Monday, February 13, 2017

Galileo v the Church

Today is the anniversary of Galileo's conviction for heresy in 1633. The story is one of the popular "See? Science and religion are opposed" arguments. That nasty, narrowminded church locked him up in a deep dark prison for his science. Turns out the popular story isn't necessarily the accurate story. It might be enlightening to find out the truth. It appears we're still doing it today.

2 comments:

Naum said...

Neither of these sides gets it right -- both are cartoonish in their depiction of the events in Galileo v. "the Church".

The trial did spark a division between church & science that is even representative today of affairs. Fundamentalist and conservative leaders in the church indeed bristled at Enlightenment scientific advances.

However, it is true, Galileo has come across as a "saint" in secular circles but in truth, he was brash, quarrelsome, selfish person -- and the church was provoked to take a stand when the impetus behind his prosecution was not his science but his insistence on how all should see Scripture the way he saw it -- for that, he was encroaching on the sacred ground of theologians & bishops. Galileo was his own worst enemy, in other words, and he precipitated the whole church/science schism.

A good read on all of this is *The Sleepwalkers* by Arthur Koestler -- book is dated (written in 50s) so it's missing a lot of info on Newton (it focuses on Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo saga -- and Kepler, in author view, is revered whereas Galileo is contemptible individual, at least in author assessment -- but there is an abundance of material, biographical, and even chunks of correspondence between these giants of science). The author is Jewish but he pushes back against the "popular story", same as thrust as your post. But he does write that this event forced the church into an anti-science plank. Of course, the Reformation played a big role in this too.

Funny how history, once you peel the layers of the onion off, is never neat & tidy as the stories we tell about it.

Stan said...

It seems as if everyone -- science, church, politicians, voters, philosophers, historians -- have a hard time telling these things without bias.