What Was Galileo’s Trial About?

Michael Fridman wrote a comment on my artile about Galileo, here, of 010208. He asked my to look at his article on Galileo on his page which I present. His original article may be found here. You may also follow his links from there as well. His article is very insightful.

What Was Galileo’s Trial About?
April 2nd, 2008

When you ask [modern secular] people about Galileo's trial (for his book promoting Copernican astronomy), here's a common view:

*A case of science vs. religion
*Catholic Church as bad guy
*All clear-thinking people knew the earth goes round the sun
*The church (and all who opposed Copernicanism) were dogmatic, ignorant of science, religious fanatics.
*Astronomers were unanimous in agreement with Galileo
*The Copernican system was clearly better than the Ptolemaic

I wouldn't call this a complete myth. The church did bungle the case, thinking verses like this enough to disprove Galileo. But the reality is much more interesting. The trial was not so much about science vs. religion as it was between Galilo's new science and the accepted old Aristotelian science:

In theory Copernicanism was simpler and more elegant (especially in explaining retrograde motion). But when time came for actual calculation it did no better than the old system of epicycles, equants and other weird things.

To Aristotelians, science meant absolute proof from logical deduction. Galileo was saying you don't need absolute proof, that the way to go was experimentation and inference. In modern terms, each camp thought the other was doing pseudoscience. They were doing a GREAT job talking past each other.

A main argument against Galileo was that if the earth turned, all the clouds and birds would be left behind. This may sound very stupid to us today, but it was Galileo himself that developed the notion that things have an inertia (or impetus as he called it). Before Einstein, Galileo developed a basic notion of relavitity. This goes against common sense. This (and not stupidity) is why it was accepted only slowly.

Aristotelians considered the heavens perfect and the earth corrupt (a marriage of convenience with Christianity). The essence of the earth was different, how could it be just a planet? Galileo on the other hand turned the telescope to the planets and discovered they were just like the earth! It's understandable why the notion of ONE law throughout the universe, took a while to catch on -- there was much psychological opposition.

It's common to think those who opposed Galileo were stupid, pig-headed and fanatical. This is just not true -- the opposition had many highly intelligent people we should respect. To use modern 20-20 hindsight in the Galileo case is to be stupid, pig-headed and fanatical. More posts on the semi-myth later, especially the infamous Galileo Syndrome...

Thanks and a tip of the beret to Michael at a Nadder. Michael I have read you articles and I can see you and I come from different perspectives, (as well as religions, no doubt). You remain the only non-Catholic I have ever linked to.

Dieu Le Roy.
de Brantigny


MDA said...

Hello Richard,

I am actually a modern day geocentricist (yes they, like monarchist, do still exist!). I might make a blog post which shows that not only the Church officials correct on their theology but on their science too.

Michael said...

Wow, thanks Richard, glad you liked my analysis! Although it seems strange that you don't usually link to non-Catholics, surely there must be a reasonable amount of material from them that can complement your blog?

MDA -- if you ever write that post let me know, I'd love to read it...

de Brantigny said...

No Michael I don't redirect to non-Catholic sites. The first reason is this, I do not see eye to eye with most non-Catholics, either on religious , or political views. Especially Protestants although there are a chosen few Anglicans who get this blog. (Catholic Lite)

Unlike some people who distance themselves from their faith, (and reason) I do not try and seperate my Faith and my life, rather I embrace it. They are inseperable. Secondly most people who read my blog are of the same Faith as I am, and the ones who aren't do not read enough of the blog to see from whence I come.

I have had crack pots who write comments from time to time, (I post them long enough for them to demonstrate humor) but most have a similar view as I.

Thank you very much for your comments.

May God look over you.