Wednesday, January 16, 2008

They're worse than I thought...

John Allen does us a great favour by reproducing Ratzinger's 1990 remarks on Galileo. Go over there and read it a couple of times.

It seems to me that the then-Cardinal does not even suggest that he necessarily agrees with Feyerabend. When he says:
If both the spheres of conscience are once again clearly distinguished among themselves under their respective methodological profiles, recognizing both their limits and their respective rights, then the synthetic judgment of the agnostic-skeptic philosopher P. Feyerabend appears much more drastic. He writes: “The church at the time of Galileo was much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself, and also took into consideration the ethical and social consequences of Galileo’s doctrine. Its verdict against Galileo was rational and just, and revisionism can be legitimized solely for motives of political opportunism.”
he expresses neither agreement nor disagreement. Rather, reading in context, his emphasis seems to be the fact that there is a debate within secular thought itself regarding the progress made by science since the Galileo case. He goes on to say:
To my great surprise, in a recent interview on the Galileo case, I was not asked a question like, ‘Why did the Church try to get in the way of the development of modern science?’, but rather exactly the opposite, that is: ‘Why didn’t the church take a more clear position against the disasters that would inevitably follow, once Galileo had opened Pandora’s box?’
Ratzinger himself was surprised at the criticism of modern science which has been arising recently.
What's his conclusion:
It would be absurd, on the basis of these affirmations, to construct a hurried apologetics.
He does not suggest that people of faith 'construct a hurried apologetics' based on the reassessment of Galileo by some thinkers. In simpler language, he's warning us, be careful of jumping to hasty conclusions about the relationship between science and faith. And why does he say that?
The faith does not grow from resentment and the rejection of rationality, but from its fundamental affirmation and from being inscribed in a still greater form of reason
And why did he bring up the Galileo case?
Here, I wished to recall a symptomatic case that illustrates the extent to which modernity’s doubts about itself have grown today in science and technology.
The quotation which was hostile to Galileo came from an 'agnostic-skeptic' thinker. The then-Cardinal quoted it, without indicating whether he agreed with it or not. He quoted it to show that there was a debate within modernity. He also warns that those of us who are believers should not exploit this debate for apologetics purposes without thinking it all through - one gets the impression that Ratzinger is very cautious about adopting a position and that there may be significant nuances in any final theological judgement concerning the legacy of Galileo.
Reading the actual words of Ratzinger, it becomes increasingly clear that scientific horror at his 1990 words was a mere fig-leaf to justify an anti-clerical protest on behalf of a bunch of blindly secularist ideologues.

1 comment:

Kevin Jones said...

It's like Regensberg revisited. You'd think university faculty could tell the difference between a quotation and an original text.