Friday, February 21, 2014

Why was Galileo forced to recant?

By Donald Sensing

Galileo declared that the Copernicus was right, that the earth revolved around the sun. He offered astronomical observations to support it. For this he was tried by the Catholic Church and forced to recant. But was the reason that his heliocentric theory contradicted the Bible, as almost everyone thinks?

Nope. Furthermore, Galileo was a devout Christian and his theories were actually mostly confirmed by Jesuits long before his trial. Galileo's greatest opposition came not from the church, but from secular quarters, including many other, prominent astronomers, including Tycho Brahe.

The real issue was that heliocentrism contradicted Aristotle and Ptolemy, who, despite having been pagans, were held in high regard by the Church and by academics and intellectuals of the day.

More: How Critics of Christianity Often Distort the Story of Galileo

Update: Via email from John Moore:

There was another important reason for Galileo's rather mild persecution: he intentionally ridiculed, in a book, important figures in the church establishment - a ridicule not necessary or even relevant to his scientific arguments. In those times, ridiculing important people wasn't too bright, and even his good friend, the Pope, was forced to act. 
A couple of other assertions I have read:
  • one reason some leading astronomers were against him was his incorrect and vehement insistence that all orbits were round
  • he insisted that a miracle (the sun stood still) could not have happened because of his theories. That is a philosophically inconsistent assertion - especially given his belief in an omnipotent God. 
Good points, John, thanks!