Friday, August 03, 2007

King of Night Vision, King of Insight

So I just finished reading Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel. I know what you are thinking- yet another non-fiction book? What the heck is going on with Danifesto?

Well, here's the deal McNeil. This book was on the book club list that I was apart of in SFS and I wanted to read it after I left that school so I picked it up second-hand. I learned a great deal from this book and was glad that I read it. It was really just a Galileo biography. He led such a fascinating life! The daughter angle did add a level of human interest and I liked how they were tied together at the end. The writing was accessible, even to someone like myself- not a math person.

Probably the part of the book that impacted me the most was at the end of Chapter 25. After Galileo is forced, under the threat of torture, to recant all of his "silly" discoveries (i.e. Contrary to what Aristotle believed, our planet orbits while the Sun remains still.) his book Dialogues is banned and is listed in the next published Index of Prohibited Books (1664 ed). Of course this resulted in the price skyrocketing on the black market. The original price was half a scudo (3 lire or .002 USD). Then it rose to four and then six scudi. (42 lire or 3 cents USD) The next year, a copy is smuggled through the Alps to Austria and translated from Italian to Latin for general distribution throughout Europe. In 1661, an English translation is published.

In 1744, publishers in Italy are granted permission to include Dialogues in a posthumous anthology of Galileo's works. They are required to print a disclaimer before it however, that the words inside were contrary to the Word of God (Psalm 93:1, Psalm 96:10, and I Chronicles 16:30 Psalm 104:5, Ecclesiastes 1:5) and the teachings of the Church. In 1757, general objections against the subject of the book (the Copernican doctrine) are withdrawn but Dialogues remains a still-forbidden title. It remains on the prohibited book list of the church for another sixty-five years. In 1822 the Congregation of the Holy Office decides to allow publications of books on modern astronomy that taught that the Earth moved. However a revised edition of Index wasn't published until 1835 when it became the first in almost two centuries to remove the Dialogues of Galileo Galilei from the list of banned books. (Index of Prohibited Books was abolished in 1966 following the Second Vatican Council.)

I want to point out an interesting sidenote here. Although many "religion vrs. science" arguments have been written over the years, Galileo didn't see a conflict between the two disciplines. "Holy Scripture and Nature," he declared, "are both emanations from the divine word." He took Augustine's position on Scripture: not to take every passage literally, particularly when the scripture in question is a book of poetry and songs, not a book of instructions or history. He understood that the real conflict was the jealousy of his fellow academics the Church had been duped into being on the side of his enemies. Ironically, Galileo remained loyal to the Church to the very end of his life — and was even carried to daily mass when he became too feeble to walk.

What I took away from this book was that, as we discover more and more about ourselves and the world around us, we continually have to realign our previously held beliefs. That can be really intimidating and scary for many of us, especially if this results in a perceived loss in power or status. Often there is a resulting fundamentalist backlash. However, after enough time has passed, the facts/truth do eventually shine through in such a way as it becomes impossible to bury ones' head in the sand any longer. We saw this in Galileo's time and we are seeing it now in our time as we use the tools and talents God has given us to uncover new discoveries in a plethora of fields such as genetics, physics, human sexuality, space exploration, psychology, biology, and the list goes on and on.

Like Galileo, I feel that there is plenty of room for both religion and science to coexist in our society. For that to happen though, it's imperative that we take notes from "the father of modern science," Galileo himself. It was he that created (albeit in his book) an open space where those with opposing viewpoints could sit together and have a dialogue. To quote Otis , "all you gotta do is try a little tenderness."

4 comments:

Record Store Geek said...

Galileo's Daughter is sitting in my "to read" pile right now, but for whatever reason it keeps getting moved to the bottom of the stack. I'll find the time to read it eventually. I really enjoyed another of Sobel's books - Longitude.

Lance Noe said...

Hello! Its been a month since your last post.

A month without Danifesto is like a year without water!

sassiekiwi said...

Dan Grummon ...
you are like one of those crack pushers ... hook someone and then cut the supply line! Blog something man ... I am suffering serious withdrawl here!

:)

Jolie said...

Yeah! I second what they said. Come back Danifesto, it's a lonely place without you. :)