Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Aw, Jeepers--

That rascally Galileo; see, he should'a never worn so short a skirt if he wasn't lookin' for, you know, action.

Elsewhere, my assertion that the Roman Catholic Church "punished him for bein' right" was supposedly refuted. Among the arguments? Why, that insiders -- Church officials -- warned him not to publish, or at least to soft-pedal what he wrote, lest the public be inflamed. And he foooooolishly plowed right ahead.... Askin' fer it!

Here in the modern world, that trick is known as Prior Restraint. It's generally held to be indicative of an unfree press, of a regime in which the free exchange of ideas is banned or restricted. (Someone will claim this only counts if it's the government going it. Guess what entity was the government in that place at the time?) It's a bad thing.

Galileo was indeed a tactless fellow, consistently so; anyone who knew him, knew that. This is not just cause for house arrest -- all the more so at a time when telephones and to-your-door pizza (let alone mouse-click shopping and Amazon.com) weren't even on the horizon.

I predicted this line of argument; it comes up every time. I take no pleasure in having done so.

What people love, they will justify. It's no real favor to call 'em on it; they're only gonna be offended. Little Junior may be a monster some of the time but Mom and Dad love the wretch all the time.


Peter said...

Again, a home run, Roberta. I have to agree that most of the justifications I've heard for the actions of the Catholic Church have been along the lines of "The Church is a good thing; it had valid reasons, from its perspective, to prevent the spread of what was considered heresy at that time, until the matter could be clarified; therefore, Galileo should have been a good little boy and kept his mouth shut. He didn't, so the Church had no choice but to take action: but it wasn't because of his 'heresy' - it was because he wouldn't accept ecclesiastical discipline and shut up."

Prior restraint, indeed.

WV: trator - what some Catholics will doubtless consider me for agreeing with you! :-)

Anonymous said...

See, what I've read is that Galileo had once been friends with or at least a friendly acquaintance of the pope, but that they had a falling out. When Galileo published, he wrote in the form of a conversation between two people on the subject of astronomy. The guy presenting the incorrect position was a clearly recognizable caricature of the pope, and that character was dismantled in a brutal and humiliating way in Galileo's paper.

Thus, Galileo's imprisonment had very little to do with religious positions on astronomy, and everything to do with the fact that the pope was powerful, a prick, and pissed off at Galileo.

Divemedic said...

Your argument that prior restraint is a bad thing, even if the government is the one doing it is exactly the point I have been trying to make with Tam, Unc, and other online bloggers when it comes to other infringements of natural rights.

This isn't related to speech:

If a sufficient number of the businesses in my area pass rules that remove my right to be an atheist, own guns, speak out against government, etc., then my rights are gone.

The government then has an easy way to control behavior: create an environment where private entities are exposed to so much liability when they do not restrict rights, that they have no choice.

For example, a merchant who allows its customers to have firearms while in the store is liable for the actions of the gun owners if they shoot someone, because their policy allowed the customers to be armed. That same liability disappears if the shooter is a criminal who shoots you in a robbery, and the store had a "no weapons" policy that left you defenseless.

Under such a legal system, the government need not make carrying a gun illegal, the business owners have done it for you.

Divemedic said...

oops- I meant to say this isn't always related to speech.

Roberta X said...

Anon: he put the Church's (traditional) arguments in the mouth of the character who had a punning name. In English it could have been something like "Phool." Wikipedia offers some discussion about the book and its consequences.

Divemedic: excellent point!

Peter: Thank you. The drive to justify ignoble acts because one believes so very strongly in the overall good character of the entity which committed them kind of mystifies me; it is fueled by emotion rather than reason. While this incident sheds light in the historical actions of one religion, it tells us very little about the present-day inclinations and actions of that selfsame group.

MO Bro said...

You stated "it is fueled by emotion rather than reason." Indeed that is so, now more than ever. That is fuel (emotion)that drives the gov and the C. Church today, as I see you well know. Control is also a key word in that. Nice post.

Joanna said...

It's history. Shit happened. Religions are made up of fallible human beings; as such, the systems are prone to abuse.

But allow me to point out that many of the great Western works of art would never have existed were it not for religion. So again: baby, bathwater, please to not be throwing.

Dr. Feelgood said...

There's a reason that Bible readers left the Catholic Church when they couldn't reform it.

Not to say that we haven't had our share of problems, too.

Rob K said...

I would hate to have the scientific method judged by the actions of Michael Mann et al. I also hate to see [I almost said "Christianity" but really I should say] the Bible judged by the actions of its self-proclaimed adherents. What is believed and practiced by most who describe themselves as Christian and what the Bible describes have very little overlap. (cf. Matthew 7 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat%207:21-23&version=NASB)

Roberta X said...

Joanna: but...would the artists have existed?

People miss the point, I never said, "throw it out." From my perspective, there's a lotta lost motion there and very little useful real-world output to show for it.

Jenny said...

With respect Joanna - the pagan Greco-Roman world did some amazing artwork that endures to this day - not a little in the Christian artwork of later centuries.

Ergo - had Christ not come, had Constantine not converted - I suspect our artistic heritage would be every bit as nice.

.... but I also suspect there would have been a whole lot more hurt, abandoned souls that never found solace. Children that were never fished out of rivers. Grudges nurtured instead of laid aside.

Artemis and Thor, Jupiter and the Morrigan - all can inspire great works of art. Precious few can - or did - inspire human acts of mercy and gentle kindness.

Christ's legacy is not in stone or paint. It's in softened hearts.

.... and yeah, people can - and have - corrupted any human institution. It's what we do. :)

Geodkyt said...

You know, when someone says ". . . many of the great Western works of art would never have existed were it not for religion. . . "

Somehow I do not find the words "Christian" or "Catholic" in there.

Talking about the wonderous art created by the pagan Greeks and Romans doesn't counter her statement -- it underlines it. (HINT: Works of art glorifying, say Zeus, created by a person who believes that Zeus is real, are just as religious as anything Michaelangelo ever swabbed onto a ceiling.)

Sort of how many atheists "prove" their belief is correct, by counter fundamentalist Christianity of the Biblical literalism flavor, as if that were the ONLY religious system with supernatural deity or deities. . .

Neither "religion" nor "theism" require ANY belief in the particular befliefs and practices of a now-powerful offshoot of radical Judaism.