Odds and Ends

Dr. Boli slays me.

– Marriage is like being the only two people in on a joke. And it’s a pretty good joke.

– My 15 year old daughter has, without warning, turned into a total bookworm. That odd duck folks like her mom and dad would be bookworms is no surprise, but our daughter is naturally charming, has tons of friends and is, of course, ravishingly beautiful in that 15 year old way. But she spends hours every day reading.

– Our 17 year old son dreams big – literally. He got it in his head that it would totally cool to build a ‘life size’ Golem from the video game Minecraft. Minecraft is a low-rez retro game where you build things and dig mines and raise sheep and I don’t what else – and it has this character of Golem which, translated in real life, would be a 9′ tall set of boxes configured to look like a menacing giant. So, via the miracle of  plywood and cordless electric hand tools, we are building one. Next issue: what does one do with a heavy, tippy  9′ tall set of plywood boxes once you’re done blowing the minds of a bunch of gamers? Stay tuned…

– The illustrious Mike Flynn posts about non-argument for the non-existence of God. It is so utterly refreshing to hear anyone even try to make a rational argument that I almost want to give the one guy who tries a manly hug.

– Speaking of arguments, I’ve written before about The Galileo Affair, this great article that ran in Scientific American decades ago on Galileo.  A kind commentator on First Thoughts  was able to point me to an online .pdf  of this essay which has since been removed.  In this essay, semi-famous astronomer Owen Gingerich gives a detailed and balanced account of what went down with Galileo, complete with – imagine! – references to and reproductions of source documents! It’s like he’s giving you the materials to make up your own mind. How insouciantly subversive.

A key step in his analysis is the classic syllogism, and the role it played in Galileo’s troubles. Galileo’s argument boils down to:

1. If the heliocentric model is true, Venus will show phases;

2. Venus shows phases;

3. Therefore, the heliocentric model is true.

Oops. Unlike today, where poor unfortunates fling claims and accusations against God in the name of Reason without even a hint that what they are doing is not remotely making rational arguments, the Renaissance was full of thousands upon thousands of people trained in classic logic and reason in the medieval universities that dotted the landscape from Oxford to Prague to Rome. These logicians were quick to spot the error: it is a condition of heliocentrism that Venus show phases, but Venus showing phases is not sufficient to prove heliocentrism – Venus could show phases for some other reason – say, that Brahe’s model was correct. In other words:

1. All men are mortal;

2. Socrates is mortal;

3. Socrates *might* be a man.

Correct reasoning would be:

1. If heliocentric model is true, Venus will show phases;

2. The heliocentric model is true;

3. Therefore, Venus will show phases.

Galileo assumes that which is to be proven, and then sets up an erroneous syllogism to prove it. That’s a no-no that thousands of educated people – say, the Romans who gave Galileo a bad time – would have spotted instantly.

There’s way more to the story than just this, and plenty of blame can be rightly thrown at the way the Church handled it, BUT: the problem wasn’t that Galileo was smart and the Church was stupid.


Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

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