Dinesh D'Souza is troubled by a certain...laxity in modern thought, and goes in search of its parentage:
About a hundred years ago, two anti-religious bigots named John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White wrote books promoting the idea of an irreconcilable conflict between science and God. The books were full of facts that have now been totally discredited by scholars. But the myths produced by Draper and Dickson continue to be recycled. They are believed by many who consider themselves educated, and they even find their way into the textbooks. In this article I expose several of these myths, focusing especially on the Galileo case, since Galileo is routinely portrayed as a victim of religious persecution and a martyr to the cause of science.Like pretty much everyone who's even marginally informed on this issue, I have little respect for the work of Draper or White. But it's not quite fair to call them "anti-religious," since Draper was a deist, and White an Episcopalian. Also, the conflict they described was between science and organized religion, not "science and God."
I'm sorry to say that D'Souza's account of the "Galileo myth" isn't very accurate, either. After conscientiously explaining that "the leading astronomers of the time were Jesuit priests," he assures us that
They were open to Galileo’s theory but told him the evidence for it was inconclusive. This was the view of the greatest astronomer of the age, Tyco [sic] Brahe.D'Souza's clear implication is that Tycho counted and weighed Galileo's theory and found it wanting. The problem is, Galileo's theory was based on observations he'd made in 1610, with the aid of a new-fangled device known as the telescope; Tycho had been lying in the cold, cold ground for nine years by then.
Next, D'Souza claims that Church didn't "dogmatically" oppose heliocentrism, but simply demanded a little more proof than Galileo was able to provide. From there, it's a short step to the incoherent position that "the Church should not have tried him at all," but nonetheless deserves credit for the tender mercy of putting him under house arrest for the rest of his life.
Finally, he says that "Galileo was neither charged nor convicted of heresy." Which is technically true, sort of: The heliocentric system was described as "formally heretical," and Galileo was therefore "vehemently suspected by this Holy Office of heresy." He was accordingly given the opportunity to "abjure, curse, and detest the above-mentioned errors and heresies and any other error and heresy contrary to the Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church." Which he did, perhaps because he found it preferable to the alternative.
Obviously, I'm not expecting anyone to be shocked that a column by D'Souza is full of serious errors. I am a bit curious, though, as to whether anyone believes that they're the product of stupidity or ignorance, rather than a fairly sophisticated sense of what he can get away with, given his audience's slavering appetite for lies.
(Illustration from Sidereus Nuncius by Galileo, 1610.)