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Giordano Bruno (1548 – 1600) and the new series of Cosmos

Posted by on Mar. 10, 2014 at 3:50 AM
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Hopefully some of you will have seen Carl Sagan's amazing program about the universe: "Cosmos".

An updated version, written by the writer of the original, Ann Druyan, has just been made.  The first part airs this Sunday (16th).

In preparation for it, I thought it might be interesting to have a discussion about a person who Druyan will be mentioning during the series (I don't know in which episode): Giordano Bruno.

Bruno wasn't a scientist, as we'd recognise the role.  He was in fact an ordained Catholic friar, as were most of the educated Europeans of that period.  But he arrived at a set of views about the universe that differed from those enforced by the church of his time, and he stood by those views even when threatened with death; the story of how this came about is an interesting one.

I'll split it into several replies, for readability.





by on Mar. 10, 2014 at 3:50 AM
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Clairwil
by Ruby Member on Mar. 10, 2014 at 3:50 AM

First off, some sources, for those who'd prefer to read up on it for themselves, rather than the simplified narrative I'm going to present:

  1. Catholic Encyclopedia
  2. WikiPedia
  3. The Galileo Project
  4. Giordano Bruno: The Forgotten Philosopher
  5. Ann Druyan


Clairwil
by Ruby Member on Mar. 10, 2014 at 3:50 AM

This is the model of the Cosmos used by the church in that period:

It is known as the geocentric model because the planet Earth is at the centre not just of the solar system, but of the very universe itself.   The Sun is just another thing orbiting around the Earth, like Mars or Jupiter, and is made of an element called "Quintessence".   The model is actually slightly more complex that that, because they had to have each planet move in small circles, in order to account for what they observed through these newfangled telescope things:

The stars are just a backdrop, the heavenly firmament, not infinitely far away, but painted onto the inside of the sphere holding the solar system and, beyond that sphere, beyond the stars, was heaven.  Quite literally directly upwards, above the sky.

Clairwil
by Ruby Member on Mar. 10, 2014 at 3:50 AM

Bruno was an active supporter of Copernicus.   In fact he was the major one.  You could call him Copernicus' Bulldog, in the same way that Thomas Huxley because later known as Darwin's Bulldog.

Copernicus stuck to what the evidence of his telescope showed him, but Bruno went beyond that, trying to reconcile theology with evidence, then extrapolate it.   He was, if not a scientist or following scientific methodology, then quite certainly a genius and a true philosopher, a man who put truth and the pursuit of truth at higher value than orthodoxy or even his own life.

He reasoned that not only is the Earth just one more planet orbiting around our Sun, but also that the Sun is just another Star, and that those other stars might also have planets orbiting them, with life on those planets too.

There's much he got wrong.  Aristotle, with his theories of matter being made up of Earth, Air, Fire and Water, was still held as the highest authority, and Bruno merely modified this rather than rejecting it entirely.  He did end up with a theory of atoms (astonishing for that time), but thought that all matter was intelligent, animated by spirit.

He also carried his reasoning on into theology, deducing from the idea that the Earth is nothing special that, while there was a Creator of the universe as a whole, there was no Trinity or some son of God who visited the Earth alone, granting the Earth a special role, and that therefore Jesus must have been just a good and wise man, achieving miracles through 'natural magic'.

It was probably this latter heresy that was put down in the letter of the law as being the reason for arresting him, but since all records of the trial have conveniently been deleted from the historic archives of the Catholic church, we'll never know for certain, nor will we know the private motivations of why the church decided to spend considerable time and effort on dealing with him.

But it is fair to say that there were lots of people with odd ideas, who were not dealt with as Bruno was dealt with - the Catholic church generally had bigger fish to fry, what with Queen Elizabeth in England and the whole protestant movement splitting off from the Catholics and defying the pope. 

Clairwil
by Ruby Member on Mar. 10, 2014 at 3:50 AM

The Mocenigo family was a Venetian family. Many of its members were dogesstatesmen, and soldiers

In 1593, Bruno was lured away from the safe area where he'd been stay, to Venice (an area under Catholic control), by the promises of funding, respect and support from Giovanni Mocenigo.   But Mocenigo betrayed him, denouncing him to the Inquisition as soon as he'd gathered sufficient evidence.

The case dragged on. He was a prisoner in the Republic of Venice but a greater power wanted him and he was surrendered to Rome. For six years, between 1593 and 1600 he lay in a Papal prison. Was he forgotten, tortured? Whatever historical records there are never have been published by those authorities who have them. In the year 1600 a German scholar Schoppius happened to be in Rome and wrote about Bruno, who was interrogated several times by the Holy Office and convicted by the chief theologians. At one time he obtained forty days to consider his position; by and by he promised to recant, then renewed his "follies." Then he got another forty days for deliberation but did nothing but baffle the pope and the Inquisition. After two years in the custody of the Inquisitor he was taken on February ninth to the palace of the Grand Inquisitor to hear his sentence on bended knee, before the expert assessors and the Governor of the City.

The trial of Giordano Bruno by the Roman Inquisition. Bronze relief by Ettore Ferrari, Campo de' Fiori, Rome.



Bruno answered the sentence of death by fire with the threatening: "Perhaps you, my judges, pronounce this sentence against me with greater fear than I receive it." He was given eight more clays to see whether he would repent. But it was no use. He was taken to the stake and as he was dying a crucifix was presented to him, but he pushed it away with fierce scorn.

Our best image of him comes from a woodcut and a description of him:

a man "of average height, with a hazel coloured beard and the appearance of being about forty years of age". Alternately, a passage in a work by George Abbot indicates that Bruno was of diminutive stature


He was turned over to the secular authorities and, on February 17, 1600 in the Campo de' Fiori, a central Roman market square, "his tongue imprisoned because of his wicked words" he was burned at the stake.[23] His ashes were dumped into the Tiber river. All of Bruno's works were placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum

Clairwil
by Ruby Member on Mar. 10, 2014 at 3:51 AM

Some people say he was burned alive for his heresy about Jesus, and that his support of the Earth going around the Sun was irrelevant.

Irrelevant to the church maybe (but probably not), but not irrelevant to Bruno.

The reason he couldn't renounce what the church wanted him to renounce is because he'd built his views on evidence.  The bits about religion were just secondary symptoms - his reason for believing as he did was that the mathematics of planetary motion made more sense in Copernicus' model than in the church's.

As Ann Druyan puts it:

he was burned alive for one reason: he would not utter the phrase, “There are no other worlds.”

Seasidegirl
by Gold Member on Mar. 10, 2014 at 7:01 AM
1 mom liked this

I will read all of this later when I have more time (thanks for posting it). We watched Cosmos last night. What struck me and my husband about what happened to Giordano Bruno is how many "religious" people haven't changed much from those days:  There is ONE way. There is NO other way of thinking/believing.

While they don't burn those who believe/think otherwise at the stake today, they do relegate us to spending eternity in hell. lol. (As the show began, my husband said, "Well, I guess the conservative Christians will be saying that Neil deGrasse Tyson is an evil athiest, as he is using scientific evidence to show the earth is much older than they want to believe.")

How tragic that only 10 years later Galileo through the use of a telescope proved Bruno correct.

krysstizzle
by on Mar. 13, 2014 at 7:07 PM

Great information. 

12hellokitty
by Ruby Member on Mar. 13, 2014 at 7:34 PM


Quoting Clairwil:

Hopefully some of you will have seen Carl Sagan's amazing program about the universe: "Cosmos".

An updated version, written by the writer of the original, Ann Druyan, has just been made.  The first part airs this Sunday (16th).

In preparation for it, I thought it might be interesting to have a discussion about a person who Druyan will be mentioning during the series (I don't know in which episode): Giordano Bruno.

Bruno wasn't a scientist, as we'd recognise the role.  He was in fact an ordained Catholic friar, as were most of the educated Europeans of that period.  But he arrived at a set of views about the universe that differed from those enforced by the church of his time, and he stood by those views even when threatened with death; the story of how this came about is an interesting one.

I'll split it into several replies, for readability.





Druyan has stated the new Cosmos will be more political so IMO she losses credibility as science shouldn't have a political motive.  As for Bruno just face it the show got it's facts wrong and is being called out by not only theologians and historians but also scientist. 

AdrianneHill
by Platinum Member on Mar. 13, 2014 at 9:11 PM

I'd heard of him before but never do much detail. Thanks

TerraIncognita
by Bronze Member on Mar. 13, 2014 at 11:27 PM
1 mom liked this
I really appreciate the time and effort you put into your posts. I'm always learning something new and interesting. Thanks!
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