Monday, January 5, 2009

Galileo Revisited: May Faith and Science Co-Exist?

It is time to reconsider Galileo's great contribution to humanity in this year 2009 the 400th anniversary of Galileo's invention of the telescope.

While astronomy, like art, may seem the work of dreamers like Galileo, his invention of the telescope and subsequent contribution to man's understanding of the universe is integral to humanity's understanding of energy, space, time, and self.

Pope Benedict XVI stated Galileo the Italian astronomer and physicist helped the faithful better understand and "contemplate with gratitude the Lord's works."

In May, several Vatican officials will participate in an international conference to re-examine the Galileo affair, and top Vatican officials are now saying Galileo should be named the "patron" of the dialogue between faith and reason.

It's quite a reversal of fortune for Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), who made the first complete astronomical telescope and used it to gather evidence that the Earth revolved around the sun. Church teaching at the time placed Earth at the center of the universe.

The church denounced Galileo's theory as dangerous to the faith, but Galileo defied its warnings. Tried as a heretic in 1633 and forced to recant, he was sentenced to life imprisonment, later changed to house arrest.

In 1992, Pope John Paul II declared that the ruling against Galileo was an error resulting from "tragic mutual incomprehension."

The Galileo anniversary appears to be giving the Vatican new impetus to put the matter to rest. In doing so, Vatican officials are stressing Galileo's faith as well as his science, to show the two are not mutually exclusive.

At a Vatican conference last month entitled "Science 400 Years after Galileo Galilei," the Vatican No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said Galileo was an astronomer, but one who "lovingly cultivated his faith and his profound religious conviction."

"Galileo Galilei was a man of faith who saw nature as a book authored by God," Bertone said.

The head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture, which co-sponsored the conference, went further. Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi told Vatican Radio that Galileo "could become for some the ideal patron for a dialogue between science and faith."

He said Galileo's writings offered a "path" to explore how faith and reason were not incompatible.

There were plans earlier this year to give Galileo a permanent place of honor in the Vatican to mark the anniversary of his telescope: a statue, to be located inside the Vatican gardens, donated by the Italian aerospace giant Finmeccanica SpA.

Italian news reports that this statue has been canceled and suggested the Vatican simply didn't want to draw so much permanent attention to the Galileo episode, which 400 years on, still rankles some.

We at look to the heavens during this Epiphany 2009 seeing the planets Venus and Jupiter lined up with the Moon, which makes us think about Magi following the stars that lead them to the baby Jesus. Of course astronomy, science, God, and religion may co-exist we think. Yet as war rages between Israel and Palestine it is manifest how precious rational human civilization is. How precious each soul is. Peace to all.

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At January 5, 2009 at 7:05 PM , Blogger G. G. Husak said...

Thanks for your articlea bout Galileo's reinstatement by the church. What a long journey. It's hard to imagine how his views could have caused such a problem.
G. G. H.


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