Retrying Galileo, 1633-1992

Retrying Galileo, 1633-1992

Retrying Galileo, 1633-1992

Retrying Galileo, 1633-1992

Synopsis

In 1633, at the end of one of the most famous trials in history, the Inquisition condemned Galileo for contending that the Earth moves and that the Bible is not a scientific authority. Galileo's condemnation set off a controversy that has acquired a fascinating life of its own and that continues to this day. This absorbing book is the first to examine the entire span of the Galileo affair from his condemnation to his alleged rehabilitation by the Pope in 1992. Filled with primary sources, many translated into English for the first time, Retrying Galileo will acquaint readers with the historical facts of the trial, its aftermath and repercussions, the rich variety of reflections on it throughout history, and the main issues it raises.

Excerpt

In 1633 the Inquisition condemned Galileo for holding that the earth moves and the Bible is not a scientific authority. This condemnation ended a controversy that had started in 1613, when his astronomical ideas were attacked on scriptural grounds and he wrote a letter of refutation to his disciple Benedetto Castelli. This was a controversy involving issues of methodology, epistemology, and theology as well as astronomy, physics, and cosmology: whether the earth is located at the center of the universe; whether the earth moves, both around its own axis daily and around the sun annually; whether and how the earth’s motion can be proved, experimentally or theoretically; whether the earth’s motion contradicts Scripture; whether a contradiction between terrestrial motion and a literal interpretation of Scripture would constitute a valid reason against the earth’s motion; whether Scripture must always be interpreted literally; and, if not, when Scripture should be interpreted literally and when figuratively.

Although the 1633 condemnation ended the original Galileo affair, it also started a new controversy that has continued to our own day—about the facts, causes, issues, and implications of the original trial. This subsequent controversy reflects in part the original issues, but it has also acquired a life of its own, with debates over whether Galileo’s condemnation was right; why he was condemned; whether science and religion are incompatible; how the two do or should interact; whether individual freedom and institutional authority must always clash; whether cultural myths can ever be dispelled with documented facts; whether political expediency must prevail over scientific truth; and whether scientific research must bow to social responsibility.

Besides such controversial issues, the subsequent Galileo affair has two other strands. First, the historical aftermath of the original episode consists of facts and events stemming from it and involving actions mostly taken by the . . .

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