Galileo part 2

To flesh out that last post a bit more.

Galileo was certainly a genius, and not universally a prat. None of us are, except maybe Piers Akerman. What I was on about with the hagiography that usually surrounds Galileo and his trial (hagiography being that standard "great man" history with noble heroes and evil enemies) is that, if you actually read the detailed accounts of everything that went on, from the letters to the hearing transcripts, it's clear the G man was looking for a fight.

Now I don't belong to any church and subscribe to no religion, so there's no apologism going on in saying this. It's about how groups of people behave, and the relationship between knowledge and groups. In those times the Church provided the dominant 'world view', and this view was woven into the fabric of the Church and society as a group, with delegated authorities, as we have in all ages. So the trial represented one piece of evidence for a shift in the larger human group in terms of lines and techniques of authority. The Church responded as they did not just because they thought Galileo was 'wrong', but because what he was suggesting completely shifted the way all of society would need to be organised.

So the standard story of the trial reads more like a 3rd grade history reader of evil Nazis and good British chaps slugging it out, as oppposed to a more mature history a variety of causes and factors and insights. And if you look today you actually see the same excommunication going on within science itself, with brilliant scientists who challenge the orthodoxy excluded from major journals and not getting the research grants. Once power shifted to science and away from religion, all of the same group behaviour shifted camps at the same time.

All groups do this, which is why I find the 'religion is bad' stuff simplistic. Religion was just what held sway, at that time. Today it's science and economics mostly, and you'll find the same sorts of trials there. Marx for example has been completely vilified, and most are completely unaware of the extensive and sophisticated analyses he undertook. Whether you agree with them or not.


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