52A Vane Attempt

"Don't Need a Weatherman To Tell Which Way the Wind Blows" 

A Series of Innocuous Blogs for Vainglorious Edification.


Still It Moves
February 19, 2009

“I have been pronounced by the Holy Office to be vehemently suspected of heresy, that is to say, of having held and believed that the Sun is the center of the world and immovable, and that the earth is not the center and moves: “
Galileo Galilei, 1633

The above statement, a part of Galileo Galilei’s recantation before the “Most Eminent and Reverend Lord Cardinals, Inquisitors-General,”  was issued by seventy year old Galileo at the Convent of Minerva on June 22, 1633.  He had been threatened with grave harm and perverse torture by the Inquisitors if he refused to recant.  Though declared too ill to travel, the Inquisition ordered by Pope Urban VIII, refused Galileo’s request to remain in Florence and threatened to drag him to Rome in chains.  Galileo was by then a famous and widely admired scientist.  He had met with Bishops and Cardinals and two Popes.  He had been honored by the mathematicians at Collegio Romano for his astronomical discoveries including sunspots and the moons of Jupiter.  The trial was brought about by the publication of his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, in 1632.  The book supported  the heretical Copernican theory of heliocentricity - that the sun was the center of the world - not the earth.

It was not the first time that science challenged the authority of the Church.  But it has become the most noted of struggles between a powerful religion and unsettling scientific facts.  The Church saw itself the sole representative of divine order and therefore demanded that its place on the earth be the center of the universe.  Copernican theory had been formulated a hundred years earlier but was reviled by Church authorities and summarily indicted as heretical.   A century later when Galileo’s telescope confirmed all manner of Copernican predictions, he was obliged to embrace scientific proof, even as the Church declared it illegal. 

It is a similar struggle of scientist versus authority that we see in present day challenges to the theory of anthropogenic global warming.  On the one hand we have the behemoth, lumbering institution of “authoritative science” represented by NASA, NOAA, peer-review journals, the UN’s IPCC and the Al Gore publicity camp.  On the other hand are thousands of individual scientists, doctors, engineers and skeptics who accept that the earth may be warming, but find no proof that man’s production of carbon dioxide is a significant factor.

It is a classic David and Goliath struggle.  The vast majority of resources available to government agencies, the IPCC, the mainstream media and global warmists dwarf the tiny resources of the skeptics.  The  institutional authorities have declared war on the heretical skeptics.  By all appearances it has been  their goal to eradicate opposing points of view, declare the “debate over” and install confiscatory public policies that insist global warming is man-made.  The heretics seek to publish science proving the earth warms and cools naturally, influenced by the sun, and that man’s contribution is minimal if any.  Quite probably the truth lies somewhere in between.  But if we look at the history of heretical science versus institutional authority - it may take a very long time to determine that.  It took the Roman Catholic Church nearly four hundred years to admit their moral heresy in the imprisonment and forced recantation of Galileo.  His humiliating truth was that in spite of the vast power of the Church, and its desire to be the center of the universe - it was not.  The celestial bodies known as planets, in fact revolved around… the sun.

Speaking truth to power is always a dangerous proposition.  Galileo had been promised freedom to publish his book by Pope Urban himself.  But the Cardinals, threatened by an earth (and Church) that no longer held center stage, demanded the Pope declare the book illegal.  Nearly four hundred years later in 1992 Pope John Paul II, who had initiated an investigation into Galileo’s trial and imprisonment, sought forgiveness in a ceremony that finally lifted the edict of Inquisition against Galileo.  The Church admitted that truth was more powerful than religious ideology.  And John Paul acknowledged that Galileo’s insights must have been divinely inspired.  He said, “Galileo sensed in his scientific research the presence of the Creator who, stirring in the depths of his spirit, stimulated him, anticipating and assisting his intuitions."  Finally, near the end of his life, released from prison, Galileo fell to his knees and kissed the earth.  Looking up, he whispered to the heavens and gods alike. “Still it moves.”   And so it does.