“But Galileo”

The Galileo complex permeates Climateball. Contrarians love to portray themselves as truth seekers fighting against the dark forces of the world. Since Galileo was right, contrarians are right.

Galileo might be the most overestimated father figure in the history of all father figures. His successes have been commercial first and foremost: he vulgarized science and made himself the Hero winning against strawmen. This makes Galileo the perfect idol for contrarians.

I will not discuss other heroes. See #ButMyGuru for the general point.

Examples

Galileo was perhaps the first known conspiracy theorist as well. Fighting the climate religion with facts and science is the same today.

(Juan Pedro)

And yet, it moves.

(SteveS)

Objections and Replies

Astronomy. Galileo established astronomy as—
He rooted for Copernicus’ model that was 100 years old, and Kepler. He did not establish scientific journalism either. Perhaps scientific vulgarization?

Devout. Galileo was a good, devout Catholic
Galileo was great in many ways, but not in his religulous fervor.

Disinterested. Galileo pursued truth for its own sake
According to TonyC, Mario Biagioli shows how Galileo exploited his scientific discoveries to climb the social ladder.

Dogma. The Church was never questioned
There were lots of disputes within the Church, starting very early on.

Experiment. Galileo was the first empiricist
Aristotle collected many specimens. Aristotelians too. Empirical work is arguably as old as men. Besides, Galileo faked or elided data as he saw fit.

Father. Galileo is the father of modern science—
Galileo was more of a Carl Sagan mixed with a Nassim Taleb. He attacked scholastic authorities more than he engaged with real scientists. Further, the debates were won with rhetorical bombast.

Heresy. Galileo was charged of heresy
You mean suspicion of vehement heresy, and that was after being warned in 1613 and interrogated in 1633 after breaking his word. Galileo has never been excommunicated.

Math. Galileo mathematized nature
That makes Archimedes sad. Galileo was no great mathematician: he miscalculated the area of a cycloid, and needed to rely on paper models.

Prison. Galileo was imprisoned (in a dongeon)
He was under house arrest, in a villa outside Florence near his daughters. He often received guests.

Right. Galileo was right
Not about the Moon (he thought she had an atmosphere), Venus, tides, comets, extrusion by whirling, the orbital velocity of planets, the path of a falling body, etc.

Science. Galileo invented the word “Science”—
Not really.

Telescope. Galileo invented the telescope and—
Thomas Harriot did. He built one, published a pamphlet in 10 days, and got sponsors using his technological edge.

Notes

{} History. If history makes you feel angry, that’s fine Ted.

{} Parallax. Stellar parallax has been observed only in 1838 by Friedrich Bessel. Without that result the heliocentric model remains problematic.

{} We Are Science. There are no heroes. Science is a collective endeavour.

Resources

2020; The Galileo Myths; Joseph Sant compiled 22 myths regarding G’s feats.

Galileo’s Contemporaries.; A timeline of scientific discoveries during Galileo’s times, including by religious scholars.

Readings

2020-05. Galileo sources: a starter kit.

2020-01; The Case Against Galileo; Viktor Blåsjö argues that Galileo is the most overrated figure in the history of science. A short summary with cartoons is provided at Ben‘s.

2016-01. The Myth of the Scientific Method.

2016-03; Galileo’s reputation is more hyperbole than truth; Thony Christie presents a fair assessment of Galileo’s place in science history. He traces the Galileo myth back to John William Draper and Dickson White.

2011-01; The Starry Messenger; John Derbyshire glosses over two famous books on Galileo.

2004; Galileo vs Aristotle on Free Falling Bodies; Markus Schrenk argues that Galileo’s thought experiment on falling bodies does not refute Aristotle’s passing remark presented as an assumption.

1988-07; Grassi Gets a Fright; Peter Burke reviews Pietro Redondi’s book and presents the bout between Orazio Grassi and Galileo, full of mockery and invectives.

1946-12; Aristotle’s View on Falling Bodies; A note illustrating how Galileo misrepresented Aristotle’s point.