Galileo Galilei – A great example of narrow-mindedness stifling genius

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist, and mathematician widely considered to be one of the most important figures in the history of science.

Galileo is known for his many contributions to the fields of observational astronomy and the scientific method, as well as his support for the Copernican heliocentric model of the solar system. He is also known for using the telescope to observe and study the heavens, which led to many groundbreaking discoveries, such as the phases of Venus, the existence of four large moons orbiting Jupiter, and the rough surface of the moon. Generally speaking, he is regarded as the father of modern science and observational astronomy.

Despite the resistance of the Catholic Church to his ideas, Galileo’s work greatly influenced the scientific revolution of the 17th century.

And on that last point, Galileo was tried and found guilty by the Catholic Inquisition for claiming that the sun – not the earth – was at the center of the solar system. This view had previously been advanced by Copernicus, one that runs counter to the Biblical story.

Forced to recant under threat of torture, Galileo was placed under house arrest where he spent the rest of his days, eventually becoming blind, an unsavory detail that the AI Assistant overlooked.¹

The historian of science David C. Lindberg disagrees with the contemporary belief that the Church’s persecution was about religion stifling scientific progress. Lindberg says that Galileo’s struggle epitomizes the ongoing political tension between traditionalism and liberalism. And the historical evidence supports Lindberg’s claim.

What we usually don’t hear in the TV documentaries about Galileo is that some scientists opposed and even ridiculed Galileo’s claims, as did the conservative Dominican religious order. However, the more liberal Jesuits supported Galileo (until Galileo insulted and alienated them) along with a few liberal scientists.

So the situation was far more complicated and not so simple as some contemporary opponents of Catholicism – and organized religion in general – tend to see it.

Lindberg also points out that in the 21st century, Catholicism has embraced scientific inquiry while fundamentalist Protestants still adhere to a literal interpretation of the Bible. What Lindberg overlooks, however, is the ham-handed way some Catholics tend to embrace scientific truth claims, calling them “scientific truth” as if they were beyond question or further development. It’s almost as if some Catholics have made a leap of faith to the scientific paradigm that’s so prevalent and, sometimes, potentially dangerous when left unquestioned.²

To this Neil adds:

I think great care must be used with the word “literal.”

For example, I think it is literally true that the original writings were 100% inspired by God – that is, the writings turned out exactly as He wanted them to.

But do I take every verse literally? No, because some sections are historical, some are poetry, some are parables, etc., and many contain figures of speech. The parables didn’t involved people who literally existed, but they involved principles that were literally true.

When Jesus said it is better to cut off our hands and/or gouge out our eyes rather than sin with them I hope He was using hyperbole :-).

In my experience those who are theologically liberal often take verses just as literally as those they accuse of being literalists. For example, they quote Jesus as saying, “Judge not, lest ye be judged” as a blanket statement against making any moral judgments. Yet that passage is talking about not judging hypocritically and there are plenty of other passages telling us how to judge problem (e.g., John 7:24). » Read in context

In keeping with Lindberg’s argument, today we see new conflicts among intelligent individuals on topics like climate change. However, those who question what it all means are stifled, just like the traditionalists stifled liberal progressives back in Galileo’s time.

Trudeau’s Carbon Tax makes life tougher for ordinary Canadians

Only time gives us a better view of who is being narrow-minded and dictatorial and who is simply thinking more freely.

¹ With a few personal edits, the text above the first image is from OpenAI (2022). “Assistant.” [Online]. Available:

² While extremely vocal on some issues (e.g. homosexuality, contraception, and abortion), some Catholics remain mute on other issues, turning a blind eye to vast tracts of wasted human potential and suffering. Just why remains unclear. But it possibly involves ignorance and, in some instances, might fit with Michel Foucault‘s idea that morality usually has a political agenda.

Related » Fundamentalism, Infallibility, Ptolemy, Saint


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