Galileo 2 Essay, Research Paper
Galileo s Scientific Revolution Against the Church
The scientific revolution was not only a challenge to a government but was also a challenge to a deeply rooted religion. The Church, having been influenced by Greek philosophers, viewed the world as a creation by God, complete with lawfulness, regularity and beauty. In the seventeenth century Galileo Galilei peered into the heavens with the newly invented telescope that changed humanity s view of itself, nature and God. Galileo discovered the moons of Jupiter, the sunspots and a crater-filled moon, all of which contradicted the teachings of the Church. When Galileo published his findings the revolution began against the Church. A rebellious Galileo stood firmly and in solitude challenged the Church to accept scientific fact over philosophical principles. The Church realized Galileo challenged more than philosophical thought he also challenged the Church s authority. The Galileo rebellion consisted of two events, the first occurred in 1616, and the second seventeen years later in 1633.
Early in 1616 the Church s position is made rather clear when Cardinal Robert Bellarmine wrote the pope concerning Galileo s recent discoveries, I am informed that Signor Galilei transfers mankind from the center of the universe to somewhere on the outskirts. Signor Galilei is therefore an enemy of mankind and must be dealt with as such. Is it conceivable that God would trust this most precious fruit of his labor to a minor frolicking star? (Taylor 141). Galileo in response wrote a long, open letter on the irrelevance of biblical passages in scientific arguments, holding that interpretation of the Bible should be adapted to increase knowledge and that no scientific position should ever be made an article of Roman Catholic faith. (Taylor 142). Galileo had the misfortune to bring his discoveries to public attention at just the wrong time, a time when sensitivities in regard to questions involving scriptural interpretation and Church authority were at their most intense. In the trial of 1616, the defendant was actually a scientific idea, namely, Galileo s hypothesis about the structure and motion of the solar system. To submit an idea to a trail may sound odd to us now, but this was not so in Galileo s day of high sensitivity to heretical views (Shea 76). The charge brought against Galileo s hypothesis was that it contradicted numerous passages in Scripture that speak of a stationary Earth and of the motion of the Sun. Galileo not overestimating his own powers of persuasion let the scientific evidence contradict the Bible. Cardinal Bellarmine, who at the time served as the chief theological adviser to the pope, admitted frankly that the traditional interpretation of Scripture would have to be changed if conclusive proof of Galileo s hypothesis were forthcoming (Fontoli 306). Galileo realized that the scientific evidence supported his hypothesis more than the Scriptures was prepared to debate the matter in a scholarly fashion. The Church immediately publicly denounced Galileo s hypothesis and issued a decree forbidding it to be discussed among scholars and at the universities. the Council decrees that, in matters of faith and morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, no one, relying on his own judgment and distorting the Sacred Scriptures according to his own conceptions, shall dare to interpret them contrary to that sense which Holy Mother Church (Fontoli 375). Professors of philosophy also scorned Galileo s discoveries at this time, partly to keep in good graces with the Church and partly to keep their reputations as men of science and ideology. What called them into action was a perceived threat to the authority of Scriptures as well as to their own authority as its licensed interpreters and teachers (Taylor 141). Once the professors entered the rebellion, the battleground shifted, as Galileo very quickly saw. He realized that if he were ever to get a hearing for the new cosmology on its scientific merits, he would have to defend himself on an entirely different front first. The Church blinding believed that it was on this front that the rebellion would be lost before it could possible challenge the theologians. Galileo realized to convince the great thinkers of his time he would need further evidence that could be tested and produce replicable findings. Galileo continued to research his hypothesis disregarding the Churches orders as well as his peers disgust.
In 1633 the charges filed against Galileo were far more serious, this time no scientific theory was on trail. Rather it was Galileo s acceptance of and obedience to the 1616 decision that came under question. It was a matter of authority now, not truth. This authority was making new and quite different demands on Galileo. Seen in this light of the matter Galileo s personal trail in 1633 was not whether a scientific theory was consistent with the Bible, but rather was whether Galileo had attacked the centralized authority of the Church by his apparent violation of the injunction of 1616 (Shea 202). In the previous year, Galileo had published what was to become his most famous book, the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. Galileo s rebellious action prompted the Church into immediate action, causing the charges of heresy to be filed against him. Galileo was left defenseless on the charges and was compelled to renounce his findings and was sentenced to life imprisonment, swiftly commuted to permanent house arrest. The charges filed ended the Galileo rebellion with the Church, The famous formula of adjuration, which he was forced to read, was intended to bend or break his will rather than his reason (Fantoli 423).
Galileo s conflict with the Roman Catholic Church has long held a belief that this was a special type rebellion. The prime reason for this, of course, is that the Galileo rebellion has come to be seen as the model case of the troubled interaction between science and religion. Another reason is the dramatic power of the events involved, which continue to attract the attention of generation after generation. Images of Galileo easily come into view with his struggle for intellectual freedom, of the unprotected individual against a powerful institution committed to its self-preservation.
Fantoli, Annibale. Galileo and the Church. Rome: The Vatican Observatory Publications, 1994.
Shea, William R. Galileo s Intellectual Revolution. New York: Neale Watson Academic Publications, Inc., 1977.
Taylor, F. Sherwood. Galileo and the Freedom of Thought. London: C.A. Watts & Co., Limited, 1988.