Galileo and the Catholic Church

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Galileo andthe Catholic Church

Every child today grows up reading that the earth revolves around thesun. However, four centuries ago, the heliocentric model thatexplains the nature of the solar system was highly controversial.Galileo Galilei was a physicist and astronomer from Italy whosupported the theory and the Catholic Church by then rejected it andcharged Galileo with heresy. The book entitled, The Dialoguepublished in 1632 was one of the Galileo documents that contributedto his trials and house arrest until of his death. The Dialoguesummarized Galileo’s ideas and views regarding the issue of what isat the center of the astronomical space, the earth or the sun(Finocchiaro 53). The book discusses the Ptolemaic and Copernicantheories where the former is based on the argument that the earth isat the center of the world while the latter assumes that the sun isstatic and the earth revolves around it.

TheControversy created by The Dialogue

Thepublication of The Dialogue in 1632 created a lot ofcontroversies that consequently challenged the legal and intellectualauthority Catholic Church. It is argued that Galileo was persecutedby the Catholic tribunals because he abandoned the geocentric view ofthe world for heliocentric theory. The geocentric view was based onthe argument that the sun orbits the earth and the Church had clungto it since Aristotle supported it centuries earlier (Finocchiaro70). Since Galileo condemned the Ptolemaic theory and advocated forCopernican theory, he created controversies that provoked the Churchto arrest him. The publications of Galileo’s book made the RomanChurch leadership look like fools before and after his death.

Galileo`s position in science and religion also left the Church noroom to exercise its powers over the masses (Finocchiaro 170). Recentresearch shows that the church domination in Italy was threatenedmainly because Aristotle’s philosophy was rendered obsolete and yetthe Church still clung to it. To many anti-Catholics, the Galileoproved to the world that the church rejected science and refused toabandon the old teachings perpetuated by Aristotelian philosophies.Furthermore, the church could not distinguish between the Christianteachings and Aristotle’s theories and, therefore, they were leftweak when Galileo brought in an entirely new perspective of the solarsystem.

Galileo’sarguments in The Dialogue

The basic argument of The Dialogue is that the planets orbitthe sun, which is immobile and that ‘earth-at-the-center’ viewwas outdated. He supported the Copernican theory that had beendeveloped in the 16th century. Originally, the book was written inItalian as a dialogue between three persons Simplicio, Salivati andSagrado (Finocchiaro 180). The conversation helped in evaluating thecorrectness of the two theories regarding how they explained thenature of the solar system. Although The Dialogue seemed to becentered on the conversation, Galileo sought to support theheliocentric view that was described by Copernicus. It is notablethat The Dialogue elongated Galileo’s trial to 17 yearsafter the first trial in 1616.

ChurchOpposition to The Dialogue’spublication and the Roman Inquisition

It is clear that the church opposed the release of the Dialoguebecause Galileo rejected geocentrism and advocated forheliocentrism in describing the solar system. The geocentric view hadguided the Catholic Church for many years and, therefore, Galileocontradicted with the Christian teachings by supportingheliocentrism. For instance, the Holy Tribunal that tried Galileoargued that the ‘sun-at-the-center’ view was absurd andphilosophically wrong because it was contrary to the Biblicalteachings (Finocchiaro 183). The book advanced the conflict betweenAristotelian philosophies, and Copernican science and the churchtermed the new perspective as false and heretical. In 1615, Galileohad expressed his views supporting Copernican science in a lettersent to the Tuscany ambassador to the Vatican.

The Roman Inquisition charged Galileo with heresy after he releasedThe Dialogue in 1632. It was the second time Galileo facedtrials perpetrated by the Church, and he was prosecuted by beingsentenced to a house arrest. Galileo had been warned to abandonheliocentrism in 1616, but he continued his research until 1632 whenhe openly objected the geocentric model of the solar system. TheChurch charged him with heresy because of his unending quest forsuperiority in science through challenging the church traditions,which were entangled together with Aristotelian science. Over theyears after the 1616 trial, Galileo tried to challenge geocentrism,an aspect that contributed to his lifetime house arrest afterreleasing The Dialogue in 1632 (Finocchiaro 186).

TuscanGovernment Intervention in Galileo’s Case

There is a belief that Galileo was spared from torture and death fortwo decades by his powerful friends from the Tuscan government. TheCatholic Church maintained its position and saved Galileo from trialsbecause the Tuscan ambassador to Rome sent many reports regardingGalileo’s case. They defended Galileo from heavy punishments sincehe was born in Tuscany but moved to Florence later to study andconduct his research in astronomy (Finocchiaro 191). Additionally,the Tuscan government officials appealed to the Pope not to punishGalileo because they also started doubting the accuracy ofAristotelian science that had formed the church tradition by then.

Significanceof Tuscan Government Intervention

The Tuscan government attempt to defend Galileo during the trials hada lot of significance years later after he died, as well as, today,in the field of science. Today, scientists view the conflict betweenthe Catholic Church and Galileo as a great victory of science overreligion. If it wasn’t for the Tuscan people may be Galileo couldhave been barred from conducting further research after the firsttrial in 1616. It was also possible for the Roman Inquisition tosentence Galileo to death, a trend that was common to people whobroke the law during that time. Despite his unwavering support toheliocentrism, Galileo also recognized that God was the Creator andconfessed that he believed in Him. It seems that the Tuscansprotected the father of astronomy who developed a theory that formeda basis for modern science regarding space.

Galileo’sOpinion on the Relationship between Science and Scripture

The letters that Galileo wrote to the King of Vatican revealed hisview of the Holy Scriptures and Science to the world. He put acrossthat it is very religious to say that the Bible cannot tell a liebecause it is made of truthful writings. He also argued thatCopernicus did not ignore the Scripture, but he knew that if histheory was proven, it could have contradicted with the Bible. Mostimportantly, Galileo set out the relationship between the Scriptureand Science by claiming that he recognized God as the Creator and notNature (Finocchiaro 195). Nature could only be described well byusing science without incorporating the Christian beliefs that hadprevailed for the earlier centuries.

Relevanceof Galileo’s Theory

Galileo’s views can be considered revolutionary because hefacilitated a paradigm shift that enabled science to move forward.His discovery of the nature of the solar system set a precedent forother theories that helped in space exploration. Although Galileoadvanced the theory proposed by Copernicus in the 16th century, he isconsidered to be one of the great scientists who revolutionizedscience by supporting heliocentrism. He developed an entirely newworldview using science that was profoundly challenged by theCatholic Church. Galileo advanced the studies in astronomy andphysics even during his house arrest, and his research ushered in anew perspective about the world after he died in 1642.

Works Cited

Finocchiaro, M. A. (2013). The Routledge Guidebook to Galileo`sDialogue: The Routledge Guides to the Great Books. London:Routledge.