Galileo Was Certainly One of Term Paper

  • Length: 12 pages
  • Subject: Astronomy
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #82564691

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Indeed, we can see here his own initial wonderment and the very simple excitement that he felt upon making a series of discoveries that, aside from being exciting, were clearly of exceptional and lasting scientific significance and would certainly earn Galileo a reputation as one of the most important astronomical observers of his time if not in all of history. However, we can also see how this initial awe quickly turned into logical questioning after Galileo underwent the observation of a great deal of further data culminating in the observed retrograde motion of the moons, which lead him to a state of extreme and earnest puzzlement about the state of the solar system.

Indeed, this state of puzzlement was understandably not long-lived, however, and Galileo again quite understandably brought to bear the not inconsiderable powers of his mind to the task of parsing the confusing string of data that his astronomical observations had yielded with regard to the retrograde motion of these new "planets" that his telescope had enabled him to discover. After a series of intriguing thoughts, reflections, and considerations, Galileo eventually came to the conclusion that the provenance of this strange retrograde motion was attributable not to some strange "occult" device but to the simple fact that these "planets" were like the moon orbiting earth except for the fact that they were instead orbiting Jupiter. Indeed, this conclusion excited him to no end:

therefore concluded, and decided unhesitatingly, that there are three stars in the heavens moving about Jupiter, as Venus and Mercury around the Sun; which was at length established as clear as daylight by numerous other subsequent observations. These observations also established that there are not only three, but four, erratic sidereal bodies performing their revolutions around Jupiter.

Galileo, as quoted in Baalke)

Indeed, it is important to consider briefly here the strength of Galileo's language, in which he above states that the conclusion he has reached that the satellites that he has observed are not heavenly bodies orbiting the earth at all, but rather four distinct bodies all of which were instead orbiting the much larger Jupiter, was one the Galileo reached, according to this own words, "unhesitatingly." Indeed, not only was this a conclusion, but something that, again according to his own words was "decided" for him. He had crossed from territory of working hypothesis to the realm of theory and then even further into the strata of fervent belief that these new objects were moons of Jupiter. Once Galileo had crossed the boundary, he had violated the current presiding principle about the shape and construction of the universe, which held that the earth was the center of the universe about which all other things orbited, because he had proven that other bodies orbited points other than the earth. Once this central principle was thrown out the window, there was no need to hold to the standard view whatsoever, and, thusly, Galileo began to embrace the Copernican view, which held that the planets orbited the sun -- which was a view that Galileo felt that the preponderance of the current evidence supported in a full and rationally considered, as well as scientific and methodologically sound, fashion. After this course of thinking, he understandably sided himself with the Copernicans, but, he also knew that, given the fact that the Copernican view was not only openly dismissed by the Church and the other powers that be of his day, but also that Copernican views were actively punished by threat of excommunication and death, Galileo attempted to tread lightly on the subject in his monograph in a fashion that might enable him to avoid coming under the suspicious investigation of Church powers. Nonetheless, as we all well know, he was, in fact, completely unable to do so, and, since the church felt him to be in violation of one of its ordained heresies, being, in this case, the heresy of holding the Copernican view, it brought him to trial for these crimes, and, in order to save his own life and spare himself so that he might do further research in astronomy and observe new and ever more important phenomenon, Galileo recanted, although he did so after a fashion that was uniquely his own.

Indeed, that the Church found Copernican views of the cosmos heretical and sought to prosecute and discourage them at every given turn in history is greatly evidenced by the very trial that they conducted of Galileo in which the evidence that they laid out against him consisted almost entirely of accusing him of the Copernican heresy and laying out a case against him within those heretical terms:

following the hypothesis of Copernicus, you include several propositions contrary to the true sense and authority of the Holy Scriptures; therefore (this Holy Tribunal being desirous of providing against the disorder and mischief which were thence proceeding and increasing to the detriment of the Holy Faith) by the desire of his Holiness and the Most Emminent Lords, Cardinals of this supreme and universal Inquisition, the two propositions of the stability of the sun, and the motion of the earth, were qualified by the Theological Qualifiers as...

1.) the proposition that the sun is in the center of the world and immovable from its place is absurd, philosophically false, and formally heretical; because it is expressly contrary to Holy Scriptures. 2.) the proposition that the earth is not the center of the world, nor immovable, but that it moves, and also with a diurnal action, is also absurd, philosophically false, and, theologically considered, at least erroneous in faith.

Indictment of 1633")

Indeed, we can see here in very simple terms that the logic of the Church was one that was clearly and ironically not to be moved or altered by either logic or scientific empiricism. Indeed, the chief charge against both the claims that the Sun is the center of the world and against the idea of Galileo's that the Earth is not the center of the world is laid out in simple and non-negotiable terms which claim that Galileo's claimed empirical observations do not run in accordance with what is written in the scriptures and therefore must be understood and perceived as heretical. Indeed, what is at issue here is one that is much and considerably larger than the simple issue of astronomical observance and the precedence of the scientific method. At its base, this investigation and the entirety of the clash between Galileo and the Church was, at its core, an argument over the bases of epistemology and a debate about the locus of gnosis, for Galileo, really was, in his adherence to the scientific method making a distinct claim about truth that did and would continue to threaten the Church's dominion and domain. Indeed, the Church saw only one font of truth: God, and the will and ideas of God were discoverable by two sources and two sources only, one of which was the Bible whose scriptures provided instruction and guidance in the ways of the world, and the second of which was the Pope, who was God's living intermediary on the Earth and who provided instruction regarding how the scriptures were to be interpreted and guidance concerning the other issues not enumerated in the scriptures. Galileo, however, was quite literally arguing for a different base for epistemology and for a different locus for the primacy of truth. Whereas the Church believed that God was the location of all truth, Galileo placed his belief in truth as it was revealed through the scientific empiricism of the scientific method. Thus, this debate should not be viewed as a simple clashing over a disagreement about the finer point of a relatively obscure and essential unimportant theological matter that was merely an academic matter and nothing else. No, this debate was fundamentally a disagreement about the very nature of knowledge, where the basis of knowledge existed, and what authorities had the right to claim its understanding.

Indeed, given this it is no surprise that even in his eventual abjuration and disavowal of his work, Galileo ultimately held to a position that supported his general belief in scientific empiricism and the scientific method. The basis of Galileo's abjuration quietly argues for the scientific method by pointing out that he never held for the necessity of the rightness of his belief by any ecclesiastical dogma, but simply that he offered evidence that, he admitted, could lead to the conclusion that a Copernican understanding of the Solar System was ultimately the correct understanding:

But since I, after having been admonished by this Holy Office entirely to abandon the false opinion that the Sun was the centre of the universe and immoveable, and that the Earth was not the centre of the same and that it moved, and that I was neither to hold, defend, nor teach in any…

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