Many years ago, when I wore a younger man’s underwear, I bought Arthur Koestler’s green three-volume series. I call it the “green” series because, even with the physical books and the Koestler page on Amazon in front of me, I can’t find the series name. The books are The Sleepwalkers, The Act of Creation, and The Ghost in the Machine.
Koestler isn’t an easy read. I even found Darkness at Noon a bit arduous, and The Sleepwalkers’s 600 pages are thick and dense. I made some headway in The Act of Creation, but broke off around page 100 and never went back (I meant to; alas, I always mean to).
Still, Koestler is worth it if one has the time. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of a man so difficult to pinhole: a rapist, misogynistic, ex-Commie, drug user, Jewish, Zionist, skeptic, with an interest in mysticism and the paranormal, who committed suicide in 1983 (see his Wikipedia entry). Based on my limited knowledge of him, he was a fearless autodidact who wrote and studied whatever the hell he wanted.
And he “told it like it was.” Or at least, “like he thought it was.” In this, he’s like Orwell, who also became disillusioned with Communism in the 1930s (that’s one nice thing about Communism, incidentally: you can immediately identify the honest intellectuals of that era from the dishonest ones by looking at who continued to endorse Communism after, say, 1945).
Anyway, while flipping back through The Sleepwalkers lately to find some of Koestler’s observations about Pythagoras, I ran across these passages about Galileo (Koestler, you might surmise from the above, was no Galileo fan and, as I remember it, The Sleepwalkers largely exonerates the Catholic Church in that astronomical struggle, based in large part on two simple facts: (1) Galileo was ultimately right, but for the wrong reasons, and the Catholic Church’s superior scientists could see it; (2) Galileo was a first-rate jerk).
Contrary to statements in even recent outlines of science, Galileo did not invent the telescope; nor the microscope; nor the thermometer; nor the pendulum clock. He did not discover the law of intertia; nor the parallelogram of forces or motions; nor the sun spots. He made no contribution to theoretical astonomy; he did not throw down weights from the leaning tower of Pisa, and did not prove the truth of the Copernican system. He was not tortured by the Inquisition, did not languish in its dungeons, did not say ‘eppur si muove‘; and he was not a martyr of science. . . .
Koestler also summarizes Galileo’s character . . .”[V]anity, jealousy, and self-righteousness combined into a demoniac force, which drove him to the brink of self-destruction.”Bookmark it: del.icio.us | Reddit | Slashdot | Digg | Facebook | Technorati | Google | StumbleUpon | Window Live | Tailrank | Furl | Netscape | Yahoo | BlinkList