Friday, February 03, 2006

Dizikes on Galileo Groupies

Check out this excellent article from Slate:

In a column late last month in the Catholic Church's official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, Italian biologist Fiorenzo Facchini scolded intelligent design advocates for "pretending to do science." It was the Vatican's signal that the church had jumped ship on ID. That will no doubt rankle creationists who hoped for a potential ally in Rome. But there's a bright side for them: The church's rejection could help the ID-ers identify with their favorite scientist, Galileo Galilei.

Yes, that Galileo. In opinion pieces, speeches, and interviews, ID advocates commonly cite the 17th-century Italian astronomer and physicist as a forebear. It's not his views on biology they want a piece of, but rather his plight as a man before his time. “In my opinion, we must train students in the 21st century to do exactly as Galileo did … think outside the box,” says William Harris, one of the key players in Kansas' rebellion against evolution last year. In his 1996 book Darwin's Black Box, leading ID-er Michael Behe calls the idea of a heliocentric universe, proposed by Copernicus and backed by Galileo, a prescient “assault on the senses.” So, too, Behe says, will his own work be vindicated. Last fall, an interviewer for the British newspaper the Guardian asked Behe if the criticism of ID he faces brings Galileo to mind. The self-appointed science rebel had a simple answer: “Yeah. In a way it's flattery.”

Welcome to creationism's absurdist history of science. During the inquisition, the Catholic Church put Galileo on trial in 1633 and forced him under threat of torture to recant his belief, presented unapologetically in the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, that the earth revolved around the sun. Galileo's story has nuances—Pope Urban VIII tolerated his ideas more than hard-line cardinals—but it is unquestionably a tale of science squelched by organized religion. That is not exactly a problem today's ID backers face.

Think Dizikes is exaggerating? Check out this blog entry from William Dembski, posted today:

[From a colleague:] I understand the importance of the political struggle—not because the truth of neo-Darwinism or ID (or a “third way”) can be settled by the courts, but because Darwinian metaphysics is doing real moral and political mischief in our society, and therefore must be opposed in whatever manner is practicable. From that point of view, Dover was indeed unfortunate.

However, let us not lose sight of the fact that a scientific theory that requires a judge to enforce its teaching cannot be said to be in good INTELLECTUAL health. By proclaiming it illegal to “disparage or denigrate” neo-Darwinism, Judge Jones adopted the principle of the Inquisition, and in so doing rendered both himself and that state-enforced theory ridiculous. Taking a longer view, I think Dover will come eventually to be be seen as a moral victory, in the same way that Galileo’s condemnation is now viewed as a moral victory.

There is only one thing to say to Judge Jones—eppure, si muove!

A more accurate description of what happened in Dover is that a Judge, in possession of all the relevant facts, prevented a scientifically ignorant school board from lying to school children in the service of an especially mypoic religious agenda.


At 3:45 PM, Anonymous ChristieJ said...

For ID to use this analogy baffles me. They've got their characters backward, if they're going to use Galileo as a point of comparison. The Bad Guys were the religious zealots trying to put an end to real science, and the persecuted one was the Scientist Who Disputed the Religious View. They are *still* the Bad Guys, and the entire spectrum of life sciences Disputes the Religious View (ID.)

At 3:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Koestler's book covering Copernicus through Gallileo is accurate, the G man publicly sided against Copernicus until he was middle-aged, then switched sides and claimed to have 'proof' that the Earth revolves around the Sun, said 'proof' being a misunderstanding of the tides. So, if that's all true, the ID people can have him.

At 3:51 PM, Blogger Karen McL said...

I found this one rather intriguing Via a link at the National Center for Science Education:

Text of talk by Vatican Observatory director
on ‘Science Does Not Need God. Or Does It? A Catholic Scientist Looks at Evolution’

By Father George V. Coyne, SJ


[But note - he is a Jesuit - a more learned sect of the Catholic Faith.]

At 12:34 AM, Blogger Dana said...

I have never understood the ID argument that the Dover ruling shows evolution to be in poor intellectual health. It wasn't like the whole trial was just Judge Jones saying "I don't like ID, so I will suppress it and promote evolution." ID had a chance to present its scientific evidence. A big chance, in fact. Behe and others thought that they had done a great job at it.

Judge Jones saw it for what it was, however: arrogance and puffery. If I may say so, any theory that has one of its principal opponents (Behe) casually dismissing 50+ peer reviewed articles as "speculation" and "not good enough" is in very poor intellectual health indeed.

At 12:35 AM, Blogger Dana said...

bah, replace "opponent" with "supporter" for Behe, sorry.

At 2:09 AM, Anonymous ferfuracious said...

Why is it that the religious always seem to describe secular institutions like science in religious terms as a way of attacking them?

To hear phrases such as "the scientifc priesthood" or "a paladin of science" used by the religious to denigrate science completely baffles me. We're supposed to accept that science is bad because its just like religion, and that religion is therefore better... or something, I not really sure about the psychology of the whole thing.

It's the same with this situation. Creationism and science swap roles, with science playing the irrational dogmatic inquisition and creationism is the foward thinking, but persecuted, victim.

Maybe that's what they're after, a role reversal. Science is the backward tradition trying to tell everyone what's moral and the religious are the persecuted battlers trying to free humanity from science's corrupting grasp.

Otherwise religion seems like the kid in the school yard whose only response to an insult is "I know you are, you said you are, but what am I?"

At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Kevin from NYC said...

"Why is it that the religious always seem to describe secular institutions like science in religious terms as a way of attacking them"

so that the arguments are all on the same level and its all a matter of opinion and not facts.

The ID line is that the EV dogma is pernicious and specious. (wow)

i.e. our fake crap is better than your fake crap.

of course if you don't have any facts you should always drag your opposition down to the same level.

At 5:42 AM, Blogger Ginger Yellow said...

"In his 1996 book Darwin's Black Box, leading ID-er Michael Behe calls the idea of a heliocentric universe, proposed by Copernicus and backed by Galileo, a prescient “assault on the senses.” S"

Did he really? Did he even address the enormous amount of fudging that Ptolemy and his followers had to do to make the geocentric model fit the observational data such as retrograde motion, and that even then it couldn't cope with some of it?

At 7:23 PM, Blogger Joe C said...

I'm nearly choking with disbelief. Behe invoking Galileo? ack, ack, ack....GALILEO?

Galileo is very poster child of reason vs. religion, fact vs. belief, and yes... evolution vs. creationism.

How do they do it? How DO they do it?

Excuse me, I'm going to get another drink.


At 2:33 PM, Blogger another orphan said...


I posted a couple of snarky quotes on the 'Galileo Gambit', triggered by Behe's remark.

Cook and Lec on the Galileo Gambit


Post a Comment

<< Home