Fame at last! Ok, maybe not so much …


Reader Leo was kind enough to send me a link to a clip from an episode of the TV show Adam Ruins Everything, where host Adam Conover amusingly debunks commonly held beliefs, often using animations. In this clip, he looks at the relationship between Copernicus and the Catholic Church that is often portrayed as a hostile one and uses an article of mine that I published in the December 2007 issue of Physics Today to support his case.

Amusingly, the students in the cartoon Catholic university have equal numbers of men and women, which I doubt was the case back in the 16th century.

You can read my article here.

Comments

  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    Excellent article, but I think it accepts another scientific myth;

    many scholars stubbornly tried to retain Ptolemaic astronomy even though increasingly complicated epicycles had to be added to make the system work even moderately well.

    See here.

  2. Rob Grigjanis says

    Also, here:

    the popular myth that Ptolemy’s scheme requires an absurdly large number of circles in order to fit the observational data to any degree of accuracy has no basis in fact. Actually, Ptolemy’s model of the sun and the planets, which fits the data very well, only contains 12 circles (i.e., 6 deferents and 6 epicycles).

  3. Reginald Selkirk says

    They skipped a few details. Copernicus didn’t publish his book until just before his death (1543)
    Wikipedia

    Despite urgings from many quarters, Copernicus delayed publication of his book, perhaps from fear of criticism—a fear delicately expressed in the subsequent dedication of his masterpiece to Pope Paul III. Scholars disagree on whether Copernicus’s concern was limited to possible astronomical and philosophical objections, or whether he was also concerned about religious objections.

    The Holy Roman Catholic Church did place Copernicus’ book on their Index Librorum Prohibitorum (List of Banned Books, created in 1559), but not until 1616.

    The vast majority of books on the list were theological works. Copernicus’ book didn’t make the list until 1616 after Galileo had started to publicize it more in Europe. The book would not be allowed to be sold unless offending passages were removed or altered to show that the heliocentric theory was just hypothetical, and not fact. And for most people in Europe, that meant you could not get the book anywhere.

    You don’t get to have a list of banned books and claim to be friendly to science. The cartoon ignores the friction between the Holy Roman Catholic Church and Copernicus’ theory which developed after his death.

  4. mnb0 says

    @RS: you omit two small but relevant details as well.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_revolutionibus_orbium_coelestium

    “De revolutionibus was not formally banned but merely withdrawn from circulation, pending “corrections” that would clarify the theory’s status as hypothesis. Nine sentences that represented the heliocentric system as certain were to be omitted or changed. After these corrections were prepared and formally approved in 1620 the reading of the book was permitted.”
    Of course “banned” sounds so much better, even if it’s false.

    “And for most people in Europe, that meant you could not get the book anywhere.”
    The only problem is that huge parts of Europe weren’t catholic and hence couldn’t care less what the RCC prescribed. And that specifically included in 1620 the then most powerful country of the continent, The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, were rather the catholic bishops were banned.
    If most people in The Netherlands didn’t get the book it was because they couldn’t read, couldn’t afford it or both.

  5. mnb0 says

    Example (almost forgotten): only a few years after his infamous trial Galilei published Discorsi e Dimostrazioni Matematiche, intorno a due nuove scienze. City of publication: Leiden.
    The Index was less horrific than quite a few unbelievers would wish.

  6. jrkrideau says

    @ 5 mnb0
    Nine sentences that represented the heliocentric system as certain were to be omitted or changed. After these corrections were prepared and formally approved in 1620 the reading of the book was permitted.”

    This is essentially what happened to Galileo in 1616 (?). He claimed heliocentricism as a fact.

    I wonder if the Galileo affair motivated this editing of De revolutionibus?

    The Church had no problem with heliocentrism as a “thought experiment”. It did not even have serious reservations about espousing it if and only if the proposer had damn good proof.

    This, among many other things, led to Galileo’s later problems. Simply put, his theory was crap and the Church (either the Inquisition itself or the astronomers at the Pontifical Observatory) knew it.

  7. Reginald Selkirk says

    The Church had no problem with heliocentrism as a “thought experiment”. It did not even have serious reservations about espousing it if and only if the proposer had damn good proof.

    Wocka wocka. You can shut that right down until they offer some proof of talking snakes and donkeys.

  8. jrkrideau says

    @6 mnb0
    Galilei published Discorsi e Dimostrazioni Matematiche, intorno a due nuove scienze. City of publication: Leiden.

    I think he may have published two or three but I don’t have anything ah hand to check. All published in the Netherlands. He was careful enough not to publish in the Papal States where getting an Imprimatur might have been a bit of a touchy business.

    The Index was less horrific….
    Do you mean Index or Inquisition?

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