• Strange Notions Strange Notions Strange Notions

The Idea of Progress: A Comparative Study

by  
Filed under History

The pre-eminence of progress in the history of ideas and of Western civilization in particular cannot be overstated. This vastly important idea essentially means that the trajectory of human history is linear and forward-directed rather than cyclical or regressive. It holds that each generation advances beyond its predecessor and, therefore, the human condition improves over time amid the accumulation of scientific and technological knowledge. We tend to take the idea of progress for granted, but it has eluded many cultures. American-born British classical scholar Moses I. Finley maintains that it was unique to the West:

“We must remind ourselves time and again that the European experience since the late Middle Ages in technology, in the economy, and in the value systems that accompanied them, was unique in human history [my emphasis] until the recent export trend commenced. Technical progress, economic growth, productivity, even efficiency have not been significant goals since the beginning of time. So long as an acceptable life-style could be maintained, however that was defined, other values held the stage.” (147)

The assumption that the course of history was progressive and the confidence that great advances beckoned are reckoned to have played a key role in enabling the West to outstrip other civilizations from the late Middle Ages onward. Rodney Stark, American sociologist of religion, identifies the idea of progress as one of the factors “essential to the rise of the West” (How the West Won 33).

Conventional scholarly wisdom holds that the roots of this idea are firmly embedded in the 18th-century Enlightenment movement whose luminaries included Voltaire (1694-1778), Denis Diderot (1713-1784), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Adam Smith (1723-1790), and Baron d'Holbach (1723-1789) to name but a few. Enlightenment thinkers sought to emancipate mankind from what they perceived as the fetters of superstition and ignorance, and valued free inquiry and rational thought above tradition and custom. They viewed man as an essentially rational and reason-guided individual, and believed that the application of reason could solve all problems. They expressed confidence that the cumulative acquisition of knowledge led not only to a better understanding and growing mastery of the world but to its improvement as well. Anti-clericalism was one of the hallmarks of Enlightenment thought, as the philosophers of this age, such as Pierre Bayle (1647-1706), showed hostility toward organized religion and religious dogma.

Indeed, an outburst of optimism in the progressive course of mankind was one of the characteristic features of the Enlightenment. In A Digression on the Ancients and Moderns, French writer Bernard de Fontenelle (1657-1757) affirmed that progress and knowledge were “cumulative” and rejected “unreasoning admiration” for the ancients as an obstacle to progress (Watson 546-7). Another Frenchman Marquis de Condorcet (1743-1794) asserted his confidence in the “perfectibility of man,” adding that “nature has assigned no limit to the perfecting of the human faculties” (547). French social reformer Count Claude Henri de Saint-Simon (1760-1825) proclaimed that a “golden age is not behind us, but in front of us...Our fathers have not seen it; our children will arrive there one day, and it is for us to clear the way for them” (549). Lastly, German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) viewed historical developments and changes in reality as manifestations of the progression of World Spirit toward the Absolute, and stressed that as part of the evolution of this Universal Spirit, freedom expanded over time, culminating in 19th-century Prussia (548).

So far so good. But is Enlightenment thought really the source of the idea of progress? Or can its origin be traced as far back as Medieval Christianity, particularly Catholicism (which Enlightenment philosophers loathed so much)?1 As early as the fifth century, St. Augustine (354-430), who “was to prove the most influential of all Christian philosophers” (Kenny 104), believed in theological progress in the sense that believers’ understanding of God’s will and of the biblical text increased with the passage of time. Though there were "certain matters pertaining to the doctrine of salvation that we cannot yet grasp,” he noted, “one day we shall be able to do so" (Stark’s Victory of Reason 9). In the same spirit, Augustine assured his friend that he would eventually gain understanding of those aspects of Christianity that had hitherto appeared incomprehensible or contradictory:

“Dispute not by excited argument those things which you do not yet comprehend, or those which in the Scriptures appear...to be incongruous and contradictory; meekly defer the day of your understanding” (Durant 70).

The North African theologian and philosopher could hardly restrain his excitement about material and scientific progress as well, extolling the "skill [that] has been attained in measures and numbers! With what sagacity have the movements and connections of the stars been discovered!" (Stark’s Victory 10). He pointed out human capacity for invention and lauded technological, agricultural, architectural, and nautical advances, saying:

"Has not the genius of man invented and applied countless astonishing arts, partly the result of necessity, partly the result of exuberant invention, so that this vigour of mind . . . betokens an inexhaustible wealth in the nature which can invent, learn, or employ such arts. What wonderful — one might say stupefying — advances has human industry made in the arts of weaving and building, of agriculture and navigation!" (9-10).

But Augustine was not a voice in the desert. Other Christian theologians and scholars shared his enthusiasm about human ingenuity and progress. 13th-century Gilbert de Tournai wrote:

"Never will we find truth if we content ourselves with what is already known. . . . Those things that have been written before us are not laws but guides. The truth is open to all, for it is not yet totally possessed" (10).

In the next century, Fra Giordano said in Florence: "Not all the arts have been found; we shall never see an end to finding them. Every day one could discover a new art." No wonder that Scottish philosopher John Macmurray (1891-1976) pinpointed Christianity as the fountainhead of the pervasive belief in progress: "That we think of progress at all shows the extent of the influence of Christianity upon us" (9).

Certainly, Christianity, particularly Catholicism, is a forward-leaning religion which embraces a linear, directional, and teleological conception of history.2 The Catholic worldview is predicated on the premise that history moves forward toward a definite goal or telos rather round in endlessly repeated circles. The optimistic Christian confidence in perpetual progress and the idea that matters ought to get better are said to have spurred the Western quest for new technology and facilitated the rapid and widespread adoption of new inventions. Indeed, Medieval Europe witnessed many agricultural and technological inventions such as eyeglasses, mechanical clocks, the printing press, the crop-rotation system, chimneys, the horse collar, etc., but these breakthroughs did not arouse the suspicion or elicit the opposition of the church. On the contrary, the Catholic Church, as the most dominant and powerful authority in Europe at the time, fully welcomed and adopted these inventions. As Stark argues,

“[a]ll these remarkable developments can be traced to the unique Christian conviction that progress was a God-given obligation, entailed in the gift of reason. That new technologies and techniques would always be forthcoming was a fundamental article of Christian faith. Hence, no bishops or theologians denounced clocks or sailing ships – although both were condemned on religious grounds in various non-Western societies. Rather, many technical innovations probably were made by monks and were eagerly adopted by the great monastic estates” (Victory 48).

In addition, Christian faith in theological progress has made the Medieval Catholic Church relatively flexible, enabling it to revise established doctrines so as to accommodate Christianity with developments and changes over time, especially in economy. While early Christian theologians may have had some misgivings about the pursuit of profit and the lending of money at interest, the successful economic activities of monastic orders from the 9th century forward, some of which functioned as banks, compelled later theologians to reappraise church positions on these issues. “Christian theology,” as Stark puts it,

“has never crystallized. If God intends that scripture will be more adequately grasped as humans gain greater knowledge and experience, this warrants continuing reappraisal of doctrines and interpretations. And so it was” (Victory of Reason 63).

Moreover, Christian suppositions about progress may have prompted Western theologians and scholars to legitimize and even insist on the adoption of useful knowledge, even that stemming from foreign, non-Christian cultures. English scholar Adelard of Bath (1080-1152), renowned for his dogged pursuit of learning in far-off places, especially the Middle East, called for keeping an open mind when it came to the acquisition of knowledge:

“It will be worthwhile to approach teachers of different people, to commit to memory what you may find is most finely expressed among each of them. For what the French studies are ignorant of, those across the Alps will unlock; what you will not learn amongst the Latins, eloquent Greece will teach you” (Lyons 2).

Despite Muslim-Christian enmity prevalent at the time, he had no qualms about acknowledging his debt to the “Arab masters” (124). Expressing the same sentiments, Daniel of Morley (1140-1210) wrote of his eagerness to become acquainted with Arab scholarship:

“But when I heard that the doctrine of the Arabs...was all the fashion in Toledo in those days, I hurried there as quickly as I could, so that I could hear the wisest philosophers of the world” (156).

As for the ancient Greeks, he wrote the following:

“Let us then borrow from them and, with God’s help and command, rob the pagan philosophers of their wisdom and eloquence. Let us take from the unfaithful so as to enrich ourselves faithfully with the spoils” (157).

12th-century translator Hugh of Santalla called for learning from the Arab scholars, lauding them as “our teachers and precursors” (157). His namesake and contemporary Hugh of Saint Victor (1096-1141) advised his students to accept all forms of knowledge: "Learn willingly what you do not know from everyone. The person who has sought to learn something from everyone will be wiser than them all. The person who receives something from everyone ends by becoming the richest of all" (Pope Benedict XVI 220). In the same century, the great rationalist Peter Abelard (1079-1142) ruled out the existence of harmful knowledge, arguing that “[a]ll knowledge is good, even knowledge of evil” (Huff 141).

The discussion on Christianity’s progressive view of history warrants a comparison with that of the ancient Greeks, Romans, the Chinese, and Muslims. While Christian theologians conceived of history in terms of progress and upward movement, their ancient Greek predecessors believed existence was subject to ineluctable and eternal cycles. In other words, the idea of historical progress would have been alien to the Greek temperament. In contrast to Christianity’s teleological conception of existence, history for the ancient Greeks was devoid of ultimate purpose or end; a golden age was inexorably bound to give way to decline (and vice versa).3 The great Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC) posited an uncreated and eternal universe, charged that "the same ideas recur to men not once or twice but over and over again”, adding that everything had "been invented several times over in the course of ages, or rather times without number” (Victory 19). Aristotle’s political theory was also heavily influenced by the concept of the cyclical flow of time prevalent in Greece. Thomas I. Cook opines that Aristotle’s

“observations convinced him that all of the simple, good forms of government which he had described sooner or later changed into their corresponding corruption, and that out of this arose an endless series of revolutions, so that the balance was never attained [my emphasis]. For it is clear to him that the germs of revolution are in the very principle of the various forms, and from his knowledge of Greek history he outlined a theory of regular change. This is the celebrated cyclical theory of history [my emphasis], and for Aristotle it goes on with an unchanging radius and endless succession. Each form of city-state brings the new form that necessarily springs from it in terms of human motivation. The circle never expands and is never broken. Thus it lacks any real development, is a closed system [my emphasis]” (121).

Zeno of Citium (334–262 BC), founder of the Stoic school of philosophy, held, in the words of 20th-century British philosopher Bertrand Russell, that “[e]very thing that happens has happened before, and will happen again, not once, but countless times” (254). Indeed, according to the Stoics, the "difference between former and actual existences of the same people will be only extrinsic and accidental; such differences do not produce another man as contrasted with his counterpart from a previous world-age” (Stark’s Victory 19). Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who ruled for 20 years until his death in 180 AD and who professed Stoicism, believed that the virtuous soul had the ability to “reach out into eternity, embracing and comprehending the great cyclic renewals of creation, and thereby perceiving that future generations will have nothing new to witness” (Morris 21). The idea of circularity figures prominently in the cosmology of pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles (495-430 BC), who stated that Love and Strife dominated the four fundamental elements (earth, air, fire, water) making up the complex substances. For Empedocles,

“[t]here were periods when Love was in the ascendant and others when Strife was the stronger. There had been a golden age when Love was completely victorious. In that age, men worshipped only the Cyprian Aphrodite. The changes in the world are not governed by any purpose, but only by Chance and Necessity. Every compound substance is temporary; only the elements, together with Love and Strife, are everlasting. There is a cycle: when the elements have been thoroughly mixed by Love, Strife gradually sorts them out again; when Strife has separated them, Love gradually reunites them. Thus every compound substance is temporary; only the elements, together with Love and Strife, are everlasting” (Russell 55).

Another pre-Socratic philosopher, the famous Pythagoras (570–495 BC), taught, according to Dikaiarchos, that "whatever comes into existence is born again in the revolutions of a certain cycle, nothing being absolutely new" (32). Followers of Orpheus, a Thracian reformer of the religion of Bacchus and a poet whose music was said to have moved inanimate objects, conceived of earthly life as “pain and weariness,” and believed

“[w]e are bound to a wheel which turns through endless cycles of birth and death [my emphasis]; our true life is of the stars, but we are tied to earth. Only by purification and renunciation and an ascetic life can we escape from the wheel and attain at last to the ecstasy of union with God” (21).

St. Augustine broke with these ancient Greek assumptions about time and history. As a Christian, he professed that the world had been created at a definite or particular time and would end at an unknown date in the future. Thus, he repudiated the doctrine of cyclical time and of an eternal universe, charging that “deceiving and deceived sages” were behind it (Morris 24). Rejecting the eternal recurrence of events, Augustine stressed that “once Christ died for our sins; and, rising from the dead, He dieth no more” (24). Indeed, the idea that Christ would be endlessly crucified and resurrected would have been anathema to Christian theologians.

For their part, the Romans were rather conservative, tradition-bound, and oriented to the past. They believed that the way to progress entailed a return to a past golden age4 and strict adherence to established tradition. Therefore, they viewed innovation with suspicion, regarding it as dangerous and subversive. This is why they were quite respectful of old religions like Judaism but suspicious of religions like Christianity that broke away from its parent faith (Armstrong 91). This suspicion to innovation did not escape the notice of Roman poet Horace (65-8 BC) who in his Epistles wondered: “Had the Greeks held novelty in such disdain as we, what work of ancient date would now exist?” (Davies 150). The Romans sought to emulate the ancient Greeks (especially in literature), and broadly speaking, rarely moved beyond them, fostering “the very notion of the classics, the idea that the best that had been thought and written in the past was worth preserving and profiting from” (Watson 199). Is it possible that the Romans’ backward-oriented outlook was one of the one reasons for the absence of significant scientific advances during Roman times?5 A number of Latin authors (such as Varro, Seneca, Pliny the Elder) did compile encyclopedias summarizing scientific knowledge to date. However, other than these large compilations, Roman civilization achieved little by way of science. In their magisterial Science and Technology in World History, McClellan and Dorn assess that

“there was little Roman science. Very little Greek science was ever translated into Latin. For the sake of tradition, Roman emperors patronized the Museum in faraway Alexandria...Some privileged young Romans learned Greek and toured and studied in Greece. But Rome itself produced no Roman scientist or philosopher of the first or second rank” (106).

Like the Romans, the Chinese asserted the superiority of the past and of traditional wisdom as evidenced by 12th-century high public official Li Yen-Chang’s view that "[i]f scholars are made to concentrate their attention solely on the classics and are prevented from slipping into study of the vulgar practices of later generations, then the empire will be fortunate indeed!" (Stark’s Victory 10). They also lacked an understanding of time as linear or progressive. Rather, the Chinese outlook stipulated that the universe, conceived as a single organism, was subject to recurring cycles in which dominance alternated between two great forces, the yin and yang, and the five elements (water, fire, earth, metal, wood) (McClellan and Dorn 147-8).

Certainly, the Chinese built a magnificent civilization that gave birth to many superb inventions, especially gunpowder, the mechanical clock, woodblock printing and moveable type, paper, paper money, the magnetic compass, the seismograph, the spinning wheel, the silk reeling frame, the seed drill, etc. As stated previously, the Christian commitment to progress gave stimulus to the West’s embrace of new inventions. In contrast, Chinese conformism along with resistance to change, deep-seated respect for tradition, and suspicion toward innovation, may have kept Chinese civilization from building upon its initial (indeed impressive) advances and from breaking through to modern science.

For example, the talented engineer Liang-Ling Tsan invented around 725 AD the mechanical escapement, “the key regulating device in all mechanical clocks” (McClellan and Dorn 152). This spawned a tradition of mechanical and planetarium tradition, reaching its apex at the end of the 11th century with the construction of a mechanical astronomical clock tower designed by Su Song (1020-1101), “an impressive feat of mechanical engineering and the most complex piece of clockwork to that point in history” (153). However, after Su Song’s death, the Chinese failed to preserve the knowledge and expertise required to duplicate the construction of this sophisticated contrivance, so much so that they were astounded by Western clocks when they first made an appearance in 17th-century China (152). In another version of how this invaluable mechanical knowledge was lost, Stark notes that “the hostility of the Mandarins [high public officials or bureaucrats] toward mechanical contrivances was so great that they soon ordered them destroyed, and no clocks existed in China again until modern times” (Victory 44). Regardless of whether it was indifference or outright hostility that caused the disappearance of mechanical clocks, the Chinese backward-oriented worldview and fear of innovation may have stunted scientific and technological progress and blocked the path to a scientific revolution that eventually unfolded in the West and nowhere else.

Similarly, the discovery of the compass and the application of gunpowder to military ends helped transform China into the greatest navy on earth, culminating with the seven sea expeditions led by the Muslim sailor Zheng He. These expeditions, which took place between 1405 and 1433 under emperor Yongle, reached as far as the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the coast of East Africa, winning in the process a number of vassal states and asserting the political dominance of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). “Then, abruptly,” recount McClellan and Dorn,

“the extraordinary maritime thrust of the Ming came to an end. Official shipbuilding ceased in 1419, and a decree of 1433 put an end to further Chinese overseas expeditions. No one can say whether the course of world history would have been radically different had the Chinese maintained a presence in the Indian Ocean and rebuffed the Portuguese when they arrived with their puny ships at the end of the same century” (146).

The empire issued the haijin decrees banning oceanic voyages, and as Scottish historian Niall Ferguson points out, from 1500 forward, “anyone in China found building a ship with more than two masts was liable to the death penalty; in 1551 it became a crime even to go to sea in such a ship. The records of Zheng He’s journeys were destroyed” (32). The Chinese authorities had decided to turn inward and to abandon their overseas ambitions. Ming China had adopted an isolationist policy, with Chinese science and technology entering a period of decline. Historians have put forward a number of explanations for the sudden turn of events, one being ingrained Confucian suspicion of novelties and fear they might disrupt the social order or status quo.

Lastly, it appears there are two divergent traditions regarding the interpretation of history in Islamic civilization, one Sunni and another Shiite. Like the Romans and Chinese, the Sunnis “have tended to see Islamic history as a gradual movement away from the ideal community [my emphasis], which existed during the life of Muhammed and his four immediate successors” (Heywood 298). In other words, the Sunnis have a propensity to idealize the past and to believe that imitating it and holding fast to their legalistic traditions are key to reenacting past glories.6 Other Sunni traditions seem to emphasize the cyclical nature of history. In his famous Muqadimah (Prolegomenon), the North African historiographer Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) examines the rise and fall of dynasties, espousing a cyclical model of historical movement. Commenting on Ibn Khaldun’s theory of history, Dan Diner states: “In his work, there is no shortage of assertions such as that the past resembles the future as one drop of water resembles another” (161-2).

The Shiite worldview, however, is fundamentally different; while Sunnis tend to be backward-oriented in their understanding of history or to see history as moving in cycles, the Shias are oriented to the future. In the words of one scholar, they “see history moving toward the goal of an ideal community, not away from it” (Heywood 298). Put differently, the Shias seem to believe the best lies ahead rather than lies buried in the past. The 10th-century Fatimid Shiite dynasty, which took power in Tunisia and Egypt and set up the city of Cairo, saw its rule “not as a return to the good old days of early Islam, but as the progressive unfolding of a new era in cosmic history” (Black 46).7 Striking the same chord, the 10th-century Shiite scholars Ikhwan al-Safa (Brethren of Purity) devised a theory of history according to which “each Prophet-legislator-Imam ushers in a new epoch, characterized by its own philosophy, religion, language and science. Each builds on the last; translation is therefore essential, and pre-Islamic belief systems retain some significance” (61).

Contrary to prevailing opinion, philosophy, which suffered a major setback in the Sunni tradition after Ibn Rushd (known as Averroes in the Latin tradition, 1126-1198), continued to exist and even flourish in Shiite domains for centuries after Islamic civilization’s rationalist and scientific heritage is believed to have atrophied.8 During Medieval times, most Sunni religious colleges persistently excluded the study of Greek philosophy and science from their curricula and focused instead on the religious sciences (Koranic exegesis, hadith, Arabic grammar) – a trend that persisted well into modern times (until the Arab Renaissance of the 19th century). By contrast, the Greek (and other non-Islamic) philosophical and scientific tradition was integrated into programs of instruction at Shiite institutions of higher learning. In addition, Shiite imams not only legitimized but also encouraged the study of pre-Islamic learning inherited from the ancient Greeks or Zoroastrian Persians.9 It should come as no surprise then to learn that though a minority in Islam, a disproportionate number of the scientific and philosophical stars of the Islamic Golden Age were either Shias or affiliated with the Shiite doctrine, such as Jabir ibn Hayyan (721-815), Al-Farabi (died in 950), the 10th-century Ikhwan al-Safa (Brethren of Purity) group of scholars, Ibn Sina (980-1037), Al-Biruni (973-1048), Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, (1201-1274), Al-Jaldaki (died between 1349 and 1361), Baha’ al-Din al-‘Amili (1546-1621), etc. On these Sunni-Shiite differences, contemporary Persian philosopher and scientist Seyyed Hossein Nasr says:

“The Sunni madrasah was established essentially for the purpose of training students in the sacred law and other religious sciences; its program consisted primarily of the Quran, Hadith, exegesis, Arabic grammar and literature, law, theology and oratory (to which the study of philosophy and history, and a small amount of mathematics, were occasionally added). The Shiite schools, however, showed an affinity toward the awa’il [ancient Greek] sciences, placing a much greater emphasis in their program on these subjects” (72).

He adds:

“Certain schools of Greek philosophy and science, especially the more esoteric schools connected with Neopythagoreanism and Hermeticism, became integrated into the Shiite perspective at an early period, and some of the Shiite imams legitimized the study of the awa’il sciences and even encouraged it. The Sunni lawyers and jurisprudents, however, for the most part remained aloof from these sciences and, in fact, often opposed them. They usually accepted only Aristotelian logic, which thereby became an accredited discipline and aided discussions – on questions of law and theology, and even grammar...The Sunni schools were in general more inclined toward the study of law and theology, and the Shiites to the sciences of Nature and mathematics, although many Sunni rulers and princes cultivated these sciences on their own” (72).

 


Works Cited

Armstrong, Karen. A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Ballantine Books, 1993.

Black, Antony. The History of Islamic Political Thought: From the Prophet to the Present. 2nd ed., Edinburgh University Press, 2011.

Cook, I. Thomas. History of Political Philosophy: From Plato to Burke. Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1936.

Davies, Norman. Europe: A History. Pimlico, 1997.

Diner, Dan. Lost in the Sacred: Why the Muslim World Stood Still. Translated by Steven Rendall, Princeton University Press, 2009.

Durant, Will. The Age of Faith: A History of Medieval Civilization – Christian, Islamic, and Judaic – From Constantine to Dante: A.D. 325-1300. Simon and Schuster, 1950.

Ferguson, Niall. Civilization: The West and the Rest. Penguin Books, 2011.

Finley, I. Moses. The Ancient Economy. 3rd ed., University of California Press, 1999.

Goiten, S. D. Jews and Arabs: Their Contacts Through the Ages. 6th ed., Schocken Books, 1964.

Grant, Edward. The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages: Their Religious, Institutional, and Intellectual Contexts. Cambridge University Press, 1996.

-------------------. Science and Religion 400 BC- AD 1550: From Aristotle to Copernicus. The John Hopkins University Press, 2004.

Grieve, Paul. A Brief Guide to Islam: History, Faith And Politics: The Complete Introduction. Robinson, 2006.

Heywood, Andrew. Political Ideologies: An Introduction. 5th ed., Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Huff, Toby. The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West. 2nd edition. Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Kenny, Anthony. A Brief History of Western Philosophy. Blackwell Publishers, 1998.

Lyons, Jonathan. The House of Wisdom. Bloomsbury, 2010.

McClellan, E. James, and Harold Dorn. Science and Technology in World History: An Introduction. 3rd ed., John Hopkins University Press, 2015.

Morris, Richard. Time's Arrows: Scientific Attitudes Toward Time. Simon & Schuster Inc., 1987.

Nasr, Hossein Seyyed. Science and Civilization in Islamic Civilization. 2nd ed., The Islamic Texts Society, 1987

Nisbet, A. Robert. History of the Idea of Progress. 4th ed., Transaction Publishers, 2009.

Pope Benedict XVI. Great Christian Thinkers: From the Early Church Through the Middle Ages. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2011.

Russell, Bertrand. The History of Western Philosophy. 2nd ed., Simon & Schuster, 1972.

Stark, Rodney. How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity. ISI Books, 2014.

------------------. The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success. The Random House Publishing Group, 2005.

Watson, Peter. Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention, From Fire to Freud. Harper Perennial, 2005.

Notes:

  1. For the sake accuracy, it is noteworthy that Judaism sustains a linear conception of history as well, and, as Robert A. Nisbet argues, “[n]othing in the history of the idea of progress is more important than” the Christian embrace and universalization of Jewish millenarianism (49). On the Jewish understanding of history, Richard Morris says: “Judaism was unique among the religions of the ancient world in that it placed an emphasis on unique historical events that were supposed to have taken place at particular points in time. The Exodus from Egypt, for example, was something that had happened only once. It was a specific event that had an important religious significance. Similarly, God had made his promises to Abraham on a specific occasion, and He had given the Law to Moses at a particular time. History, in ancient Judaism, was an arena in which God’s purposes were fulfilled. It would have been practically blasphemous to suggest that historical events were repeated in endless cycles.

    “The concept of cyclical time was not unknown to the ancient Jews. We read in the book of Ecclesiastes, ‘The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun.’ However, references to such ideas are encountered infrequently in the Old Testament. The emphasis is on the working out of God’s purpose in a linear time that began with the Creation” (22-3).

  2. The idea of progress did not penetrate Orthodox/Eastern theology. As Stark notes, “the Eastern Orthodox hierarchy refused to permit any mechanical clocks in their churches until the twentieth century” (Victory 44). Eminent historian of science Edward Grant underlines the “overwhelmingly backward looking” character of Byzantine/Orthodox scholarship (Science and Religion 228). Byzantine scholars viewed the work of their ancient Greek antecedents as the culmination of human knowledge and had no confidence in their ability to add anything of value to that legacy. Fourteenth-century scholar Theodore Metochites spoke for many when he charged that “[t]he great men of the past have said everything so perfectly that they have left nothing for us to say” (228). Such a state of mind is hardly conducive to the production of original work. No wonder that Grant labels Byzantine scholarly work as “formalistic,” “pedantic,” “rarely innovative,” “unremarkable,” and “uncritical” (Foundations 190, 191).
  3. Cyclical conceptions of time dominated the thought of almost all ancient civilizations. Babylonian priest Berossos (who migrated to the Greek island of Cos in 290 or 270 BC) taught that “the world would periodically be destroyed, and then created anew, at periodic intervals, when all the stars came together in the constellation of the Crab. Each re-creation would mark the beginning of a new Great Year, during which terrestrial events would parallel those of the Great Year that had just ended. According to this doctrine, terrestrial events exhibited cyclic patterns that paralleled those which could be seen in the heavens” (Morris 17). Likewise, Indian philosophers, particularly of the Vedic period (1500-600 BC), “conceived of cycles within cycles. The smallest was an age, which measured about 360 years; the longest corresponded to the lives of the gods, which were thought to be of the order of 300 trillion years. But time would not come an end, not even after those trillions of years had passed. The gods themselves would die and be reborn, and the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction would go on forever” (21). Similar ideas appeared in Aztec and Mayan civilizations, as well as in Norse mythology (22).
  4. Roman poet Ovid (43 BC –17/18 AD) postulated a past golden age in which peace, security, and morality prevailed, so much so that no laws were needed to restrain potential violence or armies to fight wars: “With no one to impose punishment, without any laws, men kept faith and did what was right...The people passed their lives in security and peace, without need for armies” (Watson 92).
  5. Though weak in science, the Romans were “the greatest technologists and engineers of the ancient world” (McClellan and Dorn 106). They developed military and naval technologies, built extensive roads and aqueducts, and used the wedge arch in the construction of buildings and bridges. Their arguably greatest achievement, however, is the invention of cement (106). To the Romans also goes the credit for coming up with the idea of republicanism or representative democracy (Watson 199). Furthermore, the Western legal tradition draws heavily on Roman law, “the most influential aspect of Roman thought” (202).
  6. The decision of Ottoman Sultan Beyazid to ban the printing press as early as 1485 (his successor Selim I consolidated the decree in 1515) indicates that the Sunni tradition was overall resistant to change and innovation, especially from the late Middle Ages forward. This ban remained in force in Ottoman lands, except for a brief duration from 1728 through 1745, into the early 19th century. There were of course great Sunni scholars as names such as Ibn Rushd, Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Tufayl (died in 1185), Ibn Bajja (Avempace in Latin, died 1138), Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen in Latin, 965-1040), and Abu-al-Qasim al-Zahrawi (936-1013), illustrate only too well. Broadly speaking, however, philosophy and science remained peripheral to the mainstream of the Sunni intellectual tradition, which (unlike its Shiite counterpart) was largely impervious to the influence of Greek thought.
  7. The rational and natural sciences flourished under the auspices of Egypt’s Fatimid rulers as evidenced by great names such as Ibn Yunis (950-1009) in astronomy and Ibn al-Haytham in optics and mathematics. The Fatimid rulers were also tolerant of Christians, Jews, and Sunnis (Black 46), except during the reign of the whimsical Caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (ruled from 996 to 1021) who toward the end of his life was given to bouts of rage and madness. The great Jewish historian S. D. Goitein hails the Fatimids as “the most liberal rulers of the Middle Ages,” noting that “[m]any Christians and Jews [under Fatimid rule] attained the highest government posts, while retaining their religion” (82).
  8. The Western public, unfortunately, continues to be unaware of great Shiite philosophers, who flourished in the Safavid era (1501-1722) in places like Isfahan and Shiraz, such as Sadr al-Din al-Dashtaki (died in 1498), Mir Damad (died in 1631 or 1632), Mir Findiriski (died in 1640), Mulla Sadra (died in 1640), Baha’ al-Din al-‘Amili (1547-1621), etc.
  9. In my view, the similarities between Catholicism and Shiite Islam have been ignored for too long. One striking similarity is that just as Catholics incorporated pagan elements into their theology, thereby creating a brilliant synthesis of Christian beliefs and Greek philosophical ideas, so did the Shias manage to combine core Islamic concepts with pre-Islamic wisdom, whether Zoroastrian or Greek. For more on these Shiite-Catholic parallels, see Paul Grieve’s A Brief Guide to Islam, 273-8.
Tamer Nashef

Written by

Tamer Nashef is an Arab freelance researcher and translator from Israel. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in English literature from the University of Haifa. Nashef is interested in a broad range of topics, especially Western philosophy, intellectual history of civilizations, Christian and Islamic theology with particular emphasis on the relation between science/reason and faith, and English literature. He is planning to write a book on the intellectual, scientific, and legal developments in the Middle Ages that led to the scientific Revolution and the rise of the modern world, and on the status of reason in the Catholic tradition. Nashef speaks three languages: Arabic, Hebrew, and English.

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    Thanks Tamer!

    A related point that I'd love to see explored some day, reaching further back into the Biblical tradition:

    Timothy Thomas Cahill has proposed that the emphasis on "new possibility" conveyed by "Lekh-Lekha" (God's call to Abram to go forth, at which point he becomes Abraham) in Genesis is without parallel in ancient literature. IIRC, he goes so far as to claim that the Jews invented the idea that some things can be truly new. It's an intriguing claim, no doubt somewhat oversimplified for the sake of book sales, but still seems plausible to me. I'd be curious to see if it holds up to scrutiny.

  • Rob Abney

    In addition, Christian faith in theological progress has made the Medieval Catholic Church relatively flexible, enabling it to revise established doctrines so as to accommodate Christianity with developments and changes over time, especially in economy. While early Christian theologians may have had some misgivings about the pursuit of profit and the lending of money at interest, the successful economic activities of monastic orders from the 9th century forward, some of which functioned as banks, compelled later theologians to reappraise church positions on these issues.

    I think that Stark mis-interpreted the reason for the acceptance of lending money at interest. The progression was when society became aware of the time value of money. The prohibition still exists against charging excess interest.

    • Was Stark only talking about interest based on the time-value of money? That minimal amount of interest doesn't seem sufficient to promote a whole lot of innovation; indeed, it seems to be a great way to incur loss given inevitable defaults. Surely one would have to go further, and distinguish between the kinds of loans which are damaging to people if interest is charged (e.g. they have fallen on rough times and need to buy food to eat) and the kind which are fine (wealthy people risking some savings on possibly profitable endeavors). After all, the OT can be easily read to militate against the debtor-slave situation which seems very common in human societies throughout time. Interpreting the usury passages in this light doesn't seem all that difficult.

  • Okay. But a few comments. We can't ignore the fact that Christianity is an apocalyptic religion. It believes the end will come and soon. There are differing views but would anyone disagree that early Christians believed Jesus would return soon and end this "progress"?

    Next we have a surprising lack of references of thoughts on progress from the church fathers. The fact that Augustine is bringing forth a new idea of progress in the fifth century shows that this was not an obvious or central tenet of early Christian thought.

    And of course we have the ancients that did develop notions of progress long before Jesus. What if Plato's Republic and thoughts of utopia and designing better societies?

    Not to mention a complete lack of Jewish thought on notion of progress. And where are the biblical quotes? Jesus doesn't say "think about tomorrow and how you can improve yourselves!" We do get "take no thought for the morrow".

    Wikipedia says "Historian J. B. Bury argued that thought in ancient Greece was dominated by the theory of world cycles or the doctrine of eternal return, and was steeped in a belief parallel to the Judaic "fall of man", declining from a preceding "Golden Age" of innocence and simplicity. Time was generally regarded as the enemy of humanity which depreciates the value of the world. He credits the Epicureans with having had a potential for leading to the foundation of a theory of Progress through their materialistic acceptance of the atomism of Democritus as the explanation for a world without an intervening deity. "For them, the earliest condition of men resembled that of the beasts, and from this primitive and miserable condition they laboriously reached the existing state of civilisation, not by external guidance or as a consequence of some initial design, but simply by the exercise of human intelligence throughout a long period."

    Robert Nisbet and Gertrude Himmelfarb have attributed a notion of progress to other Greeks. Xenophanes said, "The gods did not reveal to men all things in the beginning, but men through their own search find in the course of time that which is better." Plato's book 3 of the Laws depicts humanity's progress from a state of nature to the higher levels of culture, economy, and polity. Plato's Statesman also outlines a historical account of the progress of mankind. The Roman philosopher Seneca recognized the progress of knowledge, but he did not expect from it any improvement in the world, because any advance in the arts and inventions promotes deterioration by ministering to luxury and vice.[8] Nisbet argues that the Christian idea of progress is a fusing of Greek and Jewish concepts and that "nothing in the entire history of the idea of progress is more important" than the Christian incorporation of Jewish millennarianism, resulting in an understanding of time which is optimistic and progressive".[9]

    And here is some

    • We can't ignore the fact that Christianity is an apocalyptic religion. It believes the end will come and soon. There are differing views but would anyone disagree that early Christians believed Jesus would return soon and end this "progress"?

      End or culminate? And actually, who says there won't be exploration of new frontiers in the new heavens & earth? Christians do look forward to a time when injustice and other forms of evil need not exist, but surely that isn't a bad thing in your eyes.

      What if Plato's Republic and thoughts of utopia and designing better societies?

      What in the Republic do you consider as comparable or a precursor for the idea of progress in the Enlightenment? For example, do we see hope for a future where there is no slavery? Plato comes out against democracy, by the way. I don't recall seeing anything about individual rights; there is plenty of talk of justice, but that's just right ordering of society where everyone fulfills his/her obligations.

      Not to mention a complete lack of Jewish thought on notion of progress.

      Why do you say this? Two books written by Jews which contend precisely the opposite are Joshua A. Berman's Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought and Yoram Hazony's The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture.

      Jesus doesn't say "think about tomorrow and how you can improve yourselves!" We do get "take no thought for the morrow".

      Was he speaking of anxiety or all planning whatsoever? If you contend the latter, then several of his parables would be rendered meaningless—I can explain if you'd like.

      Wikipedia says

      Would it be too difficult to use <blockquote></blockquote> and provide hyperlinks?

      And here is some

      You seem to have included too much or too little in your comment, as it ends with this.

      • End. It's a stretch to say that Christian theology expects the end will come only once certain measures of progress are met.

        It would seem that heaven is a perfection nota work in progress. Christians look forward to god coming and judging. Theilogians never thought this would wait on progress in science and medicine. It was always expected to be immanent. It seems like ideas of progress only emerge when centuries have passed and no decond coming.

        I see Plato having an idea and plan for progress centuries before the claim that Christians invented the idea. Cicero was speaking of equality before Jesus. But this piece was about the idea of progress not the content of it.

        The titles of the books do not suggest Jewish theology had concepts of improving society. The op mentions no ideas similar to Augustine coming from this tradition.

        The point is that in describing this idea of progress there are no quotes from the new or Old Testament. It's a big book and the primary source for Christian philosophy. Where are the quotes that suggest we should focus on this world and improving it and ourselves? Isn't it rather about don't worry about this sinful corruption. Be holy and focus on the next. God will come and save us and destroy this world. If there are such quotes let's see them. I haven't even read the Bible and I knew Jesus said have no thought for tomorrow.

        Yes it is too difficult to use those quotes.

        • End. It's a stretch to say that Christian theology expects the end will come only once certain measures of progress are met.

          2 Peter 3:9 would like to have words with you. Unless you think moral progress is somehow insufficient? I know the fashion these days is to see people as inherently good or at least neutral. What we need is more power over reality to impose our wills on it they say. That would be scientific and technological progress.

          It would seem that heaven is a perfection nota work in progress.

          Based on what? The Bible asserts that God's ways are unsearchable and yet eternal life is to know God. Combine the two and that seems to promise infinite opportunity to understand the creator and created. But it would be nice to do this without having to deal with evil in the process.

          I see Plato having an idea and plan for progress centuries before the claim that Christians invented the idea. Cicero was speaking of equality before Jesus. But this piece was about the idea of progress not the content of it.

          Please say more on this. What were Plato's and Cicero's conceptions of 'progress', based on what things they said? Fail to provide them and we risk massive equivocation.

          The titles of the books do not suggest Jewish theology had concepts of improving society.

          You have no idea what "created equal" signifies? Here's the publisher's blurb:

          In Created Equal, Joshua Berman engages the text of the Hebrew Bible from a novel perspective, considering it as a document of social and political thought. He proposes that the Pentateuch can be read as the earliest prescription on record for the establishment of an egalitarian polity. What emerges is the blueprint for a society that would stand in stark contrast to the surrounding cultures of the ancient Near East -- Egypt, Mesopotamia, Ugarit, and the Hittite Empire - in which the hierarchical structure of the polity was centered on the figure of the king and his retinue. Berman shows that an egalitarian ideal is articulated in comprehensive fashion in the Pentateuch and is expressed in its theology, politics, economics, use of technologies of communication, and in its narrative literature. Throughout, he invokes parallels from the modern period as heuristic devices to illuminate ancient developments. Thus, for example, the constitutional principles in the Book of Deuteronomy are examined in the light of those espoused by Montesquieu, and the rise of the novel in 18th-century England serves to illuminate the advent of new modes of storytelling in biblical narrative. (Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought)

          You also failed to justify your claim of "a complete lack of Jewish thought on notion of progress"; why did you say that? Have you possibly done the work to warrant such a statement?

          The point is that in describing this idea of progress there are no quotes from the new or Old Testament.

          Well, you could examine the call of Abram (Gen 12:1–9) and then look at the role it plays in the "heroes of the faith" chapter in Hebrews, including "These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth." The idea that I'm journeying and building toward something more than just/​primarily my satisfaction in this life is probably a prerequisite for continuing progress. By so doing, Abram was told that his offspring would be a blessing to all nations.

          Your biggest objection could probably be that the Bible cares much more about moral and ethical progress (i.e. the restoration of right relationship) than technological progress. But perhaps that is because technological progress can just as easily be used to dominate and enslave as to liberate and empower (Bertrand Russell knew this). Without a sufficient foundation of justice and righteousness, science and technology are not good things—especially not for most of humanity.

          Isn't it rather about don't worry about this sinful corruption. Be holy and focus on the next.

          You seem to have been profoundly impacted by dispensationalism—"lifeboat theology". That may be popular in your geography, but it is in the distinct minority of Christian thought (both in space and time). I urge you to contrast that view to the following:

          For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18–25)

          Not only will creation be set free, but there are hints that the children of God have a crucial role to play.

          I haven't even read the Bible and I knew Jesus said have no thought for tomorrow.

          So you admit you are not aware of the context?

          • I don't read Peter that way. Peter is saying repent before you'll be saved.

            But is there any doubt that Plato and others were speaking of moral improvement centuries before?

            Cicero advocated for changing Roman society to expand legal protections to all. Plato literally wrote the Republic on how to improve society.

            My goodness the Pentateuch as a prescription for equality? This is where Moses leads a purge because others practiced freedom of religion? The books that prescribe the rules for slavery and give parents authority to stone children to death for disobedience? Not very convincing.

            No I don't see any identification of moral progress in the Bible from the article , my own reading or what you've said. Certainly no more than was being done in other cultures.

            Of course I'm not familiar with the full context. I mean I've read part Watson' book cited in this OP. And it is not terribly inconsistent. But no I haven't done a comparative assessment of all anthropology in all cultures for all time.

            I'm just pointing out that there have been those that look much earlier than Augustine and when they do they don't identify Jewish traditions but Greek.

            Obviously this modern notion comes from the renaissance and enlightenment and they are secular notions in the sense that you can easily develop a notion of progress and be atheist. And there is nothing explicit in the Bible about this. certainly nothing central. It's in none of Gods commands or Jesus' parables.

          • Sample1

            Your last paragraph reminded me of this (Steven Weinberg):

            One of the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment.
            Address at the Conference on Cosmic Design, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, D.C. (April 1999)

            Mike
            Edit: added name

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I agree that the establishment of a widespread option for "non-religiosity" was/is a massive step forward for humanity. But the notion that this came about as an "achievement of science" is pure fantasy. It was an achievement that culminated in the Enlightenment, but the engines of change had very little to do with science.

            Martin Luther preceded Newton by 100 years and preceded Darwin by 150 250 years. Moreover, Martin Luther, for his part, didn't spring out of nowhere. The change you are identifying was, if anything, primarily a religious innovation, and secondarily a political/social innovation. The role of science in all of this was tertiary at best.

            EDITED to correct my mistaken arithmetic with dates.

          • It'd be fun to see a non-question-begging definition of 'religiosity', whereby the icky behavior which @Sample1:disqus associates with it is always associated with it. So for example, the religious devotion to Communism by so many Western intellectuals in the 20th century would qualify. This, despite the fact that so many of them were atheists. The truly non-religious person, then, would never care more strongly than the evidence warrants. I'm not sure that'd be a good world to live in. How do we figure out how much William Wilberforce was warranted in railing against slavery? From a scientific perspective, slavery is just another empirical phenomenon.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            And for that matter, the heroes of the Enlightenment themselves weren't exactly averse to the sort of coercive behavior in question. Look at Voltaire writing glowingly of Louis XIV, the same guy who revoked the Edict of Nantes and whose name came to almost define absolute monarchy. If the maintenance of an elite space for "free thought" required an absolute monarch to keep down the hoi polloi, well so much the worse for that kind of freedom, I guess.

          • VicqRuiz

            Is it not possible be the opposite of those who worshiped at the shrine of Lenin, in other words to care about human beings in the flesh, and be more or less indifferent to ideas in the abstract?

          • So if some Scholastics were wrangling about just how powerful God is and ended up starting a tradition of generating robust conceptions of how nature could operate differently than is currently accepted, would you dismiss that as "caring about ideas in the abstract"—to the detriment of "caring about humans being in the flesh"?

          • VicqRuiz

            I would not say it is "to the detriment of" so much as I would say that it is "not particularly relevant to". Every branch of every religion seems to have had its own good men and its own thugs.

          • And what if I were to make a case that such activities by the Scholastics were actually rather important for the scientific revolution?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I guess partly this is a matter of whether caring about human beings in the flesh inescapably entails caring about ideas. For example, within your framework of focusing exclusively on the this-worldly needs of human beings in the flesh, what would you do with those "deviants" who insist that they cannot cease their quest to resolve the tensions of their conceptual worlds, or more generally, those who insist that they are drawn to something that transcends this world? Would you propose programs of education in order to train people away from their inclinations toward the (purported) transcendent? And, to the extent that such education didn't work, would you propose more drastic self-discipline (or even institutional discipline?) in order to get these inclinations to go away? At what point would you be no longer caring about these "deviant" human beings in the flesh; at what point would you actually have become an idealogue yourself?

            It reminds me of the line from Bob Dylan's My Back Pages:

            In a soldier's stance, I aimed my hand at the mongrel dogs who teach
            Fearing not that I'd become my enemy in the instant that I preach

          • VicqRuiz

            As a small-l libertarian, I help only those who are willing to accept my help, and who pose no threat to me or mine.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Does the "small 'l'" indicate that you are a non-dogmatic libertarian willing to make practical compromises in order to fulfill very basic common needs (e.g. taxes to support military and police forces)? If so, does that not still force you into the world of ideas, insofar as you must then decide what is the "right way" to generate that tax revenue (e.g. should people be able to opt out of providing tax revenue for these purposes, even when they benefit from protection?) and what is the right way to decide when to go to war, and what is the right way to handle those who infringe on the rights of others?

          • How do we figure out how much William Wilberforce was warranted in railing against slavery?

            Remembering the distinction between facts and values would be a good first step.

            From a scientific perspective, slavery is just another empirical phenomenon.

            The issue of its existence is an issue of fact. The issue of whether it should exist is a different kind of issue. The scientific perspective entails no commitment to ethical nihilism.

          • Remembering the distinction between facts and values would be a good first step.

            What's your point, given the context?

            The scientific perspective entails no commitment to ethical nihilism.

            Of course it doesn't. I was teasing out just what it would be to not be 'religious' in any way, shape, or form. I was pushing for a scientific definition of 'religious', such that the term is used in a non-biased fashion.

          • What's your point, given the context?

            My point was just to answer, or suggest a way to begin answering, the question, "How do we figure out how much William Wilberforce was warranted in railing against slavery?"

            I was pushing for a scientific definition of 'religious', such that the term is used in a non-biased fashion.

            Last I heard, the scientific community had not gotten around to formulating a definition of "religious." If you want to have a scientific conversation about religion, you'll have to negotiate a definition with your interlocutors.

          • I don't see why I need to negotiate anything with my interlocutors on this point; I can simply point out that they're criticizing 'religion' for being unscientific while being unscientific about the very object of their criticism.

            If in fact caring deeply about something in the value domain is to be 'religious'—if that's how we'd get the term to be scientific—then the person who is trying not to be a hypocrite will have a problem.

          • I can simply point out that they're criticizing 'religion' for being unscientific while being unscientific about the very object of their criticism.

            If anything they say about religion is factually inaccurate, then yes, they are being unscientific, and you're entirely justified in pointing that out if you can demonstrate the inaccuracy of their assertion.

            If in fact caring deeply about something in the value domain is to be 'religious'—if that's how we'd get the term to be scientific—then the person who is trying not to be a hypocrite will have a problem.

            I don't deny that hypocrisy is prevalent among religion's adversaries. But I don't agree that religion can, or should, be reduced to "caring deeply about something in the value domain," or that it would be scientific to stipulate such a reduction.

          • If anything they say about religion is factually inaccurate …

            Or if they haven't defined their terms scientifically. Science did not advance via vagueness, nor via artificially carving the world up into pieces liked and pieces disliked.

            But I don't agree that religion can, or should, be reduced to "caring deeply about something in the value domain," or that it would be scientific to stipulate such a reduction.

            I was merely offering a way that the term could be defined scientifically, vs. in a prejudiced fashion—for purposes of illustration. Caring deeply is one aspect of behavior which can bring about a lot of the terrible which is generally associated with 'religion'. But when I reduce it to "caring deeply", it becomes clear that one need not believe in any gods to get the bad behavior. Furthermore, "caring deeply" is really a two-edged swords; we want our scientists to care deeply.

          • If anything they say about religion is factually inaccurate …

            Or if they haven't defined their terms scientifically.

            You mean, you think a statement could be scientific but factually inaccurate?

          • Vagueness and bad definitions can preclude the judgment of "factually inaccurate". Sometimes it's just not clear what the other person is asserting.

          • Sometimes it's just not clear what the other person is asserting.

            That happens, and when it does, it's a problem. If both parties want to fix it, there is a solution, but it has to be a mutual effort.

          • I was merely offering a way that the term could be defined scientifically, vs. in a prejudiced fashion—for purposes of illustration.

            I don't think it's possible to formulate a definition of religion that many people won't say is prejudiced -- especially if it purports to be a scientific definition.

          • I would settle for respectable attempts. Those who claim to love science and yet refuse to attempt scientific definitions of 'religion' while critiquing it reveal much.

          • Valence

            Of course. Liberalism, capitalism, and communism are all new non-theistic religions complete with dogma and taboos.

          • I'm a bit confused; why are you responding to me given this? (I'd rather not waste your time and I'd rather not you waste my time.)

          • Valence

            Haven't you figured out that all online commenting is largely a waste of time? How much time did you waste going back and finding that comment? I apologize for bothering you, though I did expect you to be mature enough to not hold grudges from a year ago. My mistake, obviously.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Remembering past behavior is not the same as holding a grudge. Using old data is appropriate if no new contravening data are available. If you want to provide some new data, an apology is always an option.

          • Valence

            I was just agreeing with him in that case. His response reinforces my perspective that he is a narcissist. I apologise that my opinion offends you and him, but there it is.
            I just dropped by, and conversation is as boring as ever. I won't be back.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Good luck on your journey, Will.

          • You are mistaken; I don't hold a grudge. I'm happy to try again. I just didn't want you to forget whom you were addressing. I think you're right that most online commenting is a waste of time; one way I fight this is to try avoiding repeating the same mistake over and over. One way I do this is to maintain a text file of comment hyperlinks and keywords. So, it took me about 10 seconds to switch to my vim window, switch to the file, and do a search on your nick. If we're going to try again, hopefully I can learn how to not let things devolve … at least in the same way as before.

            Tentatively moving forward, you have associated 'religion' with "dogma and taboos". Do you think society can cohere without them? A common dream among many atheists I encounter is that of a religion-free future; if we say that communism, liberalism, and capitalism are 'religions', does that mean that any system of maintaining social order will contain 'religious' elements?

            An alternative approach to yours is to associate 'religion' with "ideas about 'the good'". This avoids using loaded terms such as 'dogma' and 'taboo'. Science can only deal with hypothetical imperatives; it can't make them actually binding on people. What ought to be binding simply cannot be a matter which science adjudicates. If the etymology of 'religion' includes religare—"to bind fast"—things could get rather interesting.

          • How do you define "religiosity" here? Is it non-question begging also?

          • I don't pretend to have a full definition of 'religiosity'; instead I'm drawing on two aspects I generally see connected to the term:

                 (i) strong belief in some sort of ideal
                (ii) blindness toward the evidence when it conflicts with the ideal

            It seems to me that (i) and (ii) are responsible for generating a lot of the badness typically associated with religion. Western intellectuals' love affair with Communism in the twentieth century seems to satisfy (i) and (ii) quite well. Now, not all (i) can be responsible for that badness, else William Wilberforce should be condemned for his fight against slavery.

          • It seems like both those things could apply to ideology here in general (not that the latter is necessarily so). That would apply to Communism certainly. I agree that (i) is not always bad too. This seems like it should have a connection to religion for me. I tend to define that in relation with theism or at least general supernaturalism. That isn't to deny though that many secular philosophies can be similar or destructive.

          • The question in my mind is, what are the allegedly unique causal powers of 'theism' or 'general supernaturalism'? After all, it is these which are alleged to be especially damaging. The funny thing is, when I asked folks who claim to respect science for a scientific justification of their stance toward religion, I get crickets or a pathetic instance of correlation ⇏ causation.

          • I don't know, since I've concluded it's certain attitudes that aren't unique to those things. People who claim that it's only a problem of theism/supernaturalism can answer for themselves (or not).

          • There is a difference between an attitude being unique to theism/​supernaturalism and it having a higher prevalence due to theism/​supernaturalism. I don't see evidence of even the latter. At best, I've seen the correlation ⇒ causation fallacy propounded.

          • I think it would really depend upon the form of the idea here, whether atheistic, theistic, naturalistic and supernaturalistic. They all still able to become dogmatic.

          • Arguably, the OT has a hatred of things becoming dogmatic. For example:

            And the Lord said:

            “Because this people draw near with their mouth
                and honor me with their lips,
                while their hearts are far from me,
            and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,
            therefore, behold, I will again
                do wonderful things with this people,
                with wonder upon wonder;
            and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
                and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”
            (Isaiah 29:13–14)

            Dogma: "their fear of me is a commandment taught by men".

          • Yes, it seems to be the case at some points.

          • Sample1

            I don’t think the quote should be interpreted as saying the engines of change you reference were absent and that science sprang out of nowhere. Weinberg surely isn’t ignorant of that history. The engines have been and are debated, here and everywhere, as to their specific contributions to human thought and our species’ technological advancements. I see what you’re saying but that’s a slightly different subject.

            What I see the quote highlighting is simply that for, perhaps, the first time we know of, one could now be irreligious yet scientifically productive. The widespread option as you put it.

            Mike
            Edit done

          • Yes. I think like with the claims that the scientific revolution there needs to be some thought to the direction of causation here.

            I'm pretty convinced that this ideas of progress and scientific advancement did occur in western cultures more and differently than in African and Asian cultures.

            I can also agree that elements of Christian theology are consistent with this. But I'm not convinced these elements came from Christianity.

            I think it is a kind of worldview that arose first with the Greeks and not all Greeks. And that this Hellenic viewpoint or varieties of viewpoints was incorporated with a Jewish tradition of monotheism and a purposeful directed world. But once Rome adopts Christianity, all ideas must be attributed to theology, which allows them to advance but also restrains progress to fit within theology.

            With Galileo we see an attempt to clash science with theology and then we see ideas of progress and science separate from religion in the Enlightenment and completely now.

            And while certainly there was advancement of thinking and discovery by Christians and within Christendom the major advancements are purely secular.

          • With Galileo we see an attempt to clash science with theology …

            You are a believer in fairy tales. Galileo was a dick to one of the most powerful people in the world and was too confident in his theories before the evidence came in. Cardinal Bellarmine was quite willing to heed actual evidence; what he didn't like was Galileo's bluster.

            And while certainly there was advancement of thinking and discovery by Christians and within Christendom the major advancements are purely secular.

            More fairy tales. Here's a crucial advance made by Christians—indeed, by those Scholastics who, another fairy tale claims, spent all their time arguing about how many angels could dance on a pin:

                Medieval theologians engaged in a new and unique genre of hypothetical reasoning. In order to expand the logical horizon of God's omnipotence as far as could be, they distinguished between that which is possible or impossible de potentia Dei absoluta as against that which is so de potentia Dei ordinata. This distinction was fleshed out with an incessant search for orders of nature different from ours which are nonetheless logically possible. Leibniz's contraposition of the nécessité logique (founded on the law of noncontradiction) and the nécessité physique (founded on the principle of sufficient reason) has its roots in these Scholastic discussions, and with it the questions about the status of laws of nature in modern philosophies of science. But medieval hypothetical reasoning did not serve future metatheoretical discussions alone. The considerations of counterfactual orders of nature in the Middle Ages actually paved the way for the formulation of laws of nature since Galileo in the following sense: seventeenth-century science articulated some basic laws of nature as counterfactual conditionals that do not describe any natural state but function as heuristic limiting cases to a series of phenomena, for example, the principle of inertia. Medieval schoolmen never did so; their counterfactual yet possible orders of nature were conceived as incommensurable with the actual structure of the universe, incommensurable either in principle or because none of their entities can be given a concrete measure. But in considering them vigorously, the theological imagination prepared for the scientific. This is the theme of my third chapter. (Theology and the Scientific Imagination, 10–11)

            In other words, people weren't used to thinking that reality could operate in ways other than how it does operate. We take this for granted, just as we take for granted that humans have always understood probability roughly as we do. That would also be false, as Ian Hacking demonstrates in The Emergence of Probability.

          • VicqRuiz

            "Cardinal Bellarmine was quite willing to heed actual evidence; what he didn't like was Galileo's bluster."

            Galileo's lack of tact (which I acknowledge) does not explain why all the major works of heliocentric theory stayed on the Index until the mid nineteenth century. Did Kepler and Copernicus in any of their works insult the pope?

          • I'm not privy to all the various factors in play when it comes to the Index. I do know that a number of Protestants came out strongly for geocentrism; this may have been why Copernicus' work went from being taught in Catholic universities to being banned. It is important to distinguish between purely political suppression of science and religious suppression. The idea that evolution could explain anything about our brains, contrary to tabula rasa, was long taboo in the twentieth century because of the associations with eugenics and racism. (The academy had been strongly secularized by this point, so the resistance to evolution here was not Christian.)

          • VicqRuiz

            It is important to distinguish between purely political suppression of science and religious suppression.

            Is it, really ?

            (Edit) What I really mean to say here is that if the Catholic church (or any church) is suppressing things for political reasons, then that church is doing it wrong.

          • Of course, but isn't it always good to accurately diagnose the disease? Furthermore, if the cause is more political than religious (noting that the terms often overlap, especially historically), then getting rid of religion will do little to treat the problem. Isn't it be rather important to know which way things are?

          • Even worse to imprison the scientist who was correct for "bluster"? I guess a hundred years earlier they would have burned him.

            " Leibniz's contraposition of the nécessité logique (founded on the law of noncontradiction) and the nécessité physique (founded on the principle of sufficient reason)"

            These are all secular ideas, none of them require a deity or any theology.

            Looks to me like a minor part of Christian theology was borrowed from ideas of progress first advanced by Greeks and certainly elsewhere and they didn't really take off until they broke with the theological restraints of the Church in the enlightenment.

          • You say Galileo "was correct"; was he put under house arrest before he actually demonstrated the superiority of heliocentrism, or after? You may wish to consult The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown—that is, if this is a case "when [evidence] does matter". Oh, you might also read up on the Aeon article Opposition to Galileo was scientific, not just religious.

            Please don't quote-chop; two sentences before the one you've picked out, we find schoolmen wrangling about God's omnipotence. The sentence after the one you've picked out attributes Leibniz's contraposition to that wrangling. Or does it threaten you so much to contemplate Scholastics contributing profoundly to science?

            Unless you can actually demonstrate a borrowing by Christian theology of Greek and other thought, your assertions are evidence-free. That is, they cannot be distinguished by the random opinions of an ignorant person.

          • Richard Morley

            Galileo was both right, and justified in his beliefs, and correctly guessed why stellar parallax (for example) was not then detectable. The Church was the side both wrong and overly confident in its assertions.

            But the point is not so much whose theory was right, but the methods used to advance those theories. Publishing a hypothesis is OK, even if it is wrong, dragging an old sick man across country in winter, threatening him with torture and ruin, then placing him under house arrest and censoring his books is not OK, let alone promoting progress.

          • Are you judging using hindsight? Note that I'm not trying to completely absolve the RCC of any wrongdoing; rather, I think it is important to properly accuse them based on evidence instead of legend. In this particular case, Galileo was friends with the Pope and had a very reasonable meeting with Cardinal Bellarmine where Bellarmine wanted better evidence—I wouldn't be surprised if Galileo's ability to predict the phases of Venus, when Copernican theories could not, would have sufficed. If you aren't even aware of this matter, or that Copernicus' theory wasn't quite heliocentric (it too needed epicycles!), then I suggest gathering more evidence before you issue judgments.

            Furthermore, if you want to look at 'religious' opposition to science, take a look at the New Family Structures Study, where such pressure was put on scientists that probably no scientist will do any study which could possibly portray LGBT folks in a bad light. Or look at the incredible prejudice against the possibility that there might be race-related genetic variability in IQ. One doesn't need to put people under house arrest or burn them at the stake to maintain plenty of control over what is allowed to be discussed (and thereby, explored).

            The matter is simple: come down harder on the RCC than the evidence warrants and you set up falsehoods in your head which will prevent you from making the world as good a place as you could, otherwise. It's up to you: do you want to feel nice and righteous in your head, or do you want to face the facts?

          • Richard Morley

            Are you judging using hindsight?

            I am pointing out that the Church, not Galileo, was clearly and objectively the side which was both factually wrong and guilty of being "too confident in [its] theories before the evidence came in". The Church was accusing people of heresy, dragging sick old men across country to stand trial, at the very least threatening them with torture and so on for having different ideas, and the Church obviously did not have proof of their point of view because they were wrong! A hypocritical and morally abhorrent standard that obviously opposed progress.

            You even imply that Galileo's observation of Venus' phases were sufficient evidence.

            If you aren't even aware of this matter, or that Copernicus' theory wasn't quite heliocentric (it too needed epicycles!), then I suggest gathering more evidence before you issue judgments.

            More hypocrisy. What evidence do you have of how much I know about this matter before making these very judgmental pronouncements, hmm?

            Furthermore, if you want to look at 'religious' opposition to science, take a look at the New Family Structures Study[...]

            Tu quoque, even if Regnerus' study were not horribly flawed, which it was. Other studies reaching anti-LGBT parenting conclusions did not meet such opposition because they were not so laughably flawed.

            The matter is simple: come down harder on the RCC than the evidence warrants [...]

            Aand the preemptive accusation.

            Rather I would suggest that it is you whose knee-jerk defense of the RCC prevents you accepting the truth of the Galileo affair - the methods used by the RCC were not only hypocritical and abhorrent, but inherently anti-progress. Flat out censorship, for the love of tiny fluffy kittens!

            For that matter, can a factually correct statement really be heresy? What does that tell you?

          • You're clearly very worked up about this, but you've cited zero evidence. Is this more of a religious matter for you than a scientific one? I am trying to use 'religious' as you do, but I could have gotten it wrong. (A scientific definition would help.)

          • Richard Morley

            You're clearly very worked up about this,

            I'm trying to be clear, to one who seems to need emphasis. You are the one calling people 'dicks'.

            Why, did you want to get people 'worked up'?

            but you've cited zero evidence.

            For what? For the assertion that Galileo just published his theories, while the Church literally put him on trial for believing differently?

            Is this more of a religious matter for you than a scientific one?

            Church interference in free speech, especially in scientific debate, or Church abuse of sick old men? Never mind, neither is religious or scientific to me, both are wrong. The first clearly holds back progress.

            I am trying to use 'religious' as you do, but I could have gotten it wrong.

            Hmm?? I didn't use the word 'religious' except in quoting you.

          • I'm trying to be clear, to one who seems to need emphasis.

            What you characterize as "emphasis", I see as heavy emotion and little reason. What do I mean by "reason"? A sober acknowledgment that the Galileo affair has been blown out of proportion. Never have I said that the RCC did nothing wrong. But it would be interesting, for example, if attacks on the importance of a strong family for healthy children (see: the twentieth century in the West) were actually a greater harm to humanity than what the RCC in fact did to Galileo. That's the kind of possibility which is utterly screened out by your presentation of the matter.

            You are the one calling people 'dicks'.

            I said "Galileo was a dick to one of the most powerful people in the world"; do you disagree with this factual assertion? I don't believe I used the term anywhere else—correct me if I'm wrong.

            For what? For the assertion that Galileo just published his theories, while the Church literally put him on trial for believing differently?

            It is important to accurately characterize a situation before dishing out blame. In doing so, it is important to capture what was known at the time, by which parties. Hindsight is 20/20.

            Hmm?? I didn't use the word 'religious' except in quoting you.

            You fit into enough of a pattern for me to make an educated guess. As I said, "I could have gotten it wrong."

          • Richard Morley

            What you characterize as "emphasis"

            That is how most people refer to italics, underlining and bold font. (oops, I did it again)

            Still, if you are going to ascribe beliefs to me on the grounds that I 'fit a pattern' then expect me to defend those beliefs without telling me what they are, that is crazy talk unworthy of response. If you want to explain what you are talking about, I will tell you whether or not I agree and why.

            What do I mean by "reason"? A sober acknowledgment that the Galileo affair has been blown out of proportion.

            Apart from being an absurd definition of 'reason', I disagree. The Galileo affair is crucial, especially as regards the topic of this thread. You seem to have swallowed a lot of spin churned out ever since Catholics realised how badly they got it wrong, but the reasonable thing to do is to acknowledge the fault and learn from it.

            Your words: Galileo was "a dick" and "too confident in his theories before the evidence came in".

            But Galileo had evidence that satisfied him, that you even imply satisfy you, and he was right. Nor did he call the Pope a dick, so if rudeness is the problem here you need to start with the adult redwood in your own eye. Finally, he just wanted the right to hold and express his views.

            The Church was wrong, so obviously lacked proof and was far more overconfident in its theories. But unlike Galileo, the Church wanted the right to force everyone to believe what it told them, on pain of penalties up to torture and death.

            That is the point. Moreso than whose theory was right, or specific cases such as censoring Galileo or closing Plato's academy, the general attitude that only views accepted by the Church could even be expressed. That was sheer poison to progress, and arguably christianity's greatest triumph in this field was to become weak enough that it could no longer enforce such rules. Once protestants broke up the power of the Church, even catholics such as Descartes (or protestants in countries with strong protestant churches) could express novel ideas freely by doing so somewhere like Holland.

          • Still, if you are going to ascribe beliefs to me on the grounds that I 'fit a pattern' then expect me to defend those beliefs without telling me what they are, that is crazy talk unworthy of response. If you want to explain what you are talking about, I will tell you whether or not I agree and why.

            Oh good grief, you aren't aware of the use of 'religious' which involves "believes things not founded on evidence"? I was using that [stupid] definition to tweak you, for getting all worked up using lots of emphasis while not actually citing evidence.

            You seem to have swallowed a lot of spin churned out ever since Catholics realised how badly they got it wrong, but the reasonable thing to do is to acknowledge the fault and learn from it.

            Do please elaborate, with evidence.

            But Galileo had evidence that satisfied him, that you even imply satisfy you, and he was right.

            What subjectively satisfied Galileo is of little import. And all I indicated was that until Galileo observed the phases of Venus to be in accord with his theory (and not with contemporary Ptolemaic theories), it was quite dubious to say that heliocentrism was superior to geocentrism on a scientific basis. And yet, even with that, Galileo had the distant starlight problem. It was not cut and dry. So to suggest that he was in the right to exude supreme confidence in his own work is just ridiculous.

            There is also a difference between saying that an equation is in accord with the phenomena, and saying that the ontology proposed is true to reality. Quantum mechanics has made this blindingly clear, but the idea was known in Galileo's time; the term is "saving the appearances" and you can find it at WP: Galileo affair. And Galileo was wrong to say that orbits were circular; they're not. It is dangerous to worship an ontology.

            Nor did he call the Pope a dick, so if rudeness is the problem here you need to start with the adult redwood in your own eye.

            Are you seriously unaware of the difference between "was a dick to ___" and "called ___ a dick"? If you were making a big deal about 'language' (I had to look up the term 'redwood'), see A Brief Word Study on Σκύβαλον to see how Paul used language. :-)

            The Church was wrong, so obviously lacked proof and was far more overconfident in its theories.

            Then surely you can show when the united scientific consensus for Galileo and against the church came into existence? Evidence, please.

            But unlike Galileo, the Church wanted the right to force everyone to believe what it told them, on pain of penalties up to torture and death.

            Does this explain why the Catholic Church banned Copernicus' work from the start?

            That is the point. Moreso than whose theory was right, or specific cases such as censoring Galileo or closing Plato's academy, the general attitude that only views accepted by the Church could even be expressed.

            Ahh, sounds perfectly consistent with the following from Cardinal Bellarmine to Galileo:

            [Bellarmine] conceded that if there were conclusive proof, "then one would have to proceed with great care in explaining the Scriptures that appear contrary; and say rather that we do not understand them, than that what is demonstrated is false." (WP: Galileo affair § Bellarmine's view)

            So terrible, how the Roman Catholic Church was utterly blind to any evidence which might possibly contradict their current understanding of scripture.

            Once protestants broke up the power of the Church, even catholics such as Descartes (or protestants in countries with strong protestant churches) could express novel ideas freely by doing so somewhere like Holland.

            You've displayed your ignorance for all to see; shall I explain?

          • Richard Morley

            You are still either not understanding or carefully avoiding the point.

            For maximal progress, people must be free to advance ideas, and to criticise ideas old and new. The Church, when powerful enough, often stood in the way of this, starting with the early book burning, persecution of pagans and frowning on teaching of anything other than christian dogma. (And making same sex marriage a capital offence, a topic you sort of refer to although I am not sure why. Was it relevant?)

            Over centuries an entire mechanism grew up to enforce this censorship, including the Inquisition and the Index. Sure, other religious and secular institutions do much the same, but the point is the Church was no different except in eventually losing that power and so allowing relatively free debate to flourish.

            ...but the reasonable thing to do is to acknowledge the fault and learn from it.

            Do please elaborate, with evidence.

            Really? Ok, here.

            What subjectively satisfied Galileo is of little import.

            It should be, as far as his own beliefs go. If you are not satisfied, even by the venusian phases, you can disbelieve or speak out against him, but putting him on trial and threatening him with torture is not OK and not conducive to progress.

            Are you seriously unaware of the difference between "was a dick to ___" and "called ___ a dick"?

            The first is what you allege of Galileo, the second is what you are doing to Galileo. You are in fact being at least as rude as Galileo, and dragging sick old men across italian winter roads to threaten them with torture is even more rude. The Church was not just anti-progress (the topic, remember?) in this instance, it was hypocritical.

            You actually manage to combine both what you accuse Galileo of, being rude, with what I accuse the Church of, demanding excessive proof of others while lacking proof of one's own assertions.

          • You say I don't understand the point, and then you go on to talk about two very different things:

                 (1) "maximal progress"
                 (2) "no different"

            I haven't seen anyone claim that the RCC has accomplished (1). Indeed, I don't know of any humans anywhere who have achieved (1). Had (1) ever been a good basis for judgment, you would not have needed (2). Now, was the RCC "no different" from other institutions which prevent/​stymie "progress"? That's not clear at all; your "no different" claim seems rather similar to the now discredited conflict thesis. The Church did plenty to further science, as it turns out.

            We also have that little problem of where modern science arose: in Christianity-dominated Europe. To suggest that Christianity had absolutely nothing to do with this seems prima facie ridiculous; it is one of the key differences between Middle Ages Europe and ancient Greece, ancient China, and the Middle East (ending with Al-Ghazali). Now maybe Christianity really did have nothing [positive] to contribute, but that seems to be something that would need to be demonstrated, not assumed (perhaps assumed because one's dogma demands it).

            Two comments ago, I asked how the "attacks on the importance of a strong family for healthy children" might compare to the persecution of Galileo, in terms of the real damage done to humanity. I scoped my answer to the twentieth century because I was getting at two big thrusts: that a child can do quite well with just a single mother (to say otherwise would threaten feminism's goals), and that marriage is not particularly important for blacks to escape poverty. There's more in Christopher Lasch's Haven in a Heartless World and I haven't researched this matter as much as I'd like; the point is to see whether you could possibly conceive of Enlightened twentieth-century humans as doing more damage than the RCC did when it tried and imprisoned Galileo. If maybe they have, then all your bold and italics and underlining may be a bit … overboard.

            To say this once again, I'm not arguing that the RCC was the paradigm of progress. Nobody is that, as far as I can tell. I just don't think the RCC is as terrible as you're portraying them, if we demand that you compare humans to [contemporary] humans instead of humans to ideals. We do better a little at a time, not by achieving perfection in a day.

            Now, what assertions did I need to prove better, and what assertions have you, to-date, supported with any evidence whatsoever? Surely it is not "excessive" to demand evidence that is something other than an Amazon link to Hippo Owns Up - A book about telling the truth.

          • Richard Morley

            "Maximal progress" is, of course, an ideal to which we aspire, not something I assert has been reached. The point being that the Church, in this instance and in the historical attitude it represented, took us further away from the ideal, not closer.

            We used to be closer, before christianity dominated the roman empire - hence Milton naming his Areopagitica speech against censorship after the same Areopagus this site references. Christianity initially led to such free debate being stifled, as shown by the closure of the Academy and other 'pagan' schools, and examples such as Pope Gregory I reprimanding Bishop Desiderius for allowing the teaching of grammar. By Galileo's time, things were a lot better, if still far from ideal, but (remember the topic?) this period does rather undermine the assertion that christianity was the aspect of European culture that was responsible for our alleged superiority at progress. A stronger case could be made that hellenistic philosophical traditions, once revived, were responsible.

            The simple facts:
            1) The Church's geocentric view was held far more strongly and with less reason than Galileo's heliocentric view, and defended not just rudely but violently, and further it was wrong. Not just in detail, such as the shape of orbits, but in the main point of contention, what orbits what.
            2) The Church not only stifled debate by threat of violence, but in doing so it was trying to impose the false dogma. So both the means being used and the conclusion being championed were anti progress.

          • Richard Morley

            Now, what assertions did I need to prove better..

            You are missing the point. Fetishistically documenting each and every comment is a hindrance, not a help, to debate, but demanding that others do so too is rude especially when it is hypocritical. The solution is to ask politely when someone assumes familiarity with common knowledge, or facts already covered in the thread, that you lack and stop sneering at them for not garnishing every phrase with multiple citations.

            As for "Hippo owns up" , if you demand 'evidence' for common sense assertions such as 'it is better to admit mistakes and learn from them' what do you expect other than books written for children?

            If you really want an example, beyond your assumptions about me because I 'fit a pattern', in this very post you repeat the assertion that christianity rather than any other facet of european culture must have been behind the rise of science, don't support it beyond the assertion, then demand that anyone who doesn't agree must demonstrate it wrong or else imply that their position is "assumed because one's dogma demands it". The same charge could be levied at your point of view.

          • "Maximal progress" is, of course, an ideal to which we aspire, not something I assert has been reached. The point being that the Church, in this instance and in the historical attitude it represented, took us further away from the ideal, not closer.

            It's funny you say this, because I had a conversation with someone a while ago about the Regnerus affair (New Family Structures Study). That person suggested that science be suppressed, because politicians and judges somewhere would take a single study and run too far with it. It's almost like the person didn't want preliminary results to be considered physically real. It's like the person wanted socially relevant scientific results to be better supported by evidence before they are permitted to change society. According to you though, this would apparently be to take us further from "maximal progress"?

            Tell me, what would have been the real damage if Galileo had taught merely that his equations better "saved the appearances" than contemporary Ptolemaic theory? More and more evidence would have rolled in which better fit with his equations than others. The distant starlight problem would have been resolved. People would gradually come around to heliocentrism. What would have been so terribly wrong about this path?

            We used to be closer, before christianity dominated the roman empire …

            Really? Rome and Greece were poised to take off to a scientific revolution but Christianity squashed it? If it weren't for Christianity, Rome wouldn't have fell and slavery would have become considered anathema (until the New World was discovered and people gave the middle finger to Sublimis Deus)?

            … examples such as Pope Gregory I reprimanding Bishop Desiderius for allowing the teaching of grammar.

            I read that and it seems the objection was not to teaching grammar, but what material was used to teach grammar—"praises of Jupiter" and such. I'm reminded of last week's story that Teacher Asks Fifth Graders to Imagine and Justify Being KKK Members. Do you think the uproar about that was completely unwarranted? Is that uproar taking us further from "maximal progress"?

            … this period does rather undermine the assertion that christianity was the aspect of European culture that was responsible for our alleged superiority at progress.

            Yeah, read WP: Conflict thesis. See especially the excerpt from Gary Ferngren's Science & Religion, which I'll paste here:

            While some historians had always regarded the Draper-White thesis as oversimplifying and distorting a complex relationship, in the late twentieth century it underwent a more systematic reevaluation. The result is the growing recognition among historians of science that the relationship of religion and science has been much more positive than is sometimes thought. Although popular images of controversy continue to exemplify the supposed hostility of Christianity to new scientific theories, studies have shown that Christianity has often nurtured and encouraged scientific endeavour, while at other times the two have co-existed without either tension or attempts at harmonization. If Galileo and the Scopes trial come to mind as examples of conflict, they were the exceptions rather than the rule.[20]

            The total thrust of your comments on the Galileo matter in this thread is to actively obscure the above.

          • Richard Morley

            You are back to the off topic subject of gay marriage for why? Your question is ambiguous but both suppressing science and taking one study and running too far with it would be suboptimal.

            In the Regnerus case, there is no need to rely on one study, there are not far short of a hundred that I know of. The vast majority do contradict Regnerus' interpretation of his data, but then so does his own data according to other researchers. To illustrate- only two (from memory) of his subjects were actually raised by same sex couples, both of whom did better than average.

            Tell me, what would have been the real damage if Galileo had taught merely that his equations better "saved the appearances" than contemporary Ptolemaic theory?

            Science would have been bullied, by threat of torture and death, into concealing the truth. You see nothing wrong with that? Nothing that is contrary to promoting progress?

            Incidentally, is your 'distant starlight problem' the same as stellar parallax? Galileo and science in general already knew the answer to that one.

            Rome and Greece were poised to take off to a scientific revolution but Christianity squashed it?

            We'll never know for sure, but the closure of the schools, barring anyone but orthodox christians from receiving a public stipend, burning of books, looting and destruction of temples, and (since you raise the topic repeatedly) making same sex marriage punishable by death are all historical fact.

            I read that and it seems the objection was not to teaching grammar, but what material was used to teach grammar—"praises of Jupiter" and such.

            Good example of how far you are willing to go to twist historical documents to fit your dogma. Jupiter is clearly a metaphorical reference to pagan teaching, such as grammar. See also St Jerome being ashamed of reading Cicero. Learning or teaching anything other than christian dogma was frowned upon, early on.

            The total thrust of your comments on the Galileo matter in this thread is to actively obscure the above.

            Sheer nonsense. I have never denied that christians, even the church, have done good on occasion. Rather it is you who will contort the facts to avoid admitting that both have done considerable wrong on others - your own quote highlights that the Galileo affair was one.

          • You are back to the off topic subject of gay marriage for why?

            I haven't meant to spend time on gay marriage, but I can see how it would appear that way. What I've meant to do is give two examples of science being distorted by political motives, in the twentieth century. Regnerus is the cut-and-dry case; there is so much wrong with how his work was critiqued and how the scientists were treated. The net effect of that treatment was to actively discourage further research in that area which would plausibly yield results which LGBT activists dislike. But if you want to go for number of people harmed, I would vote for the reticence to promote the importance of a two-parent home for the health of children therein. There was lots of this reticence in twentieth century America. Why? One reason was that it was perceived as harmful to feminism. Another possible reason is that it would strengthen the black community. The reason I brought up this example was to explore which anti-science, anti-progress act harmed humanity more: the RCC's treatment of Galileo or the refusal to admit the importance of two-parent homes.

            Your question is ambiguous but both suppressing science and taking one study and running too far with it would be suboptimal.

            Do you mean to say that only better predicting the phases of Venus might not be enough to warrant Galileo claiming that heliocentrism is "physically true"? Or is that somehow bigger than "one study"? Personally, I think it's rather important to not make too much out of one study or a single discovery of the order of the phases of Venus. Indeed, it is actually good to provide scientists some political isolation. When you don't, you get stuff like Big Sugar's distortion and suppression of science. But you seem to think such isolation necessarily thwarts progress. I'm interested in why.

            In the Regnerus case …

            I'm rather uninterested in the scientific aspect of the Regnerus case. Nobody thinks it was the best of studies, and it is known that the study can be made entirely consistent with same-sex couples. The problem is in the unscientific treatment of the matter and the scientists. To cite one aspect, when the matter was audited, no neutral, unbiased scientist was chosen to do the work. Instead, an angry scientist with a strong agenda was hired for the job—to appease LGBT activists. To get an idea of this "neutral, unbiased scientist", one can read his article Let’s All Laugh At The Christianist ‘Sociologists’ With An Actual Sociologist Who Is Not Dumb!.

            LB: Tell me, what would have been the real damage if Galileo had taught merely that his equations better "saved the appearances" than contemporary Ptolemaic theory?

            RM: Science would have been bullied, by threat of torture and death, into concealing the truth.

            But circular orbits were not "physically true". What was known at the time was that Galileo's equations could predict the phases of Venus. Point in favor of Galileo's model. But Galileo had a problem with stars with apparently large diameters. ("distant starlight" is the wrong term; for details see Objects in Telescope Are Farther Than They Appear) Who knew at the time that Galileo's model could be more easily corrected than the Ptolemaic one? You're doing a really bad job of properly acknowledging the scientific uncertainty that existed at the time. Obviously we in the 21st century know that Galileo was much closer to the truth than Ptolemaic theory.

            LB: Rome and Greece were poised to take off to a scientific revolution but Christianity squashed it?

            RM: We'll never know for sure …

            It sounds like you hardly know at all. For all we know in this conversation (I am not an expert on the Fall of Rome; it seems that neither are you), Rome was dead in all ways relevant to a scientific revolution before Constantine had his vision. Or, I could use precisely the same logic as you and talk about just where the scientific revolution did take off. :-D

            Jupiter is clearly a metaphorical reference to pagan teaching, such as grammar.

            If you can demonstrate that grammar was 100% pagan at the time, I'm happy to concede the point. I'm not trying to say that Christians are perfect.

            See also St Jerome being ashamed of reading Cicero. Learning or teaching anything other than christian dogma was frowned upon, early on.

            So I just googled "St Jerome Cicero" and found this random page, which claims that Jerome was accused of being "Ciceronian rather than Christian". The shame was for loving Cicero more than Jesus, not for reading a single sentence from Cicero. But that source could be wrong; do you want to present your own?

            Your second sentence will need rather more than two examples (in my mind, both questionable from what I know) for evidence. But let's do another compare & contrast to today. What would happen in the academy if I tried to suggest that homosexuality is wrong? My very educated guess is that I would run afoul of a dogma and would get the modern version of burning at the stake: a permanent loss of ability to influence my fellow academicians/​scientists. (No need to kill the body if you can kill the ability to influence.) If we have our own dogmas today, perhaps more needs to be noted than a group long ago had some sort of dogma.

            LB: The total thrust of your comments on the Galileo matter in this thread is to actively obscure the above.

            RM: Sheer nonsense. I have never denied that christians, even the church, have done good on occasion.

            Your qualification of "on occasion" is 100% consistent with my "total thrust".

            Rather it is you who will contort the facts to avoid admitting that both have done considerable wrong on others - your own quote highlights that the Galileo affair was one.

            LOL, what is meant by "considerable wrong"? That's one reason I asked about reticence to promote the importance of two-parent homes. I was trying to get you to compare that error to the error the RCC made with Galileo. Then we would have some sort of way to judge "considerable wrong". But you didn't want to do that. Why? My guess is that you don't want to bring yourself to admit that the RCC might not be worse than the secular academy. The RCC must be a villain. After all, I've been happy to admit that they're not perfect. That, however, doesn't seem enough for you—not enough by far. Oh, and the best villains do some good things.

          • Richard Morley

            You are going to ridiculous lengths to obfuscate the central facts.

            The original assertion was the description of the Galileo affair as a clash of science with theology, which led you to very rudely call Brian Green Adams a "believer in fairy tales".

            Yet even a cursory knowledge of the affair will confirm that:
            A) Galileo was advancing scientific theories, based on evidence
            B) The Church opposed him and silenced him based at least in part on theology.
            QED

            The fact that the Church was factually and morally in the wrong, not to mention rabidly hypocritical, is of interest but not the core point. Relevant to the topic, the Church was, in this case, blatantly anti-progress, and has admitted as much. Maybe you do need to read 'Hippo owns up'.

          • Richard Morley

            As far as science goes:
            Galileo observing the Phases of Venus is important because he saw with his own eyes that Venus was passing in front of and behind the Sun, i.e. orbiting it. You can try it yourself, with a ball and a lightbulb.

            The issue of circular versus elliptical orbits is irrelevant - both competing models used circles and epicycles, both would have benefited from elliptical orbits.

            For science in ancient Greece see here

            I haven't addressed your 'point' about the enlightenment harming children or the modern academy not being willing "to promote the importance of a two-parent home" as:
            a) Science is not there to promote a political agenda. That's what Regnerus got wrong, in part
            b) You have not shown that the enlightenment has harmed children. Do you have figures showing that infant mortality, teenage pregnancy or illiteracy are higher now than before the enlightenment?
            c) There are studies showing that single parent or broken homes are suboptimal.
            d) Tu quoque. Whether or not 'the enlightenment' or 'the academy' has done wrong is irrelevant to whether christianity intrinsically promotes progress, or whether the Galileo affair was in any way a clash between theology and science.

            The issue of Airy disks, which you bafflingly refer to as 'the distant starlight problem', just illustrates the point.

            The obvious, correct approach is to discuss the 'problem' and potential solutions, not send the police around to beat up anyone who disagrees with you. There are, after all, numerous possiblities - not least that the stars may indeed be huge and distant, the Andromeda galaxy is. It also illustrates hypocrisy - Ptolemaics are quite happy to propose that the stars are all fixed to a sphere big enough to put the solar system in and rattle it around, as long as the Earth is still at the centre. Only when heliocentrism is proposed does evidence suggesting that the stars are huge become an issue, and again for theological reasons.

            Nor can you invoke relativism or accuse me of hindsight - St Augustine warned against this sort of thing a thousand years earlier.

          • Richard Morley

            To try to deal with most of your off topic comments:

            Skipping very lightly over your marriage obsession: gay couples raising kids has nothing to do with single parenting. Or blacks.

            Regnerus was ridiculed because he was ridiculous. Researchers such as Douglas Allen met with disagreement, but not the same ridicule.

            What you call "the modern version of burning at the stake" is no comparison at all. If your 'fellow scientists' have concluded that you are an absurd waste of time, you have no right to be able to influence them. This is in no way like being tortured to death.

          • Richard Morley

            It was Gregory, not I, who called grammar pagan. Already cited. For St Jerome see here paragraph 30. He felt guilty for having read Cicero, you can hardly accuse him of reading Cicero more than following Christianity. Had you followed the link in your 'random page' you would have found this Catholic summary saying things like:

            During the fourth century however, there sprang up an opposition between profane literature and the Bible. This opposition is condensed in the accepted translation, dating from St. Jerome, of Psalm 70 , 15-16, [edited to replace latin]"Because I have not known learning, I will enter into the powers of the Lord: O Lord, I will be mindful of thy justice alone" The opposition between Divine justice, i.e., the Law and literature became gradually an accepted Christian idea...

            Christian asceticism, however, developed a strong feeling against secular studies. As early as the fourth century St. Martin of Tours finds that men have better things to do than study. There are lettered monks at Lérins, but their scholarship is a relic of their early education, not acquired after their monastic profession. The Rule of St. Benedict prescribes reading, it is true, but only sacred reading. Gregory the Great condemns the study of literature so far as bishops are concerned...

            Thus, until Charlemagne and Alcuin, intellectual life was confined to Great Britain and Ireland.

            The thesis that the early church was hostile to 'pagan' learning is well known and supported.

          • You are going to ridiculous lengths to obfuscate the central facts.

            I beg to differ. Take, for example, my discussion with Brian:

            BGA: With Galileo we see an attempt to clash science with theology and then we see ideas of progress and science separate from religion in the Enlightenment and completely now.

            LB: You are a believer in fairy tales. Galileo was a dick to one of the most powerful people in the world and was too confident in his theories before the evidence came in. Cardinal Bellarmine was quite willing to heed actual evidence; what he didn't like was Galileo's bluster.

            Brian's description—and yours—are rather consistent with the now discredited conflict thesis. They appear rather inconsistent with the following from historian Gary Ferngren:

            While some historians had always regarded the Draper-White thesis as oversimplifying and distorting a complex relationship, in the late twentieth century it underwent a more systematic reevaluation. The result is the growing recognition among historians of science that the relationship of religion and science has been much more positive than is sometimes thought. Although popular images of controversy continue to exemplify the supposed hostility of Christianity to new scientific theories, studies have shown that Christianity has often nurtured and encouraged scientific endeavour, while at other times the two have co-existed without either tension or attempts at harmonization. If Galileo and the Scopes trial come to mind as examples of conflict, they were the exceptions rather than the rule.[20] (Science & Religion: A Historical Introduction, ix)

            Brian just gave a hint of it, but I see you as going to … ridiculous lengths to obfuscate the above. Now, perhaps you will correct my perception and say that you've not meant to vilify the RCC at all; in that case, we can wrap things up and let lurkers decide for themselves.

            Yet even a cursory knowledge of the affair will confirm that:
            A) Galileo was advancing scientific theories, based on evidence
            B) The Church opposed him and silenced him based at least in part on theology.
            QED

            I've not disagreed with any of that. Indeed, what you've said right here is much more qualified than I remember you writing before. You don't even insist on the now known fact that Galileo was more right than his Ptolemaic (and mixed heliocentrism/​geocentrism) opponents. Once again, my issue is how the actual facts are woven into a bigger narrative.

            Relevant to the topic, the Church was, in this case, blatantly anti-progress, and has admitted as much.

            Yeah, nobody is arguing that the treatment of Galileo was anything other than anti-progress. The question instead is how bad the church was for doing that. After all, you acknowledged that the treatment of Regnerus' study was tantamount to "'religious' opposition to science". Without a way to measure "how bad" the opposition to progress is, one just doesn't know what to make of the evidence.

            Once again, see how Ferngren places the Galileo affair: historical study shows that it doesn't significantly tarnish the RCC's reputation when it comes to being pro-science. It has become rather clear that John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White engaged in an extremely successful smear campaign. Unfortunately, I see your comments as all too easily fitting into that smear campaign. Like it or not, 70% of 18–23-year-olds in the US believe in the conflict thesis. You have masterfully cited "the facts" in ways that are technically correct if you know the situation, but would be very easily interpreted to fit the conflict thesis narrative.

            Surely it is on-topic to ask how the Galileo affair slots into the overall narrative?

          • Richard Morley

            repost due to spam filter:

            Brian's description—and yours—are rather consistent with the now discredited conflict thesis.

            So are your comments that "nobody is arguing that the treatment of Galileo was anything other than anti-progress" or agreeing that "the Church was quite willing to use the machinery of state to persecute torture and kill people for expressing their sincerely held beliefs" and many other examples.

            It is no wonder you struggle in these debates when you take one statement and leap to 'fitting' the person to the 'pattern' of the most extreme belief system 'consistent' with that statement.

            I'll post a followup about the conflict thesis here.

            They appear rather inconsistent with the following from historian Gary Ferngren

            ..of the Christian bioethics research center at Trinity International University. A nice impartial opinion.

            Brian just gave a hint of it, but I see you as going to … ridiculous lengths to obfuscate the above.

            I am going to [sarcastic significant pause] ridiculous lengths to try to clarify where I disagree with the above, because my interlocutor seems to require such lengths.

            Now, perhaps you will correct my perception and say that you've not meant to vilify the RCC at all

            Soo.. anything less than servile exoneration of the RCC is 'vilification'. That is exactly the attitude that people like Draper or Dawkins are against, and why they make a point of being so blunt. The Church should not be above criticism.

          • Richard Morley

            I've not disagreed with any of that.

            Highly questionable, but if you are agreeing with it now, then:
            1) I think you owe BGA an apology for calling him a 'believer in fairy tales' for saying just that
            2) that is again 'rather consistent with the now discredited conflict thesis'

            Indeed, what you've said right here is much more qualified than I remember you writing before.

            I am learning to anticipate your habit of seizing any excuse to avoid the actual point.

            Yeah, nobody is arguing that the treatment of Galileo was anything other than anti-progress.

            I think many people would take exactly that message from what you have written previously.

            After all, you acknowledged that the treatment of Regnerus' study was tantamount to "'religious' opposition to science".

            That is a very deceitful representation of what I wrote:
            "... even if Regnerus' study were not horribly flawed, which it was. Other studies reaching anti-LGBT parenting conclusions did not meet such opposition because they were not so laughably flawed."

            You have masterfully cited "the facts" in ways that are technically correct if you know the situation, but would be very easily interpreted to fit the conflict thesis narrative.

            emphasis added, snide insinuation noted

            That darn sneaky Jedi mind trick known as 'telling the truth'. Interesting how you find that it so easily fits the conflict thesis! ;)

          • Sorry about the spam filter obnoxiousness; you can probably email SN about it.

            LB: Brian's description—and yours—are rather consistent with the now discredited conflict thesis.

            RM: So are your comments that "nobody is arguing that the treatment of Galileo was anything other than anti-progress" or agreeing that "the Church was quite willing to use the machinery of state to persecute torture and kill people for expressing their sincerely held beliefs" and many other examples.

            It is no wonder you struggle in these debates when you take one statement and leap to 'fitting' the person to the 'pattern' of the most extreme belief system 'consistent' with that statement.

            You can certainly take isolated sentences of mine and say they are consistent with the conflict thesis, but that was never my point. I've explicitly argued that the Galileo affair is overblown and I have repeatedly linked to WP: Conflict thesis, which takes on the more general exaggeration of how terrible religion has been to science. Neither you nor Brian Green Adams has done that. Indeed, you seem to think that the Galileo affair isn't overblown at all:

            LB: What you characterize as "emphasis", I see as heavy emotion and little reason. What do I mean by "reason"? A sober acknowledgment that the Galileo affair has been blown out of proportion.

            RM: Apart from being an absurd definition of 'reason', I disagree. The Galileo affair is crucial, especially as regards the topic of this thread. You seem to have swallowed a lot of spin churned out ever since Catholics realised how badly they got it wrong, but the reasonable thing to do is to acknowledge the fault and learn from it.

            If the Galileo affair is so crucial, then either it outweighs (or is in the vicinity of outweighing) all good the RCC might have done wrt science, or it is not the exception but the rule. Nobody is claiming that the RCC is perfect, so the mere fact that it demonstrates a significant imperfection is not "crucial, especially as regards the topic of this thread". If I have missed some rationale for it being so "crucial", do please explain.

            I'll post a followup about the conflict thesis here.

            Thank you for addressing it head-on. I replied.

            I am going to [sarcastic significant pause] ridiculous lengths to try to clarify where I disagree with the above, because my interlocutor seems to require such lengths.

            It turns out we both feel like we're going to ridiculous lengths. I'll bet this is the first time that has ever happened between interlocutors. And I'll bet it's 100%, or at least 99% one of the interlocutor's fault. Yes, the previous two sentences were sarcasm.

            Soo.. anything less than servile exoneration of the RCC is 'vilification'.

            Nope. BTW, I'm a Protestant, not a Catholic. :-) I'm also married to a scientist and have helped her with her science. What interests me here is what truly aids science and what is truly opposed to science. Exaggerating or underplaying any factor is harmful to science. The most obnoxious part in trying to improve science is that humans are very imperfect beings. And so, you cannot always demand perfection nor can you constantly measure them by perfection. Not if you want to be pursue maximal progress, at least.

            That is exactly the attitude that people like Draper or Dawkins are against, and why they make a point of being so blunt. The Church should not be above criticism.

            Hey, I just did a bit of Reformation 500 touring in Germany. That's all about criticizing the Church. I also sympathize with Roger Olson's position that the real Reformation was the Radical Reformation, which did away with any and all Magisteria. Uneven power distribution leads to rationalization over rationality (scientific support). But I also know that humans like to scapegoat, they like to take some problem that is actually shared and place disproportionately much of it at some Other's feet. That is what John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White did. I still suspect that is what you are doing.

          • Richard Morley

            Sorry about the spam filter obnoxiousness; you can probably email SN about it.

            Not your doing(?)

            As for emailing the SN mod[s], [t]he[y] should already get auto emails for every article blocked, and the reason this is so much a problem on SN is that they cannot keep up as it is. So I doubt more email will help. Maybe if it gets worse.

            You can certainly take isolated sentences of mine and say they are consistent with the conflict thesis, but that was never my point.

            That is, after all, what you have done to us. You think it is foul play for us to do it to you? Even to point out your apparent double standard?

            RM: Soo.. anything less than servile exoneration of the RCC is 'vilification'.
            Nope.

            So why are you making personal attacks on people just for saying things like 'the Galileo affair was anti progress' or '..a conflict of theology with science' when you then say that these statements are actually correct? What actual statement of mine qualifies as 'vilification' of the RCC?

            BTW, I'm a Protestant, not a Catholic. :-)

            Had I implied otherwise? Didn't mean to, I did see you say you were not Catholic. Is it relevant?

            I'm also married to a scientist and have helped her with her science.

            Yeah, my nephew 'helps' his mum with the housework too. Bless. ;)

            It turns out we both feel like we're going to ridiculous lengths.

            How many attempts have I made to explain the significance of phases of Venus now? That, BTW, I will not re-attempt to re-post, to spare the mods, but you can presumably see it on your notification page even if you are not signed up for email updates.

          • Not your doing(?)

            Nope, but it's still socially appropriate to say "sorry" in such situations.

            As for emailing the SN mod[s], [t]he[y] should already get auto emails for every article blocked, and the reason this is so much a problem on SN is that they cannot keep up as it is.

            Hmm, I rarely see people complain about their comments getting caught in the spam filter. They may indeed get many notifications of spam posts, but if most of them are real spam, then it might be tedious to root out the false spam. Hence why I suggest a different avenue of notifying them. But yeah, hopefully it was just a fluke—I've had the same happen to my comments once or twice.

            LB: You can certainly take isolated sentences of mine and say they are consistent with the conflict thesis, but that was never my point.

            RM: That is, after all, what you have done to us. You think it is foul play for us to do it to you? Even to point out your apparent double standard?

            The difference is that I can point out things I've said which conflict with said pattern; I don't recall any such things in what you or Brian have said.

            So why are you making personal attacks on people just for saying things like 'the Galileo affair was anti progress' or '..a conflict of theology with science' when you then say that these statements are actually correct? What actual statement of mine qualifies as 'vilification' of the RCC?

            Both of those statements have incredible ambiguity when one asks how they are to slot into the overall narrative of the OP. If I were to say that Piltdown Man was "crucial" to understanding the nature of scientific inquiry, you would be right to go on alert. Am I a creationist attacking the credibility of science, insinuating that much evolutionary research (or at least, 'macroevolutionary' research) shares the same character. Well, you said "The Galileo affair is crucial, especially as regards the topic of this thread." As I've said before, if overall the RCC has been a friend to science, it is rather difficult to see how the Galileo affair is so "crucial". Your use of "crucial" only makes sense to me if in fact, you believe the RCC has overall been an enemy to science, despite whatever positive bits it has contributed. And so I made an educated guess.

            The best single statement of yours which pointed toward vilification is the following:

            LB: What do I mean by "reason"? A sober acknowledgment that the Galileo affair has been blown out of proportion.

            RM: Apart from being an absurd definition of 'reason', I disagree. The Galileo affair is crucial, especially as regards the topic of this thread.

            However, it really needs augmentation by the numerous times you were careful to note that the RCC dragged an old, sick man across the country to put him on trial. And it needs augmentation by your insistence on speaking solely of "imprisonment", nowhere indicating house arrest. And it needs augmentation by your insistence that Galileo was not allowed to teach his theories, while in fact he was allowed to teach them in precisely the way that the vast majority of quantum mechanics is taught. And it needs augmentation by your repeated refrain that "Galileo was right", which subtly appeals to hindsight knowledge not possessed at his trial. It's really the total effect of how you've portrayed the Galileo affair which led me to say "vilify". For a bit more, see my comments on language used about Romney vs. Trump.

            Had I implied otherwise? Didn't mean to, I did see you say you were not Catholic. Is it relevant?

            I have plenty of reason to not be a Roman Catholic Church shill. You did use the term "servile exoneration", after all.

            How many attempts have I made to explain the significance of phases of Venus now?

            During a transit of Venus, one actually sees Venus travel in front of the Sun. One sees a small black dot moving across the face of the Sun. I watched a recent transit of Venus from LA, standing outside a coffee shop with some fellow nerds. You don't even need a telescope. But you spoke of Galileo seeing Venus travel in front of the Sun, when in fact he only inferred Venus traveling in front of the Sun, based on his model. For this particular issue, the difference between these two things is profound. That was my objection. When you've internalized a model, you "see" a combination of that model and what's really on your sensory neurons. If we want to accurately characterize the debate of Galileo's theories, we have to rewind that internalization.

          • As for emailing the SN mod[s], [t]he[y] should already get auto emails for every article blocked, and the reason this is so much a problem on SN is that they cannot keep up as it is. So I doubt more email will help. Maybe if it gets worse.

            FYI, your most recent comment appears to have gotten spam filtered.

          • I want to revisit something, since I encountered additional evidence which you've yet to address:

            RM: … examples such as Pope Gregory I reprimanding Bishop Desiderius for allowing the teaching of grammar.

            LB: I read that and it seems the objection was not to teaching grammar, but what material was used to teach grammar—"praises of Jupiter" and such.

            RM: Good example of how far you are willing to go to twist historical documents to fit your dogma. Jupiter is clearly a metaphorical reference to pagan teaching, such as grammar.

            As I already noted, this seems rather inconsistent with the following:

            Like most young men of his position in Roman society, Saint Gregory was well educated, learning grammar, rhetoric, the sciences, literature, and law, and excelling in all.[12] Gregory of Tours reported that "in grammar, dialectic and rhetoric ... he was second to none...."[22] (WP: Pope Gregory I)

            Gregory appears to have had significant Christian influence on him during his youth, so either he changed the standard Christian practice and banned the kind of grammar teaching he himself had, or what he was prohibiting was different than grammar simpliciter. For more help I shall turn to a book I cited but shall now excerpt:

                Pope Gregory (540-604) exhibited the same confidence, and this led him to follow in the footsteps of earlier authorities (say, Augustine and Cassiodorus) to find a path between humanism and a total anathematization of antique culture. The old issue of paganism would not disappear, but Gregory, who was intelligent and well educated, took a novel position. Recognizing that language is alive and is affected by its environment, Gregory rejected the practice that allowed ancient rules to dominate contemporary style. It was pointless, he said, to try to write and speak like ancient Greeks and Romans; and this conviction led him directly to the conclusion that for language’s conventional use, further contact with pagan literature was useless. But there is no hint anywhere that Gregory meant to condemn, and thus ostracize, everything in classical literature.[49]
                Gregory’s assessment of classical education was promoted by the plausibility of his argument, but it was promoted, too, by his position. As pope, his views on education had enormous influence, although they never became Church policy. Living and working in Rome, where Latin was the vernacular and where remnants of classical culture remained alive, he missed the significance of paying some heed to Latin’s ancient foundation. This neglect is illustrated in the famous letter Gregory sent to Desiderius, the bishop of Vienne. After telling the bishop of reports that had come to him about the bishop conducting grammar classes for young men—work, he wrote, “unfit even for pious laymen”—this warning was added: “The same lips cannot sound the praises of Jupiter and the praises of Christ.”[50]
                When Gregory used the word grammar, he meant classical literature. It should be said, as well, that the report Gregory had on Desiderius told how the bishop had either composed a pagan poem or read one to his students. Church law forbade bishops from teaching and writing poetry, so an interpretation that Gregory’s proscription of classical teaching was personal, or that the letter was an outright condemnation of the antique literature, is too harsh. Yet Gregory cannot be represented as a true and constant friend of the classics. (Legacy of Learning, A: A History of Western Education, 116)

            If this is right, your claims are both wrong and an exaggeration. First, 'grammar' here does not mean what one finds at WP: Grammar. Second, Pope Gregory I did not outlaw all 'grammar', but only some. So, what gives? Is this book just full of crap? Because it's starting to look like I'm not the word-twister you claim I am.

            Here's a second claim you made which also seems false:

            See also St Jerome being ashamed of reading Cicero. Learning or teaching anything other than christian dogma was frowned upon, early on.

            Here I'll just quote what I wrote before, which you ignored in your single response:

            LB: So I just googled "St Jerome Cicero" and found this random page, which claims that Jerome was accused of being "Ciceronian rather than Christian". The shame was for loving Cicero more than Jesus, not for reading a single sentence from Cicero. But that source could be wrong; do you want to present your own?

            Given that you appear to have been quite wrong about Pope Gregory I & grammar, I'm not going to spend additional time on this point unless you dig in.

          • Richard Morley

            I want to revisit something,

            I'm all for that, when relevant.

            Since I encountered additional evidence which you've yet to address

            Understandable, surely, if you have yet to present it?

            As I already noted, this seems rather inconsistent with the following:

            Not really. As the Catholic source cited by your random page notes: "There are lettered monks at Lérins, but their scholarship is a relic of their early education, not acquired after their monastic profession." It is perfectly possible to be both educated and prejudiced against (pagan) education.

            (emphasis added in following quotes)

            Pope Gregory (540-604) exhibited the same confidence, and this led him to follow in the footsteps of earlier authorities (say, Augustine and Cassiodorus) to find a path between humanism and a total anathematization of antique culture.

            That rather explicitly acknowledges the antagonism between Christianity and 'antique culture', don't you think?

          • Richard Morley

            This neglect is illustrated in the famous letter Gregory sent to Desiderius, the bishop of Vienne.

            Now why do you think that letter is famous? Maybe because the thesis I refer to is well known?

            Of course you will find historians arguing against almost any given view, which is right and proper. Established views should be challenged from time to time, and no book saying "I agree with everyone else" becomes famous. But one citation of one historian asserting something doesn't prove much about the consensus.

            Again, your own 'random page' citation says:
            "It is true that Christian society at the time of the barbarian invasions repudiated mythology and ancient culture, but it did not venture to completely banish them."
            "Christian asceticism, however, developed a strong feeling against secular studies. As early as the fourth century St. Martin of Tours finds that men have better things to do than study."
            "Gregory the Great condemns the study of literature so far as bishops are concerned."
            "Thus, until Charlemagne and Alcuin, intellectual life was confined to Great Britain and Ireland." and so on.

            Both for St Jerome and Gregory, I quoted their own words. You are citing secondhand opinion.

            The acid test, of course, is what actual progress occurred under centralised united Catholic rule of all Europe.

          • LB: Since I encountered additional evidence which you've yet to address

            RM: Understandable, surely, if you have yet to present it?

            Nope, I presented both things already. What I suspect is that since they pushed back against your characterization of my words/​intentions†—"Good example of how far you are willing to go to twist historical documents to fit your dogma."—you ignored them. Since I am not allowed to guess at your intentions†, I'll let the reader do so.

            † We must remember that you are allowed to dictate my intentions, but not vice versa: "You don't get to dictate what my intentions are or were."

            LB: As I already noted, this seems rather inconsistent with the following:

            RM: Not really. As the Catholic source cited by your random page notes: "There are lettered monks at Lérins, but their scholarship is a relic of their early education, not acquired after their monastic profession." It is perfectly possible to be both educated and prejudiced against (pagan) education.

            Are you claiming that Pope Gregory I in particular received a pagan education? If not, your comment here is a red herring. If so, I would like to see evidence. I will not accept that all teaching resembling WP: Grammar was 'pagan' as a blind assertion, but I will accept evidence of it.

            That rather explicitly acknowledges the antagonism between Christianity and 'antique culture', don't you think?

            Of course! It just doesn't mean that Christians hated any and all antique culture, nor that all teaching resembling WP: Grammar was 'pagan'. Remember, what is at stake in this particular tangent is whether I'm a word-twister:

            RM: … examples such as Pope Gregory I reprimanding Bishop Desiderius for allowing the teaching of grammar.

            LB: I read that and it seems the objection was not to teaching grammar, but what material was used to teach grammar—"praises of Jupiter" and such.

            RM: Good example of how far you are willing to go to twist historical documents to fit your dogma. Jupiter is clearly a metaphorical reference to pagan teaching, such as grammar.

            It would appear that the underlined is simply unwarranted. Since you repeatedly refer back to this discussion of ours, I think it is important to get the facts straight, as well as identify the unknowns. I guessed at a reasonable interpretation of the available evidence. But I expect your retort to be "No, this affair still unequivocally demonstrates that you are a word-twister." That, or you drop this tangent altogether. Because you've built quite a lot on my being intellectually dishonest wrt this discussion. If that characterization were to crumble, what others might follow?

          • I think the core of observation is that the church threatened Galileo with torture and imprisonment if he continued to teach his theories, which (arguably) betrays a stance that it is appropriate to jail and torture people who try to teach heterodoxy. If an institution takes this stance, I'm not sure how you could call it progressive and still maintain that the word "progressive" has any meaning.

            That Galileo's theory was ultimately vindicated by history may have made the affair extra embarrassing for the church, but it is sort of besides the point.

          • I suggest looking at how the Church originally dealt with Copernicus' theories. It is rather more complex than the binary you've presented.

          • I think the core of observation is that the church threatened Galileo with torture and imprisonment if he continued to teach his theories …

            By the way, there is an ambiguity in "teach his theories". Bellarmine knew there were two very different ways for Galileo to propound his theories:

            Bellarmine begins by telling Foscarini that it is prudent for him and Galileo to limit themselves to treating heliocentrism as a merely hypothetical phenomenon and not a physically real one. Further on he says that interpreting heliocentrism as physically real would be "a very dangerous thing, likely not only to irritate all scholastic philosophers and theologians, but also to harm the Holy Faith by rendering Holy Scripture as false." He conceded that if there were conclusive proof, "then one would have to proceed with great care in explaining the Scriptures that appear contrary; and say rather that we do not understand them, than that what is demonstrated is false." (WP: Galileo affair § Bellarmine's view)

            Now, the term "merely hypothetical phenomenon" is a bit tricky; it probably reminds one of the tagline "Evolution is just a theory", meant to say that Evolution is not true. But Ptolemaic astronomy was taught in exactly that way: it "saved the appearances". The calculations matched the observations, but it was not assumed that the calculations exactly mirrored the heavenly motions. There's a neat bit I can quote from Owen Barfield on this matter if anyone's interested. The point is that it would have been entirely respectable for Galileo to teach his heliocentrism while not insisting that it was physically true. Oh and it wasn't physically true, as the planets don't orbit in circles.

            I'll spill the beans on my suggestion: Churchmen promoted Copernicus' heliocentric works. Good grief; De revolutionibus orbium coelestium is dedicated to Pope Paul III! De revolutionibus wasn't even formally banned; instead, the Church merely required it to clarify that it merely "saved the appearances". As The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown demonstrates with copious evidence, Copernicus' heliocentrism was not necessarily superior to contemporary Ptolemaic theory. It took Galileo's prediction of the phases of Venus to start tipping the balance.

          • Richard Morley

            It took Galileo's prediction of the phases of Venus to start tipping the balance.

            Observation

            In 1610.

            Bellarmine allegedly ordered Galileo "not to hold, teach, or defend it[heliocentrism] in any way whatever, either orally or in writing" in 1616. He was dragged across Italy, threatened and imprisoned in 1633.

          • LB: It took Galileo's prediction of the phases of Venus to start tipping the balance.

            RM: Observation

            In 1610.

            Sorry, successful prediction. A mere observation is insufficient; that observation had to support one theory better than another. Even better is to predict the observation ahead of time, which is precisely what Galileo did.

            Bellarmine allegedly ordered Galileo "not to hold, teach, or defend it[heliocentrism] in any way whatever, either orally or in writing" 1616.

            Yeah, revisit my previous comment and pay more attention to "saved the appearances". Galileo was permitted to teach his ideas, but only as hypotheses—just like the Ptolemaic system had been taught. What was problematic was to radically revise the celestial ontology with so nascent an idea.

            He was dragged across Italy, threatened and imprisoned in 1633.

            He was sentenced to imprisonment (that is, a death sentence in a disease-ridden dungeon), but on the following day it was commuted to house arrest. Your use of "imprisoned" actively obscures the following facts:

            After a period with the friendly Archbishop Piccolomini in Siena, Galileo was allowed to return to his villa at Arcetri near Florence, where he spent the rest of his life under house arrest.[59] He continued his work on mechanics, and in 1638, he published a scientific book in Holland. His standing would remain questioned at every turn. (Galileo Affair § Trial and second judgment, 1633)

            He was even allowed to continue doing science! So yeah, the RCC did the bad thing, but it wasn't as terrible as you make it out to be. Galileo may have been able to avoid much of this if he had collected more evidence before arguing that his hypothesis was physically real. Cardinal Bellarmine was willing to revise church doctrine on sufficient evidence! You would obscure all this. I object.

          • Richard Morley

            Sorry, successful prediction.

            Hmm? Are you by any chance confusing the phases of Venus, whose mere existence was incompatible with geocentrism, with the transit of Venus?

            Galileo was permitted to teach his ideas, but only as hypotheses

            That is not freedom of speech or of scientific debate. The Church did indeed insist that geocentrism was a fact, not a hypothesis.

            He was sentenced to imprisonment (that is, a death sentence in a disease-ridden dungeon), but on the following day it was commuted to house arrest.

            House arrest is still imprisonment, and even just threatening a sick old man with a horrible death or torture is still immoral. It is you who seeks to obscure the fact that he was deprived of his liberty, threatened, humiliated, imprisoned and censored, for merely stating his opinion when all along he was right.

            Cardinal Bellarmine was willing to revise church doctrine on sufficient evidence!

            You are making stuff up again. I have done nothing to 'obscure' this alleged fact, although as it happens that is not quite what Cardinal Bellarmine said - if anything he implies that even if heliocentrism were proven true, the Church would still have reservations about allowing that to be said until they had decided whether or not it clashed with scripture.

            Not, for that matter, that being willing to revise doctrine that is shown to be false should merit a gold star. You never did answer whether a factually true statement could be heresy, in your view.

          • Hmm? Are you by any chance confusing the phases of Venus, whose mere existence was incompatible with geocentrism, with the transit of Venus?

            No.

            LB: Galileo was permitted to teach his ideas, but only as hypotheses—just like the Ptolemaic system had been taught.

            RM: That is not freedom of speech or of scientific debate. The Church did indeed insist that geocentrism was a fact, not a hypothesis.

            No, it is not "maximal progress", but I already dealt with that. If it were so important to assert that the theory is physically true, then quantum theory has been sorely lacking since its inception. Or … is it?

            House arrest is still imprisonment, and even just threatening a sick old man with a horrible death or torture is still immoral. It is you who seeks to obscure the fact that he was deprived of his liberty, threatened, humiliated, imprisoned and censored, for merely stating his opinion when all along he was right.

            What's important is not how right we now know Galileo was, but how much was known at the time of his trial. As far as I can tell, you just haven't done the relevant work. And I think most readers will be interested to know that Galileo still managed to do science while "imprisoned". I can't think of a single other human being in the history of mankind who was able to do science while "imprisoned".

            You never did answer whether a factually true statement could be heresy, in your view.

            Why is that even a question? The question again is how much was known at the time, vs. after the fact. Hindsight is 20/20.

          • Richard Morley

            No.

            Then your post makes no sense to me. Galileo observed the phases of Venus in 1610, they are utterly incompatible with the Ptolemaic system, and once you have observed their periodicity they are as trivially predictable as those of the moon.

            No, it is not "maximal progress", but I already dealt with that.

            No, you just dismissed it, as you do here by mocking the turn of phrase. Impeding progress is impeding progress.

            Unlike QM, Galileo knew that he had observed with his own eyes that Venus, for example, orbited the sun, not the earth. Why should he be bullied into lying about it? How can you honestly deny that this is opposing progress?

            This and similar affairs proved that the Church was quite willing to use the machinery of state to persecute torture and kill people for expressing their sincerely held beliefs, when it had the power to do so. So it has arguably lost any moral right to protest its own people being treated in the same way. Does that strike a cord with you?

          • Richard Morley

            I can't think of a single other human being in the history of mankind who was able to do science while "imprisoned".

            Bertrand Russell, Jakow Trachtenberg, Jean-Victor Poncelet, Ibn al-Haytham, Andre Bloch, Evariste Galois, Jean Leray, Mulutin Milankovic, André Weil ...

            You should be a little more careful of sneering at other people when it seems to be you who has not done the work.

            Why is that even a question?

            Why wouldn't it be? Why is it not being answered?

          • Bertrand Russell, Jakow Trachtenberg, Jean-Victor Poncelet, Ibn al-Haytham, Andre Bloch, Evariste Galois, Jean Leray, Mulutin Milankovic, André Weil ...

            You should be a little more careful of sneering at other people when it seems to be you who has not done the work.

            It wasn't a sneer; my point was what your sole use of 'imprisonment' would conjure in the average person's mind. And I'll bet that 99% of people couldn't name a single person who did science while 'imprisoned'.

            Why wouldn't it be? Why is it not being answered?

            I want to know why you think I would possibly hold that a factually true statement can be heresy. You're obviously insinuating something about me in even asking the question.

          • Richard Morley

            It wasn't a sneer;

            Nor, doubtless, was calling me ignorant, or Brian Green Adams a believer in fairy tales?

            And I'll bet that 99% of people couldn't name a single person who did science while 'imprisoned'.

            Way to avoid admitting that you were wrong...

            I want to know why you think I would possibly hold that a factually true statement can be heresy.

            Because you are defending the Church for calling a factually true statement heresy. So were the Pope and Cardinals the true heretics, or can a true statement be heresy?

            You're obviously insinuating something about me in even asking the question.

            Well, I am certainly starting to think you have a guilty conscience about something given how far you go to avoid this question. Also, there's that pesky 'lack of clean hands' again! ;)

          • Nor, doubtless, was calling me ignorant, or Brian Green Adams a believer in fairy tales?

            Where did I call you "ignorant"? As to fairy tales, the conflict thesis is a fairy tale.

            LB: And I'll bet that 99% of people couldn't name a single person who did science while 'imprisoned'.

            RM: Way to avoid admitting that you were wrong...

            My being wrong is not at issue—I was obviously unaware of those other people who did science while imprisoned. (But what science did Russell do? He wrote, but that was mathematics/​philosophy. Everyone knows that one can often write while imprisoned.) Whether your words will tend to construct the right ideas in the vast majority of Westerners (or at least, Americans) is at issue. To say technically correct things which would nevertheless arouse the wrong idea is to deceive, whether intentional or not.

            Because you are defending the Church for calling a factually true statement heresy.

            Nope, not what I'm doing. Unless you want to expand that out to say that before it was known beyond a reasonable [scientific] doubt that Galileo's theory was the closest to the truth, the Church declared it heretical for him to teach that his answer was The Truth™. And even there, I merely mean to ameliorate just how bad it was for the RCC to do that, not assert that they were in the right for doing that. The point, once again, is to establish whether or not the Galileo affair points toward the conflict thesis being true. If it is true, then any idea that the Church is overall pro-'progress' is rather questionable. But it isn't true.

            So were the Pope and Cardinals the true heretics, or can a true statement be heresy?

            That depends on whether you say getting any scientific fact wrong makes you a heretic (that would be weird) and whether one is a heretic based on the timeless truth-values of what you believe, regardless of when those truth-values became known. I currently cannot imagine it being that big a deal, theologically, whether heliocentrism or geocentrism is true. So it seems rather silly to me to say it's heretical either way. But I live in a rather different world than Galileo.

            Well, I am certainly starting to think you have a guilty conscience about something given how far you go to avoid this question.

            No, some questions are just insulting; to answer them adds insult. But I will do so in order to put an end to this particular strain of your nonsense: factually true statements cannot be heretical. To declare them heretical is to be in error.

          • Richard Morley

            Where did I call you "ignorant"?

            Here. And plenty of other snide remarks to me and others.

            As to fairy tales, the conflict thesis is a fairy tale.

            So, not denying the insult to BGA, just doubling down on it and trying to obscure the fact that Brian did not assert anything like the 'conflict thesis', you are just making stuff up fitting 'patterns' again.

            My being wrong is not at issue

            'Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain' ;)

            Nor is it deceitful to point out that Galileo was deprived of his liberty, and just for expressing his sincerely (and justly) held beliefs.

            Nope, not what I'm doing.

            Yes it is, unequivocally. The Church did call a factually true statement heresy, explicitly, and you can hardly deny that you have been trying to defend and exonerate their action, not to mention insulting those who point out the facts.

            No, some questions are just insulting

            Like asking what plans I have to 'get' the RCC? Or whether this is a 'religious' matter for me? Or "do you want to feel nice and righteous in your head, or do you want to face the facts?" Remember that redwood in your eye, there is nothing insulting to you in asking whether a fact can be both true and heresy.

            But I will do so in order to put an end to this particular strain of your nonsense: factually true statements cannot be heretical. To declare them heretical is to be in error.

            Yet another insult noted. But at least we get to the point:
            The Church and Pope and Cardinals were 'in error', Galileo was not. On an issue where they claim divine authority. Do you really not think that is relevant?

          • LB: Where did I call you "ignorant"?

            RM: Here. And plenty of other snide remarks to me and others.

            Sorry, but that is a comment I wrote in reply to Brian Green Adams, not you. Nor do I talk about you in it. Where did I call you "ignorant"?

            LB: As to fairy tales, the conflict thesis is a fairy tale.

            RM: So, not denying the insult to BGA, just doubling down on it and trying to obscure the fact that Brian did not assert anything like the 'conflict thesis', you are just making stuff up fitting 'patterns' again.

            If BGA wants to acknowledge that the conflict thesis is false, then we can talk about why he brought up the Galileo affair at all. Nobody has said the RCC is perfect with regard to being for 'progress', so the only rationale I see for bringing up the Galileo affair is if it exemplifies an overall anti-progress stance. However, BGA is welcome to explain a different rationale or note that he just wasn't going anywhere with it.

            LB: I can't think of a single other human being in the history of mankind who was able to do science while "imprisoned".

            RM: Bertrand Russell, Jakow Trachtenberg, Jean-Victor Poncelet, Ibn al-Haytham, Andre Bloch, Evariste Galois, Jean Leray, Mulutin Milankovic, André Weil ...

            LB: And I'll bet that 99% of people couldn't name a single person who did science while 'imprisoned'.

            RM: Way to avoid admitting that you were wrong...

            LB: My being wrong is not at issue–

            RM: 'Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain' ;)

            Since you're making a big deal of this, I'll point out that I actually wasn't wrong: when I said that "I can't think of …", that was a factual claim about my knowledge which was true at the time. Now, sometimes when someone says "I can't think of …" [s]he means to assert the falsehood of an idea. But my purpose was different: if it is not common knowledge that some people have continued to do science while "imprisoned", it is quite rational for someone to assume that if Galileo were "imprisoned", then he was not allowed to do any further science. Such a person would be wrong. If your words led the person to a wrong conclusion, the fault may well be yours, for picking bad language. That is my contention.

            Nor is it deceitful to point out that Galileo was deprived of his liberty, and just for expressing his sincerely (and justly) held beliefs.

            I've never claimed nor implied nor insinuated that pointing out exactly what you've written here is deceitful. House arrest is unequivocally an instance of "deprived of his liberty". And Galileo obviously sincerely believed that his theory was "physically real". None of this, however, is relevant to the immediate discussion—whether your average person will realize that "Galileo was imprisoned" allows for "Galileo continued to do science". That includes science that isn't just writing on paper—many people know that prisoners can write a paper and read books.

            Like asking what plans I have to 'get' the RCC?

            Erm, I was trying to understand what you meant by:

            RM: So it has arguably lost any moral right to protest its own people being treated in the same way. Does that strike a cord with you?

            I honestly didn't know what you were going after. Hence why I asked for plans/​hypotheticals. If you want me to agree with something, you'll have to help me understand what the implications of agreeing with it are.

            Or "do you want to feel nice and righteous in your head, or do you want to face the facts?"

            That one has continuing relevance:

            LB: The matter is simple: come down harder on the RCC than the evidence warrants and you set up falsehoods in your head which will prevent you from making the world as good a place as you could, otherwise. It's up to you: do you want to feel nice and righteous in your head, or do you want to face the facts?

            One of my longstanding points is that historically, thanks in part to John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White engaging in a smear campaign against religion (and in particular Roman Catholicism), the Galileo affair has been blown out of proportion. It is this "out of proportion" aspect which allows one to use the Galileo affair to support the conflict thesis. Less than twelve hours after writing the above, I wrote the following:

            LB: What you characterize as "emphasis", I see as heavy emotion and little reason. What do I mean by "reason"? A sober acknowledgment that the Galileo affair has been blown out of proportion. Never have I said that the RCC did nothing wrong. But it would be interesting, for example, if attacks on the importance of a strong family for healthy children (see: the twentieth century in the West) were actually a greater harm to humanity than what the RCC in fact did to Galileo. That's the kind of possibility which is utterly screened out by your presentation of the matter.

            You disagreed with the underlined. Your subsequent behavior has been to use the most extreme language which could possibly be technically warranted, to describe what the RCC did to Galileo. Whenever I pushed back, you stood your ground. And so, it seems rather clear that you are overblowing the Galileo affair. That is, I was right to guess that you "want to feel nice and righteous in your head". There was a chance I would have had to apologize for that; you could have explicitly agreed that the conflict thesis is false or that the Galileo affair has often been overblown. You did neither. At every point, you seem to be painting the Roman Catholic Church in as horrible a light as you possibly can.

            The Church and Pope and Cardinals were 'in error', Galileo was not. On an issue where they claim divine authority. Do you really not think that is relevant?

            This is contradicted by your "Both sides were wrong about circular orbits". And in 1633, Galileo had a problem with the apparent size/​distance of stars, as I've already explained. We now know that Galileo was [significantly!] less wrong than the Church. I think all of this is relevant. The way you've phrased your question indicates that it is plausible I would think this issue is irrelevant; that is absurd.

          • Richard Morley

            Sorry, but that is a comment I wrote in reply to Brian Green Adams, not you.

            That link works fine for me. If you are on a slow connection you may have to wait a moment for the full page to load and jump to the correct message. Six days ago, as I write, and ends with "You've displayed your ignorance for all to see"

            However chasing up all the times you (or, for the sake of argument ;p, I) have been rude is not the point. If you think you have never been insulting, reread your posts starting with calling Galileo a dick and WBA a believer in fairy tales. If you want a polite and respectful debate I am happy to restart from zero, but I have little patience for hypocrisy.

            If BGA wants to acknowledge that the conflict thesis is false

            Why should he have to 'acknowledge' anything about something he never said. You are again putting views in other people's mouths and demanding that they defend or retract them.

            Since you're making a big deal of this, I'll point out that I actually wasn't wrong: when I said that "I can't think of …", that was a factual claim about my knowledge which was true at the time

            Pedantry FTW!

            I've never claimed nor implied nor insinuated that pointing out exactly what you've written here is deceitful.

            You called me deceitful for pointing out that Galileo was imprisoned for stating his sincerely held beliefs. He was. I never said he was prevented from doing science, although in truth his ability to do so freely was severely curtailed.

            Erm, I was trying to understand what you meant by:

            It was a very insulting leading question, far more so than that at which you were trying to take offense.

            That one has continuing relevance:

            So again, you are doubling down on 'offensive' questions of yours, but object to others asking questions whose implications you dislike?

            Your subsequent behavior has been to use the most extreme language which could possibly be technically warranted, to describe what the RCC did to Galileo.

            You have yet to show that anything I have said was false.

            you could have explicitly agreed that the conflict thesis is false or that the Galileo affair has often been overblown.

            Why should I have to defend or retract things I have never said?

            This is contradicted by your "Both sides were wrong about circular orbits".

            No it is not. The disagreement was about geocentrism vs heliocentrism, not the shape of orbits.

          • That link works fine for me.

            Ahh, it loaded to my reply to Brian and did not scroll to my reply to you. I love Disqus. Anyhow, here's the exchange:

            RM: Once protestants broke up the power of the Church, even catholics such as Descartes (or protestants in countries with strong protestant churches) could express novel ideas freely by doing so somewhere like Holland.

            LB: You've displayed your ignorance for all to see; shall I explain?

            The fact of the matter is that the Church came down hard on heliocentrism in large part because the Protestants were making a big deal out of it. Catholics actually promoted Copernicus' work before 1610. You displayed ignorance on this matter. That is a far cry from me describing you as [generally] "ignorant".

            If you think you have never been insulting …

            Nope, I wouldn't claim such a thing. Sometimes I am deliberately provocative and sometimes what I didn't mean to be insulting is taken as insulting. What I can do is always return to what was actually said, and contrast it to how it was portrayed. I can also apologize for when I turned out to be in error. I do both of these regularly.

            … your posts starting with calling Galileo a dick …

            Now that you are repeating yourself, I will repeat myself:

            LB: I said "Galileo was a dick to one of the most powerful people in the world"; do you disagree with this factual assertion?

            You didn't quite disagree in your response, other than to pull a tu quoque. Anyhow, it is very different to say "person A was a dick to person B" and "person A is a dick". You've actively obscured this time and again. Galileo was insulting to one of the most powerful people in the world; that he would get the smackdown for this is to be expected regardless of whether that powerful person was religious or not—especially in that era.

            Why should he have to 'acknowledge' anything about something he never said.

            To make clear that nothing was being insinuated. When it comes to situations like this—theists and atheists wrangling over religion and science—it is prudent to dispel the plausibility of insinuation. I fully admit to being provocative in the effort to do this. With some people I can just ask, but others are more coy—or at least do an incredibly good job of coming off that way to me.

            You are again putting views in other people's mouths and demanding that they defend or retract them.

            You really should spend a few days in my shoes when I wander over to atheist sites and comment there. What I do to others pales in comparison with what I receive. My willingness to back off after the pattern has been refuted is also much faster than the vast majority of my atheist interlocutors. But hey, if there is a better way of cutting to the chase, do let me know. I've not found one, and I've been at this for a long time (not just trying things out myself, but observing what others try and how it works out). If your strategy welcomes all sorts of plausible insinuation to hang out unchallenged, I probably won't be convinced.

            Pedantry FTW!

            So you won't admit that you were wrong in your accusation. Ok, I've learned to work with that.

            You called me deceitful for pointing out that Galileo was imprisoned for stating his sincerely held beliefs.

            I said that you would obscure the fact that Galileo was put on house arrest and allowed to continue to do science that wasn't just writing and reading books. This is entirely dependent on two facts: (i) your preference for the term "imprisoned"; (ii) how many people would realize that "imprisoned" is compatible with "continued to do science". It is either true or false that when you use the words you choose, you would or would not obscure things in that way to the vast majority of hearers. I say the evidence points to it being true.

            Note that I didn't use the term 'deceitful' or any of its cognates in that example. The one time I have is the following:

            LB: Unfortunately, you said that Galileo was not allowed to teach his theories, which probably verges on being deceptive.

            I stand by my word choice, which is an ameliorated version of calling you outright deceitful. You don't really go the final step toward being deceitful, you just exaggerate. You're like the people who pulled out all the language stops in calling Mitt Romney awful, only to be left with no more intense language for when Donald Trump comes along.

            It was a very insulting leading question, far more so than that at which you were trying to take offense.

            Then my apologies; I meant no insult or provocation there. At best, I was frustrated that I hadn't a clue where you were going.

            So again, you are doubling down on 'offensive' questions of yours, but object to others asking questions whose implications you dislike?

            A difference between the two of us is that while I might take some offense, I usually do go on to deal with the actual content. You seem to like stopping at the offense bit. That's getting rather tedious, so I might have to entirely change debating tactics with you. I predict it'll be boring as all hell, but you're making the current approach even more boring.

            Your subsequent behavior has been to use the most extreme language which could possibly be technically warranted, to describe what the RCC did to Galileo.

            LB: Your subsequent behavior has been to use the most extreme language which could possibly be technically warranted, to describe what the RCC did to Galileo.

            RM: You have yet to show that anything I have said was false.

            :-D

            LB: Your subsequent behavior has been to use the most extreme language which could possibly be technically warranted, to describe what the RCC did to Galileo. Whenever I pushed back, you stood your ground. And so, it seems rather clear that you are overblowing the Galileo affair. That is, I was right to guess that you "want to feel nice and righteous in your head". There was a chance I would have had to apologize for that; you could have explicitly agreed that the conflict thesis is false or that the Galileo affair has often been overblown. You did neither. At every point, you seem to be painting the Roman Catholic Church in as horrible a light as you possibly can.

            RM: Why should I have to defend or retract things I have never said?

            I didn't say you should have. I'm saying that if you did, I would have had to apologize. You've been wondering why I was insulting; it was a calculated guess and an attempt to provoke to a rigorous conversation of the facts. The guess appears right and the rigorous conversation is in progress.

            RM: The Church and Pope and Cardinals were 'in error', Galileo was not. On an issue where they claim divine authority. Do you really not think that is relevant?

            LB: This is contradicted by your "Both sides were wrong about circular orbits". And in 1633, Galileo had a problem with the apparent size/​distance of stars, as I've already explained. We now know that Galileo was [significantly!] less wrong than the Church. I think all of this is relevant. The way you've phrased your question indicates that it is plausible I would think this issue is irrelevant; that is absurd.

            RM: No it is not. The disagreement was about geocentrism vs heliocentrism, not the shape of orbits.

            Sorry, I'm not happy to permit "Galileo was right" to be an approximation of "Galileo, as judged by science which did not exist at the time of the trial, was more correct". Not when the issue at hand is just how bad the RCC was for what it did, just how anti-'progress' it was. Not when it is insisted that Galileo was justified in claiming his theory was "physically real", rather than "saving the appearances" in a manner superior to Ptolemaic astronomy.

          • RM: Hmm? Are you by any chance confusing the phases of Venus, whose mere existence was incompatible with geocentrism, with the transit of Venus?

            LB: No.

            RM: Then your post makes no sense to me.

            You just don't seem to understand that while Galileo's heliocentrism fixed some problems, it presented others, when judged by known science at the time.

            Unlike QM, Galileo knew that he had observed with his own eyes that Venus, for example, orbited the sun, not the earth. Why should he be bullied into lying about it? How can you honestly deny that this is opposing progress?

            You're ignoring the fact that marvelous progress has been made in QM while refusing to commit to an ontology—while treating it as a hypothesis which "saves the appearance" while not being "physically real". Somehow, it is such a terrible thing to have to defer settling on the ontology. How you get that I don't really know—unless perhaps you are committed to finding the RCC at terrible, heinous fault. I mean, didn't they drag an old dude across the country (was it in the dead of winter?) and "imprison" him?

            This and similar affairs proved that the Church was quite willing to use the machinery of state to persecute torture and kill people for expressing their sincerely held beliefs, when it had the power to do so.

            I never disagreed with this.

            So it has arguably lost any moral right to protest its own people being treated in the same way.

            Umm, how exactly would this work out? Especially given that the RCC has finally admitted it screwed up with Galileo. I do have some sympathy with symmetric treatment, however noting that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

          • Richard Morley

            You just don't seem to understand that...

            No, you either don't understand or are willfully ignoring the fact that observing Venus' phases meant Galileo had seen with his own eyes Venus pass in front of the Sun one way, then behind it the other way. In other words, he had seen that it orbited the Sun.

            ...while Galileo's heliocentrism fixed some problems, it presented others

            That is what scientific debate is for.. as long as one side doesn't feel that opposing views have their place: tied to a stake on top of a pile of firewood.

            If debate were allowed, none of the alleged 'problems' were beyond the science of the time - many sailors would have been able to answer some of them.

            How you get that I don't really know—unless perhaps you are committed to finding the RCC at terrible, heinous fault. I mean, didn't they drag an old dude across the country (was it in the dead of winter?) and "imprison" him?

            Perfect - you first accuse me of being irrationally committed to finding the RCC at fault, then demonstrate how far you are willing to go to deny it. Honestly, condoning and making light of the physical abuse of a sick old man? Really?

            "This and similar affairs proved that the Church was quite willing to use the machinery of state to persecute torture and kill people for expressing their sincerely held beliefs, when it had the power to do so."

            I never disagreed with this.

            Well, you should do, it was morally abhorrent.

            Umm, how exactly would this work out?

            Lack of clean hands. Well known legal and moral principle.

            Especially given that the RCC has finally admitted it screwed up with Galileo.

            Maybe you should learn from their example.

          • No, you either don't understand or are willfully ignoring the fact that observing Venus' phases meant Galileo had seen with his own eyes Venus pass in front of the Sun one way, then behind it the other way. In other words, he had seen that it orbited the Sun.

            Ummm, you suggested that I had confused the phases of Venus with the transit of Venus; it would appear that you are the confused one. Galileo had not observed the transit of Venus before his trial; see Transit of Venus, 1639.

            LB: ...while Galileo's heliocentrism fixed some problems, it presented others

            RM: That is what scientific debate is for.. as long as one side doesn't feel that opposing views have their place: tied to a stake on top of a pile of firewood.

            Wait a second, you've strenuously insisted that "Galileo was … right"/​"he was right"/​"he was right"; now you allow that maybe at the time, it was not known whether Galileo was right/​closest to right?

            As to the pile of firewood—Galileo was neither burned at the stake nor thrown in a dungeon to rot, but sent back to his own home where he continued to do science. Are you trying to fan the flames of the conflict thesis, again?

            If debate were allowed …

            Debate was allowed. Almost any time that quantum mechanics is debated, it is debated in a way that the RCC was quite happy to let Galileo's hypotheses be debated. What's the key difference? Between insisting you've got the ontology right vs. have equations which fit the observed phenomena. For some reason, you appear to believe that requiring more evidence than just the phases of Venus to change the ontology terribly thwarts the progress of science. If in fact you didn't mean "terribly thwarts"—if you meant that it was a big inconvenience which nevertheless allowed for science to march forward—then we can probably bring the conversation to a close. Unfortunately, you said that Galileo was not allowed to teach his theories, which probably verges on being deceptive.

            LB: How you get that I don't really know—unless perhaps you are committed to finding the RCC at terrible, heinous fault. I mean, didn't they drag an old dude across the country (was it in the dead of winter?) and "imprison" him?

            RM: Perfect - you first accuse me of being irrationally committed to finding the RCC at fault, then demonstrate how far you are willing to go to deny it. Honestly, condoning and making light of the physical abuse of a sick old man? Really?

            I would appreciate if you did not elide important qualifying words. In contradiction to your "Honestly", I have neither condoned nor made light of what the RCC did to Galileo. I have merely questioned just how bad it was, in the scheme of things—when compared to shenanigans that 100% secular folks pull today. If there is some sort of sickness in human nature which drives us to do these things—if 'religion' doesn't aggravate the sickness—it seems valuable to know. It's hard to cure or at least treat a sickness if one misidentifies the cause.

            RM: This and similar affairs proved that the Church was quite willing to use the machinery of state to persecute torture and kill people for expressing their sincerely held beliefs, when it had the power to do so.

            LB: I never disagreed with this.

            RM: Well, you should do, it was morally abhorrent.

            Apologies; I meant to say "I have never disagreed with this fact."

            RM: So it has arguably lost any moral right to protest its own people being treated in the same way.

            LB: Umm, how exactly would this work out?

            RM: Lack of clean hands. Well known legal and moral principle.

            Sorry, I meant to ask what plans you had for the RCC to get "treated in the same way", or at least what hypothetical(s) you were imagining.

          • Galileo was put on house arrest for doing science by the Catholic Church. That's not a progress!

            It doesn't threaten me at all scholastic schoolmen are great contributors to science. Christianity never has been.

            Sure, Christians borrowed the great idea of change and modeling nature from the Greeks and the terrible idea ethical monotheism from Judaism. This isn't just my opinion it's fact!

          • But is "doing science" the actual reason for which Galileo was put under house arrest? That's the entire contention, here. In retrospect, it is obvious that he was "doing science" at the time of his trial. But if you judge with hindsight, you're going to call a lot of people dumb/​evil who really weren't—or at least weren't nearly as bad. Since you like Wikipedia so much, check out WP: Galileo affair.

            My comment on the Scholastics hearkens back to my excerpt of Amos Funkenstein's Theology and the Scientific Imagination from the Middle Ages to the Seventeenth Century. If you wish to persist in the the quote-mining game (something creationists love to do), I am powerless to proceed.

            As to what Christians borrowed from the Greeks, you've provided zero evidence and not even logic. Just bald assertions. Sorry Brian, but I'm not interested in your dogma.

          • Yes Galileo was imprisoned for doing science.

            Agreed, you are powerless to proceed. I accept your apology!

            There is no dogma, it should be obvious to anyone as well read as you but if you want to concede that's fine.

          • LB: My comment on the Scholastics hearkens back to my excerpt of Amos Funkenstein's Theology and the Scientific Imagination from the Middle Ages to the Seventeenth Century. If you wish to persist in the the quote-mining game (something creationists love to do), I am powerless to proceed.

            BGA: Agreed, you are powerless to proceed. I accept your apology!

            I wonder how many other SN regulars would construe my words as an "apology". Your use of words here reminds me of another exchange we had:

            BGA: … from you no disagreement so far that Plato had the idea of progress in mind when he wrote the Republic.

            LB: It's hard for me to disagree with an amorphous blob of a position. That's why I asked for a quotation or two. Sorry, but "silence gives assent" is not in operation, here. If you're only interested in asserting positions instead of rationally arguing for them, I think you're in the wrong place.

            BGA: Thanks for agreeing with my position on the Republic then, if you don't want to argue, it's cool.

            I also wonder how many SN regulars would construe what I said as "agreeing".

          • Keep working on it, you've almost figured it out.

            EDIT:

            I should apologize Luke, in all honesty I was just stringing you along because I felt your comments were being ridiculous. Not in content, but in the constant demand for sources and references and quoting others, it just stops being a casual comment and exchange of ideas and more like litigation of academic issues.

            I was just trying to see how much you would respond if I kept poking you.

            I feel dirty for this and have veered into trolling. I don't like it. I am sorry.

          • Apology accepted. If you have ideas on how there can be less "litigation of academic issues" without giving up on evidence and reason, you are welcome to share. In the meantime, perhaps you could consider that in many of my online interaction with atheists, both have been constantly demanded of me.

          • I think just recognize that no one is going to read all of your cites or take the time to research counter arguments.

            The topic here is so broad that we are just never going to get anywhere by linking to papers.

            But i think I pointed to some pretty uncontroversial sources to show that scholarship is not unified on when this idea of progress arose, much less a single theology that came up with it.

            Your reluctance to cede any ground makes you seem unreasonable and looking for gotcha moments.

            For example can you not agree that Plato must have had some idea of progress in mind to write something like the Republic?

          • I guess I just don't know how much is too much wrt "linking to papers"; I thought I had done that rather little on this page. I hope you aren't referring to the Galileo thing—of all our discussion that topic is not "so broad".

            You say I exhibit "reluctance to cede any ground", but how am I doing anything you aren't? You seem rather adamant that Christianity has contributed nothing to progress and nothing to science. You demand quotations in order to be convinced of the contrary. And yet when I request quotations for your position on Plato, you won't deliver.

            I have not studied Plato's Republic in detail (hence I was trusting you could pick out some juicy quotes), but I know there is an element of "a place for everyone / everyone in his place"—that is, little to no social mobility. Nor am I aware of it being particularly helpful for scientific endeavor. Plato does document patterns in human behavior, but the end suggestion is that "the wise should rule"—is that terribly innovative or progress-oriented? Plato's notion of 'justice' is not that of equal rights; instead, it is every person acting as his/her station in society requires.

            I haven't read any Cicero, and thus cannot comment on whether he can be considered a believer in "progress" without investigating some of his writing. Since you're making the claim, it is your responsibility to provide a reasonable-length bit of text to read. But you don't seem to want to do that.

             
            P.S. All the hyperlinks here are just to comments on this page.

          • but you know enough about the Republic to acknowledge this one fact: that he was writing about a society he called Utopia that was his plan in how to improve society, an imagining of a perfect society.

            If you don't, just say so and give me the benefit of the doubt, or at least tell me whether or not if this fact were the case you would agree that do do so he must have an idea of progress.

            Again, you seem to implicitly acknowledge this as you move on to criticism of the content of Plato's ideas on progress. I have several times noted that this is not the point. The issue here is the idea of progress not the content.

            The reason I don't provide these easy quotes honestly is because I make these comments on my phone off the dome. And I usually don't have time before my bus ride ends but here is a Cicero quote. But here is one. Note he is writing a generation or two before Jesus. It is not at all hard to think that Cicero's progressive democratic and egalitarian ideas were widely known in the Empire and influenced or came from the Hellenic traditions that influenced Christian writers in later centuries.

            http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/~rkeyser/?page_id=543

            "Human Equality: “[We should realize] that we are born for justice and that right is based not on men’s opinions, but upon nature. This will already be evident if you examine the fellowship and connection of men among themselves. For there is nothing so similar, so exactly alike, as all of us are to one another… And so, however we may define man, a single definition will apply to all. That is a sufficient proof that there is no difference in kind within the species… And indeed reason, which alone raises us above the level of the beasts…, is certainly common to us all, and though varying in what it learns, at least in the capacity to learn it is invariable… In fact, there is no one, from any people whatever, who, if he finds a guide, cannot attain to virtue… For virtue originates in our natural inclination to love our fellow men, and this is the foundation of justice” (On The Laws, 1.10.28-30, 43)."

            This idea that all humans should be treated equally under the law has been described to as a radical idea of Jesus (that took many centuries to sink in). But it wasn't new.

          • There is a big difference between Plato contributing some elements to 'progress' and Plato having anything like a coherent idea himself of 'progress'. Let's take the definition from the OP:

            [OP]: The pre-eminence of progress in the history of ideas and of Western civilization in particular cannot be overstated. This vastly important idea essentially means that the trajectory of human history is linear and forward-directed rather than cyclical or regressive. It holds that each generation advances beyond its predecessor and, therefore, the human condition improves over time amid the accumulation of scientific and technological knowledge.

            This is rather more than just striving toward a utopia one has figured out in one's head. There is no doubt that Plato's Republic has been tremendously influence on Western civilization; after all, he captured many important bits of wisdom that people seem to like to forget. But it's not clear that he thought there would be innovation upon innovation built on top of his Republic. There are other factors I could also go into, such as the stultifying effects of holding to a kosmos conception of reality as well as the highest form of existence being the contemplation of divine thoughts.

            Your central contention seems to be that Christianity itself contributed little to nothing to the 'progress' of the Renaissance and Enlightenment. What Christianity did have was taken from the Jews or the Greeks. I'm sorry, but the only way to investigate such a contention is to get into the content of 'progress'. There's no need to suggest that Christians came up with 'progress' ex nihilo, with nothing positive contributed by anyone (except perhaps the Jews). The Christian has every reason to think that God is trying to speak to everyone, and that bits of wisdom will be spread far and wide. Remember the wise men who visited Jesus soon after he was born? Well, why did they make the trek? Instead, we must ask what Christians may have added to the 'progress' mixture, such that it was primed for combustion.

            Thanks for the Cicero quote. I would say that egalitarianism is a key component to 'progress'. I myself have argued that the Jews pressed toward egalitarianism, well before Cicero. You didn't like it because they weren't perfect; but unless Cicero wanted women to be equal to men in all ways, neither was he. I could also point to Cicero's violation of due process during the second Catilinarian conspiracy (see WP: Cicero). What then are we to do with Paul's "There is neither … male and female …"? Is that a step toward progress?

            There is also the question of where Cicero thought things would go once humans treat each other equally. Did he think that we'd launch into the kind of 'progress' described in the OP (see my quote above)? If instead he had rather smaller ideas and contributed less to the eventual mixture than you suggest, we can look for other contributors. Maybe Christians really did contribute something important. But you've gotta dive into some details to make that judgment call.

          • Sure but the idea did not originate with Christianity, nor did it gain preeminence with Christianity. Western civilization began several centuries before Christianity and the preeminence of progress did not arise for until many centuries after Christianity.

            What seems to be left out is any possibility that the progress attributed to Christianity here did not arise from Augustine or any Christianity but with thinkers like Plato and Cicero.

            It sure maybe the idea of cumulative progress is different. I didn't read that in the Augustine quoted.

            I note that the OP says Augustine wasn't a voice in the desert but the next source is from like a thousand years later. Maybe they had the idea that since it had been 1300 years since Jesus hadn't ended the world, they thought they should try and improve this one?

            If we look at what the Catholic Church actually did, it doesn't seem they were interested in improving society. They built Cathedrals but they certainly didn't advocate for social reforms or aqueducts or theatres or sewers. They built fortress like monasteries for centuries, but not universities or innovation centers. Not for many centuries. The Greeks did all these things. Romans to an extent, why do you think Christians stopped?

            There is no doubt in my mind that Christians contributed enormously to what we call progress. By this I mean advanced in science philosophy, medicine especially. The enlightenment and scientific revolution happened in Christendom. I even accept that aspects of Christian theology supported it.

            I just think the notion that it is inherently tied to Christian thinking and wasn't going on in other cultures goes too far. I think these concepts are western ideas, and like all western ideas Christianity played a big role for the last two millennia.

            End of the day this is just way too big of a topic to point to specific causes.

          • Progress is more than establishing a utopia one can well-envision and progress is more than egalitarianism (probably exclusively among adult males). It does seem to require something along the lines of both those things, but it needs more than them. Indeed, both of those things seem right at home in a cyclical view of time, with golden ages and terrible ages.

            One thing that is missing from our discussion so far (not from the OP) is the sense that I am laying but a few stones in a massive mansion, such that those who come after me will both build on top of what I've done (that is, not demolish and start over) but will also take things in a direction I just couldn't have imagined. This is how you have tradition which is not dead. I don't see this aspect of 'progress' in Plato and Cicero but I do see it in Christianity.

            You say that the Church was uninterested in improving society, which is ludicrous. Go read WP: Catholic Church and health care. See also WP: Sublimis Deusi—an early attempt by Pope Paul III to end slavery in the New World. You could look at early Christians' efforts to purchase slaves' freedom. We can fast forward to the universities that the RCC founded.

            Now, I have no doubt that the RCC did much to stymie human progress, just as humans have always done. Modernity is not especially awesome in this regard; I can regale you with stupid things scientists and administrators do which harm the progress of science. Then there is the politicization of various things which greatly distorts science.

            There is also the fact that the RCC had to deal with a very violent time, with a great deal of barbarism. I don't know what the minimum amount of time is to recover from such a thing and rebuilt civilization, but I can imagine it would be centuries.

          • Tending to the sick is no evidence of progress, particularly the kind of progress you are advancing. There is little evidence of this for several hundred years of Christian life. Compare this to the resources they spent building Hagia Sophia or the dozens of Gothic cathedrals and monumental monasteries. Certainly post Enlighten we see a shift towards humanitarian work but I'd say the church is following to maintain relevance.

            We can do this forever. The problem is the topic and time scale are just too broad. I certainly grant there are elements of monotheism that assist in progress and its perspective as a long term project entails this, once it looked like we are here for centuries more.

            I think it's fair to say this progressive project was not a priority. I'd like to see a comparison of the resources used by Catholics over the centuries. How much time was spent building churches, praying, doing mass, trying to convert natives, other rituals, to the time and resources spend to figure out cures, provide housing, lobby for anti slavery.

            And of course in the context of the anti progressive acts such as self harm, marginalization of women and homosexual as well as other religions.

          • Tending to the sick is no evidence of progress, particularly the kind of progress you are advancing.

            But it isn't just tending to the sick, as humans have been doing that as long as they've existed. No, what the RCC did was also tend to those who could not afford the treatment. If this does not constitute 'progress', then how does Cicero's push toward equality constitute 'progress'?

            There is little evidence of this for several hundred years of Christian life.

            Is there much evidence of anything for those several hundred years? Your statement here is just too vague to do anything with it.

            Compare this to the resources they spent building Hagia Sophia or the dozens of Gothic cathedrals and monumental monasteries.

            Oh sure; they weren't single-minded about helping the poor, widows, orphans, etc. But it seems rather better than infanticide, which the Greeks and Romans regularly practiced. Gotta start somewhere.

            Certainly post Enlighten we see a shift towards humanitarian work but I'd say the church is following to maintain relevance.

            Sorry, but I have no reason to believe your analysis on this. If you had evidence that'd be another matter, but you seem to just want to utter these things off the top of your head. I can't do anything with that. I can retort with Dominic Erdozain's The Soul of Doubt: The Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx; Erdozain goes to great pains to show that Enlightenment philosophes were actually using Christianity-inculcated worldviews to object to the more severe strains of Christianity (Protestantism and Catholicism) at the time. This rather swaps the order of the impulse toward humanitarianism. Shall we dig into the book, or are we sticking to vague generalities which are nigh unfalsifiable?

            We can do this forever. The problem is the topic and time scale are just too broad.

            Yep, that's a problem. We need better ways to collect, analyze, and discuss evidence & models. Good thing we have these super-powerful devices linked up to each other. Too bad we don't use them more intelligently. It's almost as if you and I are really leaving the facts of the matter up to a priestly caste to decide, while we just dick around. Now, if I believe we can do better and draw inspiration for this from the Bible, does that mean Christianity has another pro-'progress' element?

            I think it's fair to say this progressive project was not a priority.

            That's rather irrelevant if it was even less of a priority for everyone else.

            And of course in the context of the anti progressive acts such as self harm, marginalization of women and homosexual as well as other religions.

            Perfection exists only in heaven, which you don't believe exists.

          • Sure providing treatment free when otherwise it cost money is a kind of progress.

            Sure there's lots of evidence of what happened from 0-1000. In Europe it was mostly the expansion of Christianity and building of monasteries. There were things like Charlemagne, the Byzantine empire, golden ages in Ethiopia, China, the Maya and Inca civilizations were in good form. The Norse build settlements in Europe and North America.

            Not single minded but cathedral building takes enormous resources and decades of work. The poor and dying were obviously not a priority in those years. I'd be interested to look at the church's response to the plague for example. How much time and resources was spent on prayer and calling it divine judgement rather than saying: okay let's figure out what's causing this and how to stop it. This was 500+ years after Augustine.

            No you don't have enough reason to believe my opinions. We do have much better ways to analyze such questions, it's called history, science, even religious studies. This is a combox. It's a place to discuss opinion and argument. This topic is so huge I could spend ten lifetimes gathering data and not be in a position to prove one hypothesis over another. I do utter these things off the top of my head. I'm presenting my thoughts not my research. I have neither the time nor education nor resources to prove a point here.

            Not a priestly caste but academic disciplines. And even these don't really settle much on questions like this. As I have said many times just look at a much easier question: what caused the First World War. A specific moment in time, not all human history, and a specific issue, a violent conflict between identified nation states, not what ideology caused progress. And look at the mountains of disagreement and debate on this issue of causation.

            This is definitely us just dicking around. If I actually wanted to learn about this topic I wouldn't do it through discussing on a website combox.

            Good point that Christians may have made humanitarianism more of a priority than anyone else until
            Modern times. I'm not sure but it seems plausible. But hard to compare and consider in light of say making people saints for torturing themselves. see saint rosa. I recall her portrait in the cathedral either in Lima or La Paz. They showed her in her nightly ritual of devotion in which she tied barbed wire around her naked breasts and wore a crown of thorns, she would drink the puss of the sick, anything to share in the suffering of Christ. Now this nun may have done quite a lot for the ooor and dying, we don't know, they didn't display a portrait of that, or make a saint for that. I tend to think people with such values were not overly concerned with eliminating suffering and healing. This was a walk from the excavation of the torture chambers of the Spanish Inquisition.

            Not perfection, but you cannot simply proclaim the goods ideas of the church and ignore the harms.

          • You cite some history, but none of it actually bears on the questions at hand. You cite cathedral building as if rich humans haven't long spent most of their money on themselves. You know they still do that, right? The question is not whether Christians were perfect, but whether they took point on 'progress'. How good are our historical records at adjudicating that? Can you really say that in 600AD, Christians were [on average] anti-'progress' or neutral-'progress'? It seems to me that it's much more of a "we don't know" situation during that era. But maybe we know much more about it than I'm aware of.

            You have an interesting view of the particular kinds of combox discussions you and I engage in—many replies back-and-forth, evidence cited (you do cite some, even if I'd like more), thoughts articulated. I wonder how many Americans engage in nearly that detailed a conversation, where multiple points of view get decent play. If instead we should only consult other sources when we really want to learn about something, that seems awfully like consulting a priestly caste (you prefer "academic disciplines", but I wish to draw in the phenomenon of "priestly caste" and ask how similar the two are in fact, not in ideal). Inter-citizen discourse just wouldn't be expected to deliver truth-value.

            What it sounds like is that no way that you act in life—other than spouting opinions off the top of your head—depends on the truth or falsity of the OP's contention. Am I correct in guessing that? An alternative would be that some things somewhat so-depend, but you just have plenty else to do (e.g. spouting opinions, perhaps because you don't have the energy to do something more intensive).

            One thing that materially concerns me in all this is that there does seem to be a widespread belief that religion is intrinsically anti-science. I've seen much of what you've said be channeled into support for that position. Neil deGrasse Tyson spent nine minutes (transcript) talking about his hopes that scientists can reduce the number of religious scientists to the bare minimum (which may be above 0% due to defect brain wiring) so that the attack on religious non-scientists will not be hypocritical. He got multiple ovations. My wife is a scientist and a Christian. The more who think like Tyson, the more discrimination she will experience. Discrimination not based in [known] fact.

            Now this nun may have done quite a lot for the ooor and dying, we don't know, they didn't display a portrait of that, or make a saint for that. I tend to think people with such values were not overly concerned with eliminating suffering and healing.

            Huh? See WP: Patron saints of ailments, illness, and dangers.

            Not perfection, but you cannot simply proclaim the goods ideas of the church and ignore the harms.

            Yeah, because neither the OT nor the NT spends any time criticizing those claiming to follow God. :-D

          • Sure most humans spend on themselves. I'm interested in what the church used its resources for in the years 800-1300.

            They still build big churches but more slowly. See the cathedral in New York and Barcelona. Stalled and slow because we know there are more important things to spend money on.

            My inclusion of this history wasn't about perfection, it was about your comment that we don't have much info from the dark ages.

            No the question isn't whether they took on progress but whether they prioritized it like they did in the modern era and why. We've established that the idea of progress existed before Christianity.

            If you are saying that for most of the Middle Ages we don't know how much about whether anyone was particularly involved in what we'd call progress, fine. We can look at what they did build and wrote. Seems to me mostly churches, monasteries, castles, walls. They wrote very little except theology.

            I don't they were anti progress I don't think they thought about it. I think they were obsessed with praising god, converting others, and amassing wealth and power.

            Large scale social projects were things like the crusades, the inquisition, voyages of discovery.

            So, in terms of my life I am a trial lawyer and I know how to prove things to legal standards. I understand the difficulty and futility of purporting to prove things without the required evidence. It is just not possible to do in this context. Even when we do, this does not establish "truth" it establishes that it has convinced one person to legal standards, which are lower than scientific standard and higher than historical ones. None of these gets us to absolute truth.

            This forum is for spouting opinions off the dome. It would be silly to think we can call sufficient evidence to demonstrate claims to really any other standard.

            Well some forms of religion and Christianity are anti-science. Ken Ham's multi million dollar projects for example. Catholicism not these days at least. I've never said that. Islam also seems to be quite pro science.

            I think Tyson has been pretty clear that what is killer to science is dogma. Things that one will never question for basically religious reasons. Whether your religion has this I don't know.

            Sure lots of people are discriminated on religious grounds, I advance their claims from time to time in my practice.

            I did check the link you posted, couldn't figure me Rose of Lima there. I did look one up she is the patron saint of eye disease because she is associated with some well that has water that was believed to have cured eye ailments. It said she didn't d charitable work, but not what she did. It does mention relics and her pilgrimage. Now if someone discovered a cure for cancer she might be highly regarded by Catholics, but this could never make her a saint. Think about that.

          • BCE

            Ok I'm thinking about it.
            You tell me why. Not what you think, or have heard, but why "could never"
            I'm really curious, I understood your opinion up until your final one, please go on.

          • Maybe I'm wrong but I thought you need miracles to make you a saint. Curing cancer isn't a miracle is it?

          • BCE

            I'm sorry I was about to break the SN rules.
            I was casting a worm
            I don't really want to get in to the difference between greatness,
            or a great discovery vs saintliness (and btw the miracle happens after they'er dead )
            I could hate a movie, but know the content
            I suspected that your last comment was just your endearing way to poke fun, but now I guess "Think about that" was sincere!

          • What info do we have from the "dark ages" which bears on the matter we're discussing? What we know about the Maya and Inca civilizations is 100% irrelevant.

            Does anything in your life really hinge on whether you are more correct or I am more correct? If not, if this conversation is purely for your entertainment, I will make my exit. You might like spouting off; I don't. You may think combox discussions cannot possibly lead toward truth on such matters; I disagree. I'm pretty sure that true democracy is impossible if you're right.

            Oh, and Tyson didn't just pick out dogma, he picked out praying to a personal God who can intervene in reality. The question "Why are you religious, and believing in invisible things that influence your life—what's wrong with you?" is not a bad question in Tyson's view, it's just hypocritical to ask of non-scientists if any scientists believe in a personal God. Actually, no Muslims I know of pray to a "personal" God—it's actually heretical in the Islam I know of to anthropomorphize Allah. But yeah, when Tyson describes "praying to their personal god" with a tone of disgust and the follows up with "I personally don't care what people wanna believe.", the former obviously takes priority.

          • What info? All the info. All the history from the Middle Ages. I don't understand, do you want me to catalogue all of the historical sources from these centuries?

            No nothing in my life hinges on who's correct here, how could it? Even if you are right it tells us nothing about whether a god actually exists or Christianity is true. Yes my interest is entertainment. Sure exit if you like.

            I guess combox discussions can lead to truth. I've certainly learned from them and changed a number my of opinions. But I don't think any endeavoir leads to absolute or ultimate truth there are always epistemological caveats.

            Ok fine go after Tyson then I won't defend that kind of position.

          • Even worse to imprison the scientist who was correct for "bluster"?

            The relevant question is whether those who imprisoned him either knew or should have known that he was correct. He was correct in our judgment, but our judgment has the benefit of 400 years of historical hindsight. Our inclination to condemn his accusers is a pretty extreme case of Monday-morning quarterbacking.

          • Richard Morley

            The relevant question is whether those who imprisoned him either knew or should have known that he was correct

            A more relevant question is whether those who imprisoned him either knew or should have known that they were correct beyond reasonable doubt, and for that matter whether disagreeing on astronomy merited imprisonment, torture or death. They, after all, were the ones physically threatening those who disagreed with them.

            I don't blame the Church for being wrong on physics, I blame them for trying to shut down discussion with brute force and violence.

          • I blame them for trying to shut down discussion with brute force and violence.

            That's always a bad idea. It's not only ethically dubious but tactically foolish.

            Some of the church's defender say she has learned the lesson. Whether she has or has not, I can't say, but I see plenty of evidence that much of the secular community is still clueless about the moral and practical hazards of suppressing dissent.

          • Richard Morley

            The church itself seems to have learned the lesson, cf JPII apologising for the Gaileo affair, and of course heliocentric books were off the Index long before that.

            But given all the spin and 'reinterpretation' of the facts produced by the vast catholic PR machine, it is inevitable that devout Christians, or those who are just contrarian, will continue to recycle it. Given recent issues around religious (and other dogmatic) influence on science and funding, I think the Galileo affair is both currently relevant and as one sided as it seems. Galileo was rude but right, morally and factually, the Church was rude, violent and wrong.

          • the vast catholic PR machine . . . .

            is nothing special. It does what all PR machines, not excepting secular ones, have always done, no more and no less.

            I think the Galileo affair is . . . as one sided as it seems.

            Seems to whom? Only to those who demonize religion, so far as I can tell.

          • Richard Morley

            Seems to whom?

            That mythical beast, 'the man on the street'.

            People with no great interest in history or the relationship between religion and science (most people) tend to have an admittedly simplified view of the affair. I just feel that that Catholic PR push back goes way too far, sometimes to the point of claiming virtually all the credit for modern science. Better just to say "mea culpa, we have learned."

          • I just feel that that Catholic PR push back goes way too far, sometimes to the point of claiming virtually all the credit for modern science.

            The church's apologists have had 2,000 years to work on their PR. They've gotten so good at it, they've even got evangelical Protestants giving Medieval Catholic theologians credit for inspiring the scientific revolution.

          • BCE

            Opinion only, but as someone(you) who knows something about ethology, and the interplay of innate and learned behaviors I think the discussion(and bias against the church) is superficial and unscientific.

            How individuals and populations learn and share knowledge is not something I have studies, but know very minor bits.

            As an example some will site the church's attitude on
            dissection for stalling medical progress.
            Anthropologists uncover examples of ancient curative surgery, many cultures have rituals that involve fairly immediate and antiseptic burials. Even if for no other reason then the smell, and attracting predators.
            The fear, and experience of disease from the dead all to real.

            It's easy for atheists to simply add incidents, clergy, or tenet to their list of anti Catholic rhetoric, seemingly apart from any consideration for the rest of the world fits and stalls.
            There seems no attempt to understand either progressions or waning of advancement based on population, urbanization, food availability, conflict etc.
            While not crediting the Catholic church(for its Catholicism)
            when discoveries and technology do advance, many things
            (even accidental to it) may provide the web.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            And it seems that even the tendency to think rigorously about the order of nature that we do in fact have is given special impetus by a theological framework of grace and sin. In defense of Aquinas' conceptions of "nature" and "secondary causality", Bernard Lonergan invoked the same type of reasoning that seems to have motivated Aquinas:

            It was urged [by other theologians of Lonergan's generation, I assume] that we have to drop the words "nature," "natural," that we should be content to speak with Scripture and the Fathers of God's grace and man's sinfulness. Now I have no doubt that such words as "nature" and "natural"...can be abused. But I also have no doubt that if we are not only going to speak about God's grace and man's sinfulness but also we are going to say what precisely we mean by such speaking, then we are going to have to find some third term over and above grace and sin.

            http://lonergan.org/online_books/Liddy/ch8.htm

            Kind of ironic that "naturalists" aren't especially grateful for the introduction of a formal category of "nature".

          • Heh. But we have from the OT that humans love receiving gifts from the Giver and then forgetting him and misusing the gifts. Interestingly, apparently this isn't how the other gods were treated:

            Has a nation changed its gods,
                even though they are no gods?
            But my people have changed their glory
                for that which does not profit.
            (Jeremiah 2:11)

            Perhaps this is because God wants a relationship instead of power over us, and wants to keep giving us better things. But we want mediocrity. After all, better things often demand that we become better/​more to receive them and use them well. So we take some amount of gifts and then say, "No more, thank you very much! We will be self-sufficient, now." Humans are by [fallen] nature haters of progress, while that's precisely what God wants. (N.B. Having pathetically small desires and wishing to achieve them better and better is a pitiful form of progress.)

          • Sample1

            As I mentioned to Jim (hillclimber) the Weinberg quote shouldn’t be viewed in the context of what the article is trying to defend (religion’s influence upon our trajectory) but rather the nuanced idea that science itself has made any preceding religious attachments wholly unnecessary.

            That’s the achievement as I understand Weinberg and as such it seems uncontroversial to me.

            Mike
            Edit done

          • Weinberg is a fantastic scientist. He is surely well-aware of making rigorous definitions. So where's his rigorous definition of 'religion'? If you can't provide one, then perhaps he's really good at theoretical physics and no better than the average person on the street when discussing sociological phenomena. But it sure is fun to recruit his Nobel credentials to your dogmatic position, isn't it. :-D

          • So you "haven't even read the Bible" but can say that much about it? By "the context", I mean the point Jesus was trying to get across in the passage you like containing "take no thought for the morrow".

            What seems to be the case is that you can vaguely wave toward Plato and Cicero claiming progress with zero quotations and amidst problems (the Republic does not come out against slavery and does come out against democracy), but if the Bible isn't absolutely perfect, it contains absolutely nothing about progress. Apparently you need almost no convincing that a source other than the Bible pushed for progress, while you need inordinate convincing that the Bible itself does. Because while you haven't read it, you know so much about it.

            That the modern notion of progress "obviously" comes from the Renaissance and Enlightenment appears to be a rather dogmatic claim. I mean, weren't they clear-eyed and far-seeing, while their religious … cohabitants were blinkered and backwards-looking? Although if you applied your logic impartially, you would say that they could not possibly have cared about equality, since women were not included.

          • "So you "haven't even read the Bible" but can say that much about it?"

            Yes exactly right.

            "Apparently you need almost no convincing that a source other than the Bible pushed for progress, while you need inordinate convincing that the Bible itself does. "

            This article says that no one was really thinking about progress before Aquinas and attributes Christianity to its invention.

            But this cannot be the case since we have a major philosophical work from several centuries prior that does just that in The Republic. I don't see you disagreeing with that but rather casting aspersions kind of progress. I agree with your aspersions, but can you agree that Plato had ideas about what to him was how to literally live in Utopia?

            You advanced that the Pentateuch was a prescription for moral progress and I disagreed. The morality in those books is nothing to do with progress but rather sets out the punishments and warnings for many kinds of behavior according to an unchanging perfect moral code that includes keeping slaves and stoning children to death. but I guess on reflection this is a kind of prescription for progress. But if so we can go further to Hammurabi's code as well. In any case we are centuries from Christianity.

            It isn't dogmatic. I'm not saying the prescriptions for a good society in the renaissance were those I agree with rather the modern ideas of studying society, modeling it and figuring out how to improve it arose then.

            the issue here is when did humans first think that they could improve themselves, not when did humans figure out the proper state or goal for such improvement.

          • LB: So you "haven't even read the Bible" but can say that much about it?

            BGA: Yes exactly right.

            … wow. I guess familiarity with 'the evidence' only matters when you think it matters?

            But this cannot be the case since we have a major philosophical work from several centuries prior that [thinks about progress] in The Republic.

            Where are your quotations? You made two requests for Bible quotes ("And where are the biblical quotes?", "The point is that in describing this idea of progress there are no quotes from the new or Old Testament."); when I suggested that you do so for Plato and Cicero, you failed to deliver. When I again noted your "zero quotations", you again fail to deliver. Must only your opposition provide quotations?

            You advanced that the Pentateuch was a prescription for moral progress and I disagreed.

            You did not distinguish between "pushed toward equality" and "achieved full equality in one fell swoop". This, despite the fact that sources you endorse, like Plato's Republic, don't come out against slavery. You seem to adore double standards.

            The morality in those books is nothing to do with progress but rather sets out the punishments and warnings for many kinds of behavior according to an unchanging perfect moral code that includes keeping slaves and stoning children to death.

            Your admission that you "haven't even read the Bible" completely undermines your critique. It'd be like me characterizing the Republic as anti-democracy, full stop.

            It isn't dogmatic.

            Your failure to provide quotations, refusal to read sources, and flagrant double standards are all signals of dogmatism.

            the issue here is when did humans first think that they could improve themselves, not when did humans figure out the proper state or goal for such improvement.

            This is woefully inconsistent with your critiques of the OT. It is also flatly contradictory with God's call of Abram to something better, which I mentioned in my second reply to you.

          • No I think evidence matters when it does matter.

            You're correct. I have not provided quotations because I cannot be bothered. I'm commenting from my opinion and memory. I'm not writing a thesis.

            No they don't need to provide quotes either. But I think it means something when arguing that Christianity invented the idea of progress that there was no effort to cite the actual words of Christ.

            No double standards here and from you no disagreement so far that Plato had the idea of progress in mind when he wrote the Republic.

            You only need to accuse me of dogmatism and double standards once. But feel free to go on.

            You're right my comments are not consistent with a critique of the OT. That was a tangent the issue is when was the idea of progress invented and why?

            Ok so you are placing the invention of the idea with God telling Abram to do better. Which I think is pretty weak to support an argument that Christianity invented the idea. this would be Judaism inventing it wouldn't it?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            This isn't like a situation where we are trying to decide who gets to be first author on a paper. Jewish history (up to Second Temple anyway) is Christian history. The Christian proposal is that something special came out of the tradition of Israel. Jesus' way of putting it is captured in John 4:22.

            That said, I do think the OP gives too little credit to Jewish history on this point:

            This is why [the Romans[ were quite respectful of old religions like Judaism but suspicious of religions like Christianity that broke away from its parent faith (Armstrong 91).

            I haven't seen Armstrong's defense of this statement, but that doesn't sound quite right to me. On my understanding, the Bellum Judaicum was hardly "respectful". It seems like there was already something in the nature of Israel that simply refused to submit to "the way of the world" that Rome wanted to impose.

          • I'm commenting from my opinion and memory. I'm not writing a thesis.

            Without solid reasoning or evidence, your opinion and memory is as valuable as those religious folks you look down upon for being terribly blinkered. I wasn't aware that when I provided a quote or three, I was writing an entire thesis. Actually you wrote a thesis above, because you quoted Wikipedia. Granted, quoting Wikipedia is much different than quoting primary sources. I grew up before Wikipedia, and thus had to do actual research for my secondary education essays.

            … from you no disagreement so far that Plato had the idea of progress in mind when he wrote the Republic.

            It's hard for me to disagree with an amorphous blob of a position. That's why I asked for a quotation or two. Sorry, but "silence gives assent" is not in operation, here. If you're only interested in asserting positions instead of rationally arguing for them, I think you're in the wrong place.

            Ok so you are placing the invention of the idea with God telling Abram to do better. Which I think is pretty weak to support an argument that Christianity invented the idea. this would be Judaism inventing it wouldn't it?

            If the claim is that Christians invented the idea 100% divorced from the Jews, then I would disagree. Anyone who knows anything about Christianity knows that Jesus is seen by Christians to be the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham, God's promise to bless all the nations through his offspring. To the Jews, this was a radical turn from how how they thought that promise was going to go through. One might say that the dominant culture in OT times was "might makes right", and while YHWH's actions are actually contradictory to that, purging that poisonous idea was arduous. Jesus was finally able to exemplify "truth makes right", such that people could possibly have a clue as to what he was doing (mostly after he had died and was resurrected). So, we have that God is going to make things better and that he's going to do it with truth, not might. I wonder how the Enlightenment folks might have run with those two key components …

          • That's right my opinion and memory are perfect for this forum. Who said I look down on anyone? Be fair, I don't do that ever.

            You should check out Wikipedia.

            Thanks for agreeing with my position on the Republic then, if you don't want to argue, it's cool.

            Where is the quote "truth makes right" from? Not the Bible I'm guessing. In the Bible Jesus didn't bother with such statements, he was more busy cursing fig trees for not fruiting out of season and promising to come back and judge us all.

          • BCE

            ..."cursing fig trees for not fruiting out of season "...
            Why, when it's ok to be an atheist must you be anti Semitic?
            Again, you choose to mock the metaphorical style of Semitic writing (even in Greek ) just so you can be cheeky.
            ...look down on anyone?
            Tell me why again this amuses you.

          • I don't the no it was anti Semitic. It was cheeky. It doesn't amuse me much. Honestly, it was just an off hand response to idea of Jesus' focus on truth where he is often quoted as saying things that are demonstrably false. The writers switching between metaphors is difficult to distinguish as a modern reader.

          • David Nickol

            A charge of anti-Semitism is hardly warranted. The cursing of the fig tree is one of the most puzzling incidents in the Gospels. BGA's error here is to petulantly deploy it as if it were typical of Jesus, when in fact, if accepted as a miracle story, it stands apart from all other miracles as the only act of destruction. Sniping at each other is not "dialogue."

          • BCE

            I don't think BGA is an anti Semite and I have told him so.
            I think he takes cheap shots.
            He alone puts himself in the position of either seeming to be unaware of the metaphor. Or having a disdain for the 2000 year old Semetic style.
            Out of respect(even for Mr BGA) I don't really believe he thinks this story is a telling about Jesus(or a fictional man named Jesus) "busy cursing a fig trees for not fruiting "
            Most of my atheist friends don't want religion in matters of secular society.
            They're atheists because they have no proof of something else.
            They don't site Adam & Eve or the Ark, or God kills babies, or Jesus and the fig tree; they're not fighting against 2000 year old Jewish culture and Semitic stories.

          • BGA: … from you no disagreement so far that Plato had the idea of progress in mind when he wrote the Republic.

            LB: It's hard for me to disagree with an amorphous blob of a position. That's why I asked for a quotation or two. Sorry, but "silence gives assent" is not in operation, here. If you're only interested in asserting positions instead of rationally arguing for them, I think you're in the wrong place.

            BGA: Thanks for agreeing with my position on the Republic then, if you don't want to argue, it's cool.

            How incredibly dishonest, to construe what I've said and not said as "agreeing".

          • David Nickol

            In the Bible Jesus didn't bother with such statements, he was more busy cursing fig trees for not fruiting out of season and promising to come back and judge us all.

            Not one of your finest arguments.

          • True. It is a pathetic argument.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      There are differing views but would anyone disagree that early Christians believed Jesus would return soon and end this "progress"?

      I'm not knowledgeable enough to make the case, but the answer to your question is yes, there are some very knowledgeable scholars, N.T. Wright foremost among them, who are convinced that the whole "delay of the parousia" notion is a bogus modern fabrication, and that there is no evidence that early Christians believed that the Second Coming was immanent (at least not immanent in the sense of "coming soon in secular time"). On the contrary, those early Christians were convinced that the decisive battle of history had already been fought, and won. The important thing had just finished happening. All that was left was to implement the victory, analogous to the way that you might wind down a war, send in peacekeepers for a while, start to set up systems of education and governance, etc.

      Now, you might say, if you are working from the position that all you need to do is implement a victory, does that really orient you to progress. And I would propose that plausibly the answer is yes. If you know that nothing you do (at least nothing you do "in Christ") will be in vain, that frees you to "go for broke". You can't lose, so why not put your whole self into it. And we can find plenty of "saints" in history who seem to have taken exactly that attitude and then gone on to shape Western civilization in decisive (and progressive) ways.

  • The pre-eminence of progress in the history of ideas and of Western civilization in particular cannot be overstated.

    In the absence of reliable survey data, there is no way we could know whether someone was overstating it.

    We tend to take the idea of progress for granted

    Maybe some of us do. In a long and literate lifetime, I have seen many people dispute either its existence or its desirability.

    ”So long as an acceptable life-style could be maintained, however that was defined, other values held the stage.”

    I don’t see that having changed, given the ability of most people to accommodate their values to whatever lifestyle they define as acceptable.

    The assumption that the course of history was progressive and the confidence that great advances beckoned are reckoned to have played a key role in enabling the West to outstrip other civilizations from the late Middle Ages onward.

    Reckoned by whom? I spent a few years reading many books by many authors on the intellectual history of the West. I didn’t find that notion promoted in any of them.

    Rodney Stark, American sociologist of religion, identifies the idea of progress as one of the factors “essential to the rise of the West” (How the West Won 33).

    Without seeing his argument, all I have is a statement of the opinion of one sociologist of religion. It would be relevant to know, at the very least, how many other sociologists of religion agree with him.

    Conventional scholarly wisdom holds that the roots of this idea are firmly embedded in the 18th-century Enlightenment movement whose luminaries included Voltaire (1694-1778), Denis Diderot (1713-1784), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Adam Smith (1723-1790), and Baron d'Holbach (1723-1789) to name but a few. Enlightenment thinkers sought to emancipate mankind from what they perceived as the fetters of superstition and ignorance, and valued free inquiry and rational thought above tradition and custom. They viewed man as an essentially rational and reason-guided individual, and believed that the application of reason could solve all problems.

    Yeah, that’s the conventional wisdom, all right.

    Indeed, an outburst of optimism in the progressive course of mankind was one of the characteristic features of the Enlightenment.

    This was a time when progress was happening. Of course some people were going to think that it was bound to continue.

    But is Enlightenment thought really the source of the idea of progress?

    Not to anyone sufficiently familiar with world history.

    Or can its origin be traced as far back as Medieval Christianity, particularly Catholicism

    I don’t think so, given that progress happened in more than one pre-Christian culture.

    The Catholic worldview is predicated on the premise that history moves forward toward a definite goal or telos

    If I correctly understand Edward Feser and certain other apologists, Christians learned that premise from Aristotle.

    The optimistic Christian confidence in perpetual progress and the idea that matters ought to get better are said to have spurred the Western quest for new technology and facilitated the rapid and widespread adoption of new inventions.

    And the key phrase there is “said to have.”

    English scholar Adelard of Bath . . . called for keeping an open mind when it came to the acquisition of knowledge

    Why did he need to do that, if the virtue of open-mindedness was such a dominant teaching of the Medieval church?

    Despite Muslim-Christian enmity prevalent at the time, he had no qualms about acknowledging his debt to the “Arab masters”

    So, progress was not happening only in Christian Europe, and some Christian Europeans were aware of this.

    The discussion on Christianity’s progressive view of history warrants a comparison with that of the ancient Greeks, Romans, the Chinese, and Muslims.

    The comparison has been made previously in this forum. Many of us found the case for Christian exceptionalism to be hopelessly weak.

    Zeno of Citium . . . the Stoics . . . Marcus Aurelius . . . Empedocles . . . Pythagoras . . . Orpheus . . . .

    A handful of proof texts spanning several centuries of ancient history does not suffice to demonstrate the prevailing mindset of people living during those centuries.

    For their part, the Romans were rather conservative, tradition-bound, and oriented to the past.

    Every society, in all places and at all times, can be so characterized, not excepting our own.

  • VicqRuiz

    Why has another Augustine, another Scotus, another Anselm, another Aquinas not come along in the last eight centuries to similarly advance our understanding of the divine??

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Would we know if they had?

      It was Bernard Lonergan's goal to take what Aquinas had done in his time and do something comparable in the twentieth century. I'm not capable of judging whether he succeeded, but he certainly has some ardent fans. But of course, he was putting forth his ideas in an environment that, I think it's fair to say, is much "noisier" than the one that Aquinas was working in, so perhaps we should expect more of a delay in uptake.

      • Why has another Augustine, another Scotus, another Anselm, another Aquinas not come along in the last eight centuries to similarly advance our understanding of the divine??

        Would we know if they had?

        How would we?

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          The "advanced" / further elaborated understanding of the divine is nefariously concealed in books and other forms of writing, which we would have to read.

          As a complementary strategy (applicable only for those who take part in the Roman Catholic communion) one can expect / hope that some of these "advances" trickle down to us bumpkins in the pews, albeit in less intellectualized form, manifested e.g. as changes in the liturgy or as changes in emphasis in homilies.

          For example, in ecclesiology: extra ecclesiam nulla salus is now understood in a very different way than it was 500 years ago, in substantial measure because of Vatican II. Of course, everyday Catholics would have presumably come to similar, albeit more inchoate conclusions even without the benefit of Vatican II and the theologians who influenced it, just because of the increasingly global nature of the human experience. But, it's not like theology is completely irrelevant. Innovations in theology (including innovations since Aquinas) have had, and continue to have, enormous impact on the way a lot of people experience reality and act.

          • Innovations in theology (including innovations since Aquinas) have had, and continue to have, enormous impact on the way a lot of people experience reality and act.

            I won't deny that some theologians since Aquinas have been influential. During my Christian years, my mentors talked a lot more about Barth and Bonhoeffer than about Aquinas.

            What I've learned since then, though, is that that seems to be more an instance of ideological fragmentation than ideological progress. After reading Edward Feser's The Last Superstition, I get the idea that for a substantial fraction of Christians, Aquinas had the last non-trivial word on what we could know about God and how we could know it.

            Meanwhile in secular science, Darwin's work, for all its historical significance, is practically irrelevant to any modern understanding of biological evolution. I strongly doubt that there is any biology class in any university where The Origin of Species, or any portion of it, is an assigned text.

    • Perhaps what we need is not more theoretical understanding, but more practical application. For example, I think it is rather obvious that the Bible calls for the following two things:

           (1) Unending striving for excellence.
           (2) No domination of the weak by the powerful.

      Martin Luther, by arguing that a housewife could strive for excellence that is as valuable in the eyes of God as the monk, made a powerful push in this direction. But he did not seem to make many gains on the second matter, as epitomized by his vicious opposition to the Peasant's Rebellion. These days, the West falls over itself to do the second, but the result has been a radical drop in excellence, as can be seen at many of the US' elite schools and students' pathetic failure to oppose speakers they don't like with rigorous reasoning. (Instead they shout them down, utter threats, and engage in violence.) One can also question the extent to which the West is really backing down from exerting power over the weak.

      There's a little book, having nothing to do with Christianity, which describes a tension between (1) and (2): John W. Gardner's Excellence: Can We Be Equal and Excellent Too?. See, those who become excellent have a tendency to think that they deserve more nice things than those who, for one reason or another, are not as excellent. (Society can also be set up to reward some kinds of excellence and punish others.) Those who aren't at the top can be tempted to carry out a Cultural Flattening Revolution, or at least engage in anti-intellectualism. The point is that the two groups are at war against each other, even if Hobbes' Leviathan is keeping the war of all against all from shedding [too much] blood. There is no sense that the powerful are to serve the weak, to raise them up. At best, the powerful throw some bread crumbs to the weak, paradoxically keeping them weak.

      Maybe if we could do (1) and (2), God would have more to say to us that we could hear.

      • I think it is rather obvious that the Bible calls for the following two things:

        (1) Unending striving for excellence.
        (2) No domination of the weak by the powerful.

        I thought so, too, for a few years. What has become obvious to me since then is that anyone who believes in those things can easily find proof texts in the Bible that endorse them, just as as those who oppose them can as easily find proof texts supporting their position.

        • So what? Derrida showed that you can get famous works to say crazy things. That doesn't mean all interpretations fit equally well.

          • Derrida showed that you can get famous works to say crazy things.

            I managed to figure that out myself before I ever heard of Derrida.

            That doesn't mean all interpretations fit equally well.

            I didn't say they did. My point was that there are differing interpretations, and so it can't be the case that only one is the obvious interpretation. Unless, of course, we define "obvious" as "the way things appear to Luke Breuer."

          • You, of all people, should know that I am aware of "differing interpretations". Furthermore, you can note that I said "I think it is rather obvious", not "it is rather obvious".

          • you can note that I said "I think it is rather obvious", not "it is rather obvious".

            How does that qualify it? I assume that everything you say is something you think, unless you attribute the idea to somebody else.

          • When someone says "it is obvious that", there is often a hint of "many people consider it obvious that". There is also the hint that the obvious will not be explained, for it would be beneath the person to do so. It's a way that society reinforces taken-for-granted matters. Your very response to me indicates that you are well-aware of this social protocol. And yet, you played dumb—why?

          • When someone says "it is obvious that", there is often a hint of "many people consider it obvious that".

            There is also a hint that "only idiots would not consider it obvious that."

            It's a way that society reinforces taken-for-granted matters.

            That's fine for cases in which society's consensus on the matter is nearly unanimous. For other cases, it looks to me like an attempt to beg the question.

            And yet, you played dumb—why?

            To emphasize how many people there are to whom your interpretation is not the least bit obvious.

          • There is also a hint that "only idiots would not consider it obvious that."

            Yep. Which is another reason that I said "I think it is rather obvious" (underlining added).

            For other cases, it looks to me like an attempt to beg the question.

            Which is utterly irrelevant when one prefaces with "I think".

            To emphasize how many people there are to whom your interpretation is not the least bit obvious.

            Curious; I thought you had gone rather further: "Unless, of course, we define "obvious" as "the way things appear to Luke Breuer.""

          • Curious; I thought you had gone rather further: "Unless, of course, we define "obvious" as "the way things appear to Luke Breuer.""

            I intended that to be a counterfactual, as in "Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK, unless, of course, the fatal shot was fired from the grassy knoll."

          • Ok, perhaps you are that ignorant of social protocols. I was, at one point. Then I learned that adding, "I think" can very much change things. The bottom line here is that I am quite happy to defend why I think the obvious message is (1) & (2), and I am happy to discuss with anyone who thinks differently.

          • Ok, perhaps you are that ignorant of social protocols.

            That's a distinct possibility. My childhood education in social skills was quite deficient. I suffered the consequences of that deficit during my adolescence and, to a lesser but still significant extent, throughout my adulthood.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If I had to guess, I might suppose that the majority of the contributors here (and on similar sites) have suffered significantly from social ineptitude at some point in their lives. If we hadn't been blessed with some degree of social incompetence in our youth, how would we have ever developed such excellent abilities to navigate the contours of our own minds? :-)

          • In college, I had a habit of saying stuff like "the answer to problem 5 is bx + 4ay" when working on problem sets with others. Even though I thought it was obvious that I was just reporting on what I got, it really rubbed people the wrong way. Saying "the answer I got …" made a world of difference. It seems that the first way discourages disagreement and requests for explanation, while the second is neutral or even encourages such things.

      • VicqRuiz

        Good post, but I still wonder why (for Catholics in particular) theology since the fourteenth century seems to largely consist of commentaries on what was done up to that time.

        • Sounds like a great blog post for SN. I'm not Catholic, and this is one issue where my thoughts may differ significantly from most Catholics.

    • Richard Morley

      They have: Bertrand Russell, Daniel Dennet, AC Grayling, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Antony Flew ... ;)

  • David Nickol

    Yes, a lot. Nobody familiar with the Gospels would claim Jesus was "more busy" cursing fig trees or even talking about judgment. The incident with the fig tree is minor, appearing only in Mark and Matthew, with only Mark saying it was not the season for figs. The public ministry of Jesus lasted somewhere between one and three years. Incidents with fig trees cannot be said to have kept Jesus "busy."

    Jesus says some striking things about judgment, but such sayings don't by any means keep him "busy."

  • Ray

    It seems like a lot of the discussion has missed perhaps the most interesting point from the original post -- the claim that the Medieval Catholic notion of progress is largely shared with Shia Islam. I am somewhat skeptical that these distinctions can really be identified with the Sunni/Shia split prior to the Ottoman/Safavid era, but I agree that there are many parallels between the Aristotelianism of Late-medieval and modern Roman Catholicism and that of post Safavid Shiism. That said, one wonders about the value of a notion of progress that sees its greatest modern expression in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

  • Good job outing yourself:

    BGA: Keep working on it, you've almost figured it out.

    EDIT:

    I should apologize Luke, in all honesty I was just stringing you along because I felt your comments were being ridiculous. Not in content, but in the constant demand for sources and references and quoting others, it just stops being a casual comment and exchange of ideas and more like litigation of academic issues.

    I was just trying to see how much you would respond if I kept poking you.

    I feel dirty for this and have veered into trolling. I don't like it. I am sorry.

  • So the idea of progress, as we currently understand it, was generally understood to have been formulated by Francis Bacon. It's certainly possible that Bacon was influenced by his christian background, given that he was a christian in a christian society. His writing is certainly not devoid of theological reasoning-- in fact, it's often quite explicit.

    But if our goal is to understand why the western notion of progress is different from other civilizations' it seems silly to focus on the teachings of medieval theologians, without considering any of the other historical or economic factors that would have shaped the thoughts and experiences of Europeans, particularly in the 16th and 17th centuries when the enlightenment happened. The obvious candidate is the discovery of the new world.

    I guess my issue is that the article points to ideas that at least superficially resemble our modern understanding of progress (although I think we're far more likely to over-project our present biases on historical thinkers than under-project), but there's no case that this was sufficient or even a necessary precursor to the western idea of progress as it is typically understood.

  • Richard Morley

    The idea that the development of science was down to something intrinsic in Christianity as opposed to some other facet of european culture seems unlikely, certainly unproven. Progress was strong before Jesus, and if anything stalled with the dominance of Christianity.

    In the 1000 years prior to Jesus, ancient Greeks (and Romans) pioneered the foundations of geometry, cartography, democracy, medicine, zoology, botany, taxonomy and philosophy. They invented scientific instruments like the astrolabe, the odometer, the Antikythera mechanism, and practical gadgets like the alarm clock, the watermill, the Archimides screw and Archimedes' other inventions including an honest-to-kittens death ray! (That last being contested, but one Dr. Ioannis Sakkas was actually able to ignite a moving ship with a reasonable reconstruction.) They had differential gears, aqueducts, calipers, cranes, escapements, pumps, winches, showers, chain drives, central heating, fountains, better cement than the modern stuff, even a crude railway in the Diolkos. Finally in the first century AD, but still pagan, we have Hero describing a crude steam engine.

    What did Christian culture achieve in the 1000 years after it dominated the Roman Empire? Closing the Academy and other schools, burning books, making same sex marriage a capital offense, and...? Even the horse collar came from China. Progress restarted, it seems to me, only after Universities replaced the platonic schools, classical philosophy was revived, and ultimately when the centralised Church lost its stranglehold on free debate.

    • Phil

      Hey Richard,

      I would only agree partially with this. It is absolutely true that modern science didn't need Christianity to arise, but Christianity provided the fertile ground that was needed for modern science to arise at the specific time it did.

      Why is this the case? 3 primary reasons, and without one of these you don't have modern science as we have it today:

      (1) The world is not God (i.e., pantheism, Greek types of mythology, and the like are false).
      (2) The world is intelligible and can be known because it was created by a reasonable Creator (found in Scripture and Church Tradition and doctrine in the early 100s and before).
      (3) Humans themselves have an intellect capable of knowing the truth of what has been created (Scripture, and Church Tradition and Doctrine).

      This is why Christianity provided a perfect fertile ground for modern science that places dominated by Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and even Greek mythology didn't birth "full-on" modern science. There were little hints, but never quite got there.

  • This still doesn't tell us why the Scientific Revolution took place when it did. Why then, not earlier? Additionally, the thinkers then were notable for rejecting teleology in favor of mechanism (something that has also underpinned scientific thought ever since). The former had been embraced by Christians until then, and remains part of Catholic theology at least to this day (as the Thomists remind us).

    I wonder about Persian civilization. Zoroastrianism, from what I understand, is similar to Christianity in positing a future golden age when the good god Ahura Mazda finally vanquishes the evil god Ahriman. Apparently there was also technical progress in Persia, but no Scientific Revolution as in Persia. Perhaps this was an influence on the Shiites, as they were centered in Iran. I am not aware of the pre-Diaspora Jews being notable in this way, despite also holding linear views. Since these other cultures with linear concepts of time lack did not result in their own scientific revolution, why only Christian Western Europe?

    Edit: If the Christian thinkers were that open originally to theological innovation, the persecution of heretics is puzzling. That includes Augustine, whom you quote. He compared heretics with venomous snakes I believe, that had to be destroyed.

    • Was teleology immediately abandoned in all affairs, or only in the scientific study of inanimate phenomena and to a lesser extent, nonhuman organisms? I don't see 'progress' and 'reason' immediately slotting into a dysteleological worldview.

      • I don't know, but probably not, no. This was only regarding science though. A dysteleogical worldview was apparently easily built from it though, given the idea grew prominent soon after.

        • Do you think a dysteleological worldview is consistent with a belief in 'progress'? That has me somewhat confused. Unless we believe much less in 'progress' now than the Enlightenment folks did; that seems probable given my experience and exploration of the matter.

          • Interesting question. Perhaps as you said they didn't abandon it so much outside natural phenomena. I don't know enough to say for sure. It seems say Marxist teleology is pretty different from the Aristotelian however.

  • Richard Morley

    The Conflict thesis is a strawman, as usually presented: that religion is always, fundamentally and intrinsically in conflict with science and reason. This is often countered with individual examples of religious people or groups advancing science, so while seldom explicitly stated the implication is clearly that alleged proponents of the conflict thesis somehow think that religious people either cannot or never actually do advance science.

    Nobody thinks that. (He says confidently, there can be wingnuts in any large group)

    I would assert that the fundamental approach of 'faith' is intrinsically opposed to the fundamental approach of science and reason, especially if we add the qualifier 'blind' to 'faith'. But the idealised catholic theologian (one who bases his position soundly on logic and reason, and is genuinely open to conclusions contrary to his faith if that is where the argument and evidence lead him) would be very rational and scientific, I'm just not sure he exists. At best I see people who seek to establish a sound logical support structure for conclusions that are at least partly defined in advance, and so revise the premises to reach the desired conclusion. Which, to be clear, is not wrong in itself, especially if one is open about doing that, but it is very different from genuine philosophical enquiry.

    I would also assert that religion is often in conflict with science and reason, lends itself easily to such conflict, and was in conflict in the case of the Galileo affair. Or the Scopes trial, the Dover Panda case, modern creationism in general, the closing of the academies in ancient Rome, the burning of books by early christians and their rejection of 'pagan' learning, and so on. Denying these facts or downplaying their relevance is not a strawman, we see it all the time.
    (Christian examples chosen for a christian site, I am not claiming christianity is necessarily worse than other religions here)

    • BCE

      This is anecdotal, I realize my own bias and limited observations;
      but I find very little difference between atheist and the devout. I don't know if it's innate or learned: I suspect it's part meme, but progress might be spurred more by a type of thought, the content secondary.
      There are confident atheists who think they are open minded and deeply intellectual. They don't understand the difference between Socratic dialogue leading to a reasoned conclusion, and endless arguing that only leads .."to each his own"
      They often approach things based on internal 'feelings' influenced by Eastern thought, seeking balance, fairness, etc.
      They depend on internal dialogue and self actualization.

      In modern times these young adults are not enrolled in advanced math class, but suck up every new age idea, treat social theory as fact, and are dogmatically convinced of victimization and conspiracy, and seek out the right food prep, vitamin, body cleansing as much as anything in Leviticus.
      The growth in social science ....diversity, women's studies, cultural competence, etc. and being nonreligious hasn't lessened their appetite for ideology and made them innovators.
      Those I know who are practicing Jews, Catholics and Science minded persons look for authoritative answers, answers( that could be dead wrong) but seek a source other than just themselves.
      They seek truth outside themselves.
      Looking to an external authority, like church or science, they may still oppress, reject outsiders, shame the ignorant, and as I said, be wrong, but the actual mode of their thinking is driven by believing truth is not a feeling and
      not arrived at by "finding yourself", so to my ears, my Catholic/Jewish friends, and scientific minded friends(atheist or not) sound the same.
      I would guess innovators are those who can get out of their own way, they can effectively use abstract thought and imagination in philosophy or science, or both.

      • Richard Morley

        ...I find very little difference between atheist and the devout

        psst - the atheists are the ones who don't believe in a God! ;)

        But yes, it is possible to be religious and very rational or atheist and very dogmatic and irrational. So I feel that a better categorization than religion vs science might be faith vs reason, or better blind faith vs (reason and justified faith)

        Another potentially useful difference to contemplate is one you mention: the difference between relying on the judgement of an external authority, or relying at least in principle on your own judgement. Judgement of arguments and evidence suggested by others, no doubt - I'm not suggesting that anyone should try to duplicate the whole of human thought themselves, alone, and equally no one person can expect to master all the branches of science and philosophy. I trust my doctor's judgement on most medical matters, but in the final resort it is my judgement that I rely on, even if that judgement is to trust the NHS on a matter I cannot follow.

    • The Conflict thesis is a strawman, as usually presented: that religion is always, fundamentally and intrinsically in conflict with science and reason.

      Huh, that's not the idea I get from Wikipedia. Here's the lead paragraph:

      The "conflict thesis" is a historiographical approach in the history of science which maintains that there is an intrinsic intellectual conflict between religion and science and that the relationship between religion and science inevitably leads to public hostility. The thesis retains support among some scientists and in the public,[1] while most historians of science do not support the thesis, especially in its original strict form.[2][3][4][5] (WP: Conflict thesis)

      Just to be clear, here's your account compared with Wikipedia's:

           RM: always, fundamentally, intrinsically
           WP: intrinsically

      Now, I assume that the two extra words you included mean something, over and above 'intrinsically'. If not, if they're just window dressing, please let me know.

      From what I can tell, the minimal identifying mark of the conflict thesis is that religion is more harmful than helpful to scientific enquiry. If that were true—just that, nothing more—it would probably warrant being quite severe on religion. The traditional response is that religion delivers things other than science (e.g. comfort), but I find mere comfort rather weak sauce. If the strength of William Wilberforce's convictions in fighting slavery were 'religious', then things get more interesting, but perhaps we can ignore that knot for now.

      Now, where is the evidence that religion—or at least, Christianity—is more harm than good when it comes to science? Here's what I recall from you so far:

           (1) refusal to let Galileo declare his theories "physically real" until there was sufficient evidence
           (2) modern creationism
           (3) burning of Pagan books & banning associated learning
           (4) closing of Roman academies

      Feel free to add more. Now, I preemptively responded to any such list with a quote from Gary Ferngren, taken from WP: Conflict thesis. In response, you committed the genetic fallacy: "of the Christian bioethics research center at Trinity International University. A nice impartial opinion." But perhaps I don't really need the Ferngren quote, as there are plenty of others on the Wikipedia page.

      the idealised catholic theologian (one who bases his position soundly on logic and reason, and is genuinely open to conclusions contrary to his faith if that is where the argument and evidence lead him)

      Can you cite a single Catholic theologian, with appreciable reputation among Catholics (e.g. not just some crank), who agrees with this ideal? One immediate problem is that merely starting with logic and reason doesn't seem to get you to a place like William Wilberforce's ardent opposition to slavery. Nor does it get you Catholic social teaching. The problem is that ever since we abandoned the idea of a kosmos, where natural and social order are fused (even indistinguishable), what is factually true was divorced from what is good. In such a scheme, reason and logic do not help you with the "binding" aspect of 'the good'; they give you hypothetical imperatives, not categorical ones. The best you can do is to promote survival, but that always prioritizes the individual/​family/​tribe—not very consistent with Catholic social teaching.

      I would also assert that religion is often in conflict with science and reason, lends itself easily to such conflict, and was in conflict in the case of the Galileo affair.

      Your use of "often" and "lends itself easily" are too ill-defined without a comparison to other groups of humans who are combination of pro-'progress' and anti-'progress'. Max Planck famously said, [paraphrased] "Science advances one funeral at a time." Scientists themselves do plenty that is anti-progress. Humans are simply far from perfect. It is well known that they sabatoge their own efforts all too often. But something tells me you want to say that we—rather, some particular subset of "we"—today are better than the RCC [was?]. Is that correct?

      Denying these facts or downplaying their relevance is not a strawman, we see it all the time.

      If you cannot point to anyone in this thread who has denied any of those facts, please acknowledge that. As to "downplaying relevance", well how do we calculate "relevance"? As I've been at pains to point out, humans are far from ideal. So mere imperfection is rather uninteresting.

      • Richard Morley

        Now, I assume that the two extra words you included mean something, over and above 'intrinsically'.

        Here

        You also missed out the 'inevitably' in the next sentence on WP. My point is that noone (sane) denies that there have been positive contributions from religious individuals and groups to science. Otherwise apparently sane people do try to deny that religion is ever contrary to science, but not many. Otherwise everything is quite explicit in what I already wrote and really quite offtopic.

        Now, where is the evidence that religion—or at least, Christianity—is more harm than good when it comes to science?

        You are already trying to shift what I actually said closer to extremism. Still, how do you compare, say, the harm of closing the academies and 1000 years of stagnation with the benefit of [re]establishing universities after that?

        You seem to want to justify your personal attacks on anyone who feels the Galileo affair was the Church being anti progress by equating that with the conflict thesis as defined by you. I would suggest that it is then up to you to show that we are claiming something that is false, for example proving that we think the Church was overall more harmful than beneficial to science and proving that it was not.

        Your quote from Ferngren only makes assertions, not arguments, so his impartiality is directly relevant, and so his being a professional christian is likewise. The genetic fallacy would be to claim that this proves his argument (once stated) false.

        Can you cite a single Catholic theologian, with appreciable reputation among Catholics (e.g. not just some crank), who agrees with this ideal?

        Thomas Aquinas? What exactly are you disagreeing with, the idea that Catholic faith can be based on reason?

        If you cannot point to anyone in this thread who has denied any of those facts, please acknowledge that.

        I can - you. Faced with a letter from Pope Gregory clearly denouncing the teaching of grammar as pagan, you tried to twist the words to deny that fact. This entire thread has been about you trying to downplay the significance of the Galileo affair and personally attacking anyone who thinks it was indeed anti progress.

        • You also missed out the 'inevitably' in the next sentence on WP.

          You are correct, but that 'inevitably' implies neither your 'fundamentally' nor your 'always'. It merely suggests that there is necessarily something about religion which pits it against science. So again I ask, from whence did you get your 'fundamentally' and 'always'? You do not seem to have obtained them from me or from WP: Conflict thesis. So either you've constructed your own "strawman", or imported it to where it does not belong.

          My point is that noone (sane) denies that there have been positive contributions from religious individuals and groups to science.

          This is 100% consistent with Wikipedia's rendering of the conflict thesis, as well as mine.

          LB: Now, where is the evidence that religion—or at least, Christianity—is more harm than good when it comes to science?

          RM: You are already trying to shift what I actually said closer to extremism.

          Umm, I was trying to establish a "minimal identifying mark of the conflict thesis" which is far less intense than the strawman you have either constructed yourself or observed elsewhere. If you wish to assert that you don't even hold to this much-ameliorated version of the conflict thesis, be my guest.

          Still, how do you compare, say, the harm of closing the academies and 1000 years of stagnation with the benefit of [re]establishing universities after that?

          By carefully examining the evidence and playing models off each other to see which best fits. One place I would start is to ask whether the Romans and Greeks hamstrung themselves by relying on slave labor; I could see that being very anti-progress. Another place I would start is to ask how much fault Christianity bears for the fault of Rome and then look at what can reasonably be expected in the aftermath of the collapse of the biggest empire humans had created by that time. There is more I could say but I will stop here for now.

          Your quote from Ferngren only makes assertions, not arguments, so his impartiality is directly relevant, and so his being a professional christian is likewise. The genetic fallacy would be to claim that this proves his argument (once stated) false.

          Ahh, so if I establish that the secular academy has often been prejudiced against Christianity, I could do the same thing to all of your sources? We could also, you know, examine the data Ferngren cites in his book. The quote is from the introduction of his history book.

          RM: the idealised catholic theologian (one who bases his position soundly on logic and reason, and is genuinely open to conclusions contrary to his faith if that is where the argument and evidence lead him)

          LB: Can you cite a single Catholic theologian, with appreciable reputation among Catholics (e.g. not just some crank), who agrees with this ideal?

          RM: Thomas Aquinas? What exactly are you disagreeing with, the idea that Catholic faith can be based on reason?

          I partially explained in the same paragraph; you may ask for clarification. So, what does Aquinas say to make you think he would agree with your ideal?

          Faced with a letter from Pope Gregory clearly denouncing the teaching of grammar as pagan, you tried to twist the words to deny that fact.

          Nope, I said that someone naive to the particularities of the issue would not think that "banning the teachings of Jupiter" necessarily means "banning any and all teaching of grammar". When you suggested that this is the case, I happily said that I would accept it given the appropriate evidence.

          This entire thread has been about you trying to downplay the significance of the Galileo affair and personally attacking anyone who thinks it was indeed anti progress.

          Downplay the significance from where to where? I still don't really have an accurate read on your position—I have evidence-based suspicions, but you've left yourself plenty of wiggle room—so I've had to make educated guesses. Your last bit is an outright falsehood: I've never argued that the Galileo affair is anything other than anti-progress. The question instead, as I've said repeatedly, is how that one example of anti-progress fits into the overall narrative. The OP, after all, is focused on the overall narrative.

          • Richard Morley

            You are correct, but that 'inevitably' implies neither your 'fundamentally' nor your 'always'.

            Nor your 'more harm than good'.

            This is 100% consistent with Wikipedia's rendering of the conflict thesis, as well as mine.

            As, again, are many of your own statements.

            Another place I would start is to ask how much fault Christianity bears for the fault of Rome

            See Gibbon. But here you are trying to argue whether christianity caused that harm, not addressing the problem of how one can gauge that harm against a given benefit. There is no clear objective measure.

            And again, I see the burden of proof as being on you to show why this is relevant, and if so that the benefit outwieghs the harm. All I've said is that the Galileo affair was harm.

            Ahh, so if I establish that the secular academy has often been prejudiced against Christianity...

            Then mere assertions about the RCC being anti-science from such sources should indeed be treated cautiously. So?

            I partially explained in the same paragraph;

            Really not. Why are you again unwilling to explain what you disagree with?

            So, what does Aquinas say to make you think he would agree with your ideal?

            Summa contra Gentiles comes to mind..

            Nope, I said that someone naive to the particularities of the issue would not think that "banning the teachings of Jupiter" necessarily means "banning any and all teaching of grammar".

            your words:"I read that and it seems the objection was not to teaching grammar, but what material was used to teach grammar"
            Gregory's words: "But it afterwards came to our ears, what we cannot mention without shame, that your Fraternity is in the habit of expounding grammar to certain persons." Very clearly, and famously, denouncing the teaching of grammar.QED

            Your last bit is an outright falsehood: I've never argued that the Galileo affair is anything other than anti-progress.

            You have repeatedly attacked those who asserted that it was anti progress, and countered that Galileo was 'allowed' to teach his ideas and so progress could continue unhindered. Here you even imply that it would have been better for science for Galileo to meekly submit to censorship.

          • LB: You are correct, but that 'inevitably' implies neither your 'fundamentally' nor your 'always'.

            RM: Nor your 'more harm than good'.

            Ok, so if that 'inevitably' implies neither your 'fundamentally' nor your 'always', why did you include them?

            Whether or not my "more harm than good" is implied by WP: Conflict thesis is irrelevant, given what you subsequently wrote:

            RM: That part is, of course, not in the WP article. Without it, or my version for which I give my reasons, the crisis thesis is so anaemic that there is neither any real way to argue against it nor, I imagine, any real need.

            The question which remains is whether my version is a strawman. I contend that yours is, that it is quite a lot more intense than mine. Now, if you are not willing to contend that Catholicism has done more harm than good with respect to science, why say that the Galileo affair is "crucial" to the OP? Surely Tamer Nashef will not argue that the Church has been perfect. Surely he would admit grievous errors.

            RM: My point is that noone (sane) denies that there have been positive contributions from religious individuals and groups to science.

            LB: This is 100% consistent with Wikipedia's rendering of the conflict thesis, as well as mine.

            RM: As, again, are many of your own statements.

            Huh? We were talking about WP: Conflict thesis and you wanted to emphasize that only insane people would say that neither religious individuals nor groups have ever made positive contributions to science. Why make this point if it is 100% consistent with the Wikipedia article? You've focused yourself on a strawman which doesn't belong in this conversation.

            But here to are trying to argue whether christianity caused that harm, not addressing the problem of how one can guage that harm against a given benefit. There is no clear objective measure.

            Oh c'mon, to say that the Galileo affair is "crucial" to the OP is to gauge harm against benefit. How else is one to take that use of "crucial"?

            And again, I see the burden of proof as being on you to show why this is relevant, and if so that the benefit outwieghs the harm. All I've said is that the Galileo affair was harm.

            No, that's not "all you've said". You said "The Galileo affair is crucial, especially as regards the topic of this thread." In other words, if we fail to include the Galileo affair, somehow we'll fail to properly understand the place of the RCC with regard to 'progress'. Or have I misunderstood all this time? Perhaps I improperly assumed that you were responding to the OP.

            Then mere assertions about the RCC being anti-science from such sources should indeed be treated cautiously.

            You were only treating Ferngren "cautiously"? It sounded like dismissal to me.

            RM: the idealised catholic theologian (one who bases his position soundly on logic and reason, and is genuinely open to conclusions contrary to his faith if that is where the argument and evidence lead him)

            LB: Can you cite a single Catholic theologian, with appreciable reputation among Catholics (e.g. not just some crank), who agrees with this ideal?

            RM: Thomas Aquinas? What exactly are you disagreeing with, the idea that Catholic faith can be based on reason?

            LB: I partially explained in the same paragraph; you may ask for clarification. So, what does Aquinas say to make you think he would agree with your ideal?

            RM: Really not. Why are you again unwilling to explain what you disagree with?

            Sorry, I have no idea why you say "Really not." A great deal of religion—at least Christianity—has to do with the binding nature of what would otherwise be hypothetical imperatives. This is closely related to there being lasting relationship between persons—whether human or divine. A huge part of relationship is a common understanding of 'the good'. Your ideal would silently package all this into "reason" and "faith". I doubt that any respectable Catholic theologian would be ok with that.

            So, what in Summa contra Gentiles does Aquinas say which makes you think he'd be alright with your ideal?

            your words:"I read that and it seems the objection was not to teaching grammar, but what material was used to teach grammar"
            Gregory's words: "But it afterwards came to our ears, what we cannot mention without shame, that your Fraternity is in the habit of expounding grammar to certain persons." Very clearly, and famously, denouncing the teaching of grammar.QED

            Let us assume you are correct. The reader would then be rather surprised to encounter the following:

            Like most young men of his position in Roman society, Saint Gregory was well educated, learning grammar, rhetoric, the sciences, literature, and law, and excelling in all.[12] Gregory of Tours reported that "in grammar, dialectic and rhetoric ... he was second to none...."[22] (WP: Pope Gregory I)

            The reader would also be shocked to read this page from Legacy of Learning, A: A History of Western Education, about just what was meant by the banning of grammar. After all, nobody would guess, from what you've said, that Pope Gregory I didn't want the "ancient rules [of language] of to dominate contemporary style". Nobody would guess that Gregory pushed for education. No, he wasn't a perfect friend of the classics, but the picture you've painted is, as usual, grossly exaggerated. Placed in context, Gregory is a typically flawed human who seemed to be doing some pretty good things. One might even say he was striving for … 'progress'.

            You have repeatedly attacked those who asserted that it was anti progress …

            Yep, because I suspected they were using language better suited to describing Trump than Romney. The more I press with you, the more that suspicion is confirmed. And yet, you keep leaving yourself wiggle room which could have this all being a giant misunderstanding. So I press on.

            Here you even imply that it would have been better for science for Galileo to meekly submit to censorship.

            I don't see anything I said which would yield "meekly".

      • Richard Morley

        From what I can tell, the minimal identifying mark of the conflict
        thesis is that religion is more harmful than helpful to scientific
        enquiry.

        emphasis added

        That part is, of course, not in the WP article. Without it, or my version for which I give my reasons, the crisis thesis is so anaemic that there is neither any real way to argue against it nor, I imagine, any real need.

        • Why does the conflict thesis require your intense version in order to not be "anaemic"? I do see why it requires my "minimal identifying mark" to not be "anaemic". I don't know about you, but my "religion is more harmful than helpful to scientific enquiry" seems a lot less intense than your "religion is always, fundamentally and intrinsically in conflict with science and reason".

          [Edit to change the second "minimal identifying mark" → "religion is more harmful than helpful to scientific enquiry".]

          • Richard Morley

            ? What I said was that it requires one or the other. Or something similar, I should add.

            If all it says is that there is "an intrinsic intellectual conflict between religion and science" then sure. So what? You resolve it.

          • ? What I said was that it requires one or the other. Or something similar, I should add.

            Do you think your "religion is always, fundamentally and intrinsically in conflict with science and reason" is more intense, less intense, or about as intense as my "religion is more harmful than helpful to scientific enquiry"? You noted that your version is a "strawman", that "Nobody thinks that." I would agree. But I've run across many atheists who seem to think my version holds. So if you agree that your version is more intense, I want to know why you advanced it, in this conversation, with what I've written and with WP: Conflict thesis in play.

            If all it says is that there is "an intrinsic intellectual conflict between religion and science" then sure.

            If that were [knowably] true, you could find me peer-reviewed evidence of the following:

                 (1) When a scientist becomes an atheist,
                         [s]he does better science.
                 (2) When a scientist becomes religious,
                         [s]he does worse science.

            You can of course alter the timetable a bit—maybe the scientist recognizes the change in religious belief after some or many of the impacts on his/her scientific prowess manifest. Anyhow, I doubt you can actually demonstrate (1) or (2). That would make the "intrinsic intellectual conflict" a matter not supported by the evidence. Now, you could retort that we would see (1) and (2) except for cognitive dissonance. But that only makes sense if cognitive dissonance only partially obscures the causal effect of religion. To say that a causal power exists but is completely invisible is to beg the question.

          • Richard Morley

            I could equally ask why you are asking me to defend a 'thesis' on Wikipedia, rather than anything I have said. I have already addressed what I do and do not agree with from a strong, meaningful conflict thesis. I addressed it because you keep claiming that I am defending it.

            If that were [knowably] true, you could find me peer-reviewed evidence of the following:

            Linguistically confused, and logically false, and more importantly you seem again to be responding to some conversation going on inside your head rather than what I have written. Just as I did not assert that it needed my version rather than yours for the thesis not to be 'anaemic', I did not assert that there is "an intrinsic intellectual conflict between religion and science", just that saying only that much doesn't lead to anything terribly interesting or controversial.

            Again, if you want to argue that religion is more helpful than harmful to science, I'm listening. Or for that matter there is your insinuation that the enlightenment harmed children, we are still waiting for you to show that children are worse off now than pre-enlightenment, and that this is the enlightenment's fault.

          • I could equally ask why you are asking me to defend a 'thesis' on Wikipedia, rather than anything I have said.

            Asking you whether you support a viewpoint is not asking you to defend it. The OP argues that overall, Christianity has been a proponent of 'progress'. You have stated that the Galileo affair is "crucial" to the OP. One reason it could be "crucial" is that you disagree about said "overall". Since you are less than forthcoming about just what you believe on this matter, I have to pull teeth. Yes, it's obnoxious for both of us.

            I have already addressed what I do and do not agree with from a strong, meaningful conflict thesis.

            Just to be clear, you do not wish to assert that "religion is more harmful than helpful to scientific enquiry"? Or are you really just referring to your own "religion is always, fundamentally and intrinsically in conflict with science and reason"?

            I did not assert that there is "an intrinsic intellectual conflict between religion and science", just that saying only that much doesn't lead to anything terribly interesting or controversial.

            Sorry, but my response contested precisely the underlined. I think it is exceedingly controversial whether there is any causal power of 'religion' which is anti-science in the slightest. If there were, it would be detectable via scientific means.

            Are you really not aware that it is a tradition for atheists to cite the Galileo affair in order to support the thesis that religion is intrinsically opposed to science? Indeed, some might claim that it is a "crucial" exemplar of "intrinsically opposed".

            Again, if you want to argue that religion is more helpful than harmful to science, I'm listening.

            That would require a massive amount of evidence; I doubt one could accrue and discuss it without technology that has yet to be invented. I'm more interested in questioning with anyone who would state or plausibly insinuate that religion is more harmful than helpful to science. And I might be working on such technology as well.

            Or for that matter there is your insinuation that the enlightenment harmed children …

            Huh?

          • Richard Morley

            Observed fact: Christianity does tend towards an authoritarian restrictive approach to intellectual debate. We see it historically in the past, in the present with a plethora of different brands of christianity to compare, and in your own behaviour here (what you will 'permit' me to say and so on).

            I would assert that such an authoritarian approach to debate of new ideas is bad for progress.

            We can also look at the history of progress, as in my post here.

            Progress in the thousand years prior to Jesus was phenomenal, in the absence of christianity so something else must have encouraged progress then, in Europe. So Occam's rasor would suggest that was also responsible for progress flourishing later on, in Europe.

            Further when christianity comes along, and especially when it dominates the empire, we don't see progress accelerate, but almost immediately stall completely.

            Yet again, when does progress restart but a millenium later when christianity has firstly relaxed its opposition to 'pagan' learning, then lost its authoritarian stranglehold on intellectual debate in the Reformation and associated cultural changes.

            You assert that because the scientific revolution occurred in Christianity-dominated Europe it must have been caused by christianity, at least in part and denying this "seems to be something that would need to be demonstrated, not assumed".

            Turn that on its head and look at when the revolution occurred. Surely by your own logic you must now prove that christianity was not responsible for the stall in progress that coincides with it gaining power and ends when it loses power? (Progress also flourished before christianity in the presence of slavery, rather arguing against your suggestion that slavery was to blame for the stall in progress)

          • Observed fact: Christianity does tend towards an authoritarian restrictive approach to intellectual debate.

            First, I have to ask whether the matters being debated hold normative implications for how society is ordered, who gets political power, and/or how people are supposed to act. If the answer is "yes", then I would require evidence that Christians are any different from non-Christians. If the answer is "sometimes" or "no", then I would want to see the examples where Christians squash intellectual debate when there are no normative or political implications.

            Second, I'll ask you whether you are aware of the ways that intellectual debate is being quashed at various elite US universities. Speakers are refused because their words will somehow be bad for people at the university—people who are under zero compulsion to attend the event. The key here is not whether someone was threatened with physical punishment, but whether the ability to influence others was curtailed by authority rather than reason. If intellectual debate can be quashed without physical threats, it is still being quashed. Things aren't that bad yet, but I do wonder if recent events are bellwethers. We're talking about the cream of the crop, here.

            We see it … in your own behaviour here (what you will 'permit' me to say and so on).

            You're characterizing my "Sorry, I'm not happy to permit "Galileo was right" to be an approximation of "Galileo, as judged by science which did not exist at the time of the trial, was more correct"." as authoritarian?! All I was doing was establishing conditions for my exiting the debate, whether in whole or in part. If I had any authority whatsoever on SN, I would have been more clear that the conversation is over if you intend the former to stand for the latter.

            Progress in the thousand years prior to Jesus was phenomenal, in the absence of christianity so something else must have encouraged progress then, in Europe.

            Do you mean the definition of 'progress' set forth in the first paragraph of the OP? Take special note of cyclical vs. linear time and whether ever better golden ages could be expected or whether golden age inevitably is followed by crud.

            We can also look at whether that 'progress' was supposed to be equally enjoyed by all persons, or whether it was really mostly for the elite all along. I haven't thought through this rigorously enough for you to not nitpick some detail and ignore the overall thrust, but I do wonder whether non-egalitarian premises lead to ignoring/​downplaying some areas of research. If knowledge of reality is sufficiently interconnected (so that knowing about something over there helps me make more progress over here), then this could result in a glass ceiling for progress.

            Further when christianity comes along, and especially when it dominates the empire, we don't see progress accelerate, but almost immediately stall completely.

            Is this actually true? I know it's a longstanding received view, but I've also seen bits about agricultural innovation which happened during the alleged "dark ages". To the extent that it is true, how much can be attributed to the fall of Rome instead of the rise of Christianity?

            You've tried to make an analogy to reasoning I used earlier, but you failed to recognize that while golden ages have ended all sorts of times (followed by periods of lower innovation), modern science arose only once. To suggest that the causal factors responsible for golden ages just happened to fire a sustained thrust only in one place seems very ad hoc to me. They had plenty of opportunities to.

            Yet again, when does progress restart but a millenium later when christianity has firstly relaxed its opposition to 'pagan' learning, then lost its authoritarian stranglehold on intellectual debate in the Reformation and associated cultural changes.

            Actually, Stephen Toulmin makes a good case in Cosmopolis that religion was more oppressive in the 17th century than the 16th and 15th. He notes that this goes against the received view. I know less of you alleged relaxation to 'pagan' learning, especially since my cursory research shows Pope Gregory I to be less anti-'progress' than your words conveyed to me. If you could point me to a resource on this alleged opposition and then relaxation to 'pagan' learning, especially one which takes account of the historical context of barbarism and scarcity of ancient documents, I would appreciate it.

            You assert that because the scientific revolution occurred in Christianity-dominated Europe it must have been caused by christianity, at least in part and denying this "seems to be something that would need to be demonstrated, not assumed".

            If I had characterized your own words that way, you probably would have whipped out the word "deceptive". Neither did I indicate any "must", nor did I indicate the central role must have been Christianity (implied by your "caused by", with no other causal factors indicated).

            Turn that on its head and look at when the revolution occurred.

            When a shoot first pops out of the ground, do you say the plant came into existence then, or do you trace it back to the seed, where the seed came from, the conditions of the soil, availability of nutrients, etc.?

            Take, for example, a kind of thinking with which you and are are familiar: that the world might operate quite differently from how we have been taught. You and I are used to understanding that while versions taught us might work quite well in various ways, they could be wrong in key ways which allows for a deeper, more accurate understanding of reality. But what if this kind of thinking did not exist until the centuries before the scientific revolution? What if before then, people just didn't have the mental tools and habits to think of "counterfactual orders of nature"? If so, then we might say that the Scholastics introduced a cornerstone of scientific thinking well before the scientific revolution; see my excerpt of Amos Funkenstein's Theology and the Scientific Imagination from the Middle Ages to the Seventeenth Century.

            It may also be crucial that we had a post-Descartes understanding of probability; Ian Hacking showed in The Emergence of Probability that a huge change took place and was crucial for scientific inquiry. Curiously enough, the "Reception" section indicates that the legal realm could have introduced some aspects of "uncertain evidence" well before the scientific revolution. Well, there was a lot of legal work done in Christendom leading up to the scientific revolution. Just how long it takes to get humans used to the idea is something I don't know. Could you swallow the idea that centuries of legal work and the accumulated wisdom might actually be important for the scientific revolution?

            Surely by your own logic you must now prove that christianity was not responsible for the stall in progress that coincides with it gaining power and ends when it loses power? (Progress also flourished before christianity in the presence of slavery, rather arguing against your suggestion that slavery was to blame for the stall in progress)

            I already dealt with these things above, but let me know if you'd like me to say more. In the meantime, I am curious whether you think that moral progress inevitably keeps up with scientific progress, or if scientific progress can outstrip moral progress and lead to a situation where there might even be reason to curtail scientific progress—temporarily. Another way of asking this is whether you think runaway science awesomeness could coexist with permanent slavery of some vast proportion of the population.

          • Richard Morley

            Do you mean the definition of 'progress' set forth in the first paragraph of the OP?

            I mean the examples I gave here.

            We can also look at whether that 'progress' was supposed to be equally enjoyed by all persons, or whether it was really mostly for the elite all along.

            A red herring, albeit interesting, and too big to thoroughly treat as well as the existing topic.

            But briefly, IMO, much of ancient Greek technology benefited everyone. The Diolkos, for example, water wheels and irrigation. Under early Christianity much of what was preserved was for the elite - especially if you include monks in that.

            I might argue that this is more relevant to the Industrial Revolution than the Scientific one. Galileo's books, and telescopes themselves, were mainly for the elite. Hero's steam engine had been around since the first century and survived as a toy for the elite. Only when the mercenary middle classes got their grubby paws on the idea and thought "hey, I bet this thing could spin cotton/pump water/kill Frenchmen really quickly" did we get the explosion of technology we see still today.

            Is this actually true?

            I have provided evidence, feel free to counter. Compared to what went on in the 1000 years prior to Jesus, what went on in the 1000 years afterwards? Apply your own logic to that.

          • Richard Morley

            You've tried to make an analogy to reasoning I used earlier,

            It is a direct parallel. To be consistent, it is now up to you to prove that Christianity does not take responsibility for the tragic hiatus, as you wished to give it credit for the scientific revolution.

            but you failed to recognize that while golden ages have ended all sorts of times (followed by periods of lower innovation), modern science arose only once.

            a) The current upsurge is, by definition, still going on. Otherwise it would not be the current one.
            b)arguably, it has not yet gone on as long as the hellenistic one
            c) alternatively, I would in fact agree that 'modern science arose only once' - in ancient Greece, carrying on until the present day except for the terrible period that suggestively coincides with Christianity's power. Much of modern science is, after all, built explicitly on the Greek - Euclid was even a standard text in living memory.

            I know less of you alleged relaxation to 'pagan' learning, especially since my cursory research shows Pope Gregory I to be less anti-'progress' than your words conveyed to me.

            His words, I quoted him directly - and St Jerome, and Psalm 70. If you want a commentary try Bertrand Russel's 'History of Western Philosophy'. Yes, he is atheist, but still a good read and jumping off point. Even your own 'random page' explicitly acknowledges the hostility between pagan and divine teaching.

            When a shoot first pops out of the ground, (etc)

            So when you want to credit Christianity with the scientific revolution, a mere geographic correlation suffices to light the fireworks and shout "Hurrah! Christianity gets all the credit!" But when a closer look reveals that the progress was going strong long before and actually stalled for over a millennium when Christianity came along, you are suddenly wisely stroking your chin and noting that 'correlation is not causation'?

            The 'seed' you refer to is clearly in Ancient Greece.

            Another way of asking this is whether you think runaway science awesomeness could coexist with permanent slavery of some vast proportion of the population.

            We've already covered that slavery does not offer a convincing explanation - it existed during the Greek golden age, and during Christianity's power. St Augustine held that slavery was ordained by God. and so on.

            Surely you should decide whether you think Christianity did impede progress before laying groundwork for arguing that it was right and proper for it to do so?

          • I never saw this comment because you replied to yourself; once a thread gets deep, I tend to only pay attention to notifications of when someone replied to one of my comments. FWIW

            To be consistent, it is now up to you to prove that Christianity does not take responsibility for the tragic hiatus, as you wished to give it credit for the scientific revolution.

            I've repeatedly brought up the collapse of the Roman Empire as one reason that progress stalled. On top of that, I wonder why the progress that was happening got aborted, if it were so awesome. Perhaps there are reasons, but prima facie, really good progress is a testament to itself and encourages more progress—may I take these words of yours as agreement to this? So, perhaps progress was stagnating in multiple ways already.

            I've also pointed out that agricultural advances overlap much of the geography of the scientific revolution; agricultural advances mean fewer farmers can feed more specialized workers, which is very good for scientific endeavor. In addition, I cited evidence that Scholastics were hard at work considering "counterfactual orders of nature", which is important for radically questioning the status quo. If kosmos-type thinking is as I claim, that was an exceedingly important innovation.

            LB: You've tried to make an analogy to reasoning I used earlier, but you failed to recognize that while golden ages have ended all sorts of times (followed by periods of lower innovation), modern science arose only once. To suggest that the causal factors responsible for golden ages just happened to fire a sustained thrust only in one place seems very ad hoc to me. They had plenty of opportunities to.

            RM: a) The current upsurge is, by definition, still going on. Otherwise it would not be the current one.
            b)arguably, it has not yet gone on as long as the hellenistic one
            c) alternatively, I would in fact agree that 'modern science arose only once' - in ancient Greece, carrying on until the present day except for the terrible period that suggestively coincides with Christianity's power. Much of modern science is, after all, built explicitly on the Greek - Euclid was even a standard text in living memory.

            a) Ok? Does this conflict with anything I've said?
            b) I'm not sure how important length of time is; I think it's much more useful to talk about amount of knowledge and ability delivered. However, one could quibble that humans make multiplicative progress over the past and then point out that exponentials are always "slow" in the beginning.
            c) This is a precise point under contention, and gets close to a direct disagreement with the first paragraph of the OP. What would convince you that the 'progress' of the ancient Greeks is qualitatively different from the 'progress' of the scientific revolution? I'm not looking for an exhaustive answer, just a suggestive one.

            If you want a commentary try Bertrand Russel's 'History of Western Philosophy'.

            I've listened to the entire thing, but it's important to note that his history was iffy. See for example the Phil.SE question How inaccurate is Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy? The objections have nothing to do with him being an atheist. You could also consult WP: A History of Western Philosophy § Reception. I've heard the same from a friend who got a philosophy PhD from USC. In particular, from the Wikipedia article, quoting a scholar: "his treatment of ancient and medieval doctrines is nearly worthless." It was a fun listen, but many grains of salt are required.

            Even your own 'random page' explicitly acknowledges the hostility between pagan and divine teaching.

            Yup, and I never denied it; I merely meant to qualify it: Christians weren't hostile toward any and all pagan teaching. We can then ask if any culture—ours included—is friendly toward any and all teaching. I think the answer will be "no".

            So when you want to credit Christianity with the scientific revolution, a mere geographic correlation suffices to light the fireworks and shout "Hurrah! Christianity gets all the credit!"

            Nope, that does not suffice. 'Prima facie' never suffices for anything remotely close to a final conclusion.

            But when a closer look reveals that the progress was going strong long before and actually stalled for over a millennium when Christianity came along, you are suddenly wisely stroking your chin and noting that 'correlation is not causation'?

            First, we must ask whether it's the same 'progress' before and after. Second, "correlation ⇏ causation" applies equally in both cases. The best we can do is work from what is 'prima facie' the case.

            The 'seed' you refer to is clearly in Ancient Greece.

            Ancient Greece undoubtedly contributed. But I don't think the scientific revolution was just Ancient Greece, revitalized.

            Surely you should decide whether you think Christianity did impede progress before laying groundwork for arguing that it was right and proper for it to do so?

            That's not at all where I was going. Instead, I'm suggesting that if the benefits of scientific and technological progress are not shared sufficiently equally among humans, there might be a tendency for the less-benefited to attack the more-benefited, up to ending a golden age.

          • Richard Morley

            I've repeatedly brought up the collapse of the Roman Empire as one reason that progress stalled.

            You've asserted it as a reason, maybe. But that also came after Christianity's rise to dominance, and arguably after the stall in progress, and is attributed to Christianity by historians such as Gibbon. Nor did the fall of the Roman Empire go on happening for over a millenium. So not great as an explanation.

            You've also attributed the hiatus to the lack of books - that tends to happen when a certain religion is burning books and libraries, looting temples, closing the academies, lynching famous scholars and dissuading pagan learning.

            On top of that, I wonder why the progress that was happening got aborted, if it were so awesome. Perhaps there are reasons, but prima facie, really good progress is a testament to itself and encourages more progress—may I take these words of yours as agreement to this? So, perhaps progress was stagnating in multiple ways already.

            'Progress was stagnating' is not a reason why progress was stagnating. So yes, why did progress stall? We have a potential reason why progress stagnated, you just don't like it.

            Christianity both matches the extended period over which progress seems to stall and has very clear mechanisms by which it might be responsible. And again, by your own logic, it is up to you to demonstrate, not just assume, that it is not responsible. If your objection is rational, not dogmatic.

          • LB: I've repeatedly brought up the collapse of the Roman Empire as one reason that progress stalled.

            RM: You've asserted it as a reason, maybe. But that also came after Christianity's rise to dominance, and arguably after the stall in progress, and is attributed to Christianity by historians such as Gibbon.

            Sorry, I don't know what you mean by that "maybe". As to the fall of Rome coming solely after Christianity's rise to dominance, are you asserting that it was not in the process of crumbling by the time Christianity rose to dominance? Also, could you be more clear on how much you think Gibbon (or historians like him) attributed the fall to Christianity?

            Nor did the fall of the Roman Empire go on happening for over a millenium. So not great as an explanation.

            Hey, you wanted an explanation for why progress stopped/​radically slowed. Do you believe that the fall of Rome is a bad explanation for that?

            You've also attributed the hiatus to the lack of books - that tends to happen when a certain religion is burning books and libraries, looting temples, closing the academies, lynching famous scholars and dissuading pagan learning.

            I would want to know in more detail just what was burned and what wasn't burned, before making too much of this. What you say, for example, would lead me to believe that the following is false:

            In fact, not only did medieval Christians not burn pagan texts, the literary remains of ancient Rome were hoarded and jealously guarded in monastic libraries even as the Western Roman world was disintegrating. At the Vivarium monastery of Cassiodorus (A.D. 490–c. 585), near modern Squillance in Italy, monks were set to work copying and preserving works of Roman antiquity and Greek Christian thought; and for centuries, there wed monasteries throughout Western Europe, from the Mediterranean to Britain, that housed collections containing the writings of Virgil, Ovid, Cicero, Pliny, Horace, Statius, Persius, Lucan, Suetonius, Seneca, Martial, Apuleius, Juvenal, Terence, an so forth, as well as such portions of PLato, Aristotle, and the Greek church fathers as were available in Latin. And it was a consequence of historical misfortune, not of willful rejection, that more had not survived.[3] (Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies, 52–53)

            I'm not aware of David Bentley Hart being described as a distorter of history, so my trust in your accurately representing history in this respect has been damaged.

            RM: To be consistent, it is now up to you to prove that Christianity does not take responsibility for the tragic hiatus, as you wished to give it credit for the scientific revolution.

            LB: I've repeatedly brought up the collapse of the Roman Empire as one reason that progress stalled. On top of that, I wonder why the progress that was happening got aborted, if it were so awesome. Perhaps there are reasons, but prima facie, really good progress is a testament to itself and encourages more progress—may I take these words of yours as agreement to this? So, perhaps progress was stagnating in multiple ways already.

            RM: 'Progress was stagnating' is not a reason why progress was stagnating. So yes, why did progress stall? We have a potential reason why progress stagnated, you just don't like it.

            Hold on a second: if progress spurs progress, then lack of progress gives reason to doubt that there will be further progress. It actually does work both ways. So what is the evidence that progress was humming along just fine when Christianity rose to power?

            Christianity both matches the extended period over which progress seems to stall and has very clear mechanisms by which it might be responsible. And again, by your own logic, it is up to you to demonstrate, not just assume, that it is not responsible. If your objection is rational, not dogmatic.

            Why are you saying this? Ever since you pointed out that correlation, I took it seriously. For you to repeat this would seem to indicate that you think I want to assume Christianity didn't cause the stall; have I given you any reason to think that?

            By the way, if we're really being fair, aren't you supposed to work the logic from the other end—demonstrating that Christianity didn't have anything to do with helping the scientific revolution happened? If you refuse to do that, then you actually seem to dislike employing that logic, except when it agrees with what you already believe.

          • Richard Morley

            a) Ok? Does this conflict with anything I've said?

            It would counter your assertion that modern science is somehow a unique 'sustained thrust only in one place' that I fail to recognise. All we would see is that the current surge is still going on, not that there may not be another slowdown or even a hiatus.

            b) I'm not sure how important length of time is;

            Again, it pertains to whether there is something unique about the current surge. Each builds on the last, so of course this one has climbed higher up the ladder than the Greeks got, because we started where they left off. Mysteriously. Just as Christianity came along.

            However, one could quibble that humans make multiplicative progress over the past and then point out that exponentials are always "slow" in the beginning.

            How is that a quibble as opposed to blindingly obvious riposte to your point? Would you agree that the pace of progress is much faster now than in Newton's time, and accelerating?

            c) This is a precise point under contention, and gets close to a direct disagreement with the first paragraph of the OP.

            Do you deny that the scientific revolution picked up and built on where the Greeks left off, or that the hiatus is suggestively concurrent with centralised Christian power? More to the point, if modern science arose 'just once', in ancient Greece, then the assertion that it arose 'just once' in Christian dominated Europe fails at the start, does it not?

            Could we have a clear statement of your position, not an 'amorphous blob of a position'.

            What would convince you that the 'progress' of the ancient Greeks is qualitatively different from the 'progress' of the scientific revolution?

            If you wish to assert that progress in Hellenic times was crucially different from that after the Reformation, saying so and explaining what difference you are referring to and why you think it is important would be a good start. Obviously Euclid's geometry is not identical to Newton's calculus, to pick examples, but what 'qualitative' difference are you getting at?

          • It would counter your assertion that modern science is somehow a unique 'sustained thrust only in one place' that I fail to recognise. All we would see is that the current surge is still going on, not that there may not be another slowdown or even a hiatus.

            In recorded history, the scientific revolution is unique; it is the only sustained thrust. Surely you aren't disagreeing with that? As to the idea that "there may not be another slowdown or even a hiatus"—there are two very different senses which you could mean: (1) we are not fated to enter another slowdown/​hiatus; (2) we are not in danger of entering another slowdown/​hiatus. The OP is saying that (1) is important. Neither the OP nor I have asserted (2). And yet, I can only make sense of your words by interpreting them as (2).

            Again, it pertains to whether there is something unique about the current surge.

            First paragraph of the OP.

            RM: b)arguably, it has not yet gone on as long as the hellenistic one

            LB: b) I'm not sure how important length of time is; I think it's much more useful to talk about amount of knowledge and ability delivered. However, one could quibble that humans make multiplicative progress over the past and then point out that exponentials are always "slow" in the beginning.

            RM: How is that a quibble as opposed to blindingly obvious riposte to your point? Would you agree that the pace of progress is much faster now than in Newton's time, and accelerating?

            It is a quibble because everything depends on how the numbers turn out. For example, possibly the ancient Greeks were only improving 1.1x on what came before, while the scientists from 1500 on were improving 2x on what came before. If that were the case, then "length of time" would seem to be a bad metric.

            I agree that progress now is faster than in Newton's time, but I'm rather skeptical about progress accelerating.

            Do you deny that the scientific revolution picked up and built on where the Greeks left off, or that the hiatus is suggestively concurrent with centralised Christian power?

            I'm skeptical that the scientific revolution merely picked up from where the Greeks left off. For example, Jacob Klein argues in Greek Mathematical Thought and the Origin of Algebra that Enlightenment folks interpreted mathematics in a radically different way than the Greeks, in a way that was crucial for mathematical physics. I have yet to chase down the details, but that change in interpretation may be connected to the "counterfactual orders of nature" thing. If it is the case that the ancient Greeks were missing crucial factors required for the scientific revolution to happen, that would be very important to our discussion, don't you think?

            As to your second question, I am not sure the dates line up as nicely as you want them to. However, if one fuzzes that over, yes I agree with you.

            Could we have a clear statement of your position, not an 'amorphous blob of a position'.

            I don't have a well-solidified position; I'm aware of a variety of heavily conflicting positions, none of which seems to get anywhere near to canvassing all the evidence that is cited by all the positions. I'm not sure there is warrant for placing too much confidence in any of the positions. But one way of moving forward is for different people to advance various positions and have them battle it out. It's not the famed "evidence-first" approach that allegedly characterizes scientists, but I know that's a farce. Plenty of times scientists have intuitions which go well ahead of the evidence. Such as Galileo concluding that since Venus orbits the Sun, so does the Earth (and all the other planets).

            LB: What would convince you that the 'progress' of the ancient Greeks is qualitatively different from the 'progress' of the scientific revolution?

            RM: If you wish to assert that progress in Hellenic times was crucially different from that after the Reformation, saying so and explaining what difference you are referring to and why you think it is important would be a good start. Obviously Euclid's geometry is not identical to Newton's calculus, to pick examples, but what 'qualitative' difference are you getting at?

            Let me try to ask my question a different way. What would convince you that the ancient Greeks and Romans, had they simply continued to pursue further science and technology as they were at the time that Christianity rose to power, would not have eventually ended up discovering the Higgs boson? The difference between 'quantitative' and 'qualitative' here is between "they just needed more time and less oppression" and "they needed fundamental changes in how they understood reality and/or acted in it—changes they weren't guaranteed to execute".

            A modern-day example of a fundamental change we may or may not carry out is a computerized version of Vannevar Bush's As We May Think. He was concerned that the way science was being done by the end of WWII might not suffice for endless progress; in particular, an overabundance of knowledge without good organization would make it sufficiently hard to access that we'd make bad decisions. As I understand it, a key aspect of his Memex idea was associative memory: noting that this bit here connects to that bit over there for such and such a reason. So for example, you'd be able to click a reference in one scientific article and see exactly which part(s) of the other article are being referenced. By and large, we still can't do that, even though we have all the requisite technology. We're in danger of endless hyperspecialization, which is a kind of progress which could easily hit glass ceilings.

            I'm afraid that I personally don't have enough evidence to warrant claiming, with confidence, that Greek/​Roman technology/​science were crucially wanting and that progress tapered off because of fundamental errors or lacunae. However, that doesn't mean you automatically have warrant to assume that progress would have continued unbounded if it hadn't been for Christianity. And yet, the correlation you draw between Christianity's rise to power and progress taking a hiatus assumes it. Why do you get to assume it without any demonstration?

          • Richard Morley

            I've listened to the entire thing

            'Listened'? Never mind - you asked for a source about the alleged hostility between Christianity and 'pagan' learning. I gave you one, chosen to present the side you seem to oppose, naturally it has critics. It's a good jumping off point, so use it or not, up to you.

            Yup, and I never denied it;

            Then aren't we done? If you admit to hostility, we have both correlation with Christian control and at least one reason why that might lead to stagnation. What salient point are you getting at?

            'Prima facie' never suffices for anything remotely close to a final conclusion.

            But by your logic, asserting that Christianity is not responsible for the hiatus is Prima facie "ridiculous", and "seems to be something that would need to be demonstrated, not assumed (perhaps assumed because one's dogma demands it)." Are you now changing the rules?

            Yes, applying the same standard to both sides of a debate is important, in my view.

          • RM: Even your own 'random page' explicitly acknowledges the hostility between pagan and divine teaching.

            LB: Yup, and I never denied it; I merely meant to qualify it: Christians weren't hostile toward any and all pagan teaching. We can then ask if any culture—ours included—is friendly toward any and all teaching. I think the answer will be "no".

            RM: Then aren't we done? If you admit to hostility, we have both correlation with Christian control and at least one reason why that might lead to stagnation. What salient point are you getting at?

            What point am I getting at? That every culture dislikes some aspects of previous cultures. Do you think the pagans had zero animosity toward Christian teaching and never wanted it to be quashed? Your point would have much greater plausibility had Christians been hostile to all pagan teaching, but the fact of the matter is that they were hostile to some pagan teaching. Just like … every other culture? So you're not picking out something unique to Christianity.

            LB: 'Prima facie' never suffices for anything remotely close to a final conclusion.

            RM: But by your logic, asserting that Christianity is not responsible for the hiatus is Prima facie "ridiculous", and "seems to be something that would need to be demonstrated, not assumed (perhaps assumed because one's dogma demands it)." Are you now changing the rules?

            Sorry, but I see nothing approaching a logical contradiction. I have been happily working with your claim that lack of scientific progress correlates with amount of influence the Roman Catholic Church had. What more do you want?

            Yes, applying the same standard to both sides of a debate is important, in my view.

            I agree. (Have I said anything which plausibly indicates I would disagree?)

          • Richard Morley

            I never saw this comment because you replied to yourself; once a thread gets deep, I tend to only pay attention to notifications of when someone replied to one of my comments. FWIW

            Well, you also complained about spamfiltered articles - the more I reply directly to you, the more you will get multiple emails from me posting (and reposting) messages in multiple segments. But fine, I'll post direct to you.

            I've also pointed out that agricultural advances overlap much of the geography of the scientific revolution;Any civilisation that might possibly have science has had agriculture, so of course.

            That's not at all where I was going.

            Not really compatible with asking "if scientific progress can outstrip moral progress and lead to a situation where there might even be reason to curtail scientific progress". Probably not worth going into.

          • Well, you also complained about spamfiltered articles - the more I reply directly to you, the more you will get multiple emails from me posting (and reposting) messages in multiple segments. But fine, I'll post direct to you.

            Yes I did and continue to complain about the spamfiltered comments. They're really obnoxious; have you emailed SN yet? In the meantime, all I can say is that I'll probably miss your replies if (i) you don't reply to me; (ii) you don't subsequently link to them in a way that gets me to click the link.

            Any civilisation that might possibly have science has had agriculture, so of course.

            But this is not the point; the point is that the agriculture has to be good enough to support sufficient specialization. Or have I missed something?

            RM: Surely you should decide whether you think Christianity did impede progress before laying groundwork for arguing that it was right and proper for it to do so?

            LB: That's not at all where I was going. Instead, I'm suggesting that if the benefits of scientific and technological progress are not shared sufficiently equally among humans, there might be a tendency for the less-benefited to attack the more-benefited, up to ending a golden age.

            RM: Not really compatible with asking "if scientific progress can outstrip moral progress and lead to a situation where there might even be reason to curtail scientific progress". Probably not worth going into.

            Sorry, I don't see the incompatibility. You've suggested, via correlation, that Christianity put an end to the progress happening in Rome and Greece. I've suggested that there is another reason for it to come to an end: if the people did not think it benefited them. That is, a reason other than Christianity.

          • I don't see how you've taken to heart the OP's notion of 'progress':

            [OP]: The pre-eminence of progress in the history of ideas and of Western civilization in particular cannot be overstated. This vastly important idea essentially means that the trajectory of human history is linear and forward-directed rather than cyclical or regressive. It holds that each generation advances beyond its predecessor and, therefore, the human condition improves over time amid the accumulation of scientific and technological knowledge. We tend to take the idea of progress for granted, but it has eluded many cultures.

            If the only major incentives to make scientific and technological progress are to enhance war-making ability and increase the comfort of the noble class, I don't think you can get the above 'progress'.

          • Richard Morley

            I don't see how you've taken to heart the OP's notion of 'progress':

            Red herring. That is about the idea of progress, which is asserted to be attributable to Christianity, which assertion clashes with the evidence.

            My point stands that actual progress flourished before Christ and after the Reformation, with apparently a big hiatus just as Christianity was in power.

            By your own logic: To suggest that Christianity had absolutely nothing to do with this seems prima facie ridiculous. Now maybe Christianity really did have nothing to do with it, but that seems to be something that would need to be demonstrated, not assumed (perhaps assumed because one's dogma demands it).

            If the only major incentives to make scientific and technological progress are to enhance war-making ability and increase the comfort of the noble class, I don't think you can get the above 'progress'.

            That might be part of the reason.

            In Greece progress benefited the city state, small enough to win personal loyalty. In Industrial Revolution times, progress earned you money, the more people benefited from it the richer you got. Under Christian domination...?

          • LB: I don't see how you've taken to heart the OP's notion of 'progress':

            RM: Red herring. That is about the idea of progress, which is asserted to be attributable to Christianity, which assertion clashes with the evidence.

            Huh? We can detach "the idea of progress" from "is asserted to be attributable to Christianity". When we do detach it, you don't seem to be talking about "the idea of progress".

            My point stands that actual progress flourished before Christ and after the Reformation, with apparently a big hiatus just as Christianity was in power.

            You appear to be equivocating on the term 'progress' or picking a much narrower meaning than the OP. You make it sound like the progress of modern science is very similar to the progress of ancient science; that isn't at all clear to me. Why won't you deal with the OP's first paragraph head-on? Some amount of scientific and technological progress is 100% consistent with a cyclical understanding of time and civilization, whereby you have golden ages and dark times. What is new, or so claims the OP (and many other sources), is the belief that there need be no dark times and that however golden our current age, the next can far outshine it. Do you think the ancients actually believed this?

            Furthermore, I noted that religious controls were harsher in the 17th century than in the 15th or 16th. So the idea that scientific innovation inversely correlates with how much "domination" was going on is in need of some ad hoc hypotheses.

            In Greece progress benefited the city state, small enough to win personal loyalty. In Industrial Revolution times, progress earned you money, the more people benefited from it the richer you got. Under Christian domination...?

            The Scholastics' work on "counterfactual orders of nature"[1] seems to have benefited everyone. The incentive was to understand God and his creation better. Admittedly, the benefit took a long time to play out. Anyone expecting it to happen on a shorter timescale might have given up and declared it a failed endeavor, useless to pragmatic concerns.

            We could also note that the heavy plough was crucial to fomenting an agricultural revolution from the 9th to 13th centuries, leading to “population growth, specialization of function, urbanization, and the growth of leisure”. I wonder if those might have been conducive to scientific research …

            [1] I brought that matter up with you recently; you ignored it in all three of your replies: #1, #2, #3. The specific reference is to my excerpt of Amos Funkenstein's Theology and the Scientific Imagination from the Middle Ages to the Seventeenth Century.

          • Richard Morley

            Huh? We can detach "the idea of progress" from "is asserted to be attributable to Christianity". When we do detach it, you don't seem to be talking about "the idea of progress".

            The point was that it is a red herring, so yes I was a bit telegraphic. To unpack it a bit more:

            That paragraph is talking about the idea of progress, which is attributed to Christianity and alleged to be responsible for the actual progress witnessed. This clashes with the long term historical observation that progress flourished in Europe before Christianity and if anything hit a long hiatus from the coming of Christianity to the Reformation.

            Some amount of scientific and technological progress is 100% consistent with a cyclical understanding of time and civilization, whereby you have golden ages and dark times.

            But why then did the progress in the 1000 years before Christianity vastly outstrip(assertion) the progress from then until the Reformation?

            Do you think the ancients actually believed this?

            Actually yes, but I am not terribly interested in flailing through downloaded copies of Aristotle et al in order to support this.

            Being an experimentalist at heart I prioritise the empirical evidence that progress was in fact awesome in Ancient Greece.

          • Richard Morley

            I don't want to sound as though I deny any progress at all in that period (I do not) but neither of those examples is terribly convincing. To pick one, the plough, ancient Greece and Rome and the Chinese had heavy earth-turning mouldboard ploughs. From your pal Wikipedia:

            Before the Han Dynasty (202 BC –AD 220), Chinese ploughs were made almost entirely of wood, except the iron blade of the ploughshare. By the Han period, the entire ploughshare was made of cast iron; these are the first known heavy mouldboard iron ploughs.

            The Romans achieved the heavy wheeled mouldboard plough in the late 3rd and 4th century AD, when archaeological evidence appears, inter alia, in Roman Britain.

            For the sake of argument, accept your two examples: That is still just two rather lacklustre examples for over a millenium compared to the achievements listed here. Death ray beats heavy plough.

          • I don't want to sound as though I deny any progress at all in that period (I do not) but neither of those examples is terribly convincing.

            I didn't mean to suggest that Europeans invented the heavy plough, but that once it has been around for a while, it can provide a significant aid to scientific progress by allowing a greater proportion of the population to specialize. That would seem to mess with your simple correlation: "the more power the Church had, the less scientific innovation there was". We can add further innovations such as the three-field system. But perhaps you think your correlation and the causation it suggests remain utterly unchanged in the light of this? I could see you arguing, for example, that because the ancient Greeks didn't need these things for their 'progress', neither should the Europeans.

            For the sake of argument, accept your two examples: That is still just two rather lacklustre examples for over a millenium compared to the achievements listed here. Death ray beats heavy plough.

            I agree that using mirrors to focus light to burn up ships is way cooler than heavy ploughs, but heavy ploughs seem much better for scientific progress. Fewer people farming means more people can specialize.

            As to those "counterfactual orders of nature", I am a bit curious why you think that is a lacklustre example. Do you think humans have always been willing to radically question the order of things? This runs against everything I've read about the kosmos-type thinking which was quite strong well past Constantine converted Rome to Christianity. Tradition is powerful stuff and when your culture believes that social order and natural order are pretty much the same thing, that makes tradition very robust. Imagine if the process of scientific revolution had to not just convince scientists to change their minds (see Max Planck's [paraphrased] "Science advances one funeral at a time."—sadly it is less of an overstatement than one would like), but also challenge extant social structures. The revolution might just not happen. Science can be rather weak when faced with politics.

            Perhaps though, I've not well-explained what I'm calling "kosmos-type thinking"? It is a rather difficult concept to grok; it's like trying to imagine how humans would think differently without a modern understanding of probability. Considering counterfactual orders of nature is second nature to educated Westerners. What would it be like for this to be a foreign concept? What would it be like if not just the authorities, but entire population was hostile to their traditional way of understanding things being challenged? What if one could not demonstrate that doing so might be beneficial because such benefit would only come decades if not centuries later? Hindsight is 20/20 and therefore quite dangerous when thinking about these topics.

          • Richard Morley

            I didn't mean to suggest that Europeans invented the heavy plough, but that once it has been around for a while, it can provide a significant aid to scientific progress by allowing a greater proportion of the population to specialize.

            I agree that progress often feeds further progress, or synergises with previous developments, often in subtle ways. That is part of its strength and could explain why it seems to come in surges.

            But this was just as true before and after the Christian unified control of Europe as it was during. So it does nothing to differentiate the Christian era from others, and nothing to explain the hiatus. So your own logic still applies.

            One idea is that successful novel ideas cause people to look favourably on other new ideas, so encourages an iconoclastic culture, which encourages progress. But strong centralised religion may discourage such iconoclastic culture - explaining the surges and hiatus, but still 'blaming' the RCC.

          • I'm confused; I was pointing out that heavy ploughs and the three-field system increased the proportion of the European population which could specialize, which in turn makes it easier for science to take off. These agricultural innovations took place in much of Europe well after the RCC ostensibly stultified scientific progress.

            In other words: it is always the case that progress spurs progress; it was contingently the case that much of area where the scientific revolution had got agricultural innovations around the year 1000. So if we look for reasons why the scientific revolution happened, wouldn't one be that agricultural innovation had made it easier to support modern science?

          • Richard Morley

            Heavy ploughs and crop rotation were around in Hellenistic times, so do nothing to explain the hiatus or the timing of its start and end.

          • By "Hellenistic times", do you mean during the fall of the Roman Empire?

          • Richard Morley

            Before, but therefore they were presumably also around during.

          • Right, so WP: Hellenestic period "covers the period of Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire as signified by the Battle of Actium in 31 BC" while according to your source, "The Romans achieved the heavy wheeled mouldboard plough in the late 3rd and 4th century AD". Constantine instituted the Edict of Milan in 313. So it doesn't look like the heavy plough was around for long before Christianity rose to power. Would you agree to this?

          • Richard Morley

            I'm not quite sure what you are getting at and my previous two responses don't seem to have been sufficient, so best guess forward:

            The mouldboard plough specifically, the one that cuts and lifts the soil and turns it over, is not the same as just any heavy (even wheeled) plough, which seems to have been around longer. I'm not sure the ancient Greeks ever used (or would have much benefited from) that specific innovation.
            With that proviso, and a query about what timescale you are referring to as 'not long' and when you count Christianity rising to power, what you say there seems right to the best of my knowledge.

            Relevance?

          • Ok, let's take a step back. The link I provided earlier is to The Heavy Plough and the Agricultural Revolution in Medieval Europe, which came out in the 2016 January issue of Journal of Development Economics. The effect of higher population and urbanization occurred in Northern Europe around the turn of the first millennium. In the introduction, Raepsaet 1997 is cited to the effect that "The [9th century to the end of the 13th century in medieval Europe] has been referred to as the most significant agricultural expansion since the Neolithic revolution". The authors specifically include a mouldboard in their definition of "heavy plough".

            Will you admit the above fact-claims into the body of evidence we both agree on, at least for the sake of discussion? You may disagree with what I think the above implies, but I first want to figure out what sort of common ground we have.

          • Richard Morley

            I could see you arguing, for example, that because the ancient Greeks didn't need these things for their 'progress', neither should the Europeans.

            Greeks didn't need earth turning ploughs because of their soil, lucky censoreds. (I am on clay you can literally make plates from) The three field system is not suited for their climate either. But they did have excellent agriculture which benefited from technological advances such as heavy ploughs, irrigation, water mills and so on.

            Crop rotation as such has of course been around much longer - 6000BC according to Wikipedia.

            I agree that using mirrors to focus light to burn up ships is way cooler than heavy ploughs, but heavy ploughs seem much better for scientific progress.

            Solar ovens, heating houses or water, signalling.. I can see equally beneficial applications of the basic idea.

            Do you think humans have always been willing to radically question the order of things?

            Much the same as for the plough. I suspect the actual concept is found in hellenistic philosophy, but setting that aside - sure, the scientific revolution was building on earlier foundations, including that one. But we are still left with that pesky hiatus to explain.

          • Greeks didn't need earth turning ploughs because of their soil, lucky censoreds. (I am on clay you can literally make plates from) The three field system is not suited for their climate either. But they did have excellent agriculture which benefited from technological advances such as heavy ploughs, irrigation, water mills and so on.

            Ok, so if good agriculture is good for scientific progress and much of the area which spawned the scientific revolution didn't get good agriculture until around the year 1000 …

            Solar ovens, heating houses or water, signalling.. I can see equally beneficial applications of the basic idea.

            Sorry, I'm not buying it. Growing significantly more crops per unit area far exceeds what you can do by reflecting sunlight with polished bronze and copper.

            But we are still left with that pesky hiatus to explain.

            I am still not comfortable with saying that the 'progress' of the scientific revolution is the same as the 'progress' you described. We do have to account for the end of the progress you described; I'm inclined to let the fall of the Roman Empire do that, but I'm not very knowledgeable about all the details. I am rather confident that a number of ancient cultures held to a cyclical understanding of time and progress, which is very different from the understanding of time and progress in the scientific revolution and Enlightenment. I haven't seen you deal with this head-on.

            I would also have to be convinced that kosmos-type thinking was anything other than a huge impediment to endless progress. There is a tendency to think that if oppressive institutions had just gotten out of the way earlier, humans would more quickly have obtained the current status quo. Charles Taylor calls these "subtraction stories" in A Secular Age. If instead much about us had to be constructed, and if we had to overcome previous constructions, a span of centuries might be quite understandable. But only if the 'progress' of the scientific revolution is qualitatively different than the 'progress' of Archimedes and crew.

          • Richard Morley

            Ok, so if good agriculture is good for scientific progress and much of the area which spawned the scientific revolution didn't get good agriculture until around the year 1000 …

            then the obvious question is why not? If Greeks and Han dynasty Chinese had heavy ploughs, for example? If we have records of the Greek and Chinese technology, why were 7th century farmers ignorant of it?

            Sorry, I'm not buying it. Growing significantly more crops per unit area far exceeds what you can do by reflecting sunlight with polished bronze and copper.

            I think you underestimate the power of solar power and communications. I would guess that you have never had to cook and heat a home for a full year with wood cut yourself with hand tools.

            I am still not comfortable with saying that the 'progress' of the scientific revolution is the same as the 'progress' you described.
            (snip)
            But only if the 'progress' of the scientific revolution is qualitatively different than the 'progress' of Archimedes and crew.

            If you wish to advance the theory that the 'progress' of the scientific revolution is 'qualitatively' (significantly?) different than the 'progress' of Archimedes, I'm listening. (Sporadically, and you may have seen that another article has gone up)

          • LB: Ok, so if good agriculture is good for scientific progress and much of the area which spawned the scientific revolution didn't get good agriculture until around the year 1000 …

            RM: then the obvious question is why not? If Greeks and Han dynasty Chinese had heavy ploughs, for example? If we have records of the Greek and Chinese technology, why were 7th century farmers ignorant of it?

            I imagine all sorts of knowledge was lost with the fall of the Roman Empire. I've mentioned it several times while I don't recall you acknowledging that such a thing could be extraordinarily devastating to scientific progress.

            I think you underestimate the power of solar power and communications. I would guess that you have never had to cook and heat a home for a full year with wood cut yourself with hand tools.

            I have chopped wood with hand tools, built fires, and used wood stoves, but not for an entire Northeastern US winter. Pray tell me, how would "solar power" have aided me? I would have had to acquire sufficient metal of sufficient purity and then keep it polished. I would need enough land area to place it. I would need to either rotate the mirrors as the sun moves, build mechanisms, or figure out some really neat geometry (do any exist?). How would that all work out to remotely compete with the heavy plough? You say you're "an experimentalist at heart", but it seems like you're screwing with me, here.

            Now, I can see communications being much more influential than solar heating. But as influential as greatly increasing the proportion of the population which can do something other than farm? And what kind of communication are we talking about? Are they going to be flashing scientific equations back and forth? Perhaps you could help me understand how much polished bronze and copper were used for communication before the RCC allegedly clamped down on innovation?

            If you wish to advance the theory that the 'progress' of the scientific revolution is 'qualitatively' (significantly?) different than the 'progress' of Archimedes, I'm listening.

            It would take a lot of work to do that (although perhaps Deutsch's The Beginning of Infinity could help); I first want to know whether you're defaulting to the belief that the 'progress' of the scientific revolution was merely "more of the same". If so, I think we'd have to restrict that to scientific progress, as much social/​moral progress had occurred in the meantime.

          • Richard Morley

            This post all about solar stuff. Which is, yes, a red herring and I am, yes, a massive fanboy, so if not interested stop reading now - there is nothing more relevant to come.

            As an 'experimentalist at heart' I love solar power, especially direct heat or light as opposed to photovoltaic, as a great example of appropriate technology. Even today, it has great potential to help people in developing countries by reducing time spent gathering and chopping wood, reducing exposure to harmful smoke, increasing the chances of them boiling dodgy water, heating water for hygiene, or properly preserving food, and so on. Not so relevant to developing countries it can massively and cheaply increase the growing season and range of viable crops in northern climes. (forgive me for saying this) We have had solar hot water panels since long before they went mainstream, and I have even built my own solar oven - mainly out of corrugated cardboard so it is a bit saggy now, but it works surprisingly well. I would actually recommend the latter as a great kids project, aside from the obvious solar power education opportunity there is a lot of potential geometry demonstration in drawing the parabolic reflector form with string and pins, and growing/cooking/preserving crops with the resulting gadget. Small chance of burning out the kiddies retinas, but modern society tends to over-nanny kids anyway.

            Yes, the initial effort of building a solar oven is greater than gathering, seasoning and chopping a day's wood, even if that wood is your sole source of heat, but after that you can use it for generations with minimal additional effort, especially if it is made from something like bronze.

            I would need to either rotate the mirrors as the sun moves, build mechanisms, or figure out some really neat geometry (do any exist?).

            Well that is exactly what Archimedes is supposed to have figured out - a neat mechanism for orienting large mirrors.

            There are contested accounts of heliographs being used in ancient Greece and Rome, the Battle of Marathon being the most famous and really quite dubious. Emperor Tiberius signaling between Capri and the mainland being the more likely example.

          • Sorry, I find it hard to believe that there would be enough metal and skill to work it into reflecting panels, enough time, energy, and materials to keep it polished, and enough skill and resources to build orientating mechanisms, all in the first millennium AD, for more than the elite of society.

            It's much easier for me to believe in a BC solar death ray than BC solar heating for the masses. The military often gets neat gadgets and can pay a lot to construct and maintain them.

          • Richard Morley

            A bronze mirror is far easier to make and maintain than a heavy wheeled mouldboard plough and associated plough horse to look after. Military technology being adapted to peacetime use is old news.

          • What is a family going to do with a single, polished bronze mirror? I was imagining that one would need a lot more than that in order to get the superiority you allege [ancient!] solar would have over the heavy plough. Was I incorrect?

          • Richard Morley

            First, I have to..

            divert attention from the point with a red herring. At least the Wizard of Oz put on a funky light show.

            Whether Christianity has such a tendency is a different question than why. We can speculate why, but the empirical observation stands on its own.

            As I already said, there are other groups with similar tendencies, but most of them are not ones you would like. Totalitarian countries, 'secret' societies, personality cults and so on. Only the military spring to mind as a benign example, and they have good justification.

            Again, if you want to justify the Church's actions in repressing heliocentrism, grammar or the Academies, feel free.

            Second, I'll ask you whether you are aware of the ways that intellectual debate is being quashed at various elite US universities.

            I thought you wanted less focus on the misdeeds of Catholics?

            Somewhat tongue in cheek, but it makes a serious point. This is yet another inflammatory appeal to 'two wrongs make a right' which really says nothing about the assertion to which you respond except in as much as it highlights examples where it is true.

          • Whether Christianity has such a tendency is a different question than why. We can speculate why, but the empirical observation stands on its own.

            Actually, if the term 'Christianity' is over-specific in "Christianity does tend towards an authoritarian restrictive approach to intellectual debate.", that's quite relevant. If I say "Blacks commit a lot of crimes" instead of "Poor people with little opportunity for improvement commit a lot of crimes", I will justifiably receive grief. Science is all about properly identifying the cause.

            LB: Second, I'll ask you whether you are aware of the ways that intellectual debate is being quashed at various elite US universities.

            RM: I thought you wanted less focus on the misdeeds of Catholics?

            If one fills out your tongue-in-cheek cherry-picking with properly sampled data, I bet you'll find my point above is nicely illustrated.

            This is yet another inflammatory appeal to 'two wrongs make a right'

            Nope. It is to suggest that while the Galileo affair shows the RCC falling well short of our ideals of 'progress'-oriented behavior, they don't fall as short of actual behavior in the Enlightened 20th and 21st centuries. A common scientific practice is to subtract out common causes among instances, in order to better compare those instances. We are then in a better position to ask whether there was anything interestingly unique to the RCC which inhibited 'progress' and anything interestingly unique which promoted 'progress'.

          • Richard Morley

            Nor is declining to give a platform to someone the same as censoring them entirely (let alone physical threats and violence) unless, of course, you have an absolute monopoly. The Catholic catechism is startling today, but at a time when the Catholic Church had power over all Europe and would resort to violence to enforce it, then the catechism, or indeed the Index, the Inquisition or the concept of 'heresy', becomes a lot more chilling.

            Today, you can just speak, or publish, elsewhere. Which I suggest is partly what happened at the Reformation (and discovery of the New World.) FYI: I would prefer free speech with the bare minimum necessary protection for vulnerable minorities on campus. Ideally even the private ones.

            You're characterizing my "Sorry, I'm not happy to permit (etc)"

            In part, the one word 'permit' is not the point. Your overall language is, not just expressing your dissenting opinion or why you think others are wrong, but trying to say that others should not say one thing, or should say another, or should not use emphasis, or at a pinch just insulting them for acting differently. Pattern matching works both ways, if you don't like it, lead by example.

            Again, 'Galileo was right' is a simple, clear, factually true statement. You seek to prevent discussion of that in favor of 'the Church knew Galileo was right', a very different statement.

            RM: You assert that because the scientific revolution occurred in Christianity-dominated Europe it must have been caused by christianity, at least in part and denying this "seems to be something that would need to be demonstrated, not assumed".
            If I had characterized your own words that way, you probably would have whipped out the word "deceptive". Neither did I indicate any "must", nor did I indicate the central role must have been Christianity (implied by your "caused by", with no other causal factors indicated).

            Yeah, shame there were no qualifiers like "at least in part" in what I wrote!

            "To suggest that Christianity had absolutely nothing to do with this seems prima facie ridiculous" merits the 'must', I think.

          • Nor is declining to give a platform to someone the same as censoring them entirely …

            Nor is allowing Galileo to teach his ideas as "just hypotheses" the same as censoring them entirely. :-D

            In part, the one word 'permit' is not the point. Your overall language is, not just expressing your dissenting opinion or why you think others are wrong, but trying to say that others should not say one thing, or should say another, or should not use emphasis …

            Ummm, language is meant to communicate. If you're using language that would fail to communicate the [relevant!] facts with maximal accuracy, then either (i) you should lay no claim to be communicating what is true; (ii) you should correct your use of language. Do you really disagree with either of these things? At least I am not operating on the Humpty Dumpty Theory of Language, where you get to arbitrarily decide what your words mean (vs. generally stay within the limits of how others use those words).

            Again, 'Galileo was right' is a simple, clear, factually true statement. You seek to prevent discussion of that in favor of 'the Church knew Galileo was right', a very different statement.

            One might think it is simple and clear, until finding out that there were theories whereby Venus orbited the Sun but the Sun orbited Earth. How one would construe "I think we should judge them by what they knew instead of what we know" as authoritarian is beyond me. After all, we are not deciding a binary of whether the RCC obstructed scientific progress via the Galileo affair—it obviously did. We are deciding how bad the obstruction was.

            LB: We also have that little problem of where modern science arose: in Christianity-dominated Europe. To suggest that Christianity had absolutely nothing to do with this seems prima facie ridiculous; it is one of the key differences between Middle Ages Europe and ancient Greece, ancient China, and the Middle East (ending with Al-Ghazali). Now maybe Christianity really did have nothing [positive] to contribute, but that seems to be something that would need to be demonstrated, not assumed (perhaps assumed because one's dogma demands it).

            RM: You assert that because the scientific revolution occurred in Christianity-dominated Europe it must have been caused by christianity, at least in part and denying this "seems to be something that would need to be demonstrated, not assumed".

            LB: If I had characterized your own words that way, you probably would have whipped out the word "deceptive". Neither did I indicate any "must", nor did I indicate the central role must have been Christianity (implied by your "caused by", with no other causal factors indicated).

            RM: Yeah, shame there were no qualifiers like "at least in part" in what I wrote!

            "To suggest that Christianity had absolutely nothing to do with this seems prima facie ridiculous" merits the 'must', I think.

            Oh c'mon, you know how rhetoric works. You first rephrase what I said as a ridiculously stupid instance of "correlation implies causation". Then you qualify it by allowing that maybe Christianity wasn't the sole cause. Then you qualify it further by allowing that actually, it could be entirely wrong. Unless people are being really careful, such qualifications fail to do their full job; it's the initial version that is remembered the most. The rest is fine print. In contrast, the way I started things out was with "prima facie", which is a very powerful qualifier: whenever you see it, you know that what follows could easily be very wrong. "Prima facie" is the antithesis to "causation implies correlation".

          • Richard Morley

            Nor is allowing Galileo to teach his ideas as "just hypotheses" the same as censoring them entirely.

            Forcing Galileo to teach his ideas as "just a model" on pain of, well, pain, is indeed censorship, as your wife having to publish in another journal is not.

            Galileo having his books placed on the Index and burned, and him being tried, convicted, and forced to "abjure, curse, and detest" his sincerely held beliefs on threat of death... that goes beyond mere censorship. No matter how funny you find it.

            Ummm, language is meant to communicate.

            Yes, as yours communicates the underlying authoritarian worldview. You are the sole arbiter of how wrong something is and none else may disagree, Galileo should have been happy to abjure his genuine beliefs and teach what he knew to be a falsehood, and so on.

          • LB: Nor is allowing Galileo to teach his ideas as "just hypotheses" the same as censoring them entirely.

            RM: Forcing Galileo to teach his ideas as "just a model" on pain of, well, pain, is indeed censorship, as your wife having to publish in another journal is not.

            Were you under the impression that you corrected anything I said?

            You are the sole arbiter of how wrong something is and none else may disagree …

            Funny, how much I try to reason with you instead of just impose my views on you. Funny how I've apologized for saying something unintentionally offensive and apologized for miscommmunicating. But this—

            Galileo should have been happy to abjure his genuine beliefs and teach what he knew to be a falsehood, and so on.

            —is false and not funny. Nothing I've said can be construed as saying the above. I predict that you, being the actual one who is the sole arbiter of who is right and what words mean, will not apologize for what you've done. The most I predict you will do is admit it is false but plead tu quoque, implying that you are merely practicing lex talionis (or something less severe—perhaps there is no limit to how awful a human being I am).

          • Richard Morley

            After all, we are not deciding a binary of whether the RCC obstructed scientific progress via the Galileo affair—it obviously did.

            But anyone who dares say so is 'a believer in fairy tales', 'judging using hindsight' and 'just wants to feel nice and righteous in their head'.

            Oh c'mon, you know how rhetoric works.

            I also know how philosophical enquiry works. I know which I prefer, but am interested that rhetoric is the one you instinctively go to.

            You first rephrase what I said as a ridiculously stupid instance of "correlation implies causation".

            I accurately reflected what you said. Characterise your own argument as you will, but don't try to pretend that I left out the 'at least in part'.

            Nothing you have said yet satisfies your own criterion of needing to demonstrate, not just assume, that Christianity is not responsible for the hiatus, as you tried to insinuate that it was responsible for the scientific revolution. At least in part.

          • LB: After all, we are not deciding a binary of whether the RCC obstructed scientific progress via the Galileo affair—it obviously did.

            RM: But anyone who dares say so is 'a believer in fairy tales', 'judging using hindsight' and 'just wants to feel nice and righteous in their head'.

            Right, because anyone is going to believe that all you or Brian were doing was to merely point out that in one situation, the RCC obstructed scientific progress. :-D

            LB: Oh c'mon, you know how rhetoric works.

            RM: I also know how philosophical enquiry works. I know which I prefer, but am interested that rhetoric is the one you instinctively go to.

            I see. So please, using 'philosophical enquiry', explain how you got "religion is always, fundamentally and intrinsically in conflict with science and reason" from anything I said or anything in WP: Conflict thesis. My claim is that you exaggerated so you could get to a straw man which you could then summarily dismiss. That is a classic rhetorical ploy. But you claim to prefer philosophical enquiry. Maybe that was just a convenient exception to the rule?

            LB: You first rephrase what I said as a ridiculously stupid instance of "correlation implies causation".

            RM: I accurately reflected what you said. Characterise your own argument as you will, but don't try to pretend that I left out the 'at least in part'.

            You're right that you included "at least in part". The reason I first missed it was that it is rhetorically diminished. My bad for not characterizing that perfectly on my first go. As to you accurately reflecting my words: anyone who cares to investigate will see that for the BS it is.

            Nothing you have said yet satisfies your own criterion of needing to demonstrate, not just assume, that Christianity is not responsible for the hiatus, as you tried to insinuate that it was responsible for the scientific revolution.

            Why is this excluded:

            LB: You've tried to make an analogy to reasoning I used earlier, but you failed to recognize that while golden ages have ended all sorts of times (followed by periods of lower innovation), modern science arose only once. To suggest that the causal factors responsible for golden ages just happened to fire a sustained thrust only in one place seems very ad hoc to me. They had plenty of opportunities to.

            ? You ignored that in all three of your replies (#1, #2, #3). From the same comment you also ignored the following:

            LB: Actually, Stephen Toulmin makes a good case in Cosmopolis that religion was more oppressive in the 17th century than the 16th and 15th. He notes that this goes against the received view.

            Was scientific progress slower in the 17th century than the 15th and 16th? No.

            P.S. Nice use of 'insinuate'; just about nothing about it correctly applies.

          • Richard Morley

            Right, because anyone is going to believe that all you or Brian were doing was to merely point out that in one situation, the RCC obstructed scientific progress.

            As much as 'anyone is going to believe that' you are not trying to justify the RCC's actions and so on. Golden rule again.

            I see. So please, using 'philosophical enquiry', explain how you got "religion is always, fundamentally and intrinsically in conflict with science and reason" from anything I said or anything in WP: Conflict thesis.

            I never said it was, what I have said many times now is that that I was distancing myself from a common meaning of that phrase. To be clear.

            You're right that you included "at least in part". The reason I first missed it was that it is rhetorically diminished.

            So you missed it, but that is somehow my fault. This is why you should spend more time reading what was explicitly written and less trying to read between the lines.

          • Richard Morley

            Why is this excluded:

            Answered here. Relevant bit:

            a) The current upsurge is, by definition, still going on. Otherwise it would not be the current one.
            b) arguably, it has not yet gone on as long as the hellenistic one
            c) alternatively, I would in fact agree that 'modern science arose only once' - in ancient Greece, carrying on until the present day except for the terrible period that suggestively coincides with Christianity's power. Much of modern science is, after all, built explicitly on the Greek - Euclid was even a standard text in living memory.

            From the same comment you also ignored the following:

            LB: Actually, Stephen Toulmin makes a good case in Cosmopolis that religion was more oppressive in the 17th century than the 16th and 15th. He notes that this goes against the received view.

            First it 'goes against the received view', thus is not the strongest of arguments to start with.

            Accepting, for the sake of argument, that he is right, I don't see that it impacts the point that innovation started up after the Reformation meant the loss of a centralised authoritarian church. Divided yet more 'oppressive' churches can be less effective than one unified RCC.

            You are still left, by your own logic, with the need to explain away the correlation between Christianity and the hiatus.

          • Answered here.

            Ok we can take that discussion over there; my reply to that comment.

            First it 'goes against the received view', thus is not the strongest of arguments to start with.

            Well, the book was written in 1990. It has 3300 'citations'; Toulmin is not some crackpot. And my stance toward yours is that the scholarly view toward religion used to be much harsher than it is now—that's what one finds over at WP: Conflict thesis. One of the things that people used to believe was that science flourished to the extent that religious hegemony was shattered. You've said some very similar things yourself. But the evidence is otherwise.

            Accepting, for the sake of argument, that he is right, I don't see that it impacts the point that innovation started up after the Reformation meant the loss of a centralised authoritarian church. Divided yet more 'oppressive' churches can be less effective than one unified RCC.

            I'm sorry, but that sounds rather ad hoc to me. Doubly so, since it was the politicization of geocentrism which caused it to be so much of a bigger deal in Galileo's day than Copernicus' day. This politicization comes directly from divided, oppressive churches. Scientific progress is threatened whenever it bears on political matters.

            You are still left, by your own logic, with the need to explain away the correlation between Christianity and the hiatus.

            I started dealing with that over here. However, I'd like clarification: do you yourself embrace said logic, or are you only deploying it because you think it's bad in both situations?

          • Richard Morley

            Toulmin is not some crackpot.

            I never said he was, and hope I did not give that impression. You still only have one assertion from one philosopher, not even giving his reasoning. For that matter, how exactly does he measure how oppressive religion was and how are you correlating that with level of progress?

            I'm sorry, but that sounds rather ad hoc to me.

            Seems straightforward to me. You agree that the Scientific revolution occurred after the Reformation? I said nothing about how oppressive religion was, I just noted the correlation between the hiatus and the rise of Christianity, its period of dominance as a unified religion, then the resurgence of progress after the loss of centralised Christian power at the Reformation. Again, you seem to have seized on this quote despite it not addressing anything I actually said.

            However, I'd like clarification: do you yourself embrace said logic, or are you only deploying it because you think it's bad in both situations?

            Surely it is the same situation, the only question being whether you look at the entire history or ignore everything but where the Scientific Revolution took place.

            You proposed the standard, and I am quite happy to work with it. If you now wish to back off from that standard, I think it is up to you to do so, ideally openly and with your reasons, but not nudging me into giving you an excuse to drop it. I would naturally be even less happy for you to keep revising the standard until it reaches the conclusion you want.

          • You still only have one assertion from one philosopher, not even giving his reasoning. For that matter, how exactly does he measure how oppressive religion was and how are you correlating that with level of progress?

            I didn't give his reasoning yet because that would be a lot of extra work. If your position is, "Well, even if he's 100% right, that's irrelevant to my point"—and that does seem to be your position—why would I go to the extra work?

            Is this in fact turning into a major point of contention, such that it would be worth my time to outline a plethora of historical facts and offer an interpretation? Does your suggestive correlation experience serious problems if my interpretation of Toulmin's words ends up being justified?

            You agree that the Scientific revolution occurred after the Reformation?

            I think plenty of prerequisites were in motion before the Reformation. What we have yet to determine is the extent to which they are responsible for the scientific revolution being possible in the first place. If every generation of humans doubles what the previous generation did and we label something "scientific revolution" once the magnitude is ≥ 1/100 of what we have today, then one is going to invalidly ignore the initial part of the exponential. Obviously this is a simplification; it is intended to question whether we really ought to be talking about "when the scientific revolution started".

            I said nothing about how oppressive religion was, I just noted the correlation between the hiatus and the rise of Christianity, its period of dominance as a unified religion, then the resurgence of progress after the loss of centralised Christian power at the Reformation. Again, you seem to have seized on this quote despite it not addressing anything I actually said.

            Yes, and the reason correlations are relevant is that they suggest plausible causation. In this case, the plausible causation is that the Church was oppressive toward progress, isn't it? I mean, how does your correlation make sense if we say that "the Church was not oppressive"? We seem to have a very serious misunderstanding, here.

            LB: However, I'd like clarification: do you yourself embrace said logic, or are you only deploying it because you think it's bad in both situations?

            RM: Surely it is the same situation, the only question being whether you look at the entire history or ignore everything but where the Scientific Revolution took place.

            You proposed the standard, and I am quite happy to work with it. If you now wish to back off from that standard, I think it is up to you to do so, ideally openly and with your reasons, but not nudging me into giving you an excuse to drop it. I would naturally be even less happy for you to keep revising the standard until it reaches the conclusion you want.

            Why is a "yes" or "no" answer too much (or too little) for you? After all, if you think it's bad logic, I'd like to know how you think the situation ought to be analyzed.

          • Richard Morley

            Well, the book was written in 1990.

            So? If anything that should mean that you would find many more recent citations if that thesis were widely accepted.

            You seem to be looking for a reason to reach a predetermined conclusion, not looking at where the evidence leads you. So any quote that seems to say something that can be taken the 'right' way is seized upon as 'proof' and must then be disproven in the more rigorous sense by dissenters. Even to abandoning(?) your previous argument once shown that it actually leads to the 'wrong' conclusion.

            It has 3300 'citations';

            Scare quotes because you are referring to the number of results from Google Scholar, or are there that many cites in peer reviewed journals? How many of those citations agree with the thesis, how many disagree, how many cited the book for some other reason? 'History of Western Philosophy' gives 49,300 results, and you seem happy to dismiss that.

          • So?

            What was the received view then is not necessarily the received view now.

            If anything that should mean that you would find many more recent citations if that thesis were widely accepted.

            Yeah, if I put the effort in. Why should I? Suppose, for example, that I do show beyond a reasonable doubt that Toulmin's view is the new received view. Will you just say "ok" and we move on? You could make me do a lot of work that way.

            You seem to be looking for a reason to reach a predetermined conclusion, not looking at where the evidence leads you.

            I seem that way to you and you seem the same to me. And so we discuss things, you from your perspective and me from mine. The hope is that we both come out better as a result.

            So any quote that seems to say something that can be taken the 'right' way is seized upon as 'proof' and must then be disproven in the more rigorous sense by dissenters.

            So … am I supposed to not cite historians?

            Even to abandoning(?) your previous argument once shown that it actually leads to the 'wrong' conclusion.

            What have I abandoned? You seem to be doing a lot of very weird things with my "prima facie". Have I anywhere said that your own suggestive correlation is something to be dismissed out of hand? I don't think so. Far from it; I've taken your own application of that logic quite seriously. That it "leads to the 'wrong' conclusion" is, of course, to beg the question. What is 'prima facie' must always be further explored, unless one cares nothing for the intellect, for gaining an ever more accurate understanding of things.

            Scare quotes because you are referring to the number of results from Google Scholar, or are there that many cites in peer reviewed journals?

            The former (wasn't that obvious?). I don't know of a good way to reliably get all the peer-reviewed citations of scholarly works. Google Scholar seems to be a decent proxy for my purposes (establishing that someone probably isn't a crackpot).

            How many of those citations agree with the thesis, how many disagree, how many cited the book for some other reason?

            I haven't investigated it. My point was neither to point to agreement or disagreement, but to support the contention that "Toulmin is not some crackpot". Do you wish to contend that on the contrary, he is a crackpot?

            'History of Western Philosophy' gives 49,300 results, and you seem happy to dismiss that.

            Umm, I never claimed that Bertrand Russell was a crackpot. You referenced A History of Western Philosophy as a resource on ancient and medieval history/​philosophy; an expert said "his treatment of ancient and medieval doctrines is nearly worthless." Another said that Russell "never seems to be able to make up his mind whether he is writing history or polemic". The book just doesn't seem suitable for the task at hand.

          • Richard Morley

            Asking you whether you support a viewpoint is not asking you to defend it.

            Quibble. Why are you asking about some other thesis from elsewhere when I have posted what I thought was a clear and nuanced explanation of what I think on the issue. Especially when you react so badly to being asked questions that you think imply something you have not said.

            Are you really not aware that it is a tradition for atheists to cite the Galileo affair in order to support the thesis that religion is intrinsically opposed to science?

            I am aware that it is common for certain theists to claim extremist versions of that thesis and ascribe them to atheists. As you in fact seem to be doing, and you have a habit of insinuating things such as that I have plans to 'get' the RCC.

            RM:Again, if you want to argue that religion is more helpful than harmful to science, I'm listening.

            That would require a massive amount of evidence; I doubt one could accrue and discuss it without technology that has yet to be invented.

            There you go. You actually proposed this standard of evidence, yet you are unable to meet it yourself.

            I can cite plenty of ways in which christianity or religion in general has been bad for science, but there is no objective measure to compare two harms or benefits. Even if they are very very similar, such as the destruction of the neoplatonic schools and the creation of universities centuries later, I doubt we would reach a common assessment of whether that added up to overall harm or benefit, even with an interlocutor less prone than to quibbling and red herrings. Even more so if we are comparing two very different things, like burning a library in ancient Rome with funding a scientist in the renaissance.

            RM:Or for that matter there is your insinuation that the enlightenment harmed children …

            Huh?

            Forgotten already your idea that "Enlightened twentieth-century humans" have somehow done damage to children that exceeds anything the RCC has done? Which also requires comparing two different 'harms'.

          • Quibble. Why are you asking about some other thesis from elsewhere when I have posted what I thought was a clear and nuanced explanation of what I think on the issue.

            Because I didn't think what you posted was sufficiently clear or nuanced.

            Especially when you react so badly to being asked questions that you think imply something you have not said.

            Do I react "so badly" every single time, or only very special times?

            I am aware that it is common for certain theists to claim extremist versions of that thesis and ascribe them to atheists.

            That's irrelevant if that's not what I was doing. As far as I can tell, WP: Conflict thesis is not extremist, and I have constantly linked to it. You're talking to me, not "certain theists".

            As you in fact seem to be doing, and you have a habit of insinuating things such as that I have plans to 'get' the RCC.

            Sigh, I've already dealt with that: "Then my apologies; I meant no insult or provocation there. At best, I was frustrated that I hadn't a clue where you were going."

            You actually proposed this standard of evidence, yet you are unable to meet it yourself.

            Irrelevant; I was not the one who was making the positive claim.

            I can cite plenty of ways in which christianity or religion in general has been bad for science, but there is no objective measure to compare two harms or benefits.

            Historians do seem to manage without scientifically objective measures. If in fact we can't really say one way or the other with confidence, then it would seem important to not come down too hard on religion. One would instead have to make precision strikes against certain particular instances of religion. The same would go for Christians criticizing atheists (e.g. Stalin and Hitler (who obviously was merely a user of religion)). But then what would it mean for the Galileo affair to be "crucial" in understanding the topic of the OP? Do feel free to share.

            Forgotten already your idea that "Enlightened twentieth-century humans" have somehow done damage to children that exceeds anything the RCC has done? Which also requires comparing two different 'harms'.

            Erm, that isn't the Enlightenment harming children, that's twentieth-century humans who allege to be Enlightened doing anti-scientific things. My use of "Enlightened" in that context was tongue-in-cheek; I intended to let "the Enlightenment" be what it is purported to be by advocates.

            Did you ever comment on whether it is possible that those twentieth-century humans could have caused more damage to humanity via their stance on the importance (or lack thereof) of two-parent homes than the RCC did in the Galileo affair? If your answer is "no", or "highly unlikely", could you just state it clearly?

          • Richard Morley

            Because I didn't think what you posted was sufficiently clear or nuanced.

            Or it just didn't say what you wanted me to say?
            Let the reader decide, this is what I actually said:
            Differentiating between a fact being true, and it being known to be true.
            What I actually say about Christianity and progress
            On the Conflict thesis
            On progress in Ancient Greece

          • Richard Morley

            As far as I can tell, WP: Conflict thesis is not extremist, and I have constantly linked to it.

            But that is not what you are trying to get me to assert and defend. It is your extended version, not (curiously) mine.

            You're talking to me, not "certain theists".

            You're talking to me, not "certain atheists".

            RM:You actually proposed this standard of evidence, yet you are unable to meet it yourself.
            Irrelevant; I was not the one who was making the positive claim.

            You proposed the standard of evidence and "religion is more helpful than harmful to science" is both a positive statement and far more justifiably attributable to you than the converse is to me.

            Nor is this the only time you have tried to put an assertion in my mouth then demanded that I meet a standard of evidence that you are not willing to do. here you demand that I show that
            (1) When a scientist becomes an atheist, [s]he does better science.
            or(2) When a scientist becomes religious, [s]he does worse science.

            But since you are the one citing WP: Conflict thesis, why are you not showing that:
            (1) When a scientist becomes an atheist, [s]he does worse science.
            or(2) When a scientist becomes religious, [s]he does better science.

            Let me guess:"That would require a massive amount of evidence"

            My use of "Enlightened" in that context was tongue-in-cheek; I intended to let "the Enlightenment" be what it is purported to be by advocates.

            Still, waiting for you to show this alleged damage and that whoever-you-are-blaming are actually responsible.

            Are you familiar with the studies that societal health is negatively correlated with religiosity?

            Did you ever comment on whether it is possible that those twentieth-century humans could have caused more damage to humanity via their stance on the importance (or lack thereof) of two-parent homes than the RCC did in the Galileo affair? If your answer is "no", or "highly unlikely", could you just state it clearly?

            Anything is 'possible' - would you not admit that it is 'possible' that Christianity is bad for science? The question is whether the thesis is supported and how well.

          • Or it just didn't say what you wanted me to say?

            Nope. My guesses of your position appear to be about perfect. I would have preferred that those guesses be wrong.

          • Richard Morley

            Well, that is the problem. Rather than address what I have actually said, you address some conversation inside your head where you attempt to 'guess' what I mean, something at which you appear to be astonishingly bad.

            I still 'guess' that my 'guess' above is correct.

          • Rather than address what I have actually said, you address some conversation inside your head where you attempt to 'guess' what I mean, something at which you appear to be astonishingly bad.

            Actually, what seems "astonishingly bad" is your version of what I've said, like this:

            RM: The Conflict thesis is a strawman, as usually presented: that religion is always, fundamentally and intrinsically in conflict with science and reason.

            This is obviously meant to refer not just to what is "usually presented" but what I meant as well (largely via my repeated references to WP: Conflict thesis), as you never contrasted the "usually presented" version against what you thought I was presenting. Anyone who looks at what I wrote or the Wiki article will see that neither "always" nor "fundamentally" show up in it. You radically intensified what is there—and then somehow, go a strawman.

            Anyone who knows anything about the conflict thesis would say it fits with the following:

            LB: … you've gone on to blame the RCC for aborting [scientific] progress and argued that only when the RCC lost power did [scientific] progress pick up again.

            I doubt your clarification would matter to them:

            RM: It is … making a point about the likelihood of a causal connection between the rise of Christianity and the hiatus in progress.

            So, how exactly did I guess wrong from your "The Galileo affair is crucial, especially as regards the topic of this thread."? You could try and wriggle out of the conflict thesis applying to all religion, but we're obviously targeting Christianity here. You could try positing an "idealised catholic theologian", striking at the "intrinsically in conflict" bit. But if the RCC were actually more harmful than helpful to science on average, then surely there was something intrinsic to it which was responsible. It wouldn't just be happenstance, just like your "Christianity does tend towards an authoritarian restrictive approach to intellectual debate." isn't just happenstance.

  • Richard Morley

    Wait a second, you've strenuously insisted that "Galileo was … right"

    Galileo was and is unequivocally correct in this conflict. Both sides were wrong about circular orbits, but you do accept that the Earth and planets orbit the Sun, not the Sun and planets orbiting Earth, right?

    As to the pile of firewood, Galileo was undeniably threatened with torture and death. The fact that he capitulated does not ameliorate the Church's moral position.

    Debate was allowed

    Arresting, trying and threatening someone with torture is not 'letting them teach their theories' nor is it debate. This illustrates again how far you have swallowed the koolaidwhitewash.

    What's the key difference?

    The difference between intellectual despotism and free speech. Between choosing to say that QM is a model and that it may not correspond to any reality, and being forced on threat of torture and death to "abjure, curse and detest" your sincerely held beliefs.

    This would of course mean nothing to you if there are no fundamental truths you hold dear, but to scientists this matters.

    How would Catholics react if told that they could talk about Jesus being the Son of God, the Immaculate Conception and Real Presence and so on, but only if they made it clear that it was all just make-believe?

    I would appreciate if you did not elide important qualifying words.

    I would appreciate it if you would not completely invent things I have said, such as whatever it was about 'religious' or that I agree with your absurd reading of the Regnerus affair. Try leading by example.

    Your merry jest about dragging "an old dude across the country" was clearly playing down a horrible act. Hence my comments about the RCC - since you apparently feel no empathy for a sick old scientist, maybe an example involving christians would resonate.

    "I have never disagreed with this fact."

    More to the point you prevaricate on disagreeing with the act.

    • Galileo was and is unequivocally correct in this conflict. Both sides were wrong about circular orbits, but you do accept that the Earth and planets orbit the Sun, not the Sun and planets orbiting Earth, right?

      Based on the best science of the time, Galileo was not known to be unequivocally correct when he was tried. The term 'unequivocally' means "in a way that leaves no doubt". But there was doubt; Galileo's model predicted that stars would be way too big. It took until the Airy disk was understood to resolve that problem, as the paper Objects in Telescope Are Farther Than They Appear explains—a paper I linked to you two days ago. You could also consult the Nature article Galileo duped by diffraction.

      The Ptolemaic system at the time would be better described as having elliptical orbits; epicycles upon epicycles leads mathematically to an ellipse.

      You've asked another insulting question but I'll just answer right away: yes I accept that the Earth and planets orbit the sun. I also believe that 2+2=4 and that F=ma.

      LB: Debate was allowed

      RM: Arresting, trying and threatening someone with torture is not 'letting them teach their theories' nor is it debate. This illustrates again how far you have swallowed the koolaidwhitewash.

      You can only say the above because you insist that it is a necessary part of "teach their theories" to be able to assert that the theory is "physically true", instead of merely equations which "save the appearances". This, despite the fact that the vast majority of quantum mechanics teaching and debating has happened … wait for it … in a "save the appearances" manner. According to your logic, the study of quantum mechanics has been absolutely devastated by this fact, by the inability to make claims as to some ontology being "physically real". You really should start telling those physicists how bad they've got it.

      The difference between intellectual despotism and free speech.

      You're acting like the folks who pulled out all the stops and used the most intense language they could to assault Mitt Romney, so that when Donald Trump rolled around, they could get no more severe. This, despite the fact that Trump was and is much worse than Romney. Likewise, the Roman Catholic Church could have been much, much harsher. Here are some ways:

           (A) They could have prevented Galileo from discussing his theory in any way.
           (B) They could have burned all books on heliocentrism.
           (C) They could have imprisoned Galileo in a dungeon or burnt him at the stake, such that he could not continue to do science at his home.

      By labeling what the RCC did do as "intellectual despotism", you don't allow for anything worse. That is, anything truly worse will have to be described in the same way. I prefer to use language in a way that judges things to be about as bad as they are. You seem to prefer otherwise.

      How would Catholics react if told that they could talk about Jesus being the Son of God, the Immaculate Conception and Real Presence and so on, but only if they made it clear that it was all just make-believe?

      They obviously wouldn't like it. You're writing as if I think the RCC was right to do what it did to Galileo; I don't. They were wrong. But they were not as catastrophically wrong as you appear to think. They could have been much, much worse.

      LB: I would appreciate if you did not elide important qualifying words.

      RM: I would appreciate it if you would not completely invent things I have said, such as whatever it was about 'religious' or that I agree with your absurd reading of the Regnerus affair.

      Tu quoque is a fallacy. But I'm happy to admit I mistook your "Tu quoque" for "Touché"; my bad. Apologies. I've edited the relevant comment. As to my use of 'religion', it was an educated guess; if I'm wrong, I'm happy to admit so and try to make the same error less frequently. (i.e. 'repent')

      Your merry jest about dragging "an old dude across the country" was clearly playing down a horrible act.

      Nope, it was 100% a dig at you for your apparent need to repeat that line ad nauseum.

      Your merry jest about dragging "an old dude across the country" was clearly playing down a horrible act.

      Yes, the whole contention is whether I'm playing down or you're playing up. If you'd state clearly just what your position is with respect to the conflict thesis, we could probably resolve a lot of this.

      • Richard Morley

        Based on the best science of the time, Galileo was not known to be unequivocally correct when he was tried.

        How art thou wrong? Let me count the ways:
        1) Two different things - whether he was correct, and whether that was known at the time. You challenged the former, not the latter.
        2) To be justified in forcing Galileo to reject heliocentrism and affirm geocentrism, they needed at least proof that they were unequivocally correct, not just the lack of proof that they were wrong.
        3) You cannot even play your usual moral relativism card - St Augustine knew this and warned christians about it a thousand years earlier
        4) Also he was actually known to be correct, by him:

        Again, phases. Imagine you are looking at the Sun and Venus. Both, of course, in the same half of the sky, something obvious from heliocentrism but needing explanation in geocentrism. The Sun obviously shining with its own light, Venus with light reflected from the Sun.
        If Venus is dark or crescent, it is on this side of the sun, if it is full or gibbous it is on the further side, if exactly quarter it is level with the Sun. Play it out with a ball and a bulb if you need to.
        So a) you see Venus at quarter to one side of the Sun.
        b) It then moves towards the Sun in the sky, and become crescent (it is nearer to us as Ptolemy suggests) then full dark at its closest approach to the Sun - which will normally not be a transit.
        c) It then passes to the other side of the Sun, becoming a crescent again and waxing slowly to a quarter - level with the Sun again
        d) Then (shock) it waxes further to gibbous, moving back towards the Sun in the sky. It is now further from us than the Sun
        e) It waxes to full, closest to the Sun, then wanes again to gibbous then quarter, back where it started.

        You have just seen with your own eyes that Venus orbits the Sun

        • How art thou wrong? Let me count the ways:
          1) Two different things - whether he was correct, and whether that was known at the time. You challenged the former, not the latter.

          How does this constitute being wrong? The only way I've meant to challenge the latter is whether Galileo's theory was "physically real"—that is, a picture perfect model of reality. You're basically saying I'm wrong for refusing to assert wrongness, which is just plain wrong.

          2) To be justified in forcing Galileo to reject heliocentrism and affirm geocentrism, they needed at least proof that they were unequivocally correct, not just the lack of proof that they were wrong.

          I'm not sure how I've contradicted this. At best, I've implicitly referred to the idea of tradition, where what is currently believed gets extra weight. I guess you could say that's "unfair", but it's not clear that anything else is possible; the ideal of "only believing things based on the evidence" is utterly unreasonable outside of a narrow sub-domain. Like it or not, one has to contend with prevailing tradition. This is a major reason we get Max Planck's "Science advances one funeral at a time."

          3) You cannot even play your usual moral relativism card - St Augustine knew this and warned christians about it a thousand years earlier

          Yeah, and Cardinal Bellarmine quoted Augustine on this. I have no idea what you're talking about with "moral relativism"—what have I said which is related to moral relativism? What I have said is that humans are very imperfect beings, and so comparing their actions to ideals is of limited value.

          4) Also he was actually known to be correct, by him:

          Yup, just ignore the whole star size issue I wrote up in the comment to which you are responding. If the evidence contradicts your position, just ignore it.

          You have just seen with your own eyes that Venus orbits the Sun

          Yeah, that's shorthand for saying that no other model comes close to matching the evidence than "Venus orbits the Sun". Nevertheless, unless Venus transits in front of the Sun, you don't actually see it go in front of the Sun, you see it disappear. If we do not separate what is seen from what is inferred, we hamstring our ability to understand reality.

          Oh, and in all this, you fail to acknowledge the mixed heliocentric-geocentric model, where some planets orbit the Sun while the earth is still stationary. For a time, this seemed like a scientifically viable theory. The problem is we tend to forget such things when so far away from them. People remember who was actually President, but not those who ran for President and lost. The same goes for scientific theories which seemed viable for short periods of time.

          • Richard Morley

            How does this constitute being wrong?

            You are shifting the goalposts. Whether or not the Church knew that Galileo was correct says nothing about whether Galileo was in fact correct. The Earth does in fact orbit the Sun - you have even tried to take offense at being asked to confirm that you accept this.

            I'm not sure how I've contradicted this.

            By trying to justify the RCC's actions by saying that they did not know that they were wrong. That is the wrong question, a better one being did they know beyond doubt that they were right, and did they need to impose that belief on Galileo. As philosophers, and for that matter christians (turn the other cheek, remember?) they should have known this and been more humble.

            Yeah, and Cardinal Bellarmine quoted Augustine on this.

            So he has even less excuse for his actions. As for moral relativism, it actually goes further than that - you keep arguing that not just the morality of the RCC's actions but the truth of Galileo's assertions must be judged by the standards of the time, not what we know now.

            I stand by my original assertion, about which you were so rude: Galileo was both right, and justified in his beliefs, and the Church was the side both wrong and overly confident in its assertions. As they should have known, especially given St Augustine's warning.

            Yup, just ignore the whole star size issue I wrote up in the comment to which you are responding. If the evidence contradicts your position, just ignore it.

            I answered that hours before you wrote this, and you have responded to that 16 hours ago as I write this. So it is deliberate deception for you to try to pretend that I am ignoring that.

            RM: You have just seen with your own eyes that Venus orbits the Sun
            Yeah, that's shorthand for saying that no other model comes close to matching the evidence than "Venus orbits the Sun".

            No, that is a true statement that you have seen with your own eyes that Venus orbits the Sun. Or are you a hard solipsist?

          • You are shifting the goalposts. Whether or not the Church knew that Galileo was correct says nothing about whether Galileo was in fact correct.

            Umm, maybe you started with terrible goalposts. What matters when discussing Galileo's trial in 1633 is not what we now know to be true, but what was then known to be true. Hindsight is 20/20.

            The Earth does in fact orbit the Sun - you have even tried to take offense at being asked to confirm that you accept this.

            Haha, "tried to take offense". I'm sitting at a coffee shop right now. Suppose I were to ask various people here if they'd be offended if I asked them to "confirm" that the Earth orbits the Sun. First, I'd let them know that I'm pretending that they are Christians and the context is a discussion of the Galileo affair. You really, truly believe that they wouldn't be offended?

            By trying to justify the RCC's actions by saying that they did not know that they were wrong.

            You seem to have an odd habit of conflating 'ameliorate' and 'justify'. If it were beyond a shadow of doubt that all of the planets orbit the Sun at the time of Galileo's trial in 1633, the RCC would be more at fault than if there were plenty of doubt. What we know now of celestial mechanics is simply immaterial.

            That is the wrong question, a better one being did they know beyond doubt that they were right, and did they need to impose that belief on Galileo.

            This is a noble ideal, but it's not even how scientific tradition works, today. I have second-hand experience of that: a rather iffy scientific paper which nevertheless got published is now considered the standard by which my wife's work gets judged. She has to work extra hard to argue against it merely because it got published. The stamp of authority goes a long way, and maybe necessarily so. So if you're going to compare the RCC's treatment of Galileo to how secular humans operate today, you're not going to get as big a distinction as you appear to think. Humans are incredibly political beings, a fact which PhDs in particular seem to like ignoring. (Perhaps because PhDs spent their time learning science instead of [day-to-day] politics.)

            As philosophers, and for that matter christians (turn the other cheek, remember?) they should have known this and been more humble.

            I agree. Just like those scientists who gloried in how awesome humans were in the decades leading up to WWI should have been more humble. A read of the Bible will make clear that God really, really hates pride and arrogance.

            As for moral relativism, it actually goes further than that - you keep arguing that not just the morality of the RCC's actions but the truth of Galileo's assertions must be judged by the standards of the time, not what we know now.

            Kind of. We can only do the best we can given what we currently know. People in 1633 could only do the best they could given what they knew in 1633. If you think differently, then I will ask you for an accounting of how you access timeless truths about morality and science. Nothing in this implies moral relativism; sustained increase in knowledge and excellence only requires that we get the derivative right more often than wrong, not that we be able to measure the absolute value.

            I stand by my original assertion, about which you were so rude: Galileo was both right, and justified in his beliefs, and the Church was the side both wrong and overly confident in its assertions. As they should have known, especially given St Augustine's warning.

            Just that assertion doesn't make it "crucial" to the OP.

            I also maintain that Galileo's insistence that his theory was "physically real" applied to the total theory, not merely the abstract bit that says the earth (and planets) orbit the Sun. The fact that some aspect of Galileo's theory better fit observations is something at home in the "save the appearances" approach.

            But yeah, the Church was in the wrong and overly confident—although it's dubious to say that confidence was purely about the science rather than a significant political ploy to prevent defections to Protestantism. Unless you believe that getting the true causes right is unimportant, as long as Christianity (or generally, 'religion') is demeaned.

            RM: 4) Also he was actually known to be correct, by him:

            LB: Yup, just ignore the whole star size issue I wrote up in the comment to which you are responding. If the evidence contradicts your position, just ignore it.

            RM: I answered that hours before you wrote this, and you have responded to that 16 hours ago as I write this. So it is deliberate deception for you to try to pretend that I am ignoring that.

            Actually, it has become clear that when you say that Galileo "knew he was correct", you mean that he know heliocentrism was superior to geocentrism, not that his model was "physically real". That is, Galileo can "know he was correct" while also "knowing his theory has problems he cannot resolve". One could be forgiven for thinking those two statements are flatly contradictory. But if one knows about the "save the appearances" interpretation of scientific theory, everything makes sense. One could also be forgiven for asking why the problems of Galileo's theory were less severe than the problems of Ptolemaic theory—based on what was known in 1633—but we can elide that when it comes to saying that the RCC was still wrong to abridge Galileo's freedom.

            RM: You have just seen with your own eyes that Venus orbits the Sun

            LB: Yeah, that's shorthand for saying that no other model comes close to matching the evidence than "Venus orbits the Sun".

            RM: No, that is a true statement that you have seen with your own eyes that Venus orbits the Sun. Or are you a hard solipsist?

            Sorry, I was stuck on your previous statement that "Galileo had seen with his own eyes Venus pass in front of the Sun". When Venus is in front of the Sun and yet not transiting, it is invisible to the kind of telescopes available in 1633.

            I'm happy to agree that the phases of Venus Galileo observed with his telescope—that is, when Venus was not in front of the Sun—were predicted by Galileo's theory and inconsistent with Ptolemaic theory.

          • Richard Morley

            "Fact X is correct" and "Fact X is known to be correct" are two very different statements that you are regularly conflating, whether tactically or inadvertently. It is important to distinguish between them, if clarity is your goal.

            Consider the following statements:
            1) Galileo was correct in asserting heliocentrism over geocentrism
            2) The RCC knew that (1) was true
            3) The RCC was correct in asserting geocentrism over heliocentrism
            4) Galileo knew that (3) was true
            5) Galileo's evidence and arguments justified his support of geocentrism
            6) The RCC knew that (5) was true
            7) The RCC's evidence and arguments justified its support of geocentrism
            8) The RCC knew that (7) was true
            9) Galileo was overconfidant in his conclusions
            10) The RCC was overconfidant in its conclusions
            11) Galileo acted contrary to progress in stating his beliefs
            13) The RCC acted contrary to progress by preventing Galileo from stating his beliefs and punishing him for doing so
            14) Galileo acted immorally in stating his beliefs
            15) The RCC acted immorally by preventing Galileo from stating his beliefs and punishing him for doing so
            16) The RCC acted as it did at least in part for theological reasons

            The original statement was that statements 1, 5, 10, 12, and 16 were true, and 3, 4, 7, 9, 11 and 14 were false. You have attacked both that statement and those making it, strongly implying that the statement is false while you now admit it is true, yet your argument often revolves around (2) and (6) which do not speak to the truth value of the statements actually made.

            15 is, I think, true, and you might argue against that by saying that the Church didn't know it is wrong, but
            a) that is a red herring to the on -topic argument of whether the Church's actions were bad for progress
            b) that does not justify the means used
            c) that does not justify your trying to prevent those who think the Church did act immorally from saying so

          • "Fact X is correct" and "Fact X is known to be correct" are two very different statements that you are regularly conflating, whether tactically or inadvertently.

            I have regularly conflated them? I doubt you can cite three examples. My comments are littered with "at the time" and "Hindsight is 20/20" and comments like that.

            You have attacked both that statement and those making it, strongly implying that the statement is false while you now admit it is true

            How did I "strongly imply" that the statement is false?

            a) that is a red herring to the on -topic argument of whether the Church's actions were bad for progress

            This is a binary question and I've never contested and often agreed that the Church's actions were bad for progress. The question has always been, How bad?

            b) that does not justify the means used

            Never said it did.

            c) that does not justify your trying to prevent those who think the Church did act immorally from saying so

            I've never argued that the Church acted morally. Indeed, multiple times I've agreed that they acted immorally. But "immorally" is not a binary thing; cutting off a person in traffic is not as bad as committing mass murder.

          • Richard Morley

            I doubt you can cite three examples.

            Starting from your first response to me and going on throughout your replies to me. Sure, I could go and cite all the examples, but I would prefer to engage with actual points rather than with gaslighting and argument by attrition.

            My comments are littered with "at the time" and "Hindsight is 20/20" and comments like that.

            Doesn't help. "Fact X is correct" is still very different from "Fact X was known to be true at the time"

            How did I "strongly imply" that the statement is false?

            By attacking anyone who makes it. Starting with the post to which I first responded.

            "I've never contested and often agreed"
            "Never said it did."
            "I've never argued that the Church acted morally."
            Which is why I feel that many of your interventions here have been unnecessarily personal and belligerent and most of all pointless. For example, if you agree that it was immoral to drag Galileo (yes, old and sick) across Italy (yes, in winter) rather than at the very least agreeing to his request for a trial in Florence, why sneer at my saying so?

          • RM: "Fact X is correct" and "Fact X is known to be correct" are two very different statements that you are regularly conflating, whether tactically or inadvertently.

            LB: I have regularly conflated them? I doubt you can cite three examples. My comments are littered with "at the time" and "Hindsight is 20/20" and comments like that.

            RM: Starting from your first response to me and going on throughout your replies to me. Sure, I could go and cite all the examples, but I would prefer to engage with actual points rather than with gaslighting and argument by attrition.

            In other words, you feel free to make claims about what I've said and done without supporting them with evidence if challenged. Well, I'm calling bullshit on the idea that I've regularly conflated whether a fact is true and when it was known to be true. Anyone who has been masochistic enough to follow this discussion will see that I regularly distinguish between the two. Why? Because I think it is invalid to judge the 17th century by what is known in the 21st century, just like it would be invalid to judge the 21st century by what is known in the 24th century. We don't have direct access to timeless, universal truths.

            "Fact X is correct" is still very different from "Fact X was known to be true at the time"

            Duh. And so when you would say something like "Galileo was correct!" I would reply "But at the time this was not [unequivocally] known!" Conflation? Of course not. I was arguing for different standards of judgment—different goalposts, if you will.

            RM: The original statement was that statements 1, 5, 10, 12, and 16 were true, and 3, 4, 7, 9, 11 and 14 were false. You have attacked both that statement and those making it, strongly implying that the statement is false while you now admit it is true, yet your argument often revolves around (2) and (6) which do not speak to the truth value of the statements actually made.

            LB: How did I "strongly imply" that the statement is false?

            RM: By attacking anyone who makes it. Starting with the post to which I first responded.

            I pushed against what I saw as an exaggeration of the Church's error. I can see how a black-and-white (fundamentalist?) thinker would convert this to 'justification' or 'exoneration' of the Church. I can see how someone used to insinuation and other cryptic ways of communicating could see "it's not that bad" as a stand-in for "it's not bad at all". I don't see any other ways that run-of-the-mill logic would yield what you claim I've said, from what I've actually said.

            Which is why I feel that many of your interventions here have been unnecessarily personal and belligerent and most of all pointless.

            I think exaggeration is rather dangerous in situations like this one. You've shown yourself incredibly willing to exaggerate; perhaps the best example is to construe the conflict thesis as "religion is always, fundamentally and intrinsically in conflict with science and reason", despite the fact that nothing I said implied such a strong position, nor does WP: Conflict thesis. Then you did an interesting thing whereby either the conflict thesis is a strawman or it "doesn't lead to anything terribly interesting or controversial". That looks rather like, "Either it is a strawman of my position or it is obviously true."

            For example, if you agree that it was immoral to drag Galileo (yes, old and sick) across Italy (yes, in winter) rather than at the very least agreeing to his request for a trial in Florence, why sneer at my saying so?

            Excepting the characterization of "sneer", I responded how I did because I guessed that you would have construed an immediate agreement with you as an agreement to what I judged to be an exaggerated version. And frankly, I did not imagine that you'd think I would mean to justify or exonerate the Church's actions. My bad.

          • Richard Morley

            You've shown yourself incredibly willing to exaggerate; perhaps the best example is to construe the conflict thesis as "religion is always, fundamentally and intrinsically in conflict with science and reason",

            I cited a common usage of the term from which I wanted to distance myself, as you were constantly trying to put that thesis in my mouth. I then went on to give similar statements that I would be willing to defend, to clarify my position - something you have failed to do.

            Here again you are appointing yourself as the sole arbiter of what I may say.

            despite the fact that nothing I said implied such a strong position,

            Nothing I said implied that the Church knew that Galileo was right, yet you are quite happy to put that thesis in my mouth. Double standard again.

            nor does WP: Conflict thesis.

            WP is consistent with either your version of the thesis or mine. If you want to introduce your version and defend or refute it yourself, feel free, but you don't get to demand that I do either.

            Excepting the characterization of "sneer", I responded how I did because I guessed that you would have construed an immediate agreement with you as an agreement to what I judged to be an exaggerated version.

            "I mean, didn't they drag an old dude across the country (was it in the dead of winter?) and "imprison" him?" further clarified by " it was 100% a dig at you" counts as a sneer I think.

            I for one consider that action horrifying - especially as Galileo had very reasonably begged for a trial at Florence, and the Church claims to be charitable. You clearly think it was reasonable and even funny.

            And frankly, I did not imagine that you'd think I would mean to justify or exonerate the Church's actions.

            Gosh, who would ever take repeated attacks on any criticism of the Church, even just as having been wrong or bad for science, as justification or exoneration?

            This is an excellent illustration of why I think you should spend more time reading what others actually say and making your own position explicit, and less being 'deliberately provoking' and trying to match other people to 'patterns' you think they fit.

          • I cited a common usage of the term from which I wanted to distance myself, as you were constantly trying to put that thesis in my mouth.

            You still aren't being entirely clear on whether your "as usually presented"—

            RM: The Conflict thesis is a strawman, as usually presented: that religion is always, fundamentally and intrinsically in conflict with science and reason.

            —is what you thought I was [plausibly] presenting. It does seem that way, since you never set off that "as usually presented" with something like, "Now, I know/​suspect what you are advancing isn't this strawman …"

            Here again you are appointing yourself as the sole arbiter of what I may say.

            Insisting that you not grossly misconstrue what I've said is within my rights. Exaggeration to straw man status would be an example of this.

            Nothing I said implied that the Church knew that Galileo was right, yet you are quite happy to put that thesis in my mouth.

            I certainly never intended to do that and it is slanderously wrong to suggest that I would be "happy" to do that. What I intended to do all along was contrast "Galileo was right" with "but the Church didn't know it at the time". I don't recall you ever saying the Church knew Galileo was right, although you did question the one reason I gave for scientists [at the time] to be skeptical of Galileo's theory.

            WP is consistent with either your version of the thesis or mine.

            No, it really isn't consistent with your strawman. A whole article dedicated to "Scholars now believe that this stupid strawman nobody reasonable ever believed is false." would be ridiculous. Unless perhaps your "Nobody thinks that." is as of some rather recent date, much closer to now than to the time of John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White?

            "I mean, didn't they drag an old dude across the country (was it in the dead of winter?) and "imprison" him?" further clarified by " it was 100% a dig at you" counts as a sneer I think.

            dictionary.com: sneer connects the term with scorn, contempt, and derision—none of which I plausibly intended. You said "Impeding progress is impeding progress.", but this was contradicted by your insistence that progress was really impeded, that Galileo was treated really badly. The dig was at your flagrant inconsistency. You felt it 100% acceptable to intensify the RCC's error and yet attacked me whenever I would ameliorate the RCC's error.

            I for one consider that action horrifying - especially as Galileo had very reasonably begged for a trial at Florence, and the Church claims to be charitable. You clearly think it was reasonable and even funny.

            False and libelous.

            Gosh, who would ever take repeated attacks on any criticism of the Church, even just as having been wrong or bad for science, as justification or exoneration?

            Once again we can consult the record:

            RM: But the point is not so much whose theory was right, but the methods used to advance those theories. Publishing a hypothesis is OK, even if it is wrong, dragging an old sick man across country in winter, threatening him with torture and ruin, then placing him under house arrest and censoring his books is not OK, let alone promoting progress.

            LB: Are you judging using hindsight? Note that I'm not trying to completely absolve the RCC of any wrongdoing; rather, I think it is important to properly accuse them based on evidence instead of legend.

            Oh look, I said I wasn't trying to justify or exonerate the RCC from the get-go. I said exactly what I was doing. You just decided to treat me as a flat-out liar. This and other actions on your part make it really, really hard not to see that as you coming off as more righteous than I.

            This is an excellent illustration of why I think you should spend more time reading what others actually say and making your own position explicit, and less being 'deliberately provoking' and trying to match other people to 'patterns' you think they fit.

            One of the outcomes of discussions such as these is that I can make my own position more explicit. I've also learned to be more careful when people dodge my questions, such as:

            LB: Are you judging using hindsight?

            RM: I am pointing out that the Church, not Galileo, was clearly and objectively the side which was both factually wrong and guilty of being "too confident in [its] theories before the evidence came in". The Church was accusing people of heresy, dragging sick old men across country to stand trial, at the very least threatening them with torture and so on for having different ideas, and the Church obviously did not have proof of their point of view because they were wrong! A hypocritical and morally abhorrent standard that obviously opposed progress.

            This is also from the beginning of our conversation and it blurred in my mind whether you were invalidly judging by hindsight or not. After all, The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown makes it obvious that one can plausibly interpret a lot of evidence as best supporting an incorrect view. I should have insisted that you actually answered the question. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20.

            As to fitting others to 'patterns', that's just how humans work. You made this blindingly clear with your "The Conflict thesis is a strawman, as usually presented". We work off of patterns, finding which ones a person fits and which one [s]he doesn't. What's important is to be willing to readily discard or question a pattern when there is a contradiction. So for example, if on the one hand I said I wasn't completely absolving the church but on the other hand am pushing back against a criticism, just what do I believe? You could have asked me to resolve that apparent contradiction, but you didn't. Instead, I was pattern-fit to an RCC shill. I had to protest quite a lot to escape that pattern—if indeed I have.

            The jury is still out on my "deliberately provocative". I've argued on the internet a long time and I'm well aware that what I've said is quite mild in comparison to a lot that's out there. Seriously, you made a big deal out of "Galileo was a dick to one of the most powerful people in the world". I could have been more formal and said, "Galileo insulted one of the most powerful people in the world". Would you have liked that much better? If so, the amount it takes to provoke you is approximately infinitesimal.

          • Richard Morley

            RM: I cited a common usage of the term from which I wanted to distance myself, as you were constantly trying to put that thesis in my mouth.
            You still aren't being entirely clear on whether your "as usually presented"

            It is perfectly clear, it just doesn't say what you want it to.

            RM: WP is consistent with either your version of the thesis or mine.
            No, it really isn't consistent with your strawman.

            Fine, then quote what in the WP article and what I said contradict each other.

            Either way, since I raised this to clarify what I do not agree with, and you claim you do not either, why go on about this rather than addressing those statements I do support?

            One of the outcomes of discussions such as these is that I can make my own position more explicit.

            Great, so can I look forward to you either supporting or refuting your phrasing that the RCC was more beneficial than harmful to science?

            I've also learned to be more careful when people dodge my questions, such as:
            LB: Are you judging using hindsight?

            To which I gave a thorough statement of what I was saying, hardly dodging, just not saying what you wanted. To which you respond with mockery. Your point?

            My point again: "I am pointing out that the Church, not Galileo, was clearly and objectively the side which was both factually wrong and guilty of being "too confident in [its] theories before the evidence came in". The Church was accusing people of heresy, dragging sick old men across country to stand trial, at the very least threatening them with torture and so on for having different ideas, and the Church obviously did not have proof of their point of view because they were wrong!"

            What in that is false?

            I could have been more formal and said, "Galileo insulted one of the most powerful people in the world". Would you have liked that much better?

            Yes, especially if you will turn around and criticise me for just using formatting tags. Just preferring polite speech does not make me easily 'provoked', much as you might like to believe that you have provoked me.

            So will we now see you provide evidence that Galileo did indeed insult the Pope, as judged by the same standard that you would apply to your own posts?

          • RM: I for one consider that action horrifying - especially as Galileo had very reasonably begged for a trial at Florence, and the Church claims to be charitable. You clearly think it was reasonable and even funny.

            LB: False and libelous.

            Why have you ignored this? But since your strategy these days is to accuse me of 'gaslighting' whenever I question how you've construed my words, I'll make educated guesses at what could possibly (not plausibly) have led you to interpret my words so ridiculously.

            (1) "it was reasonable"

            RM: "Maximal progress" is, of course, an ideal to which we aspire, not something I assert has been reached. The point being that the Church, in this instance and in the historical attitude it represented, took us further away from the ideal, not closer.

            LB: It's funny you say this, because I had a conversation with someone a while ago about the Regnerus affair (New Family Structures Study). That person suggested that science be suppressed, because politicians and judges somewhere would take a single study and run too far with it. It's almost like the person didn't want preliminary results to be considered physically real. It's like the person wanted socially relevant scientific results to be better supported by evidence before they are permitted to change society. According to you though, this would apparently be to take us further from "maximal progress"?

            So, I set up a scenario where preliminary scientific results are allowed to change society and suggested that this is not a good thing. Now, do you reason from that to "The RCC was justified in trying and imprisoning Galileo?" If so that's insane; the obvious error in the above is a society which would rush to change on preliminary scientific results.

            Now, perhaps we need an additional piece of evidence: that to quickly capitulate to heliocentrism would have have given Protestants ammunition against Catholics, smack dab in the middle of the Thirty Years' War. This renders the RCC's response understandable on the political plane. Whether one considers it thereby justified (and therefore "reasonable") depends on one's political theory: do we believe that if we always act according to ideals then things will turn out prettily, or do we believe that sometimes we must compromise our ideals (e.g. Realpolitik)? I meant to hint at this question, but not take a stance.

            The Thirty Years' War was bloody enough; maybe it would have been worse if the RCC had quickly accepted heliocentrism (because Protestants would be able to amass more opposition) and maybe it would have been better. But it should be clear that the only justification at play here is political, based on society using scientific matters as political lodestones. The issue is neither moral justification nor scientific justification.

            (2) "it was … even funny"

            LB: No, it is not "maximal progress", but I already dealt with that.

            RM: No, you just dismissed it, as you do here by mocking the turn of phrase. Impeding progress is impeding progress.

            Unlike QM, Galileo knew that he had observed with his own eyes that Venus, for example, orbited the sun, not the earth. Why should he be bullied into lying about it? How can you honestly deny that this is opposing progress?

            LB: You're ignoring the fact that marvelous progress has been made in QM while refusing to commit to an ontology—while treating it as a hypothesis which "saves the appearance" while not being "physically real". Somehow, it is such a terrible thing to have to defer settling on the ontology. How you get that I don't really know—unless perhaps you are committed to finding the RCC at terrible, heinous fault. I mean, didn't they drag an old dude across the country (was it in the dead of winter?) and "imprison" him?

            To construe this as me thinking it "funny" that the RCC dragged Galileo across the country for a trial and then imprisoned him is ludicrous. I was making a dig at you for wanting to merely talk about whether progress was impeded (a true/false question) and simultaneously wanting to insist on just how bad the RCC was to Galileo. To construe this as thinking that the RCC threatening to torture Galileo was "funny" is heinous character assassination. You must really think that you are much holier than I am.

          • Richard Morley

            Short version: because I have been trying to ignore the nonconstructive inflammatory personal comments. As I did tell you.

            But if I have not been explicit enough, I suppose I owe one more try at explaining. I have put a lot of effort into trying to point out that your posts are just as open to offensive interpretations as you seem to find mine. And yes, I still feel that your original post was a personal attack on BGA, a justification of the RCC's actions, and a denial of the points raised in that list that you are ignoring here.
            Your words again:

            You are a believer in fairy tales. Galileo was a (Richard) to one of the most powerful people in the world and was too confident in his theories before the evidence came in. Cardinal Bellarmine was quite willing to heed actual evidence; what he didn't like was Galileo's bluster.

            You disagree, but you seem to want to simultaneously object belligerently to me drawing such conclusions of you, while unrepentantly indulging in it yourself. I offered explicitly to reset the argumentdiscussion and for us both to proceed politely, you declined.

            It is tiresome, I've given it as much time as I am willing to, so I am cutting you off, on that side of things. Also you are currently competing with other people, with whom I also disagree but who are willing and able to state their rather better argued views politely and to engage with what I have said. I wouldn't blame you for saying Galileo was wrong or the RCC justified, as much as for insulting anyone who says he was right or the RCC unjustified.

          • It's actually not the personal attacks I mind so much as the intentional misrepresentation of what I've said. You haven't restricted this to personal attacks (example). Any time I misrepresented what you said, I corrected it as soon as you told me. Why have you not extended me the same courtesy? I just don't know how to have an intellectual conversation if you're going to interpret what I've said however you like, without letting me correct it.

          • Richard Morley

            It's actually not the personal attacks I mind so much as the intentional misrepresentation of what I've said.

            (emphasis added, point obvious)

            Any time I misrepresented what you said, I corrected it as soon as you told me.

            Your very first response to me you misrepresented what I said, construing a simple statement that Galileo was (factually) correct with a judgement by modern standards. I corrected you, and you responded with no response to my points but mockery, on which you then doubled down in later posts.

            Now is this sort of wrangling really how you want to spend your time? Or would you rather discuss the topic? Because I have exhausted my patience with it.

            Why have you not extended me the same courtesy?

            In short because you seem to want to tactically choose when courtesy is extended. When you are talking, then you are being deliberately provocative to cunningly manipulate me into saying what you think I mean and it is just normal for the internet. If I so much as ask you to confirm that you agree that Galileo was factually correct about heliocentrism, a statement to which you regularly demur, or distance myself from a proposition that you agree is daft, you take offence.

            You were offered the chance of polite debate, you refused.

            I just don't know how to have an intellectual conversation if you're going to interpret what I've said however you like, without letting me correct it.

            Either you accept being treated the way you treat others, or you stop treating others the way you refuse to be treated.

          • I'm sorry, but I'm really confused. The very first thing I said to you on this page was intended to distinguish between ""Fact X is correct" and "Fact X is known to be correct"":

            RM: Galileo was both right, and justified in his beliefs …

            LB: Are you judging using hindsight?

            RM: I am pointing out that the Church, not Galileo, was clearly and objectively the side which was both factually wrong and guilty of being "too confident in [its] theories before the evidence came in".

            Somehow, my question has been turned into two things:

                 (1) 1st instance of "regularly conflating"
                 (2) "misrepresented what [you] said"

            I just don't understand. And given all that we've said, I don't understand much of your response to that question, either. Yes, it's obvious from 21st century knowledge that Galileo guessed right when he extrapolated from "Venus orbits the Sun" to "Earth orbits the Sun". When talking about whether Galileo was justified, I'm not quite sure whether you mean "justified" by 1633 knowledge/​standards or by 21st century knowledge/​standards. As to whether the RCC was too confident in its theories, I'm not sure that is the case if we're judging by 1633 knowledge/​standards. There were many then-compelling reasons to accept a stationary earth.

            As to the rest, I claim that I have never deliberately misinterpreted your words. I claim my provocations and guesses were never intended to shoehorn you into a position, but to get you to articulate your position. You can either take my intentions at face-value or violate the golden rule ("You don't get to dictate what my intentions are or were.").

          • Richard Morley

            When talking about whether Galileo was justified, I'm not quite sure whether you mean "justified" by 1633 knowledge/​standards or by 21st century knowledge/​standards.

            One last try and explaining that about which I suspect we have been talking past eachother:
            Working off the philosophical maxim that 'knowledge' is truly justified true belief. That is, what you believe has to be true, you have to have some 'reason' for believing it to be true, and that 'reason' must actually be a reason why it is true.
            1) We know that Galileo was factually correct in asserting heliocentrism over geocentrism.
            2) Given that we know Galileo was correct, he was correct. Even then.
            3) We know that he felt his evidence justified his assertion, and we now know, with even better ability to analyse mathematical models and orbits and so on, that his evidence did indeed justify that assertion.
            Conclusion: Therefore Galileo had a truly justified true belief that heliocentrism was justified and geocentrism was false, in other words he knew it.

          • 3) We know that he felt his evidence justified his assertion, and we now know, with even better ability to analyse mathematical models and orbits and so on, that his evidence did indeed justify that assertion.

            How does his evidence that Venus orbits the Sun justify that the Earth orbits the Sun? Especially given that his system and the Tychonic system produced the same observational predictions—including the phases of Venus Galileo observed. Galileo admitted this in his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. To make the leap from Venus to Earth, Galileo had to assume a sort of uniformity. But that assumption of uniformity is precisely what creates the problem with zero-parallax stars with visible diameters which would make every single observed star, much larger than the Sun—because Galileo did not know about Airy disks.

            Now, Galileo ended up being right, but we have Gettier problems when it comes to justified true belief. It seems more like Galileo got lucky in applying the heuristic of uniformity in one place and flaunting it in another.

          • Richard Morley

            In other words, you feel free to make claims about what I've said and done without supporting them with evidence if challenged.

            There you go. Textbook argument by attrition - gaslighting, denying what you have said, then demanding endless cites of what you yourself wrote, then when you are finally told enough is enough claiming that as proof that I have no case.

            I gave you one example and pointed out that this whole thread is riddled with you doing just what I say. So I am calling time on your endless demands for proof of what you have said or done. You've exceeded your quota and produced nothing constructive to show for it.

            I was arguing for different standards of judgment—different goalposts, if you will.

            'Alternative facts'?

            Galileo was right. He was justified. The Church was wrong and unjustified. The Church's actions were bad for progress and motivated by theology, at least in part. You have admitted all this, long after engaging in personal attacks against those who stated this, yet still want to quibble about your behaviour by pretending that we were saying something completely different.

          • RM: "Fact X is correct" and "Fact X is known to be correct" are two very different statements that you are regularly conflating, whether tactically or inadvertently.

            LB: I have regularly conflated them? I doubt you can cite three examples. My comments are littered with "at the time" and "Hindsight is 20/20" and comments like that.

            RM: Starting from your first response to me and going on throughout your replies to me.

            RM: I gave you one example and pointed out that this whole thread is riddled with you doing just what I say.

            I see, so "Are you judging using hindsight?"—the first words I uttered to you on this entire page—conflates "Fact X is correct" and "Fact X is known to be correct" instead of distinguishes between them. Are you sure you didn't conflate the words 'conflate' and 'distinguish'?

            LB: I was arguing for different standards of judgment—different goalposts, if you will.

            RM: 'Alternative facts'?

            … no. What is this, free association?

            Galileo was right. He was justified. The Church was wrong and unjustified. The Church's actions were bad for progress and motivated by theology, at least in part. You have admitted all this, long after engaging in personal attacks against those who stated this, yet still want to quibble about your behaviour by pretending that we were saying something completely different.

            I would quibble with just what I've "admitted" (including the appropriateness of that word) and I would remind you that in my very first reply to you, the second thing I said was this:

            LB: Note that I'm not trying to completely absolve the RCC of any wrongdoing; rather, I think it is important to properly accuse them based on evidence instead of legend.

            So unless you consider the first thing I said—"Are you judging using hindsight?"—as a "personal attack", you seem to be conveniently forgetting things. I didn't say that we now know Galileo was right that Earth orbits the Sun instead of vice versa because I thought that was obvious. I actually disagree with the idea that the RCC and scientists who thought the Sun orbits the Earth were 100% unjustified in their view in the face of the observed phases of Venus. But I think the RCC was 100% unjustified in its treatment of Galileo—again, I thought that was obvious so I didn't say it. That I think the RCC's treatment of Galileo was understandable does not justify it. That I think it could have been worse does not justify it.

          • Richard Morley

            I would quibble with just what I've "admitted"

            Of course you would. That is what I refer to as 'gaslighting' - denying what you have said or done. Like denying early Christian hostility to 'pagan' learning, then denying that you denied it, before going back to denying it.

            So unless you consider the first thing I said—"Are you judging using hindsight?"—as a "personal attack", you seem to be conveniently forgetting things.

            The post to which my first post was replying was where you called BGA a 'believer in fairy tales for claiming the things I thought you had now admitted to be true. In your post after the one you refer to you had dropped argument to boast about how 'worked up' you felt you had got me, and make a rather odd vague insinuation about my meaning of 'religious' which you later claimed was a 'tweak'. So yes, right from the beginning and ever since you have been making personal rather than on topic remarks.

            But you claim to be more interested in points, indeed accuse me of focusing too much on your personal insults. I naturally feel the same about you, but let's put it to the test and I'll try to ignore most of your personal jibes and focus on the topic.

            So what exactly in what I said you had 'admitted' do you actually contest?
            As a reminder, the list was:
            "Galileo was right. He was justified. The Church was wrong and unjustified. The Church's actions were bad for progress and motivated by theology, at least in part."

          • RM: "Fact X is correct" and "Fact X is known to be correct" are two very different statements that you are regularly conflating, whether tactically or inadvertently.

            LB: I have regularly conflated them? I doubt you can cite three examples. My comments are littered with "at the time" and "Hindsight is 20/20" and comments like that.

            RM: Starting from your first response to me and going on throughout your replies to me.

            RM: I gave you one example and pointed out that this whole thread is riddled with you doing just what I say.

            LB: I see, so "Are you judging using hindsight?"—the first words I uttered to you on this entire page—conflates "Fact X is correct" and "Fact X is known to be correct" instead of distinguishes between them. Are you sure you didn't conflate the words 'conflate' and 'distinguish'?

            RM: [contains nothing addressing the above]

            I see, so I prove you utterly wrong and you silently ignore & move on.

          • Richard Morley

            But you claim to be more interested in points, indeed accuse me of focusing too much on your personal insults. I naturally feel the same about you, but let's put it to the test and I'll try to ignore most of your personal jibes and focus on the topic.

            I see, so I prove you utterly wrong and you silently ignore & move on.

            Well, that rather thoroughly answers that question, doesn't it?

          • Wait, are you seriously construing this—

            RM: "Fact X is correct" and "Fact X is known to be correct" are two very different statements that you are regularly conflating, whether tactically or inadvertently.

            —as a matter of "personal insult"? You didn't mean it to be a factual statement?

          • LB: I would quibble with just what I've "admitted"

            RM: Of course you would. That is what I refer to as 'gaslighting' - denying what you have said or done.

            Alternatively, the way you interpret my words is not always correct. Oh wait, you never do that. You are always perfectly correct. Even when you're utterly wrong. :-D

            Like denying early Christian hostility to 'pagan' learning, then denying that you denied it, before going back to denying it.

            False. My objection was to whether the hostility was to all 'grammar' and whether 'grammar' ≈ WP: Grammar. See, this is why I frequently question your version of events. You'll surely refuse to [try to] provide what I actually said in support of your claim here, because to do so would be for me to 'gaslight' you. Fortunately, I just did your work for you. And yes, your memory/​perception ought to be questioned. I just don't need to be intellectually dishonest to do so; the facts suffice.

            You seem to have a habit of interpreting me attempting to qualify what you've said as me utterly rejecting what you've said. Another good example is where I said Galileo did not "see" Venus pass in front of the Sun but instead "inferred" it. This doesn't materially affect the situation—the observed phases of Venus still fit an orbit of the Sun and not an orbit of the Earth—but I felt it important to distinguish between actual observation and model-based inference. You just couldn't handle this qualification; you thought I was rejecting much more than I was, despite the fact that in my very first response to you, I mentioned "Galileo's ability to predict the phases of Venus, when Copernican theories could not".

            I have to believe you understand what it is to qualify statements, given that you have a PhD. You just don't seem to want to allow that in any way on the current matter. Unwillingness to allow any sort of critique (without lashing out at the other's moral/​intellectual status) is one of the central features of self-righteousness. Can you just stop? You can always ask me what I'm attempting to accomplish with some qualification. I gave you a really good hint in my first reply to you.

          • The post to which my first post was replying was where you called BGA a 'believer in fairy tales for claiming the things I thought you had now admitted to be true.

            Ok, so it goes BGALBBGALBRMLB. I called BGA a "believer in fairy tales" in the first of my comments and said "I'm not trying to completely absolve the RCC of any wrongdoing" in the third of my comments. You're calling that "long after"?! Seriously, do you know how to not grossly exaggerate what others have said/​done? I'm going to stop here, because your exaggerations are happening all over the place and royally screwing up our discussions of the facts.

          • But you claim to be more interested in points, indeed accuse me of focusing too much on your personal insults. I naturally feel the same about you, but let's put it to the test and I'll try to ignore most of your personal jibes and focus on the topic.

            Sorry, but I'm just not willing to let things like this go:

            RM: Good example of how far you are willing to go to twist historical documents to fit your dogma.

            If you want to put that in a different category than my "religious" jibe, fine. I have learned my lesson: you are the first atheist I have ever encountered on the internet who both wishes to seriously engage these issues and is likewise offended at my saying "Galileo was a dick to the Pope" instead of "Galileo insulted the Pope". You are truly exceptional in this regard. I will try to adjust accordingly.

            So what exactly in what I said you had 'admitted' do you actually contest?
            As a reminder, the list was:
            "Galileo was right. He was justified. The Church was wrong and unjustified. The Church's actions were bad for progress and motivated by theology, at least in part."

            I contest that Galileo's scientific case in 1633 was as strong as your words plausibly indicate. I contest that we can say much about the intensity of the Church's wrongness or whether the Galileo affair is representative of the Church's influence on 'progress' without details which are obscured by your approximations and hindsight judgments.

          • Richard Morley

            Sorry, but I'm just not willing to let things like this go:

            "That... is why you fail"
            (at having calm polite focused debates, to be clear)

            You are truly exceptional in this regard.

            You flatter me, sir. But no - I am not exceptional in preferring polite constructive debate. Characterising this as weakness is, again, revealing.

            You still haven't shown how Galileo was insulting - by the same standards you apply to your own posts, not mine.

            RM: So what exactly in what I said you had 'admitted' do you actually contest?(snippety)

            So nothing? Just the usual rock hard certainty that your interpretations of what I 'really meant' are solid, but the same to you is unacceptable? You actually agree with all the points in the actual list itself?

            This is more of what I refer to as 'gaslighting', constantly shifting what you claim and denying what you have said.

          • "That... is why you fail" … (at having calm polite focused debates, to be clear)

            I have lots of them which satisfy the politeness requirements of my interlocutors. Your own requirements were a surprise to me. You took that statement as an insult or as indicating weakness, but I meant neither. It's just a fact. You are the only atheist I have encountered online or in real life, who has (i) cared to have an intense discussion; (ii) cared that I said "Galileo was a dick to the Pope". In other words: it was quite unexpected and will take some adjustment on my part.

            You still haven't shown how Galileo was insulting - by the same standards you apply to your own posts, not mine.

            The standards of my posts are 100% irrelevant as to whether "Galileo was a dick to insulted one of the most powerful people in the world". All you need for that is Galileo affair § Dialogue. The point is simple: to the extent that the RCC treated him badly because he insulted the Pope, we should consider the response a political matter, not a scientific or religious one. Back then, insulting one of the most powerful people in the world was a really, really bad idea. Yeah, we can say the RCC should have been above that (otherwise: "who sees anything different in you?"), but it's not like they were being excessively evil. Galileo was quite stupid in the Realpolitik sense.

            RM: So what exactly in what I said you had 'admitted' do you actually contest?
            As a reminder, the list was:
            "Galileo was right. He was justified. The Church was wrong and unjustified. The Church's actions were bad for progress and motivated by theology, at least in part."

            RM: So nothing?

            Sorry, but I see your very short version as having too wide a possible interpretation. I'm just not going to commit to something that short, lest someone come along and say, "See, that means you also believe ___." In my years online, I've learned better.

            Just the usual rock hard certainty that your interpretations of what I 'really meant' are solid, but the same to you is unacceptable?

            Nope. See above.

            This is more of what I refer to as 'gaslighting', constantly shifting what you claim and denying what you have said.

            Sorry, but I don't see the vacillation you claim exists. For example, rather than conflating ""Fact X is correct" and "Fact X is known to be correct"", I distinguished them with the first sentence I uttered to you: "Are you judging using hindsight?" (more) Another example would be "denying early Christian hostility to 'pagan' learning, then denying that you denied it, before going back to denying it"; I never did this. I always allowed that Christianity was hostile to some pagan learning.

            You just don't seem to like it whenever I attempt to qualify some statement of yours. It's as if qualifying a statement means refuting it. Well, I understand that's a stupid social protocol that's alive and well, but I think it's despicable. I can say both that Galileo never "saw" Venus pass in front of the Sun, and yet the phases of Venus he observed were only consistent with his heliocentric theory. But you didn't want me to qualify there either—you seemed to take it as an assertion that Galileo was wrong to conclude that Venus orbits the Sun, even though I said the contrary in my first reply to you.

          • Richard Morley

            I have lots of them which satisfy the politeness requirements of my interlocutors.

            As do I - yet you are the one trying to nudge me into reigniting the wrangles , and I am the one trying to move on past them.

            You are the only atheist I have encountered online or in real life, who has(snip) cared that I said "Galileo was a (Richard) to the Pope".

            You asked if I preferred the statement without the gratuitous crudity and personal insult. I do. Note also the inherent hypocrisy in claiming Galileo's 'rudeness' as justification for his treatment, while yourself being ruder and cruder than him. Also going on to mock me for using formatting tags - yet I am too precious for preferring polite debate?

            The standards of my posts are (snip)

            Applying the same standard to all parties of a debate is important, in my view. Why would you not openly state your reasons? Unless you are trying to obscure them?

            Would it be fair to say that your 'reason' for saying that Galileo insulted the Pope was that Galileo, at the Pope's request, included the Pope's arguments in Galileo's book, in the mouth of a character named after the respected philosopher Simplicius, as Galileo made clear in his preface? Or is this a case where you, as sole arbiter of how wrong things are, insist that I phrase that differently to make it sound worse?

            Why did you raise this, if not as justification of Galileo's treatment?

            RM: "Galileo was right. He was justified. The Church was wrong and unjustified. The Church's actions were bad for progress and motivated by theology, at least in part."
            Sorry, but I see your very short version as having too wide a possible interpretation.

            It is explicitly clear. You are prevaricating again.

            You just don't seem to like it whenever I attempt to qualify some statement of yours.

            Yet when I distance myself from a version of the conflict thesis, you claim that I was attributing that to you, which was your best example of me being "incredibly willing to exaggerate"

          • As do I - yet you are the one trying to nudge me into reigniting the wrangles , and I am the one trying to move on past them.

            So all those claims about my gaslighting you were intentional misinterpretations instead of statements of fact? Because if any were intended to be statements of fact, you will think that I intend to continue gaslighting you, and read my comments in that … light. That means I will have to constantly ward off against what I take to be a flagrant misinterpretation of my actions and motives. Wouldn't it be reasonable for me to see if maybe the original judgment of 'gaslighting' is just flat-wrong, clear the record there, and then continue without having to worry?

            Maybe we have a different understanding of insulting others. I don't think it is ever allowable to deliberately distort what others have said. One can guess at plausible entailments and sometimes one has to deal with possible insinuation, but those are based on what the other person has not said. They are easily corrected by adding statements to the record.

            Note also the inherent hypocrisy in claiming Galileo's 'rudeness' as justification for his treatment, while yourself being ruder and cruder than him.

            Galileo's insults to the Pope were not a justification for his treatment; they provide evidence that some of his treatment was based on nonreligious reasons.

            Also going on to mock me for using formatting tags - yet I am too precious for preferring polite debate?

            Sorry, I didn't realize my saying something about that would be such a big deal that you'd feel compelled to bring it up again and again. Had I known this, I would not have done it.

            Why would you not openly state your reasons?

            Sorry, what reasons have I not openly stated?

            Would it be fair to say that your 'reason' for saying that Galileo insulted the Pope was that Galileo, at the Pope's request, included the Pope's arguments in Galileo's book, in the mouth of a character named after the respected philosopher Simplicius, as Galileo made clear in his preface?

            A respected philosopher? Let's see:

            Galileo's Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, which was published in 1632 to great popularity,[48] was an account of conversations between a Copernican scientist, Salviati, an impartial and witty scholar named Sagredo, and a ponderous Aristotelian named Simplicio, who employed stock arguments in support of geocentricity, and was depicted in the book as being an intellectually inept fool. Simplicio's arguments are systematically refuted and ridiculed by the other two characters with what Youngson calls "unassailable proof" for the Copernican theory (at least versus the theory of Ptolemy—as Finocchiaro points out, "the Copernican and Tychonic systems were observationally equivalent and the available evidence could be explained equally well by either"[49]), which reduces Simplicio to baffled rage, and makes the author's position unambiguous.[47] Indeed, although Galileo states in the preface of his book that the character is named after a famous Aristotelian philosopher (Simplicius in Latin, Simplicio in Italian), the name "Simplicio" in Italian also had the connotation of "simpleton."[50] (WP: Galileo affair § Dialogue)

            I think it's rather obvious that Galileo was blowing smoke with his reference to the philosopher Simplicius. Unless Galileo thought Simplicius was an intellectually inept fool. Either way, it would be a grave insult to the Pope, to one of the most powerful people in the world. Maybe the Pope refused to hold a trial near Galileo's home because of this insult.

            Why did you raise this, if not as justification of Galileo's treatment?

            I was pointing out non-religious reasons for Galileo's treatment at the hands of the RCC. To the extent that the RCC treated Galileo badly because he was insulting to the Pope, we can ask whether other scientists were similarly insulting. If they weren't, we might find that the RCC treated them rather better. If that's the case, then one can question just how "crucial" the Galileo affair is to understanding the RCC's relationship to science and progress. The same reasoning goes for the fact that geocentrism/​heliocentrism had become a political matter, dividing Protestants and Catholics. Indeed, the two matters may have nonlinearly combined: smack in the middle of the Thirty Years' War, the Pope might have been especially vulnerable to insults like Galileo's.

            It is explicitly clear. You are prevaricating again.

            I disagree. For example, your succinct version does not distinguish between the aspects where the RCC was more justified and less justified. I would say they were justified in pushing against Galileo's confidence and unjustified in how they treated him. Your ultra-succinct version mushes this all together—and has the convenient property of being quite consistent with an absolutely awful view of the RCC. Earlier, I cited sociological work that 70% of 18–23-year-olds in the US believe the conflict thesis. If you are within your rights to ward off against "as usually presented" straw men, don't I get the same right?

            Yet when I distance myself from a version of the conflict thesis, you claim that I was attributing that to you, which was your best example of me being "incredibly willing to exaggerate"

            I never claimed you attributed your "strawman" version of the conflict thesis to me. You left that a plausible interpretation but not the only one. It was simply jarring to me that in a long-running discussion with me, you would bring up this stupid version of the conflict thesis which I had never advocated and which is only a gross exaggeration of WP: Conflict thesis—the source I had repeatedly cited when talking about it.

            My suspicion is you wouldn't like it if I were to do something similar to you, where you present a reasonable viewpoint and I preemptively distance myself from a really stupid version of that viewpoint while never explicitly saying I know you don't support it. (I could be a "wingnut", given that you could not take for granted that I believe the planets orbit the Sun. And not infrequently is a "Nobody thinks that." intended by atheists to allow for me to be an exception—a nobody, in fact.)

            Look, all you had to do was say something like this: "Sorry, I know you didn't intend to impute such a stupid view to me, but sadly that's happened so often that I needed to preemptively ward it off."

          • Richard Morley

            A respected philosopher?

            What, you feel the need to diss poor old Simplicius now? Yes, a respected philosopher best known for his commentary on Aristotle's geocentric model of the solar system.

            So, apply the same standard to that as you do to your comments about me, and it is in no way insulting.

            I never claimed you attributed your "strawman" version of the conflict thesis to me.

            "This is obviously meant to refer not just to what is "usually presented" but what I meant as well (largely via my repeated references to WP: Conflict thesis), as you never contrasted the "usually presented" version against what you thought I was presenting."(emphasis mine)

            I'm winding up my participation here. Admittedly it is soggy here, so you will probably get some further posts, but last chance to raise any constructive points you want me to see or respond to.

          • What, you feel the need to diss poor old Simplicius now?

            Nope, I'm questioning whether Galileo was, in his heart of hearts, truly referring to "poor old Simplicius". Because unlike respectable Simplicius, Simplicio was not respectable.

            So, apply the same standard to that as you do to your comments about me, and it is in no way insulting.

            Sorry, I have no idea what common standard you're talking about. If I say that I think you're a smart person while treating you as a blundering fool, you are 100% within your rights to question whether I actually think you are a smart person.

            LB: I never claimed you attributed your "strawman" version of the conflict thesis to me.

            RM: "This is obviously meant to refer not just to what is "usually presented" but what I meant as well (largely via my repeated references to WP: Conflict thesis), as you never contrasted the "usually presented" version against what you thought I was presenting."(emphasis mine)

            Ahh, my bad. This is the first time I recall you saying I said something when I didn't remember doing so, only to find out that I really did say it. I think I could be forgiven for connecting "as usually presented" with a Wikipedia article on the precise topic, but there is legitimate wiggle room which I now see better than I did before. My apologies.

          • Richard Morley

            The bigger problem is when you draw conclusions which are flatly contradictory with things I have said.

            But you can do this to Galileo. QED.

            This is the first time I recall you saying I said something when I
            didn't remember doing so, only to find out that I really did say it.

            So you have a database that lets you find details of a squabble you had a year ago, but cannot recall what you said a few days ago? I think your treatment of Galileo applies here.

          • LB: The bigger problem is when you draw conclusions which are flatly contradictory with things I have said.

            RM: But you can do this to Galileo.

            I'm sorry, you'll have to be more specific. What conclusions have I drawn about what Galileo said, which are flatly contradictory with what Galileo said? You might also point me to where Galileo saw—not inferred, but saw—Venus pass in front of the Sun. If we're talking about accurately reporting on what Galileo did or did not say, did or did not imply, and did or did not see, surely both of us should adhere to the same standard?

            So you have a database that lets you find details of a squabble you had a year ago, but cannot recall what you said a few days ago?

            You're comparing my having a "database" "text file" with my having a nigh-perfect memory of a massive amount of discussion? Again, this is the first time you've demonstrated a superior recall of what I've said, amidst many misinterpretations (some number of which were apparently intentional). I'll be worried if your memory improves; as it is I'm ok not being a perfect human being.

          • Richard Morley

            This is a noble ideal, but it's not even how scientific tradition works, today.

            Science today doesn't use the torture chamber or burning at the stake, despite your attempt to draw a parallel.

            Of course Galileo and your wife have to convince people if they want them to change their minds. I can find you another book if you need. But if you want to silence other views with threats and violence then you need much stronger justification than is needed just to hold and express your own. Sorry.

            People in 1633 could only do the best they could given what they knew in 1633.

            And St Augustine knew a millennium earlier what the Church did was wrong. Neither influences whether or not it was bad for progress as opposed to immoral.

            I also maintain that Galileo's insistence that his theory was "physically real" applied to the total theory, not merely the abstract bit that says the earth (and planets) orbit the Sun.

            Do you maintain that his belief in (e.g.) circular orbits played any part in his 'persecution'? Or is this more obfuscation to exonerate the Church?

            Actually, it has become clear that when you say that Galileo "knew he was correct", you mean that he know heliocentrism was superior to geocentrism, not that his model was "physically real".

            He knew geocentrism was wrong, he had seen that Venus physically orbited the Sun with his own eyes. Emphasis because you keep glossing over this point. He is not just predicting positions in the night sky more successfully, he has actually observed the physical reality.

            On the point of disagreement (not shape of orbits or distance of stars) he knew that the Ptolemaic model was demonstrably physically false.

          • Science today doesn't use the torture chamber or burning at the stake, despite your attempt to draw a parallel.

            The comparison was to "impose that belief", not on the means. You seem to have in your head an ideal where scientific authorities never insist on anything with confidence that exceeds what the evidence warrants. I'm simply suggesting that this is not how things currently work. What I implied was that if we use this as an ideal: (i) we will exaggerate the badness of what the RCC did; (ii) we will delude ourselves into thinking things are better, now, than they actually are.

            Of course Galileo and your wife have to convince people if they want them to change their minds.

            That's not the point. The point is whether established tradition is believed more intensely than the evidence truly warrants. After all, that's what you claim of the RCC's support of geocentrism (as well as all of the scientists who supported geocentrism, including one where Venus orbits the Sun). And what the evidence warrants can be rather tricky business, as "2. Sundry Proofs of the Stationary Earth" at The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown shows.

            And St Augustine knew a millennium earlier what the Church did was wrong.

            I see, so you disagree with Cardinal Bellarmine's interpretation of Augustine? Why?

            Do you maintain that his belief in (e.g.) circular orbits played any part in his 'persecution'? Or is this more obfuscation to exonerate the Church?

            Addressing only the "circular orbits" and not the "(e.g.)", the point was to take your "let's judge Galileo by 21st century knowledge" rubric and show that it too would find fault with Galileo. If you mean to include the star size/​distance problem (and no parallax included), that would be a problem only when judging with pre-Airy disk knowledge.

            I have never intended to exonerate the Church. It isn't perfect, far from it.

            He knew geocentrism was wrong, he had seen that Venus physically orbited the Sun with his own eyes. Emphasis because you keep glossing over this point.

            Which is perfectly compatible with Venus orbiting the Sun and the Sun orbiting the earth.

            The only reason you feel the need to use emphasis is that you cannot admit any error in anything you've written to me. If you had quickly admitted that no, Galileo did not "see" Venus pass in front of the Sun but instead saw it disappear, we could have quickly moved on. I still would have acknowledged that seeing the phases of Venus—indeed, predicting them before seeing them—was a huge deal. Indeed, I said this preemptively, much earlier in the conversation. Apparently, you just cannot tolerate being wrong in anything you've said to me.

            He is not just predicting positions in the night sky more successfully, he has actually observed the physical reality.

            Do you not get that it is superior for Galileo to have first predicted the phases of Venus and then observed them, vs. observing them first and then developing a model to fit the observations?

            Also, Galileo did not "observe" that all the planets orbit the Sun, which is the general meaning of 'heliocentrism'. He observed that one planet orbits the Sun: Venus. This was a really good crack in the Ptolemaic system; it probably made it easier for people to accept that Jupiter has moons. That would further emphasize that lots of stuff doesn't orbit the earth and make it easier to transition to just one thing orbiting the earth.

            By the way, the telescopes in Galileo's time weren't that great. Galileo's being quite convinced that he was correct would have made it easier for him to ignore other possible interpretations of the fuzzy, dark, distorted images. Having spent days and months looking through his telescope, he probably was much better able to interpret the images, kind of like a radiologist can see much more detail in an x-ray than a random civilian (or Cardinal). There was also a worry that some of what showed up in the telescopes were merely artifacts, which turned out to be the case. It just turned out that what Galileo saw weren't artifacts. It really is amazing that Galileo did so much with so little. Seeing a pattern in the fuzz is difficult, error-prone, and very rewarding if you happen to be right.

            On the point of disagreement (not shape of orbits or distance of stars) he knew that the Ptolemaic model was demonstrably physically false.

            Was the point of disagreement whether Venus orbited the Sun or whether Earth orbited the Sun? Or … were all the other planets lumped in with Venus?

          • Richard Morley

            The comparison was to "impose that belief", not on the means.

            If you insist on focusing on the moral element, the means are quite important.

            But modern science does not "impose that belief" either. You may not be able to publish in that journal or to speak at that Institute but you can hold and defend your beliefs. There are too many ways for your to speak for one authority to stop you - Michael Behe being a good example. Which is a good thing, to be clear.

            You seem to have in your head an ideal where scientific authorities never insist on anything with confidence that exceeds what the evidence warrants.

            I was responding to your assertion that Galileo was over confidant in his beliefs.

            (as well as all of the scientists who supported geocentrism, including one where Venus orbits the Sun)

            That's not geocentrism, but a geoheliocentric model. While it is always possible to arbitrarily fix your coordinate system on the Earth, there are fundamental differences between geocentric and heliocentric orbits that are not so easily conjured away, especially for the inferior planets Venus and Mercury.

            If you don't mind orbits crossing eachother and epicycles on epicycles, the differences between heliocentrism and geoheliocentric models are arguably possible to fudge, absent a preferred inertial frame of reference.

            I see, so you disagree with Cardinal Bellarmine's interpretation of Augustine? Why?

            From reading what St Augustine wrote himself and making up my own mind. Judging from our interchanges on St Jerome, Gregory and so on, you don't like doing this. I would guess that Bellarmine was motivated at least in part by politics.

          • If you insist on focusing on the moral element, the means are quite important.

            No, I'm rather happy to steer clear of the moral element. But there is still a relativism that is at play, and that is knowledge of the empirical facts, especially when one takes into account the theory-ladenness of facts. Progress is made not by constantly applying timeless truths and methods, but by iterating on the past. It is itself a relative process. We cannot act perfectly, but we can [sometimes] improve on those who came before. Therefore, if we're going to judge people's contributions or detractions from 'progress', we need to make those judgments in a context-dependent fashion.

            But modern science does not "impose that belief" either.

            Meh, "modern science" is an idealism which doesn't capture the total character of society. I could pick out an "ideal Catholicism" and make a similar case to you, discounting arbitrarily much evidence which would otherwise contradict the point I was trying to make. The Roman Catholic authorities would probably have been fine with Galileo saying whatever if there were no danger it would challenge their political status, given the ongoing battle with Protestants. (Recall that the Thirty Years' War took place 1618–1648, with Galileo's trial in 1633 in precisely the middle.)

            You may not be able to publish in that journal or to speak at that Institute but you can hold and defend your beliefs.

            I think you're treating this in too much of a binary fashion. The goal of intellectual oppression is to reduce influence so that various power structures remain unchallenged. If this goal can be accomplished without burning at the stake, so much the better. If it can be accomplished in a distributed fashion where undesirable elements just happen to be relegated to politically powerless regions, that means the intellectual suppression will be that much harder to identify and fight.

            I was responding to your assertion that Galileo was over confidant in his beliefs.

            He was, on a 'physical real' interpretation. As were the Roman Catholic authorities. My point is just that tradition is probably always going to get more weight than "the evidence warrants". To the extent that it happens today, we shouldn't ding those in the past for doing the same thing. If they were worse than we are today, we can ask whether they helped or hindered our improving. After all, part of the OP's notion of 'progress' is that our descendants will do it better than we. So we, in our very imperfect state, will somehow help our descendants be less imperfect. Now, what happens if they turn around and say that because they're more perfect than we, surely we inhibited 'progress'?

            That's not geocentrism, but a geoheliocentric model.

            Fine. But the phases of Venus aren't direct evidence that Eppur si muove.

            While it is always possible to arbitrarily fix your coordinate system on the Earth, there are fundamental differences between geocentric and heliocentric orbits that are not so easily conjured away, especially for the inferior planets Venus and Mercury.

            Sure, but I'm thinking more of pre-diffraction understanding of star distances and sizes when compared to the Sun and the fact that we observe no parallax. Who knows, if Galileo had forced himself to not state that his theory was 'physically real' until conquering that problem, maybe he would have solved it. Maybe like his inertia experiments, he could look at light sources on earth with telescopes.

            LB: I see, so you disagree with Cardinal Bellarmine's interpretation of Augustine? Why?

            RM: From reading what St Augustine wrote himself and making up my own mind. Judging from our interchanges on St Jerome, Gregory and so on, you don't like doing this. I would guess that Bellarmine was motivated at least in part by politics.

            I have no problem with you having a differing opinion as long as you don't consider anyone who disagrees with you to be stupid and/or evil. If you're willing, I would like to dive deeper on this matter because you've made a rather strong claim—that "St Augustine knew a millennium earlier what the Church did was wrong." Are you referring exclusively to Augustine's De Genesi ad litteram (Literal commentary on Genesis)? From Book II:

                21. But someone may ask: “Is not Scripture opposed to those who hold that heaven is spherical, when it says, who stretches out heaven like a skin?”28 Let it be opposed indeed if their statement is false. The truth is rather in what God reveals than in what groping men surmise. But if they are able to establish their doctrine with proofs that cannot be denied, we must show that this statement of Scripture about the skin is not opposed to the truth of their conclusions. If it were, it would be opposed also to Sacred Scripture itself in another passage where it says that heaven is suspended like a vault.29 For what can be so different and contradictory as a skin stretched out flat and the curved shape of a vault? But if it is necessary, as it surely is, to interpret these two passages so that they are shown not to be contradictory but to be reconcilable, it is also necessary that both of these passages should not contradict the theories that may be supported by true evidence, by which heaven is said to be curved on all sides in the shape of a sphere, provided only that this is proved. (Genesi Ad Litteram, Books 1-6, 59)

            Here we have a tension: God's revelations are superior to humankind's "groping", but if one can replace "groping" with "proofs that cannot be denied", then there is warrant to question one's interpretation of God's words. Do you agree or disagree with this? Note that tradition gets implicit warrant on this interpretation, but it is not unfalsifiable.

            If you're with me so far, then we can ask whether Galileo had evidence that the Earth orbits the Sun, or merely that Venus orbits the Sun. I'm pretty sure he was contending that Venus and the Earth orbit the Sun.

            If you're not with me so far, perhaps you could explain how you understand Augustine.

          • Richard Morley

            RM: Do you maintain that his belief in (e.g.) circular orbits played any part in his 'persecution'? Or is this more obfuscation to exonerate the Church?
            Addressing only the "circular orbits" and not the "(e.g.)", the point was to take your "let's judge Galileo by 21st century knowledge" rubric and show that it too would find fault with Galileo.

            So you do not assert that his belief in (e.g.) circular orbits played any part in his 'persecution'? If so, your point seems a red herring.

            What, other than planets orbiting the Sun and moons orbiting Jupiter, did he claim was 'physically real' that is relevant?

            The only reason you feel the need to use emphasis

            Because using emphasis is so unlike me?

            is that you cannot admit any error in anything you've written to me.

            Haven't needed to. If anything I have been glossing over various points where you are blatantly wrong to keep post sizes and emotional tone down. You're clearly having a rough time of this, albeit brought upon yourself.

          • Richard Morley

            If you had quickly admitted that no, Galileo did not "see" Venus pass in front of the Sun but instead saw it disappear, we could have quickly moved on.

            Ah - everything would be so much easier if everyone would just play along and pretend you are right about everything.

            a)He did see Venus pass in front of the Sun. All the crescent phases indicate that Venus is 'in front of' the Sun. Even if Venus vanishes for a couple of days when outshone by the Sun (and even 'dark' Venus is bright) the important point is still that he saw the full cycle of phases, impossible under geocentrism and direct visual proof of Venus orbiting the Sun. The shock was Venus being sometimes on the far side of the Sun.
            b)Had he seen Venus pass behind the Sun, in the sense that it was occluded by the Sun's mass, would you be arguing that he had not "seen" Venus pass behind the Sun because it was out of sight for a while?
            c)Not seeing a planet that is entirely dark against dark space is what you might expect to see at the dark phase.
            d)Given how bright Venus is, how far it can be from the Sun even at inferior conjunction, its atmosphere and ashen light, and the fact that it may only be crescent and not fully dark, it is perfectly possible to view Venus at inferior conjunction even with the naked eye. I've done it.

          • Richard Morley

            Do you not get that it is superior for Galileo to have first predicted the phases of Venus and then observed them, vs. observing them first and then developing a model to fit the observations?

            All I have said is that the relevant event is the observation in 1610 of the phases. Long before his trials.

            Followers of Macrobius and Avicenna had argued that if the planets did not shine by their own light then they should show phases like the Moon. So from that perspective, phases were 'predicted' back in the middle ages. Castelli wrote to Galileo suggesting that Venus might have phases and he should check that out, but I'm not sure if that was his own 'prediction' or if he took it from the celestial light debate.

            When and where do you claim Galileo 'predicted' the phases of Venus? Rather than observing them? And why is that more relevant than the empirical proof by observation that Venus orbits the Sun.

            Also, Galileo did not "observe" that all the planets orbit the Sun, which is the general meaning of 'heliocentrism'.

            Your lack of familiarity is showing again. The outer planets (in a heliocentric or a geocentric model) orbit the (Sun and Earth) grouping, and which one is actually the centre is easily fudged. The concrete difference is what happens to the inferior planets, Venus and Mercury.

            Once you have Venus orbiting the Sun, the geocentric model is dead.

          • RM: Do you maintain that his belief in (e.g.) circular orbits played any part in his 'persecution'?

            LB: Addressing only the "circular orbits" and not the "(e.g.)", the point was to take your "let's judge Galileo by 21st century knowledge" rubric and show that it too would find fault with Galileo. If you mean to include the star size/​distance problem (and no parallax included), that would be a problem only when judging with pre-Airy disk knowledge.

            RM: So you do not assert that his belief in (e.g.) circular orbits played any part in his 'persecution'? If so, your point seems a red herring.

            It has become clear that you were either unable or unwilling to distinguish between the parts of the conversation which were judging the Galileo affair via 21st century knowledge and the parts which were judging by 1633 knowledge. I meant the bit about circular orbits to critique judgment of Galileo by 21st century knowledge.

            What, other than planets orbiting the Sun and moons orbiting Jupiter, did he claim was 'physically real' that is relevant?

            For him to claim his theory was 'physically real' was to commit to all aspects and entailments of his theory and the framework in which it was embedded. Therefore, he ladened himself with the star size/​distance problem. In contrast, a 'save the appearances' approach would allow Galileo to better explain some aspects of observed reality and Ptolemy to better explain other aspects of observed reality. It's not that searching for a unified theory is bad, it's just that Galileo arrogantly presumed that his theory was that unified theory before the evidence and theory really warranted it. He jumped the gun.

            If you want a nice analogy, we could compare the star size/​distance problem with the ultraviolet catastrophe. In both cases, we can ask whether a major theoretical (and ontological) change will be required to resolve the very real problem. In the former case, we just needed to understand diffraction. In the latter case, we needed to transition from classical to quantum. But before both increases in knowledge, it wasn't known whether the solution would require a minor update or major revamp.

            LB: is that you cannot admit any error in anything you've written to me.

            RM: Haven't needeed to.

            I'm glad to get confirmation that you don't think you've ever admitted error in something you've written to me. Despite the fact that you said this:

            RM: Galileo observing the Phases of Venus is important because he saw with his own eyes that Venus was passing in front of and behind the Sun, i.e. orbiting it.

            I actually did see Venus pass in front of the Sun, in 2012. You see a black circle passing in front of the bright Sun. It was really cool. In comparison, Galileo saw Venus disappear and deduced that it had passed in front of the Sun. It's a rather minor clarification because in this particular case, there weren't any other live models for the observed data. (Sometimes you do have that problem; see Avoiding the pitfalls of single particle cryo-electron microscopy: Einstein from noise.) But it's still important if we're going to judge based on what was known in 1633, because a scientist then who held to geocentrism wasn't going to "see" Venus orbit the Sun. Instead, that scientist would initially see Venus exhibiting phases in contradiction with Ptolemaic theory. After verifying that the telescope was not introducing artifacts and there were no other good explanations, the scientist would switch from pure geocentrism to at least a geocentrism where Venus orbits the Sun. Once this switch is sufficiently complete, [s]he will start automatically inferring from the phases of Venus that it is orbiting the Sun.

            For some reason, you seem to abhor the above qualification. But maybe it's because you really, really don't want to judge the situation based on what was known in 1633?

            If anything I have been glossing over various points where you are blatantly wrong …

            That disappoints me, because I would prefer to be corrected. It also makes me suspicious, because you'll probably subsequently refuse to show evidence that such "various points" really exist. After all, you "would prefer to engage with actual points rather than with gaslighting and argument by attrition". Oh wait, does that mean that my "blatantly wrong" bits haven't been relevant to "actual points"? Hmmm, WP: Gaslighting leads me to believe that's what your comment here is attempting to do to me. But hey, since you've never done something requiring you to apologize to me, surely I deserve it.

            You're clearly having a rough time of this, albeit brought upon yourself.

            I wonder if it will ever cease to amaze me what you find "clear".

          • Richard Morley

            Despite the fact that you said this:
            RM: Galileo observing the Phases of Venus is important because he saw with his own eyes that Venus was passing in front of and behind the Sun, i.e. orbiting it.

            Largely already answered.

            I actually did see Venus pass in front of the Sun, in 2012.

            Good for you. I missed that one but saw the 2004 one.

            Scientists debating whether planets shine of their own light or reflect the Sun's light understood phases. So, from memory, did St Augustine, he just only talks about the Moon. While Venus is close to the Sun, not on the other side of the Earth from it (which, of course, never happens) its phases give you a direct visual proof of where it is relative to the Sun. Again, you can try this with a ball and bulb, with one eye closed so you have no depth perception.

            That disappoints me, because I would prefer to be corrected.

            Experience says no.

            Oh wait, does that mean that my "blatantly wrong" bits haven't been relevant to "actual points"?

            Well, obviously they have been points of interest, rather than crucial to my train of argument. You want proof of one relatively non inflammatory one, you asserted that Galileo believed in circular orbits: he actually had epicycles, which you refer to elsewhere, which can give elliptical orbits, as you refer to elsewhere, but don't have to, as you imply. Any ellipse can be represented by an epicycle, but not all epicycles are ellipses. Segue into a lot of points about the mathematical modeling and why geocentric models are really superior to heliocentric ones.

          • Richard Morley

            Umm, maybe you started with terrible goalposts.

            The Mandy Rice-Davies principle applies. If we are talking about the topic, whether the Church's actions were bad for progress, then whether or not Galileo was actually correct is what matters. See follow up post.

            What the RCC knew speaks to their morality, if anything, which is where you seem to want to shift the goalposts so you can invoke moral relativism to absolve the Church. Regardless, even if you want to shift to talking about whether the Church knew it was wrong, you don't get the right to then attack us (even personally) on the basis that that was what we were talking about before. Even after we have repeatedly corrected you.

            Suppose I were to ask various people here if they'd be offended if I asked them to "confirm" that the Earth orbits the Sun. First, I'd let them know that I'm pretending that they are Christians and the context is a discussion of the Galileo affair.

            and that they have been denying repeatedly that Galileo was right and the debate seems to be going in circles.

            You really, truly believe that they wouldn't be offended?

            if you asked them to confirm that they accepted that Galileo was now known to be right? Only tactically, if taking offense was their best 'argument'.

            You seem to have an odd habit of conflating 'ameliorate' and 'justify'.

            Calling your statements 'justification' of the Church's actions is far more justified than calling "the Galileo affair is crucial" vilification of the RCC.

          • The Mandy Rice-Davies principle applies. If we are talking about the topic, whether the Church's actions were bad for progress, then whether or not Galileo was actually correct is what matters.

            I don't see how Mandy Rice-Davies applies, here. You want timeless standards to be used for judgment and I say that we don't have access to them. What you're really doing is just judging the 17th century by what is known in the 21st century. Too bad we cannot judge this conversation by what will be known in the 24th century.

            What the RCC knew speaks to their morality, if anything, which is where you seem to want to shift the goalposts so you can invoke moral relativism to absolve the Church.

            I'm not absolving them. What they did was wrong.

            Regardless, even if you want to shift to talking about whether the Church knew it was wrong, you don't get the right to then attack us (even personally) on the basis that that was what we were talking about before.

            I never said you intended to talk about that basis before.

            if you asked them to confirm that they accepted that Galileo was now known to be right? Only tactically, if taking offense was their best 'argument'.

            Shall we set up a scientific experiment? I'm pretty sure I have the better model of humans, here. But I'm willing to set up an experiment to test. It's going to have to be a simplified version of what you and I have gone through. You contend that I merely chose to be offended. I say that is a falsifiable statement, via looking to see how your average person would react. Are you willing to be proven wrong? I am.

            Calling your statements 'justification' of the Church's actions is far more justified than calling "the Galileo affair is crucial" vilification of the RCC.

            I'll let the reader decide on that one. Especially given that you've gone on to blame the RCC for aborting [scientific] progress and argued that only when the RCC lost power did [scientific] progress pick up again. Or … was that all just for the sake of argument, as if you were employing my same logic?

          • Richard Morley

            You want timeless standards to be used for judgment and I say that we don't have access to them.

            Only true if you assert moral relativism and are trying to make a moral judgement rather than an assessment of whether this case was good or bad for science.

            Too bad we cannot judge this conversation by what will be known in the 24th century.

            Well, maybe if your bright eyed boys hadn't hamstrung progress we'd all have time machines by now and could do so!
            (Tongue in cheek, for those who need this pointed out)

            I'm not absolving them.

            "I'm not complaining but.."(Dread those words)

            I never said you intended to talk about that basis before.

            You just attacked on that basis.

            Shall we set up a scientific experiment?

            If you think it is worthwhile and are willing to foot the cost, and least likely of all if we can agree on a protocol.

            For example, if I were to show all the times you have prevaricated in response to "Galileo was right", your barbed questions to me, my offering a polite debate to no avail, and so on, then ask impartial judges if I might be justified in thinking that you were 'taking offence' deliberately and tactically rather than genuinely, I think we'd get very different results from your 'simplified version'.

            To me this seems a rather pointless focus on personal issues rather than the topic.

            I'm pretty sure I have the better model of humans, here.

            Everyone thinks that.

            I'll let the reader decide on that one.

            Sure. In my view trying to make the RCC look more just is justification. Saying the Galileo affair was crucial is not vilifying the RCC. Let others judge.

            Especially given that you've gone on to blame the RCC for aborting [scientific] progress and argued that only when the RCC lost power did [scientific] progress pick up again.

            The question is, is that 'vilification'? Even if it is true? Skipping over whether later statements from me can retroactively make calling the Galileo affair 'crucial' into vilification.

            'Blame', of course, implies moral judgement on that basis. That is your game, not mine.

            Or … was that all just for the sake of argument, as if you were employing my same logic?

            It can be both. Illustrating your double standard is a perfectly legitimate point.

          • LB: You want timeless standards to be used for judgment and I say that we don't have access to them.

            RM: Only true if you assert moral relativism and are trying to make a moral judgement rather than an assessment of whether this case was good or bad for science.

            Huh? We don't have perfect access to timeless truths about morality or empirical fact. And you never intended to talk about the Galileo affair in isolation, otherwise you would not have said "The Galileo affair is crucial, especially as regards the topic of this thread." Why don't you [re]state precisely what you meant by that "crucial"?

            RM: Regardless, even if you want to shift to talking about whether the Church knew it was wrong, you don't get the right to then attack us (even personally) on the basis that that was what we were talking about before.

            LB: I never said you intended to talk about that basis before.

            RM: You just attacked on that basis.

            Uhh, yeah. Plenty of debate centers around what metric or rubric should be used to judge. You say you have a PhD; surely you have encountered this countless times. And yet, it seems like I erred in not being more explicit. Well, I'm willing to take the fault for that.

            LB: Shall we set up a scientific experiment?

            RM: If you think it is worthwhile and are willing to foot the cost, and least likely of all if we can agree on a protocol.

            You're making the protocol rather complicated; are you saying that without all this complexity, you wouldn't have accused me of "[trying] to take offense"—that is, manufacturing offense? I was just thinking of setting it up this way: "You are a Christian, arguing that the Roman Catholic Church's treatment of Galileo wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. Your pro-science, atheist interlocutor asks you to 'confirm' that you believe the Earth orbits the Sun. Do you think it'd be normal to feel offended by this question?"

            To me this seems a rather pointless focus on personal issues rather than the topic.

            The reason I'm focusing on this is that you've set yourself up as the sole arbiter of how bad various things are. That's obnoxious.

            LB: Especially given that you've gone on to blame the RCC for aborting [scientific] progress and argued that only when the RCC lost power did [scientific] progress pick up again.

            RM: The question is, is that 'vilification'? Even if it is true? Skipping over whether later statements from me can retroactively make calling the Galileo affair 'crucial' into vilification.

            Given that 'vilification' tends to carry overtones of falsehood, it would not be 'vilification' if true. Your later statements do in fact shed light on what that 'crucial' may have meant; if they contribute to a false or truth-value-unknown stance which paints the RCC in a particularly bad light, that would qualify as 'vilification'.

            RM: Calling your statements 'justification' of the Church's actions is far more justified than calling "the Galileo affair is crucial" vilification of the RCC.

            LB: I'll let the reader decide on that one. Especially given that you've gone on to blame the RCC for aborting [scientific] progress and argued that only when the RCC lost power did [scientific] progress pick up again. Or … was that all just for the sake of argument, as if you were employing my same logic?

            RM: It can be both. Illustrating your double standard is a perfectly legitimate point.

            But do you claim it is both?

          • Richard Morley

            Huh? We don't have perfect access to timeless truths about morality or empirical fact.

            We know that my statement that "Galileo was right" is true. It was true then. Yet you attack me for saying it, apparently because you (not I) seem to be trying to turn it into a moral judgement of the RCC's actions rather than an assessment of whether those actions were bad for science.

            And you never intended to talk about the Galileo affair in isolation,

            You don't get to dictate what my intentions are or were.

            Why don't you [re]state precisely what you meant by that "crucial"?

            Here

            Uhh, yeah. Plenty of debate centers around what metric or rubric should be used to judge.

            Which is why I object to you taking my statement about whether Galileo was right and trying to turn it into a statement about whether the RCC knew that at the time. See this summary.

          • We know that my statement that "Galileo was right" is true. It was true then. Yet you attack me for saying it, apparently because you (not I) seem to be trying to turn it into a moral judgement of the RCC's actions rather than an assessment of whether those actions were bad for science.

            My contention was never with whether those actions were bad for science, but how bad they were for science. I see nothing moral at play. If Galileo had in fact massed significantly more evidence and defeated every objection which seemed scientifically reasonable at the time, it could have been fantastically more harmful to science for the RCC to do what they did. If the RCC had executed Galileo, it would have been more harmful to science.

            LB: And you never intended to talk about the Galileo affair in isolation,

            RM: You don't get to dictate what my intentions are or were.

            Heh, so much for "you have even tried to take offense"—surely a judgment of intention. But I don't have to dictate; your words do that just fine: "The Galileo affair is crucial, especially as regards the topic of this thread." Unless, that is, you mean "this thread" to be entirely divorced from "the OP". If you did, if you never intended the Galileo affair to be indicative of any sort of larger pattern or trend, say so. I'll even apologize for having interpreted your words badly.

            LB: Why don't you [re]state precisely what you meant by that "crucial"?

            RM: Here

            Oh clever, a link to dictionary.com: crucial. Are you trying to back down from what most readers would probably imply from "The Galileo affair is crucial, especially as regards the topic of this thread."? It's rather odd for you to be so resistant to articulating what you meant by that sentence; we probably wouldn't have needed half as many words with some articulation.

            LB: Uhh, yeah. Plenty of debate centers around what metric or rubric should be used to judge.

            RM: Which is why I object to you taking my statement about whether Galileo was right and trying to turn it into a statement about whether the RCC knew that at the time.

            … that's just what I said I wasn't doing. And I also said "… it seems like I erred in not being more explicit. Well, I'm willing to take the fault for that." So I officially take fault. My bad. All along, I meant to be arguing that if we're going to judge just how much the RCC impeded science, being aware of what was known at the time is crucial. If we merely want to know whether the RCC harmed science, that's an easy "yes".

          • Richard Morley

            Oh clever, a link to dictionary.com: crucial. Are you trying to back down from what most readers would probably imply from "The Galileo affair is crucial, especially as regards the topic of this thread."?

            If the dictionary definition contradicts the implication you are trying to draw from that sentence, then clearly your implication is not actually implied by what I actually wrote.

            If we thin out the wasted bandwidth from this debate, I may be willing to expand on that for you. Especially if you start answering some of the questions you have been dodging.

            All along, I meant to be arguing that if we're going to judge just how much the RCC impeded science, being aware of what was known at the time is crucial.

            'Crucial', hmm? Are you vilifying me?

            How would whether or not the RCC knew what it was doing impact how much their actions impeded science? How it might influence an assessment of how morally wrong it was I get, what you seem to be asserting now not so much.

          • Phil

            Just to throw in a couple cents, the Galileo affair is pretty textured. Did the Church act in the best way possible...I don't think so. Did Galileo act in the best way possible...I don't think so.

            In the end, the Church put Galileo under "house arrest" because of the theological claims he was making based upon his scientific theories, not specifically because of his views on heliocentrism. The possibility of the truth of heliocentrism was pretty common, even in Catholic scientific circles at the time. I do seem to remember a pope even mentioning that there was nothing intrinsically wrong about the scientific theory of heliocentrism in the decades preceding this incident.

          • Richard Morley

            Just to throw in a couple cents, the Galileo affair is pretty textured.

            Absolutely. But some aspects are less textured, especially those most obviously relevant to this debate such as whether the Church's actions were bad for science.

            Did Galileo act in the best way possible...I don't think so.

            Could you elaborate on what you mean by that? He was certainly vain and not keen on sharing credit (to put it mildly) and tactless but these are human failings that pale compared to the Church's actions and don't seem too relevant for the conversation. There is an argument that he nicked the idea to look for phases of Venus from Castelli without credit, for example. He was a good scientist, especially for the time, but not apparently an exceptionally good man.

            In the end, the Church put Galileo under "house arrest" because of the theological claims he was making based upon his scientific theories,

            Again, could you elaborate? Other than trying to argue that his assertions need not contradict scripture, I'm not aware of any theological issues he had. Even there, while arguably naive, he was damned if he did and if he didn't.

            The salient point here, in my opinion, is that the opposition to his astronomical assertions (which were what were cited in his condemnation) was motivated by theology, or at 'best' theologically motivated politics. I'm less interested in the moral judgement than in the practical one of what had a good or bad effect on progress.

          • Phil

            Again, could you elaborate? Other than trying to argue that his assertions need not contradict scripture, I'm not aware of any theological issues he had. Even there, while arguably naive, he was damned if he did and if he didn't.

            I was simply making the point that the Church didn't put Galileo under house arrest for his scientific views, but rather for the theological views he was promoting. So that would mean it was much less of the Church "impeding" science with this whole ordeal. (Again, I'm not saying the Church should have put him under house arrest for this, simply that it was because of theological claims, not scientific ones that they did it.)

            And when it comes down to it, let's say the Church did impede the sciences here, fine. One major incident does not make a pattern. The Church always has been the greatest promotor of human intellectual progress, including the sciences. (The monks of the medieval period are one primary reason we have so many of the classical books we do today. They were trying to preserve intellectual history while there was great strife because of war and plague.)

            The salient point here, in my opinion, is that the opposition to his astronomical assertions (which were what were cited in his condemnation) was motivated by theology, or at 'best' theologically motivated politics. I'm less interested in the moral judgement than in the practical one of what had a good or bad effect on progress.

            When it comes down to it, there were many Catholic scientists of the time open to a heliocentric view of the cosmos (and for some time), so how much it impeded science, I do not know. Probably not much.

          • Richard Morley

            From the Papal Condemnation of Galileo

            Whereas you, Galileo, son of the late Vaincenzo Galilei, Florentine, aged seventy years, were in the year 1615 denounced to this Holy Office for holding as true the false doctrine taught by some that the Sun is the center of the world and immovable and that the Earth moves, and also with a diurnal motion; for having disciples to whom you taught the same doctrine; for holding correspondence with certain mathematicians of Germany concerning the same; for having printed certain letters, entitled "On the Sunspots," wherein you developed the same doctrine as true; and for replying to the objections from the Holy Scriptures, which from time to time were urged against it, by glossing the said Scriptures according to your own meaning: and whereas there was thereupon produced the copy of a document in the form of a letter, purporting to be written by you to one formerly your disciple, and in this divers propositions are set forth, following the position of Copernicus, which are contrary to the true sense and authority of Holy Scripture:...

            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.

            The proposition that the Earth is not the center 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.

            Seems clear to me.

          • Phil

            Yes, the Cardinals were ultimately condemning what they (wrongly) thought were the theological implications of the scientific theory. (Just like the Church has no problem with the general scientific theory of evolution, but a theory of evolution that is materialistic and says that God doesn't create the human soul would be not be in harmony with the truth of Revelation and so would be an issue.)

            Obviously, the Cardinals were wrong because one does not need to draw only one set of theological implications from the theory of heliocentrism. Heliocentrism is perfectly harmonious with many orthodox understandings of Scripture and doctrine.

            So were the Cardinals 100% correct in how they handled this, I don't think so. If we are debating how much this held of the progress of science, I'd say not much.

          • Richard Morley

            So theological motivations, yes, but explicitly aimed at his astronomical assertions.

            How do you react to this post?

          • If the dictionary definition contradicts the implication you are trying to draw from that sentence, then clearly your implication is not actually implied by what I actually wrote.

            The dictionary definition seems only to reinforce the idea that if we don't take into account the Galileo affair, we will have a much worse understanding of the RCC's influence on scientific progress. I see no contradictions.

            If we thin out the wasted bandwidth from this debate, I may be willing to expand on that for you. Especially if you start answering some of the questions you have been dodging.

            We can do both. What questions have I been dodging?

            'Crucial', hmm? Are you vilifying me?

            Yes, you are a brash rogue.

            LB: All along, I meant to be arguing that if we're going to judge just how much the RCC impeded science, being aware of what was known at the time is crucial.

            RM: How would whether or not the RCC knew what it was doing impact how much their actions impeded science? How it might influence an assessment of how morally wrong it was I get, what you seem to be asserting now not so much.

            When I said "what was known at the time", I mean the state of scientific knowledge. Had Galileo been unequivocally right as judged by scientific standards of the time, the RCC would have damaged science more by persecuting him. Had Cardinal Bellarmine not believed that sufficient evidence could overturn geocentrism, the RCC would have damaged science more.

            If you aren't careful, any scientist who argues against the right theory and for the wrong theory because [s]he just happened to have a bad exposure to the evidence will be judged anti-science, anti-progress. That's why you have to pay attention to motives, to what standards of judgment are at play. One of the beauties of science is that error can lead to less error.

          • Richard Morley

            I see no contradictions.

            For a statement to indicate I am 'trying to back down' from a position, then it must contradict or at least significantly revise that position. So if a dictionary definition of my words counts as me "trying to back down", the position you are trying to ascribe to me must not be in accord with the straightforward dictionary definition of the words I used. Simples?

            We can do both.

            I lack the time or inclination. If you want to spend time asserting that I am an oversensitive flower whereas you are a toughened veteran of the internet, but you are being deliberately provoking and that is OK while I am horribly insulting by asking if a true fact can be heresy, and I must not read things into what you write but you can 'pattern match' and judge that my 'actions make it clear' till the cows come home, and so on, well that comes out of time that could be spent on constructive points.

          • For a statement to indicate I am 'trying to back down' from a position, then it must contradict or at least significantly revise that position. So if a dictionary definition of my words counts as me "trying to back down", the position you are trying to ascribe to me must not be in accord with the straightforward dictionary definition of the words I used. Simples?

            Nope, all you need to do to "back down" is to (i) say something plausibly incendiary, like "The Galileo affair is crucial, especially as regards the topic of this thread."; and (ii) refuse to meaningfully expand on that. Providing a link to a dictionary defintion of 'crucial' is an instance of (ii). So I wait for this to happen:

            RM: If we thin out the wasted bandwidth from this debate, I may be willing to expand on that for you.

            Maybe it will, maybe it won't.

            I lack the time or inclination. If you want to spend time asserting that I am an oversensitive flower whereas you are a toughened veteran of the internet, but you are being deliberately provoking and that is OK while I am horribly insulting by asking if a true fact can be heresy, and I must not read things into what you write but you can 'pattern match' and judge that my 'actions make it clear' till the cows come home, and so on, well that comes out of time that could be spent on constructive points.

            Ok, how about this. I'll strike all the things I said which I intended to be insulting or provocative from the record. Will you strike every single instance where you deliberately misinterpreted what I wrote from the record? I will want some sense of which things you think were deliberate misinterpretations and which things you think were accurate interpretations. For example, I want to know whether you truly think I was 'gaslighting' you.

          • Richard Morley

            What questions have I been dodging?

            Oh, a sample from memory:
            What innovation if any you assert during the alleged hiatus after Christianity rose. The plough, for example, now seems to be just copied from elsewhere so is not innovation.
            Your 'demonstration' that Christianity is not responsible for the hiatus.
            Your evidence of scientists producing better science while religious than while atheist.
            A statement on whether you assert that religion or Christianity specifically has done more harm or benefit to science, with justification, or clarification on why you were demanding the same from me if it is too much effort for you.
            When and where you claim Galileo predicted the phases of Venus and why this is more important that observing them.
            Maybe address the point that Venus is in fact often visible during inferior conjunction, and whether you would still assert that Galileo had not witnessed a full orbit if Venus had 'disappeared' behind the mass of the Sun.
            When and where you claim Galileo insulted the Pope, using the same standards you apply to your own posts.

            I could go on, but the point is to spend bandwidth on productive discussion, not wrangling over who is the sole arbiter of how right something is and suchlike.

            Had Galileo been unequivocally right as judged by scientific standards of the time, the RCC would have damaged science more by persecuting him.

            Disagree - whatever the Church's real motivations, the damage done was by its actions and stated motivations. So scientists were denied access to Galileo's works and scared out of supporting heliocentrism either way. Likewise, to pick a less emotional example, Caesar's reasons for (allegedly) burning the Library of Alexandria, or even whether it was accidental, do not influence how much damage it did. It influences how immoral he was, but not the consequences of the destruction.

          • I'm not sure I've been "dodging" any of these (I don't even remember all of them being explicitly asked before), but I'll answer them:

            What innovation if any you assert during the alleged hiatus after Christianity rose. The plough, for example, now seems to be just copied from elsewhere so is not innovation.

            The three-field system. The consideration of "counterfactual orders of nature".. Something I haven't mentioned is the invention of eyeglassses: that seems rather important for allowing scientists to continue working as they get older. The innovation of individual rights is an example of social progress. But I don't have an exhaustive list; it is on my to-do list.

            Your 'demonstration' that Christianity is not responsible for the hiatus.

            That's a rather strong term; I thought I was responding to the correlation between the rise of Christianity and the slowdown in innovation? I have repeatedly mentioned the fall of the Roman Empire; why then does this qualify as a question I've been "dodging"?

            Your evidence of scientists producing better science while religious than while atheist.

            Huh? I never claimed to have such evidence. You seem to be misremembering the following:

            RM: If all [the conflict thesis] says is that there is "an intrinsic intellectual conflict between religion and science" then sure.

            LB: If that were [knowably] true, you could find me peer-reviewed evidence of the following:

                 (1) When a scientist becomes an atheist,
                         [s]he does better science.
                 (2) When a scientist becomes religious,
                         [s]he does worse science.

            I was questioning your "sure".

            A statement on whether you assert that religion or Christianity specifically has done more harm or benefit to science, with justification, or clarification on why you were demanding the same from me if it is too much effort for you.

            I wasn't "demanding" it from you. You were always within your rights to say something like, "I have my suspicions, but I cannot actually demonstrate it to be the case either way with any significant confidence." That is in fact my own answer.

            When and where you claim Galileo predicted the phases of Venus and why this is more important that observing them.

            Did you miss this bit:

            LB: Do you not get that it is superior for Galileo to have first predicted the phases of Venus and then observed them, vs. observing them first and then developing a model to fit the observations?

            ? You responded twice (#1, #2) to that comment, but you didn't answer that question. You have a PhD; I assumed you would instantly know why it is better to predict then observe, than vice versa. Was this assumption incorrect?

            Maybe address the point that Venus is in fact often visible during inferior conjunction, and whether you would still assert that Galileo had not witnessed a full orbit if Venus had 'disappeared' behind the mass of the Sun.

            Did Galileo in fact see an inferior conjunction of Venus and identify it as such? I've not seen that in any of his drawings. I have not exhaustively studied his writings. If you can show that Galileo did see an inferior conjunction and identify it as such, I'll immediately withdraw my objection.

            BTW, I'm not sure it's relevant that you can see an inferior conjunction with your naked eye; can you identify it as an inferior conjunction without magnification? I thought the whole point of Galileo's observations of Venus is that one could not see the phases without a telescope. Venus being merely visible is not enough.

            When and where you claim Galileo insulted the Pope, using the same standards you apply to your own posts.

            I recently addressed that matter.

            LB: Had Galileo been unequivocally right as judged by scientific standards of the time, the RCC would have damaged science more by persecuting him.

            RM: Disagree - whatever the Church's real motivations, the damage done was by its actions and stated motivations.

            So it's just irrelevant that Bellarmine said the Church would be more open to heliocentrism with more evidence?

            So scientists were denied access to Galileo's works and scared out of supporting heliocentrism either way.

            Umm, how many actually were? They were 100% welcome to move forward with a "save the appearances" interpretation, amassing evidence until Bellarmine would judge things differently or be exposed as a rationalizer.

            Likewise, to pick a less emotional example, Caesar's reasons for (allegedly) burning the Library of Alexandria, or even whether it was accidental, do not influence how much damage it did.

            So the RCC could not possibly have done more damage to science if (i) Galileo's insults to the Pope were irrelevant to how he was treated; (ii) the RCC was not going to accept heliocentrism no matter how much evidence rolled in? Here, I'm drawing heavily on your "The Galileo affair is crucial, especially as regards the topic of this thread." That is, I'm not treating it as just one isolated affair, but extrapolating from what we know happened there to what probably happened in the future. (Did Caesar and/or his successors develop a habit of burning libraries?)

          • Richard Morley

            If you can show that Galileo did see an inferior conjunction and identify it as such, I'll immediately withdraw my objection.

            It was your assertion that he did not, could not, see it. Nor have you addressed why it would matter: just as if Venus disappearing behind the mass of the Sun would not invalidate the statement that he had witnessed Venus orbiting the Sun, neither would Venus being hard or impossible to see for a few days near conjunction.

            BTW, I'm not sure it's relevant that you can see an inferior conjunction with your naked eye;

            You claimed that you could not see it even with a telescope good enough to show Jupiter's moons.

            I thought the whole point of Galileo's observations of Venus is that one could not see the phases without a telescope.

            Allegedly Venus' phases are just visible to the naked eye with great eyesight and perfect atmospheric conditions. At least at the crescent phase when Venus is nearest us and so noticeably larger than at full. Mesopotamian priests allegedly saw them.

          • You are right, I made an error (Venus has an atmosphere), an error which may be 100% irrelevant to the matter. Now please answer my question: Did Galileo in fact observe Venus in inferior conjunction and identify it as such? Yes, or no? You claimed "He did see Venus pass in front of the Sun."

          • Richard Morley

            Venus having an atmosphere is the least of your problems. Read the article you cite and you'll see I clarify that merely seeing Venus as a crescent was proof that it was then nearer to us than (in front of) the Sun, having been gibbous and so further away than (behind) the Sun earlier that year.

            It is your assertion that Galileo would have been unable to observe Venus at inferior conjunction that year - or presumably any other year between then and his condemnation. So you should prove it, instead of yet again demanding that I do something you say is too much effort for you to do. Are you admitting that you cannot do this?

            You also have yet to answer whether an occultation, when Venus passes out of sight behind the disc of the Sun, would also allegedly mean that he had not observed Venus orbiting the Sun.

            You know what, I can't be bothered to get you to admit you're wrong. Again. Venus was about 8 degrees elongation at inferior conjunction that year. So visible with the naked eye, so certainly distinguishable with a telescope.

          • So you won't answer whether Galileo actually saw an inferior conjunction and identified it as much?

          • Richard Morley

            It is your assertion that "Galileo saw Venus disappear" - you provide the proof. And explain why it would matter, or whether Venus being occulted by the Sun would also matter. And when you claim Galileo predicted the phases of Venus.

            Ah, but of course when it is you being expected to do it, then it becomes "Yeah, if I put the effort in. Why should I?" and "why would I go to the extra work?" And, interestingly "You could make me do a lot of work that way." Now, why would you leap to that conclusion? Projecting?

            Indeed this was your best example of me refusing to admit an alleged error.

            If you had quickly admitted that no, Galileo did not "see" Venus pass in front of the Sun but instead saw it disappear, we could have quickly moved on.

          • Yep, I was confident that Galileo in 1633 could not possibly have seen Venus during inferior conjunction; I was wrong because of Venus' light-bending atmosphere. He could have seen Venus in inferior conjunction, although I do not know whether (a) it would have fit with his understanding; (b) whether it would have been visible to Galileo reliably enough. So I must modify what I wrote:

            LB′: In comparison, my guess is that Galileo saw Venus disappear and deduced that it had passed in front of the Sun.

            There, I have no longer made a claim which has yet to be supported with a shred of evidence. Now, what are you going to do with the following claim:

            RM: As far as science goes:Galileo observing the Phases of Venus is important because he saw with his own eyes that Venus was passing in front of and behind the Sun, i.e. orbiting it. You can try it yourself, with a ball and a lightbulb.

            ? Will you present evidence that Galileo observed Venus in inferior conjunction (since he never saw it in transit) and identified it as such?

             
            P.S. I never claimed Toulmin's view was the new received view; you wanted me to demonstrate it. There is no double standard at play. You are always welcome to make a big deal out of whether or not Toulmin's view is now well-accepted, such that if you're wrong, your unevidenced views on that and related matters are given less weight in the conversation. Then, it will be worth it for me to do the legwork to see whether Toulmin's view is now well-accepted.

          • Richard Morley

            You're making the protocol rather complicated; are you saying that without all this complexity, you wouldn't have accused me of "[trying] to take offense"—that is, manufacturing offense?

            I wouldn't have been asking the earlier question at all if you were not regularly attacking the assertion that Galileo was right. Your refusal to accept a polite debate and assertions that you were deliberately rude (and so on) do rather cast doubt on your sincerity in claiming offense for this.

            I was just thinking of setting it up this way:

            There you go - you want to strip it of all context and spin the question your way. Again, the whole thing is a waste of time.

            The reason I'm focusing on this is that you've set yourself up as the sole arbiter of how bad various things are.

            Where do I claim that? If anything it is you who is attacking me for giving my assessment of 'how bad various things are' that do not conform with your assessment, thereby setting yourself up as 'the sole arbiter'.

            That's obnoxious.

            On that we agree.

            But do you claim it is both?

            It is both illustrating your double standard and making a point about the likelihood of a causal connection between the rise of Christianity and the hiatus in progress. Clear enough?

          • I wouldn't have been asking the earlier question at all if you were not regularly attacking the assertion that Galileo was right.

            Ok, I'll let that be a good enough reason. As I just wrote, I'll accept responsibility for failing to make clear that all along, I thought it was important to understand what was known at the time, in order to judge just how much the RCC harmed scientific progress. I screwed up royally in not making that blindingly obvious.

            Your refusal to accept a polite debate and assertions that you were deliberately rude (and so on) do rather cast doubt on your sincerity in claiming offense for this.

            If you think I've been significantly rude in the scheme of internet discussion, you need to get around more. What's worse is you let rudeness abort discussion of the facts, instead of maybe uttering a few words about the rudeness but then getting back to the matter of discussion. That could be construed as tactically taking offense: it lets you avoid the issue.

            LB: The reason I'm focusing on this is that you've set yourself up as the sole arbiter of how bad various things are.

            RM: Where do I claim that?

            Your actions make it clear. Anytime you are rude to me, it is less than or as bad as your rudeness to me. Therefore, you never have to apologize. You have never apologized. I have apologized to you, so this isn't a case of "nobody's going to apologize to the other". I'll go a step further: I cannot recall you ever admitting that you misinterpreted something I wrote, or even that you may have. That's a different, much less intense apology that I don't recall you doing. And so, you always come off as [more] right and [more] righteous. Were you to explicitly claim that, you'd actually discredit yourself on both counts.

            If anything it is you who is attacking me for giving my assessment of 'how bad various things are' that do not conform with your assessment, thereby setting yourself up as 'the sole arbiter'.

            Characterize it however you want, but when you're the kind of person who responds to request for clarification via dictionary definition—

            RM: The Galileo affair is crucial, especially as regards the topic of this thread.

            LB: Why don't you [re]state precisely what you meant by that "crucial"?

            RM: Here

            —the only way I know to extract more is to be provocative. And in the scheme of the internet, not all that provocative. I pegged you as someone who was going to insinuate and exaggerate and these are exactly what you've done. Now, perhaps I spawned a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I'm not convinced of that. At this point, I'll wait to see how you deal with the carefully delineated "conflict thesis" I recently outlined. It certainly seems like these two statements work together:

            RM: The Galileo affair is crucial, especially as regards the topic of this thread.

            +

            RM: It is … making a point about the likelihood of a causal connection between the rise of Christianity and the hiatus in progress.

            It is both illustrating your double standard and making a point about the likelihood of a causal connection between the rise of Christianity and the hiatus in progress. Clear enough?

            It's much better, but the term 'likelihood' is still rather vague; you could be claiming that there's a 51% chance that the RCC halted progress. There could be a 99.99% chance and it would technically be a 'likelihood'. It would be interesting to know just how much you think you can nail down that 'likelihood'.

      • Richard Morley

        But there was doubt; Galileo's model predicted that stars would be way too big.

        Way too big for what? The Andromeda galaxy is visible with the naked eye and is big enough to blow Galileo's mind. Geocentrists were happy to postulate a crystal sphere big enough to put the solar system in and rattle it around, but suddenly evidence implying big stars is a problem?

        And my PhD was optics heavy, I don't need the Googelwebs to know what an Airy disk is, thanks.

        You can only say the above because...

        It is true. I have repeatedly pointed out the difference between QM theorists choosing to express their belief that QM is 'just a model' (as Monty Python would say) and Galileo being prevented from expressing his genuinely held beliefs. Again, won't mean much to you unless you have deeply held beliefs.

        You're acting like the folks who pulled out all the stops and used the most intense language they could...

        I'm a welshman with a classical education, boyo, I am a far from exhausting my most intense language.

        You on the other hand are displaying classic 'blame the victim' mentality - Galileo should be grateful the RCC were not even more brutal, just accept it, and no doubt smile for the camera throughout in case the Pope wants to use the footage for PR.

        You're writing as if I think the RCC was right to do what it did to Galileo; I don't. They were wrong.

        Conflict theorist! Call the Swiss Guard!

        Nope, it was 100% a dig at you for your apparent need to repeat that line ad nauseum.

        I don't deny that you were insulting me, and playing down a horrible act. You can do both.

        • LB: But there was doubt; Galileo's model predicted that stars would be way too big.

          RM: Way too big for what?

          Sorry, way too big or way too close. I provided you with a paper and a Nature article explaining it.

          Geocentrists were happy to postulate a crystal sphere big enough to put the solar system in and rattle it around, but suddenly evidence implying big stars is a problem?

          Ummm, even Copernicus held to the celestial spheres. They only seem weird to us because heliocentrism now seems normal. Back then it was the other way around. You keep evaluating the Galileo affair with knowledge and perspective that wasn't available during his trial. As long as you do this, your judgments of the affair will be misguided. Unless you claim that the Catholics ought to have had perfect scientific knowledge from the start?

          And my PhD was optics heavy, I don't need the Googelwebs to know what an Airy disk is, thanks.

          My apologies for trying to be helpful.

          You on the other hand are displaying classic 'blame the victim' mentality - Galileo should be grateful the RCC were not even more brutal, just accept it, and no doubt smile for the camera throughout in case the Pope wants to use the footage for PR.

          Pure fabrication. (Otherwise you could quote things I've actually said.)

          • Richard Morley

            Sorry, way too big or way too close.

            You are still not answering: way too big (or way too close) for what? at the time it was argued that the apparent size of the stars, if they were as far away as Galileo thought, proved his theory false. But why? Big celestial spheres didn't phase them.

            Ummm, even Copernicus held to the celestial spheres.

            Still not answering the question. If they are happy to posit huge spheres to explain why the stars all revolve in synchrony (almost as though we were the ones revolving), what is so evidently false about big stars that makes you claim this aspect as justification for treating Galileo as they did?

            You on the other hand are displaying classic 'blame the victim' mentality - Galileo should be grateful the RCC were not even more brutal, just accept it, and no doubt smile for the camera throughout in case the Pope wants to use the footage for PR.

            Pure fabrication. (Otherwise you could quote things I've actually said.)

            Like: "Likewise, the Roman Catholic Church could have been much, much harsher. Here are some ways:"

            That is just from one post, I am not engaging in your 'argument by attrition' of demanding citations even to what you yourself have written, which you then cannot read so I have to go and quote it for you and so on. You have constantly been justifying the treatment of Galileo by pointing out that it could have been worse: he wasn't actually burned at the stake, he was only under house arrest, he would have been allowed to teach his ideas as fairy tales and so on.

          • You are still not answering: way too big (or way too close) for what?

            It was assumed that all stars are roughly the size of the Sun. But given the diameter of the Airy disk of visible stars, that would put them pretty close to the earth. Close enough to observe stellar parallax. Which was not observed. But if we enforce the "no parallax observed" condition, then the Sun would be, as The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown puts it, "the only pea in a universe of melons, which is absurd."

            RM: You on the other hand are displaying classic 'blame the victim' mentality - Galileo should be grateful the RCC were not even more brutal, just accept it, and no doubt smile for the camera throughout in case the Pope wants to use the footage for PR.

            LB: Pure fabrication. (Otherwise you could quote things I've actually said.)

            RM: Like: "Likewise, the Roman Catholic Church could have been much, much harsher. Here are some ways:"

            As I said, pure fabrication. That the RCC could have been much, much harsher doesn't logically lead to blaming Galileo. Galileo was pragmatically stupid, not morally in error. I made that rather clear in the beginning when I said he was a dick to one of the most powerful people in the world. My overall point here is not to criticize Galileo, but to ask just how bad the RCC was when it came to Galileo. Given that the OP is about Christianity being a proponent of 'progress', it is rather important to ask just how anti-'progress' it was in the Galileo affair. After all, perhaps the RCC could have killed off the scientific revolution just like the Islamic golden age was brought to an end.

            If anything, we should be grateful that the RCC was not much, much harsher. We should note that the RCC was happy to promote Copernican heliocentrism until the Protestants made a big deal of geocentrism, forcing the RCC to clamp down for political reasons. We should note the Galileo affair for what it was, but not exaggerate.

            That is just from one post, I am not engaging in your 'argument by attrition' of demanding citations even to what you yourself have written, which you then cannot read so I have to go and quote it for you and so on.

            Oh give me a break, that was a mistake I made once and have learned from. Not infrequently, Disqus does not jump to the #comment-123456789 in the URL when I load up a page like Strange Notions or Secular Outpost. So I'm very used to waiting for the initial 50 comments to load, adding a letter to the URL, like #comment-123456789x, and hitting [enter]—at which point Disqus will load and scroll to that comment. You threw me off by linking to a disqus.com URL, which I [wrongly] assumed would not have the same problem, since Disqus has total control over its own website.

            You have constantly been justifying the treatment of Galileo …

            Nope, I never justified it. More fabrication. I merely said it wasn't nearly as bad as it could be, which happens to be fact. The only time I insinuate things via citing facts is when I'm being sarcastic or snarky, and I've done that precious little with you. Perhaps you are used to people insinuating things via citing facts as a regular habit.

          • Richard Morley

            But if we enforce the "no parallax observed" condition, then the Sun would be, as The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown puts it, "the only pea in a universe of melons, which is absurd."

            But that is not proof that it is wrong, the speaker just doesn't like it. You may as well just cite not liking being other than the centre of the solar system.

            (quibble: shouldn't that be "one pea" - there was no reason to assert there are not others.)

            "Pure fabrication. (Otherwise you could quote things I've actually said.)"
            "As I said, pure fabrication."
            "More fabrication."There you go. When others draw conclusions from what you have said about what you 'mean' but have avoided saying, you get angry. Maybe you should stop doing it to others?

            Likewise you accuse me of 'actively' obscuring facts if I merely fail to mention them at every opportunity. Were you 'actively' concealing the fact that Ferngren is a professional christian bioethicist?

            I made that rather clear in the beginning when I said (Galileo) was a (Richard) to one of the most powerful people in the world.

            Another example. You insist that the above is not you calling Galileo a richard, or that you were not calling me names by referring to my ignorance and so on. Applying the same standard to Galileo, how did he insult the Pope?

            After all, perhaps the RCC could have killed off the scientific revolution just like the Islamic golden age was brought to an end.

            Arguably it did when it led to closing the academies and suppressed 'pagan' teaching for centuries. Or you mean we should be grateful it didn't do so more often?

            You are again back to saying we should be grateful for them not being even worse.

            You have constantly been justifying the treatment of Galileo …
            Nope, I never justified it.

            Again, your statements have been far more 'justification' of whatever than mine have been 'vilification' of whatever. The golden rule applies.

            The only time I insinuate things via citing facts is when I'm being sarcastic or snarky, and I've done that precious little with you.

            Haha, as you put it.

          • This spamfiltering of your comments is getting obnoxious; I don't like missing things.

            LB: But if we enforce the "no parallax observed" condition, then the Sun would be, as The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown puts it, "the only pea in a universe of melons, which is absurd."

            RM: But that is not proof that it is wrong, the speaker just doesn't like it. You may as well just cite not liking being other than the centre of the solar system.

            Well, why wouldn't one like the Sun being exceptional with respect to every other star observed? One reason is tradition—it had always been assumed that stars were roughly the same size. Another might be that radical exceptions need justification, especially when it's the model that creates the exception. A general pattern of scientific thinking is to assume uniformity until there is a good reason to think otherwise.

            It's really here nor there; scientists in 1633 considered this a problem and it is now known to be false that our Sun is the only [observable] pea in an [observable] universe of melons. The same theory which predicted the subsequently observed phases of Venus produced problems as well. When a theory is introduced which solves problems and creates problems, one does not always immediately know which parts (if any) are keepers and which parts (if any) are fundamental problems.

            (quibble: shouldn't that be "one pea" - there was no reason to assert there are not others.)

            I don't see a meaningful difference; both versions present a radical exception, a radical non-uniformity in nature that is introduced by a model.

            There you go. When others draw conclusions from what you have said about what you 'mean' but have avoided saying, you get angry. Maybe you should stop doing it to others?

            The bigger problem is when you draw conclusions which are flatly contradictory with things I have said. After all, if you try to fit a bad pattern to what I've said, I can simply add another fact to the list of propositions I've asserted which makes it unambiguously a bad pattern. It'll get tedious if the other person tries one bad pattern after the next (I call this using an "idiot filter"), but if it's only a few, that's just expected when two people with very different viewpoints interact.

            Now, with respect to the patterns I've applied to your words which you claim are bad, I see only small errors. For example, while you'll allow for some notion of 'religion' which is perfectly consistent with science (see your "idealised catholic theologian"), you do seem to think the actual Roman Catholic Church is inherently anti-progress, although allowing for individual Catholics and groups of Catholics to nevertheless contribute positive things to science. You make yourself out to be obviously more righteous than I, because you presume to be able to perfectly mirror behavior of mine you call "bad" back to me, such that you never ever have to apologize to me. Anything you do to me is perfectly justified by what I've done to you. Only someone more righteous than I could get that right. It is not too big a jump to suppose you also think you're more righteous than the RCC.

            Likewise you accuse me of 'actively' obscuring facts if I merely fail to mention them at every opportunity. Were you 'actively' concealing the fact that Ferngren is a professional christian bioethicist?

            That does not properly characterize how I have used "actively obscure[d]". As to Ferngren's identity, I trusted the fact that WP: Conflict thesis included the quote to be sufficient initial vetting, and wished to see how you would respond to his summary claim. The intention was to see whether we ought to get into the details he uses to buttress his claim. There's no need to have to get into the full evidence which supports every single claim unless one of us insists on it.

            You insist that the above is not you calling Galileo a richard, or that you were not calling me names by referring to my ignorance and so on.

            Sorry, this tangent ends here. If you're not going to acknowledge a difference between "A was a dick to B" and "A is a dick", I refuse to participate in all further discussions of the topic.

            Applying the same standard to Galileo, how did he insult the Pope?

            This question makes no sense to me. You can read about Galileo being a dick to Pope Urban VIII at WP: Galileo affair § Dialogue.

            You are again back to saying we should be grateful for them not being even worse.

            Yes, which is very different from praising the RCC. If I'm in a terrible car accident from which I am able to walk away, I can be grateful for that without thanking the drunk driver who crashed into me. Now, if we're trying to evaluate the RCC's contributions and detractions from 'progress', figuring out just how bad they were seems rather important.

            Again, your statements have been far more 'justification' of whatever than mine have been 'vilification' of whatever. The golden rule applies.

            Quote me "justifying". And do let me know if the only example you can really provide is from this comment, where I suggest that scientific results which would change society should get sufficient evidential support before they are put in a position to change society. So for example, a single study which possibly suggests that homosexual parents do worse by children than heterosexual parents should not be allowed to change public policy. If that is all I've said which reasonably leads to your use of the term "justifying", then we will have made progress. But let me see the [textual] evidence before I go further.

  • I've just re-read the section on progress from Watson's history of ideas, the section cited by the OP. The section is actually about the expansion of the mental horizon that occurred in the enlightenment with respect to history. Watson observes that "what was new was, first, innovative techniques of study... and second, an expansion of the historical imagination to include the history of civilization." What seems to have happened is that the study of the ancient Greeks and Romans and the fact that so much knowledge came from them raised the question of whether or not their own society or the ancients was better. "Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Ronan Empire (1776-1778) 'ended on a tone of irreparable loss rather than excitement over the foundation of Christian Europe"

    And "the idea of historical stages unrelated to Christianity proved popular".

    What emerged in the Enlightenment, according to Watson was an awareness that history didn't start with Christianity and that perhaps there were laws and orders to human development.

    Rather than a clear view of cumulative progress there was an open debate about whether western civilization was progressing or not. He calls it a battle over whether the ancient or contemporary thought was superior with William Temple and Jonathan Swift arguing for the superiority of the ancients.

    As Watson observes "...the very existence of the battle itself shows how much ideas about progress were up in the air."

    Suffice to say that according to Watson at least the idea of Christian theology being a source of the idea of progress is not apparent. He reference William Goodwin (1756-1836) who believed in progress but blamed government and the church as impediments to progress.

    Also if note is Voltaire's influence, in discarding ideas of "divine, or 'first' causes" but rather showing how things worked and moving in from there.

    So it would seem that these ideas of progress and their adoption in the Enlightenment have, at least from Watson's telling, no clear origin in Christianity, in fact at least two advocates expressly found the church to be an impediment.

    Might we consider that it was not so much Augustine's thousand year time bomb of an idea but the relatively newly discovered advances of the ancients and new perspective of millienia of recorded history along with a an awareness only from the last few centuries of how knowledge and discovery can build on previous accomplishments that fosters this flowering of thinking progressively? Perhaps it was the renaissance and Enlightenment figures reflecting on ancient wisdom and being now able to see they were surpassing it that really allowed for this idea to take hold?