Galileo’s letter to the Grand Duchess Christina caused much controversy when it was written in 1613. It caused such controversy because it was an indirect attack on the Catholic Church with a viewpoint that was not of the ‘status quo’. This essay will thoroughly analyse this document. It will analyse the context behind what was happening in 17th century with regards to science and religion. Secondly it will critically explain and analyse the grounds behind why this document actually holds significance. This will make the argument that Galileo wanted to make the distinction between science and religion.
In order to understand and analyse this source, the letter needs to be in its 17th century context. During this period, the Catholic Church had a firm grip on power concerning social thoughts . It was common practice for people to not have read the bible due to illiteracy. The letter itself is very important to establish a different viewpoint of the importance of astronomy with regards to religion. His support of Copernican explanations of motion of the Earth would create controversy because it went against the Churches official view of the rules of motion by taking a literal meaning of the words of scripture.
Galileo’s purpose is to defend Nicolaus Copernicus’s theory of motion. Copernicus’s theory, which was further investigated by Galileo, was that the Sun was the centre of the universe and the Earth orbited the sun . This theory was in conflict with the accepted Aristotelian theory that the Earth was the centre of the universe and the planets and the sun revolved around Earth . Because the Bible did not explain in depth (which this essay will argue), the Aristotelian along with the scripture was the acceptable view of the time.
Finocchiaro argues that the Galileo affair – which stemmed from the letter that Galileo wrote to Father Castelli (a student of Galileo) and later reiterated to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany, is one of the early arguments of science and religion . He argues that Galileo liked to create controversy . This could set a precedent that Galileo wanted to cause uproar by going so far to the extreme that the nobles and the Church would take a serious look into his findings, when he may have exaggerated certain points.
One of Galileo’s main issues was the purpose of scripture with regards to interpretation. Galileo makes the argument that Scripture cannot be wrong but it is up to the interpretation of it. For example, he stated, “Though the scripture cannot err, nevertheless some of its interpreters and expositors can sometimes err in various ways” . Furthermore he states that if we were to take the literal meaning of what the scripture states – we would be personifying God by giving him human characteristics of a body and emotions. In essence the literal interpretation would give God the right to make mistakes, which of course would not be accepted by anyone in the church.
Galileo did have a basis for...