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5.0 out of 5 stars "And yet it does move!", 27 Aug 2010
Peter Buckley "peter15115" (Dyfed, Wales) - See all my reviews
Born in Pisa in 1564, Galileo studied medicine at the university there. Showing little interest in that discipline, he abandoned it for the study of physics and mathematics. In 1585 he settled in Florence without obtaining any academic qualification. Yet, he gained the esteem of the greatest mathematicians of his day, credited with the discovery of certain principles of inertia, and winning the post of mathematics lecturer at the University of Pisa. After his father's death, economic difficulties forced Galileo to move to Padua, where he was appointed to a more lucrative position, the chair of mathematics in that city's university.
A step leading to the confrontation between Galileo and the church occurred back in the 13th century, and involved Catholic authority Thomas Aquinas (1225-74). Aquinas had a profound respect for Aristotle, whom he referred to as The Philosopher. Aquinas struggled for five years to fuse Aristotle's philosophy with church teaching. By the time of Galileo, says Wade Rowland in his book Galileo's Mistake: A New Look at the Epic Confrontation Between Galileo and the Church, "the hybridized Aristotle in the theology of Aquinas had become bedrock dogma of the Church of Rome." In those days there was no scientific community as such. Education was largely in the hands of the church. The authority on religion and science was often one and the same.
The next step became the confrontation between the church and Galileo. Even before his involvement with astronomy, Galileo had written a treatise on motion. It challenged many assumptions made by the revered Aristotle. However, it was Galileo's steadfast promotion of the heliocentric concept and his assertion that it harmonizes with Scripture that led to his trial by the Inquisition in 1633.
In his defence, Galileo affirmed his strong faith in the Bible as the inspired Word of God. He also argued that the Scriptures were written for ordinary people and that Biblical references to the apparent movement of the sun were not to be interpreted literally. His arguments were futile. Because Galileo rejected an interpretation of Scripture based on Greek philosophy, he stood condemned!
Galileo did not want to become a martyr, so he was forced to recant. After his sentence was read, the elderly scientist, kneeling and dressed as a penitent, solemnly pronounced: "I do abjure, curse, and detest the said errors and heresies [the Copernican theory] and in general all and any other error, heresy, or sect contrary to the Holy Church."
There is a popular tradition--unconfirmed by solid evidence--that after abjuring, Galileo stamped his foot and exclaimed in protest: "And yet it does move!" Commentators claim that the humiliation of renouncing his discoveries anguished the scientist until his death. He had been condemned to jail, but his sentence was commuted to perpetual house arrest in Florence. As blindness descended upon him, he lived in near seclusion. Galileo died in 1642 as a result of his condemnation by the Inquisition. Not until 1992 did the Catholic Church officially admit to error in its judgment of Galileo.
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Galileo's Mistake: A New Look at the Epic Confrontation Between Galileo and the Church
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