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Galileo was Right—But So Were His Critics

Graney

Ever since the seventeenth century, the celebrated “Galileo affair” has been one of the featured items on the list of dark moments in the history of Catholicism. That the Church mistreated the Italian astronomer—or at least misjudged his claims concerning the structure of the solar system—seems clear. Pope John Paul II, for example, apologized for the Church’s condemnation of Galileo in 1992. No one now disputes the fact that the earth revolves around the sun rather than the other way around.

For anti-Catholic historians and polemicists the episode is but the most obvious instance of the supposedly perennial conflict between religion—often enough Catholicism specifically—and science. The seventeenth-century battle, in the conventional view, pitted clergymen, who relied on revelation, against scientists, who relied on empirical observation.

But what if this typical portrayal of the heliocentric debate is almost entirely wrong?

That’s the claim of Dr. Christopher M. Graney in Setting Aside All Authority: Giovanni Battista Riccioli and the Science against Copernicus in the Age of Galileo (University of Notre Dame Press, 2015). Graney, professor of physics at Jefferson Community and Technical College in Louisville, Kentucky, credits a question from one of his students with propelling him into an exploration of the history of heliocentrism and its skeptics. He corresponded recently about his surprising findings.


 
CARL OLSON: One of the blurbs on the back cover calls it “the most exciting history of science book so far this century.” I took that as hyperbole—until I read the book. It has the potential to overturn some important and entrenched narratives in the history of the relation between science and religion. To understand how, we need to know a little bit about the central character, Giovanni Battista Riccioli, whom you seem determined to rescue from obscurity. Who was he and why is he important?

DR. CHRISTOPHER M. GRANEY: Your comment about obscurity reminds me of my wife dubbing me “Riccioli’s agent.” He was an Italian Jesuit priest who worked in Bologna. He was born at the turn of the seventeenth century, so he was a very young man when Galileo was making big discoveries with the telescope in the 1610’s. Riccioli was bitten by the science bug, and eventually obtained permission from his superiors to devote time to science. He did a lot of physics experiments, including some of the first experiments to precisely study gravity. His results were quite good (he was very “detail oriented,” maybe to the point of being a little obsessive about it). He made a lot of astronomical observations with the telescope; he and his fellow Jesuit Francesco Maria Grimaldi gave the features on the moon the names we use today. Readers may recall that Apollo 11 landed in an area on the moon called “Tranquility.” Riccioli gave it that name. He wrote a huge book on physics and astronomy, called the New Almagest, published in 1651, that became a standard reference book. He was a prominent opponent of the heliocentric theory and was well-known in his time.

CARL OLSON: One of your main contentions is that even though in the long run Copernicus would be proven right by science, considering what was known at the time Riccioli actually had the stronger scientific case. Can you describe some of the problems that heliocentric theorists in the early seventeenth century had no good answer for?

GRANEY: There were two main problems. They take some space to explain fully, as I do in the book, but in short, one problem was Earth’s rotation in the heliocentric system. Fathers Riccioli and Grimaldi figured out that projectiles such as cannon balls should be affected by Earth’s rotation. Today we know that they were right. The effect is called the Coriolis Effect, and it is part of the reason why weather patterns rotate around a “high” or “low.” But it is a subtle thing, and at the time it had not yet been discovered. So Riccioli said that since the effect was not there, the Earth could not be rotating and heliocentrism must be wrong.

The other problem was star sizes. Heliocentrism required the stars to be huge—to utterly dwarf the sun. Today we know that stars come in many sizes: some do dwarf the sun, but many others are similar to the sun in size, and actually most are “red dwarfs” and smaller than the sun. But as I explain in the book, heliocentrism seemed to require every last star to dwarf the sun. Riccioli (and others) thought this was nuts. By contrast, in a geocentric universe everything fit neatly into a consistent size range, with the moon being the smallest and the sun the largest. That seemed much more reasonable.

Interestingly, many heliocentrists didn’t try to argue about the star sizes. They just said, “Hey, God can make huge stars.” One fairly prominent heliocentrist even explained that the stars were so huge because they were God’s warriors—the guards at the gates of heaven. He backed this up with scripture. Riccioli basically said, “Well, no one can deny the power of God, but this idea won’t satisfy prudent people.” It took a long time for scientists to discover that the apparent size of the stars is false, and stars are not all so huge. Explaining why that is takes up quite a few pages in the book.

CARL OLSON: The most stunning passage in the book (p. 104) is where you cite a series of quotations from scientists and historians, ranging from the early nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century. All accuse Riccioli of excessive reliance on theology and imply that Galileo and the other champions of the Copernican revolution had science on their side. In light of the evidence you’ve produced in this book, it hardly seems possible that so many authorities could be so wrong. How could such an erroneous view be so widespread and so durable?

Graney: That’s a great question. I don’t know the answer. This stuff was not hidden away—Riccioli’s New Almagest is old, and rare, but not that rare, and it was well known in its day. Many copies exist today in libraries and private collections. Other people of that time also wrote about the star size problem (like Tycho Brahe, a very prominent astronomer) and their books are available, too. Moreover, in at least the early nineteenth century you could find the scientific case against heliocentrism, namely the star-size problem, being mentioned even in an encyclopedia article. So the information is in libraries, and it used to be at least somewhat broadly known. I find it particularly weird that the Catholic world forgot this history: prominent work, done by one of its own, that has a bearing on one of (to use your words) the dark moments in the history of Catholicism.

CARL OLSON: The story of the heliocentric debate, you conclude later in the book (p. 145), “does not look so much like a morality play about brave reason and villainous superstition, about ‘science vs. religion,’ as it looks like a battle between two scientific theories, about ‘science vs. science,’ with a little ‘religion vs. religion’ thrown in as well.” Are you optimistic that your book will significantly change the common historical view of the Copernican Revolution? Or popular perceptions concerning the incompatibility of Christianity and science? How do you expect the book to be received?

Graney: Historians of science have been saying for a while now that the heliocentric debate was not like the common or popular perception of it, but that perception still sticks around. Everyone likes a “good guy/bad guy” story more than a story about the scientific process at work! So I’m not expecting much there, unless it comes from the science world, which has been very receptive to Riccioli and the star size problem.

It’s hard to predict how the book will be received, but the science world has been very receptive toward this general topic. Physics Today and Scientific American both published articles I wrote on Riccioli. Nature twice featured the star size problem prominently on their web page. It may be that scientists sense a particular relevancy in this story. Today rejection of science is a growing problem, as recently was brought to attention through a measles outbreak.

People have this image of science as an endeavor in which powerful forces cover up the truth for their own agenda. The stereotypical “Galileo Affair” story feeds that image, to science’s detriment. But the nature of science is actually such that it is hard to cover up truth, because different people get interested in a problem and start attacking it from different angles. Riccioli’s work and the star size problem tell us that what was going on in the seventeenth century was not the brave and reasonable Copernicans against powerful forces arrayed to cover up the truth, so much as it was the scientific process at work: a vigorous debate, with good arguments and careful observations on both sides, as each worked to figure out what the truth was.

So if this book does change broader perceptions, I think it will be because what it has to say about science at work could have some broader appeal in the science world.

Originally published in Catholic World Report. Used with permission.
(Image credit: Catholic World Report)

Carl Olson

Written by

Carl E. Olson is the editor of Catholic World Report and IgnatiusInsight.com. He is the best-selling author of Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"? (Ignatius, 2003), which was selected by the Associated Press as one of the best religious titles of 2003, and co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius, 2004). He's also the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead? (Ignatius/Augustine Institute, 2016) and co-editor and contributor to Called To Be the Children of God: The Catholic Theology of Human Deification (Ignatius, 2016). Raised in a Fundamentalist home, Carl attended an Evangelical Bible college, and entered the Catholic Church in 1997. He holds an MTS from the University of Dallas. A well-respected author, Carl writes a weekly Scripture column, "Opening the Word" for Our Sunday Visitor, and has also written for First Things, This Rock/Catholic Answers Magazine, Envoy, Crisis, National Review Online, and National Catholic Register. Find Carl on Twitter @carleolson and visit him online at CarlEOlson.net.

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  • The criticism I have is with the church and the Inquisition's treatment of Galileo, which was not a scientific dispute. The church, on instruction from the pope banned Galileo from even holding the opinion of heliocentricism, on pain of death. It did this because it wrongly interpreted it as heretical. It did not promote an environment of tolerance and scientific debate, it explicitly banned any such debate. It forced Galileo to publicly resile from his opinion, which was correct.

    This, I would say, resulted in a chilling effect in Catholic jurisdictions, into free enquiry into scientific issues that might be considered heretical. It is no coincidence that major scientific discoveries shifted to Protestant jurisdictions, jurisdictions with more of a tolerance for free enquiry.

    I don't think Catholics think this way now, but they and the church did in the 17th century. Finding a catholic astronomer with a reasonable scientific dispute with Galileo does not excuse in any way the oppression imposed on him and countless others for theological reasons. If their concerns were not theological, why would they care? Why would they impose criminal sanctions?

    • Phil

      Hey Brian,

      It sounds like you've done some research about this topic and so this should be quite familiar to you. The Church put Galileo under "house arrest" for two main reasons: (1) he was going crazy promoting his theory and Other scientists looked at his data and it did not support his conclusion of heliocentrism. So though his conclusion was correct, the data was wrong. (2) Galileo used his conclusion of heliocentrism to make theological conclusions and points.

      So in reality the Church was saying, "you are first and foremost a scientist, stick to science. And there are scientists that have found problems with your data."

      This doesn't make the Church or Galileo the "bad entity". As is stated above, it is simply debates about science working themselves out.

      Now should the Church have tried to silence Galileo on his theological claims? That could be debated, but we have to remember that this was almost 400 years ago. So to use our thinking and culture today and say "we know how to handle this situation much better" and spread condemnation upon people is dangerous.

      • I am responding to the reasonably inference from this piece that maybe the church wasn't so bad because actually there was a live scientific debate. No. Though they might have thought they were doing good, they weren't. They were trying to censor one of the greatest minds in history and they were using the threat of violence to to so. This is wrong and it is not dangerous to state that it was wrong.

        Even if he was talking theology, so what? Violence, threats and censorship is an oppressive response to free enquiry and speech.

        The church was anti anything which conflicted with its theology, whether it was Galileo's writings or a painting that might have Germans in it because this could be seen as supporting Protestantism. And it was prepared to kill on this basis.

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        Out of curiosity, do you believe that it would be morally wrong if the Church (or anyone else) were to silence someone or place them under house arrest for spreading ideas today? I know that nowadays, that would be a violation of that person's free speech.

        • Phil

          Obviously, we can't hold people in the 17th century to the standards of free speech that we have today. So if the Galileo affair to place today, the Church would not silence him.

          In regards to free speech in general, I would say that there is definitely a point (both from a secular and religious POV) where if what a person is saying and doing is very much harm to the common good they should be justly silences. Free speech should not be an unlimited right (it is not in the U.S., though there are some that would like it to be).

          • David Nickol

            Obviously, we can't hold people in the 17th century to the standards of free speech that we have today. So if the Galileo affair to place today, the Church would not silence him.

            Isn't that relativism? If something is wrong today, it was wrong in the 17th century. The Catholic Church claims to be the authority—and to speak infallibly—on morality. The Church was wrong in its treatment of Galileo, and the Church has admitted that. I really can't understand why some Catholics feel compelled to come up with all kinds of arguments to muddy the water.

          • Phil

            I'm pointing towards the idea of "culpability". Something can be objectively wrong for two people, either at the same time in history or at different times, but one person can have a higher culpability based upon their understanding of right or wrong. (Having a lowered culpability doesn't make something right though.)

            For example, we might say that a person in the 300s is not as culpable for having a slave as we would today. This doesn't mean that having a slave in the 300s was objectively right.

            See Catechism #1776-1802 on moral conscience and culpability.

            ----

            Also, remember the Church rarely makes infallible statements on specific moral applications (something like the killing of innocent human life is about as close as we could come). It makes very strong statements and what is called "authoritative doctrine". So when it comes to specific moral cases, I would be very careful to throw around infallibility. It is much easier to look at the Church's general moral teaching and see what may have been stated in an infallible manner, like on the idea of taking innocent life.

          • David Nickol

            The Catholic Church claims to be the moral arbiter not just for its own members, but for all of humanity. So I do not think it is off base to say that if anyone (any organization) should have "known better," it is the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church defines two kinds of ignorance—vincible and invincible. In essence, you seem to be arguing that the Church was invincibly ignorant. Perhaps it was, but what does that say about the alleged guidance of the Holy Spirit? It was only in 1965 that the Catholic Church recognized the right to religious freedom! Why did it take the Church over a thousand years to figure out the wrongness of slavery and almost two thousand years to figure out it had no right to persecute people for their beliefs?

          • Phil

            I think you are mixing up the difference between an official declaration made by the Church and what the Church may have have preached and practiced before that declaration was made.

            The Church does not act on a whim when making official declarations. It may be your personal preference that the Church should act faster in regards to official declarations. And you should take that up with either the Holy Spirit or the specific clergy that you believe did not act in accordance with the Holy Spirit's guidance to make that declaration sooner. ;)

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            So if I'm understanding you correctly, the Church was morally wrong in its treatment of Galileo (though you seem hesitant to say this out loud...) but it was understandably incapable of knowing that it was morally wrong at the time (in the same way that a person in the 300s does not understand that slavery is wrong.)

          • Phil

            The people within the Church could have been objectively wrong in its treatment of Galileo and only be slightly morally culpable (or they could be very culpable), that's something that we can't really know.

            My personal opinion based upon the history we do know: Do I think the Church handled the situation 100% correctly--No. Was it as bad as the myth-makers of the 20th century like to make it--No.

      • George

        "Now should the Church have tried to silence Galileo on his theological claims? That could be debated, but we have to remember that this was almost 400 years ago. So to use our thinking and culture today and say "we know how to handle this situation much better" and spread condemnation upon people is dangerous."

        Does the church of today think it is always objectively wrong to suppress certain theological claims?

  • William Davis

    Nothing against community colleges (I think they are a great bang for their buck for the first two years of college), but I don't know why I should be interested in a historical opinion from a community college science professor. I can't even find reviews on the book except from Catholic sites, not a single comment on Amazon

    http://www.amazon.com/Setting-Aside-All-Authority-Copernicus/product-reviews/0268029881

    Sorry, but next please.

    • David Nickol

      There is no reason to conclude that a professor of physics at a community college can't write an excellent book.

      • William Davis

        Of course. The complete lack of reviews and non-Catholic interest did it for me. There's so much to read, and good reason to be picky :)

        • Phil

          Hey William,

          While David pointed out the bad logic in the point about community colleges, you might have missed the part of the article above where it was stated that Dr. Graney's work on this subject has been published in well regarded scientific journals.

          • William Davis

            Scientific American, it's in the research page I just linked above. Argument from authority can be quite helpful in reading selection. It's a rule of thumb, not a solid argument but it usually works. Unlike many here, I've read a ton of books on sciences, and this is how I operate. It serves me well :) (I'm not trying to be offensive and I'm not disagreeing with what the author is saying...in general I'm just not interested...just letting you know). I figured the feedback might be helpful to whoever is picking the articles.

          • Phil

            I gotcha; that's fair. I guess you can't expect everyone to be interested in everything. (I personally enjoyed the intro to the work of Riccioli since I knew little about him before this.) Peace!

          • William Davis

            P.S. I did some reading on this in the past with some other books on the scientific method and the history of the science, and they did a good job of painting the Catholic Church in a relatively positive light (the Galileo incident is worst, but like the OP indicates it wasn't as bad as what many people think).

          • Phil

            That's good to hear that history books are recognizing the Church's support of the sciences. Now the perception of pop culture needs to start to change! Unfortunately there is so much bias against the Church and Christianity in general to get past. (It is hard to ignore the fact the modern science really grew out of the Catholic Church's understanding of the world. In the end, science doesn't make sense apart from God. And also the fact that it was clergy and monks who were the majority of the people at first able to devote time to studying these things in the Middle Ages.)

          • Michael Murray

            In the end, science doesn't make sense apart from God.

            I wouldn't worry too much about pop-culture. You need to first convince practising scientists of this supposed fact.

          • Phil

            It is no problem to do pure science apart from belief in God. But if a scientist starts wondering why they can do science in the first place (which is a philosophical question), you ultimately and necessarily come to God, apart from which science cannot be completely explained.

          • Michael Murray

            As you have said before. I, and more significantly, the vast majority of scientists remain unconvinced.

          • Phil

            Unconvinced about what?

          • Michael Murray

            Unconvinced by this claim

            But if a scientist starts wondering why they can do science in the first place (which is a philosophical question), you ultimately and necessarily come to God, apart from which science cannot be completely explained.

          • Phil

            To do science well a scientist would not have to wonder about why they can even do science in the first place. But if they do start wondering about that question, they have turned into a philosopher and not a scientist. And unfortunately, many (not all) of today's great scientists are really bad philosophers.

            And, of course, it is not a personal jab as that is just not their area of study. The big issue is when scientists start to make bad philosophical claims which the popular culture latches onto. Then you get the studied philosophers just hanging their head in response to the bad philosophy that is being peddled (any many times peddled as "science")!

          • William Davis

            I think science makes sense apart from God (92% of the national academy of science are atheists), overall I think the Catholic Church did support it as long as it didn't contradict an establish doctrine. Eventually it learned to reinterpret doctrine, not dogma, in light of science (NOMA) which is a plus. One exception to that rule seems to be psychology and the cognitive sciences...I still think the Church is in conflict with science here, but not in sciences like physics and chemistry.

            It is my personal opinion that belief in God leads to additional imaginative interpretations of creation, but that philosophical art, not science. By it's very nature, science focuses on the material universe which generally leaves God (no matter who's conception we're talking about) out.

          • Michael Murray

            By it's very nature, science focuses on the material universe which generally leaves God (no matter who's conception we're talking about) out.

            I think there are a lot of people who think that God affects the universe. Look at all the discussions we see here about miracles. The Catholic God is an interventionist. Not an isolationist like yours :-)

          • Phil

            By it's very nature, science focuses on the material universe which
            generally leaves God (no matter who's conception we're talking about)
            out.

            Exactly, and this means 2 things are true:

            1) Science cannot explain its own existence and why science is even possible. Science assumes science is possible. Only philosophy can tell you if that is a good assumption or not. (This all is up to using reason within the discipline of philosophy).

            2) Science itself can say nothing about whether God exists or not. It can neither confirm God's existence nor disprove God's existence.

          • Suzanne Riccioli

            :)

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            a) The genetic fallacy is not reliable. One of the greatest modern historians made his home as a small women's college in Philadelphia.

            b) Dr. Graney is not so much a physicist as he is an historian of science. Most scientists are naive at history (cf. Sagan, Tyson).

            c) Graney is well-thought of at The Renaissance Mathematicus, of atheist blogger Thony Christie:

            https://thonyc.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/126-arguments/

            https://thonyc.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/the-prof-says-tycho-was-a-scientist-not-a-blunderer-and-a-darn-good-one-too/

            And how the debate was not a two-way contest twixt Copernican and Ptolemaic models:
            https://thonyc.wordpress.com/2010/06/02/extracting-the-stopper/

          • William Davis

            Actually the genetic heuristic is generally reliable but it doesn't work as an argument because it's fallible. A few exceptions to not make it an unreliable rule. I wouldn't expect to read a good book on the history of science written by a carpenter for instance. Sometimes bright professors don't make it into well rated universities for a variety of reasons, luck and personal choice factor in. When I was young I would just pick up random books and read them, but that got old pretty quick. I learned to check on the author first (genetic heuristic) and the result have been much better reading. When people do this it does create a sort of knowledge bias at times, but in the information age good books can get publicity fairly easily. I don't really know how you guys can claim my book and reading selection methods are a fallacy, it's completely an improper use of the world "fallacy". File it under "free will" if you want.
            Who is this historian from Philadelphia? Out of curiosity. I doubt it's a coincidence that you are also from Pennsylvania (I have some friends there great state). All things being equal, I tend to prefer reading things from people in my home state too, Bart Ehrman for instance.

            As I've said, in general I agree with the author's idea and have read similar things elsewhere. I don't have but so much interest in learning flawed scientific models, but the process of weeding out the bad ones is very interesting.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            John Lukacs was originally from Hungary, but settled in Philadelphia.

            The Greeks called it the genetic fallacy because it was the acceptance (or rejection) of a proposition based on where it had come from (genesis).

            http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/genetic-fallacy.html

          • William Davis

            FWIW I accept the proposition of this author in general at least (thus I'm not advancing an argument...that's why I'm not committing a fallacy per se). From what I see, he goes into more detail than I'm interested in, and if I thought he could use it to provide some insights into the future of science or current state of science I'd be much more interested. I'd be slightly more interested if he was a big name in science, because in general these types link in unexpected ideas from their current research, ect.
            The genetic fallacy is clearly a problem when it is used to dismiss something out of hand (not as a shortcut for pursuing interest when there are nearly infinite possibilities to pursue).

            P.S. I agree with Lukacs that populism can be dangerous, and I'm also a fan of Winston Churchill (though he wasn't perfect obviously).

      • William Davis

        P.S. I did take the time to research the writer (who is writing and what others think about them is a good rule of thumb). I didn't see much of interest or anything exciting on his research page.

        http://legacy.jefferson.kctcs.edu/faculty/graney/CMGRESEARCH/PhysicsAstro/PhysAstro.htm

        I'd be much more interested in what a scientist who is accomplished would have to say.

        • David Nickol

          I think you are persisting in an unfortunate argument. I hear what you're saying, but there is still no reason at all to conclude that a physics professor from a community college can't write an excellent book. The book must be judged on its own terms. Also, the lack of reviews on Amazon says nothing about the quality of a book.

          • William Davis

            I never said it was a bad book. I said I don't know why I should be interested in it. I've read other books that agree with the premise that the Galileo affair was not as bad as what many think, and I've agreed with Catholics here when it was discussed in the past (the article on Mersenne for instance). Don't you think it might be useful to know whether a regular finds something interesting? Interesting and good are completely different things. The credentials of the author weigh into my assessment of interest, this is a personal heuristic, not a fallacy.

          • William Davis

            I'm actually somewhat interested in discussing the genetic fallacy now (rephrasing it as a heuristic). I realize it's too off topic for this article but you might find the paper I linked to Flynn interesting. I figured I might start a little bit of a controversy when I mentioned the credentials of the author ;) (Controversy makes things more interesting doesn't it?)

      • "I don't know why I should be interested in a historical opinion from a community college science professor...Sorry, but next please."

        If that's not arrogance, I don't know what is.

        "There is no reason to conclude that a professor of physics at a community college can't write an excellent book."

        David is spot on. Also, as Phil noted below, Dr. Graney's work on this subject has been published in well respected scientific journals.

        In the future, please refrain from dismissing someone's work simply because of their position. Engage their material.

        • William Davis

          I'm guessing you meant to address this comment to me. In the future if I find something uninteresting, I'll keep it to myself. Many people would consider this kind of feedback useful, but I see that's not the case here. This is definitely not the first time Galileo has come up
          The fact that he is from a community college was only part of the reason I find the book/topic uninteresting, the other, as I mentioned to Phil, is that I'm already aware of the counter position to Galileo and addition detail doesn't change anything.

          You might notice that I'm one of the few non-Catholics here that largely agrees with you here. Obviously the Church didn't handle this well, but suppressing dissent was not unique to the Catholic Church. It had been a common tactic in the west, especially in Rome (even before Christianity) until the Enlightenment. Thus, as I said, I don't hold a grudge against the Church over this, I don't see the point. Mistakes were made, water under the bridge.

          As far as arrogance, sure I can be arrogant, but I'm not the only one ;)
          I don't think my book selection process is unreasonable, and I prefer to be honest and include my true reasons (which includes the source). It seems far too many here are confusing a lack of interest with an argument against the quality of the book...this makes no sense to me. Perhaps Catholics here should heed my comment and write some good reviews of the book on Amazon (assuming they've read it).

          • Patrick

            " ... but suppressing dissent was not unique to the Catholic Church. It had been a common tactic in the west, especially in Rome (even before Christianity) until the Enlightenment."

            Wow, we could start a fresh debate with this statement! The first thing to follow declaration of the Age of Reason was to hoist the black flag and starting cutting off heads. And see what excoriations you can provoke with the most innocent violation of political correctness. It can cost you everything.

          • William Davis

            You might want to study the history of the freedom of speech. France has no bearing on how well this has worked for England and the U.S.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech

            I honestly feel sorry for people who only understand a revisionist Catholic history. I was raised protestant, and they try to revise history to make the Catholic church look worse than it really was. They were big on blaming Catholicism for suppressing science...in general this is also false.
            Exactly who has lost everything for a violation of political correctness? A politician? What do you expect...it's politics. I'm politically incorrect fairly often (though I'm not an ass about it), and I do just fine ;) To say I'm less interested in something written by a community college professor is probably considered elitist and politically incorrect, but it's true for me so I stick with honesty and freedom speech.

          • Patrick

            I can't understand your reply so perhaps you missed my point, which I made poorly by trying to be too concise. It is simply that the Enlightenment wasn't some high watermark ending the suppression of dissent. It was born in a mad rush to exterminate all dissent. Nothing revisionist about that - the term Reign of Terror was invented by the enlightened revolutionaries themselves.

            And the other point was simply that the modern world is hardly a realm of intellectual independence and free speech. We may have freed ourselves from princes and inquisitions, but we are not less narrow. There is an ossified modern intolerance for any dissent outside the world of sanctioned catchphrases imposed by the repetition of journalists and the hypnotic platitudes heaped on us by advertising and punditry. In lock step with Deconstructionist tactics, they have fixed both the acceptable doctrines and the permissible vocabulary of modern "free speech". And the rising generation, who have never learned to think at all are now told what they can and cannot say. And any voluntary opposition (if there be any energy for it in a generation) really can cost everything. There is a simple and obvious and current example. It will soon be a crime against the state to speak freely in defense of traditional marriage. You can spark fury and vitriol by explaining the need for special protections around the one social relationship that makes all life possible. But that violates the narrative. And I've even seen it provoke a sneer about the narrowness of the medievals.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            There is a simple and obvious and current example. It will soon be a crime against the state to speak freely in defense of traditional marriage.

            Please provide some evidence for this assertion. I agree that those who oppose same-sex marriage are criticized more, and perhaps with more vitriol, today than they have in the past. But there is no movement to have these people arrested. Heck, we still have openly racist organizations like the KKK who are able to speak freely without being arrested. (I do not meant to say that same-sex marriage opponents are like the KKK - I only point out that even the most hateful and unacceptable speech is not criminalized.)

          • William Davis

            Sure there were bad enlightenment revolutionaries just like there were bad Catholics, but you guys focus on France like it's indicative of the Enlightenment as a whole. This seems to be as big a historical mistake as acting like the Catholic Church was anti-science just because of the Galileo affair.

            In my life I'm very free. I know and work with very open minded people who are not what you describe. Sure there are some dogmatic leftists who want to control speech (and some on the right want to do the same while micromanaging behavior). This is not indicative of the real world in the west. I'd recommend not watching any news site (especially Fox), and get your news from business and science sources like Forbes. In general business values innovation and open-mindedness (at least now, this was less true 20 years ago), and free speech is required for free thinking which is required for innovation and progress. Sometimes I think I live in a different universe than many I talk to.

            For the record, I'll be the first to defend your right to argue for traditional marriage even though I think you are wrong. There is absolutely no evidence that this will ever be a crime. My generation (I'm 34) think the whole thing is nuts...just let gay people get married. Other countries have done it, and there is no side effect. Making a mountain out of this mole hill is silly to me, but I support your right to be silly.

            You do realize that racist groups are still legal right? If they are legal, your supposition that talk of marriage will be illegal is complete nonsense.

            http://traditionalistamericanknights.com/

            784 Active hate groups in the U.S.

            http://www.splcenter.org/hate-map

            And you think someone is going to outlaw talk of marriage? To me, that's nothing but pure delusion and persecution complex that flies in the face of facts. It's like the idea that having abortion legal is going to be a slippery slope to murder. It's been legal in the US for 40 years and crime/murder rates have continually declined. Enter the real world, it's much nicer here ;)

          • William Davis

            P.S. Even Bill Maher, probably the most outspoken media personality again religion (especially Islam) criticizes liberals for wanted to suppress free speach. I watch his show every once in a while, and he even criticizes guy rights groups for being bigoted and trying to shove their agenda down people's throats. Again, what Fox news peddles is mostly b.s. from cherry picking nut groups.

            http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/01/17/bill-maher-mocks-all-the-liberal-babies-that-protest-free-speech/

            My Dad watches Fox News and listens to right wing radio (which can be entertaining). I actually believed their crap when I was younger until I went out to learn what is really going on in the world. It's so much more complex than the nonsense they spew. Quitting that garbage was one of the best things I ever did for a huge variety of reasons. I encourage you to do the same, but free will is free will.

          • George

            " It will soon be a crime against the state to speak freely in defense of traditional marriage."

            And you know this how?

            "You can spark fury and vitriol"

            yeah, and that is not an attack by the law against you. so I don't see the point of adding that.

            "special protections"

            it's been decades of this rhetoric now. I give up. just tell us the answer and stop making us guess: who is going to be prevented from getting married? what opposite sex couples will be prevented from joining lawfully?

            what do you stand to lose?

        • VicqRuiz

          In the future, please refrain from dismissing someone's work simply because of their position.

          Hey Brandon, I don't often agree with you, but you are right on target here.

    • Doug Shaver

      I don't know why I should be interested in a historical opinion from a community college science professor.

      When I encounter a historical opinion, my interest depends on the evidence and argumentation used to support it. I couldn't care less how the author makes his living.

  • Mike

    Interesting pov.

  • GCBill

    A few months ago, LessWrong featured an article on Galileo which cites both Dr. Graney and Riccioli favorably. The comments section produced two particularly insightful counterarguments to the Graney/Riccioli position, which effectively argue that everyone involved was acting irrationally.

    Jonathan Lee:

    tl;dr: The side of rationality during Galileo's time would be to recognise one's confusion and recognise that the models did not yet cash out in terms of a difference in expected experiences. That situation arguably holds until Newton's Principia; prior to that no one has a working physics for the heavens.

    Douglas Knight:

    Last time I looked into this, I concluded that the Inquisition (which is not just Riccioli!) couldn't even tell which hypotheses were being argued about. There are really three hypotheses: stationary geocentrism, rotating geocentrism, and heliocentrism. The hypothesis that the sun and planets revolved about the Earth, but that the Earth rotated on its axis every day had many followers, both in antiquity and the Renaissance, yet few noticed that already this theory, and not just full-blown heliocentrism contradicts Joshua. Galileo's greatest contribution was Galilean relativity, arguments about why we would not notice the rotation of hundreds of meters per second.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Actually, there were seven models in play in the early 1600s:
      1. Heraclidean: Mercury and Venus go around the Sun while the Sun and everything else goes around the Earth. (Also called the Egyptian model.) It explained why the inferior planets never moved far from the sun.
      2. Ptolemaic: The Earth is stationary in the center of the world. It explained the lack of parallax but was not entirely congruent with Aristotelian physics.
      3. Copernican: Insisted on perfect Platonic circles, no equants, and used more epicyles than the Ptolemaic. Reintroduced the parallax/star size problem as well as (later) lack of Coriolis.
      4. Tychonic: Like the Heraclidean but put everything in orbs around the Sun except the Moon. Sun and Moon circled the Earth. Mathematically equivalent to the Copernican model with a shift in center point. Made all the same predictions, but better.
      5. Ursine: Tychonic system with rotating Earth. (Tycho accused Bär of plagiarizing his data.)
      6. Gilbertian: Ptolemaic system with rotating Earth. Motion of planets due to Gilbert's magnetic fluxes.
      7. Keplerian: Similar to Copernican but with elliptical orbits and no epicycles.
      +++
      Tycho's #4 knocked out #1. Discovery of the phases of Venus knocked out #2 and #6, and astronomers then friended #4 or #5. Difficulty of use and inaccuracies faded #3. Irony: by the time Galileo wrote the Dialogues, neither Ptolemy nor Copernicus were getting much love from mathematicians. Kepler flew under the radar with the winning entry: folks were reluctant to abandon circles for ellipses -- Longomontanus was quite scathing -- and his Rudolphine Tables were delayed by his having to flee the Peasant Army in Austrian Bavaria. The Rudolphine Tables were so easy to use for calendar making, horoscope casting, and navigation (the three practical applications of astronomical mathematics) that the Keplerian model had won the day by century's end.

      That doesn't mean everyone was convinced it was physically true; only that it was mathematically useful.

      • This was very interesting. Thank you for the list.

        Was 7 further helped by Newton and Laplace, who showed that a consistent application of the inverse square law and classical laws of motion predict the elliptical orbits? Or was Kepler's model universally accepted by that time anyway?

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          It's acceptance was hastened by the simplicity and accuracy of the Rudolphine Tables even though the model was falsified by empirical facts-- lack of parallax, lack of Coriolis. In Astronomia nova (1609) Kepler decided there must be a universal cause of planetary motions: the Sun projected a field, which by rotating would chivvy the planets around their ellipses with an impetus inversely proportional to their distance. Okay, you can’t get everything right; but this prepared the way for Newton. Kepler thought the field was the Holy Spirit, which proceeded from the Father (the Sun) toward the Son (the fixed stars). This did not prepare the way for Newton.

          Oddly, Newton provided a physical rationale for the whole thing using Euclidean geometry in the classical Aristotelian manner! By doing so, he was able to deduce Kepler's model from more basic principles, nicely illustrating the difference between theory (Newton) and laws (Kepler) and facts (Tycho). The interesting thing is that Kepler would never have found ellipses if he had not had Tycho's precise new data. The old data was too badly corrupted by copyist errors. This was very persuasive to mathematicians, but still punted the ugly physical contradictions.

          Newton could not calculate the Moon's orbit successfully, a point against his theory, because the Moon's motion is a three-body problem (Moon-Earth-Sun) and there is no analytical solution to the three-body problem. The system was unstable, so Newton had to contend that God intervened to keep the orbits stable, Laplace eventually showed how it could be stable. Hooray. Though Poincare eventually showed that it was chaotic (in the sense of chaos theory): predictions deteriorated with the time frame and the precision demanded. Boo.

          All of this in the face of the persistent lack of parallax and Coriolis. A victory for theoretical mathematics over empirical physics -- until the discovery of stellar aberration, Coriolis in falling bodies, and stellar parallax, in mid-1700s, late-1700s, and early 1800s, resp., when the falsifications were shown (empirically) to be false. (It was shortly after this that the Church dropped her objection to teaching geomobility as physical fact rather than as a mathematical model.) By then people were assuming that the effects were simply too small to detect and there was some other explanation for the diameters of the stars that allowed them to be really really far away rather than only really far away. The last bit was Airy showing that stellar diameters were optical illusions caused by aberration. Finally, the stars could be far away without being really really big.

          I wrote a series of posts on the whole difficulty, indexed here:
          http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-great-ptolemaic-smackdown-table-of.html

          • Thank you for the link and the detailed summary.

            If I understand, it seems that the real influential events that helped cement heliocentric theory over geocentric theory were the simplicity of Kepler's model and the eventual discovery of the non-inertial effects on Earth. Although Newton's and Laplace's calculations beautifully illustrate the connection between theory, law and observation, they weren't themselves all that persuasive to scientists, in terms of heliocentric vs geocentric models. Is that right?

            Before the non-inertial effects were measured, wouldn't Newton or someone after him have been able to mathematically identify these terms, estimate their magnitude, and come up with the observational thresholds? Was this done?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            a) One effect of the Renaissance was a re-emergence of woo-woo thinking, including Pythagoreanism. This was a holding that of the math worked, the physics must be true. Hence, Newton was persuasive because his math worked. But you'll notice it was non-empirical. It amounted to:
            1. If geomobility then these equations will work.
            2. These equations work.
            3. Therefore geomobility.
            which is the fallacy of asserting the consequent.
            But it was very persuasive, in that it gave a rationale why geomobility should be true.

            b) Newton did lay out an experiment in which a bullet could be dropped from a tower. If there were Coriolis effects, then the bullet should drop slightly east of the plumb line. Hooke carried out the experiment and found no effect. This sorta contradicted the revolution of the Earth; but by then folks were so convinced by the beauty of the Newtonian system that the falsification was disregarded.

            The history of metrology. Folks couldn't always measure things the way we wish they could have.

          • (a) Too bad. Newton could have been influential for good reasons. Such as: Newton's theory makes many predictions that experiments verify. Newton's theory predicts elliptical orbits and the motion of the Earth. Therefore we have good reason to accept elliptical orbits and the motion of the Earth.

            (b) Also too bad. I wonder how Hooke would have taken air resistance and air flow around the falling object into account for that experiment. It would have been a very difficult to measure. It maybe shouldn't have been a very convincing falsification for several reasons.

          • Doug Shaver

            If there were Coriolis effects, then the bullet should drop slightly east of the plumb line.

            How far east? Did Newton calculate that? Did any instrument exist at the time that could have measured it?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Newton could not calculate the theoretical deflection. The math wasn't up to it.

            A lot of presentism is predicated on the projection of modern instrumentation and concepts onto the past. Of course, in science you're not supposed to vindicate a theory by explaining away the absence of evidence, so it's insufficient to say "there is a Coriolis Effect, but it's too small to measure." You must actually measure it. (There is currently a postmodern movement to dispense with empirical verification when a theory has good explanatory power and mathematical elegance. But most physicists are against it, string theory or no string theory.)

            Between 1789 and 1792, Fr. Giovanni Battista Guglielmini dropped balls from the Torre degli Asinelli, the same tower from which Fr. Riccioli (see OP) had earlier dropped balls to measure the acceleration due to gravity. From a height of 78.3 meters he found a deflection of 19 mm east and 12 mm south. Concerned with atmospheric effects, he dropped weights down the spiral staircase inside the astromical observatory of the Instituto delle Scienze at Bologna and found a deflection of 4 mm to the east. He contacted a correspondent in Germany, Johann Friedrich Benzenburg, who dropped weights down a mineshaft at Schlebusch in 1804 and obtained similar results. The definitive results were finally obtained by Edwin Herbert Hall at Harvard in 1902, who measured a 1.50±0.05 mm east (vs. a predicted value of 1.8 mm).

            Complicating issues include the inadequacy of the mathematics to calculate the theoretical deflection until Gauss and Laplace developed the tools.

            http://www.amazon.com/The-Modeling-Nature-Philosophy-Synthesis/dp/0813208602#reader_0813208602
            "Look Inside" and Search on "Guglielmini"

          • Doug Shaver

            The math wasn't up to it.

            Would you please be more specific? Exactly which mathematical technique, procedure, concept, or whatever, that did not exist in Newton's time was necessary to calculate the Coriolis effect on a falling bullet? The guy invented calculus, for goodness' sake. What more did he need?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The Wright Brothers invented the airplane. Why didn't they have jet engines? Inventors -- to the extent that anything in math or science is ever "invented" by a single person at a single point in time -- seldom produce all the bells and whistles all at once. The main issue was what sort of path a falling projectile traces. Elliptical? Parabolic? See Galois and Laplace for details;

            Besides, Leibnitz invented calculus. Mwah-ha-ha.

            Interesting factoid: his Principia laid out the laws of gravity based only on Euclidean geometry.

          • Doug Shaver

            Inventors -- to the extent that anything in math or science is ever "invented" by a single person at a single point in time -- seldom produce all the bells and whistles all at once.

            That doesn't answer my question. Which bells and whistles were needed, but unavailable to Newton, in order to calculate the Coriolis effect on a falling bullet?

          • Doug Shaver

            Of course, in science you're not supposed to vindicate a theory by explaining away the absence of evidence, so it's insufficient to say "there is a Coriolis Effect, but it's too small to measure."

            I don't recall anybody claiming that the absence of evidence vindicated anything. And if an effect is demonstrably too small to measure, given available instrumentation, then to point that out is not to explain anything away. The burden of proof in such a situation is on whoever would argue that the effect actually would be large enough to measure.

      • VicqRuiz

        All the models #1 through #6 failed to really fit the observations. So why was only Galileo's theory selected for opprobrium??

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          First: Galileo did not have a theory. He simply accepted the Copernican model, with its multiple epicycles and Platonic circles. Even Prince Cesi, his publisher, urged him to consider Kepler's model, but Galileo refused to consider ellipses.

          Second: The Copernican model was apparently falsified by obvious empirical facts: the lack of parallax and the lack of Coriolis. The geostationary theories explained why there were no such evident effects. And in particular, the Tychonic model was mathematically equivalent to the Copernican one. That is, it gave all the same computational results while at the same time dodging the parallax bullet.

          Which observations do you propose that these models failed to fit?

          Third: (And this is maybe the hardest one for a Late Modern to wrap his mind around.) Astronomy was not regarded as a branch of physics, but as a specialized branch of mathematics. There was no requirement that the mathematical devices used to get the right answer must necessarily mean that the physical world correspond to them. That is, the epicycles in Ptolemy were not especially regarded as physically real, only as computationally convenient. The term for an astronomer was "mathematicus." It also meant "astrologer." Only after the invention of the telescope did astronomy begin to be conceived as making physical discoveries about the physical world.

          Fourth: Galileo came in for some special attention because he insisted on re-interpreting scripture to suit his unproven theory. This was a no-no. He was supposed to prove the theory first; then the exegetes would reconsider the traditional understanding.

          • VicqRuiz

            So if I understand you correctly, the Ptolemaic model (which did not fit the observations) was not challenged by the Church because its description of how the heavens worked was consistent with biblical descriptions. Because Galileo's (and Copernicus' behind it) was not consistent with the bible, the Church required scientific proof before it would retract the challenge.

          • Qchmqs

            if I understand him correctly, he's basically saying that astronomy wasn't required to comply with real world or biblical text, it was just a mathematical model to describe movement of stuff, and what got Galileo in trouble was that he involved himself with theology

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No.

            a) The Ptolemaic model did fit the observations -- right up to the discovery of the phases of Venus by Galileo, Marius, Harriot, and Lembo. The model was dropped like a hot potato. But the Tychonic model made the same predictions as the Copernican, and so survived.

            b) It was not challenged by the Church because it was the settled, consensus science for more than two millennia.

            c) Because it was the settled science, the Church Fathers had interpreted some Biblical passages in light of a stationary earth in their sermons and commentaries. But... there was always Augustine and others who pointed out that all of the Scriptures were figurative, while some of it might be narrative/historical. In such cases, one might reasonably hold multiple views consistent with double-love until definitive evidence emerged that showed one of them must be false.

            d) In science, a well-established theory is not overthrown by any bright idea (or even a new datum). Recall the recent case of CERN detecting a particle traveling faster than light. They did not abandon relativity as being falsified by the data. They questioned whether the data was legit. And it turned out to be measurement error. As in boxing, the challenger must perform better than the champ to win the belt. That the earth revolved around the sun might explain the motions of the stars as well, but it could not explain the apparently lack of parallax.

            e) When the phases of Venus blew Ptolemy (and Gilbert) out of the water, the astronomical consensus settled on the Tychonic system, which made all the same predictions as the Copernican and also accounted for the lack of parallax.

            f) Had Galileo presented the Copernican system as a useful mathematical model that still awaited physical proof, there would have been no problem. In fact, if he had kept the favor of the Jesuits, there would have been no problem. But he insisted on dealing with the Scriptural objections on his own. That was a no-no.

            g) Psychology has more to do with the affair than astronomy.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    Giant Stars. Tycho reasoned as follows.

    Procyon possesses the same approximate brightness and diameter as Saturn. If it were too much farther than Saturn -- say more than 200x the distance of Saturn, basic geometry would require that Procyon be gigantic and would dwarf not only the Sun, but also the entire (solar) system. All stars would, making the Sun the only bee-bee in a universe of basketballs.

    A star as seen through Hershel's telescope centuries later:

    Geometric analysis of the size of Procyon, based on apparent diameter.

    If OTOH, Procyon were closer than the Copernicans demanded, the annual parallax would be visually evident, if the Earth were revolving around the sun. Hence, the choice was between postulating an entire new class of entities or conceding that the Earth did not revolve around the Sun.

  • Doug Shaver

    I have known for some 40 years that considering the state of scientific knowledge in Galileo's time, there were legitimate scientific arguments against heliocentrism. But is Graney, or anyone here, trying to suggest that this was just a scientific dispute? Isn't it still true that the church had a doctrinal stake in the outcome?

    • Peter

      Geocentrism was never Church doctrine and therefore denying it could not be heretical. This was why Galileo was neither accused nor convicted of heresy, but only vehemently suspected of it. The reason he was suspected of heresy was not because of his heliocentrism but because his writings suggested a tendency towards the atomism of Democtritus, Epicurus and Lucretius which was heresy.

      • VicqRuiz

        Geocentrism was never Church doctrine and therefore denying it could not be heretical.

        Comment requested on the following:

        This Holy Congregation has also learned about the spreading and acceptance by many of the false Pythagorean doctrine, altogether contrary to the Holy Scripture, that the earth moves and the sun is motionless, which is also taught by Nicholaus Copernicus's On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres and by Diego de Zuniga's On Job. This may be seen from a certain letter published by a certain Carmelite Father, whose title is Letter of the Reverend Father Paolo Foscarini, on the Pythagorean and Copernican Opinion of the Earth's Motion and Sun's Rest and on the New Pythagorean World System (Naples: Lazzaro Scoriggio, 1615), in which the said Father tries to show that the above-mentioned doctrine of the sun's rest at the center of the world and the earth's motion is consonant with the truth and does not contradict Holy Scripture.

        Therefore, in order that this opinion may not creep any further to the
        prejudice of Catholic truth, the Congregation has decided that the books by Nicolaus Copernicus (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres) and Diego de Zuniga (On Job) be suspended until corrected; but that the book of the Carmelite Father Paolo Antonio Foscarini be completely prohibited and condemned; and that all other books which teach the same be likewise prohibited, according to whether with the present decree it prohibits, condemns, and suspends them respectively.

        In witness thereof, this decree has been signed by the hand and stamped with the seal of the Most Illustrious and Reverend Lord Cardinal of St. Cecilia, Bishop of Albano, on 5 March 1616.

        Link:

        http://web.archive.org/web/20070930013053/http://astro.wcupa.edu/mgagne/ess362/resources/finocchiaro.html#indexdecree

        • Peter

          "Therefore, in order that this opinion may not creep any further to the prejudice of Catholic truth"

          As I implied above, the Church was very wary that an unbridled rush towards heliocentrism would lead to the embracing of Epicurian atomism, the heretical notion that atoms are all there is and that nothing which is immaterial exists. I still see no evidence that heliocentrism per se was a heresy.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            I still see no evidence that heliocentrism per se was a heresy.

            What do you make of this section of Galileo's Papal condemnation:

            We say, pronounce, sentence, and declare that you, the said Galileo,... have rendered yourself in the judgment of this Holy Office vehemently suspected of heresy, namely, of having believed and held the doctrine—which is false and contrary to the sacred and divine Scriptures—that the Sun is the center of the world and does not move from east to west and that the Earth moves and is not the center of the world...

            Sounds to me like the Papal office is saying that the heresy that he is being vehemently suspected of is the idea of heliocenterism.

            Also, in my opinion, being sentenced to house arrest for only the vehement suspicion of heresy is worse that if he was actually convicted of heresy. I hope that our society does not start imprisoning people who are only suspected of committing crimes, but not convicted.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Because of Galileo's commitment to geomobility, a theory that was judged "absurd in philosophy" or (in modern terms) "contrary to the settled consensus science," he had been spouting off about how to re-interpret scriptures. As Cardinal Bellarmino had noted some years previously, the Church had no difficulty with re-interpreting in the light of new facts (one of the reasons the Protestants had revolted),but she really did insist that they be facts.

            The house arrest was for the humiliation, a typical Italian move in that century. The closest thing to an immovable object in 17th cent. Italy was Galileo in his villa, "The Jewell." He hated to leave it. The humiliation was that now he had to ask permission to do so. Officially strict, practically lenient. The usual routine was that the first ask was always refused, but the second one was granted. The first several months of the arrest were spent in the palace of Cardinal Piccolomini, where he began work on his next book with the enthusiastic help of the Cardinal (himself an amateur astronomer).

          • David Nickol

            I think the only sensible conclusion is that the Catholic Church did the right thing in condemning Galileo, placing him under house arrest, and banning his works as well as anything else supporting heliocentrism. In fact, I can't think of anything the Catholic Church has gotten wrong in the last two millennia. Galileo was uppity. It is not just that Galileo in the 17th century should have refrained from asserting that he was right until the Church was satisfied. It would be a better world today if the Catholic Church were the final arbiter of what should be published and what should be suppressed. In reality, Galileo was a troublemaker, and the Church treated him with kid gloves. Officially strict, practically lenient.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No, the real world is never quite that simple. It was noted at the time that the Church officials had acted badly. Urban let his pride get in the way of his old friendship. This included other officials within the Church. Maculano, who was commissary of the Holy Office in charge of interrogating Galileo believed the Copernican system was likely true and that such issues ought not be settled in a penitentiary rite.

            There were reasons for this that go way beyond the bounds of astronomical mathematics into international politics and to jealousy of the "Tuscan clan" among Roman officials. Galileo had no way of knowing about phlogiston, caloric, N-rays, Piltdown, and other instances of scientists asserting with utter confidence a theory for which there was no empirical proof. Even when they were vindicated later, as with Maxwell's electromagnetism.

            However, none of them tried to pontificate on theological matters, citing their science as the reason.* Lavoisier was guillotined by the Rationalists not because of the Eternal War between Chemistry and Rationalism, but because he picked the wrong side in a vicious revolution. The Rosenbergs were executed not because they were Jewish, but because they stole the atom bomb for Stalin.

            (*) pontificating on theolorecall that Galileo's first two drafts of his treatise on the comets were rejected by the censors because they invoked religious principles (which have no place in a scientific text) and because Galileo called those who disagreed with him 'heretics.' In that era, that was like calling someone a comm-symp pinko.)

            Scientists, Catholic and not, continued to investigate the heavens, but for the most part refrained from drawing theological conclusions based on it.

            History is messy. It is not populated with cardboard figures wearing white hats and black hats as the myth-oriented among us seem to prefer. Nor does it respond well to presentism, in which the concerns of today are projected onto past eras. Just because modern day commboxers have bees in their bonnets over something doesn't mean Machiavellian Italians did too. And as John Lukacs was wont to say: "We must study Salamis as if the Persians might still win." That is, from the perspective of the people living at the time, not the perspective of the guys down at the club.

            You are right about the kid gloves, though. Try honking off any other Italian prince in that era and see.

          • George

            So... was it the objectively morally right thing to do to him, or not?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No. But it was the legal thing. Remember, he was technically found guilty only of ignoring an injunction. (It was the science that held geomobility to be absurd.). But Galileo had a signed memo from Bellarmino that gave a different account than the notary's version of Seghizzi's injunction. The memo and the injunction could not both be correct accounts of the same meeting. Something funny was going on behind the scenes. What really honked off the Prince/Pope was Galileo's apparent dishonesty in concealing the injunction. Even the Florentine Court was taken aback. But it seems Galileo never saw the injunction until the Interrogatories. (Nor had Maculano ever seen Bellarmino's memo!) For the same reason, the plea bargain arranged by Maculano and the Pope's nephew seems to have been sabotaged by a false Summary citing "evidence" not in the depositions and using an altered version of Galileo's Letter to Castelli (which should indicate where the real problem lay).

          • Peter

            Again, Galileo was suspected of heresy not accused of it.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            "If he were convicted of heresy he would have been burned at the stake like Giordano Bruno."

            Are you trying to make the church look good???

            So... the bit I quoted from the Papal comdemnation

          • Peter

            You must read between the lines of the condemnation. They could not accuse him of heresy because believing in heliocentrism per se was not heretical. This was new ground and they were considering the implications of such a new belief which to them appeared to resurrect the dangerous age-old heresy of atomism.

            They were wary that an unbridled rush to heliocentrism would lead to the widespread embracing of atomism. If the earth were just another planet, then it was nothing special, and it and everything in it including humans were just a conglomeration of atoms and nothing more. There was no soul and there were no spirits. In this event, the doctrine of the Church would have been seriously and irretrievably undermined.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            I understand what you are saying. It just seems to me that you are reading a lot of things in between the lines while completely ignoring the things actually written on the lines.

          • Peter

            The Church's understanding of heliocentrism then was not the modern understanding that I refer to. The modern understanding is that the earth revolves around the sun together with other planets. This understanding which is the correct understanding has never been heretical, either then or now.

            The Church's problem with of heliocentrism in Galileo's time was that it was associated with the additional claim that the sun replaced the earth as the immovable centre of the entire universe. This would render the sun eminently worshipable as it had been among pagans for millennia as the life-giver of the cosmos, thereby usurping Catholic doctrine.

            The claim, associated at that time with heliocentrism, that the sun was the immovable centre of the universe, was indeed heretical. However, this understanding of heliocentrism is not the heliocentrism we understand today, The Church therefore cannot be accused of rejecting scientific truth since the heliocentrism she rejected was wildly contrary to scientific truth.

            In fact the Church should be warmly congratulated by both modern science and modern philosophy for being the first in history to dismiss this particular notion of heliocentrism as being both absurd and false.

          • William Davis

            I'd like to think the that Catholics have changed and would never repeat their mistake with Galileo. The fact that you don't consider it a mistake makes it clear you would repeat the same mistake. Good reason to be anti-Catholic. If Catholics can't reconcile themselves with freedom of speech and thought, they are my philosophical enemies. Luckily there are a ton of Catholics who are not like this.

          • Doug Shaver

            They were wary that an unbridled rush to heliocentrism would lead to the widespread embracing of atomism.

            You say so. I have seen nothing that implies they said anything of the sort.

          • George

            That whole "we protect the dignity of all human life" thing hadn't yet picked up speed in Galileo's time I assume?

          • Doug Shaver

            If he were convicted of heresy he would have been burned at the stake like Giordano Bruno.

            So heretics were burned without exception? Can you support that with any documentation?

          • Suzanne Riccioli

            In Riccioli's first of the 2 books (not all) there's information not commonly translated re; the case w Galileo.

          • David Nickol

            I still see no evidence that heliocentrism per se was a heresy.

            It is stated with perfect clarity in the quote provided by OverlappingMagisteria from the Papal Condemnation of Galileo (June 22, 1633):

            . . . . have rendered yourself in the judgment of this Holy Office vehemently suspected of heresy, namely, of having believed and held the doctrine—which is false and contrary to the sacred and divine Scriptures—that the Sun is the center of the world and does not move from east to west and that the Earth moves and is not the center of the world . . . .

            You seem to be relying on Pietro Redondi's 1989 book Galileo: Heretic, which theorizes that the stated reasons for reigning in Galileo were not the real reasons, but the amply documented charges against Galileo place a heavy burden on "conspiracy theorists" to prove that the condemnation should not be taken at face value.

          • Peter

            Precisely, Galileo was suspected of heresy, not accused of it.

          • David Nickol

            It is stated with perfect clarity that Galileo was suspected of heresy, not accused of it.

            You seem to be in some kind of denial.

            To be "lightly suspected," "vehemently suspected," and "violently suspected" of heresy (the last two apparently being equivalent) were all crimes. Those lightly suspected were required to abjure, but only in private. Those vehemently suspected were required to abjure in public, which Galileo did, and were subject to various other penalties, such as confinement. The fact that Galileo was "vehemently suspected" did not mean he was innocent or acquitted. He was guilty and paid the penalty.

            As I understood your earlier arguments, belief in heliocentrism was not heretical. Now you seem to be arguing that Galileo was not really convicted of believing in heliocentrism. Whatever you say, Galileo was convicted, confined, and forced to abjure what he quite obviously still believed.

          • VicqRuiz

            If you can show me in the official documents of the time that his advocacy of "Epicurean atomism" was one of the reasons that Galileo was arrested and confined, I'll concede that part of your argument. If there is no such citiation, you are welcome to continue thinking so, but I won't be buying.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Copernicus' book was suspended, not banned, until the corrections made. And what were the corrections? The insertion of words like "if" or "it is supposed that" in appropriate places. IOW, there was no weenie against the Copernican hypothesis (the mathematical model), only against the Copernican theory (that it is physically true, despite the contrary evidence).

          Foscarini's book was all full of theological suggestions, and he had to be reminded that he was not in fact a theologian. Neither his book nor Zuniga's were astronomical texts.

          Most folks today have no idea how Renaissance/Early Modern Italy operated. In England, the Stationer's Office played the same role as the Congregation of the Index in the Papal States; except the English office was more concerned with anti-Tudor comments. There were similar offices in all European jurisdictions, probably as a result of "press neutrality" laws. [sarc]

          • VicqRuiz

            As I've said elsewhere, I don't criticize the sixteenth century church as acting like a typical sixteenth century institution, most of which censored like crazy. I criticize 21st century Catholics who won't acknowledge that that sort of censorship is wrong, and should never happen again.

      • Doug Shaver

        The reason he was suspected of heresy was not because of his heliocentrism but because his writings suggested a tendency towards the heretical atomism of Democtritus, Epicurus and Lucretius.

        So there was a doctrinal issue? What was the church's doctrine with regard to Democritus, Epicurus, and Lucretius?

        • Doug Shaver

          he was suspected of heresy was not because of his heliocentrism

          Then why was he compelled to say this: "I have been pronounced by the Holy Office to be vehemently suspected of heresy, that is to say, of having held and believed that the Sun is the center of the world and immovable, and that the earth is not the center and moves" [emphasis added]?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Everybody back then knew it took more than a committee of ten cardinals on a 7-3 vote to declare a new heresy, especially if the Pope doesn't sign the Summary. Galileo had made a lot of enemies with his sarcasm, and not especially in the Church. Ludovico delle Colombe and his "League" had been out to get him for years. Even Galileo wrote (in a Letter to Peiresc) about the "true motives" that lay behind the "mask of religion" in the campaign against him.

            The thing we must remember is that real history is always more complex than fables. There were many players with many motives. And it is always possible to misconstrue a proof text, whether taken from a Bible or a judicial proceeding. Fact is, while most of the physicists and many of the mathematicians were against Galileo, he had powerful friends in the Church -- one of whom was the Cardinal who became Pope Urban VIII, and whom Galileo managed to turn against him with a few choice insults and an apparent fraud.

            Late 1614. While Lorini is in Pisa, someone slips him a copy of Galileo's Letter to Castelli. Lorini is horrified to read Galileo pontificating on Scriptural exegesis, and makes a copy of the letter for himself. In the process, Lorini changes:

            "...which, taken in the strict literal meaning, look as if they differ from the truth"
            to "...which are false in the literal meaning"
            and
            "Scripture does not refrain from overshadowing its most essential dogmas..."
            to "...perverting its most essential dogmas"

            Lorini does not alter the basic sense of the passages, but rewords them in more provocative ways. By accident, we are sure. Right.

            7 Feb. 1615. Returning to Florence, Lorini sends the letter to Cardinal Paolo Sfondrati (54), prefect of the Congregation of the Index, with a cover letter denouncing "the Galileists" for "taking upon themselves to expound the Holy Scriptures according to their private lights." Notice that the charge is scriptural interpretation, not heliocentrism. The Copernican theory is simply the Galileists' occasion for ad libbing on Scripture. Think of the way State's Rights got tarred because it was used to defend slavery. Well, heliocentrism is apparently being used to defend amateur hour in scriptural exegesis. It's Protestantism in disguise!!! (Remember what century this is. The Thirty Years War has started.)

            25 Feb. 1615. Since the letter Lorini has given them is not in print, the Index decides it has no jurisdiction and passes it on Cardinal Giovanni Millini
            (52), Secretary of the Holy Office. The Office meets in Bellarmino's
            residence: six other cardinals, the commissary, the assessor, and the
            notary. But all they have is Lorini's cover letter -- which is not a
            judicial deposition, and hence has no legal standing -- and the copy of
            the Letter to Castelli. An Inquisitor has examined it and found
            "such words as 'false' and 'perverting' sound very bad," but since the
            letter is otherwise orthodox, they might be construed innocently in
            context. (Galileo's version of the text is already in Cardinal Dini's hands at
            this point, but the Office cannot take official notice of it. Whether
            Dini met with Bellarmino shortly before or after this Official meeting is
            unclear)
            +++

            Sometime in 1624 or 1625 (the documents are undated), Galileo is denounced again to the Holy Office. The denunciation is anonymous and does not concern the motions of the Earth. Rather, it claims that by endorsing the atomic theory of matter Galileo had undermined the doctrine of transubstantiation. In the Consecration, the "substance" of the bread changes into the body and blood of Christ while leaving the "accidents" (taste, texture, etc.) unchanged. But Galileo had written that taste, texture, flavor, and the like are "secondary qualities" that exist not in the object itself but only in the perception of the subject. That is, they are subjective, not objective. But if they are only subjective, then what remains after transubstantiation?

            Cardinal Francesco Barberini (28), the Pope's nephew who had been tutored by Galileo, is a member of the Holy Office and offers to investigate the matter. He appoints his personal theologian, Giovanni di Guevara, who reads Galileo’s work and sees... no problemo, baby. Besides, Frank's uncle Pope had enjoyed the book enormously. End of problem.

            Well, maybe. Some people will use any stick to beat a man who is down. ... Scholars are not certain what role this G3 document will play in the minds of the tribunal during the famous trial. In any case, it is a far more serious charge than saying that Scripture passages regarding the Earth's immobility are probably figurative.

            http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2013/10/8-great-ptolemaic-smackdown-trial-and.html

          • Doug Shaver

            The thing we must remember is that real history is always more complex than fables.

            I get it that the Galileo fable, as usually told, grossly misrepresents the church's position. I am also aware that Galileo's own conduct in this affair was a long way from blameless. By one account that I've read, by an author I generally trust and which I have no trouble believing, Galileo practically begged for the sort of treatment he got.

            But, the suggestion that he was not actually accused of heresy appears to be quite contrary to the official record. If it is now suggested that the cardinals should not have made that accusation, because they lacked proper authority or for some other reason, then that is a different issue. But according to cardinals' own words, heresy was exactly what they accused him of.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            If he had been accused of heresy, he would not have gotten off with house arrest.

            Much
            is sometimes made of the Sentence calling the stability of the Sun
            "formally heretical" and the motion of the Earth "vehemently suspect of
            heresy." In itself, this points up the making of fine distinctions for
            which the schoolmen were justly famous -- and infamous. The Sentence
            reads:

            The 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 the Holy Scripture.

            Perceptive Reader will notice that the Judge-Extensor presumes that the matter is contrary to Scripture because
            it is philosophically absurd and false (read "scientifically impossible"). That is,
            the impossibility of an alternate sense is the reason why the
            texts at those points ought to be
            understood in the literal sense. Had it not been impossible for the Sun
            to stand still, then other ways of understanding the words would
            obviously have been possible. People raised on the modern
            Scientific-Fundamentalist understanding of literalism are sometimes
            puzzled by this.

            Just like
            a plastic toy may have the form of a dog without being a dog, a passage
            may have the form of a heresy (formally heretical) without being materially heresy. The
            problem is that such things could fool people into believing the real
            thing. In this case, the concern was over "necessitating God." That
            is, the contention that the world must be a certain way implies that God could not have done otherwise, thus disparaging his Goditude or something.

            But something that is not a heresy ex parte objecti (on the part of the object or "objectively so") may become a heresy ex parte dicentis
            (on the part of the speaker) when it is held in such a way as to set
            the speaker against the Church. That is, it becomes a matter of intention more
            so than the subject matter. Hence, it was possible for Galileo to speak
            heretically without the subject matter being heretical per se. Hence, the
            focus in the interrogatories on Galileo's intentions.

          • Doug Shaver

            If he had been accused of heresy, he would not have gotten off with house arrest.

            Accusation is one thing. Conviction is another. It is not obvious to me that the proceedings resulted in an actual conviction, or whatever the church calls it when the accused is found guilty as charged.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The proceedings are a penitential rite rather than a judicial one, so it's not always exactly parallel.

            The suspicious thing is that the Summary seems to have been written with no account taken of the actual depositions. One writer has commented that "no honest lawyer could have written that Summay." There was definitely something funny going on that they felt safe to sabotage a plea bargain arranged by the Pope's nephew and the Commissary himself. There was no mention of heresy in the corpus delecti.

          • Doug Shaver

            Eppur si muove. They said that heliocentrism was heresy. I'm not claiming anything about whether they should have said it.

          • Peter

            No, they said that the sun at the centre of creation was heresy, but that is not herliocentrism. Heliocentrism is a fact but the sun at the centre of creation is not.

          • Doug Shaver

            they said that the sun at the centre of creation was heresy

            Right.

            but that is not herliocentrism

            I don't think anybody was using the word heliocentrism at the time, but everybody thought that the solar system, whatever its center was, was centrally located within creation. Therefore, in their view, whatever was at the center of the solar system was at the center of creation. And according to the Oxford English Dictionary, any frame of reference in which the sun is centrally located is a heliocentric frame of reference.

          • Peter

            Again, as I said, Galileo was only vehemently suspected of heresy, not accused and convicted of it.

          • Doug Shaver

            Again, as I said, Galileo was only vehemently suspected of heresy. He was neither accused nor convicted of it.

            You can say it as many times as you like. We have his words and the words of his accusers. Their meaning is plain enough.

          • Peter

            That he was neither accused nor convicted of heresy.

          • Doug Shaver

            belief in heliocenttrism per se was not heresy.

            The following statement is from the papal condemnation issued on June 22, 1633, signed by seven of the 10 cardinals comprising his tribunal.

            The 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.

          • VicqRuiz

            Game, set, match.

          • Michael Murray

            It's not clear they are being literal here. Perhaps that was a metaphorical statement.

            Sorry only kidding. Well found.

          • Peter

            Think about what you have written. What we are talking about here is the earth losing its place as the geographical centre of the universe. Heliocentrism in this case means that the earth revolves around the sun, like the other planets, making the earth no different and nothing special.

            This understanding of heliocentrism is not heretical in its own right but can lead to heresy if it results in the atomist belief that it too and everything in it such as human beings are simply an agglomeration of atoms and nothing more, certainly not a soul.

            And don't forget, in 1623, Galileo published a book, the Assayer, in which he made his atomist views public, causing the Church to warily associate his atomism with his heliocentrism.

            This is what I understand heliocentrism to be: earth as one of several planets encircling the sun, not heretical in its own right but leading to heresy through its implications.

            Now the heliocentrism the Church condemned is the replacement of earth as the immovable centre of the universe by the pagan sun. She was justified as claiming this as heretical because it meant that the centre of whole of creation was now an object which gave light and life to creation and which for millennia had been the focus of pagan worship across the world.

            So her motives were to protect doctrine both against the centuries-old heresy of atomism and against the millennia-old heresy of sun worship.

            The utter irony is that instead of being praised by modern man for her rejection of the sun as the immovable centre of the universe, the Church is vilified for doing so which is absurd.

          • Doug Shaver

            Think about what you have written.

            I didn't write it. Galileo's accusers wrote it.

            This understanding of heliocentrism is not heretical in its own right but can lead to heresy

            The cardinals did not say it could lead to heresy. They said it was heresy.

          • Peter

            The cardinals said that an immovable sun at the centre of the universe was heretical, but that is not heliocentrism. Heliocentrism is "the astronomical model in which the Earth and planets revolve around the Sun at the centre of the Solar System" (Wikipedia).

            The sun at the centre of the solar system is not the centre of the universe nor is it immovable but orbits the galactic centre. The proposition which the cardinals called heretical was not heliocentrism. It is disingenuous to insist that it was. They rejected this proposition as false and absurd and they were indeed right to do so.

            It is disgraceful and shameful that critics of the Church should exploit this incident as an historical example of the Church rejecting scientific truth, when what she was in fact rejecting was a blatant scientific untruth.

          • Doug Shaver

            The sun at the centre of the solar system is not the centre of the universe nor is it immovable but orbits the galactic centre.

            And you're saying the cardinals knew that?

          • Peter

            Is science itself not sufficient authority to tell you that the sun is not the centre of the universe?

            Whatever the cardinals knew or did not know does not detract from the fact that they were right to reject it, nor does it exonerate those critics who falsely accused the cardinals of rejecting scientific truth.

          • Doug Shaver

            Is science itself not sufficient authority to tell you that the sun is not the centre of the universe?

            I am aware of the facts that are inconsistent with any alternative to heliocentrism. Those facts are all the authority I need.

          • Doug Shaver

            Is science itself not sufficient authority to tell you that the sun is not the centre of the universe?

            I am scientifically literate enough to know what modern scientists are talking about when they talk about heliocentrism. That is why I don't need to look it up on Wikipedia.

          • Peter

            Then why do you persist in claiming that the cardinals rejected heliocentrism as heretical when in fact what they rejected was not heliocentrism?

          • Doug Shaver

            Then why do you persist in claiming that the cardinals rejected heliocentrism as heretical

            Because I can read what they wrote.

          • Doug Shaver

            Whatever the cardinals knew or did not know does not detract from the fact that they were right to reject it,

            I was not arguing over whether they were right or wrong to reject it. I was arguing that they said that heliocentrism, as it was understood in their time, was heresy.

          • Peter

            Whatever they understood to be heliocentrism was not a scientific fact and therefore their rejection of it cannot be deemed a rejection of scientific fact on the grounds that it was heretical.

          • Doug Shaver

            Whatever they understood to be heliocentrism was not a scientific fact

            Regardless of its factuality, they called it heresy.

          • Doug Shaver

            I never said that they rejected any scientific fact on the grounds that it was heretical.

          • David Nickol

            It is disgraceful and shameful that critics of the Church should exploit this incident as an historical example of the Church rejecting scientific truth, when what she was in fact rejecting was a blatant scientific untruth.

            Utter and complete nonsense.

            Galileo was condemned for two propositions:

            We say, pronounce, sentence, and declare that you, the said Galileo, by reason of the matters adduced in trial, and by you confessed as above, have rendered yourself in the judgment of this Holy Office vehemently suspected of heresy, namely, of having believed and held the doctrine—which is false and contrary to the sacred and divine Scriptures—[1] that the Sun is the center of the world and does not move from east to west and [2] that the Earth moves and is not the center of the world; and that an opinion may be held and defended as probably after it has been declared and defined to be contrary to the Holy Scripture . . . . [Numbering and emphasis added]

            Galileo was condemned not only for saying that the sun was the center of the "world," but that the earth was not. Pope John Paul II said the following:

            Thanks to his intuition as a brilliant physicist and by relying on different arguments, Galileo, who practically invented the experimental method, understood why only the Sun could function as the centre of the world, as it was then known, that is to say as a planetary system. The error of the theologians of the time, when they maintained the centrality of the Earth, was to think that our understanding of the physical world's structure was, in some way, imposed by the literal sense of the Sacred Scripture. . . .

          • Peter

            While belief in the immovable life-giving sun at the centre of creation would have been heretical since it would encourage a resurrection of sun worship which had been entrenched in the Roman Empire, denying that the earth is the centre of the universe was never heretical per se.

            Were it indeed heretical, Galileo would have been accused of heresy and not vehemently suspected of it. The reason Galileo received the lesser of the two accusations is because, while not expressly heretical in its own right, belief in an encircling as opposed to central earth opened up the possibility of two genuine heresies:

            First, its replacement at the centre of the universe by the sun opened up the prospect of sun worship. Second, it fostered a belief in atomism which Galileo was already suspected of embracing.

            Throughout this entire discussion there persists an abject failure among critics of the Church to explain why Galileo was never accused of heresy but only suspected of it.

          • Doug Shaver

            [Posted in error]

        • Peter

          As I said, their atomism was heretical.

          • Doug Shaver

            their atomism was heretical.

            Why? What doctrine of the church did it contradict?

          • Peter

            Atomism is the materialist doctrine that all that exists is either atoms or the void, which rules out the existence of the immaterial.

          • Doug Shaver

            Atomism is the materialist doctrine that all that exists is either atoms or the void

            So, it was the church's understanding that you could believe in atoms or believe in God, but not both?

          • Peter

            If atoms and the void are all that exist, the immaterial human soul and spirits do not exist.

          • Michael Murray

            Let me fix that for you.

            If Because atoms and the void are all that exist, the immaterial human soul and spirits do not exist.

            That's better.

          • Peter

            If you believe that your five evolved senses perceive the whole of reality.

          • Michael Murray

            We've had this discussion before. I believe that science can perceive the whole of reality or at enough of it it to rule out souls and spirits. The reason for this is that we understand the physics of anything that can interact with the brain. Moreover the way physics works the things that we still don't understand like dark matter, dark energy, aren't going to change this. See this video by Sean Carroll

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vrs-Azp0i3k

          • William Davis

            I really think Spinoza got it right with his principle of sufficient reason and his proof of God. There is absolutely no reason to suppose the existence of the immaterial, thus it really should be eliminated except for use as a thinking shortcut (it takes too much mental energy and is next to impossible to conceive of thoughts as material, but that has nothing to do with the obvious truth that the brain is material, and the mind is what the brain does).

          • Michael Murray

            And by Carrolls argument the immaterial has to be stuff that doesn't affect material so we are back to wondering how the soul drives the brain if it can't hold onto the wheel or press the pedals.

          • Doug Shaver

            If you believe that your five evolved senses perceive the whole of reality.

            I'm a materialist, and I don't believe that.

          • Doug Shaver

            If atoms and the void are all that exist, the immaterial human soul and spirits do not exist.

            Right. And it's equally true that if earth, air, fire, and water are all that exist, the immaterial human soul and spirits do not exist.

            But, no matter what A and B are, whoever affirms "If A then B" does not necessarily affirm A.

      • danainnyc

        Repeating this false assertion does not make it true. The Church fathers believed that Earth was the center of the Universe, Man the center and apotheosis of Earth and God ruled this central and special place full of his specially created beings. When Galileo first saw the moons of Jupiter it was apparent that Earth held no special position even locally. The foundational doctrine of Man and Earth as central to God's plan was endangered by heliocentrism. The Church took its time making a decision about Galileo's writings but ultimately clove to scriptural dogma and earned centuries of scorn.

        Christopher Hitchens had a great line (which I will paraphrase poorly) about how Christianity is all warm and fuzzy now but one should never forget how it acted when it had the power on its side. "The Inquisition" or the death of Giordano Bruno shows how they acted when threatened by natural facts. Galileo got off easy.

        The Bible has been flat out wrong in every cosmological, astronomical, meteorological, biological and geological assertion it has ever made. That is why it works better as allegory than as science. Because the Bible contains no science. How can it? Humans hadn't yet invented what we call science at the time they invented God and the Bible. Galileo was one of those people inventing science and all the Church could do was punish him for it.

        • Peter

          "The proposition that the Sun is the centre 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.
          The proposition that the Earth is not the centre of the world and immovable but that it moves, and also with a diurnal motion, is equally absurd and false philosophically and theologically considered at least erroneous in faith."

          Look at the above two statements from the 1633 Papal Condemnation:

          From a scientific point of view, the cardinals rightly reject the sun as the centre of the universe but wrongly insist the earth to be the centre.

          However, from a doctrinal point of view, while they assert belief in the sun as centre of the universe to be heretical, they assert disbelief in the earth as centre of the universe to be merely erroneous.

          This is because, contrary to what you claim, the earth as physical centre of the universe has never been Church doctrine, and therefore disbelief in it cannot be heretical.

  • David Nickol

    Galileo was Right—But So Were His Critics

    You can't have it both ways. Either Galileo was right or he was not. And he was right. I am more than willing to believe Dr. Graney's book gives us valuable insight into the scientific debate over heliocentrism. No doubt many proponents of geocentrism were genuinely convinced, for reasons that appeared to be supported by the science of the time, that they were right and Galileo was wrong. However, that doesn't mean Galileo's critics were "right."

    And although the Catholic Church overall may have played less of a role in the scientific debate over heliocentrism than many people believe, it still condemned Galileo, kept him under house arrest for the last nine years of his life, and banned his writing for the next hundred years. And this was not because Galileo's scientific critics had the better arguments (whether they did or not). Galileo was not condemned by scientists for holding an incorrect scientific view. He was condemned by a group of cardinals for being a heretic

    We pronounce, judge, and declare, that you, the said Galileo . . . have rendered yourself vehemently suspected by this Holy Office of heresy, that is, of having believed and held the doctrine (which is false and contrary to the Holy and Divine Scriptures) that the sun is the center of the world, and that it does not move from east to west, and that the earth does move, and is not the center of the world; also, that an opinion can be held and supported as probable, after it has been declared and finally decreed contrary to the Holy Scripture, and, consequently, that you have incurred all the censures and penalties enjoined and promulgated in the sacred canons and other general and particular constituents against delinquents of this description. From which it is Our pleasure that you be absolved, provided that with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith, in Our presence, you abjure, curse, and detest, the said error and heresies, and every other error and heresy contrary to the Catholic and Apostolic Church of Rome.

    No doubt Galileo was a difficult person. No doubt he could have avoided a confrontation. No doubt many of the arguments made by Catholic apologists have merit. But for the Church to have condemned and imprisoned one of the greatest figures in the history of modern science and banned his works will forever be a black eye for the institutional Church. And not only was Galileo right about heliocentrism; he was also right (as acknowledged by Pope John Paul II) about interpreting the Bible:

    The majority of theologians did not recognize the formal distinction between Sacred Scripture and its interpretation, and this led them unduly to transpose into the realm of the doctrine of the faith a question which in fact pertained to scientific investigation.

    • "You can't have it both ways. Either Galileo was right or he was not."

      Unless, as the interview explains, Galileo was right in respect to some claims and his critics were right in respect to others.

      "And [Galileo] was right."

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        I think the way I'd phrase it is that Galileo was ultimately right, but his critics were justified in thinking that he was wrong (given the knowledge at the time.)

      • David Nickol

        Unless, as the interview explains, Galileo was right in respect to some claims and his critics were right in respect to others.

        The only two scientific issues discussed in the interview are the Coriolis effect and the size of stars. Those who criticized Galileo on the basis of the apparent absence of the Coriolis effect were correct that there should be one, but there was one. It just hadn't been detected and measured. The other issue was how large the stars had to be, and Galileo's critics were simply wrong on this one. To the best of my knowledge (and that's not saying much), Galileo never addressed these two objections, so he wasn't wrong about them.

        . . . . that is one reason why the Church urged caution regarding it.

        The Church didn't "urge caution." They condemned Galileo as a heretic, kept him under house arrest, and banned his writings for a century.

        • Michael Murray

          The Church didn't "urge caution." They condemned Galileo as a heretic, kept him under house arrest, and banned his writings for a century.

          I'll bet that made everyone else cautious!

        • "The Church didn't "urge caution." They condemned Galileo as a heretic, kept him under house arrest, and banned his writings for a century."

          Come on, David. I was clearly referring to the Church's (multiple) urgings before such drastic measures were taken. You're simply wrong to suggest the Church didn't urge caution.

          • David Nickol

            You're simply wrong to suggest the Church didn't urge caution.

            Apologies if I misinterpreted what you were saying. It would certainly be a mistake to say Galileo "didn't know what hit him." If I have the chronology right, Galileo got his first "warning" from the Inquisition in 1616, so his condemnation in 1632 was, in some respects, a long time in coming. And it seems clear he could have played it safe and avoided the final confrontation. But nevertheless, by even the Catholic Church's own standards today, what it did to Galileo was wrong. Not only was he correct about the earth moving, he was also correct that the theologians accusing him of contradicting scripture were wrong in their interpretation of the Bible. Pope John Paul II himself made this point explicitly.

      • VicqRuiz

        Galileo was not entirely correct in his astronomical theory. It took Kepler and Newton to set things (mostly) right. I quite agree.

        The Catholic Church found some of his theories were at odds with their doctrine, and said so. Fine, that's their privilege.

        But the appropriate setting to work these things out is the battlefield of ideas. Not the courts, not prison (even if it's one's own home) and not the torture chamber (even if it's just for a tour).

        I don't have a problem with agreeing that we can't judge the church of five hundred years ago by today's standards. Very few of the freedoms we hold dear today were honored by anyone, anywhere, in the 16th century.

        What I do have a problem with is current day Catholics who won't agree that we need to outgrow that mindset, and that using force to suppress expressions of opinion (scientific, theological or otherwise) is no longer acceptable in a civilized society.

        • "What I do have a problem with is current day Catholics who won't agree that we need to outgrow that mindset, and that using force to suppress expressions of opinion (scientific, theological or otherwise) is no longer acceptable in a civilized society."

          Which Catholics, in particular, are you referring to?

          If these purported Catholics are the only people you have a problem with, I assume you have few, if any, problems.

          • VicqRuiz

            Any Catholic who agrees with the following statement:

            "It is objectively wrong to use force or the threat of force to suppress the publication of any scientific, religious, or political doctrine."

            is indeed someone with whom I have no problems on that score.

            Do you agree with it??

  • David Nickol

    Having spent my entire career after graduating from college in publishing (professional and reference, textbooks), I can probably explain why the price of the paperback version of this title is $29, but I can't explain why the Kindle version is $27.55 or the Nook version is (only somewhat more reasonably) $22.99. I am not saying every e-book that costs more than $9.99 is overpriced. I am just saying I don't understand.

    • William Davis

      Ah, you're a publisher. That explains your criticism of my earlier comment (which would definitely be valid if I was saying it was a bad book). Someone who's read it needs to write him a good review on Amazon. Whether or not it's valid, it does carry a decent amount of weight when I determine whether a book is worth reading (obviously I won't know if it's good or bad until I'm done). Out of curiosity what weighs into your decision on what books to read? You're in a great position to judge.

      • David Nickol

        Out of curiosity what weighs into your decision on what books to read?

        Well, I have been an Amazon customer so long that the personalized recommendations on the site are almost certainly the primary source in bringing books to my attention, but of course I don't read something just because it is recommended. Lots of intelligent reviews on Amazon can sway my opinion, and sometimes one or two negative reviews that are particularly persuasive can outweigh lots of raves. I think PW (Publishers Weekly) reviews are very reliable, and Booklist, too. And of course there's the New York Times Book Review which I look at pretty faithfully, and The New York Review of Books, which I subscribe to but read a lot less often than I care to admit.

        There are certain publishers and imprints that can weigh heavily in a decision. If a book is published by Knopf; Basic Books; or Farrar, Straus and Giroux, that counts for a lot. I did not at all mean to imply that the credentials of an author wouldn't weigh heavily in my decision to read a book. But if the book seemed to be exactly the kind of thing I was looking for based on the title, table of contents, and first few pages, I might very well read it without much consideration for the author's credentials or the publisher or whether there were any Amazon (or other) reviews.

        Those who say not to judge a book by its cover must not enjoy browsing the way I do. This is not to say a terrible book can't have a great cover, or a great book can't have a terrible cover, but when browsing, you can't look at every book in the store, so a cover can be important. The only time I can actually remember seeing a cover and saying, "I've got to have that book!" was for The World According to Garp which more than lived up to its cover.

        A blurb by a favorite author or some important personage can influence me, although 99% of the time I think blurbs border on being fraudulent, especially for fiction. If a book has a blurb from a Republican politician or a conservative radio or television personality, that is the kiss of death. Blurbs by Democrats are not automatic disqualifiers, but I usually don't read "partisan" books, so a blurb by even a Democrat gives me pause.

        Recommendations count. I have bought books recommended here by both theists and atheists. And of course "buzz" counts. I recently read Disclaimer by Renée Knight because of the buzz, and I wasn't disappointed. (It's the new The Girl on the Train, which was the new Gone Girl, which was sensational).

        • William Davis

          Thanks, I wasn't familiar with a few of those book review companies, I'll have to check them out. Amazon's recommendations do work pretty well, but sometimes automated recommendations can lead to a sort of tunnel vision, so it's nice to branch out of your niche sometimes. I really haven't dabbled much in philosophy until coming to this site (you can probably tell) so these sites might be useful for some recommendations there.

  • VicqRuiz

    Is there a good, recent book on the cosmological controversies from Copernicus up through Newton? Accessible to the non scientist reader?

    My knowledge of all this comes from what I remember of Koestler's "The Sleepwalkers" and Toulmin and Goodfield's "The Fabric of the Heavens". Both great reads, but over a half century old.

    • OldSearcher

      In the Simon Singh's magnificient book "BIG BANG" there is a chapter titled "IN THE BEGINING" where those controversies are covered.

  • Kraker Jak

    That the Church mistreated the Italian astronomer—or at least misjudged his claims concerning the structure of the solar system—seems clear. Pope John Paul II, for example, apologized for the Church’s condemnation of Galileo in 1992

    How very magnanimous of the Church to admit, that they, at the least misjudged Mr. Galileo, but in the same breath they make a feeble attempt to mitigate their obvious mistreatment of the man by stating that his critics were right on some points, which they were. But that fact in no way should lessen the shame of the church over this episode in history. I am waiting for someone to put the icing on the cake by insinuating that Galileo was partly the author of his own misfortune in this incident.

    • George

      "He was being imprudent."

      • Kraker Jak

        Imprudent he was: ;-)Galileo agreed not to teach the heresy anymore and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. It took more than 300 years for the Church to admit that Galileo was right and to clear his name of heresy. Shame.

    • Doug Shaver

      But that fact in no way should lessen the shame of the church over this episode in history.

      Are you trying to say that the church hasn't suffered enough for the mistake it admits to having made?

  • I think that many people nowadays are more interested in the immorality of religious interference in scientific debates than in the cobwebbed details of how the scientific controversies were then playing out. You could say we treat Galileo as a mascot rather than as an actual flawed human and historical victim of the Church, since we mainly point to him as a cultural symbol for how important it is to keep religions from imposing their doctrines onto free inquiry and thereby quashing human progress.

    The most notorious cases of religious interference in science in the U.S. these days come from Evangelical Christians. And certainly a few Muslim-dominated regions are the most repressive currently regarding free inquiry. The Catholic Church, officially at least, is clearly near the more tolerant end of the religious spectrum of attitudes toward science, though in practice Catholics range across that whole spectrum. As an atheist, I hope everyone comes over to a thoroughly pro-science foundation.

    For the Catholics here, then, would you agree that the Church and its members ought never use their faith-based beliefs as excuses to thwart scientific experiment, debate, and instruction? (I certainly don't mean that Catholics or their beliefs are to be excluded from the scientific enterprise! Only that it is wrong to impose the faith on those who do not share it. Catholics would of course be free to continue making secular, i.e. consensus-reality-based, arguments about ethical limits to science.)

    • VicqRuiz

      The most notorious cases of religious interference in science in the U.S. these days come from Evangelical Christians.

      Other than the fetal stem cell controversy, which I think as many Catholics as Evangelicals are involved in, I'm not aware of any cases where Christians of today are actively attempting to prohibit scientific research. As opposed to, say, the animal rights movement, which has bombed laboratories.

      Can you cite some examples??

      • So you're asking if I have, distinct from the obvious major cases of religious interference in science, examples of religiously-motivated attempted prohibition of scientific experimentation? I hadn't thought about that question, but I can Google a moment.

        * Lots of hits on stem cells and the uses of aborted fetal tissues.
        * Additional hits, also obvious, on the various federal bans on research into the medical uses of psychoactive drugs. However, these feel like leftover bans from a previous generation of religious activism, now dissolving due to lack of fervent support rather than any social swell in favor of drugs, much like a previous generation of religious activism had instituted alcohol Prohibition but now most religious folk are tolerant of responsible alcohol enjoyment. These bans, while not instigated by today's Christians,, are still defended primarily by them.
        * Dubious hits on defunding of climate science and gun safety research. This is likely a case where the proponents are motivated by shared politics rather than also-shared religion. Insofar as we can keep those two motivations separate, we should.

        I have one quibble with your post: Blaming "the animal rights movement" for laboratory bombings is exactly analogous to blaming Christianity for priestly child molestation. There's a distinction between a movement and individuals in that movement.

        • VicqRuiz

          Ryan:

          In what recent cases within the USA have religious groups, official or unofficial, been able to prohibit scientific research? Please bear in mind that "failure to provide taxpayer funding" is not the same thing as "prohibition".

          I'll concede your quibble as far as the wording is concerned, and correct my post to "the terrorist fringe of the animal rights movement has blown up laboratories". But I think the comparison still has some validity, unless you can show me any research laboratories in the USA that have been blown up by evangelical Christians.

          • In what recent cases within the USA have religious groups, official or unofficial, been able to prohibit scientific research?

            One can keep adding qualifiers, demanding ever more extreme and specific misbehavior before conceding a problem. I know this game. It's called moving the goalposts. You're welcome to do your own Googling if you're actually interested in this question. I'm not, because the bar is set too low: Evangelicals don't merit any kudos for trying and failing, nor for currently lacking the political clout they formerly had.

            I'll stick only with the claim that I actually made: "The most notorious cases of religious interference in science in the U.S. these days come from Evangelical Christians." Nothing about blowing up labs or banning research. You're right that Evangelicals are not terrorists with explosives. Whoopdedoo. That's an incredibly low bar, and so again they don't they merit any kudos for surpassing it.

          • VicqRuiz

            OK, let's move the goalposts as close in to midfield as we can.

            If what you are really bothered with is the fact that some people who belong to some religious groups disagree with some legislative proposals that have been brought forth by some scientists, then of course I agree with you that in fact that has happened.

            But speaking for myself as an atheist, I lose practically no sleep over it. An inquisition we do not have here.

          • legislative proposals that have been brought forth by some scientists

            You don't have to lose sleep over that. I don't either, of course, as it has nothing to do with the claims I've been supporting. I'm not supporting all-claims-which-you-feel-share-a-common-theme -- only the ones I have actually made.

            Let's take a concrete case of religious interference in science. I live in Texas, where highly organized Evangelical voters elect a State Board of Education with the deliberate and successful intent to pass statewide rules inserting their religious views into pubic education, including classes dedicated to science instruction. I oppose this, not as an atheist, but on the same grounds a Catholic might oppose it: religious interference in science is bad for science, bad for religion, and bad for society.

          • VicqRuiz

            I have a problem with Catholics (or any church, or any other pressure group for that matter) working to prevent scientific research from taking place. So I would agree with you there.

            But I don't define my opposition so broadly as to include something like local voters deciding what's taught in their local schools. My atheism is a little more thick-skinned.....

          • Usually, being thick-skinned refers to being able to ignore verbal attacks against you. The case I discussed is not a verbal attack against you; it's a political effort to undermine a field of science which the proponents disagree with, using children as pawns, without regard for the children's intellectual formation or the consequences of a miseducated populace. Here, as in our other discussion previously on SN, I can't help but think you're mistaking being callous to the suffering of others for mere thick skin.

          • Suzanne Riccioli

            Y3S!

          • Suzanne Riccioli

            It boils down to "your opinion threatens my beliefs, and as a result, my existence." which is why they're often more sensitive about things.

  • Why should a geocentric depiction and a heliocentric depiction of planetary motion be incompatible? Every equation expressed in terms of one set of coordinates is linearly related to an equation expressed in terms of another set of coordinates. Does motion from Denver to Los Angeles self identify the ordinate for the depiction of that motion, rendering only one coordinate system true and all other choices of an ordinate and coordinate system false?

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      The Tychonic model predicted all the same things as the Copernican for precisely this reason. The Ptolemaic model was dropped like a hot potato because it could not account for the phases of Venus as Tycho and Copernicus did.

      • It is one thing to say the choice of one coordinate system renders the depiction of motion to be extremely complicated and thereby useless and another thing to say that such a choice renders that coordinate system ‘false’ and mathematically incompatible with one, which renders the depiction simple and thereby ‘true’.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          The Ptolemaic model was rendered false by the phases of Venus.The Tychonic model was rendered false by the detection of the Earth's rotation by Guglielmini, and the Ursine model by the discovery of parallax in α-Lyrae by Callendrelli. Mathematics is not a cause (except to neo-Pythagorean woo-woos) and so nothing is ever falsified by the math. It's a description. New physical facts render the description no longer adequate, but that is an effect, not a cause.

          • Mathematics is used to express the physics. The choice of a coordinate system changes the mathematics only superficially and the physics not at all. The superficial changes may appear overwhelmingly complicated to us.

          • David Nickol

            The choice of a coordinate system changes the mathematics only superficially and the physics not at all.

            Hmmmm . . . To the best of my knowledge, it is an accepted fact that tides, primarily caused by the moon, are very, very gradually slowing down the rotation of the earth. Suppose we take the earth as the unmoving center of the universe. It is now a "fact" that the universe is rotating around a stationary earth, and it is also a fact that the rotation of the universe is very, very gradually slowing down. How do we explain the "fact" that the revolution of the universe is slowing? Wouldn't that require a change in physics?

            Also note the following:

            The massive earthquake that struck northeast Japan Friday (March 11 [2011]) has shortened the length Earth's day by a fraction and shifted how the planet's mass is distributed.

            A new analysis of the 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan has found that the intense temblor has accelerated Earth's spin, shortening the length of the 24-hour day by 1.8 microseconds, according to geophysicist Richard Gross at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

            If we choose to think of earth as the stationary point around which the universe rotates, must we not come up with a theory of how an earthquake in Japan can speed up the rotation of the entire universe? Wouldn't that change physics?

          • We choose a virtual perspective and a coordinate system for the sake of the simplicity of the mathematical and of the visual depictions. A difference in complexity does not change the superficiality of the relationship of one coordinate system to another or the superficiality of one virtual perspective to another. I am not denying that a geocentric depiction would be overwhelmingly more complex than a heliocentric depiction for many purposes. Typically, a geocentric depiction with the earth rotating is much simpler than a geocentric depiction with the earth not rotating. No one would use a heliocentric ordinal or a geocentric ordinal to depict the first motion of, ‘the
            conductor moved to the rear of the passenger car on the moving train’.

            Utility and simplicity dictate the choice of an ordinate and of the perspective of virtual observation. None of this changes the physics. The tides are doing it, irrespective of the choice of perspective and ordination. I think the historical development from a geocentric perspective to a heliocentric
            perspective was typical of the course of the development of human knowledge. Nevertheless, we should be able to recognize the equivalence of perspectives, even if it was inevitable historically that the perspectives were judged to be incompatible. Notice too, that it is only in the midrange of the spectrum of observation that we can indulge in the fantasy of being a virtual outside observer.

          • David Nickol

            Utility and simplicity dictate the choice of an ordinate and of the perspective of virtual observation. None of this changes the physics. The tides are doing it, irrespective of the choice of perspective and ordination.

            It is unclear to me what you mean by, "None of this changes the physics." If you choose a system in which the earth is at rest in the center of the universe, there will still be tides, but the spinning of the universe around the earth will be slowing down, and you will not be able to attribute it to the friction of the tides. How does that not change the physics? If the earth is taken to be unmoving and at the center of the universe, how is the Coriolis effect to be explained?

            Lurking in the background here is the General Theory of Relativity, which I don't pretend to understand at all, but I believe it is impermissible to set up a (Cartesian) coordinate system with the sun, the earth, or any other point as the origin for all of the universe. It just doesn't work in General Relativity.

            It is true that neither geocentrism nor heliocentrism is true (even in General Relativity) in that it makes no sense to say that either the earth or the sun is stationary at the center of the universe. But by any reasonable understanding, Galileo was correct to say that the earth moves around the sun. Even that is not totally correct, since the earth and the sun revolve around a common center of gravity somewhere within the sun, and even that is not correct because there are the other planets to take into consideration.

          • Galileo was correct to say the earth moves around the sun. He was wrong to add, 'and not vice versa'.The validity of the depiction of motion from one perspective does not falsify, but affirms the depiction from another. Your example is excellent in this regard. If the rotation of the earth on its axis is slowing, then observed evidence would be that rotation of the stars (or of 'the universe') around the north pole is slowing. Depictions of motion are not either or. It is not heliocentric or geocentric. It is a question of utility. In a textbook, the heliocentric depiction of planetary motion is ideal. In a planetarium, the geocentric depiction is ideal. For either to be valid, both must be valid. I was inconsistent in saying 'The tides are doing it . . . '. I conjecture that from the perspective of a non-rotating geocentric earth, the slowing of the rotation of the universe would produce a change in tidal pattern. Even if valid, that is too complex. Thus, we all affirm, 'the tides are slowing the rotation of the earth.'

          • David Nickol

            I think I understand what you are saying, but I still don't understand why you say, "None of this changes the physics." I would say that we know the tides are slowing down the rotation of the earth, and therefore we can explain the apparent slowing down of the rotation of everything we see in the heavens by known laws of physics. But if we take the earth as a frame of reference (a stationary, non-rotating earth), we then have no explanation for why the rotation of the universe around the earth is slowing down. Or when (from the old point of view) an earthquake slows or speeds up the rotation of the earth, if we take earth as our frame of reference, we have no explanation as to how the earthquake changes the rotation of the universe around the earth. If we lose so many explanations by taking a stationary, non-rotating earth as a frame of reference, how can you say physics doesn't change. Of course, there is no physical change in any phenomena when pick a new frame of reference, but well explained phenomena become inexplicable, so if by physics is meant "the laws of physics as we understand them," then physics does indeed change when the frame of reference changes.

          • "Of course, there is no physical change in any phenomena when pick a new frame of reference, but well explained phenomena become inexplicable, so if by physics is meant 'the laws of physics as we understand them,' then physics does indeed change when the frame of reference changes."

            I agree completely. However, this is the way I would state it: An equation expressed in the coordinates of one reference frame is linearly related to its expression in the coordinates of another. No other aspects of the relationship are affected. If by physics we mean relationships among measurable material properties, expressed in the form of equations, then physics is not affected by the reference frame chosen. That is not to say that the choice of a reference frame can make our understanding easy or practically impossible, but that is not a question of true or false. Note: We are both addressing the midrange of the spectrum of observation.