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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cursing Copernicus

 . . . the wicked Copernicus, may the name of the wicked rot . . .
The Sun, the Moon, the planets, the stars, and all heavenly objects orbit the Earth every twenty-four hours.
It must be publicly stated that books on astronomy are by far the worst of all scientific books, since they are full of heresy, hatred of God (God save us!), hatred of Judaism, hatred of truth, nonsense and madness, such that it is a great mystery how these 'wise men' and their books are so much more foolish and full of venomous blasphemy than all their other scientific writings.
-- R. Yosef Zalman Bloch, Be-Emunah Shelemah (Monsey, 2012), cited by Marc B. Shapiro on Seforim Blog (note 12). My translation.

So this is what we have come to.  Not only the Big Bang, but Copernicus, Galileo, and heliocentrism itself are the enemies of Judaism (and of truth).  Daas Torah rules that the Earth is stationary.  "And yet, it stands!"

We should resist the urge to engage such nonsense on its own terms.  Do we really need to prove, from a "Torah persepctive," that the Earth goes around the Sun?  Must we compile lists of gedolei Yisrael who endorsed Copernicus to counter what are, to be generous, the twisted ravings of a grotesquely misguided piety?  Does the truth require a hekhsher?

In my view, obscurantism of this kind shares nothing with the core principles and values of Judaism.  Instead, R. Bloch's position is more in line with seventeenth-century Roman Catholic objections to Galileo (Galileo's observations proved Copernicus right).  Thus, Robert Cardinal Bellarmine's 1615 letter to Paolo Foscarini, who had dared to say that Galileo's conclusions did not oppose Scripture (the full text is here):

But to want to affirm that the Sun really is fixed in the center of the heavens and only revolves around itself without traveling from East to West, and that the Earth is situated in the third sphere and revolves with great speed around the Sun, is a very dangerous thing, not only by irritating all the philosophers and scholastic theologians, but also by injuring our holy faith and rendering the Holy Scriptures false.