Gems From Galileo

Posted by Binkley 9 months, 3 weeks ago to Science
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For those who do not understand the great contribution of Galileo and its significance today:

1.) "...I seem to discern the firm belief that in philosophizing one must support oneself upon the opinion of some celebrated author, as if our minds ought to remain completely sterile and barren unless wedded to the reasoning of some other person."

2.) "[Sarsi] seems not to know that fables and fictions are in a way essential to poetry, which could not exist without them, while any sort of falsehood is so abhorrent to nature that it is as absent there as darkness is to light."

3.) "But I must not neglect to show, for his benefit and in their defense, how implausible is his deduction that their science was poor from their having had few followers."

4.) "The crowd of fools who know nothing, Sarsi, is infinite. Those who know very little of philosophy are num- erous. Few indeed are they who really know some part of it, and only One knows all."

5.) "Hence I consider it not very sound to judge a man's philosophical opinions by the number of his followers."

(Here, in 3, 4 and 5, Galileo is saying that truth value of propositions is not determined by quantity of "sources." Consensus, in other words.)

6. "...though he disguises this and fits it in piecemeal among such a variety of wordy ornaments and arabesques that those who merely glance at his statements may take them to be something different from what they really are."

7.) "...I shall set forth some trifling questions which arose in me as Sarsi proceeded. Your Excellency may, if you like, show them to him some time so that he may be replying establish his position more solidly." (By position, Galileo is referring to a false position.)

8.) "...unless it was that he realized his case would be stronger if he advanced it by cleverly juggling equivocations in front of the simple-minded than by reasoning it soundly for the more intelligent."

9.) "...but I do say that just as doubts exist concerning this, so doubts exist concerning the origins suggested by other authors; and if they claim to have established their ideas beyond doubt, they are under an obligation to show that this (and any other theory) is vain and foolish."

(Here Galileo is discussing the formation of comets and its elucidation by means of his telescope, but it also works for global warming theorists, who would need to disprove the hypothesis I find most credible, that of cycling warming and cooling as a cause, before establishing "beyond a doubt".)

10.) "I merely offer this as an example of Nature's bounty and variety of methods for producing her effects. I could offer many, and doubtless there are still others that we cannot imagine."


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  • Posted by 9 months, 3 weeks ago
    The motto of the Royal Society of London, about this same time, became: "Nullius in verba": On no one's authority but my own."

    Compare to the young "scholar" asking "How many degrees can you put after your name? I need to know so I can determine the truth of what you say."

    Draw your own conclusions as to which environment was more conducive to learning. Galileo's or today's.
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  • Posted by 9 months, 3 weeks ago
    I'm posting this for the young people who have not been taught how to think. How much more thinking was done in the Renaissance than today is apparent.

    And here's a warning:

    These remarks of Galileo were translated by Stillman Drake in his book "Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo", published 1957, in Galileo's essay-letter "The Assayer".

    Drake characterizes Galileo with these words:

    "The purely scientific material in his books was enlivened for the reader by the devastating sarcasm with which he was accustomed to puncture his POMPOUS opponents." (Sound familiar?)

    "And [his readers] were delighted by his barbed attacks against pedantry."

    "...[he] had a good knowledge of mathematics, DISTRUST AND EVEN CONTEMPT OF RELIANCE UPON AUTHORITY, and a pugnacious temper."
    I say: Thank God!

    But more dangerous, more sinister, is what Drake stated about science (remember, this is 1957):

    "But within the last decade events have created a new alarm concerning the unchecked progress of scientific knowledge. This time it is not the church but the state which feels morally obliged to impose external limitations upon the freedom of scientific inquiry and the communication of knowledge and opinion. This time the universities are impelled by public opinion and governmental policies to reconsider the scope of academic freedom..."

    Without Professor Drake's awareness of it, he was actually describing 21st century Academia.
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