Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor

Reply to Recent Comments

Jerry Bergman
Department of Educational Foundation and Inquiry
Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, Ohio 43404

From: JASA 35 (March 1983): 63.

A brief note on some of the comments published in recent issues of Journal ASA. As to my review of Galileo (Dec. 198 1), actually I am surprised that, considering the fact that my conclusions were quite opposed to the popularized view, there were not more letters. I was, though, quite nonplussed at the statement that my sources were "questionable." DeSantillana, Drake, Barbour, and Ronan are among the most respected scholars on the history of science and Galileo today. DeSantillana has translated many of Galileo's works into English and, as professor of the history of science at MIT, his work is widely quoted, and, although not without criticism, respected. There were dozens of other references I could have used, but at the time, I felt they would serve no purpose.

When Galileo was brought to the fateful trial, he was an old man, in poor health and for this reason, the church's interference in his life work was minor. He had many interests and research directions, most of which he could pursue without problems. His defeat was more psychological, although it is true that the church attempted to suppress the work in heliocentricity. The question my paper dealt with, though, is why they attempted to suppress this position. And I think it is quite clear from the literature that the reasons included the attitudes of the Aristotelians, Galileo's secular enemies, and the opposition of academia in general to him and his ideas although, as I noted, there were many clerics also opposed to his position, many for reasons having nothing to do with pure religion.

As to the term "scientist," in this article I was referring to those that we would consider scientists in the loose sense of the word. Obviously, some "scientists" felt that the heliocentric position had some merit but Galileo had much opposition from the secular thinkers. I think, though, that the church's response only encouraged others to examine the heliocentric view.

Galileo was nearly 70 at the time of his "conviction" (this is 70 of 1600 years, not 1980 years). He could still do his work, but had to treat anything that touched the Ptolemaic system as theory, not fact, Undoubtedly, he was hindered from researching the heliocentric: theory, nevertheless, he continued to make discoveries. In 1637 he made his last astronomical discovery, that of noting that the moon, as it circled the earth, swayed or vibrated. The heliocentric revolution had begun, but barely in many areas. When Harvard was founded in 1636, the faculty remained "firmly committed to the Ptolemaic theory."

I appreciate Owen Gingerich's comments. The problem with spelling is that it varies. My purpose was not to probe any thesis, but to review briefly the history of the Galileo affair, stressing that it is not a simple matter of "church dogmatics against men-of-science luminaries" as often supposed.

As to Blair's comment on my article on homosexuality (Sept. 198 1 ), I obviously could not review extensively every article or even every aspect of this complex question. I reviewed only some of the more commonly quoted articles. Before the article was published, a number of biologists and sociologists interested in the question of homosexuality reviewed the article. Their main comment was, "Why examine the biological basis for homosexuality, when almost no one in the field, at least none of those oriented toward the psychologicalsociological profession, gives any credence to any biological basis theory of homosexuality?" Thus I find somewhat surprising Blair's statement, "We find [in Bergman's article] an example of what lengths supposedly scholarly, Evangelical enterprises will go to to fight against the biological basis for homosexuality." There is no clear evidence of a biological cause for homosexuality, although I admit that all of the evidence is not in yet. Some good evidence, though, is.

As to Struckmeyer's comments on my article on aggression (June 1981), 1 was not referring primarily to techniques used by trained therapists in therapy sessions. I have worked with therapists who regularly use primal therapy, and I find that reactions are mixed. My point is that expression of certain kinds of aggression in our society, except in a very controlled calculated way, tends to be non-functional and often backfires. I could have been more specific as to defining terms, but felt this was not necessary. I do though, appreciate his feedback and personal experiences.

In addition, expression of aggression in many people, at least, seems to encourage further aggression, often leading to a vicious cycle. Obviously, to completely cover the topic requires writing a book, which many people have done. I had simply hoped to point out some of the problems of overly free expression of aggression, especially in overt physical ways.

Hopefully these comments are helpful.