Intelligent Design and Galileo

This is from the website of World magazine, which we’ve encountered before in connection with creationist issues — see, e.g.: A Plea for “Academic Freedom Laws”. Today they have a review of a new creationist book. Their headline is Disruptive ideas. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

David Block and Kenneth Freeman in God and Galileo (Crossway, 2019) throw light on the battle between Roman Catholicism and the scientist who became known as “the father of observational astronomy.” They show how political maneuvering at the Vatican contributed to the infamous decision to force Galileo to recant publicly while still holding to what his scientific observation told him: that the Earth moves.

So far it sounds like a straightforward treatment of the subject, and you’re wondering: Where’s the creationism? It begins when we check out the book at Amazon. The publisher is Crossway, which describes itself like this: “The purpose of Crossway has been, from its founding as a not-for-profit ministry in 1938, to publish gospel-centered, Bible-centered content that will honor our Savior and serve his Church.” We can’t tell from their website if they’re a vanity publisher. Maybe not. Anyway, we’ve encountered them before regarding other creationist books — see, e.g.: Yet Another New Discoveroid Book.

And there’s more creationism coming. The reviewer for World says:

Galileo insisted on the importance of observation rather than abstract theorizing, and scientists venerate him for that. But what happens when observation shows how fine-tuned for humans the Earth and even the whole universe is — and scientists admit that the odds against that happening naturally are … well, astronomical?

Now you’re beginning to understand why we find this to be amusing. And it gets better. Take a look at this:

Proponents of intelligent design are modern Galileos harassed by the Church of Darwin. [BWAHAHAHAHAHA!] Since scientific evidence points to God’s existence [Gasp!], atheistic scientists hoping to avoid that admission have climbed onto the multiverse hypothesis, the idea that this universe is only one bubble of an infinite number, and we just live in the one bubble in which our existence is possible.

This is great! The review continues:

Block and Freeman emphasize that “these other universes are not observable, and we do not know whether they exist.” [Unlike the intelligent designer — blessed be he!] They then quote the cosmologist George Ellis: Multiverse theory is “a retrograde step. [It] abandons the key principle that has led to the extraordinary success of science. The claim that multiverses exist is a belief rather than an established scientific fact.”

The reviewer goes on to talk about some other books, so this is where we’ll leave World magazine. And now we have the astounding claim that the Discoveroids are a brave bunch of contemporary Galileos. What do you think, dear reader?

Copyright © 2019. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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25 responses to “Intelligent Design and Galileo

  1. “the father of observational astronomy.”
    Yeah, because never mind that the Babylonian astronomers already did this 2000 years before. Especially never mind that those guys made it into the Bible as the Three Biblical Magi.

    “We can’t tell from their website if they’re a vanity publisher.”
    Wikipedia can.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_News_Publishers

    They are not.

    “harassed by the Church of Darwin”
    Admit it, dear SC. Your secret headquarters are the Vatican of the CoD and you’re the head priest.

    “What do you think, dear reader?”
    That you’re expanding your horizon and rightly so. Rejecting evolution, spherical Earth and the Multiverse Hypothesis ‘cuz god in the end is just the same.

  2. Michael Fugate

    The publisher link:
    https://www.crossway.org/books/god-and-galileo-hcj/
    Table of Contents:
    Part 1: Grace and Space
    Setting the Stage
    Is There Grace in Space?
    Misunderstanding Truth
    Understanding the Universe and Scripture
    What Grace and Space Cannot Tell Us
    The Fraud of Scientism
    An Illusion of Conflict
    Discerning the Truth
    The Two Cathedrals
    Part 2: Historical Vignettes
    A Moon of Glass from Murano, Venice
    A Troubled Dinner in Tuscany
    Winning Back Trust: Astronomy and the Vatican
    Part 3: Personal Experiences of Grace
    Grace in the Life of Blaise Pascal
    Grace alongside a Telescope in South Africa
    Appendix: Galileo’s Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany
    Bibliography and Additional Readings
    General Index
    Scripture Index

    Not surprisingly, both authors are Christians (as if that were the only religion!)

  3. Galileo bercame known as “the father of observational astronomy.”; that’s a new one on me. Is it from Block and Freeman, or from the reviewer?

  4. Michael Fugate

    It is from Wikipedia where they cite:
    Singer, Charles (1941). “A Short History of Science to the Nineteenth Century”. Clarendon Press

  5. Clarendon Press is an imprint of Oxford University Press, and Singer was highly esteemed and honoured (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Singer), so to my surprise that wildly inaccurate characterisation has a respectable pedigree, despite what FrankB says

  6. But what happens when observation shows how fine-tuned for humans the Earth and even the whole universe is —
    If the Earth and the whole universe is fine-tuned for humans, then …
    1) We know that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is part of that fined-tuned Earth and universe.
    2) We know that there is no Law of Conservaton of Specified Complex Information which prevents the appearance of life
    3) We know that the speed of light, the rate of nuclear reactions, etc. are fixed at their present values to make life possible – and thus that life on Earth has been around for billions of years

    This rules out YEC and ID, so I guess that the book is OEC.

  7. Michael Fugate

    Who knows if they even touch on biological evolution – they are astronomers after all.

  8. Is there Grace in Space? No, just pigs.

    A god who allegedly exists outside of time and space sounds a bit like a theistic version of the multiverse, to me. Neither one should be given much credence until demonstrated otherwise.

    A universe fine-tuned for humans? Perfect. Can’t wait to see a creationist museum open up on the seventh planet (that dare not speak its name).

    Numerous Churches of Darwin in my home city have been defaced and vandalized recently, with crudely painted stick figures of Adam and Eve scrawled along the nave and around the vestry. Stained glass windows of the Great Man himself smashed or painted over with horns. Bastards! Where will it lead? Darwinists and their families are frightened to leave their homes.

  9. …But what happens when observation shows how fine-tuned for humans the Earth and even the whole universe is — and scientists admit that the odds against that happening naturally are … well, astronomical
    Really now. But then again we’ve been finding new life forms on earth we never thought could harbor life, deep inside rocks in the earth’s crust, in ocean thermal vents, extreme cold environments, in the sky as well as life forms that exist on chemicals poisonous to humans, even space, and so on.
    The old Goldilocks view has expanded!

  10. For the gazillionth time, the universe is not fine-tuned for us. 99.9999% (give or take a few nines) of the universe would kill us in seconds and not even have second thoughts about it.

    Even most of our own planet is hostile to our presence.

  11. @TomS fails to bring his argument to its utter consequence:

    “This rules out YEC and ID, so I guess that the book is OEC.”
    As OEC basically is ID plus Bible quotes it rules that one out too. That’s to say, if they’d accept consistency and coherence, which I doubt. If they did they’d realize that if our Universe can be fine-tuned, so can a mutlverse (and evolution). Such is both the power and weakness of apologetics.
    Fine-tuning in the end is just assuming a purpose to argue for a purposeful bodiless agent. It can be applied to every single natural process, including the Invisible Hand so beloved by our dear SC, the outcome of elections, climate change, you name it.

  12. Despite a couple of absolutely dippy astronomers making the obviously backwards claim that the universe is “fine tuned” for life, all life on Earth is “fine tuned” for survival on Earth and not at all compatible with the vast majority of the universe. Creationists are *always* forced into special pleading to make their case sound plausible to the uninformed masses. Tartigrades can survive in space far longer than humans, so by idiotic creationist thinking the universe must have been designed for tartigrades.

    Of course tartigrades cannot actually eat or multiply in space, they can only survive in a basically comatose state far longer than many other species on the Earth.

  13. Exactly.

  14. If the Earth and universe are fine tuned for human life, then there is no gap that needs filling by a God of the Gaps.

  15. Again: exactly. A believer who sincerely wants to make his belief compatible with science must get rid of that fallacy too.
    Etc. etc.
    The discussion between the believer (B) and unbeliever (U) in the end breadks down at this point:

    U: You don’t have any reason to believe.
    B: I have faith. That’s good enough for me.

    And then both can go on doing something fruitful, like having a beer while discussing the semifinals of the Champions League.

  16. I was objecting only against one kind of argument for the existence of God:
    * The fine-tuning of the laws of nature for life as we know it.
    In other threads, I object to other kinds of arguments for the supernatural:
    * Some feature of life must be the result of design. (My objection being that the supernatural is incompatible with design; unless there is a novel descripton of design.)
    * There is no possible natural expanation for such-and-such. (My objection being that there is no proof that everything have an explanation.)
    As to other possible arguments for the existence of God, my stand is that I only want to talk about things where I have confidence in my abitlity to contribute.

  17. Bruce Lilly

    The importance of careful observation and careful thought are often underestimated. Galileo was able to infer that Earth’s moon has a rough surface rather than the perfectly smooth surface claimed by Aristotelians, by careful observation (without a telescope) of the way light is reflected from smooth and rough surfaces. See a brief description at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristotelian_physics#Life_and_death_of_Aristotelian_physics

  18. “I only want to talk about things where I have confidence in my abitlity to contribute.”
    So do I. Don’t worry, I’m not going to try to force you.

  19. @Bruce Lilly

    The careful observations of Tycho Brahe did not convert him to Copernican. For example, Tycho’s Nova, SN 1572 proved to be a phenomenon of the super-lunary realm.

  20. Paraphrasing Hitchens, assuming the evidence points to a creator, they still have all their work cut out for them. That was 13.8 billion years ago. Doesn’t point to any creator’s existence today, doesn’t point to Jesus, resurrection, blah blah.

  21. Bruce Lilly

    @TomS Tycho indeed noted that the supernova showed no detectable parallax and must therefore be very far from Earth. That and his proposed model which rejected parts of the Ptolemaic system and incorporated parts of the Copernican system both valued observation over the dogmatic adherence to Aristotelian beliefs. Brahe also dabbled in alchemy and astrology.

    Galileo took careful observation a bit further, refuting Aristotelian beliefs in such diverse fields as physics and engineering in addition to astronomy.

  22. @Bruce Lilly
    Yes, on all points, except that adherence to Aristotelian-Ptolemaic beliefs was not soley dogmatic. There was no direct observation of the motions of the Earth. In particular, there was no observation of the expected parallax of the “fixed stars”.
    Galileo, for some reason, ignored the work of Kepler.
    And Kepler also dabbled, and Newton more than dabbled, in occult arts.
    I hope that my comments are not taken to be justification for the treatment of Galileo. Let alone 21st century geocentrism!
    Nothing in astronomy makes sense except in the light of heliocentrism!

  23. Stephen Kennedy, MD

    Kepler, Newton and other “Natural Philosophers” of the 16th and 17th centuries often had one foot in the Middle Ages and the other in the Modern World of the Enlightenment. In their scientific work they were rational and thought much like scientists of today. However, in other aspects of their lives they were still trapped in a world ruled by the irrational superstitions and beliefs of medieval times.

  24. Let us not underrate the difficulty of rational thought. How many lives were spent on what turned out to be blind alleys. Today we see how easy it is to fall for the temptations of irrationalism.

  25. Eric Lipps

    Galileo insisted on the importance of observation rather than abstract theorizing, and scientists venerate him for that. But what happens when observation shows how fine-tuned for humans the Earth and even the whole universe is — and scientists admit that the odds against that happening naturally are … well, astronomical?

    As usual, creationists get this issue backward. It’s not that the universe is “fine-tuned” for us; rather, it’s that we are “fine-tuned” for it—by the fundamental conditions of the universe and by evolution.

    Of course, they might argue that this doesn’t explain why the laws and physical constants of nature are such that we can exist. But they make a hidden assumption—that the universe had to have human beings in it. The fact that it does, however, doesn’t prove it was necessary; the universe could get along just fine without us. Even the Bible doesn’t say that the universe was designed with us in mind; rather, the Genesis account suggests that humans were an afterthought—and, for that matter, that women were an after-afterthought. (The ancient Hebrews, after all, were a militantly patriarchal people, and their sacred texts reflected that.)