Answers

How Do you Fix an Illicit Sacrament?
Q: I recently read your post titled “Can Catholics Marry in any Parish Church They Want?” To my dismay, I learned for the first time that if a wedding takes place outside the parish of residence, permission for the wedding … Continue reading → The post How Do you Fix an Illicit Sacrament? appeared first on Canon Law Made Easy.
Why Can’t an Ex-Catholic Marry Validly Outside the Church?
Q: Over ten years ago, there were two weddings of ex-Catholic friends outside the Church that I decided to attend, because I considered their membership in other Christian denominations to be a formal renunciation of the Church.  I figured that … Continue reading → The post Why Can’t an Ex-Catholic Marry Validly Outside the Church? appeared first on Canon Law Made Easy.
What Makes a Mass Invalid? (Part II)
Q: At Mass, one visiting priest, consistently and with full intention, refuses to elevate the Eucharist at the consecration, rather he offers it to the congregation.  He says this is in line with the theology brought about by Vatican II; … Continue reading → The post What Makes a Mass Invalid? (Part II) appeared first on Canon Law Made Easy.
Why Can’t an Ex-Catholic Marry Validly Outside the Church?
Q: Over ten years ago, there were two weddings of ex-Catholic friends outside the Church that I decided to attend, because I considered their membership in other Christian denominations to be a formal renunciation of the Church.  I figured that … Continue reading → The post Why Can’t an Ex-Catholic Marry Validly Outside the Church? appeared first on Canon Law Made Easy.
What Makes a Mass Invalid? (Part II)
Q: At Mass, one visiting priest, consistently and with full intention, refuses to elevate the Eucharist at the consecration, rather he offers it to the congregation.  He says this is in line with the theology brought about by Vatican II; … Continue reading → The post What Makes a Mass Invalid? (Part II) appeared first on Canon Law Made Easy.
What Makes a Mass Invalid? (Part I)
Q1: My book-study group started talking about what constitutes a valid Mass.  One person is under the impression that as long as the consecration is completed properly, the Mass would be valid. Another person suggested that even if a part … Continue reading → The post What Makes a Mass Invalid? (Part I) appeared first on Canon Law Made Easy.
“Aron Ra” Gets Everything Wrong
Unfortunately the New Atheist activist who calls himself “Aron Ra” is all too typical of this kind of polemicist – he does not let his profound ignorance of history stop him from pontificating about it. In a recent debate he put this on full display, with a remarkable burst of pseudo historical gibberish proclaimed with supreme confidence and smug self-assurance. Yet virtually everything he said was wrong. L. Aron Nelson, the anti-theism activist who calls himself “Aron Ra”, has a YouTube channel and a blog he writes with his wife called  “Reason Advocates”, both of which focus substantially on battling Creationism and other forms of fundamentalist nonsense. On matters scientific, Nelson seems pretty solid. When he turns to history, however, the results are truly woeful. As I have detailed in my critique of his garbled ideas about the historical Jesus, his understanding of New Testament studies and their historical contexts are most charitably described as both “minimal” and “confused”. But in April 2019 he took on Christian apologist Tyler Vela in a debate entitled “Has Christianity Historically Been in Conflict with Science?” and the centrepiece of his opening statement was a sustained piece of mangled nonsense presented as “history”. It is a remarkable example of what happens when someone with little to no grasp of the relevant material has read some stuff that he likes from fellow historically illiterate polemicists and decides to present it as fact. It is worth quoting in full before I take it apart. It begins at the 13.12 minute timestamp in the video above, though I have excluded a long account of Old Testament cosmology from 13.29 to 14.13 minutes, so as to focus on his claims about history: Within the spherical bubble of the firmament is a flat circle according to Isaiah 40:22 in which St. Augustine described as a disc suspended in the concavity of the heavens which the Bible describes as the expanse within that giant crystal dome [of] the firmament  …. Augustine said that it was mere conjecture that there might be “antipodes” – meaning men who walked with their feet opposite ours –  and the other side is [the] two-sided coin that he imagined our world to be according to Scripture. He said there was no reason to believe the fable that people lived on the other side of the world. But he said that six hundred years after Eratosthenes had already found that the world was round and gauged its circumference. So had Aristarchus other ancient Grecian scientists like Pythagoras; and Anaximander (?) and Aristotle had each followed different lines of evidence to the same conclusion. Yet even a couple centuries after St. Augustine, St. Procopius of Caesarea also expressed belief in a disc-world that the scriptures depict. He said if there be men on the other side of the earth Christ must have gone there and suffered a second time to save them and therefore there must have been as necessary preliminaries to his coming a duplicate Adam, Eve, serpent and deluge. So Procopius also imagined a two-sided coin, with our world on one side and a coin with our world on one side and a mirror image on the flip side.A few more centuries later the Christian monk and famous artist Hieronymus Bosch was still painting the earth as a flat disc within a transparent crystal ball even when Columbus was sailing to the new world proving the scriptural depiction wrong again. So Christianity was still promoting belief in a flat earth eighteen hundred years after science had already repeatedly shown that the earth is a sphere.But if you want even better examples of Christianity historically conflicting with science there are many. In the early 1500s Copernicus proposed the idea that the earth was not the centre of the universe as the Bible implied. The church condemned his theory as heretical, holding to the literal interpretation that the Sun is in heaven and turns around the earth with great speed and that the earth is very far from heaven and sits motionless at the centre of the world. Copernicus had already died in the same year that his theory was published before the church could catch him and kill him for contradicting them, but later that same century a Dominican monk named Giordano Bruno proposed another heretical hypothesis called “cosmic pluralism” – the idea that the stars were suns like our own, albeit much further away and that they might have their own planets and perhaps even life on them. So the church burned him at the stake.And somehow this didn’t stop his contemporary Galileo, the father of modern science, from further promoting heliocentrism with his astronomical observations. The church tried him for heresy too and forced him to recant – they forced him to lie about what he could show to be true and he spent the rest of his life under house arrest. Consider the Holy Inquisition words of judgement against Galileo in 1616: “The first proposition that the Sun is the centre and does not revolve about the earth is foolish, absurd, false in theology and heretical because it [is] expressly contrary to Holy Scripture. And the second proposition that the earth is not the centre but revolves about the Sun, is absurd, false in philosophy and, from a theological point of view at least opposed to the truth faith.” There’s no such thing as a true faith. Faith is convincing yourself of things that are not evidently true and then refusing to admit when you’re wrong. So, the Catholic Church stuck to this ruling until 1992. That’s 376 years of Christianity being increasingly conflicted with science on many different fronts. Wow. Where to begin? Augustine was a Flat Earther? The first historical claim Nelson makes is that “St. Augustine described [the earth] as a disc suspended in the concavity of the heavens”. This claim is startling to anyone who has actually read Augustine’s works, given that it is completely contradicted by what Augustine actually says about the shape of the earth. He was careful to warn Christians against making stupid claims about cosmology based purely on interpretations of the Bible and in contradiction of accepted natural philosophy: Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an unbeliever to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.(De genesi ad litteram, I.19) Here Augustine seems to be referring to the followers of the Antiochene school who upheld the fringe view of Diodore of Tarsus that the earth and sky had a kind of “tabernacle” shape, based largely on their reading of scriptures. Diodore seems to have inspired similar beliefs in John Chrysostom and, most famously, Cosmas Indicopleustes, who are among the few genuine flat earthers in the early Christian tradition. These Patristics were in the minority even in their own time and, contrary to the “medieval flat earth” myth Nelson is propagating in the video above, had no lasting influence in their Greek-speaking sphere and were totally unknown in the Latin west. Augustine, on the other hand, followed Basil of Caesarea and his own spiritual mentor Ambrose in arguing that a spherical earth and the accepted cosmology of the Platonic and Aristotelian conceptions of the world were entirely compatible with Christian exegesis. In places Augustine seems to speak about the sphericity of the earth as hypothetical, but in others he shows he himself understands it to be a sphere. For example: [D]uring the time when it is night with us the presence of light is illuminating those parts of the world past which the sun is returning from its setting to its rising, and … thus during the entire twenty-four hours, while it circles through its whole round, there is always day-time somewhere, night-time somewhere else. (De genesi ad litteram, I.10.21) And from elsewhere in the same work: Although water still covered all the earth, there was nothing to prevent the massive watery sphere from having day on one side by the presence of light, and on the other side, night by the absence of light. Thus, in the evening, darkness would pass to that side from which light would be turning to the other. (De genesi ad litteram, XXX.33) This only makes sense if Augustine is describing a spherical, geostatic earth of the kind detailed by Aristotle in On the Heavens and maintained by most (though, it should be noted, not all) ancient pagan scholars in the Greek tradition. So Augustine did accept that the earth was a sphere and was well aware of the arguments that supported this idea. This is why it is startling for anyone familiar with his works to hear Nelson claim Augustine “described [it] as a disc suspended in the concavity of the heavens”. Have all scholars of the history of cosmology somehow missed this description by Augustine? Just in case this had happened, I went searching for any such passage in Augustine’s corpus or for any description of the earth as “a disc”. I found nothing. What seems to have confused Nelson is Augustine’s comments on the Antipodes – the idea that there are land masses on the other side of the earth and that they are inhabited. This is why in the video he goes on to say: Augustine said that it was mere conjecture that there might be “antipodes” – meaning men who walked with their feet opposite ours –  and the other side is [the] two-sided coin that he imagined our world to be according to Scripture. He said there was no reason to believe the fable that people lived on the other side of the world. He is referring to this passage from Augustine’s De civitatae dei: But as to the fable that there are Antipodes, that is to say, men on the opposite side of the earth, where the sun rises when it sets to us, men who walk with their feet opposite ours, that is on no ground credible. And, indeed, it is not affirmed that this has been learned by historical knowledge, but by scientific conjecture, on the ground that the earth is suspended within the concavity of the sky, and that it has as much room on the one side of it as on the other: hence they say that the part which is beneath must also be inhabited. But they do not remark that, although it be supposed or scientifically demonstrated that the world is of a round and spherical form, yet it does not follow that the other side of the earth is bare of water; nor even, though it be bare, does it immediately follow that it is peopled. For Scripture, which proves the truth of its historical statements by the accomplishment of its prophecies, gives no false information; and it is too absurd to say, that some men might have taken ship and traversed the whole wide ocean, and crossed from this side of the world to the other, and that thus even the inhabitants of that distant region are descended from that one first man(De civitatae dei, XVI.9) But here Augustine is not talking about any “disc” – the reference to “the opposite side of the earth, where the sun rises when it sets to us” should be enough indication that he is discussing whether inhabited continents exist on the other side of a spherical earth. His points are (i) the sphericity of the earth does not necessarily indicate that there are land masses on the other side and (ii) the Bible says any such land masses would have to be inhabited by descendants of Adam (“that one first man”) and that would imply an ocean voyage so far that it is “absurd”. Here Augustine is taking a position in a debate that had a long and mostly pre-Christian pedigree in the Greek tradition. The Oikoumene and the Antipodes Early Greek ideas about the size and shape of the world expanded greatly in the fourth century BC, when the conquests of Alexander the Great to the east and the voyages of Pytheas of Massalia to the west and north meant the Greco-Roman world had a broader understanding of the Oikoumene – the known and inhabited world. This was seen as a generally rectangular mass made up of the three continents – Europe, Africa and Asia. In this conception, Africa was a much smaller and narrower region than the modern continent and was not thought to extend beyond the equator and was considered to be bounded to the south by an ocean. The idea that the earth was a sphere may have been around as early as c. 500 BC and it is thought the Pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides established the idea of the five zones of the earth – including two temperate zones which were inhabitable and then the two tropical zones on either side of the equator, which were largely uninhabitable due to the heat of the sun there. While there were Greek schools of thought which stuck with a flat earth cosmology, especially the Epicurians, this conception of the earth was accepted by most of the schools of thought – Stoic, Platonic and Aristotelian – that influenced the early Christian thinkers and their medieval successors. It consisted of the Oikoumene taking up only part of the northern hemisphere’s temperate zone, with the arctic and the tropic zones largely uninhabited and the equator impassibly hot. Eratosthenes famously used geometry to establish his calculation of the circumference of the earth at 252,000 Greek stadi , which (depending on the length of the stadion he was using) was reasonably accurate. He also estimated that the Oikoumene was around 74,000 stadi from west to east and only 38,000 stadi from north to south. This meant the whole “inhabited world”, which was effectively the “known world”, took up only a portion of the northern temperate zone: about 30% of the estimated latitude of the northern hemisphere and 59% of its estimated longitude. This not only struck some of Eratosthenes’ successors as relatively small when the size of the globe overall was considered, but it also offended the Greek sense of symmetry. The whole thing looked rather lopsided. Crates of Mallos, head of the Library of Pergamon, is said to have created a world globe based in part on Eratosthenes’ work, but also on his reading of Homer, which was regarded by the Greeks with a reverence a little like that of the Bible to Christians later. He surmised that there had to be another continent south of the equator to “balance” the mass of the Oikoumene in the north and he based this in part on a Homeric reference. Writing later, Strabo reports that Crates explained Homer’s line – “The Ethiopians who dwell sundered in twain, the farthermost of men” – and argued that on each side of an equatorial ocean there lived the Ethiopians, their skin darkened by their proximity to the tropics, divided by the ocean: one group in the Northern Hemisphere, the other group in the Southern, without any interchange between them. Crates referred to this southern, balancing mass as the land of the Antoecians. He similarly posited that there should be another balancing land mass in the northern hemisphere, west of the Oikoumene, which he called the land of the Perioecians and a fourth, in the southern hemisphere, which he called the land of the Antipodeans, since their feet were in the opposite direction to the people of the Oikoumene (Antipodeans is plural of ἀντίπους (antipous), “with feet opposite (ours)”). Crates’ Globe Not all of Crates’ conjectural continents caught on, but the idea of a balancing Antipodes, occupying a position opposite the known Oikoumene remained a hypothetical and a subject of debate. Many accepted its existence, including Pliny the Elder, whose works on natural philosophy were highly influential in the Middle Ages. The whole idea remained conjecture, however, because everyone agreed on one thing: regardless of whether any Antipodes existed, they would be totally unreachable. This was because the equator was considered most likely to be too hot to cross and, even if it was not, the distances involved were well beyond the maritime technology of the ancient world. The Roman poet Marcus Manilius writes of these unreachable hypothetical continents in his astrological poem Astronomica (c. 30-40 AD): Another part of the world lies under the waters, inaccessible to us,There there are unknown races of men, and unvisited realms,Drawing a shared light from a single sun.(Astronomica, I.373-5) As strange as it may seem to us, both the assumption of the great heat of the equatorial torrid zone and the fact that ancient ships could only make very short oceanic voyages (from the Gulf of Aden to the west coast of India was about their limit) meant that these hypothetical Antipodean lands remained just that – only a theory. So this is the context of the Augustine passage to which Nelson refers – a context that he clearly knows nothing of. As a learned man of his time, Augustine is writing in the traditions of his culture and so is aware of the possibility of antipodean continents on the other side of the globe. But he rejects the idea that, if they exist, they may be inhabited because (i) the vast distances involved, (ii) the possibly impassible torrid zone between the Oikoumene and any such places and (iii) the fact that Scripture tells him that man arose in a part of the Oikoumene and so could not have spread to these hypothetical and unreachable places. That third premise may seem strange to us, but using esteemed ancient texts in reasoning of this kind was normal in Augustine’s world and would have been no more strange than Crates hypothesising whole continents from a single line in Homer. This means Nelson, in his ignorance, gets the whole interpretation of Augustine and, similarly, Procopius of Caesarea completely and hopelessly wrong. Neither of these ancient writers is talking about any “disc world” – they know the world to be a globe. They are simply taking part in a long and ongoing intellectual debate about these hypothetical continents and stating, using reasoning known and respected at the time, that ancient and venerated texts show these lands, if they exist, would be uninhabited. The problem here is not that Nelson is profoundly ignorant of the context of the writings he is trying to interpret. After all, most people do not have a deep knowledge of obscure debates in ancient cosmology and geography. No, the problem is that, despite his ignorance, he takes it upon himself to stand up in public and bloviate, at great length and with great self-assurance, expounding on points that are hopelessly and hilariously wrong. He does this because his erroneous ideas are shared by others who share both his ignorance and the bigotry it is based on and these wrong ideas are ready to hand in the smug, dumbed-down echo chamber of online atheist activism. Subjecting them to critical scrutiny and doing some real research to check them (and learn they are wrong) are what a real rationalist would do. But Nelson is just a bigot, a lazy researcher and, as a result, a pompous fool. His foolishness means, in the onrush of his overconfident preaching, he cannot even get the most basic facts right. So he goes on to make a scornful reference to “the Christian monk and famous artist Hieronymus Bosch” depicting a flat earth in his painting The Garden of Earthly Delights (c. 1490-1510 AD). The idea that Bosch was a “Christian monk” fits Nelson’s narrative of the ignorance of the Church, though I imagine it would have come as a surprise to Bosch’s wife, Aleyt Goyaerts van den Meerveen. Bosch was not a monk and not a clergyman of any kind. He was an artisan and artist (and, as his wife would have been able to assure you, married). He was also devoutly religious and a member of the “Illustrious Brotherhood of Our Blessed Lady”, which was a pious confraternity of laymen (not clergy, let alone monks) of a kind that sprang up around Europe in this period. Perhaps that is why Nelson made the blunder of thinking he was a “Christian monk” – see above about Nelson being a poor researcher. More importantly, Nelson’s claim that Bosch’s stylised depiction of the earth as a flat plane within a sphere on the outer panels of his Earthly Delights diptych means that he believed the earth was flat and that this was still believed in the 1490s is completely absurd. Bosch was an artist. His depiction on the outer panels is meant to be a visual and thematic prelude to the three-part depiction of the creation of the world in the painting inside, not an exercise in geography and cartographic projection. As I have detailed here before ( see “The Great Myths 1: The Medieval Flat Earth“), the Church never taught that the earth was flat and idea that anyone believed this in Bosch’s day is ridiculous. Equally ridiculous is Nelson’s reference to how in this time “Columbus was sailing to the new world, proving the scriptural depiction wrong”. Firstly, no-one believed the earth was flat in this period or any previous century of the medieval period. Secondly, Columbus sailing west to the Americas did not prove it was not flat anyway – that would take a circumnavigation, not just a voyage west and back again. Yet again, Nelson simply has no idea what he is talking about. Copernicus, Bruno and Galileo, Of Course No recitation of the litany that is the dusty old “Conflict Thesis” can be complete without an invocation of Nicolas Copernicus and Giordano Bruno as evidence the Church impeded science. So, right on cue, Nelson wheels out the usual myths: “In the early 1500s Copernicus proposed the idea that the earth was not the centre of the universe as the Bible implied. The church condemned his theory as heretical, holding to the literal interpretation that the Sun is in heaven and turns around the earth with great speed and that the earth is very far from heaven and sits motionless at the centre of the world.” This implies that the reason the Church did this was because its default mode was rejection of anything that contradicted a literal interpretation of the Bible as “heretical”. In fact, the Catholic Church, like the Orthodox traditions and many of the larger Protestant churches, does not and did not hold to Biblical literalism – that is a very modern, largely evangelical Protestant and originally American idea. Biblical texts can be interpreted literally, according to Catholic exegesis, but that is only one way they can be read and it is not always the best or even the appropriate way to do so. After all, “[Jesus] came down to Capernaum” (Luke 4:31) is clearly meant to be read literally, but even the most literalist of holy rolling evangelicals would not read Jesus talking about God as a chicken (Luke 13:34) that way. The Church in Copernicus’ time could easily have accommodated Copernicus’ cosmology, but stayed with the more literal interpretations of certain scriptures because Copernicus’ hypothesis was not proven, and had serious scientific problems and contradicted about 1500 years worth of accepted and rationally based Greek physics and astronomy. But – contra Nelson – the Church actually did give Copernicus a fair hearing. In fact, the initial reaction to his thesis from churchmen was one of great interest, not condemnation. Nelson goes on: “Copernicus had already died in the same year that his theory was published before the church could catch him and kill him for contradicting them” And here we have another hoary old myth. I have debunked this one in detail here – see “The Great Myths 6: Copernicus’ Deathbed Publication“. Suffice it to say that there was a whole century between the first circulation of Copernicus’ thesis in 1514 and the eventual rejection of it as “heresy” as part of the complex Galileo Affair beginning in 1616. In that century the reaction of churchmen ranged from rejection of the thesis on scientific grounds to active support and interest, including sponsorship of Copernicus’ work by Bishop Tiedemann Giese of Culm, active interest and enthusiasm from Cardinal Nikolaus von Schönberg and a lecture on the topic in the Vatican gardens in 1533 before a highly interested and appreciative Pope Clement VII, along with Cardinal Franciotto Orsini, Cardinal Giovanni Salviati, the Bishop of Viterbo Giampietro Grassi and the papal physician Matteo Corte. The claim that the Church would have caught and killed Copernicus if they had known about his theory and that he only escaped their clutches by dying soon after his book’s final publication in 1543 is utter nonsense and is proof, yet again, that Nelson has not the faintest idea what he is blustering about. But not content with peddling this myth, Nelson moves straight on to another one: ” later that same century a Dominican monk named Giordano Bruno proposed another heretical hypothesis called “cosmic pluralism” – the idea that the stars were suns like our own, albeit much further away and that they might have their own planets and perhaps even life on them. So the church burned him at the stake.” Again, this is such a hoary myth that I have already given it a detailed debunking here – see “The Great Myths 3: Giordano Bruno was a Martyr for Science“. In summary, Bruno was a mystic and magician and the Early Modern equivalent of a New Age crackpot, not a scientist. He did not adopt the idea of the plurality of worlds out of any scientific reasoning – the whole idea was well beyond the science of the day anyway. He did so because it fitted his weird grab-bag of mystical ideas, including planets with souls, magic, a garbled and erroneous version of Egyptian religion and some crackpot “sacred geometry”. Nelson is wrong, as usual, that the idea of “cosmic pluralism” was something Bruno “proposed” – it was actually something he adopted from someone else. And that someone else was the man he called “the Divine Cusanus”: Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, who was not only a cardinal and member of the Curia but was also a Papal Legate and second only to the pope in the Catholic hierarchy. So, not exactly a heretic. Bruno’s use of this idea almost certainly was one of the reasons he was burned as a heretic, along with things like denying Transubstantiation, the divinity of Jesus or virginity of Mary (all because these things did not fit his mystical personal theology, not because of anything scientific). Given that it had been proposed by Nicholas of Cusa and supported and expanded on by respected theologians like William of Vorilong, there was nothing inherently heretical about the plurality of worlds, though it had fallen out of theological favour by Bruno’s time. The issue was how Bruno used this concept in his melange of kooky mystical ideas. To hold this up as an example of the Church impeding science is totally ridiculous. But we cannot have a ham-fisted defence of the old Conflict Thesis without a mangling of the Galileo Affair: “And somehow this didn’t stop his contemporary Galileo, the father of modern science, from further promoting heliocentrism with his astronomical observations. The church tried him for heresy too and forced him to recant – they forced him to lie about what he could show to be true and he spent the rest of his life under house arrest.” The burning of the mystical kook Bruno for his collection of weird religious and metaphysical speculations did not “stop” Galileo because Galileo did not regard Bruno as doing anything remotely like the work of actual scientists like himself. He once criticised one of Kepler’s ideas by comparing it to Bruno’s style of argument. This was not a compliment – it was the equivalent of a modern physicist comparing a colleague to Deepak Chopra. Kepler shared Galileo’s low opinion of Bruno, calling him a “monster” for his weird religious ideas. Yet Nelson seems to think that Bruno should be regarded as being in the same category as Galileo. Then he perpetuates the nineteenth century idea that Galileo was “the father of science”. This appellation is a pet hate of my friend Thony Christie, who blogs on the history of science at The Renaissance Mathematicus and has written a number of articles there showing why most of the claims for Galileo being somehow unique or “first” as the basis for this title of “the father of science” are flat out wrong. Probably the best of these is his nicely curmudgeonly article “Extracting the Stopper“. Enjoy. The Church certainly did try Galileo for heresy, but only after Galileo entangled himself in some complex politics by deciding to branch out into theology and Biblical interpretation and then by embarrassing the Pope – neither of which were wise things to do in the welter of the Counter Reformation. Prior to these gaffes the Church was well aware of Galileo’s heliocentrism and simply did not care. Four years before he came to the attention of the Inquisition, Galileo published his Letters on Sunspots (Istoria e Dimostrazioni intorno alle Macchie Solari – 1612). All published work in Early Modern Europe had to pass some form of official scrutiny and censorship and in Rome this was overseen by the Inquisition. Galileo’s work included detailed discussion of cosmology and made it crystal clear that he championed Copernicus’ model. The Inquisition did not care one bit, and the booklet was published without any comment or correction regarding those passages. Yet again, Nelson simply does not have a sufficient grasp of the context to comment with any level of understanding. The claim that “they forced him to lie about what he could show to be true” is also absolute garbage. On the contrary, the crux of the issue was that Galileo could not show heliocentrism was true, and everyone involved knew it. In both of his trials, in 1616 and 1633, his problem was that the theory he championed still had major scientific objections to it and it would not be until several decades after his death that these were considered sufficiently resolved for the scientific consensus to swing around to heliocentrism. Though it was not the flawed and tangled model of Copernicus that Galileo argued which was accepted, but a version of Kepler’s model, which Galileo vigorously rejected. As surveys of the scholarship of the time by Jim Westman (1980) and Pietro Daniel Omodeo (2014) show clearly, only around 10 to 12 scholars in the whole of Europe accepted the Copernican model on the eve of Galileo’s trial – the Church had the overwhelming consensus of science on its side, Galileo was the lonely outlier who had to admit he could not demonstrate what he claimed. Nelson gets it all wrong, yet again. This is why he cannot even understand the judgement of the Inquisition that he quotes in such high dudgeon. The reason that judgement says the propositions are “absurd” and “false in philosophy” is it is noting these ideas are contrary to the scientific consensus I just mentioned. “Philosophy” here means “natural philosophy” – i.e. what was later to be called “science”. As anyone who has actually bothered to study the Galileo Affair knows, the judgement is saying that his ideas are scientifically wrong (“false in philosophy”) AND, therefore, “formally heretical”. The Inquisition, headed in 1616 by Cardinal Bellarmine, upheld the traditional reading of certain Biblical texts because the science said they should do so. As Bellarmine had explained in a widely circulated letter just a year earlier, if heliocentrism could be demonstrated then “one would have to proceed with great care in explaining the Scriptures that appear contrary, and say rather that we do not understand them than what is demonstrated is false”. But, he observed with dry understatement, “I will not believe that there is such a demonstration, until it is shown to me” (“Letter to Foscarini” 1615). Galileo’s problem was that in his time there was no such demonstration and both he and Bellarmine knew it. And so the consensus that his preferred model was “absurd in philosophy/[science]” remained. In 1616 and in 1632 the Church had consulted the best science of the time and it had science on its side. It should also be noted that the “words of judgement against Galileo” that Nelson fulminates over do not exist in any document from 1616. They come from a distorted paraphrase of the judgement found in the “RationalWiki” article on Galileo and elsewhere online but ultimately found in Andrew Dickson White’s notoriously unreliable book A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896), one of the founding texts of the “Conflict Thesis” myth. Once again, Nelson shows himself to be an incompetent and lazy researcher with a great talent for getting things wrong. For the actual judgement see The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History, ed. Maurice A. Finocchiaro, University of California Press, 1989, p. 146). “Aron Ra” is the Problem Given the mangling of history in everything else he says, it should come as no surprise that his final flourish on this topic contains yet another myth. Nelson sneers that “the Catholic Church stuck to this ruling until 1992”. This is nonsense. There is no doubt that the tangle of personalities and politics that led to the condemnation of Galileo and of heliocentrism meant that the Church was lumbered with a ruling on a matter of science that was outdated within a century. While the Tychonian geoheliocentric model seemed to fit the data best in Galileo’s time and into the mid century, by the end of the seventeenth century a combination of Kepler’s Three Laws of Planetary Motion and Newton’s new physics meant the consensus swung toward Keplerian heliocentrism and then stayed there. This was awkward for the Catholic Church, which reacted by a series of quiet reversals. Galileo’s works and “uncorrected” copies of Copernicus’ De revolutionibus were placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum after the Inquisition’s ruling against Galileo in 1616. But when the scientific consensus changed the Church began a long process of backpedalling. The “corrections” to Copernicus were minor and their addition – in the form of notes to be pasted into the text or its margins – was never policed and does not seem to have been done much outside of Italy. The ban on Galileo’s works had more effect, but it was lifted in 1718 when permission was given for an edition of his works, minus the offending 1632 work the Dialogue. In 1758 the general prohibition against works advocating heliocentrism was removed from the Index of prohibited books, although the specific ban on uncensored versions of the Dialogue and Copernicus’s De Revolutionibus remained. Then in 1835 these works too were quietly dropped from the Index. Incidentally, this was three years before Friedrich Bessel successfully observed stellar parallax; finally dispatching the last (though already long dead) objection to the earth’s annual orbit of the sun. The Church had quietly dropped its objections to Galileo long before 1992. So what is Nelson referring to? In 1979 Pope John Paul II commissioned the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to look again at the Galileo Affair. It gave its report to the Pope in 1992 (things move slowly in the Vatican) and the pope gave a complex and actually quite learned speech on the occasion, reflecting on the reasons for the Inquisition’s rulings, Galileo’s forays into theology and the historical relationship between science and theology. It was a good speech and no historians of science would find much in it to disagree with. But it went over the heads of many of the journalists who reported on it, so they boiled it down to headlines like “After 350 Years, Vatican Says Galileo Was Right: It Moves” (New York Times, Oct 31, 1992) or “Vatican admits Galileo was Right”(New Scientist, 7 Nov 1992). The idea that the Church took a whole “376 years” to admit it was wrong about heliocentrism might make for a nice headline and a good sneering flourish for Nelson, but it is hardly an accurate depiction of history. And this is precisely the problem. Nelson does not actually care about history, he just wants to use his poorly researched and mostly misunderstood mangled cherry picking of it for rhetorical effect. This is why he is such a lazy researcher, relying on bungled online rehashing of nineteenth century myths and confused nonsense by fellow polemicists. He does not feel the need to check things that feel right, because they conform to his prejudices. As Nathan Johnstone notes in The New Atheism, Myth, and History, he is, like other New Atheists, not an explorer of history but a hunter-gatherer of pseudo history. Whatever suits his polemical purpose will do. I make no apologies for coming down hard on crappy pseudo history like this. Nelson may be a well-meaning fool, but he is a fool nonetheless. There is no excuse for peddling the lazy nonsense he spouts about history, and even less excuse for doing it with such blithe pomposity while claiming to be a rationalist. Nelson’s YouTube channel has over 218,000 subscribers. He has 31,000 Twitter followers. And many of these people are naive enough to take what he blurts as gospel. Here is a sample of some of the admiring comments on the video above: “I don’t know how that Christian dude even had the audacity to present his argument after that opening segment by Aron. Holy shit Aron has refined his art to a deadly razor sharp sword.” (Judicial78)” ARON RA WINS!! FLAWLESS VICTORY!” (KelvinG)” This was over upon the completion of Aron’s opening statement.” (David N)” AronRa won after his opening statement. ” (O.T.) And so on. The Christian debating Nelson actually did a very competent job of debunking pretty much all of the claims discussed above, but when it came time for Nelson to reply, he just shrugged that off as though nothing had happened. It is as though he is not just ignorant, but happy to be wilfully ignorant. The commenters above also seem to have simply watched Nelson’s opening statement and, having heard things that fitted their prejudices, swallowed it whole. No scepticism. No fact checking. No critical analysis. So much for “rationalism”. So the issue is not just that L. Aron Nelson/”Aron Ra” is terrible at history and believes many stupid and erroneous things. It is not even that he is a lazy researcher and poor thinker who does not bother to check things that he finds appealing. It is that he peddles this gibberish to an equally uncritical audience of thousands and they lap it up like the worst kind of fundamentalist fanatics. “Aron Ra” is the problem of New Atheist bad history, embodied. Update – August 24 2019: Some commenters and correspondents wondered if Nelson would respond to this critique. It seems he has, after a fashion. In response to someone who linked to this article on Facebook, he replied: Amazing. The first sentence tries to imply that I am somehow not “right on both points” (though I made more than two points), but does so without bothering to argue how I am wrong. Then he tries to maintain his thesis that Christianity did hinder science despite his examples being wrong, which dodges the question of what examples would support his “point”. Finally, he seems to think that if he just asserts his point stands, my detailed critiques of the only arguments he uses to support it represent “a failed criticism”. Earlier in the exchange on Facebook he admitted he had not actually read my critique, though later he seems to have at least skimmed it because he claims this: “[T]he best [O’Neill’s] got is that although Bosch is often described as belonging to some monastic order, he wasn’t technically a monk, and Augustine may have known that earth was proven to be round although his writing seems uncertain about that.” This is nonsense. Bosch is ” described as belonging to some monastic order” precisely nowhere and he was not a monk “technically” or otherwise because he simply was not a monk. Nelson does not seem to know what a monk is and, more importantly, does not seem to want to understand. I also do not say ” Augustine may have known that earth was proven to be round” – I show clearly that he did. And these two points in a detailed 6700 word critique are hardly “the best [I’ve] got”. He thinks he can bluster his way out of his errors and that if he swaggers and bloviates enough it will look as though he has defended his case. This person represents the kind of boneheaded fanaticism I constantly find among this kind of polemicist. The post “Aron Ra” Gets Everything Wrong appeared first on History for Atheists.
Discovering an Impediment Right Before the Wedding
Q:  My sister has an upcoming marriage in our Catholic Church in the USA. She is divorced for about 8 years now from her civil marriage. She did not tell her priest she was civilly married because she did not … Continue reading → The post Discovering an Impediment Right Before the Wedding appeared first on Canon Law Made Easy.
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