No one thought that Galileo was crazy, and everyone in Columbus’s day knew that the earth was round

The Galileo card. Added to my growing collection of resemblances between climate change denialists and evolution denialists; see my comments (here) on The Logiv of Science’s earlier post earlier post (here).

The Logic of Science

A portrate of Galileo Galilei Galileo Galilei

It’s a common situation that I run into frequently: two people are debating about some scientific concept, and one of them is arguing for the mainstream view and supporting their arguments with the relevant literature. Meanwhile, the other one is “supporting” their arguments with blogs, personal anecdotes, and discredited papers. The debate eventually reaches a point where the anti-scientist realizes that a mountain of evidence and a strong scientific consensus opposes them, but rather than admitting the problems with their view, they instead invoke either Galileo or Columbus with arguments like, “well everyone thought that Galileo was crazy, but he turned out to be right” or “in Columbus’s day, every knew that the earth was flat, but they were wrong, so why should I trust what scientists ‘know’ today?” Politicians have also been known to use these faulty arguments to support their non-sense. For example, in an attempt…

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About Paul Braterman

Science writer, former chemistry professor; committee member British Centre for Science Education; board member and science adviser Scottish Secular Society; former member editorial board, Origins of Life, and associate, NASA Astrobiology Insitute; first popsci book, From Stars to Stalagmites 2012

Posted on September 21, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Moreover, Columbus and Copernicus and Galileo and their opponents all had “theories”. They didn’t just say “something, somehow is wrong with my opposition”.
    Copernicus didn’t say that the standard geocentric explanation of the motion of the heavens was wrong, he went through the hard work of describing an alternative.
    Columbus had his own ideas of the size of the Earth. Both sides in that controversy had their own positive, substantive claims.
    Galileo, of course, had his ideas about the motions of the Earth. And his opponents had their own explanations for his observations. For example, Tycho Brahe had a new geocentric theory, which was markedly different from the old Aristotle-Ptolemy description.
    It is rare that anyone would even bother with someone whose only idea was, “everybody else is wrong”.
    But that has been the history of the reaction to evolutionary biology. It was mostly true from the start, which was pointed out by Herbert Spencer, and the advocates of “Intelligent Design” have been backing off from any positive claims. Try to get an answer which doesn’t have to rely on something like, “whatever happened, or when or where, it can’t have been evolution”.


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