Vox Day on Galileo

05 November 2007

After the publication of his book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Galileo was brought before the Spanish Inquisition by Pope Urban VIII and faced with the choice of either recanting his "formally heretical" beliefs in heliocentrism, or enduring torture and death. Galileo chose the former (Giordano Bruno, a fellow Copernican, had recently been burnt alive for similar crimes of heresy).

300 years later, WorldNetDaily columnist Theodore Beale (a.k.a. Vox Day) wrote a column downplaying the incident, and claiming that the recent James Watson controversy was either comparable or worse.

But there can no longer be any doubt that scientism has become a dogmatic article of faith, and ironically, one that is even more narrow-minded and authoritarian than the medieval Catholic church. For centuries, the primary basis for the secularist belief that science and religion are inherently opposed has been Pope Urban VIII's "persecution" of Galileo for the crime of arguing that the Earth revolved around the sun; as Dinesh D'Souza noted in last week's interview, this myth has persisted primarily because it serves the interests of the anti-religious narrative that remains popular despite its fictional nature.

Ironically, Pope Urban VIII was correct in the end, as there is not an astronomer or physicist in the world today who would disagree with the material basis for the church's condemnation of Galileo's heretical notion: "The proposition that the sun is in the center of the world and immovable from its place is absurd. "

The infamous pope was far more open-minded than the scientists currently attacking James Watson for his belief in human inequality. Not only did he grant Galileo the right to write a book on heliocentrism, but actually asked the father of modern physics to provide arguments for and against the matter, demonstrating a devotion to reason that was wholly lacking in the rush to lynch the father of the double-helix's sin against modern secular orthodoxy.

First off, why is the word "persecution" in scare quotes? I can hardly think of a situation that warrants the label of persecution more than this.

Second, even though the Sun is not an immovable center of the Universe, that was not the basis of Urban VIII's objection. His position was that the Earth was the absolute immovable center of the Universe. He believed this to be true based on several Bible verses (Psalm 93:1, Psalm 96:10, 1 Chronicles 16:30), rather than on observational science. Furthermore, he categorized the alternate position as heresy, a crime warranting torture and death.

Third, Theodore Beale is way too generous with regard to Pope Urban VIII. According to Beale, "Not only did he grant Galileo the right to write a book on heliocentrism, but actually asked the father of modern physics to provide arguments for and against the matter." However, this is not an act of open-mindedness. Urban required that Galileo include arguments against heliocentrism, and prohibited Galileo from ever speaking in anything other than the hypothetical voice (hence the dialogue format of his book). Furthermore, when he thought Galileo had gone too far in his actual publication, he threatened the man with torture and death unless he recanted. In contrast, the people Beale labels as being less open-minded have not threatened Watson with torture or death, and have freely permitted him to express his views. The fact that many people disagree with him, whether justifiable or not, is in no way comparable to the Galileo affair.

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