Archive for June 12th, 2010


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Science and Religion, as we look back into our past, have had a very uneasy relationship. The life of Galileo is a case in point. In his case he upturned an Edict, the Church had laid down on untested grounds: the Church position that the earth is the center of the universe. Authority of the Holy See springs from the Scriptures and it is plain for any right thinking person the Church, historically, has never had a single interpretation. Divisions in the Church in most cases have arisen, – from Quarto-decimen controversy to infallibility of Popes, on the reading of the Scriptures.
In 1633 Galileo at the age of 69 was judged by the Inquisition to have violated the Church edict. His crime? He validated the Copernican view that the sun, not the earth was the center of the universe. Galileo had succeeded in lifting the veil a little, past the prevailing understanding of the universe. Science, thanks to Galileo could look still further into space, standing from the shoulders of his findings. We know now that the Milky Way to which our sun is but one star and the Earth is not flat as believed once. Truth travels slowly as a child comes to man’s estate by many trial and errors. Mankind similarly has to pass through stages where Science is but one tool to test the quality of Truth.
When Truth speaks it has its own majesty that resonates in every man (who has sensed truth ever so little) and in the myriad manifestations of Nature. Science is merely man’s attempt to understand Nature a little better. As early as the 13th century Thomas Aquinas, a theologian had warned of the danger of literal interpretation of the Bible. Galileo using the newly invented telescope studied the universe. He made his discoveries (written in vernacular Italian than in scholarly Latin) and had a broader public.
In 1616 Robert Cardinal Bellarmine warned him. He cautioned the scientist that the Copernican view of the heavens should be treated as a hypothesis and nothing more. When his old friend Mafeo Cardinal Barberini became Pope Urban VIII in 1623 Galileo felt confident enough to write his controversial book in the form of a conversation. During the Inquisition Galileo seems to have said, ‘The intention of the Holy Spirit is to teach how to go to heaven and not how go the heavens.’ Galileo was found guilty. In an age when heretics were burnt at the stake he was treated relatively lenient. In 1980 Pope John Paul II appointed a commission of scientists, historians and theologians to reexamine the evidence and verdict. The report concluded that ‘the judges who condemned Galileo committed an error.’ (Ack:Frederick Golden-Time/ science-March 12,1984)
Church was all too powerful but its solidity was its undoing. The church had no room for manoeuver whereas ideas of man came thick and fast and in all shapes. The church that relied on set dogmas and interpretation, lost the battle when causes so vast and powerful came from all directions. Born out of ideas that had no concrete shape but given a form in the way man put these into. Like the coat of arms rampant lion on the shield which made the bearer act as valiantly as lion. These ideas smelled new and vibrant while that of the church had only the comfort of something so old and fixed. Faith of the church could not shake the proof of events.
Think how mind of man was invigorated by dissemination of ideas! The printing that came with movable types spread them around and the popularity of coffee shops brought those who lived in ivory towers,and man on the street meet. The Church held man by Sundays or special events in the church calendar. Whereas ideas went on every hour of the day,months and year.
The church never knew what hit her. The rabble was much more relevant than the cloth of the clergy. Their ideas of incense and incantation impacted the hearts less than the everyday speech of blood,sweat and tears. The big causes the Church espoused, like inquisition and crusades the World Wars were the very examples that made them irrelevant to the masses whose causes were all small as their daily bread.
Galileo may have been frightened out of his wits because of what the Church could do to his body but truth of his times was on his side. Having put his vision down all he needed was to let it fight his battle for all time to come.


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