Essay, Research Paper: Galileo And Church 


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Galileo, Science and the Church, by Jerome J. Langford, are about the trials and
tribulations of Galileo with the Roman Catholic Church in the 1600’s. The
church did not agree with Galileo’s ideas; mainly theories associated with
Copernican astronomy. The primary intention of Langford is to bring the truth of
Galileo’s trials to his readers, and to show that ultimately Galileo was
correct in his theories and was not trying to go against the churches’ belief.
Galileo was merely trying to seek truth in science, and wanted to be known as a
historical scientific figure. Therefore, Galileo was unjustly accused,
ridiculed, and convicted of heresy. In Galileo’s defense of heresy, Langford
writes, “ This was an unfortunate decision on several accounts. First the
Copernican opinion was treated as heretical when, in reality, it was not.”
(155) Langford goes on to explain that the theological Consultors in 1616
recognized the earth’s mobility as “formally heretical”, but this did not
make the immobility of the earth a matter of faith. Catholic philosophers and
theologians also agree that the decree of the Holy Office did not make the
immobility of the earth or the mobility of the sun a matter of faith. These
points clearly support the argument of Galileo’s unjust conviction of heresy.
Langford also uses excerpts of other writings to illustrate his main points. The
following is one of many excerpts Langford uses: “ Inasmuch as no dogmatic
decision was rendered in this case, either on the part of the Pope or on the
part of a Council ruled by the Pope and approved by him, it is not, by virtue of
that decree of the Congregation, a doctrine of faith that the sun is moving and
the earth standing still…. Yet every Catholic is bound by virtue of obedience
to conform to the decree of the Congregation, or at least not to teach what is
directly opposed to it.”(156) This excerpt, as do many others, clearly support
Langford’s argument. The church disagreed with Galileo’s thoughts. They
actually went as far as telling Galileo that he was to stop preaching his ideas
as long as he was involved with the church. Langford writes, “Yet, recalling
the tone of the prohibition, Urban conceded that so long as Galileo treated the
Copernican theory as a hypothesis, he could write all he wanted on the
subject.” (114) If he would leave the church, he would be able to voice his
opinions and ideas freely. I believe Langford’s clever use of excerpts; prove
that he is not alone in his belief that Galileo was wrongly accused. He also
gets his point across by noting that the immobility of the earth is not a matter
of faith. This alone demonstrates that Galileo did not commit heresy. My opinion
is that the church should have allowed Galileo to voice his opinion of the
Copernican theory because he was trying to seek the truth in science, to better
educate the world, not trying to go directly against the church. Therefore,
Langford has succeeded in his belief that Galileo was unfairly convicted of
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