Dale Wilson, our favorite subscriber who posteth from within the
Bowels of the Corporate Beast, :^) wrote:
> Galileo is a perfect example of the use of the principle of
> parsimony. He cut through the crap of epicycles in epicycles in
> epicycles as a model of the solar system. But he also applied
> parsimony in a broader way, reducing the motion of celestial bodies
> to terrestrial physical principles. He saw simplicity and unity in
> a universe previously seen as composed of mutually exclusive
> domains of existence.
Yes, and he focused on this at least in part (but far from
exclusively) to controvert the stranglehold that the Church of his
era had on people's imaginations...or knew it was losing.
I used him as an example of how philosophical principles can shift a
balance of power.
One thing to bear in mind about Galileo, for me, is: as Einstein
taught us all, terrestrial physical principles don't necessarily
apply to celestial bodies in a saddleshaped universe where light is
a snake devouring its own tail and yesterday is tomorrow. And that
we live on the wayback corner of a typical spiral galaxy in a solar
system with a fairly dull yellow dwarf star gluing it together.
> > the boy turned out to be bloody well right, on the mechanistic level.
> What are the other levels?
Heisenberg and Schroedinger had things to say about the quantum.
Norbert Weiner and Benoit Mandelbrot gave us glimpses at the
stochastic level. There's the poetic...the spiritual...the
economic...the artistic. Spheres within spheres, eh? Galileo didn't
deal with those. Just with the one.
Galileo's views were, ultimately, restricted to one frame of
reference. That was the whole point of his being forced to recant:
the Church of his time wished to reserve for itself the ability to
say how heaven and earth worked. His views were mechanistically more
accurate than other views of his time, but still terribly partial.
For instance, I'll bet he never looked at a full moon and thanked it
for its tidekeeping and drumming of rhythms of life on earth.
This goes back to my response to Bob MacGregor. "Reductionism" can
mean different things to different people. It's a matter of who's
reducing what to what, and what's getting left out. Or
"externalized," as the ag economists of my acquaintance say.
> Do they have any consequence in the operation of the solar system?
Heck, Dale--I always knew that deep down, you were a philosopher.
But to answer your question: Yes. No. Maybe. What's your frame of
reference? Mechanistic operation of the solar system? Then
mechanistic principles are your tool. If the frame of reference is
mechanism, then it's unfair (and sloppy thinking) to judge other
levels of knowing for their inability to account for or predict
> > And died for it.
> I thought they forced him to recant, but spared his life.
You are absolutely right. He was threatened by the Inquisition with
torture in 1633 and returned to his home in Arcetri, where he was
under house arrest till he died there in 1642, blind and with health
conditions for which he was not allowed to travel to Florence to
receive treatment until toward the end of his life. When the
Inquisition interrogated him, it seems to have been the Comfy Chair
brigade of Cardinals Biggles and Fang--he was installed in a nice
apartment and treated well. But he was forced ultimately to recant.
Or let's be more accurate: he responded to force by choosing to
recant. Faced with the same choice, I don't know that I wouldn't do
the same thing, even as I remember the thousands of people
(millions?) who were burned for beliefs they wouldn't or couldn't
recant (like those accused of participating in heresies that were
invented and projected onto them by their tormentors).
Which is why it's weird that I confounded his death with that of
Giordano Bruno, the Dominican specialist in the art of memory (/ars
memoria/) and heterodox whom the Inquisition burned at the stake in
Rome in 1600 after eight years of imprisonment and interrogation (and
no doubt torture), for reasons nobody knows because those records of
him were destroyed. We do know that he believed the universe contains
an infinite number of worlds, some of them populated with intelligent
beings, and that this was seen as a heresy, one from which he would
not recant. Another response to forced belief.
Bruno left his order in the 1570s. Remember that Dominicans of his
time were very involved in the Inquisition (there was a mediaeval
pun on their name, /domini canes/, the dogs of god, that referred to
the, um, doggedness with which they pursued heretics). He is
remembered largely for his embracing of the Hermetic/Neoplatonic
philosophy revived by Marsilio Ficino in the late 1400s.
Those who remember him with respect credit him with a cosmology
grounded in infinity, the immanence of god, a challenger of
Aristotelian thinking, a belief in the possibility of life on other
planets, and a synthetic mindset. I.e., a vast imagination. They feel
that his thinking went well beyond the mechanistic mindsets of folks
like Galileo or Copernicus. Those who didn't like him (he was quite
the pain in the ass, apparently) remember him as an abrasive person,
disrepectful to existing ideas, a bad astronomer, a pantheist (not
that!), and a heretic. I.e., not a scientist.
Well, shaaaaa. The boy was a philosopher and fallen theologian. He
challenged the Church with vision, rather than experiments.
I think of Bruno as sorta the Robert Anton Wilson of his time, but
lacking the sense of humor. Which comes easier I suppose to heretics
who aren't constantly threatened with loss of liberty, limb, or life.
Finally, one of my big problems with science remains that, at some
level, many scientists are epistemologically and ontologically locked
in an internalized battle with The Church. The battle that gave
science its original intellectual and moral supremacy. I can see
where it'd be hard to give up being the David who dropped that
particular Goliath. Especially for current generations of men,
fathered by invisible or absent men in a society that worships the
wargasm and the moregasm.
The aikido masters say, you become what you oppose. Where there is no
Inquisition, scientists who have bought into an oppositional way of
thinking are likely to invent one. Or become one. So that cabals of
scientists sometimes act very much like the Inquisition they
claim/claimed to oppose. Witness the careers of Rachel Carson and
Barbara McClintock, or the National Academy's unwillingness to let
Peter Duesberg publish his critique the university/industrial AIDS
establishment's science in the Academy's journal (he's one of only
two Academy members in its history to be disallowed publication in
its journal; Linus Pauling was the other, for his work on Vitamin C).
I see that on SANET sometimes--old battles getting played out that I
sure as sheepdip would like to see us bury and move beyond. To issues
like figuring out how to provide food in a way that respects land and
people. Those old battles can keep everyone locked in a framework
(paternalistic religion/"myth" versus paternalistic science/"fact")
that makes it impossible to envision real problems, never mind their
Like why no one here seems to be questioning statements like the
FAO's "By the year 2020, the earth's population will be 8 billion."
Why we seem to be unable to envision a future where unbridled
population growth isn't assumed or a foregone conclusion, and where
choosing *not* to reproduce is a respected, valued, and affirmed
life-choice? And so we keep setting up farmers for global serfdom on
an ever-escalating high-tech production treadmill simply because we
seem to lack the will to engage with issues like gender, power, and
reproduction. (I had someone tell me in a discussion once that the
education and empowerment of women, and family planning had nothing
to do with sustainable ag. Ever see a woman send Guinness out her
Or the ongoing insistence by many members of the ag science
Establishment that small-scale farmers are driven by heresy--no,
wait, I meant "hearsay"--and woo-woo nonsense like the Gaia
hypothesis and concern for social justice, community, and the spirit.
This isn't the sort of issue that's going to get addressed from
within sixteenth or seventeenth century belief systems or belief
gridlocks that are posing as postindustrial ones.
But that's a discussion for another pot o' joe, companeros. And I
think it brings us back to the front end of this entire thread,
experiential and scientific knowledge. There's that snake again.
Thanks for the correction, Dale.
Michele Gale-Sinex, communications manager
Center for Integrated Ag Systems
UW-Madison College of Ag and Life Sciences
Voice: (608) 262-8018 FAX: (608) 265-3020
I don't know when I'll need to convert a joule
to an erg, but now I'm ready. --Mister 3D
To Unsubscribe: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with "unsubscribe sanet-mg".
To Subscribe to Digest: Email email@example.com with the command