Monday, April 8, 2019

Physicist Heal Thyself

Physicist Dave: “I literally know of no other extended period of history in which there was as systematic an effort for as long a time to brutally suppress freedom of thought as the Middle Ages in Catholic Europe.”

Let’s see.

Fundamental Human Rights in Medieval Law.   Published by the University of Chicago Law School.

…Professor Tierney showed that the idea of natural rights did not enter political life, as he put it, "with a clatter of drums and trumpets of the American Declaration of Independence or the French Declaration of the Rights of Man." Instead, "this central concept of Western political theory first grew into existence almost imperceptibly in the obscure glosses of the medieval jurists."  It antedated Columbus by more than two centuries.

“Medieval jurists” would be jurists from the Middle Ages…the Catholic Middle Ages.

…the ius commune recognized the existence of human rights, the law of the medieval church was not in fact hostile to them, and individual men and women were given the ability to exercise them.

The law of the medieval church (that would be the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages) was not hostile to human rights.

It is even true that the medieval way of thinking of rights has not entirely vanished from today's law. It is present in the ways in which we treat freedom of speech. We revere it not only because it promotes the expression of individual opinions, but also because we think it promotes discovery of the truth.

The medieval way of thinking about rights can be found in our view of freedom of speech.  Stunning.

Few rights are absolute of course. Not today. Not then.

Not ever.  Not anywhere.

…I would like to point out that the tradition of free speech that Wilders drew on long predates the days of Maarten Luther. 

“Predates…Maarten Luther” would suggest the Catholic Middle Ages.

In fact, it goes back to ideals that received much of their present shape and form during the early Middle Ages.

The tradition of free speech took form during the early Middle Ages?  The Catholic Middle Ages?

The results of this investigation run counter to the traditional viewpoint that the ideals of free speech disappeared after Antiquity, only to be rediscovered again during the Renaissance.

“Traditional viewpoint” means “accepting the desired narrative.”  As we will discover shortly, neither Antiquity nor the Renaissance offered perfect free speech, or even free speech much different than what existed in the Middle Ages.

Political criticism seems to have been an accepted practice, provided the critics expressed themselves according to established cultural and rhetorical rules. One could object to this observation that it can hardly be called free speech if a speaker has to conform to rules and conventions that restrict what can be said. 

“HA!  Now bionic will have to admit he is wrong!”  I will have to admit no such thing.

Free speech as such, however, does not exist in the first place, not in the early Middle Ages and not in our own days.

And not ever, anywhere. 

Organization: Jan Dumolyn & Linde Nuyts (Ghent University), Jelle Haemers & Minne De Boodt (University of Leuven), Martine Veldhuizen (Utrecht University).  This workshop is the first in a series of three on ‘freedom of speech’ in late medieval and early modern Europe.

From the summary:

Although freedom of speech, ‘the right to express beliefs and ideas without unwarranted government restriction’, was by no means a fundamental right in the late middle ages and early modern period, expressions of critical opinions towards power were always possible and often widespread.

“Always possible”…”often widespread.”  Interesting.

This is a podcast from the site “Clear and Present Danger: A History of Free Speech.”  This episode is entitled “The not-so-Dark Ages, medieval intellectuals, and freethinkers.” It is introduced:

Find out why the Middle Ages were as much a period of reason and inquiry as inquisition and superstition.

This podcast offers that the idea of free speech was a mixed bag during the medieval period – pretty much like it has been at all times and in all places throughout history.  There has never been an absolute right to totally free speech, anywhere.

One read of this will demonstrate that the author is most certainly not an apologist for the medieval Catholic Church.  As I have asked Physicist Dave, for which still no answer is offered: medieval free speech?  Compared to when?

The origin of the term censor can be traced to the office of censor established in Rome in 443 BC. In Rome, as in the ancient Greek communities, the ideal of good governance included shaping the character of the people. Hence censorship was regarded as an honourable task.

443 BC would predate the Middle Ages of Catholic Europe. 

In China, the first censorship law was introduced in 300 AD.

Was China Catholic?  Was it in Europe?

Perhaps the most famous case of censorship in ancient times is that of Socrates, sentenced to drink poison in 399 BC for his corruption of youth and his acknowledgement of unorthodox divinities.

399 BC…I am pretty sure this also predates the Middle Ages of Catholic Europe.  Someone please check me on this.

Free speech, which implies the free expression of thoughts, was a challenge for pre-Christian rulers. It was no less troublesome to the guardians of Christianity, even more so as orthodoxy became established.

A challenge for “pre-Christian rulers”?  Were they Catholic before they were Christian?  Before Christ?

The most famous of authors that the Catholic Church banned is undoubtedly Galileo (1633), and the most famous victims of the Inquisition’s trials must be Joan of Arc (1431) and Thomas More (1535).

A total of three examples offered by the author, only one of which falls within the window considered the Catholic Middle Ages.  I have dealt with the fallacy of the generally-accepted Galileo story here.  I won’t spend time on the other two now.

The author offers only one example from the period 500 – 1500.  Meanwhile, the author offers numerous examples of censorship both pre- and post- the medieval period and in all regions of the world.  Many of these examples come after the Enlightenment – consider, for example, twentieth century post-Christian Europe.  I hope I need not offer examples.


I think we can put to rest any notion offered by Physicist Dave on this topic.

I never mind when someone disagrees with me.  I have learned much from such exchanges.  As to Physicist Dave: your next comment will be respectful else I will fully exercise my property rights.


  1. I just feel bad that you had to regurgitate information that you have already heavily researched and previously presented. And, perhaps one definition of a "troll" is someone who is dogmatic in their statements and lax in their research.

    We're on a great journey to establish a real libertarian narrative. Sometimes, I think that our detractors make statements like these just to waste our time and wear us down.

  2. I must say I enjoyed the beat down. I don't much bother arguing with people who relish trashing much of what I hold dear, but I think it's a good idea to expose yourself to it every once in while, if only to suppress any Utopian notions of 'universal brotherhood', even among Rothbardian libertarians, that may crop up from time to time.

    It's funny that Doctor Dave chose to focus on freedom of speech, which isn't even a natural right according to libertarian theory - according to Rothbard. You have the right to say what you like on your own property, but on the property of others, it's a different story, and the best practice is to mind your manners (or the manners of the host, whichever is more modest).

    I guess this is something they don't teach at Stanford. Or maybe manners are just something the left in general doesn't understand?

    I may have been too harsh on John (or Jan) Hus. He may have pre-figured Luther in that he had legitimate complaints about the Church, but his severe attack (if only verbal) of the supreme moral authority of the land unleashed a torrent of pent up radicalism that resulted in mass revolt, theft and bloodshed (in fairness, his unjust killing at the hands of the Church probably worked as an accelerant). In Hus' case, he inspired the radical communist Taborites and Adamites (both of which thought it was their sacred duty to purge the world of sinners by the sword) in 15th century Bohemia.

    The Bohemian Reformation is an interesting case study for anyone who wishes to change the social order, especially those who wish to change it for the better.

    1. ATL, I thought about pointing out this "freedom of speech" issue in this post, but decided to try to stay focused.

      I have learned so much from people who have presented positions outside of my understanding (like you) - positions even contrary to what I thought was "true" (probably the best example of demonstrating this was UC).

      I am very careful about the tone of the dialogue here, because the conversation is as important to me as the writing.

      PD's approach...I can't imagine it is ever successful at changing anyone's opinion - or even getting anyone to consider his...certainly not after the second time.

    2. Jan Hus or John Huss was at one time a Chancellor of Prague University and thus not an insignificant person. He had wide support not only amongst the general population of the Kingdom of Bohemia but also among the highest nobility having been also the confessor to the queen. For his teaching he was burnt at stake at the Catholic Church's Council of Konstanz (today situated in Southern Germany) which accelerated adoption of protestant thinking among the general populace preceding Luther by about 100 years by Luther's own admission. Protestantism (or heresy) was unacceptable to the Catholic church and it had to be suppressed by violent means. The Catholic Church organized 5 crusades into Bohemia which led to a massive devastation of its economy and its population. The Adamites were in this context an insignificant sect and were quickly rooted out by the mainstream protestant movement.
      This puts your notion of freedom of speach within the medieval catholic Europe in context.

    3. Physicist Dave, are you now commenting anonymously? In any case, whoever you are...whoever said that there was freedom of speech in medieval Catholic Europe?

  3. “I literally know of no other extended period of history in which there was as systematic an effort for as long a time to brutally suppress freedom of thought as the Middle Ages in Catholic Europe.” ~Physicist Dave

    I'll say this much for him. Physicist Dave has a flair for nuance. That's how I know he's an oh-so-enlightened humanist and not a Medieval obscurantist like me.

    *Sigh*. One never jeopardizes one's place in polite company by overstating the crimes of the Catholic Church or the suffering of the Jews. Anyone disputing that fact might try spouting "Holocaust denial" from a soapbox in any of the erstwhile centers of what is now quaintly known as Christendom.

    You want "a systematic effort" to "brutally suppress freedom of thought"? You'll get it in spades.

  4. Physicist Dave has asked me to let everyone know that he has been responding to your comments in the other thread. I have not published any of these (nor will I allow anything further from him) because in his response to me he did not respect my request in the last sentence of this post.

  5. Thomas Morus was a victim of the despotism of Henry VIII and he died for his Catholic belief.

  6. Forgotten to most historians are the events excised from "history' by the "victors" who write the histories.

    There has been more than one group suppressed, wiped out, oppressed by Roman Papacy in history. A couple of them were mentioned right here by Bionic himself previously,but couched in language and spin of the kind we see today in the vituperation of "cults".

    The court historians of the networks, for example, during the criminal siege in Waco said,played a sound bite of that David saying "I am God". But what they cut out was the context: "Some of these people think I'm God. But I'm not!". During Farrakhan's million man March, one network played audio of Mr. K.: "This March is about me". But those who listened live heard: "They say this March is about me. But it is not! about me!".

    Taborites, Hussites, and Adamites were groups purportedly harrassed, burned as heretics, relieved of property by Inquisitors. Catholic priests like John Knox before his conversion only found out that such a thing as the Bible existed when he saw it in a list of books banned by the Papacy.

    Pope John Paul the 2nd issued a mea culpability re: Martin Luther. He did not mention, to my knowledge, John Huss.

    There were many many more direct victims than these martyrs, or the two listed in Bionic's list here. Not even to mention the Gunpowder plot, Catholic Spain going after England with Spanish Armada finishing destroyed, when the king said, "God has fought against us".

    On censorship, not until around the time of World War Two did the Pope finally give the Roman Catholic faithful permission to read the Bible. And now Roman priests join "liberal Protestants" to actively influence modern translations.

    Nonetheless, even with all that, the "Dark Ages" I agree were not as dark as they are often painted by current court historians in the era of pagan hegemony in culture today.

  7. Thomas More was killed by Henry VIII, who was most certainly not an Inquisitor.