22 August 2014

Eppur si muove

On 22 June 1633 the Catholic Church condemned Galileo for the heresy of heliocentrism. He, like Copernicus, Bruno, and Kepler, argued that the Earth revolved round the Sun, which we all know now is true. We also know now a lot more stuff about our world and the cosmos than Galileo did. The Catholic and other churches said heliocentrism was contrary to the Bible, which said Earth did not move, and therefore the Earth was stationary and the heavenly bodies including the Sun went round the Earth. In an earlier encounter with Galileo in 1616 the Catholic church described heliocentrism as “foolish and absurd” and “heretical”. In England in 1729 James Bradley proved through the aberration of light that Earth moved.

In 1633 Galileo, an old man, threatened by the Catholic church in the rooms in Rome where Bruno was questioned for seven years before being burned alive, recanted his knowledge but is supposed to have muttered on his leaving Eppur si muove, nevertheless the Earth does move. He was under house arrest for the rest of his life.

Christianity comes out of this story as bullying and ignorant and murderous.

Christianity, like other religions, formed its view by believing every word of a book written ages before by men doing their best to make sense of the world but lacking science and technology and the knowledge they bring. Invented tales became holy writ and unchallengeable truths. Christian churches rested on that book and did not continue to explore.

Galileo formed his view by observation. He looked through his telescope, recorded what he saw, and reflected on it. That’s how he knew stuff. Not looking through the telescope, not observing reality, is how religion got it wrong.

You’ll have noticed that my blog carries below its title the line, Eat the apple, look through the telescope. Eat the apple, which is what mythological Eve did, is an incitement to observe, scrutinise, and reflect despite the prohibitions of gods, religions, sundry authorities, and governments.

Galileo Galilei 15 February 1564-8 January 1642
Giordano Bruno 1548-17 February 1600