Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Galileo moment

When scientists attack religion, they always cite Galileo, and they always get the story wrong.

NPR radio had a program on the veracity of the Biblical Adam and Eve, with this summary:
Several other well-known theologians at Christian universities have also been forced out. Of course, science has clashed with church doctrine before.

Unidentified Man #2: Galileo Galilei having held and believed a doctrine which is false and contrary to Scripture that the sun is the center of the world, that the earth is not the center of the world, we condemn you to formal imprisonment in this holy office.

Mr. KARL GIBERSON (Author): The evolution controversy today is, I think, a Galileo moment.

HAGERTY: Karl Giberson is author of "Saving Darwin: How To Be A Christian and Believe In Evolution."

Mr. GIBERSON: When you ignore science, you end up with egg on your face. And the Catholic Church has had an awful lot of egg on its face for centuries because of Galileo. And Protestants would do very well to look at that and to learn from it.
From this interview:
CONAN: Albert Mohler and Daniel Harlow are with us. Daniel Harlow, a religion professor at Calvin College, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News. And, Barbara Bradley Hagerty, I wanted to bring you back into this conversation. You describe this in your story as the Galileo moment - of course, the great Italian who argued that the Earth revolves around the sun, not the other way around, as some interpretations of the Bible would have you believe. He got into a little trouble for that from the Catholic Church, which apologized only 350-odd years later.

HAGERTY: That's right. That's right. Well, there's a debate. I think Albert Mohler would not say this is a Galileo moment. I think others would. The scientists who don't take literal interpretation of the Bible would. But what everyone agrees on is that this is a huge debate of the size of the Galileo moment. This is a clash of science and religion, where some people are going to decide that science trumps the interpretation. That we have to take account of the science and the genomic evidence, and therefore we have to - this is what some people say - therefore we have to think about the Bible, the Genesis account a little bit differently. Is it a metaphor? Is it a story? Is it allegory? What is it? Does it have great themes, great ideas, but is it not literal? And so in that sense, what you have is just a parallel clash of religion and science. And people are duking it out right now, trying to figure out which is right.
No, the Catholic Church did not ignore science in the Galileo affair. Galileo was the one who gave fallacious science arguments, as I explain in my book.

There has been recent DNA evidence about human origins, and it appears to be contrary to the most literal interpretations of Genesis. It also appears contrary to the prevailing out-of-Africa theory, as noted

The leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne argues:
Yes, you’ve got a problem. Because if Adam and Eve didn’t really exist in the way the Bible describes them, maybe Jesus didn’t either. And if he didn’t, there goes Christianity. For even non-literalist but evangelical Christians, like Francis Collins, hold fast to the literal truth of the divinity and resurrection of Christ. Why does that story bear more veracity than Adam and Eve? If it doesn’t, there’s simply no good reason to continue being a Christian.
That is pretty crazy. People are Christians because they believe in the teachings of the Gospels, and they do not even mention Adam and Eve. Scientists are not abandoning science because of weaknesses in the out-of-Africa theory.

As another example of a silly Galileo argument, a WSJ blog just had this:
In a debate early this month, Rick Perry likened skeptics of global-warmist doctrine to Galileo, a scientist who was persecuted for questioning an earlier era's dogma. Naturally, this infuriated global warmists such as Joe Romm, who writes a blog called Climate Progress for the left-liberal site ThinkProgress.org:
The media may not be ready to offer a full-throated defense of climate science, but they know that Galileo was the scientist, that the Inquisition were composed of religious zealots analogous to Perry (who prayed for the EPA to stop environmental regulations), and Galileo didn't get "outvoted."
Invoking "Galileo" is Perry's "dog-whistle" to the deniers, a name they like to invoke on their side, as laughable as that may sound.
Laughable? An Associated Press dispatch published yesterday questions why Americans have an "urge to deny" global warming, a doctrine to which the supposedly impartial news organization apparently subscribes. Read all the way to the bottom and you'll get this:
Last May the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences, arm of an institution that once persecuted Galileo for his scientific findings, pronounced on manmade global warming: It's happening. Said the pope's scientific advisers, "We must protect the habitat that sustains us."
In citing Galileo, Perry might have been even more right than he knew.
These are strained analogies. If Galileo is going to define science for public discussions, then we ought to get the story right.

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