The Czar’s use of the spurious (though super-witty) Galilean epigram eppur si muove (which actually dates from the 1750s) reminds me to quote Friend of the Gormogons Jonah Goldberg on the Galileo Myth.
Robert Nisbet in (probably my favorite book) Prejudices: A Philosophical Dictionary, writes that the Galileo myth was adopted by the French Enlightenment to discredit the Catholic Church. Their first choice for martyr was Isaac Newton. Unfortunately, Newton was a religious fanatic in their eyes. So they picked Galileo instead and rewrote significant aspects of his biography (like the obvious fact that he was religious) so as to make the Church the darkest of villains.…
As Nisbet points out, this is not exactly the story one gets from the made-for-TV movies or high-school textbooks. The Church had the same problems of any major political institution and other challenges unique to being the Catholic Church. It had to contend with politics and intrigue and in-fighting and cravenness. But it also had legions of people fighting for truth and fairness in a difficult time beset with bizarre politics. Marxists, like Bertold Brecht, and liberals, like all of your (non-Marxist) college professors, seized upon the notion of a monolithic and superstitious Church because the aim was to discredit the Church specifically and religion in general. Religion with its faith in the unprovable and the perfection of the hereafter is, and always has been, the greatest threat to those who believe we can perfect the here and now through “scientific methods.”
Although obviously it’s been used and abused in various ways, the Catholic Church’s stand on science is: the truth is indivisible. If science shows something seems to be true, we have to account for that in the way we approach the truth of faith which can no more be negated by the truth of science than the converse.
Similarly, Western Civilization approaches science in a distinctively Christian fashion, even if most scientists are no longer Christians. The idea that the universe is a reality intelligible to the intellect based on eternal, unchanging laws, is a fundamentally theological proposition, and one most fully elaborated in Christian theology. It is no accident that scientific thought began booming in the late Middle Ages and proceeded to expand exponentially over the next five centuries or so—in what used to be called Christendom. This is not to say the scientific method is based on faith, but the fundamental ideas which underlay the development of the scientific method—the worldview in which it was formed—were explicitly and profoundly religious.
The Enlightenment wished to toss off the religious substructure and leave only the Glorious Temple of Reason, so religion per se, and Christianity in particular, had to be destroyed. And, to a great degree, they succeeded. At a fearful cost, if you add up all the bodies at the feet of people claiming inspiration from Reason and Science. “More people have been killed in the name of God than for any other reason” only if you regard Reason as a god.