How not to report (history of) science

The BBC has a short announcement on their web site announceing the Vaticans exhibition in honour of Galileo Galilei

Unfortunately all three of the four of the main
statements are incorrect:

“The Catholic Church once labelled Galileo, now regarded as modern
astronomy’s founding father, a heretic.”

If Galileo had been held by the Church to be a heretic he would have been
executed and not imprisoned. He also is not modern astronomy’s founding father

“He was tried for challenging the widely held belief that the Sun travelled
around the Earth.”

The belief that the sun travelled around the earth was anything but widely
held at the beginning of the 17th century.

I done fucked up! At least it proves that I’m not the Pope!

Memo to self: Engage brain before writing a post!

“Although Copernicus did much ground-breaking work on the link between the
Sun and the Earth, it was Galileo’s instruments that proved the theory.”

As I have already blogged here Galileo’s observations did not prove the heliocentric theory.

“It was not until 1992 that Pope John Paul II declared that the Church’s
ruling was an error and that Catholics were not hostile to science.”

Whilst formally correct the above statement is misleading. The church
removed the ban on teaching  heliocentrism in 1752 and had effectively not
enforced it considerably before that. The books on heliocenticity were
removed from the index in 1835 (I think or 38?).

Not very good reporting, or?


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

4 responses to “How not to report (history of) science

  1. Well said. It [Galileo] really seems a hopeless case, I think, when it comes to science journalism.

  2. Simplicio

    The belief that the sun traveled around the Earth wasn’t widely held? From your own linked post:

    “Copernican heliocentric cosmology was only accepted by a very small minority of astronomical experts, including Galileo, as there were very serious empirical physical problems that needed to be solved before a moving Earth could envisaged;”

    The other two major alternatives I’m aware of (and that you mention in that post) both involved the sun traveling around the Earth.

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