We do have seen many instances when some revolutionary people faced obstacles while explaining their point of view to the world. It took time for them to make every one understand. However, there was a renowned physicist, astronomer and philosopher, named Galileo, whose theories started a debate against the church in 17th century and it took almost three centuries to give a conclusion for the same. The debate was between science and religion; it was between new science and old science.
It all started in 1616 when the work of Nicholas Copernicus, on the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres, was banned by Roman congregation as it was claimed to be contrary to the scriptures. Galileo defended the Copernicus theory which stated that the sun is the center of the universe and also the earth is revolved around the sun. The people at that time had a firm belief in the Aristotle’s geocentric theory, which stated that the earth is the center of the universe and is immobile. All the other planets and the sun rotate around the earth.
In 1609, when Galileo made a new telescope and started taking interest in astronomy, he discovered that the earth is not the unique center of the circular motion and also the Venus does not circle across the earth. The Aristotle’s theory was accepted everywhere and also it was said that it supported the Holy Scriptures. As according to them the Bible states that the Earth is the center of the universe. The Galileo wrote many principles that made a conflict between science and the religion. The theologians were not convinced by the statements made by Galileo in his letter to Castelli. He mentioned that the God who has given us senses, language and intellect, would hardly want to bypass their use particularly in astrological matters which are hardly ever mentioned in the Bible.
In February 1616 the theologians judged that Copernicus theory defended by Galileo was foolish and absurd as it was against the scripture. The church was not ready to accept it as they were in a belief of Aristotle’s theory since centuries and this sudden change was unacceptable to be made public. Moreover, according to them it would diminish the human values by not stating the earth as center of universe. The new science of the Galileo was a thing of future as theologians at that time doesn’t have a slight knowledge about that. Even though many renowned theologians, Zuniga and Foscarini, supported Galileo and mentioned that it is not against the scriptures. But then the fact that many more theologians thought that it is contrary to scripture, made them send Robert Bellarmine to warn Galileo to condemn this theory. They told him not to defend the theory in any way, be it written or verbal, he would be punished even to be imprisoned if goes against this.
In 1623, Galileo research about the theory in details. He appealed the Pop and took permission to proceed with the Copernicus theory. He was told not to demonstrate it and take it as a hypothesis. The Dialogue on the chief world system was ready in 1632. This time he outlined a new argument relating the terrestrial tides to earth motion as in 1616 he only had his telescopic research. In September 1632, theologians, met the Pope in order to go against the Galileo. To make it worse the matter was found from 1616 that mentioned Galileo to condemn himself from defending the theory. In 1633, the Galileo was sentenced for ‘vehement’ suspicion of heresy. He was on a strict house arrest and in 1642, he died. In 1992 the Pope John Paul II, declared that the theologians were mistaken at that time. However, it was too late.
Having reached a stage where it is imperative to choose between what seems right and what seems safely convenient, I would like to take side with what seems right, i.e. Galileo’s support to Copernicus theory and I believe he should have published Two Chief World Systems. Even though there is nothing fundamentally wrong in Vatican’s attempt to safeguard the order and structure in the society and its need to follow the set paradigm, yet we believe the thought was short sighted and should have given the opportunity to Galileo to set the beliefs right. It would have been a fundamental shift in the spiritual understanding of the scriptures aligned with science.