iSoul In the beginning is reality

Galileo again

It’s amazing how much “Remember Galileo!” is still used as a warning cry for those who dare question current scientific orthodoxy. And it’s amazing how much history has been replaced by mythology, meaning something everyone knows but doesn’t check to see if it’s true.

A few salient facts are in order:

Galileo was a life-long member of the Roman Catholic Church. He could easily have avoided problems with his church but chose to make a nuisance of himself instead. The reigning scientific view at the time was a variety of Ptolemaic astronomy, which was incorporated into scholastic philosophy and supported RCC theology. Alternatives to Ptolemy were known but they and Galileo did not convince the scholastics to change. The RCC went along with the scholastics whose sophisticated philosophy had no intellectual peer at the time.

But the most important fact is the Galileo was not “right” and the RCC was not “wrong”. There were valid points on both sides and the answer was not obvious at the time. The main misunderstanding is that the sciences progress by completely rejecting one theory and affirming a completely new theory. Rather, the sciences progress by improving on a theory so that what was valid in the old theory is maintained in the new theory along with new and better material. Sciences converge by a kind of alternating series of theories, each one closer to the limit so that the past is prologue, not pseudoscience.

One contemporary lesson is that evolution is not 100% right or wrong. It’s that the next theory will preserve what is valid and drop what is not valid plus add new material from a different paradigm.

September 2014

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