January 20, 2019 JV

Ten Things

Galileo (Galileo), Galileo (Galileo), Galileo Figaro, Magnifico-o-o-o-o.

Have you seen the latest Queen movie “Bohemian Rhapsody?”  I saw it the other day and was quite surprised at what I learnt about Freddie Mercury.  I’ve always known that he was talented, but the film opened my eyes as to the levels of his accomplishments and his struggles with so-called friends and the media.  A little eccentric, often misunderstood, but totally brilliant was Freddie; a little bit like the scientist, Galileo, whose name is forever associated with the most iconic of head-banging rock anthems.

If I were to tell you that the 1999 movie “Ten Things I hate about You” was based on Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, “The Taming of the Shrew,” most of you would probably say that you knew that already.  However, if I were to tell you that Galileo’s denunciation by the Roman Catholic Church was not primarily a “Science vs Religion” issue, I’m sure it would be surprising to most.  I’d like to offer the following facts which I’ll use to debunk the popular, simplistic version of this story that has been propagated to support a particular narrative.

I’d like to share the following Ten Things with you about Galileo’s solar-centric sensation that are generally unknown.  My final Thing will summarise the real issues at play.

  1. Galileo was a theist, as were many brilliant Scientists including Schrödinger, Marconi, Newton, Maxwell, Pasteur, Planck, Faraday, Heisenberg and Kelvin. Many brilliant minds are able to believe in science and God simultaneously.
  2. Galileo initially enjoyed a great deal of support for his views from religious people. The astronomers of the powerful Jesuit educational institution, the Collegio Romano, initially endorsed his astronomical work and lauded him for it.
  3. However, he was vigorously opposed by secular philosophers who were enraged at his criticism of Aristotle. In his famous “Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina” (1615), Galileo claimed that it was the academic professors who were so opposed to him that were trying to influence the church authorities to speak out against him.  The issue at stake for the academics was clear: Galileo’s scientific arguments were threatening the all-pervading Aristotelianism of the academy.
  4. In the spirit of developing modern science, Galileo wanted to determine theories of the universe on the basis of evidence, not on arguments based on the authority of Aristotle.
  5. Galileo looked at the universe through his telescope, and what he saw left some of Aristotle’s major astronomical speculations in tatters. Galileo observed sunspots, which blemished the face of what Aristotle taught was a “perfect sun.”  In 1604 Galileo saw a supernova, which called into question Aristotle’s view that the heavens were unchanging.
  6. The Protestant Reformation was challenging the authority of Rome and so, from Rome’s perspective, religious security was under increasing threat. The embattled Roman Catholic Church, which had, in common with almost everyone else at the time, embraced the Aristotelian view of the world, felt itself unable to allow any serious challenge to Aristotle, although there were rumblings (particularly among the Jesuits) that the Bible itself did not always support Aristotle’s view of things.
  7. However, those rumblings were not yet strong enough to prevent the powerful opposition to Galileo that would arise from both the academy and the Roman Catholic Church. But, even then, the reasons for that opposition were not merely intellectual and political.  Jealousy and Galileo’s own lack of diplomatic skill, were contributing factors.  For instance, he irritated the elite of his day by publishing in Italian and not in Latin, in order to give some intellectual empowerment to ordinary people.  He was commendably committed to what is now called the public understanding of science.
  8. Galileo also developed an unhelpfully short-sighted habit of vitriolically denouncing those who disagreed with him. A prime example of this occurred when he responded to an official directive from Pope Urban VIII — Maffeo Berberini by characterising those who opposed him using a dull-witted character he called Simplicio (“buffoon”).  This lack of diplomacy enraged church leadership who then invoked the Inquisition to silence him.
  9. There is, of course, no excuse for the Roman Catholic Church’s muzzling of Galileo, nor for subsequently taking several centuries to exonerate him. However, should also be noted that, again contrary to popular belief, Galileo was never tortured; and his subsequent house arrest was spent, for the most part, enjoying the hospitality of luxurious private residences belonging to friends.
  10. Galileo’s silencing was the result of a battle of worldviews, not “Science vs Religion” as is the popular view. It was a story of the establishment view (Aristotelian science) silencing the emerging evidence-based science because it threatened to upset the current power structures and enlighten people with facts.

Little has changed.  Today we have an emerging academy which has lost its moorings as it became drunk on the maddening wince of Climate Change funding.  With Michael Mann and Al Gore as its prophets, man-made Climate Change has become the new religion of the radical left with Carbon-Dioxide, the sin of the Western World.  However, the new academy has an enormous burden of proof.  Poor little CO2 is such a small proportion of the atmosphere and man’s efforts to produce it, a pittance when compared to the natural work of land and sea.  How can the academy concoct a scenario that makes this minor gas and man’s production of it, the key driver of the climate?  I dare not follow in Galileo’s steps and characterise the academy as Simplicio.  I believe they are far more aware of what is occurring.  Nevertheless, we all, like Galileo, should advocate for good science and go where the evidence leads us.  To this end, I’d like to end with a final list of Ten Things.  This link is to an article that lists Ten Reasons why Australia should exit the Paris climate accord now.  http://saltbushclub.com//home5/jvpiecom/public_html/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/ten-reasons.pdf

It is written by Viv Forbes, the founder of the Saltbush Club.  To make comments on this article or to join the group, please contact Viv at www.saltbushclub.com

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