[Marxism] Biblical "truth"
billlynch970 at netscape.net
Wed Oct 5 13:45:26 MDT 2005
Calvin Broadbent wrote:
>But the Catholic Church had, long before the development of evolutionary
>theory, upheld the literality of the bible against heretics like Galileo who
>claimed that the earth travelled round the sun, rather than staying still.
>Many historians have argued that Protestantism was more conducive to the
>growth of science than Catholicism.
>MARK LAUSE WROTE:
>People seem to be under the impression that Roman Catholicism is
>"fundamentalist" in the sense that it believes in the literal truth of
>the Bible. Totally wrong.
>It was Protestantism that raised and appealed to the Bible as authority
>for its rebellion against the Roman Church and the Papacy. And the more
>extreme wing of Protestantism opted to cling to this notion of the
>literal truth of the Bible in the face of mounting evidence for
Strictly speaking, the Catholic Church did not uphold the literal truth
of the bible against Galileo. Rather, they objected to Galileo's right
to reinterpret biblical passages to conform with an unproven theory.
Galileo actually appealed to precedent within Church tradition to
reinterpret biblical passages away from apparent literal interpretations
suggesting a flat earth, for instance, something done by the early
Church fathers and considered acceptable so long as it was done by the
established theologians. Galileo was, however, a mathematician
(authorized to "predict" positions without explaining them) and, by his
insistence when appointed to the Medici court, a "philosopher"
explaining physical things in conformity with theological veto. The
theological could only adjust to the physical (and from there to
mathematical astronomical systems) if it was established to the
satisfaction of the church hierachy that the new physical theory was the
only possible one, and since truths of nature were understood as
necessarily in conformity with truths of religion, the "apparent"
religious truth in conflict must have arisen from some misunderstanding
of the proper sense to be attributed to the words of scripture
(inherited Church tradition decides it--the last thing they wanted was
for people to decide how to interpret the bible themselves!). This
situation did not obtain, since both the Ptolemaic and Copernican
systems were equally capable of explaining the positions of the heavenly
bodies. Galileo held that his (as it turns out, false) theory of the
tides provided evidence for the physical truth of the Copernican system,
while Galileo's former friend Urban VIII understood a "hypothesis" to
just be one of any number of calculation tools for predicting positions,
rather than a candidate for physical truth (recall that no thought that
the system of epicycles, equants, etc. were real, just convenient tools
that roughly fit the overall scheme laid down by Aristotle--solid
spheres carrying visible planets can not rotate at different speeds,
which is what equants implied. Copernicus actually tried to reform these
physics-before- math rules to argue that these mathematical tricks
should be physically realizable and that the mathematical elegance of
his theory testified to their physical truth, ass-backwards by the
standards of the time, influenced in part by Arabic astronomy ).
Given this old sense of hypothesis, Jesuit astronomers were able to make
significant contributions to astronomy so long as they did not hold to
the physical truth of Copernicus' theory--they could use his math--that
wasn't censored. There was probably a chilling effect on the physical
question of the earth's motion in Italy, but other Catholic countries
ignored the prohibition (see the circle around the French monk
Mersenne--although Descartes may have equivocated a bit). The idea that
Protestant countries were more favorable to the new approaches is more
or less decisively rejected by historians of science--it was an idea
that sociologist Robert Merton had applied to science, extending Weber's
Protestant roots of capitalism argument (itself discredited, not least
by a close reading of Capital, vol. 1).
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