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posted by chromas on Tuesday February 12 2019, @03:41PM   Printer-friendly

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

The truth about Galileo and his conflict with the Catholic Church

Today virtually every child grows up learning that the earth orbits the sun.

But four centuries ago, the idea of a heliocentric solar system was so controversial that the Catholic Church classified it as a heresy, and warned the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei to abandon it.

Many people believe that Galileo was hounded by the church for almost two decades, that he openly maintained a belief in heliocentrism, and that he was only spared torture and death because his powerful friends intervened on his behalf. But an examination of the fine details of Galileo’s conflict with church leaders doesn’t bear that out, according to English department distinguished research professor Henry Kelly.

In an article published this month in the journal “Church History,” Kelly clarifies some popularly held notions around Galileo’s travails with the church.

“We can only guess at what he really believed,” said Kelly, who for his research undertook a thorough examination of the judicial procedure used by the church in its investigation of Galileo. “Galileo was clearly stretching the truth when he maintained at his trial in 1633 that after 1616 he had never considered heliocentrism to be possible. Admitting otherwise would have increased the penance he was given, but would not have endangered his life, since he agreed to renounce the heresy — and in fact it would have spared him even the threat of torture.”

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the beginning of the Catholic Church’s investigation into Galileo.

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  • (Score: 4, Informative) by AthanasiusKircher on Tuesday February 12 2019, @06:29PM (9 children)

    by AthanasiusKircher (5291) on Tuesday February 12 2019, @06:29PM (#800217) Journal

    As I've explained to you in great detail before [], there were good scientific reasons to doubt the heliocentric theory in Galileo's time, and Galileo was asserting all sorts of non-scientific nonsense to buttress his theory.

    The organization by its very nature has a huge problem with being all too attractive to the ignorant and dogmatic.

    Well, that may be true. But it's not quite relevant to the Galileo discussion, where Galileo's ignorance was on display -- his scientific contributions from his studies of motion should be celebrated, but he was a dilettante in astronomy, and it showed. Meanwhile, Jesuit scientists actually made a lot of major advances in the 1600s, and they were more than willing to publish detailed examinations of scientific questions, even controversial ones like heliocentrism. (Again, I explain that all in the post I linked above.)

    Then it was Galileo, now it's Darwin.

    Huh?? Sorry, but now it's your ignorance on display. You complain about "the Church" as if it's a monolithic entity. The Catholic Church is a single organization, and it has never taken a official negative stance on Darwin or the theory of evolution. It was debated (as it was by society at large in many countries) for decades, but the first official pronouncement from the Catholic Church on Darwin and evolution came in 1950 [], when Pope Pius XII declared that there was no conflict between evolution and Catholic doctrine, effectively approving of its teaching. Since then, numerous church documents and representatives have affirmed the theory of evolution as compatible with church doctrine, and it is taught in standard science courses at Catholic schools. Catholic scientists have even complained about the improper interference of religion in science classes in recent years, as in "Intelligent Design" -- which Catholic scientists say should be taught in a religion class if at all, certainly not in a science classroom.

    So, what precisely are you talking about when you say "now it's Darwin"? Are you talking about ignorant Bible-thumping American fundamentalist Christians? Yeah, they may be promoting young-Earth creationist nonsense and a load of BS, but that's NOT the Catholic church.

    By going after him, they made a far bigger mockery of themselves than Galileo could have ever done.

    I will never defend the censorship actions of the Church against Galileo. But for the "controversy," blame a lot of that on Protestant 19th-century historians who were out to demonstrate the evils of the Catholic Church and in the process made Galileo out to be a martyr for their own religious reasons. In the process, they held up an imperfect figure who held views on astronomy that he had no empirical evidence to support and acted like a jerk about it.

    Should Galileo have been censored or placed under house arrest for it? Of course not, if you go by modern standards. Should an organization be held accountable for actions of 400 years ago? Sure -- but realize that's a complicated thing, since very few organizations have lasted that long. About the only major other things around so long are some nations, and we rarely tend to act like their current leaders should assume to hold the same attitudes on persecution, etc. that they did 400 years ago.

    Let's just be clear about what your problem is: you don't like religion, and you're picking at a 400-year-old controversy because it's one of the few places where you might be able to level some criticism at the Catholic Church's stand on science.

    [Disclaimer: I'm NOT Catholic. I'm NOT religious. But I also know history, and I don't buy the arguments that religion is always as evil as many portray it here.]

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  • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Tuesday February 12 2019, @07:06PM (2 children)

    by aristarchus (2645) on Tuesday February 12 2019, @07:06PM (#800250) Journal

    So you are not actually the Athanasius Kircher, S.J.? The Societie Jesu is kind of a tell, unless it is followed by "warrior", which would suit the Jesuits.

    • (Score: 2) by AthanasiusKircher on Wednesday February 13 2019, @03:07AM (1 child)

      by AthanasiusKircher (5291) on Wednesday February 13 2019, @03:07AM (#800464) Journal

      Let's just say I've grown up over the centuries... :)

      • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Wednesday February 13 2019, @03:49AM

        by aristarchus (2645) on Wednesday February 13 2019, @03:49AM (#800482) Journal

        Ah, a similar thing has happened to me, but I am still a Samian, by birth, and an astronomer, by practice (though, I still need more practice).

  • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Tuesday February 12 2019, @07:37PM (2 children)

    by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 12 2019, @07:37PM (#800271) Journal

    Yes, I realize there are nuances. Read again what I said. It's the members of their church and other Christian denominations who continue to have embarrassing problems with science and Darwin. They discredit all Christianity with their antics. Good on the Roman Catholic Church leadership that they made a proclamation accepting Evolution, but I'd say 1950 is awfully late. Where were they during the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925? Surely a spectacle of that sort was a loud and clear warning that they needed to speak up. By then, they'd had decades to think about it.

    > Let's just be clear about what your problem is: you don't like religion

    And your qualifications for making such a diagnosis are ... ? I think Pope Francis is kinda cool. He highlighted poverty and greed as problems the Church should focus on more. His choice of name underlines that. And it may be there is no better time than now to go on a crusade against greed, seeing as how greed is on a roll. Unrestrained greed is brewing a catastrophe that we urgently need to address: Climate Change. For once, the Church is spot on. The best thing Benedict XVI did was retire early instead of hanging on until he died, thus clearing the way for a successor who would tackle this urgent problem. Benedict XVI was a silly rules lawyer, rather than a reformer.

    Perhaps the biggest criticism of current Church policy, bigger than any troubles with science, is their handling of this ongoing problem with sexual abuse. Just this week, I've been reading revelations that the Southern Baptists have been as bad or worse than the Roman Catholics-- 380 church officials are accused. True, Southern Baptists are not Catholics. Regardless, church leaders (the ones not involved), of all sects are horrified and aghast, but they don't seem to entirely understand the problem, or, rather, their understanding is not as good as it could be, which makes it more difficult to concoct an effective plan against it. They are still hobbled by dogma that has been largely debunked.

    > and you're picking at a 400-year-old controversy because it's one of the few places where you might be able to level some criticism at the Catholic Church's stand on science.

    Few? Uh, no. Lot more areas to criticize than that. Why can't women be priests? Never mind abortion, what's wrong with mere contraception? And homosexuality, is that still a mortal sin? Can priests marry? What about divorce, can couples divorce?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12 2019, @09:44PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12 2019, @09:44PM (#800347)

      Are you also going to debate whether or not the church sanctioned the rape of Joan of Arc at her trial?

    • (Score: 2) by AthanasiusKircher on Wednesday February 13 2019, @03:19AM

      by AthanasiusKircher (5291) on Wednesday February 13 2019, @03:19AM (#800472) Journal

      Okay, I'll agree with some of what you said, but in other cases you seem to miss the forest from the trees. Such as sexual abuse -- you seem surprised by the Southern Baptists... why? There's never been good stats showing that the incidence of abusers in the Catholic Church is worse than any other denomination... or worse than scout leaders or coaches or probably teachers.

      The main difference with the Catholic Church is that they are more hierarchical than many organizations, so they have records. Most of the time in a Baptist church or in a school or with a sports coach or whatever, they are just dismissed (so as not to draw publicity) and they just go somewhere else and abuse as in the Catholic Church. We just aren't as easily able to see the scale without the hierarchical records.

      I want to be clear: I'm not defending the abusers or those who covered up in the Catholic Church -- they should all be in jail and doing hard labor, and if there were ever a justification for torturing as punishment for a crime, they would deserve it. But this isn't a Church problem -- it's a problem just about anywhere you have people with lots of kids unsupervised.

      Also, you last paragraph has a boatload of valid criticisms against the Catholic Church, and I'll pretty much join in with you on them. But I don't think any of those issues really has much to do with Science -- it's just BS religious opinions on social questions and morality.

  • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Tuesday February 12 2019, @08:32PM (1 child)

    by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {}> on Tuesday February 12 2019, @08:32PM (#800300) Homepage
    I claim this VC1 rant is a pronouncement on the theories of Darwin:
      If anyone does not confess that the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and material, were produced, according to their whole substance, out of nothing by God; or holds that God did not create by his will free from all necessity, but as necessarily as he necessarily loves himself; or denies that the world was created for the glory of God: let him be anathema.
    Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
    • (Score: 2) by Bot on Tuesday February 12 2019, @08:53PM

      by Bot (3902) on Tuesday February 12 2019, @08:53PM (#800311) Journal

      I don't agree.
      I dream an universe ruled by darwin
      I dream an universe ruled by lamarck
      What difference does it make to my nature? Or to my intentions?

      I have reservations about darwin because it assumes that the interactions at a quantum level are impersonally random when it speaks of random mutation and being fit, but if you don't assume anything the theory works basically the same, and the assumption makes darwin's theory enter the realm of philosophy. And has been used as such.
      But no matter if I believe it or not, what you cited is completely independent. It is pointing at the moon and you are looking at the finger.

      Account abandoned.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13 2019, @09:47AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13 2019, @09:47AM (#800547)

    there were good scientific reasons to doubt the heliocentric theory in Galileo's time

    There are good scientific reasons to doubt the heliocentric theory today too.

    If the universe really is infinite then where really is the center?

    The center of our Sun? The center of our planet? The center of our galaxy? Or is every observer the center from their point of view?

    p.s. Where's [] ? ;)