Monday, March 10, 2014

The Myth of Fingergprints

So, is it raining, or not?

I am old.  I am cranky.  I like fine distinctions, the kind most people can't be bothered to make.  So be it.  But I'm also intrigued by the loose threads, by the corner of the paper that won't lay down, by the wrapping we put on
Call me a closet chaos believer; call me a throwback to that Greek notion that the origin of the universe was in chaos, that logos imposed order, but that chaos was never vanquished, and will one day prevail again.  Go ahead, call me that; I'm practically there.

I think of it as a metaphor for humility; something sorely lacking in this all-too modern world.

So I'm intrigued, not by the new TV show "Cosmos" (I'm about to disconnect my satellite anyway, and go to Netflix for movies; it's almost all I watch now.  If I could stream Turner Classic Movies, or have that alone on my TV, I'd be perfectly content), but about the reaction to it.  According to two articles at Slate, it began with the story of Giordano Bruno, and this somehow, it seems, has something to do with "faith."

Because we know "science" and "faith" cannot possibly coexist.  Except, of course, in the mind of Giordano Bruno; in the 16th century; where he really just made lucky guesses (and what, Neil Tyson, Einstein was tapped into the true reality of the universe, because he was Jewish and non-religious? Don 't answer that.  It doesn't matter.)  And then of course we set aside the monk Gregor Mendel, who made it possible for Richard Dawkins to be famous for something vaguely science related before he went on to seek greater fame and fortune.  Or the Big Bang Theory, to get back to matters cosmological (although, technically speaking, everything is subsumed under the idea of "cosmos," which means "everything."), first proposed by a Jesuit priest.

It's that presumed rub that fascinates.  Religious people must betray their beliefs, or scientists must deny their science, in order for the twain to meet in one mind.  Part of this is an insistence on re-writing history so it has only one side:  science good, Church bad.  It's actually a peculiarly Protestant reading of history, not an "objective" one, because Protestants so insisted the Roman church was filled with "superstitions" that it insisted it, alone, understood the true divinity of science (even when science eventually led to empiricism in the 18th century).  To this day presumably educated people insist the Church in the dim past was virulently anti-science ("Look what they did to Galileo!"; except the ones saying that don't really know what "they" did to Galileo.) when it clearly wasn't, else many more Catholic religious would have been persecuted for their "sins."

For example, "Cosmos" apparently (or perhaps this is just Slate) thinks Bruno was burned at the stake for the "heresy" of suggesting the stars are suns like Sol.

In the spring of 1599, the trial was begun before a commission of the Roman Inquisition, and, after the accused had been granted several terms of respite in which to retract his errors, he was finally condemned (January, 1600), handed over to the  secular power (8 February), and burned at the stake in the Campo dei Fiori in Rome (17 February). Bruno was not condemned for his defence of the Copernican astronomy, nor for his doctrine of the plurality of inhabited worlds, but for his theological errors, among which were the following: that Christ was not God but merely an unusually skillful magician, that the Holy Ghost is the soul of the world, that the Devil will be saved, etc.

You see the irony?  Bruno wasn't a man of "faith" at all.  At least not a faith the Roman church would countenance in 1600, by which point the Church of Rome was having more than a little political trouble with the Calvinists (who excommunicated Bruno sometime after he joined them in Geneva), the Lutherans (who also excommunicated him when he joined them in Germany) and the British (whom Bruno managed to piss off, too; though they didn't excommunicate him).  The execution had everything to do with Church authority, and precious little to do with teachings about other worlds and other suns.

The more we re-cast the past as just the present redux, the more we misunderstand everything worth understanding.  And the first thing we really need to understand in this supposed "battle" between science and religion, is that Hamlet was right:  "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Oh, and science is just another "philosophy."

You could look it up....

1 comment:

  1. So, you're telling me that Neil. D. T. didn't do any better job of fact checking this Cosmos than Carl Sagan (he of the hilarious historical boners) did the first one? Well, that's what you get when it''s being produced by that great man of science and historical fact, Seth Macfarlane for that well known venue of intellectual integrity, FOX.