Tom Gilson wants to play with me. :)

Tom Gilson wants to play with me. :) April 8, 2014

I wrote a post in refutation of the editors of the new book True Reason in which they seek to defend Christianity.  They wanted questions from readers of the Friendly Atheist and I thought their answers…sucked.  Now Gilson has written a response to me.  He accuses me of misunderstanding him (maybe those parts were just metaphor…) and of creating a straw man.  Let’s just dive right in.

The teachings of Genesis within the context of Christian interpretation.

So when the book of Genesis paints a picture of the universe where the earth was made before the stars, you must choose either scripture or nature. Science, of course, sides with nature. Do you? And, if you do, why do you hold to those scriptures?

What you’re describing is a certain relatively recent interpretation of Genesis. Taken in context of its time and its genre, the opening chapters of Genesis point more toward a framework of understanding God as creator than a descriptive timeline of how he did it.

This is a topic of very frequent conversation and debate among believers. Yes, there are some who think we need to take Genesis 1 in its most literal sense. There are good exegetical reasons to deny the necessity of doing so. Since Genesis 1 does not force a literal interpretation, it makes sense to fill in our knowledge by way of what we know from science. There is no contradiction there, except perhaps with a set of beliefs to which I do not adhere.

Gilson has it backwards: the major recent interpretations abandon the clear text of Genesis 1 in favor of what science has discovered (which would not be necessary if the two agreed).  This is why the flatness of the earth, geocentricity, and a bounded universe were all major parts of the Church’s dogma for well over a millennium.

If god were really attempting to create a timeline, being all-knowing and all, surely he could’ve seen how people might be confused when god started at “the beginning” (suggesting a linear progression to any fair-minded onlooker) and then immediately talking about how he made the earth.  This certainly duped Christians before science corrected them.  Perhaps god was too busy writing out the cure for leprosy to include a disclaimer.

And is “days” just some nebulous, meaningless word that somehow found its way into Genesis 1?  I mean, if Genesis 1 is not a timeline, but just a description of how god did it, the use of the word “days” is pretty suspect (since, y’know, it suggests the progression of time).  So when plants are created on the third “day” before the sun existed to drive photosynthesis, I shouldn’t take it as a timeline, so to speak, but just that it all occurred in the proper order (which we’d later discover) and disregard words that have any connection to time?  Right.  Nobody who claims to have a real appreciation for science can look at the very first contents of the bible and think the two are compatible – unless reason has long since jumped the ship.

And good for you not adhering to the idea of the earth preceding the stars as Genesis describes it.  That doesn’t alter the fact that Genesis describes it that way unless you say that Genesis 1 isn’t linear the way virtually all other writing is composed.  The fact that you reject the clear description of the universe’s origin as described on the bible’s very first page suggests that you are smarter than the bible.  I simply wish you would go the rest of the way.

The following assertion gets trotted out continually in debates, and each time it makes me facepalm:

Since Genesis 1 does not force a literal interpretation, it makes sense to fill in our knowledge by way of what we know from science.

Yes, because god was literally saying the earth came before the stars, and we know by the light of human reason that this could not have been the case, we don’t interpret literally.  We “fill in our knowledge”, as you put it.  Is there anything that can ever be called “wrong” when we do this?

The only way Christians seem to waffle out of acknowledging what the bible says to get to what they’re sure it means is by painting a picture of a god who sucks at communicating.  Since god is omniscient, this is a bit of a problem.  I’ll wager that even Tom Gilson could write a description of the universe that, if we took words to mean what they usually mean, would not require ignoring what he said while trying to concoct what he meant (and only by the light of human discovery, not because of god clearing things up) which, wouldn’t you know, is the exact opposite of what he said.  If Tom Gilson (or virtually any other writer) could write more clearly, all while having supposedly far less knowledge of the operation of the cosmos and English (or any other language) than god, this suggests that god had no influence on the content of Genesis 1.  More likely it was someone from an ancient time who simply didn’t know shit about astronomy.

Yet some people find it wholly unbelievable that in a particularly ignorant region of the world at a time ignorant of almost every scientific discovery ever made that a person could write a bunch of incorrect things about the origin of the universe, choosing to instead conclude that whoever wrote Genesis 1 was trying to say that the sun came before plants when he said the plants came on day 3 and the stars on day 4.  This text was given the cosmic ok by a god who had an interest in communicating clearly, and thought writing the opposite of what happened (without saying it was metaphor) was the best way to do this.  Hallelujah.

Metaphors that say the exact opposite of the point you’re trying to get across are examples of shitty writing, desperate attempts to justify painfully ignorant texts, or both.  Either way, it’s about as far from the work of omniscience as one can get.

Moving on:

The nature of the regional flood

Yes, the earth is old and regional floods happen all the time (these are not the global flood that killed almost everything as described in the bible).

(Bible is a proper noun when used in this context. Oh, well; JT is only doing what many atheists do.)

JT can easily be forgiven for not knowing that there is biblical and geological research here, for examplesupporting the idea of a regional flood that meets the description of the Genesis flood.

Gilson links to a article by Dr. Hugh Ross, a physicist.  That will be important for another argument I’ll make in a second.

But let’s look at the text of Genesis 7:19-23:

7:19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.
7:20 Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.
7:21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man:
7:22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.
7:23 And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.

There was a regional flood that covered all the high hills of the earth?  Wouldn’t that make it, y’know…not regional?  And how did all the flesh die that moved upon the earth if the flood was regional?  Was the humidity just really bad?

And no, Tom, there is no geological research to confirm a flood of the type described in Genesis.  Regions have flooded, they do that a lot.  This looks like the way the earth works, not the act of a somewhat incompetent angry and vengeful god who crafted a means of genocide that didn’t account for people owning boats.  Nothing in the peer-review literature even comes close to suggesting a global flood (and plenty contradicts it) and, if Dr. Hugh Ross feels that such evidence exists, he should submit it to the community of geologists for review.  But he isn’t doing that.  He’s eschewing peer-review where only the best and most scientifically viable ideas survive, for a website (his own website) where there is no review and literally anything could be posted.  It’s no wonder you linked me that instead of anything from the peer-reviewed literature – because only one of those is agreeable to your cause.

Marching forth:

The nature of God and his relation to his creation

If you’re asserting that nothing in the bible (not just those two things) is incompatible with science, I must disagree. People rising from the dead is offensive to both medicine and biology. Someone walking on water could not conflict with physics more. Someone being turned into a pillar of salt is absurd by the light of chemistry. I could go on, but you get the gist. These things are called “miracles” expressly because they violate the laws of the universe (otherwise they could be the happy product of natural causes, which sounds pretty pedestrian, not god-like at all)….

Science works on the assumption that the universe operates under a set of rules. If not for this assumption, experiment and repeat experiment would be meaningless. If your miracles (impossible if the universe is consistent by definition) require a suspension of the laws that govern the universe, then they’re not science.

From ancient times, these events were called miracles because they were very uncommon. To say that God cannot intervene in the course of natural events is to deny a God that Christians also deny.

Science does not require exceptionless laws, but only a very high degree of regularity in nature. This is fully in accord with what Christians believe about God and his relation to his creation. JT has attacked a version of God that Christians do not believe in any more than he does.

The definition of “miracle” from

an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.

I reject your redefinition of the word.  I’m not saying that if god did exist that he couldn’t supercede the laws of nature.  However, you have yet to resolve the “if” in that statement (the “if” cannot be used as evidence for the claim).  But since science relies on the consistency of the universe, you can’t say that claims of people rising from the dead, walking on water, or eating porridge in a house full of anthropomorphic bears jibes with science.

What’s more, are you really asserting that most Christians don’t believe miracles to be supernatural in nature?  I will literally bet my life savings that if we took a random poll of Christians on the street that far and away they would say miracles (like rising from the dead) are supernatural (and, as such, “prove” god’s power over nature).

As for your assertion that science does not require exceptionless laws, you link yourself.  I don’t take your word for what science requires over that of actual scientists (and scientific bodies):

There is consistency in the causes that operate in the natural world. In other words, the same causes come into play in related situations and these causes are predictable. For example, science assumes that the gravitational forces at work on a falling ball are related to those at work on other falling objects. It is further assumed that the workings of gravity don’t change from moment to moment and object to object in unpredictable ways. Hence, what we learn about gravity today by studying falling balls can also be used to understand, for example, modern satellite orbits, the formation of the moon in the distant past, and the movements of the planets and stars in the future, because the same natural cause is at work regardless of when and where things happen.

If you want to tell scientists their basic assumptions (that the universe operates under a consistent set of rules) is flawed, then you need to do what Hugh Ross has failed to do and submit it to peer review.  You need to tell the scientists instead of telling people who, for the most part, had their last contact with science in high school.  It seems to me that you’re trying to convince us that sometimes the laws of the universe simply don’t work so you can slide in conclusions as scientific that are absurd by scientific standards (someone rising from the dead violates biology, walking on water violates physics, being turned into a pillar of salt violates chemistry, etc.).  You do this to convince us that science and Christianity are compatible.

However, in scientific papers you never hear anybody say “But we don’t require a totally consistent universe, which is how an apple turned into tiger during this step”.  That would never, ever fly.  Which is also why if you tried to slide in people rising from the dead the standing assumption would have to be that your claim did not happen unless we had solid evidence that it did (and even then, we’d try to rework our model, not assume that the laws of the universe are inconsistent).  The bible is not sufficient evidence.

(As a side note, and to preempt this argument should it arise in the future, most people I’ve heard make the claim that science doesn’t require the universe to be consistent are referring to causeless events at the quantum level.  A few things to say there: 1.  That’s why we have probability fields.  2.  The quantum level is not where Jesus rose from the dead)

But let’s take your unique snowflake of a god, Tom.  We’re to believe that your god is scientifically viable because:

1.  Miracles as you define them (not how dictionaries or other Christians define them) are just rare events that do not require the magic violation of natural law.

2.  The events in the bible were just rare, but natural events.

If you’re saying that these are explicable by rare, natural exceptions to the laws of the universe (even though that’s absurd) then what we have are events that do not require a god.  They are no more evidence for the supernatural than lightning.

The relation of faith and knowledge

While science isn’t the only way to acquire reliable knowledge (even if it’s the best way) there are oodles of ways to acquire unreliable knowledge. Faith is a good example (which you must admit if you think the abundance of other faith-driven religions around the world are false).

This is a misconception of faith, at least as I understand it. I don’t know that Jesus walked on water by faith. Faith is not how I acquire knowledge of that sort: I rely on evidence.

You have evidence that Jesus walked on water?  Splendid!  Trot it out.

The relation between Bible, science, and general human learning

Architecture and engineering pre-date the sixteenth century. Surely you don’t think cathedrals were built without those disciplines. It wasn’t prayer or god that erected them, it was human beings working and thinking which requires nothing of god…. While the bible contains instructions on how to purchase and keep slaves as well as commands to kill people for working on Saturday, in between those edicts there is nothing of how to construct a building…. Even if Christians deployed that secular reasoning and/or helped to refine it, that doesn’t change the fact that the reasoning and techniques themselves were entirely secular.

(“God” is also a proper noun in this context. Oh, well. Apparently it’s important to many atheists not only to denigrate God but also to violate what they learned in English class.)

Here JT misunderstood the reason I spoke of the building of cathedrals. Someone had said, “If you leave science out of religion your cathedrals fall down go boom.” I quoted that as a great example of the fact that they hadn’t left science out! This illustrates their practice of science, in contrast to the prejudicial view that they opposed science.

No one (and here I mean no one; see below for context) believes the Bible is a book of science in the sense JT suggested here. We believe there is concord between Christianity and science, not that Christianity is science! To question why the Bible doesn’t teach architecture and engineering is to completely misunderstand how Christians understand human learning in general. We don’t think it has to be in the Bible to be true, and we don’t think it has to be in the Bible to be concordant with the Bible. And we’re absolutely fine with secular reasoning, provided that seculardoesn’t begin with the metaphysical presupposition that there is no God who works in his creation.

Zing!  Because I’m denigrating English and not the Christian god.  Good one.

Going to take this line-by-line:

Here JT misunderstood the reason I spoke of the building of cathedrals. Someone had said, “If you leave science out of religion your cathedrals fall down go boom.” I quoted that as a great example of the fact that they hadn’t left science out! This illustrates their practice of science, in contrast to the prejudicial view that they opposed science.

Architecture wasn’t in their lists of dogmas the way geocentricity or a bounded universe were.  Citing that people practiced architecture does not refute that the Church burned scholars at the stake for speculating about the nature of the stars.

What’s more, the first part of the comment to which you were responding read: “If Christianity was so important to the development of science, what took it so long to make any meaningful advancements?”  The bold is mine.  Which is why I wrote what I did: to establish that Christianity (not Christians) gave us nothing to advance the science, even if some Christians did secular scientific work.  You’re shifting the goalposts, Tom.  First you were defending how Christianity helped to advance science, not you’re saying the early Church didn’t oppose science.

We believe there is concord between Christianity and science, not that Christianity is science! To question why the Bible doesn’t teach architecture and engineering is to completely misunderstand how Christians understand human learning in general.

And yet the bible makes scientific claims (see the cure for leprosy).  It purports to teach in this case while getting any medical science wholly wrong.  Not only does the bible fail to teach science (as it purports to do in parts) but it reveals the lack of concord between Christianity and science, making you wrong on both parts, Tom.

And we’re absolutely fine with secular reasoning, provided that seculardoesn’t begin with the metaphysical presupposition that there is no God who works in his creation.

Of course you’re fine with secular reasoning.  You have to be in the modern world.  At least, you are until it conflicts with your religious beliefs.  For instance, you’re fine with the secular reasoning that produces new medicines but dismissive when those same standards confirm rising from the dead doesn’t happen.  Or you’re all about physics when you need to hop an airplane, but when the same laws that allow airplanes to fly confirm that humans don’t walk on water, then science takes a backseat.  So no, Tom, I don’t accept that you’re entirely “fine with secular reasoning.”  I think you pick and choose to protect an a priori conclusion.

And why not start with the assumption that god does not exist?  You do the same with leprechauns and celestial tea pots.  It’s not that your mind cannot be changed about these outlandish claims, only that you need evidence first and those who believe in these things haven’t ponied up.  I merely do the same with god.  I can be convinced, but so far you have failed to do so.

We don’t think it has to be in the Bible to be true, and we don’t think it has to be in the Bible to be concordant with the Bible.

No one (and here I mean no one) has made an argument to the contrary.  However, if you’re going to say that Christianity has advanced science (which you have) then it needs to be in the bible.  Otherwise it’s Christians deploying secular ideas.

But let’s consider another possibility: if it’s in the bible, must it be true (think talking snakes, etc.)?

The reasons for which we believe Christianity was crucial to the launching of science; also, Christians’ motivations with respect to learning and discovery

Christianity was necessary for science’s launching? How? We didn’t need people saying “Hey, can someone really walk on water?” before we started doing experiments – we just need curiosity about the universe, which doesn’t require Christianity. In fact, once you know “god did it”, that can suppress the need to continue looking for answers, since you’ve already got one.

Curiosity about the universe expressed itself in many ways in many cultures, but only in Christianity did it express itself as, “what natural regularities can we discover and understand?” This is related to what Sean McDowell said in the excerpt Hemant quoted a couple of weeks ago. To add to that briefly, other cultures regarded the universe as being subject more to whim than to natural laws, as being animated by spirits and therefore not a proper object of natural investigation, or as being illusion, or as not being of high personal concern.

Christians do not, in actual practice, suppress the need to continue looking for answers. The great Christians in science have always asked, “given that God is behind the workings of the universe, and given that he is a God of order, what can we learn about how he works?”

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen atheists say that “Goddidit” is a curiosity-killer. I don’t know of a single time they have ever demonstrated that with empirical, sociological or psychological science. It’s an evidence-free prejudice. They may claim that Creation Science amounts to an illustration of their principle, but (even though I don’t agree with a lot of “creation science”) I don’t know of anyone in that school who has quit their researches on account of their beliefs.

I’ll quote Richard Carrier’s reaction to the idea that Christianity was necessary for science: “This is not only false in every conceivable detail but so egregiously false that anyone with even the slightest academic competence and responsibility should have known it was false.”  Since this is a pretty harsh charge to be leveling at you Tom, I’ll elaborate.

As far as “only in Christianity did it express itself as, “what natural regularities can we discover and understand?”” goes, this assertion is flat out false on its face.  As I pointed out in my initial response, crafting the wheel and realizing that fire fucking burns require the reliance on natural regularities (otherwise fire might not be hot the next time you stick your hand in it).  These things long predated the Christian religion.  What’s more, as I’ve pointed, Christianity relies on things that violate natural regularities (people rising from the dead).  So even if nothing else were said, we can do away with your base premise, Tom.  It is not only false, but flagrantly so.

But let’s get to the charge about the degree to which it is egregiously false that Christianity gave us the framework for modern science (beyond what I wrote in my last paragraph).  For one, it was not Christianity that gave us the concept/study of reason.  That was actually the pagan Greeks who gave us the formal sciences of logic, philosophy, mathematics, and rhetoric.  What’s more, the bible itself asserts that Christianity was from the beginning based on scripture, inspiration, and revelation, not reason.  If you’re going to say that the bible provided the revelation that reason kicks ass, sorry, we got that on our own ages before the first words of the bible were carved, and it didn’t require reasoning out how snakes could talk.

My purpose for making a particular claim

So science has to do with who uses the ideas to change the world rather than who came up with the ideas? By that logic Truman was a greater nuclear scientist than Einstein.

The passage JT was responding to there was my response to a comment, “Just look at how much gunpowder affected history, especially during the 16th century. Christians did not discover gunpowder.” I wasn’t asserting there that science was about who changes the world, I was countering a specific claim made by a specific person.

Here’s the full context:

Just look at how much gunpowder affected history, especially during the 16th century. Christians did not discover gunpowder.” True: and the Chinese did not affect history with it. They employed it primarily for fireworks, as a curiosity, not as a means to progress in knowledge or even in warfare.

Tom is right: he was countering a claim.  The commenter was showing an example of science taking place without any recourse to Christianity (or even to Christians).  This was done as a counterpoint to the idea that Christianity is the basis for the framework of science.  Your response, Tom, was that they did not affect the world with it or use it toward an end that you would consider progressing our knowledge (as if its mere invention weren’t progressing our knowledge enough).  So yes, in context, it seems you are saying that the test of what constitutes scientific knowledge is how much it affects history, in which case my argument stands.

If you were meaning something else, then fine.  We can pursue that.

The entire basis of our claim concerning Christianity and science

we don’t need to be told that pursuing our curiosity pleases god in order to look for answers – we just need to be curious, and curiosity pre-dated the wheel and the notion that sticking your hand in a fire f*ing hurts.

Simply stated, “curiosity” doesn’t appear in our claims or in our rationale. Here JT has imagined that we have said something, and has colorfully refuted his own imagined claim.

It wasn’t in your rationale, it was in my rebuttal.  It was clear as fucking crystal.  From my original rebuttal:

The following bit is downright offensive:

Sean’s statement is right:

Christianity provided the philosophical foundation as well as the spiritual and practical motivation for doing science. The Christian worldview — with its insistence on the orderliness of the universe, its emphasis on human reason, and it’s teaching that God is glorified as we seek to understand his creation — laid the foundation for the modern scientific revolution.

Christians weren’t the ones who came up with the idea that the universe is ordered, unless you’re saying Christianity pre-dated the wheel and the notion that sticking your hand in a fire fucking hurts.

And we don’t need to be told that pursuing our curiosity pleases god in order to look for answers – we just need to be curious, and curiosity pre-dated the wheel and the notion that sticking your hand in a fire fucking hurts.  In fact, the notion that we should accept things on faith, even if they are in conflict with science (earth coming before stars, stars all being made on the same day even when they’re still being made through means that require no appeal to god to explain, guy walking on water, guy rising from the dead, woman being turned into pillar of salt, and on, and on) could not be more offensive to science.  You know the story of the doubting Thomas which extols the virtue of believing without seeing?  Yeah, that’s how you become gullible, not scientific.

You said that Christianity provided the philosophical foundation for doing science.  I (not you) said that all we needed was curiosity.  And, if all we need is curiosity, and you think Christianity/god provide the motivation/framework for doing science, then it follows that either:

1.  Christianity must be responsible for our curiosity (it isn’t).

2.  Curiosity isn’t the requisite for being motivated to do science (it is).

And on we go:

The point of this post has been to show how JT has been arguing a straw-man version of our beliefs. I have concentrated on that, and that alone. Were I also to have weighed in on other factual errors I would have also spent time on:

  • Jesus, Thomas, evidence, and faith
  • Galileo’s place in the history of church and science
  • Science, miracles, and justification of knowledge
  • The origin of belief in an ordered universe

Bring it.

Finally, since the links are so easy to find, Neil DeGrasse Tyson reallymessedup thestory of Bruno.

I feel the need to once again remind readers of context.  In Tom’s opening he said:

Giordano Bruno was wrongly and tragically executed, but it wasn’t for science. It was for theological error. Copernicus was a churchman working under the patronage of church leaders. He delayed publishing his De Revolutionibus not because of concerns over the Church’s response, but because of concerns over the response that might come from the scientific community. The plain fact is that with one exception, which arguably was much more about politics than science, science was sustained by the Church, not oppressed by it.

That is the charge Gilson attempts to refute: that the Church was hostile to any scientific discovery that conflicted with its dogma (because if the Church valued dogma over evidence, how could Christianity have been responsible for science instead of contemptuous of it?).  None of the links Gilson provided dealt with that claim, rather they dealt with how influential or innovative Bruno was with his idea of an infinite cosmos (this is likely one of the rare places where Gilson and I agree).

So let’s focus on the Discover articles, since I consider them to be the most reliable.  In his first, Corey Powell says:

That depiction in the new Cosmos matches the standard textbook story of Bruno, but it is misleading and in some ways downright wrong. For starters, Bruno was not the first to link the idea of infinite space with the infinite glory of God. That idea actually originated with Nicolas of Cusa, a German philosopher who lived a century earlier (and who wrote about the notion of infinite space even before Copernicus, though not in a detailed astronomical way). Nicolas kept his infinite theology within the Catholic framework, however, and suffered no ill consequences for his views.

If Nicolas of Cusa was forced to constrain his infinite universe hypothesis to be within the theology of Catholicism in order to avoid ill-consequences, doesn’t that support the idea that the Church had ready Inquisition panels and punishments for positing scientific discoveries that conflicted with the church (or other penalties)?  How could this be if Bruno was scared of the scientific community, not the Church?  And, if this were the case, how can Gilson say that Bruno was “one exception”?  Did Gilson even read the links he expected me to read?

These do nothing to rebut the fact that unlike scientists, which have no taboos on thought (while only accepting conclusions supported by the evidence), the early Church punished conclusions it felt were improper – regardless of the evidence.  I argued for this, to no refutation (other than this brief attempt by Gilson to move the goal posts) in my original post by saying:

Are you suggesting that the Church was a-ok with scientists making conclusions that disagreed with dogma and just, for whatever reason, decided to confine Galileo to house arrest for life for his views on heliocentricity?  No, Galileo’s conviction was based on the Church’s laws of the day.  Primarily, he was found guilty of violating the Council of Trent.  The Inquisition that tried him concluded heliocentrism (read: the scientific truth as confirmed by the evidence) was “foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture.”  The Inquisition also cited that the earth’s movement “receives the same judgement in philosophy and… in regard to theological truth it is at least erroneous in faith.”  Note how they weren’t drawing conclusions based on the evidence, but on how the evidence presented by Galileo related to scripture.

The commission also threatened Galileo with torture if he didn’t “tell the truth” (and they informed him what the truth was.  Hint: it wasn’t heliocentrism).  Galileo, in an act of tremendous bravery, did not recant.   You can find the points on which Galileo was convicted easily:

  • Galileo was found “vehemently suspect of heresy”, namely of having held the opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the centre of the universe, that the Earth is not at its centre and moves, and that one may hold and defend an opinion as probable after it has been declared contrary to Holy Scripture. He was required to “abjure, curse and detest” those opinions.[64]
  • He was sentenced to formal imprisonment at the pleasure of the Inquisition.[65] On the following day this was commuted to house arrest, which he remained under for the rest of his life.
  • His offending Dialogue was banned; and in an action not announced at the trial, publication of any of his works was forbidden, including any he might write in the future.[66]

The reality is that Galileo was buddy-buddy with Pope Urban VIII, who intervened on Galileo’s behalf with the house arrest punishment.  Ordinarily Galileo would have been burned for his heresy.  If you think the notion of “heresy” has any place in science, you don’t understand science.

Galileo was not an odd instance of the church being anti-scientific, he was an exception to the severity with which the Church regularly held dogma over science.  Science, to the Church, was whatever natural evidence agreed with the Church’s positions.  Anything else was heresy.

Didn’t hear a peep from Gilson on this one.  To once again quote science historian Richard Carrier:

…in the early second millennium any motive, to be respectable in such a strict and paranoid cultural matrix, had to be framed in terms agreeable to Christianity-indeed as fulfilling Christianity, if at all possible. For anything that even had a whiff of being unchristian was condemned and its advocates punished-socially to be sure, sometimes physically. This was not a time when you could enjoy the liberty of being a heretic or an atheist, much less a pagan or infidel, without facing repercussions that could put an end to your career, your freedom, or even your life. Such an atmosphere compelled everyone to find inventive ways to sell any new ideas as perfectly Christian, even biblical, regardless of their actual motives or inspiration. Hence finding in that period Christian or biblical arguments for embracing new ideas does not confirm Christianity or the Bible was the cause of those ideas, rather than just the marketing strategy required to sell them at the time.

This matches up with the very articles that Gilson linked to me, as I pointed out above.  At the very best, Gilson can say that the Church wasn’t as murderous of scientists as it could be because the scientists of the time framed their discoveries within the Church’s pre-approved, a priori theological framework, and the Church only killed the ones who refused to do so.  That’s hardly being supportive of science, and only someone with an enormous axe to grind could say it wasn’t hostile to science (or at least any science that didn’t kowtow to their religious conclusions).

Ironically, Gilson’s site is titled “The Thinking Christian”.  I assume he means it in the sense that he thinks of ways to rationalize some pretty absurd stories in the bible rather than just admitting they aren’t true.

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