Science v Scientism

Postby Axelgear on Sat Dec 09, 2006 9:58 am

Even earlier (At the latest, 600 B.C.), the Ionians were already figuring stellar distances. They had even already predicted the concept of extraterrestrial planets (And even the idea of extraterrestrial life came to mind, but they never theorized beyond the idea). I think one of the coolest experiments they came up with was for discovering the distance of Sirius (Obviously the larger one). The Astronomer held up a bronze disk with many tiny holes in it to the Sun and found which it filled, then later that night he compared which one Sirius filled, and by comparing the distance from one to the other, he guessed that Sirius is about 50,000 times as distant as the Sun, and he wasn't far off.
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Postby Kerry Skydancer on Sat Dec 09, 2006 3:21 pm

Hmm. About a factor of 10 shy with that estimate, which isn't bad at all - since Sirius is actually larger and intrinsicly brighter than Sol. Certainly within a decent ball-park guess of reality.

We lost a lot of ground when Rome collapsed, and had to relearn a lot of things the Greeks had figured out once before. And Rome hadn't tapped a lot of resources; we'll be in big trouble if we crash again. Restarting with most of the oil seeps and hematite beds gone would not be at all easy.
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Postby Axelgear on Sat Dec 09, 2006 3:44 pm

We also owe a huge lack of knowledge to Pythagoras. For as much as that man was a mathematician, he was a mystic and supported the surpression of knowledge after he found his religious beliefs were proven to be wrong (He believed the world was made of 5 perfect shapes and all things composed of numbers. When he found the square root of 2 was irrational, however, his theory about the universe broke down and he said that knowledge that may be "dangerous" should be surpressed). It's due to him that most of the Greek records of things like Ionia were kept hidden until very recently.

Yes, I have a lot of respect for the Ionians.
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Postby TMLutas on Tue Dec 12, 2006 10:53 pm

Axelgear wrote:Galileo did have what can be called observational proof, which is really the only proof we have of anything in space really. We didn't get proof the Earth was round until 1960-something (Great song, that is) when people took photos of Earth from space.

The facts are that Galileo may have been forceful (Though I have never heard of this) but he neither assaulted the church, nor defaced it, or in any way violated it besides stating his beliefs, which is a basic human right today. The Church did not remain neutral or scientifically objective, and Galileo did nothing but speak his mind. That is not a crime, and that should never be a crime.

Now, if Galileo had burned Bibles, beaten up monks, and written "Down with the Pope" on the walls of a Church, this would be another story. But he didn't. They burned his books, they threatened him with torture, and confined him to House Arrest for the rest of his life. Whether he used forceful words or not, he did nothing but exercise his right to speak, and I think the Church should recognize such a right as much as any legitimate government should.

Now, I think you proposed an elegant solution to this:

In scientific conflict, the Church should remain neutral. That suits me fine.


Galileo mocked the Pope (the whole Simplicimus thing) and taught theological error, sowing doubt among the faithful. For a Catholic, this is not acceptable. Galileo was disciplined, which he should have been, but on inappropriate grounds. The apology was given. It just hasn't been translated in english.
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Postby TMLutas on Tue Dec 12, 2006 10:56 pm

Kerry Skydancer wrote:Actually, there was a semi-proof of the heliocentric solar system available to Galileo's technology, so it can be considered proven. Mercury and Venus show phases and sizes in even a small telescope, demonstrating that those two (and -only- those two planets) circle the sun inside of Earth's distance. Either Copernicus or Brahe's solar system (Brahe had the sun and moon circling Earth, everything else circling the sun) therefore had to be correct. It was a definitive disproof of the Ptolemaic version of geocentrism.


For the Church, semi-proof should not be good enough. My understanding is that when there is more than one legitimate scientific solution (as you admit yourself) the Church simply should not step in and having Galileo trying to force it to step in was wrong. Proof is proof, almost is only good for hand grenades and horseshoes.
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Postby Axelgear on Wed Dec 13, 2006 4:22 am

TMLutas wrote:Galileo mocked the Pope (the whole Simplicimus thing) and taught theological error, sowing doubt among the faithful. For a Catholic, this is not acceptable. Galileo was disciplined, which he should have been, but on inappropriate grounds. The apology was given. It just hasn't been translated in english.


Theological error? What does that mean? Does that mean that he taught the Pope was wrong? That's not a crime; the man was right after all. As to Simplicimus, that was biting the hand that fed him more than an insult. He didn't want to present both views as equal, so he played Passive Aggressive.
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Postby TMLutas on Thu Dec 14, 2006 3:21 am

Axelgear wrote:
TMLutas wrote:Galileo mocked the Pope (the whole Simplicimus thing) and taught theological error, sowing doubt among the faithful. For a Catholic, this is not acceptable. Galileo was disciplined, which he should have been, but on inappropriate grounds. The apology was given. It just hasn't been translated in english.


Theological error? What does that mean? Does that mean that he taught the Pope was wrong? That's not a crime; the man was right after all. As to Simplicimus, that was biting the hand that fed him more than an insult. He didn't want to present both views as equal, so he played Passive Aggressive.


It is theologically wrong to insist that the Church teach your preferred scientific theory as fact enforceable through the religious court system in advance of actual proof. Remember that Galileo was charged and convicted by a religious court so Catholic theological rules are relevant here. That's what I was referring to.

I'm not sure whether an insult to the monarch quite applies to the Pope or whether it did at the time. He was a real temporal sovereign as well as a religious figure at the time but that's always been complex. And eventually the papacy did issue an apology.
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Postby Axelgear on Thu Dec 14, 2006 4:42 am

It wasn't actually an apology really. Galileo was "Forgiven for his crimes", not apologized to. Big difference. One implies he did something wrong, the other says that the Church did something wrong, and unsurprisingly, they chose the former over the latter.

And as to insisting the Church teach his observations, I STILL haven't heard any proof of this. As far as I know, and as far as any history book I have read, here's the series of events:

1. Galileo figures out his theory and publishes his first book.
2. The Church bans the book.
3. Galileo goes to the Pope who grants him the right to teach it so long as he teaches Geocentrism with equal measure.
4. Galileo disobeys the Pope and mocks Geocentrism.
5. Galileo is charged with Heresy and, under threat of torture, is demanded to retract his statements, which he does.
6. Galileo is kept under house arrest and is quite content because he's essentially pushed a ball down a hill; it was impossible to stop after it got started.

I've NEVER read anywhere he demanded that the Church teach his theory. Galileo was also angry that the Church endorsed one theory while condemning all others, so while two wrongs do not make a right, the Church was equally wrong at the time. Now, if they'd abstained from the debate and offered no or equal favour to each side, they're free of the blame here, but they didn't. They picked a side, they argued for it, and they were wrong. Galileo deserves an apology, not forgiveness.
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Postby TMLutas on Thu Dec 14, 2006 8:26 am

Axelgear - One thing that I've noticed is that the language of the Vatican is generally not quite the simple straightforward tongue that most people are used to these days. If you just pop in to read one item and go away, you might miss a great deal of meaning. I've been doing *some* reading and it's just enough to start realizing how much I'm likely missing because my own ears are not entirely trained to the style and nuance that comes out of that place. There are people who are knee deep in Vatican verbiage professionally and they generally interpret for the rest of us. Among that educated set, I haven't heard anyone hold your position that it wasn't really an apology.

I believe Galileo's first book was the 1623 tome The Assayer which was published under Church approval and not banned. Galileo's argument was wrong in this case as comets are, in fact, real objects and not simply a play of light as Galileo thought.

The 1616 letter was about Copernicanism as religious doctrine (from the above linked article):
Galileo went to Rome to defend himself against these accusations, but, in 1616, Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino personally handed Galileo an admonition enjoining him to neither advocate nor teach Copernican astronomy as religious doctrine.


And the final three words in that quote are really the sum total of the Church's legitimate beef with Galileo. His subsequent trial and squashing were about him teaching that Copernican theories were true instead of what he had been permitted, that Copernican theories were a viable scientific theory among multiple contenders and that the question had not been settled.

Given the state of the science, Galileo was wrong, he should have been convicted on those grounds, and that is why it is so difficult to calibrate the proper level of regret at the unjust personal persecution that Galileo underwent because of his abrasive personality and style.

Galileo, in case you didn't know, had prominent Church sponsors, which meant that a portion of the clothes on his back, his salary, his lodgings etc. was paid for out of Church coffers and his works were published with Church approval. This is a fairly unusual situation today but back then it was so normal as to be unremarkable and generally unremarked. The system of the time embroiled the Church in chancy matters of predicting unknown physical facts based on sketchy evidence. This is an approach that has wisely been abandoned.

So, should the Church have in fact suppressed the Assayer because Galileo was incorrect? And how were they to know that Galileo was right on planets but wrong on comets?

Galileo and his opponents played a dirty game of religious accusation and denunciation over scientific facts. It's a game that embroiled the Church wrongly in the controversy. The Church made its own mistakes in the matter but had Galileo stuck to actual science he would have survived without the judicial conviction.
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Postby Timtitan on Thu Dec 14, 2006 8:55 am

From what I understand, one of the main reason Galileo was dealt with quite "firmly" although not harshly for the period, was that the year before he published another author had published a book stating that the Sun was the center of the solar system not the earth and using this as a metaphor to suggest the removal of the office of Pope. Actual treason, they refuted this book and from what I was told the only actual result from this was that geocentrism was tied more firmly to orthadox roman catholic theology.
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Postby Axelgear on Thu Dec 14, 2006 2:52 pm

TMLutas wrote:Axelgear - One thing that I've noticed is that the language of the Vatican is generally not quite the simple straightforward tongue that most people are used to these days. If you just pop in to read one item and go away, you might miss a great deal of meaning. I've been doing *some* reading and it's just enough to start realizing how much I'm likely missing because my own ears are not entirely trained to the style and nuance that comes out of that place. There are people who are knee deep in Vatican verbiage professionally and they generally interpret for the rest of us. Among that educated set, I haven't heard anyone hold your position that it wasn't really an apology.


I'm curious on the Vatican lingo. Please, enlighten me with examples.

TMLutas wrote:I believe Galileo's first book was the 1623 tome The Assayer which was published under Church approval and not banned. Galileo's argument was wrong in this case as comets are, in fact, real objects and not simply a play of light as Galileo thought.


He was wrong in The Assayer, yes, but this is not the issue. Before then, in 1616, on the grounds that it was deemed Heresy, Galileo was banned by Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino from teaching Heliocentrism.

TMLutas wrote:The 1616 letter was about Copernicanism as religious doctrine (from the above linked article):
Galileo went to Rome to defend himself against these accusations, but, in 1616, Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino personally handed Galileo an admonition enjoining him to neither advocate nor teach Copernican astronomy as religious doctrine.


And the final three words in that quote are really the sum total of the Church's legitimate beef with Galileo. His subsequent trial and squashing were about him teaching that Copernican theories were true instead of what he had been permitted, that Copernican theories were a viable scientific theory among multiple contenders and that the question had not been settled.


It should be noted Ptolemaic Geocentrism was taught as Church Doctrine. Galileo wanted to change it to what he believed was correct, and if he was wrong in doing so, so was the Catholic Church for teaching Geocentrism as Church Doctrine.

I also suggest reading the first bit; the part about accusations. Galileo was accused of HERESY. Not a disagreement about scientific logic but HERESY because he did not believe in Geocentrism. He was not being nicely told to set aside his viewpoint and take a neutral stance, he was being ordered to change his ideas because they were an affront to the Church, an institution that, at the time, was supposed to be infallible.

And by the way, if he should have had to teach Geocentrism, should not all others have had to teach Heliocentrism too?

TMLutas wrote:Given the state of the science, Galileo was wrong, he should have been convicted on those grounds, and that is why it is so difficult to calibrate the proper level of regret at the unjust personal persecution that Galileo underwent because of his abrasive personality and style.


Galileo wasn't wrong though... He developed new advances in science that allowed him to prove his theories, which were right. Now, if he were wrong, Galileo would be a foot-note in history, but he wasn't. It's all well and good to call someone wrong when they are, but he wasn't and was charged for the crime of advocating another way.

TMLutas wrote:Galileo, in case you didn't know, had prominent Church sponsors, which meant that a portion of the clothes on his back, his salary, his lodgings etc. was paid for out of Church coffers and his works were published with Church approval. This is a fairly unusual situation today but back then it was so normal as to be unremarkable and generally unremarked. The system of the time embroiled the Church in chancy matters of predicting unknown physical facts based on sketchy evidence. This is an approach that has wisely been abandoned.

So, should the Church have in fact suppressed the Assayer because Galileo was incorrect? And how were they to know that Galileo was right on planets but wrong on comets?


And the fact people in the Church sponsored a scientist is unusual because... Galileo was a man of science, not a sheep to have the wool pulled over his eyes. He would not change the truth to fit their needs.

As to Comets, many comets disintegrate and melt when they near the sun. Their brief appearance and disintegration could be misconstrued to be much like solar flares. Galileo made an observation and was wrong, but none of it should be surpressed. Ptolemaic Geocentrism shouldn't have been surpressed either, each is equal until proven, but the Chruch didn't do this and THAT is why they were wrong.

TMLutas wrote:Galileo and his opponents played a dirty game of religious accusation and denunciation over scientific facts. It's a game that embroiled the Church wrongly in the controversy. The Church made its own mistakes in the matter but had Galileo stuck to actual science he would have survived without the judicial conviction.


Galileo played with Chess with the pieces he had, just as any scientist would've done. Galileo was abrasive and wanted change, and he saw the close-mindedness of the Church, so he used what he had to, and in the end he won because of it. Whether people like it or not, we have Galileo Galilei and his "abrasive ways" to thank for the fact that the Church could not surpress Heliocentrism.
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