The Crime of Galileo

By G de Santillana

Pub. Univ. of Chicago Press 1955

I first read this book a decade ago, and I am now re-reading it. I am now a decade further into the experience of having all my theories suppressed. The first hundred pages of Santillana show that the situation is far closer to Galileo's time that I had thought. The dead hand of Aristotle lay across science for a thousand years. The dead hand of "Modern Physics" has now lain across science for nearly a century. I feel that it is quite possible that it will prevent progress for a thousand years. This is because all the relevant vested interests would prefer it so. They are satisfied that scientific advance up to the present time gives them plenty of gadgets and the like. How could further advance help? Rather, let us consolidate within Modern Physics, warts and all. - Ivor Catt

p107 of de Santillana; "One can watch this kind of sophistry going on even in our own time. Thus Pierre Duhem, a distinguished French physicist who has also gained a great and deserved renown in history of science, could write in 1908: 'Logic was on the side of Osiander and Bellarmine and not on that of Kepler and Galileo; the former had grasped the exact significance of the experimental method, while the latter had been mistaken . Suppose the hypotheses of Copernicus were able to explain all known appearances. What can be concluded is that they may be true, not that they are necessarily true, for in order to legitimate this last conclusion, it would have to be proved that no other system of hypotheses could possibly be imagined which could explain the appearances just as well.

"The last statement is, of course, as far as it goes, scientifically quite correct. To take it with modern connotation and project it backward into the historical picture of the seventeenth century turns it into worse than a paradox, an intellectual solecism which would be enough to reveal in its author the unscrupulous apologist ex parte. If those prelates knew exactly, in advance of everybody, what true scientific method was, it is permissible to ask why they never made use of it.

"Duhem was perfectly well in a position to know that Bellarmine's alleged 'positivism' was only a position of indifference in a limited area of knowledge (viz., the theory of heaven) completely contained by a physical and metaphysical realism of the Scholastic kind. In no admissible way could it be presented as the permanent starting point (as if there were such a thing) for an organised natural philosophy and an 'experimental method.' So far from being that, the conventional theory of heaven defined for Bellarmine, as well as for Aquinas himself, an area of ignorance or 'soft spot' that ought to be reabsorbed eventually into the surrounding Aristotelian coherency. The idea of that area expanding instead to cover the field of natural knowledge with its empty 'hypotheses' would have been received by Bellarmine with a shudder, for it would have looked to him as an intellectual cancer. (Note 1) It would have shocked Galileo no less, who would have refused to accept Duhem's costive dogmatic formalism as the refined version of his procedure and would have asked indignantly whether the greater cosmos that he had started out to discover was bound to turn out again an unendingly pointless paper universe scribbled o'er with intellectual epicycles and excentrics; whereas it is fair to surmise that the actual universe of Maxwell, Einstein, and Heisenberg would have made fascinating sense to his mind." - p107/8, de Santillana.

Note 1. This is the crunch point when it comes to Theory C (preceded by The Catt Anomaly). The rascals Howie, Pepper and the rest, some more listed below, know full well that a scientific breakthrough in the past, like electromagnetic induction, or Mendel, or the theory of oxidation, triggered massive advanced in society and in our standard of living, as would Theory C. However, they cannot believe that such advances, frequently occurring in the past, could occur in the future. They assume that their self-serving obstructiveness over Theory C does not have major social significance. They are terribly wrong.

 

If we consider one of the rascals who have obstructed me, for instance Howie, Secker, Pepper, Atiyah, Brown, McEwan, Mink, and think of them in terms of the key section above, The idea of that area expanding instead to cover the field of natural knowledge with its empty 'hypotheses' would have been received by Bellarmine with a shudder, for it would have looked to him as an intellectual cancer, the implications are devastating. None of those rascals would like to be in post while a major scientific breakthrough such as Theory C occurred around them.

The suppression of Theory C for 20 years is significant. It is on a lower plane than Newton's Laws, but equal in significance with; oxidation replacing phlogiston; the removal of caloric; and Dalton's discoveries in Chemistry. As time goes on, it is not clear to me that the willingness to communicate Theory C, let alone consider it, will increase. Thus, there is no clear reason why we should not have another 1,000 year freeze.

Ivor Catt 29dec99

Giorgio de Santillana was professor of the history and philosophy of science at MIT. It is amusing that co-researchers Catt, Walton, Davidson are unhappy with all the three moderns cited - Maxwell, Einstein, Heisenberg.