You just knew Scientoids would be all over this. Sure enough, here they come. And in the battle to preserve the myths of scientific history, who should be the first to show up for duty but the National Center for Science Education's Josh Rosenau, who claims Perry got it wrong:
His opening passage, like his comments on evolution, seem to forthrightly endorse the legitimacy of letting religious and political authority suppress ("outvote," in his words) scientific results. By the time Galileo was publishing on heliocentrism, the idea was already circulating and widely accepted in scientific circles, including Jesuits. He wasn't outvoted by scientists, he was outvoted by the political and religious leadership of his country. [Emphasis in original]Not only did Perry not get it wrong, he got it more right that Rosenau.
For one thing, was Perry necessarily saying that the majority rules in science? If he was (which, I'm sorry, just isn't clear here), then he would be in no worse a position than defenders of Darwinist dogmatism and Meteorological End Times like Rosenau, who regularly point to the level of support among those working in their fields as evidence that their beliefs are true. If there's something wrong with Perry doing it, then why isn't there something wrong with scientists doing it?
Secondly, let's look at Josh's claim about Galileo. For one thing, he assumes that the issue of the Galileo episode was the truth of the heliocentrism. Where is my wrong answer buzzer? Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with what happened between Galileo and the Church (as opposed to the historical myths about it) knows that this was not the issue. The issue was the epistemological status of the theory--whether it was a legitimate hypothesis or a proven fact. At the time of the controversy, it was not a proven fact and there were a number of unanswered problems with it--a fact acknowledged by both scientists (such as they were) and Church officials.
Galileo was, by all accounts, a reckless and arrogant controversialist who demanded that others accept his theories before he had adequately documented them, and demanded that his theological views be acknowledged as legitimate despite his demonstrable lack of expertise in the field. In fact, he was so reckless and arrogant, he managed even to alienate his friends.
So when we come to Josh's final point that "He wasn't outvoted by scientists, he was outvoted by the political and religious leadership of his country," we are taken from a complete misunderstanding of history to a complete misrepresentation of it: The political and religious leadership of Galileo's day opposed heliocentrism.
In reality most of the scientists of the time opposed it, since most of the university scholars working in what was then natural philosophy (it wasn't even called "science" until the 19th century) believed in a version of Aristotelian teaching that precluded Copernicanism. Church officials of the time largely accepted Copernicus' theory as better fitting the data than the Ptolemaic theory, but were content to let the scholars duke it out. And a number of high Church officials not only didn't oppose Galileo's heliocentrism, but encouraged his writings on the issue, include a future pope.
One of the ironies here is that one of the things the Church was defending was proper scientific methodology: you have to actually prove your theories, and until they are proven, you need to keep your powder dry.
Next thing you know, Josh will be passing along the historical canard that Galileo was tortured for his beliefs and burned at the stake.
The NCSE gets a booby prize here. Score the win for Perry.