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Thread: What do you make of Tim O'Neil's "History for Atheists"?

  1. Top | #21
    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tim ONeill View Post

    The whole point of my articles is to show that history is not simple and doesn't conform to neat fairy tale structures.
    I'm generally fine with that sort of nuancing, and I think you do a good job of it. I retain my caveats and reservations however.

  2. Top | #22
    Contributor Cheerful Charlie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tim ONeill View Post

    Unfortunately Santillana didn't bother to footnote that quote. I and others have made searches on the collected letters of Galileo and found it nowhere. And all other attempts to find this alleged letter lead back to ... Santillana's book. This is the problem with relying on Wiki rather than having a good grasp of the relevant material. That aside, what I said was the myth was the idea that the Catholic clergy refused to do so. As I said, they actually embraced the new technology while conservative academics like Gualdo and Libri were still rejecting it.



    The objections made by the academics in question - none of whom were theologians - were based on arguments from physics and optics. The only people who took part in the discussion around Galileo's new telescopic discoveries who were theologians were the Jesuits like Christopher Clavius, Christoph Grienberger, Paolo Lembo and Odo van Malecote. And they did what a proper rationalist should do - recreated the relevant equipment, repeated the observations and confirmed his findings. It was not the clergy who rejected his discoveries and the people who did so did not do so because of theology.

    In smashing uncritical errors, one should tread carefully lest we carelessly overstate our case.
    I'm pretty sure where I'm treading. I'd politely suggest trying to lecture people who have studied this stuff for decades on the basis of a quick Google of Wiki is not the wisest course of action.
    I have been aware of many of these myths for years and years. And of the apologist's myth also. The myth that the Catholic hierarchy was not wrong to censure Galileo, it was all Galileo's fault due to his own arrogance. The RCC had a well developed set of dogma's about the nature of astronomy based on Bible, Ptolemy and Aristotle et al. That model was wrong. And obviously so which was Galileo's point. A point supported by careful observation. Galileo was persecuted, accused of heresy, and silenced by a church that didn't do careful observation and acceptance of obvious facts. Some members of the church may have, but they were not the ones who made the decision to haul Galileo before the Roman Inquisition. And to force Galileo to recant, and declare his writings anathema, and silence him from further writings. That point should not be overlooked in all this myth busting.

    This place a pall over other people following this. For example, Rene Descartes in his letters to Marin Mesenne was shocked at the RCC's actions and shelved some writings he was working on that would have set him up for problems with the RCC on these points. The actions of the church set back science in the West.

    Galileo was correct, and the RCC was wrong. The RCC was not doing careful science here, it was doing ancient and wrong dogma. That point should not be obscured.

    In the end, this is a case of science based on careful observation battling dogma based on ignoring observable and rational consideration of the facts at hand. And the RCC interfering with science, which the RCC hierarchy did not understand nor want to understand. An embarrassment that still rightfully haunts the RCC to this day. A warning not to be like that.

    A lesson that today has not been learned by religion based creationism, or our present day GOP dislike for competence climate science, supported by many American evangelicals. Careful observation, scientific facts and careful reasoning matter. The opinions of the Bible as far as scientific facts go, do not matter except in a negative way when large numbers of people refuse to rationally deal with facts.

    The new mythology that the RCC was wrong but not blameworthy and it was all Galileo's fault he got persecuted is just as wrong a myth as the more simple minded myth you decry. And this is a myth believe by many theists.
    Cheerful Charlie

  3. Top | #23
    New Member Tim ONeill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Tim ONeill View Post

    Whether he was pro-Nazi or not IS black and white. He was not.
    I disagree.

    Pardon? What do you mean, you "disagree"? You claim he was pro-Nazi? That's the only way you can "disagree" with what I said above.


    And in any case..........there may be an element of that which is missing the point.
    Okay. How?

    I belatedly edited my previous post, possibly while you were writing.
    You mean this?: "And where does passivity lie? Somewhere between pro and anti? As an analogy, I'm sure the RCC was, and its popes were, anti-child abuse. But did they actively do much about it? No."

    I'm afraid that is not analogous. Any informed reading of the evidence shows that both Pius XI and Pius XII were anti-Nazi. Everyone was very clear on that at the time. The Nazis were also pretty clear on it as well. What the Papacy did about that is another issue, but anyone who looks at what we now know - e.g. Pius XII's active covert assistance to the Allies and involvement in no less than three plots to overthrow and KILL Hitler - and still tries to claim he was "passive" is deluding themselves out of bias. The issues of whether he could have been less outwardly neutral while doing all this, whether he could have done things differently or done more etc are other things to analyse. That's why my article is over 10,000 words. But on the issue of whether he was pro-Nazi, there is only one reasonable, evidence-based conclusion: he was not. The claim he was is a myth.
    Last edited by Tim ONeill; 11-08-2019 at 05:21 PM.

  4. Top | #24
    New Member Tim ONeill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cheerful Charlie View Post
    I have been aware of many of these myths for years and years. And of the apologist's myth also. The myth that the Catholic hierarchy was not wrong to censure Galileo, it was all Galileo's fault due to his own arrogance. The RCC had a well developed set of dogma's about the nature of astronomy based on Bible, Ptolemy and Aristotle et al. That model was wrong. And obviously so which was Galileo's point. A point supported by careful observation. Galileo was persecuted, accused of heresy, and silenced by a church that didn't do careful observation and acceptance of obvious facts. Some members of the church may have, but they were not the ones who made the decision to haul Galileo before the Roman Inquisition. And to force Galileo to recant, and declare his writings anathema, and silence him from further writings. That point should not be overlooked in all this myth busting.
    Sorry, but the Church had the consensus of science on its side when it "hauled Galileo before the Roman Inquisition". In both 1616 and in 1632 there were barely any scientists who accepted the Copernican model as anything more than a mathematical device for solid scientific reasons and none of Galileo's arguments or "careful observation" stood against their objections. The churchmen of the Inquisition knew all this - they had consulted the scientists. Galileo knew it too. So the RCC's dogmas were not simply "based on Bible". They were based on the best science of the day, with the Bible being interpreted in light of that science. As Bellarmine said in 1615:

    "If there were a true demonstration that the sun is at the centre of the world and the earth in the third heaven, and that the sun does not circle the earth but the earth circles the sun, 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 what is demonstrated is false. But I will not believe that there is such a demonstration, until it is shown to me".

    Both he and Galileo knew that, at that stage, there was no such demonstration. The fact that we know such demonstration was eventually able to be shown, many years later, is beside the point - that's just us being wise in hindsight. In Galileo's day the science was against him and on the side of the Church.

    This place a pall over other people following this. For example, Rene Descartes in his letters to Marin Mesenne was shocked at the RCC's actions and shelved some writings he was working on that would have set him up for problems with the RCC on these points. The actions of the church set back science in the West.
    Descartes' quote usually gets produced as evidence for this, largely because it is the only expression of any such hesitation. In fact, speculation about heliocentrisim could and did continue. Kelper - a Protestant working at the court of a Catholic ruler - continued his work which would eventually show that everyone else was wrong (including Galileo). Others continued to examine the SIX competing cosmological models of the time, which included geocentric, geo-heliocentric and heliocentric systems.

    Galileo was correct, and the RCC was wrong.
    Not according to what was known at the time. This is the key point which you don't seem to have grasped.

    The RCC was not doing careful science here, it was doing ancient and wrong dogma. That point should not be obscured.
    That point is simplistic bollocks and almost entirely wrong.

    In the end, this is a case of science based on careful observation battling dogma based on ignoring observable and rational consideration of the facts at hand.
    Nonsense. Again, the Church had the science of the day firmly on its side. Galileo really only had one substantial argument against that scientific consensus - his argument from the tides - and not only was that dead wrong but it was shown at the time to be contrary to "careful observation" and so completely wrong. Yet Galileo clung to it dogmatically and was completely wrong about it.

    And the RCC interfering with science, which the RCC hierarchy did not understand nor want to understand. An embarrassment that still rightfully haunts the RCC to this day. A warning not to be like that.
    Warnings from history have to actually get the history right. What you're presenting above is a cartoonish caricature that is mostly wrong. You clearly don't understand the history behind this at all.

  5. Top | #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tim ONeill View Post
    Nonsense. Again, the Church had the science of the day firmly on its side.
    I think CC's point is a bit broader in scope, namely that the Roman Church did not welcome dissent, new ideas and free inquiry. Had it's behavior been so I think it fair and accurate to conclude that it would have had science on it's side. And I don't think I'm guilty of anachronising here.

  6. Top | #26
    New Member Tim ONeill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by T.G.G. Moogly View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Tim ONeill View Post
    Nonsense. Again, the Church had the science of the day firmly on its side.
    I think CC's point is a bit broader in scope, namely that the Roman Church did not welcome dissent, new ideas and free inquiry.
    The Church most definitely did not welcome religious dissent. On matters of what we call science, however, it did not have any problems with "new ideas and free inquiry". Its guiding principle there was the idea of the "Two Books Doctrine". Revelation via the Bible and the Church Fathers ("the Book of God") was held to always be fundamentally in harmony with rational inquiry into the natural world and natural philosophy ("the Book of Nature"). So in any cases where one seemed to be in conflict with the other, they thought the issue always had to be one of interpretation. This meant either the understanding of the scriptures or Patristic writers was wrong and needed to be reinterpreted, or the understanding of the natural world was in error and needed to be better understood. This is why when early Christian thinkers came to reconcile Greek natural philosophy with their faith and there seemed to be a clash between the rational evidence that the earth was round and various Biblical passages that talked about it being flat, it was the latter that got reinterpreted, not the former that was rejected.

    It's also why when Galileo's telescopic observations and the implications of the comets and the supernovas of 1573 and 1604 pretty much dealt a death blow to some fundamental principles of Aristotle's cosmology, it was the Jesuit astronomers of the Collegium Romanum who confirmed these developments, lauded Galileo's discoveries and honoured him with a degree, medal and banquets, along with audiences with the pope and various leading cardinals, while Galileo's conservative academic peers still clung to Aristotle. It's also why when Cardinal Bellarmine - the learned natural philosopher and theologian who later presided over the 1616 Inquisition into Galileo's forays into theology - observed the state of the cosmological issue of heliocentrism in 1615, he said "if there were a true demonstration that the sun is at the centre of the world and .... the earth circles the sun, 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 what is demonstrated is false". In a period before scientific revolutions and discoveries became commonplace, all intellectual institutions were highly conservative. In that context, the Catholic Church of the early 1600s was actually much more open and nimble than most.

    Free inquiry, new ideas and dissent on matters of religion, however, were another matter entirely. Prior to 1616, no-one in the Church cared about Galileo's heliocentrism. His discoveries and other ideas were, as I've noted, acknowledged and celebrated. His adherence to a highly marginal conception of Copernicus' model as being actually true was known and considered eccentric by both clergy and fellow astronomers, but it didn't bother anyone in the Church. In 1613 Galileo published his Letters on Sunspots (Istoria e Dimostrazioni intorno alle Macchie Solari) which not only made his Copernicanism absolutely clear but also used several arguments in its favour that he later used in his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632). All legal publications had to pass censorship scrutiny in this period and in this case the Letters were scrutinised by the Roman Inquisition before publication. Apart from some quibbles over his use of some scriptural references, the book was passed for publication. Its heliocentrism didn't bother anyone. What changed in the intervening three years was Galileo making increasingly public and increasingly vocal pronouncements on Biblical interpretation in relation to his ideas. That was what got the attention of the Inquisition, because in the tense political and theological environment of the Thirty Years War and the Counter Reformation, a "mere mathematicus" taking it upon himself to interpret the Bible was a no go. Galileo managed to entangle his science with theology at exactly the point where the Papacy was under pressure to be more vigilant about things like laymen deciding they could interpret scripture. If he hadn't done that, it is very likely he would have been left to his strangely marginal ideas, much as Kepler and many others at the time were.

    Had it's behavior been so I think it fair and accurate to conclude that it would have had science on it's side. And I don't think I'm guilty of anachronising here.
    Its "behaviour" is beside the point. The simple fact is that in 1616 when the whole Galileo Affair kicked off, the overwhelming consensus of astronomers was that Copernicanism simply did not work as a physical model of the cosmos for a range of purely scientific reasons. As a result, in the period between 1514 and 1616 we can find just 13 writers of any kind, most of whom were not astronomers, who accepted Copernicanism as a physical system. Galileo was championing a fringe theory held by almost no-one, while the Church was working from the massive consensus of the current thinkers in astronomy of the day. The Church had science on its side. This is why the 1632 ruling against Galileo famously says his ideas are "foolish and absurd in philosophy; and formally heretical". "Philosophy" here means "natural philosophy", specifically astronomy. They found him to be scientifically wrong and, as a consequence of that, in contravention of standard interpretations of scripture.

    All that aside, Cheerful Charlie went far further than claiming the Church "did not welcome dissent, new ideas and free inquiry". He clearly made a series of historically erroneous statements like "The RCC was not doing careful science here, it was doing ancient and wrong dogma". That's garbage. The Inquisitors were not scientifically illiterate idiots - they were among the most learned men of the day and Bellarmine had taught natural philosophy at the University of Leuven before coming back to Rome. They were well aware of the consensus of astronomers and received a scientific assessment of Galileo's arguments for Copernicanism in light of that context, which laid in detail why almost all astronomers thought he was scientifically wrong. Cheerful Charlie completely misrepresents that scientific context and clearly does not have a detailed grasp of the relevant historical facts. It's never smart to make loud pronouncements about history if all you're doing is working from some popular conceptions and bit of Googling.

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    Veteran Member Lion IRC's Avatar
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    I'd like to see an addition.

    The Great Myths 8: "Illiterate Goat Herders"

    The myth of an illiterate Abraham - a wealthy agribusiness capitalist, living in possibly the largest city in the world at that time, and in the very same region where writing was invented. It never ceases to amaze me when bible skeptics and anti-theists fabricate myths of illiteracy in reference to people of the book.

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    Veteran Member PyramidHead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lion IRC View Post
    Abraham - a wealthy agribusiness capitalist

  9. Top | #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tim ONeill View Post
    The Church most definitely did not welcome religious dissent. On matters of what we call science, however, it did not have any problems with "new ideas and free inquiry".
    So that would make the Roman Church of the time a lot like modern day ISIS. Would you agree?

    I have further questions for discussion but wanted your take here first.

  10. Top | #30
    Contributor skepticalbip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by T.G.G. Moogly View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Tim ONeill View Post
    The Church most definitely did not welcome religious dissent. On matters of what we call science, however, it did not have any problems with "new ideas and free inquiry".
    So that would make the Roman Church of the time a lot like modern day ISIS. Would you agree?

    I have further questions for discussion but wanted your take here first.
    I think you are close to the RCC view of science at the time. They were certainly interested in science at the time but in science that supported (or at least didn't challenge) the religious view of the universe. The Jesuit order was funded by the church to further science and did contribute much to our understanding. It was science that challenged the church's official position on reality that the church quashed.

    One of the major purposes of science today is to test and possibly correct established understandings of reality.

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