“The Science is Settled” – A look back 400 years

“The Science is Settled” – A look back 400 years.

It was February 1616 that it was officially decreed as such. In objective hindsight, let’s take a look and celebrate how well that worked out on this 400th  year anniversary.

Basically, the tenants of the 1616 argument centered on the known “settled” science of the day that the earth was fixed, and the rest moved around it.

Then this guy Galileo Galilei showed up at the party and created quite a controversy as a skeptic supporting the opinion that the sun stands still at the center of the world and the earth moves.

The (shall we say) establishment AG’s of the world set off to shut him up for disturbing the popular fixed  view, and organized an Inquisition under the urging  of Pope Paul V to make sure.  Galileo was ordered by law  to “… to abandon the opinion that the sun stands still at the center of the world and the earth moves, and henceforth not to hold, teach, or defend it in any way whatever, either orally or in writing.”

The sentence of the Inquisition was delivered on 22 June. It was in three essential parts:

  • Galileo was found “vehemently suspect of heresy”, namely of having held the opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the center of the universe, that the Earth is not at its center and moves, and that one may hold and defend an opinion as probable after it has been declared contrary to Holy Scripture. He was required to “abjure, curse and detest” those opinions. (Great Lawyer Speak.. and that 400 years ago to boot!)
  • He was sentenced to formal imprisonment at the pleasure of the Inquisition.  On the following day this was commuted to house arrest, which he remained under for the rest of his life.
  • His offending Dialogue was banned; and in an action not announced at the trial, publication of any of his works was forbidden, including any he might write in the future.

“Finally!”, they must have thought, the matter of skeptics has been put to rest.  In modern 21st Century terms we say, “The Science is settled”….

Post Script:

Ah, the arrogance of the tiny human ego knows no bounds. We’ve been on this earth for a Nano Second of its 4.5 Billion year evolution.

As a perfectly elegant feedback system, Earth has managed to self-correct its various mega-disasters to get it to a point where humans can do their walkabouts.

Sadly, in our brief Nano Second, we actually believe we know better, how Earth got to here and what needs fixing. We superficially skip the tops of the waves in oceans that are (for humans) infinitely deep and still make Pollyanna Pronouncements on the whole as if it urgently matters in the grand scheme of things.

The Laws of unintended consequences never enter into the analysis, and we ping pong our disconnected logic from pillar to post, layering more trivial fixes on things that didn’t need fixing from the outset.

So in looking back, how did that last cycle of “The Science is Settled” work out? I like the French wording best:

  • plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

we are the hollow men…. headpiece filled with straw  (TS Eliot)

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