Columns and Letters

Letter: We must debate bad ideas

Dear Editor,

    I would like to join Sam Ainsworth in his praise for The Oran in his letter a couple weeks ago for being open to reflect different opinions – especially as some heated letters to the editor prove when sensitive issues tumble down over our communities.
    I was, however, intrigued by one detail in his letter: the short account of Giordano Bruno. (A scientist, Mr. Ainsworth called him, who was burned at the stake by the Inquisition for his views on Heliocentrism). I didn’t know much about it, so I decided to research him.
    I searched for “Writings of Giordano Bruno” and at the top of the list appeared websites like “esoteric archives”, “mysterious writings” and “esoteric online” (besides Wikipedia). But there was an absence of clearly scientific sites that would acknowledge Bruno’s input into astronomy or cosmology. The one website that had an .edu ending (an academic source) in its series of the articles called Galileo Project states that “It appears that he [Bruno] did not understand astronomy very well, for his theory is confused on several points.” In another place it says, that Galileo Galilei and Johannes Kepler, two famous scientists for their work in astronomy and mathematics, in their writings did not sympathize with Bruno. (http://galileo.rice.edu/chr/bruno.html).
     One esoteric site gives quite detailed information on Giordano Bruno’s life and works. Besides other things it says: “According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, in 1600 there was no official Catholic position on the Copernican system, and it was certainly not a heresy. When...[Bruno]...was burned at the stake as a heretic, it had nothing to do with his writings in support of Copernican cosmology. ”
    It is interesting to note here, too, that Galileo (Bruno‘s contemporary), who significantly advanced research in astronomy, some years later was also questioned by the same Inquisition official in the same chambers as Bruno, and was not “brutally suppressed” either by burning or any other way of annihilation. As a verdict, he was placed under house arrest, where he successfully wrote a lot of his scientific theses.
    Wikipedia says that British historian Frances A. Yates, in her book Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, suggested “Bruno was burned at the stake in 1600 for espousing the Hermetic tradition rather than his affirmation of heliocentricity.” The hermetic tradition refers to alchemy, magic, astrology, and related subjects, which might explain Bruno‘s works as  On Magic  and  Theses on Magic (as well an interest of today‘s esoteric circles in him as an occultist).     
    There is much more information on Bruno, including accounts how his “abrasively sarcastic” nature helped him to fall out time and again with all of his numerous benefactors of high rank and influence (including King Henry III) and this happened in non-Catholic (and non-Inquisition) countries too. But for our purpose it seems that the research shows Giordano Bruno as being not much of a scientist – but rather a philosopher influenced by certain occult traditions. And that he definitely spoke freely about his beliefs.
    As for the burning at the stake: I found that it was actually done by the civil authorities, and, interesting to note, professor Thomas F. Madden states: “[the] Inquisition saved uncounted thousands of innocent (and even not-so-innocent) people who would otherwise have been roasted by secular lords or mob rule. ”
    Coming back to our times, Mr. Ainsworth states we have “laws to protect feedom of the press and of speech” but unfortunately, it is disconcerting to observe cases such as Bill C-16 for which Jordan Peterson, Canadian clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto has become renowned for speaking out against. He (Peterson) explains how certain ideologies that have nothing to do with science have infiltrated a number of subjects at the universities and how certain parts of Bill C-16 were built to suppress freedom of speech by introducing what he calls “compelled speech” and, he warns, can lead us on a path toward the gulags in the guise of, and in the place of, actual freedom.
    Some videos that you can see online show Dr. Peterson talking to the public about the necessity of freedom of speech while the part of the crowd is trying to shout and make noise to silence him, chanting that he should not be given the right to speak. (If burning at the stake was a legal practice today, this mob would probably do exactly that.)
    To end my letter I should say that I agree very much with Sam Ainsworth that  “we must debate bad ideas with reason, logic, and intelligence” and, I would like to add, with science. Because the refusal to use scientific evidence when it is so abundant and available now, seems to do much more harm today than it ever did half a century ago.

Laura MacEachern
Judique


 


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