History is a narrative, whose plot is often guided by the mistakes of well meaning scholars repeating errors and misrepresentations that have crept into the academic discourse. This usually happens due to the vast amount of information available, and the necessity to triage resources while pursuing tangential investigations of a specific topic. A good example of this is the legacy of Giordano Bruno, who has been labeled a “proto-scientist,” his legacy and martyrdom becoming a rhetorical device lauded by popular figures, like the physicist Michio Kaku, to highlight a sacrifice for humanistic science and free thought.
This image of Bruno has developed out of the strange and stilted public debate on the supposed conflict between religion and science, and the Catholic church’s ignoble position of having been the ruling worldly power during a long period of transition from ancient culture to our contemporary world. The lessons of the 20th century show us that had secular powers been in control, we still cannot be assured the persecutions, bloodshed and atavistic thinking could have been averted. The truth is beyond category, religious or secular, (those debating should read some of Bruno’s works!,) and this particular debate between those who take it upon themselves to represent the world’s faith traditions and those representing empirical science has done little to aid in humanity’s spiritual or empirical development.