Giordano Bruno: A Martyr, Yes, but Not for Science

But Bruno was not executed for his view that we live in a vast universe with vast numbers of planets. Rather, he was burned for his religious view that an infinite God had to make the universe that way — and that everyone’s soul “transmigrates” to other planets after death, rather than meeting a final judgment.

Like burning someone for his religious views is okay?

It seems to me that he was burned for a number of reasons, and that among them was his claim of an infinite universe in which each star is a sun.

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I don’t think this is accurate. By the time of Bruno, this idea of the pluralism of world or that the Universe is infinite is not new. Both Bishop Nicole Oresme and Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa had published these ideas >100 years before Bruno. None of them were burned.

I haven’t so far been able to find the complete list of charges, but I did find a list of positions he refused to recant. On that list, the infinity of worlds is indeed linked to a proposition about the nature of God. However, this article appears to show that the idea of infinite worlds was itself condemned at various times by Church authorities.

Interestingly, one of the 8 propositions he didn’t recant and which therefore formed part of his reasons for conviction was Copernicanism. That the Church was from time to time inconsistent in its prosecution of various views is not an argument against their being among the reasons for Bruno’s conviction, though one might argue that the reasons his sentence was so severe were only a subset, one that didn’t include his claims about astronomy.

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@TedDavis, @TWReynolds, what is the deal with Bruno?

It seems clear that proposing the ideas was not considered a big problem unless one affirmed them. A quick search shows that Oresme, at least, both considered the ideas of a moving earth and infinite universe and ultimately rejected them. Affirming claims seems to have been both Bruno’s and Galileo’s main sin.

I believe that Nicolas of Cusa affirmed in the infinite world. At least I never heard of him rejecting it.

To be fair, I don’t think there is a consensus on whether his views on infinite worlds is the crux that causes his sentencing. In my view it seems weird that it should be given that the much more famous Nicolas of Cusa is guilty of the same.

It might be that, as you found, Bruno tied the notion of infinite world to other philosophies considered heretical, such as the nature of God etc.


Another way to be “more fair”, according to @TedDavis, is to REJECT the idea that the Church executed people for their views on Science (which he says is an unfair view), but to acknowledge that the Church DID execute people for their Theological views!

And, further, it is MORE fair to say the Church only put you under house arrest because of one’s scienticic views.

This is, in my view, a rather officious set of conclusions!

How exactly do such “corrections” in one’s understanding of the historical facts change the Outrageous and Egregious nature of church policies?

Sure. Such presumed clarity changes the circumstances of the charges against the church in that period… but it hardly changes the conclusion that the church was most pernicious in that period!

I just knew someone is going to say this, despite the fact that I never claim otherwise…

I spoke about Galileo from the point of view of a scientist in a different thread: Follow Galileo or Kepler? Galileo was not being a scientist in his actions that placed him in house arrest.

I’m not an historian. So my opinion doesn’t really count here.

It is my impression that Galileo insisted on making metaphysical claims, whereas epistemological claims should have been sufficient for the science. And that’s probably what got him into a fight with the church.


That is quite wrong. Galileo being “irritating” does NOT negate his being irritating because of his science.

This is sophistry to say Galileo was put under house arrest because he was a JERK… not because he asserted Science the Church didnt want to be published!!!

Did you read the post I linked? He did not act in accordance to the scientific method in his actions that placed him under house arrest.


Your defense is not coherent.

You cant justify putting someone under house arrest because of a charge of using flawed scientific method!

The scientific method for responding to poor method is to show how the correct method yields a different answer!

Do you realize how many scientists would be arrested in any given year, whether it was 1610 or 2010 (!!!), if arresting them for mistakes was justifiable?!!!

Yikes, man!

I don’t know how I can make this clearer. I never claimed that arresting Galileo was justifiable.

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It is sophistry to offer an apologia for Church actions by PROPOSING that Galileo was arrested for something OTHER than his practice of science… especially if the response to doing flawed science DID NOT include offering counter-arguments that CORRECTED the jailed man’s science!

What apologia for Church actions? I never offer any apologia for any Church actions. I just state that Galileo was not arrested for advancing a scientific view.


And you are explicitly incorrect in your assertion, and implicitly wrong that his arrest is somehow LESS heinous.

This is why i frequently have to refute some of @TedDavis’ narratives on this topic!!!

Perhaps we just have a different idea of what science means. To me, advancing one’s pet theory without support from scientific evidence (and even going against the current scientific evidence) is not “advancing a scientific view”.

You keep insisting that I believe this, despite my many proclamations that this is not the case. I never implicitly say anything of the sort. We are done discussing unless you can agree that you are not a mind reader that somehow knows my intentions better than myself.

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And this is the classic fallacy of a distinction without a difference!

It would be like arguing that a doctor was not jailed for performing abortion… because he was actually to be jailed for performing malpractice - - where malpractice is defined as including ANY method of abortion!

What? Ok, we’re done.