One of the silliest men on Earth, Joseph Ratzinger a.k.a. Benedict 16, is at it again, defending the Roman Catholic Church's persecution of the astronomer Galileo.
Ratzinger has raised the hackles of scientists and students in Italy for observing that the Inquisition was "reasonable and just" to have tried and convicted Galileo for heresy in the 17th century.
Now Ratzinger has cancelled his scheduled visit to Rome's La Sapienza university in the wake of protests, which are themselves a bit silly.
That the persecution of Galileo was "reasonable and just" is a thought cherry-picked from philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend's provocative "collage" of ideas, Against Method. Unfortunately Ratzinger added, "The faith does not grow from resentment and the rejection of rationality, but from its fundamental affirmation, and from being rooted in a still greater form of reason."
Talk about completely missing the point. There exists a much, much broader context here, that being the history of science, and the manner in which scientific "paradigms" have replaced one another during the course of that history. What Feyerabend was suggesting is that Aristotle, who believed that the Sun revolved around the Earth, was better at arguing than was Galileo, not that the means and ends of the Inquisition were defensible, and certainly not that faith is rooted in an even greater form of reason.
In his critique of scientific methodology, Feyerabend compared Aristotle's debating style with Galileo's and argued that even though the latter was correct about the arrangement of the solar system and the former not, Galileo's support for his discoveries was often tainted by "rhetoric, propaganda, and various epistemological tricks," whereas Aristotle's deployment of logical inference was more rigorous. In other words, Aristotle's method was more sound.
That the Inquisition was "reasonable and just" is but pure provocation: "I love to shock people," as Feyerabend put it in his autobiography. It's hardly either reasonable or just to put a man to trial on penalty of torture for challenging the teachings of some religion, although I disagree that Der Papst should be discouraged from propagating his inanities at any particular venue.
Let him speak. He occasionally comes up with some great material.