The Galileo Myth

The “debate” between religion and science is not new. It’s been alive and well in the world for centuries, and even a topic that I have written about before. For Catholics, it’s a tired argument, one that has no place for us because we don’t see science as the enemy of religion. Science is yet another way, along with divine revelation in Scripture, Tradition, and magisterial teaching, that we can learn about God. As Pope John Paul II said when he gave a speech to Vatican scientists, “Truth cannot contradict truth,” and so we are called to use the intellect and ability God gave us in every way we can.

In the back of our minds, though, we often wonder how true this has been in our history. “Sure, we believe that now, but what about Galileo?” This was a thought of mine even when I wrote the post about science two years ago. “At least we got it right in the end, but we were kind of in the “Dark Ages” for a while.

That was until I learned about Galileo in one of my seminary courses this fall. (As some of you may know from this article, the Catholic University of America received a grant some years ago to incorporate scientific study into seminary courses.) While Galileo was in fact condemned for holding a belief that we know to be true today, what I learned was that he was not condemned on the basis of contradicting Scripture and that Church did not condemn him because it did not like science. No, he was actually condemned because he failed to produce enough proof for his claim prior to teaching, broke his own oath, and then to top things off, led a smear campaign against those who funded him and his fellow scientists. (The last bit is not illegal but it certainly didn’t help his sentencing!)

Check out the video above or click here to learn about what actually happened to Galileo, where the myth came from, and how the Church has viewed science for centuries.

2 Comments on “The Galileo Myth

  1. Well done, Casey! We will be able to use this very concisely and clearly explained video with our RCIA participants for years to come. Have a most blessed and grace-filled Holy Week and a joyous Easter!

  2. Wow. Stumbled across this video – 4 years too late. I’m sorry you received such a poor introduction to the history of science In HS – over simplification, half-truths, and exaggeration. But, it seems you learned your lessons well – applying the exact same techniques in your own “teaching”. You’ve simply substituted one myth – that you happen to prefer – for another. And, who or what are your sources? Oh, yes. A professor of Biblical Studies. And, Neil de Grasse Tyson. Hmm. Really? Ever read any primary sources? Ever study any of the history and philosophy of science? I’m going to go out on a limb and say no, no you haven’t. If you had, you might realize that you are way out of your depth on this topic. What upset me the most was not even the egregious factual errors you spouted, as terrible as they are, but the cock-sure arrogance with which you presented them. Sneering at and mocking Galileo? Wow. Yes Galileo was pompous, arrogant, and pig headed. Testa dura! But, he was also brilliant, innovative, and one of the founders of modern science. He was one of the “giants” on whose shoulders Newton said he stood. And, you call the man who basically invented modern science, “unscientific”. Wow. You are the classic example of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. In the future, please consider doing some actual research on topics you feel the need to pontificate on. Not only will you avoid misleading others who do not know any better, but you won’t reveal your ignorance so clearly. The internet has democratized information, but having a platform should come with some responsibility, no? Are you interested in being as accurate as possible, or are you one of those Christians who believes that lying for Jesus is OK? If it’s the former, I’d be happy to suggest a reading list.

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