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Pope not welcome.
Posted: 15 January 2008 02:46 PM   [ Ignore ]
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ROME, Italy (CNN)—Pope Benedict XVI has canceled a planned visit to a prestigious Italian university after a protest by academics and students attacked his views on Galileo, the Vatican confirmed Tuesday.

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Posted: 15 January 2008 02:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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What are Ratzinger’s views on Galileo?

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Posted: 15 January 2008 02:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Ah, no, I see. Ratzinger took some silly post-modern-leaning philosophy to tell him that the Church was in the rights to convict Galileo. I hesitate to weigh in on this issue without reading Ratzinger’s actual essay on the topic, which apparently appeared in 1990. But given the Pope’s general disagreement with that school of philosophizing, at the very least he shouldn’t be using it for his own purposes either. And of course if he was arguing that the church was in the right to condemn Galileo for speaking the truth as he saw it, then to that extent yes, Ratzinger should be ashamed of himself.

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Posted: 15 January 2008 02:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Not sure. This is what the article says:

During his speech, the pope—then Cardinal Ratzinger—quoted an Austrian philosopher Paul Feyerabend, saying, “At the time of Galileo, the church remained more loyal (or faithful) to reason than Galileo himself.

You can read the article HERE; it is easy to miss the link I provided in my original post.

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Posted: 15 January 2008 09:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Oh, that last quote almost made me choke on my dinner. What a hoot!

The church more reasonable than Galileo? Even if Galileo was a raving maniac (which I don’t have any information on), how can a religious organization even attempt to co-opt reason? If he was referring to backwards reasoning, I have to concede he had a point, however.

The only way the church could have been faithful to reason would be if they confused reason with dogma. Which I gather is a quite common error, judging from many of the debates I’ve had on the subject in the past year.

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Posted: 16 January 2008 02:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Hmm… Feyerabend may be right a little.

I do not have the sources here (I am supposed to maintain a database now), but as I remember the story is a little like this:

On not quite scientific grounds, Copernicus says that the earth and the planets revolve around the sun. But because his theory supposes they revolve on circles around the sun, he must, as Ptolemaeus, introduce a lot of epicycles to save his theory. It turns out that the empirical content is not better thant Ptolemaeus’ system.
Galileo discovered with his telescope that the moon has mountains, and that Saturn has moons. So at least some theories of the church turned out wrong, but there was no prove that the earth revolved around the sun. Until that time, Copernicus’ system was not a better alternative than the church’s. It was only when Kepler discovered that elliptical orbits fitted the data very well, without a lot of ad hoc hypothesis, that the ‘sun in the middle’ idea became dominant. Newton did the rest.

Galileo might have been right, but he had no decisive arguments for his ideas. So if you want to be mean with scientists, as Feyerabend was, you could say that he was not more reasonable than the church.

There is an important point behind it: if you are right, but you are on the wrong grounds (or on unsufficient grounds), are you right then? Or are you just saying something? Or more postive, it is just a hypothesis, to be investigated.

GdB

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“The light is on, but there is nobody at home”

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Posted: 16 January 2008 05:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Galileo discovered the phases of Venus as well as the “Galileian” moons of Jupiter. The first discovery gave him insight into the fact that Venus was orbiting the Sun. The second gave him insight into the fact that the large body of Jupiter also had satellites orbiting. (= smaller bodies were orbiting larger ones).

Both of these discoveries added significant weight to the claim that Earth orbited the Sun.

You are right to point out that Copernicus’s Sun-centered cosmos had—by itself—no particular reason to suggest it any better than the Earth-centered cosmos, with the possible exception of a sort of aesthetic simplicity. Copernicus himself believed it partly because of a sort of odd love of circular motion. But Galileo’s investigations with the telescope provided plenty of circumstantial evidence that supported Copernicus’s mechanics.

Another thing that Galileo’s telescope revealed was the existence of sunspots. Before that, the Sun was assumed to be a semi-divine object, absolutely perfect. Once again, Galileo’s investigations demonstrated that that was not so. The Sun was changeable, and rotated.

Kepler, of course, demolished the circular-orbit assumptions of Copernicus and Galileo, basically using better measurements of planetary positions taken by Tycho Brahe. And Newton did provide the mechanism of motion in the gravitational force. But Galileo was really the one who provided the first clinching evidence that Copernicus was right.

BTW, the church fathers did give all sorts of entirely ad hoc reasons for dismissing Galileo’s observations. They refused to look in his telescope, and claimed that his telescope was simply producing mirages. They knew well at the time that to take seriously his observations was to give weight to Copernicus. In that sense, the Pope (and Feyerabend before him) are simply distorting the facts.

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Posted: 17 January 2008 06:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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dougsmith - 15 January 2008 02:48 PM

What are Ratzinger’s views on Galileo?

This is the best discussion on WWW I could find of what Ratzinger was talking about
http://www.traditioninaction.org/History/A_003_Galileo.html

This sounds similar to the charge against Richard Dawkins, or more recently the book by Paulos, that the new atheists are speaking about theology when they don’t know anything about the subject…

This WWW says the reason Galileo got into trouble was that he strayed out of his “magisterium” and talked about philosophy in addition to science.  So much for the Stephen J. Gould idea….

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Posted: 17 January 2008 07:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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And of course yes, it makes perfect sense to condemn a person because his ideas (the fact that, in this case his ideas were amazingly accurate is not the point).

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Posted: 17 January 2008 07:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Last night I listened to an interview on CBC radio with Andrea Frova, a professor from La Sapienza university in Rome and an author of Thus Spoke Galileo, where he said that the pope is welcome to come only if the audience can engage with him in a dialogue, just like with any other speaker. This probably scared him off, as the god’s ambassador probably doesn’t feel the need to answer to any ordinary mortals.

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Posted: 18 January 2008 06:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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George - 17 January 2008 07:40 PM

. . . Andrea Frova, a professor from La Sapienza university in Rome and an author of Thus Spoke Galileo . . . said that the pope is welcome to come only if the audience can engage with him in a dialogue, just like with any other speaker. This probably scared him off, as the god’s ambassador probably doesn’t feel the need to answer to any ordinary mortals.

Yes, a lifelong academic and teacher like Benedict probably would refuse to dialogue with students. Teachers hate that.

I’ll not attempt to persuade the forum about the Pope’s words from years ago; just recall that Galileo was a catholic, and his books were being published at the church’s expense.

My expertise happens to be on the history and phil of science, and particularly on pre-modern theories and the Scientific Revolution. Naturally, i have much, too much to say to contribute properly to this thread, and I’d rather not do it with my usual clarity.

But here are some experts in the field:

Albert Van Helden: http://www.phys.uu.nl/~wwwgrnsl/indexi.html

His module for Connexions on my particular specialty, Galileo’s older contemporary: http://cnx.org/content/m11958/latest/
You’ll find a lot more about the Sci Rev on this site, and much of it by van Helden.

Edward Grant: http://www.indiana.edu/~hpscdept/Fac-Grant.shtml

A lecture Grant gave in Paris in 1991: https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/2022/99
The Galileo Project: http://galileo.rice.edu/

A recent article from Physics World on Galileo’s famous metaphor on the ‘book of Nature’: http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/print/26529
A friend’s course on HPS up to Galileo: http://homepages.wmich.edu/~mcgrew/

William Wallace: http://www.innerexplorations.com/philtext/ww.htm
and a sample article by him: http://maritain.nd.edu/jmc/ti/wallace1.htm
(Wallace is a ‘continuist’ about scientific progress: Galileo’s scientific method is the heir to continual advances in medieval scientific method. This is rather different from Dawkin’s assertion somewhere that “the middle ages simply said ‘God did it, and there’s an end on’t” But then Dawkins isn’t a specialist in that area.)

One of Galileo’s books - very much worth reading in its entire: http://webexhibits.org/calendars/year-text-Galileo.html
There is a new edition and smooth translation out, with Stephen Jay Gould’s introduction to it.
(Note that decades after Kepler’s elliptical solution (which ‘of course demolished’ orbs, according to one wise man), Galileo still spoke of circular orbits, and circular paths of descent for tossed objects. There are deep reasons why Kepler’s solutions took so long to grab the scientific mind.)

A little more broadly, a partly critical article on a modern popularizer of science, Carl Sagan: http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=3acc7162-4c31-41f2-b10d-9f866ef92fdf&p=2

And why not the Vatican’s own website?: http://www.vatican.va/phome_en.htm
(leave it to the Vatican to make a website look like a pile of plain manilla folders)

Have a good day all. Be wary of all generalizations.

kirk

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Posted: 18 January 2008 08:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Kirk,  I have a few issues with the article you posted by Colby Cosh criticizing Carl Sagan.

[quote author=“Colby Cosh”]Little of the work he (Carl Sagan) became famous for is “science” under a rigorous definition. After his mid-30s he could be best described as an activist and natural philosopher—which makes him, unfortunately, a useful straw man for anti-science forces to batter away upon…

…Sagan died without realizing his true offence, which was not in being mistaken (or being human), but in claiming the privilege of preaching on behalf of science. Any body of received knowledge stops being science the moment it starts being a priesthood.

Carl Sagan has arguably gone the farthest of any person in two specific fields public speaking and science.  It can be said that the efforts necessary to make the breakthroughs in science, by one man, that would warrant fame under a rigorous definition would require complete devotion to just the field of science.  Thousands if not millions of people are making contributions to science every day that can not be measured by fame.  That does not make them any less important.  Science has progressed to levels that go beyond a single human’s achievements.  Collaborative efforts are necessary and indeed teams of researchers are receiving Nobel Prizes among other rewards that can be traced back to hundreds of individual contributions.

The claim that knowledge stops being science the moment it starts being a priesthood, is a worthy caution.  A true scientist would verify and test his/her assumptions.  Unfortunately a vast majority of people in the world are not equipped with the critical thinking skills necessary to think like a scientist and apply these critical thinking skills.  Carl Sagan was a great man because he recognized this distinction and took it upon himself to package his information for the layman. 

Carl Sagan’s popularizing of science may have weakened un-critical thinkers to false pseudoscientific claims, but this is significantly outweighed by the number of people who gain the desire and interest to learn the true rigors of the scientific method.  If you fault his explanations, what other methods of raising consciousness are there?  If the language of reason isn’t understood, you have to find a language that acts as a bridge.  In this case I think Sagan made a bridge with the language of reverence.  Anyone who is motivated by Sagan’s reverence and never raises their consciousness to science was too far removed from critical thinking skills for Sagan’s whole message to be received.  I don’t fault Sagan for other’s misunderstandings.  Sagan’s message rang louder and clearer than any other of its kind and it will live on in our hearts and minds.

Sorry, if that sounds a tad over preechy, but sometimes critics fail to see the big picture and it warrants addressing.

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“It is the tension between creativity and skepticism that has produced the stunning and unexpected findings of science.” ~ Carl Sagan

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Posted: 18 January 2008 08:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Yes, Sagan was a decent scientist but one of the greatest science popularizers who ever lived. His modest scientific achievements are immaterial when it comes to his successes at science poetry. Kicking Sagan for not being Einstein is just petty.

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Posted: 18 January 2008 04:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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retrospy - 18 January 2008 08:34 AM

Kirk,  I have a few issues with the article you posted by Colby Cosh criticizing Carl Sagan.

[quote author=“Colby Cosh”]Little of the work he (Carl Sagan) became famous for is “science” under a rigorous definition. After his mid-30s he could be best described as an activist and natural philosopher—which makes him, unfortunately, a useful straw man for anti-science forces to batter away upon…

…Sagan died without realizing his true offence, which was not in being mistaken (or being human), but in claiming the privilege of preaching on behalf of science. Any body of received knowledge stops being science the moment it starts being a priesthood.

Sorry, if [the post] sounds a tad over preechy, but sometimes critics fail to see the big picture and it warrants addressing.

Nay, I’m okay with it. But see Cosh’s disappointed tone from the point of view of a traditional scientist rather than a teacher or a popularizer. I enjoyed Sagan as a teenager, and understand Cosh’s article now that i’m older and an academic. I understand the suspicion about popularizers. Spreading the word isn’t ‘doing’ science, and making people excited isn’t identical to educating them in the real (often difficult and still obscure) facts of the matter. And so popularizing one particular science (after all, what did Sagan ever do to popularize particle physics or radioisotope dating techniques) isn’t the same as advancing its boundaries. That last point is the biggest defendable criticism in the Cosh article, in my opinion.

Looky here. Somewhere I heard that at one time a 1/3 of the engineers in MIT had gotten into the field because of ‘Scotty’ from *Star Trek*. So did Scotty advance engineering or not? In one way a little: at some of those engineers at MIT became engineers only because Scotty’s influence was ‘decisive’. So he advanced engineering, but only indirectly, and by a very uncertain amount. He himself didn’t advance the boundaries of the field. Sagan stopped doing basic science after a while - which isn’t a crime, just not being a scientist anymore. Scientists and scholars in general have narrow views, because that gets the facts discovered and makes one expert enough to make precise judgements about theories - such as they can be made. So it’s probably just an easy step to resent a man who gets the moniker as a representative of a ‘scientist’ but who isn’t like a real working scientist. And - not so much to their credit, maybe - the fact that Sagan started out as a scientist in the narrow sense doesn’t endear him to less handsome and articulate but more traditionally ‘scientific’ colleagues who believe like any average person ‘what have you done directly for me, lately?’

If Scotty’s too extreme an example, how about Isaac Asimov? He was a PhD biochemist, but abandoned serious research to write a lot of very good books. I liked him as a teenager, and as a chemist I’d never once need to cite him. It’d be hard to say that he was any real causal factor in advancing chemistry by getting me to become an analytical chemist in an R&D;lab for a couple of years. (shrugging) Averaged out over all the people that read his science fiction and popular science books - how many researchers did he really make? Is it important he made a lot of people like science but they didn’t do anything about it? I dont’ know the answer to that.

Kirk

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Posted: 18 January 2008 04:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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dougsmith - 18 January 2008 08:41 AM

Yes, Sagan was a decent scientist but one of the greatest science popularizers who ever lived. His modest scientific achievements are immaterial when it comes to his successes at science poetry. Kicking Sagan for not being Einstein is just petty.

Indeed on kicking.

Science poetry? Boy, do i feel old and crabby all of a sudden. I’m this close to yelling at kids to get the hell off my lawn. wink

Okay, imaginative work based on science. I did like his stuff when i read and watched it.

Kirk

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Posted: 18 January 2008 05:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Almost forgot! Here’s an article critical of La Sapienzia’s decision: http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/4275/
It’s in typical Spiked style - take that into account.

But, ladies and gentlemen - The protesting professor’s book is called Thus Spake Galileo! Indeed, Galileo was a top early scientist with a big mouth and a modern style and a clear exposition, and his work is a continuing lesson to this day, and still accessible to the English-speaking world. But comparing him to Nietzsche’s Zarathustra?

Heh heh heh. Oh, you guys!

Sincerely,

Kirk

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