Another guest post by Thony Christie
John recently provided a link to a review of Steve Fuller’s newest book by Anthony Grayling. On the whole I find Professor Grayling’s comments excellent and applaud his put-down of Fuller but then in the last section of his review he goes and spoils it all, at least for me, by seriously abusing the history of science. As I recently took Rodney Stark to task for his misuse of the history of science in the cause of Christianity I feel obliged in the interest of fairness to do the same to Grayling. Just because I think he is on the right side does not give him the right to misuse and abuse another academic discipline. Grayling himself is a philosopher.
This time I won't deal with all of Grayling’s false or twisted claims but just concentrate on one that blatantly turns the historical facts on their head. In the course of his review Grayling makes the following statements:
witness the church’s denial of Copernican heliocentrism and the trial of Galileo for two related instances. And the religious are still at it today – the ID theorists are the inheritors of Cardinal Bellarmine in refusing to accept what science discovers, as is the Vatican in its opposition to stem cell research.
(Psalm 102, beloved of Bellarmine in his efforts to shut up the astronomers and philosophers of the era of Descartes). It removed the necessity of having to distort observations, facts, experimental results and observations to fit an antecedent doctrine as far from what observation and experiment revealed as one could possibly get. (Think about seeing the moons of Jupiter through a telescope in an age when the earth was – by order! – at the centre of the universe and man and his man-made religion was the most important thing in it, with the Pope and the Office of the Inquisition daring you to think otherwise.) [My emphasis]
Now as it happens next year is the Unesco Year of Astronomy and one of the reasons why next year was chosen was because it is the 400th anniversary of the first telescopic astronomical discoveries, and because this is one of my special areas of interest I am at the moment engaged in researching and preparing several public lectures on the invention of the telescope (1608) and the its early users in astronomy. So I would like just to sketch the story of the discovery of the satellites of Jupiter and the reaction and involvement of Bellarmino and the Jesuits in this discovery.
Galileo observed the moons of Jupiter for the first time on the 7th January 1609. Interestingly, Simon Marius, the court astronomer of the Margrave of Ansbach, also observed them for the first time exactly one day later on 10th January. Marius did not publish his observation until four years later and so has disappeared into the sump of history, Galileo, however, realised at once that he was onto a winner and as soon as he had enough evidence together to confirm his first observations he rushed into print with his discovery of the “Medicean Stars” as he had christened them; a smart move that brought him the appointment of court philosopher to the Medicis. Interestingly, the names they now have Io, Europa, Callisto and Ganymede were given to them by Marius at the suggestion of Kepler. Galileo’s publication, his Sidereus Nuncius, went off like a bomb, transforming its author from an obscure Paduan professor of mathematics into the most famous scientist in Europe virtually overnight.
Enter Bellarmine: at this time Bellarmine was head of the Collegio Romano, the Jesuit University in Rome, and he asked the professor of mathematics at the Collegio, Christoph Clavius, if there was any truth in Galileo’s claims. Clavius ran Europe’s first institute for advanced mathematics at the Collegio and two of its members - Odo van Maelcote and Giovanni Paolo Lembo - had already been making telescopic observation of their own before Galileo had published his pamphlet. Lembo knew that his telescope was not powerful enough to confirm or refute Galileo’s claims and tried to construct a more powerful one but failed in his attempt to grind and polish the necessary lenses; a problem that was to plague many of the telescopic pioneers. Meanwhile, Christoph Grienberger, the senior mathematician at the Collegio after Clavius and his soon to be successor, who had been absent at the time of Galileo’s publication, returned to Rome and he and Lembo succeeded in constructing a suitable instrument and in confirming all of Galileo’s claims. These things did not, of course, take place overnight. In 1611, Galileo visited Rome where he was invited to a banquet in his honour at the Collegio at which Odo van Maelcote held an Oration celebrating his discoveries. Clavius, a friend of Galileo’s for many decades, published these discoveries and his institute’s confirmations of them in the last edition of his Sphaera , the most important textbook for astronomy in Europe, in 1611 shortly before his death in 1612.
Contrary to Grayling’s claims Bellarmino did not deny or attempt to block Galileo’s discovery of the moons of Jupiter but rather the Jesuit mathematical astronomers under his authority at the Collegio Romano investigated his claims in a totally correct scientific manner and having confirmed them honoured him publicly for them.
Surely you have to tell the rest of the story - including Galileo's book, that he had enemies - including Jesuits - who helped to poison the Pope's mind against Galileo. And that - although clearly in the right on the facts - Galileo made enemies by his tactless behaviour.
Otherwise readers will be confused about why Galileo got into trouble with the church. As I understand it, the controversy indeed was not about the Jupiter moons but about more profound matters, especially whether the earth was the centre of an unchanging universe.
From ye venerable Wiki:
In 1612, opposition arose to the Sun-centered theory of the universe which Galileo supported. In 1614, from the pulpit of Santa Maria Novella, Father Tommaso Caccini (1574ï¿½1648) denounced Galileo's opinions on the motion of the Earth, judging them dangerous and close to heresy. Galileo went to Rome to defend himself against these accusations, but, in 1616, Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino personally handed Galileo an admonition enjoining him neither to advocate nor teach Copernican astronomy.
So, Galileo would have know about the inquisition and such. Bellarmine and the Roman college may have scientifically verified Galilieo's results, but 4 years later they (Bellarmine et al.) seem to have decided that it was better if the population didn't learn about them. I don't think Grayling was distorting history too much at all. Bellarmine did order that his findings were heretical. Unless Wiki is wrong of course. :)
Perhaps you meant to imply that there was no decree that the universe was geocentric until 1616? So, at any time before 1616, noticing and reporting bodies that didn't orbit the Earth was peachy, then in 1616 it was called unpeachy. Which would weaken Grayling's argument a little, but it still stands that the climate of the time (inquisitions, burning of heretics, etc) would mean that anybody publishing this stuff was opening himself up to be roasted I think.
Having a bit of a conversation with myself, but wikipedia also has a bit related to Bruno and Bellarmine
His trial was overseen by the inquisitor Cardinal Bellarmine, who demanded a full recantation, which Bruno eventually refused...Consequently, Bruno was declared a heretic...He was quickly turned over to the secular authorities and, on February 17, 1600..."his tongue imprisoned because of his wicked words" he was burned at the stake.
This happened in 1600. So, Galileo would well know that Bellarmine and pals in the inquisition were not averse to killing anyone who held heretical views or views that might be construed as heretical. The heretical Copernican views where supported by Galileo and his observations, thus placing him at risk. In view of this, Grayling's
Think about seeing the moons of Jupiter through a telescope in an age when the earth was ï¿½ by order! ï¿½ at the centre of the universe and man and his man-made religion was the most important thing in it, with the Pope and the Office of the Inquisition daring you to think otherwise.
seems very reasonable. Galileo could not have known before hand that Bellarmine would or would not judge his work as heretical, but he'd have been a fool not to think the Church would get involved and maybe not in a good way. Which is how it turned out, even if at first he was congratulated before being censured.
I think he (Galileo) was quite brave. And I learned some history today. Assuming that Wikipedia is accurate. Apologies if I've been arguing against something you didn't mean to say. :)
I'm not convinced that Bruno's copernicanism is what got him burned. He also preached that Christ was not divine and that Mary wasn't a virgin...
I've been checking this thread but I'm at work so don't have a lot of time, I intend to discuss some of your other points once I'm on my own time, Brian!
A lot more than astronomy was in play in the cases of Bruno and Galileo. Bruno heterodoxy went far beyond claiming that the sun was in the middle, and he was also deeply involved in various political intrigues--he may have be acting as a Protestant, French, or English spy and he was certainly suspected of espionage. It should be borne in mind that Bruno lived in an era of covert ideological struggle somewhat similar to the Cold War and just as desperate.
Galileo's case also involved issues beyond whether the sun is in the middle. A scholar named Redondi found documents that indicated that the church was worried less about Galileo's astronomy, than his atomism. Atomism was a threat because it contradicted the standard Aristotelian interpretation of the Eucharist. (PZ Myers isn't the only guy who ever got in trouble about them crackers!) Redondi's thesis was widely attacked after it was first published back 1987, but confirming documents from the Vatican have surfaced since then.
Over and beyond the astronomy and the atomism, most of the historians I've read figure that the struggle between the Galileo and the church had a lot to do with non-scientific issues and the interminable jockeying for prestige and influence that have always surrounded the papacy. Whatever else he was, Galileo was a committed social climber. He may have gotten in trouble with one clique by getting to close to another or buttered up one Pope only to irritate his successor. At any event, Cardinal Bellarmine was hardly an obscurantist and there was nothing primitive about Clavius--he was one of the most accomplished professional astronomers of Europe.
One more thing.
Jupiter having moons was not, by itself, contrary to the earth being stationary at the center of the universe.
It does present problems, to be sure.
A quick apology to anybody trying to read the solid block of prose posted above. I original put paragraph breaks into the file that I sent to John but the carrier pigeon who took it all the way from Southern Germany to the wilds of Australia obviously got hungry on route (its quite a long way you know) and ate the spaces. Next time I will give him some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before I send him off.
Thony, you completely leave out the well-known letter to the Duchess. Galileo sent a manuscript to the Duchess Christina explaining his most heretical theories in order to curry favor with nobility to the purpose of protecting him from religious inquisition. And it bought him some time. But we all know how things turned out as Bellarmine was only biding his time for the best moment to strike.
I don't really see how Grayling "blatantly turns the historical facts on their head."
For some reason there's been a run against Bellarmine lately; Blackburn also swiped against Bellarmine in his Sokal review, and I've seen a number of comments turn up elsewhere in the past few months.
That better? I forgot to check "Convert line breaks"...
Brian as far as I can tell from your small collection of confused and confusing comments very little of that which you have written has anything to do with my post or the criticism of Grayling that it contains.
Put very simply the telescopic astronomical discoveries made by Galileo and the other early users of the telescope such as David and Johannes Fabricius, Simon Marius or Christoph Scheiner played no role whatsoever in the original friendly warning issued to Galileo by Bellarmino in 1616 or with Galileo's eventual trial in 1631, which it should be noted took place ten years after Bellarmino's death. The whole point of my post, which only addressed Grayling's claims concerning the discovery of the moons of Jupiter, is that at no point did anybody, scientist or theologian, with any authority within the Catholic Church try to deny or block knowledge of those discoveries. If fact exactly the opposite is true, the Jesuit astronomers under the leadership of Clavius at the Collegio Romano scientifically examined the claims of those discoveries, confirmed and then publicised them. Clavius Sphaera in which these discoveries were published remained the main astronomy textbook in Catholic schools and colleges throughout the entire 17th century. At no point was there ever an attempt made by the Church, its scientists or its theologians to deny those discoveries.
Another point that I didn't mention in my post is that Grayling writes:
beloved of Bellarmine in his efforts to shut up the astronomers and philosophers of the era of Descartes
As I have already written above Bellarmino died in 1621 one year before Descartes wrote his first, in his lifetime never published, philosophical work! I suppose Bellarmino came back to haunt him from the grave! Just to show how ridiculous Grayling's polemic is from a historical point of view, Descartes was educated by the Jesuits, which meant that he almost certainly learnt of Galileo's telescopic discoveries from Clavius' textbook.
On your very confused comments on the moons of Jupiter and the Copernican helio-static hypothesis (Copernicus' system was not heliocentric as the centre of his solar system was of to one side of the sun) their discovery in no way confirms or supports Copernicus' theory. The discovery of the moons of Jupiter refute one of the axioms of Aristotelian cosmology i.e. that all celestial motions have a common centre. The telescopic discoveries either refuted various aspects of the Aristotelian cosmology or in the case of the phases of Venus refuted the astronomical theory of Ptolemaeus. None of them is a confirming instant of Copernicus' theories.
I forgot to check "Convert line breaks"...
What's a forgotten line break conversion amongst friends?
friendly warning issued to Galileo by Bellarmino in 1616
Thony, I see no reason to believe that human nature has fundamentally shifted in the past 400 years. Nor do I think politics and power worked in qualitatively different ways in the 17th century than they do today.
Say you received a letter from someone in the Bush administration who had presided over trials in Guantanamo, and he wanted to give you a "friendly warning" about the dangers of saying terrorist-like things over the phone. How would you perceive that letter? The Bush administration denies they threatened you in any way, of course. They never said they'd do anything to you. They just wanted to make sure, for your own well-being, that you didn't defend or hold any terrorist sympathies. This is not, they insist, an attempt to intimidate you or silence you. They would never do such a thing.
Would you take this "friendliness" at face value? Or would you, like me, perceive it as exactly what it is--a thinly veiled exercise of power, couched in language that they can later use to absolve themselves of responsibility?
Bellarmine had already participated in the trial and execution of Bruno for his heretical beliefs. There's no such thing as a "friendly warning" from such a person. Taking the mealy-mouthed political language at face value is just as ridiculous in regards to Bellarmine as it is in regards to the Bush administration, or any other powerful political group. Of course they veil their intentions in murky language. Believing them when they say they had no intention of suppressing or threatening anyone is sheer gullibility.
Human nature hasn't changed. I don't take what the Pentagon today say about Guantanamo at face value, so why should I take what a 17th century inquisitor says at face value?
"but it still stands that the climate of the time (inquisitions, burning of heretics, etc) would mean that anybody publishing this stuff was opening himself up to be roasted I think."
I don't think that does stand. As Galileo's case proved, one could make quite a career for themselves at the Medici court positing a heliocentric universe. I may be wrong, but I don't think there was a single case of the Papal Inquisition executing anyone for believing in a heliocentric universe.
Put down the Brecht and read some history!
from your small collection of confused and confusing comments That told me! I wasn't totally sure of the point of your post, hence the different angles. As it turned out, apparently you're saying that because the church didn't explicitly threaten those who were unorthodox in their views, even confirmed those views, that meant there would be no latent reason or fear of holding or propagating unorthodox views and researching such. I think.
The whole point of my post, which only addressed Grayling's claims concerning the discovery of the moons of Jupiter, is that at no point did anybody, scientist or theologian, with any authority within the Catholic Church try to deny or block knowledge of those discoveries. So, in a climate of the Church happily killing or torturing people who don't tow the line, you seem to think that this wouldn't weigh on the mind of someone who proposed a non-church sanctioned view of the universe? I really find this a bit odd. If I was living in a time when not being orthodox could mean death, I'd probably not mention too much about heavenly bodies that don't orbit the Earth (unorthodox views), in fact, I'd probably study something a little more safer. Just me I guess. The church didn't need to threaten, it had the score on the board so to speak.
in the original friendly warning issued to Galileo by Bellarmino in 1616 I can't understand how any warning from someone with a track record (and his pals, even after his death) of killing heretics or those unorthodox views can really be called friendly. It wouldn't matter if they were best mates, the end result would be the guy with the power getting his way.
As I have already written above Bellarmino died in 1621 one year before Descartes wrote his first, in his lifetime never published, philosophical work! I suppose Bellarmino came back to haunt him from the grave!
Grayling said of the era of Descartes. Which is correct. Bellarmine and Descartes were alive in the same era. Grayling is using Bellarmine as an example of the coercive use of power of the church at that time, and the bravery required to go against the grain, whether philosophically, or scientifically. I think Grayling specifically mentions the inquisition too, so stating that it's just about Bellarmine is incorrect.
Bellarmine had already participated in the trial and execution of Bruno for his heretical beliefs.
Slight correction here: Bellarmine didn't participate in the execution of Bruno; he was simply appointed to the commission that met to determine whether Bruno was, in fact, teaching ideas that would be heretical under Church teaching. Since heresy was against the law, after he was found to have to taught heresy Bruno was turned over to the secular court, i.e., the city magistrates, to decide the punishment under law; that court was asked by the commission (and this was very common practice with the Inquisition in Italy at the time) not to inflict any punishment that might risk death. But such a request had no legal authority, and the court could ignore it, as it did in this case.
all of you seemed to have overlooked the contribution by HIndus(Indians) to astronomy much before copernicus/galelio; incidentally, one should note there was absolutely no clash between the so called Hinduism or Sanatna Dharma, as it was known prior to arrival of alexander the geat, and the so called science. thks for publishing this; your blog is excellent and i really admire you for spending so much time on laptop!
Brandon, that's not a slight correction - it goes to the heart of the claim here, that history matters more than the propagandistic uses of it to demonise the Church (or any other historical agency). Thanks.
Brandon I can only heartily second John's highly deserved praise for your comment.
Well, I only had Wiki at my disposal. So, Bellarmine, knowing that he was handing over a guy to secular courts where herecy was punishable by death is exculpated because he recommended leniency? Pilate would have liked it.
As to the original argument, I don't see how Thorny C has made the case that Grayling was wrong in suggesting that it was dangerous to study thinks that rocked the churches ordained view of the universe. Galileo wasn't a seer, thus he couldn't have known the outcome of his unorthodox studies and publications, whether they'd lead to acclaim or rebuke or both. It would take a brave man to do this I still think in that climate. The fact that at first he was acclaimed, later warned in a friendly manner and still later forced to recant is irrelevant to Graylings arguments that those were dangerous times for free thinkers (due to the church and similar). Thorny also argued what seems a strawman saying Grayling had suggested that Bellarmine personally was after Descartes when Grayling only suggested that Bellarmine was an exemplar of the zeitgeist of the times.
Anyway, I think I see where there is no point arguing anymore. You do know the nuances far better than I, but you don't seem to be arguing against the case Grayling made, just your own version of it.
I wasn't trying to make "propagandistic uses of it to demonise the Church", I simply made an error in saying he presided over both trial and execution. My bad. So he only presided over the trial. Just remove the word "execution" from my post, and my point still stands.
I still don't see why we should take Bellarmine's statements purely at face-value. That seems simplistic and naive to me. This is what the Inquisition said at Galileo's conviction:
Whereas however we wanted to treat you with benignity at that time, it was decided at the Holy Congregation held in the presence of His Holiness on 25 Feb 1616 that the Most Eminent Lord Cardinal Bellarmine would order you to abandon this false opinion completely; that if you refused to do this, the Commissary of the Holy Office would give you an injunction to abandon this doctrine, not to teach it to others, not to defend it, and not to treat of it; and that if you did not acquiesce in this injunction, you should be imprisoned. To execute this decision, the following day at the palace of and in the presence of the above-mentioned Most Eminent Lord Cardinal Bellarmine, after being informed and warned in a friendly way by the same Lord Cardinal, you were given an injunction by the then Father Commissary of the Holy Office in the presence of a notary and witnesses to the effect that you must completely abandon the said false opinion, and that in the future you could neither hold, nor defend, nor teach it in any way whatever, either orally or in writing; having promised to obey, you were dismissed.
They certainly wanted to portray themselves as friendly and benign. And it seems to me that this notion of Bellarmine being friendly and reasonable is derived from how the Inquisition chose to portray itself.
Why should I trust how these institutions choose to portray themselves? If anything, I feel I have good reason to be highly distrustful of such self-portrayals. You accuse me of propaganda to demonize the church, but I don't have any such intention. As far as I can tell this "friendly warning" stuff is just 17th century propaganda itself. Of course powerful political institutions want to portray themselves in the most favorable light possible. They all do that. But that doesn't mean we should take it at face value.
I find it interesting that to justify your own negative opinion of what actually took place in 1616 between Galileo and Roberto Bellarmino you quote only the trial sentencing from 1633, by which time the situation was totally and utterly different but you do not quote the letter from Bellarmino that was personnally requested by Galileo in 1616 to clarify what had actually taken place at their meeting
Cardinal Bellarmine's Certificate (26 May 1616)
We, Robert Cardinal Bellarmine, have heard that Mr. Galileo Galilei is being slandered or alleged to have abjured in our hands and also to have been given salutary penances for this. Having been sought about the truth of the matter, we say that the above-mentioned Galileo has not abjured in our hands, or in the hands of others here in Rome, or anywhere else that we know, any opinion or doctrine of his; nor has he received any penances, salutary or otherwise. On the contrary, he has only been notified of the declaration made by the Holy Father and published by the Sacred Congregation of the Index, whose content is that the doctrine attributed to Copernicus (that the earth moves around the sun and the sun stands at the center of the world without moving from east to west) is contrary to Holy Scripture and therefore cannot be defended or held. In witness whereof we have written and signed this with our own hands, on this 26th day of May 1616.
The same mentioned above,
Robert Cardinal Bellarmine.
which does indeed allow one to say that Bellarmino's warning was friendly, which is how Galileo himself interpreted it.
Sitting on an ant heap.
When a historian of science posts anything on a blog in the Internet to do with Signor Galileo Galilei, that well know 17th century polemicist, he commits the mental equivalent of stripping naked, smearing honey on his genitals and then sitting down on an ant heap. As soon as he presses that button to post he knows it is only a matter of time before the black crawly hordes will be nibbling on his gonads. Should he make the fatal error of saying something positive, or even implying something that could be interpreted as positive, about Roberto Bellarmino then that relatively harmless swarm of common or garden type will instantly turn into an army of fire ants determined to ensure that he will never put his love tackle to use again.
I am amazed at how many people comment without apparently reading what I have written. My post on what I see as Anthony Grayling's failings dealt with one very specific claim that he made in his review of Steve Fuller, namely that the Catholic Church in the person of the flamethrower wielding fork-tailed Signor Bellarmino had denied the existence of the, from Galileo telescopically discovered, moons of Jupiter. I pointed out that in this case Grayling had in fact turned the historical facts on their head, far from denying their existence, the Jesuit astronomers under Bellarmino's authority has scientifically examined Galileo's claims and having found them to be correct confirmed and publicised them; at the same time showering great honours on their discoverer for his brilliant technical abilities. Judging by the comments that this post provoked one would think that I had actually posted something totally different.
To my second attempt to explain my intentions posted in the comments Brian English responded:
so, in a climate of the Church happily killing or torturing people who don't tow the line, you seem to think that this wouldn't weigh on the mind of someone who proposed a non-church sanctioned view of the universe? I really find this a bit odd.
Brian, having twice explained in graphic detail that the Church had in fact sanctioned the discovery of the moons of Jupiter I do not find your comment a bit odd I find it totally mind-boggling!
Moving on to other testicle chewing insects, it did, of course, not take long before somebody uttered the name of the blessed "martyr to science", Giordano Bruno. Come on people this is boring, exercise a little fantasy or even better display some superior general knowledge in the poker game of Church demonising; I'll see your Bruno and raise you one Miguel Serveto. At least here we get a chance to take a sideswipe at the Calvinists instead of just using the poor old Catholics as our punch bag. But if you prefer taking pot shots at the Church of Rome why not go for Marco Antonio De Dominis, apart from having a much more impressive name, a genuine Croatian scientist has got to be worth more than a mere Italian in a game of intellectual trivial pursuits; after all you really can't top the suffering of De Dominis at the hands of the Inquisition. Having had the audacity to die in their dungeon while still awaiting his trial, De Dominis was still not able to stop those jolly burners of all good scientific martyrs. If they couldn't put the man on trial they would try his corpse instead! This doesn't mean that they tried him in absentia, they actually placed his coffin in the dock with his portrait on top and having tried him and found him guilty they duly took his out and burnt him. Sarcasm aside, all of this suffers from one irritatingly small error, none of the three immolated victims of religious intolerance was in reality a martyr of science. All three of them were found guilty of heresy not because of their scientific views but because of their theological ones.
I think there should be a history of science equivalent to Godwin's Law anyone who mentions Bruno in a discussion on Galileo, science in the early 17th century or science and religion has automatically lost! To close my comments on the Nolan neither Kepler nor Galileo the two leading heliocentrists at the beginning of the 17th century ever makes a single reference to Bruno in their extremely voluminous writings.
"A friendly warning": I have also been taken to task for describing Bellarmino's famous meeting with Galileo as a friendly warning, unfortunately for Galileo this was how he saw the situation. Had he taken Bellarmino's informal and very gentle warning more seriously then he might not have taken the risks that he did in writing and publishing his Diologo. In general concerning Bellarmino I refer people to Brandon's comment #18 and John Wilkins's response to it #20 in the comments thread to my post, a voice of reason in the clamour of denunciation.
Thony, you completely leave out the well-known letter to the Duchess. Galileo sent a manuscript to the Duchess Christina explaining his most heretical theories in order to curry favor with nobility to the purpose of protecting him from religious inquisition.
I left it out because it has no relevance to the topic that I was discussing which was the discovery of the moons of Jupiter by Galileo and its subsequent scientific confirmation by the Jesuit mathematicians of the Collegio Romano
Having vented my frustration at all the misinterpretations of my last post I shall now drink a nice cup of tea and think about what I can post next time in order to provoke all of the people kind enough to read my intertube scribblings. Send in the ants...
I'm not convinced that Bruno's copernicanism is what got him burned. He also preached that Christ was not divine and that Mary wasn't a virgin...
oh yeah, well, then it's perfectly okay to torture people and burn them at the stake for those reasons .... >:-(