Galileo

 

“The Bible shows the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go.”

 Gentle Readers,

Next we want to consider two more the first is Galileo and then, "Who was Asaph?" It is difficult in such a written short space as opposed given the vastness of the internet, to provide a comprehensive examination of our topic and not reveal the ending or in my case the conclusion without considering the words of our favorite characters "When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

Some call the "tomorrow people" prophets, and bowing to my former Roman Catholic education (which while many don’t like to admit the fact, was in my day the best that a young Irish lad could achieve) The "Church" called them "Saints"...I was considered " Wunderkind (from German: "wonder child") and not unlike Sheldon Cooper from "The Big Bang Theory" my mother did indeed have me tested! Much to her chagrin she found out that I was more of a sponge, everything I read, every language that I heard, every book that was read to me as a wee lad prior to my reading for my self I analyzed and understood beyond my chronological age. It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

Reading and writing were to most difficult for me in my early years as in placing me with other children of my own age I would begin to read and write backwards and upside down (hence the testing). When it was discovered that I was bored! For now I’m going to think that these "tomorrow people were just ahead of their time! But what if there is more to it than just that? Ah well... Let’s look at Galileo

In most accounts, the conflict between Galileo and the Inquisition is presented as a battle between scientific progress and blind religious dogmatism -- Galileo is presented as brave crusader for truth and science, unjustly persecuted and imprisoned for the "crime" of being right. This view is fundamentally flawed by its failure to consider the historical background of the case: at the time, Galileo's work was a radical and highly controversial new theory, not an accepted scientific fact. The Church's actions represented an affirmation of the accepted scientific wisdom of the times against a new idea with some disturbing philosophical and theological implications, rather than a rejection of science.

If we seek to understand and interpret the actions of the Inquisition, we must examine them within the context of the scientific and political environment of early seventeenth-century Europe. To someone living in the modern age, it seems utterly inconceivable that any sane person could have ever believed that the earth stood immovable at the very center of the universe, surrounded by perfect crystal spheres upon which rode the sun, the moon, the planets and the stars. We have been raised with the knowledge that our earth is but one of nine planets orbiting the Sun, a G2 class yellow dwarf star located on the edge of the Orion Arm of the Milky Way galaxy (Fisher 2000) , and consequently we accept it as obvious fact even though most of us have never personally seen the astronomical or mathematical evidence that proves it to be so. This tends to blind us to the fact that the people of Galileo's day accepted the Ptolemaic system as fact for the exact same reason we accept the Copernican today -- because it is what they were taught, what all the experts of the day believed, and what all the available data supported (if they could understand it, which was not usually the case). Let us, then, consider Italy in the year 1610.

Nearly a hundred years since Martin Luther pinned his famous ninety-five theses to the door of the Wittenburg Cathedral, the Roman Catholic Church was still reeling from the theological and political effects of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Although still a powerful socioeconomic force, the Church possessed but a shadow of the influence it once wielded -- even in its homeland of Italy, the reins of power were held by the governments of the individual city-states, not by Rome (Gilbert 1992, Ch. 3). Predictably enough, the Vatican guarded its remaining power jealously, using the Congregation of the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition, better known as the Roman Inquisition or the Holy Office, to enforce Catholic orthodoxy by banning books and prosecuting heretics. It was this body that tried and convicted Galileo in 1633, handing down the infamous sentence:

We pronounce, judge, and declare, that you, the said Galileo, have rendered yourself vehemently suspected by this Holy Office of heresy, that is, of having believed and held the doctrine (which is false and contrary to the Holy and Divine Scriptures) that the sun is the center of the world, and that it does not move from east to west, and that the earth does move, and is not the center of the world; also, that an opinion can be held and supported as probable, after it has been declared and finally decreed contrary to the Holy Scripture, and, consequently, that you have incurred all the censures and penalties enjoined and promulgated in the sacred canons and other general and particular constituents against delinquents of this description. From which it is Our pleasure that you be absolved, provided that with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith, in Our presence, you abjure, curse, and detest, the said error and heresies, and every other error and heresy contrary to the Catholic and Apostolic Church of Rome (Halsall 1999) .

To be continued...

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