Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Eppur si muove

The Catholics are at it agin, trying to salvage some shred of intellectual credibility by giving a nod to Galileo.

The Vatican is recasting the most famous victim of its Inquisition as a man of faith, just in time for the 400th anniversary of Galileo's telescope and the U.N.-designated International Year of Astronomy next year.
Pope Benedict XVI paid tribute to the Italian astronomer and physicist Sunday, saying he and other scientists had helped the faithful better understand and "contemplate with gratitude the Lord's works."

Is it just me, or are they missing one tiny point: Galileo's efforts were, in fact, opposed to what the church was doing, because he was trying to understand reality, and being committed to reality is anathema to the superstitious.

You probably remember their last face-saving move, when in 1992, Pope JP2 declared that the ruling against Galileo was an error resulting from "tragic mutual incomprehension."

Of course, there was no incomprehension. The people who run the church understood exactly what Galileo was doing, they just didn't like it. They also knew the effect of Galileo's work. As we see know, surveys repeatedly show that the majority of scientists are atheists. Despite the holdovers (like Newton, who was an avid astrologer), science leads to the rejection of religion.

Which is why the Catholics are trying to pretend they're compatible.


Anonymous Tom McC said...

That wingnut Dinesh D'Souza has a book out trying to rebut the arguments of atheists with, at best, fanciful interpretations of scripture and history.

One of his arguments is that the Galileo dispute is not what we think it is. He tries to pawn it off as an attempt by Galileo to essentially bite the hand that was feeding him by getting involved in internal Vatican disputes. An even more laughable one is that the Genesis "description" of the creation of the universe is actually somehow correct.

And this is a guy who has been touted as essentially an intellectual wingnut voice...

December 24, 2008 11:42 AM  
Blogger Rev. Dan said...

I would say they are not fundamentally incompatible. The quest of science often blinds itself by becoming too content with the paradigm to which it has committed, usually in these days the search is fueled more by funding or politics than by a sincere identification of truth. Take the debates over global warming that the Bush administration orchestrated for example.
Religion, unfortunately, often fails under the same pressures. Humankind has anathematized or killed many sincere committed mystics over the centuries as well. Many religious people would have peace over profit and choose peoples benefit over politics. I despise he manipulation of people using in-group/out-group dynamics that many brands of religion espouse, but to attempt to rid ourselves of religion only leads to new objects of worship and often times less ethical fanaticism.

To pit the two fields of exploration and experience against one another(as was commonly done during the elightenment) is a lot like having a tiger fight a tree. Neither one wins, they both end up somewhat damaged, and the world would end up diminished by the total destruction of either.

One could say I look at belief systems through the lens of biodiversity. By limiting the types of ideas, we endanger ourselves as a species because some ideas might have more adaptive value in certain circumstances.

Just my take, believe in or don't belive in, whatever you want. I hope I have not merited the wingnut label, but I'll wear it proudly if it makes others more comfortable.

December 25, 2008 8:08 AM  

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