Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Getting things right, or at least trying to

The new Cosmos series is off to a bad start. Here. 

21 comments:

planks length said...

The weirdest thing about any attempt to make Bruno a martyr for science is that he was the furthest thing from one. His "theories" were not backed up by even the tiniest bit of empirical evidence, he did not use the scientific method, he in fact did no observing at all. His visions of the universe were (horrors) faith-based, and not in a good way. He dredged his fantasies out of his dabbling in the occult and ancient mysticisms such as astrology. That they had an accidental resemblance to the post-Copernican conception of the universe was precisely that - an accident. He had nothing to do with science.

(Still, it was an uncool thing to burn him at the stake simply for being crazy.)

im-skeptical said...

Tyson made it clear that Bruno was not a scientist and that he was killed for challenging the religious views of the day. But hey, why would we expect to hear the truth from Christian apologetics?

Crude said...

planks,

His "theories" were not backed up by even the tiniest bit of empirical evidence, he did not use the scientific method, he in fact did no observing at all. His visions of the universe were (horrors) faith-based, and not in a good way. He dredged his fantasies out of his dabbling in the occult and ancient mysticisms such as astrology.

But you know what? He still annoyed Christians at one point. And between that and having views that are superficially close to modern multiverse speculations, he deserves to be...

BRUNO: SCIENTIFIC HERO TO ATHEISTS!

Karl Grant said...

Crude,

But you know what? He still annoyed Christians at one point. And between that and having views that are superficially close to modern multiverse speculations, he deserves to be...

BRUNO: SCIENTIFIC HERO TO ATHEISTS!


The only bad thing here is that old Bruno lived closed to two hundred years before the Illuminati was founded otherwise he would probably supplement Dawkins as the greatest scientific hero ever for Skeppy.

planks length said...

What I find funniest about the atheists' embrace of Bruno is that in real life he was basically a paragon of everything they claim to hate the most - blind faith in the teeth of evidence. Bruno didn't just dabble, he wallowed in mysticism, the occult, "secret" knowledge, and a preference for dark, ancient, mysterious texts. He valued his "visions" over rational thought, and deferred to his "inner witness" as a selling point for his bizarre theories.

Were it not for the completely accidental similarity between the products of his fevered imagination and modern day cosmology, the gnus wouldn't give Bruno the time of day.

And yes - burning him at the stake? Totally uncool. Were he alive today, Bruno would be a prime candidate for medical treatment to prevent him from harming himself or others. Either that, or we'd elect him to congress.

im-skeptical said...

Bruno defied religious dogma. Were he alive today, a bunch of religious idiots would be calling him a GNU.

BenYachov said...

Skept,

Rather you Gnus would call him deluded because of His Pantheism, mysticism and reliance on the Kabbalah.

Besides his beliefs where unremarkable. Nicolas of Cusa contemporary to that period believed in intelligent life on other celestial spheres.

He was a Priest and a Cardinal.

Dr. Tyson should just drop the Family Guy gnu and go it alone.

BenYachov said...

IMHO Sagan's Cosmos was technically more "anti-religious" Tyson's Cosmos but less offensive.

Tyson's Cosmos manages to be less anti-religious" (after all they have Bruno shouting "Your God is too small") but more offensive?

No mean feat.

I blame the Family Guy Gnu.

BenYachov said...

>Were it not for the completely accidental similarity between the products of his fevered imagination and modern day cosmology, the gnus wouldn't give Bruno the time of day.

In a debate between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox, Lennox made a big deal out of how till Big Bang Cosmology came along science had no proof the Universe had a beginning and that Science has vindicated the Bible which taught creation had a beginning and how remarkable that was.....

Dawkins quipped that the Bible had a 50/50 chance so just because they guessed right was unremarkable.

I must admit I have to give that point to Dawkins but ironically from a scientific point of view the only remarkable thing about Bruno and Galileo where those two idiots guessed right.

Nothing more.

Karl Grant said...

Skeppy,

Bruno defied religious dogma. Were he alive today, a bunch of religious idiots would be calling him a GNU.

Wrong. One, unlike you, we differentiate between various groups of people we disagree with. You're the one who tries to lump everybody into predetermined categories simply because they disagree with you on an issue without examining the facts at hand (for example, I link an article from CNN to support my argument, you attempt to lecture me about relying on Fox News for information, you know repeated shit like that). Two, as Ben pointed out, you would be mocking Bruno's occultist ass seven ways from sundown if he were alive and active today. Hell, given the way your guys' leaders pitched a fit over Francis Collins being appointed to a government position which he was well qualified for, I can just see Dawkins and Harris leading the charge to have a modern day Bruno blacklisted.

BeingItself said...

The Bruno segment was stupid. Animating religious authorities to look like devils on top of bungling the history. Seemed they tried to get away with it at the end by saying Bruno was not a scientist. Agreed, so what's the point?

So many better examples of religious idiots trying to suppress science there is no reason not to pick a real example. I guess Galileo being shown the implements of torture rather than actually being tortured is not dramatic enough. Maybe that's a legend too.

im-skeptical said...

McGrew not only butchers Tyson's depiction of Bruno, but he also butchers history. He claims that others at the time were already advocating an infinite (or "huge") universe:

"Okay, so Copernicus and Rheticus were dead by 1599, and Henry More hadn’t been born yet. But how about Copernicans like Maestlin and Kepler who were working actively at that time? How about Galileo, who was already a Copernican long before he wrote his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems?"

At the time Bruno was killed by the Christians, Kepler was still years from obtaining his first telescope (as Tyson noted), and his teacher Maestlin didn't accept Kepler's later theories of planetary motion. Galileo, too had yet to peer through a telescope. Let's be clear. The theory of the day (including Kepler's) was still celestial spheres.

And oh, by the way, Galileo, too, was prevented from expounding his scientific ideas by the church, which officially endorsed the Aristotelian view of the cosmos.

McGrew goes on:

"The Aristotelian cosmos was huge. Ptolemy, in the first book of his Almagest, says that the stars are so far away that in comparison to their distance, the earth may as well be considered to be a mere geometrical point. And then he proved it (as well as anything of that sort may be proved) by geometrical arguments. The Aristotelian conception of the universe had us at the bottom – not the privileged place this narrative suggests."

He's wrong.
http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr161/lect/retrograde/aristotle.html

Aristotle believed in celestial spheres with the earth at the center. The church fought against any opposition to this view until they finally relented in in the eighteenth century, when the ban on Galileo's works was lifted.

Chad Handley said...

I don't know this for a fact myself, but CS Lewis claimed that what was actually at the center of the Aristotelian cosmos was Hell.

He also claimed that atheists make a fundamental mistake when they associate centrality with importance in Aristotelian cosmology.

He claimed things got more important as they got away from the center, which is why heaven is in the outermost sphere, while Hell is in the innermost.

It seems to me atheists generally overestimate the religious significance of heliocentrism. The Church didn't dislike it because it made us insignificant. It disliked Galileo preaching it because it was the middle of the Reformation and the Church didn't like scientists claiming the authority to force a reinterpretation of Scripture.

im-skeptical said...

BI,

I agree that the Bruno segment was overblown, and it might have been better to focus on Kepler and Galileo, but the point (as I saw it) was that the religious leadership of the day was resistant to any view that threatened their own dogma. I believe he may be setting the stage for exposing further conflicts between religion and enlightenment.

BeingItself said...

Skep,

Yeah I just hate animation in general and cartoonish depictions of history. BTW I have not read the McGrew piece. He is a complete buffoon who makes some of the worst apologetic arguments imaginable.

planks length said...

"He's wrong."

No, im-skeptical. In this case, it is you who are wrong, wrong, wrong. Here is a direct quotation from Ptolemy's Almagest: "the Earth ... in magnitude and distance, has the ratio of a [mathematical] point with respect to the sphere of the fixed stars."
(Ptolemy, Almagest, Book 1, Chapter 5, Section 2)

As for its importance in the cosmos, we need only read Dante's description of the Earth, as viewed from the stars:

My eyes went back through the seven spheres below,
And I saw this globe, so small, so lost in space,
I had to smile at such a sorry show.
Who thinks it the least pebble in the skies
I most approve.
(Paradiso, Canto XXII, lines 133-37)

And yes, yes, yes. The pre-Copernicans conceived of the Earth as being at the bottom of the universe, with the more exalted realms encircling it. Again from Dante, when he reaches the center of the Earth in the Inferno, he notes that there is "no more downward". Everything in the physical cosmos: Sun, Moon, Planets, Stars, everything - is overhead.

oozzielionel said...

Maybe it is no longer true that the winner rights the history. We preserve too many source documents to make this work anymore. The fable view of history of the ruling world view is constantly proven wrong. It used to be the problem of theists when they ruled the majority opinion. Their view of history kept being challenged by the new upstarts. But now the secularists keep trying to protect their majority foothold by controlling the storyline. He who controls the narrative, controls the hearts of the people.

oozzielionel said...

sorry, "writes"

im-skeptical said...

planks,

If you feel an urge to dispute everything I say, you're likely to come off sounding impervious to truth, just like crude.

I didn't dispute what is written in Almagest. I disputed McGrew, because he was wrong. Aristotle's universe may have been described as large, but it was nothing compared to what Bruno envisioned. And you seem to be confusing Aristotle's view with the the Christian adaptation of that view that placed heaven in the outermost sphere and hell in the bowels of the earth.

Karl Grant said...

Skeppy,

And oh, by the way, Galileo, too, was prevented from expounding his scientific ideas by the church, which officially endorsed the Aristotelian view of the cosmos.

Uh no, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was published in 1632 with formal authorization from the Inquisition and papal permission. To quote Rice University's Galileo Project:

Maffeo Barberini was an accomplished man of letters, who published several volumes of verse. Upon Galileo' s return to Florence, in 1610, Barberini came to admire Galileo' s intelligence and sharp wit. During a court dinner, in 1611, at which Galileo defended his view on floating bodies, Barberini supported Galileo against Cardinal Gonzaga. From this point, their patron-client relationship flourished until it was undone in 1633. Upon Barberini' s ascendance of the papal throne, in 1623, Galileo came to Rome and had six interviews with the new Pope. It was at these meetings that Galileo was given permission to write about the Copernican theory, as long as he treated it as a hypothesis. After the publication of Galileo' s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems of the World, in 1632, the patronage relationship was broken. It appears that the Pope never forgave Galileo for putting the argument of God's omnipotence (the argument he himelf had put to Galileo in 1623) in the mouth of Simplicio, the staunch Aristotelian whose arguments had been systematically destroyed in the previous 400-odd pages.

So for one Galileo didn't treat his argument for heliocentrism as hypothesis (which is technically breach of contract) and put the words of his best friend, chief patron and one of the most powerful men in Europe in mouth of simpleton character who he made to look like a fool in his book (and for some reason a lot of people view Galileo as being smart despite that fact).

Aristotle believed in celestial spheres with the earth at the center. The church fought against any opposition to this view until they finally relented in in the eighteenth century, when the ban on Galileo's works was lifted.

Uh no, it wasn't just the Church that followed Aristotle. Mainstream secular science was of the same opinion as the Church. And Galileo didn't prove heliocentrism In fact, he could not answer the strongest argument against it, which had been made nearly two thousand years earlier by Aristotle: If heliocentrism were true, then there would be observable parallax shifts in the stars’ positions as the earth moved in its orbit around the sun. The Catholic Church removed Galileo completely from the Index of Forbidden books in 1835, want to guess what else was observed at that time?

Papalinton said...

McGrew: "And Bruno wasn’t in trouble for his Copernicanism. He was in trouble chiefly for such forward-looking astronomical views as his denial that Jesus was divine, that Mary was a virgin, or that God was triune."

Encapsulates the very essence of pious christian ire that underlies Christian sentiment to this very day as comments in this thread so demonstrably portray. It is with much relief, at least for me, that Christian piety no longer are grounds for committing murder. Not so lucky for Bruno and not so lucky for many today that have been experienced Christian justice in the name of Jesus so painfully exemplified in the export of American evangelical Christian thought to African countries through which incarceration simply on the basis of Christian ignorance about a genetic quirk in evolutionary biology is now a fact in law.

McGrew: "We can all agree – I hope – that burning someone at the stake for his beliefs is wrong." Well bugger me, with one sweep Christian devilry is mitigated and consigned to the dustbin of history.

No amount of harmonization, syncretic hermeneutics, and revisionism of history will arrest the slide of christianity into relative obscurity. For centuries christians have sought to suppress, divert, abort, repress competing worldviews, its success in no small measure made possible by the extent to which Christian thought was protected and defended by the 'Bruno strategy'.

The genie, as it were, is out of the bottle. There is no putting the cork back. Tyson's cosmological series is simply another small step towards engaging with the community in the unarguably perceptible move towards detoxing itself from the habituation of and dependency on unsubstantiated supernaturalism and primitive superstition to a more epistemologically robust and evidence-based paradigm as a basis for learning, knowledge and experience development and societal discussion-making. And that is a good thing.