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Galileo’s Trial: A Conversation with Dom Paschal Scotti

with Dom Paschal Scotti

If you think the trial of Galileo was the black-and-white oppression of modern science by an intolerant church, then I have a podcast discussion for you. Dom Paschal Scotti comes to Liberty Law Talk to discuss his book Galileo Revisited.

Reader Discussion

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.

on July 06, 2018 at 13:58:23 pm

It did not come to me until after the interview when asked about Galileo and republicanism, but when working to gain the position as mathematician and philosopher from the Medici Grand Duke he wrote to a friend: "It is impossible to obtain wages from a republic, however splendid and generous it may be, without having duties attached. For to have anything from the public one must satisfy the public and not one individual; and so long as I am capable of lecturing and serving, no one in the republic can exempt me from duty while I receive pay. In brief, I can hope to enjoy these benefits only from an absolute ruler." There were still Florentines, mostly in exile, who desired and plotted to restore the Florentine Republic that the Medici Dukes and Gran Dukes had replaced, but Galileo was never among them. Only a prince could give him the leisure to do research and write his books. The only serious review of the book so far is from a publication of the American Academy of Religion: http://readingreligion.org/books/galileo-revisited

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Paschal Scotti
on July 06, 2018 at 17:38:18 pm

Ahhh! How things have changed!

Now one need only petition (if even that is required any longer) the multitude of factotems of the *Republic* and one will receive benefits that would have provided this mathematician with a beneficence far beyond the capability of that nasty ole Medici.

I suppose the concept of a Republic has changed - not so much the absolute ruler. Ha!

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gabe
on July 07, 2018 at 06:42:59 am

The republics of the Italian Renaissance would not pass muster today, being generally oligarchic and dominated by the great families and their allies (generally other great families). This often led to factionalism and violence (and exile), and while the Medici dominated the Florentine Republic from 1434 until the invasion of the French in 1494 and were restored later, and while they often had much popular support, they always had to be on watch. Thus in 1478 an attempt was made to displace the Medici by murdering the Lorenzo the Magnificent and his brother during High Mass in the Duomo (e.g. the Pazzi Conspiracy). Lorenzo survived the attack but his brother did not. Had the Medici been "overthrown" other great families would have taken their place.

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Paschal Scotti
on July 09, 2018 at 07:28:11 am

Galileo was convicted of heresy for promoting facts observable at the time, and maths internally logically consistent. His opposition was not merely fact based but used theology, personal vendetta, and cutthroat politics. He was threatened with torture.

This is why modern science rejects theology as a logical basis for real world argument. It rejects any “sincerely held belief” that contradicts real world facts. It rejects argument not based on logically consistent math.

Galileo’s persecution and trial at the hands of the Inquistion is an eternal stain on the Church, forever an example of theological rejection of reality. Using theology or the Bible or canon law or anything similar (Koran, BoM) to argue against cold, hard, reality based facts is simply wrong. The world sees this. The Church suffers because they chose fantasy over reality.

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Mikehorn
on July 09, 2018 at 08:49:04 am

Sure Mikehorn, I'd base your views of today on events that occurred in the Middle Ages. By your comments, you want to make sure you hammer the Church. A lot of progress in the scientific views of the Church have been made over the centuries--centuries--since Galileo's trial. Heck, the "Big Bang Theory" was first postulated by a Catholic priest--George Lemaitre--and science pretty well holds on to that as the beginning of the universe--right? And the Galileo circumstances were not a straight forward black or white case as you would like to make it. The events around Galileo's discovery were also about the time of the early nascent Protestant movement--and what did Luther believe? Luther still believed in the earth as the center of the universe and the sun went around the earth, as did the majority of the scientific community and population at that time. If the Church were to 100% accept and promulgate the new findings--true or not--the resulting social unrest would have been greater than the actual discovery. The Church had to take a more measured approach--a more pastoral approach--to the shock of Galileo's discovery. Read about Cardinal Robert Bellarmine's counsel to the Pope on how to work within Galileo's findings. As to "fantasy over reality," I'm guessing you believe the world "evolved" and was not "created." So, who is the wiser? One who believes that such order, functionality, variety, structure and even beauty in the world could "evolve" over primordial "mush" or one who reasons and believes that all those characteristics of "creation" were fashioned by a "Creator"--God? Structure implies function; function implies design; design implies intelligence; intelligence implies a Creator--God. Yes?

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Falcon78
on July 09, 2018 at 09:48:55 am

Yep - it was NOT quite so simple as Mikehorn would have us believe.

Indeed, Mike may ask "Who was Galileo's patron? in those days before such things as the Nat'l Academy of Science? Who provided funding for Galileo? housing? creature comforts?
Why, it was none other than Cardinal Maffeo Barberini! (later to become Pope Urban VIII
Also, Galileo himself remarked on the wonderfully warm reception he had received by the Jesuits, a number of whom had made similar *discoveries*
And here is a good summation of the church's actual position. It comes from Cardinal Robert Bellarmine:

"If there were real proof that the sun is the center of the universe, that the earth is in the third heaven, and that the sun does not go around the earth but the earth around the sun, then we should have to proceed with great circumspection in explaining passages of Scripture which appear to teach the contrary, and rather ADMIT that we did not understand them than declare an opinion to be false which is proved to be true. But as for myself, I shall not believe that there are such proofs until they are shown to me."

1) Prominent Churchmen were open to proffers of proof
2) such men were prepared to ADMIT their error and were also prepared to "re-interpret" scripture to match the newly found proofs.
3) Galileo was too stubborn to recognize the (contemporaneous) frailty of his proofs.
4) As evidence of the Church's willingness to acknowledge / accomodate *new* science. Jesuit priests in Italy were permitted to publish the exact same theories as Galileo within a few months of Galileo's conviction.
The DIFFERENCE: The Jesuits made no claim of absolute proof; rather, they published the new science as a Theory, one which, BTW, was substantially correct.

So what does that say about the "anti-science" bent of The Church.

Let us look beyond the received wisdom (and anti-Catholic bias) and strive for factual observations.

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gabe
on July 09, 2018 at 12:10:15 pm

Last first, to be biblical. Anyone who says something unproven in science is only a Theory demonstrates complete ignorance of science. A Theory in science is a body of work so well documented, researched, backed by facts, born out out by further research, and capable of making accurate predictions is a Theory. It’s as close to being absolute proof as science gets, though in science the concept of absolute proof is absurd. Science deals in probabilities. Once something gets to Theory status, it can be practically assumed to be absolutely true, but in reality is somewhat less than 100%, and forever remains open to sufficient challenge. Even in his day, Galileo was basing his work on Copernicus and others, as well as sound math and precise, thorough observations. He was capable of making accurate predictions of future events. The day Galileo was threatened with religiously inspired torture, his work was practically Theory already.

What you refer to as “Theory” is actually hypothesis or conjecture. Galileo at the time was well past this.

Galileo’s patron is beside the point. Were his ideas correct? Was there anything logically wrong with the observations or math? There was nothing wrong with Galileo’s work. The rest is silliness. The Church objected to a lay person based on hard fact and irrefutable math challenging the Church’s take on scripture. Jesuits publishing does not contradict this - clergy were precisely those the Church allowed do do such things. Bishops especially have a certain amount of freedom.

Galileo knew he was right. The facts and the math were incapable of lying. The Church was asking him to go against something that was baldly true. JPII’s investigation claimed that there was insufficient proof at the time, but that is at best falsely equivocating. The existing Aristotelian geo-centrism did not fit galileo’s and others’ Observations, the hard facts uncovered. Geo-centrism was obviously wrong despiteany scripture or teaching

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Mikehorn
on July 09, 2018 at 12:23:19 pm

You are hedging. Galileo made his arguments based on thorough, repeatable observation, and logically sound math.

The Inquisition based its objections on poetic scripture and ancient philosophy (Aristotle, among others). They did not refute his observations or his math. They said nothing substantial about the quality or correctness of his science.

What the Church has done after is at times commendable. The atheist Darwin predicted that for Evolution to be true, there must be a physical method of communicating both inherited traits and new variation from parent to offspring. The monk Mendel was working on inheritance at the time, which led directly to the atheists Watson and Crick laying out the basis of modern Genetics, but owing a huge debt to Mendel. Big Bang was implicit in Einstein’s work, a cultural Jew and pantheist/atheist. But Einstein didn’t fully appreciate the implications of his own work even after Hubble published his expansion rates. It took a scientist priest to start what we now colloquially call Big Bang cosmology. Notably, every Pope since Pius XII has publicly endorsed Evolution and a truly ancient universe that contradicts a literal reading of Genesis.

But, even today the Church objects to parts of science based not on fact but on “sincerely held belief”, to borrow the SCOTUS phrase. This places theology above fact. This is profoundly not only unscientific, but baldly anti-science.

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Mikehorn
on July 09, 2018 at 13:50:19 pm

You miss the point!

At the time observation methods and instrumentation was insufficient to PROVE Galileo's hypothesis (you are correct in the terminology) AND that was the point that Cardinal Bellarmine was making. As indicated, the Church provided an imprimatur for the follow-on publication by Jesuit scientists some few months later.
As for "literal reading" of the Scriptures, the openness of the Church to "update" interpretation was implicit in Bellarmine (and other church leaders) statement at the time and has continued through this day.

The RC Church has been far more open to scientific "updating' than have other religious sects, especially Muhammedanism. for this they ought to be credited not scorned as the rabble would have it.

Indeed there are some fine books on the role that the RC Church played in fostering both science and Western Civilization - but I suspect that you may be aware of them.

take care

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gabe
on July 10, 2018 at 06:47:25 am

If you look at the bibliography in my book ("Galileo Revisited") you will see a great number of books, from reputable university presses (e.g. Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard) that will give a very different view of the relationship of science to religion than many have been brought up on, including me, and a much more positive one. One should look at the many books of Edward Grant, a very eminent historian of science who has received numerous awards including the George Sarton Medal in 1992 and was the president of the History of Science Society in 1985-86. Some of his books are "Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages: Their Religious, Institutional and Intellectual Contexts" (Cambridge University Press, 1996), "God and Reason in the Middle Ages" (Cambridge University Press, 2001), "Science and Religion, 400 B.C. to A.D. 1550: From Aristotle to Copernicus" (Johns Hopkins Press, 2006). The bibliography includes a rich selection of articles and books that will change, quite significantly I think, your perception on this topic. That being said, the relationship is not always perfect, but that could be said of any relationship in history.

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Paschal Scotti
on July 10, 2018 at 20:57:12 pm

Paschal:

Yes, I have done some reading in this area. My view of the RC church stance on science is quite different from the "received wisdom: which attempts to assert that the RC church has been, is and always was in an antagonistic stance toward science.

Not so!

were it not for the work of churchmen. modern science would not have developed. and the role of the Church in the affaire Gallileo is quite different than than the textbooks would have us believe.
Perfect - no!
Political motivations - certainly - but then again, what other institution has not been encumbered by *political considerations*
On the whole. Western civilization AND science ought to be thanful for the seminal role that members of the RC church played in advancing both the civilization and its science.

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gabe

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