What does Galileo Figaro

Galileo, Galileo, Figaro

The move from a geocentric (earth-centered) to heliocentric (sun-centered) view of the solar system was a mega paradigm shift. In order to fully appreciate the situation, we have to be able to imaginatively reverse our view of the entire cosmos. It threw everything off; who we are, what we are, and why hasn’t this spinning top thrown us off into space? If we are not the center of God’s creation, then what are we? There are some unsettling consequences of this new world. First, the earth that was once firmly fixed beneath our feet is moving. Not only that, but the earth might be no different than the rest of the galaxy. And then finally, where is God, and where is heaven?

Heliocentric cosmology had already been discussed in Italy, but it was the priest Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) that published his book, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly SpheresThat gets credit for introducing the idea, even though Aristarchus of Samos close to 2000 years earlier had speculated on such notions. What is also of interest is that Copernicus' book met no official resistance from the Church. That does not mean that there weren’t critics. The Protestant reformer Martin Luther spoke of Copernicus as, "The fool," who, "wants to turn the whole art of astronomy upside down," then pointing to the Bible added, "Joshua bid the sun stand still and not the earth." (Table talk)

It would be with Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) that major problems would arise. Galileo grasped onto Roger Bacon's experimental method and focus on observations, he did not simply speculate, he conducted controlled experiments. The telescope had been invented in Holland and Galileo quickly constructed one for himself. It gave him a new perspective of the world. "For the galaxy," he wrote, "is nothing else but a mass of innumerable stars planted together in clusters." (Siderus Nuncius ) These new observations helped convince him that Copernicus was right.

Though Galileo was convinced, not everyone followed along, as Galileo writing to Kepler complained, “what would you say of the learned here, who… have steadfastly refused to cast a glance through the telescope? What shall we make of this? Shall we laugh, or shall we cry? " Galileo's friend and rival, Cesare Cremonini (1550-1631), from the University of Padua in Italy, was one who refused to take a glance. Cremonini was recognized as the leading natural philosopher and scientist of the day. Among others, Giulio Libri, Professor of Aristotelian Philosophy at Pisa, also refused to look. This may sound astonishing to us, but established authorities, self-evident truths, and deductive reasoning ruled the day, while experimentation and observation did not, for, as we all know, the eyes can deceive us. What we have going on here is a major transformation going, not only in the science department, but in all studies.

If our hero Galileo had kept his correspondences within the academic community all might have gone well with him, but being the believer that he was, he published his convictions to a broader audience, thus becoming noticed. The trails began when a Dominican Friar charged Galileo with heresy. It was perceived that the heliocentric theory was not only a threat to mapping the solar system, but a threat to the social order as well. When your faith is built like a house of cards then one simple breeze will destroy the entire structure. In 1616 charges were brought up against Galileo and he was summoned to Rome. While the events and decrees of this trail have become obscured, it does appear that Galileo would be permitted to speak about the Copernican model but only hypothetically, not absolutely. By the way, in the stages of the development of an idea, the Copernican model was not yet demonstrated to be true.

Several years later Galileo published a book which eventually received the title, Dialogue on the Two World Systems. It was just as the title suggests, a dialogue in which three fictitious characters argued about the nature of the world, the geocentric view verses the heliocentric. In this writing Galileo had overstepped the limits placed upon him in presenting his views as by far the superior. He overdid it and the pope, Urban VIII, possibly feeling that he himself had been ridiculed in the book, ordered another investigation. This trail was not about the nature of the universe, but simply whether or not Galileo had disobeyed the limitations placed upon him. Galileo was found guilty, ordered to do penance, and placed under “villa arrest”. Note, he was never tortured, and was probably never actually imprisoned. He lived out the rest of his life in the village of Arcetri near Florence.

It is not surprising that a common narrative of these events would present the Church and clergy as arrogant, ignorant, and as enemies of the clear thinking and wise heroes of science and honest investigation. This is an overly simplistic and prejudicial narrative. We tend to read our lives, opinions, and beliefs into the past, and of course Galileo comes through looking good from a modern perspective, for he was fortunate enough to support the winning theory, for, the heliocentric version would be the clear winner of the debate, only not in Galileo's day.

While the trials of Galileo did not stop the progression of the heliocentric theory, it wouldn’t be until forty-five years after Galileo’s death that Isaac Newton’s writings on universal gravitation placed heliocentrism on a firm theoretical foundation. Point being, though he would eventually be found correct the evidence at the time was not sufficient, Galileo could not prove his point, and conviction is not verification. Our hero did not pass peer review during his lifetime.

Those that had opposed Galileo were not merely religious teachers, his main critics were men like the natural philosopher and scholar Cesare Cremonini, who was, by the way, no friend of the Church. There were also many within the clergy that supported Galileo, especially among the Jesuits. Galileo's personality also appears to have worked against him. Had he been more diplomatic the outcome of the trial may have been different, but he seems to have had a combative attitude and was better at making enemies than making friends. It has also been pointed out that he was a better scientist than theologian.

The Roman Catholic Church had been the glue that kept Europe together thorough the Middle Ages, but the Church of Rome had split from the Orthodox Church, and now the northern churches, the Protestants, had also rejected the leadership of Rome sparking a crisis of authority within the Church. Now, from within the Church a new approach exploring the universe was beginning to form to which the Church needed to adapt. It would take time for society to catch up with the paradigm shift. Even though Martin Luther in his old age dismissed the idea, the Lutherans after him would not. The way we view the universe was changing, and not only that but also the way we learn, notably, the use of observation was becoming increasingly respectable and growing in importance. Even the way we read Scripture would change, as theologians and Bible scholars would become increasingly willing to recognize the Bible’s use of “phenomenological” language, the language of appearances, as when Joshua bid the sun stand still (Joshua 10).

Observation and experimentation were proving themselves as valuable tools in the exploration of our world, as Galileo stated his conviction, "The Bible shows the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go."

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Published by theearlychurchfortoday

Simply put, my search for meaning led me to the study of the Christian scriptures, which directed me to investigate systematic theology, and that investigation brought me to historical theology. Theology is dialogue, a discussion that has gone on for two thousand years. I am a graduate of Multnomah University in Portland Oregon, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield Illinois. I have worked as a gold miner, in wildlife management, a construction worker, a business owner, and farmer, as well as a professor of history at a local college. It sounds like I can't hold a job. Over ten years ago, Harry, a friend of mine suggested that we form a discussion group that would investigate the teachings of the early Christians. Since then we have been meeting through the cold winter months of Alaska’s Matanuska Valley discussing topics of interest. This blog, hopefully, provides access to some of the power points that I have used during those talks, as well as further insights and comments into the topics we have covered, and possibly a few other topics. Jon Spiegel View all posts by theearlychurchfortoday