Concerning the General Theory of
Evolution and modern naturalism,
C. S. Lewis said, "Was it devised not
to get in facts but to keep out God?"
Galileo, Religion, Science, and Politics, by Jonathan Whitcomb
Hundreds of published works on the trial of Galileo
are evidence of how much interest has been generated by this event. Some authors
use the trial as an example of a conflict "between religion and science." Less well known is that Galileo himself believed in God
and in the Bible. Also, many who opposed him were university professors who could be compared, in some ways, to modern professors
of science: teachers who protect the standard models, the most popular contemporary beliefs.
Much has been written about how
Galileo’s book (Dialogo
, which gives support to the Copernican position) was banned and that the author was unjustly convicted
of heresy. With no sympathy for Galileo’s opponents, however, serious investigators may still discover clues that point to a
much more complicated view of the trial: Galileo's political blunder.
, the character who disbelieves the Copernican model
is portrayed as an ignorant fool. The original scientific book by Copernicus himself, however, is seen to be available
to the public at about this time in Galileo's life. Why is it that Galileo’s book was strongly condemned at a
time when the original book by Copernicus was not? Part of the reason may be that the Pope (who may have instigated Galileo’s trial)
had some suspicion that the fool portrayed in Dialogo referred to himself. Whether that was his opinion or not, it is well known
that Galileo was not put on trial simply because he proclaimed belief in Copernican ideas. He was accused of disobeying
a papal decree. And he appealed directly to the public, ridiculing, with little tact, his opponents.
Though the principle of freedom of expression is of paramount value to society, the 1633 trial of Galileo does not show that
belief in God conflicts with objective science. It’s more an example of a conflict between personalities: Galileo versus those
offended at his words. Each side of the 1633 trial involved people who believed in God. Each side of the
scientific case believed that the evidence supported their own position.
The church trial of Galileo demonstrates the danger of dogmatically holding onto a narrow interpretation (based on a human philosophy) of
a few Bible scriptures. But it also demonstrates the danger of dogmatically holding onto a popular human philosophy. It was not only
religious leaders who fought against the truth, but university professors of philosophly, too.
Galileo believed in correctly
interpreted Bible scriptures. He said, "The Bible tells us how to get to heaven, not how the heavens should go." His faith in God
demonstrates that his trial was not so much an example of "science versus religion" as it was of politics. (Powerful politicians
European nations had, apparently, gained control of a powerful church.)