Pseudonym wrote:Galileo believed he had a significant amount of evidence that could be best explained by heliocentrism. He also believed in heliocentrism.
The thing to remember is that, as well as being a man of science, Galileo was also a man of faith. For me, that means the only thing I can categorically say he believed in, was God. Rather than say he believed in heliocentrism, it's much more accurate to say that as a, if not the, father of modern science, what Galileo believed in is experimentation and observation. It just so happens that all of Galileo's experimentation, observation and calculation pointed to a heliocentric system.
Pseudonym wrote:He did not believe that the evidence that he had was absolutely 100% definitive, in the sense that he expected that heliocentrism should replace the orthodoxy of the time overnight on the strength of his results alone. (That is, he was not what today we would call a "crank".)
Sure. But this is an argument for why he's regarded as the father of modern science. It is not the nature of science to "absolutely 100% [believe]". Faith and belief stymie progress. Science makes observations and bases reality on the findings. That said, I can't see why you seek to belittle his work. He built on Conpernicus' findings (4 moons of Jupiter, etc), built improved telescopes, conducted experiments, documented all his observations, performed rigorous calculations and ultimately championed Copernicanism. Surely if he wasn't as convinced as he could be from his findings, he wouldn't have so strongly sought to publish his book at a time when he'd even agreed with the Catholic Church not to.
Pseudonym wrote:It's a subtle distinction, but an important one. A number of clergy who sided with Galileo urged him not to publish until his evidence was definitive, out of fear of what might happen to him. I'm not saying their advice was correct, but their fears were certainly well-founded.
Pseudonym, what do you mean by definitive? The evidence was overwhelming. That's what drove Galileo to publish his book (even after agreeing that he wouldn't). About the only way to make the evidence 100% definitive is to physically travel far enough out into space and directly observe what the planets were doing. Curiously, the closest man has come to doing this (a feat, by the way, that wouldn't have been possible if Copernicus and then Galileo hadn't published their work, thereby allowing subsequent scientists to build on their works) was by travelling to the moon. This occurred in 1969. More curiously, the Catholic Church didn't concede that the earth wasn't stationary until 1992! In other words, according to what you say, Galileo would have been best off to wait until he was 427 years old before publishing his book, "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems
The thing of it is that if Galileo had waited until it was 100% definitive (whatever that means) before publishing his work, he simply never would have (in his own lifetime). And that's not how science works. Scientists publish their work so that other scientists can scrutinise it and then, if they don't destroy it, they build on it - and progress is the result.
Pseudonym wrote:It's interesting to think about what could have happened differently. The difference in treatment between Galileo and Copernicus (Copernicus' views were known in his lifetime, and he had followers after his death) may be partly due to differences in personality. Galileo probably wasn't much of a "people person".
Hummel paints a different picture of Galileo's personality:
He was a passionate, powerful character who could dominate any room or discussion. His talent and wit won a variety of illustrious friends in university, court and church circles, … At the same time his biting sarcasm against those whose arguments were vulnerable to his scientific discoveries made him some formidable enemies. Galileo thrived on debate… His professional life was spent not only in observing and calculating but also in arguing and convincing. His goal was to promote as well as develop a new scientific world view.
There is much debate on why it took six decades for the Catholic Church to move against Copernicus' works. My take on why Copernicus was treated so differently was that his book, "De revolutionibus
", was published on his deathbed and that it was the first time arguments for a heliocentric system had been published. In other words, he died before he had a chance to get up the Catholic Church's nose. So whilst yes, his works were known during his lifetime, media distribution was very limited back then and it necessarily must have taken a while for the ideas in his works to propagate and gain momentum. This isn't an unreasonable assumption when you consider that, about 60 years later in 1616, the Catholic Church did issue a decree, suspending De revolutionibus
until it could be corrected - along with any other works that suggested the earth moved or that the sun didn't.
I think that Galileo's biggest problem was that he, as I said, was a man of faith as well as a man of science. The church at the time was very much of the belief that the earth didn't move. The Bible taught that it was rooted in a foundation created by God. The Bible was, of course, God's inerrant and holy word. He struggled to reconcile the two. Here's how Christian Answers puts it:
The primary problem, as introduced earlier, was that Aristotle's science was going out of style; but the church was still attached to him. It could not make a distinction between Aristotle and Christian teachings; and in that era, there was no distinguishment or separation of science from philosophy. For the Church, if Aristotle was wrong, Christianity was wrong.
So, the lesson on this occasion, is not as you put it, to not mix church and state - as good advice as that might be. The lesson, it would appear on this occasion, was to not mix church and science.
Today, that same lesson would be not to mix fundamentalist church and science. Given the era in which Galileo lived in, he could not have possibly known this.