in the discussion. Galileo’s choice to place Urban’s perspective in the mouth of Simplicio alienated the Pope and thus cost Galileo an important ally in what was then an ongoing and open discussion. I don’t know why you think this is somehow a problematic point.

            Galileo was impolitic, though as I’ve said several times, that by no means excuses his treatment at the hands of the church. But to suggest that it was a “science vs. religion” dispute first and foremost elides a lot of the complexity in the issue, which I took to be James’ point from the outset.

          • Why would I think that a point you only now bring up is problematic?

            Galileo was impolitic. Sure. That hardly excuses not only his treatment at the hands of the church, but also the declaration by the church that the heliocentric scientific position is condemned as heresy.

            The highest religious authority of the western world declares a scientific heresy because of a personality conflict with the Pope.

          • Scott Paeth

            “Why would I think that a point you only now bring up is problematic?” Because it’s been my point from the beginning, you simply ignore it.

            “That hardly excuses not only his treatment at the hands of the church, but also the declaration that the heliocentric position is condemned as heresy” Agreed. Which again, I think everyone has been saying from the beginning.

            As for your last paragraph, again, we agree. But I will once again note that in the 17th century the heliocentric theory was hardly in any regard settled science. Which of course was one reason why the church should not have sought to end the conversation. But again, note that church authorities were deeply involved in the discussion, not seeking to stop it, until Urban VII lost his cool about the whole thing.

          • J

            “I will once again note that in the 17th century the heliocentric theory was hardly in any regard settled science”

            Okay. You’ve noted it. It’s still a stupid point.

          • Scott Paeth

            Ah, I see we’ve moved into the “ridiculous and ignorant trolling” portion of the thread. Thanks for coming to do your part J, otherwise, how would we even know we were having a discussion on the internet?

          • Yes, Urban VII lost his cool, banned treatises, and declared a scientific theory has heresy. And in the deliberations recorded by the inquisition, the reasons are grounded in theology, not science.

            That is the point I have made from the beginning.

          • “And in the deliberations recorded by the inquisition, the reasons are grounded in theology, not science.”

            This is wrong. Factually wrong. Simply repeating an erroenous statement that is shown to be completely wrong by any reference to the documentary evidence doesn’t magically transform a wrong statement into a right one. And you are displaying a level of boneheaded dogmatic contraryism worthy of the most hidebound fundamentalist. Not a good look for a supposed rationalist.

          • And … here you are again, trying to demonstrate that the church had a “scientific” reason to declare a scientific theory to be heretical.

            Is it completely lost on you that there is nothing scientific about declarations of heresy?

          • Scott Paeth

            Well it seems the after all of this we’ve come to substantive agreement. But I will simply note once more that the issue was emphatically NOT that the church was uninterested in scientific progress for theological reasons per se, but that the particular dynamics of this particular controversy undermined what was otherwise a general desire on all sides to pursue the scientific evidence where it led. Had Urban simply allowed things to unfold as they otherwise would have, the church would have found ways to accommodate the heliocentric theory, as indeed most protestant countries very quickly did. And his desire to put his thumb on the scale was not, I’d argue, theological, but a matter of his own personal pique.

          • J

            The church had no right. His ‘impolitic’-ness doesn’t change that he was right. That people didn’t agree with him at the time doesn’t matter.

          • “the consensus of scientific historians who will point out that Galileo not only amassed evidence far out-weighing his peers”

            What “scientifiic historians” claim this? Anyone with any grasp of the matter will know his ideas were roundly rejected by his peers, not least because several of them (circular heliocentric orbits, tides caused by global rotation) were totally wrong and seen so at the time. Please name these historians.

          • Naming scientific historians who recognize Galileo’s revolutionary discoveries and unprecedented contributions to scientific methodology – easy:

            Sir Patrick Moore,
            Robert s. Westman,
            Robert Crease,
            Joseph C. Pitt.,
            Roberto Vergara Cafarelli,
            Charles Gillispie
            Giorgio De Santillana

            “Anyone with any grasp of the matter will know” that most working scientists have ideas that are proved wrong, but that Galileo’s accomplishments far outweigh his misses. And any scientist will tell you that mistaken hypotheses are part of the way that science moves forward.

          • “Naming scientific historians who recognize Galileo’s revolutionary
            discoveries and unprecedented contributions to scientific methodology”

            That wasn’t what I was asking you for. Read up the thread. Scott said ” at the time Galileo was publishing, his theory was anything but unassailable”, which you tried to dismiss as some kind of “apologetic trope”. This is wrong – it’s the consensus of historical analysis. So I was challenging you to back up this claim and show that its accepted that his theory was somehow unassailable. Having studied the scholarship in detail for the last 20 years, I know you won’t be able to.

          • J

            Historical analysis doesn’t matter; only scientific correctness.

          • Please don’t feed the troll folks.

          • I don’t have to “read up the thread” to see the exact question you asked me, which did not include the word “unassailable”. Now you demand that I show his theory was “unassailable”? How silly. If you knew anything about scientific methodology, you would know that no theories are “unassailable”. You hardly sound like someone who has “studied the scholarship” for 20 years.

          • “I don’t have to “read up the thread” to see the exact question you asked me, which did not include the word “unassailable”. ”

            That was what I was asking you to back up. I’m afraid you don’t get to tell me what I meant.

            “Now you demand that I show his theory was “unassailable”? ”

            No, you’re getting yourself very confused. I asked you to show that historians consider that Galileo had proven his theory in 1616. Scott said his theories were “were suggestive at the time, but until Kepler’s elliptical orbits, and significantly, until the advent of Foucault’s Pendulum, it was far from unassailable.” This is correct. Yet you disagreed and said his assessment “is hardly the consensus of scientific historians who will point out that Galileo not only amassed evidence far out-weighing his peers, but did so in ways that now undergird our understanding of scientific methodology”

            So I’m asking you to cite the “scientific historians” who say this. You keep darting off on tangents and failing to do so. Please produce the evidence of this “consensus of scientific historians” who think Galileo “amassed evidence far out-weighing his peers” and that the Church’s resistance to his theories was untenable on scientific grounds. You’ve made the claim, so now you have to back it up.

          • I’m afraid you don’t get to tell me which questions I have to answer – Lord, talk about bluster!

            I’ve already cited scientific historians who praise Galileo’s achievements. I won’t waste time copying and pasting them here for your edification.

            If I am “confused”, it is because you are arguing a bizarre point here. That because Galileo’s theory was “not unassailable”, the Church had scientific reason to declare it heresy.

            Really, is there ever a scientific reason to declare anything a heresy? What does science have to do with heresy? Heresy proclamations can do nothing but impede the progress of science.

          • “I’m afraid you don’t get to tell me which questions I have “to answer”

            If you make statements and then refuse to back them up, that’s up to you. We can simply ignore your unsubstantiated claim in that case.

            “I’ve already cited scientific historians who praise Galileo’s achievements.”

            That wasn’t what you were asked to substantiate. You can’t really be so stupid as to not understand what my challenge actualy was, so it seems this is just obfuscation because you know you can’t substantiate your claim that “consensus of scientific historians” thinks Galileo “amassed evidence far out-weighing his peers” on heliocentrism.

            “That because Galileo’s theory was “not unassailable”, the Church had scientific reason to declare it heresy.”
            My claim is that because the consensus was against Galileo and the Church had the science of the day on its side, the caricature that the whole affair was a clash of religion against science is nonsense. So you can leave any straw men of your own construction alone.

            “Heresy proclamations can do nothing but impede the progress of science.”

            If they are in line with the scientific consensus, that simply makes no sense.

          • I have backed up my statements. It’s not my job to back up yours.

            You can’t really be so stupid as to believe that the “unassailability” of a 17th century scientific theory was ever in question. But on the road to the scientific acceptance of heliocentrism, Galileo’s contributions were game-changing and his practices changed the way science itself was practiced in the future. The historians I cited will most certainly confirm this.

            Wow! You consider heresy proclamations against science that has yet to achieve consensus to make sense?!

          • “I have backed up my statements.”

            You haven’t backed up your claims above that “consensus of scientific historians” thinks Galileo “amassed evidence far out-weighing his peers” on heliocentrism.

            “You can’t really be so stupid as to believe that the “unassailability” of a 17th century scientific theory was ever in question.”

            What?

            “But on the road to the scientific acceptance of heliocentrism, Galileo’s contributions were game-changing”

            His observations of the phases of Venus and the satellites of Jupiter were definitely significant. But they did not establish heliocentrism on their own, given the other objections to that model and the fact other models fitted the evidence better. And some of his other arguments were demonstrably wrong at the time and so were rightly rejected. This is why the consensus stayed against heliocentrism until long after his death. And why the Church had the science of the day on its side in 1616 and 1633.

            “You consider heresy proclamations against science that has yet to achieve consensus to make sense?!”

            What? Your posts are getting increasingly incoherent. I think you need to calm down and think more rationally.

          • I have backed up my statements. With the possible exception of the sheer number of Tycho’s visual observations, what contemporaries amassed better evidence than the man who invented the practice of using a telescope for astronomy?!

            There is nothing incoherent in the plain observation that scientific consensus is not a justification for proclamations of heresy; and that declaring scientific ideas as a heretical is most certainly in conflict with scientific progress.

          • “I have backed up my statements.”

            Nope. You have completely and repeatedly failed to back up your claim that a “consensus of scientific historians” thinks Galileo “amassed evidence far out-weighing his peers” on heliocentrism. That’s why you tried to pretend you never made this claim, why you tried to pretend you were making some other claim and why you’re now just barefacedly claiming you backed up this claim when that is an overt and demonstrable lie.

            “With the possible exception of the sheer number of Tycho’s visual observations, what contemporaries amassed better evidence than the man who invented the practice of using a telescope for astronomy?!”

            The ones who noted, correctly, that Galileo’s argument from the tides was based on an error of fact. The ones how noted that his model contradicted key elements in physics as it was understood at the time. The ones who noted that the stellar parallax problem could not be surmounted if the heliocentrists own observatons of the stars were correct. In other words, all the scientists who disagreed with the Copernican model and who formed the consensus against it at the time and for many decades after Galileo’s death.

            “scientific consensus is not a justification for proclamations of heresy”

            Again, go find someone who makes an argument about it being “justified” and yell at them.

            “declaring scientific ideas as a heretical is most certainly in conflict with scientific progress.”

            And doing so on the basis of scientific consensus is not anti-science. I can keep repeating historical facts in the face of your ranting for as long as you like.

          • Oh you mean historical facts such as the church never bothering Kepler?

            You seem aware of lots of strangely unnamed Galileo contemporaries “noting” things, but you can’t seem to name their masses of evidence”. Not to mention that quite a bit of the evidence that finally did achieve a consensus for the heliocentric model resulted from methodologies begun by Galileo (ever heard of telescopes being used in astronomy?).

            Speaking of ranting, you can rant all you like that heresy proclamations and book bans are not anti-science – try shouting it. See if that makes it believable.

          • “Oh you mean historical facts such as the church never bothering Kepler?”

            I was referring to the fact that, until Galileo began dabbling in theology, Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo were all left to their own scientific devices. Which would be strange if the issue was the Church was automatically anti-science.

            “you can’t seem to name their masses of evidence””

            Says the guy who is responding to a comment where I give a list of the reasons the consensus stayed against heliocentrism until the end of the century, long after Galileo’s time.

            “Not to mention that quite a bit of the evidence that finally did achieve a consensus for the heliocentric model resulted from methodologies begun by Galileo ”

            Except all that evidence could also be accounted for by the non-heliocentric models, which had the added advantage of not having the heliocentric models flaws. However much you twist and turn, the historical fact remains that no heliocentric model – neither Copernicus’ erroneous one or Kepler’s more accurate one – had the weight of evidence for it until long after Galileo’s time.

            “you can rant all you like that heresy proclamations and book bans are not anti-science”

            Even if they are based on science themselves? Again, the Church had the SCIENTIFIC consensus on its side. You can keep bashing your head against that historical fact all you like, it won’t go away.

          • Oh – I see -so when you said, “Then can you explain why Kepler … was never bothered by the Church?” By “never” you meant “until they banned his books”

            Bless your heart, Tim, it’s become amusing watching you argue the “science” of book-banning and heresy. You somehow fail to grasp that book-banning and heresy proclamations are not scientific activities. Especially when they are enacted by a group of religious clerics citing scripture.

      • J

        Galileo was, in fact, a hero of secularism. The church is nothing but shit.

        • I warned you once already about profanity. I am happy to see even internet trolls educated about history that they dogmatically pontificate about in ignorance. But I am not going to allow the level of discourse here be dragged down. Goodbye.

          • J

            Still here. Try praying to your god; maybe he can do something about this.

          • It would be great if internet trolls informed themselves about the views of individuals before making assumptions and debating with someone in their imagination rather than real individuals.

        • Scott Paeth

          James, you’ve got wonder, don’t you, what sucking spiritual or intellectual vacuum trolls like this are seeking to fill by dropping by your thread to add nothing to the conversation but vitriol.

        • Matthew Green

          Galileo was a Christian. If anything, his interpretation, IIRC, was his attempt to try to harmonize science and Christian theology. He may or may not be a hero to some secularists but the fact of the matter was that he was not some kind of atheist martyr who suffered at the hands of dogmatic blowhards who were going to defend biblical inerrancy no matter how hard it contradicted established science because their political authority was at stake. Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler were all Christians. That doesn’t mean that there were no atheists out there. I am astonished that some people seriously think that nearly all scientists are and were atheists who publically professed religious views out of fear of persecution.

    • J

      Why does the church have any right to imprison someone for insulting the pope?

      For that matter, why should the pope–whose house is a country and whose priests are rapists–NOT be mocked?

      • Matthew Green

        J, no one is defending the Catholic church’s decision to imprison anyone. All I see are individuals here, who are just trying to set the record straight. Galileo and others are not secular martyrs who just happened to be the victims of an intolerant and science-hating theocracy. Again, this is the failing of a manmade religious institution not of religion itself. Neither Jesus of Nazareth nor St. Paul of Tarsus are believed to have taught that scientists are to endure imprisonment or house arrest. Secondly, your statement “whose priests are rapists” is as offensive as it is inaccurate. Not *all* priests are sexual predators and abuse children. Just like not *all* men are assholes who live to abuse women. You seem to be posting statements that try hard to put religion (*all* religion) in the worst light possible.

  • As I’ve stated in earlier posts such as this, the Galileo affair may be more complex than a simple clash between science and religion, but the entire story still doesn’t place the catholic church of the time in any better light. The church declared the heliocentric model a heresy. Whether it was for “religious” reasons, or because Galileo was arrogant, in either case, the decision was clearly not about the actual science involved. Apologists like Dinesh d’Souza try to argue that Galileo’s science was too faulty to make the case against geocentrism, by picking at smaller errors he made; but Galileo was right far more than he was wrong, and, unlike most of his contemporaries, he backed his theories with experimentation and data.

    I’ve always found it odd when people describe the story of the personal squabble between Galileo and the Pope, as though that somehow makes the church look better as a promoter of science. What do you call it when a Pope uses a personality conflict as reason to declare a scientific position heretical, threaten torture, and imprison the scientist involved? “Pro-science”?

    • I certainly don’t want to downplay the shortcomings of the Catholic Church’s leadership in this particular instance or in any other. But as you say, the decision was not about the actual science involved. And that is the point that, in my mind, makes this about the problems of religious authoritarianism, and not “religion vs. science.”

      • This was a religious authoritarianism that permeated the world at that time. For anyone who lived in Galileo’s world, religion was inseparable from the authority of the Church.

        You’ll have to forgive nonbelievers who have little appreciation of the difference between “religion vs. science” and “religious authoritarianism vs. science”.

        • I do! 🙂

          • I would also caution you not to accept the Dinesh D’Souza version of events. He claims that Galileo had not made his case; but that is not what actual science historians will tell you. Galileo had amassed excellent data, such as his discovery of the orbits of the moons of Jupiter and the phases of Venus, which corresponded to the heliocentric model. Galileo was head and shoulders above his peers in scientific methodology. His support for the Copernican model was based on excellent data.

          • “He claims that Galileo had not made his case; but that is not what actual science historians will tell you.”

            As much as I despise D’Souza, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Here he is correct and it’s you who has a weirdly presentist and distorted view of things. See C.M. Graney’s recent book Setting Aside All Authority: Giovanni Battista Riccioli and the Science against Copernicus in the Age of Galileo for a thorough analysis of how and why the scientific consensus was still firmly against Galileo even decades after his death.

          • Even Graney acknowledges that his research is a challenge to long-standing scholarship. Yet, religious apologists cite him ad nauseum with glee. Sorry, Tim, but the jury is still very far out on this one. And even if Galileo had not made his case convincing enough, this hardly excuses the church from declaring a scientific position a heresy punishable by torture.

          • “Even Graney acknowledges that his research is a challenge to long-standing scholarship.”

            Having actually read his book, I can assure you that he is not talking about the idea that the consensus was against Galileo until late in the century. His book challenges other things, but not that – because that is totally accepted.

            ” Sorry, Tim, but the jury is still very far out on this one.”

            No, I’m sorry, but that is plain wrong. Westmann’s analysis shows that in the period between the first knowledge of Copernicus’ thesis to the 1616 trial just ten scholars in the whole of Europe accepted his ideas as anything other than a calculating device. In the seventeenth century there were no less than seven competing models, mainly helioentric or geo-heliocenttic, of which Galileo’s favoured model was the second least accepted. I don’t think you have a strong grounding in this topic.

            “And even if Galileo had not made his case convincing enough, this hardly excuses the church from declaring a scientific position a heresy punishable by torture.”

            Historians don’t indulge in the kind of presentist value judgements required to “excuse” the distant past. They seek only to explain what happened and why. The fact that Galileo was champioing a fringe theory that still had, to most scholars, far too many holes explains a great deal about what happened and why. “Excuses” and “condemnations” are not only irrelevant to historians, but historiographically dubious.

            PS And while I’m correcting misconceptions, torture was not a punishment for heresy and Galileo was in no danger of ever being tortured.

          • Wasn’t Giordano Bruno burned at the stake?

          • He was, but not for anything to do with science, despite the persistent myth to the contrary. Bruno was not a scientist to begin with – he was a mystic whose strange esoteric cosmology occasionally intersected with some actual scientific ideas largely by co-incidence. So he supported Copernicanism, but not because he understood it (he actively rejected the use of mathematics to understand the universe) but because it happened to fit with his mystical views. So his Copernicanism was like Deepak Chopra’s embrace of quantum mechanics. Bruno was a scientist the way Chopra is a quantum physicist.

            Bruno also believed a grab bag of (for the time) crazy religious ideas, any one of which could get you killed in the 1500s. He rejected the divinity of Jesus, the virginity of Mary, the existence of the Trinity and the reality of Transubstantiation. None of this was out of any rational analysis but because he had his own version of Heremetical religion which he believed was the “real” faith and which he wanted the Catholic Church to embrace. Not surprisingly, the Catholic Church wasn’t very keen on this idea.

            It’s often claimed that Bruno was burned at the stake for his heliocentric cosmology and so, therefore, he was some kind of martyr for science. Leaving aside the fact that science played little to no part in his kooky cosmology, there is also no evidence heliocentrism was a reason for his execution. He was certainly questioned about his heliocentric ideas, but he was questioned about all aspects of his cosmology.

            The reason we can be sure that he was not condemned for heliocentrism is that he was tried not only by the Roman Inquisition but also by Cardinal Bellarmine – the same prelate who presided over Galileo’s 1616 trial just 17 years later. And the Roman Inquisition had strict rules of legal precedent and the use of case law. So if Bruno’s heliocentrism had been one of the reasons he was condemned and executed in 1599, this precedent would have been cited by Bellarmine in 1616. But it wasn’t. Bellarmine had the Assayers look at the whole question of Galileo’s heliocentrism from scratch, which means it was at best a minor side issue and curiosity in the Bruno case, not a focus of his final condemnation.

            Bruno was a mystic and a bit of a kook with a strange cosmology that no-one at the time recognised as scientific and which no-one today would see as anything other than bizarre. He was executed for his religious ideas about Jesus, Mary and the Church and his mystical heliocentric cosmology had nothing to do with it. He was a martyr to being a weird and persistently annoying pain in everyone’s butt, but not a martyr to science.

          • Thanks for the reply. I knew most of the stuff about Bruno, but you added a few points.

            However, that’s all beside my question–which was “wasn’t G. Bruno burned at the stake?”

            You had written, “torture was not a punishment for heresy.”

            But it appears that you agree that he was burned at the stake for heresy.

            For you wrote, “He was executed for his religious ideas about Jesus, Mary and the Church…”

            Sounds like a heretic to me.

            Being burned to death is one of the worst forms of torture.

            Plus, I’ve read a number of books on heresy and the Roman Catholic Church.

            I don’t see how you as an historian claim that the RCC didn’t torture heretics?

            And, of course, since I never agreed with Roman Catholic views such on such doctrines as the Trinity, Jesus being God, etc., I would probably have been burned at the stake, too if I had lived then.

            As for Jerry Coyne, he is sort of like the brilliant bull who attacks anything that looks red– like accomodationism.

            I’m not even sure why he bothers to do so since he is also a determinist who thinks that all of us accomodationists have no choice in what we think.

          • Yes, he was executed by being burned. No, of course that is painful and so could be, in one sense, classified as “torture”. But “torture” is usually referring to hurting someone without killing them. The whole point of torture, either as an interrogation technique or just as a punishment, is for the victim to not die. So I was responding to someone who seemed to think Galileo was threatened with torture as a punishment for his heresy. He wasn’t, partly because torture was not used as a punishment, but (sometimes) as an interrogation technique.

            And nowhere do I say they never tortured heretics, just that the torture was not used as a punishment for being a heretic, it was was used to get someone to admit that they were one.

          • Oops, sorry, I get your nuanced point.

            Have you noticed that mythicism is gaining more acceptance?

            It appears that Coyne, also, has accepted mythicism.

            Side note: By the way, I checked your website several days ago to see if you had any new information on mythicism, but it hasn’t been updated.

            Are you posting to a different site?

          • I “seemed to think Galileo was threatened with torture as a punishment for his heresy”.

            I didn’t just seem to think it, I provided quotations that proved it. You can argue ad nauseum that heresy tortures technically never took place, but you cannot deny that Galileo was threatened with torture.

            Once again, the minutes of the Inquistion meeting of June 16,1633:

            “His holiness decided that the same Galileo is to be interrogated even with the threat of torture”

          • ” I provided quotations that proved it.”

            No, you didn’t. Your own quotations made it clear that the potential torture referred to was as part of the interrogation. It was not a punishment for heresy. Again – show me any conviction for heresy where someone was sentenced to be tortured as punishment.

            “you cannot deny that Galileo was threatened with torture”

            I woudn’t want to. But that has nothing to do with your erroneous claim that he was threatened with torture as a punishment. He wasn’t. Torture was not used as a punishment.

            “His holiness decided that the same Galileo is to be interrogated even with the threat of torture”

            Yes. Note the word in bold. You seem pathologically incapable of conceding you’re wrong about anything.

          • You know what, Tim, you’ve tentatively (barring further evidence) convinced me that torture was not a punishment for heresy. I will now correct my statement:

            Galileo was interrogated with the threat of torture.

            Whew! I’m so glad I’m not confusing being interrogated with the threat of torture with being threatened with the punishment of torture. I can sleep again.

          • I’m not arguing that Galileo had convinced a consensus of peers in his own time. The scholars of his day were far too influenced by ancient biases to look at the data as clearly as scientists would today.

            You are right that historians don’t engage in value judgements of the past. That seems to be the purview of religion.

            Torture has always been a punishment for heresy in many parts of the world, and still is today. In the case of Galileo, this is from the minutes of the Inquistion meeting of June 16, 1633:

            “His holiness decided that the same Galileo is to be interrogated even with the threat of torture; and that if he holds up, after a vehement abjuration at a plenary meeting of the Holy Office, he is to be condemned to prison at the pleasure of the Sacred Congregation, and he is to be enjoined that in the future he must no longer treat in any way (in writing or orally) of the earth’s motion or sun’s stability, nor of the opposite, on pain of relapse …”

            And a the June 21st interrogation, the minutes note:

            “And he was told to tell the truth, otherwise one would have recourse to torture.”

            Now you might argue that the inquisitors would never have gone through with it, if you like, but he was clearly threatened with it.

          • “The scholars of his day were far too influenced by ancient biases to look at the data as clearly as scientists would today.”

            Wrong. Graney’s book shows that the real problem was that the data was ambiguous and went against the whole of physics as it was understood at the time. It was not that they didn’t see it “clearly”. Galileo was also convinced by data that was wrong, thus his erroneous insistence on circular orbits, complex epicycles and ideas about the tides that demonstrably in error.

            “Torture has always been a punishment for heresy in many parts of the world, and still is today.”

            It was not used as a punishment by the Inquisition. It was used as an interrogation method. No-one was found guilty of heresy and sentenced to be tortured as punishment.

          • Gee, Graney again. Is that the only book you read during your 20 years of study on the topic. Well, some are slower than others.

            I guess I shouldn’t joke. It’s kind of pitiful that you’ve spent 20 years of study to show that the father of the scientific method was wrong about the earth moving around the sun.

          • “Is that the only book you read during your 20 years of study on the topic.”

            I have a shelf full of books on this subject. None of them disagree that the scientific consensus in the early 1600s was against Galileo. You’ve been challenged to demonstrate otherwise and have had to resort to clumsy obfuscation to try to dodge that challenge. And I cite Graney because his book is the only one that addresses the question of why the consensus was against Galileo and what that consensus was based on directly.

            “t’s kind of pitiful that you’ve spent 20 years of study to show that the father of the scientific method was wrong about the earth moving around the sun.”

            It’s kind of pitiful that you know you can’t win this argument and so have to resort to this kind of pathetic trolling.

          • When have I claimed that Galileo achieved scientific consensus in his time? You’re still trying to saddle me with this strawman of your own invention.

            Despite your clumsy obfuscation, you have yet to explain how scientific consensus justifies declarations of heresy against scientists.

          • “When have I claimed that Galileo achieved scientific consensus in his time?”

            You claimed that a “consensus of scientific historians” thinks Galileo “amassed evidence far out-weighing his peers” on heliocentrism. You’ve been challenged repeatedly to back this claim up and have failed to do so every single time.

            “you have yet to explain how scientific consensus justifies declarations of heresy against scientists.”

            Straw man. Again, I have simply noted that if they had the science of their day on their side, as they did, the caricature that they were anti-science is clearly false. I leave claims about what is “justified” to those who don’t understand that historians avoid value judgements and stick to objective analysis. Ranters, on the other hand, don’t seem to understand objectivity at all.

          • I haven’t failed to back up this claim. I’ve provided a long list of sources.

            Straw man? If you can’t see how the banning of books is anti-science, you don’t understand what it means to be rational.

          • “I haven’t failed to back up this claim. I’ve provided a long ”
            list of sources.”

            Total garbage. You provided a long list of sources about another claim entirely. You have totally failed to back up the claim that “a “consensus of scientific historians” thinks Galileo “amassed evidence far out-weighing his peers” on heliocentrism”. Stamping your feet and shrieking that you’ve done so when you haven’t is simply pathetic.

            “If you can’t see how the banning of books is anti-science, you don’t understand what it means to be rational.”

            Sorry, but if they banned these books because the overwhelming consensus of scientists said they were wrong, that’s not “anti-science”. It’s certianly against our modern notions of academic free expression, but since those notions didn’t exist in the early 1600s, it’s irrational to condemn them for not being upheld then.

          • Yes, just keep stringing separate quotations of mine together until you come up with something you can call wrong – it’s a childish game I have frankly tired of.

            The issue I have consistently been concerned with on this post is proclamations of scientific heresy.

            You can scream and stamp your feet all day that the banning of scientific books is not anti-science … hear it echo on the walls.

          • “ust keep stringing separate quotations of mine together until you come up with something you can call wrong”

            Pardon? Anyone who reads up the thread can see what you said in response to Scott. Are you saying you didn’t make that claim?

            “The issue I have consistently been concerned with on this post is proclamations of scientific heresy.”

            You certiainly want to focus on that, because you’ve had your butt handed to you on every other point.

            “You can scream and stamp your feet all day that the banning of scientific books is not anti-science”

            Banning them because they were considered both bad science and bad philosophy is not anti-science. They thought they were being pro-good science. Unlike us, they didn’t have the benefit of hindsight.

          • I fail to see how you have “handed my butt” to me on any point whatsoever, except “points” of your own creation that had nothing to do with me. Good Lord, you accuse others of “bluster”?

            I find it a bit rich to hear you claiming to hand butts out after after having your butt handed back to you on such stupidities as claiming the church never “bothered” Kepler. (Presumably the banning of his books wasn’t a “bother”).

            You don’t need hindsight to know that banning scientific enquiry is bad for science. Who are you trying to convince with such nonsense?

          • “I fail to see how you have “handed my butt” to me on any point whatsoever”

            What a shock.

            Except I showed you that you were wrong about torture being used as a punishment for convicted heretics, you failed to back up your claim that “scientific historians” agree Galileo presented better arguments than his rivals on heliocentrism and I shown you over and over again that Galileo did not have the best arguments at the time and that the Church had the consensus of scientists on its side and so was not anti-science. Being anti a theory that they considered scientifically wrong (and which largely was) is not being anti-science – it’s being anti scientific error.

            So you can scream and stamp your feet and kick down hastily constructed straw men all you like, none of these historical facts will change. And you can have your tantrums on your own, because I’ve wasted enough time trying to jack hammer some actual objective history into your concrete-reinforced bigoted skull.

          • Oh yes, thank you for reminding me that you pointed out that vital distinction:

            Galileo wasn’t threatened with the punishment of torture; he was interrogated with the threat of torture.

            That was so helpful …

          • Nick Gotts

            Banning them because they were considered both bad science and bad philosophy is not anti-science.

            That claim is so bizarre that I’m having difficulty believing you actually mean it. A core value of science is the freedom of enquiry. Any authority that bans or attempts to ban scientific texts on the grounds that they are “bad science” or “bad philosophy” is anti-science. (There are grounds on which such texts could be banned without being anti-science – for example, if they violate the rights of the subjects of experiments.)

          • J

            “…why the scientific consensus was still firmly against Galileo even decades after his death.”

            Why does that matter?

          • Again, don’t feed the troll folks.

    • “but Galileo was right far more than he was wrong”

      Hindsinght is a wonderful thing. In 1616 and 1633 this was not only far from clear, it was totally contrary to the scientific consensus. The Church had the science of the day on its side. Retrospective condemnation of them for not know what we know now is irrational and absurd.

      • The issue is hardly whether Galileo had scientific consensus on his side. The issue is whether the highest religious authority of the western world was right to declare a scientific position as heresy and a scientist as a heretic under threat of torture and imprisonment.

        • “The issue is whether the highest religious authority of the western
          world was right to declare a scientific position as heresy and a
          scientist as a heretic under threat of torture and imprisonment.”

          “Right” by whose standards? Theirs? Ours? If it’s theirs, then yes – the Church had that right. Our standards are irrelevant because to expect early seventeenth century people to act according to ideas that had yet to arise makes no sense at all. And these value judgements are pointless when it comes to the analysis and understanding of the past anyway.

          • J

            “And these value judgements are pointless”

            No they aren’t. We’re right, they’re wrong. Galileo was right, church was wrong. Science was right, religion was wrong. Issue settled.

          • Once more, ignore the troll folks.

          • Matthew Green

            “Religion was wrong”? What? All religion is wrong? Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and every other religion was wrong? They all opposed Galileo, Copernicus, and others? Wow. As a history major, I must have missed that. What people don’t realize is that Europe was deeply religious at the time and the church had the authority to do as it saw fit. It wasn’t as though that most people were atheists and Humanists and the church was this oppressive, totalitarian power that was hell-bent on keeping an ignorant populace under control.

          • Nick Gotts

            I’m afraid it is you who is demonstrating historical ignorance here. Galileo’s condemnation to perpetual house arrest came in 1633, well into the period when papal, and more generally religious authority were under serious challenge. It was part of a much wider attempt by the Catholic Church to recover the unquestioned “authority to do as it saw fit”, generally called the Counter-Reformation. While open atheism was practically unknown, there is little doubt that philosophers such as Machiavelli and Hobbes were atheists, and many Christian sects or groups (some of the Anabaptist groups, and soon after the time of Galileo’s death in 1642, the Diggers, Quakers and Ranters in England) denied the validity of any religious authority. These radical politico-religious groups were indeed viciously persecuted by the proponents of religious authority – both Catholic and Protestant.

          • Matthew Green

            Nick, how exactly am I ignorant? Europe was deeply religious but I meant that as a cultural generality. It’s not as though every last person in Europe was religious; maybe I am at fault for not making this clearer. There were indeed atheists like Hobbes. I don’t deny that religious authority was being challenged but the Catholic church, for better or for worse, still had a lot of authority to do as it saw fit even as an attempt to try to recover authority that had been challenged. My point is that the antireligous bigots (I would classify “J” in this category, unfortunately) make it sound as though Europe was mostly secular and they had to keep it secret because they feared a totalitarian theocracy known as the Catholic church. They make it sound as though Galileo, Copernicus, and others were secretly Secular Humanists who had to make phony professions of religious faith just to keep from being killed. I don’t buy into this religion vs science conflict that these antitheists are promoting.

          • Nick Gotts

            Your way of stating your view certainly suggested ignorance. you said:

            the church had the authority to do as it saw fit

            while this authority had been under systematic attack for well over a century. And while I hold no brief for J, I don’t see where – at least in this thread – they implied what you say they did. And there certainly was a religion vs science conflict involved in the Galileo affair: the Papacy was intent on suppressing scientific work that contradicted religious dogma. Denying that is either ignorant or dishonest. It is no accident that Italy, which had been at the forefront of Renaissance science (or proto-science if you prefer), became an intellectual backwater from the later 17th century onward, while countries where Papal influence was removed (the Dutch Republic, England, Scotland) or greatly reduced (France) hosted the “Scientific Revolution”.

          • Matthew Green

            Okay, Nick, I can understand how my wording might have led you to think that I was talking out of ignorance. As far as the church having the authority to do as it saw fit-maybe I should’ve stated that this is true in areas where it had some power to back up its authority. In the case of Galileo, house arrest (and, IIRC, in the case of the burning of Giordano Bruno) the church had the power to do as it saw fit; hence, their punishments. I am not in any way suggesting that the church had uncontested, universal authority across all of Europe or that Europe was in any way universally Catholic and had given complete and assenting authority for the papacy to do whatever it pleased. If you thought that this was what I was saying or implying, my apology.
            The debate that has ensued on this thread has actually inspired me to take another look at the Galileo affair. While I majored in early European history, I didn’t study the Galileo affair in extensive detail. But I did believe, up to this point, that the Papacy did in fact punish Galileo for publishing scientific work that threatened to negate church doctrine.

          • Nick Gotts

            But I did believe, up to this point, that the Papacy did in fact punish Galileo for publishing scientific work that threatened to negate church doctrine.

            So it did. That Galileo had annoyed the Pope in other ways does not change that simple fact.

          • Pointless? No more pointless than your assessment of 17th century scientific consensus.

          • Please explain what is wrong with what I’ve said about the seventeenth century consensus. Try using actual evidence and scholarship rather than your usual bluster and bold assertions, because the latter just wastes everyone’s time.

          • Why should I explain what is irrelevant? The banning of scientific ideas by religious authorities is bad for science, no matter the scientific consensus.

      • J

        “Retrospective condemnation of them for not know what we know now is irrational and absurd.”

        No it isn’t.

        • Matthew Green

          J, why is it the case? If they didn’t know what we know now, we can chalk it up to an honest mistake on their part. If they knew what we know and they deliberately ignored, or worse, opposed and oppressed the science, you may have a starting point for criticism. However, you seem to have this need to cast all religion in the worse light possible and science as this secular tool for destroying all superstition. It’s never fair to condemn people in the past for not knowing what we know now.

      • Matthew Green

        Even if the actual science that we have was available to them in one form or another, this seems to have been an honest mistake on their part. It’s hardly the reaction of antiscientific bigots who want to see anything conceivably contrary to Scripture or their interpretation of it destroyed. It’s not as though the Church has continuously opposed heliocentrism to this day (which if true, would make them the worst of ignoramuses).

        • The commonly held version of the Galileo story – what I call “the cartoon version” – that is so beloved of people like Coyne was forged by people like John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White in the wake of the impact Darwin had on late nineteenth century America. So Galileo, who had previously been well known and respected, was elevated to the status of martyr for reason and “the Father of Science”. Giordano Bruno was transformed from kooky mystical footnote to another martyr to science. And the whole Galileo case was recast into a simplistic and totally unhistorical battle between “science” (Galileo and all the astronomers, allegedly) and religion (the anti-intellectual churchmen who refused to look through telescopes etc). The whole thing tells us more about the late nineteenth century than the early seventeenth.

          That this is the common misconception is not as much the issue as the fact that people like Coyne cling to it even when the real history has been explained to them. Then we get kneejerk bigots like a couple of the people in the discussion here who simply don’t care about the facts and just want to spit bile. And these people call themselves rationalists …

          • Matthew Green

            I so agree with you. I think it’s these science-worshipping antitheists, most of whom are apostates from some fundamentalist religion, have never shed their fundamentalist mindset. They tend to see all of history as a war between science and religion. A favorite author of many mythicsts, Robert Price, wrote in a book titled *The Reason-Driven Life* that these angry apostates need to “get a life”. He didn’t seem to know why many of these apostates were so angry with religion. I thought to myself that if Bob wants to see these apostates “get a life” then maybe he needs to stop publishing mythicist works. The advice is commendable but it’s highly ironic considering that Price is one of the best known mythcists and one of the tiny handful worth taking seriously.

  • I would say that the person displaying “arrogance and smugness” is the one who declares those who disagree with him to be “profoundly ignorant.”

    • Unless he’s right. Having studied the Galileo Affair for years, I can assure you that most people are “profoundly ignorant” about it and what they think happened is a caricature of the actual history. This is particularly the case for those who try to reduce it to some kind of pseudo historical fairy tale whereby Galileo was “right” (circular orbits, epicycles and rotational tides and all) and the Church was “opposed to science” (despite having the consensus of the science of the time firmly on their side and including some of the greatest astronomers of the age in their ranks).

      But since I suspect you won’t listen to James or to me, try the late David C. Lindberg. Lindberg was, until his death a couple of years ago, the greatest historian of early science in our time. He was a Sarton Medal winner, a former president of the History of Science Society and his book The Beginnings of Western Science, 600 B.C. to A.D. 1450 (1992) is a key textbook in courses on early science history around the world. Here is Lindberg on the Galileo Affair in history versus popular conception:

      “[The] traditional story [of Galileo] is filled with factual errors … But a fault at least as serious is its treatment of the Galileo affair as an exclusively ideological conflict (theological dogmatism snuffing out scientific freedom), neglecting the overwhelming importance of human interests and local circumstances. And when human fears, rivalries, greed, revenge, ambition, animosity, personality and the like are taken into account, the story takes on an altogether different cast.”

      Like all modern historians of science, Lindberg is noting that the idea the Galileo Affair was a Draper-White-style “conflict between science and religion” is simplistic nonsense largely based on misconceptions about both sides. And what James says above is wholly supported by the specialists in this topic.

      But if you would like to debate me on that Vinny, go right ahead. I will take great pleasure in educating you and in vast detail.

      • I’ve experienced your pedagogy before, and I’ll pass.

        I think that the Catholic Church made it quite clear that it objected to Galileo’s theories because they contradicted its view of scripture. That there is more to the story than commonly known doesn’t surprise me at all. I think that is normally the case.

        Apparently you and McGrath deem me to be “profoundly ignorant” because I think that the reasons the Catholic Church gave for doing what it did to Galileo might actually have something to do with why it did what it did. That seems pretty silly to me.

        • “I’ve experienced your pedagogy before, and I’ll pass.”

          Given how your combination of wilful historical illiteracy and boneheaded anti-religious bias always fails in specatcular style when it comes up against objective analysis by someone with a detailed grasp of the source material and relevant scholarship, that’s a wise choice.

          “Apparently you and McGrath deem me to be “profoundly ignorant” because I think that the reasons the Catholic Church gave for doing what it did to Galileo might actually have something to do with why it did what it did. That seems pretty silly to me.”

          Yes, that statement is pretty silly. Profoundly silly, in fact. Of course the contradiction of Scripture was the heart of the issue. The point that has gone whistling about a thousand miles over your head is that this doesn’t mean they were anti-science or that this episode shows science and religion are incompatible or were even necessarily incompatible in this case. Cardinal Bellarimine actually stated precisely opposite in 1616. The key element that the common version of the Galileo story misses is that the Church had the science on its side and took that into account in its finding against Galileo.

          But this is something that most people don’t realise and which boneheaded, historically-illiterate bigots refuse to understand. Because it ruins their silly little Draper-White fairy tale. So they cling to their fairy tale and remain wilfully profoundly ignorant.

          • As Hobbes (the stuffed tiger) once said to Calvin “Your charming personality must make you a very fast runner.”

            I actually first heard these kinds of arguments concerning Galileo about twenty years ago when I worked with a follower of Archbishop Lefebvre. Which side the science was on in 1633 continues to strike me as a pretty trivial point compared to how the Catholic Church went about trying to keep the science on its side. Ordering that a particular scientific theory not be held, defended, or taught in any way whatever because it is contrary to scripture is surely not conducive to scientific inquiry or advance, regardless of what a Cardinal who issued such an order might claim.

          • “Your charming personality must make you a very fast runner.”

            If I can correct pseudo historical nonsense I’m happy to take being considered uncharming by the nonsense peddlers as an acceptable cost.

            “I actually first heard these kinds of arguments concerning Galileo about twenty years ago when I worked with a follower of Archbishop Lefebvre.”

            Poisoning the well. Just because the person who explained the truth to you had other crazy ideas does not mean this is crazy. If he had told you the sky was blue that would not mean it was green.

            “Which side the science was on in 1633 continues to strike me as a pretty trivial point ”

            Given that the point is being made in the context of a question about whether the Church considered the science at all, it’s actually a critical point.

            “Ordering that a particular scientific theory not be held, defended, or taught in any way whatever because it is contrary to scripture is surely not conducive to scientific inquiry or advance”

            Yes, but oddly enough seventeenth century institutions didn’t operate according to twenty-first century ideals of academic freedom. In what may be other news to you, they also didn’t drive cars or use Excel spreadsheets. Condemning seventeenth century people for being seventeenth century people is the historiographical fallacy of presentism combined with the kind of value judgements that objective historians try to avoid.

            No wonder you get history badly wrong so often – you have no idea how this stuff is done.

          • There are countless trolls on the internet who are convinced that they are resented for their brilliance rather than disliked for their boorishness.

            In order to suppress views that were contrary to the position it endorsed, the Church took actions that were incompatible with scientific inquiry and advance. This is true regardless of whether the church looked at the state of current scientific knowledge before doing so. It is also true regardless of whether cultural notions of academic freedom in the seventeenth century were different than they are today.

          • “There are countless trolls on the internet who are convinced that they are resented for their brilliance rather than disliked for their boorishness.”

            I hope this silly comment makes you feel better.

            “In order to suppress views that were contrary to the position it endorsed, the Church took actions that were incompatible with scientific inquiry and advance. ”

            Yes. In order to suppress dissent Henry VIII boiling people in oil was incompatible with democratic free speech. And? Welcome to the study of history. Leave your presentism at the door.

          • So why do you and McGrath think that people who recognize that incompatibility are “truly and profoundly ignorant about even the basics about Galileo”?

          • You seriously need this explained again? Because the Galileo case does not demonstrate any such incompatibility. Both Galileo and the Church considered science and religion to be potentially compatible. They just disagreed on whether Galileo’s particular cosmology was compatible with scripture. The Church said it wasn’t and that the scientific consensus view of cosmology was.

          • I don’t know that I need it explained again, but I do find your explanations amusing, so go right ahead. The very fact that the Galileo and the Church only considered science and religion to be potentially compatible means that there must have been some reasonable basis for doubt.

          • Try to understand. I meant religion and science was potentially compatible on this particular point. That the two could accommodate each other overall was not disputed at all – the whole reason they were examining this particular point was because they had no issue with science overall and just wanted to see if Galileo’s claim stacked up scientifically and theologically. And they concluded it didn’t. But I guess it’s hard for you to actually understand history when you simply refuse to see past the end of your wall-eyed bias.

          • With all due respect, I believe you are the one who is having difficulty understanding The historical fact that science and religion were unable to accommodate each other on this point is what leads some people who are neither truly nor profoundly ignorant to wonder whether some doubt about the overall compatibility of the two might not be warranted. The mere fact that Galileo and the Church considered them to be compatible is not proof that they were.

          • What you keep failing (or refusing) to grasp is that the reason they didn’t accommodate each other on this point is that the science of the time was against Galileo. If it hadn’t been, they would have accommodated his ideas, as Cardinal Bellarmine explicitly stated at the time. And as they did after Newton’s new physics removed the key objections to heliocentrism. This is why those who keep wanting to make this episode into a “science vs religion” caricature have to keep pretending this wasn’t the case and convince themselves that the Church didn’t take the science into account at all. They did – that was key. So they were hardly anti-science – quite the opposite.

          • There are plenty of creationists who claim that their rejection of evolution is independent of their religious beliefs; rather, they claim that they have examined the science of evolution and found it wanting. I don’t find their claims credible. I have not seen where Bellarmine makes as explicit a statement as you claim, but even if I had, I see no reason why I should I credit that statement rather than the statements that appear in the Church’s official rulings on the matter.

          • “There are plenty of creationists who claim that their rejection of
            evolution is independent of their religious beliefs; rather, they claim
            that they have examined the science of evolution and found it wanting. I
            don’t find their claims credible.”

            That’s not analogous and therefore irrelevant. You have good reason to doubt the sincerity of the Creationists, because the scientific consensus is against them. So it’s highly unlikely they have genuinely found evolution wanting. But the scientific consensus was with the Church in the early 1600s. So their claim to have examined the science is entirely credible.

            ” I have not seen where Bellarmine makes as explicit a statement as you claim”

            It’s amazing what you can’t see when your eyes are deliberately screwed tightly shut. Bellarmine made this absolutely clear in a letter he addressed to Paoli Foscarini on April 4 1615:

            “Third, I say that, if there were a real proof that the Sun
            is in the centre of the universe, that the Earth is in the third sphere, and that the Sun does not go round the Earth but the Earth round the Sun, then we should have to proceed with great circumspection in explaining passages of Scripture which appear to teach the contrary, and we should rather have to say that we did not understand them than declare an opinion to be false which is proved to be true. But I do not think there is any such proof since none has been shown to me.”

            Here Bellarmine is saying that if the heliocentric model were proven, he would have to accept that passages in the Bible which had traditionallly been interpreted as supporting a stationary earth would need to be reinterpreted, because “we should rather have to say that we did not understand [these verses] than declare an opinion to be false which is proved to be true.” Because hard science trumps Biblical interpretation and the Bible can be reinterpreted to fit new findings in science. And this is precisely what happened in the eighteenth century once the primary objections to heliocentirsm were answered by a synthesis of Kepler’s model and Newton’s new physics.

            ” see no reason why I should I credit that statement rather than the statements that appear in the Church’s official rulings on the matter.”

            Proving, yet again, that you either don’t understand this subject or just don’t want to. What Bellarmine says in 1615 and what the Inquisition ruled in both 1616 (presided over BY Bellarmine) and in 1633 (referring to Bellarmine’s 1616 ruling) are, unsurprisingly, all totally consistent.

          • I do not see where Bellarmine says anything explicitly about examining the science and finding it opposed to Galileo. On the contrary, he seems to concede that the heliocentric model best fits the data. Given that there were a number of scientific shortcomings in Galileo’ theory, the Cardinal certainly could have cited them if he thought them relevant. Instead, the only thing that Bellarmine cites in opposition to heliocentrism is the Church’s interpretation of scripture.

            Bellarmine does pay lip service to the idea that the Church would have to adjust its interpretation if Galileo’s theory could be proven, but he doesn’t admit to the possibility of that occurring. Even if Galileo’s theory fit the data best, the Church could still maintain that the true reality fit scripture. Bellarmine was willing to tolerate Galileo and Copernicus and Foscarini as long as they only claimed to be “saving the appearances,” but he couldn’t handle the assertion that the best explanation of the observations was also the true description of reality independently of the Church’s position.

          • Utter gibberish, as usual. Bellarmine states that he has not seen any proof of heliocentrism. He was a learned guy with a good background in astronomy and who had taught natural philosophy at the university of Leuven and all historians of the subject agree that he was more than familiar with the state of the debate about the seven (count them) competing cosmological models in play at the time. So he is agreeing with the majority consensus in 1616 that heliocentrism still had some critical flaws.

            How you can use your time-travelling telepathy to deduce that he was “paying lip service” to the idea that the Church could accommodate a proven heliocentric model I have no idea. He explicitly does “admit to the possibility”, just not while the major scientific objections remain. And what do we find in the early eighteenth century when those objections were answered? Exactly what Bellarmine said – they reinterpreted the scriptural passages. And he was willing to accept them continue to examine the model “saving the appearances” because, at that stage, the consensus was that it was not an accurate model of what was really happening. And given that the Copernican model was substantially wrong – a point that many who want to cling to the Draper-White caricature of history tend to forget – this was not exactly unreasonable in 1616.

            But of course all that requires an objective analysis of history, not trying to skew it through some bizarre biases. Like most fanatical fundamentalists, you want to twist history to fit your bigotry.

          • I know it may sound silly to a scholar of your incalculable wisdom, but I’m inclined to give more weight to what a person actually said than to what some blowhard on the internet reads between the lines.

            The only objection that Bellarmine offers to heliocentrism is that it contradicts the Church’s interpretation; he expresses no concerns about the science whatsoever.

            There are a couple things that lead me to believe that Bellarmine is only paying lip service to the idea of the Church changing its interpretation of scripture. First, he says that saving the appearances isn’t enough to prove that heliocentrism is true in reality. Even if every problem in heliocentrism was solved, Bellarmine could still claim that it didn’t prove it true; it only saved the appearances. Second, he affirmed that heliocentrism could neither be held nor defended; that’s a pretty strange thing for someone who is open to advances in scientific knowledge.

          • “I’m inclined to give more weight to what a person actually said than to
            what some blowhard on the internet reads between the lines.:”

            Strange then that the “blowhard” has those silly old historians of science on his side on this one (as usual). And you must live in some kind of backwards Vinny World alternative reality where someone saying that they would reinterpret scripture if heliocentrism were demonstrated can somehow be read as saying they would not

            “he expresses no concerns about the science whatsoever.”

            Again, it must be a strange Vinny World alternative universe where someone who directly refers to the fact that, in 1615, there was no proof that the things required by heliocentrism is true is somehow not expressing his view on the science in question.

            Then we get this virtuoso performance in bad history:

            “he says that saving the appearances isn’t enough to prove that heliocentrism is true in reality. Even if every problem in heliocentrism was solved, Bellarmine could
            still claim that it didn’t prove it true; it only saved the appearances.”

            Utter gibberish. But that’s what you get when a bigoted bumbler with no grasp of the material or the historical context tries to dabble in historical analysis. When Bellarmine says “To demonstrate that the appearances are saved by assuming the sun at the centre and the earth in the heavens is not the same thing as to demonstrate that in fact the sun is in the centre and the
            earth is in the heavens” he is simply noting something that everyone in the debate, including both Kepler and Galileo, fully acknowledged. All agreed that mathematical astronomy alone could not derermine which of the competing models was correct, because the “appearances” could be interpreted several ways. This is the whole reason there were competing models in 1615 – seven of them to be exact.

            So Bellarmine is saying that something other than a functional heliocentric model is required to demonstrate that heliocentrism is true. This is why Galileo used things like his ill-fated tides argument and why Kepler, rather more successfully, argued from causal explanations in physics.

            But because you don’t understand all this (you could read Peter Machamer, The Cambridge Companion to Galileo, pp. 286-87 if you actually wanted to educate yourself), you’ve totally misunderstood what Bellarmine says. If the objections to heliocentrism were answered he would NOT be able to reject them by saying they only saved appearances because those objections were not based on the appearances at all. As you would understand if you weren’t completely ignorant on this topic. Yet you burble on regardless because you’re a fanatic with a big blunt rusty anti-Christian axe to grind.

            You similarly misread what he said “he affirmed that heliocentrism could neither be held nor defended”. He was clearly referring to defending it as fact. He had no problem with people continuing to explore it as a hypothesis and says as much – ” content yourself with speaking hypothetically, and not absolutely”. But I suppose in the whacky dimension of Vinny World that means the opposite of what it says as well. Keep this up and next we’ll be playing croquet with flamingos.

          • The blowhard would have us believe that when the Church declared that “[t]he proposition that the sun is the center of the world and does not move from its place is absurd and false philosophically and formally heretical because it is expressly contrary to Holy Scripture,” what it really meant was “We’re waiting to see where the scientific consensus comes down.”

          • That’s not as implausible as you make it sound. It was the apparent absurdity – they did not yet have an understanding of gravity that could explain how the Earth could be spinning so fast without us feeling it – and the philosophical issues (Aristotle’s longstanding dominance) that were the primary issues. Had it not been for those, the issue of it being contrary to the language of Scripture alone would not have led to the events taking the course that they did.

  • Jan Steen

    That some scientists (including Galileo) were religious is not proof that science and religion are compatible. It merely proves that those scientists would have agreed with Stephen Jay Gould that science and religion are “non-overlapping magisteria”. In that view, the scientific method is not capable of proving or disproving religious ideas. Conversely, religion has nothing to say about the findings of science. Science and religion exist in completely separate realms.

    But is this true? I should think not. Consider how much the role of God has shrunk as a factor in the explanation of our world. Genetics has soundly disproved the existence of the primordial pair Adam and Eve. In Galileo’s day, almost everyone in the Christian world accepted the existence of Adam and Eve as perfectly self-evident. How could there not have been a first pair of human beings? And yet, anyone who still believes in Adam and Eve today is scientifically illiterate. Belief in Adam and Eve is incompatible with science.

    So it is with all religious ideas. They are either incompatible with science, and therefore indefensible, or they baseless assertions, and therefore – again – indefensible. Ask a religious person, “How do you know that?”, and the last thing you will receive is an answer that does not boil down to: “I just believe it.” Religion is parroting other people’s unfounded beliefs in a systematic way.

    Science is indeed the enemy of religion. As Laplace allegedly said to Napoleon, concerning the existence of God: “Sire, we don’t need that hypothesis.” He was exactly right.

    • “That some scientists (including Galileo) were religious is not proof that science and religion are compatible.”

      That’s not the point. The point is that the glib t-shirt slgan is, historically speaking, nonsense. The actual history of the Galileo Affair does not somehow prove that science and religion are incompatible.

      “It merely proves that those scientists would have agreed with Stephen
      Jay Gould that science and religion are “non-overlapping magisteria””

      Galileo certainly did, and made this crystal clear in his Letter to Castelli and Letter to the Arch-Duchess of Tuscany.

      “But is this true?”

      That is a separate question. The point is that the Galileo Affair, properly understood, does not prove science and religion incompatible or prove Gould (and Galileo) wrong. But it’s hard to fit complex historical analysis on a t-shirt and people like Coyne don’t seem very interested in real history, just dumb slogans.

      • Jan Steen

        I agree that the T-shirt is dumb. That’s what you get when people learn their history from propagandists like Bertolt Brecht. Galileo himself would undoubtedly have affirmed that science and religion are compatible, defeating the implied message of the T-shirt. But I wrote more in response to the following assertion made in the OP:

        “Galileo was a devout religious person whose whole life and activity embody the compatibility of religion and science.”

        No. At best you can say that, like all religious scientists, Galileo somehow believed that science and religion don’t have to be in conflict. But this belief doesn’t prove they are actually compatible.

        Science has grown tremendously in the four centuries since Galileo. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a disproportionate fraction of modern scientists are atheists. Would Galileo still be a devout religious person, had he lived today? I doubt it. Like many of my colleagues, he would more likely have considered religion to be something outdated and irrelevant.

        Scientists of the past also used to take astrology.and alchemy seriously. Should we still claim that science and alchemy are compatible, by pointing out that Newton spent a lot of time doing alchemy?

        • What I think we have seen here is that one cannot speak in a meaningful way about the compatibility of “religion” and “science” in the abstract. Chemistry and Christianity or physics and Buddhism may fit together consistently, while biology and liberal Christianity are compatible in a way that biology and young-earth creationist brands of Christianity are not.

          • Jan Steen

            Turning water into wine is not compatible with chemistry 🙂

            Sorry, cheap shot, but I couldn’t resist that one. I would say that each religion has tenets that are in conflict with science. They may not be the same tenets for each religion, but I have yet to see a religion that is not based on assumptions for which there is no evidence (that is, evidence accessible to science).

          • Believing in something for which there is no scientific evidence is different from believing something that is contrary to the scientific evidence. The latter is an anti-science the stance; the former need not be. I embrace the conclusions of the natural sciences, and I don’t consider the inability of the natural sciences to show that every human being is of inherent value to be either a reason to criticize the sciences, or to abandon that conviction, or proof that religion and science are fundamentally incompatible.

          • Excellent point!

            There are plenty of brilliant scientists who were also theists from Mendel to Max Planck to Theodosius Dobzhansky to Francis Collins, etc.

            So I don’t understand why so many thinkers like Coyne can’t seem to see that science and religion are compatible.

          • There are plenty of brilliant scientists who were also communists and fascists and monarchists …

            None of which makes these ideologies particularly compatible with science in and of themselves.

          • Those are centrally political ideologies, and negative ones at that, though it is true that most fascists and monarchists were theists
            while historically most communists were materialists, a type of atheism. However, many leaders who were for democracy were also theists. And now many in Europe are agnostics and atheists.

            But there were and are scientists within all of those political views. How are such political views incompatible with science?

            A better comparison would be this, focusing primarily on philosophical views of reality: “There are plenty of brilliant scientists who were also” Platonists, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Enlightenment deists, theists, pantheists, panentheists, agnostics, atheists, etc.

            As far as I can see, at least historically and at present, none of those philosophical views are incompatible with science.

            Only various forms of fundamentalism that deny the scientific method and deny central scientific theories are incompatible with science.

          • Nick Gotts

            The phrase “compatible with science” is ambiguous. If someone with a particular view is also a competent – or brilliant – scientist, then in that sense, that view is compatible with science. But in another sense, the same view may be incompatible with science, in that it has implications or requires attitudes which conflict with those required by science. Take fascism, for example: this explicitly denies freedom of enquiry, and if it does not deny it altogether, subordinates reason to the supposed interests of the nation, race or leader. In that sense, fascism is clearly incompatible with science, and the existence of competent scientists who are also fascists does not change that. In that sense I, and many others, would argue that religion – as systematised wishful thinking and mysterianism – is incompatible with science.

          • #1 I already emphasized that comparing theism to fascism isn’t parallel. One is a political ideology, the other, theism is a very broad statement that existence has meaning and purpose. That includes a vast variety of scientists whose science isn’t compromised by their view.

            Furthermore, fascism is a negative term; theism isn’t necessarily a negative term.

            #2 Secondly, the co-founder of the modern skeptic movement, Martin Gardner, says he is a “mysterian” in his book The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener.

            Arthur Stanley Eddington, Max Plank, Theodore Dobzhansky, Kenneth R. Miller, etc. were/are all theists and brilliant scientists. Theism and science seemed to get along fine.

            As I already wrote, I would agree that theistic fundamentalism is incompatible with science. Miller would strongly agree; he was one of the witnesses against fundamentalistic creationism in the Dover school case.

            Thanks for the dialog.

          • Nick Gotts

            I don’t see how anything you have said is relevant to my point that “compatible with science” is ambiguous – you just ignore it.

          • It’s not ambiguous. But I am not a scientist.

            Read Kenneth R. Miller’s explanation that religion and science are compatible.. He is a well-known scientist who was a central witness against creationism in the Dover education case.

            Kenneth R. Miller:

            “Science, we are told, is reason based upon evidence. And faith, we are assured, is belief without reason. As such, the two are locked forever in conflict and cannot coexist. But such assertions ignore the very history of western science, which has its roots in a faith that views the study of nature and its mysteries as a way to praise and understand the glory of God. It was in that tradition that Newton unwove the rainbow and revealed the laws of motion, that Father Gregor Mendel established the science of genetics, and that Father Georges Lemaitre developed the theoretical foundation for cosmic expansion. Yes, it was a Catholic priest who first described the physics of the real big bang.”

            Miller noted that both Theodosius Dobzhansky, who famously said that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” and Asa Gray, Darwin’s first great advocate in America, were men of faith. Both of these evolutionary biologists understood that faith, “far from being the antithesis of reason, is actually the source of reason.” Science is built upon two great elements of faith. The first is that the universe is rational, understandable and accessible to human thought. The second is that truth is to be preferred to ignorance.”

            http://ncse.com/blog/

            Kenneth R. Miller is Professor of Biology. He did his undergraduate work at Brown, and earned a Ph D in 1974 at the University of Colorado. He spent six years as Assistant Professor at Harvard University before returning to Brown University in 1980. His research work on cell membrane structure and function has produced more than 60 scientific papers and reviews in leading journals, including CELL, Nature, and Scientific American. Miller is coauthor, with Joseph S. Levine, of four different high school and college biology textbooks which are used by millions of students nationwide.

            He has received 6 major teaching awards at Brown, the Presidential Citation of the American Institute for Biological Science (2005), and the Public Service Award of the American Society for Cell Biology (2006). In 2009 he was honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science for Advancing the Public Understanding of Science, and also received the Gregor Mendel Medal from Villanova University.

            In 2011 he was presented with the Stephen Jay Gould Prize by the Society for the Study of Evolution, and in 2014 he received the Laetare Medal from Notre Dame University.

            He is the author of Finding Darwin’s God (A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground between God and Evolution), and Only a Theory (Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul).

            https://vivo.brown.edu/display/kemiller

          • Nick Gotts

            It is ambiguous. I showed how it is ambiguous, and you implicitly admit as much in your latest comment, when you quote Miller arguing that science “has its roots in a faith that views the study of nature and its mysteries as a way to praise and understand the glory of God”. Actually, science has multiple roots, some of which are religious while others, notably among the ancient Greeks, and in ancient and medieval techological advances, are not. That modern science appeared within a religious society is of course true – but it has since both transformed and outgrown that society, as is shown by its unparalleled ability (equaled only by mathematics) to cross cultural and indeed religious boundaries. And that process of outgrowing has involved repeated and still continuing conflicts with religion.

            Science is built upon two great elements of faith. The first is that the universe is rational, understandable and accessible to human thought. The second is that truth is to be preferred to ignorance.

            Miller is quite wrong here. We have no reason to believe that the universe is rational – that is, capable of reason. That it is understandable and accessible to human thought is not a matter of faith, but a high-level hypothesis, which could turn out to be wrong. That truth is to be preferred to ignorance is a value judgement, nothing to do with faith at all, and again, cannot be taken for granted. Suppose there were a way for human beings to destroy the universe – which is not unthinkable. It would be much better for us to remain in ignorance of that particular truth.

          • Re_Actor

            That it is understandable and accessible to human thought is not a matter of faith, but a high-level hypothesis, which could turn out to be wrong.

            If it is wrong, how we would we know?

          • Nick Gotts

            In any number of ways – you never have had much imagination, Pilty. Perhaps the most fundamental would be if pi, or some similar mathematical constant, turned out to contain a hidden message along the lines of:
            “Ha, ha, ha, I’m the trickster god Loki, and I’ve just been playing with you, suckers!” Or we could find that the procedures for testing empirical hypotheses in science and history started giving blatantly inconsistent results depending on the day of the week. Or we could wake up one day and find that the earth is flat, with a hard dome covering it, and parallax showing that the stars are now only a few miles away. Then the next day it goes back to “normal”, except that everything is purple. The next day, trees, wardrobes and opossums are discussing existentialism, while theologians root in the ground like pigs…

            Of course individuals might refuse to accept that this really means the universe is not “understandable and accessible to human thought”, holding out the hope that it’s all a dream, or a bad trip, or aliens tweaking our synapses – but that would be mere stubbornness, like that which religious believers and pseudo-feudalists show now.

          • Re_Actor

            Perhaps the most fundamental would be if pi, or some similar mathematical constant, turned out to contain a hidden message along the lines of: “Ha, ha, ha, I’m the trickster god Loki, and I’ve just been playing with you, suckers!”

            That wouldn’t mean the universe isn’t rational. It would just mean it’s reasonable to believe the universe contained a trickster god called Loki.

            Or we could find that the procedures for testing empirical hypotheses in science and history started giving blatantly inconsistent results depending on the day of the week. Or we could wake up one day and find that the earth is flat, with a hard dome covering it, and parallax showing that the stars are now only a few miles away. Then the next day it goes back to “normal”, except that everything is purple. The next day, trees, wardrobes and opossums are discussing existentialism, while theologians root in the ground like pigs… Of course individuals might refuse to accept that this really means the universe is not “understandable and accessible to human thought”, holding out the hope that it’s all a dream, or a bad trip, or aliens tweaking our synapses – but that would be mere stubbornness

            I’m not sure why that would be “stubbornness”. Some kind of mass delusion or interference by an outside agency or even radical flaws in our current paradigm would seem reasonable hypotheses. Perhaps Loki was up to his old tricks again.

            To be sure, we might never discover the reason for these bizarre anomalies, just as we would never have known of Loki’s existence had he not chosen to reveal himself to us. In that sense it might be true to say that unaided rational inquiry is potentially incapable of discovering truths about the universe; it wouldn’t follow that reason was not potentially capable of grasping those truths once revealed. Assuming the theory of evolution is true, it would still be potentially accessible to reason even if it had never been discovered.

            We know reality is rational because the axioms of logic and mathematics are self-evidently true. That 2+2=4 must be true always and everywhere is not a matter of “faith”, but neither is it a “hypothesis” in the scientific sense. We don’t see teams of white-coated scientists armed with abacuses or calculators repeatedly testing the “2+2=4 hypothesis”, which is then tentatively upgraded to the “2+2=4 theory” because no anomalous result has as yet been obtained.

          • You wrote, “And that process of outgrowing has involved repeated and still continuing conflicts with religion.”

            No, it hasn’t had repeated “conflicts with religion” but with certain types of conservative religion.

            Other types of religion, not only are compatible with science, they strongly support science.

            And I think you are incorrect to say that Miller is wrong. Various brilliant scientists including Einstein wrote about the wonder that humans can observe, test, and compute about the cosmos.

            If reason weren’t inherent in reality, NASA scientists wouldn’t have been able to figure out the computations to send a probe on a 10-year-mission to Pluto, and have it get there.
            Etc.

            So we will have to agree to disagree.

          • Nick Gotts

            The great majority of followers of Abrahamic religions still do not appear to accept that evolution is an unguided process, which is what the scientific evidence indicates. Most Hindus – including government ministers in India – still appear to believe in the nonsense of astrology and reincarnation. The great majority of religious believers appear to think that there is something non-material about human mentality, when all the evidence we have indicates the contrary. More generally, essentially all religion involves commitment to belief without evidence, merely on the authority of ancient texts, or people who claim special knowledge from sources others cannot check.

            If reason weren’t inherent in reality, NASA scientists wouldn’t have been able to figure out the computations to send a probe on a 10-year-mission to Pluto, and have it get there.

            Utter piffle. All that is necessary is that reality behaves in a consistent fashion.

          • Reason, logic, mathematics, etc. aren’t part of reality?!

            We live in different universes.

            I already agreed that many religious people believe what is contrary to science, that they believe in superstition, etc.

            Heck, the ‘average’ person believes all sorts of stuff that isn’t scientific. I’ve spent most of my life gradually learning to separate what is real versus what is tradition, misapplication, speculation, etc.

            But that wasn’t the topic.

            The question was whether religion and science are compatible or not.

            Literature, art, culture, religion, etc. are all compatible to science if they don’t deny facts, theories, and the scientific method.

            If they oppose science or support superstition–then in those cases, those particular forms of human belief are incompatible with science.

            For instance, in the last couple of months, I’ve met two brilliant psychologists, highly educated,
            yet I was shocked to discover that both of the individuals strongly believe in a couple irrational beliefs which appear to be contrary to science.

            I used to work with highly educated professionals at a hospital for emotionally disturbed. Some of them believed strange ideas.

            Does that mean that psychology is contrary to science, not compatible?

            No.

          • Nick Gotts

            Reason, logic, mathematics, etc. aren’t part of reality?!

            Of course I never said or implied any such thing, as you know very well. It’s telling that you have to resort to this kind of misrepresentation. When you originally said:

            If reason weren’t inherent in reality, NASA scientists wouldn’t have been able to figure out the computations to send a probe on a 10-year-mission to Pluto, and have it get there.

            I took you to mean more than “people are able to reason, and to use reason to predict the results of their actions”, which is trivially true by observation; something more like “reason has always existed, and is part of the fundamental structure of the universe”. If you only meant the former, why say it at all? If you meant what I took you to mean, or something like it, you are being dishonest in your latest comment.

            Literature, art, culture, religion, etc. are all compatible to science if they don’t deny facts, theories, and the scientific method.

            True, but in practice, religion almost always does that. I have already given clear examples from the most widely followed religions (Christianity, Islam and Hinduism). Almost all religion is supernaturalist: it requires belief in minds, or entities with intentional properties capable of beliefs, desires, attributing meaning…), which are independent of material reality. This despite the complete lack of any evidence whatever for such things, or any coherent account of how they could exist, so it is irrational to believe in them. Supernaturalist religion is incompatible with science in exactly the same sense as belief in witchcraft or fairies. As for non-supernaturalist religion, it is so different from what has been meant by religion for millennia, it’s doubtful whether it can reasonably be given that name. It is in any case only adhered to by a tiny number of people, despite some of those people convincing themselves otherwise.

            I used to work with highly educated professionals at a hospital for emotionally disturbed. Some of them believed strange ideas.

            Does that mean that psychology is contrary to science, not compatible?

            No of course not. But that is because irrational beliefs are not intrinsic to psychology (well, they are to some schools of psychology, but not to scientific psychology, which is of course part of science), as they are to religion – see above.

          • ? I wasn’t misrepresenting you. This appears to be a problem of my not being clear enough.

            When I wrote that “if reason weren’t inherent in reality…” I meant that reason is a part of reality.

            There is nothing trivial about the point! If reason isn’t inherent in reality, then, we humans couldn’t reason, or our reasoning wouldn’t work and our reasoning would be illusion.

            #2 Then you wrote, “True, but in practice, religion almost always does that.”

            Incorrect.

            There are millions of scientists, plenty of historical facts which show religion doesn’t “almost always” “deny facts, theories, and the scientific method.”

            On the contrary, religion sometimes strongly supports science.

            Some of our professors at the University of Nebraska and Cal State, Long Beach weren’t atheists, but strongly religious (though they didn’t speak of their views in class).

            Their religious views weren’t opposed to science. On the contrary they were compatible. Those are the facts. I especially remember one of our anthropology professors.

            “The idea of a universal mind or Logos would be, I think, a fairly plausible inference from the present state of scientific theory.”
            Sir Arthur Eddington, English astronomer, physicist, and mathematician of the early 20th century who did his greatest work in astrophysics.
            Wikipedia

            Check out the views of millions of practicing scientists which show that religion isn’t “almost always…,”

            Should I trot out the names of more famous scientists who are both brilliantly scientific and very religious? And whose science and religion work together, are compatible.

            How about the ‘father of the big bang,’ the discoverer of genetics, blah,blah;-)?

            Then there are the millions of us average folk who are strongly for science and who are devoutly religious.

            Only certain types of religion are incompatible, like certain types of literature, certain types of culture, certain types of politics….

            #3 Then you wrote, “Almost all religion is supernaturalist:”

            I agree.

            Religion, (and ethics, aesthetics, culture, social patterns, etc.) almost by definition ISN’T natural.

            See my explanation of “all humans are created equal.” That isn’t true in factual nature.
            Consider all of the evidence showing the incredible amount of inequality in humanity and the natural world.

            Unequal at birth–mentally, physically,emotionally, socially, psychologically…

            If everyone were equal in a brute fact sense, like “2+2=4” or “water is wet” or “otters swim,”
            then that ethical ideal—equality
            with its “certain unalienable Rights”–
            wouldn’t have to be hoped for, sought after, striven to achieve.

            But millions of men and women in history and at present DO think everyone is equal in an ideal invisible unprovable sense.
            A religious, a “super” natural sense.

            At least since the Enlightenment, many thinkers have held to equality, justice, free speech, and other human rights.

            They claim all humans OUGHT to be equal, ought to be free, and ought to be treated justly.

            Human rights is a super–“beyond” nature view and works fine with science. In fact science has more freedom in such societies.

            #4 Then you concluded, “…irrational beliefs are not intrinsic to psychology (well, they are to some schools of psychology, but not to scientific psychology, which is of course part of science), as they are to religion..”

            l agree that psychology as a discipline is in the soft sciences, so I retract my example.

            As for “irrational beliefs” being “intrinsic” “to religion,”
            I’ve already shown they aren’t.

            Only certain types of religion are against science.

            Other types promote and support science.

            Thanks for the dialog.

          • Actually, political views are quite often incompatible with science, as we see, with conservatives today who promote climate change denial. I don’t see that philosophical views of reality are a better comparison to religious views than are political views. And if you want to label Christianity and Islam as philosophical views, then surely you’ve heard of sects that deny evolution (among other scientific arenas). You can’t just throw out fundamentalism (which is quite rampant in the world) by default. It’s a bit like saying “religions are completely compatible with science – with the exception of religions that are incompatible with science.”

            That it is possible for scientists to engage in some religious, political, or philosophical ideologies does not entail that religion is inherently compatible with science. At best it is neutral.

          • But, again, it’s not politics in general or religion in general which deny “climate change,” but ideological fundamentalists!

            Yes, I’ve heard of millions in Christianity and Islam who deny evolution and many other established facts of science.

            But the discussion here was not about whether literalists in religion are incompatible with science, but of whether or not religion/theism itself is incompatible with science.

            It’s not.

            I’ve given you a short list of devoutly religious individuals who are brilliant scientists and who claim that there is no conflict,
            so we will have to agree to disagree on the topic.

            Thanks for the dialog.

          • In that case, then you are the one who is failing to engage the actual discussion.

            The discussion here was not about whether scientists can be religious, but whether or not religion/theism itself is incompatible with science.

            Your attempt to show that “it’s not” by citing individual religious scientists, is no more valid in this regard than my citing of anti-science religious fundamentalists.

            It seems to me that no one has defined what on earth they mean by “religion/theism” itself. Is it merely a belief in a deity, separate from all the practices, precepts, admonishments, authorities and writings that are associated with religion? That sounds like a very dry and unenlightening encapsulation of religion.

          • Since I am not a scientist, I was simply giving the examples of a few famous scientists who do claim that religion and science are compatible.

            And there are millions of scientists–51% of U.S. scientists according to Pew–who think religion and science are compatible.

            And a scientist who I deeply admire, evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, also, wrote that they aren’t incompatible.

            None of that “proves” that science and religion are compatible.

            Heck, they could all be wrong.

            As for the definition of “religion/theism” that is huge. I already pointed out that literalistic religion isn’t compatible with science.

            Religion as a category is compatible with science.

            Why wouldn’t it be?

            To think that the cosmos has purpose and meaning, that there is an ultimate reality isn’t contrary to science.

          • The 2009 Pew Study that you reference was a poll of members of the the American Association for the Advancement of Science; a poll published in Nature about ten year earlier (1998) found that 72.2 percent of members of the National Academy of Sciences did not believe in personal God.

            I don’t think that 10 years really made that much difference in the opinion of scientists; i think the difference has more to do with the wording of the questions and the make-up of the two separate Science organizations involved.

            But what was striking to the study organizers in both cases, was the enormous difference between scientists and the general public. In both studies, scientists are far far more likely to be atheists than members of the general public.

            You are right. Heck, they could all be wrong. And I’m not interested in pushing an agenda that science and religion are completely incompatible; but neither are they entirely compatible.

            I’m sure that you can come up with some (as you say) “categorization” of religion that does not infringe on science, but then you are merely inventing your own category. One that may not jibe with what millions (more likely billions) of others would consider religion. What you call “literalistic religion”, billions of others would simply call “religion”. The mass of religious people in the world whose belief systems conflict with science are not fringe, they are immense.

          • This is becoming a semantic disagreement. The original topic was about whether religion and science are compatible. I wrote James McGrath that there are plenty of brilliant scientists who think they are compatible.

            You’ve given the statistic
            “72.2 percent of members of the National Academy of Sciences did not believe in personal God.”

            This shows, as you pointed out, how statistics can vary according to how the questions are asked. The original topic didn’t specify “personal God.”

            And I wasn’t thinking about “personal God” but only of religion as a category in general.

            It may be true that “The mass of religious people in the world whose belief systems conflict with science…are immense.”

            I don’t know, but it would be an interesting study to find out.

            And here’s the statistics from Pew on scientists:

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b64ccf4404ae2500433525af74ae18480e282c0f2b3baa2082ec771a472eee20.gif

            I’ll leave you with James McGrath’s statement:
            “Believing in something for which there is no scientific evidence is different from believing something that is contrary to the scientific evidence. The latter is an anti-science the stance; the former need not be…the inability of the natural sciences to show that every human being is of inherent value to be either a reason to criticize the sciences, or to abandon that conviction, or proof that religion and science are fundamentally incompatible.”

          • Thank you for posting the actual Pew tables. I had seen them before, but had not noticed how precipitously the numbers of “believing” scientists drop off when “belief in God” is specified. The two studies are not so different after all.

            I agree that this is, in many ways a semantic issue. But people die all over the world every day because of such semantic differences between religions.

          • I agree.

          • Jan Steen

            Maybe that inability is because the term ‘inherent value’ is ill-defined. What is the inherent value of a serial killer? Do all humans have the same inherent value? Do animals lack inherent value? Do we need religion to appreciate this value? Or maybe there is no such thing.

          • Those are all interesting questions, but none of them is answerable in scientific terms, and religions, philosophies, and other ideologies give a range of answers, none of which is provable in scientific terms, nor are they for that reason necessarily at odds with science.

          • Jan Steen

            I do think they are answerable in scientific terms, once we have defined exactly what we mean by ‘inherent value’. On the other hand, if we can’t define this, then maybe the concept is meaningless. But this discussion is perhaps becoming too far off topic.

          • You ask, “Do all humans have the same inherent value?”

            Yes, if you subscribe to Enlightenment values, they do. That is what theistic humanism is all about–human rights, justice, equality, compassion, generosity, etc.

            Quite a few thinkers do think that animals have ‘inherent value” though of a different sort than species who are conscious, rational, and ethical.

            For instance, that is why some theists have become vegetarians and many oppose vivisection.

          • Jan Steen

            I find it impossible to accept that a Ludwig van Beethoven or a Leonardo da Vinci have the same inherent value as some random serial killer who has only caused misery by existing. On the contrary, to me this disproves the notion of equal inherent value.

            Equality for the Law is a different matter. And let’s not start a discussion on Free Will and its implications 🙂

          • Well, then we have a totally different view of life and existence.

            I used to work in a mental hospital for youth and children with sociopaths, schizophrenics, autistics, etc. Plus, I worked for many years with at-risk young people.

            Many humans make horrific choices. Some of them do so partially because they were abused as children. (That isn’t an excuse for their evil choices.)

            I value each person (even humans who have chosen evil) as of worth.
            That was Martin Luther King’s view–that even the KKK, and murderers, etc. are humans and need benevolence, and that there is even hope for them, if they will turn from their unjust actions.

            We all have inherent value, even humans who have murderered.

            That’s one reason many thinkers oppose capital punishment, and instead emphasize rehabilitation and hope.

            Check out what Friends Peace Teams and others are doing to foster forgiveness and hope in Rwanda with former murderers.

            And check out, too, Tutu’s work on reconciliation in South Africa!

          • Jan Steen

            I would say that some people cause so much misery that it would have been better if they had not existed, while there are many other people of whom I would never say that. This would seem to disprove the notion that all humans have the same inherent value.

          • Jan Steen

            “What I think we have seen here is that one cannot speak in a meaningful
            way about the compatibility of “religion” and “science” in the abstract.”

            One more thought about this. If what you say here is correct, then you cannot also say, as you did in the OP: “Galileo was a devout religious person whose whole life and activity embody the compatibility of religion and science.”

            To me, in this last quote you are speaking about the compatibility of religion and science in the abstract, not just in the particular case of Galileo. It is trivially true that to a religious scientist (like Galileo), science and religion are compatible. But you cannot use that fact to deduce that religion and science are compatible in general, as you seem to be doing in the OP.

            That is what prompted my initial comment in this thread, and I think you now seem to agree with me.

          • I don’t see how anyone could have understood my statement about Galileo to be claiming that all religious views much be compatible with all scientific conclusions. Galileo has nothing to do with Hinduism or Scientology, and nothing to do with radioactivity or relativity. I think it is clear that what I meant is that he showed in his own case the compatibility of his own religious tradition and not merely the embrace of science done by others, but the pursuit of science himself. He thus falsifies any claim that religion and science are always incompatible. He could obviously never be used as proof that all religious and scientific views throughout time and space must by definition be compatible. And I find it hard to believe that it is really necessary to spell this out.

          • Nick Gotts

            Well that’s puzzling, because while Galileo may initially have believed “his own religious tradition” was compatible with “the pursuit of science by himself”, being shown the instruments of torture and confined to house arrest for life – with the obvious threat that if he transgressed again, he would scream his life out at the stake* – must surely have disillusioned him. After all, “his own religious tradition” did include papal authority to define what was heretical, the torture of those accused of heresy, and the burning alive of those declared heretics.

            Incidentally, while as you say Galileo was a smug and arrogant man – with much better justification for those qualities than most, I would add – your post reads as if you think that means he was to blame for his persecution by the Church. Those to blame for persecution are, always, the persecutors.

            *Giordano Bruno was denied even that. Spikes were driven through his cheeks, lips and tongue because he would not shut up even on the way to his burning.

          • I wonder whether you are under the impression that we are discussing a different topic, such as whether persecution is horrific and inexcusable, rather than whether religion and science are always and under all circumstances incompatible. The answer to the first question is obviously yes, but I still cannot figure out why anyone would think that religious persecution or religious authoritarianism provides an answer to the second question.

          • Nick Gotts

            I understood we were discussing whether Galileo:

            showed in his own case the compatibility of his own religious tradition and not merely the embrace of science done by others, but the pursuit of science himself

            I think it blindingly obvious that he (inadvertently) showed the reverse since, as I noted, “his own religious tradition” included the right of religious authorities to suppress any scientific work they wished, and to imprison, torture and kill those they deemed “heretics” for publishing such work.

          • Nick Gotts

            The compatibility of “liberal Christianity” and biology would depend on how you define “liberal Christianity”. The contortions Biologos goes through in trying to maintain that some sort of belief in a historical Adam-and-Eve-and-the-Fall is compatible with science would make a horse laugh.

          • But surely no one except an extreme fundamentalist would suggest that BioLogos is “liberal.” If your point is that such terms are comparative and do noy delineate clear categories, then that is certainly true. But there is a clear if broad tradition of Liberal Protestantism, in relation to which liberal evangelicals are clearly distinct and part of “conservative Christianity.”

          • Nick Gotts

            Fair point.

        • You wrote, “a disproportionate fraction of modern scientists are atheists.”

          Actually in the U.S., according Pew, 51% of scientists believe in some sort of God or higher power.

          The survey said that 41% are atheists.

          • Jan Steen

            Which is far more than the percentage within the general population, wouldn’t you say?

            In Europe, I’m pretty sure atheist scientists are the majority by a large margin.

          • However that may only reflect the fact that most Europeans are atheists. When I traveled across Europe, I only met one couple who weren’t atheists; they turned out to be very liberal; he was a minister in England.

            And the fact that 51% of American scientists are theistic in some sense, also, may be more a reflection of the fact that most Americans aren’t atheists, rather than any deep study of cosmology by those scientists.

          • Jan Steen

            I wonder how they defined ‘scientist’ for the Pew poll. Are we talking about research scientists only, or do we include engineers, medical doctors, etc.?

            Perhaps a more telling figure is that 93% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States do not believe in God.

          • #1 Be careful about equating fact with only one cause. There may be other factors as well.

            #2 from Pew:
            “A survey of scientists who are members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press in May and June 2009, finds that members of this group are, on the whole, much less religious than the general public.1 Indeed, the survey shows that scientists are roughly half as likely as the general public to believe in God or a higher power. According to the poll, just over half of scientists (51%) believe in some form of deity or higher power; specifically, 33% of scientists say they believe in God, while 18% believe in a universal spirit or higher power.

            By contrast, 95% of Americans believe in some form of deity or higher power, according to a survey of the general public conducted by the Pew Research Center in July 2006. Specifically, more than eight-in-ten Americans (83%) say they believe in God and 12% believe in a universal spirit or higher power.

            Finally, the poll of scientists finds that four-in-ten scientists (41%) say they do not believe in God or a higher power, while the poll of the public finds that only 4% of Americans share this view.”
            http://www.pewforum.org/2009/11/05/scientists-and-belief/

            It’s intriguing that this belief and not belief of scientists hasn’t changed much from a similar survey taken in 1914!

            Also, it’s intriguing that younger scientists tend to believe in God more than older scientists.

            One would think that it would be the opposite.

          • Jan Steen

            Thanks for taking the trouble to provide this information. It still confirms my observation that a disproportionate fraction of modern scientists are atheists.

          • Nick Gotts

            One should also think before simply repeating numbers from an article or survey. The 1914/1996 comparison is of dubious value, considering the vast increase in the number of scientists between those dates. As for the age differences in the Pew survey, that survey was of “2553 members of the AAAS”. Anyone from undergraduates to Nobelists can join the AAAS (I’m not even sure they demand evidence of any form of scientific status – after all, members mean membership fees), and age – at least up to middle age – is likely to correlate with both commitment to science, and to professional eminence.

          • Nick Gotts
          • Thanks for the correction. I was unwisely referencing back to recent articles I had read on countries such as the Czech Republic and Scandinavia, etc. and remembering my own very limited experiences in Europe and Israel.

            I should have first checked the overall statistics.