Saturday, September 11, 2010

Galileo Truly Recanted.

Was Galileo really a martyr of modern science, the theories and explanations of which are in a constant state of flux, or did he ultimately seek an absolute, unchanging, objective Truth and recant of holding a changeable scientific theory to be objectively true? Galileo wrote to Francesco Rinuccini, Arcetri, 29 March 1641, the year before his death:
The falsity of the Copernican system needs not be called into doubt, and especially by us Catholics, having the irrefragable authority of Sacred Scripture, interpreted by the supreme masters in Theology, whose concordant consensus renders us certain of the stability of the Earth placed in the center, and of the mobility of the Sun around it. The conjectures then for which Copernicus and his other followers have professed the contrary, are all lifted with that most solid argument of the Omnipotence of God, Who can do in diverse—rather, in infinite ways—that to our opinion and observation seem done in one particular way; we should not want to shorten the hand of God and tenaciously sustain that in which we can be deceived.

Le opere di Galileo Galilei, vol. 7 edited by Vincenzio Viviani [my translation]

Galileo, were he alive in the 19th and 20th centuries, respectively, would agree with these statements:
[...] if writers on physics travel outside the boundaries of their own branch, and carry their erroneous teaching into the domain of philosophy, let them be handed over to philosophers for refutation.

—Pope Leo XIII's Providentissimus Deus

Human science gains greatly from revelation, for the latter opens out new horizons and makes known sooner other truths of the natural order, and because it opens the true road to investigation and keeps it safe from errors of application and of method. Thus does the lighthouse show many things they otherwise would not see, while it points out the rocks on which the vessel would suffer shipwreck.

—Pope St. Pius X's Iucunda Sane

1 comment:

  1. Apart from “self promotion” (I am not sure what to think of this dig at Galileo, but then I am not an expert on his life/personality), we remember Galileo because he interpreted what he saw, rather than merely reporting or drawing. Seeing bright dots around Jupiter is one thing. Repeatedly observing them to see them change position, and interpreting this as a moon system in orbit around Jupiter is quite another.