Einstein on Galileo’s contribution

Some religious apologists just can’t leave Galileo alone. They are unhappy about the fact that most people accept that the Church behaved badly in sentencing Galileo for heresy. (He got house arrest for the rest of his life and bans on his books, one of which was suppressed for 200 years). So in a manner which reminds me of modern day Stalinists trying to make excuses for the Stalin Terror, or to claim it wasn’t as bad as people believe, the apologists have been busy rewriting the history of the Galileo affair.

For example, they promote a document describing Galileo’s “imprisonment for his heretical ideas of a heliocentric solar sytem” as a myth! (see On the crushing of historical fables about religion, science and culture and Mythbusting: Historical fables about Christianity and Science).

In my previous post Blaming the victim I included this quote from the the Inquisition’s sentencing of Galileo which clearlyshows it is the apologists who promote myths:

“You have rendered yourself vehemently suspect of heresy, namely of having held and believed a doctrine which is false and contrary to the Sacred and Divine Scriptures, that the Sun is the center of the world and does not move from east to west, and that the Earth moves and is not the center of the world; and that one may hold and defend as probable an opinion after it has been declared and defined contrary to Holy Scripture.”

Gobsmacked!

einstein_clerk_webSo, I have heard a few of these apologetics arguments against Galileo – but recently came across a new (to me) one that left me gobsmacked. This claims that according the Einstein’s Special Relativity Theory Galileo was wrong!

An example is this in a footnote from a 1991 article by the apologist philosopher of religion Alvin Plantinga (see “Evolution, Neutrality, and Antecedent Probability: a Reply to Van Till and McMullen”):

Consider even such an assured result as that the earth revolves around the sun and rotates on its axis. According to the usual interpretations of current relativity theory, there is no privileged frame of reference, no frame at absolute rest. But if that is true, then it isn’t even clear what it means to say that in fact, contrary to Copernicus, the earth revolves around the sun rather than vice versa. That’s true in some frames of reference, but not in others; and in principle (apart from matters of convenience, and the like) there is no more to be said for the former than for the latter.”

A local blog, Say Hello to my Little Friend, makes the same argument in the post Einstein v the Church v Galileo? which declares “Galileo was wrong.”

“This new (well, new at the time, anyway) view of physics reduces Galileo’s claim about which view is literally correct, his or the church’s, to rubble. If Einstein is correct, then Galileo was wrong to say that it is objectively true that the earth moves around the sun, and that it is objectively false that the sun moves around the earth. Which – if either – of those to claims is correct depends wholly on the observational perspective. An observer on the earth will correctly report that the sun travels around the earth (or stated differently, relative to the earth, the sun travels around it), and a sun dweller (!!!) will correctly report that the earth travels around the sun. Neither is incorrect, but if one accuses the other of being objectively mistaken while he himself is objectively correct, he is simply wrong (as was Galileo). This is not a defence of the Church’s claim, as obviously the principle applies to both views equally.”

All this changes, of course, if there is a priveleged point from which the sun-earth relationshiop is supposed to be viewed from. Should there exist such a designated “viewing platform,” the question could be settled once and for all. If, for example, it turned out that the earth is the priveleged spot from which the relationship is meant to be observed, then the church was right all along, and a hack job has been done on the Galileo trial.”

The post concludes:

“So go ahead – keep using the Galileo case to show what silly scientific conclusions theologians come to – that is, if you’re happy to push your view of physics back half a century.”

Of course, this writer’s date for the publication of Special Relativity isn’t the only thing he got wrong.

Both these writers have taken an aspect of Special Relativity that says for bodies undergoing uniform motion it is impossible for an observer the ascribe motion. Like the passenger in a train (which has constant velocity) who can observe relative motion between her train and other trains without being able to tell for certain which is moving.

There is more to Special Relativity than this, of course. But, ironically, this aspect of relativity, which was formalised by Einstein, goes back to Galileo himself. Of course, just because there is not a “priveliged spot” and we can adopt any reference frame we wish (eg. the earth or the sun) does not negate the possibility of detecting relative motion. And detecting acceleration of orbiting bodies.

In his book The Fabric of the Cosmos Brian Greene describes how incorporation of time, as spacetime, into Special Relativity “provided an absolute criterion – one that all observers, regardless of their constant relative velocities, would agree on – for deciding whether or not something is accelerating.”

Orbiting bodies like planets and moons are accelerating.

Einstein’s comments on Galileo

Anyway, enough of this negativity. I have reproduced below the Foreword, written by Einstein, to a 2001 edition of Galileo’s famous book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. This is the book suppressed by the Church for 200 years. You can see that far from declaring Galileo wrong about heliocentricity, Einstein speaks very highly of Galileo’s contributions to science.

This is an authorised translation, from German, by Sonja Bargmann.

“Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems is a mine of information for anyone interested in the cultural history of the Western world and its influence upon economic and political development.

… To begin with, the Dialogue gives an extremely lively and persuasive exposition of the then prevailing views on the structure of the cosmos in the large. The naïve picture of the earth as a flat disc, combined with obscure ideas about star-filled space and the motions of the celestial bodies, prevalent in the early Middle Ages, represented a deterioration of the much earlier conceptions of the Greeks, and in particular of Aristotle’s ideas and Ptolemy’s consistent spatial concept of the celestial bodies and their motions.

… In advocating and fighting for the Copernican theory Galileo was not only motivated by a striving to simplify the representation of the celestial motions. His aim was to substitute for a petrified and barren system of ideas the unbiased and strenuous quest for a deeper and more consistent comprehension of the physical and astronomical facts.

The form of dialogue used in his work may be partly due to Plato’s shining example; it enabled Galileo to apply his extraordinary literary talent to the sharp and vivid confrontation of opinion. To be sure, he wanted to avoid an open commitment in these controversial questions that would have delivered him to destruction by the Inquisition. Galileo had, in fact, been expressly forbidden to advocate the Copernican theory. Apart from its revolutionary factual content the Dialogue represents a down-right roguish attempt to comply with this order in appearance and yet in fact to disregard it. Unfortunately, it turned out that the Holy Inquisition was unable to appreciate adequately such subtle humor.

… It is difficult to us today to appreciate the imaginative power made manifest in the precise formulation of the concept of acceleration and in the recognition of its physical significance.

Once the conception of the center of the universe had, with good reason, been rejected, the idea of the immovable earth, and, generally, of an exceptional role of the earth, was deprived of its justification…

… Galileo takes great pains to demonstrate that the hypothesis of the rotation and revolution of the earth is not refuted by the fact that we do not observe any mechanical effects of these motions. Strictly speaking, such a demonstration was impossible because a complete theory of mechanics was lacking. I think it is just in the struggle with this problem that Galileo’s originality is demonstrated with particular force. Galileo is, of course, also concerned to show that the fixed stars are too remote for parallaxes produced by the yearly motion of the earth to be detectable with the measuring instruments of his time. This investigation also is ingenious, notwithstanding its primitiveness.

It was Galileo’s longing for a mechanical proof of the motion of the earth which misled him into formulating a wrong theory of the tides. The fascinating arguments in the last conversation would hardly have been accepted as proofs by Galileo, had his temperament not got the better of him. It is hard for me to resist the temptation to deal with this subject more fully.

The leitmotif which I recognize in Galileo’s work is the passionate fight against any kind of dogma based on authority. Only experience and careful reflection are accepted by him as criteria of truth. Nowadays it is hard for us to grasp how sinister and revolutionary such an attitude appeared at Galileo’s time, when merely to doubt the truth of opinions which had no basis but authority was considered a capital crime and punished accordingly. Actually we are by no means so far removed from such a situation even today as many of us would like to flatter ourselves; but in theory, at least, the principle of unbiased thought has won out, and most people are willing to pay lip service to this principle.

It has often been maintained that Galileo became the father of modern science by replacing the speculative, deductive method with the empirical, experimental method. I believe, however, that this interpretation would not stand close scrutiny. There is no empirical method without speculative concepts and systems; and there is no speculative thinking whose concepts do not reveal, on closer investigation, the empirical material from which they stem. To put into sharp contrast the empirical and the deductive attitude is misleading, and was entirely foreign to Galileo. Actually it was not until the nineteenth century that logical (mathematical) systems whose structures were completely independent of any empirical content had been cleanly extracted. Moreover, the experimental methods at Galileo’s disposal were so imperfect that only the boldest speculation could possibly bridge the gaps between the empirical data. (For example, there existed no means to measure times shorter than a second). The antithesis Empiricism vs. Rationalism does not appear as a controversial point in Galileo’s work. Galileo opposes the deductive methods of Aristotle and his adherents only when he considers their premises arbitrary or untenable, and he does not rebuke his opponents for the mere fact of using deductive methods. In the first dialogue, he emphasizes in several passages that according to Aristotle, too, even the most plausible deduction must be put aside if it is incompatible with empirical findings. And on the other hand, Galileo himself makes considerable use of logical deduction. His endeavors are not so much directed at “factual knowledge” as at “comprehension.” But to comprehend is essentially to draw conclusions from an already accepted logical system.”

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68 responses to “Einstein on Galileo’s contribution

  1. Hi Ken,
    I agree that Plantinga has made a mistake. Plantinga’s ‘frames of reference’ stuff is a very small footnote to a wider argument… and clearly not very well developed.

    I’m not sure why Glenn is dissing Galileo… I think he’s trying to make a theological point based on relativistic reference frames but it’s not very clear.

    This was a telling comment:

    Nick says:
    November 9, 2009 at 9:37 am

    On the contrary Bob. It seems to me that Glen has mixed up frames of references in regards to special relativity with absolute cartesian co-ordinates.

    Of course if you take as your centre point a particular arbitrary point in the solar system, then this changes your perspective with regard to the motion of the sun, planets and moons. What you find though is that regardless of he point you choose, you cannot consistently explain the motion of the objects in the solar system without a heliocentric model. Attempts to do this resulted in all sorts of strange misshapen models such as the epicycles in the Ptolemaic systems.

    Further to this, Galileo, Newton and Einstein’s explanations of gravity do not work if you do not accept a heliocentric model. This is the whole point.

    Trying to say otherwise at this point in the game, really does nothing other than expose the lack of quality of the reasoning involved.

    Having said all that there is a lot of historical background to the Galileo affair, that is usually overlooked. The thesis of ongoing conflict between religion and science is not really supported by most historians, probably because independent scientific research is a relatively modern enterprise.

    Fun Link: Galileo Galilei Proven Right

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  2. Yes – I referred to the article from Francis in this post. He is demonstratively wrong about Galileo.

    Thanks, I did see Nick’s comment and added a further one of my own. He makes a good point. The relativity Glenn was using actually is that formulated originally by Galileo himself. Which makes Glenn’s use of it rather silly.

    Glenn may have been making a theological point – but he was misrepresenting science to do it. This misrepresentation happens quite often and is a cause of the science-religion conflict.

    There may be a theological dispute going on (that doesn’t interest me). But I wish you guys would be responsible and point out to people like Glenn what they are doing when they make this sort of mistake.

    They are promoting this conflict. Whatever, your pet historians say science is often facing this sort of attack today. And much of it comes from religion.

    And from your point of view something worse – they are bringing Christianity into disrepute when they do this sort of thing.

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  3. I invite the reader to actually check my post at Say Hello to my Little Friend. What you will see is Ken Perrott engaging in absolutely staggering (and sometimes even admitted) dishonesty and misrepresentation.

    A genuine disgrace, Ken. Your reputation as a fan of science is now laughable.

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  4. Oh, and by the way – “a theological point”?

    Seriously, what are you smoking?

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  5. Glenn, as always I welcome anything you can say specifically about the content of my post. If you have something sensible to say – please get stuck in.

    Sent from my iPod

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  6. Ken, how come your demand is that I interact with what you say, yet in the blog that you klink to, you deem it OK, to just make up things and be as dishonest as possible. I must protest, that hardly seems fair, Ken! Why can’t I just come along and say untrue things instead? See, that’s the problem whebn you advertise yourswlf as someone who promotes general trolling and lying. You give the impression that you just don’t care what people say online. So why, prey tell, should I treat you any differently?

    What’s more, surely pointing out that you’re deviously dishonest in your representation of me is quite relevant, given your initial blog post.

    And on top of that, care to explain what theological point anyone was making? Or is that just something else pulled out of thin air (by someone else, but which you appear to endorse).

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  7. Glenn, as I pointed out I don’t know if you were making a theological point – and I obviously am not interested. My concerns were purely with your scientific claims, whatever their motive, and my comments and this post were simply aimed at pointing out the mistake.

    I hope I have clarified the science involved. If readers are still confused please say so and I will try to clarify further. Sent from my iPod

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  8. Hi Glenn,
    I found your argument hard to follow. I still don’t understand why you want to ‘prove’ Galileo was wrong. I thought perhaps there was some other (theological) point you wanted to make about points of view or something; your blog is theological in tone after all.

    Human understanding of the cosmos has developed over time, sometimes building on previous knowledge, sometimes replacing it altogether. Archimedes’ geocentrism was superseded by the heliocentrism of Kepler, Copernicus and Galileo. Newton developed the understanding of planetary motion and gravitation with his ellipses.. this did not contradict Galileo, it refined the argument. Some planetary motion still was observed not to follow Newton exactly, and was not resolved until Einstein came along and extended Newtonian gravity to account for time dilation and related effects. This still does not contradict Galileo. And now physicists like Lawrence Krauss and CERN looking into Dark Matter because galactic rotation apparently does not obey Einstein either! None of this contradicts heliocentrism. Just because one model is more detailed than a previous one doesn’t mean the original modeller was proven “false”, Newtonian physics is still entirely adequate for 99.99% of all practical engineering applications.

    Also, I have found Ken to be generally reasonable and patient, but quite averse to non-science arguments.

    There is an ongoing debate about the boundaries of faith v. science, but I think both enterprises share the objective of the furtherance of human knowledge, understanding, and pursuit of truth. I’ve noticed within these debates that both sides tend to slightly misunderstand each other but I don’t think it’s deliberate. Once accusations of dishonesty start flying around the facts of the argument become subsumed in a morass of rhetoric.

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  9. Afterthought.. a couple of (made-up) definitions
    Strong heliocentrism = The Sun is the ‘centre’ of the universe
    Weak heliocentrism = The Earth orbits the Sun

    Perhaps this is the point of misunderstanding. I was arguing in favour of weak heliocentrism. Glenn was presumably arguing against strong heliocentrism. So maybe we need to clarify our terms before embarking on accusations of distortion, dishonesty etc.

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  10. Regards Glenn’s first quotation of Galileo.

    The author he quotes this letter from does not conclude of this letter that Galileo was saying that he clearly thought that the view held by those clergy who opposed him (namely that the sun travels around the earth) was literally false, and that his view (that the earth travels around the sun) was literally true as Glenn wrote, that: It’s main purpose was to set forth clearly Galileo’s view of the impropriety of mixing religion and science. (ibid p223)

    Glenn’s entitled to his own interpretation, but having cited the author, then summarised he should have stated that this conclusions where different to the authors (in fact his interpretation makes the letter to be about something else entirely).

    I’d suggest people read for themselves in Google books: http://tinyurl.com/yc4fj2v

    (You’ll need to back up a page to see the introductory passage by the author.)

    Glenn also seems to base his physics argument incorrectly. To the best of my understanding, Galileo established the basic principle of relatively, upon which the modern theories rest, or extend, not replace. The modern work extends physics into speeds and distances that could not have been accurately measurable in Galileo’s time (never mind be tested then).

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  11. Regards dishonesty, this is the same Glenn who blatantly misrepresented me in the introduction of a blog article, yet after my repeated (polite) requests for him to correct his misrepresenting what I had said, simply wouldn’t.

    With that in mind I find it deeply ironic to see him talking about others having “fixed” views. ‘Nuff said.

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  12. Oh, so Glenn’s post isn’t a joke! It’s serious. Oh. That changes the great amusement I was enjoying.

    The relative aspect of what turns around what is the old squirrel around the tree puzzle, with one glaring omission: Glenn seems to forget that the original disagreement was whether from a fixed perspective the helio- or geo-centrism was probably true. The relativity aspect understood today with swirling galaxies that might allow for the sun going around the Earth (in this relative or perhaps unfixed perspective) in no way, shape, or fashion, translates into a stationary Earth as the center of the universe, which was the point of the original disagreement.

    If one allows for the perspective of the sun to ‘go around’ the Earth, then this same sense requires neither to be the ‘center’. This omission is glaringly obvious in Glenn’s argument to establish that Galileo was ‘wrong’, but perhaps less obvious is the problem with exacting language.

    The phrase ‘go around’ means something, and it is relative to only the two things in motion plus one other fixed perspective. For the sun to ‘go around’ the Earth as was under examination in Galileo’s time requires one other fixed perspective; Galileo simply choose a distant star and the heliocentric system was then verifiable in this sense by explanatory observation. In this sense, he was not wrong then, and he is not today, whereas in this same sense – the one shared by the Church at the same time as Galileo – was wrong with the geocentric model as verified by explanatory observation. In the same sense (assuming Glenn wants to compare apples to apples) the Church was wrong then, and it would remain wrong today if it had not changed its position on the matter.

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  13. Hey… ken, interesting post. I think galileo’s work was great in his galileon epoch. His laws are still applicable in most of primary physics. Well thoughts may be different. Can we exchange link, ken? I’ve added yours. My blog is here.

    http://bruceleeeowe.wordpress.com/2009/11/01/before-the-big-bang/

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  14. One of Glen’s supporters at his blog, Shawn, demonstrates the sort of “theological” thinking that is behind some of the current attacks on Galileo.

    He says:
    “Much of modernist “science” has little to do with evidenceand often a great deal to do with ignoring it. It is a mass of theories piled on assumptions piled upon more assumptions piled on yet more assumptions. The assumptions themselves arise both from the darkened minds of the unregenerate children of Satan and are based on lies, the false worldviews of secularism and naturalism.”

    So take that – you “unregenerate children of Satan”. You are just lying.

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  15. Unregenerate? I had to look that up and it’s a really good word to add to my vocabulary. Thanks, Shawn; it’s not very often I learn something new and useful from a theist. Go figure.

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  16. Ken, that’s not too uncommon amongst a certain segment of the Christian community. To paraphrase Augustine: how embarrassing :(

    Shawn’s probably just listened to this horrible programme on radio Rhema. The recent broadcast (Sun Nov 8) asserted an inerrant “literal” reading of the Bible, a young earth, and evolution is an evil conspiracy to deceive people and take them to hell.

    I DENY THE ABOVE ENTIRELY. ICR and their litany of lies in “Scripture Science and Salvation” is a blight on the Christian community.

    Also, did you notice that on his blog Glenn has removed all links back to this thread? Not my idea of promoting discussion…

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  17. Correction: broadcast was Nov “08” not “smiley face”

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  18. Yes, I wonder how many of these sort of people are aware of Augustine’s comments? Perhaps they should be more widely promulgated.

    This is what surprises me about Glenn’s current arguments. Very few people will agree with him. He has made a mistake and the sensible thing is to acknowledge that. I can appreciate his ego has got in the way.

    But I would have thought he would appreciate that taking a public stand like this reflects badly on all Christians.

    Sent from my iPod

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  19. I DENY THE ABOVE ENTIRELY. ICR and their litany of lies in “Scripture Science and Salvation” is a blight on the Christian community.

    I could not have said it better myself.

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  20. Also, did you notice that on his blog Glenn has removed all links back to this thread? Not my idea of promoting discussion…

    Blog jealousy probably. Either that, or he’s scared of his readers reading other points of view. (Religious literalists often seem to have the latter. Then again, being literalists, they only allow themselves one, fixed, interpretation!)

    He has made a mistake and the sensible thing is to acknowledge that. I can appreciate his ego has got in the way.

    I wonder. Seems to me that he frequently misrepresents arguments to suit himself. So, I’m not sure they’re “mistakes” as such, but examples of him wanting to create his own version of things.

    (His post referring to me is a fine example, for that matter.)

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  21. John A. Davison

    Galileo will always be remembered as the father of experimental science, but he got off lightly since he openly challenged church doctrine without having proved his thesis. He also had some goofy ideas about the tides, believing they were caused by the rotarion of the earth. Even the Jesuits knew that was crazy. He also treated Kepler with contempt. In short he had a streak of egomania not uncommon in great minds. All in all, he was a great scientist. Without Galileo and Kepler, Newton would have been helpless and he admitted as much.

    http://www.jadavison.wordpress.com

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  22. Glenn has closed the comments over his blog now. Maybe a good thing, as that was probably just a waste of time. Hopefully that effort was not completely wasted on the readers though, but I won’t hold my breath.

    He doesn’t say it out front, but I think you can see exactly the effect that Glenn is after in Bob’s last comment on that thread. It’s the same old “science changes, so it is not fact” bollocks.

    I think that you can also see this, in the long discussion on knowledge on another thread on his blog. As far as I can see, he rejects the role of evidence in the justification of knowledge (see his problems with the infinite regression. i.e What justifies the justifier?). This leaves us with no tools to compare differing hypotheses, so perhaps its no wonder he conflates heliocentric and geocentric models of the solar system. Then again, maybe he does not believe that, and is instead conflating these models to purposely mislead/confuse the faithful. Maybe both.

    He seems to consider himself some sort of sophisticated intellectual, who’s ideas are so stunning in their correctness and complexity that nobody else can understand them. Given this attitude, perhaps he would be better off staying in the turgid pools of philosophy where evidence has no role and he can obfuscate to his hearts content.

    @Mr Davidson. Thats an interesting comment from you:
    but he got off lightly since he openly challenged church doctrine without having proved his thesis.

    House arrest for the rest of his life for supporting a Copernican model of the solar system. Some of his books banned for 200 years. Perhaps he should have been burnt on the stake like some of the other heretics eh?

    Looks like you are playing the same game here, conflating Galileo making an argument based on evidence, to the church, trying to control peoples thinking with no respect or regard to evidence.

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  23. Oops, missed a close italics tag after by quote. Hopefully Ken will correct that for me if I ask nicely.

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  24. Isn’t the banning of Galileo’s work a bit like the ban ID from schools? Not as harsh but they both used authority to suppress knowledge … in other words … dogma based on authority

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  25. oh shit, out come the wingnuts.

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  26. John A. Davison

    If Galileo’s books had been banned for two hundred years, how was Newton able to read them? Newton was born the year Galileo died. As for the Roman Church and its role in the furthering of science, I recommend “How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization” by Thomas E. Woods Jr.

    It is the Protestants that have been the real enemies of science with their Bible banging Fundamentalism. Where is the Protestant counterpart to the Pontifical Academy of Science?

    Besides I have no truck with atheism. Those like Richard Dawkins who cannot recognize a planned universe are doomed to intellectual oblivion.

    Adios

    http://www.jadavison.wordpress.com

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  27. Isn’t the banning of Galileo’s work a bit like the ban ID from schools?

    Nope. Not even a little bit.

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  28. ahem….
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_affair#Modern_Church_views

    It also looks like some members of the catholic church are still at it.

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  29. Everybody is probably well and truly sick of this subject by now, but for those still interested, I just dug up some interesting Wikipedia articles on this.

    The first is on the Tychonic system. Perhaps this is what Glenn was trying to refer to, if so, it would have been nice if he mentioned it by name, or described how it works.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tychonic_system

    The second relates to Geocentricism as a belief system, and surprise surprise, there seems to be a rich history of this in christian circles , particularly in the last 100 or so years in the USA.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_geocentrism

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  30. The Tychonic system is actually quite interesting, as it seems to be a tweak to the Copernican to keep the earth technically unmoving at the centre of the universe. This idea behind this is that they have all the known planets orbiting the sun as normal, but then then sun (and its orbiting planets) orbiting the earth. The Wikipedia article states that this calculates out as geometrically equivalent to the Copernican model.

    As far as I can see, this essentially uses the principle that I alluded to on Glenns blog, where if you consider any two objects orbiting each other, then you could consider either to be the centre of the centre without changing the relative motions. The problem comes when you add the other planets in, and if you have the earth at the centre, then they are making crazy movements and clearly don’t orbit the earth. In the case of the Tychonic system, this is solved by having the other planets orbit the sun as per normal.

    Without doing I lot of thinking about this, I am not sure whether or not to trust the statement that they are geometrically equivalent.

    However, even without that thinking, I would still assert that the Copernican model is preferable on the basis, that if all the other planets are demonstrably orbiting the sun, this would tend to add weight that the earth is also orbiting the sun, unless of course there was some contrary evidence for the earth being a special case. In other words, the copernican model is still logically the more correct, or preferred hypothesis.

    I think also, that subsequent discoveries support my analysis of this, as the fact that all the planets are orbiting the sun leads to the implication of mass with regards to gravity. The fact that the sun is around 98% of the entire mass of the solar system clearly makes it the prime mover gravitationally wise. An earth centric mode, even a Tychonic one, would clearly hinder this analysis.

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  31. I meant to ask a question at the end of the last post there. I am interested in what Ken, or others with a science background think about what I have stated there with weighing of the hypotheses. I would imagine that this sort of comparison would be going on all the time in science. Is that so?

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  32. John,

    If Galileo’s books had been banned for two hundred years, how was Newton able to read them?

    Firstly, Ken didn’t say his works were “banned for two hundred years”. He wrote “He got house arrest for the rest of his life and bans on his books, one of which was suppressed for 200 years”.

    His work was passed around on a sort of academic “underground”, as is well-known. Also well known is that the formal bans were lifted in piecewise fashion well before 200 years; the works did remain suppressed/censored for longer than they were outright banned, as Ken indicated.

    Personally, I would have thought it would behoove you to do a little research of your own. I’m constantly amazed that otherwise intelligent religious people will make claims without the slightest effort to check facts. Material explaining these things are widely available after all…

    e.g.

    The Inquisition’s ban on reprinting Galileo’s works was lifted in 1718 when permission was granted to publish an edition of his works (excluding the condemned Dialogue) in Florence.[104] In 1741 Pope Benedict XIV authorized the publication of an edition of Galileo’s complete scientific works[105] which included a mildly censored version of the Dialogue.[106] In 1758 the general prohibition against works advocating heliocentrism was removed from the Index of prohibited books, although the specific ban on uncensored versions of the Dialogue and Copernicus’s De Revolutionibus remained.[107] All traces of official opposition to heliocentrism by the Church disappeared in 1835 when these works were finally dropped from the Index.[108]

    “How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization”

    I would think most people would point to the Roman Empire or earlier civilisations ;-) After all, the Catholics leaned on what these people set up.

    It is the Protestants that have been the real enemies of science with their Bible banging Fundamentalism.

    This sounds revisionist to me. In any event you appear to be mixing present day and historic stances, which is illogical argument. The “Bible banging Fundamentalism” is a relatively recent invention. If you talking about the past, you need to look at what was true in the past. If you look at the past, the Catholic Church—like many other religions, it’s not alone in this—opposed various scientific positions.

    Those like Richard Dawkins who cannot recognize a planned universe are doomed to intellectual oblivion.

    A far stronger claim would be “Those who cannot recognise evidence are doomed to intellectual oblivion.”

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  33. “Glenn has closed the comments over his blog now. Maybe a good thing, as that was probably just a waste of time.”

    As I explained, that was because Ken was literally making up stories about what astronomy Fred Hoyle believed, when he admitted to never ever having read the work in question.

    As I explained at the the time, I was going to write a nother blog entry where I made the material from Hoyle available. In a way I was assisting Ken, stopping him from looking too foolish. I have now added that post, along with the evidence from Hoyle that Ken was guessing about. Ken was simply wrong.

    Regarding removing the links (but leaving the text intact, mind you), a quick scour around the places Ken frequents has shown me how Ken uses other peoples’ comments section as a way of advertising his blog and generating traffic.

    Most blogs (including mine) enable comment authors to add a URL in the header of their comment, so that people can click on their name and be linked back to their blog. It is therefore sufficient to say “At my site I have written on…” Naturally, if someone requests a link, by all means go ahead provide one, but using someone else’s rsources as your own billboard is, in my view, bad form – whether your site is Christian, atheistic or something else.

    Like

  34. Glenn, it’s very noticeable that you are big on accusations, laying guilt, and small on evidence. Well actually no evidence – just piss and wind.

    While you leave the the post Einstein v the Church v Galileo? up any one interested can go to it and see for themselves who uses evidence, who uses anger, who uses wild assertions They can make up their own mind.

    They can also judge for themselves the quality of the arguments made by the participants. They can see who understands the science of this issue and who doesn’t.

    If anyone wants to continue that specific discussion, critique or support any of the arguments made, they are welcome to contribute here now that Glenn has closed off discussion on that post.

    I would be very interested to find out if there is anyone besides Bob and Glenn who actually suggest Galileo was wrong to claim that the planets orbit the sun.

    Regarding links and “advertising a blog.” Glenn you are right that normally people can link back through the name. However, where specific information or arguments are involved I often put links to a specific post. I think most people do this. It is, after all, only courtesy to the reader (why leave them the job of searching, probably unsuccessfully) and a way of making available the data/arguments without cluttering up a specific comment.

    Your will also notice that I have no trouble providing links to other’s arguments – and in fact provided links to your blog in this post. I also thinks that this is also a matter of courtesy – both to the reader and to the writer of the original post.

    Possibly your worry about people following up my links is due to your own demonisation of me. You don’t want to do anything which may give me a platform. Personally I think that attitude is childish. I believe all ideas should be open to scrutiny – and making comments available across different blogs is a great way of doing that. (Actually making them available via social networks like Twitter is also great – I am finding out).

    I have no trouble commenting on other people’s blogs, or accepting their comments on mine. I do have a policy of not doing so after comments of mine are removed or banned – which has happened with a few Christian and Creationist blogs here and in the US. If the issue is important enough it can always be the subject of a post here, anyway. Why bother wasting time commenting when one’s work may be wasted.

    And I really only delete obvious spam from my blog. I never bother deleting links – I think readers can make up their own mind about the motives of commenters and possible values of links.

    So, Glenn, try to overcome your demonisation of me. I am not as horrible as you seem to think. I enjoy a good discussion, am prepared to admit mistakes when I make them, and I think people should be attacking ideas and beliefs – not other people.

    They should play the ball, rather than the man (or woman).

    Like

  35. Nick, I am not completely familiar with all the details of the transition fropm Ptolemaic, to Copernican and then to modern views of the solar system and the earth. Hoyle’s book could provide this detail, although I would also be interested in reading more of the philosopohical aspects of the transitions than I think Hoyle would provide.

    But clearly there were intermediate steps. And that is quite normal in science. People adjust theories to fit new evidence as it comes in, and they may do this by tweaking rather than making the big leaps required in the end.

    However, evidence must play a big part. It is not just a sort of mechanically balancing the options, deciding which is more logical or which works better. behind it all there is the idea of an objectively existing world and we are trying to mirror that with our theories. To find out how things are, rather than just provide an instrumental model.

    I think behind the Galileo affair there is an attitude that only the church or scripture could decide how things really are underneath and what scientists (or natural philosophers) did was provide instrumental models – for navigation use, etc.). What really pissed the church off was the idea that humanity could discover underlying truths through evidence/logic rather than scripture. So the Galileo affair was a very necessary stage in the breaking away of science from religion/philosophy. If this departure hadn’t occurred we wouldn’t have modern science.

    Essentially the Wedge people and similar proponents of theistic science wish to return to the pre-Galilean relationship.

    Like

  36. “If anyone wants to continue that specific discussion, critique or support any of the arguments made, they are welcome to contribute here now that Glenn has closed off discussion on that post.”

    Ken, I hand it to you, you really do use every opportunity to use other people’s sites as a way of boosting yours. I mean never mind that I have posted part two and posted the evidence from Hoyle, no, just fiscuss it here instead.

    As you wish. But as for “demonisation,” I did neither mroe nor less than call errors errors and misrepresentations misrepresentations. These are factual matters, and if you think the facts demonise you, then don’t blame me. It’s certainly not a matter of me encouraging people to play the man and not the ball.

    Like

  37. Glenn – one can’t do anything right with you , can one.

    If you have posted “part two” then provide us with a link. That is the simplest way for visitors here to get to it. And the most polite way of handling it.

    As for the rest of your comments – I will let the facts speak for themselves. They are all there.

    Mind you – do you really think anyone else is interested in this sort of whining.

    PS – how about you commenting on this post here – what is your take on Einsteins comments in the foreword?

    Like

  38. Ken – you were whining about my treatment of you, and then you complain about me whining?

    Sure, I’ll post the link if you like (although you know where my blog is): Galileo Part 2: yes folks, he was wrong.

    Since you asked me to comment – looking at Einstein’s comment on Galileo, it is clear that he admired him, but those comments really offer no insight on the issue that I raised (nor, to be fair to Enstein, were they meant to).

    Like

  39. Thanks for the link, Glenn.

    Like

  40. Just my take on a few things, so that Glenn might see them from others’ point of view:

    As I explained, that was because Ken was literally making up stories about what astronomy Fred Hoyle believed, when he admitted to never ever having read the work in question.

    Glenn, could I suggest you do your own homework, rather than demand that others do it for you?

    e.g. http://tinyurl.com/yl2uvt2

    I’d suggest people make better use of google books, too ;-)

    I think the two footnotes (in particular the latter) are worth noting, also the larger argument they come from.

    As I explained at the the time, I was going to write a nother blog entry where I made the material from Hoyle available. In a way I was assisting Ken, stopping him from looking too foolish. I have now added that post, along with the evidence from Hoyle that Ken was guessing about. Ken was simply wrong.

    Hmm. Straw man argument rather substantiating anything. Sounds more like you suiting yourself to me; why not just say that? *Moves along*

    Regarding removing the links (but leaving the text intact, mind you), a quick scour around the places Ken frequents has shown me how Ken uses other peoples’ comments section as a way of advertising his blog and generating traffic.

    Silly excuse. Shows you’re prepared to make things suit yourself, as you did when you misrepresented me. Consistent with my previous comments above, too.

    Most blogs (including mine) enable comment authors to add a URL in the header of their comment, so that people can click on their name and be linked back to their blog. It is therefore sufficient to say “At my site I have written on…” Naturally, if someone requests a link, by all means go ahead provide one, but using someone else’s rsources as your own billboard is, in my view, bad form – whether your site is Christian, atheistic or something else.

    So? I’ve seen plenty of comments where people refer to specific posts on their blog in the text of the comment if it’s relevant. It’s quicker to do and easier on readers not familiar with the options, too. This seems neither here nor there, just trying to find something squabble about.

    although you know where my blog is

    So? Ken’s point was about other readers here. You don’t believe in psychic powers also?! ;-)

    Like

  41. I’ve had a quick look at the new post and the key claim is a nutty as it comes, so I’m going to put my time elsewhere. I’ll quote this, though (source: http://veritas-catholic.blogspot.com/2005/08/geocentricity-101-part-i.html):

    Tommaso Sciortino said…

    You would do well to learn about inertial reference frames and why people prefer non-inertial reference frames – like the one where the earth revolves around a point very near the sun – as opposed to inertial ones like the one where the sun goes around the earth. The scientific relativism involved in equating all reference frames implies an amount of willful ignorance which goes beyond hubris.

    As a catholic I find it disturbing that someone would feel the need to interpret the bible and church teachings in such a conservative way as to go searching for centuries old papal edicts when the brain god gave us will do. It strikes me as nothing less than a return to the very Talmudic law that Jesus came to earth to free us of. Let us hope that your quest to remain ignorant of the beauty of creation does not tempt others to give up trying to help their fellow men through science, medicine and learning.

    Like

  42. Yes, Heraclides, I had also picked up the quote from that book too (“The challenge of creation: Judaism’s encounter with science, cosmology, and Evolution” by Rabbi Natan Slifkin).

    Unfortunately, Glenn’s homework is of the quote mining type. He is desperately looking for anything he can find which sounds like it supports his position (that Galielo was wrong). He is trying to stretch the idea that there is no privileged position in space and that motion is relative to imply that we cannot tell the difference between the sun orbiting the earth and the planets orbiting the sun.

    Having got stuck with that position he is busy interpreting anything he can find to support it.

    Interesting example of the difference between the scientific and religious approaches, I would say.

    Like

  43. Ken,

    My views too. He’s trying to force everything to try and fit things to what he wants to be true.

    BTW, I don’t agree with the religious sentiments expressed in the second paragraph of what I quoted of course, I though that they might reach Glenn more than what I could say.

    Like

  44. “Interesting example of the difference between the scientific and religious approaches, I would say.”

    This is mere mantra. I have absolutely no specific religious reason to even take a stance on the issue. It’s an ad hominem attempt to poison the well against me, thus distracting fromt he issues in discussion, but reasonable people are not persuaded by such things.

    Like

  45. “Glenn, could I suggest you do your own homework, rather than demand that others do it for you?”

    What demand did I make? In fact I have even reproduced the chapter in question so that everyone can read it.

    More misrepresentation. I think it orbits this blog. BTW, your ongoing falsehood about me misrperesenting you is a bit sad. I clearly showed that I fairly represented you, and now you are going around lying about it.

    The ridiculously silly tactics I am seeing here give me no reason at all to give Ken or you the time of day. It’s just rhetorical filler with no serious thought behind it.

    Like

  46. I am referring here to the approach, specifically the attitude towards evidence.

    Regarding motive, it’s been very noticable lately that many apologetics sources are trying to explain away the Galileo affair by misrepresentation of the events or the science involved.

    This is often disingenuous because they will argue that there is not a basic science-religion conflict and then set about feeding the conflict with their misrepresentations.

    I think such attempts should be challenged and exposed when they occur.

    Sent from my iPod

    Like

  47. What demand did I make?

    Read the link I provided. I’m telling you that you haven’t read all sides (as you should if you’re going to present something as “true”).

    BTW, your ongoing falsehood about me misrperesenting you is a bit sad.

    You certainly misrepresented me. I have clarified this many times. Let me try one more time, just to be boring.

    I stated that I wrote in the sense of the religious meaning at that time. That is a fact, you cannot revise that. It happened.

    You later, in your blog, kept on trying to make out that I “must” had written in a philosophical sense, when I had already told you I didn’t. Again, a fact, you cannot revise that.

    I repeatedly asked you to let me speak for myself and not put false words in my mouth, but you persisted. Again, a fact, you cannot revise that.

    Those are the facts. If you want to ignore that you have repeatedly been explained this, then I would suggest, as I believe I did at the time, that you are trying far, far too hard to make out what you what to be true to self-justify your own words/actions and dismiss what doesn’t suit you.

    I would further suggest that this dismissal of what doesn’t suit you is an over-riding pattern in much of what you write, and that it would do you well to look into it and ask yourself why you are doing it.

    I clearly showed that I fairly represented you, and now you are going around lying about it.

    You cannot “show” something by putting words in others’ mouths, or loading meaning onto their words that they have already pointed out to you that they were not presenting.

    If someone write a statements with one intended meaning and you read it in another, well, that happens. But you cannot make out the other person to have written in your meaning to suit yourself.

    My reading of your reply is that you are content to distort other people dishonestly to whatever it takes to have your way. You seem completely unable to accept that others might rather simply have written with another meaning, just as was repeatedly explained to you.

    Small tip: generally when people explain things like that, they’re being honest and mean it.

    Like

  48. Heraclides, I am so satisfied with my previous expalanations that I feel no need to go through some sort of re-trial. I saw already how you tried to get out of a sticky situation, perhaps regretting what you originally said. I was not the only one to catch what went on.

    Like

  49. “This is often disingenuous because they will argue that there is not a basic science-religion conflict and then set about feeding the conflict with their misrepresentations.”

    Well there was certainly a church-Galileo conflict, I wouldn’t dispute that. Whether that means sicence is at odds with religion is, obviously, not the same question. The church was in agreement, for example, witht he majority of other scientists, as you know. I think the church was just going the wrong away about defending the majority belief of scientists. They combatted a view politically instead of, well, fairly.

    Now Ken, you would surely know that this happens today between scientific viewpoints. There are often politics involved between competing perspectives. This hardly means that science is anti-science. That the church was involved in something similar likewise doesn’t mean that religion is anti-science.

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  51. I saw already how you tried to get out of a sticky situation, perhaps regretting what you originally said. I was not the only one to catch what went on.

    Wow. Projection much?

    Like

  52. Wow. Projection much?

    I’ll say :-)

    That someone would take a very straight-forward explanation and twists it to suit their wants says a lot about them.

    But then again, that seems to be a persistent pattern of behaviour for Glenn. It’s not as if he’s doing it just to me, more like he’s doing it with everything and everyone that he “needs” to “reword” to save up his beliefs from coming crashing down.

    I have to admit after all these years of seeing religious people make this same basic error, it still amazes me the extent that they’ll commit the same sin again and again. I find it hugely ironic as I don’t know a mainstream religion that doesn’t consider deceit (or more ordinarily lying) a sin, but I suppose it comes back to the thing that anything is justified to them if it supports their “cause”.

    Like

  53. Glenn, this comment: “The church was in agreement, for example, with he majority of other scientists, as you know. I think the church was just going the wrong away about defending the majority belief of scientists. They combated a view politically instead of, well, fairly.” - covers up the reality, doesn’t it?

    The times were such that science was just beginning to reclaim its rightful place and it’s evidence based method. It was necessary to overcome the church’s insistence that Scripture was the only legitimate source of “truth.” The few “scientists” or natural philosophers were under the thumb of the Church. The church determined the “majority belief.” Even Galileo who was early on a supporter of Copernican ideas declared that he had stopped believing them – after he was told he had to stop believing them by the church. To go on believing the ideas was declared a heresy and we know what happened to heretics.

    Bruno was burned at the stake because he wouldn’t renounce his heretical ideas.

    So – it is the worst of excuse-making to claim that the Church was “defending the maljority of scientists.” This is like excusing the imprisonment and murder of Vavilov by saying the Party and Stalin were only defending the “majority of scientists” who supported Lysenko! What bloody choice did Soviet scientists have in that conflict – and what choice did natural philosophers under the thumb of the Church have in Galileo’s time. Even after Galileo effectively lied to deny the heretical idea of Copernicus he was still persecuted.

    The Galileo affair marks a very important time when science was attempting to escape from the clutches of superstition and mysticimns and return to an evidence-based approach to investigating reality. Of course there was a science-religion conflict.

    Today we have some religious groups attempting to return science to the theocracy of pre-Galilean times. People like those behind the Wedge Strategy and their local supporters. They are creating this current science-religion conflict.

    That said, I happily note that there are many Christians, probably the majority in New Zealand, who don’t support the wedge people and their conflict with science.

    Like

  54. Heraclides – yes, I have noticed the same things and it always amazes me that people who see lying as a sin can be so prone to distorting the truth.

    personally I think it comes back to the fact that the religious approach to knowledge is directly opposite to the scientific one. We rely on evidence and validate ideas against reality. They rely on a preconceived faith and validate reality against that. This leads to “cherry-picking”, quote mining, etc.

    Mind you – I think this tends to be natural. We are a rationalising rather than a rational species. We have evolved to react intuitively to things – and then invent stories. Science is in some ways an natural process which has been necessary to discover the real objective reality underlying our perceptions. We need to work at it.

    I guess the rationalising and deceit becomes more necessary and prevalent when people have a strong ideological commitment to a belief.

    Like

  55. “So – it is the worst of excuse-making to claim that the Church was “defending the maljority of scientists.” ”

    Ken, you just quoted me, using quote marks, but doctored my quote. I read very little of your work, so I can only wonder whether that’s a common practice for you or not. I suspect it might be, based on the incredible prevalanece of misrepresentation I see in your comments, as I have so often pointed out to you over the last couple of weeks. Absolutely amazing.

    I did nopt say that the church was defneding any scientists. I said that they were defending the VIEW that was, in fact, held by the majority of scientists.

    My claim was true and you know it. I’m not interested in your continual spin and distortion.

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  56. And I think I pointed out (not on my PC at the moment so I can’t check) that the church determined what the view of “scientists” or natural philosophers sould be. They were instructed not to believe in the Copernican system or be charged with heresy. Look at what happened to Bruno because he refused to recant on his heresy. And Galileo was forced to state that he no longer believed in it. Actually I would call this theistic terrorism similar to the Stalin Terror.

    Sent from my iPod

    Like

  57. Very funny. I tried a new tactic over at Glen’s blog to get the message across. Glenn is obviously not a fan of satire however, he deleted my posts.

    I hope Ken doesn’t mind if I post them here, I thought they were quite good.

    Like

  58. Assuming that Glenn has embarked on a series of posts outlining the flaws of the past heroes of science, lets anticipate one of his future headlines.

    “Euclid was wrong” trumpets Glenn’s headline. “Euclid had no right to be promulgating his ridiculous theories of parallel lines and angles of triangles adding to 180 degrees. Einstein’s theories of general relativity show that the actual geometry of space-time is dynamic, curving around the distribution of mass in the universe”.

    I could imagine some sort of near future alternative reality.

    Bob, the education spokesman for the Factualists party, marked the centenary of the publication of Einstein’s theory of general relativity today by calling for the removal of Euclidian geometry from science curriculums. “I think it is scandalous, that today, 100 years after Einstein gave us general relativity, our children are still being taught as facts, such obvious untruths as that tripe spouted by Euclid” stated Bob in an address to the Factualist party conference in Christchurch.

    Buoyed by their success last year in expunging Galileo from science textbooks, the factualists are now setting their sights on other targets. “There is no question that Euclid must go” said Bob, “what we don’t know yet, is how deep the rot goes. We have a team hard at work, analysing the textbooks, and you would be amazed at the breadth of the deception we are finding”.

    When interviewed today, the leader of the factualists, The Most Reverend philosopher general Glenn supported the comments from Bob, and expressed a desire to see, in his words, “a root and branch review of the entire school curriculum”. Recent opinion polls seem to support Glenn’s views. Protests from the scientific community that “all knowledge is provisional” and that they produce “approximate models of reality” are falling on deaf ears. “I want to know why they are receiving tax payers money for producing this crap” responded one of the people surveyed. “If its not 100% true, then what use is it?” asked another.

    In other news today….

    Like

  59. Oooh, that alternative realities stuff is fun. Lets pick up from where I left off.

    In other news today, sticking with the science theme, there is a palpable buzz around the LHC complex near Geneva. Following last years surprise discovery of evidence supporting string theory, theoretical physicists the world over have flocked to CERN to be close to the source of the action. “We are so close now, you can feel it” said spokesman Ulrich Blummentopf. “It has long been a dream of physicists to unify the fundamental forces of physics.” explains Blummentopf excitedly. “When the Higgs bosun did not appear at the expected energy levels, we knew we had to reevaluate our understanding of mass, but the discovery that the dimensionality of the very fabric of reality varies along with the distribution of mass was completely unexpected. It looks as though this is going to explain dark matter, dark energy, the whole caboodle” enthuses Blummentopf.

    So, there you have it. I am not sure what any of that means, but the boffins certainly seem to be excited.

    Like

  60. Nick,

    The worry of it is that your last one sounds like what news bulletins actually do say!

    (I know, I know, that’s the whole point…)

    Like

  61. Yep, I think the secret to satire is to not stretch the plausibility too far. I was a bit worried that I had overdone it with my reference to the evidence confirming string theory, but I would much prefer the alternate future of the 2nd post than that of the first.

    Like

  62. Liked the satire, Nick. Reminds me a bit of the videos of interviews with a certain spokesman from a certain institute in Seattle promoting “alien design”.

    Like

  63. Onion-worthy.
    (applause)

    Like

  64. I seem to be persona non grata over at Glenns blog, so perhaps I hit a nerve. Perhaps using Euclid in my parody was the tipping point, these philosopher types seem to be really partial to the Greeks.

    Oh well, probably just as well, I was really starting to get into the spirit of Glenn’s philosophy there, perhaps he would have preferred:

    “Maxwell’s equations. What a crock” , “Einstein’s 1905 paper on the photoelectric effect hints at, and then the later formulation of Quantum theory clearly shows the wave/particle duality of electromagnetic radiation. How could have Maxwell missed that.”

    or perhaps a bit more abstract:

    “Mathematics, what a waste of time.”, “The incompleteness theorem published by Kurt Gödel in 1931 exposes the futility of the whole exercise”.

    But really, what does he expect publishing tripe like that on his blog. I think also that a little sprinkle of humor might lighten the load for anybody having to read their way through the thicket of passive/aggressive commentary. I think perhaps he should try an excursion out from the bowels of philosophy into the realms of evidence, where you can (and often are) wrong about things. He might learn a little bit of humility. Ken had a great post on this 6 months or so ago, that I can’t find right now.

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  65. Nick,

    If it’s any consolation, I got banned from one of his mate’s blogs. The silly thing is the comment that set this guy off was quite innocent. In fact I did the guy a courtesy of waiting several days to let him cool off, as he’d obviously got himself wound up over nothing, but in the interim he obviously wound himself up further all by himself and banned me! :-)

    You can’t win really, they’ve got a bizarre approach to others.

    Like

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