Why Was Galileo Put On Trial?
A Political or Social Weakness of Galileo, by Jonathan Whitcomb
With deep respect for the many great achievements of Galileo, I submit these ideas, distilled after careful consideration of the writings
of several authors who hold various viewpoints.
It may be admirable for us to look at only the strengths of Galileo and to
to him for the scientific advances he achieved. When looking for why he was put on trial and convicted, however, it would be a mistake
to ignore significant details that may have included a social weakness: sometimes purposefully making those he disagreed with appear
The book "Dialogo" is just one example of how Galileo could use words not only to promote his own ideas but to ridicule
the mental abilities of those who disagreed with him. Over several years, his attacks against his critics only increased the resentment
of many of the professors who taught ancient Greek philosophy. Though from one perspective Galileo’s distain for the mentality of
his opponents may have had merit, his open ridicule of many people caused some former friends to turn against him, including some
who were not the targets he intended. Perhaps the most noteworthy was the *pope, who was instrumental in the proceedings that resulted
in the heresy conviction of Galileo in 1633.
But personal vindictiveness was not necessarily a critical part of the
trial against Galileo. He published in the common language of the people and was something of a celebrity. Church leaders, perhaps
even more than professors, may have jealously seen this as a threat to their authority.
respected by some prominent Catholic officials long before the 1633 heresy conviction of Galileo. The
idea that the earth revolves around the sun was allowed as a theory. In fact, the writings of Copernicus himself were available for reading
at about the time of Galileo's troubles. The case against him was more complex than what is suggested by many modern commentators.
Consider how the man who later became *Pope Urban VIII admired Galileo when the scientific breakthroughs were first celebrated. Their
friendship appeared firm. The church leaders, in general, showed no sign of opposition to experimentation and publication
of scientific findings, at first. But after many professors brought up a few scriptures (narrowly interpreted) and accused
Galileo, the forces against him strengthened. It seems that Pope Urban VIII was offended by an action of Galileo and turned
against his former friend.
Envy, offense, and suspicion were likely significant factors in the motivations of Galileo’s persecutors, probably more significant
than bigotry against the investigations of science. It seems that politics, revenge, and personal ambition of his opponents played