I previously blogged about putting Isaac Newton into Purgatory for the story Moon Hammer. That was a slippery slope and I ended up adding another scientist, Alhacen. I have long been interested in the relationship between science and religion. In his science fiction novel Contact, Carl Sagan put the main character of the story, a scientist, into the uncomfortable position of having a "revelation". She learned an important fact about our galaxy, but she had no way of proving to anyone else that she actually had her "revelation". Reproducible evidence distinguishes science from faith.
Alhacen is celebrated for his work on optics. It is thought that he had religious training before turning his attention to science and it has been suggested that Alhacen viewed the study of nature as an activity that could not come into conflict with religion. Would he have changed his mind, or had it changed for him, if he had believed, like Galileo, that the Earth orbits the Sun? One version of his life story says that he did manage to get into trouble and died while under the Caliph's arrest. It is also claimed that he pretended to be insane in order to avoid serving the Caliph. It is thought that Alhacen was interested in biology, particularly the biology of vision. In the first story I ever wrote set in the Exodemic Universe, I imagined that Aristotle was privy to advanced optics knowledge provided to ancient Greeks by an Interventionist. I'm thinking along the same lines for Alhacen and that he eventually got his wings clipped by an Overseer. It is fun to imagine that Alhacen might have ultimately been taken to the Moon and ended up in "Purgatory" with Newton and Institoris.
Alhacen apparently wrote a discussion about how to identify false prophets. I wanted an ancient scientist for Moon Hammer who, like Newton, was renowned to be religious, but also someone who would be able to stand up to Institoris. Alhacen seems a good fit for that role...unfortunately the part for Alhacen is rather brief. Institoris does not let Alhacen get in the way of his "End of Times" sermon from Purgatory.
I've been trying to decide on the topics that Institoris will mention in his "Sermon from Purgatory". So far I have 1) abortion, 2) homosexuality and 3) assorted heretics and pagans. If you have any other suggestions for how to get folks on Earth fired up, please let me know.