Galile Vs. The Bible Essay, Research Paper
Galileo vs. The Bible
Religion and science have always been conflicting studies. Religion, being based on faith, relies on the supernatural to explain life and being. Science, on the other hand, cannot do this. Scientists need to eliminate the possibility of the unexplainable in order to maintain and control group by which to measure other groups. The unexplainable I refer to are the miracles that are commonplace in all supernatural religions. Galileo lived in a time where church was state. The land was ruled according to the words of the bible, and anyone in opposition would be in contempt. Galileo’s scientific findings were therefore strongly shunned by the church. In 1615 Galileo attempted to explain how these findings came to be in contradiction with the teaching to the Church with a letter to Christina, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany. Galileo felt there needed to be a line between what philosophical questions should be answered by science, and which scripture should answer. This does not mean that Galileo himself was not religious. Nor did he feel that the Bible was a complete falsity.
In his letter, Galileo states, “… I think in the first place it is very pious to say and prudent to affirm that the holy Bible can never speak untruth—whenever its true meaning is understood.” This statement is based upon his contradictive thought that the earth revolves around the sun, rather then the earth being the center of the universe. To Galileo, the Bible seems to bend truths, in order to explain things to men of all intelligence. Nature, however, never changes or breaks rules. Nature is all around us, and we can draw our own conclusions from it, and therefore should not be “called in question upon the testimony of biblical passages which may have some different meaning beneath their words.” Galileo feels this is just one reason why the Bible should not answer questions of the physical world, and rather only answer those questions deals with miracles, life, and other “truths” that cannot be demonstrated.
Galileo also argues that the same God that gave us senses, reason, and intellect would not give us answers to questions that could be solved using them. He feels this is even truer with sciences such as astronomy, where so little of which is found in the Bible, pointing to the fact that the only other planet even mentioned is Venus. Continuing, he argues that since the Bible doesn’t seem to answer the questions of the shape of Heaven or its location in relation to the Earth, why would it state the matter of an earth-centered universe. Quoting a high-ranked priest, he states: “That the intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how heaven goes.”
Towards the conclusion of Galileo’s letter he offers an argument of truths. The argument basically states this: if the truth of the Bible conflicts with the truth of fact, and two truths cannot contradict, then one or the other is wrong. Since the truth of fact cannot be wrong, except for ignorance, then the scientific interpretations found in the Bible may therefore be in err. Galileo’s doesn’t exactly feel that the Bible is wrong, he is just providing one more argument towards the difference in science and the Bible. The errors themselves, he states, are most likely due to the inability to “affirm that all interpreters of the Bible speak by divine inspiration.”
It is no doubt that Galileo reached much opposition on both his Copernican views of the world and his views on the Bible and science. But its probably that most of his opposition was from Catholic people who never studied science themselves. This made it very simple for them to disregard Galileo’s scientific findings, and therefore, not pay too much attention to his feelings of the Bible. Galileo makes much attempt to not give his critics the upper hand. He doesn’t over emphasize his hypothesis and his belief of it over the Bible’s words. Galileo doesn’t make the statement of a sun-still planetary system the main point of his letter, but rather an unavoidable truth if one can accept the facts he provides. He also wants his readers (which is more then just the Grand Duchess Christina) to know he is not the only person who thinks as he does. He quotes a well-respected church father, St. Augustine, to saying, “…the truth of Holy Writ cannot be contrary to the solid reasons and experiences of human knowledge.”
Though elements of his argument are powerful, Galileo’s letter may have been unpersuasive to its original audience. For us, it is hard to understand why the clergy, and society quickly shunned an idea that today is widely known and accepted by everyone. Science then is not what science is today. Society studied no more then the Bible, and that was only if they could read. Many of those who couldn’t read had the Bible read to them. Government, economy, and basic everyday life were based on this book, and science barely existed. It was only a few years after Galileo’s time that the scientific method was developed, and it was not until years later that the scientific method was a recognizable method of study. Had the scientific method been a concept when Galileo’s ideas were first brought about, the church may have paid more attention to his scientific ideas, and therefore been more open to the ideas he presents in his letter to the Duchess.