In one hour, I was assaulted by two wonderful examples of people misleading their audience while wearing the mantle of objective science.
First, I was reading to my son from Max Tegmark’s book, The Mathematical Universe. Tegmark is a physicist at MIT, so he is a smart guy. In the beginning of the book he was relaying the history of man’s efforts to estimate the distance and size of various celestial objects. Check out this quote from page 25:
Some ancients speculated that the stars were small holes in a black sphere through which distant light shone through [sic]. The Italian astronomer Giordano Bruno suggested that they were instead objects like our Sun, just much farther away, perhaps with their own planets and civilizations–this didn’t go down too well with the Catholic Church, which had him burned at the stake in 1600.
Now hang on a second. This makes it sound as if Bruno were killed because he had these cosmological views. But no, the Church wasn’t going to kill an astronomer for speculating about other civilizations. Here’s the Wikipedia account:
Giordano Bruno…(1548 – February 17, 1600), born Filippo Bruno, was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, mathematician, poet, and astrologer. He is celebrated for his cosmological theories, which went even further than the then-novel Copernican model, proposing that the stars were just distant suns surrounded by their own exoplanets, and moreover the possibility that these planets could even foster life of their own (a philosophical position known as cosmic pluralism). He also insisted that the universe is in fact infinite, thus having no celestial body at its “center”.
Beginning in 1593, Bruno was tried for heresy by the Roman Inquisition on charges including denial of several core Catholic doctrines (including the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the virginity of Mary, and Transubstantiation). Bruno’s pantheism was also a matter of grave concern. The Inquisition found him guilty, and in 1600 he was burned at the stake in Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori. After his death he gained considerable fame, particularly among 19th- and early 20th-century commentators who regarded him as a martyr for science, though scholars emphasize that Bruno’s astronomical views were at most a minor component of the theological and philosophical beliefs that led to his trial. Bruno’s case is still considered a landmark in the history of free thought and the future of the emerging sciences. [Bold added.]
That’s a little bit different from Tegmark’s version, isn’t it?
(For the rest of the article, click the link.)