Cartoons and Fables – How Cosmos Got the Story of Bruno Wrong

One of the joys of writing this blog is that I have a number of readers/commentators who are more intelligent, more knowledgeable, more erudite and above all more sensible than I. Every now and then I succeed in trapping, blackmailing, bullying or conning one of them into writing a guest post in order to give you the readers an alternative perspective on the world of the history of science and the chance to read something of quality. This time I have succeeded in acquiring the literary services of Tim O’Neill, historian and inexhaustible warrior against the misuse and abuse of the history of science. In his post Tim adds his tuppence worth to the debate raging far and wide about the Bruno cartoon in the first edition of the Cosmos reboot. Enjoy! 

A few months ago while visiting Rome I did something a tourist should not do in a strange city – I took a short cut.  Walking back from the Forum to my apartment over the Tiber, I should have taken the obvious route down the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II toward the Castel  Saint ‘Angelo, but I decided I knew where I was going, so I took a more direct path through some back streets and soon became completely lost.  After winding my way through a maze of smaller laneways trying to find a major road I saw a piazza up ahead and so decided to use that to get my bearings.  I stopped under a statue in the middle of the square to get out a map, looked up at the statue and immediately knew where I was.  I realised I was in the Campo de’Fiori, because the statue was the famous monument to Giordano Bruno, raised on the spot where he was burned at the stake in February 1600.

Bruno 2013 Photo: Tim O'Neill

Bruno 2013
Photo: Tim O’Neill

Bruno is the poster boy of the Draper-White Thesis – the idea that science and religion have always been at war and an idea beloved by the New Atheist movement despite the fact it was rejected by actual historians of science about a century ago.  Try to engage in an attempt at intelligent discussion of the real and much more complex and nuanced interrelations between religion and what was to emerge as modern science in the medieval and early modern periods and Bruno is usually brandished as “proof” that the Church was the implacable and ignorant foe of early science.  After all, why else did they burn him for daring to say the earth wasn’t the centre of the universe and that the stars were other suns with planets?  For those who prefer simple slogans and caricatures to the hard work of actually analysing and understanding history, Bruno is a simple answer to a intricate question.  Nuance and complexity are the first casualties in a culture war.

So when I saw the first preview clips of the revamped version of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, this time presented by Sagan’s genial protégé Neil deGrasse Tyson, and noticed an animated sequence of someone being menaced by Inquisitors and burned at the stake, I knew that the revived Cosmos was going to be presenting some bungled history.  This was also following in Sagan’s footsteps, I suppose, since in the original series he veered off into a mangled version of the story of Hypatia of Alexandria that fixed the false idea of her as a martyr for science in the minds of a generation, as I’ve discussed elsewhere.

So when the first instalment of the new series – Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey –  went to air last week, at its heart was an eleven minute version of the Bruno myth.  I often refer to the simplistic moral fable that people mistake for the history of the relationship between the Church and early science as “the cartoon version”, because it’s oversimplified, two-dimensional and reduced to a black and while caricature.  But in this case it really is a cartoon version – the sequence was animated, with the voice of Bruno provided by the series’ Executive Producer, Seth MacFarlane, of Family Guy fame, which seems to be why Bruno has an Italian accent of a kind usually heard in ads for pizza or pasta sauce.

The clichés didn’t end with the silly accents.  In the weirdly distorted version of the story the program tells, Bruno is depicted as an earnest young friar in Naples who was a true seeker after truth.  But DeGrasse Tyson assures us that he “dared to read the books banned by the Church and that was his undoing.”   We then get a sequence of Bruno reading  a copy of Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things which he has hidden under the floorboards of his cell.  The first problem here is that Lucretius’ work was not “banned by the Church” at all and no-one needed to hide it under their floor.  Poggio Bracciolini had published a printed edition of the book a century before Bruno was born and it had never been banned when the medieval manuscripts Bracciolini worked from had been copied nor was it banned once his edition made it widely available.  The idea that the Church banned and/or tried to destroy Lucretius’ work is a myth that Christopher Hitchens liked to repeat and which has been given a lease of popular life via Stephen Greenblatt’s appalling pseudo historical work The Swerve, which somehow won a Pulitzer Prize despite being a pastiche of howlers.

The DeGrasse Tyson cartoon goes on to depict Bruno having his mind opened to the idea of an infinite universe by Lucretius’ book but then being kicked out of his friary by a mob of Disney villain-style Church types who turn up unexpectedly like Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition.  This, of course, makes for a much better parable than the truth – Lucretius’ work wasn’t “banned by the Church” and Bruno actually ran away from his religious house and wasn’t thrown out for reading naughty books.

It would also have complicated this simplistic cartoon fable to note where Bruno got his ideas about a vast cosmos where the earth was not the centre, where the stars were other suns, where there was a multiplicity of worlds and where some of these other worlds could even have been inhabited just like ours.  Because this was not something Bruno got from Lucretius nor was it something he dreamed up himself in a vision, as the Cosmos cartoon alleges.  It’s something he drew directly from the man he called “the divine Cusanus” – the fifteenth century natural philosopher and theologian Nicholas of Cusa.

If the writers of the series were actually interested in the real history of the origins of scientific thought, there are many people whose stories would have been far more worthy of telling than Bruno – people who actually were proto-scientists.  The writers of the show, Stephen Soter and Sagan’s widow Ann Druyan, seem to have known enough about Bruno to know they could not present him as a scientist and DeGrasse Tyson’s narration does mention that he was “no scientist” at one point.  But they delicately skim over the fact that the guy was, to our way of thinking, a complete mystical loon.  In his defence of the criticism the Bruno sequence has since attracted Soter notes that several  other early science figures also pursued studies that we find abjectly unscientific, such as Newton’s obsessions with alchemy and apocalyptic calculation.  But the difference is that Newton and Kepler pursued those ideas as well as studies that were based on real empirical science, whereas Bruno’s hermetical mysticism, sacred geometry and garbled and largely invented ancient Egyptian religion were all of his studies – he did no actual science at all.

But if they wanted to be truly accurate they should have detailed or even merely acknowledged Bruno’s debt to Nicholas of Cusa, who expounded on a non-finite cosmos without a centre 109 years before Bruno was even born.  Here is Cusanus on the subject in his book De docta ignorantia :

” The universe has no circumference, for if it had a centre and a circumference there would be some and some thing beyond the world, suppositions which are wholly lacking in truth. Since, therefore, it is impossible that the universe should be enclosed within a corporeal centre and corporeal boundary, it is not within our power to understand the universe, whose centre and circumference are God. And though the universe cannot be infinite, nevertheless it cannot be conceived as finite since there are no limits within which it could be confined.”

That’s the insight that the Bruno cartoon attributes solely to Bruno.  So why not attribute it to “the divine Cusanus”?  Well, that would ruin the whole parable.  Because far from being kicked around by grim-looking Disney villains imprisoned and burned at the stake, Cusanus was revered and actually made a cardinal.  So that doesn’t lend itself very well to a moral fable about free-thinking geniuses being oppressed by dogmatic theocrats.

The cartoon then goes on to depict brave Bruno lecturing at Oxford, with grumpy and aristocratic-sounding scholars there objecting to his espousal of Copernicanism and eventually throwing fruit at him and driving him away.  Again, the reality wasn’t quite as worthy.  There is zero record of any objection to heliocentrism and the problem the Oxford scholars had with Bruno was actually his plagiarism of another scholar’s work.  But, again, that doesn’t lend itself to a fable about a pure and persecuted freethinker.

Throughout the cartoon the idea is that he is afflicted because he supports heliocentrism and the idea of an unbounded cosmos  where the earth is not the centre.  As we’ve seen, the latter idea was not new and not controversial.  By the 1580s Copernicus’ heliocentric hypothesis wasn’t particularly new either, though it was more controversial – virtually no astronomers accepted it because it was recognised as having severe scientific flaws.  The important point to remember here is that at  that stage it was not considered heretical by religious authorities, even though some thought it had some potentially bothersome implications.

Copernicus had not even been the first proto-scientist to explore the idea of a moving  earth.  The medieval scholar Nicholas Oresme had analysed the evidence that supported the idea the earth rotated way back in 1377 and regarded it as at least plausible.  The Church didn’t bat an eyelid.  Copernicus’ calculations and his theory had been in circulation long before his opus was published posthumously and and it had interested several prominent churchmen, including Pope Clement VII, who got Johan Widmanstadt to deliver a public lecture on the theory in the Vatican gardens, which the Pope found fascinating.  Nicholas Cardinal Schoenburg then urged Copernicus to publish his full work, though Copernicus delayed not because of any fear of religious persecution but because of the potential reaction of other mathematicians and astronomers.  Heliocentrism didn’t become a religious hot topic until the beginning of the Galileo affair in 1616, a decade and half after Bruno’s death.

Again, the Cosmos writers seem to be at least vaguely aware of all this and so do some fancy footwork to keep their parable on track.  In the cartoon’s depiction of Bruno’s trial we get the first hint that the Church’s beef with Bruno might actually have been to do with ideas that had zero to do with an infinite cosmos, multiple worlds or any cosmological speculations at all.  So the Disney villain Inquisitor reads out a list of accusations such as “questioning the Holy Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ” and a few other purely religious charges.  The depiction gives the impression that these are somehow less important or even trumped up accusations, when in fact these are the actual reasons Bruno was burned at the stake, along with others beside.  As horrific as it is to us, denying the virginity of Mary, saying Jesus was merely a magician and denying Transubstantiation did get you burned in 1600 AD, though only if you refused repeated opportunities to recant.

But the cartoon wants to stick to its parable, so they tack on the final and, we are led to believe, most serious charge – “asserting the existence of other worlds”.  As we’ve already seen, however, this was not actually a problem at all.  Here’s NIcholas of Cusa on these other worlds in the book that inspired many of Bruno’s beliefs:

“Life, as it exists on Earth in the form of men, animals and plants, is to be found, let us suppose in a high form in the solar and stellar regions. Rather than think that so many stars and parts of the heavens are uninhabited and that this earth of ours alone is peopled – and that with beings perhaps of an inferior type – we will suppose that in every region there are inhabitants, differing in nature by rank and all owing their origin to God, who is the center and circumference of all stellar regions …. Of the inhabitants then of worlds other than our own we can know still less having no standards by which to appraise them.”

Again, remember that Cusanus was not burned at the stake, he was revered, praised and made a cardinal.

The only mention of other worlds in the accusations against Bruno specifies that he believed in “a plurality of worlds and their eternity“.  It was that last part that was the problem, not subscribing to an idea that a prince of the Church had espoused a century earlier.

The cartoon concludes with DeGrasse Tyson’s caveats about Bruno being “no scientist” and his ideas being no more than a “lucky guess”.  Some commenters seem to think that this somehow absolves the whole sequence of its distortions and that it means the show depicts Bruno only as a martyr to free thought and a lesson on the dangers of dogmatism.  But the problem with the cartoon is that it makes up a silly pastiche of real history, fantasy and oversimplified nonsense to achieve this aim.  The real story of Cusanus would actually have been a much more interesting one to tell and wouldn’t have had the Draper-White inspired baggage of the Bruno myths.  But the whole sequence seems to have had an agenda and a burned heretic story served that agenda’s purpose in a way that a revered and untrammelled medieval cardinal’s story would not have.

The objective here was to make a point about free thought and dogmatism in the context of the culture wars in the US about Creationism.  That Bruno was a believer in God was an idea that was repeated several times in the cartoon, even though he was actually more of a pantheist than anything.  But he is depicted as an open-minded and unconstrained believer who is oppressed and finally killed by the forces of dogmatic literalism.  The cartoon Bruno’s cry to the fruit-throwing Oxford scholars  – “Your God is too small!” – is actually the point of the whole parable.  This entire sequence was aimed at the dogmatic literalists in the American culture war while still trying to appeal to believers, given the majority of the show’s American audience would have been theists.  That’s the framework of this fable and the writers chopped up bits of the actual historical Bruno story and then clumsily forced them into this modern message.

This sequence wasn’t history or anything remotely like it – it was politics, pure and simple.

Which brings me back to my encounter with the statue in the Campo de’Fiori.  The statue was created by Ettore Ferrari and erected in 1889 in the wake of the unification of Italy in the face of Church opposition.  The monument, raised by members of the Grande Orient d’Italia Masonic order, was a deliberate political symbol of anti-clericalism.  Atheists and free thinkers revere it to this day and commemorate Bruno’s execution on Febrary 17 each year.

Of course, anyone who points out that Bruno is a rather ridiculous icon for atheists, given his kooky mystical views and magical practices is usually ignored.  And anyone who has the temerity to point out that he was executed for purely religious ideas and not any speculation about multiple worlds or a non-finite cosmos is usually (bizarrely) told they are somehow justifying his horrific execution.  As I’ve often noted, for people who call themselves rationalists, many of my fellow atheists can be less than rational.  Unfortunately, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ann Druyan, Steven Soter and Seth MacFarlane’s silly Bruno cartoon will definitely not help in that regard.

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89 Comments

Filed under History of Astronomy, Myths of Science, Renaissance Science

89 responses to “Cartoons and Fables – How Cosmos Got the Story of Bruno Wrong

  1. Fene Lesse

    If there are any irreconcilable differences between the cosmos’ Bruno or the real Bruno, the fact still remains that he was burned for what he professed or believed. He was not burned for any other crime than blasphemy. Your whole article is a wash, you can not deliberately lighten the cruelty of the religiously convicted.

    • Nobody disputes that Bruno was burnt for blasphemy and that this act was barbaric and unforgivable. What we do dispute is that this act had anything to do with the history of science.

      • H.H.

        Who said the comparison had anything to do with the *history* of science? It seems to me the comparison was made to show how the curiosity of science differs from the dogmatism of faith.

        And whether science and religion had any historical entanglement is completely irrelevant anyway, since science and faith are philosophically incompatible. Anyone who believes otherwise hasn’t thought it through.

      • Tim ONeill

        “It seems to me the comparison was made to show how the curiosity of science differs from the dogmatism of faith.”

        And, as the man said, Bruno wasn’t burned for anything remotely to do with science. So the story this cartoon tells is nonsense.

      • the comparison was made to show how the curiosity of science differs from the dogmatism of faith.

        To what was Bruno’s dogmatism being contrasted?

        And how is the scientific reliance on facts supported by this fable?

      • H.H.

        “And, as the man said, Bruno wasn’t burned for anything remotely to do with science.”

        No, he was burned for questioning religion, which was the point.

        “To what was Bruno’s dogmatism being contrasted?”

        Are you really calling the murder victim the dogmatic one? How vile.

      • “No, he was burned for questioning religion, which was the point. ”

        An irrelevant point. If he was not burned for anything to do with science, why did the cartoon depict him as being burned for something to do with science? We get that you have a teenager-style angry apostate animus against religion – many of us got over that stage of our unbelief decades ago and maybe you will too. But try not to let that make you say things that don’t make sense.

      • “And, as the man said, Bruno wasn’t burned for anything remotely to do with science.”

        No, he was burned for questioning religion, which was the point.

        Which would have been appropriate on a TV show about politics or religion, but had nothing to do with science, and was contrary to the grounding of science in facts and empirical verification.

        “To what was Bruno’s dogmatism being contrasted?”
        Are you really calling the murder victim the dogmatic one? How vile.

        Bruno was no more “murdered” than the Rosenbergs were. Although there were folks at the time who thought giving nuclear secrets to Stalin wasn’t such a big deal. They spent six years trying to talk Bruno down before they finally gave up. But defending an evidence-less mystical vision against all argument certainly seems dogmatic. Remember, the contrast was between dogmatism and science, and Bruno was clearly not a man of science.

    • Rebekah Higgitt

      If you read to the end, you’ll find your comment has been pre-empted: “anyone who has the temerity to point out that he was executed for purely religious ideas and not any speculation about multiple worlds or a non-finite cosmos is usually (bizarrely) told they are somehow justifying his horrific execution”.

      What on earth makes you think the author is defending someone being killed for their beliefs?

    • Baerista

      Stellar post, Tim. Keep ‘em coming!

    • And there we have it folks – right on cue and first cab off the rank. Boneheaded pseudo rationalist snarling of the first order. They were obviously so keen to contribute this worthless mumble that they didn’t even read the post to the end.

    • Jan Schwartz

      Thank you, thank you, and goodness I just feel so relieved. I was anticipating the Cosmos opening episode for months, and was absolutely grieved by the decision to use the Bruno character to somehow highlight the tension between science and faith. It is a public service that you cared to enable others to be more informed of the Bruno story, and speculate on how it served the writers. Keep up your work. It is important.

    • Good point. I think the author agrees with this. But it is still a valid point that real history, though less black and white, deserves its place in a story that purports to be about historical events. It is hard to press the view that science is desireable for its truth seeking by presenting pseudohistorical arguments about the dangers of dogmatism.

  2. Heilbron, in his Galileo bio, puts the issues this way:

    One of the regulars before Galileo’s arrival was the notorious Giordano Bruno, whose dogmatic heresies often built on or incorporated Copernican and other modern notions. Although these notions were not judged heretical in themselves, anyone who urged them could be suspected of guilt by association, and the horror of Bruno’s death at the stake in Rome in 1600 recommended caution to innovators.

    In 1616, the Holy Office declared Copernicanism to be formally heretical. (In this, they went beyond their official powers, although the pope did participate in the crucial meetings.) Heilbron notes that three of the cardinals involved had also participated in the proceedings that condemned Bruno.

    I note all this because Heilbron cannot be accused of historical ignorance, although of course not all historians of the period share his interpretations.

    Finally, I haven’t seen the episode of Cosmos in question, but it does sound pretty bad.

    • To a certain extent Heilbron in repeating the standard line that Bruno’s immolation recommended caution to innovators is contradicting himself at least as far as Galileo’s behaviour is concerned. As I quoted in my last post Heilbron quite correctly sees Paolo Sarpi as far more dangerous from the Church’s point of view than Bruno ever was but Galileo consorted openly with Sarpi.

      • As the rest of the chapter makes clear, this refers to Sarpi’s role as the Venetian state theologian during the standoff between Pope Paul V and the Doge of Venice, which resulted in the excommunication of the Doge, the Senate, the interdiction of the entire population of Venice, and the expulsion of the Jesuits from Venice. The source of the standoff was a power struggle over jurisdiction over priests accused of crimes. In short, nothing to do with Copernicanism or natural philosophy.

        So I don’t see any inconsistency in Heilbron’s statement.

        On the other hand, if your point is that Galileo was not dissuaded from vigorously advocating Copernicanism by Bruno’s fate, or the attempted assassination of Sarpi, or even that Galileo was rather reckless during the Galileo affair, of course I agree with you. And pretty obviously Heilbron does too — he titles the key chapters “Miscalculated Risks” and “Vainglory”.

        I guess the real question is whether you agree with Heilbron’s statement:

        The Inquisition was a fact of life, of many people’s lives, a sort of low-level background terrorism, and they learned to live with it according to their circumstances.

      • Hmm. rereading your last post, I see that your point was

        Galileo did not quote Bruno because he didn’t want to, not because he was scared of the Inquisition.

        and of course I agree with that. I still don’t see any contradiction, though, with the passages I quoted. But I apologize for not reading carefully enough.

    • theofloinn

      The 1616 injunction did not declare heliocentrism heretical. It forbade teaching it as a physical fact (unless and until there was actual proof and the theologians had had a chance to analyze passages in the Church Fathers that had relied on the then-settled science). It permitted its consideration as a mathematical model. Two explicitly theological texts — by deZuniga and by Foscarini — that had argued for Copernicanism were suppressed; but that was because of their unauthorized theological arguments. Copernicus’ book was suspended pending corrections; viz., insertion of words or phrases indicating its mathematical, rather than physical, status.

      Pope Paul V wanted to declare Copernicanism “false and contrary to faith” (not “heretical,” there was a difference) but cardinal Maffeo Barberini (and others) argued against it. Maffeo was BFF to Galileo and later said (in 1630) that the injunction had not been his idea and had it been in his power it would never have been issued. By then Maffeo was known as Urban VIII and a great big gob of Machiavillian Italian sh*t was about to his the fan. But it’s instructive to note that as late as 1630, the very pope who smacked Galileo didn’t see a church/science problem in the matter.

      • The 1616 report of the Holy Office indeed declared that the assertion that “the sun is the center of the world and completely devoid of local motion” to be “formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture” etc. etc. The earth’s motion was declared “at least erroneous in faith”. The document is available online.

        As Heilbron notes, the declaration of formal heresy went beyond their official capacity, though the participation of Pope in the crucial meetings may have confused matters.

        The injunction and the decree of the Index are different. Heilbron discusses this.

        The Foscarini issue is less clear-cut than your wording suggests. Also, I think BFF is a bit of an exaggeration, but Galileo certainly had friendly relations with Barberini at the time.

      • The 1616 report of the Holy Office indeed declared that the assertion that “the sun is the center of the world and completely devoid of local motion” to be “formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture” etc. etc.

        You left out the part where the Assessors stated that the stability of the sun was “absurd in philosophy” or (as we would say) “scientifically absurd.” (That was the “…” part of your quote.) The reason why the Church Fathers treated those passages as narrative-literal was that they relied on Settled Science. That was why it was “formally” heretical rather than “materially” heretical. Remember how they used matter and form back in them thar days.

      • The whole of the Accademia dei Lincei had more than friendly relations with Barberini who was without any doubt a big Galileo groupie. The Lincei celebrated his election to Pope in a big way and they dedicated Il Saggiatore to him. A book that he supposedly loved. It was this very close relationship that led Galileo into believing that he had carte blanche for his notorious book on the theory of the tides (Dialogo!) the consequences of which are very well known.

      • For a philosophicus and mathematicus, Galileo had unprecedented access to the Pope in his first years in office. This is the head of the Catholic Church the largest and most powerful political body in Europe. There is a very long list of higher Church officials,rulers, diplomats, financiers, etc, etc, all waiting for audiences with his eminence. Normally a man of Galileo’s status would be considered extremely lucky if he got three minutes in the presence during a mass audience, instead of which he got several extended personal audiences. That is more than friendly relations.

      • Mario Biagioli thinks that Galileo’s status as court favourite in the Roman Papal court played a significant role in his downfall. In absolutist politics court favourites play a significant role in the power structure of the court. The absolutist ruler displays through their presence that he has the power to raise anybodies status as the whim takes him but the fall of court favourites is also part of the game. In times of political turbulence the sacrifice of a favourite can be a powerful signal to all to watch their step. In the case of Urban VIII who was under great political pressure from several sides at the beginning of the 1630s, and becoming increasingly paranoid, sacrificing a mere mathematics, who was however extremely popular, was a very strong signal of strength, which however did not cost him any important members of his court. This was the price that Galileo ended up paying for wishing to become a courtier.

      • @thefloinn:
        I wrote a long response, which for some reason won’t post (too long?), so I’ll simply say: (a) According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, material vs. formal heresy has nothing to do with matter vs. form but is rather an issue of whether the heretic’s errors stem from ignorance or free will. In particular, nothing to do with settled science. (b) The 1616 report meant what it said when giving the reason for the finding of formal heresy: inconsistency with Scripture. (c) The reason for the finding of “absurd[ity] in philosophy” were indeed scientific, and here the Assessors had the better case.

      • Sorry, this is what I intended to copy:

        The 1616 injunction did not declare heliocentrism heretical. It forbade teaching it as a physical fact (unless and until there was actual proof and the theologians had had a chance to analyze passages in the Church Fathers that had relied on the then-settled science). It permitted its consideration as a mathematical model.

    • Michael your long comment got tagged as spam due to the number of links! I have released it from purgatory.

      • @thonyc, on release from purgatory:
        Thank you. Ironically, from purgatory I relearned the wisdom of Pascal’s remark, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”

        While I’m here, I recently finished Jason Rosenhouse’s book Among the Creationists, and was quite impressed with its nuanced treatment of complex issues. I’d never heard of him before your recent post, thank you. I was thus sorely disappointed to read his recent rant The Script. It confirms your take in Oh, FFS!.

    • In 1616, the Holy Office declared Copernicanism to be formally heretical. (In this, they went beyond their official powers, although the pope did participate in the crucial meetings.) Heilbron notes that three of the cardinals involved had also participated in the proceedings that condemned Bruno.

      One of them was St Robert Bellarmine.

      True, no condemnation was given.

      Unlike Galileo’s next trial, 1633.

      Pope Urban VIII who had been personally insulted by Galileo kept out of the trial but confirmed it by sending the verdict to all universities over the Catholic world.

      Speaking of which, is the real text about the Sun “does not move” or about it “does not move as observed”?

      I have met both textual variants the latter from Rick DeLano.

      • Bellermino was not one of the eleven commissioners in 1616 and in 1632 Galileo was only found guilty of “grave suspicion of blasphemy”.

      • in 1632 Galileo was only found guilty of “grave suspicion of blasphemy”

        Are you referring to the Papal Condemnation of June 22 1633? He was “vehemently suspected of heresy”, which as Heilbron (and the Catholic Encyclopedia) explain, is a crime in itself — it’s a stock legal phrase. Blasphemy and heresy are not the same.

      • You are of course right Michael. I should turn on my brain before commenting or maybe just wake up!

      • Speaking of which, is the real text about the Sun “does not move” or about it “does not move as observed”?

        The original text translated into English reads:

        The sun is the center of the world and completely devoid of local motion.

        On which the assessment was:

        All said that this proposition is foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it explicitly contradicts many places the sense of Holy Scripture, according to the literal meaning of the words and according to the common interpretation and understanding of the Holy Fathers and the doctors of theology.

      • The Galileo affair often leaves me feeling groggy too.

      • Condemned point translated as The sun is the center of the world and completely devoid of local motion. – “completely devoid of” is an Englishism, not the original Latin.

        Can you get me a Latin text of the condemnation?

        Links, preferrably?

        As to assessors or not, Cardinal Bellarmine was the one who pronounced the admonition:

        http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/galileo/admonition.html

        Slight problem with this source (the one which lacks the words “as observed” for the 1633 decree, too): it does not cite Original Latin.

        It does not state (or I overlooked it) what translation the quotes are from.

      • The Galileo affair often leaves me feeling groggy too.

        I was not feeling groggy.

        Nor am I now.

        I was asking and have not got a Latin original of the wording of the condemned (as formally heretical!) proposition about the Sun, since the two versions I have so far heard in English do not say exactly the same thing.

  3. You note “the fact that the guy was, to our way of thinking, a complete mystical loon,” which made me wonder exactly what our way of thinking is supposed to be and who we are. That Bruno was an extreme character is hardly in dispute, but he had some interesting ideas. If you think of him in the tradition of the Art of Memory, for example, he really was an innovator who tried to turn a technique for memorizing things into a kind of psychotherapy. Imagine an incredibly ambitious second generation Jungian who decided that it wasn’t enough to get your patience to come to terms with the collective unconscious and proposed, instead, to improve the archetypes. That’s pretty much what the Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast is about. This sort of thing surely counts as hubris, but I’m not sure if it makes you a mystical loon. Or maybe one’s tolerance for mystical loons is a matter of taste. Besides the question of whether the plurality of inhabited worlds violates orthodox Christianity is the question of whether a plurality of significant world views outrages a certain contemporary view of scientific rationality.

    • “You note “the fact that the guy was, to our way of thinking, a complete mystical loon,” which made me wonder exactly what our way of thinking is supposed to be and who we are. ”

      If you look at that comment in context, I was noting that Bruno was an odd choice of iconic hero for modern rationalists of the New Atheist stripe, given that his work consisted almost entirely of what they sneer at as “woo”. Hilary Gatti’s book *Giordano Bruno and Renaissance Science: Broken Lives and Organisational Power* (1999) makes the case for Bruno to be seen as something between a genuine proponent of the “new science” and the mystic of Frances Yates’ depiction. But she makes it clear that he was no proto-scientist and that his “third way” was a complete dead end.

      However you look at him, he’s an odd fish to be lionised by the likes of Dawkins and PZ MYers.

  4. The objective here was to make a point about free thought and dogmatism in the context of the culture wars in the US about Creationism.

    Sure sounds like it. (I haven’t seen the episode in question.)

    Theology certainly did play a role in the Galileo affair (almost by definition, since the charge against him was ‘vehement suspicion of heresy’, a crime one step below formal heresy.) Religion of course is central to the creationism culture wars. But in practically every other way, it’s hard to imagine two more different conflicts. This becomes abundantly clear to any reader of Jason Rosenhouse’s Among the Creationists. Rosenhouse has come in for some sharp and mostly justified criticism on this blog, but his book displays none of the sloppiness noted here.

  5. Huenemann

    Excellent post! Thanks for taking the time to put together an altogether reasonable critique.

  6. Cusanos,indeed,was not only ahead of his time on astronomy, but in inspiring a declaration of human rights, peace among faiths, and what was to become the voyage of Columbus through Nicolas’ collaboration with his friend Toscanelli.

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  8. Pingback: Cartoons and Fables – How Cosmos Got the Story of Bruno Wrong | Firefly the Great

  9. laura

    Clap clap clap. The nice thing about this whole kerfluffle from my point of view is that it inspired me to read Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition.

  10. I find it odd that since, I presume, one of the purposes of the new series is to spark interest in science, to show that it’s one of the greatest accomplishments of the human mind, they immediately set up the mutual exclusivity of religion and science, so as to alienate almost anyone who is religiously inclined, especially those who are already suspicious that science must necessarily supplant religion. How does this help?

    What’s also maddening about this, as well as other programs that attempt history of science without a safety net, is that there is a _whole profession_, consisting of experts about this, who could help them get the story right, but who are consistently (and probably systematically and delibarately) ignored, because they have a particular agenda. Only a few years ago, Ronald Numbers edited a book for a popular audience on Myths about Science and Religion–one of those myths was, of course, on Bruno.

  11. Reblogged this on Skeptical Cubefarm and commented:
    Now, don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed the latest incarnation of Cosmos. I loved the Carl Sagan version as well, because both versions did their best to communicate the wonder of scientific discovery to a lay audience. And that’s great.

    What bothers me however, is how quickly – and unthinkingly it seems – these shows veered off course and into unfamiliar waters. Sagan and DeGrasse Tyson were/are both formidable scientists with some pretty hefty CVs attached to their names; Seth McFarlane, the new Cosmos’ executive producer is a talented screenwriter and television producer. But historians and social scientists they ain’t.

    Again, because it bears repeating (and apparently needs to be repeated): being an expert in one field does not make you an expert in others, and just because you want to tell the wonderful story of the evolution of science, doesn’t mean that you should get a free pass on bungling history. If you want to know how things went down in the past, why not take the time to actually ask an historian, instead of parroting worn-out pseudohistorical myths and New Atheist fables as fact?

    Here’s a blog post that says it much better than I. Take it away, Tim…

  12. Pingback: On the World Around Us: A Sampling of Science Blogs — Blog — WordPress.com

  13. Love it! Such interesting evidence that religion and science aren’t as historically incompatible as we’re taught today. I liked how you used the new Cosmos as an example of popular media’s continued distortion of the past. Did you see Carl Sagan on The Colbert Report last Monday? Almost the entire discussion focused on the incompatibility of religion and science. Would love to see a discussion between Tim O’Neill and Carl Sagan – both of whom I admire very much!

  14. Love it! As people have already mentioned, Science and religion were never incompatible, what some scientist fail to recognise today is that Christianity is a broad spectrum, they may have issues with creationists but they are a minority of Christians. They have chosen a war without understanding who their enemy is, and some scientists behaviour has become just as dogmatically fundamental as any Christian, Muslim extremist. The call for rational voices is needed.

    • mach

      If you define creationism as young Earth creationism, I agree, but I don’t think creationism in general is a minority position (at least in the US). Certainly intelligent design does not entail a young Earth, yet intelligent design is the opponent of the day for scientists.

      However, perhaps this is moot if we take the position that intelligent design to be less a serious argument than a position from political expediency: it avoids questions of the truth of specific religious claims, which works to make it inclusive for the religious community and to strip it of relation to one particular religion (which is so problematic in the courts for introducing it into science curriculum).

      Don’t get me wrong, I think there are people who genuinely believe intelligent design, but it did only come to prominence after the legal troubles with creation science with no particular change in the science.

      • Would say intelligent design is more a philosophical argument and more relevant to the teaching of philosophy than science. Another area that some scientists seem to be entering at their peril, would say that the argument needs to be focused on the science front. Argue the science of evolution but stick to science – Statements about God and religion are not scientific no matter who makes them as they cannot be proven empirically.

  15. What an interesting post ! Here,we are talking about two different cultures,the culture of faith and the culture of doubt …
    Love A.Einstein’s quote : ” You are right in speaking of the moral foundations of science, but you cannot turn around and speak of the scientific foundations of morality.” …

  16. It was really nice to read this blog post. I believe the author and many of the commentators have done a nice job of representing the real issues with the first episode of Cosmos and the history of Bruno. Despite some of the differing viewpoints presented in this comment section the conversation has overall been quite respectful. Bravo!

  17. spitz

    “Bruno is the poster boy of the Draper-White Thesis – the idea that science and religion have always been at war and an idea beloved by the New Atheist movement despite the fact it was rejected by actual historians of science about a century ago.”

    There is an innate conflict between science and religion. The mistake is that people conflate science and religion with religious people and scientists. The conflict is simpler: religious claims do not require support, should not be put up to scientific scrutiny, and can be freely introduced into scientific findings. Example: God exists, is beyond science, and plays a role in the existence of the universe and human evolution. Of course, it’s not really focused on science, in a much more general sense, it’s just: “Religious claims are special and can be introduced into anything freely.” And even then “religious claims” just generally refers to whatever beliefs are held by the person making the statement. Their religious claims are special, not yours. Religion is fine, anything can be made religious, and once done so, you better not fuck with it.

    Another example, regarding historical claims: Jesus was the son of god, performed miracles, and is an immortal who influenced the lives of many throughout history up to today where he continues to wait for his followers in heaven. People who hold onto these kind of beliefs are identified as authorities on the historical Jesus. On the other hand, non religious statements about Jesus are scrutinized relentlessly. The standards are different. Whatever findings about Jesus can be gleaned from history, people are free to tack their religious beliefs onto them. They never stop being historical claims, they’re just a special kind of historical claim people are happy to ignore.

    If a scientist happens to make a scientific discovery and is religious, this will be seen as an example of a religious good. Keep in mind that the discovery only shows the merits of applied science. It will not be based on nor be the discovery of any kind of religious phenomena. But it doesn’t matter. The standards are different; religious claims don’t need to be supported in order for religion to receive credit for something. They don’t stop being claims made about reality or anything, they’re just special claims people are happy to ignore. This also works when a religious person happens to do something people don’t approve of: the religion isn’t assigned credit then, instead it goes to anything else: politics, social biases,greed etc. Either way, religious claims aren’t being looked at directly. They remain ignored.

    If you want to see the conflict between religion and anything else, simply stop ignoring it. If you can’t convince people that your positions are justified under their religious beliefs, it will show up pretty quickly. In the case of Bruno, it ended in a fire. If you want to show it doesn’t exist, provide an example of religious claims that are supported scientifically, or scientific discoveries that are centrally based on our understandings of religious phenomena. If you want to continue to ignore it, provide an example of a religious person supporting science… a creationist using a microwave perhaps. Religion and science… working together!

  18. Pingback: Science historians critique new 'Cosmos' series |Archivum Secretum

  19. @thefloinn:
    You objected to the words “formally heretical”, so I quoted just part of 1616 report of the Holy Office. As the entire report is available on-line, I saw no need to quote all of it. As you say, the injunction and the decree of the Index did not include these words. (I should have said “found” instead of “declared”; that would have been less confusing.)

    Regarding “formal” vs. “material” heresy, the Catholic Encyclopedia explains the distinction clearly, neatly summed up
    in this post from CathAPol:


    A material heretic is one who may espouse an heretical position unknowingly — while a formal heretic knows what he professes is contrary to the church…

    Not an issue of “matter” versus “form”, or anything to do with settled science.

    A standard part of the Galileo myth holds that heliocentrism had overwhelming evidence behind it, and that the Church’s objections stemmed purely from religious dogma.
    The mirror image of this position holds that the Vatican’s objection flowed primarily from scientific evidence, with theology taking a minor role if any. I’ll let you clarify your own viewpoint. For my part, I think the “flip-side” position is untenable.

    Let me state how I read the history. The Vatican held that:

    1) The plain text of the Scripture has significant weight in (what we would call) scientific as well as theological and moral matters. Galileo’s quip, “Scripture tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go” is rejected.

    2) Should the scientific evidence against a literal interpretation become sufficiently strong (i.e., settled science), then Scripture must be reinterpreted.

    3) The task of reinterpreting scripture must be left to theologians.

    4) Without such evidence, the non-standard scientific ideas can be discussed only hypothetically.

    (There is an ambiguity in the term “hypothetically”, when applied to Copernicanism. Does it mean “mathematically useful, but physically false”? Or, “conjectural, provisional”?)

    I think (1) is really beyond dispute, but three quotes in support. First we have that part of the 1616 report I quoted earlier:


    since it explicitly contradicts many places the sense of Holy Scripture, according to the literal meaning of the words and according to the common interpretation and understanding of the Holy Fathers and the doctors of theology.

    True enough, the report also states that the proposition “is foolish and absurd in philosophy”, but the reason given for its heretical status is the inconsistency with Scripture.

    Second, Cardinal Bellarmine:


    But to want to affirm [certain Copernican propositions], is a very dangerous thing, not only by irritating all the philosophers and scholastic theologians, but also by injuring our holy faith and rendering the Holy Scriptures false. …

    …the Council [of Trent] prohibits expounding the Scriptures contrary to the common agreement of the holy Fathers….

    …if there were a true demonstration [of these Copernican propositions], then it would be necessary to proceed with great caution in explaining the passages of Scripture which seemed contrary, and we would rather have to say that we did not understand them than to say that something was false which has been demonstrated.But I do not believe that there is any such demonstration; … in a case of doubt, one may not depart from the Scriptures as explained by the holy Fathers….

    Third, Ingoli’s essay to Galileo (translated by Christopher M. Graney, “Francesco Ingoli’s Essay to Galileo; Tycho Brahe and Science in the Inquisition’s Condemnation of the Copernican Theory”. I will say more about Graney’s paper below):


    The responses to [the Biblical passage about Joshua] which are produced, namely that Scripture may speak following our manner of understanding, do not satisfy: first because in explaining Sacred Writings the rule is to always save the literal sense, when it can be done, as in our case [through the Tychonic system]…

    It is easy to see why Galileo felt it necessary to wade into theology, to balance the scales. But of course that’s one of the things that got him into trouble (see (4)).

    Now I have to add two clarifications:

    (A) In 1616, and for decades after, the weight of scientific evidence favored the “Tychonic compromise”. Graney says that Brahe had an “unbeatable argument”, based on the apparent sizes of stars. I think this is putting things too strongly — as Graney also says, “Remarkably, Ingoli actually suggests to Galileo the [correct] solution to Tycho’s argument”, but Galileo misunderstood or overlooked Ingoli’s point.

    Graney asks, “Is the Inquisition’s condemnation of the Copernican system as ‘foolish and absurd in philosophy’, or in more modern language, as ‘philosophically and scientifically untenable’, to a certain extent a judgment motivated by science rather than just by ossified intellectual tradition or by religion?”

    The answer is clearly yes. But this is a far cry from concluding that (1) is false, or that the report didn’t mean exactly what it said, as to the reason for finding Copernicanism formally heretical.

    (B) From our modern scientific standpoint, Scriptural evidence has zero weight in scientific matters. (Can we all agree to ignore creationism?) It’s easy to cherry-pick Galileo’s writings to make him sound 100% modern on these issues. The reality is much more complex.

    • “Can we all agree to ignore creationism?”

      No.

      Google: …

      creavsevolu

      … for my creationist blog and ….

      Creationism and Geocentrism are sometimes used as Metaphors for Obsolete because disproven incorrect science

      … for one of my blog posts on Geocentrism. Why googling instead of me linking? Well, do not want the comment to be caught in a spam filter!

      • I meant, “In the context of this discussion, can we agree to ignore creationism?” Of course in other contexts, we couldn’t.

      • I was precisely meaning in the context of this discussion.

        Renaissance Westerners and Middle Ages Westerners were typically:

        * Geocentric
        * Believing Fixed Stars were outside the furthest off planets in a sphere
        * Young Earth Creationists, but usually St Jerome’s timeline (same method as Ussher, but LXX text, Christ born Anno Mundi 5199)
        * What most moderns would consider Animists insofar as believing God set every material thing under a Spirit.

        And we who discuss them are supposed to see only how much they were precursors of certain Modern things, ignoring the Moderns who are not:

        * Heliocentric / Acentric
        * Believers in a Thick Star collection per galaxy and a galaxy collection per this universe
        * Believers in a Big Bang 20 – 13 billion years ago and an Earth forming 4.5 billion years ago?
        * Materialists in Ontology, at least excepting God, the angels known from even a cursory Bible reading, and one’s own soul?

      • Hans-Georg Lundahl:

        Yes, precisely. The context of my comment was how science has changed from the 17th C. to today. I do not consider “creation science” to be science, and so was excluding it from the comparison. If you are a young-earth creationist, then of course you will disagree with me; in which case I suggest you just ignore that part of my comment.

      • The context of my comment was how science has changed from the 17th C. to today.

        What was true then is true now. What was false then is false now.

        I do not consider “creation science” to be science, and so was excluding it from the comparison. … From our modern scientific standpoint, Scriptural evidence has zero weight in scientific matters.

        That would make the “modern scientific standpoint” implicitly antichristian.

        History obviously HAS weight as evidence in science. The question is whether Scripture is real history, anyone who thinks it is, should say it DOES carry weight in Science. Even if that means supporting the fringe and ignoring the mainstream on questions where they differ.

      • @Hans-Georg Lundahl:
        It sounds like you are a scriptural literalist, to a stricter extent even than most creationists, who have abandoned geocentrism. I fear we have too little in common (on this issue, at least) to make for a fruitful dialog. Fare-thee-well.

  20. Getting off topic but.
    Spitz said “Another example, regarding historical claims: Jesus was the son of god, performed miracles, and is an immortal who influenced the lives of many throughout history up to today where he continues to wait for his followers in heaven.”

    Really, and who are these Historical Jesus scholars who think that Jesus was “immortal” and “the son of god”? It sounds like you are conflating American Fundamentalists with Scholars of the Historical Jesus. The search for the historical Jesus is a historical exercise, not a search for the metaphysical.

  21. Fascinating post on the nuances of history. Reminds me of studying Early Modern European history with Professor George Huppert at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

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  24. Steven Huwig

    I interpreted the Bruno cartoon as a paean to religious naturalism more than a commentary on science vs. religion. The lush and odd dream visuals, and the constant depiction of his obstinacy, seemed to stress cosmic wonder that inspires overwhelming religious feeling — religious feeling worth martyrdom — rather than give much credibility to Bruno as a scientist.

  25. thonyc
    March 17, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    “I think that Hilary Gatti’s interpretation of Bruno’s theories are complete rubbish!”
    What are the problems with Gatti?
    What up to date scholarship would you recommend to read on Bruno.

    • I acquired a book by Gatti through interlibrary loan which started off by claiming that Bruno’s work anticipated twentieth century physics and she wasn’t joking!

      I’m not a Bruno expert but Ingrid D Rowland’s Giordano Bruno: Philosopher/Heretic is good.

  26. Reblogged this on moonflection and commented:
    Awesum!

  27. To H.H.

    “No, he was burned for questioning religion, which was the point.”

    He was not burned for questioning religion in general and he did not question religion in general.

    He was burned for questioning and ultimately denying ORTHODOXY.

    Orthodoxy is to “religion” about as safety regulations to Nuclear Power.

    He was basically burnt for doing the equivalent of using a plant in ways likely to produce a hardmelt. Considering the Masons who honour him on Campo di Fiori and their role in Italian history, plus some other items, one can argue he did so.

  28. “The reason why the Church Fathers treated those passages as narrative-literal was that they relied on Settled Science.”

    No, but because they relied on Church Fathers.

    Your position is absurd, because it implies that any reading of any Scripture passage may at any time need to be changed in the light of Scientific Discoveries.

    Speaking of such, do you know whether Faà di Bruno, co-credited with finding of Neptune, beatified in 1988, has any definite miracle on his record?

    Sor Eusebia is not doubtful, despite Wojtyla being the one who pronounced on her, since I can enumerate more than one miracle:

    1 and 2) liberating monastery or convent from a poltergeist by simple prayer, on two occasions,

    3) accurately predicting martyrdom (and non-martyrdom?) of one martyred (and one not martyred?) in the Spanish War after her death.

    BUT, what about Francesco Faà di Bruno?

    Here is where I knew about the blogpost I am now commenting under (and enjoying Tim O’Neill’s writing!), and where myself I debated how Geocentrism with Giordano Bruno tied in with the definite theological errors, if polytheism was one of them:

    http://tofspot.blogspot.fr/2014/03/whats-wrong-with-cosmos.html

    • theofloinn

      “The reason why the Church Fathers treated those passages as narrative-literal was that they relied on Settled Science.”

      No, but because they relied on Church Fathers.

      The Church Fathers relied on the Church Fathers? A self-causing paradox!

      Your position is absurd, because it implies that any reading of any Scripture passage may at any time need to be changed in the light of Scientific Discoveries.

      No, because moral teachings are not dependent on metrical properties of material bodies. I am simply following Augustine in this, when he said that the purpose of Scripture was not to teach about the courses of the sun and the stars. The sacred writers used what was the common knowledge of their own eras to illustrate sacred truths, not to explicate the workings of nature. See “On Christian doctrine” or “The City of God” for details.

      • The Church Fathers relied on the Church Fathers? A self-causing paradox!

        Not really if it means each Church Father relied on those before him that were available to him. LOTS were available to St Thomas Aquinas.

        moral teachings are not dependent on metrical properties of material bodies.

        Anyone who pretends that the Bible ONLY gives moral teaching and says NOTHING of metrical properties of material bodies, in my book has merited the anathema of Trent.

        I am simply following Augustine in this, when he said that the purpose of Scripture was not to teach about the courses of the sun and the stars

        I am following St Augustine when he said – Confessiones – that he believed Scripture on Jacob and Esau being diametrical opposites in many relevant ways while having same horoscope which latter is a statement about metrical properties of bodies. If you count seconds and minutes as metrical properties that is.

        The sacred writers used what was the common knowledge of their own eras to illustrate sacred truths, not to explicate the workings of nature.

        In doing so they were free from all errors about the workings of nature or any other subject. And, if you have a sacramental view of nature, some truths about workings of nature are also sacred.

        I mean Mark Shea the other day let off Hebrews from “believing in astrology” because supposedly their “sacramental view of nature” made the distinction between astrology and not astrology superfluous. But he was not letting off Sungenis and me from supposed physicalism when insisting on Geocentrism, on the account that he and I might have a sacramental view of nature.

        See “On Christian doctrine” or “The City of God” for details.

        I have not read “On Christian doctrine”, but I have read “The City of God”, and have a rough memory of what it is about. What book and chapter are you resuming by your presumption that Sacred Scripture does not – i e in order to make sense as an argument here – ever at all explicate the workings of nature in any way?

        Here is the index to it, btw:

        http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1201.htm

        Unlike De Genesis ad Literam Libri Duodecim it is online in English. Here are those which are so on Newadvent:

        Augustine of Hippo [SAINT] [DOCTOR]
        – Confessions
        – Letters
        – City of God
        – Christian Doctrine
        – On the Holy Trinity
        – The Enchiridion
        – On the Catechising of the Uninstructed
        – On Faith and the Creed
        – Concerning Faith of Things Not Seen
        – On the Profit of Believing
        – On the Creed: A Sermon to Catechumens
        – On Continence
        – On the Good of Marriage
        – On Holy Virginity
        – On the Good of Widowhood
        – On Lying
        – To Consentius: Against Lying
        – On the Work of Monks
        – On Patience
        – On Care to be Had For the Dead
        – On the Morals of the Catholic Church
        – On the Morals of the Manichaeans
        – On Two Souls, Against the Manichaeans
        – Acts or Disputation Against Fortunatus the Manichaean
        – Against the Epistle of Manichaeus Called Fundamental
        – Reply to Faustus the Manichaean
        – Concerning the Nature of Good, Against the Manichaeans
        – On Baptism, Against the Donatists
        – Answer to Letters of Petilian, Bishop of Cirta
        – Merits and Remission of Sin, and Infant Baptism
        – On the Spirit and the Letter
        – On Nature and Grace
        – On Man’s Perfection in Righteousness
        – On the Proceedings of Pelagius
        – On the Grace of Christ, and on Original Sin
        – On Marriage and Concupiscence
        – On the Soul and its Origin
        – Against Two Letters of the Pelagians
        – On Grace and Free Will
        – On Rebuke and Grace
        – The Predestination of the Saints/Gift of Perseverance
        – Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount
        – The Harmony of the Gospels
        – Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament
        – Tractates on the Gospel of John
        – Homilies on the First Epistle of John
        – Soliloquies
        – The Enarrations, or Expositions, on the Psalms

      • Besides, Geocentrism is a moral truth.

        It means we can trust our senses when two senses agree, when this happens regularly every day, when this is available to everyone on earth who possesses the two senses and is not maimed like a blind person in sight or like dancing mice in sense of equilibrium.

        It also means that we can detect by the phenomena of night and day an input of energy which can only be traced back to God, unless, like Heliocentrics, you trace the rotation of the universe around earth to illusion. It is therefore synonymous with the moral truth that ignoring the existence and holiness of God is without excuse. Or hyponymous, since other phenomena too give the same conclusion.

        Have you tried justifying the possibility of abiogenesis lately, or are you merely relying on Oparin who knew too little about living cells?

  29. While the Cosmos animation did lead to an obvious inference that Lucretius’ work was banned, it did not state so directly, and we know Bruno also read banned works.

    Most of your other points are about similar simplifications. You don’t point out any actual errors, just that you don’t like the slant of their history.

    by the way, which of Bruno’s contemporaries, or even the following generation, talked about the writings of Nicholas of Cusa? From what I have read, they were almost unnown untio the 1800s.

    Cosmos was very clear why they chose Bruno: he got people talking about the idea of many worlds in manner they never had before, and it helped break the ground for the discoveries that followed. Did you miss that part of the segment? Can you make the same argument for Nicholas of Cusa?

    • A lot more people read Cusanus than read Bruno. Bruno did not get people taking about the idea of many worlds in [a] manner that they never had before, I’m afraid that’s just unsubstantiated bullshit.

      • Could you give an example of some 16th/17th century people who read/cited Cuanus’ opinions on the world? The current Wikipedia description is that his works were mostly unknown until the 19th century.

        For example, in a quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913:

        Had Copernicus been aware of these assertions he would probably have been encouraged by them to publish his own monumental work.

        They also offer this:

        Nonetheless, there was no Cusan school, and his works were largely unknown until the nineteenth century, though Giordano Bruno quoted him, while some thinkers, like Gottfried Leibniz, were thought to have been influenced by him. Neo-Kantian scholars began studying Nicholas in the nineteenth century, and new editions were begun by the Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften in the 1930s and published by Felix Meiner Verlag.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_of_Cusa

        Perhaps you have some improvements to offer for the entry?

        By contrast, for Bruno:

        During the late 16th century, and throughout the 17th century, Bruno’s ideas were held up for ridicule, debate, or inspiration. Margaret Cavendish, for example, wrote an entire series of poems against “atoms” and “infinite worlds” in Poems and Fancies in 1664.

        I’m not in any way an expert in this area, and don’t claim any specialized knowledge. I’m just noting the contrast between what you say and what seems to be the mainstream opinion.

  30. That was why it was “formally” heretical rather than “materially” heretical. Remember how they used matter and form back in them thar days.

    I do. Formally heretical does not mean “heretical pro forma” as opposed to Materially heretical meaning “heretical in content”.

    Materially heretical means “heretical in content” in such a way that “formally heretical” adds to that the qualification that it can be definitely known as such.

  31. Pingback: Links – March 29, 2014 | Bob's Recommended Web Resources

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  33. Pingback: Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Bruno | Darin Hayton

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  35. Pingback: Cosmos 2014: An Impersonal Verbiage | sidewayslookatscience

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