Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Debunking the Galileo myth

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Dinesh D'Souza has a wonderful new column debunking some of the myths about a supposed conflict between science and religion (particularly, Christianity). He begins:

Many people have uncritically accepted the idea that there is a longstanding war between science and religion. We find this war advertised in many of the leading atheist tracts such as those by Richard Dawkins, Victor Stenger, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. Every few months one of the leading newsweeklies does a story on this subject. Little do the peddlers of this paradigm realize that they are victims of nineteenth-century atheist propaganda.

About a hundred years ago, two anti-religious bigots named John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White wrote books promoting the idea of an irreconcilable conflict between science and God. The books were full of facts that have now been totally discredited by scholars. But the myths produced by Draper and Dickson continue to be recycled. They are believed by many who consider themselves educated, and they even find their way into the textbooks. In this article I expose several of these myths, focusing especially on the Galileo case, since Galileo is routinely portrayed as a victim of religious persecution and a martyr to the cause of science.

Click here to read the whole article. The science/religion myths D'Souza addresses are:

The Flat Earth Fallacy.
Huxley’s Mythical Put-Down.
Darwin Against the Christians.
The Experiment Galileo Didn’t Do.
Galileo Was the First to Prove Heliocentrism.
The Church Dogmatically Opposed the New Science.
Galileo Was A Victim of Torture and Abuse.
The Church Was Wrong To Convict Galileo of Heresy.

D'Souza closes his column by noting:

Historian Gary Ferngren concludes that “the traditional picture of Galileo as a martyr to intellectual freedom and as a victim of the church’s opposition to science has been demonstrated to be little more than a caricature.” Remember this the next time you hear some half-educated atheist rambling on about “the war between religion and science.”

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