Timetable of religous anti-science

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Gregory Aharonian

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May 10, 1993, 4:30:41 PM5/10/93
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Recently Will Brandt at Caltech posted a very excellent timetable of
significant historical events in the field of science. Given that science
is a much a search for the new as a fight against the old (or at least
that's my opinion), I thought I would post a list of historical events where
religion did something against science or unscientific. There is no
particular significance to the events I have included, other than I came
across them while researching various things. Incidents touch on physics,
mathematics, engineering, medicine and computers.

Greg Aharonian
src...@world.std.com

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#40's
#The Apostle Paul misinterprets a profound mathematical theorem
In a letter to a Greek church, the apostle Paul gets tough with false
preachers, instructing in the Book of Titus, section 1, verses 10-14

"For there are many insubordinate men, empty talkers and deceivers,
especially the circumcision party; they must be silenced, since they
are upsetting whole families by teaching for base gain what they have
no right to teach. ONE OF THEMSELVES, A PROPHET OF THEIR OWN, SAID
"CRETANS ARE ALWAYS LIARS, EVIL BEASTS, LAZY GLUTTONS". This testimony
is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, instead of giving heed to
Jewish myths or to commands of men who reject the truth".

Here, Paul misinterprets one of mathematics most famous thinkers, Epimemides,
a Cretan whose statement "All Cretans are liars", a simple way of illustrating
the difficulties of dealing with self-reference in formal descriptive systems,
still is the subject of much thought two thousand years later. An insight
mathematicans consider beautiful is use to encourage intolerance.
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#300
#Noted Catholic Bishops declare science to be of no interest to Christians
The attitude of most of the Church Fathers towards science, however, was
one of indifference or hostility. Bishop Eusebius, the noted historian of the
early Christian Church, says of scientists: "It is not through ignorance of
the things admired by them, but through contempt of their useless labor, that
we think little of these matters, turning our souls to better things". Basil
of Caesarea declares it "a matter of no interest to us whether the earth is a
sphere or a cylinder or a disk, or concave like a fan". Lactantius calls the
study of astronomy "bad and senseless". Like many other churchmen, he combats
the pagan Greek notion that the earth is round and argues on scriptual grounds
that it must be flat.
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#415
#Augustine writes that science, and also miracles, should not be studied
In his "De Civitate Dei", Saint Augustine accounts for much of Western
knowledge on experimental effects due to magnets, that magnets move iron,
not straw. He describes, as had Plato, how a number of iron rings may be
suspended in a chain from a loadstone as if the magnet "had communicated its
own property to the iron it attracted, and had made it a substance like
itself", and a few other properties.
Without pursuing such matters further, Augustine proceeds instead to
make use of them for his larger purposes. If such common phenomena are
inexplicable, he asked, why should it be demanded of man that he explains
miracles by human reason?
[American Journal of Physics 5/53, 350]
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#440
#Saint Patrick is falsely credited with eliminating snakes in Ireland
Saint Patrick is credited with driving snakes out of Ireland. However
pre-Patrick writers mention the fact that Ireland is free of reptiles.
For example, two hundred years earlier, Solinus writes that Ireland is
a place well-noted for its snakelessness.
Conventional explanations use the most recent Ice age, where the flora
and fauna of the British Isles were eliminated by advancing galciers and
the cold. As the glaciers recede, the animals and plants come creeping
back, migrating from the continent thru Britain to Ireland. For awhile
Britain and Ireland are connected to Europe by dry land, so that animals
could make the migration, at least to Britain. However, as the ice
continues to melt, Britain and Ireland become islands, halting the migration
of the snakes already established in England. Only the quicker lizard
makes it to Ireland.
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#500-1000
#People mistake bioluminescence for spirits in shallow graveyards
Throughout the Dark Ages, unsanitary disposal of dead bodies leads to
mistaken observation of spirits. At the onset of the Dark Ages, with disease
decimating Europe, unwrapped bodies lie in shallow graves where vaporous
decomposition products, acted on by microorganisms, become bioluminescent.
Casual observers, passing at a distance, see glowing 'spirits' hovering in
the graveyard, which to the ignorant are interpreted as souls and ghosts.
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#529
#Blasphemy laws attribute natural disasters to God's punishment
In Justinian's codification of the laws, the Corpus Juris Civilis, which
greatly influenced legal developments in Europe, the provision on blasphemy
alleges that "famine, earthquake, and pestilence" occur because the failure
to punish blasphemy "provokes God's wrath".
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#535
#Christian monk declares that the world is a flat parallelogram
A Christian monk, Cosmas, writes a book entitled "Christian Topograph".
In this book, basing himself upon the direct meaning of Biblical texts as
construed by him in a literal fashion, he denies the existence of the
antipodes (North and South poles), and asserts that the world is a flat
parallelogram whose length is double its breadth.
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#584
#Catholic bishops debate "Are Women Human?". The vote is 32 Yes, 31 No.
In Lyons France, forty three Catholic bishops and twenty men representing
other bishops hold a debate, "Are Women Human?". The final vote is that
thirty two men vote yes, thirty one vote no. (This probably served as a
precedence for the Oct 18, 1929 Canadian Supreme Court decision that Canadian
women were not persons in the legal sense of the word).
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#1000
#Pope Sylvester II creates a talking head
Pope Sylvester II is alleged to have contrived a statue with a talking
head, cast after inspecting the stars when the planets were about to begin
their courses. The head, to quote William of Malmesbury, "It spake not
unless spoken to, but then pronounced the truth, either in the affirmative
or the negative." Pope Sylvester had been educated by the Saracens in
astrology, necromancy, and other occult skills.
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#1000
#Christians kill Viking chieftain as a witch for sailing against the wind
As late as 1000, sailing effectively against the wind in northern European
waters is so unusual that when a Viking chieftain named Raud the Strong makes
use of this method to escape from Olaf Trygvasson, the bloodthirsty and
fanatical Christianizing king of Norway, the King is sure that Raud must be
using witchcraft. This so enrages the pious king that when he finally catches
Raud, he has him killed by the unusual method of suffering a viper down his
throat.
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#1021
#Jews are tortured and burned in Rome for 'causing' an earthquake
An earthquake followed by a hurricane strikes Rome on Good Friday.
Pope Benedict VIII arrests a number of Jews who allegedly had put a nail
through a host on Holy Thursday, as the probable cause of the calamity.
They 'confess' during the torture of interrogation and are burned.
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#1163
#A Church Council bans all surgery due to malpractice by priests and monks
Church edicts against priests and monks entering and abusing the practice
of medicine and surgery grow more emphatic, and an edict of the Council of
Tours goes wide of its mark and officially casts surgery into disrepute.
The essence of this edict is "Ecclesia abhorret a sanguine" - the Church
abhors the shedding of blood. In other words, surgery is not respectable.
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#1200's
#A book for midwifes is more concerned with the child than the mother
The Dominican monk, Albertus Magnus, writes a book for the guidance of
midwives, and the Church councils pass edicts on their practices. These
instructions and edicts, are not, however, for the better care of the
child-bearing woman for the relief of her suffering, or the prevention of
her death. After all, childbirth is the result of a carnal sin to be expiated
in pain as defined in Genesis 3:16. The instructions are instead designed to
save the child's life for a sufficient time to allow it to be baptized.
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#1242
#Roger Bacon is imprisoned by the Church for experimenting in optics
Roger Bacon, a pioneering physicist, starts experiments in optics based
on the writings of the Arab scientists Ibn Haitham. The Catholic church
responds to his activities with a sentence of imprisonment, admonished by
"Your writings bespeak strange thoughts. Let thee not forget
that learning and devotion to books hath often led men away
from the Tree of Life and unto the fiery Depths of Hell and
Torture."
As part of his defense against accusations of witchcraft, Bacon discloses
his formula for gunpowder.
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#1257
#The scientist Roger Bacon is prohibited by the Church from his research
Bonaventura, General of the Franciscan order, suspicious of Roger Bacon's
supposed dealings in the black arts, interrupts his lectures at Oxford, and
places him under the superintendence of the Franciscan order in Paris,
where he remains for ten years under injunction not to write for publication.
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#1260
#A Bishop in Germany is credited with building a talking, thinking, robot
Albertus Magnus, Bishop of Ratisbon, is credited with building a mechanical
robot which could answer questions and solve problems. The robot took thirty
years to build. The robot once salutes one of Magnus' students, Thomas
Aquinas, who, convinced that this had something to do with the devil, consigns
the robot to the flame. In spite of Magnus' reputation as a sorcerer, he is
canonized.
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#1278
#The scientist Roger Bacon is imprisoned for 14 years
After the death of Clement IV, a friend of Roger Bacon, his books are
condemned by Jerome de Ascoli, General of the Franciscans, who becomes
Pope Nicholas IV, and Roger Bacon is put into prison for 14 years.
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#1300
#A misinterpreted Papal bull condemns surgery, halting progress in medicine
A papal bull from Pope Boniface VIII is issued that misinterpreted, leads
to the detriment of anatomical study. In the bull, the Pope decrees that
whoever dares to cut up a human body or boil it should fall under the ban of
the Church. This edict is intended to prohibit a practice of the crusaders,
who, when one of their number dies during the pilgrimage to the Holy Land,
cut up the body and boil it in order to obtain the bones, which can be
conveniently transported back to relatives in Europe.
The papal bull against this practice is misinterpreted as applying to
dissection for anatomical study. Surgeons are looked upon as menials. Under
the influence of the Church the practice of surgery in Europe is relegated
to barbers, bathhouse keepers, sowgelders, executioners, and any strolling
vagabond who cares to try his hand at the art.
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#1300
#One of the most prolific writers on birth control becomes Pope John XXII
Despite the church's position in favor of procreation, medieval writers,
many of whom were churchmen, related practical information about
contraceptives and early-term abortifacients. Indeed, one of the prolific
writers on birth control techniques was Peter of Spain, author of "Treasury
of the Poor", who becamse Pope John XXII.
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#1377, May 22
#Pope Gregory XI issues five bulls attacking doctrines for democracy
Pope Gregory XI issues five bulls attacking John Wycliffe's doctrines
as expounded in his treatise on civil lordship. "De Civili Dominio", which
had been read to Wycliffe's students at Oxford in the previous year. In
a 1382 Bible translation, Wycliffe included the following dedication that
reflected his views: "This Bible is for the government of the people, by the
people, and for the people".
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#1390's
#Archbishop of Usher calculates that the world began at 9am, Oct 23, 4004 BC
Archbishop Usher of England calculates that the world began at 9am,
Sunday October 23, 4004 BC, according to the Bible. A long dead scientist,
Wycliffe, however had suggested that the world was at least some hundreds
of thousands of years old, based on geological evidence. Unable to tolerate
such an affront to his authority, Usher orders that Wycliffe's bones be
dug out, broken into pieces, and thrown into the sea so that the germs of
dissent and doubt would no longer contaminate the earth.
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#1456
#Pope Calixtus attempts to excommunicate Halley's comet.
Pope Calixtus attempts to excommunicate Halley's comet.
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#1492
#Pope Innocent VIII dies during a blood tranfusion to make him immortal
Pope Innocent VIII seeks a measure of immortality and finds death
instead, when he has the blood of three young men transfused into his veins.
(More than four hundred years pass before it is realized that incompatibility
of blood proteins can sometimes cause fatal results during transfusions.)
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#1500's
#Catholic priests declare a rat to be a fish, allowing Lenten meating eating
The Roman Catholic Church can be a wonderfully flexible organization.
It demands abstinence from its adherents and then gives them the means to
evade it. A fine example is provided by the capybara. Untutored modern
eyes look at the capybara and see an overgrown guinea pig. It is a big
creature - at about 100 pounds it wieghs in as the largest rodent around -
but still looks basically ratty. Some zoologists demur; they want to exclude
all guinea pigs from the order Rodentia and put them in a group of their own.
However, the 16th century churchmen who accompanied the conquistadores
into the capybara's South American habitat were more radical revisionists.
They saw capybaras splashing around in rivers and though "fish". There is
no need to invoke bizarre Thomist taxonomy or a change in man's outlook on
nature to explain this eccentric belief. Capybaras are good to eat. Those
enduring their annual 40 days in the gastronomic wilderness of Lent, eschewing
meat in favor of vegetables and fish, clutched at some pretty tenuous
taxonomic straws. That is how the capybara came to be, for religious and
dietary purposes, a fish. This notion has allowed a modicum of lenten
indulgence over the centuries, and is now a profitable little sideline for
Venezuelan ranchers.
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#1500's
#A priest states that God is against building a canal in Panama
In opposition to a proposal to build a canal through the Isthmus of
Panama to connect the Atlantic and Pacific, a priest by the name of Acosta
brings forward the following reason against it: "I am of opinion that human
power should not be allowed to cut through the strong and impenetrable bounds
which God has put between two oceans, of mountains and iron rocks, which can
stand the fury of the raging seas. And, if it were possible, it would appear
to me very just that we should fear the vengeance of Heaven for attempting
to improve that which the Creator in His almighty will and providence has
ordained from the creation of the world".
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1520's
#Pope Leo X rejects science, when Leonardo da Vinci asks for support
Leonardo da Vinci travels to Rome to seek employment of his engineering
and science skills. Unfortunately Pope Leo X has no interest in such matters.
Quotes from the Pope include: "Since God has given us the Papacy, let us
enjoy it", and "What profit has not that fable of Christ brought us".
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#1522
#A doctor is burned to death for trying to observe a woman giving birth
One Dr. Wertt of Hamburg, puts on the dress of a woman to attend and study
a case of labor (men being prohibited from participating as midwives). As a
punishment for his impeity he is burned to death.
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#1551
#Catholic Council of Trent orders all scientific research halted
In 1551 the Papal Legates who are presiding over the Council of Trent
order: "That the Divines ought to confirm their opinions with the holy
Scripture, Traditions of the Apostles, sacred and approved Councils, and by
the Constitutions and Authorities of the holy Fathers; that they ought to
use brevity, and avoid superflous and unprofitable questions, and perverse
contentions....".
It is impossible not to feel sympathy with these Italian divines,
maintaining the lost cause of unbridled rationalism. They are deserted on
all hands. The Protestants were in full revolt against them. The Papacy
failed to support them, and the Bishops of the Council could not even
understand them.
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#1553
#Martin Luther condemns Copernicus for saying Earth revolves around the Sun
Martin Luther, commenting on Copernicus' theory that the earth revolves
around the sun, states "..People give ear to an upstart astrologer who
strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament,
the sun and the moon. Whosoever wishes to appear clever must devise some
new system which of all systems, of course, is the very best. This fool
wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but Sacred Scripture
tells us that Jushua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth".
Comments like these, and others from church leaders, leads to Copernicus
delaying publication of his ideas, and pursuing further research.
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#1600, Feb 17
#Girodano Bruno is burned at the stake on orders from the Pope.
Giordano Bruno is burned at the stake on orders from the Pope. In 1584,
Bruno had written a book advocating the Copernican view of the universe,
and how it applied to the difference between Protestants and Catholics with
regards to the Eucharist. His hopes were to unify the Protestant English
and Catholic French. Unfortunately, Rome supported Spain and it's status
quo position in Europe. After his arrest and trial by the Inquisition,
the Pope orders Bruno's execution.
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#1612
#Using the Bible, Colombe attacks Galileo and Copernicus
Lodovico delle Colombe, in his book "Against the Motion of the Earth",
attacks Galileo and Copernicus, citing texts from the Bible. These passages
include Joshua commanding the sun to stop, and Psalms 103:5, that God
"fixed the earth upon its foundations, not to be moved forever".
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#1614, Dec 20
#A Dominican priest preaches sermons condemning Galileo's moving Earth ideas
Father Tommaso Caccini, a Dominican Father, preaches a sermon in which
he strongly condemns the idea of a moving earth being proposed by Galileo.
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#1616, Feb 23
#The Vatican censures Galileo for his scientific beliefs about a moving Earth
Catholic bishops in the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office issue
censures to Galileo on his beliefs. With regards to one propositions, that
the sun is the center of the world and completely immovable by local motion,
they state "The first proposition was declared unanimously to be foolish
and absurd in philosophy and formally heretical inasmuch as it expressly
contradicts the doctrine of Holy Scripture in many passages, both in their
literal meaning and according to the general interpretation of the Fathers
and Doctors". With regards to a second proposition, that the earth is not
the center of the world, nor immovable, but moves according to the whole
of itself, and also with a diurnal motion, the bishops state "All were
agreed that this proposition merits the same censure in philosophy, and that
from a theological standpoint, it is at least erroneous in the faith."
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#1616, April
#The Vatican condemns a book supporting Copernician theory with the Bible
The Catholic Congregation of the Index condemns a book by a friar,
Paolo Antonio Foscarini, in which he attempts to show that the Copernician
system is not contrary to Holy Scripture.
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#1620
#Johannes Kepler defends his mother, who had been imprisoned as a witch
Johannes Kepler defends his mother in Tubingen, who had been imprisoned
as a witch.
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#1629
#Pope Urban VIII hires a Dominican monk to perform anti-eclipse magic
Pope Urban VIII hires a Dominican monk, Thomas Campanella, to perform
antieclipse magic. Astrologers hostile to the Pope had predicted that the
Pope's death would occur on the solar eclipse of June 1628 or December 1630.
In response, and due to his belief in astrology, Pope Urban hires Campanella.
In 1600, Martin del Rio, a Jesuit, had publicly expressed an opinion of the
Catholic Church, in which many forms of magic, including astrology, are
condemned.
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#1633, June 16
#Pope Urban VIII officially condemns Galileo and his scientific ideas
Pope Urban VIII officially condemns Galileo. "His Holiness decreed that
the said Galileo is to be interrogated with regard to his intention, even
with the threat of torture, and if he sustains [that is, answers in a
satisfactory manner, he is to abjure 'de vehementi' (i.e. vehement suspicion
of heresy] is a plenary assembly of the Congregation of the Holy Office,
then is to be condemned to imprisonment as the Holy Congregation thinks best,
and ordered not to treat further, in any way at all, either verbally or in
writing, of the mobility of the earth and the stability of the sun; otherwise
he will incur the penalties for relapse. The book entitled 'Dialogo di
Galileo Galilei Linceo' is to be prohibited."
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#1642
#A Catholic priest destroys the manuscripts of Galileo after his death
On Galileo's death, his common-law wife submits his manuscripts on
telescopic and pendulum inventions to her Catholic confessor, who
subsequently destroys them as heretical.
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#1665
#Rene Descartes' book supporting Copernicus is banned by the Vatican
Through the influence of Jesuits, Rene Descartes' work is placed on the
Index Liborum Prohibitorum, his "Les Meditations Metaphysiques". In his
book, Descartes supported Copernicus's hypothesis of the earth revolving
around the sun. This view opposed the church's Aristolean system.
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#1668
#Book IX of Francis Bacon's "Advancement of Learning" is banned by Vatican
Book IX of Francis Bacon's "Advancement of Learning" is banned and placed
on the Roman Catholic Church's Index Expurgatorius.
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#1752
#Denis Diderot's "Encyclopedia" of all knowledge is banned by the Vatican
Denis Diderot starts having published the first few volumes of his
"Encyclopedia" of all knowledge. Part of his philosophy behind this work is
that by spreading knowledge, industry will be encouraged, which will lead
to peace, and a new morality independent of the Church. In response, the
Catholic Church has the first few volumes suppressed, and in 1804 has the
entire collection banned.
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#1755, November
#Clergy in Lisbon explain a deadly earthquake as punishment from God
On All Saints' Day, a strong earthquake strikes Lisbon, killing 30,000
people, including many people in churches. Shortly thereafter, the French
clergy try to explain the disaster as punishment from God for the sins of the
people of Lisbon.
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#1829, July 2
#Forgeries by a priest cause a scandal and lead to Galois' father's suicide
The father of Evariste Galois commits suicide. Earlier, the Jesuit
priest of Bourg-la-Reine had forged Mayor's Galois's name to a number of
malicious epigrams directed at Galois's own relatives. Unable to cope
with the scandal caused by the Jesuit priest, his father commits suicide.
At the time, the Jesuits were the leaders of right-wing forces in France
after the era of Napolean.
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#1847
#The clergy in Scotland fight the use of anesthetic drugs for childbirth
In response to complete opposition and fiery condemnations of the clergy
of Scotland, Sir James Simpson publishes a paper defending the use of
anesthetic agents in midwifery. The clergy had long opposed as heresy such
aid to women in labor, citing Biblical references. Unlike Agnes Sampson, who
was burned in 1591 for providing similar aid, Simpson silences the clergy
by refuting all supposed Biblical injunctions to let women suffer through
childbirth.
Part of his paper cites the many cases of church opposition to human
innovation. He cites an example of the attempted frustration of advancement
in the field of agriculture. There had been strong opposition to the
introduction of the winnowing machine which separates chaff from grain. This
process had been carried out formerly by throwing gain into the air and
allowing the wind to carry the chaff away. "Winds", it was argued, "are raised
by God alone, and it is irreligious for man to attempt to raise wind for the
aforesaid purpose for himself, and by the efforts of his own". One clergyman
had debarred from communion such of his parish as used the winnowing machine.
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#1914
#All of the books of the philosopher Henri Bergson are banned by the Vatican
In 1907, Henri Bergson publishes his "Creative Evolution", and soon
becomes a popular figure in the philosophical world. In 1914, the Catholic
Church places all of his books upon the Index Expurgatorius. Bergson's
works included much philosophical support for Darwin's theory of evolution.
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#1925
#John Scopes is found guilty of teaching evolution in Tennessee
In Tennessee, John Scopes is found guilty of having taught evolution
based on Charles Darwin's "Origin of Species". The state legislature soon
after passes a law forbidding any teacher in the state "to teach any theory
that denies the story of the Divine creation of man as taught in the Bible,
and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals."
The law remains on the statute books until 1967.
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#1940
#Bertrand Russell is removed as philosophy professor from City U of New York
Bertrand Russell is appointed Professor of Philosophy at the College of
the City of New York. Bishop William Manning of the Episcopal Church
denounces the appointment because Russell was a "recognized propagandist
against religion and morality." A Brooklyn housewife institutes a suit
against the Board of Higher Education on the ground that her daughter might
be injured if she enrolled in one of Russell's classes. The New York courts
support the suit, and Russell's appointment is voided.
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#1968, June 30
#Pope Paul VI states that the Vatican alone possesses the absolute truth.
Pope Paul VI releases a solemn credo in which he states that the Roman
Catholic Church alone is in possession of the absolute truth.
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#1991, Aug
#Higher death rate is found among Christians who oppose medical treatment
A longterm study of graduates from two religious colleges found a higher
death rate among the Christian Scientist group, whose religion opposes medical
treatment, federal health officials said Thursday. The 1945-1983 study
involved the graduating classes of Christian Science-affiliated Principia
College in Elsah, Ill., and Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, Calif., a
Seventh-day Adventist institution. The doctrines of both schools require
abstinence from alcohol consumption and smoking.
However, "Christian Scientists reject medical healing in favor of
spiritual healing alone, whereas Seventh-day Adventists accept both spiritual
and medical healing", said the federal Centers for Disease Control, which
conducted the study. Seventh-day Adventists are also required to abstain from
eating certain foods, such as pork and shellfish. In addition, the church
recommends a vegetarian diet that limits the consumption of meat, poultry or
fish to less than once per week. The Christian Scientist-affiliated college
did not require similar diet restrictions.
During the 39-year period, a total of 2,421 men and 2,669 women graduated
from Principia College, or PC, and 5,010 men and 3,788 women graduated from
the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Loma Linda University, or LLU.
"Overall mortality was higher for PC graduates than for LLU graduates, for men
40 per 1,000 and 22 per 1,000 respectively; and for women 27 per 1,000 and 12
per 1,000 respectively", the CDC said.
One drawback of the study was that it did not look at the death rate for
comparable graduates from non-religious colleges. Robert Hahn, an
epidemiologist with the CDC, said the study was primarily aimed at determining
whether rejection of medical healing in favor of spiritual healing influenced
the death rate in a population group.
The CDC researcher conceded the dietary habits of Seventh-day Adventists
are associated with lower risks for several chronic diseases. However, another
study two years ago comparing mortality of Christian Scientist graduates with
those from the University of Kansas also found a higher death rate for the
Christian Scientists, he said. "Previous reports have described differences in
health status and disease patterns in religious groups in the United States",
the CDC said, citing prolonged outbreaks of measles, rubella, and polio among
Amish and Christian Scientists who reject immunizations.
It said that in 1984 "of all reported cases of measles classified as
'nonpreventable,' 89.2 percent occurred among persons exempt from vaccination
laws for religious or philosophic reasons".
--
**************************************************************************
Greg Aharonian
Source Translation & Optimiztion
P.O. Box 404, Belmont, MA 02178

Keith Ramsay

unread,
May 10, 1993, 9:05:17 PM5/10/93
to
In <C6tvn...@world.std.com> src...@world.std.com (Gregory Aharonian) writes:
| Recently Will Brandt at Caltech posted a very excellent timetable of
|significant historical events in the field of science. Given that science
|is a much a search for the new as a fight against the old (or at least
|that's my opinion), I thought I would post a list of historical events where
|religion did something against science or unscientific.

Many of these are striking examples, but I am doubtful about whether
some of these fit. For example:

|#1829, July 2
|#Forgeries by a priest cause a scandal and lead to Galois' father's suicide
| The father of Evariste Galois commits suicide. Earlier, the Jesuit
|priest of Bourg-la-Reine had forged Mayor's Galois's name to a number of
|malicious epigrams directed at Galois's own relatives. Unable to cope
|with the scandal caused by the Jesuit priest, his father commits suicide.
|At the time, the Jesuits were the leaders of right-wing forces in France
|after the era of Napolean.

As bad as this is, it seems a political rather than a scientific
matter. It's not as though it was directed against the young Galois
because of his future mathematical pursuits.

Keith Ramsay
ram...@unixg.ubc.ca

Alfred M. Kriman

unread,
May 11, 1993, 7:38:02 AM5/11/93
to
In article <C6tvn...@world.std.com> src...@world.std.com (Gregory Aharonian) writes:
> Recently Will Brandt at Caltech posted a very excellent timetable of
>significant historical events in the field of science. Given that science
>is a much a search for the new as a fight against the old (or at least
>that's my opinion), I thought I would post a list of historical events where
>religion did something against science or unscientific. There is no
>particular significance to the events I have included, other than I came
>across them while researching various things. Incidents touch on physics,
>mathematics, engineering, medicine and computers.
>
>Greg Aharonian
>src...@world.std.com
>
>----------------------------------------------------------------------------
>#1600, Feb 17
>#Girodano Bruno is burned at the stake on orders from the Pope.
> Giordano Bruno is burned at the stake on orders from the Pope. In 1584,
>Bruno had written a book advocating the Copernican view of the universe,
>and how it applied to the difference between Protestants and Catholics with
>regards to the Eucharist. His hopes were to unify the Protestant English
>and Catholic French. Unfortunately, Rome supported Spain and it's status
>quo position in Europe. After his arrest and trial by the Inquisition,
>the Pope orders Bruno's execution.
>----------------------------------------------------------------------------
I thought his sentence was determined by a panel of inquisitors (although
perhaps as a formality the pope signed off on it). As the flames rose about
him, he is supposed to have told them:
"Your sentence strikes more fear into your souls than I now feel."

>----------------------------------------------------------------------------
>#1616, April
>#The Vatican condemns a book supporting Copernician theory with the Bible
> The Catholic Congregation of the Index condemns a book by a friar,
>Paolo Antonio Foscarini, in which he attempts to show that the Copernician
>system is not contrary to Holy Scripture.
>----------------------------------------------------------------------------

While not defending the practice of indexing, I would like to point out that
having one or another of one's writings indexed was a pretty common event in
those days for Italian authors. It was an almost unavoidable hazard if one
wrote a lot, and that alone did not put one in personal jeopardy. [I don't
know the facts in the case of Fra. Foscarini.]

>#1620
>#Johannes Kepler defends his mother, who had been imprisoned as a witch
> Johannes Kepler defends his mother in Tubingen, who had been imprisoned
>as a witch.
>----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Actually, this took place over a number of years (1615-1621), although he
was not always directly involved. He participated mostly 1617-1620. It
was a long legal hassle, and he spent months preparing legal briefs and
appeals, seeking a change-of-venue, and plea-bargaining (this last finally
acquitted her, but by the time of her release she was so weaked by ill-use
that she died a couple of years later).
Kepler's mother's problems, while cruel and unjust, hadn't much (or really
_anything_, as I recall) to do with Johannes's work. It may have had a bit
to do with the Protestant/Catholic conflict (her husband had fought for the
"wrong" side at one time). It may have had something to do with the fact that
one of Johannes's brothers was an epileptic; it may have been simple spite or
simple venality [during the last years of her appeals, for example, when she
was kept in chains in an drafty shed (?), her family was required to pay for
the two shiftless fellows hired to make sure the septuagenarian witch didn't
pull a Houdini].
Of course, while the cause of these tribulations did not lie in resist-
ance to Kepler's scientific work, it did have an effect on that work: it
delayed his finishing his favorite work: _Harmonices Mundi_. (Some mis-
interpreted comments in his published work did cause problems at trial,
though. His astrological predictions were considered orthodox by both
Catholics and Protestants, on the other hand.)
To be fair, however, the really major problem that prevented Kepler
from accomplishing more -- as he might have, who knows -- was the problem
of finding steady employment. Religion (the banning of teachers of non-RC
confession) did contribute to his problems, but this again had little to
do with his scientific contributions. One tragedy is that he pissed away
much of his life as a human calculator, completing the Rudolfian Tables
(tabulation of Tycho Brahe's observations). This is like Albert Einstein
staying at the patent office forever, or John Baez becoming a full-time
moderator for alt.physics.new-theories.research, say.

>----------------------------------------------------------------------------
>#1755, November
>#Clergy in Lisbon explain a deadly earthquake as punishment from God
> On All Saints' Day, a strong earthquake strikes Lisbon, killing 30,000
>people, including many people in churches. Shortly thereafter, the French
>clergy try to explain the disaster as punishment from God for the sins of the
>people of Lisbon.
>----------------------------------------------------------------------------

But hey, it provided good source material for Voltaire's _Candide_.

>--
>**************************************************************************
>Greg Aharonian
>Source Translation & Optimiztion
>P.O. Box 404, Belmont, MA 02178

You forgot last year's _nuanced_ re-evaluation of the Galileo case by the
Vatican.

Also, wasn't there a recent finding that "women are not mal-formed men" or
some such?

david dixon

unread,
May 11, 1993, 4:42:24 PM5/11/93
to
A very interesting article. It is all the more interesting to note that
such anti-scientific religious idiocy still abounds today. It wouldn't
bother me so much if the goofball zealots would keep it to themselves.
After all, I respect the right of anybody to be a bozo on their own time.
However, their are too many religious jerkweeds trying to cram
ideologies down everyone else's throats (though this by no means is
a majority of the religious people).

Example : I recently attended a lecture on Creationism, replete with
pleas that this be taught in major universities, etc. The idiot who
was talking, however, knew nothing about science, but argued mostly
from the basis with scripture laced with high school physics. At one
point he explained the fossil record by saying that more advanced
animals could run faster, and hence got to higher ground before the
flood got them. So I asked him to explain how the mor advanced plants
could run uphill. He ignored me.

Again, such stupidity in itself is not so bad, but it seems to show
up in legislation aimed at propagating Biblical misinformation
(teaching "alternate" creation/evolution theories in public schools)
or curbing scientific research. Interestingly, scientists often
cleave to the currently accepted "truth" in a way that resembles
religious fervor. The difference is that science is malleable in
what it defines as true, while the religious hard line finds it
necessary to keep to the literal word of the Bible.

Glad I could get that off my chest.

Dave

Steve Leffler

unread,
May 12, 1993, 3:29:41 PM5/12/93
to
di...@galaxy.ucr.edu (david dixon) writes:

>... Interestingly, scientists often


>cleave to the currently accepted "truth" in a way that resembles
>religious fervor. The difference is that science is malleable in
>what it defines as true, while the religious hard line finds it
>necessary to keep to the literal word of the Bible.

I tend to think that this is one of the most damaging effects of the
so-called "Creation Science" movement. It has forced more mainstream
scientists to cling too tightly to the theory of evolution by natural
selection because any appearance of doubt in the theory or the specific
mechanisms by which it works tends to be seized upon by the creationists
as evidence that evolution is wrong. I tend to think that evolution is
generally the right idea, but that our understanding of the mechanisms
behind it is not yet complete. Random mutations being processed by
natural selection seems to me to be an insufficient mechanism by
itself. I suspect that there is more going on than is currently apparent.

--
---Steven Leffler
lef...@physics.ubc.ca

edgar pearlstein

unread,
May 12, 1993, 4:59:42 PM5/12/93
to
.
Persons interested in this subject should look at: A History of the
Warfare of Science with Theology, by Andrew D. White (2 vols. Dover, 1960.
Originally published in 1895). The author was a historian, the first president
of Cornell University and a diplomat of the U.S. to Russia.

.

Wolfgang Ratzka

unread,
May 13, 1993, 8:49:45 AM5/13/93
to
Gregory Aharonian (src...@world.std.com) wrote:
: #The Apostle Paul misinterprets a profound mathematical theorem

: In a letter to a Greek church, the apostle Paul gets tough with false
: preachers, instructing in the Book of Titus, section 1, verses 10-14

: "For there are many insubordinate men, empty talkers and deceivers,
: especially the circumcision party; they must be silenced, since they
: are upsetting whole families by teaching for base gain what they have
: no right to teach. ONE OF THEMSELVES, A PROPHET OF THEIR OWN, SAID
: "CRETANS ARE ALWAYS LIARS, EVIL BEASTS, LAZY GLUTTONS". This testimony
: is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, instead of giving heed to
: Jewish myths or to commands of men who reject the truth".

: Here, Paul misinterprets one of mathematics most famous thinkers, Epimemides,
: a Cretan whose statement "All Cretans are liars", a simple way of illustrating
: the difficulties of dealing with self-reference in formal descriptive systems,
: still is the subject of much thought two thousand years later. An insight
: mathematicans consider beautiful is use to encourage intolerance.
: ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

It may be worth mentioning that Paul's Letter to Titus is nowadays not tributed to
Paul anymore, but is dated later. The author used Paul's name and imitated Paul's
openings and closing phrases in order to benefit from Paul's authority.

: ----------------------------------------------------------------------------


: #500-1000
: #People mistake bioluminescence for spirits in shallow graveyards
: Throughout the Dark Ages, unsanitary disposal of dead bodies leads to
: mistaken observation of spirits. At the onset of the Dark Ages, with disease
: decimating Europe, unwrapped bodies lie in shallow graves where vaporous
: decomposition products, acted on by microorganisms, become bioluminescent.
: Casual observers, passing at a distance, see glowing 'spirits' hovering in
: the graveyard, which to the ignorant are interpreted as souls and ghosts.
: ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

This is religious anti-science?

: ----------------------------------------------------------------------------


: #1000
: #Pope Sylvester II creates a talking head
: Pope Sylvester II is alleged to have contrived a statue with a talking
: head, cast after inspecting the stars when the planets were about to begin
: their courses. The head, to quote William of Malmesbury, "It spake not
: unless spoken to, but then pronounced the truth, either in the affirmative
: or the negative." Pope Sylvester had been educated by the Saracens in
: astrology, necromancy, and other occult skills.
: ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

: #1260


: #A Bishop in Germany is credited with building a talking, thinking, robot
: Albertus Magnus, Bishop of Ratisbon, is credited with building a mechanical
: robot which could answer questions and solve problems. The robot took thirty
: years to build. The robot once salutes one of Magnus' students, Thomas
: Aquinas, who, convinced that this had something to do with the devil, consigns
: the robot to the flame. In spite of Magnus' reputation as a sorcerer, he is
: canonized.
: ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Those two stories are history? Cmon. (Ratisbon is today's Regensburg by the way)

: ----------------------------------------------------------------------------


: #1456
: #Pope Calixtus attempts to excommunicate Halley's comet.
: Pope Calixtus attempts to excommunicate Halley's comet.
: ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Did he succed? If yes, has Halley's comet been rehabilitated since?

: ----------------------------------------------------------------------------


: #1829, July 2
: #Forgeries by a priest cause a scandal and lead to Galois' father's suicide
: The father of Evariste Galois commits suicide. Earlier, the Jesuit
: priest of Bourg-la-Reine had forged Mayor's Galois's name to a number of
: malicious epigrams directed at Galois's own relatives. Unable to cope
: with the scandal caused by the Jesuit priest, his father commits suicide.
: At the time, the Jesuits were the leaders of right-wing forces in France
: after the era of Napolean.
: ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Religious Anti-Science, that one?


Well you are mixing some interesting facts with some 'trivia', which
make one think that you are not so much pro-science than
anti-religious. ;-)

--
___ Wolfgang Ratzka
| | :-) -------------------------------------------------------
| /\ | \ X400: rat...@rphs1.physik.uni-regensburg.dbp.de
|/ \| \ SMTP: rat...@rphs1.physik.uni-regensburg.de

Robert Coe

unread,
May 13, 1993, 2:57:09 PM5/13/93
to
di...@galaxy.ucr.edu (david dixon) writes:

> Interestingly, scientists often cleave to the currently accepted "truth"
> in a way that resembles religious fervor. The difference is that science
> is malleable in what it defines as true, while the religious hard line
> finds it necessary to keep to the literal word of the Bible.

At least when you argue with creationists, you know exactly what arguments
you have to defeat. Conventional science is a moving target. A phenomenon
is observed, and an explanation is proposed. Time passes (often accompanied
by little actual verification of the proposed theory), and the theory be-
comes more and more cast in stone. So now anybody who challenges inflation,
say, or the free existence of quarks is liable to be considered a yokel. A
bizarre extreme example is that of cosmologists who staunchly defend both
black hole theory and the infinite concentration of matter at the time of
the Big Bang, despite the fact that the two theories cannot possibly both
be true.

___ _ - Bob
/__) _ / / ) _ _
(_/__) (_)_(_) (___(_)_(/_______________________________________ b...@1776.COM
Robert K. Coe ** 14 Churchill St, Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776 ** 508-443-3265

Bruce d. Scott

unread,
May 14, 1993, 4:29:04 AM5/14/93
to
Robert Coe asserted:

"A bizarre extreme example is that of cosmologists who staunchly defend both
black hole theory and the infinite concentration of matter at the time of
the Big Bang, despite the fact that the two theories cannot possibly both
be true."

This is incorrect. It ignores that the cosmology refers to global solutions
to the Einstein equation -- in which the spatial part is isotropic and
homogeneous: it has the same curvature and the same mass-energy density
at all spatial points for a given value of the time coordinate. The black
hole solutions, on the other hand, consider a point mass at one location
and match the solution to flat, Minkowski space at large coordinate distances
from the point mass. In the black hole solutions the space-time is _static_,
no parameters depend on the time coordinate. Even in collapsing-star
calculations where things are time-dependent, there is still this matching
to flat space at large distances which results in the presence of an event
horizon near the object at the origin of the spatial part of the domain.

It is a matter of different boundary conditions. One should remember that
general relativity produces global geometries, so what is done at the
boundaries affects the resulting space-time structure at all points within
the 4-dimensional domain.

The fallacy quoted by Mr Coe is very widespread, even among physicists,
and suggests deficiencies in the teaching of general relativity. For
example, I was taught by Misner, and at no time was this importance of
boundary conditions mentioned (although he did take great care to deal
with the conceptual difficulties of gravitational waves). Part of the
problem may be that cosmology often gets cut in such courses due to lack
of time.

I think the resolution of the problem should go in the FAQ, since it arises
in sci.physics with great regularity.
--
Gruss,
Dr Bruce Scott The deadliest bullshit is
Max-Planck-Institut fuer Plasmaphysik odorless and transparent
bds at spl6n1.aug.ipp-garching.mpg.de -- W Gibson

Matt McIrvin

unread,
May 14, 1993, 5:42:03 PM5/14/93
to
b...@1776.COM (Robert Coe) writes:

>At least when you argue with creationists, you know exactly what arguments
>you have to defeat. Conventional science is a moving target. A phenomenon
>is observed, and an explanation is proposed. Time passes (often accompanied
>by little actual verification of the proposed theory), and the theory be-
>comes more and more cast in stone. So now anybody who challenges inflation,
>say, or the free existence of quarks is liable to be considered a yokel.

Uh, no. Inflation is hardly universally accepted these days-- it's
challenged all the time by cosmologists who are not considered yokels
at all. As for the "free existence of quarks," I don't know of *anyone*
who believes in that, not at low energy scales, at least. As for why
we believe in QCD, the answer is evidence (which just got somewhat more
impressive-- the most recent PRL describes a lattice gauge theory
calculation which apparently [though I am no expert] gets some hadron
masses nearly right from an approximation to QCD, a major result).

> A
>bizarre extreme example is that of cosmologists who staunchly defend both
>black hole theory and the infinite concentration of matter at the time of
>the Big Bang, despite the fact that the two theories cannot possibly both
>be true.

What? This is interesting. How does one prohibit the other? If you
think the great concentration in the Big Bang would cause a black hole
to keep the universe from expanding, it would be advisable to study
what general relativity actually has to say.
--
Matt 01234567 <-- The amazing Indent-o-Meter (modulo 8)
McIrvin ^ Harnessing tab damage for humanity!

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