On Galileo’s Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina

Academia.Edu (2007)
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Far from egalitarian, Galileo’s epistemology asserts an uncompromising hierarchy between science and Scripture — an idea he suggests originates with early Christian author Tertullian of Carthage. For Galileo, when the scientific data causes us to disagree with the apparent meaning of scripture, it is not the data that we discard nor is it the scientist whose word is subject to doubt. Rather, whenever a disagreement arises, we always reinterpret the Bible and Holy Fathers such that we can make them agree with what the scientist observes. Galileo states, “[H]aving arrived at any certainties in physics, we ought to utilize these as the most appropriate aids in the true exposition of the Bible […], for these must be concordant with demonstrated truths” (183). In other words, we establish matters of fact first , and then decide what interpretations of scripture will maintain the truth of those facts, second. Given that Galileo’s method stands in radical opposition to the methods of the Church as carried out in the Inquisition following the Council of Trent (1563), it is not hard to understand why the Church felt threatened by him and thereby sought to repress his views.

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