The Galileo Affair: Rough Guides continue

St Robert Bellarmine, SJ
St Robert Bellarmine, SJ

The Renaissance Mathematicus continues his series of Rough Guides on the transition to heliocentricity, this time focusing more directly on the confrontation between Galileo and the Church.

I have been criticised for claiming, in a recent post, that given time the Catholic Church would have come to accept heliocentricity in the seventeenth-century and in fact because Galileo acted unadvisedly he drove the Church to reject and condemn heliocentricity and thus to substantially delaying its acceptance by that organisation. The criticism was that this claim is speculative and thus not history and one critic even said not scientific. Point one, history is not science and is considerably more speculative than science, although, contrary to popular opinion, science is by no means free of speculation. In this case I think a certain amount of speculation is justified and by looking at the available facts on the attitudes of Catholic astronomers, and in particular the Jesuits, during the seventeenth-century both before and after the events of 1615, which will be discussed, it is possible to argue for a Catholic acceptance of heliocentricity, if Galileo and Foscarini had not driven the theologians into a corner causing them to reject it.

As usual he is very entertaining and informative but I have one nit to pick: for someone so against describing anyone as the ‘father of …’ you would think he might not caricature the Jesuits as ‘storm troopers’ of the Counter Reformation.

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