Eppur Si Muove!

“The trial against Galileo didn’t change physical reality or threaten the survival of European civilization; the forces that Wilders is warning against could indeed destroy European civilization if left unchecked.”

In 1633 the great Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei was forced by the Inquisition to recant his heliocentric model of the solar system and affirm that the Earth was actually the motionless center of the Universe. Legend has it that immediately after his conviction, Galileo was heard to mutter “Eppur si muove” — “And yet it moves”. The old man was unable to restrain himself entirely from speaking the simple truth.

In Amsterdam the day after tomorrow, another great man will be hauled before a court and charged with speaking the simple truth. The outcome of the Geert Wilders trial — like Galileo’s — is fixed in advance. Mr. Wilders is indeed guilty of speaking the truth about Islam, and he will undoubtedly be convicted.

Fjordman has written a brief essay outlining the parallels between Galileo Galilei and Geert Wilders, and examines the current trial’s enormous significance for the Netherlands, the continent of Europe, and the whole of Western Civilization.

Geert Wilders as Galileo

Eppur Si Muove
by Fjordman

Some observers have compared the ongoing trial against the prominent Dutch Islam-critic Geert Wilders in the Netherlands to the case against Galileo Galilei in seventeenth century Italy. There is no question that the trial against Galileo represents a dark chapter in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, but there are some popular misconceptions regarding it.

The Italian philosopher and occultist Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) was a supporter of the Sun-centered model of Copernicus and championed the idea that the universe is filled with an infinite array of stars similar to our Sun and that life exists elsewhere in this vast universe. He was embroiled in a long trial with the Roman Inquisition and burned at the stake in 1600. His case remains controversial to this day. In author John Gribbin’s view he was a religious heretic rather than a “martyr for science”, and his execution, while certainly deplorable, happened mainly because of his unorthodox theological ideas, not his scientific ones:

But after 1600 Copernicanism was distinctly frowned upon by the Church, and the fact that Bruno was a Copernican and had been burned as a heretic was hardly encouraging for anyone, like Galileo, who lived in Italy in the early 1600s and was interested in how the world worked. If it hadn’t been for Bruno, Copernicanism might never have received such adverse attention from the authorities, Galileo might not have been persecuted and scientific progress in Italy might have proceeded more smoothly.

In 1624, Galileo was assured by Pope Urban VIII that he could write about the Copernican theory as long as he treated it as a mathematical proposition. However, in his 1632 book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems he clearly sided with Copernicanism by ridiculing the Aristotelians who clung to the Ptolemaic theory. Because of this he was called to Rome in 1633 to face the Inquisition. He was interrogated for 18 days and threatened with torture. The Pope eventually decided that he should be imprisoned indefinitely.

According to Robert Spencer in his book Religion of Peace?: Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t, “Jesuit astronomers were among Galileo’s earliest and most enthusiastic supporters. When Galileo first published supporting evidence for the Copernican heliocentric theory, Cardinal Maffeo Barberini sent him a letter of congratulations. When Galileo visited Rome in 1624, Cardinal Barberini had become Pope Urban VIII. The pope welcomed the scientist, gave him gifts, and assured him that the church would never declare heliocentrism heretical. In fact, the pope and other churchmen, according to historian Jerome Langford, ‘believed that Galileo might be right, but they had to wait for more proof.’ And that was the ultimate source of Galileo’s conflict with the church: he was teaching as fact what still at that time had only the status of theory. When church officials asked Galileo in 1616 to teach heliocentrism as theory rather than as fact, he agreed; however, in 1632 he published a new work, Dialogue on the Great World Systems, in which he presented heliocentrism as fact again. That was why Galileo was put on trial for suspected heresy and placed under house arrest. Historian J. L. Heilbron notes that from the beginning the controversy was not understood the way it has been presented by many critics of the church since then.”

Here is what author James Evans says in his book The History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy, page 424:
– – – – – – – –

Copernicus’s book did not produce an immediate upheaval. However, it certainly did offend the sensibilities of conservative religious thinkers, as well as professors of Aristotelian natural philosophy. With the crackdown on freethinking associated with the Catholic Counter-Reformation, any heterodox opinion became more dangerous than it had previously been. But it was not until 1616 that heliocentrism was officially declared erroneous. De revolutionibus was placed on the Index of books that were prohibited ‘until corrected.’ In principle, De revolutionibus could be circulated and read only if erroneous passages (asserting the mobility of the Earth) were removed. Four years later, a list of ten specific corrections was issued. Owen Gingerich has examined nearly all the surviving copies of the 1543 and 1566 editions of De revolutionibus, which total more than 500 books. The majority of copies in Italy were censored in conformity with the decree. But the decree had almost no effect elsewhere. Not even in Catholic Spain or Portugal were copies censored. The condemnation of De revolutionibus had very little impact on the acceptance of the heliocentric hypothesis. Even the famous trial of Galileo for continuing to advocate heliocentrism after the condemnation only served to popularize the new cosmology.

The case against Galileo may have had a negative impact on Italian science, but its long-term impact on Europe as a whole was quite meager. One of Europe’s greatest comparative strengths has always been that no single authority, secular or religious, could successfully censor the flow of ideas throughout the entire continent. This was very different from, say, Imperial China at the same time. Yet today we have the European Union, which has powers of censorship and indoctrination that the Roman Inquisition could only dream of.

Galileo faced the possibility of torture during his trial, which Wilders currently does not. It was also possible to be executed for heresy in the seventeenth century, as had happened to Bruno a few years before. Many people will say that this is not the case with Wilders today, but the truth is that he risks his life every single day by saying what he is saying, and the security at the Dutch trial is not good. The trial itself exposes him to an elevated risk of assassination, in a country where several critics of Islam have been assassinated. In my view, the Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was executed as a Multicultural heretic. The political elites killed him by whipping up hatred against him, even if they didn’t physically pull the trigger.

Another major difference is that as bad as the case against Galileo was, he was at least allowed to talk about the Copernican hypothesis as long as he presented it as a mathematical hypothesis only. Wilders isn’t even allowed to say, hypothetically speaking, that Islam might be an unusually violent religion, which arguably means that there is even less freedom of speech under the Multicultural Inquisition in 2010 than there was under the Roman one in 1633. Also, the stakes are far greater now than they were back then. The trial against Galileo didn’t change physical reality or threaten the survival of European civilization; the forces that Wilders is warning against could indeed destroy European civilization if left unchecked.

Galileo was found guilty of heresy and remained under house arrest for the remainder of his life, but he nevertheless managed to publish a masterpiece in 1638, the Discourse on Two New Sciences, of a history of physics in which he presented the laws of accelerated motion and falling bodies. Symptomatically, it was smuggled out of Italy and published in the Netherlands. Could Italians return the favor and publish the defense from the trial against Wilders, in the spirit of Oriana Fallaci? Perhaps the Vatican itself can make up for its old sins?

Unfortunately, I fear that the Roman Catholic Church is currently too dhimmified to do such a thing, but it would undoubtedly have a tremendous symbolic value if the Church dared where the secular and so-called liberal authorities of the Netherlands and the EU dare not.

Many thanks to Vlad Tepes for suggesting this topic.

13 thoughts on “Eppur Si Muove!

  1. That’s an interesting article. Certainly the stakes for the West are very real in this trial.

    The difficulty for original, conservative thinkers is that like Wilders, they are perceived as reactionaries working against the tide of history.

    Galileo, on the other hand, was a scientist at the beginning of centuries worth of scientific advances. While Galileo was prosecuted in his time, he basically had historical developments working in his favor posthumously.

    Wilders, on the other hand, faces a Western world still hell-bent on political correctness, porous borders, moral equivalence between Christianity and Islam, and Western liberal sympathies toward any phenomenon, no matter how odious, that emanates from a third world country.

  2. American Delight,

    Yes,I agree.I’ve long suspected a degree of patronizing racism in the way in which Western political elites use double standards to indulge Third World culture in general.What are they trying to prove? It’s a re-working of the old ‘Noble Savage’ theme, which has a long history in the West.

  3. Dymphna,

    Not a chance,he’s an anti-pc heretic, he looks rather too blond and is culturally Western.Perhaps if he was dressed in a sarong?

  4. Interesting article… though in my view it is one comparing oranges and apples, because Geert is accused of political heresy whereas the Galileo spat was about what was then considered settled science (which obviously had a religious component).

    The Galileo affair happened when science was still at its infancy and needed to be defined, whereas Geert is being accused in a country famous (some would say even “notorious”) for its freedoms. Therefore, if anything Geert is the one saying “Eppur NON si muove”, in other words, he is wishing to maintain the once “settled” definition of freedom as opposed to expanding it to mean all sorts of groovier things such as “not offending” or “maintaining social harmony.”

    What we see is one of the traditionally freest countries of Europe that has freely chosen to redefine freedom… and unlike the scientific method which is relatively easy to define, freedom is an endless sky or a bottomless pit.

    To me the Galileo scandal has happened in the political scientific community with ClimateGate, or when Harvard’s Larry Summers suggested that there night be innate brain differences between men and women and then had to go begging for mercy.

    Actually there are 1000000 Pope Urbans bedeviling science these days… and THAT is truly scandalous.

    But concerning Geert, let us not forget where this is happening: in Freedomsville, in Enlightenment Land. It was chosen directly through democracy (though I’ve become a conspiracy theorist and now see Democracy as mostly bread and circuses) and indirectly by life style choices.

    So Geert is a powerless Pope Urban and his Prosecutors are the would-be Galileos claiming that every last opinion is science.

    Eppur NON si muove… because like science, freedom can’t just be any opinion… or can it?

  5. @IoshkaFutz
    That is perhaps because the article does not make explicit the reason for its title. I quote from the wikipedia article E pur si muove!:

    [This purported phrase of Galileo’s] “is occasionally used in modern speech to indicate that although publicly someone who is in a knowledgeable position may discount or deny something, that does not stop it from being true.”

    Don’t worry, I had to look it up too… 😉

  6. Ioshkafutz —

    Ah, but you overlook the nature and tactics of the opposition to Geert.

    Take a look at our recent post “Condemning Geert Wilders”, or the one from a couple of days ago called “Advised by the Toilet Duck”. The Dutch government officially commissioned a scientific study which determined scientifically that Geert Wilders and the PVV represent the “new radical right”.

    By this means the court has obtained scientific justification for finding Geert guilty and sentencing him.

    This is yet more evidence that the political and cultural leaders of our age have become as non-scientific as was the Church in 1600.

    Science and religion have merged once again, but this time the religion in question is demonic. The reigning faith is the Church of the Left, which has its scriptures (Das Kapital and An Inconvenient Truth, for example), its orthodoxy (PC and Multiculturalism) which it enforces in exquisite detail against all reason and common sense, and now its Inquisition.

    The parallels are uncanny, but the major positions have been reversed, for it is the new Universal Church of Satan which claims the keys to “science”, and which resists and punishes all heretics who disagree with its “scientific” findings.

    The demonic nature of modern socialist/atheist orthodoxy make it an obvious natural ally for the Hosts of Mohammed.

  7. Ciao Thrasymachus,

    Oh I know what it means. I’m Italian. And I understand what’s afoot, however while being Fjordman’s biggest fan, I don’t agree with the analogy. Barring deep metaphysics, science (the scientific method) is easy, whereas freedom is not and by its nature cannot escape philosophy / religion.

    Freedom – so we are told – is what the Dutch enjoyed to a greater degree than most people in the world.

    But what is freedom without a defensive orthodoxy?… Well it’s exactly what has happened to the heirs of the Enlightenment… they freed themselves of the dogmas (religious / moral virtues) that gave the notion of freedom any (lasting) sense.

    So Wilders is really saying: “Wait a minute, “Eppur NON si muove! Freedom is what our elders who fought and died for our country said it was, not this new-fangled invention!”

    He can’t really prove it though, can he? It’s a matter of preference (some say). Like 2+2=4, the planets circling the sun can be proven and settled, but freedom is a real head scratcher.

    Will the USA be freer now that Corporations have been granted full personhood and can bribe / blackmail politicians with vast sums of money? Apparently so. I have very strong doubts. Even the supreme court with it’s 5 to 4 decision had strong doubts. That’s how complicated it is.

    That the Enlightenment has waxed more repressive than an old Pope, doesn’t speak well for the Enlightenment.

    This statement (found quoted right here at GOV) made by the French Minister for Immigration, Integration and National Identity, Eric Besson, spoken in front of an immigrant audience, right in the middle of a Muslim suburb next to Paris:

    “France is neither a people, nor a language, nor a territory, nor a religion, it’s a conglomerate of peoples who want to live together. There are no indigenous French, there is only a France made out of miscegenation.”

    …is amazingly free. It’s pure Enlightenment freedom. It’s democracy at work. What could be freer than nothing left to lose?

    What I’m getting at, in typically perverted fashion, is that vis-a-vis Islam, this repeated call for freedom is wrong. It will not stop the Islamic take over of Holland or any country.

    Back to France. If Eric Besson, even speaking to the same colorful audience had said:

    “France is the land of the French people, who speak French, it IS a territory, a nation, a culture and her religion is Roman Catholicism (with the guy still on the crucifix, none of that sola fide nonsense for me). There ARE indigenous French, and France IS an ancient and wonderful civilization worth preserving,” then I’d respect the Enlightenment. I’d understand freedom. As it is now, it’s just a blank page.

    I want to hear talk about race, religion, grub, tradition, culture, music and all the rest. And I want a connection to all those dead white guys in the many cemeteries who toiled over the centuries to give me France, Holland, Italy and not merely easy conglomeratations made of miscegenation.

  8. Ciao Barone,

    Oh it’s not demonic! Of course Geert Wilders is crazy. Crazy as a Christian Martyr. Even crazier than one of those real Dhimmies who hang on to their religion instead of going for the all the comfort and advantages of a quick Shahada.

    All of Christianity is insane for daring to swim against the stream to create civilization. That cockamamie scientific study on Wilders might find plenty of similarities between him and Simeon Stylites spending 37 years on top of a pillar… or a Mountain climber who struggles to the summit of K2 instead of paying to be deposited there by a helicopter.

    It’s just the world, not particularly demonic… It’s selling out, taking the easy path, going with the flow, keeping the peace. It is fatalism. We don’t need another hero!

    Mann invents the hockey stick instead of abiding by the orthodoxy of science? Why? For the world, money, position, career. He’s just a sinner, not demonic.

    The whole western world allowed itself to be enticed by this crazy thing called freedom, while all the while chipping away at the virtues that gave freedom sense? Voilà, here we are, after levels of despotism worse than those we wished to redress, plums ripe for the picking.

    Liberté, Fraternité, Egalité and the rise of the all-powerful state, Demonic? Perhaps.

    I’m not a Fascist, but I’ll only go along with Liberté, Fraternité, Egalité when they also add the “Je-Ne-Sais-Quoi” of culture with its connections to those who came before us. Tradition in the Chestertonian sense, “the Democracy of the dead.”

    I reiterate: what needs to be considered is that the Wilder’s trial is being held in what was once the freest country in the world. There was no

    Duce with important speeches being written by a Jewish Mistress, there were no rigged elections, it’s a place where a transgendered dwarf can marry a lesbian horse, where ambulances deliver condoms (or is that Sweden?), old people can be bumped off and children with defects can be chucked at birth. It’s free as free can be. Demonic? Nah, sinful. Of this world.

    We don’t need another hero. Why’s this blonde dude making a fuss that’ll only get portions of our population pissed off and decrease our sales to the Arab countries?

    It’s all connected. Oh yes it is. Science being a whore, is the same as a Mommy getting rid of the clot in her belly because it’ll create problems. A justice system that condemns a Wilders is NOT unconnected to one that says homosexuality has the same value as heterosexuality. When there are no values, what can the state do, but keep some utilitarian notion of the peace?

    The Enlightened solution to the trial (wanna bet?). The prosecutors themselves will ask for acquittal. Not because they believe Wilders innocent, but because it’s the easiest route to keep things quiet.

    But our Enlightenment leviathans are interesting creatures. Let’s say, that Wilder’s truly IS a Fascist (which he clearly is not)… What makes his Fascism so evil, illegal and harmful, while the Communist Unity Movement of the Netherlands (Marxist-Leninist) “Maoist” passes without a blink?

    The Domestic murders attributable to Mussolini number 250, those by Mao number 73 million. My calculator says that Mao was 292,000 times as murderous.

    That other heir of the Enlightenment (Communism), though incredibly more murderous is preferred because it’s good on paper, “scientific,” appeals to the intelligent… and is closer to the purely spiritual “I-had-a-dream” original.

    Funny all this jibber-jabber about hate and Fascism when the world’s favorite trading partner still venerates the biggest cold-blooded (premeditated) mass-murderer in the history of humanity.

    Perhaps a Dutchman, better if a scientist, should examine the entire world body politik.

  9. What the issue is that this isn’t freedom nor liberalism. It’s downright brainwashing, putting the fist in the mouth of people and socialism. Social liberalism isn’t liberalism and liberalism was never the ruling ideoloy of Europe, that was nationalism(which more or less was in the US too) and liberalism was the way the nation was organized, while the liberties were constrained by various things like the culture, which involves discrimination. But again, since the moral value of a chaste woman is the same as a hooker(we wouldn’t want to discriminate), everything went down the drain… And I’ll say this again. I wish I was born 150 years ago.

    As a side note, our replacing non-European population has a 2.5 times higher fertility rate than us, in my country. 😐

  10. What the issue is that this isn’t freedom nor liberalism. It’s downright brainwashing, putting the fist in the mouth of people and socialism. Social liberalism isn’t liberalism and liberalism was never the ruling ideoloy of Europe, that was nationalism(which more or less was in the US too) and liberalism was the way the nation was organized, while the liberties were constrained by various things like the culture, which involves discrimination. But again, since the moral value of a chaste woman is the same as a hooker(we wouldn’t want to discriminate), everything went down the drain… And I’ll say this again. I wish I was born 150 years ago.

    As a side note, our replacing non-European population has a 2.5 times higher fertility rate than us, in my country. 😐

  11. Hi Fjordman,

    I have to say that, for the proofs he could present, Galileo showed an obstinacy that is at odds with scientific disposition. I do not think that he presented adequate proof of his theories. The sun spots were very valuable, but far from definitive, because he could not really explain the dynamics behind it. What I do not understand is why did he include the explanation of the tides, which did not match at all with evidences. Areal flop to say the least.

    The Church was more flexibble than Galileo. That is nor arguable.

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