Discoveroids Defend the Galileo Trial

It’s inevitable that sooner or later creationists will get around to defending the atrocity of the Galileo affair. As you know, Galileo was compelled by the Inquisition not only to confess heresy — see Recantation of Galileo. June 22, 1633 — but also to renounce the solar system. His book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was banned and placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, and he was kept under house arrest for the remaining seven years of his life.

According to Wikipedia’s list of authors and works listed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, more than a century after it was banned, a censored version of Galileo’s book was permitted in 1741, and almost another century passed until the entire book was finally removed from the Index in 1835.

The reason creationists defend what happened to Galileo is because they crave the kind of power that religion once had in the West, and they secretly wish that they too could do that sort of thing to those who teach things they don’t like. Now the Discovery Institute joins the ranks of Inquisition defenders. They just posted The Galileo Affair — A Durable Myth at their creationist blog. It was written by Cornelius Hunter — a Discoveroid “fellow” who teaches at a bible college.

Like so many Discoveroids posts these days, it’s long and generally boring, so what we’ll do is ignore most of it and extract only the anti-Galileo parts. Cornelius begins by discussing global warming, and the plight of those who dare to challenge the scientific consensus. Here we go, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Science writer Katherine Ellen Foley has another article on anthropogenic global warming, or AGW, in Quartz. The AGW theory states that civilization’s production of green-house gases, such as carbon dioxide, is causing a hockey-stick like rise in the Earth’s temperatures.


I am not arguing for or against AGW, but I am arguing for a depth of understanding that too often is missing from partisan accounts. … [A]ccording to Foley AGW critics often invoke Galileo as a comparison. Just as Galileo met stiff opposition, so do these AGW dissenters. The implication is that, like Galileo, these researchers will prevail in the end.

Ah, now it begins. Cornelius says:

Foley explains this is all wrong, both because it is a false analogy and because those [anti AGW] papers are scientifically flawed. Specifically, Foley explains that Galileo’s “fellow scientists mostly agreed with his conclusions — it was church leaders who tried to suppress them.”

Skipping a bit, he tells us:

The next problem is with her retelling of the Galileo Affair which is all Warfare Thesis. No it wasn’t science versus religion — that is the myth that Foley is propagating. Galileo did not heroically lead a scientific consensus with powerful and unambiguous empirical evidence against ecclesiastical resistance. Church leaders did not “tr[y] to suppress them.”

Cornelius has written before about Galileo and what he calls the “warfare thesis” — see Discoveroids: The Evidence Is Against Evolution, where we said:

According to Cornelius, the “mythical” Warfare Thesis holds that religion, and Christianity in particular, conflicts with and opposes scientific advances. He disagrees, and claims that religion — his version — doesn’t conflict with true science — i.e., creationism.

Okay, back to his latest post:

The Galileo myth [Hee hee!] serves as yet another non-empirical mandate for ideas like AGW and evolution, and that is why it is so resistant and durable.

Why is the Galileo affair a “myth?” Cornelius explains:

Of course Galileo’s observations did not “confirm the Copernican theory.” Nor were his “assertions based on empirical knowledge.” Galileo flatly ignored Kepler’s finding that ellipses perfectly described the planetary orbits (as opposed to the lousy circles Galileo advocated which required epicycles). And the lack of stellar parallax observed in the 17th century seemingly contradicted Galileo’s heliocentrism. Furthermore, Galileo studiously avoided mentioning Tycho Brahe’s hybrid model which, again, appeared at the time to compete well with heliocentrism. Galileo carefully framed the debate as strictly heliocentrism versus geocentrism.

[*Groan*] We discussed Galileo’s evidence in Creationism, Galileo and the Phases of Venus. And we discussed the Tycho Brahe theory in The Galileo Affair — Was the Inquisition Wrong?. It was flat-out crazy. Contrary to the bizarre claims of Inquisition defenders, Galileo wasn’t punished because his science was sloppy — it was because it wasn’t scriptural.

Cornelius continues:

Nor did Galileo face any kind of unified opposition from the Roman Catholic Church. That is another myth. There were many in the church who had no problem with Galileo pursuing his ideas, and the Pope had been a benefactor of Galileo before, that is, Galileo turned on him.

Galileo didn’t “turn on” the Pope. As Wikipedia explains in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (the title of Galileo’s book):

The book is presented as a series of discussions, over a span of four days, among two philosophers and a layman: … Simplicio, a dedicated follower of Ptolemy and Aristotle, presents the traditional views and the arguments against the Copernican position. He is supposedly named after Simplicius of Cilicia, a sixth-century commentator on Aristotle, but it was suspected the name was a double entendre, as the Italian for “simple” (as in “simple minded”) … .

Those were, of course, the Pope’s arguments, and that, according to Cornelius, was “turning on” the Pope. The only other thing he says of interest is this:

The Galileo Affair is far more complex and nuanced than these pathetic retellings would have it. As one historian put it, it was Galileo’s religion versus the Church’s science.

So there you have it. Galileo got what he deserved. Those who hold him up as a champion and martyr of science are fools! Ponder that, dear reader, as you imagine a world run by people like the Discoveroids.

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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15 responses to “Discoveroids Defend the Galileo Trial

  1. See also “Galileo Was Wrong The Church Was Right” by Robert
    Subgenis, a geocentrist.

  2. ‘Ponder that, dear reader, as you imagine a world run by people like the Discoveroids.’ You mean like they have been doing for the last two millenia?

  3. As I see it, the question of how good or bad Galileo’s science was is unimportant when considering his persecution by the church. There were probably other people equally persecuted for scientific views which we would today consider completely wrong, they just aren’t as well known as Galileo. The problem was, that the church claimed the right to decide what was permitted to be believed, and had the power to severely punish those who contradicted the official view.

  4. The whole Galileo thing is similar to Darwin…in that who cares? They stated something and were right about somethings and not so right on others. When some one presents either as examples, I turn them off immediately. There is only one point to consider…Do the scientists presenting ‘X’ have evidence? (Usually yes), do the ahole politicians have evidence against ‘X’? (Usually no.) And of course the all important question….where is the money??
    As in Galileo I once read that he was arrested because the RCC were worried that people would leave the church and thus their cash flow would suffer, but they knew G was right, so they wanted him to delay things until the RCC could put the theories into a more favorable light for the church….or where is the money!

  5. Ceteris Paribus

    Sadly, I am at the moment of the opinion that the Discoveroid’s relentless defense of all things biblical is only a stone’s throw away from the current defense now being made over the “Silent Sam” monument at Chapel Hill, which commemorates the “heroic” defense made by the Confederate States Army. (The monument wasn’t installed until 50 years after the war was over.) It is now well time for all religious relics of the past to be safely moved to museums, where they belong.

  6. @jimroberts
    One immediately thinks of the cases of Giordano Bruno (1600) and Michael Servetus (1553), who were burned at the stake. The three cases were different – Bruno and Servetus were persecuted for more theological opinions, for example.

  7. Apologist nonsense confirming that religious conservatives are almost always on the wrong side of history. Face it, they themselves would have crucified Christ for challenging the religious status quo if given the opportunity.

  8. While Galileo didn’t accept Kepler’s ellipses, this doesn’t necessarily make him an accepter of epicycles. Yes, to make circular orbits conform with the apparent motion of the planets would require epicycles (or some other fudge factor) but it is more likely Galileo just hadn’t considered the issue. It was a true act of intellectual courage for Kepler to reject circular orbits, especially when you see the hocus pocus of trying to incorporate the perfect solids into an understanding of the solar system. (Specifically Mars’ orbit is the only one that was irregular enough to really stand out as non-circular as well.)

  9. @Erik John Bertel
    Are you suggesting that there is a right side to History? As if there is some force impelling improvement over time?

  10. Are you suggesting that there is a right side to History? As if there is some force impelling improvement over time?

    Let me put it this way if there are forces motivating human progress those positive forces would certainly exclude religious conservatism. Religious conservatism is basically the perpetuation of male dominance over other males in the guise of the Almighty, the uber alpha male. Women need not apply and generally has little to with spirituality. If conservatives had their way we would still have slaves and be stoning women. Other than that they are lovely people.

  11. One of the major concepts introduced by Darwin was that biological evolution is not progress. It would be nice if there is a force motivating human progress of civilization. One might think that there is such a progress, for example, in the United States whereby society and the law has been recognizing the equality of all humans – women, color, gender, poverty, religion, etc.

  12. Tune in next week when our hero, Cornelius Hunter, re-fights the Battle of Gettysburg, only this time the Discotute wins!

  13. James St. John

    If Corndog Hunter is right, then why has the Catholic Church apologized for what it did to Galileo? It was centuries late, but the apology did come along. Oh, I know – it’s because Hunter is not right – he’s engaging in a vast, deliberate mischaracterization – a very insidious type of lie, right after lies of omission (= purposefully leaving out info. critical to fully understanding a situation). I honestly don’t know why creationists can’t see that talking about Galileo is a non-starter. No one agrees with their jibberish, especially the facts of history. I first heard defense of Galileo persecution on Catholic radio years ago – I shook my head in disbelief then and continue to do so now with the Dishonesty Institute’s latest screed.

  14. The RCC did not apologize.

  15. TomS says: “The RCC did not apologize.”

    I think they did. See Wikipedia’s List of apologies made by Pope John Paul II.