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Galileo: Heretic?

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Introduction

Galileo: Heretic? The first point to establish in this essay is the definition of a heretic; the Oxford English Dictionary defines the word 'heretic' as "One who maintains theological or religious opinions at variance with the 'catholic' or orthodox doctrine of the Christian Church, or, by extension, that of any church or religious system, considered as orthodox."1. Through my own knowledge, I would say that the Church regarded everyone who deviated in his beliefs from those set up by the Catholic Church, or - even worse - who had set up his own deviant doctrine. The Roman Catholic Church, especially in Italy, at the time was an incredibly powerful force. In the year 1609, Galileo was able to observe celestial objects more closely as he acquired a telescope. However, it was not Galileo who discovered Heliocentricity- the ancient Greeks and Romans advanced the theory at least 2,000 years before him. We know this because both Aristotle and Ptolemy attempted to refute the idea. This is why the Polish scientist Copernicus (d. 1543), who happened to be a Catholic priest, did not like the idea of being the "discoverer" of the theory named after him. Galileo's ideas were not only contrary to the understanding of the Church of his day; it wasn't just with the Church that he found himself at odds. His ideas were contrary to the Ptolemaic school of thought, which was accepted by virtually all contemporary scientists. Previous to the Renaissance, science and religion were more or less synonyms. All scientists and people accepted the views of the Bible or ancient thinkers like Aristotle, and these complemented each other. In this case the Scientific Revolution was the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment, which eventually led to the French Revolution and the American Revolution. The Scientific Revolution changed people's perception of the world around them, the medieval view of the Universe was destroyed, and a new, completely different cosmology was created. ...read more.

Middle

either on the part of the Pope or on the part of a Council ruled by the Pope and approved by him, it is not, by virtue of that decree of the Congregation, a doctrine of faith that the sun is moving and the earth standing still.... Yet every Catholic is bound by virtue of obedience to conform to the decree of the Congregation, or at least not to teach what is directly opposed to it."6 This extract is amongst many that support both mine and Langford's argument. Pietro Redondi, in a greatly-discussed recent book, "Galileo Heretic", claims that the actual foundation of conflict between Galileo and the Church was not the Copernican doctrine, as many people, for centuries has believed and also as the documentation seems to confirm, but a suspicion of heresy in regard to Eucharistic doctrine. Galileo, like many other natural philosophers of his day, took atomism for granted and made sporadic use of it in his theorising. There was a genuine doubt on the part of some theologians, however, as to whether atomism could be squared with the doctrine of transubstantiation defined by the Council of Trent. Redondi became aware of an unsigned condemnation of Galileo's atomism in the files of the Holy Office; starting from this rather slender clue. If we are following these ideas, then what caused the row with the church? The first thing to remember is that Galileo's heliocentric theory was not the real source of his ecclesiastical difficulties. Rather, the cause of his persecution stemmed from a presumption to teach the sense in which certain Bible passages should be interpreted (using science as the ultimate criterion), and from charges that he claimed God was merely accidental and not substantial. In a tremendously thorough account of the proceedings which occurred in the decade following the publication of The Assayer in 1623, Redondi once again, scrutinizes the controversy between Galilean physics and Roman Catholic dogma in which so much depended on the beliefs and attitudes of Jesuit intellectuals. ...read more.

Conclusion

Galileo, Science and the Church. University of Michigan Press. 1992. pg 156 7 Brecht, Bertholt. The life of Galileo. Eyre Methuen. London. Pg 106 8 http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/galileo/galileoaccount.html 9 Redondi, Pietro. Galileo Heretic. Princeton University Press. New Jersey. 1987. Pg 332 10 Redondi, Pietro. Galileo Heretic. Princeton University Press. New Jersey. 1987. Pg 332 i On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe." Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." Edwina Jessel PHY188 02/05/2007 ...read more.

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