1 The Great Galileo
2 Galileo Not Persecuted by the Pope Frank Russo
3 Facts Still Unforthcoming John H Williams
The Great Galileo Myth
95, 2004 March)
A review of
that a major reason for his difficulties was opposition from scientific
colleagues, not the church. The church became involved primarily as a
of pressure from the academic community. This paper also concludes that
reactions of today's scientists to innovative ideas and unorthodox
in the area of origins indicates that not much has changed in the past
The Church's historical opposition to the heliocentric solar system (i.e., the belief that the Earth and planets revolve around the Sun) is often used to prove the harmful influence of religion on scientific progress. Typical is William's claim that "Galileo was forced to write about Copernican ideas as if it weren't so that the Earth orbited the Sun" (2003. p. 19). A better example was an editorial that claimed "Western civilization has progressed since Galileo was branded a heretic for ... daring to adopt a radical new theory that Earth is not at the center of the universe." (Marrison, 2002, p. 10)
affair may be
not only the most
quoted example of "persecution" of science by religion, but one of the
most misunderstood events in history. An example is the claim by
Darwin's great, great grandson Matthew Chapman in his book about the
Chapman added that Galileo "had been prosecuted by theologians" and then quotes the trial attorney in the famous Scopes trial of 1925 as stating, "Haven't we learned anything?... Are we to have our children know nothing about science except what the church says they shall know?" (2000, pp. 194-195).
This common myth
contrary to the historical
record. As University of New Mexico history of science professor
The Galileo affair has continued to be a subject of much public interest (Sobel, 1999). A review of the historical record shows that the Galileo's trial "was not the simple conflict between science and religion so commonly pictured" (Hummel, 1986, p. 116) and that the popular conception of the situation is a myth (Lessl, 1999).
It is widely believed that the eventual acceptance of the heliocentric position was one of the many triumphs of science over religion. This view, immortalized by Andrew White (1955), has been naively repeated ever since (Harris, 1973) even though it has been thoroughly refuted by many researchers (Brooke, 1991).
It is more historically accurate to conclude that, although many Jesuits and other clerics opposed Galileo, the main opponents of the new Copernican position were academicians teaching science in the universities, and that much, if not most, of Galileo's support came from church officials. The distinction between the scientific/academic community and the church was far less pronounced in Galileo's time than it is today. In Galileo's day most European educational institutions were associated with a monastery or other church institution, and professors in Catholic schools often were required to follow the rules set for priests, even having to take vows of celibacy. Nonetheless, academic and clerical roles were often clearly distinguishable although not totally separate as they usually are today (Livingstone, 1987; Moore, 1981).
century secular scientific
and materialistic perspective, and in view of the atheism generally
with science today, it is easy to dismiss the seventeenth-century
as a primary proof of the Church's antipathy to the results of
research that conflicted with religious dogma. Seeger concludes that
Galileo conflict is usually cited as an example of the "supposed
between science and theology." In fact, he concludes it is "merely an
of the perpetual clash between an individual's freedom of thought and
establishment of authority. ... Conflicts between the individual and
are always taking place" (1981, p. 168).
A Short History of the Heliocentric Revolution
The reactions of seventeenth-century Europeans to the heliocentric theory can be understood only by evaluating the entire situation in its historical context.
Throughout history, most civilizations understood the Earth to have existed primarily for their benefit. The stars guided them at night and revealed information about their lives, the Sun warmed them and lighted their way, and the rain clouds were created to water their crops. Until the sixteenth century most of humanity accepted the geocentric world view, viz. that the Sun, planets, and stars all circled the Earth. The common people took it for granted for generations because it fit a simplistic, straightforward view of the Earth-Sun relationship. Geocentrism was both part of their total world view and intertwined with their religious beliefs.
It seemed obvious to anyone who had the blessing of vision that the Sun rises and sets, and that the Earth is stationary (Bentley, 1966). Few scientists since Aristotle challenged it, and since Augustine few churchmen had questioned the theory until Copernicus. Seventeenth-century scientists and non-scientists alike argued that if the Earth moved around the Sun, wind would blow constantly at a uniform speed and intensity (Draper, 1957). If it moves, why do we not feel its movement as we do when we ride a horse? They were not aware that the Earth is blanketed by an atmosphere that moves with the Earth, but compared their experience with traveling on horses to the Earth traveling in space. Also, if the Earth were traveling around the Sun, what stopped everything from flying off, and what prevented the Earth itself from falling into the Sun? Since they had no understanding of centrifugal force or gravity, the new idea was to them blatantly foolish (Walsh, 1911).
Since it was axiomatic that the Sun moves around the Earth, they argued that anyone who denied this obvious fact was wrong. Even today we say "the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West." For years, new astronomical discoveries were altered or interpreted to fit into the established system by elaborate intellectual schemes (Leith, 1973). It was for this reason that it took several generations after Galileo to prove the heliocentric position true (Wallace, 1986).
Although an early sixteenth-century physician probably originated the modern heliocentrism theory, the one first credited with its scientific development was Nicholas Copernicus (Leith, 1973). Copernicus (1473-1543) was a priest, a student of canon law, and, later, a professor of astronomy. His research on the Sun, Moon, and planets eventually culminated in his 1530 work noted above (Nash, 1929). Importantly, Copernicus received much support from the church and its popes, especially Clement VII (Hagen, 1908). Cardinal Schonberg and a Protestant clergyman, Andreas Osiander, both helped Copernicus to publish his great work (Koestler, 1959). They even arranged for its printing, and the work was dedicated with permission to Pope Paul III (Hoyle, 1973).
At this early
opposition was mostly
from the academic community. Gingerich (1981) notes Copernicus' book
highly regarded in Lutheran circles and extensively studied throughout
their university system. Fear of exposing himself to the ridicule of
people was a major reason why Copernicus' work was not published until
shortly before he died. The main reason they opposed the theory was
it proposed a radically new view of the Universe that contradicted the
common view of most people.
The Campaign Against Galileo
When Galileo began his crusade for the Copernican position, to his surprise it provoked the ire of many establishment professors. Galileo no doubt reasoned that Copernicus was a respected orthodox scientist who published his work without major problems from the Church (Hoyle, 1973; Kesten, 1945).
The problem developed when Galileo's ideas were looked upon favorably by certain influential churchmen and scientists, causing jealousy in many of his rival scientists (Drake, 1957). A major reason for the academic opposition to Galileo was all the various "natural" philosophies, including physics and chemistry, were firmly based on Aristotelianism (Drake, 1980). Many scholars of the time did not value observation, experimentation, or research, a major means of support for Galileo's conclusions (Wallace, 1977; Ronan, 1974). For centuries, many scholars concluded that the basic truths of nature were to be found in Aristotle's writings and those of his learned commentators (Wallace, 1981). Logical arguments and reason, they believed, were often more to be trusted than were the evidence of one's senses (Santillana, 1955).
The real threat of Galileo to his contemporary scientists was less his position on heliocentricity than his insistence on observation, research, and experimentation to determine reality (Bergman, 1981). It was for this reason that G. A. Magnini, an eminent astronomy professor at Bologna, openly declared that Galileo's observations, which indicated that Jupiter had satellites, must be incorrect (Ronan, 1974). Although the scientific revolution emerged gradually, and many of Galileo's ideas can be traced to before the thirteenth century, Galileo openly challenged the whole system of determining truth that existed then, and therein lay most of his problems (Wallace, 1981; Burnam, 1975).
The opposition was generated primarily by "... a body of dissident professors at Pisa who ... had allied themselves with a set of courtiers at Florence" (Ronan, 1974, pp. 131-132). Most of the early organized opposition came from the academicians: they were qualified to argue against it, whereas the common people, few of whom were literate, usually could not articulate valid reasons for their opposition (Barbour, 1971). Conversely, Galileo had many powerful supporters both in and outside the church, a fact that openly infuriated his opponents.
Moy notes that Galileo by 1616 had the "support of some powerful liberal theologians, particularly Cardinals Roberto Bellarmine and Maffeo Barberini" later Pope Urban VIII (2001, p. 44). The clergy that were opposed to heliocentrism were often opposed because of the arguments of the astronomers and the clergy then often tried to use their positions to influence others. Likewise, today many clergy oppose creationism, and their opposition is often based primarily on the authority and power of Darwinists.
Galileo's opposition worked
hard to build their case. Although it eventually became apparent that
scientific community's arguments against Galileo's position were not as
convincing as they first assumed, Galileo's writings themselves were
less than convincing. Moy concludes that Galileo's 1632 book, which he
believed finally proved his case for heliocentrism, did not, but
It is no wonder
of Galileo's critics
remained unconvinced. On the other hand, many in the church were
for new ideas, and the honors it bestowed upon Galileo made his enemies
In Galileo's day
one had yet come
up with a convincing proof that Earth really flew around the Sun at
speed, as Copernicus's proposal required" (Moy, 2001, p. 44).
concluded that during the first half of the seventeenth century:
In this case the
science professors and
establishment scholars actually were greater enemies of science than
Certain secular astronomers even refused to look through Galileo's
to verify his observations, whereas the Jesuit astronomers in contrast
were willing to look through his telescope and "saw the phenomena for
were convinced, and turned to honouring and feasting Galileo: after
was he not Jesuit trained, a true son of the Church, whose fame brought
distinction to the Order?" (Ronan, 1974, p. 127). Not only were these
delighted with Galileo, but during a visit to Rome he had an audience
Pope Paul III that evidently made such a favorable impression on the
problem, what Santilana
called his "fatal mistake" was his:
When Galileo was brought to trial the second time, he was a man of nearly 70, in poor health, and, partly for this reason, the churches' interference in his life work was actually minor. He had many research interests, most of which he could pursue without problems, and the trial only forced him to regard any findings that directly supported the Copernican system as theory and not fact (Brodrick, 1964; Drake, 1957, 1967, 1974, 1981, 1983). It is also commonly claimed that Galileo was tried and found guilty of heresy. In fact, "Galileo was never charged with nor tried for heresy, as is commonly believed. Heresy was a far more serious offense and carried a much stiffer penalty" (Moy, 2001, p. 45). Galileo was in fact tried and found guilty only of not keeping the agreement he made in 1616 to discuss heliocentrism as hypothetical only until definitive proof was forthcoming.
Although the outcome of the second trial hindered him from directly researching heliocentrism, Galileo nevertheless continued to make major discoveries in his many other areas of interest. His last major astronomical discovery made in 1637 proved that the Moon swayed or vibrated as it circled around the Earth. Galileo's defeat was primarily psychological, although it is true that some branches of the Catholic Church later attempted to suppress his heliocentricity work. And, as is quite clear from the literature, the reasons for suppression included the opposition of major portions of academia against Galileo and his ideas.
probably encouraged many people who otherwise would not examine the
view, and as a result many eventually accepted it. Although the
revolution had begun with Copernicus, most universities still taught
years after Galileo died (Spielberg and Anderson, 1987). When Harvard
founded in 1636, the faculty remained "firmly committed to the
theory." The facts reviewed here are widely known among science
An article published in a journal that is openly hostile to the
world view concluded that:
The Major Sin of the Church
The Church's major sin was probably capitulating to the pressure from the scientific community, certain Jesuits and other enemies of Galileo. Only as a result of pressure from the secular establishment and the Aristotelian philosophers did the Church firmly side against Galileo (Himmel, 1986). An important factor in the controversy over heliocentrism was the matter of how to interpret the Scripture's descriptions of nature in harmony with the authority of factual observations about nature. The struggle was "a complex power struggle of personal and professional pride, envy and ambition, affected by pressures of bureaucratic politics" (Himmel, 1986, p. 116).
Church was by
no means innocent,
but in fact was guilty of much repression and persecution of
including various Protestants, Jews, and others who dared to disagree
it. The scientific community, though, also has been historically guilty
of much persecution of its dissidents, heretics, and even its most
sons (Brewster, 1841; Nash, 1929). And science may be even more guilty
than some religionists (Walsh, 1911).
Significance of the Galileo Case
The same problem still exists today, and many mainline Church leaders are again making the same mistake that they made in Galileo's time by siding with the secular establishment and supporting evolutionary naturalism (Johnson, 1995; Moore, 1979). They have again rejected Galileo's "Book of Nature" concept and elevated nature not only to a god status, but the creator as well.
Religion has no
Intolerance is a characteristic of imperfect humans and a trait that
of us must work assiduously to overcome. Testifying today against
can result in death threats, as has happened to Fred Hoyle's colleague,
Chandra Wickramasinghe (threats that, according to the March 1982 issue
of Discover magazine, the police took "very seriously.") Today,
more than ever before, we must realize that in experimental science
should be silenced only by empirical evidence that comes from
and replication (Redondi, 1987; Langford, 1965). Since Origins Science
is at its core, history, and not directly based on empirical,
science, much speculation is involved. It is unfortunate for science
there is not more tolerance in this area in this, the twenty-first
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John. Bergman's Believerism,
Nov. 2003 p. 18-20.
GALILEO NOT PERSECUTED BY POPE
(Investigator 96, 2004 May)
Bergman's article on Galileo (#95) did not require 65 references.
The Pope gave Galileo authority to write a book comparing Copernicus and Ptolemy – the heliocentric and ptolemaic systems. The book was supposed to be in dialogue form with Galileo neutral. Instead Galileo backed Copernicus. This threatened to cause a rift between the Pope and leading Catholic scholars who still accepted Ptolemy.
fact is the Catholic
Church did not persecute Galileo. This we see plainly by:
1. Galileo was a personal friend of the Pope;
2. The Pope gave Galileo a villa to live in, to which the scholars of Europe had access.
"THE FACTS" STILL UNFORTHCOMING!
John H Williams
(Investigator 97, 2004 July)
In Investigator #93 I wrote about Jerry Bergman's article in #91, and complained about his non-response to my requests for some illumination on Intelligent Design (ID).
I was provocative and had my tongue well in cheek in suggesting that he'd be "more comfortable in seventeenth century Italy, writing Pope Urban material critical of Galileo". This was a device to elicit a response, and one came in #94 repudiating the nonsense/pseudoscience promulgated by his more 'creative' co-creationist colleagues such as that put out by Jack Chick.
However, in his letter he stated, "I…want to deal with one concern at a time… I thought I would start with his comments about Galileo". (#94 p5)
Since I've been asking for elucidation on "key issues" his nine-page article, plus over 60 references, in reply to a brief 'stirring' aside of mine, which didn't promulgate "the myth" Bergman discussed, is unacceptable and insulting! I thought that Dr Bergman and I were having some kind of debate. I've repeatedly challenged him to respond and have scant respect for him for his failure to do so.
Instead of giving us "the facts" on ID, Bergman offered a piece on Galileo!
Daughter, based on
124 letters written by Maria Celeste between 1623 and 1633, I wrote
Galileo was forced to "write about Copernican ideas as if it…were a
only". In Bergman's article he wrote "Galileo was found guilty…of not
the agreement he made in 1616 to discuss heliocentrism as hypothetical
only until definitive proof was forthcoming".
So, Bergman agrees with my point, and I didn't present the line that the Catholic Church persecuted Galileo for heresy.
Naturally, having seen the phases of Venus as early as 1609, plus other observations of the Sun and of Jupiter's moons, Galileo was convinced. Unfortunately, his fiery personality, provocative ways and his literary brinkmanship, using highly readable vernacular Italian, created conflict. He made enemies of those academics who were Aristotelian, as well as Dominicans who were anti-mathematics. He reneged on his agreement and was found guilty of contumacy (obstructiveness), and had to abjure to save himself more serious trouble. However, given what we know of him, he's likely to have privately said something like "E pur si mueve!" ("It still moves".)
Galileo's 'aside' is all the more likely due to his not having forgotten what happened to Giordano Bruno, who was burnt at the stake in Rome in 1600 for insisting that "the Earth travelled around the Sun, rather than remaining motionless".
When called to Rome, Galileo, 68 and in poor health, was threatened by Pope Urban with being dragged to Rome in chains. He was forced to pronounce on his knees this recantation: "I, Galileo, being in my 70th year, having before my eyes the Holy Gospel, which I touch with my hands, abjure, curse and detest the error and the heresy of the movement of the Earth”.
This lie was a gross humiliation which allowed him to live another eight years or so. In pardoning Galileo in 1993, Pope Paul stated that "Galileo's realisations about the Sun and Earth must have been divinely inspired" and "the presence of the Creator stimulated his mind" etc. Bergman may concur but I view it as a fine example of world-class spin we've come to expect from the Vatican, and it only took three and a half centuries for it to lift the inquisitory edict!
Despite his genius Galileo believed that orbits were circular to"keep the fabric of the cosmos in perfect order", ignoring Kepler's work. He considered gravity "an occult quality" and thus was some way from explaining tidal movement. He was the founder of the 'school' of experimental method, and I am skeptical of Bergman's claim (in #96 p45) that "religion" was his"major motivation".
I would be surprised if Galileo's writings showed that he "realised that God reveals himself both in the scriptures and in his creation, and to get closer to God, it is incumbent upon the believer to study his creation [some capitals omitted]".
This bit of purple prose reveals the author's strong need to legitimise the idea of creationism. By showing such great men of science as 'believers' (for some the threat of torture, burning or excommunication were unattractive alternatives), his"believerism”, which he criticizes in non-believers, has clouded his usual disinterested academic objectivity.
As a postscript to my long search in making sense of Bergmans beliefs, I offer this brief summary, via some net browsing:
(a) Old Earth
(b) Young Earth and
(c) followers of Intelligent Design (ID)
Finally, I refer Dr Bergman to his article in #91, p16: "At some point I crossed the line, realising the case against evolutionism was overwhelming and, conversely, the case for the alternative, creationism, was likewise overwhelming."
If the case for creationism is "overwhelming”, it shouldn't be too difficult for a highly articulate polymath like Dr Bergman to tell us. That he hasn't is a tribute to his avoidance, his capacity to hint and tease without providing substance, and his submission of articles on ‘scientists who believed' as distractors.
Dr Bergman: please put your money where your mouth is!