Galileo’s Telescope in Today’s World

by Armando Simón (September 2022)

An Allegory of Wisdom and Ignorance, Jusepe de Ribera, 1640


If theory and facts disagree, so much the worse for the facts. —Georg Hegel

It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong. —Richard Feynman


Most well-read persons are aware of the episode with Galileo when he had guests who argued that Jupiter could have no moons because of Ptolemy’s writings; Ptolemy had written there were no moons. Galileo trained his telescope on Jupiter and urged them to look and see the Jovian moons with their own eyes. They refused, self-assured, still citing Ptolemy and other Greek writers (during the Renaissance, it was believed that everything that could be known had already been discovered by the Romans and the Greeks, and the best that scholars could do is dig up further writings from that era). Galileo’s guests departed, self-satisfied, having refused to peer into his telescope.

Nowadays, we view that historical event in isolation and smirk at the individuals who refused to look. However, that mentality continues to be present. It is a general phenomenon, one that should be studied by psychologists. We see it manifested today in a number of different events and we may ridicule or become angry at the specific events and details, particularly if it involves religion or politics, unaware that it is a general psychological manifestation, one that is conducive to all sorts of mischief. In other words, we don’t see the forest for the trees.

Many people may not remember, but a few decades back many religious individuals had been told that those persons who were participating in the role-playing game of Dungeons & Dragons were indulging in Satanic practices, trying to actually summon demons and really casting magical spells. They were convinced this was true—in spite of any lack of evidence. It was nothing of the sort, of course, and in fact, players in the game would be fighting evil entities and persons. They were arguing from ignorance. Yet, nothing could change the minds of the anti-D&D contingent. At the time, I was playing D&D and argued with one of these individuals and suggested that he himself could come and watch and see that there was nothing nefarious going on. He refused to verify, no matter how much I urged him to do so, with him ultimately almost running away. His response was typical.

We see the same psychological mechanism at work today.

Let’s take two aspects of the Covid fiasco as an example, since the idiocy is lingering on.

First, the face masks. Although there were studies that showed that cloth face masks were not only useless, but counterproductive (and those studies keep being replicated), although the very same sources would one day say the masks were effective and next day said masks were ineffective, and although the Democrat officials who fulminated against people not wearing masks were often caught off-guard not wearing their precious masks, there was a contingent of Covidians that believed religiously that everyone had to wear masks. Everyone had to obey. Everyone had to conform. Everyone had to submit. I and many others who refused to wear masks were verbally or physically attacked by the Covidians for not conforming (it may be remembered that Galileo was ultimately punished for not conforming as well as for telling the truth). Persons in establishments enforced wearing masks. Logic made no impression on them (wearing a cloth mask to keep out a virus is like putting up a barbed wire fence to keep out mosquitoes). One had to conform! One had to obey! Citing studies that showed how useless were face masks made no impression and they would refuse to read the studies—and this even from medical personnel! One had to submit!

Second, the vaccines. Early on, it was evident to anyone with at least half a brain that Covid was similar to a very bad flu and not another bubonic plague, contrary to what the Covidians were proclaiming. Yes, some people died from Covid, no argument there, but it was not like the Spanish flu, as it was inferred. Nonetheless, defective vaccines were rapidly developed. Many individuals became aware after the first few months that something was wrong with the vaccines and, in fact, with the whole outlook of the epidemic. Some people were developing blood clots and were dropping dead in their tracks, besides other symptoms (they still are!). There is a very good reason why developing an effective vaccine takes years. Nurses and physicians began sounding the alarm. And they were being punished. Read the list of dissenters. At the same time, these dissidents were prescribing and promoting simple proven cures instead of the official, tissue damaging ventilators. The Covidians refused to listen to the “disinformation” and condemned them without even checking them out. Since then, a plethora of scientific studies have come out that have demonstrated that these vaccines are not only harmful, but fatal, and ironically do not prevent Covid (look at 4-vaccine, 2-booster, President Biden). Ironically, it may even facilitate infection of Covid. In fact, natural herd immunity is better than the vaccines. But the Covidians to this day refuse to listen to the physicians and nurses and researchers and refuse to read the studies.

And keep insisting on enforcing vaccinations.

And wearing masks.

But let us leave the Covid fiasco behind us.

Persons who parrot the message from the media, namely that there was no fraud in the 2020 election, that it is The Big Lie, angrily refuse to look at the accumulated evidence. I have suggested that they at least watch 2000 Mules and if they still believe that there was no fraud, fine, but at least they would no longer be arguing from ignorance, yet they angrily refuse “to waste my time.”

Likewise, similar individuals refuse to view the many accomplishments of President Trump while he was in office, in spite of the suppression of his achievements by the media and in spite of the constant undermining of his efforts by both opponents and false “allies.”

Similarly, if one presents evidence of the numerous crimes committed by illegal immigrants, or, if one presents evidence that the overwhelming number of assaults on Asian-Americans were not committed by “white supremacists” but by black criminals, they refuse to check the facts.

It gets more interesting. With individuals where this psychological mechanism is rampant, some facts will simply not register if it is plainly in front of their faces. One time, I attended a small anti-Sharia rally in the People’s Republic of Austin. Learning of this, Antifa came out in full force and the authorities formed a line separating both groups. I found two things fascinating about this encounter. One, was leftists’ amazing ability to scream slogans nonstop for hours under the hot sun while caught up in a frenzy of hate. The other was that the Communists were all white, yet they constantly referred to us as racist white supremacists, even though it was very evident that there were blacks, Mexicans, Muslims and Asians in our small group, plainly visible. Yet, they saw us all as racist whites. This blindness, of course, has occurred in numerous other occasions (for example, (the head guy of the Proud Boys is a black Cuban, yet he has always been referred to by the media hivemind and Antifa as a white supremacist).

And there is also an auditory component to this phenomenon. Leftists often hear some conservative speak and the former will state that what the conservative really means, or that it’s code for X. For example, there was a leftist politician or reporter (I cannot remember which) who cited President’s Trump’s words to protest peacefully at the Capitol, as being code for violence and insurrection.

Now, here is where it gets even more interesting—and psychologists should really be tripping over each other to research this.

On at least one occasion, a therapist who has had a patient with anorexia nervosa, weighing 70-80 lbs, has had the breastless, hipless patient strip to her underwear and placed in front of a three-way mirror. She has been asked to see how her obsession has rendered her skin and bones, dangerously close to dying. The patient has peered into the mirror, looking intensely at every inch of her emaciated body—then has responded that all she sees is fat, fat, fat. Her perception has been warped.

I believe that this is the same mechanism at work, except that one is in a clinical setting while the others are not.

How I wish I was back in an academic setting to research this.


Table of Contents


Armando Simón is a trilingual native of Cuba, a retired psychologist and the author of When Evolution Stops, Very Peculiar Stories and The Book of Many Books.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast


2 Responses

  1. Indeed, facts don’t necessarily matter. Nor do elections, necessarily. If one or both houses change hands in November, the civil servant left in Washington and large cities will remain. Law and policy serve at the whim of apparatchiks who never stand for election, the big tell after 2016. Tenure is the enemy of law – and learning.

  2. I agree with the critique of those who got all upset about D&D from a Christian perspective- they were stupid to be sure, and credulous. The same applies, more seriously, to those Christians AND deeply secular people who got all upset about fake satanic ritual abuse in the same era. I would like to grant them a certain charity- some of their objection came from that place of deep unworldly innocence that many everyday American Christians share with the stout farmers of old stereotype or the soccer moms of today, it’s just unfortunate that it leads to Helen Lovejoy levels of panic so often. Some might also have considered it a form of gambling, which a decent number of Christians abhor whether money changes hands or not. I don’t consider that accurate of course, but I can see where it comes from.

    But there are two more specific points to make:

    1. Plenty of players sought to play evil or evil-like characters. It was part of the fun. Same reason strategy games include, often, options to genocide enemy nations or wipe out all life on planets, or games like GTA exist. I consider all that harmless fun, but more than just Christians disagree. The fact that players could choose any point on D&D’s moral character alignment was not just there for show.
    2. It was foolish of them to believe that players were really casting spells. Christians are not supposed to believe in the efficacy of magic at all. It is a recurring problem that many do and always have done. For those parents that did, they needed to check their doctrines but if nothing else I could see why they would believe playing at casting spells was evil, insofar as it is play acting at something that would be evil IF real, even if said parents weren’t dumb enough to think it WAS real. Or perhaps, believing in the devil, they believed that play acting such things even when not intending evil, might draw its attention anyway. To be fair, they possibly were the kind of parents who also hated toy guns or playing at crime. For similar reasons.
    For any of them who were properly trained and did not believe in the efficacy of magic at all, they could just argue that their kids should not be play acting something that represents pagan superstitions.

    I think they were stupid, as I thought so in the 80s, same as I thought about toy guns and video game violence. Still, I’m not convinced D&D culture has been any better an influence on modern life than stoner culture, so I have some retroactive sympathy.

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