Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Anniversary of Galileo's telescope and the old canards are back

The Galileo case is a favorite among anti-Catholics and anti-Christians. They believe it shows the Church's record of anti-science and her hatred for rationality. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Galileo was a strong Catholic who happened to be an astronomer. He was very popular in his day. He made friends with many top Vatican officials, even the future pope. He was well respected. His theory of heliocentrism was nothing new. Copernicus, a loyal Catholic cleric, had pioneered the theory several decades prior. Galileo attempted to further his research in this field.

At the time when Galileo was proposing his theory, another theory, proposed by Ptolemy many centuries prior, was very widely accept by scientists. The theory was that of geocentrism (the Sun revolving around the Earth). This was the dominant view in the scientific community, not just the religious community.

Galileo made several wrong moves when it came to his presentation of his theory. He demanded that church officials accept it as true, even though it was far from proven. Galileo even wrote a book in which he put the popes words and theories into the mouth of a character named Simplicio (similar to Simpleton). Obviously this was very insulting.

The Church said that until a theory can be proven, it should not be presented as fact. This was very wise, especially considering that several aspects of Galileo's theory proved wrong. For example, he believed the Sun was the centre of the universe, whereas we now know that the Sun also moves around an orbit at an even faster rate than the Earth.

The Church was not against, and certainly not against astronomy. In fact, many churches used their tall towers as planetary observatories. Many of the first astronomers were Catholic and even religious. The first person to propose the big bang theory was Fr. Lemaitre, a Catholic monseigneur (high ranking priest).

Many want to say the Church has always been against science, but this is simply untrue. Monks were responsible for transmitting practically everything we know of ancient Greek and Roman science and culture. Gregor Mendel, a priest, discovered the field of genetics. The first European universities were founded by popes.

The Galileo Case is a favorite among anti-Christians because the lies surrounding it have become so well-accepted. I would suggest you do your own research and find the truth.

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