Galileo Wasn't Silenced By The Church

As people take to defending, rightfully, free speech they will cite all sorts of examples - contemporary and from the past - to support the argument in favor of free speech.

Aside from the astonishing fact that defending speech is a thing that needs protection, one popular example is Galileo who I'm afraid Professor Hick in his otherwise excellent pamphlet on free speech is guilty of.

The story goes the Catholic Church tried to silence Galileo because he threatened their authority and Church orthodoxy suggesting theology trumped science.

Except this is not accurate.

The Catholic Church from the fall of Rome right to the Italian Renaissance preserved and helped foster Western science. Without its efforts, we would not be where we are in Western science.

And the relationship between scientists and Galileo in particular, was a healthy one as Churchmen often worked verified and accepted his work. Contrary to popular belief, the Church encouraged and welcomed all theories in science provided they could be proven.

The issue was Galileo was a proponent of Copernican theory but the Church demanded proof. Galileo  was not able to provide it and he knew it. Until he could, the Church asked him to stop passing it off as fact. It's worth noting they did not object to him referring to it in theory.

Being a single-minded and strong-willed type, Galileo didn't. That's when they decided to ex-communicate him.

This somehow became (unfairly by Protestants and later on Northern (and French) philosophers who held an irrational grudge against the Church) a story of the Church being hostile to science. Except it was the Church (and his colleagues) who encouraged Copernicus to publish his work.

Yes. Galileo eventually was right (and I suspect the Church knew he was) and history vindicated him but we misappropriate the role of the Church in this episode.

Too bad.

It's unfortunate because since this time we use Galileo as a leitmotif to prove the Church is irrational whenever we want to make an argument against organized religion.

There's something to be said that this has led to all sorts of consequences but this is not the purpose of this post as it would take us beyond the scope of the point: Galileo wasn't excommunicated because of Church theology. He was excommunicated because he had no proof.

Time for the Church to be appreciated for standing up for facts when it was absent.

Something we could learn in today's environment particularly where climate change is concerned. 

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