Galileo Galilei was an Italian scientist, often referred to as “the father of modern physics”. He was one of the inventors of the telescope and a strong proponent of Copernicanism. Galileo used his invention to make astronomical observations which supported Copernicus’ heliocentric model of the universe. These discoveries led to a fierce dispute, because they contradicted the theory which was prevalent at the time – that the universe followed a geocentric model, a theory, which had been accepted by the Catholic Church. To address this dispute, Galileo wrote a letter to Tuscany’s Grand Duchess Christina, in which he presented his position on the relation between science and religion, stating that the Bible does not contradict science.
The main argument which Galileo’s opponents used against his theory was that in many places in the Bible it is mentioned that the Earth stands still and that the Sun revolves around it. Galileo himself was a devout Christian and did not mean to question God’s power or the Holy Writ with his work. As a result, to support his claim, he developed three logical arguments in his letter, which he backed with the opinions of leading Christian authorities, in order to prove that science can reinforce religion rather than discredit it.
The first argument Galileo made was that while the Bible could never be wrong, the implications of its words could be misunderstood. He maintained that the Holy Scriptures are “often very abstruse” and that interpreting them verbatim could cause one to “fall into error”. Galileo supported this claim by stating that all theologians seemed to agree with this notion. Moreover, he argued that if his belief were not true, then the interpreters of the Bible should have never disagreed on the meaning of any particular passage.
Galileo’s second argument was that the Bible intentionally did not cover matters concerning astronomy, because doing so would not serve its main purpose, which, according to him, was “the service of God and the salvation of souls”. Galileo argued that if the creators of the Bible had also intended to teach astronomy, then they would have included far more insight into the field within the Holy Writ itself.
1The analyzed excerpt can be found at: http://www.thatmarcusfamily.org/philosophy/Course_Websites/Readings/Galileo%20-%20Letter.pdf (Lines 210-415)
The final and perhaps most compelling argument which Galileo used to defend his thesis was that both the Bible and...