9 JUNE 2001, Page 28

False equation

From Professor Peter Geach, FBA Sir: Like most people, your correspondent Dr H. Robert Johnston (Letters, 26 May) probably does not know which view of Galileo's was condemned as heresy by the Inquisition: namely, that the sun is the immovable centre of the universe. Whether heretical or not, the view is certainly false, and is, moreover, as the Inquisitors said, 'philosophically' (i.e. scientifically) absurd. Whatever Mr Johnston may have heard, the present Pope has certainly not conceded that Galileo was right after all.

Mr Johnston tells us that by Drake's Equation (who is Drake?) we can estimate how many planets in the galaxy harbour intelligent life. Bertrand Russell tells a story of a German mathematician who used number theory to determine the authorship of the plays ascribed to Shakespeare: this may not be a true story but, as we see, people really can be as silly as that.

Peter Geach