Monday, 22 December 2008

Galileo was right!

Pope Praises Galileo

Have you ever met one of those people who have more opinions than your average person, despite having only about 10% of the factual knowledge of the average person? They seem to be more common than ever these days, where the media seems to prioritise opinion over information, and every opinion is given equal merit. It's a dangerous way to be, and I doubt it can last forever, but for the moment, every person seems to have equally valid opinions, and there seems to be an inverse relationship between strength and conviction of opinion and the awareness of the issues it's based on. I.e. People who don't have the first clue how the economy works are the ones who protest the loudest when something about it changes in a manner which doesn't benefit them, whereas those who may disagree in the same manner but know how the system works usually just accept it.

But these people have been around for quite some time, long before the technology gave everyone a voice. Back where I grew up, long before the Internet connected us up, there were a rich variety of opinionated idiots. I once heard a woman in a shop moaning that all our kids are daft because we don't send them to school enough like they do in Europe. Clearly this woman had no idea that in France, for example, the average school week is, or used to be, 4 and a half days, 10% less schooling a week than British kids. But that didn't matter; her kids were daft, therefore all kids are daft, and it's not her fault, it's the government. You get the gist.

This preamble is very long, I know, but I am going somewhere. These people are often the first to dismiss anyone who disagrees with them. Passionately, without forethought or remorse. If they were in charge, they'd just lock up anyone who challenged their world view, I'm sure. So it's incredibly annoying when, long, long after the thing they disagreed with has been proven correct and become a fact of everyday life, they suddenly accept it as if they always did. That's quite galling, but then it's especially irritating when said person then feels the need to tell you all about the impressive things they've done or learned about the new 'thing' they've taken on board. Good example, the Internet. I know many people who dismissed the Internet as an irrelevance, a sad outlet for people who didn't know how the real world works. This opinion, it turned out, was wrong. These are the same people who, quite recently,felt the need to regale me with tails of their first computer and how they now send 'e-mails' to people they know. Brilliant.

People on the comedy scene get this often, if they're new acts. You often get people bemoaning the lack of 'proper' comedy like Jim Bowen and Bernard Manning, hating younger comics with their swearing and views about things like racial equality and non-violence. This is usually on the back of never seeing a modern comic ever, as soon as they do they can change their minds. Peter Kay doesn't count though, he pays up to this 'proper comedy' angle. Fat wanker.

But an example of this sort of behaviour spanning centuries is in the news. The pope has given praise to Galileo. Remember him? Shattered many of the church's convictions about the place of the Earth in the heavens via the scandalous method of looking at things? Rather than just guessing and accepting because a man in a white dress told him it was the way of things? Contrary to popular belief, the catholic church didn't torture or just jail him on the spot, there was a long drawn out series of accusations and conspiracy to entrap him, but many of the higher ups were on his side so he got away from the worst of it. But that being said, he was jailed at home until he died eventually.

I'm not saying it was right to do that, but it was indicative of the times; church was in charge, don't piss off the church. Even if you're right. Especially if you're right in fact, then they really needed to shut you up as thoroughly as possible. But all this was long ago.

The pope now praises Galileo, and I'm not sure why. Granted, the catholic church could use a major revamp in order to improve it's image and fit in with the modern world (which is 4.3 billion or 6000 years old if you're a true believer, but neither rule out the fact that it's developing and changing). The pope now saying he did good work seems to emphasise the church's lack of understanding of the modern world, not help reduce it. It's been over 400 years! If some guy came up to you and said 'hey, this electricity stuff, it's good isn't it! I reckon there could be some use to be had from it', your first thought wouldn't be 'My, what a cool and insightful person, he clearly is in touch with modern society and I think I might see what else he has to say and live my life according to his teachings and beliefs'. Unlikely.

I thought this about when Tony Blair apologised for the role of Great Britain in the slave trade. Say what you will about Blair, I sincerely doubt he was responsible for slavery. Some people said it was an insufficient apology. This may be a controversial opinion this maybe, but I don't think he should have had to do that; not because nobody should apologise for slavery, far from it, but there's no-one alive to day who could make an apology that was genuinely meant. Everyone who did it is dead now, and whether or not they regretted it we'll generally never know. If there are people out there who have fortunes based on industries that were founded on slave labour and they then chose to donate all their wealth to looking after slave's descendants suffering hard times then yes, that would be a good apology. But they wouldn't be speaking for the whole, so it's still not sufficient.

Deep eh? Ah well, point is, the pope's an idiot. We all know Galileo was right. We've been to Mars(in robotic form at least, and I have no idea what the church thinks of robots), there's a Hubble telescope which has taken photos that people use as desktop screensavers, and we weren't all covertly sat around waiting for the pope's approval before we admitted such things were real. There was no real need to pledge the support for Galileo as it's way too late to change anything. No doubt the pope of 2183 will state that Isaac Newton was quite clever actually, and in 2542 the Pope will issue a statement saying 'you know what, that Hawking was on to something".

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