|Ettore Ferrari's 1889 monument, on the site of Bruno's execution in the Campo de'Fiori, Rome|
In Bruno’s time, the word “science” was not yet common coin, and it would start to be used in the restricted sense we know today only by later figures such as Galileo. Bruno would still have thought of himself as a natural philosopher and of sciences as scienza, knowledge of any kind. Even so, natural philosophers of the period such as Paracelsus, Johannes Kepler, Tycho Brahe, William Gilbert, William Harvey, and later Galileo and Francis Bacon, can be thought of as also practitioners of the new science, actively involved in more or less methodical research into natural causes and effects. Not everybody would agree that Bacon fits into that category. Certainly Bruno does not. He never made an astronomical observation of his own." (Gatti, pp. 2-3.)If there is a modern figure who can be said to be analogous to Bruno, the one who fits best would be someone like Deepak Chopra. New Agers like Chopra infuriate actual scientists when he invokes ideas like quantum mechanics and genetics to prop up his mystical ideas about how consciousness "creates reality". Like Bruno, Chopra and his ilk praise science up to the point where it can be made to fit their mysticism, but then reject it when it does not. And they talk down to scientists, depicting them as "limited" by their devotion to empiricism and experiment. The gap between true science and the kind of intuitive opining of mystics like Bruno and Chopra was not as defined in the late sixteenth century as it was now, but even then it was becoming clear enough - Galileo had no time for Bruno's woolly conjectures. What is deeply ironic, however, is atheists and sceptics today who would regard Chopra as an unscientific idiot, holding Bruno up as some kind of scientific martyr.
|Bruno before the Inquisition - a relief from the Campo de'Fiori monument|
"Whenever I see one of these guys throw out noise like 'a nuanced and sophisticated understanding of the long, rich, and complex relationship between religion and the sciences', I want to ask…what was nuanced and sophisticated about setting a human being on fire?"("Missing the point of Giordano Bruno")
"But also, I’m getting a little annoyed with these people claiming that Bruno wasn’t killed for that one specific belief about the movement of the earth. He was! We have the list of eight charges for which Bruno was condemned. Note especially number 5.
1 – The statement of “two real and eternal principles of existence: the soul of the world and the original matter from which beings are derived”.
2 – The doctrine of the infinite universe and infinite worlds in conflict with the idea of Creation: “He who denies the infinite effect denies the infinite power”.
3 – The idea that every reality resides in the eternal and infinite soul of the world, including the body: “There is no reality that is not accompanied by a spirit and an intelligence”.
4 – The argument according to which “there is no transformation in the substance”, since the substance is eternal and generates nothing, but transforms.
5 – The idea of terrestrial movement, which according to Bruno, did not oppose the Holy Scriptures, which were popularised for the faithful and did not apply to scientists.
6 – The designation of stars as “messengers and interpreters of the ways of God”.
7 – The allocation of a “both sensory and intellectual” soul to earth.
8 – The opposition to the doctrine of St Thomas on the soul, the spiritual reality held captive in the body and not considered as the form of the human body."
("Still picking nits over Giordano Bruno")
"Life, as it exists on Earth in the form of men, animals and plants, is to be found, let us suppose in a high form in the solar and stellar regions. Rather than think that so many stars and parts of the heavens are uninhabited and that this earth of ours alone is peopled – and that with beings perhaps of an inferior type – we will suppose that in every region there are inhabitants, differing in nature by rank and all owing their origin to God, who is the centre and circumference of all stellar regions."
"A superficial knowledge of the plurality of worlds debate .... might lead one to suspect that these claims of Cusanus reveal a person with little sense of the politically acceptable, if not a man destined for imprisonment or burning at the stake .... (yet) eight years after his Of Learned Ignorance he was made a cardinal of the Catholic church." (p. 8)
"If it be inquired whether men exist on that [other] world, and whether they have sinned as Adam sinned I would answer no, for they would not exist in sin and did not spring from Adam. .... As to the question whether Christ, by dying on this earth could redeem the inhabitants of another world, I would answer that he is able to do this even if the worlds were infinite, but it would not be fitting for him to go into another world that he must die again." (quoted in Grant, p.158)