ignorance




Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World, 1996


added later: Matt Taibbi on how the media is creating a world dumb enough for Trump.

Galileo

Scott wrote a blog post about the Kolmogorov option, which is really not a comment about the recent Google affair.
As usual, the comments went in different directions and there was one thread about Galileo. Perhaps this part is interesting enough to get its own blog post here:

i) At the time of Galileo there were basically two different cosmologies, described by Ptolemeus and Copernicus respectively. The first was considered obviously true, but the one by Copernicus was much simpler and used by most astronomers and astrologers (which was to some extent the same at the time).

ii) The invention of the telescope and Galileo's observation of the Venus phases clearly falsified Ptolemeus and this was well understood not only by Galileo, but also contemporary astronomers, e.g. the Jesuits in Rome.
Galileo found even more evidence in favor of Copernicus, e.g. his discovery of Jupiter's moons, and argued that the tides are proof that the earth rotates.

iii) The church insisted that ultimately the truth can only be revealed through the theology of the catholic church as stated by the pope. However, Galileo was given permission to write about the Copernican theory, as long as he treated it as hypothesis only; Urban's favorite argument was that the omnipotent God could produce the same phenomenon in many different ways.
Galileo got into real trouble when Urban was led to believe that the Epilogue to the Dialogue made fun of his favorite argument.

Urban's reasoning is of course correct; we can never be absolutely sure about scientific results. There is always room for an infinity of conspiracy theories, perhaps physics is just an illusion and we only experience some hallucinations inside The Matrix.
This type of argument is becoming more popular recently, thanks to the internet, and perhaps mankind will one day give up on Galileo and fully embrace Urban's view. However, the absolute certainty and power of the church is forever gone in my opinion.

Galileo was not tortured, probably because he had friends in high places (even Urban was one of them before the falling out over the Dialogue).
One should keep in mind that torture was assumed at the time to be a necessary procedure to remove the evil demons from the accused, so that he or she could freely speak his mind. The inflicted pain was not the goal, but a sign that the evil was indeed leaving the body.
As far as we know, Galileo was only "shown the instruments", which was enough for him to confess.
Nowadays, shaming on social media platforms serves a similar purpose.