• Peter Kupisz

Galileo's Complex Relationship to Science and Religion

Has science proven that Christianity is wrong? Many people think so and they claim that religion has been hostile to the advancement of science for hundreds of years. One frequently cited example is the confrontation between Galileo Galilei and the Catholic Church.


But is the story of Galileo simply a matter of benighted religious leaders opposing the advancement of science? According to Dr. Peter Harrison (former Professor of Science and Religion at Oxford University), the story is much more complicated than that. Although there was a religious element to the event, many other factors led to the conflict. For example, in Galileo’s time, the scientific evidence was very much against a heliocentric view (i.e. Galileo's view) of the solar system. This was mainly because there was a noted absence of parallactic displacement of the stars (see video below for more explanation). Other factors include the effects of the Protestant Reformation and the manner in which Galileo insulted the Pope in his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.


The idea that Galileo was opposed by mere religious bigotry is an idea that was popularized in the late 1800s by Andrew Dickson White and John William Draper. Their simplistic and distorted version seems to carry on in the 21st century for the same reason that White and Draper promoted it – it is a powerful tool in the hands of those who oppose Christianity.


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