Sunday, June 30, 2013

Pope did not ban the telescope

Nature magazine is the most prestigious science magazine in the world, and it just published this interview:
On NeuroPod this month, a super-high resolution human brain atlas, how to build a brain from a tiny pool of cells, and the scientist who thinks drug laws are the worst case of scientific censorship 'since the Catholic Church banned the telescope'.
No, the Catholic Church never banned the telescope. I guess he is referring to the trial of Galileo, but there was never any disapproval of the telescope or any other scientific instrument. While Galileo made some discoveries with a telescope that he developed and improved, that had almost nothing to do with his dispute with the Church.

Galileo's main argument was that the tides prove the motion of the Earth. He was wrong and the Church correctly said that he was wrong. The Church's position was that he was free to teach and publish alternative astronomical theories, but he could not say that the tides prove the motion of the Earth.

Update: The 2011 movie A Dangerous Method has a similarly false analogy to Galileo. It says:
Freud: All I’m doing is pointing out what experience indicates to me must be the truth. And I can assure you that in 100 years time our work will still be rejected. Columbus, you know, had no idea what country he’d discovered. Like him I’m in the dark. All I know is that I have set foot on the shore and the country exists.

Jung: I think of you more as Galileo and your opponents as those who condemned him by refusing even to put their eye to his telescope.

Freud: In any event I have simply opened a door. It’s for young men like yourself to walk through it.

Jung: I’m sure you have many more doors to open for us.
This is nonsense. No one ever condemned Galileo by refusing to look thru a telescope. No one ever rejected any legitimate scientific work by Freud or Jung either. For the most part, Galileo, Freud, and Jung were criticized for not being able to give cientific support for their claims.

Galileo did a lot of good work. Freud and Jung were quacks.

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