Culture & Society Videos

The Galileo Affair Doesn’t Bother Me

Source: Brian Holdsworth on YouTube

Music written and generously provided by Paul Jernberg. Find out more about his work as a composer here: http://pauljernberg.com

Galileo, as we all know, was an astronomer who put forward an idea known as heliocentrism which is the idea that the Earth rotates around the sun which stands in contrast to Geocentrism which is the idea that everything revolves around the Earth.

And Geocentrism was the popular belief in the day because of superstitious religious fundamentalism that scientific men like Galileo were trying to liberate humanity from and sure enough as he began to promote his observations, the Catholic Church jumped in and tried him for heresy in an attempt to keep the masses trapped in their religious worldview.
Something like that is what is popularly believed by anyone familiar with it and for those who aren’t familiar with it, they will still be nurturing some kind of narrative that says Galileo was an innocent free thinker who was unjustly persecuted by the evil Catholic Church.

The fact is, the Church was upholding the geocentric view because it is what had been convincingly demonstrated by the scientific establishment and this consensus was enjoyed beyond the boundaries of Christian culture. Both Ptolemy and Aristotle had argued persuasively in favor of it. And Galileo had failed to overcome the strongest argument against heliocentrism argued by Aristotle which was that if the Earth circled the sun, we would be able to observe a stellar parallax among the stars as the Earth moved and since we couldn’t observe it, the earth must be static. And that’s worth pausing on, because my education experience, like the anecdote above, led me to believe that people didn’t know things like the Earth revolved around the sun and not vice versa because they were basically stupid and we are smarter, more highly evolved, and better looking than they were.

But here we have Aristotle making astronomical observations nearly 2400 years ago and pointing out that if the Earth was moving, we should see a parallax effect in the stars just like we do when we move in proximity to other objects. That’s a very intelligent and very scientific argument.

And because there was convincing scientific evidence in support of Geocentrism, the Catholic Church would often interpret the Bible with that view in mind because the Catholic Church believes in what’s called fides et ratio or faith and reason which is why they were and always have been perfectly happy to interpret divine revelation through the logical lense of evidence offered by non-Christians like Aristotle and Ptolemy.

This wasn’t a case of the Bible against science, it was a case of science against science reinforced by scripture and the prevailing world view of the time. The Church has never been anti-science. The Church was the greatest patron of science and because it cared so much about the pursuit of truth.

Header image: via Andreas Cellarius [Public domain], commons.wikimedia.org


Suggested External Links:
The Galileo Controversy (Tract) via Catholic Answers at catholic.com
Galileo Galilei (Encyclopedia) via Catholic Answers at catholic.com
Twisting the Knife (Article) via Catholic Answers at catholic.com
Moving Heaven and Earth: The True Story of the Galileo Affair (Digital publication) via Catholic Answers at shop.catholic.com
[N.B. MediaArk.com is not affiliated with, nor receives any commission on purchases from Catholic Answers sales. All links are provided purely as suggestions for further reading]


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