Trial of Galileo

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    Caiazza, John C.

     (74K)

    Galileo's Enduring Career

    "Galileo Galilei stands as the iconic figure in the war between science and religion. It is a war however in which the battle lines have shifted from when the war first started, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the reputation of Galileo. From the beginning of the titanic controversy until recently, Galileo was seen as the hero of scientific truth, unfairly and reprehensibly attacked by the Church which acted out of fear and bigotry, a conflict which science had won and religion had lost. However, Galileo’s career has endured well beyond his own lifetime and our understanding of it has undergone various transmutations for it contains such interest as it affects our understanding of the relation of scientific knowledge to religious knowledge. While the controversy in which Galileo embroiled both himself and the Church is now seen in a more subtle dimension and not in terms of a hero and assorted villains, Galileo’s career still has forceful lessons to teach us about the relation of science to The Bible, and to society in general."
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    Finocchiaro, Maurice A.

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    Four Lectures on Galileo

    "This lecture begins by stating and defending a number of conceptual distinctions and procedural orientations that are useful for the proper understanding and evaluation of Galileo’s trial. One is the avoidance of both anticlerical and antiGalilean extremes and myths. Another is that there were both substantive disagreements about scientific physical facts and procedural differences about methodological rules or epistemological principles."
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    Gingerich, Owen

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    Truth in Science: Proof, Persuasion, and the Galileo Affair

    "In 1616 in a letter destined for Galileo, Cardinal Roberto Bellarmine (the leading Catholic theologian of his day) expressed his doubts about finding evidence for a moving earth. Would the annual stellar parallax or the Foucault pendulum have convinced him? The historical setting explored in this essay suggests that the cardinal would not have been swayed by these modern 'proofs' of the heliocentric cosmology, even though they are convincing to us today because in the meantime, we have the advantage of a Newtonian framework. What passes today for truth in science is a comprehensive system of coherencies supported more by persuasion than 'proofs.'"
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    Howe, Richard G.

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    Some Thoughts on Galileo and the So-Called Conflict of Science and Religion

    "While it is the case that the distinctions between religion, government, science, and many other facets of the society of Galileo's day are not easily made, and are surely not as clear cut as my summary of Hummel's characterization here might suggest, it nevertheless remains that it is wrong to claim that religion as such, or Christianity in particular, was the impediment to science that some think. If we learn anything from history, it is that a given philosophy and the hold it may have over the science of any given generation is more likely to expedite or hamper good science."
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    Lockwood, Robert P.

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    Galileo and the Catholic Church

    "For over three and a half centuries, the trial of Galileo has been an anti-Catholic bludgeon aimed at the Church. In the 18th, 19th and early 20th century, it was wielded to show the Church as the enemy of enlightenment, freedom of thought and scientific advancement, part of a caricature of an institution dedicated to keeping mankind in a theocratic vice. In the cultural wars of our own day, Galileo is resurrected as a martyr of an oppressive Church, a Church that is the enemy of so-called reproductive advances that would prove as right as Galileo’s science and the Church as backwards in opposing them. Galileo has become an all-encompassing trump card, played whether the discussion is over science, abortion, gay rights, legalized pornography, or simply as a legitimate reason for anti-Catholicism itself...If Galileo had never lived, the anti-Catholic culture would have had to invent him. The myth of Galileo is more important than the actual events that surrounded him, much as the famous quote attributed to him was never spoken."
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    Voit, William

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    “A Great Event, and Even Greater for its Consequences:” Re-examining the Metanarrative of the Galileo Affair

    "Galileo’s life and his conflict with the Roman Catholic Church are often cited as the prime example in the metanarrative, or important historical theme, of the 'science versus faith' conflict in modern civilization. However, in the attempt to force Galileo into this framework, the personal religious statements of the eminent scientist are often ignored. In order to gain a complete understanding of Galileo’s role in the metanarratives of the early modern age, one must first examine the historiographical data about Galileo, and then follow the development of his relationship with the Church throughout his life. By examining the religious statements of Galileo and his interaction with the Church, one will discover that the Galileo Affair speaks less about the conflict between faith and science, and more about the conflict within a faith, a conflict over scriptural interpretation."
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    Winschel, Jason

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    Galileo: Victim or Villain?

    "...[F]ew trials have been as misunderstood, misrepresented, and entirely abused as Galileo's. Historians and scientists alike have heralded the interaction of Galileo and the Church as the commencement of the fight of science versus faith, reason versus authority and superstition. In our post-Christian world, the debate thus characterized has become one of good versus evil with the moribund Catholic Church playing the role of antagonist...[W]hat does this rendition of the Galileo case portend for the reputation of the Catholic Church? Did she really just arbitrarily condemn a man to life imprisonment in order to thwart a scientifically proven truth? Was there any reason for what happened beyond a simple desire to continue to freely propagate her own errors? How should a Catholic respond when confronted with such accusations concerning this whole affair?...In the course of this essay, we will elucidate the answers to these questions and objections by: 1) providing the historical context outside of which no event of this magnitude can be understood; 2) correcting factual errors and misconceptions; and finally 3) drawing some conclusions and inferences based on what we have found."