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Galileo’s rep is mostly hype?

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From Thony Christie at Aeon:

Galileo’s vast reputation, and the hyperbolic accolades that go with it, are not justified by the real history. With a corrected perspective on the man comes a rich and compelling pair of questions: what did Galileo actually achieve, and where does the science superhero image come from?

Ah! At last! A question we can answer. The Galileo of pop science is the science teacher people wish they had, instead of the fourth-rate union dweeb they did have, and were ordered to be grateful to the public school system for.

Having parlayed his discoveries into a new position as court philosopher and mathematician to the Medici in Florence, Galileo’s fame rested largely on those telescopic discoveries and his demolition of scientific opponents in public debates and in his writing. Although his defence of Copernicanism – presented in his book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632) – brought him that notorious Inquisition trial and house arrest, it did not, as popular opinion has it, win the day for heliocentricity. That honour goes to the much duller tomes of Johannes Kepler, whose work Galileo had ignored in his own volume.

But the fact that Kepler did the real work doesn’t matter because Kepler wasn’t Cool. Bimbette, Airhead-TV hostess, wouldn’t have understood him.

Galileo’s rise to immortality starts at the end of the 18th century. In this period, scientific biography started to become popular, and Galileo became a favourite subject, largely because of his persecution by the Catholic Church. This effect was immensely magnified by the largely mythical war between science and religion in the late 19th century, waged by two US-based scientist-historians, John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White. More.

Sure, but why does that matter? We live in the midst of  a serious war on falsifiability in science, even on the importance of evidence in science.

Some people feel they can just make “narratives” up, so why not make one up about Galileo?

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19 Replies to “Galileo’s rep is mostly hype?

  1. 1
    Robert Byers says:

    Thats interesting.
    I see him celebrated a great deal in science historys on youtube.
    Yet I wondered what did he really do?
    I think they give him points for being the first to study physics, and get a few things right, and to do with properly oir rather just by thinking and experiment. No philosophy, seemingly, interfering.
    Its probable that right away his opposition from the Catholic church was useful to say the bible is wrong or christian presumptions are.
    These days thats mostly what he is useful for.
    physics is seen as more prestigious/more intellectually demanding then other things and so his being first does raise his status.
    Lindberg first sea flight made him famous and the THE WHO first smashing thier instruments made they define it.
    Everyone first gets a lot of credit even if beaten by later people.

    Gal does deserve credit but its suspicious he is used to portray Christianity as fighting conclusions proven from science.
    So as to stop any criticism of conclusions of science that opose christian doctrines.
    A conspiracy of intent i think.
    I notice they never say the cAtholic church but instead THE CHURCH.
    Luther got mouthy too about Gal but still it only shows its men that get things wrong. not the bible.

  2. 2
    Me_Think says:

    Galileo’s rise to immortality starts at the end of the 18th century. In this period, scientific biography started to become popular, and Galileo became a favourite subject, largely because of his persecution by the Catholic Church. This effect was immensely magnified by the largely mythical war between science and religion in the late 19th century, waged by two US-based scientist-historians, John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White.

    Nonsense! A simple ngram analysis shows that in 1896 when Andrew Dickson White published A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom , Galileo’s popularity was in the local minima. He was more popular before that. In fact his popularity peaked during 1873 to 1875 (when considering years before 1900). By the end of 19th century, his popularity had dropped by 32.59%

  3. 3
    News says:

    Me-THink at 2, perhaps you should take that one up at Aeon. We can discuss it here, but can’t guarantee you experts.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    The Copernican principle, via the heliocentric model, states that the earth has no privileged position nor special significance within the universe. As a result, the generalized form of the Copernican principle states that human beings have no privileged position nor special significance within the universe.
    Modern science has overturned both of those presuppositions.
    Although, the heliocentric model is favored for simplicity’s, there is, as far as general relativity is concerned, no observational evidence that can be presented that would give the sun, or any other place in the universe, more centrality in the universe than the earth has. In fact, in general relativity, due to 4-Dimensional space-time, every 3-Dimensional spot in the universe is considered just as central in the universe as every other 3-Dimensional spot in the universe can be considered central.

    “Can we formulate physical laws so that they are valid for all CS [coordinate systems], not only those moving uniformly, but also those moving quite arbitrarily, relative to each other? […] The struggle, so violent in the early days of science, between the views of Ptolemy and Copernicus would then be quite meaningless. Either CS could be used with equal justification. The two sentences: “the sun is at rest and the earth moves” or “the sun moves and the earth is at rest” would simply mean two different conventions concerning two different CS.”
    Einstein, A. and Infeld, L. (1938) The Evolution of Physics, p.212 (p.248 in original 1938 ed.);

    Fred Hoyle, discoverer of stellar nucleosynthesis, weighs in here:

    “The relation of the two pictures [geocentrism and geokineticism] is reduced to a mere coordinate transformation and it is the main tenet of the Einstein theory that any two ways of looking at the world which are related to each other by a coordinate transformation are entirely equivalent from a physical point of view…. Today we cannot say that the Copernican theory is ‘right’ and the Ptolemaic theory ‘wrong’ in any meaningful physical sense.”
    Hoyle, Fred. Nicolaus Copernicus. London: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd., 1973.

    “We know that the difference between a heliocentric theory and a geocentric theory is one of relative motion only, and that such a difference has no physical significance.”
    Sir Fred Hoyle, Astronomy and Cosmology – A Modern Course, (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman & Co.), p. 416,1975.

    Stephen Hawking weighs in here:

    “So which is real, the Ptolemaic or Copernican system? Although it is not uncommon for people to say that Copernicus proved Ptolemy wrong, that is not true. As in the case of our normal view versus that of the goldfish, one can use either picture as a model of the universe, for our observations of the heavens can be explained by assuming either the earth or the sun to be at rest.
    Despite its role in philosophical debates over the nature of our universe, the real advantage of the Copernican system is simply that the equations of motion are much simpler in the frame of
    reference in which the sun is at rest.”
    Stephen Hawking – The Grand Design – pages 39 – 2010

    And although the heliocentric model is preferred for simplicity, it should be noted that the Ptolemaic system, none-the-less, has a certain symmetrical beauty to it that would not be expected from the materialistic framework.

    Ptolemy’s model of the universe – video

    George Ellis, who, along with Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking, helped extend General Relativity to show that not only energy and matter had a definite beginning in the Big Bang but that space and time also had a definite beginning in the Big Bang, weighs in here:

    “People need to be aware that there is a range of models that could explain the observations… For instance, I can construct you a spherically symmetrical universe with Earth at its center, and you cannot disprove it based on observations… You can only exclude it on philosophical grounds… What I want to bring into the open is the fact that we are using philosophical criteria in choosing our models. A lot of cosmology tries to hide that.”
    – George Ellis – W. Wayt Gibbs, “Profile: George F. R. Ellis,” Scientific American, October 1995, Vol. 273, No.4, p. 55

    And again, as far as General relativity itself is concerned, there is simply no observational evidence that can be presented that would establish any 3-Dimensional spot in the universe as more central than the earth. Max Born wrote:

    “…Thus we may return to Ptolemy’s point of view of a ‘motionless earth’… One has to show that the transformed metric can be regarded as produced according to Einstein’s field equations, by distant rotating masses. This has been done by Thirring. He calculated a field due to a rotating, hollow, thick-walled sphere and proved that inside the cavity it behaved as though there were centrifugal and other inertial forces usually attributed to absolute space. Thus from Einstein’s point of view, Ptolemy and Copernicus are equally right.”
    Born, Max. “Einstein’s Theory of Relativity”, Dover Publications,1962, pgs 344 & 345:

    Albert Einstein wrote:

    “If one rotates the shell *relative to the fixed stars* about an axis going through its center, a Coriolis force arises in the interior of the shell, *that is, the plane of a Foucault pendulum is dragged around*”
    –Albert Einstein, cited in “Gravitation”, Misner Thorne and Wheeler pp. 544-545.
    “One need not view the existence of such centrifugal forces as originating from the motion of K’ [the Earth]; one could just as well account for them as resulting from the average rotational effect of distant, detectable masses as evidenced in the vicinity of K’ [the Earth], whereby K’ [the Earth] is treated as being at rest.”
    –Albert Einstein, quoted in Hans Thirring, “On the Effect of Distant Rotating Masses in Einstein’s Theory of Gravitation”, Physikalische Zeitschrift 22, 29, 1921

    Of related note:

    “In the Ptolemaic system, the earth is considered to be at rest and without rotation in the center of the universe, while the sun, other planets and fixed stars rotate around the earth. In relational mechanics this rotation of distant matter yields the force such that the equation of motion takes the form of equation (8.47). Now the gravitational attraction of the sun is balanced by a real gravitational centrifugal force due to the annual rotation of distant masses around the earth (with a component having a period of one year). In this way the earth can remain at rest and at an essentially constant distance from the sun. The diurnal rotation of distant masses around the earth (with a period of one day) yields a real gravitational centrifugal force flattening the earth at the poles. Foucault’s pendulum is explained by a real Coriolis force acting on moving masses over the earth’s surface in the form –2mgvme ´ ?Ue, where vme is the velocity of the test body relative to the earth and ?Ue is the angular rotation of the distant masses around the earth. The effect of this force will be to keep the plane of oscillation of the pendulum rotating together with the fixed stars.”
    (Andre K. T. Assis, Relational Mechanics, pp. 190-191).

    In fact, in general relativity, establishing centrality in the universe is left totally up the person making the model for the universe:

    How Einstein Revealed the Universe’s Strange “Nonlocality” – George Musser | Oct 20, 2015
    Excerpt: Under most circumstances, we can ignore this nonlocality. You can designate some available chunk of matter as a reference point and use it to anchor a coordinate grid. You can, to the chagrin of Santa Barbarans, take Los Angeles as the center of the universe and define every other place with respect to it. In this framework, you can go about your business in blissful ignorance of space’s fundamental inability to demarcate locations.,,

    In fact, in both general relativity and special relativity, a hypothetical observer is given a privileged frame of reference in which to make measurements.

    Introduction to special relativity
    Excerpt: Einstein’s approach was based on thought experiments, calculations, and the principle of relativity, which is the notion that all physical laws should appear the same (that is, take the same basic form) to all inertial observers.,,,
    Each observer has a distinct “frame of reference” in which velocities are measured,,,,

    The happiest thought of my life.
    Excerpt: In 1920 Einstein commented that a thought came into his mind when writing the above-mentioned paper he called it “the happiest thought of my life”:
    “The gravitational field has only a relative existence… Because for an observer freely falling from the roof of a house – at least in his immediate surroundings – there exists no gravitational field.”

    You can see animations of both of Einstein’s thought experiments in the first part of the following video:

    Special Relativity and General Relativity compared to Heavenly and Hellish Near Death Experiences – video

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Moreover, although there is no observation within general relativity that would give any 3-Dimensional position in the universe more centrality than any other position, none-the-less, there are anomalies in the Cosmic Background Radiation that, surprisingly, line up with the earth and solar system.

    Why is the solar system cosmically aligned? BY Dragan Huterer – 2007
    The solar system seems to line up with the largest cosmic features. Is this mere coincidence or a signpost to deeper insights?
    Caption under figure on page 43:
    ODD ALIGNMENTS hide within the multipoles of the cosmic microwave background. In this combination of the quadrupole and octopole, a plane bisects the sphere between the largest warm and cool lobes. The ecliptic — the plane of Earth’s orbit projected onto the celestial sphere — is aligned parallel to the plane between the lobes.
    Here is the actual graph of the alignment from the Huterer 2007 paper (worth a thousand words):

    Large-Angle Anomalies in the CMB – 2010
    Excerpt Our studies (see [14]) indicate that the observed alignments are with the ecliptic plane, with the equinox, or with the CMB dipole, and not with the Galactic plane: the alignments of the quadrupole and octopole planes with the equinox/ecliptic/dipole directions are much more significant than those for the Galactic plane. Moreover, it is remarkably curious that it is precisely the ecliptic alignment that has been found on somewhat smaller scales using the power spectrum analyses of statistical isotropy,

    Of note: The preceding articles were written before the Planck data (with WMPA & COBE data), but the anomalies were actually verified by the Planck satellite.

    Large-scale alignments from WMAP and Planck – 2013
    We revisit the alignments of the largest structures observed in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) using the seven and nine-year WMAP and first-year Planck data releases. The observed alignments — the quadrupole with the octopole and their joint alignment with the direction of our motion with respect to the CMB (the dipole direction) and the geometry of the Solar System (defined by the Ecliptic plane) — are generally in good agreement with results from the previous WMAP data releases.,,, both the WMAP and Planck data confirm the alignments of the largest observable CMB modes in the Universe.

    also of note:

    Is there a violation of the Copernican principle in radio sky? – Ashok K. Singal – May 17, 2013
    Abstract: Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR) observations from the WMAP satellite have shown some unexpected anisotropies (directionally dependent observations), which surprisingly seem to be aligned with the ecliptic\cite {20,16,15}. The latest data from the Planck satellite have confirmed the presence of these anisotropies\cite {17}. Here we report even larger anisotropies in the sky distributions of powerful extended quasars and some other sub-classes of radio galaxies in the 3CRR catalogue, one of the oldest and most intensively studies sample of strong radio sources\cite{21,22,3}. The anisotropies lie about a plane passing through the two equinoxes and the north celestial pole (NCP). We can rule out at a 99.995% confidence level the hypothesis that these asymmetries are merely due to statistical fluctuations. Further, even the distribution of observed radio sizes of quasars and radio galaxies show large systematic differences between these two sky regions. The redshift distribution appear to be very similar in both regions of sky for all sources, which rules out any local effects to be the cause of these anomalies. Two pertinent questions then arise. First, why should there be such large anisotropies present in the sky distribution of some of the most distant discrete sources implying inhomogeneities in the universe at very large scales (covering a fraction of the universe)? What is intriguing even further is why such anisotropies should lie about a great circle decided purely by the orientation of earth’s rotation axis and/or the axis of its revolution around the sun? It looks as if these axes have a preferential placement in the larger scheme of things, implying an apparent breakdown of the Copernican principle or its more generalization, cosmological principle, upon which all modern cosmological theories are based upon.

    And at the 13:55 minute mark of this following video, Max Tegmark, an atheist, finally admits, post Planck 2013, that the CMBR anomalies do indeed line up with the earth and solar system

    “Thoughtcrime: The Conspiracy to Stop The Principle” – video

    Moreover, when scrutinizing the details of both chemistry and physics, it is found that not only is the universe fine-tuned for life, but is fine-tuned specifically for intelligent life like human life.

    Privileged Species – video

    The Place of Life and Man in Nature: Defending the Anthropocentric Thesis – Michael J. Denton – February 25, 2013
    Summary (page 11)
    Many of the properties of the key members of Henderson’s vital ensemble —water, oxygen, CO2, HCO3 —are in several instances fit specifically for warm-blooded, air-breathing organisms such as ourselves. These include the thermal properties of water, its low viscosity, the gaseous nature of oxygen and CO2 at ambient temperatures, the inertness of oxygen at ambient temperatures, and the bicarbonate buffer, with its anomalous pKa value and the elegant means of acid-base regulation it provides for air-breathing organisms. Some of their properties are irrelevant to other classes of organisms or even maladaptive.
    It is very hard to believe there could be a similar suite of fitness for advanced carbon-based life forms. If carbon-based life is all there is, as seems likely, then the design of any active complex terrestrial being would have to closely resemble our own. Indeed the suite of properties of water, oxygen, and CO2 together impose such severe constraints on the design and functioning of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems that their design, even down to the details of capillary and alveolar structure can be inferred from first principles. For complex beings of high metabolic rate, the designs actualized in complex Terran forms are all that can be. There are no alternative physiological designs in the domain of carbon-based life that can achieve the high metabolic activity manifest in man and other higher organisms.

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    Michael Denton’s Privileged Species Premieres in Seattle to a Packed House – November 14, 2014
    Excerpt: If life exists elsewhere (in the universe), its home would remind us of Earth and the aliens would reminds us of ourselves. The periodic table, so wonderfully concise, is a recipe for us. Oh, and for our way of life too. While focusing on the unique properties of water, carbon, and oxygen, Denton shows that the chemical elements appear beautifully structured to allow the development of technology, from our use of fire to the rise of computers.
    He emphasizes that this “stunning series of coincidences” is not a matter of scientific controversy, and in fact represents the great scientific discovery of the past century. It’s a matter of fact, not interpretation.
    Denton observed that properties of nature uniquely fit for life continue to be discovered regularly and he offered the prediction that in the upcoming century scientists will uncover more and more.

    Greer Heard Forum: Robin Collins – “God and the Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Discovery” – video

    The Fine-Tuning for Discoverability – Robin Collins – March 22, 2014
    Excerpt: Examples of fine – tuning for discoverability.
    ,,A small increase in ? (fine structure constant) would have resulted in all open wood fires going out; yet harnessing fire was essential to the development of civilization, technology, and science – e.g., the forging of metals.,,,
    Going in the other direction, if ? (fine structure constant) were decreased, light microscopes would have proportionality less resolving power without the size of living cells or other microscopic objects changing.,,,
    Thus, it is quite amazing that the resolving power of light microscopes goes down to that of the smallest cell (0.2 microns), but no further. If it had less resolving power, some cells could not be observed alive. The fine – structure constant, therefore, is just small enough to allow for open wood fires and just large enough for the light microscope to be able to see all living cells.
    Predictive and Explanatory Power of Discoverability – Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation
    Prediction: DLO: Within the range of values of a given parameter p that yield near – optimal livability, p will fall into that subrange of values that maximize discoverability (given constraints of elegance are not violated).
    In every case that I was able to make calculations regarding whether the fundamental parameters of physics are optimized in this way, they appear to pass the test.[iv] This alone is significant since this hypothesis is falsifiable in the sense that one could find data that potentially disconfirms it – namely, cases in which as best as we can determining, such as a case in which changing the value of a fundamental parameter – such as the fine – structure constant – increases discoverability while not negatively affecting livability.[v] Below, I will look at a case from cosmology where this thesis could have been disconfirmed but was not.,,,
    The most dramatic confirmation of the discoverability/livability optimality thesis (DLO) is the dependence of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB) on the baryon to photon ratio.,,,
    …the intensity of CMB depends on the photon to baryon ratio, (??b), which is the ratio of the average number of photons per unit volume of space to the average number of baryons (protons plus neutrons) per unit volume. At present this ratio is approximately a billion to one (10^9) , but it could be anywhere from one to infinity; it traces back to the degree of asymmetry in matter and anti – matter right after the beginning of the universe – for approximately every billion particles of antimatter, there was a billion and one particles of matter.,,,
    The only livability effect this ratio has is on whether or not galaxies can form that have near – optimally livability zones. As long as this condition is met, the value of this ratio has no further effects on livability. Hence, the DLO predicts that within this range, the value of this ratio will be such as to maximize the intensity of the CMB as observed by typical observers.
    According to my calculations – which have been verified by three other physicists — to within the margin of error of the experimentally determined parameters (~20%), the value of the photon to baryon ratio is such that it maximizes the CMB. This is shown in Figure 1 below. (pg. 13)
    It is easy to see that this prediction could have been disconfirmed. In fact, when I first made the calculations in the fall of 2011, I made a mistake and thought I had refuted this thesis since those calculations showed the intensity of the CMB maximizes at a value different than the photon – baryon ratio in our universe. So, not only does the DLO lead us to expect this ratio, but it provides an ultimate explanation for why it has this value,,, This is a case of a teleological thesis serving both a predictive and an ultimate explanatory role.,,,

    Moreover, in quantum mechanics the observer, far from being a ‘hypothetical observer’ as it is in relativity, is found to be necessary, even central, for and to ‘measurement’:

    New Mind-blowing Experiment Confirms That Reality Doesn’t Exist If You Are Not Looking at It – June 3, 2015
    Excerpt: The results of the Australian scientists’ experiment, which were published in the journal Nature Physics, show that this choice is determined by the way the object is measured, which is in accordance with what quantum theory predicts.
    “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” said lead researcher Dr. Andrew Truscott in a press release.,,,
    “The atoms did not travel from A to B. It was only when they were measured at the end of the journey that their wave-like or particle-like behavior was brought into existence,” he said.
    Thus, this experiment adds to the validity of the quantum theory and provides new evidence to the idea that reality doesn’t exist without an observer.

    Lecture 11: Decoherence and Hidden Variables – Scott Aaronson – MIT associate Professor
    Excerpt: “Look, we all have fun ridiculing the creationists who think the world sprang into existence on October 23, 4004 BC at 9AM (presumably Babylonian time), with the fossils already in the ground, light from distant stars heading toward us, etc. But if we accept the usual picture of quantum mechanics, then in a certain sense the situation is far worse: the world (as you experience it) might as well not have existed 10^-43 seconds ago!”

    “It is more than 80 years since the discovery of quantum mechanics gave us the most fundamental insight ever into our nature: the overturning of the Copernican Revolution, and the restoration of us human beings to centrality in the Universe.
    And yet, have you ever before read a sentence having meaning similar to that of my preceding sentence? Likely you have not, and the reason you have not is, in my opinion, that physicists are in a state of denial, and have fears and agonies that are very similar to the fears and agonies that Copernicus and Galileo went through with their perturbations of society.”
    Richard Conn Henry – Professor of Physics – John Hopkins University

    In fact, due to advances in quantum mechanics, the argument for God from consciousness can now be framed like this:

    Quantum Mechanics – a short survey
    Excerpt: 1. Consciousness either preceded all of material reality or is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality.
    2. If consciousness is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality then consciousness will be found to have no special position within material reality. Whereas conversely, if consciousness precedes material reality then consciousness will be found to have a special position within material reality.
    3. Consciousness is found to have a special, even central, position within material reality.
    4. Therefore, consciousness is found to precede material reality.

    Four intersecting lines of experimental evidence from quantum mechanics that shows that consciousness precedes material reality (Wigner’s Quantum Symmetries, Wheeler’s Delayed Choice, Leggett’s Inequalities, Quantum Zeno effect):

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    Moreover, the resurrection of Christ from the dead provides the correct solution for the much sought after ‘theory of everything’:

    (Entropic concerns) The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the Dead is the correct solution for the “Theory of Everything” – video

    (History and centrality) The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from Death as the “Theory of Everything” – video

    Verse and Music:

    Colossians 1:15-20
    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

    Steven Curtis Chapman – Lord of the Dance (Live)

    supplemental notes

    Shroud of Turin: From discovery of Photographic Negative, to 3D Information, to Quantum Hologram – video

    Journey to the Center of the Universe – video

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:


    Note Google’s warning on n-gram analysis:

    you’ll need to carefully interpret your results. Some effects are due to changes in the language we use to describe things (‘The Great War’ vs. ‘World War I’). Others are due to actual changes in what interests us (note how ‘slavery’ peaks during the Civil War and during the Civil Rights movement.)

    Watch out for the time period your are looking into: the best data is the data for English between 1800 and 2000. Before 1800, there aren’t enough books to reliably quantify many of the queries that first come to mind; after 2000, the corpus composition undergoes subtle changes around the time of the inception of the Google Books project. The other corpora are smaller, and can’t be used to go as far back in time; their metadata has also not been subjected to as much scrutiny as English in the bicentennial period.

    Basically, if you’re going to use this corpus for scientific purposes, you’ll need to do careful controls to make sure it can support your application. Like with any other piece of evidence about the human past, the challenge with culturomic trajectories lie in their interpretation


  9. 9
    Me_Think says:

    I am aware of ngram limitation. The pertinent data is between yr 1800 to yr 1900, so I have no problem in analysing the data.

  10. 10
    Zachriel says:

    Galileo reinvented physics and astronomy, while his work brought about a revolution in science.

    “Philosophy is written in that great book which ever lies before our eyes — the universe — but we cannot understand it if we do not first learn the language and grasp the symbols, in which it is written. This book is written in the mathematical language, and the symbols are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without whose help it is impossible to comprehend a single word of it; without which one wanders in vain through a dark labyrinth.” — Galileo

    Centuries later, people are still debating his legacy.

  11. 11
    kairosfocus says:

    MT, please cf here:

    Observe, the annotations. Your local minimum is part of a range of variation, the pickup to that range was over 1/2 century before the period you focussed on.

    And that is within the band Google thinks the data to be most relevant.

    But the notes and others still obtain.


  12. 12
    kairosfocus says:

    Z, while Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler and Galileo all had their impact, it is Newton who marked the decisive breakthrough. KF

  13. 13
    Me_Think says:

    KF @ 11
    I don’t know what you are referring to. Are you saying there is no local minima in 1896? or that Galileo’s popularity peaked during 1873 to 1875 (when considering years before 1900)or that by the end of 19th century, his popularity had dropped by 32.59% ?
    Please see clear Graph with just Galileo:

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    MT, Did you look at the graph as taken from Google then marked up to address the evident trends? Did you observe that in the range of variation since 1820 or so — observe the box, the lowest point is actually somewhat after 1896? That where there is a clear trend it is a huge spike in the 1600’s, then fading off and then a pickup to more or less the current range since the late 1820’s, as a percentage. Also, Newton in the long haul is the figure who dominates, even above Einstein. KF

    PS: I decided to put things into perspective, by adding Jesus and Mohammed.

  15. 15
    Me_Think says:

    KF @ 14

    Did you observe that in the range of variation since 1820 or so — observe the box, the lowest point is actually somewhat after 1896? That where there is a clear trend it is a huge spike in the 1600’s, then fading off and then a pickup to more or less the current range since the late 1820’s, as a percentage. Also, Newton in the long haul is the figure who dominates, even above Einstein.

    Please read the OP (or more specifically Thony Christie’s claim in Aeon article). The Claim is

    Galileo’s rise to immortality starts at the end of the 18th century.

    and that

    Galileo became a favorite subject, largely because of his persecution by the Catholic Church. This effect was immensely magnified by the largely mythical war between science and religion in the late 19th century, waged by two US-based scientist-historians, John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White.

    By ngram analysis of the relevant period, I show that the claim is not right. I could have added the 1600s (although periods before 1800s is not reliable) or I could add as many scientists as I wish, but that is besides the point – it is irrelevant to the OP.

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: To give further context, I added God and the Bible in a wider view across the full band, 1500 – 2008: . Google notes 1800 – 2000 is a favoured band, but the broader trend is strong enough to show credible patterns. English language publications show our discussion to be theistic in a Christian, somewhat biblical context. There is a pattern of two drop-offs after the Great Awakening in the 1700’s then at about the time Darwin et al were active, but since the 1940’s this has bottomed out. Scientific leaders are by comparison special interest though obviously influential. KF

  17. 17
    kairosfocus says:

    MT, no you have not proved what you think. Remember, the rate of diffusion of information has sharply increased across time. Analysis by scholars looking at detailed networks of influence cannot be overturned by so blunt an instrument as this: relative frequencies of text strings in the corpus of digitised books etc — which will reflect our own biases and interests. For instance, I doubt that ephemera such as personal letters or notes, tracts, broadsides and past newspapers etc would be sufficiently reflected as one goes back further. Likewise, what people talked about is lost to us save when it got caught up in written things that happened to be scanned. For further instance, factor in a generational lag in thinking (new thought advancing one funeral at a time) and delays of 40 – 60 years 100 – 300 years ago would be expected. The key pattern concerning the digitised corpus on Galileo remains the rise from an earlier trough post 1600s in the 1820s and 30’s then a wobbly aperiodic up and down trend since within a band. As was shown. KF

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Let me clip Christie’s intro ( this being an historian of science):

    If you ask people to name the greatest scientist of all time, many will most probably answer: Galileo. In the popular presentations of the history of science, he is portrayed as a one-man revolution, an intellectual superhero who dragged science kicking and screaming into the modern era. Even Stephen Hawking validates this view: ‘Galileo, perhaps more than any other single person, was responsible for the birth of modern science,’ he wrote in A Brief History of Time (1990). In popular books and websites, Galileo is regularly credited as the inventor of the scientific method, the first to apply mathematics to science, the discoverer of the first mathematical law of science, and on and on.

    The descriptions sound too good to be true – and they are . . .

    Just in Physics, Archimedes stands out as a mathematically oriented physicist from what 1500+ years before Galileo. And numerical patterns of law-like nature go back far before that.

    Second, investigations readily show that there is no one size fits all and only sciences, “the” scientific method. So trying to credit Galileo with its origin is to build a myth on a myth.

    Christie goes on:

    In 1609, Galileo Galilei was a 45-year-old, largely unknown, north Italian professor of mathematics, a profession with a low social status, well on his way to total obscurity. He had produced his brilliant experimental demonstrations of the laws of falling bodies years earlier but had not published them. He was known among his circle of friends as a purveyor of good wines and a castigating, razor-sharp wit. Then Galileo stumbled upon the recently invented telescope and began the astronomical observations that would make him famous. Realising that he had lucked onto the scientific equivalent of winning the lottery, he rushed into print in early 1610.

    Overnight, Galileo became the most renowned astronomer in Europe. However, he was not the only telescopic astronomical observer at the time, and all the discoveries he made were made independently and contemporaneously by others in Britain, Germany, even Italy. This point is hard to reconcile with the modern myth because even if Galileo had never used a telescope, it would not have changed anything in the history of astronomy.

    Having parlayed his discoveries into a new position as court philosopher and mathematician to the Medici in Florence, Galileo’s fame rested largely on those telescopic discoveries and his demolition of scientific opponents in public debates and in his writing.

    I disagree that the HISTORY of astronomy etc would not have been different sans Galileo, after all such is about particulars. But the trend to heliocentrism and the knowledge base of observational facts was much broader than one heroic figure. Kepler’s work on his laws of planetary motion published from 1609 on and communicated to Galileo, was technically decisive. Though, Galileo did not make adequate use of same.

    He definitely did not invent the telescope, though he was a prominent user band a lightning rod for debate over results.

    He also ill=advisedly alienated a friend and supporter, the cardinal who became pope Urban VIII IIRC. In a world where the pope had a multiple front geopolitical contest going on, that was extremely ill advised.

    Christie’s onward argument is worth pondering, e.g.:

    Galileo achieved considerable fame in his lifetime, but in the 17th century his reputation rested firmly on his telescopic discoveries. His contribution to the debate over the heliocentric view of the solar system was rather minimal, and despite the best efforts of Marin Mersenne (the century’s greatest science communicator) to publicise his Discourses, they didn’t have that great an impact. Today it is often claimed that Galileo is one of the giants on whose shoulders Newton stood, but he plays a rather minor role in Newton’s masterwork, Principia Mathematica (1687). By the 18th century, Galileo was slipping into obscurity outside of Italy. Then he experienced a remarkable resurrection.

    Galileo’s rise to immortality starts at the end of the 18th century. In this period, scientific biography started to become popular, and Galileo became a favourite subject, largely because of his persecution by the Catholic Church. This effect was immensely magnified by the largely mythical war between science and religion in the late 19th century, waged by two US-based scientist-historians, John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White. They wrote passionately about religion as an obstacle to the forces of progress, and advanced a self-congratulatory thesis in which Western civilisation had steadily emerged from the ignorance of the Dark Ages to the modern age of Enlightenment. This was an outgrowth of the broader rejection of the dominance of religious thought, which had emerged in Europe during the Enlightenment and had been enthusiastically adopted by influential American intellectual figures including Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

    To fit into this narrative, Galileo was presented as a solitary hero defending Copernicanism against the ignorance and prejudice of the Church. Draper and White also promoted the notion that mediaeval scholars, blinded by theology, had believed the world was flat – another myth that has wormed its way into generally accepted truth . . .

    While the summary language is popular, there is significant merit in these points. Just, they do not sit well with dominant narratives in our day.

    For just one point, the debate Columbus faced was over his size estimate, not the roundness of the earth. His critics were right, too. But, he had the trade wind system in hand and signs of something within reasonable sailing distance. Just, no one understood that a whole new world was out there.

    From the depth of popular misunderstanding on this, we may calibrate our need for healthy revision that has not been addressed for far too long.

    On many subjects.


  19. 19
    Me_Think says:

    KF @ 17

    MT, no you have not proved what you think. Remember, the rate of diffusion of information has sharply increased across time. Analysis by scholars looking at detailed networks of influence cannot be overturned by so blunt an instrument as this: relative frequencies of text strings in the corpus of digitised books etc — which will reflect our own biases and interests.

    Rate of information diffusion does differ with time, which of course would mean that Thony Christie’s assersion that Galileo’s rise was because of “the largely mythical war between science and religion in the late 19th century, waged by two US-based scientist-historians, John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White.” is even more wrong because it shows that the maxima started at 1873 has turned into a minima in 1897. I sure would like to know the methodology that Thony Christie used !
    P.S: In the absence of ancient polls on Galileo’s popularity, we necessarily have to use crude methods to know the popularity trend. We have no other choice.

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