Friday, June 23, 2006

E pur si muove!


Galileo facing the Roman Inquistion, by Cristiano Banti (1857)

Yesterday, June 22, was the anniversary of the date on which the Inquisition sentenced Galileo to prison for heresy, for having endorsed Copernicus' theory that the earth orbits the sun. It was one of the landmark moments in the eternal battle between entrenched religious misapprehension and unfolding revelation.

Yesterday also saw the issuance of two new scientific reports -- one by the National Academy of Sciences observing that the earth is the warmest it's been in 2,000 years, and one by the National Science Foundation concluding that man-made global warming was responsible for about 50% of the increase in severity of the 2005 hurricane season.

Galileo's sentence was later commuted to lifetime house imprisonment, on the condition that he recant his position and never teach again. He recanted, but as he signed his recantation he is said to have muttered, "E pur si muove!" -- "And yet it moves!"

The unholy political alliance between corporate profiteers and superstitious Christian bibliolaters is striving mightily to deny the reality of the threat of global warming. And yet -- as Al Gore tries to persuade us in his new movie, An Inconvenient Truth -- it moves. God bless Al Gore and all others who are dedicated to not letting the forces of darkness prevail.

We who revere the earth and the sanctity of its natural processes must have courage and faith. Galileo was silenced, but his ideas prevailed. The light shines in darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

2 Comments:

At June 23, 2006 at 11:09:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Ron Stevens said...

Nice post, Fausto! Good picture, too! (I'm adding a link to it via my "Faith of the Free" Yahoo group.)

Ron

 
At June 23, 2006 at 12:39:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Buddy McCue said...

The story of Galileo and the Church is a very good example of thinking forward versus thinking backward, in my opinion.

Starting with a question, admitting you don’t know the answer yet, collecting evidence, and finding conclusions based only on that evidence (the scientific method) is thinking forward.

Starting with your answer and fixing or “cherry-picking” all your evidence to support it is thinking backward.

Very, very simple stuff, really. It amazes me that so many people today can’t see the distinction. I mean, the Enlightenment WAS a long time ago, long enough for the lesson to sink in. More people should realize that creating things like Democracy would not have been possible without giving people the tools (or the right?) to observe the world and form independent ideas about its nature. Before this, reality was what the man in charge SAID it was; Truth came from Authority, and Authority came from God.

Wasn’t there an anecdote about Galileo inviting a priest or cardinal to look into his telescope to see the sunspots that shouldn’t have been there (according to the then-current interpretation of the gospels?)

The priest or cardinal refused for fear that it would be questioning his faith? I can’t seem to find it on the internet; I think I remember seeing a painting of this.

Personally, I believe in God, but frown on organized religion. It seems to me that seeking scientific truths requires humility and respect for the world. Is this not a more sincere form of worship than pre-defining the world before undertaking any observation?

There used to be this joke: A businessman is interviewing people to take the postion of accountant. The businessman asks for the sum of two plus two and the prospective employee looks around, pulls the shades, and asks in a whisper: “What do you WANT it to equal?”

That used to be a joke. It used to be funny. Now, it is becoming the very definition of reality itself. Welcome back to the Dark Ages.

 

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