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What follows is a quote from Paul Feyerabend’s Against Method. Make of it what you will. Is Hancock being led in a merry dance? Is he being asked to do the fandango?

There are many ways to silence people apart from forbidding them to speak – and all of them are being used today. The process of knowledge production and knowledge distribution was never free, ‘objective’, and purely intellectual exchange rationalists make it out to be.
The trial of Galileo was one of many trials. It had no special features except perhaps that Galileo was treated rather mildly, despite his lies and attempts at deception. But a small clique of intellectuals aided by scandal-hungry writers succeeded in blowing it up into enormous dimensions so that what was basically an altercation between an expert and an institution defending a wider view of things now looks almost like a battle between heaven and hell. This is childish and also very unfair towards the many other victims of 17th century justice. It is especially unfair to Giordano Bruno, who was burned but whom scientifically minded intellectuals prefer to forget. It is not a concern for humanity but rather party interests which play a major role in the Galileo hagiography. Let us therefore take a closer look at the matter.
The so-called trial of Galileo consisted of two separate proceeding, or trials. The first occurred in 1616. The Copernican doctrine was examined and criticized. Galileo received an order, but he was not punished. The second trial took place in 1632/33. Here the Copernican doctrine was no longer the point at issue. Rather, what was considered was the question of whether Galileo had obeyed the order given him in the first trial, or whether he had deceived the inquisitors into believing that the order had never been issued. The proceedings of both trials were published by Antonio Favaro in Vol. 19 of the National Edition of Galilean material. The suggestion, rather popular in the 19th century, that the proceedings contained falsified documents and that the second trial was therefore a farce, seems no longer acceptable.
The first trial was preceded by denunciations and rumours, in which greed and envy played a part, as in may other trials. The Inquisition started to examine the matter. Experts (qualificatores) were ordered to give an opinion about two statements which contained a more or less correct account of the Copernican doctrine. Their decision concerned two points: what would today be called the scientific content of the doctrine and its ethical (social) implications.
On the first point the experts declared the doctrine to be ‘foolish and absurd in philosophy’ or, to use modern terms, they declared it to be unscientific. This judgement was made without reference to the faith, or to Church doctrine, but was based exclusively on the scientific situation of the time. It was shared by many outstanding scientists (Tycho Brahe having been one of them) – and it was correct when based on the facts, the theories and the standards of the time. Compared with those facts, theories and standards the idea of the motion of the earth was as absurd as were Velikovsky’s ideas when compared with the facts, theories and standards of the fifties. A modern scientist really has no choice in the matter. He cannot cling to his own very strict standards and at the same time praise Galileo for defending Copernicus. He must either agree with the first part of the judgement by the Church experts, or admit that standards, facts and laws never decide a case and that an unfounded, opaque and incoherent doctrine can be presented as a fundamental truth.

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Subject Views Written By Posted
Galileo Galileo can you do the fandango? 521 jameske 12-Nov-00 11:40
RE: Galileo Galileo can you do the fandango? 137 vince 12-Nov-00 13:41
RE: Galileo Galileo can you do the fandango? 173 vince 12-Nov-00 13:46
RE: Galileo Galileo can you do the fandango? 266 Brad 12-Nov-00 18:12


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