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Giordano Bruno After 400 Years 342

Posted by Hemos
from the lost-treasures dept.
David Brin, famous for works such as The Transparent Society, as well as his work in science fiction, sent us a recent essay. Entitled "Giordano Bruno After 400 Years: A Pain in the Neck Who Would be Treasured Today", the piece is about Giordano Bruno (No - really?) a forgotten hero of the Renaissance era. Click below to read more.

We live in a publicity-craving era of frenetic fame-seekers. So it can be ironic to realize how some of the most celebrated people of the past somehow slipped into obscurity, even after a lifetime spent earning acclaim. Take Aldous Huxley, for example. The author of Brave new World and many other bold novels -- who also helped usher in the psychedelic era -- managed to time his death so the obituary vanished in a back corner of any newspaper that bothered to mention it at all. He did this by passing away on Nov. 22, 1963, the same day that President John F. Kennedy was shot.

Care to top that? Try this. Even as we slowly work off our hangovers and headaches from those Y2K non-events and anticlimactic "millennium celebrations" -- and while we watch the Internet undergo partial self-destruction at the hands of some of its brightest sons -- I notice on my calendar that we nearly let pass without notice the 400th anniversary of the death (on an execution pyre) of Giordano Bruno.

Giordano who?

Giordano Bruno... only one of the greatest geniuses of the later Renaissance and one spectacularly interesting fellow.

All right, few people know of him today. Tourists blink in puzzlement at his statue, now standing in the Roman square -- the Campo de Fiori -- where the Inquisition incinerated him. But his name wasn't always obscure. With a colorful personality and a flood of unconventional opinions, Bruno was a sensational figure as the 17th century drew to a close -- a prominent Renaissance thinker who, true to that complex era, mixed philosophy, religion, logic and mysticism while preaching a daring worldview that helped set the stage for what we now know as science.

Born near Naples in 1548, Bruno joined the Dominican order of monks at age 18. But soon his restless spirit and critical mind led him to question church teachings, including the notion that the heavens revolved around the Earth, forcing him to flee to Geneva, then France, England and Germany. Bruno's habit of questioning established doctrines brought him into conflict with powerful leaders of both the Catholic and Reformed churches, few of whom were known to tolerate free-thinkers.

Still, with luck and uncanny survival instincts -- and by appealing to the intellectual excitement of the time -- Bruno kept teaching unconventional views in Oxford, Marburg, Wittenberg, Prague, and Frankfurt. Eventually lured back to Italy on a pretext, Bruno was imprisoned in 1592 by the Inquisition, tried as a heretic and burned alive on Feb. 17, 1600.

It can be easy to get carried away over some of Bruno's most prescient views - for instance championing the heliocentric astronomy of Copernicus before Galileo did, then going much further to suggest that the twinkling stars in our night sky are actually suns shining on distant planets, possibly harboring other forms of life. He also held that humans might someday acquire almost godlike powers by understanding lightning and other heavenly mysteries. In that event, we might still need religion for moral guidance -- he opined -- but no longer to shape our models of the physical or biological world.

In an era transfixed by the primacy of the human image -- when great minds of the establishment insisted that the Creator must have a navel and a beard -- Bruno completely rejected the anthropocentric universe, believing instead that the Earth and individual humans are ultimately accidental products of a single living world-substance. In this, he presaged many notions of Darwinian biology.

To a modern mind, his call for tolerance and open enquiry seems especially poignant and prophetic.

Still, one does Bruno a disservice by emphasizing only the things he got right. Many of his other writings now seem silly, deliberately provocative, or just perplexingly obscure, such as his doctrine of panpsychism (belief that reality is constituted by the mind), which anticipated the teachings of Gottfried Leibniz and Baruch Spinoza... and may be echoed in today's extropian movement. He used to get into terrific rows with contemporaries over minutiae that would put most of today's philosophy professors into snoring catalepsy. (People cared deeply about such things, once upon a time.) His fascination with magic and the occult would hardly impress scientists in the year 2000, though it might lend him a New Age cult appeal.

So? The essential point -- and the reason I find this long-dead fellow's life worth noting -- is how Bruno looked around a superstitious age with eyes that were essentially modern. Even his flaming egotism and penchant for pushing other peoples' buttons would fit in well, today.

The clergy of his time weren't dummies; they had their own "grand unified theory" of how things worked and how people should behave. If we have made progress since that era, we owe it less to our improved orthodoxies than to the way we've learned to _tap_ the creative energies of those who defy the intellectual status quo, instead of killing them. Slowly, often grudgingly, society discovered that there is something to value in the rancorous, difficult, blasphemous few who gleefully challenge authority. Those who rip away the set pieces of any conservative worldview to reveal disturbing truths that lie beneath and beyond. Such people, though irksome, are also responsible for much progress in the world.

Imagine if Bruno somehow got teleported into our time -- perhaps with other standout intellects like Benjamin Franklin. One could picture him adjusting with relish to an era so enamored of flamboyant eccentrics. In a month, he would be on all the talk shows. In a year, he might have his own.

In fact, why not spin a story about that? Imagine that some future, time-traveling age will share our own fascination with exceptional men and women of the past. Suppose they reach back to grab Bruno out of his pyre at the last moment, if only to repair and then enjoy a colorfully vivid person who surged so far ahead of his time, caroming about the realm of ideas like a joyous crank, shouting at his stupefied contemporaries to _wake up!_

Not all geniuses are saintly or perfect. Some can be simultaneously offensive, delightful, in your face and profound in both their prescient visions and their spectacular errors. They are also terrifically alive.

So very alive that I feel they somehow testify for the rest of us. They help justify us, showing that humanity _must_ have a reason -- beyond mere creation or natural selection -- for being.

david brin,copyright 2/00 1000 words

==

David Brin is a scientist and bestselling novelist. His 1989 thriller Earth foresaw both global warming and the World Wide Web. A movie with Kevin Costner was loosely based on The Postman and Startide Rising is in pre-production at Paramount Pictures. Brin's non-fiction book -- The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Freedom and Privacy? -- deals with threats to openness and liberty in the new wired-age. His latest novel, Foundation's Triumph, brings to a grand finale Isaac Asimov's famed Foundation Universe.

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Giordano Bruno After 400 Years

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  • by Szoup (61508)
    Don't know of no Giordano Brunco.

    Bruno, on the other hand...
    ----------------------------------------- --
  • FYI the name on the title of the article is mispelled...please fix.

    Thanks,

    Giordy
  • What I found interesting is that a guy who was burned in 1600 "was a sensational figure as the 17th century drew to a close..."

    =)

    Just a little math problem, no big deal. =)

    Anyway, he sounds like a good guy, but I'm not sure if he'd make it today or not. In this age of television and photographs and instant transmission of text, you have to be pretty charismatic to succeed (with few exceptions). It takes a particular personality. Maybe Bruno had it, maybe not, but clearly thought-out, potentially radical ideas are no guarantee of anything.

    Ben Franklin was a good example too. He had a lot of cool ideas, but his character has been called into question in the past. You just now that in today's world, any indiscretions would be immediately pounced upon, and no one would pay attention to poor Ben's virtues.

    Ah well, such is life.

  • So, maybe this guy is a figment of the collective imagination, or a time traveller from the present.
  • by smoondog (85133) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @11:44AM (#1264204)
    Forgotten famous individuals are very common. Sometimes they really aren't that famous or that important on a global sense. There aren't very many REALLY special or known people, but there are an incredible amount of people who are sort of famous. Is anyone going to remember scientists such as Murray Gell Mann (coined the term "quark"), Stan Pruisner (nobel for discovering the prion) or David Ho (Time's Man of the Year a few years ago -- Aids research)? Although sad, I really don't think so.

    I think that like media, the digital age is going to enhance our understanding of present day figures in the future. Just like we will watch a TV show from today that has been digitalized 20 years from now identically, we will have better access to documents and academic insights on important people of our era.

    -- Moondog
  • by Amphigory (2375) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @11:44AM (#1264205) Homepage
    Momentarily, we will have a large number of posts pointing out that Bruno was burned at the stake by the Roman inquisition. They will claim that this was wrong, that no one should be burned at the stake for honestly seeking truth. They will claim that this was an unconscionable sin which Jesus would have been ashamed of.

    And they'd be right.

    But they would also claim that this invalidates belief in Jesus. There, they would be wrong. The actions of misguided people abusing Jesus' name 400 years ago have nothing to do with my faith now -- although they do serve to point out some of the hazards awaiting those who forget the church's purpose.

    Just thought I'd mention that. :) -1 here I come!

    --

  • by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @11:46AM (#1264206) Homepage
    I wrote a long essay on Bruno in college. One thing that is fascinating about him and remarkable for his era was his openess to ideas from non-Christian traditions - he incorporated a lot of ideas from Sephardic Judaism (especially Qabalaism) and from Islamic philosophers. This fact was one of the reasons why he was targetted by the Vatican. He got right in the crosshairs of the counter-reformation.
  • I've often wondered what it would be like if we could "teleport" visionaries of previous ages to the modern era - I'm glad to see it's not just me. Would our time be unrecoganizeable (sp?) to them, or do we think too much of our technological advancements, and maybe our life _is_ basically the same. That's something only they could answer - everybody alive today has become accustomed to technology in our lives. What do you think?

    It's also nice to look back on some of the visionaries that we've forgotten. It seems that before a view becomes widely accepted (heliocentrisim, in this case) it has to be touted by others first, and sadly it doesn't stick the first time around. It'll be interesting to see if the Internet can change that with freer access to other's ideas.

    I apologise for the hoorrible speeling.



    "The romance of Silicon Valley was about money - excuse me, about changing the world, one million dollars at a time."

  • by JJ (29711) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @11:47AM (#1264209) Homepage Journal
    While I agree that those who fundamentally tear at rules or even whole mindsets do produce the biggest advances, I disagree that we have gotten any better at tolerating non-conformity. In philosophy of science studies, the role of non-conformists has been analysed by TS Kuhn. His major publication is "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions". Unfortunately, non-conformists are just as frequently burnt at the stake today as they ever were by the Inquisition. The role of the liberal arts professor nowdays, at least at the University of Chicago, is perceived as stamping out any original thought in their students, indoctrinating them with the correct viewpoints, quotables and pet phrases and even pre-arming them with dirt on the major players of opposition academic camps. It is mostly the toadies and parrots who survive and prosper amid such an education. Heretics are still burnt at the stake, but with modern methods.
  • Imagine if Bruno somehow got teleported into our time -- perhaps with other standout intellects like Benjamin Franklin. One could picture him adjusting with relish to an era so enamored of flamboyant eccentrics. In a month, he would be on all the talk shows.
    Of course he would, he somehow got teleported into our time. That man should be on *every* talk show.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 17, 2000 @11:56AM (#1264213)
    Brin, as is so often the case, you've got it precisely bass-ackwards.

    Bruno wouldn't be cherished today for the crazy, creative ideas he brings out - he would be reviled if he tried to spout new and creative ideas. Anyone who tries to alter the rules of discourse from the outside (as Kuhn warned) is laughed out of the house, and so would Bruno be today. Only the people who work from WITHIN the system, as Bruno stubbornly refused to do, can actually help us make any progress. Look at great visionaries in our own time whose work is scorned, or simply sidelined by mainstream academia. (Noam Chomsky leaps to mind.)

  • I think Stan Pruisner definately derserves a medal for discovering pr0n. What a wonderful discovery that has touched the lives of so many.

    BloodyStupidJohnson
  • by MillMan (85400) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @11:57AM (#1264215)
    The clergy of his time weren't dummies; they had their own "grand unified theory" of how things worked and how people should behave. If we have made progress since that era, we owe it less to our improved orthodoxies than to the way we've learned to _tap_ the creative energies of those who defy the intellectual status quo, instead of killing them. Slowly, often grudgingly, society discovered that there is something to value in the rancorous, difficult, blasphemous few who gleefully challenge authority. Those who rip away the set pieces of any conservative worldview to reveal disturbing truths that lie beneath and beyond. Such people, though irksome, are also responsible for much progress in the world.

    We really need to be careful about patting ourselves on the back here. We might not be killing dissidents today, but they can be marginalized enough to prevent their voices from being heard by more than a handful of people.

    Power structures will do anything to maintain their power, they never simply close up shop becuase they realize they aren't working anymore. Many years ago religious structures set the rules including their "absolute truths" and taboos (still true in some countries today). The institutions running things today might not be specifically religious, but they aren't necessarily acting any different.

    We need to be especially careful today because of what technology allows us to do, from manipulating public opinion with mass media to the ability to track what people do without them knowing it.

    Even the scientific community is guilty. They have their own absolute truths, and anyone who tries to cross them gets cut down until the evidence is too overwhelming to ignore.

    Don't get me wrong, the human race has made a lot of progress, I just don't think we've made as much as everyone else seems to think we have.
  • by Bryan K. Feir (11060) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @11:58AM (#1264216)
    Bruno was actually written up in Scientific American several years ago now; that's where I first heard of him. (No, I don't know which month off-hand, but it was almost certainly pre-1986.) He was a trouble-maker in many ways as well.

    When you get right down to it, Galileo was put under house arrest because Bruno had been using Galileo's discoveries as part of his arguments against the Church. Galileo himself wasn't all that active politically, and the political side of the Church probably would have ignored him completely if Bruno hadn't used Galileo's observations of the moons of Jupiter as proof that not everything revolved around the Earth, and then went on to challenge the other teachings of the Church. (The Church didn't really care if people believed in the Copernican model; hell, the Church financed Copernicus. But they really took exception when anyone challenged the idea of the Earth being the spiritual centre of the universe. Which Bruno did.) Bruno's agitation helped fuel the anti-science leanings of the Church at the time, and made life a whole lot harsher for many other scientists at the time.

    Bruno himself was an interesting thinker; unfortunately, when he got the Church's attention, he ended up taking a number of others down with him.

    -- Bryan Feir
  • by ChristTrekker (91442) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @11:58AM (#1264217)

    C.S. Lewis also passed away on Nov. 22, 1963. I read a good book once, Between Heaven and Hell, that describes a possible conversation the three might have had on their way into the afterlife. Completely fictional of course, but interesting.

  • by Vorro (124142)
    Don't forget that he's the one that invented grated parmesan cheese, which really angered italian cheese-makers... That's the real reason he was burned at the stake, just like all sorts of other intellectuals who would nowadays be heralded for their damn good ideas. :)

    Vorro
    ---------------------------
    A wise man speaks because he has something to say.
    A foolish man speaks because he has to say something.
  • He lived in the 16th and not in the 17th century, and his family name is Bruno, as many have already pointed out. Strange you could misspell Bruno, since it's such a common word. In italian, it means "brown heared". For example "ragazza bruna" would mean brunette.

  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <`ten.suomafni' `ta' `smt'> on Thursday February 17, 2000 @12:02PM (#1264221) Homepage
    ...an era so enamored of flamboyant eccentrics...
    I have to ask the same question I always ask when Brin comments on contemporary society: are he and I living in the same country?

    Maybe it's just the memory of being beat up as a kid, many times, for being what one tormentor called a "walking dictionary"; or knowing people who have been subject to, or threatened with, violence (by the state or by private citizens) because of their personal lifestyle choices; or knowing that both Presidental front-runners describe themselves not just as Christians but as "born-again" Christians; but I just don't see a love of diversity and eccentricity in the mainstream of our culture. I think we covered that point here pretty well in the post-Columbine "Hellmouth" threads.

    Yes, there's a certain amount of "geek chic", but there's a simple reason for that. The mainstream is somewhat enamored of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs because they're filthy rich, plain and simple.

  • by MattXVI (82494) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @12:04PM (#1264222) Homepage
    Eventually lured back to Italy on a pretext, Bruno was imprisoned in 1592 by the Inquisition, tried as a heretic and burned alive on Feb. 17, 1600.

    A small point, to be sure, but the part about the "pretext" isn't really true. In the 1580's Bruno had developed an elaborate theory of memory training (published in, most famously, his Clavis Magna or Great Key). In 1591 he was invited to Venice by a gentleman named Mocenigo, who was keenly interested in his methods of memory training. Angry after failing to obtain from Bruno the secret of his "natural magic", Mocenigo denounced him to the Inquisition. The Ventian authorites reluctantly extradited him.

  • by Bryan K. Feir (11060) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @12:10PM (#1264223)
    Today, there is a scientific community that embraces change and progress, and happily sheds old ideas for new ones.

    And if you believe that, I've got a some swampland just off the coast of Florida to sell you.

    Do you have any idea how many years it took for ideas like Continental Drift to be accepted by mainstream science? How many decades 'standard' ideas like Clovis First (the idea that all the American Indians crossed the Bering Strait 11 000 years ago) lasted despite evidence that they were wrong simply because too many people were emotionally attached to the idea to give it up? (Parts of South America were inhabited more than a thousand years before Clovis First says they could have been.) How much damage was done to effective research in Quantum Mechanics because Einstein himself couldn't abide by the random factors in the theory he helped lay the foundations for?

    It's often said that any real progress in science takes at least a generation; long enough for all the old scientists who are attached to the old ideas to get replaced. Trust me, we've seen lots of evidence for that in this century alone.

    -- Bryan Feir
  • > misguided people abusing Jesus' name 400 years ago have nothing to do with my faith now

    "They" haven't said anything about your faith. In fact, one of the really annoying things about "Christians" is how often they seem to have to tell the world about it. Most of us are not regularly shopping for a new religion or advertising our own. If your faith is strong, who cares what people say?

    As Mel Brooks wrote:

    The Inquisition - here we go
    The Inquisition - what a show
    We know you're wishin' - that we go away!
    The Inquisition's here - and it's here to stay!
  • This was delightfully good. Quite refreshing actually and IMO very eloquently written, thank you David. A side benefit is that we got some good quotes out of it as well.

    the heavens revolved around the Earth, forcing him to flee to Geneva, then France, England and Germany
    we've learned to _tap_ the creative energies of those who defy the intellectual status quo, instead of killing them.
    be simultaneously offensive, delightful, in your face and profound

  • by MattXVI (82494) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @12:12PM (#1264226) Homepage
    It's not really true to assert that "power structures" will do anything to maintain their position of power. Sometimes they reach a level of maturity where their "power" is not their highest value. A case in point would be the great monarchies of Continental Europe in the first part of this century. Most reliquished their power voluntarily when they felt it was in the best interests of their countries.
  • by uebernewby (149493) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @12:14PM (#1264227) Homepage
    In fact Giordano Bruno has since long been thought of as a precursor to modernism. Samuel Beckett, for example, wrote a well-known essay describing the connection between him and James Joyce (called Dante..Bruno..Vico..Joyce, I can't remember the exact number of dots, though). His ideas about "panpsychism (belief that reality is constituted by the mind)" were instrumental in defining Joyce's vision (Ulysses, if you'll remember, consists of a description of the reality of Dublin seen through the eyes -stream-of-consciousness- of a number of its inhabitants. The modernists, therefore, were already quite aware of him, so I think it's fair to say his ideas were an important predecessors to our modern mindset. After all, like it or not, Joyce's ideas, as well as Becket's, have slowly slipped into our collective unconscious during the past century.
  • Heretics are by no means tolerated in the modern world. Whilst no longer burned alive on a pyre, they are often treated poorly, rejected, abused and punished for the crime of thinking.

    "Awwww! That went away with the Dark Ages! Anyway, America has never had that. It was =FOUNDED= on freedom!"

    Tell ex-President Carter. Castigated and shredded for the crime of being an honest politician and an acknowledged falliable human being. Truth didn't mean a whole lot to Americans, on voting day.

    Then, there's the mysterious case of a well-known TV chat-show host, who dared to suggest the American meat industry might have a non-zero level of BSE. A $60 million dollar lawsuit followed, for "damaging" the reputation of the industry.

    Technological heretics - anyone hear from Sir Clive Sinclair, lately? Or the guy who invented the clockwork radio? The Osborne was the first laptop - they don't seem to have an up-to-date product list, though. Seems to me that there's a fairly long list of latter-day heretics being burned at the financial stake.

    Then, there are those who disagree with the "orthodox" religion of politics. Marx is not only hated by the US, but anyone associated with his views of power equality was, for many years, banned from the shores of the allegedly free US. Those Americans who had the least sympathy for the idea that the underclass are probably just as intelligent as the ruling class were mauled by Macarthy and his thugs, and held with deep suspicion even to this day.

    Is America the only country with such *cough* liberal views? By no means! In England, members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament were "Potential Subversives" and monitored by British Intelligence. At least one executive of CND is believed to have been assassinated by the British Government, for their moral and political views.

    Exceptional circumstances, surely! Nope. The Greenham Common protesters were threatened with summary execution by the American military. Several =were= killed, in hit-and-run "accidents" in which the American and British Governments decided that the soldiers had diplomatic immunity, thus avoiding any kind of trial.

    Then, of course, there's always the RUC's "Shoot To Kill" policy, in Northern Ireland, in which innocents were fair game for machine-gun fire, without warning, if a policeman decided he wanted live target shooting. The person designated to investigate the massacres, John Stalker, was pulled off the case after asking the wrong questions.

    France, of course, has no problem with tolerence. It'll blow up ships in other people's ports (eg: Greenpeace Warrior) and award the agents medals of honor, after terrorising the innocent nation involved (New Zealand) into submission by threats of a complete blockade.

    I'm sure the Algerians in France are happy with the tolerence there, too. No persecution! Just some unfortunate, mysterious deaths, injuries, beatings and abuse by the police and other French natives.

    Freedom of the Press, though, is universal! I mean, look at what happened when Salman Rushdie published his "Satanic Verses"! Iran was extremely moderate, in it's response, don't you think?

    Pacifists are routinely (and illegally) imprisoned during wars, in almost every nation on Earth. Many nations practice Conscription, with heavy fines or other penalties for conciencious objectors, pacifists and those who are politically, religiously or morally bound to refuse to condone violence or organisations dedicated to violence.

    Whilst outright, open murder is much rarer than it was, in the middle ages, the same intolerence and hatred of those who are different is still there, and still destroying others. Minds who would probably be of enormous benefit to the world at large are crushed, or their owners quietly disposed of. Personally, I don't know which is the worse - the open slaughter of the differently-thinking innocents, or their quiet, legalised murder.

  • Dude, get with the program - global warming is for real. And overall, I think Sagan's career was much more about communicating science to the public than about global warming.

    Btw, if it makes you feel better I had a girlfriend who was his assistant at Princeton, and she assured me he was a total asshole. :-)
  • Did he really? Did you know Newton invented the Cat Flap and the the little grooves around coins?
  • by gorilla (36491) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @12:21PM (#1264232)
    The 15th to 17th centuaries were quite remarkable times, there were people out discovering things and inventing things at a rate which we've never seen since (The overall rate is higher, but they're discovered/invented by many more people, meaning that each person discoveres or invents much less). There are several people who had skills in many different areas, and are still remembered today, Newton, Leonardo, Napier, Pascal, Wern, Tycho Brahe, Kelper and many others have resumes which would seem to be unbelivably broad if they existed today.

    Nowadays, everyone is a specialist. An artist could never be a respectable mathetician. These gentlemen were metheticians, astromoners, chemists, artists, architechs, physicists, writers and other professions too. Not just one profession each, but usually 2 or 3 or more all at the same time.

  • Perhaps it should come with an "Add to Shopping Cart" button?

    :D

    -Vel
  • Indeed, Bruno was not condemned for his defence of the Copernican system of astronomy, nor for his doctrine of the plurality of inhabited worlds, but for his theological errors, among which were: that Christ was not God but merely an unusually skilful magician, that the Holy Ghost is the soul of the world, that the Devil will be saved, etc. What puzzles me (and some good historians, too) is that he had recanted in Venice before being extradited to Rome.
  • In fact, why not spin a story about that? Imagine that some future, time-traveling age will share our own fascination with exceptional men and women of the past. Suppose they reach back to grab Bruno out of his pyre at the last moment, if only to repair and then enjoy a colorfully vivid person who surged so far ahead of his time, caroming about the realm of ideas like a joyous crank, shouting at his stupefied contemporaries to _wake up!_

    Maybe this already has/had/happened is will happeningly happen. (Damn English tenses and their unwillingness to bend to time travel...)

    Maybe this is why he was able to accurately hint that lightning might be harnessed, that distant stars contained distant worlds, with life. Maybe this explains Bruno's arrogance, his egocentrics... maybe he's been here, watched MTV, and, given a taste of the future, took some of it back with him.

    Only time will tell ...

    ;)

  • Wow, its amazing someone can be sooooo wrong on so many levels...

    <I>Tell ex-President Carter. Castigated and shredded for the crime of being an honest politician and an acknowledged falliable human being. Truth didn't mean a whole lot to Americans, on voting day.</i>

    Hmm.. that couldn't have had anything to do with the hostage situation or the horrible economy, could it? Everyone I knew was saying "Let vote out ol' lust in his heart!"

    <I>Then, there's the mysterious case of a well-known TV chat-show host, who dared to suggest the American meat industry might have a non-zero level of BSE. A $60 million dollar lawsuit followed, for "damaging" the reputation of the industry.</I>

    Which the industry lost. I suppose people like you would prefer to take away the people's right to sue.

    <I>Technological heretics - anyone hear from Sir Clive Sinclair, lately? Or the guy who invented the clockwork radio? The Osborne was the first laptop - they don't seem to have an up-to-date product list, though. Seems to me that there's a fairly long list of latter-day heretics being burned at the financial stake</I>

    Clive and Osborne failed to keep up with the times. Granted both did good work in the beginning, but that doesn't entitle them to continued and indefinite success does it? (I guess you think it does)

    Anyway, you are so off your rocker, I'm bored with shooting down your silly arguments....


  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 17, 2000 @12:34PM (#1264250)
    http://www.wsws.org/articles/2000/feb2000/brun-f16 _prn.shtml

    A man of insight and courage

    Giordano Bruno, philosopher and scientist, burnt at the stake 400 years ago

    By Frank Gaglioti
    16 February 2000

    Four centuries ago today, on February 16, 1600, the Roman Catholic Church executed Giordano Bruno, Italian philosopher and scientist, for the crime of heresy. He was taken from his cell in the early hours of the morning to the Piazza dei Fiori in Rome and burnt alive at the stake. To the last, the Church authorities were fearful of the ideas of a man who was known throughout Europe as a bold and brilliant thinker. In a peculiar twist to the gruesome affair, the executioners were ordered to tie his tongue so that he would be unable to address those gathered.

    Throughout his life Bruno championed the Copernican system of astronomy which placed the sun, not the Earth, at the centre of the solar system. He opposed the stultifying authority of the Church and refused to recant his philosophical beliefs throughout his eight years of imprisonment by the Venetian and Roman Inquisitions. His life stands as a testimony to the drive for knowledge and truth that marked the astonishing period of history known as the Renaissance--from which so much in modern art, thought and science derives.

    In 1992, after 12 years of deliberations, the Roman Catholic Church grudgingly admitted that Galileo Galilei had been right in supporting the theories of Copernicus. The Holy Inquisition had forced an aged Galileo to recant his ideas under threat of torture in 1633. But no such admission has been made in the case of Bruno. His writings are still on the Vatican's list of forbidden texts.

    The Church is currently considering a new batch of apologies. A theological commission headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the modern successor of the Inquisition, has completed an inquiry entitled "The Church and the Faults of the Past: Memory in the Service of Reconciliation", which proposes making an apology for "past errors". The results have been handed to Pope John Paul II, who is due to make a statement on March 12. The execution of Bruno is one of the church's crimes being considered but it is unlikely that major concessions will be made in his case. A number of hard-line Catholic figures have opposed the investigation from the outset, saying that excessive penitence and self-questioning could undermine faith in the Church and its institutions.

    The current attitude of the Roman Catholic Church to Bruno is defined by a two-page entry in the latest edition of the Catholic Encyclopaedia. It describes Bruno's "intolerance" and berates him, declaring "his attitude of mind towards religious truth was that of a rationalist". [1] The article describes in detail Bruno's theological errors and his lengthy detention at the hands of the Inquisition, but fails to mention the best-known fact--that the church authorities burnt him alive at the stake.

    Bruno has long been revered as a martyr to scientific truth. In 1889 a monument to him was erected at the location of his execution. Such was the feeling for Bruno that scientists and poets paid tribute to him and a book was written detailing his life's work. In a dedication for a meeting held at the Contemporary Club in Philadelphia in 1890, American poet Walt Whitman wrote: "As America's mental courage (the thought comes to me today) is so indebted, above all current lands and peoples, to the noble army of old-world martyrs past, how incumbent on us that we clear those martyrs' lives and names, and hold them up for reverent admiration as well as beacons. And typical of this, and standing for it and all perhaps, Giordano Bruno may well be put, today and to come, in our New World's thankfulest heart and memory."[2]

    Karl Marx's co-thinker Fredrick Engels summed up the period that produced figures, such as Bruno, who challenged the church and laid the basis for modern science. In an introduction written in the 1870s to his unfinished work the Dialectics of Nature, Engels wrote: "It was the greatest progressive revolution that mankind had so far experienced, a time which called for giants and produced giants--giants in power of thought, passion and character, in universality and earning. The men who founded the modern rule of the bourgeoisie had anything but bourgeois limitations. On the contrary, the adventurous character of the time inspired them to a greater or lesser degree. There was hardly any man of importance then living who had not travelled extensively, who did not speak four or five languages, who did not shine in a number of fields....

    "At that time natural science also developed in the midst of the general revolution and was itself thoroughly revolutionary; it had indeed to win in struggle its right of existence. Side by side with the great Italians from whom modern philosophy dates, it provided its martyrs for the stake and the dungeons of the Inquisition. And it is characteristic that Protestants outdid
    Catholics in persecuting the free investigation of nature. Calvin had Servetus burnt at the stake when the latter was on the point of discovering the circulation of the blood, and indeed he kept him roasting alive during two hours; for the Inquisition at least it sufficed to have Giordano Bruno simply burnt alive."[3]

    What is most characteristic of Bruno is his vigorous appeal to reason and logic, rather than religious dogma, as the basis for determining truth. In a manner that anticipates the Enlightenment thinkers of the eighteenth century, he wrote in one of his final works, De triplici minimo (1591): "He who desires to philosophise must first of all doubt all things. He must not assume a position in a debate before he has listened to the various opinions, and considered and compared the reasons for and against. He must never judge or take up a position on the evidence of what he has heard, on the opinion of the majority, the age, merits, or prestige of the speaker concerned, but he must proceed according to the persuasion of an organic doctrine
    which adheres to real things, and to a truth that can be understood by the light of reason."[4]

    A complex intellectual figure

    An examination of Bruno's philosophical legacy reveals a complex figure who was influenced by the various intellectual trends of the time, in a period when modern science was just beginning to emerge. His enthusiastic polemics earned the
    admiration of the most advanced thinkers of the period and the loathing of the Church, whose authority was being shaken to the core by learned assaults such as these.

    Bruno was born in the town of Nola, near Naples, in 1548, at the dawn of the revolution in astronomy which was heralded by the publication of Copernicus's De revolutionibus orbium coelestium libri VI in 1543. Copernicus asserted that the sun, not the Earth, was the centre of a finite universe, with the planets on circular orbits around it and the stars on a fixed sphere a
    considerable distance beyond.

    The Copernican system not only challenged the Church's cosmological views, but also the rigid social hierarchy of feudalism. The previous neatly ordered view of the universe, with the Earth at the centre, reinforced the rigid feudal order
    with serfs at the bottom and the Pope at the pinnacle. The dangerous implication of the Copernican theory was that if the Church's credo of infallibility could be challenged in the cosmological arena then its social position was also cast into doubt.

    The Church was already under siege from all sides. In 1517 Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door in Germany, denouncing the practices of the Roman Catholic Church, the first blow in the Protestant Reformation that swept across Europe. The Vatican responded with a counterattack--the Counter Reformation--on anyone who appeared to challenge Catholic doctrine. In 1542 it established the Roman Inquisition to enforce its edicts with torture and execution.

    Thus Bruno entered a world in ferment. In 1563 Bruno entered the monastery of St. Dominic, where he came to the notice of Church authorities for his unorthodox religious views. He used his time as a novitiate to acquaint himself not only with the philosophical works of the ancient Greeks, but also his more contemporary European thinkers. It was at this time that he first encountered the work of Copernicus, which was to have such a profound impact on his life.

    Bruno took holy orders in 1572 but then left the order in 1576 after travelling to Rome. He had been caught reading philosophical texts annotated by the Dutch humanist philosopher Erasmus and escaped before being denounced to
    ecclesiastical authorities. He spent the rest of his life until his capture wandering Europe discussing and promoting his philosophical ideas.

    After three years in Italy he went to Geneva, which was then dominated by the Protestant sect led by Calvin. He soon came into conflict with academic authorities when he published a pamphlet stating that a local professor of philosophy had made 20 errors in one lecture. He was imprisoned by the Calvinist authorities and only released after withdrawing the offending publication. Twenty-six years earlier the Calvinists had burnt Servetus, a Spanish doctor, geographer and man of letters, at the stake for his scientific views.

    Bruno then travelled to Toulouse in France, where he lectured on Aristotle's De anima and wrote a book on mnemonics--systems of memory training. He arrived in Paris by 1581, where he came to the attention of King Henry III who was attracted by his reputation of having a prodigious memory. The King found a position for him at the College de France after he had been forbidden entry to the Sorbonne by the ecclesiastical authority.

    During his stay in Paris he wrote three books, two on mnemonics and a play entitled The Torch-Bearer by Bruno the Nolan, Graduate of No Academy, Called the Nuisance. In this play Bruno described his time in the Dominican convent in Naples and
    presented a withering indictment of the Church. Giovanni Gentile's commentary on the play describes Bruno's characterisation of the Church as follows: "You will see, in mixed confusion, snatches of cutpurses, wiles of cheats,
    enterprises of rogues; also delicious repulsiveness, bitter sweets, foolish decisions, mistaken faith and crippled hopes, niggard charities, judges noble and serious for other men's affairs with little truth in their own; virile women, effeminate men and voices of craft and not of mercy so that he who believes most is most fooled--and everywhere the love of gold."[5]

    Bruno was forced to leave France in 1583 and travelled to England where his three-year stay proved to be one of the most fruitful periods of his life. He was introduced into a society that craved all forms of Italian learning and already had a considerable Italian and foreign exile community. Many had fled to avoid persecution for unorthodox philosophical and religious ideas. Bruno held discussions with Queen Elizabeth I, who was attracted by the prospect of discussing
    philosophical matters directly in Italian. He quickly attracted a number of intellectuals who eagerly discussed the philosophical ideas of the time.

    In England, Bruno published six books, all in Italian, fully elaborating his philosophical ideas for the first time. He was one of the first philosophers to discuss scientific issues in the vernacular. The very act of publishing in Italian was an open challenge to the Church, which sought to maintain Latin as the language of intellectual discourse and so limit the wider dissemination of ideas. Copernicus's groundbreaking work had been published only in Latin. So afraid were Bruno's printers that not one of them identified himself in the printed texts.

    Bruno's view of the universe

    Bruno's cosmology is outlined in The Ash Wednesday Supper, Cause, Principle and Unity and On the Infinite Universe and Worlds, which represent a brilliant anticipation of subsequent scientific and philosophical developments. In some respects
    the conclusions Bruno arrived at by bold intuition surpassed the work of his successors such as Galileo and Kepler. The works are in the form of dialogues, where Bruno's characters argue various philosophical positions from different points of
    view, one representing Bruno himself.

    In The Ash Wednesday Supper Bruno was one of the first to argue for the existence of an infinite universe, which contained an infinite number of worlds similar to the Earth. In doing so, he rejected the limits of the Copernican system, which posited a finite universe limited by a fixed sphere of stars just beyond the solar system. He argued that the sun was not the centre of the
    universe, saying that if the sun were observed from any of the other stars it would appear no different from them. Bruno even speculated that the other worlds would be inhabited.

    German philosopher Ernst Cassirer explained the significance of Bruno's conception of an infinite universe as follows: "This doctrine ... was the first and decisive step toward man's self-liberation. Man no longer lives in the world of a prisoner enclosed within the narrow walls of a finite physical universe. He can traverse the air and break through all the imaginary
    boundaries of the celestial spheres which have been erected by a false metaphysics and cosmology. The infinite universe sets no limits to human reason; on the contrary, it is the great incentive of human reason. The human intellect becomes aware
    of its own infinity through measuring its powers by the infinite universe."[6]

    Bruno's other three works published in England-- The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast, Cabal of the Cheval Pegasus and On Heroic Frenzies --contain a biting critique of the Counter Reformation. Italian historian Hilary Gatti in her book
    Giordano Bruno and Renaissance Science observed: "The sense of these final Italian works, in my opinion, is ... to be found in a transition from an intellectual sphere dominated by a vision of the world in essentially theological terms to an
    intellectual sphere dominated by a vision of the world in essentially philosophical terms. In this passage from theology to philosophy all forms of revealed religion receive harsh treatment, but above all the Christian religion that dominated the life and culture of the Europe of the sixteenth century, often through violence and oppression."[7]

    It was in England that Bruno had his most profound impact. His views were discussed in intellectual circles and the arguments presented in his various books give a flavour of the contemporary discussion. Two leading scientists, William
    Gilbert and Thomas Harriot, became leading proponents of Bruno's cosmological views. Gilbert, whose De Magnete (1600) stood as a basic text on magnetism until the nineteenth century, was prominent in a grouping that discussed scientific issues. He was particularly interested in developing his magnetic theories in relation to Bruno's cosmological views.

    Harriot was a noted mathematician and astronomer, who was thought to have discovered sunspots before Galileo. Harriot exchanged letters with Kepler in 1608 discussing Bruno's conception of an infinite universe, which Kepler was to reject. Harriot was one of the scientists cultivated by the Ninth Earl of Northumberland--a devoted follower of Bruno.
    Northumberland had an extensive library of Bruno's works, which he made available to the scientists in his circle.

    Bruno was forced to return to France because of the decline in the fortunes of his patron, the Marquis de Mauvissiere, with whom he had travelled to England. He produced three works on his return to Paris but was forced to leave after his
    challenge to debate all comers on the topic One Hundred and Twenty Articles on Nature and the World resulted in him being set upon by supporters of the Church. He then travelled to Germany, where he resided in Wittenberg and Marburg until 1588.
    He was forced to leave Marburg after coming into conflict with the Lutheran authorities, then wandered Europe--Prague, Helmstedt, Frankfurt and Zurich.

    In 1591 Bruno returned to Italy after being invited by the Venetian nobleman Zuane Mocenigo to educate the aristocrat in mnemonics. Mocenigo subsequently denounced him to the Inquisition. Bruno was arrested on May 23, 1592, cross-examined
    on his philosophical works and on January 27, 1593 handed over to the Inquisition in Rome on the direct request of the Papal Nuncio, Taverna, acting on behalf of Pope Clement VIII.

    During his detention in Rome he was interrogated on all aspects of his life and his philosophical and theological views over a period of seven years. On February 15, 1599 the Inquisition charged Bruno with eight specific acts of heresy, which the church has not revealed to this day. According to the limited documents available, Bruno was indicted for his "atheistic" views and for the publication of The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast. He refused to recant.

    The Inquisition delivered its verdict on January 20, 1600, stating: "We hereby, in these documents ... pronounce sentence and declare the aforesaid Brother Giordano Bruno to be an impenitent and pertinacious heretic, and therefore to have incurred all the ecclesiastical censures and pains of the Holy Canon.... We ordain and command that thou must be delivered to the Secular Court ... that thou mayest be punished with the punishment deserved, though we earnestly pray that he (the Roman Governor) will mitigate the rigour of the laws concerning the pains of thy person, that thou mayest not be in danger of death or of mutilation of thy members.

    "Furthermore, we condemn, we reprobate and we prohibit all thine aforesaid and thy other books and writings as heretical and erroneous, containing many heresies and errors, and we ordain that all of them which have come or may come in future into the hands of the Holy Office shall be publicly destroyed and burned in the square of St. Peter before the steps and that they shall be placed upon the Index of Forbidden Books."[8]

    Despite the false note of concern about Bruno's physical well-being, the Inquisition's verdict was a death sentence. Bruno was defiant to the end. Gaspar Schopp of Brelau, a recent convert to Catholicism and a witness to the sentencing, reported that Bruno exclaimed on hearing the sentence: "Perchance you who pronounce my sentence are in greater fear than I who receive it."[9]

    The Holy Inquisition and its tormentors are remembered only as symbols of arch-reaction. But Bruno has stood the test of time. An examination of his life reveals a true Renaissance man with a passionate interest in all aspects of human learning, who participated with great energy and determination in the intellectual turbulence of his times. His insights made an important contribution to the ideas that laid the basis for modern science. His stubborn refusal to bow to the authority, power and repressive apparatus of the Roman Catholic Church, the most powerful institution of his day, will no doubt be an
    inspiration for centuries to come.

    The German philosopher Georg Hegel summed up the generation of thinkers to which Bruno belonged in his Lectures on the History of Philosophy: "These men felt themselves dominated, as they really were, by the impulse to create existence and to
    derive truth from their very selves. They were men of vehement nature, of wild and restless character, of enthusiastic temperament, who could not attain to the calm of knowledge. Though it cannot be denied that there was in them a wonderful insight into what was true and great, there is no doubt on the other hand that they revelled in all manner of corruption in
    thought and heart as well as in their outer life. There is thus to be found in them great originality and subjective energy of
    spirit; at the same time the content is heterogeneous and unequal, and their confusion of mind is great. Their fate, their lives,
    their writings--which often fill many volumes--manifest only this restlessness of their being, this tearing asunder, the revolt
    of their inner being against present existence and the longing to get out of it and reach certainty. These remarkable individuals really resemble the upheavals, tremblings and eruptions of a volcano which has become worked up in its depths
    and has brought forward new developments, which as yet are wild and uncontrolled."[10]

    Notes.

    1. The Catholic Encyclopaedia (http://www.knight.org/advent/cathen/03016a.htm)
    2. Quoted in The Infinite Worlds of Giordano Bruno by Antoinette Mann Paterson, 1970, page ix
    3. Dialectics of Nature by Frederick Engels, page 21-22
    4. De triplici minimo by Giordano Bruno as quoted in Giordano Bruno and Renaissance Science by Hilary Gatti, 1998, page 4
    5. Quoted in Giordano Bruno, His Life and Thought by Dorothea Waley Singer, 1950, page 22
    6. Quoted in The Infinite Worlds of Giordano Bruno by Antoinette Mann Paterson, 1970, pages 33-34
    7. Giordano Bruno and Renaissance Science by Hilary Gatti, 1998, page 229
    8. Quoted in Giordano Bruno, His Life and Thought by Dorothea Waley Singer, 1950, page 176-177
    9. Quoted in Giordano Bruno, His Life and Thought by Dorothea Waley Singer, 1950, page 179
    10. Lectures on the History of Philosophy by G.W.F.Hegel, Volume 3, pages 115-116

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    World Socialist Web Site
    All rights reserved
  • by Old Wolf (56093) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @12:36PM (#1264251)
    How would anyone claim that burning someone at the stake invalidates belief in Jesus?
    For starters, a non-believer can hardly pontificate about what believers should and should not do.

    >The actions of misguided people abusing Jesus' name 400 years ago have nothing to do with my faith now

    But the actions of people 2000 years ago have everything to do with your faith.
    How do you justify crediting certain events and discrediting others?
    And why did you mention 400 years as seemingly the remote past, if you centre your beliefs on events five times as old?
    This looks like a case of selectively interpreting events, according to what fits your preconceived belief.
  • by Lexic0n (107205) <jeff.herronNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday February 17, 2000 @12:41PM (#1264256) Homepage
    On a side note, C.S. Lewis, another great thinker and writer, also died the same day as J.F. Kennedy, relegating his passing into obscurity as well.
  • by derinax (93566) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @12:41PM (#1264257)
    Most geniuses and iconoclasts are. Very nice article, it warmed my heart to see my favorite Hermetic Magician in a Slashdot headline.

    It's worth noting that to many of his contemporaries, Bruno was seen as a chief proponent of the hermetic tradition (alchemical natural magic philosophy), not necessarily of Copernican scientific truth. Perhaps this was to his chagrin, but he played the part. While Bruno did indeed believe that Copernicus stumbled upon the truth, he also firmly held that it was his duty, as an Hermetic Messiah, to popularize and recontextualize the discoveries into hermetic symbolism. Unfortunately for Bruno, in his lectures he would do this in the precise words of one Marsilio Ficino, a contemporary natural philosopher, and his unacknowledged alchemical theories and terms were laughed at by the "grammatical pedants" at Oxford.

    Bruno, who frequently referred to himself in the third-person as "The Nolan", took Copernican science and dragged it back into the murky prescientific, hermetic paradigm. A quote from Bruno's Cena de la ceneri:

    "being more a student of mathematics than of nature [Copernicus] was not able to penetrate deeply enough to remove the roots of false and misleading principles."
    Perhaps he did this to enlighten the masses, but his reward for this was obscurity and a nice statue.

    It is, perhaps, by happy accident that these notions were driven almost entirely by Bruno's Hermetic thought, and not by his acceptance of either the empirical or the mathematical veracity of the Copernican system.

    Nonetheless, the man was a stud: regardless of his intentions, the result was laudable.

    For further information, I would say the definitive work on Bruno is Francis A. Yates' Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1964).

  • How about living among the Agnostics & Atheists?

    I for one don't think they are evangelical - just defensive, because people routinly group them in with what are seen as 'offensive' groups
  • by ucblockhead (63650) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @12:45PM (#1264260) Homepage Journal
    Tell ex-President Carter. Castigated and shredded for the crime of being an honest politician and an acknowledged falliable human being. Truth didn't mean a whole lot to Americans, on voting day.

    There are two problems with this. One is that it is far more likely that the lost election was due to the poor economy and Iran hostage crisis than Jimmy Carter's honesty. Secondly, far from being burned at the stake, he has become one of America's most honored former politicians.

    Don't equate lost elections due to politics to people being burned at the stake for their views. it dishonors the latter.

    Then, there's the mysterious case of a well-known TV chat-show host, who dared to suggest the American meat industry might have a non-zero level of BSE. A $60 million dollar lawsuit followed, for "damaging" the reputation of the industry.

    Yes, and they lost that lawsuit completely and utterly. The well-known chat-show host remains one of the richest entertainers in America. (Hard to equate being utterly rich and spending a couple weeks in court to being burnt at the stake.)

    Then, there are those who disagree with the "orthodox" religion of politics. Marx is not only hated by the US, but anyone associated with his views of power equality was, for many years, banned from the shores of the allegedly free US.

    And yet the American Communist Party remains in existence, unbanned. Angela Davis is still unimprisoned.

    But anyway, I sure as hell hope someone persecutes me until I'm as bad off as Oprah.

  • I liked this piece very much, all in all. It's good to see other kinds of content on Slashdot these days.

    But...

    ... where exactly did Brin get the idea that Extropians are modern-day subjectivists? That's just weird. Especially considering that many of them are hard-core scientists.

    - Rafael Kaufmann, heading for the Omega Point
  • Actually here are a few more facts,

    Bruno, was burned to death in the Square of the Flowers, in down-town Rome, on February 16, 1600. In 1889, when freethinkers and rational religionists erected a statue of him, in the same flowered square where he was murdered by the Catholic Church, they were condemned by Pope Leo XIII.

    He was executed primarily for his belief that the world was not flat, that it was indeed round and that the Earth revolved around the Sun. He also claimed that that the Sun was just a star and that millions of stars have planets about them.

    For these claims, AND for the crime of advancing the notion that priests had no right to use violence in attempting to convert disbelievers, the church brought charge against him.
  • The cynicism of your comment is unwarranted, and, I think, not supported by historical evidence. It sounds more like regurgitated Marxism, which is not a substitute for original thought, or insightful analysis. And "gifting" is not a verb unless you've been a graduate student for too long.
  • I think it's understandable that Christians on Slashdot be defensive, even in this "pre-emptive" manner: For example, I attended an extremely liberal college, and was (and is) extremely liberal myself, yet while there I was subject to vast blanket statements concerning Christians, that in most cases were only applicable to a small minority of ultra-fundementalists, if at all. Needless to say, I became very defensive while there, and probably jumped the gun more than once. While I think much of Slashdot is probablly neutral on these issues, we do feel like we have a lot of s**t attributed to us here, and unfairly at that.
  • by Tau Zero (75868) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @01:07PM (#1264279) Journal
    How about living among the Agnostics & Atheists?
    After having been recently been accosted in a Big Boy parking lot by an obnoxious person who I presumed to be a Southern Baptist but who I did not care to get to know well enough to ask, I could definitely deal with that. It would lead to a lot less strife in the world, too. Could you possibly imagine two armies going into battle, the atheists waving their swords yelling "THERE IS NO GOD!" and the agnostics with their slings and pikes screaming back "THERE MIGHT BE!"? The idea is enough to make a good belly-laugh.
    --
    "There's a word for people who live close to nature -
  • While you are correct to say that Chomsky's work in linguistics is now mainstream, it would be more correct to say that it significantly changed the direction of that mainstream.
    With regard to you other comments, they are the ones with no connection to reality. Merely because Chomsky subscribes to a different set of political beliefs than you do does not make his claims "horseshit" While I frequently disagree with Chomsky's views on international relations, and would not classify him as a visionary, he is certainly an astute observer of American intenational politics.
    Take for instance his commentary on the recent bombing of Serbia. While I disagreed with his conclusions, he is certainly correct to point out that although such countries as Indonesia and Turkey have committed grevious human rights violations with weapons sold to them below cost by the American government, no only did we not bomb them, we continuted to trade with them. He is also correct in pointing out that this decision had nothing to do with human rights and everything to do with American economic concerns, mostly the concerns of large industries with significant political influence. Merely because this suggests conclusions that are antithetical to your beliefs about politics does not make it incorret, and certainly not worthy of the derision you show.
  • Huxley may have timed his well, but I find L Ron Hubbard's death more poignant. If I recall correctly, Hubbard died on the same day the Challenger blew up, thereby pushing his name back into a little-read section of the newspaper. Whereas Huxley may have wanted the obscurity of his death, we can rest assured that Hubbard did not. There is a certain delightful poignancy in seeing someone with an ego as large as that get a deserved dose of obscurity.

    I can only hope that, in the year 2386, there won't be a similar article about Hubbard.
  • Besides, global warming is proven by multiple independent measurements. The most recent heat-flow measurements show a global temperature increase of 1 degree C in the last 500 years, 50% of that in the 20th century and another 30% in the 19th. (See a BBC article [bbc.co.uk].) Anyone who uses the words "psuedo science propaganda" to describe the majority position of climate specialists who've backed up their opinions with literally mountains of data is a troll. (And anyone who can't spell "pseudo" correctly is marginally literate.)
    --
    "There's a word for people who live close to nature -
  • by Samrobb (12731) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @01:18PM (#1264287) Homepage Journal

    I for one don't think they are evangelical - just defensive, because people routinly group them in with what are seen as 'offensive' groups

    Eh, perhaps. While I think that most non-religious people aren't very "evengelical" about their views, I've met agnostics and athiests who were extremely disparaging of anyone with religious beliefs - these are the "abortion clinic bombers" of the non-religious world, the fanatics who give their views a bad name because they use it as an excuse to persecute, belittle and denigrate others. These people are the equivilent of Christian-right homophobes who believe their viewpoint is right, all others are wrong, and that this gives them moral superiority and the right to treat people who disagree with them as less than human. They practice conversion by denigration, instead of by evangelism.

  • Dude, Jesus was nailed to some 2x4's for trying to teach truth, according to you guys. I'd think that this sort of behavior would confirm a belief in Jesus, or at least a desire to imitate the Romans, and show that "God" approves of executing free-thinkers to eventually save humanity from themselves. Or something, it doesn't make much sense to me. Maybe that's why I'm not a Christian. ;)
    ---
    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [152.7.41.11].
  • Fine - but instead of one christian telling me about how I should live my life, and leaving me alone after I say 'I'm not interested', it is instead legions of people who all feel it is their personal duty to inform me that I am living my life 'wrong' and I should follow their madel, because it is 'right'.

    It is a broad range of them too - everyone from the noramlly meek, polite, nice x-tian to the ragingly anti-abortion zelot to the white supremacist x-tian who thinks that the arian race is made up of God's children.

    Christianity is a broad group, and I don't seek to pigon hole all christians based on the deplorable actions of certain segments, however one thing I have noticed is that just about all Christians disapprove of people NOT beliving like they do. Intolerance of different viewpoints is inherant in the religion - after all, the bible is the only truth (at least of you take any normal interpretaion)

    Christians always seem to wonder why everyone else has tolerance issues towards Christianity & Christians - well, maybe it's because it appears the general christian view of us 'heathens' is hatred for being different, pity for not seeing the light, or a view of us as stupid for not seeing the 'proper' way of things

  • by jms (11418) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @01:23PM (#1264291)

    Repression never stops. The Spanish Inquisition comes back every few years. Right now it's the atheists and OSS zealots. In a few years it'll be the Blacks again.

    Actually, right now it's drug users. As of a few days ago, the U.S. passed the two-million prisoner mark. According to the Department of Justice's own figures, one quarter of those, or one half million U.S. citizens are imprisoned for non-violent drug offences alone.

    Mandatory minimum prison sentences were applied in 64 percent of drug cases in 1998. The average length of imprisonment for drug offenses was 76 months; for firearms violations it was 63 months; and for manslaughter, it was 45 months.
    -- The Washington Post [mapinc.org]

    Even if you find yourself with incurable cancer, like Steve Kubby [kubby.com], and all that is keeping you alive is regular use of medical marijuana, you are subject to imprisonment and likely death in prison from deprivation of your medicine if you are caught using an illegal medicine, i.e. one that is not patented by a campaign-contributing pharmaceutical company. Many medical marijuana patients, once discovered, find themselves under a court order not to use the only medicine that will keep them alive, and are subject to drug tests, and risk imprisonment and death in prison if they dare to continue using their medicine.

    Drug users in general are subject to abuse and murder by the police. Their property is subject to seizure without trial, thus bankrupting them and preventing them from defending themselves. [fear.org] They are sent to special "drug courts" where they find that their constitutional rights don't apply. They are subject to "mandatory minimum" [famm.org] sentencing rules that forbid the judge from using any discretion in sentencing, hence the 76 month average drug sentence.

    Back to the original point, if you go back far enough, the origins of most religions are based on the teachings of individuals who have had mystical -- i.e. hallucinatory, drug-like experiences. During the inquisition, someone who accidently ate the wrong mushroom, had a "mystical" experience, and claimed to have seen God would be put to death. In the year 2000, someone attempting to replicate the experience would face years in prison if caught.

    Atheists and blacks, by contrast, are protected by a host of federal and state laws.
  • Bruno truly is one of the great figures of history. Robert G. Ingersoll put it very eloquently in his The Great Infidels [infidels.org]:

    On the sixteenth day of February, in the year of grace 1600, by "the triumphant beast," the Church of Rome, this philosopher, this great and splendid man, was burned. He was offered his liberty if he would recant. There was no God to be offended by his recantation, and yet, as an apostle of what he believed to be the truth, he refused this offer. To those who passed the sentence upon him he said: "It is with greater fear that ye pass this sentence upon me than I receive it." This man, greater than any naturalist of his day; grander than the martyr of any religion, died willingly in defence of what he believed to be the sacred truth.
    ...

    He was the first of all the world who died for truth without expectation of reward. He did not anticipate a crown of glory. His imagination had not peopled the heavens with angels waiting for his soul. He had not been promised an eternity of joy if he stood firm, nor had he been threatened with the fires of hell if he wavered and recanted. He expected as his reward an eternal nothing! Death was to him an everlasting end -- nothing beyond but a sleep without a dream, a night without a star, without a dawn -- nothing but extinction, blank, utter, and eternal. No crown, no palm, no "well done, good and faithful servant," no shout of welcome, no song of praise, no smile of God, no kiss of Christ, no mansion in the fair skies -- not even a grave within the earth -- nothing but ashes, wind-blown and priest-scattered, mixed with earth and trampled beneath the feet of men and beasts.

    The murder of this man will never be completely and perfectly avenged until from Rome shall be swept every vestige of priest and pope, until over the shapeless ruin of St. Peter's, the crumbled Vatican and the fallen cross, shall rise a monument to Bruno, -- the thinker, philosopher, philanthropist, atheist, martyr.
  • Your second point is definitely not true. Many believed that the Sun was another star and that the Earth spun around the sun without being condemned in any way. From Brittanica:

    Bruno was not condemned for his defence of the Copernican system of astronomy, nor for his doctrine of the plurality of inhabited worlds, but for his theological errors, among which were the following: that Christ was not God but merely an unusually skilful magician, that the Holy Ghost is the soul of the world, that the Devil will be saved, etc.

    It was Bruno's theology that got him into trouble.

  • He is in the online dictionary:

    Bruno, Giordano. 1548?-1600.

    Italian philosopher who used Copernican principles in formulating his cosmic theory of an infinite universe. Condemned by the Inquisition for heresy, immoral conduct, and blasphemy, he was burned at the stake.


    and encyclopedia:

    Bruno, Giordano

    1548-1600, Italian philosopher. A Dominican, Bruno was accused of heresy, left the order (c.1576), and became a wandering scholar. His works were regarded as heretical, and he was arrested (1591), tried before the INQUISITION, and burned at the stake. His major metaphysical works, On the Infinite Universe and Worlds and The Infinite (both 1584), drew heavily from Hermetic gnosticism and other works on magic and the occult. His defense of Copernicus was based not on mathematics but on animist and religious grounds. Bruno held that there are many possible modes of viewing the world, because we cannot postulate absolute truth. He was the first to state what is now called the cosmic theory: that the physical world is composed of irreducible elements (monads) in constant motion, and that the universe is infinite in scope. This view, reflected in the works of LEIBNIZ and SPINOZA, accounts for Bruno's position as a forerunner of modern science.


    I actually looked it up 'cause I thought it'd be an easy prank to pull, making someone up out of thin air and seeing if /.-ers would catch on. Still might be figment of our collective imagination or a time traveller, but he's probably from the future in the latter case.

    Tesla also deserves a lot more credit than he's received. (Probably came in from another dimension.)
  • by UncleRoger (9456) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @02:01PM (#1264313) Homepage
    ...being beat up as a kid, many times, for being what one tormentor called a "walking dictionary"; or knowing people who have been subject to, or threatened with, violence (by the state or by private citizens) because of their personal lifestyle choices...

    "Flamboyant eccentrics" does not necessarily equate to above-average-in-intelligence, socially-inept, or even non-mainstream. Some examples, perhaps, of what Brin may have been referring to are Elton John, Prince, Richard Branson, Judge Judy, Howard Stern, Ross Perot, the entire cast of the World Wrestling Federation, and anyone who's ever been on the Jerry Springer show.

    While you might be eccentric, you probably aren't all that spectacularly flamboyant. Compare yourself to Emperor Norton [discordia.org] Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. How many major bridges [sfmuseum.org] have you ordered to be built, and actually had it accomplished?

    both Presidental front-runners describe themselves not just as Christians but as "born-again" Christians...

    I did not know of this. Are you referring to Bush and Gore?

  • You mean the data from satellite sensors which were sensitive to altitude, and which hadn't been corrected for decay of the orbit? You'd have to be clueless to keep relying on an analysis with KNOWN systematic errors which have been CORRECTED in later analyses. Or you could just be using the data out of context to support a lie. I suppose there are people who'd do that.

    Of course, the satellite data doesn't prove anything about global warming. The satellite sensors are measuring air temperature, not ground temperature. You'd expect the "visible" part of the air to remain about the same temperature, because the amount of heat it's receiving doesn't change much. The air is trapping heat on the ground, and that is where the ground-based weather stations (which have been confirming the global-warming models) happen to be. The borehole temperature data confirms that the weather stations are not reading funny due to systematic errors.
    --
    "There's a word for people who live close to nature -

  • Why is that every time someone alludes to being moderated down, their score goes up? On an off-topic post at that!

    But since you brought it up...
    Those who commited the Inquisition truly did believe believe in the divinity of Jesus, even if they did ignore most of his teachings. This leads me to conclude that belief in Jesus is not necessary to evaluate moral decisions, and in fact may even hinder the ability, since it has failed so many people before. While this does not necessarily invalidate *your* belief in Jesus, it does invalidate one of the major reasons people think *I* should belive in Jesus.
  • Hmmm. The article says both that the planet has not been this warm since the 1500's, and that it is about a degree warmer than the 1500's. I wonder which is true? And if so, what caused the planet to be this warm in the 1500's? It certainly wasn't humans. It's a well-known fact that the planet has been warming in a zig-zag fashion from an ice age over the last 10,000 years. It's not at all obvious that our miniscule contributions to the atmosphere have affected this in any way.
  • Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), Italian philosopher/scientist and possible conspirator, was burned at the stake in Rome on February 16, 1600. Most historians merely mention that Bruno was charged with the heresy of teaching Copernican astronomy, but Frances Yates, a historian who specialized in the occult aspects of the early scientific revolution, point out the Bruno was charged with 18 heresies and crimes, including the practice of sorcery and organizing secret societies to oppose the Vatican. Yates thinks Bruno may have had a role in the invention of either Rosicrucianism or Freemasonry or both.

    Bruno's teachings combined the new science of his time with traditional Cabalistic mysticism. He believed in a universe of infinite space with infinite inhabited planets, and in a kind of dualistic pantheism, in which the divine is incarnate in every part always in conflicting forms that both oppose and support each other. Whatever his link with occult secret societies, he influenced Hegel, Marx, theosophy, James Joyce, Timothy Leary, Discordianism, and Dr. Wilhelm Reich. Me: Discordianism, eh? He couldn't have been all bad...

  • He said:
    ... such as his doctrine of panpsychism (belief that reality is constituted by the mind), which anticipated the teachings of Gottfried Leibniz and Baruch Spinoza... and may be echoed in today's extropian movement.

    I don't know what sums up subjectivism better than "belief that reality is constituted by the mind".
  • Funnily enough the italian daily newspaper, Corriere della Sera [corriere.it] had a lengthy article on Giordano Bruno on Wednesday 16th. Unfortunately they don't believe in archiving previous pages on their web site (since they sell their archives CD for a hefty fee). I will try to summarise it from what I recall. The author is the organiser of the conference which is taking place in Rome (Italy) sometime next week. He is trying to bring out the "forgotten" side of Giordano Bruno, namely his scientific views which, according to the author, had been pillaged heavily by the likes of Galileo. In particular he states that Bruno had developed a theory of the universe in which not only the Earth orbited the Sun (i.e. heliocentric and against what was the scholastic view of the time) but that the Sun itself was not the centre of the universe. Furthermore Bruno believed that stars were nothing other than other "suns" which had other Earths orbiting them (another pretty heretical statement at the time).

    The article which is partially in the form of an interview then delves in the various historical descriptions on the burning on the stake and the horrendous tortures at the hands of the inquisition and closes inviting people to the conference.

    A list of Giordano Bruno's publications can be found at this italian web site [lexis.it]. Also, the italian ministry of research through one of its many sub-committees is working on a complete CD-ROM of Giordano Bruno's work [sci.sns.it] in XML.

  • There are a number of glaring innacuracies in this article. It sounds academic, but seems to be more polemic in nature. With regard to the accuracy, take this as an example: You write

    ...current attitude...is defined by a two-page entry in the latest edition of the Catholic Encyclopaedia...but fails to mention the best-known fact--that the church authorities burnt him alive at the stake

    But in front of me I happen to have the current Catholic Encyclopedia (my roommate was a seminarian) and it says in the Bruno article:

    In the spring of 1599, the trial was begun before a commission of the Roman Inquisition, and, after the accused had been granted several terms of respite in which to retract his errors, he was finally condemned (January, 1600), handed over to the secular power (8 February), and burned at the stake in the Campo dei Fiori in Rome (17 February).

    The Church is in fact painfully honest about mistakes. It's a shame socialist organizations aren't so concerned about the misdeeds of Socialism.

  • But they would also claim that this invalidates belief in Jesus.

    Only trolls or morons make this claim. Intelgenbt people claim that it invalidates the claim that organised religion has any morals. There are plenty of reasons to doubt the Jesus story without needing to resort to funky reasoning. Specifically, the fact that much of Jesus's life is identical to the story of Zarathustra which predates it by 500-1000 years (or more), i.e. Jesus was creaded by plagarism.

    although they do serve to point out some of the hazards awaiting those who forget the church's purpose.

    Persicution is not the purpose of some monk wandering arround on a hilside contemplating life, but it is very much the purpose of every major religion (catholics would rather see people in South Africa get AIDS then use condoms; the christian right wants to persicute gays and women). Do you know why we have the bible belt today? Lots of sothern slave owners descided christianity would allow them to justify savery to the slaves and to themselves.

    The actions of misguided people abusing Jesus' name 400 years ago have nothing to do with my faith now

    Actually, it has more to do with the christian faith now then what Jesus said 2000 years ago. You think they reconstructed more of "his message" in the last 400 years. I do admit it probable has nothing to do with *your* faith now, but that is because you sound like a rational human being and not like the vocal christian right book burning fools.

    Personally, I think the intelegent christians need a new word for themselves today. The christian right is really making a mess of your religion in this country. You could call yourselves the christian left. This would be a rejection of the christian right and not necissarily an acceptance of the liberal leftwing.

    All that having been said, the Catholic church is not as bad as many of the non-cathlic religions today. They have a tradition of intelectualism which makes them MUCH better then our American christian sects (they accept evolution). You should always point this out whenever you are discussing the past atrocities of the Catholic church. It keeps people like me from going off on religion based on what we see today's vocal christian right doing.

    -1 here I come!

    This is probable the best way to prevent yourself from getting a -1.

    (I'm posting this without my +1 because it is getting a little off-topic; I am telling people I am posting without my +1 in the hopes that other people with a +1 will say "what a good idea" and use it more responcibly in the future, i.e. I'm sick of seeing 100 worthless posts at 2)
  • by Robert Link (42853) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @03:38PM (#1264341) Homepage

    Even the scientific community is guilty. They have their own absolute truths, and anyone who tries to cross them gets cut down until the evidence is too overwhelming to ignore.

    It may look that way to an outsider, but if you ever as a scientist you will see that that simply isn't true. To be sure, there are some scientists that are dogmatic about their beliefs, but on the whole the scientific community as a whole is fairly tolerant of unorthodox views, provided that there is at least a smidgeon of evidence to back them up. Naturally, unorthodox theories are treated with some skepticism until they have proven themselves through experimental tests. This is as it should be; our confidence in the orthodox theories is the result of many years of experimental trial, and we should expect similar successes from new theories before we give them the same credence.


    As an example, take the theory of Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND). This is a theory that solves the "dark matter" problem in astronomy not by invoking unseen matter, but by modifying the law of gravity for very weak fields. Most astronomers are understandably skeptical of MOND; however, the honest ones (and there really are quite a lot of them) will admit that it cannot be ruled out. In time the evidence will favor one side or the other, but until and unless strong evidence for MOND materializes few are going to rush to embrace it. That's the scientific method for you. It may not be perfect, but I'd say it's a huge improvement over inquisitions and burning at the stake. Perhaps you can think of something even better; if so, I, for one, would love to hear about it.


    -r

  • Yes, your version is much better supported by the following evidence (as opposed to your ad hominem attack on the poster "Tilde"):
    • French Revolution, 1789
      The generous voluntary abdication of the monarchy by the enlightened monarchists issued in a new, more efficient society which Marie Antoinette and her consort had determined would advance the development of science, human rights and happiness. Cynics should note that this was at great personal cost to themselves
    • Irish Revolution, 1916The British monarchy realized that they were oppressing the population of Ireland needlessly and organized a civilized and voluntary withdrawal of their armed forces (from part of the island) whilst ceding the estates of the landed gentry back to the republican peasants
    • I really couldn't be bothered to go on....if Tilde is cynical then history is cynical

    --Crush
  • The article says ... that the planet has not been this warm since the 1500's
    The article does not say that.
    It's not at all obvious that our miniscule contributions to the atmosphere have affected this in any way.
    Only if you don't know any radiation physics or the like. Climate researchers do, and they take this very seriously. Maybe you ought to take a hint from them, like noticing that someone with a shirt reading "BOMB SQUAD" is running away from something... maybe you should run too? Our contributions are already over 20% of total atmospheric CO2, which is not minuscule by any reasonable measure. If the climate researchers are right, we are risking enormous upheavals in much of the world as rainfall patterns change, storms become more intense and/or hit areas historically untouched, and the habitat zones for both native species and introduced pests move northward.

    There is the possibility they could be wrong, but compare them to the bomb squad; if the bomb squad was running away, would you be sufficiently confident in your safety to stand there or would you at least duck and hide until you were sure? You could always bet the bomb was a dud, but you'd be betting your life. I prefer not to bet the world.
    --
    "There's a word for people who live close to nature -

  • In general attempts to decide scientific questions by appeal to religious orthodoxy have a very sorry history. That the stars are other suns, that the earth is not the center of the universe, that diseases are caused by microorganisms; all of these crucial insights were strongly and sometimes violently resisited, mainly because the dominant religion of the period happened to believe otherwise. Giordano Bruno was burned alive at the stake for urging the first view, Galileo was forced by threat of torture in the Vatican's basement to recant the second view. In principle, there is nothing wrong with appealing to a more general theory that bears on the case at hand, which is what an appeal to religion roughly amounts to. But that appeal can only be as good as the scientific credentials of the religion being applied to, and here the appeals tend to fall down rather badly. Bruno's main 'philosophical' insight was that he combined his speculative philosophy of nature with the new recommendations of a naturalistic ethics. Bruno's support for Copernicus in The Ash Wednesday Supper stemmed from his belief that a living earth must move, and he specifically rejected any appeal to mere mathematics to prove cosmological hypotheses. In fact, he ought to be interpreted in the context of Renaissance hermetism, instead of being seen as an active proponent of the heliocentric hypothesis or of a scientific wouldview against medieval obscurantism. Despite superficial similarities to certain beliefs of both Leibniz and Spinoza, Bruno had little or no impact on seventeenth-century philosophy as a whole. His contribution to seventeenth century thought stemmed from the fact that he was the only individual ever condemned by both Catholic and Protestant churches for heresy, and then burnt at the stake for good measure.
  • If you're referring to my first post on the recent treatise on extra-terrestrial life, let me point out that it was an experiment to see exactly what would happen if there were some quasi-insightful but clueless rambling in the first post slot of a potentially-hot article. Just as I had predicted, it went up to "+5, Insightful" relatively quickly, just to show how bad the knee-jerk moderation system is around here.

    Now it seems to have mysteriously dropped down to -1, as well as many of my posts from that time period. I emailed Rob asking him what could have happened, but he hasn't yet responded to me. I really have no idea what's going on with that.

    (Note: I am not a karma whore. I just happen to have a high karma, mostly because of the stupid knee-jerk moderators who mistake quantity for quality.)
    ---
    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine [nmsu.edu].


  • Then, there's the mysterious case of a well-known TV chat-show host, who dared to suggest the American meat industry might have a non-zero level of BSE. A $60 million dollar lawsuit followed, for "damaging" the reputation of the industry.



    Which the industry lost.



    After causing him considerable trouble, and punishing him for speaking out. Not to the tune of $60 million, but punishing him no less.

    I suppose people like you would prefer to take away the people's right to sue.


    There's a difference between right to sue and right to sue frivolously without consequence. In countries such as Britain, the loser of a suit pays the winner's expenses. This makes filing frivolous lawsuits (which one would lose, but still cause the defendant grief and expense) a lot less attractive. In the U.S., lawsuits are used as a blunt instrument, and a tool of harrassment.
  • Just a little note, while Galileo Galilei was rehabilitated by the catholic church recently (i.e. they admitted they did him wrong) after only 300 years, they won't do the same for Bruno.

    One might wonder if it's because of it's teachings or the implication of wrongful death penalty by the "infallible" Pope. Well, murdering him was wrong no matter what, but you get my drift.

  • >Whilst outright, open murder is much rarer than it was, in the middle ages

    What? Open mass murder was very common in the century that ended just 48 days ago. Millions were openly murdered in Nazi Germany, The Soviet Union, The Peoples Republic of China, and Cambodia. The Nazi murders were racist mainly, Though speaking out against Hitler got a lot of people killed. The other three mass murderer states did it in the name of Marxism. You decry the mild perscution of Marxists in the USA, Yet you failed to mention the millions who were murdered and imprisioned for the crime of not holding Marxist views.
  • Wasn't Kennedy shot on the 23rd?

    dubious Kennedy link:http://www.tw-zone.com/cosmo/photoshop/oswald .html
    dave
  • Alright what about Soviet style communism? Weren['t religions forced to go underground because the dominant philosophy was atheistic?

    Religions are a threat to various people's power. This is why they go to war and persecute each other. The only reason we don't see atheists persecuting religious people is because only rarely do they acheive the power to do so.
  • Where the hell is .cx?

    Most (if not all) two-letter domains are ISO 3166 country codes [www.din.de], and "CX" is the code for Christmas Island [christmas.net.au], which is "an Australian Territory" near Java (the Indonesian island, not The Programming Language Formerly Known As Oak :-)).

    However, this does not necessarily mean that the Anonymous Coed in question is necessarily on Christmas Island; it is, I suspect, possible to buy Christmas Island domains if you're a non-resident (various other countries, such as Tonga (".to"), do the same).

  • Actually it took about twenty years from the time continental drift was first proposed to the time it was fully accepted by the mainstream scientific community. The reason was not resistance; the reason was that Wegener didn't have a valid mechanism for how the continents were drifting. His theory did explain quite a lot, but no one (including Wegener) had any idea how the continents would actually be able to move as he had proposed. Once that mechanism (plate tectonics, deep-sea vents, subduction zones, etc.) was discovered, continenal drift was accepted almost immediately.

    Remember, just because a theory is a thousand times better than one we currently accept, doesn't mean that it will be obvious that it is is correct. If we immediately accepted as superior every theory that seemed better upon cursory inspection, we'd end up accepting a lot of theories that ultimately didn't do as well as the original one did.

    I think that mental inertia because of scientists attached to older theories is definitely part of it; but even a new theory takes time to find its evidence and mechanisms before it can be accepted.

    Einstein's unwillingness to accept quantum mechanics was mostly for the same reason. He thought it was too bizarre to be true, but very little in the way of experimentation had been done by the time he died in 1955. If he had lived another twenty years, to see what could be done with large particle accelerators and other experiments, I'm fairly sure he would have come around.

    I'm afraid I don't know much about Clovis' theories, however.

  • Well im willing to make a useless post at a 2

    Where did you find your Zarathustra reference. As far as I can tell(encyclopedia brittanica) he appears to be merely a charachter in Nietzche works.

    Did you mean Zoraster? If so I don't see the great parrell to jesus life
  • by delmoi (26744)
    is why I surf @ -1 :)

    [ c h a d o k e r e ] [dhs.org]
  • Boy, oh boy. For somebody with such incredible conceit, you sure do get things wrong. Okay consider this:

    If I say 2000 is the warmest year in 500 years, that says either a) I don't know anything about the temps before 1500, or b) the temps before 1500 may have been this high. In the case of global temperatures, the answer is b. Check out this graph [oism.org] of the estimated surface temperatures of the Sargasso Sea over the last 3000 years, for example. Climatologists acknowledge that temperatures rose in medieval times, dropped around 1400, spiked up higher than now around 1500 (thus the quote from BBC), and then we entered what they call a "little ice age" in the 1700's. That's what we're coming out of now.

    The fact is, historical evidence does not at all suggest that we are warming the planet with our activity.

    In addition, your figure of a 20% human contribution of CO2 is entirely bogus! Each year, humans put about 5.5 Gigatons of Carbon into the atmosphere. The surface ocean and the atmosphere exchange 90 Gt, vegetation and the atmosphere 60Gt, etc, etc. These numbers are all estimates, of course, and, unlike you, I will cite a scientific paper [oism.org] written by climatologists that reviews the current evidence of global warming.

    Finally, your assertion that climate scientists are running for the hills or packing their bags for Mars is inaccurate. There is, for example, the Petition Project [oism.org], an effort circulated by Frederick Seitz, past president of the National Academy of Sciences, that has garnered over 17,000 signatures of qualified scientists. It states that "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate." A competing pro-warming petition, circulated by the Union of Concerned Scientists in 1997, had secured a paltry 1,559 signatures. See this article [anxietycenter.com] for details.

    You have been popping up on this thread, bullying people with your unsubstantiated assertions, sarcasm, and bogus arguements, but facts are facts, and they're definitely not on your side.

  • Once again you are making the most hilariously inept arguments. The entire issue of the corrections to the satellite measurements was resolved [nasa.gov] a couple of years ago. The corrected data, explained in the link by a senior scientist for climate studies at NASA, shows none of the so-called "signatures" of global warming that are predicted by the alarmist computer models of the atmosphere.

    More amusing, though, is your claim that measuring the temperature of the lower atmosphere will tell us less about global warming than measuring at a few hundred stations on the ground. Are you aware that "global warming" refers to much, much, much more of the atmosphere than that which exists right outside those stations? In any event, the discrepancy between surface and satellite measurements occurs primarily over ocean [nasa.gov], where surface measurement is least accurate. There is virtually no discrepancy between satellite and surface data in North America, where surface data is most accurate. Furthermore, the satellite data is calibrated carefully with baloon thermometers. A good concise NASA article explaining the accuracy of satellite measurements is found here [nasa.gov].

    The fact, you simply want to ignore excellent data when it does not bear out your foregone conclusion of imminent man-made catastrophe. Most real scientists, fortunately, tend to be more honest than you.

  • In the original post, I said ...great monarchies of Continental Europe in the first part of this century...

    The French Revolution is not in that time span. And England is not on the Continent. You should read (or think) more carefully.

    It is worth pointing out, however, that the British monarchy gave up an entire empire in the first half of the century, most of it voluntarily. But I had in mind the Hapsburg empire, with the Emperor voluntarily acceding to his dethronement. You don't see Otto von Hapsburg (the current heir) scrapping for his throne, either. He is a very productive meber of the European Parliament from Belgium. The Hapsburgs see their duty as serving Europe in whatever capacity is needed. Two more examples of monarchs voluntarily giving up power for a perceived greater good of the country would be the Kings of Spain and Greece. Of course Juan Carlos still rules over Spain, but has no real executive power anymore.

    PS - Ad hominem means, literally, at or to the man. I attacked his arguments and a word he used. A hypothetical ad hominem attack would have been more like "Tilde, you are a colossal dumbass, even dumber than crush!"

  • That's a very flawed premise for a book. I'm surprised the author got away with that. The simple fact of the matter is, history itself is fundamentally flawed. Most of the history that is taught in schools today is wildly inaccurate and full of propagandistic nonsense. Creating an accurate personality simulation of someone using merely historical data would be completely impossible.

    --

  • Whether he forsaw the Web or not, it's impossible to say that he foresaw global warming in 1989. I was learning about global warming in grade school in 1988.

    --

  • by Skald (140034) on Thursday February 17, 2000 @10:25PM (#1264442)
    >> They have their own absolute truths, and anyone who tries to cross them
    >> gets cut down until the evidence is too overwhelming to ignore.

    > It may look that way to an outsider, but if you ever as a scientist you
    > will see that that simply isn't true. To be sure, there are some
    > scientists that are dogmatic about their beliefs, but on the
    > whole the scientific community as a whole is fairly tolerant of
    > unorthodox views, provided that there is at least a smidgeon of
    > evidence to back them up.

    In fact, I must totally disagree. As a whole, the scientific community is fairly tolerant of unorthodox views, within the context of their own conceptual framework.

    This is especially evident in epistemology. The scientific community of the twentieth century, confronted with the questions, "what is knowledge?" and "how are things knowable?" had two basic strategies. First, the great majority ignored them. Second, those few who took it upon themselves to become "philosophers of science" made great efforts to ramrod the truth into the mold of science. Perversely inverting the scientific method, they first they decided what was true, (that science was productive of knowledge), and then came up with reasons to justify it.

    Take Logical Positivism, for instance, the darling of 20th century science. They chose to define knowledge to make science (and only science) fit it: "to be knowable is to be open, at least in theory, to empirical verification". This despite the obvious fact that this statement itself is not empirically, or even logically, verifiable!

    Scientists are indeed open to a great deal, so long as you presume a materialist universe which is empirically knowable, and don't trod on any of their other pet assumptions. I have seldom heard any group, however, so willing to state their presumptions as fact: "the universe is without purpose", "evolution is the result of random mutation", even "B consistently follows A, so A causes B". Their faith is very strong, and many just as testy about it as the most dogmatic Christians.

    I can think of something better: the Socratic method. Question everything. The unreflected life is not worth living.

  • How about the hundreds of thousands of people killed, raped, and tourtured by US-funded, fascist death squads in South America?

    IIRC, they were killed for their Marxist (or "leftist") views.

    Marxists don't have a monopoly on brutality.
  • by jw3 (99683) on Friday February 18, 2000 @01:28AM (#1264451) Homepage
    Giordano Bruno did not waste much time with promoting heliocentrism. Much of his work deal with a) critisizing christianity, Christ (critisizing is not an appriopriate word here: he called Christ "an inferior, malicious and dumb man", as written by Bruno) and the church b) very naive pagan-style animism (like, "everything has a soul", "the Universe is living, man" and so forth). He never did a single experiment; a single astronomic observations. With 30, he claimed that some "universal holyness" contacted him and revealed him the truth.

    No recording from any of the process recordings that remaind till nowadays mentions Copernicus or heliocentrism: Bruno was prosecuted mainly for paganism, heresy and blasphemy.

    Nowadays he would have been considered to be a harmless maniac, they would put him in one of those quiet rooms and give lots of paper and a soft crayon. It **** me off whenever he is called "a missionary", a "martyr of the Truth". And when someone mentions Bruno in one sentence with the science I go berserk (like now, because now I did it).

    Regards,

    January

  • Many if not most of the famous soviet dissidents were atheists. (I might be wrong on this one, but I tend to remember that Andrej Sakkharov was an atheist).
  • For who? Le Penn?
  • Sorry boy, you missed the point.

    Having a quick look into my .sig generator... Aha, here it is:

    @*** Torquemada's Law ***

    • When you are sure you're right, you have a moral duty to impose
      your will upon anyone who disagrees with you.

    This has been a cornerstone of almost any religion. It is actually thy cornerstone. If you assume that others may be right how the hell are you supposed to be the follower of thy right way

    I would have carried on with the rant quoting "The polemics" of Ciceron. He used to have a very good "dialog" with the ch... but I would rather suggest you pick them up from the library and read them. If some moral prick has not banned them (I am not kidding they are banned in some US libraries).

  • Not arguing, expanding.
  • No, but by the 19th C it was rare. In those times, it was common.
  • Some examples, perhaps, of what Brin may have been referring to are Elton John, Prince, Richard Branson, Judge Judy, Howard Stern, Ross Perot, the entire cast of the World Wrestling Federation, and anyone who's ever been on the Jerry Springer show.
    Do we really want to mention these people in the same context as Bruno and Franklin? Ok, maybe I could accept Elton John and the Artist Formerly Known As, as possibly having some artistic merit. But the WWF? Jerry Springer?
    While you might be eccentric, you probably aren't all that spectacularly flamboyant. Compare yourself to Emperor Norton Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.
    Hey, I would never dare to compare myself with the one and only begotten son of Eris Discordia [cmu.edu]:
    We asked Goddess if She, like God, had an Only Begotten Son. She assured us that She did and gave His name as Emperor Norton I - whom we assumed was probably some Byzantine ruler of Canstantinople. Dilligent research eventually turned up the historical Norton, as we call Him, in the holy city of San Francisco - where He walked his faithful dog along Market Street scarcely more than a century ago.

    Gregory Hill has since become the world's foremost authority on Joshua A. Norton who, on September 17th of 1859, crowned Himself the Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. Just before then, He vanished for a number of days - perhaps into the wilderness where maybe He was tempted by the Devil, probably to organize His life and get His affairs in order.

    Certainly they looked like that's what they needed. For on the day before his disappearance Norton, heretofore little more than a successful businessman, cornered the rice market - only to be foiled by the unscheduled arrival of a whole shipload of rice from the Orient. A lesser man would have been thrown out of step by that event which for Him became a step to the throne.

    When the U.S. Congress failed to obey His Majesty's Royal Order to assemble in the San Francisco Opera House, Norton fired every last member of that rebellious organization. Thus, the people of San Francisco knew better than to incute His Imperial wrath. His Royal Decrees were printed free of charge in the newspapers, the currency He issued was accepted in the saloons, local shopkeepers paid the modest taxes He occasionally demanded and on at least one occasion a tailor furnished Him with a new set of Royal finery.

    Although a madman, Norton wrote letters to Abraham Lincoln and Queen Victoria which they took seriously.

    One night a gang of vigilantes gathered for a pogrom against San Francisco's Chinatown. All that stood in their way was the solitary figure of Norton. A sane man would not have been there in the first place. A rational man would have tried to reason with them. A moralist would have scolded them. A man as daft as Norton usually seemd would have loudly ordered them to cease and desist in the name of His Royal Imperial authority. All such tacks would probably have been futile, and Norton resorted to none of them.

    He simply bowed His head in silent prayer.

    The vigilantes dispersed.

    Discordians believe everybody should live like Norton.

    I want to make up a bunch of bumper stickers and tee-shirts reading "What Would Emperor Norton Do?"
    "born-again" Christians...

    I did not know of this. Are you referring to Bush and Gore?

    Yep. Gore's been a little more subtle about it, but I saw an interview where he was directly asked if he was "born-again" and answered affirmatively. And Bush stated "When you turn your heart and your life over to Christ, when you accept Christ as the Savior, it changes your heart. It changes your life. And that's what happened to me." (Or, as Maureen Dowd put it: "Translation: You're either in the Christ club or out of it, on the J.C. team or off. This is the same exclusionary attitude, so offensive to those with different beliefs, that he showed in 1993 when he said that you must believe in Jesus Christ to enter heaven. (Mr. Bush has since conceded that only 'God decides who goes to heaven, not George W. Bush.')")
  • With hindsight we laugh at Bruno's wrong ideas seen in the light of his right ones. Of course most people now (as then) have mostly wrong ideas. Dostoyevsky says in 'Crime and Punishment' that nothing original comes out when all you do is to try to be right. What makes us human is our ability to be strongly and gloriously wrong. We progress towards new truths mostly by accident.
  • Poetic license :-) As for athiests killing Christians because of their beliefs - well, there's any number of incidents, but the ones that come to mind (Hitler, Stalin, etc.) definitely have more poilitcal than purely anti-religious overtones.
  • what Christians do. Read up on it.
  • Jesus Christ said something to the effect of: Judge not lest ye be judged. In other words, it's those people's choice to be homosexuals or baby killers; it's not up to christians to fight them with violence or judge them. Christians should inform them and let them make their own decision.
  • I doubt he can afford to sun himself at Blackpool, nevermind in the tropics. The Sinclair C5 financially ruined him, Sinclair Research and Sinclair Computers. In the end, he sold the Sinclair name to Amstrad (along with 40 million in debts) to be able to keep himself afloat.

    His products =started= as obsolete. That's why they were cheap. He used reject components, cut-down circuitry, and the cheapest cases he could possibly construct that would survive Earth's gravitational field.

    The Sinclair QL holds the *cough* distinction of also being the only 8-bit 32-bit home computer, using an 8-bit version of a 32-bit 680x0 processor.

    Sinclair's =ALWAYS= been a heretic. He pulverised the top-end home computer market, with the ZX80, ZX81 and ZX Spectrum. His transistor, all-digital parallel amplifier didn't crush the existing valve-driven serial, analogue amplifiers, it obliterated them. Daisy-chained analogue amplifiers can be found, but not by any serious user. Too much distortion, and you're limited to the power you can push through a single switch.

    How is this being a heretic? Because he had the ideas 10 years before they were fashionable, and he got beaten over the head for it, repeatedly. Indeed, to fund the development of his computers, he became notorious for selling the machines and THEN building them, using the money coming in from the orders to actually pay for the parts.

  • If I say 2000 is the warmest year in 500 years, that says either a) I don't know anything about the temps before 1500
    And what's wrong with that? Not claiming certainty of things not shown by your data is good science.
    Check out this graph of the estimated surface temperatures of the Sargasso Sea over the last 3000 years, for example.
    Pray tell, what does the temperature in the Sargasso have to do with warming on the continents? It is an acknowledged fact that temperature patterns of land and ocean are DIFFERENT.
    In addition, your figure of a 20% human contribution of CO2 is entirely bogus!
    From one of your links [oism.org]: atmospheric CO2 has risen from about 293 ppm in 1900 to over 360 ppm today. That's greater than 20%. Your own cite calls you a liar. Oh, I should mention that that page is written by proponents of the Petition Project; it is highly partisan, not neutral.

    You are aware that the Petition Project has signed non-climate specialists and such "scientists" as TV weather announcers, while the UCS petition signers are largely climatologists?
    --
    "There's a word for people who live close to nature -

  • In the original post, I said ...great monarchies of Continental Europe in the first part of this century... The French Revolution is not in that time span. And England is not on the Continent. You should read (or think) more carefully.

    Well, in your original post you were claiming that it was not true that power-elites would hang on to power at all costs.

    It's not really true to assert that "power structures" will do anything to maintain their position of power.

    This universal statement was then justified by a single specific example which I will check up on now. You are dismissing the general claim that power structures hang on to power. In order to do this convincingly you have to show a clear trend - namely a large number of cases in which power-elites voluntarily relinquished power. Alternatively I can cast doubt on your dismissal by pointing out that the majority of power transitions that one sees are the result of violence and revolution. I gave you two nice clear ones - they did not have to be restricted to the locale and time in which you claim to find a single supporting example for your position.
    You should read (or think) more carefully.Excellent advice - may I recommend it to you also? Perhaps if you expended your energies on a generous and intelligent appraisal of the argument rather than directing personal attacks you would be able to do this?

    Ad hominem means, literally, at or to the man. I attacked his arguments and a word he used. A hypothetical ad hominem attack would have been more like "Tilde, you are a colossal dumbass, even dumber than crush!"

    Your shallow pedantry obscures your motives only from yourself. Ad hominem is defined in the Concise OED as:

    • 1relating to or associated with a particular person
    • 2(of an argument) appealing to the emotions and not to reason [L = to the person]
    • You derided his/her comments by saying that they were "cynical", "regurgitated Marxism", "no substitute for original thought" and that his/her language choice was inappropriate unless he was a graduate student. None of those strike me as rational arguments.

      Your further exposition on the British Empire reveals that you must believe that they surrendered it "voluntarily". In order to understand how you use this word (which cannot be the ordinary or common usage of "not constrained or compulsory") I must point out the following about the collapse of the British Empire. For as long as the Empire existed there were rebellions that were forcibly suppressed. This was opposed by dissidents within Britain, there was a strong moral objection on the part of many liberals and socialists to the subjugation and oppression of other nations and peoples. There was also forcible opposition within the countries of the empire. India, as the jewel in the crown, provides the best example. An example of popular mass resistance which eventually convinced the British that the country was ungovernable and that they thus had no option but to leave.
      You've got to prove your point. Your ball.

  • You know... You're right. I guess I imagined that whole business with the adulteress who Jesus let off the hook.

    To spout this, you have got to be a troll burned by the worst of fundamentalism (and no, I'm not a fundamentalist). I'm sorry that you have been so wounded.

    --

  • The link was a different bookmark in the link labelled "graph" in response #293 (the parent of my response, the great-grandparent of this one). This would make Matt the Don Knotts guy, not me.
    --
    "There's a word for people who live close to nature -

We want to create puppets that pull their own strings. - Ann Marion

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