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Archive for August, 2012


Giordano Bruno(1548-1600)

on February 16, 1600, the Roman Catholic Church executed Giordano Bruno, Italian philosopher and scientist, for the crime of heresy. He was taken from his cell in the early hours of the morning to the Piazza dei Fiori in Rome and burnt alive at the stake. To the last, the Church authorities were fearful of the ideas of a man who was known throughout Europe as a bold and brilliant thinker. In a peculiar twist to the gruesome affair, the executioners were ordered to tie his tongue so that he would be unable to address those gathered.
Throughout his life Bruno championed the Copernican system of astronomy which placed the sun, not the Earth, at the centre of the solar system. He opposed the stultifying authority of the Church and refused to recant his philosophical beliefs throughout his eight years of imprisonment by the Venetian and Roman Inquisitions. His life stands as a testimony to the drive for knowledge and truth that marked the astonishing period of history known as the Renaissance—from which so much in modern art, thought and science derives.
In 1992, after 12 years of deliberations, the Roman Catholic Church grudgingly admitted that Galileo Galilei had been right in supporting the theories of Copernicus. The Holy Inquisition had forced an aged Galileo to recant his ideas under threat of torture in 1633. But no such admission has been made in the case of Bruno. His writings are still on the Vatican’s list of forbidden texts.
A theological commission headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the modern successor of the Inquisition, has completed an inquiry entitled “The Church and the Faults of the Past: Memory in the Service of Reconciliation”, which proposes making an apology for “past errors”. Cardinal Ratzinger is now known to the world as Pope Benedict XVI. When the Pope still waxes eloquent about ‘gay marriage,contraception, abortion we know that in the world of errors the Church is still living in the past. The world has moved on merrily despite the Church meddling in the areas she is least competent to add or keep the flow unimpeded.
The current attitude of the Roman Catholic Church to Bruno is defined by a two-page entry in the latest edition of the Catholic Encyclopaedia. It describes Bruno’s “intolerance” and berates him, declaring “his attitude of mind towards religious truth was that of a rationalist”. The article describes in detail Bruno’s theological errors and his lengthy detention at the hands of the Inquisition, but fails to mention the best-known fact—that the church authorities burnt him alive at the stake.
Bruno has long been revered as a martyr to scientific truth. In 1889 a monument to him was erected at the location of his execution. Such was the feeling for Bruno that scientists and poets paid tribute to him and a book was written detailing his life’s work. In a dedication for a meeting held at the Contemporary Club in Philadelphia in 1890, American poet Walt Whitman wrote: “As America’s mental courage (the thought comes to me today) is so indebted, above all current lands and peoples, to the noble army of old-world martyrs past, how incumbent on us that we clear those martyrs’ lives and names, and hold them up for reverent admiration as well as beacons. And typical of this, and standing for it and all perhaps, Giordano Bruno may well be put, today and to come, in our New World’s thankfulest heart and memory.”
And it is characteristic that Protestants outdid Catholics in their own way. Calvin had Servetus burnt at the stake when the latter was on the point of discovering the circulation of the blood, and indeed he kept him roasting alive during two hours; for the Inquisition at least it sufficed to have Giordano Bruno simply burnt alive.”What is most characteristic of Bruno is his vigorous appeal to reason and logic, rather than religious dogma, as the basis for determining truth. In a manner that anticipates the Enlightenment thinkers of the eighteenth century, he wrote in one of his final works, De triplici minimo (1591): “He who desires to philosophise must first of all doubt all things. He must not assume a position in a debate before he has listened to the various opinions, and considered and compared the reasons for and against…. but he must proceed according to the persuasion of an organic doctrine which adheres to real things, and to a truth that can be understood by the light of reason.”
Bruno believed reality of the universe is of the same substance. He boldly spoke by listening to his inner voice (intuition) the existence of an infinite universe, which contained an infinite number of worlds similar to the Earth. In doing so, he rejected the limits of the Copernican system, which posited a finite universe limited by a fixed sphere of stars just beyond the solar system.(The Ash Wednesday Supper )Bruno’s other three works published in England— The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast, Cabal of the Cheval Pegasus and On Heroic Frenzies —contain a biting critique of the Counter Reformation. It was in England that Bruno had his most profound impact.
He wrote a book on mnemonics—systems of memory training. He arrived in Paris by 1581, where he came to the attention of King Henry III who was attracted by his reputation of having a prodigious memory. The King found a position for him at the College de France after he had been forbidden entry to the Sorbonne by the ecclesiastical authority.
During his stay in Paris he wrote three books, two on mnemonics and a play entitled The Torch-Bearer by Bruno the Nolan, Graduate of No Academy, Called the Nuisance. In this play Bruno described his time in the Dominican convent in Naples and presented a withering indictment of the Church. Giovanni Gentile’s commentary on the play describes Bruno’s characterisation of the Church as follows: “You will see, in mixed confusion, snatches of cutpurses, wiles of cheats, enterprises of rogues; also delicious repulsiveness, bitter sweets, foolish decisions, mistaken faith and crippled hopes, niggard charities, judges noble and serious for other men’s affairs with little truth in their own; virile women, effeminate men and voices of craft and not of mercy so that he who believes most is most fooled—and everywhere the love of gold.”
Bruno was forced to leave France in 1583 and wandered from place to place and was betrayed in the end.
(ack: an article by Frank Gaglioti
 of 16 February 2000 )
benny

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Joseph Priestley-(1733-1804)Dissenter,Chemistry,Unitarian
Scientist,pillar of the British Enlightenment Priestly found his spiritual home in the US- though he never took American citizenship, and exerted much influence on the new nation. As for his writings in the late 1760 and 70s he foreshadowed the language the founding fathers were to use in the 1776(Stuart Andrews).
His essay on the First Principles of Government(1768)asserted the fundamental axiom of the Enlightenment that knowledge is the key to progress.
the son of a cloth-dresser from Leeds, was born in 1733. After the death of his mother in 1740, Joseph lived with his aunt from whom he drew his religious views that were to pose great threat to him. His strong nonconformist religious views would cause him to flee England albeit his great contribuion to the world of Chemistry. Though sickly as a child he entered the new nonconformist Daventry Academy in Northamptonshire, where he studied history, science and philosophy. At Daventry he read David Hartley’s Observations of Man (1749) which grounded his direction in life. Priestley was deeply influenced by Hartley’s views on free will and the notion of human perfectibility through good education.
In 1755 Joseph Priestley became a minister at the Presbyterian church at Needham Market. He became interested in exploring how science could improve the quality of human life. In 1761 Priestley was appointed as tutor at the dissenting Warrington Academy in Lancashire.
While at Warrington Joseph Priestley wrote Liberal Education for Civil and Active Life (1765). In the book he stressed the importance of science, arts, modern languages and history and argued they were better suited than the classics for those students who wanted a career in industry and commerce. This was followed by a book on science The History and Present State of Electricity (1767). He now turned his attention to politics. In 1768 his book The First Principles of Government and the Nature of Political, Civil and Religious Liberty was published. In the book he argued for the development of a political system that maximizes civil liberty. In a statement that was to have an influence on the work of Jeremy Bentham and his ideas on Unitarianism, Priestley wrote: “The good and happiness of the members, that is the majority of the members of the state, is the great standard by which every thing relating to that state must finally be determined.”
These three books brought Priestley to the attention of Richard Price and Benjamin Franklin. Both men became friendly with Priestley and encouraged his work in science and politics. After long discussions with the two men, Priestley wrote The State of Public Liberty in General and of American Affairs in Particular (1774). The pamphlet attacked the British government for depriving the colonists their rights and liberties.
Priestley’s political beliefs made him unpopular with the British government. Church leaders were also concerned with the religious views expressed by Priestley in books such as The History of the Corruptions of Christianity (1782) and History of Early Opinions Concerning Jesus Christ (1786). The books developed Priestley’s ideas on Unitarianism. They also included attacks on such doctrines as the virgin birth and the Holy Trinity. Many people, including King George III, became convinced that Priestley was now an atheist.
Priestley moved to Birmingham where he became friends with businessmen and scientists such as John Wilkinson, Josiah Wedgwood, Matthew Boulton and James Watt. Whereas Priestley’s scientific work, for example, his discovery of oxygen, was welcomed, his religious and political views were constantly getting him into trouble. Priestley and his friend Richard Price became leaders of a group of men that became known as the Rational Dissenters. To the government, these were dangerous men.
In 1794 he discovered oxygen he went on an European tour accompanying his patron under whom he held the post of a librarian(1773-80)and from whom received an allowance of 40 pounds a year for his laboratory. It was here he made the momentous discovery on Aug 1,1774. During this tour he came to meet Lavoisier. In France his genius was recognized. He was given French citizenship in 1792.)
Hostility towards Joseph Priestley increased in 1791 when he wrote a pamphlet defending the French Revolution. Priestley argued that he believed the events in France increased the chance of “universal peace and goodwill among all nations” as it made possible an “empire of reason”. His views on the role of the monarchy upset King George III. The king and his supporters particularly disliked Priestley’s view that in future monarchs will be the “first servants of the people and accountable to them”. Priestley now obtained the nickname ‘Gunpowder.’ In 1791 Priestley published A Political Dialogue on the General Principles of Government. In the book Priestley expressed similar political ideas to those expressed by Tom Paine in the Rights of Man. Later that year Priestley took part in forming a Constitutional Society in Birmingham. Tories in the city made inflammatory speeches attacking Priestley’s political ideas and this resulted in a mob breaking into his house and destroying most of his papers, books and scientific equipment.
After the Birmingham riots in 1774 he decided to emigrate to America. He settled in Pennsylvania and over the next few years he wrote several books on Unitarianism. Priestley also established the first Unitarian Church in America.
Joseph Priestley died on 6th February, 1804.(ack:www.spartacus.com.uk)

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(Crested Auklet Profile – Pribilof Islands, Alaska – Christopher Dodds-courtesy of http://www.photobotos.com)

University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher Hector Douglas has found that, for crested auklets, chemistry has both amorous and practical applications. The birds rub a citrus-like scent, secreted in wick-like feathers on their backs, on each other during courtship, a behavior called alloanointing. It is well known among some mammals, such as peccaries, but until now was not documented among birds. His research also indicates that the behavior could help protect the birds from parasites, such as ticks.
“During courtship the male solicits the female by adopting a horizontal posture and giving a soft choking call,” explained Douglas, an assistant professor of biology at UAF’s Kuskokwim Campus. “She rubs her bill and upper body over his wick feathers. Then she offers her wick feathers to the male, and they reciprocate several times, smearing the chemicals over their heads, necks and upper bodies.”
Crested auklets are small black and gray seabirds that nest in huge colonies on remote island cliffs in Alaska and Siberia. They have bright orange bills, white facial plumes and a showy feather crest protruding from their foreheads…’
‘…Birds cannot self-preen their heads and necks, which leaves them vulnerable to ticks in those areas, he said. “When crested auklets anoint their mates, they spread these chemical defenses over these hard-to-reach places, helping protect them against ticks.”
Many animals use scents in social interactions and Douglas said his study extends scientific knowledge regarding these behaviors.
“Alloanointing in vertebrate animals has been understood primarily as a type of social interaction that conveys messages pertaining to individual recognition and the like,” said Douglas. “In this case we see that the social cue transmitted in scent can also be adaptive for defending against parasites.”
Douglas’ findings are published in the German journal Naturwissenschaften, a monthly publication of advances in natural sciences, medicine and technology.( ScienceDaily (Aug. 24, 2007)

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Boredom is the enemy #1 to every serious occupation in life. A story which concerns St. John, a favorite disciple of Jesus is that he was once seen sporting with a tame partridge, by an archer who thought that the holy man should not waste his time in such frivolities; The apostle replied that if the archer did not at times relax his bow, it would lose spring.
Can there be time out for holiness? For a saint like St. Francis even frivolities shall prove his human quality in its naturalness. Addressing the sun as Brother Sun or the birds the revered figure of Assissi proved his time out was in fitness of God’s kingdom. The hand that wounds a man of God is an occasion for him to show his essence. He may dismiss it as natural of being among men of all persuasions and quality. For him forgiving comes easier because he is not only thinking of himself but also of another. Tyrants at home demand service and not understand those who serve also have sometimes difficulties in meeting their demands. They have simply forgotten others since they are full of themselves. Those who slash and burn rain forests do so because they want to aggrandize themselves at the expense of others. How can such fellows call themselves as human or decent?

The great Caesar as Plutarch tells us, on one occasion sought shelter under the roof of a rustic shepherd. At dinner time the meal cooked in rancid oil and served to him made the companion bristle with indignity. Caesar could accept the humble meal and thank him for his hospitality. Caesar proved his greatness even under straitened circumstances. He did not forget where he was and his place. He was a guest and having forced himself on another man’s hospitality knew how to behave. Like Caesar each of us is a guest here on earth.
Can there be time out for holiness? Or let us rephrase it like thus: Can there be time out from being human?
Tailpiece: there is nothing that can fix a problem like capitalism than fixing who we are and our decency to others who also have found sharing the space. None of us owns the earth. Perhaps education that we tout as cure-all is a travesty of true purpose of education. Think of damage done under initiative and free enterprise! colossal damage done by cretins in the name of bold initiative. Ptooii! Education on these fellows seems to fit the proverb:’casting pearls before swine’.
benny

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Schildpad Perzen

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These are observations that I as an old man have concluded as valid. Equally valid observations anyone may make and it need not agree point by point with mine. After all my life experience is not of another. Think how static and boring this world would be had it been a single standard? There would be no give and take and only a one way street. Rule of the Old fogey on the basis of life experience counted in years. No I shall stick to mine.

Life is non-dimensional where your experience outs you -it gives away where you are going and you are placed in time and place by others. My father despaired that I have totally wasted my life while I disagreed with his conclusion. Only I can, looking back see what despaired my father was based on his experience, that was within a set of rules. While I can see what were my failures, I mean in his eyes, could be turned around to advantage. He was appalled by my passion for art,literature,music etc and he rightly concluded it impeded me in my pursuit of my carer. My career ended at the age of retirement while all the strengths I invested in my art and intellect are still in full flow and each day I am raring to go. Of course this too shall pass.
I was never a joiner. While politics interested me in a way the extent people could behave downright foolish and believe in promises of some blackguards who in the name of public service have chosen to use them for their own purposes.Some of these rogues have gone from strength to strength and did all to wreck their country. Yet I have seen them having the audacity to appear in public asking for votes and getting away with it. Even in liberal and affluent nations man on the street is naive yet work of their hands keep the country from going under; these hard-working citizenry working against great many hardships hold the nation going. What makes them still stand ? They have hopes. Hope that these politicians are steadily chipping away. I understand that it is still as strong as ever. Whether in India or in the US politics as played will remain lopsided but shall not wreck it. Isn’t it a mystery? Mystery of life.
Then why do we need the politicians? Simply because hope needs a heart that will keep on beating even if the head is somewhat rotten. Like the immune system the ability of the body to survive the perils of one part of the body is much more than sum of the parts.
Thank God I don’t have to rebuild society to which my claim has been at its best a nodding acquaintance. Had I involved too much into it under a mistaken notion my will or efforts would have made the difference, I would have thrown away the better part of my life. By inclination and disposition I was almost a recluse I have kept my own counsel at the same time devoting my energies I had to spare, on a few friends.That suited me then while now love of a woman and making it bear fruits on day to day basis is fine with me.
benny

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