There is a primary difference between science and religion. Religion discourages the confrontation of the ‘truth’ as it is presented by the leaders of the church. When I say discourage, I mean up to and including the murder of those who challenge the church’s version of the truth.
Science, not only accepts a challenge to the current truth, it is the fundamental architecture of all scientific endeavors to challenge the truth. Scientists accept that our current knowledge is incomplete, and that research, observation, and experimentation will replace the current truth of the universe around us.
A good example of this is our understanding of Earth and its relationship to other bodies in space. The religious doctrine stated that Earth was the center of the universe. Religious sources have claimed that holy text have told them the Earth is the center of the universe, and that was a truth which could not be challenged.
However, the concept of an Earth-centered (geocentric) universe had been challenged in the third century BCE by Greek astronomer and mathematician, Aristarchus of Samos, who theorized a Sun-centered (heliocentric) universe. Unfortunately, his idea lacked supportive evidence and was largely ignored.
Galileo was a victim of the Church, not of science
Over 1,700 years later, others began using observations that indicated that the geocentric model didn’t work as well as the heliocentric model. In January of 1610, Galileo Galilei used a telescope to discover three of Jupiter’s four largest moons, and observed that they orbited Jupiter. He then theorized that the Earth may also orbit the Sun, rather than the Sun orbiting the Earth.
This challenged the belief that dated back to Aristotle that all objects orbited the Earth, a concept that was adopted by both Islam and Christian churches. Galileo’s findings contradicted a fundamental truth of the church. For that crime, Galileo was subject to a Roman Inquisition, and ultimately, arrested and imprisoned.
While it is true that Galileo’s theories were not readily accepted, even by other astronomers of his time, he began a process of challenging truth, and using observation to determine truth. For this, Galileo is known as the father of the scientific method.
Some might think that their religion has outgrown this absolute interpretation of doctrine, and accepts scientific proof. To some degree, most Christian churches, when faced with overwhelming proof will either reluctantly accept the science, or become mute on the subject.
However, in the case of Galileo, the Catholic Church has attempted to use revisionism to explain its position on the geocentric/heliocentric debate. In 2004, the Catholic Church published a revised history of its role in the matter of Galileo. In a blog article on Catholic.com, the Church implies:
- that it was his fellow scientists, not the Church that disputed Galileo’s findings,
- that it was Galileo’s fault for promoting his theories that challenged Church doctrine,
- that Galileo failed to prove his position,
- that Galileo’s findings were not 100% correct, and
- that Galileo did not suffer any real consequence for his research and findings.
All five of these points are twisted interpretations of what we know to be fact.
- Galileo was persecuted by the Church, not his fellow scientists. Arrested by the Church, not this fellow scientists, and sentenced by the Church, not his fellow scientists. Yes, his findings were not widely accepted by other astronomers, but as Galileo was the first to observe Jupiter’s moons and their orbits, he would have been alone in promoting the observations.
- Galileo had his observations, and while there would need to be more observations and the development of better technology to confirm his observations and conclusions, he had every right to promote the concept, even if it disputed the truth of the Church.
- Galileo observed and hypothesized, but he wasn’t 100% correct. The Catholic Church suggests that because he wasn’t 100% correct that they were right in persecuting him for his theories. They were not, and the idea that the church was waiting for better evidence is a lie.
- Galileo faced an Inquisition, and was sentenced. Whether he was tortured is not relevant to the Church’s role in trying to silence those who challenge the teachings of their doctrine.
Science seeks truth, but scientists know that all truth is subject to the gathering of more data, which may disprove the known truth and replace it with a new concept. The church believes that all truth comes from God, and it is not subject to revision, even if the truth of the Church is wrong.