Thursday, August 24, 2006

Galileo - Science and Religion

Haven't we all been told time and time again that Galileo was condemned for proving the heliocentric theory, since the big bad mean ol' Church was anti-science and didn't want people to know the truth? Lol...that's what I was taught, anyway! And you know, I guess people tend to think if something is repeated enough, it must be true! So it's amazing to me when self-proclaimed skeptics buy things like this without even being skeptical about whether or not they have the real story...they've heard the same thing all their lives, so it MUST be true! But I don't blame them, we often don't realize that we've never actually made sure things are true, it's easy to just accept something without checking out the facts, especially when we've heard it repeated dozens of times without question.

Well, the facts are this. It was not the heliocetricism that was the problem, it was Galileo's arrogance and broken promises that got him in trouble.

He was asked to write a fair book portraying both ideas (heliocentricism, geocentricism, and the pope's personal view that perhaps the heavenly bodies move in ways that are not understood on Earth.) Well...he basically wrote the book in a discussion format, with one propenent of geocentrism, one propenent of heliocentrism, and an interested bystander...the person talking about the geocentric view, and stating the Pope's view he named "Simplicius," an obvious insult. Simplicius was portrayed as slow witted and stupid, while the proponent of Heliocentrism was quick witted and clever. The book was completely one-sided, and completely NOT what he promised he would write. This is why he got in trouble, not because he was a propenent of heliocentrism.

It's also interesting to note that there were other scientists (including Kepler) who were openly teaching Heliocentrism with no problem.But all this is in this article, which, by the way, was written by a non-Catholic.

It's really quite clear historically that the Church did not have a problem with science, not in the least, some of the most important scientific discoveries were made by priests and monks. There's no reason to be afraid of science, as it is merely in search of truth. This article puts it best, I think:

The Catholic Church has always taught that "no real disagreement can exist between the theologian and the scientist provided each keeps within his own limits. . . . If nevertheless there is a disagreement . . . it should be remembered that the sacred writers, or more truly ‘the Spirit of God who spoke through them, did not wish to teach men such truths (as the inner structure of visible objects) which do not help anyone to salvation’; and that, for this reason, rather than trying to provide a scientific exposition of nature, they sometimes describe and treat these matters either in a somewhat figurative language or as the common manner of speech those times required, and indeed still requires nowadays in everyday life, even amongst most learned people" (Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus 1.

As the Catechism puts it, "Methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things the of the faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are" (CCC 159). The Catholic Church has no fear of science or scientific discovery.

This same view was also espoused by Cardinal Bellarmini during the Galileo controversy:

"I say that if a real proof be found that the sun is fixed and does not revolve round the earth, but the earth round the sun, then it will be necessary, very carefully, to proceed to the explanation of the passages of Scripture which appear to be contrary, and we should rather say that we have misunderstood these than pronounce that to be false which is demonstrated."

Science and religion are certainly not incompatible, and we shouldn't be afraid to explore both.


Mark Wyatt said...

Galileo was condemned because (Pope Urban VIII):

"...Whereas you, Galileo, son of the late Vincenzo Galilei, Florentine, aged seventy years, were in the year 1615 denounced to this Holy Office for holding as true the false doctrine taught by some that the Sun is the centre of the world and immovable and that the Earth moves, and also with a diurnal motion; for having disciples... ...and for replying to the objections from the Holy Scriptures, which from time to time were urged against it, by glossing the said Scriptures according to your own meaning: and whereas there was thereupon produced the copy of a document in the form of a letter, purporting to be written by you to one formerly your disciple, and in this divers propositions are set forth, following the position of Copernicus, which are contrary to the true sense and authority of Holy Scriptures..."

Read the real facts (on my blog), not modern apologies to bury the truth:

Geocentricity 101, Part I: Basic Principles
Geocentricity 101, Part II: Basic Physics
Geocentricity 101, Part III: Scriptural and Church Position
Geocentricity 101, Supplement: Discussion of Scripture and Church Position

Also the new book Galileo Was Wrong, Part I is the definitive source for the scientific arguments. There is a book review on my blog.

Mark Wyatt

Stephanie said...

I'll let St. Augustine do the talking on this one (from The Literal Meaning of Genesis):

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”

Mark Wyatt said...

St. Augustine was a geocentrist.

He also accepted the notion of a "water above the firmament" because Scripture stated it was so.

St. Augustine is more of a support than a detriment to geocentrism.

Mark Wyatt

Stephanie said...

Regardless, what he says makes sense, and I think it's applicable here. Whether or not geocentricism or heliocentricism are true (and I would just rather not get into that, as I'm no scientist), it has no bearing on whether or not the scriptures are true. The Bible isn't a science book. As the famous quote goes concerning its purpose, the bible shows us how to go to Heaven, not the way the heavens go. So, let's just say it's not very high on my priority list to prove or disprove any scientific theory, as it doesn't affect my view of the scriptures as inerrant.

But thanks for stopping by =)

Anonymous said...

Galileo got into trouble with the Church because the Church believed that the interpretation of Scripture laid down by the Fathers of the Church could not be reinterpreted. Galileo was warned in 1616 with an injunction passed by Cardinal Robert Bellarmine. Galileo's arrogance only played a part in that he continued to support heliocentrism, which was accurate as compared to geocentrism, even after the injunction against him.

Galileo's book may have clearly been in favor of the truth and against the Church, but this was not the charge. The charge was defending Copernicanism, or heliocentrism, after the injunction.

So was the Church against science? Yes and no. It's true many priests and monks were scholars and made important discoveries. But the Church's rigidity on interpretation of scripture held science back, which is why important discoveries like the ones made by Galileo resulted in trials by the Inquisition.