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Author Topic: Orthodox Church and astronomy  (Read 1498 times) Average Rating: 0
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Heorhij
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« on: March 03, 2010, 12:16:01 PM »

I have recently been confronted by a person who, obviously being an angry militant atheist, said that "the Church has advocated the view that the Earth is flat, and killed thousands and thousands of people who argued that the Earth is not flat."

Is this really true? I noticed that St. John of Damascus, for one, wrote in his "Exact Exposition" that the Earth may be rounded (spherical) or of a conical shape.

Anyone knows more details? Thanks!
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« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2010, 12:59:57 PM »

I have recently been confronted by a person who, obviously being an angry militant atheist, said that "the Church has advocated the view that the Earth is flat, and killed thousands and thousands of people who argued that the Earth is not flat."

Is this really true? I noticed that St. John of Damascus, for one, wrote in his "Exact Exposition" that the Earth may be rounded (spherical) or of a conical shape.

Anyone knows more details? Thanks!

Your friend's head is flat.

The Wikipedia article actually gives a decent survey:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_earth#Classical_Greco-Roman_world

The circumference of the world was calculated in Alexandria around 240 BC.  The scientists of the day, like the Fathers, inclined towards the sphere shape. scientists objected on the basis of how do you keep the oceans from draining off.

Since your friend has a chip on his shoulder it seems, ask him to name someone besides Galileo (who had other things going against him) who was persecuted, let alone killed (as Galileo wasn't).
« Last Edit: March 03, 2010, 01:01:21 PM by ialmisry » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2010, 02:38:49 PM »

Thank you, Isa. A related question: how many people were actually killed (executed or tortured to death) by the Church (Catholic and Orthodox, combined), merely for their SCIENTIFIC beliefs and pursuits? Any objective, non-propagandistic statistics available?
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« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2010, 03:04:23 PM »



Your friend's head is flat.

When I was in Middle School, this "gansta" kid was always bugging me. He was much larger than I so there was chance of a physical contest. Instead, I would embarrass him for his lack of intelligence. I would call him "Flat-head". Lord, have mercy.
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« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2010, 03:05:54 PM »

Thank you, Isa. A related question: how many people were actually killed (executed or tortured to death) by the Church (Catholic and Orthodox, combined), merely for their SCIENTIFIC beliefs and pursuits? Any objective, non-propagandistic statistics available?
The only one I can think of would be Bruno, and even he was apparently executed due to his religious (and not scientific) ideas:
Quote
Bruno was not condemned for his defence of the Copernican system of astronomy, nor for his doctrine of the plurality of inhabited worlds, but for his theological errors, among which were the following: that Christ was not God but merely an unusually skilful magician, that the Holy Ghost is the soul of the world, that the Devil will be saved, etc.
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« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2010, 04:23:49 PM »

I have recently been confronted by a person who, obviously being an angry militant atheist, said that "the Church has advocated the view that the Earth is flat, and killed thousands and thousands of people who argued that the Earth is not flat."

It sounds as though the flat Earth concept confused with the geocentric model.  I don't know if anyone was executed over the heliocentric model.  Copernicus might have published his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium at about the time of his death, but it was most likely published postmortem, all without any interaction with the always diabolical Latins and their evil Pope-king (sarcasm).

Most people are referring to Galileo's trouble with the Roman Inquisition, which condemned geocentrism as a heresy which is contrary to the Holy Scriptures.  They were correct in that geocentrism contradicts the Biblical cosmology; that the Biblical texts are wrong on some scientific matters (for example, the sun "stopping" its movement across the firmament, although we have had other discussions of the relativity of the center of the universe, which in fact saves the Bible from this particular incrimination).  At any rate, he was eventually condemned by the Latin church for his views and forced to recant and spend the remainder of his life under house arrest. 

I don't know if his refusal to recant would have been met with execution.  Perhaps someone else knows the answer to that and can provide an appropriate citation?

At any rate, the accusation that thousands upon thousands of people were executed by the Latin church over this issue is preposterous, and all the tangent reveals is that this person has a problem with Christianity and is looking for any excuse to dismiss it.

Also, these little tidbit from Wikipedia are very interesting:

On 15 February 1990, in a speech delivered at the Sapienza University of Rome, Cardinal Ratzinger (later to become Pope Benedict XVI) cited some current views on the Galileo affair as forming what he called "a symptomatic case that permits us to see how deep the self-doubt of the modern age, of science and technology goes today." Some of the views he cited were those of the philosopher Paul Feyerabend, whom he quoted as saying “The Church at the time of Galileo kept much more closely to reason than did Galileo himself, and she took into consideration the ethical and social consequences of Galileo's teaching too. Her verdict against Galileo was rational and just and the revision of this verdict can be justified only on the grounds of what is politically opportune.” The Cardinal did not clearly indicate whether he agreed or disagreed with Feyerabend's assertions. He did, however, say "It would be foolish to construct an impulsive apologetic on the basis of such views."

On 31 October 1992, Pope John Paul II expressed regret for how the Galileo affair was handled, and issued a declaration acknowledging the errors committed by the Catholic church tribunal that judged the scientific positions of Galileo Galilei, as the result of a study conducted by the Pontifical Council for Culture. In March 2008 the Vatican proposed to complete its rehabilitation of Galileo by erecting a statue of him inside the Vatican walls. In December of the same year, during events to mark the 400th anniversary of Galileo's earliest telescopic observations, Pope Benedict XVI praised his contributions to astronomy.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2010, 04:28:57 PM by Alveus Lacuna » Logged
ialmisry
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« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2010, 04:34:38 PM »

Thank you, Isa. A related question: how many people were actually killed (executed or tortured to death) by the Church (Catholic and Orthodox, combined), merely for their SCIENTIFIC beliefs and pursuits? Any objective, non-propagandistic statistics available?

not really: looking at the atheist propaganda though, you see very few, and then when you look into the case itself (and this is true even of Galileo, who made a lot of enemies by swindling.) you see that do not withstand much scrutiny.  Especially when you start rattling off the churchmen involved in science, for instance the priest Copernicus, and the patronage of the church for scientific inquiry, for instance the Roman observatory.
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« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2010, 04:59:07 PM »

The only one I can think of would be Bruno, and even he was apparently executed due to his religious (and not scientific) ideas:
Quote
Bruno was not condemned for his defence of the Copernican system of astronomy, nor for his doctrine of the plurality of inhabited worlds, but for his theological errors, among which were the following: that Christ was not God but merely an unusually skilful magician, that the Holy Ghost is the soul of the world, that the Devil will be saved, etc.
Hardly a surprise.  A lot within the sciences dabbled in Hermeticism.
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« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2010, 08:38:47 PM »

It's funny you bring this up because this semester I'm taking a course in Astronomy. Even my text book states that although the Catholic Church was initially opposed to Galileo's ideas, eventually it caught on, and the Vatican Observatory has made great strides in the field of Astronomy, even contributing to and accepting the Big Bang Theory.

Now whether one agrees with the Roman Catholic Church and their position on that is another issue, but I hardly would dare to call them "backwards." I mean, Plato said that the sun orbits around the earth and all of the planets orbit are in perfect spheres. For over 2,000 years Astronomers bought this theory and tried to make their science "fit" his theory for two millenia -- yet no one calls Plato "backwards"!
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