The Galileo Myth

Tea at Trianon has a redirect to Taki's Top Drawer which introduced me to an article on Galileo. Misinterpreted and maligned by the intelligensia which use it to protray the church as backward and superstisious the real story of Galileo's trial may suprise many...

The Galileo Myth

Professor Rodney Stark has written about “the unique Christian conviction that progress was a God-given obligation”—which may strike some as odd, given that the Catholic Church condemned Galileo Galilei, the “father of science” himself, as a heretic for saying that the Earth moved around the sun. Galileo and the Scopes “monkey trial” generally form the Catholic and Protestant bookends of the case that Christianity is anti-science. However, historian Thomas Woods notes of the former: “The one-sided version of the Galileo affair with which most people are familiar is very largely to blame for the widespread belief that the church has obstructed the advance of scientific inquiry. But even if the Galileo incident had been every bit as bad as people think it was, John Henry Cardinal Newman, the celebrated nineteenth-century convert from Anglicanism, found it revealing that this is practically the only example that ever comes to mind.”

As the story goes, an obscurantist church, blinded by dogma, hounded and condemned Galileo because church officials could not square the idea that the Earth moved around the sun with such scriptural declarations as “Thou didst set the Earth on its foundations, so that it should never be shaken.” Reality was not quite so pat. In fact, Jesuit astronomers were among Galileo’s earliest and most enthusiastic supporters. When Galileo first published supporting evidence for the Copernican heliocentric theory, Cardinal Maffeo Barberini sent him a letter of congratulations. When Galileo visited Rome in 1624, Cardinal Barberini had become Pope Urban VIII. The pope welcomed the scientist, gave him gifts, and assured him that the church would never declare heliocentrism heretical. In fact, the pope and other churchmen, according to historian Jerome Langford, “believed that Galileo might be right, but they had to wait for more proof.”more

Posted by Robert Spencer on January 30, 2008

1 comment:

Michael said...

Agreed -- it's definitely a stretch to say the church obstructed science -- in these centuries it was on the cutting edge of science!

I just did a post about the Galileo myth on my blog if you want to check it out -- I see it more as a clash of two sciences: Galileo's new methods and Aristotelian science.