Galileo and the Debate Over Copernicus

From the always interesting Mike Flynn, background information on the debates surrounding the Copernican model championed by Galileo.

A brief snippet:

“Given the available scientific knowledge in 1651, a geo-heliocentric hypothesis clearly had real strength, but Riccioli presents it as merely the “least absurd” available model – perhaps comparable to the Standard Model in particle physics today – and not as a fully coherent theory.”

These kinds of things are rarely surprising to anyone with a toehold in the land of real history, but remain mysteriously unknown to the Galileo-as-victim-of-religious-stupidity crowd.


Group Selection versus Kin Selection: Evolutionary Biologist Bar Fight

Over at First Things, this blog post links to this article,  in which pretty much the entire profession of evolutionary biology comes down hard on one its brightest stars, E. O. Wilson, for insisting that the actual evidence and the math that purports to explain it do not support the theory of kin selection. What makes this more interesting is that Wilson himself is chiefly responsible for the prevalence of kin selection – he read a paper by a student that proposed it, and then spent years promoting and expounding on the theory.

Kin selection won out in large part because it logically falls out from gene selection. The danger here is that, given a good theory, the evidence tends to get found that supports it, while any evidence that confounds it tends to get explained away or ignored. That being said, I personally can’t see how group selection is supposed to work in the real world, or how, fundamentally, it differs from kin selection in practice if it did in fact work – breeding practices being what they are, your group is pretty much coextensive with your kin. But, not being a biologist or a mathematician (although I do often play one at work), I don’t have the chops to look at the actual evidence or math.

Funnier still – would Wilson call this consilience? – this issue comes to my attention just as I’m finishing reading The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Kuhn, in which he lays out the why and how of Normal Science’s reaction to anything that threatens it.

Anyway, my sympathies are with Wilson (read several of his books, he’s a sharp man) even though, logically, I can’t see how he could be right, because his opponents (including, of course, Dawkins – I’ve read several of his books, too – he’s very very bright) are snarling a bit more than is civil.

Gotta love cool, logical science in action!

A Prayer

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

Hold our children close to your heart,

And pray your Son to fill them with His Love,

And uphold them in their faith,

That they may serve Him joyfully in this life

And sing his praises with the heavenly hosts in the next.


Music at Mass: Palm Sunday, 2011

Honest, I’m trying not to whine. The people in this parish are a really good group, the priests have, after all, given their lives to this work – good intentions and actual holiness abound.

The music, however, almost always sucks at Parish A. What is really needed is a young, orthodox priest who can, with heroic patience and good-will, simply lay down the law: we will not fall into these errors. We will consider whether, for example, the Eucharistic theology expressed in the text is something our Protestant and Evangelical brethren would agree with, and if so, NOT USE IT. We will consider whether individuals with broad and inclusive yet highly refined and experienced musical taste consider the musical content of the piece to be worthy of the standards and tradition of the last thousand or so years of Catholic liturgical music, not just the last 40.

And so on. We all know the drill.

Today, we sang musically execrable commons. The texts, although manhandled in the usual way to fit tunes with a certain forced symmetry not native to the English texts, were not heretical – hey, count your blessings. Aside from that, we sang a curious and interesting song for communion “Our Blessing Cup” by Bob Hurd. What makes this song interesting is that 1. it is very scriptural, yet 2. it manages to miss the uniquely Catholic character of the Eucharist. The text of the refrain is from 1 Cor. 10:16 – straight up St. Paul, how could you go wrong?

Our blessing cup is a communion with the blood of Christ
And the bread we break, it is sharing the body of the Lord.

How can we make a return for all the goodness God has shown?
We will take the cup of life, and call upon God’s name.

Precious indeed in Your sight, the life and death of those You love. We are Your
servants, for You have set us free.

and so on.

The communion hymn is one obvious and painless place to express the Catholic theology of the Eucharist. Yet, here, we use a scripture passage that can and has been understood by our separated brethren to express the decidedly non Catholic (anti-Catholic, really, if you read, for example, Hegel) belief that the Eucharist is not really the Body and Blood of Christ, but is, you know, a communion with Christ’s Body and Blood (whatever that means). So, this hymn’s impact could have been greatly enhanced by taking the verse text from John 6 – My Flesh is real food, my Blood real drink, unless you eat my Flesh and drink my Blood you shall not have life within you.

Instead, as is so often the case with liturgical music from the last 40 years, we express one thought somewhat ambiguously in the refrain, and then sort of leave it hanging as we take a tour of some other possibly related thoughts in the verses. The goal seems to be to achieve a miasma of warm feeling that won’t offend our Presbyterian or Church of Christ brethren – which shouldn’t  really be a prime goal in the sacred Liturgy of the Catholic Church.

Not to mention the soap-opera theme school of music style.

Real Music, With Real Theology! As Sally says: That’s my knew philosophy.

Hegel: Part the Second – the Science of Logic 2

Right at the beginning of the Science of Logic, Hegel asserts that the “…the ideas upon which the concept of logic has hitherto rested have partly died out already, and, for the rest, it is time that they should disappear altogether, and that this science should be taken from a higher point of view, and receive an entirely different structure.”

As mentioned earlier, Hegel doesn’t generally tell the reader who he is talking about. His reasons for not naming names becomes evident the more Hegel ones reads – it’s part of his major premise that spirit, whatever that is, is somehow thinking itself and the world into being. It’s a little too soon (I’m only a couple hundred pages in) but it would seem, that on such a view, we humans are basically along for the ride – the important thing is not that Aristotle discovered/invented logic, it’s that what Aristotle thought represents an important step in spirit getting to know itself. More on this later.

He outlines, in three sections, the problems in the science of logic as he inherited it: that logic can be understood as without content – that it merely the form of understanding but does not, in itself, understand or know anything; that the ideas upon which logic has been based are dead or dying; and that, if logic and what it is trying to understand are seen as separate, conceptually independent things, we’re missing the boat – he says:

“Thus thought, in its reception and formation of material is supposed to not go beyond itself – its reception of material and accommodation thereto is still regarded as a modification of self by which thought is not transformed into its other (?); moreover, self-conscious determination is is held to belong to thought alone; thus thought in its relation to the object of thought does not go out of itself to the object, while the object, as a thing in itself, simply remains a something beyond thought.”

Got that?

What I think he’s saying: Kant is fundamentally wrong about noumena – the thing in itself is not hopelessly distinct from what we apprehend about it. In fact, the way he’s stated his objection seems to imply that he thinks thinking in some sense determines the nature of the thing thought. He hasn’t gone so far as to say that the world is what you think it is – spirit to Hegel is not some one person’s spirit, so thought – I presume – does not refer to any one person’s thought, but, somehow, to thought in general. Maybe.

Hegel is much closer to Aristotle here than Kant (although I don’t imagine Aristotle would be all that amused with much of what Hegel is implying so far) in that Kant was trying to deal with the logical implications of radical doubt, which required patching up logic without resorting to Aristotle. Aristotle, after all, had been very successfully drafted to fight for the Church. The result, because Kant did know his Aristotle, was a model that created the division between thought and the thing itself while retaining much of the classical logical method. Aristotle had concluded that our thoughts did reflect the great Thought that gave coherence and meaning to the world – Thomas took that idea, baptized it, and put it in the service of a Sacramental creation – if our understanding of the world is one way we come to know the mind of God, if God then uses the world to impart grace – ultimately, by incarnating His Son – then the Church’s claim that God’s grace flows through real, physical things falls out almost automatically. Hegel is not only not going there, he’s a staunch defender of the contrary position – it’s the spirit that matters, that thinks things into physical being.

Maybe. Got a few thousand pages yet to read.