Galileo and those who rejected science offer a new perspective on the life of a scientific legend
In basketball, legends are often only known by their first names: LeBron, Kobe, Michael. The same goes for the comforters: Madonna, Cher, Beyoncé.
But lists of scientific legends almost always include surnames, not just Isaac, Albert, or Charles. Among the titans of modern scientific science, there is usually only one defined directly by a first name: Galileo.
The man has a last name: Galileo. But fewer people know his last name than they know he is one of the great founders of modern science. Galileo combined mathematics with natural philosophy and a number of experimental methods to create a basis for understanding nature in terms of nature rather than Aristotle.
Galileo’s life is well documented. Dozens of biographies have been written about him since Vincenzo Viviani’s first publication in 1717 (but these were written before Thomas Salusbury’s English biography in English in 1664). As recently as 2010, two important scientific biographies (of David Wootton and John Heilbron) took an in-depth look at Galileo’s life and science.
But in the life of legends, there is always a license to offer another interpretation. In Galileo and in Science Deniers, astrophysicist Mario Livio applied for this license to tell the story of Galileo, at this time with particular concern about Galileo’s current relationship with science (and the obstacles to its reception).”In a universe of hostile to conduct science with science deniers in key positions,” Livio expressed, “Galileo’s story serves … as an incredible token of the significance of free discourse.
Livio has also set out to produce a biography that is easier to access for a general reader than conventional academic books. And he succeeded. His discourses, contrasting Galileo’s experience with the present, are woven into a pleasantly formed and agreeably decipherable report.
According to Livio, those who now reject the science of climate change or the validity of the theory of evolution are similar to religious opponents of Galileo’s scientific view, especially his insistence on the movement of the earth around the sun. To that end, the book is less of a lengthy biography than a summary of Galileo’s life and science, as well as an in-depth account of the events leading up to his famous trial. Livio played the role of a highly trained legal commentator studying the issues raised during the trial, including the prosecutor’s discussion of questionable and not always tactics to effectively defend Galileo.
Galileo’s cycle fixates on his book Discourse About the Two Capital Frameworks, in which the three characters examine the advantages and disadvantages of the Aristotelian universe with the earth at its middle and the sun-focused close planetary system created by Copernicus. Galileo thinks his book has been approved by the right sensors. But his enemies have made an accusation of heresy. The book of Galileo, claimed by the public prosecutor, contradicts the order of the Catholic Church in 1616 and forbids it to promote Copernicanism. Galileo’s argument that his book only describes conflicting views without proving both sides was rejected. He was seen as blameworthy and condemned to house capture for a mind-blowing remainder.
Livio’s report on this well-known story is supplemented by the results of recent scientific research, including the discovery of a 1998 letter written during the trial indicating that a plea deal could be considered. . Of particular interest is Livio’s report on the biography of Galileo by Pio Paschini, commissioned by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the 1940s to explain how the Catholic Church did not really persecute Galileo Galileo. All things being equal, Pashi’s original copy came clean and the congregation wouldn’t distribute it. During the 1960s, after Paschi’s demise, the Congregation gave up and endorsed the distribution – yet simply after the progressions changed the first form to mirror the Congregation in a more great light.
Science and religion, of course, still face tensions today. Recently, however, the fight against science has evolved into a more general public stance, driven primarily by climatologists and anti-vaccine propaganda. Sometimes Livio’s comparisons of such opposition movements with Galileo seem a bit difficult. But essentially, his point is on target. In particular, he insisted on a common misconception of Galileo’s lesson: viewing minority should be done as right. Some who reject climate change, Livio said, argue the majority was against Galileo when he was right; Therefore, minority views on climate change, even if they are ridiculed by the majority, will also prove to be valid. But such considerations are a serious flaw. “Galileo was right, not because he was made to laugh and criticize, but because the scientific evidence was on his side,” Livio correctly explained.
As Paschini writes in his sensitive manuscript, Galileo has presented an honest report of scientific evidence supporting Aristotelian and Copernican views of the universe. Paschini argued, as Livio put it, that “it was not Galileo’s fault … that Copernicanism seemed stronger”. So, like today, some scientific cases are stronger than others. Unfortunately, stronger scientific cases still don’t always influence policy-making – like the U.S. government’s response to the current pandemic. Ultimately, Galileo’s fall was severe enough to survive. So it’s worth telling the story again.