Sunday, April 24, 2005

Aw, Ratz(inger)!

Chancellor Palpatine/Pope Benedict XVI has apparently has issued a fatwa against the evil scourge of relativism, the belief that Truth with a capital T is unattainable, and that all that is possible in this world are mere approximations which are filtered by the circumstances of who we are, where we come from, and what we know. A scary prospect to some, I guess--especially to the ones claiming to be the exlusive purveyors of said Truth (i.e., the Pope)--but it's long since been old hat to anyone even remotely familiar with the history of science and the intellectual history of the West, which has defined itself by the never-ending pursuit of Truth and not its possession.

Did you know, for example, that our new Pope has in the past defended the Church's harsh treatment of Galileo, along the lines of "Yes, we know that he was right, but he didn't have to say it the way he did"? I guess it's admirable that the head of the institution formerly known as the Inquisition is no longer attempting to refute one of history's greatest minds on the technical merits of his argument, but the fact that Papa Ratzi found a way to prove that Galileo nevertheless somehow deserved his punishment smacks of the worst kind of authoritarianism--the one which never, ever admits to any sort wrongdoing whatsoever.

Remind you of any other world leaders these days?

I wonder how Ratzinger would excuse the murder of my putative ancestor (and personal hero), Giordano Bruno, whom the Inquisition actually burned at the stake in the year 1600. Bad attitude, perhaps? Of course, he also turned out to be right with his postulation that if our Sun is merely a star like all the other stars in the sky, then is stands to reason that some of those stars should have planets circling them just as ours does. But according to the Holy See, it's not about being Right, it's about being right, even when manifestly wrong.

So who exactly is the relativist here?

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