Don’t you just love seeing ignorance get smacked? »« Weapons-grade projection

Missing the point of Giordano Bruno

I’m seeing a lot of silly carping about Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos — almost all of it is focused on the story of Bruno told in the first episode. The apologists for religion are upset: how dare a science program point out the poisonous influence of religion? Bruno wasn’t really a scientist anyway, so he shouldn’t count! Peter Hess of the NCSE offers up a good example of apologetics.

Unfortunately, the series premiere risks squandering that opportunity through a combination of misleading history and reliance on an antiquated narrative of inevitable conflict between science and religion—and the Catholic Church in particular—that simply is not borne out by the facts. A generation of careful scholarship has given us a nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the long, rich, and complex relationship between religion and the sciences. This latest Cosmos reflects none of that historiography, presenting us instead with what is quite literally a cartoon version of the life story of someone who was not a scientist. Missing were the stories of Catholic astronomers such as Copernicus [delayed publication out of fear; only saw his ideas in print on his deathbed; book was prohibited by the Catholic Church in 1616] and Galileo [tried by the Vatican, forced to recant, spent the end of his life under house arrest], Protestants such as Brahe [Brahe was a geocentrist -- a geoheliocentrist, actually] and Kepler [Did you know his mother was tried and imprisoned for witchcraft?] and Newton[Also a mystic, Bible-prophecy walloping, fanatical religious person], or Fr. George Lemaître, proposer of the Big Bang.

Whenever I see one of these guys throw out noise like a nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the long, rich, and complex relationship between religion and the sciences, I want to ask…what was nuanced and sophisticated about setting a human being on fire? I also think his list of famous scientists overlooks an important trend: between Copernicus and Lemaître, we are seeing the steady triumph of science over religion, that we see the Church forced to reduce the severity of its enforcement of dogma in the face of the overwhelming success of science in accurately describing the world. The Church was dragged kicking and screaming into an era where you don’t get to murder people for disagreeing with your dogma.

It is odd therefore that Cosmos focuses almost exclusively on the marginal case of Giordano Bruno. Of course, I am not defending Bruno’s persecution and death—no decent human being now would ever condone burning a person alive for any reason. Moreover, in 2014 we view legitimate theological dissent very diffferently than did our ancestors.

But the circumstances were quite different 400 years ago. According to the 16th century Italian legal code and the customs of Renaissance politics, Bruno was judged by an ecclesiastical court to be an obdurate heretic for refusing to cease in promulgating his theological ideas. As such he was deserving of capital punishment and was turned over for execution by the civil arm in Rome. In the 21st century we inhabit a very different era, a religiously pluralistic age of largely secular states in which the nature and exercise of authority are vastly different than they were in Post-Reformation Italy.

Is anyone else getting that queasy feeling, like when you read about William Lane Craig justifying the murder of babies by ‘Israeli’ soldiers? Hey, it was OK to set people on fire in 1600! Why are you complaining?

I agree that we live in a very different era in the 21st century. Give the credit to secularism, rationalism, and the Enlightenment, though, because fucking religion fought every progressive change every step of the way, with liberal religion dogging along by discarding parts of the religious nonsense of previous generations.

I don’t think it odd at all that the series brought Giordano Bruno to the fore. This is not at all a show for scientists, but to bring a little bit of the awe and wonder of science to everyone. I think it was a good idea to use a non-scientist as an example of how dogma oppresses and harms everyone. Bruno was an idealist, a mystic, an annoying weirdo, a heretic, and for that, the Catholic Church set him on fire.

Do I need to repeat that? Bruno was tortured to an agonizing death for his beliefs. Full stop. Don’t even try to rationalize that.

Furthermore, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s own words, transcribed by Wesley Elsberry, are crystal clear on the point he was making.

Giordano Bruno lived in a time when there was no such thing as the separation of church and state, or the notion that freedom of speech was a sacred right of every individual. Expressing an idea that didn’t conform to traditional belief could land you in deep trouble. Recklessly, Bruno returned to Italy. Maybe he was homesick, but still he must have known that his homeland was one of the most dangerous places in Europe he could possibly go. The Roman Catholic Church maintained a system of courts known as the Inquisition, and its sole purpose was to investigate and torment anyone who dared voice views that differed from theirs. It wasn’t long before Bruno fell into the clutches of the thought police.

The Church maintained an Inquisition to torture people who didn’t follow Catholic dogma in thought. Let’s not hide that fact. Let’s not pretend it was OK because it was 400 years ago. Let’s not say it was irrelevant because many of their victims, like Bruno, were not scientists. I think it’s a rather important point that the progress of science requires that we not set people who disagree with us on fire.

Wesley makes a very good point at the end.

The point “Cosmos” was making was more basic. At the level of telling people about science, we don’t need a lot of historical nuance about the Inquisition: what they did was so far out of bounds of the way discourse needs to be handled that simply noting the historical divergence is sufficient. “Cosmos” did that, plainly told people they were doing that, and, sadly enough, a lot of people of otherwise lofty intellect managed not to take the point.

I will also disagree with Hess. There is a conflict between science and religion. Somehow, these people think that the historical evidence of people leaving behind their antiquated religious ideas and gradually adapting to a more secular view of the world is evidence that religion and science are compatible.


You know, I’d heard this vague euphemism that the church “immobilized his tongue” to prevent Bruno from speaking heresy on the way to the stake, but I didn’t know how. The answer was provided in the comments:

[on the way to the stake, Feb 19, 1600] As the parade moved on, Bruno became animated and excited. He reacted to the mocking crowds, responding to their yells with quotes from his books and the sayings of the ancients. His comforters, the Brotherhood of St. John, tried to quiet the exchange, to protect Bruno from yet further pain and indignity, but he ignored them. And so after a few minutes the procession was halted by the Servants of Justice. A jailer was brought forward and another two held Bruno’s head rigid. A long metal spike was thrust through Bruno’s left cheek, pinning his tongue and emerging through the right cheek. Then another spike was rammed vertically through his lips. Together, the spikes formed a cross. Great sprays of blood erupted onto his gown and splashed the faces of the brotherhood close by. Bruno spoke no more. … as the fire began to grip, the Brothers of Pity of St. John the Beheaded tried one last time to save the man’s soul. Risking the flames, one of them leaned into the fire with a crucifix, but Bruno merely turned his head away. Seconds later, the fire caught his robe and seared his body, and above the hissing and crackling of the flames could be heard the man’s muffled agony.

Yeah, that’s what the apologists want to dismiss as irrelevant.

Comments

  1. Al Dente says

    Lemaître was a priest but there’s not one mention of God or religion in his scientific papers. He was a first class physicist despite being a priest, not because of it.

  2. raven says

    William Tyndale – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    en. wikipedia. org/wiki/William_Tyndale‎

    Tyndale’s translation was the first English Bible to draw directly from Hebrew and …. William Tyndale, before being strangled and burned at the stake, cries out, …

    Left out Tyndale.

    His crime was translating the bible into English. The RCC didn’t like people reading the bible. It is, as we have found out, a good pathway out of xianity. We atheists love the bible!!!

  3. screechymonkey says

    Yeesh, there’s no pleasing Team Religion and its sympathizers, is there? Cosmos bent over backwards to make an accomodationist argument: “see, you can believe in a universe that is huge in both time and spatial dimensions, one in which the Earth is just a tiny speck, and still keep your faith! It just makes your god that much grander and bigger, as Bruno said!”

    And yet it’s still not enough.

  4. Amphiox says

    So how exactly is Bruno a “marginal” case?

    Did he burn to death more slowly than average? More quickly?

  5. raven says

    It’s not hard to be a Catholic saint. Being a murderer or mass murderer is no problem.

    1. The guy who torture killed Bruno and almost torched Galileo was made a saint, Saint Roberto Bellarmino. There is a Catholic college in Kentucky named after him. I’m sure the student body is proud of it and very docile.

    2. Saint Thomas More was a serial killer of Protestant heretics.

    3. Even being a pagan goddess wasn’t a problem. Demeter was downgraded to a saint when xianity took over.

  6. says

    Bruno’s fate undoubtedly was a deterrent to Galileo’s publication. How could any Italian writing about the Copernican system ignore what was very recent history?

    And don’t forget that the Dialogue on the Two Systems of the World was on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum till 1835.

  7. busterggi says

    “I am not defending Bruno’s persecution and death—no decent human being now would ever condone burning a person alive for any reason.”

    I guess no decent human beings existed until after Christians stopped burning people alive.

    Wait, they still do that in Africa, with the blessings of those in the US – guess we’ll just have to be patient.

  8. consciousness razor says

    I only watched it once, but I don’t remember any claim to the effect that Bruno was a scientist, was doing science, was a martyr for science, or that the story told was one strictly about “the history of science and religion” (and not just one of the many tragic scenes they could’ve shown portraying the philosophical and social backdrop in which some of our more modern ideas started taking shape). I’d have to watch it again to find the quotes of Tyson pretty clearly saying Bruno wasn’t a scientist and that he wasn’t offering a scientific theory or basing his ideas off of observations/experiments. I figured it was a big enough hint that Lucretius pretty obviously didn’t write a science textbook.

    So I’m honestly curious. Exactly which facts did the show supposedly get wrong?

  9. says

    I want to ask…what was nuanced and sophisticated about setting a human being on fire?

    But they did it in a kindly teasing sort of way, you know, with dinner and drinks, like a celebrity roast.

  10. twas brillig (stevem) says

    The beginning of the Bruno story sounded to me like a justification for religiosity. Bruno’s arguments were, “God is big; it is our puny imagination that limits Him to a finite existence. God is INFINITE!!!” But then the story showed how that idea didn’t work out so good for Bruno. And IIRC, it was the Anglicans (not the Catholics) who threw tomatoes at his presentation of that idea; only then did the Catholics step in and burn him.
    My Atheist eyes are blinding me to any possible objection to the Cosmos story of Bruno. They can only over-generalize about the objectors being so weak, that they will object to the slightest anti-Catholic story. Like a little child threatening to punch anyone who gives him the ‘stink eye’, no matter how big that person is.

  11. Menyambal says

    I watched Cosmos again last night, mostly to catch the Bruno sequence. A lot of the discussion this past week made it sound like Cosmos was falsely claiming he’d been killed for his science.

    The sentencing judge read out a list of religious offenses—denying Jesus and such—then tacked on the one scientific-ish claim at the end. Tyson, a few moments later, said that Bruno’s science was a lucky guess.

    So I don’t see being mad at Cosmos for anything other than being perfectly accurate. Snarkily honest, perhaps. It had a point, and it made it.

    It even threw in the bit about turning the execution over to the civil authorities. Is that supposed to take the heat off the church?

    Churches may not burn people alive, at least not in the enlightened areas (thanks, Science), but they burn people in Hell, just as alive and aware as they can believe them to be, for ever and ever and fucking ever.

  12. Desert Son, OM says

    Let’s not say it was irrelevant because many of their victims, like Bruno, were not scientists.

    Not only is it not irrelevant, I submit that fact actually makes it even more relevant to highlight the cruelty and ignorance of religion. The church wasn’t just interested in crushing the individuals doing research. That would have been appalling enough. But the church—and state entities either cowed by or invested with the church—went after anyone at the sign of a question against authority, and went after others by association, even as little as simple proximity.

    Dear faithful: No one gets better at being better by insisting that the worst of the past is not worth examination.

    Still learning,

    Robert

  13. says

    A generation of careful scholarship has given us a nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the long, rich, and complex relationship between religion and the sciences.

    Does he mean the relationship where theologists use mobius logic strips sophisticated theology to try to explain why science is totes ok with religion.

    Or where they just ignore science and facts altogether where their sophisticated understanding is not up to the job?

    It seems to me that it is always religion twisting and changing to incorporate science and facts rather than the other way around.

  14. Amphiox says

    I only watched it once, but I don’t remember any claim to the effect that Bruno was a scientist, was doing science, was a martyr for science, or that the story told was one strictly about “the history of science and religion” (and not just one of the many tragic scenes they could’ve shown portraying the philosophical and social backdrop in which some of our more modern ideas started taking shape).

    You know, Cosmos explicitly stated in the narration “Bruno was not a scientist. He had no proof that his conception of the infinite universe was correct. It was a lucky guess.”

    The point of the Bruno segment was not about religious prosecution of scientists. It was about religious intolerance for ideas.

    They also made a point to show that Bruno’s heretical ideas were actually religiously motivated. It was his belief in the infinite glory of god that led to his belief in an infinite created universe. So it was also a subtle suggestion that a nearly unimaginably vast cosmos is not incompatible with belief in god.

  15. twas brillig (stevem) says

    The whole thing about the Catholic Church demanding books (all books) be written only in Latin (Bible especially) was also made famous by Dante. He (supposedly) demanded his Divine Comedy be published in (Common) Italian; I think his were the first books to be published in that Language. The Church thought the “people” were too ignorant to read and only priests were worthy. But to teach the Bible to the masses, they spent extravagantly on elaborate stained glass windows illustrating the stories in The Book. That’s one way to make sure Everyone gets the Exact-Same-Story. Too bad Murdoch thinks he can get away with the same ploy. [control all the media, present only a single view, tell everyone, it is "fair and balanced", and that any other story is "wrong wrong wrong"]

  16. leepicton says

    I was actually thrilled to see attention paid to Giordano Bruno. Everybody knows about Copernicus and Galileo, but Bruno has been given short shrift. It is the date of his burning that is as important as the fact of it. 1600 gives us a convenient date for dividing the beginning of the end of medieval thought and the rise of the enlightenment. Yes, we still had people being put to death after 1600, and some of the basics of rational scientific thinking were already in place, so there is considerable overlap. But fact based evidence was now too obvious for the church to burn people willy nilly (the last Catholic martyr being a guy named Plunkett in 1681), and the practice began to die out. The genie was out of the bottle and the Catholic church has been trying to stuff it back in ever since with ever diminishing success. May it continue apace.

  17. Scientismist says

    a nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the long, rich, and complex relationship between religion and the sciences.

    I start getting a queasy feeling any time science becomes “sciences”. For me, that use of the plural is the tip-off that someone wants to portray science as a fragmented collection of findings rather than a method of looking at a single reality. Science, as Bronowski insisted, is not a “loose-leaf notebook of facts”.

    It doesn’t surprise me a bit that, from Hess’ more “sophisticated” point of view, the struggle to overcome suppression of freedom of thought would become merely a marginal issue in the history of science, and that one of the best-known victims of that struggle would be dismissed as someone who was “not a scientist” and was “deserving of capital punishment.”

  18. consciousness razor says

    So it was also a subtle suggestion that a nearly unimaginably vast cosmos is not incompatible with belief in god.

    Not very — as subtle as TV shows with cartoons can get, I guess.

    Anyway, I don’t see a reason to intervene, if the compatibilists want to fight amongst themselves over whether that’s true, or more likely come to some kind of stale and useless compromise that won’t offend anyone. But I would like to understand why the hell incompatibilists are getting the blame (for what, I don’t know) from the People’s Front of Compatibilism when the Compatibilist People’s Front stirs this shit up.

  19. says

    I have to add that my personal favorite from the apologists is the line: “scientists and science enjoyed the protect of the church for centuries.” Right. Protection from what exactly? [crickets].

  20. consciousness razor says

    For me, that use of the plural is the tip-off that someone wants to portray science as a fragmented collection of findings rather than a method of looking at a single reality.

    It’s one reality, but there are many different methods of looking at pieces of it. It doesn’t mean it’s less methodical to say that there isn’t one single method which works for everything, and it doesn’t mean the focus is on a bunch of disconnect facts with no theory. And the fact is, there isn’t a single method. So whether they want to or not, or have some nefarious agenda, that’s portraying it accurately. If we ever do devise a single scientific method, that would change.

  21. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Of course, I am not defending Bruno’s persecution and death—no decent human being now would ever condone burning a person alive for any reason.

    But decent religions would condone burning a person for eternity, with no possibility of anoxic delirium or destruction of nerves rendering the torture, even for a moment, bearable and yet the mind of the person is magically prevented from going insane and adjusting to its fate?

    in 2014 we view legitimate theological dissent very diffferently than did our ancestors

    We only see legitimate theological dissent very differently?

    Now we’re not quibbling whether to burn the dissenters, we’re just arguing over how long the soon-to-be-torched will have to wait in line.

    Legitimate dissent? Decent religions?

    [spits]

  22. Sastra says

    I haven’t (yet) seen the episode, but it seems clear to me from the descriptions that Desert Son, Amphiox, and others are focusing on the point Tyson would want to make (and has made in several speeches ): the evolution of science involved a slow shift away from a world view based on the value of respecting authority, maintaining harmony, and idolizing the past. Instead, the Greek idea that there can be no progress without the open debate of ideas — and progress is a good thing — was and is critical to what it means to think scientifically.

    You can illustrate this through any example of “heresy.” There is no actual heresy in science — the very concept is anathema. We deal with reason, not faith. There are ideas which can’t make their case and shouldn’t be entertained until and unless they do. And there is no damnation in simply being mistaken.

    It’s popular to think that the world needed to focus more on the heart than on the head in order to become civilized — kinder, more compassionate, and more accepting of diversity. If only we could be more spiritual! But the truth is that it’s the opposite. Hard-headed Reason eventually lead to human rights, and love-based Faith had turned us into monsters of injustice. Improvement in religion can only be measured against how reasonable it becomes.

    As Jerry Coyne puts it, religious progress always involves making theological virtues out of scientific necessities. That is not a point in favor of religion harmonizing with science. Science is encroaching into religion and religion is giving way … and then trying to claim credit.

  23. Pierce R. Butler says

    (Trigger warning for torture)

    From Michael White, The Pope & the Heretic: The True Story of Giordano Bruno, the Man Who Dared to Defy the Roman Inquisition -

    [on the way to the stake, Feb 19, 1600] As the parade moved on, Bruno became animated and excited. He reacted to the mocking crowds, responding to their yells with quotes from his books and the sayings of the ancients. His comforters, the Brotherhood of St. John, tried to quiet the exchange, to protect Bruno from yet further pain and indignity, but he ignored them. And so after a few minutes the procession was halted by the Servants of Justice. A jailer was brought forward and another two held Bruno’s head rigid. A long metal spike was thrust through Bruno’s left cheek, pinning his tongue and emerging through the right cheek. Then another spike was rammed vertically through his lips. Together, the spikes formed a cross. Great sprays of blood erupted onto his gown and splashed the faces of the brotherhood close by. Bruno spoke no more. … as the fire began to grip, the Brothers of Pity of St. John the Beheaded tried one last time to save the man’s soul. Risking the flames, one of them leaned into the fire with a crucifix, but Bruno merely turned his head away. Seconds later, the fire caught his robe and seared his body, and above the hissing and crackling of the flames could be heard the man’s muffled agony.

    See? The church had assigned men to comfort him, and tried to save his soul at the very last minute, even at serious personal risk. Yet some people just can’t stop criticizing!

  24. Amphiox says

    I have to add that my personal favorite from the apologists is the line: “scientists and science enjoyed the protect of the church for centuries.” Right. Protection from what exactly? [crickets].

    “You can go THIS far, and it’s ok we’ll “protect” you. But any further and there might be unfortunate “accidents”.”

  25. wcorvi says

    I got the very strong feeling that segment was there so when the fundies called for TYSON to be burned at the stake, it would be obvious that nothing has changed in 400 years.

  26. consciousness razor says

    Also:

    It doesn’t surprise me a bit that, from Hess’ more “sophisticated” point of view, the struggle to overcome suppression of freedom of thought would become merely a marginal issue in the history of science, and that one of the best-known victims of that struggle would be dismissed as someone who was “not a scientist” and was “deserving of capital punishment.”

    He changed the last bit in the article, so it reads like this now:

    As such he was subject to capital punishment and was turned over for execution by the civil arm in Rome. [*Editor note: The preceding sentence originally said Bruno was "deserving of" capital punishment. Clearly a misstatement on our part!]

  27. Amphiox says

    the evolution of science involved a slow shift away from a world view based on the value of respecting authority, maintaining harmony, and idolizing the past. Instead, the Greek idea that there can be no progress without the open debate of ideas — and progress is a good thing — was and is critical to what it means to think scientifically.

    How ironic that this idolization of the past never includes the Greek ideas about progress and open debate, which were, after all, in their past…

  28. mikeyb says

    When you’re ideology is that the eternal damnation of souls (yours and the listeners) hangs in the balance for the right non-heretical teachings about the magical Jesus, is it any surprise the lengths people will go to enforce these beliefs. From Torquemada to Johnathan Edwards, eternal damnation was a central theme in the ideology of Christendom. The enlightenment and gradual secularism over centuries in the West has made murder for the sake of ideological beliefs a thing of the past, something that has not occurred yet in Islamic countries. But there are millions of people who have beliefs which led to the inquisition, pogroms and other religions motivated killings in the past. Just check out this you tube link from a couple of apparently influential evangelicals about the importance of believing in a literal hell. Pretty shocking stuff if you take this seriously.

  29. lopsided says

    ^^^I listen to that and feel sorry for them, for how out of their freaking minds brainwashed by fear they are.

  30. Rey Fox says

    what is quite literally a cartoon version

    Note also the casual medium snobbery, which is a common feature of other Cosmos criticism.

  31. coffeehound says

    @ 24,

    “You can go THIS far, and it’s ok we’ll “protect” you. But any further and there might be unfortunate “accidents”.”

    “That’s a beau-ti-ful hypothesis youse got there…..be a shame if some thing happened to it (or you), ya know?”, says the greasy Pope in the two-toned shoes cleaning his fingernails with a switchblade.

  32. anuran says

    I read a couple biographies of Bruno not too long ago and tried to make it through The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast. Couldn’t do the second; my capacity for self-congratulatory mishmashes of hermeticism, random bits of nonsense and bizarre religious speculation cobbled together with heliocentrism as shock-sauce is limited.

    You really can’t put Bruno in with Galileo, Brahe, Copernicus and Kepler. He wasn’t persecuted for doing Science. He never tried to do Science. He did himself in with the same weapon Samson used to slay the Philistines – the jawbone of an ass. Yes, it’s terrible that he was burned at the stake. He was the early days equivalent of a shock jock and finally went too far.

    If he’d been shacking up with a woman while still officially in Holy Orders, dayenu

    If he’d been a heretic along the lines of the author of The Cheese and the Worms, dayenu.

    If he’d been a sorcerer/black magician while being a renegade priest, dayenu

    If he’d been an apostate several times over, dayenu

    If he’d alienated his few powerful friends while under legal and political clouds, dayenu

    If he’d decided to sneak back into Italy while he knew he had outstanding capital charges against him, dayenu

    If he’d spent years in custody on those charges and refused opportunities to accept lesser charges, dayenu

    If he’d agreed to shut up, sign the paper and leave, dayenu

    But he just couldn’t resist the urge to be the smartest person in the room and thumb his nose at anyone he disagreed with. So his end, while awful and unjustified, is hardly surprising. If you wore an orange Ian Paisley t-shirt and sang “Croppy Lie Down” at a Provisionals meeting in the 1980s you wouldn’t deserve what happened to you. But you couldn’t honestly say it came as a shock.

  33. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

    Well, come on, Rey, its not like anything important can ever be said in cartoon format, right?

    Well, there was Maus.

    (meant as humour/snark (except the part about Maus))

  34. Rey Fox says

    anuran:
    “It sucked that he was burned alive for heresy, but he kinda had it coming.”

    Were you afraid that you hadn’t been written off as a complete asshole by enough people yet, and needed to cement that status once and for all?

  35. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

    anuran:

    But he just couldn’t resist the urge to be the smartest person in the room and thumb his nose at anyone he disagreed with

    Which also describes Galileo pretty damn well. If he had published his treatise on planetary motion in Latin, as a book for the learned, he would probably have gotten away with it. Instead, he decided to cock a snook at the Pope (an ex-friend (he had lots of ex-friends)) and published it in the vernacular. With the part of Simplicimus pulling the words out of the Pope’s mouth (I think he was a Barberini and a fairly accomplished natural philosopher himself). Which meant he was calling the Pope simple minded. Which is a great way to get power to come down on you.

  36. brianpansky says

    @32

    what point are you trying to make, and to whom do you think it needs to be made?

    it doesn’t even look like you read the post you are commenting on.

    and that’s even before i have to point out what others have, that you are just revealing your own grossness.

  37. says

    I have seen the episode three times and that particular segment four times and I do not see what the fuss is about. Apologists ought to just watch the episode another time, and if they are not convinced watch it yet another time, and if not yet convinced, watch again and so on and so forth. Some are just born with knowledge repellent brain and hence they require more soap than usual.

  38. Amphiox says

    You really can’t put Bruno in with Galileo, Brahe, Copernicus and Kepler. He wasn’t persecuted for doing Science. He never tried to do Science.

    Did you miss the segment in the show where it explicitly stated that Bruno’s cosmology was based on his religious beliefs? Or the part showing how he had a religious vision about it? Or the part after that where narrator Tyson outright said “Bruno was not a scientist”?

    Or mine and several other earlier posts explaining how that was not the point of that part of the show?

  39. says

    #32, anuran:

    You really can’t put Bruno in with Galileo, Brahe, Copernicus and Kepler. He wasn’t persecuted for doing Science. He never tried to do Science.

    DID YOU EVEN BOTHER TO FUCKING READ THE POST?

    Jebus.

  40. carlie says

    “Servants of Justice”, “Brothers of Pity”… extremist religions have been using doublespeak for a long time.

  41. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    Even at the time not everyone shared the enthusiasm for heresy hunts. One of Bruno’s contemporaries, Michel de Montaigne, said “We rate our theories too highly when we roast people alive for them.”

  42. twas brillig (stevem) says

    re “sciences vs science” @17:

    I understand your objection, but the word has two systems of use. “Science” is the name of the category of all the subjects of science (e.g. Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Neuro*, etc. etc), and also the Method used by each of them to study their subject. “Sciences” is just the plural of the list of all the subjects included under the title of Science. I’m sure you know this, and I don’t mean to school you; the use of “the plural”, does indeed imply the meaning you inferred. We’ve seen this so many times: “maths” vs “math”, etc. It seems (to me) that they just think Science is a trivial cataloging of facts, and the Important-Study is the philosophy of why those facts exist for us to catalog [i.e. Deism]. To them it is just details; “Look at the bigger picture. — SQUIRREL!”

  43. says

    @ coffeehound #31

    “That’s a beau-ti-ful hypothesis youse got there…..be a shame if some thing happened to it (or you), ya know?”, says the greasy Pope in the two-toned shoes cleaning his fingernails with a switchblade.

    Thank you for my first LOL of the day.

  44. markd555 says

    …nuanced and sophisticated understanding…

    You always know it’s going to be deep when you see this.
    So deep you need waders and a gasmask. A hazmat shower afterwards helps.

  45. tsig says

    sadunlap

    15 March 2014 at 12:01 pm (UTC -5)

    I have to add that my personal favorite from the apologists is the line: “scientists and science enjoyed the protect of the church for centuries.” Right. Protection from what exactly? [crickets].”

    Nice body you got there, hate to have something happen to it.

  46. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    Now i’m gonna hafta build me a Popey type knife.*They were around in Bruno’s time, YOB @ 37. From George Orwell’s diaries:

    Recently I was reading somewhere or other about an Italian
    curio dealer who attempted to sell a 17th century crucifix to J.P.
    Morgan. It was not at first sight a particularly interesting work
    of art. But it turned out that the real point was that the crucifix
    took to pieces & inside it was concealed a stiletto. What a perfect
    symbol of the Christian religion.

  47. anuran says

    Yes, PZ, I did bother to read the post. I just happen to think you’re wrong. I base it not on twenty minutes of listening to NdGT on TV but actually cracking a few books including at least one of Bruno’s most important books.

    Bruno wasn’t interested in Science as we know it or even as it was understood in his day. But he’s been turned into a Martyr to the Cause because he sprinkled heliocentrism on top of his Hermeticism.

    He wasn’t executed because of his (non-existent) scientific work. He was executed because he dedicated his life flipping off whatever authority happened to cross his path, breaking taboos and generally raising a ruckus. Eventually it caught up with him. His fatal mistake, real Darwin Award material, was sneaking back into a country where he knew he would be arrested and probably killed and then rejecting every opportunity to get out once he’d caught his dick in a cleft stick of his own cutting.

    Try to read what I actually wrote instead of turning it into your personal projection booth.

  48. markd555 says

    Yes, PZ, I did bother to read the post.

    Eyes open or closed?

    He wasn’t executed because of his (non-existent) scientific work.

    Do you realize how many times the article mentions this????
    And the show that you haven’t watched mentioned the same multiple times.
    What the heck are you disagreeing with exactly?
    If you respond to this post be sure to respond to this: What are you disagreeing with?

    He was executed because he dedicated his life flipping off whatever authority happened to cross his path, breaking taboos and generally raising a ruckus.

    “Causing a ruckus” – thanks for your nuanced explanation of the Inquisition charges. “Ruckus” wasn’t one of them.
    Two of the major points Bruno refused to recant during the trial were the concept of multiple worlds and terrestrial movement.
    They executed him as a result.

    rejecting every opportunity to get out once he’d caught his dick in a cleft stick of his own cutting.

    Charming.

    Good job victim blaming there. How dare he “break taboos” and stand for his ideals even to the point of his torture and execution. All his fault surely ¬_¬

  49. twas brillig (stevem) says

    re 49:

    read PZ for comprehension. No one is saying Bruno was killed for being a scientist. Nor that the Church killed him for his science activities. The point is, that Bruno spoke against the Church’s Doctrine and advocated that everyone should “think outside the box”. And for that he was “burned”. The whole point of Cosmos is to think “beyond”; that “following rules” leads nowhere, to get anywhere means thinking outside the current set of rules and discovering the new ones. Bruno, while not a scientist himself, and never claiming to be one, was using the science style to extrapolate the implications of the current rules. The whole bit about imagining an angel firing an arrow from the edge of the universe… is just such an example of the role Science advocates. STOP Quibbling about whether or not Bruno should be classified as a scientist along with Galileo, Copernicus, etc. It is a distinction without a difference…

  50. rthearle says

    The guy who torture killed Bruno and almost torched Galileo was made a saint, Saint Roberto Bellarmino. There is a Catholic college in Kentucky named after him.

    But he’s remembered much more as a type of fat-bellied jug from Germany. According to Britannica, Bellarmino has heliocentrism banned for purely political reasons; any evidence for or against was completely irrelevant.

    Roy

  51. mnb0 says

    “[Copernicus] delayed publication out of fear;”
    Yeah, but not out of fear for the RCC. His direct superior, bishop Tiedemann Giese of Culm, eagerly wanted Copernicus to publish. Moreover Pope Clement VII liked Copernicus’ heliocentric model (just read the Wikipedia article on Copernicus – you might learn something).
    The Vatican had not much influence in Royal Prussia, where Copernicus lived, anyway.

    “only saw his ideas in print on his deathbed;”
    Because he didn’t want to have them printed himself.

    “book was prohibited by the Catholic Church in 1616″
    Impressive! It took the RCC 80 frigging years to prohibit it and the prohibition lasted four years! Never mind that every single European country prohibited books in the 17th Century.

    “Did you know his mother was tried and imprisoned for witchcraft?”
    Did you know the RCC was opposed to witchhunts? That it were scholarss, ie your predecessors, usually not affiliated to any religious organizations, who prosecuted witches? That in catholic countries significantly less witches were burned than in protestant ones, where clergy had considerable less political power?
    The RCC is far from free from blame and so are Luther and Calvin. But you better get your historical facts right. The big hobby during the religious wars of say 1500-1650 was killing each other because of belief, not because of science. Bruno is an example of the first.

  52. says

    Blake Stacey (IIRC) linked this critique within a day or two of Cosmos airing, which makes a slightly better case for the ahistoricity of the Bruno account. Then again, it’s also casually disparaging of “‘free thought’ site[s]” and makes the obviously false claim that “‘Family Guy’ is a hilarious show,” so your mileage may vary.

    My biggest issue with history was the “perhaps he was homesick” speculation when it’s more like “perhaps he kept getting run out of town and got some job offers back home.” But I was on-board right up until he ascended into the sky in a crucifixion pose. Expose the dangers of dogmatic thinking all day long, please, especially on a station like Fox, but the unsubtle Science Jesus imagery there was as out-of-place and unnecessary as it was in the last couple of Superman films.

  53. raven says

    Mnbo:

    Did you know the RCC was opposed to witchhunts?

    NO!!! Because it isn’t true. Take that beam out of your eye before you look for PZ’s mote.

    wikipedia witch hunts: edited for length.

    While witch-hunts only became common after 1400, an important legal step that would make this development possible occurred in 1326, when Pope John XXII authorized the inquisition to persecute witchcraft as a type of heresy.[44]

    By the late fourteenth century, a number of “witch hunters” began to publish books on the topic, including Nicholas Eymeric, the inquisitor in Aragon and Avignon, who published the Directorium Inquisitorum in 1376.[45]

    Beginning of the witch hunts during the 15th century[edit]

    1533 account of the execution of a witch charged with burning the German town of Schiltach in 1531
    While the idea of witchcraft began to mingle with the persecution of heretics even in the 14th century, the beginning of the witch-hunts as a phenomenon in its own right become apparent during the first half of the 15th century in south-eastern France and western Switzerland, in communities of the Western Alps, in what was at the time Burgundy and Savoy.

    Soon, the idea of identifying and prosecuting witches spread throughout the neighboring areas of northern Italy, Switzerland and southern Germany, and it was at Basel that the Council of Basel assembled from 1431 to 1437.

    This Church Council, which had been attended by such anti-witchcraft figures as Johann Nider and Martin Le Franc, helped to standardize the stereotype of the Satanic witch that would be propagated throughout the rest of the trials.[47]

    Following the meeting of the Council and the increase in the trials around this area of central Europe, the idea that malevolent Satanic witches were operating against Christendom began spreading throughout much of the Holy Roman Empire and several adjacent areas. According to historian Robert Thurston, “From this heart of persecution the witch stereotype spread, both through a flood of new writings on the subject and through men who had been at the Council of Basel and now went elsewhere to take up new assignments in the church.”[48]

    The most notable of these works was published in 1486, written by the German Dominican monk, Heinrich Kramer—allegedly aided by Jacob Sprenger—known as the Malleus Malificarum (The Hammer of the Witches) in which they set down the stereotypical image of the Satanic witch and prescribed torture as a means of interrogating suspects. The Malleus Malificarum was reprinted in twenty-nine editions up till 1669.

    On December 5, 1484, Pope Innocent VIII issued the Summis desiderantes affectibus, a papal bull in which he recognized the existence of witches and gave full papal approval for the inquisition to move against witches,

    including the permission to do whatever necessary to get rid of them. In the bull, which is sometimes referred to as the “Witch-Bull of 1484″, the witches were explicitly accused of having “slain infants yet in the mother’s womb” (abortion) and of “hindering men from performing the sexual act and women from conceiving” (contraception[dubious – discuss]).[49]

    Oh FFS, how much wronger can you be. The RCC was in on the witch hunts from the beginning. Two Popes OK’ed them.

    Sure the Protestants did a few. To this day in Africa they still are, around 1000 a year killed. And the point that Protestants are every bit as horrible and barbaric as Catholics is what? We knew that centuries ago.

    PS The number of alleged witches killed isn’t too well known. Estimates range from 40,000 to 100,000. And of course none of these were “real” witches. If they were, they would have turned their attackers in frogs and that would have been the end of it.

  54. woozy says

    @49 Bruno wasn’t interested in Science as we know it or even as it was understood in his day. But he’s been turned into a Martyr to the Cause because he sprinkled heliocentrism on top of his Hermeticism.

    He could have believed that the sun was a tadpole that shat comets for all I care. He believed in expanding and developing ideas that reflect the world and grow with time and not accepting the stagnant ideas of the totalitarian authority. And the totalitarian authority put him to death for it. That makes him a martyr to the cause in my book. It’s not about science vs. religion. It’s about free thought vs. totalitarian authority. And I’m sorry that religious institutions has always chosen to side with the totalitarian authority but that was always their fucking choice.

  55. Scientismist says

    consciousness razor @ 20:

    It’s one reality, but there are many different methods of looking at pieces of it.

    I must respectfully, but strongly disagree.

    Yes, there are lots of “methods” — like microscopes versus telescopes; In vivo versus in vitro studies; Bayesian versus frequentist statistics. But the one method that counts follows from the ethical decision to tell the truth: to avoid, to the extent that is possible, fooling others, and (even more difficult) fooling yourself. That there is a single reality on which to report is one of the overarching grand theories of science, and one that is well-supported by the evidence, by the mutual support that the theories of the many “pieces” of science provide for each other. But it all begins with a respect for truth, and that must flow from an understanding that nobody has a priviledge and unquestionable access to absolute truth. Only a “method” that is dedicated to the integration of all those “methods” into a single whole can hope to approach “truth” — as an approximation.

    Sorry, but I’ve been doing science for too long, and in too many different fields to ever be able to think of it as lying in “pieces.”

  56. jamesfrancesco says

    The story of Bruno was used as an obvious attempt to provoke controversy. It’s pathetic and has no place on a show trying to educate about science.

    Saying “look, church bad kill beliefs!” is as dumb as saying “look, church good do charity!”

    No one else finds it stupid to in one half of the show point out how minuscule humanity is compared to the COSMOS (you know, the title?) and then in the next make a big stink about one fucking dude?

  57. Francisco Bacopa says

    I just wish someone at Bruno’s time had paid as much attention what Lucretius wrote about biology and reproduction. He wrote that there were “atoms” of inheritance (genes?) that were sometimes expressed and sometimes repressed, and that repressed atoms of inheritance could appear in subsequent generations.

    What if some monk in the 1600′s had read Lucretius and started keeping track of the results of crosses between his pet finches?

  58. raven says

    and then in the next make a big stink about one fucking dude?

    The xians have been doing a lot more than this for 2,000 years. I’m sorry jesus was murdered on a cross but it was a long time ago and enough is enough. (Besides, we don’t even know if he even existed.)

    BTW, Bruno is a standin for the all the people murdered by religion in general and xianity in particular for thought crimes. A witch here, a heretic there, a scholar somewhere else, and pretty soon you are talking about tens of millions of dead people.

    Made worse by the fact that it still occurs today. There are almost a dozen wars and conflicts in the world right now that have religion as one of the motivations.

  59. unclefrogy says

    You know a long time ago in an other life I sat in the pews and tried to understand the metaphors in the stories the priests used in their sermons and always found the imperfections in them was more interesting than the guilt trip inducing point they were always making besides I already had one of those anyway.
    Whether Bruno was or was not a perfect example to use he did not deserve to die a particularly horrible violent death for it. It was words, ideas that were his crime not the misappropriation of church funds, fornication, sodomy nor child rape none of which were invented in the recent past, He was not accused of treason against the state or was he?
    Was not his real crime the real reason for most of the martyrs really the failure to bow to authority of the church. How was it not the same as in the interrogation of Winston Smith where he was made to admit that 2 + 2 + 5? The point was all about questioning what reality was and how we propose to find out answers to our questions, not was Bruno a perfect “symbol” to use. In the search truth the church has consistently failed and has always chosen order and authority instead. It still does.
    That was in large part the point I understood .
    uncle frogy

  60. Amphiox says

    No one else finds it stupid to in one half of the show point out how minuscule humanity is compared to the COSMOS (you know, the title?) and then in the next make a big stink about one fucking dude?

    Considering that the dude in question was specifically killed because he believed the cosmos was enormous and humanity minuscule?

    Nope.

  61. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    No one else finds it stupid to in one half of the show point out how minuscule humanity is compared to the COSMOS (you know, the title?) and then in the next make a big stink about one fucking dude?

    You missed the point. The church was holding back gaining knowledge, because they feared, and still do, an intelligent congregation. And there is this minor problem of them and their claims looking stupid and parochial in the light of advancing science. Science went forward despite the impediments, and that is what was noted.

  62. Paul Brown says

    Even so, I have to ask; Why would Cosmos pick Giordano Bruno?

    I disliked the selection of Bruno because his story is a run-of-the-mill example of the historical conflict between free-thought and dogma, and a rather poor example of the historical conflict between reason and irrationality. Better to pick someone who was martyred or persecuted for holding justified, heretical beliefs.

    Cosmos picked Bruno, a guy with a bunch of weird and irrational beliefs who just happened to make a “lucky guess” about a scientific principle, specifically nature of stars. There were plenty of people “…tortured to an agonizing death for [their] beliefs.”. Why Bruno and not Michael Servetus or any of the alchemists and weirdos who “anticipated” physical chemistry or scientific notions of nuclear fission and fusion with equal lack of justification ?

    History’s full of martyrs to humanism and skepticism. If the point was, as PZ says, to illustrate how “The Church was dragged kicking and screaming into an era where you don’t get to murder people for disagreeing with your dogma.” … sorry but I’m not at all convinced that the examples set by early scientists throws that much historical weight. The church wasn’t “… forced to reduce the severity of its enforcement of dogma in the face of the overwhelming success of science in accurately describing the world.” It was forced to stop killing people who disagreed with it mostly because secular society rebelled in the face of the (very negative) examples of events like the 30 Years War and the English reformation! #2′s suggestion of William Tyndale is a much better illustration of the dogma point. Or closer to home, Mary Dyer.

    Galileo is (of course) the canonical example here. But I suspect Cosmo’s writers thought that bringing up that old war-horse might be … repetitive. So they picked Bruno, because he’s suggestively close to Galileo in space and time, and among his weird beliefs were some that were scienc-ey. In doing so, Cosmos fumble the opportunity to draw a clear and very useful distinction between belief and justification as they made their “dogma bad” point.

    That said, enjoying the series very much. No matter how much I hear it, the “we are star-stuff” thing gets me every time. Even so, I reserve the right to quibble and complaint. ;)

  63. chrisv says

    Sadly, I don’t think much has changed. Read the vitriol coming from right wing religious fundies. Do you really believe that given the opportunity torture and capital punishment wouldn’t be applied? Think: waterboarding…extended solitary confinement…pepper spray. Uncommon in this enlightened age?

  64. jagwired says

    mnb0 @53:

    Impressive! It took the RCC 80 frigging years to prohibit it and the prohibition lasted four years! Never mind that every single European country prohibited books in the 17th Century.

    Um… why do suppose “that every single European country prohibited books in the 17th Century”?

    The RCC is far from free from blame and so are Luther and Calvin. But you better get your historical facts right. The big hobby during the religious wars of say 1500-1650 was killing each other because of belief, not because of science. Bruno is an example of the first.

    Yeah, PZ! Why do you exclusively pick on the RCC? The Protestants are bad too, don’t you know? /sarcasm

  65. Menyambal says

    I would have picked Hypatia as my favorite martyr, but she wasn’t killed by the institution of the church. Bruno was killed by the official church, for churchly reasons, as a churchman.

    The point of including him may have been to show that the religious folks will kill each other for trivial religious differences. Again, he wasn’t presented as a scientist.

    Quick now, who was Galileo? The guy who invented the telescope, right? Right, an important scientific instrument, which he used for discovering sciencey stuff. An early scientist. Everybody knows that. Everybody.

    Quick now, who was Bruno? Um, a bear? Scientifically, he was nobody. I had heard of him, as a martyr, but never as any kind of inventor. His speculation about infinity, as done on Cosmos, didn’t impress me. He was a churchman. Cosmos never said different.

    As for presenting him as Science Jesus, no, he wasn’t. He was, however, religiously martyred for doubting Jesus, and for many of the same reasons as Jesus. He, too, was condemned for speaking personally of God, and was turned over to the civil government for a very cruel execution. The Jesus comparison was fair, and I thought it was beautiful.

  66. carlie says

    But I was on-board right up until he ascended into the sky in a crucifixion pose. Expose the dangers of dogmatic thinking all day long, please, especially on a station like Fox, but the unsubtle Science Jesus imagery there was as out-of-place and unnecessary as it was in the last couple of Superman films.

    Heh. I didn’t even think of Jesus – when I saw that, all I thought of was Aang going into the Avatar state.

  67. Ichthyic says

    what was nuanced and sophisticated about setting a human being on fire?

    Well, depending on the fuel used and the clothing you made the victim wear, you could get fantastic variations in flame color!

    oooh…. ahhhhh….

  68. Lea says

    It seemed to me that the first episode of Cosmos was to try and give us a sense of the vastness of the universe in both space and time. That’s why the story of Gordano Bruno was appropriate, because of his contribution of then-revolutionary ideas about the vastness of existence, not simply as an illustration of the antagonism of the Church to such ideas.

  69. pacal says

    Regarding Copernicus’ book and the Index of Forbidden Books. The following might be of interest:

    Around 400 to 500 copies were printed for both the first (Nuremberg 1543) and second editions (Basle 1566). To date, 250 copies of the first edition and 290 copies of the second have been located. Copies once owned and annotated by Johannes Kepler, among others, are known to have survived. Extant copies with identical annotations have revealed the existence and teaching activities of itinerant mathematical tutors such as Jofrancus Offusius and Paulus Wittich. The De Revolutionibus was placed on the Index of Prohibited Books in 1616 as a result of the Galileo affair, but because of its contribution to the Calendrical Reform, it was not proscribed, but was to be expurgated. The corrections were spelt out in 1620. It seems that 60 % of the copies in Italy (and hardly any in Spain or Portugal) were censored. It was taken off the Index in 1758.
    tp://www.hps.cam.ac.uk/starry/coperbooks.html

  70. Ichthyic says

    He was, however, religiously martyred for doubting Jesus,

    not so much that, more that he was a universalist, therefore a heretic. perhaps one of the first public ones in hundreds of years.

    of course, PZ is right, people confuse exactly why the story of Bruno was included here. It was not to show how science was persecuted by religion, it was to show how freedom of thought itself was persecuted by religion.

    still is, but that’s likely the subject for a later episode…

  71. Ichthyic says

    That’s why the story of Gordano Bruno was appropriate, because of his contribution of then-revolutionary ideas about the vastness of existence

    yes, that too.

  72. Ichthyic says

    Why Bruno and not Michael Servetus or any of the alchemists and weirdos who “anticipated” physical chemistry or scientific notions of nuclear fission and fusion with equal lack of justification ?

    uh, because the show is named … COSMOS?

  73. Ichthyic says

    The story of Bruno was used as an obvious attempt to provoke controversy. It’s pathetic and has no place on a show trying to educate about science.

    so what you are saying is that you are too stupid to have noticed the evolution of thought they were trying to portray.

    just so I’m clear.

  74. Kroos Control says

    I’m a bit confused.
    Lets say hypothetically that society makes up morals.
    If one society like 400 years ago , decided it was moral to burn people at stake , wouldn’t that be Ok?
    Who are we to judge this society with our subjective opinions.?

    Or is PZ saying some thinsg are objectively wrong regardless of societies’ opinion?

  75. Ichthyic says

    religious institutions has always chosen to side with the totalitarian authority but that was always their fucking choice.

    authoritarian personalities are what drives the organization of religion, and the honing of it to attract further authoritarian personalities.

    how could they NOT make that choice?

    there simply would BE no church otherwise.

    of course, if I had my preference, they indeed would have made that choice, if they could, and vanished into history, forgotten.

    just a fantasy though.

    fact is, 30% of human populations lean heavily towards the RWA end of the authoritarian personality index, and it’s about time we admit that and start working rationally with that instead of either trying to change authoritarians (would be very much like trying to change someone’s sexual orientation), or manipulating them for personal gain (as politicians and oligarchs have done for centuries).

  76. Kroos Control says

    I though Bruno was a really wierd choice myself
    Chiefly because he was killed for his heretical views and not his Copernicanism and Bruno’s scientific beliefs didn’t play a significant role in his trial and they seem to be distorting the facts when they imply he was killed solely for his Copernicanism.
    See.

  77. Ichthyic says

    Or is PZ saying some thinsg are objectively wrong regardless of societies’ opinion?

    do you think it was society that burned Bruno, or the church?

    do you think the two were the same, even then?

    get yourself a time machine and let us know.

  78. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    KC, idjit,

    Or is PZ saying some thinsg are objectively wrong regardless of societies’ opinion?

    Moral change with time. You don’t get that. It was moral according to the church to burn folks at the stake. Nowadays, not so, for moral reasons. What part of morals evolve don’t you understand? Oh, that’s right, your imaginary deity is a source of conflicting the self-refuting morals.

  79. Ichthyic says

    in the NCSE post:

    Of course, in 2014 we don’t burn people at the stake, and except for the most conservative voices, Christians don’t cast about casually labelling any dissenting theologial perspective as “heresy.”

    sorry, but that’s just gross fucking ignorance right there, and a good reason why I don’t pay much attention to anything the NCSE has to say any more.

  80. Rey Fox says

    But I was on-board right up until he ascended into the sky in a crucifixion pose.

    when I saw that, all I thought of was Aang going into the Avatar state.

    Or perhaps a bird. Sheesh.

    He was executed because he dedicated his life flipping off whatever authority happened to cross his path, breaking taboos and generally raising a ruckus.

    Authoritarian asshole.

  81. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Didn’t we conclude the moral argument and move on to Kalam?

    KC, take it to the knights errant thread or the thunderdome. This isn’t the place for your idiocy.

  82. anteprepro says

    @Daz
    Didn’t we conclude the moral argument and move on to Kalam?

    1. Not really, you fucking putz. Mostly because the moral argument was tangential in the first place and you are a fucking denialist who isn’t amenable to reason. It is impossible to move on from anything when you are engaging with a smug fuckwad who is incapable of responding to counterarguments with anything more than just simply repeating their initial assertions.

    2. Irrelevant, because it is REALLY off topic here and we don’t need your fauxlosophical masturbations polluting TWO threads.

  83. says

    Paul Brown:

    Why Bruno and not Michael Servetus or any of the alchemists and weirdos who “anticipated” physical chemistry or scientific notions of nuclear fission and fusion with equal lack of justification ?

    Because Bruno based his conclusions on the work of Copernicus. He merely used the scientific conclusions of Copernicus and extended them into philosophy. If our sun is the center of our solar system, then it makes sense the other lights in the night sky are other stars. And if they are other stars, why should they not include other planets? And if there are other planets, why not other life?

    His assumptions were based on what was then sound, though novel, science (as rudimentary as the scientific method was at the time). So while it was a just a guess, it was a guess based on scientific knowledge. You know, what we would call an hypothesis these days — though at the time, it was completely untestable.

  84. raven says

    and except for the most conservative voices, Christians don’t cast about casually labelling any dissenting theologial perspective as “heresy.”

    sorry, but that’s just gross fucking ignorance right there, and a good reason why I don’t pay much attention to anything the NCSE has to say any more.

    Really.

    One of the favorite hobbies of xians is deciding who is a True Xian and who is a Fake Xian. They never settle it since we took away their armies and heavy weapons. They don’t use the word heresy very often because it sounds like something from the Dark Ages. But True and Fake are the exact same thing.

    Some groups are absolutely positive they are the True xians. The Mormons, JW’s, and Armstrongists, consider all other xians to be Fake. The RCC is close. The Eastern Orthodox and RCC still don’t recognize each other as Trues after a millennia. Protestants differ but the fundies are the most doctrinaire.

    They even have signals they send to each other. Recognizing baptisms of one group or being in “communion”.

  85. chigau (違う) says

    Kroos Control
    Don’t bring that shit into this thread.
    Leave it with the knights .
    Don’t bring Kalām here, either.

  86. twas brillig (stevem) says

    If one society like 400 years ago , decided it was moral to burn people at stake , wouldn’t that be Ok?

    *If* society[?] decided it was “moral” 400 years ago, then yes it was OK; 400 years ago! Are you saying it is WRONG to have an opinion about what they considered “moral” 400 years ago??
    -

    Who are we to judge this society with our subjective opinions.?

    Who are YOU to say we mustn’t judge that society? The obvious analogy is to ask; Is it wrong to judge Manson for his murder-spree when he decided he was right to eliminate those fools?

    And no one is saying they were “Objectively Wrong” to burn G. Bruno. What is wrong with saying that current morality frowns on the action they took against him?

  87. woozy says

    Moral change with time. You don’t get that. It was moral according to the church to burn folks at the stake. Nowadays, not so, for moral reasons.

    Eek. Kroos Control snared a stupid trap and Nerd stepped in it.

    Now Kroos will say: we can’t condemn the RCC for burning people alive if it was morally acceptable in their time unless we somehow assume there is an absolute morality. And presumably we all swore off absolute morality when we engaged in our atheism initiations. (You know, the ones where they fed us freshly squeezed baby juice and we all swore to think alike and have the exact same opinions and theories about everything including that there is absolutely no absolute).

    I’d just point out that objective morality is not the same absolute morality and the lack of either does not imply arbitrary morality. Furthermore situational morality does not imply “everything is moral somewhere”. So yes, I think anyone who burns another person alive is a sick fuck. And no, my condemnation of a another culture/another time’s morality is not a violation of the “no absolutes” clause on my signed atheist contract.

  88. anteprepro says

    I hope that Cosmos can continue to provoke this kind of reaction from fundies. It is nice to see them out themselves as the complete and utter amoral, smarmy apologists that they truly are. Maybe if they keep it up, somebody might even notice!

  89. anteprepro says

    Just to spell it out for those of you who might not have realized:

    Kroos Control is a Christian apologist troll from another thread. Another thread where they have brought up, among other nonsensical shit, Objective Morality. Objective Morality, even if it was a derail in the other thread, is FAR more of a derail here. All those who want to chew on the chew toy, or witness the myriad of ways that Kroos has already been fucking ludicrous, here is the Key thread they shat all over:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/03/06/the-knights-errant-sally-forth-against-the-hitchens-dragon-end-up-toast/comment-page-2/

    Enjoy

  90. Holms says

    … as the fire began to grip, the Brothers of Pity of St. John the Beheaded tried one last time to save the man’s soul. Risking the flames, one of them leaned into the fire with a crucifix, but Bruno merely turned his head away. …

    I like the way the author notes there that flames are bad for people – the risk being that you might catch fire and die / be hurt – but fails to pass comment on the fact that they were all on board with setting a guy on fire deliberately.

  91. Paul Brown says

    #87

    Where in Copernicus (or Brahe/Kepler/Galileo etc) do you find any evidence for Bruno’s belief that the universe is infinite, and that the sun was just another star? Where was Bruno’s evidence that rotational orbits weren’t circular nor was their movement uniform? Figuring that out took Kepler a decade of poring over Brahe’s observational data, and that result wasn’t published until 1609. (Which should, by the way, make it clear that scientific methods were far enough from rudimentary at the time. Brahe died in 1601, a year after Bruno’s immolation.)

    My reading suggests to me that while Bruno took inspiration from Copernicus, the stuff he got in trouble for was the result of theological “reasoning”, not science. The man was a mystic. He argued that the universe was infinite because God was infinite.

    He got a lot of stuff right and was clearly a brilliant guy and no one deserves to be BBQd. But Bruno’s beliefs weren’t supported by any evidence. Which makes him a poor choice as a martyr for science and reason.

  92. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Which makes him a poor choice as a martyr for science and reason.

    Except that wasn’t why he was chosen, if you actually read the previous posts. It was that the church didn’t allow decent of any sort, and to challenge the church dogma on knowledge was dangerous. So, revise your point.

  93. Desert Son, OM says

    Response to Kroos Control at #76 posted in Thunderdome in keeping with efforts to maintain topicality.

    Also, thank you to woozy at #93 for that post. Very helpful, and I think you captured what I was trying to say much better than I did.

    Also also, response to Kroos Control at #76 posted in Thunderdome after pouring myself a stiff drink, because Thunderdome really intimidates me.

    Still learning,

    Robert

  94. nich says

    NoR@98

    It was that the church didn’t allow decent of any sort

    Heh…I’m guessing the typo fairy sprinkled you with its magic pixie dandruff, but even then it’s still pretty darn accurate!

  95. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    If a baby died because someone killed it , it would be an ethical problem.

    What, me give a phonetic spelling offering to Tpyos? Several times a day.

  96. Paul Brown says

    #98

    The church certainly didn’t allow “decent[sic] of any sort”, as lots and lots and lots of heretics and martyrs found out. So why, of all of them, did Cosmos raise Giordano Bruno up as an example? Why him, and none the other, arguably more profound challengers to (church) authority?

    I proposed a reason in #64. Did you happen to read that? Do you agree?

  97. Ichthyic says

    Where in Copernicus (or Brahe/Kepler/Galileo etc) do you find any evidence for Bruno’s belief that the universe is infinite, and that the sun was just another star?

    not what he said. read again.

    in fact, what he said was that Bruno, in reading that the sun was actually a star, applied logic and concluded the other lights in the sky were probably the same as the sun.

    you don’t look for evidence of a conclusion of such a nature in Copernicus.

    That was one of the big reasons Tyson chose to include Bruno! to show the evolution of thought regarding the cosmos.

    man, so much missing the point, even when it’s blatantly stated by the author himself!

    *shakes head sadly*

  98. anteprepro says

    Holms:

    I like the way the author notes there that flames are bad for people – the risk being that you might catch fire and die / be hurt – but fails to pass comment on the fact that they were all on board with setting a guy on fire deliberately.

    I like how the author is characterizing the people who are basically poking a guy with a cross to Save His Soul as if they were brave, heroic, and merciful beings, facing pain and risk of death to….purify the magic gas inside the guy they are killing. Sophisticated Theology, I suppose…

    More from the article:

    But I also saw—among the compelling video of the solar system and galaxies—considerable slipshod history of science and a curiously antireligious bias.

    Thirty years ago Carl Sagan …

    I enjoyed the juxtaposition of “curiously antireligious bias” with immediately bringing up Sagan, implying that he was the opposite. I’m pretty sure Sagan made quite a few solid jabs against religion, even in Cosmos. And yet it seems like religious folks are oblivious to it. Is Sagan too subtle for them?

    Consciously or unconsciously, all of us—Christian or Muslim, monotheist or atheist, freethinker or agnostic—carry the baggage of metaphysical beliefs in our approaches to science. If we are honest, we will explicitly acknowledge our metaphysical carry-on, recognizing that the story of this pulsing, vibrating, magnificently unfolding universe is susceptible of both theistic and atheistic interpretations.

    Any else smell false equivalence?

    The most serious charges lodged against Bruno included:

    Speaking against the Catholic church and its ministers
    Holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith about God and the divinity of Christ
    Holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith about nature of Christ in the Eucharist
    Believing in reincarnation and the transmigration of souls into brutes
    Dealing in magic and divination

    “Oh, come now! The Catholic Church isn’t opposed to science! It’s just opposed to anybody who criticizes it, holds opinions contrary to it, and has religious practices it doesn’t agree with! And set them on fire for it! Oh come on, it was a different time back then !”

    Bruno was an adventuresome thinker who threw caution to the wind at a time and in a place—in post-Reformation Italy—when that was a very dangerous thing to do.

    Own goal much? WHY was it such a dangerous time and place to “think”?

    It is unfortunate that the writers uncritically repeated a false narrative about the history of science and religion, providing a public who are already confused about the relationship between these two endeavors with misinformation rather than an accurate and balanced account of a complex history of interaction.

    Irony Accomplished

  99. Ichthyic says

    I’m pretty sure Sagan made quite a few solid jabs against religion, even in Cosmos. And yet it seems like religious folks are oblivious to it. Is Sagan too subtle for them?

    no, it’s that they have very fuzzy hindsight.

    it’s the kind of hindsight that produces xians who claim it was xianity that ended slavery, was the reason the civil rights movement succeeded, etc etc etc.

    it’s the kind of hindsight you will see in 20 years telling you it was the xians that made marriage equality possible.

  100. Ichthyic says

    Consciously or unconsciously, all of us—Christian or Muslim, monotheist or atheist, freethinker or agnostic—carry the baggage of metaphysical beliefs in our approaches to science. I

    umm, some of us realize that needless baggage shouldn’t be counted as anything but dead weight.

    others, like this idiot, instead conclude we must spend the effort to prop up the dead weight on an equal par with the things that actually DO sustain us.

    sorry bud, but I’m too old and out of shape to carry so much dead weight around with me for no reason.

    I have an idea though…you can carry it for me!

    *watches footprints in the sand get deeper and deeper*

  101. anteprepro says

    Paul

    The church certainly didn’t allow “decent[sic] of any sort”, as lots and lots and lots of heretics and martyrs found out. So why, of all of them, did Cosmos raise Giordano Bruno up as an example? Why him, and none the other, arguably more profound challengers to (church) authority?

    Because:
    1. He wound up being right (showing how quashing dissent can stifle good ideas)
    2. He was right about a matter specifically relevant to the Cosmos.
    3. Unlike Galileo, he was brutally killed (making it clear just how violently dissent was quashed)

    Ichthyic

    no, it’s that they have very fuzzy hindsight.

    That’s what I feared.

  102. Ichthyic says

    Irony Accomplished

    in fact, PZ could have just used those two words as his entire response, and it would have been perfectly clear to a lot of us.

  103. Ichthyic says

    That’s what I feared.

    rightly so.

    Just ask David Barton how profitable historical revisionism is.

  104. chigau (違う) says

    Ichthyic #106

    I have an idea though…you can carry it for me!
    *watches footprints in the sand get deeper and deeper*

    bravo
    + a gazillion

  105. says

    Kroos Control: you are metastasizing. Enough. At this point, you are only good for being a chew toy, so you are now confined to posting only in Thunderdome. Comment anywhere else, and you’ll be banned.

  106. nich says

    Ichthyic @106:

    I have an idea though…you can carry it for me!

    *watches footprints in the sand get deeper and deeper*

    Nice. It’s like the atheist version of those shitty Footprints in the Sand posters that everybody’s grandparents seem to have hanging somewhere in the house. Minus the shitty of course.

  107. Amphiox says

    I’m a bit confused.
    Lets say hypothetically that society makes up morals.
    If one society like 400 years ago , decided it was moral to burn people at stake , wouldn’t that be Ok?
    Who are we to judge this society with our subjective opinions.?

    Or is PZ saying some thinsg are objectively wrong regardless of societies’ opinion?

    The question on how societies judge morals and what constitutes society for any particular moral judgment was already dealt with in the other thread, and your pitifully weak position was already shredded. Did you think you could just sneak into another thread and pretend that prior evisceration of your position did not occur?

    You are pitiful.

    (Note however that those who burned Bruno at the stake were devoutly following divine command theory. And this is where divine command theory ultimately, always leads.)

  108. Paul Brown says

    #103

    He (I think you mean #87) said “Because Bruno based his conclusions on the work of Copernicus.” And all I pointed out was that Bruno’s conclusions…infinite universe, stars are suns is a star, etc…weren’t justified by Copernicus. When Bruno concluded that “concluded the other lights in the sky were probably the same as the sun.”, he was wrong, as well as unjustiied. There are lots of other lights in the sky: comets, etc. There are lots of other things that are lights … candles, etc … which those lights in the sky might just as well be. Besides — we had the 1572 super-nova to show that, unlike (apparently) the sun, these star things some-times came into existence and then disappeared. AND I gave an explicit example of Bruno’s deployment of un-reason to illustrate his “method”.

    #107

    1. Bruno was not right. The universe is *NOT* infinite. Orbital paths *ARE* uniform because they’re dictated by the laws of gravity. There is *NO* aether. Comets are *NOT* stars in motion.

    Bruno comes across, in his writings, like a dude who took a huge hit on a medieval bong and told his fellow guests at the inn, “Man … the stars man … they’re like … little suns.”

    2. Being right without justification is the antithesis of what we do as rationalists. Getting it right by luck is not method. That said, I think your third point is spot on. Galileo’s trial was long and dull and the conclusion anticlimactic: he recanted [fn1]. Bruno’s career as a dissenter flamed out. (Sorry – too soon?)

    Which is the substance of my all my very narrow criticism. I think Cosmos might have found a better example than Giordano Bruno to make the quite reasonable point about the perils of dogma and thought crime.

    [fn1] Yet, it moves.

  109. says

    #115, Paul Brown:

    You know, the real test of a culture’s commitment to the free exchange of ideas isn’t when they allow thoroughly socialized and deeply imbedded members of the intellectual elite, the scientists, express themselves; it’s when we can recognize that torturing and murdering the dudes stoned out of their heads with weird fringe ideas is not acceptable.

    Giordano Bruno was not right. Geoffroy St Hilaire was not right. Haeckel was not right. But at least they shook up the establishment. You ought to be able to realize that, and appreciate that someone can be totally wrong and not deserve to be set on fire.

  110. anteprepro says

    Paul:

    Bruno was not right.

    “Right” with a hefty margin of error.

    Being right without justification is the antithesis of what we do as rationalists.

    Agreed. I’m definitely a fan of shouting “show your work”. It’s a shame that they used Bruno as an example without mentioning where he went astray as well and the value of the scientific method.

    Which is the substance of my all my very narrow criticism. I think Cosmos might have found a better example than Giordano Bruno to make the quite reasonable point about the perils of dogma and thought crime.

    And I agree with this as well. If they had gone with the more boring story of Galileo they would have at least done so in a way that couldn’t also be read as Defense of Crackpottery and Crankery.

  111. anteprepro says

    PZ:

    You ought to be able to realize that, and appreciate that someone can be totally wrong and not deserve to be set on fire.

    Are you still insisting that it wasn’t just A Different Time, back then? /sarcasm

  112. says

    “a nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the long, rich, and complex relationship between religion and the sciences”

    Well, a lot of this nuanced hemming and hawing has become, I think, standard issue in histories of early modern science (e.g. Steven Shapin, The Scientific Revolution), since the interrelationship of religion & science in the 16th & 17th centuries wasn’t the simple binary opposition that 19th-c. skeptics imagined it to be.

    But context is everything. Just because the Jesuits or some other arm of the Catholic Church contributed to early science, the fundamental authoritarianism of the Christian Churches shouldn’t be hand-waved away. Nor the fact that this claim to authority rested on grounds that no present-day scientist could accept. Nor the fact that the Churches all arrogated to themselves authority not simply over theological opinion, narrowly understood, but really over every other way in which people thought and expressed themselves. Nor the brutality with which the Churches punished disfavored opinions. So science was promoted, but only so far as it didn’t abrade on some cherished doctrine or other.

    Bruno deserves to be put back in his context, too: a period of astonishing intellectual exploration of every conceivable way of interpreting and manipulating the world, and the beings inhabiting it. Some of these approaches were fruitful–and we call them “scientific” today,–others weren’t. Unfortunately for his later reputation, Bruno fixed on dead ends like Hermeticism , plus Kabbalah and other kinds of number-mysticism. If we remember the “occult” obsessions of Newton, like alchemy and the Rosicrucians, it becomes apparent that Bruno wasn’t as far from the undoubted scientists of the period as we might wish.

    I’d add another pertinent factoid here. Descartes was about to issue Du Monde, his textbook of Cartesian physics, when he learned of Galileo’s condemnation. He prudently held back the book. You really didn’t have to burn everybody, or sentence them to permanent house arrest, to create widespread fear.

  113. raven says

    Are you still insisting that it wasn’t just A Different Time, back then? /sarcasm

    Naw. We’ve heard most of the excuses by now.

    1. It was a false flag operation.

    2. Protestants do it too.

    3. It was only one fucking dude and it wasn’t jesus so who cares?

    4. Bruno was a strange guy who had a hard time holding down a job (and therefore deserved to be burnt alive on a stack of firewood.)

    5. And the always popular, they weren’t real xians!!!

    6. I’m sure there are more. Xians can make excuses for their atrocities far longer than I can remember them all.

    PS Oh wait. 7. Channeling WL Craig, the executioners are really the victims here. It must have been incredibly traumatic burning Bruno alive while doing the lord’s work. They must have had nightmares for weeks afterwards. (What he said about the ancient Israeli genocidal maniacs of the bible.)

  114. Paul Brown says

    #115

    No one, right or wrong, stoned or sectioned, deserves to be set on fire.

    My criticism is merely that I think Cosmos missed a trick. The show could have made the point about the importance of tolerating dissent with an example that illustrated the importance of justified belief.

    There are plenty of other examples they might have chosen. Nikolai Vavilov in biology. William Smith in geology. In my mind, Galileo would have been the perfect vehicle for this. But he’s … boring. They might also have picked Socrates. But his ideas weren’t scienc-ey. They might have picked a woman to make a probably more profound point.

    But they went with the questionable Bruno, because his story makes more for spectacular animation, because he’s close in space/time to Galileo, and because his beliefs concerned stars.

  115. Paul Brown says

    #123

    “Ted Nugent does not deserve to be set on fire. Therefore, nobody does.”

    In my darker moments, I suspect he deserves a damn good singeing.

  116. anteprepro says

    aaronbaker:

    He prudently held back the book. You really didn’t have to burn everybody, or sentence them to permanent house arrest, to create widespread fear.

    But remember, it’s not terrorism, because Catholics.

  117. Paul Brown says

    I was just reading the entry on Vavilov on Wikipedia to refresh my memory. Earlier, PZ elevated to the OP the awful story of Giordano Bruno’s torture as he was being led to the stake (to be handled as steak … errr …. sorry). Well … at the risk of incurring a technical foul from the off-topic police … how is that any less awful than this?

    Nikolai Vavilov was a Russian / Soviet era biologist and geneticist. He created / collected one of the biggest “seed banks” in the world during the 1930s because he understood the importance of cataloging the breadth of the gene pool for plant species. But he ran afoul of particularly rotten Soviet era biology/ideology. Vavilov was arrested, and starved to death in prison, because he believed in, and advocated, for Mendelian genetics.

    But what became of the seed bank? The collection of genes? From Wikipedia:

    “The Leningrad seedbank was diligently preserved through the 28-month Siege of Leningrad. While the Soviets had ordered the evacuation of art from the Hermitage, they had done[sic - hadn't] evacuated the 250,000 samples of seeds, roots, and fruits stored in what was then the world’s largest seedbank. So a group of scientists at the Vavilov Institute boxed up a cross section of seeds, moved them to the basement, and took shifts protecting them. Those guarding the seedbank refused to eat its contents, even though by the end of the siege in the spring of 1944, nine of them had died of starvation.”

    That’s not one person suffering terribly for a brief time. That’s a lot of people, all suffering, some unto death, because of a shared, justified belief. And you can bet the political officers were very pleased with them. This story speaks of the community of science far better than Bruno, or even Galileo’s, idiosyncracies. The story of Vavilov and his seed bank is a play or a TV movie unto itself.

    I bring it up because it’s an example of a much better story about dissent, courage, and justified belief than Bruno’s. And it’s a story I found with just 10 minute’s googling.

  118. atheistblog says

    I just want to ask all these fucking Christian apologist and also those ” just only loving jesus ” christian crowds, when you shout that son of god was born and died on cross, and preaching how great it was, when that mythical jesus was not even surely a historical figure, what you think of a person who really died for his conviction, don’t you suppose to admire that person ? When you read this comment

    [on the way to the stake, Feb 19, 1600] As the parade moved on, Bruno became animated and excited. He reacted to the mocking crowds, responding to their yells with quotes from his books and the sayings of the ancients. His comforters, the Brotherhood of St. John, tried to quiet the exchange, to protect Bruno from yet further pain and indignity, but he ignored them. And so after a few minutes the procession was halted by the Servants of Justice. A jailer was brought forward and another two held Bruno’s head rigid. A long metal spike was thrust through Bruno’s left cheek, pinning his tongue and emerging through the right cheek. Then another spike was rammed vertically through his lips. Together, the spikes formed a cross. Great sprays of blood erupted onto his gown and splashed the faces of the brotherhood close by. Bruno spoke no more. … as the fire began to grip, the Brothers of Pity of St. John the Beheaded tried one last time to save the man’s soul. Risking the flames, one of them leaned into the fire with a crucifix, but Bruno merely turned his head away. Seconds later, the fire caught his robe and seared his body, and above the hissing and crackling of the flames could be heard the man’s muffled agony.

    don’t you feel ashamed that you are admiring, worshiping, cherishing a person who may not even ever lived, but Bruno was real person, tortured and murdered for believing something beyond oneself.
    Just fucking tell me how the mythical creature jesus supposedly gone through was much worse than Bruno ?

  119. Ichthyic says

    There are plenty of other examples they might have chosen. Nikolai Vavilov in biology. William Smith in geology.

    you’re not much on listening, Paul.

  120. Ichthyic says

    at the risk of incurring a technical foul from the off-topic police … how is that any less awful than this?

    mmm. tasty red herring.

    is it smoked?

  121. Ichthyic says

    It’s like the atheist version of those shitty Footprints in the Sand posters that everybody’s grandparents seem to have hanging somewhere in the house. Minus the shitty of course.

    thanks for noticing.

  122. Amphiox says

    I bring it up because it’s an example of a much better story about dissent, courage, and justified belief than Bruno’s.

    Perhaps this story will appear in a future episode of COSMOS.

    But in the episode in question, which did not contain anything in it about agriculture, and focused as it were on “big picture” astronomy and cosmology, how exactly would you have fit it in? Are you seriously suggesting that it would have been an effective television science documentary to cut from talking about the big band, the formation of galaxies and the size of observable universe to a story about seed banks?

    Have you understood NOTHING about what we’ve already written about why the Bruno story fit into the COSMOS episode where it did?

  123. Paul Brown says

    #132

    *raises eyebrow, finishes double shot of rye with left hand while lowering right hand below level of table*

    Jus’ rode in. And you?

  124. Ichthyic says

    You mad, bro?

    I’ve decided anyone who ever uses that idiotic phrase can be automatically dismissed.

    that’s not an ad hom, it’s a conclusion based on real world experience.

  125. Amphiox says

    The exile of KC to the Thunderdome has left me in a temporarily generous mood, so I’ll humor you and repeat in detail what I and others have already posted in passing earlier.

    There are plenty of other examples they might have chosen. Nikolai Vavilov in biology. William Smith in geology.

    See, COSMOS isn’t ABOUT religious persecution, primarily. The religious persecution is only a secondary issue, what might be called the ‘B’ plot, if you will. COSMOS is primarily about the science. And this particular episode was about cosmology and astronomy, not about biology or geology. It would not be appropriate to select a human interest B-plot that was not even in the same discipline as the A-plot.

    In my mind, Galileo would have been the perfect vehicle for this. But he’s … boring.

    Well, you just answered your objection. Galileo has already been done. Many times. Many places.

    They might also have picked Socrates. But his ideas weren’t scienc-ey.

    Socrates was not persecuted for ideas in cosmology and astronomy.

    But they went with the questionable Bruno, because his story makes more for spectacular animation

    Equally spectacular animation could easily have been done for any of these other stories, so this is unlikely to be relevant.

    and because his beliefs concerned stars.

    Yes! Yes! Now you have it! You see, that COSMOS episode was ABOUT STARS. The primary focus, the A-plot was ABOUT the enormous size of the universe and the immense distances between the stars. THAT is why Bruno’s story was chosen. Because his story, you know, actually relates directly to the MAIN PLOT OF THE EPISODE.

  126. Menyambal says

    Paul Brown @ 122,

    But they went with the questionable Bruno, because his story makes more for spectacular animation, because he’s close in space/time to Galileo, and because his beliefs concerned stars.

    Sounds like three very good reasons to me. I loved the animation, his case may have influenced Galileo, and he was the first person to visualize the cosmos.

    He died horribly, at the hands of the Catholic church. Scientists have died for what they believed, and for science, and for the good of all mankind, but few have died so horribly, so directly at the command of religion. If Cosmos wanted to slam religion in a TV show, they made a good choice. If they were just trying to hype science, they should have called you.

    The enemy of my enemy is my friend, and I like what I know of Giordano Bruno. Let the man rest in peace.

  127. chigau (違う) says

    Paul Brown
    Ichthyic isn’t mad.
    You wouldn’t like Ichthyic if he got angry.

  128. Al Dente says

    Paul Brown,

    Okay, there are other people besides Bruno who could have been used as examples of knowledge being suppressed by authority. So what? I certainly won’t lose any sleep over a topic that’s so obviously vital to your psyche.

  129. Paul Brown says

    #134

    I understand why you think it fits into the program. As you explain back in #14, Cosmos was explicit in saying (about Bruno’s beliefs), “It was a lucky guess.” And your argument is that this qualification on the part of the program insures them against the (ridiculous) charge that they were “presenting us instead with what is quite literally a cartoon version of the life story of someone who was not a scientist.”

    You’re quite correct. Cosmos was right on the facts. The charges leveled in the OP are misguided.

    What I am saying is that Cosmos was mistaken in the editorial/artistic decision to go with such a weak example. There are other individuals … I keep naming them, and acknowledging the artistic shortcoming of their stories … who were on the right side of the facts and the wrong side of the ideology. If I can find a half-dozen examples in an hour, I think the program would have been stronger if it had invested more time, and found another, better example.

  130. Paul Brown says

    “I’ve decided anyone who ever uses that idiotic phrase can be automatically dismissed.

    that’s not an ad hom, it’s a conclusion based on real world experience.

    *nod*

    He mad.

  131. Paul Brown says

    #140 Al Dent.

    ” I certainly won’t lose any sleep over a topic that’s so obviously vital to your psyche.”

    And yet. You post.

  132. Paul Brown says

    #138

    “Sounds like three very good reasons to me.”

    Yeah. You’re making all the right points, IMO.

    The choice of Bruno was ( I think ) guided by a desire on the part of the program’s producers to maximize commercial appeal within certain epistemological constraints. I would prefer that the program push those epistemological constraints — like Bronowski’s Ascent of Man — even if that meant compromise on the number of colors crowding the palette. But that’s one person’s dissent about the show. And clearly … it’s a dissent that bores/annoys some folk here. *glances up-thread*

    “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

    Oh no. No, no, no, no. Here, Sir/Madam, our agreement ends.

    I have not desire to quantify the melting point of fat using Giordano Bruno as a test subject. But neither would I break bread with him. He was a mystic and a fantasist. He would replace the dominance of the church with his own, personal creed. And (to judge from the testimony of those who knew him) he was thoroughly unpleasant company.

    There are better friends.

  133. JohnnieCanuck says

    #67 @Menyambal

    Quick now, who was Galileo? The guy who invented the telescope, right? Right, an important scientific instrument, which he used for discovering sciencey stuff. An early scientist. Everybody knows that. Everybody.

    Invented?

    Nope. Credit for that goes to three Netherlanders, Lippershey, who had the first patent application, and Janssen and Metius. Galilieo build a copy of their work within a year and soon made significant improvements to it.

    What made him famous regarding the telescope was what he did with it, discovering the phases of Venus, the Galilean moons of Jupiter and sunspots.

  134. says

    Paul Brown:

    He (I think you mean #87) said “Because Bruno based his conclusions on the work of Copernicus.” And all I pointed out was that Bruno’s conclusions…infinite universe, stars are suns is a star, etc…weren’t justified by Copernicus.

    They didn’t have to be. As I said, he’d moved the concepts of Copernicus into the realm of philosophy. At that point, the difference between general philosophy and science was a little more blurry than it is today, and it’s damned hard to tell who the scientists were. But if you note, the whole segment in Cosmos wasn’t about the science of Bruno. It wasn’t even necessarily that he was burned at the stake. There were several points being made at once, which is why the Bruno story is a better fit than many, but the one that I thought most important was this: cultures that favor dogma over curiosity are not likely to progress knowledge.

    Now, you say Bruno was wrong (he wasn’t — he just wasn’t fully right). In any case, he wasn’t nearly as wrong as those who burned him. He was quite a bit closer to the truth. And that’s another point: the body of knowledge gained by science is neither fully right nor fully wrong. Some models are closer to reality than others. And Bruno’s conceptualization was closer to reality than most at the time. How he got to that model is irrelevant. He was murdered for the crime of spreading an idea that was closer to the truth than the equivalent model preached by the church.

    Further, the Bruno story has parallels in modern America, and in other countries. Some groups use their political and social power to push the teaching of solid scientific models (such as evolution, as an example) out of the classroom. That makes the story topically relevant, and therefore more interesting. (The mention of freedom of speech also hints at the subtlety of this modern cautionary tale.)

    Nowhere did the producers of Cosmos use this as a dig against religion. They laid out the base story. They illustrated how progress comes from open inquiry, not from suppression of ideas. They did not blame religion, nor the modern Catholic church. If the history here makes some people uncomfortable, maybe they should ask themselves why.

    Personally, I think the choice of Bruno was solid. It demonstrated everything they wanted, and made an interesting segment. It’s fine that you feel you could do better, that you could’ve selected a better segment. You are certainly entitled to your opinion as well.

  135. Al Dente says

    Paul Brown @144

    Al Dent.

    ” I certainly won’t lose any sleep over a topic that’s so obviously vital to your psyche.”

    And yet. You post.

    At least I spelled your name correctly. I also notice you neglected to answer the question I asked you. But since you’re an obvious fuckwit (despite your expectation Ichthyic isn’t mad at you, you’re too trivial to cause more than mild irritation) I’m not surprised.

  136. Amphiox says

    What I am saying is that Cosmos was mistaken in the editorial/artistic decision to go with such a weak example. There are other individuals … I keep naming them, and acknowledging the artistic shortcoming of their stories

    Their artistic shortcomings as stories is irrelevant. What is relevant is that those stories do not fit with the narrative of that Cosmos episode. Not ONE of the examples you mentioned could have been put in that episode in Bruno’s place without EVERYONE in the audience going “wft? that doesn’t fit in there! there’s no reason to put that there except as a crass attempt to gin up a controversy about religious oppression of a scientist, who was working on a subject not even related to the subject of the rest of the show!”

    Not even Galileo, for that matter, because Galileo’s story really isn’t about a belief in the enormous/infinite size of the universe at all.

    I hope you know that COSMOS is intended to be a SERIES, and that this was just the first episode. If there are episodes about those scientific disciplines where your other examples would be relevant, they may well end up being addressed.

  137. Paul Brown says

    #147

    “As I said, he’d moved the concepts of Copernicus into the realm of philosophy.”

    Harsh start and sorry … but this … smells like bullshit to me.

    Bruno made a series of factual claims. Claims for which he had no more evidence than ancient Greeks “philosophers” (yes Aristotle … I am looking at you … I might call upon you later) or Hindu mystics of the Vedas with their “factual claims” about a cyclical universe. I think Bruno just made shit up that was emotionally satisfying to him.

    Which is why, when you say “Some models are closer to reality than others.” I think we’re in violent agreement as to the principle, but divided on its application. Bruno and the church lacked any kind of system for creating their.

    “Personally, I think the choice of Bruno was solid. It demonstrated everything they wanted, and made an interesting segment. It’s fine that you feel you could do better, that you could’ve selected a better segment. You are certainly entitled to your opinion as well.”

    On this point, I think we can agree. I was trying to articulate a criticism of the show. I hope (at least) my little complaint spiced and salted your appreciation and even enjoyment of the show.

  138. Amphiox says

    Bruno made a series of factual claims. Claims for which he had no more evidence than ancient Greeks “philosophers” (yes Aristotle … I am looking at you … I might call upon you later) or Hindu mystics of the Vedas with their “factual claims” about a cyclical universe. I think Bruno just made shit up that was emotionally satisfying to him.

    The Cosmos episode explicitly showed all of that. The narration explicitly said he had no evidence for his views, and it explicitly showed Bruno dreaming his view of the infinite universe (ie he made it up in his own head).

    But none of that is a valid criticism of the inclusion of Bruno’s history in the episode.

  139. Paul Brown says

    #149

    “Their artistic shortcomings as stories is irrelevant. What is relevant is that those stories do not fit with the narrative of that Cosmos episode.”

    These two sentences. They don’t strike you as … well … an odd juxtaposition? Whatever makes up the narrative of “that Cosmos episode” is an artistic decision, too.

    “Not ONE of the examples you mentioned could have been put in that episode in Bruno’s place without EVERYONE in the audience going “wft?”

    Not “EVERYONE”. That’s a very big word You. I. Probably most of the readers of this blog would have ( a ) learnt something factual and ( b ) have better appreciated the point being made, with a different example. Not Galileo, though. We’d all have learnt nothing from such endless and sublime recapitulation.

    “…to gin up a controversy about religious oppression of a scientist.”

    So. Don’t make the oppressor a religion. Make it the patriarchy. Or Stalinism.

    “Not even Galileo, for that matter, because Galileo’s story really isn’t about a belief in the enormous/infinite size of the universe at all.”

    Agreed. Galileo’s story is best summed up by his muttered dissent at his trial’s conclusion. “Yet. It moves.” He had observational evidence on his side. Bruno didn’t. Galileo’s story is (in this context) about the infinite possibilities that follow when you embrace doubt and wonder and prioritize looking-at-shit over authoritarian conviction.

    “I hope you know that COSMOS is intended to be a SERIES …”

    I am looking forward to watching every episode, and applying my faculties of critical reasoning. I will make every effort to share my experience of the show with others, to learn from them.

    PZ’s observation here is absolutely on point “Somehow, these people think that the historical evidence of people leaving behind their antiquated religious ideas and gradually adapting to a more secular view of the world is evidence that religion and science are compatible.” I would substitute (as have others in this thread) the term, “the totalitarian impulse” for “religion” here. In Bruno’s time, the totalitarian force was religion. Today, religion is joined by other, perhaps more primitive prejudices.

    Among which is our own very human desire to sing a part in the hallelujah chorus of a comment thread to a blog post.

  140. Paul Brown says

    #151

    I’d be ever so grateful if you would justify your use of the word “valid” in your sentence “But none of that is a valid criticism of the inclusion of Bruno’s history in the episode.”

  141. says

    Paul Brown:

    Which is why, when you say “Some models are closer to reality than others.” I think we’re in violent agreement as to the principle, but divided on its application. Bruno and the church lacked any kind of system for creating their.

    Very true. I’m certainly not defending the way Bruno got to his conclusions. I hope we would agree the method by which you reach your conclusions are just as (more more) important than the conclusion itself. I’m just defending the choice of Bruno by the Cosmos producers. I’ve always felt Bruno’s story summed up the inevitable conflicts between the establishment and those responsible for the explosion of discovery that marked the Age of Reason.

    The fact that Bruno embodied both the old (in the form of dogmatic belief) and the new (the beliefs that got him in trouble were progressive) just makes it that much more fascinating to me.

    On this point, I think we can agree. I was trying to articulate a criticism of the show. I hope (at least) my little complaint spiced and salted your appreciation and even enjoyment of the show.

    It’d be hard to do that. I watched Sagan’s Cosmos when I was 13. It convinced me I wanted to become a physicist. (Unfortunately, I’d discovered computers the year before, and that became my eventual profession. It turns out, science is a lot of hard work. Damn you, innate laziness!) I’ve been predisposed to immensely enjoy this new edition since I first saw Neil deGrasse Tyson speak.

    But, I’ve been interested in your personal complaints, since it’s not the typical, “Oh, but he was so MEAN to the CHURCH!” I disagree with your conclusions, but as that’s all just a difference of opinion, I’m certainly not going to get het up about it.

  142. chigau (違う) says

    Paul Brown
    try this
    <blockquote>paste copied text here</blockquote>
    this will happen

    paste copied text here

    it will make your comments easier to read

  143. Paul Brown says

    #156 chigau

    I thank you for this illuminating correction, brother.

    *crosses fingers before clicking on “Submit Comment”*

  144. Azuma Hazuki says

    It is fucking disturbing how many people on here are being apologists for the institution of the Catholic Church. I have to assume–I must, to avoid an insanity-causing spasm of hatred for humanity–that they are simply ignorant of the full extent of what that castle of corruption has done. This from a woman raised Catholic.

    Go look up the torture instruments used by the inquisition. All of them. The rack, which new research says may have snapped long bones as well as joints. Thumbscrews. Red-hot pincers. The breaking wheel. The head crusher, which would slowly smash your eyeballs out of your sockets and drive your teeth into your sinuses. The boots. The “pear of anguish,” which would shred you from the inside as it opened and was commonly used vaginally.

    And after you’ve vomited everything you’ve eaten for the last 10 years, go read some of the hellfire and brimstone torture pornography written by Tertullian, Aquinas, John Edwards, and the aptly-named Furniss, who delights in describing children screaming and thrashing in red-hot ovens and says God was merciful to these people because had they lived longer they would have sinned more and suffered worse.

    Sometimes I think most people simply have never had their minds shattered by horror. It is time those people have. Let this be the mental equivalent of the Pope’s Pear mentioned above.

    And if you still dare to defend this institution, or worse, as Kroos Kontrol did try to argue that “oh butbutbutbut without Yahweh you have no objective morals!11111one” you may cordially throw yourself into the very Hell you love so much.

  145. Paul Brown says

    #155 Avo, also nigelTheBold

    I’m certainly not going to get het up about it.

    I’m entirely unconvinced of my opinions myself! That said, I’ll defend ‘em until the facts change, or my fingertips bleed. ;)

    If I had my ‘druthers … if NdGT’s “COSMOS” was intended as a show for the ages … I would have told the story of Galileo again. But I would have made it new by describing it from the point of view of his daughter. Dava Sobel’s book is wonderful in the way it reveals the struggles this devout man (and his cloistered nun daughter) went through reconciling their faith with … “Yet. It moves”.

  146. Paul Brown says

    #154 anteprepro

    Jesus Christ, Paul is still handwringing over this?

    Yet … you’re still replying?

  147. Paul Brown says

    #159 Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    “brother”

    Oops!

    Well. I felt that any reference to the Venerable Jorge would be even more out of place.

    *cowers*

  148. Amphiox says

    Which is why, when you say “Some models are closer to reality than others.” I think we’re in violent agreement as to the principle, but divided on its application. Bruno and the church lacked any kind of system for creating their…

    HOW a model of reality is created has no bearing whatsoever on how close to reality it is, or how valid it is. THAT is determined by one thing and one thing only – direct comparison of the model with observed reality.

    The kind of system that creates the models, or lack thereof, is important in determining HOW LIKELY a model is to be reliable BEFORE YOU TEST IT. The scientific method produces models with a high a priori likelihood of reliability, and thus employing it is practical in the sense that we restrict ourselves to testing models with higher a priori likelihoods of reliability and thus save the limited resources we have to devote to the testing process.

    But once you have already tested a model, and found it closer to reality than the alternative, it does not matter one bit where the model came from. It could have come from a mystic’s dream or been spelled out by an Ouija board and it would have no bearing on how accurate the model proved to be now that you have already tested it.

    Bruno guessed and he got lucky, and we discourage the emulation of that process because it is unlikely for future guessers to be similarly lucky. But in Bruno’s case is does not matter, because the reality was that he WAS indeed lucky, and he WAS indeed “right”, relatively speaking.

  149. says

    I liked the choice. Unlike Galileo, Bruno was not a scientist (I know the word “scientist” didn’t exist back then). Just, as PZ says, an annoying weirdo. Perhaps because I am also an annoying weirdo, I kinda felt him. And it got me thinking about how the Church suppressed the ideas not only of intellectuals and scientists, but ordinary schmoes, and how non-scientists and scientists interact to create advances in understanding. Sure, Bruno just had a hunch and a bit of reasoning, but imagine if the RCC hadn’t snuffed out his life and his ideas so brutally. Some natural philosopher may have heard of his rants and said to himself, “Hey, maybe he’s on to something. Let me see if I can prove it.” Much like Francisco Bacopa was saying about Lucretius.

  150. Paul Brown says

    #148 Al Dente

    (sorry about the ‘e’).

    Your question was ..

    So what?

    My apologies. I interpreted this ejaculation as rhetoric.

    What was your question, precisely?

  151. Amphiox says

    (It is not as if the history of science is not full of examples where a model came to its originator in a dream, or out of his or her imagination, or as a pure guess, or even out of some prevailing pre-existing faith. The apocryphal tale of how the molecular structure benzene was discovered, through a dream of a snake eating its own tail, is just one example. And while one would be ill-advised to run a research programme by generating your hypotheses in your dreams, that is a practical consideration. If the model tests well with observed reality, it does not matter where it came from.

    Bruno did not test his model, but aspects of his model WAS tested – by future generations of astronomers.)

  152. chigau (違う) says

    Paul Brown
    “brother” is an unwarranted assumption.
    and you really need to close the </blockquote>.
    ///////

  153. ekwhite says

    Shorter Anuran – he wasn’t a scientist and was a smartass, so it was OK to burn him.

    Jesus H. Christ on a grilled cheese sandwich! Is there a contest for biggest asshole this weekend?

  154. yubal says

    I like to think that we all are scientists on occasion. In those moments when we really want to know what is the case and why. Many people might do it wrong in that moment, others do just fine, but it’s the drive to get a real answer that makes you a good scientist.

    Maybe we lack the tools to make true science, but as long you are into it, you are good to give it a shot. I for example try myself in the arts on ocasion. Does that work out? Hell no. my art is crap. But I would like to succeed and I give my best. That makes me a failed artist, not a non-artist.

  155. Paul Brown says

    #165 Amphiox

    HOW a model of reality is created has no bearing whatsoever on how close to reality it is, or how valid it is.

    No. But would you agree that how a models’s created is a pretty good indication of how close it is to reality?

    The kind of system that creates the models, or lack thereof, is important in determining HOW LIKELY a model is to be reliable BEFORE YOU TEST IT

    Oh. Wait. Yes. You do. I was going to go off on you about models and justifications and whatnot.

    But – you made the point, *way* upthread, that…

    The point of the Bruno segment was not about religious prosecution of scientists. It was about religious intolerance for ideas.

    And later, when you said …

    Did you miss the segment in the show where it explicitly stated that Bruno’s cosmology was based on his religious beliefs?

    Completely true. But I think (let me try another approach) this lowers the bar too much. It isn’t enough that we “tolerate dissent”. It’s just as important that we temper dissent with reason.

    We have the capacity for reason. The world’s seething with dissent. The place to be, surely, is in the intersection of those two. Bruno wasn’t.

  156. Paul Brown says

    #174 SallyStrange

    *wink*

    *offers a Goon Show episode and a trailer for the Russell Crowe “Noah” movie as a peace offering*

  157. barnestormer says

    I just watched Cosmos, and I thought the Bruno section was one of the best parts. The scenes of him dreaming of breaking out of the pre-Copernican universe fit perfectly with the theme of the program, which was all about trying to get a grip on the enormous scale of space and time. I thought the animation was beautiful and effective. And they couldn’t possibly have been clearer that he was a dreamer, not a scientist.

  158. Paul Brown says

    #178

    *winks again*

    *offers cookies*

    *shrugs*

    *suggests SallyStrange notice that I’m here using my very own, very real name, which connects to my own, very real identity*

    *suggests SallyStrange further bother the good google to do the necessary (and trivial) investigation into my background, beliefs, phone number, address and whatnot*

    *welcomes this investigation*

    *shrugs again, and wonders what makes SallyStrange such a sad, anonymous paranoid*

  159. chigau (違う) says

    Done.
    SallyStrange
    There is a link on the sidebar to contact a monitor, PZ sees those.

  160. Desert Son, OM says

    Paul Brown at #179:

    You seem to have taken something of an interest in the marketing approach and narrative development of the first Cosmos episode. That said, this:

    *shrugs again, and wonders what makes SallyStrange such a sad, anonymous paranoid*

    is a statement exhibiting significant privilege blindness.

    Do you imagine that everyone enjoys the same degree of online security that you do? Do you imagine that everyone enjoys the same degree of offline security that you do? You may have missed a number of posts in the last four years related to culture-wide efforts to suppress, intimidate, marginalize, and harm various individuals and groups of people. Given that the digital telecommunications networks of the world continue to be a major medium through which such aggressions continue, why call out anonymity of commenters here as somehow suspect or pejorative?

    Furthermore, what business is it of yours whether a commenter—any commenter—chooses anonymity? Does it make it more difficult for you to engage with the ideas and discussion herein? You’ve been interacting with Amphiox, anteprepro, Avo also nigelTheBold, Al Dente, and others, yet do not seem to have singled any of them out for having selected handles, even when some of them have challenged your arguments, the relevancy of your comments to the subject post, and even the length at which you are willing to go to visit—and revisit—the particular choices made by the writers of Cosmos in order to tell a particular story.

    Still learning,

    Robert

  161. Paul Brown says

    #185 Desert Son, OM

    This is *way* off thread. But …

    You’ve been interacting with Amphiox, anteprepro, Avo also nigelTheBold, Al Dente, and others, yet do not seem to have singled any of them out for having selected handles, even when some of them have challenged your arguments, the relevancy of your comments to the subject post, and even the length at which you are willing to go to visit—and revisit—the particular choices made by the writers of Cosmos in order to tell a particular story.

    What has SallyStrange actually said about what I’ve written? Other than say:

    #168

    *insert trollface here*

    #174

    Trollface.

    #177

    Trollin’ trollin’ trollin’
    Keep those mousies scrollin’

    #178

    Could a mod send up a troll alert? It’s pretty obvious at this point.

    #183

    Meta-trolling: trolltastically pretending to not understand what trolling is. Novel! I award troll points.

    To which I’ve tried to respond with humor, cookies, Goon Show references and “Noah” movie irony.

    I signed into FTB to comment on the COSMOS / Bruno thread using my google+ credentials. I’m used to communities where identities are what they are. I’m also very familiar with arguments for online anonymity and supportive. I realize now, clicking on my handle, that it doesn’t connect. Until I get that figured out I suggest you contact the admin, let ‘em know of your concerns, and ask ‘em for my name.

    But when someone makes 5 postings without contributing anything of substance, and from a position of online anonymity accuses someone who’s identity is public of “trolling”? That’s paranoia. From someone who’s anonymous. And it’s sad.

    Now. . . I’d much rather talk about COSMOS.

  162. Desert Son, OM says

    Paul Brown at #186:

    Posting response in Thunderdome to minimize topicality drift.

    Still learning,

    Robert

  163. zetopan says

    Paul Brown claims: “The universe is *NOT* infinite.”

    I would be quite interested in your supporting evidence for the above claim since cosmologists have not yet determined if the universe is finite or infinite in extent. The current lower bound on the size of the visible universe is at least 92GLY across. The WMAP data indicate that the universe is flat to within +/-0.4%. A flat universe, by definition is infinite in extent.

    http://wmap.gsfc.nasa.gov/universe/uni_shape.html

  164. Ichthyic says

    Now. . . I’d much rather talk about COSMOS.

    oddly, you actually haven’t talked about cosmos at all.

    you don’t even get why some of us capitalized the word for you.

    you are trolling, yet consciously unaware of doing so.

    I’d say fascinating, but it really isn’t.

    you’re just a waste of time.

  165. Paul Brown says

    #188

    “…your supporting evidence for the above claim…”

    I confess, it’s been my understanding-of-thumb since watching the Krauss lecture. But when I wrote that up, I did check Wikipedia (at least) which holds that “… it is uncertain whether the size of the Universe is finite or infinite.” From which I figured “Belief that the universe is infinite is unjustified.” Besides … even if I’m wrong, what was Bruno’s evidence?

  166. Maureen Brian says

    Caveat: I have not seen this episode of the new Cosmos because I am on the wrong side of the Atlantic.

    The more I have read the repetitive drivel above, though, the more convinced I have become that Neil de Grasse Tyson and his scriptwriters made an utterly brilliant choice and that the story of Giordano Bruno was exactly the right one to choose.

    Why?

    1. The old Aristotelean primim mobile idea was on its way out, had been as long as anyone had access to basic sighting instruments (Vikings?) and the mathematics of the Arab diaspora. And Bruno was definitely a mathematician.

    2. Time and again, the history of science shows how the great explosions of new knowledge happen when there are groups of people collaborating – early Baghdad, England and the low countries C17 – and among those people some will be encouragers of others, some dedicated experimenters, some will not be proved right for 200 or 300 years, some will be proved only partly right (Newton) and some will turn out to be bonkers. We are social animals and all of those categories and more are need for the ferment to produce progress.

    3. The Church was not daft. It wanted to stay in charge of all knowledge. It knew that the social impact of a brutal public execution lessens and eventually backfires if you over-do it. So who’s the greatest threat to the Church – the little guy in a workshop grinding the most exquisite lenses who can be bullied into silence or the one with a loud mouth, a vivid imagination and contacts all over Europe? OK! History proved they got the wrong one but there is no way they could have worked that out at the time.

    4. NdGT has a well deserved reputation as a brilliant science communicator. PB not so much.

  167. consciousness razor says

    Paul Brown:

    I confess, it’s been my understanding-of-thumb since watching the Krauss lecture. But when I wrote that up, I did check Wikipedia (at least) which holds that “… it is uncertain whether the size of the Universe is finite or infinite.” From which I figured “Belief that the universe is infinite is unjustified.”

    So when you claimed so emphatically that “Bruno was not right. The universe is *NOT* infinite,” what you actually meant was that you have no fucking clue. Thanks for clearing that up.

    Besides … even if I’m wrong, what was Bruno’s evidence?

    He apparently relied on a very ancient thought experiment via Lucretius, observations of others like Copernicus, along with a little homemade reasoning of his own. Haven’t you been paying attention?

    And even if you’re right that the universe is finite (not “the observable universe,” mind you), where is your evidence of that? Find me a border or curvature or something. If you’ve got better evidence than a guy who’s been dead for centuries, then let’s have it.

  168. UnPoeteMaudit . says

    [quote] Hey, it was OK to set people on fire in 1600! [/quote]

    I’ll always get a little chuckle out of the sight of ‘atheists’ claiming normative status for their ethical values and treating their moral pronouncements as propositions of fact having determinable truth values. But let us just ignore the last two centuries of philosophical discourse, just as we do the last hundred years of historical research, and stick with the picture of the world painted by the Enlightened Truth of 18th century Anglo-French philosophastry and the rhetoric of the French Revolution.

    Yes, it was moral to burn heretics, as it would be moral to haul your own living carcass to the stake. I’d gladly set the fires myself.

  169. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

    as it would be moral to haul your own living carcass to the stake. I’d gladly set the fires myself.

    Was that intended to be a death threat? or am I misreading you?

  170. says

    Paul Brown:

    But when someone makes 5 postings without contributing anything of substance

    Yes? How many substanceless posts have you made here? I will also point out that your attempts at unwarranted familiarity with Sally Strange are patronizing and disturbing, and are ringing all kinds of alarm bells. You are being a creepy guy. Stop it now. Creeps get banned.

    UnPoeteMaudit:

    I get a chuckle over pretentious asses announcing that not setting people on fire is an atheist ethical value. Thanks for making my case for me. Oh, and by the way, fuck your two centuries of philosophical discourse that maundered on for so long trying to decide if it was OK to murder human beings, and at the end of that, produces arrogant asses who still think it’s ethical to threaten to burn me to death. Bye. And fuck you, too.

  171. Holms says

    Galileo’s story is best summed up by his muttered dissent at his trial’s conclusion. “Yet. It moves.”

    You don’t appear to know much about Galileo, despite your habit of fawning over him; that tale of muttered defiance is apocryphal.

  172. Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive] says

    I will point out that – for all his flaws – Galileo was not stupid.

    Being heard saying, “Eppur si muove” after he recanted would have – rightly – been interpreted as recanting his recantation.

    Which would have ended poorly.

  173. Amphiox says

    No. But would you agree that how a models’s created is a pretty good indication of how close it is to reality?

    What? Did you even read the post to which you replied and quoted? I mean read for UNDERSTANDING?

    No I do not agree. I explicitly said that how a model is created is NO indication of how close it is to reality. The ONLY indication of how close a model is to reality is a comparison of that model TO reality.

    Bruno used a thought experiment he learned of reading about the ancient Greeks to develop his idea of an infinite universe. The process he used, a thought experiment, is the same process Einstein used to develop his theories of relativity.

    Bruno’s ideas were further coloured by his religious faith, but that is in fact immaterial to the accuracy of his ideas.

    Throughout this entire thread you have not demonstrated a single instance of evidence of evolution of thought. You say the same thing now as you said in the beginning. You repeat the same things despite their already having been addressed earlier in the thread. You ignore substantive replies to your arguments and then repeat the same arguments again. Do you or do you not READ what has been posted previously, I mean really READ, rather then just go cherry-picking for quote-mines?

    Are you or are you not engaging in an actual honest discussion here?

  174. raven says

    UnPoeteMaudit .

    Yes, it was moral to burn heretics, as it would be moral to haul your own living carcass to the stake. I’d gladly set the fires myself.

    A death threat!!!

    Probably a xian. Heretics is a religious term used by xians.

    While in your Dark Ages world and religion, it might be moral to burn heretics, PZ Myers, myself, and a few tens of millions of atheists, apostates, witches, scientists, and heretics at the stake, you have one huge problem.

    It’s illegal these days. The law, police, DA’s, and courts are on our side. You would be arrested and sent to prison for life for first degree murder.

  175. Pierce R. Butler says

    Holms @ # 96: I like the way the author notes there that … but fails to pass comment on …

    Time and trolls have moved this thread in other directions, but I still have to wonder why you make such smug judgments based on one paragraph quoted from a book-length biography.

  176. Rey Fox says

    Now. . . I’d much rather talk about COSMOS.

    No thanks, you’ve already bored us to death on that subject.

  177. says

    I will also point out that your attempts at unwarranted familiarity with Sally Strange are patronizing and disturbing, and are ringing all kinds of alarm bells. You are being a creepy guy. Stop it now. Creeps get banned.

    Wow, I really cannot tell you what a feeling of relief it is to have someone (especially a guy) notice that without my having to point it out myself. Thanks, PZ.

  178. says

    No I do not agree. I explicitly said that how a model is created is NO indication of how close it is to reality. The ONLY indication of how close a model is to reality is a comparison of that model TO reality.

    Paul is missing the distinction between “is” and “is likely to be.”

  179. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Paul Brown:

    Completely true. But I think (let me try another approach) this lowers the bar too much. It isn’t enough that we “tolerate dissent”. It’s just as important that we temper dissent with reason.

    We have the capacity for reason. The world’s seething with dissent. The place to be, surely, is in the intersection of those two. Bruno wasn’t.

    And so spiking Bruno’s tongue to his cheeks and lips to each other in a bloody, metal cross of torture is justified?

    It seems unlikely this is your point. But your insistence that we do more than tolerate dissent, in its context, reads very like “We must not tolerate all dissent.”

    And so I ask, if we must not tolerate – at least some – dissent, what does “not tolerating dissent” look like?

    You really have to think about the implications of what you say if you don’t want your points to sound idiotic, violent, or both.

  180. methuseus says

    I haven’t read the comments, but the description of how Bruno was silenced on the way to his execution literally made me cry. That an institution with that much power could do that under the guise of love, or saving a soul, is inhuman.

  181. Desert Son, OM says

    methuseus at @205:

    I share in your revulsion at the horror of those events. Thank you for your comment.

    is inhuman.

    But I’d like to challenge this just a bit and say that while it is unquestionably inhumane, the torture is profoundly and resolutely human.

    We often want to distance ourselves from horrific acts, but humans are the species that has historically perpetuated the most horrific acts upon one another. We risk moral compromise by shunting terrible human acts into a category that makes it easier to suggest “that’s not us” or “that’s not me.”

    Thank you again for your words. We are human in our tears, and human in our atrocities. I submit we must strive to translate more of the humane in our tears to reduce the chance of the inhumane in our acts as time unfolds.

    Still learning,

    Robert

  182. Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive] says

    Seconding Desert Son @206.

    What Bruno’s torturers and executioners did to him was inhumane, certainly, but it was very human.

    We should avoid the tendency – as natural as it may be – to distance ourselves from them, and cast them into the outer darkness as something Other.

    Instead, we should examine them closely and see that which is human within them.

    That is, if your goal is to not be like them, and to stand in the way of those who are like them.

    If we cast them as Other and deny their humanity, we run the risk of becoming them and not recognizing those like them when we encounter them.

  183. says

    Disclaimer: I haven’t read the comments, so it is possible that I am repeating what someone else said.

    Anyone who thinks that the new Cosmos was trying to promote a “science vs religion” point of view completely missed the point of the example with Bruno. Bruno was explicitly presented as a non-scientist and that his horrendous torture and death was because of his theological oppositions to Catholic theology. Bruno wasn’t presented as a “martyr for science,” but as a “martyr for freedom of thought.” The point of the episode was about questioning your currently held beliefs, which is a very broad and general concept.

  184. Holms says

    Time and trolls have moved this thread in other directions, but I still have to wonder why you make such smug judgments based on one paragraph quoted from a book-length biography.

    Instead of asking me what my reasoning was to arrive at that conclusion, you instead ask why I stated it? Because the point was there to be made, but no-one had said it yet.

  185. Azuma Hazuki says

    Aww, we didn’t get to see UnPoeteMaudit explain to us how someone who follows Divine Command Theory can be anything but a complete moral nihilist who thinks marching orders from a tortuous sky demon are equivalent to ethics!

    Relevant, though; we start a thread over how an argumentum ad baculum (Bruno’s death) proves precisely diddly squat, and we get another of such arguments from this wanker!

    I find it very fitting that baculum is the word for penis-bone. Says a lot about these people.

  186. jamessweet says

    Well gee, this thread appears to have been derailed, but I’ll add my point anyway…

    I thought the choice of non-scientist Bruno was actually kind of cool, because it allowed them to simultaneously make a point about how science works: Bruno was just guessing, and it was a lucky guess, driven partially by theology. The story was inspiring, made a point about the oppression of dogma, AND made a point about the scientific method. I thought it was really cool!

  187. Owlmirror says

    @Azuma Hazuki @#210:

    I find it very fitting that baculum is the word for penis-bone.

    Um, “baculum” is Latin for “stick”, and in the phrase argumentum ad baculum means something to (threaten to) beat people with.

    The word was repurposed by skeletal anatomists, but polysemy is not identity.

    Just thought I’d point that out.

  188. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Owlmirror:

    Thanks for the latin (this is not snark), but the word can be “found fitting” for an unrelated meaning. In fact, part of writing is choosing from among several possible words/phrases one which has not only the denotations one wishes to communicate, but also manages to allude to or connote other meanings or images to set a mood.

    It’s possible Azuma was as ignorant of the latin as I am, but a person with that latin background could still have reasonably made the statement.

    Maybe we’re not in disagreement and you were just adding for people like me?

  189. Owlmirror says

    @Crip Dyke:

    Thanks for the latin (this is not snark), but the word can be “found fitting” for an unrelated meaning.

    That’s actually in agreement with what I intended by my second sentence.

    (If Azuma Hazuki had written “is also the word for”, I would have inferred that she knew the original Latin meaning, and was referencing the secondary anatomical meaning simply for snark. It’s possible she does know, but that wasn’t clear from what she wrote. If I had thought that she knew, I might not have written anything, or I might have mentioned the original meaning out of pedantry, just so that no-one would mistake Azuma Hazuki’s snark for seriousness and think that the Romans * thought it made sense to make an argument from a penis-bone.)

    _________________________
    * they go the house

  190. Owlmirror says

    Actually, on reading Azuma Hazuki’s comment more carefully, I think it’s implicit that she does know what baculum means.

  191. Owlmirror says

    @PZ: Does UnPoeteMaudit have an IP addr in the UK? The pompousness, obsession with English and French Enlightenment as negatives, and the hatred for heretics and the vicious death threat make me think of the loathsome Pilt. He was not so blunt in the past unless pressed, of course, but I think he’s been losing that self-control.

    Of course, others share his obsessions, and it’s possible that one of them wandered by. Also, too, Pilt may have learned how to obscure his IP addr.

  192. says

    His IP address traces to a European source with offices in Amsterdam and Dubai, so I’m afraid it’s pretty non-specific. Pilty wasn’t very bright, and there were a heck of a lot of common features to his posts that made him extremely easy to pick out — UnPoeteMaudite lacked them.

  193. Owlmirror says

    The OP, quoting Peter Hess with comments about the various concessions made to the church, or actual conflicts:

    A generation of careful scholarship has given us a nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the long, rich, and complex relationship between religion and the sciences. This latest Cosmos reflects none of that historiography, presenting us instead with what is quite literally a cartoon version of the life story of someone who was not a scientist. Missing were the stories of [...*sundry scientists*...] and Newton[Also a mystic, Bible-prophecy walloping, fanatical religious person]

    Actually, pertinent to the point that most of the other sundry scientists conflicted with or conceded to the church in one way or another, is that Isaac Newton was, without doubt, a heretic to both Protestant and Catholic Christianity (Isaac Newton’s religious views ) . And the fact that he kept his religious ideas carefully obscured from public knowledge lest his career be ended (and possibly, but not as certainly, his freedom or his life), demonstrates that the Church, and the Church-defending State, had successfully terrorized him and others like him into keeping quiet.

    Where is the “nuance”, again?

    (Yes, Newton was also a colossal asshole to other scientists, and other people. Not as pertinent.)

  194. says

    While I do think that Bruno’s story was oversimplified and felt sort of mishmashed together with the rest of the episode, I definitely agree with the most important point made in this post:

    “Let’s not pretend it was OK because it was 400 years ago.”

    YES.

  195. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @owlmirror:

    I might have mentioned the original meaning out of pedantry, just so that no-one would … think that the Romans thought it made sense to make an argument from a penis-bone.

    What if it’s a fossilized walrus penis-bone? Roosevelt might have been the one who actually phrased it this way, but I think a lot of Romans would have agreed with the sentiment of

    Speak softly and carry a big baculum

  196. vaiyt says

    Yes, it was moral to burn heretics, as it would be moral to haul your own living carcass to the stake. I’d gladly set the fires myself.

    Christian love and moral clarity, ladies and gentlemen!

  197. Nicht Dich says

    I think it’s a rather important point that the progress of science requires that we not set people who disagree with us on fire.

    It’s not “the progress of science” it’s “The progress of the Church in no longer acting as if they should hold the power of life and death over everyone”. What they promulgated were Crimes Against Humanity, pure and simple. (One could easily argue that they continue to do so.)