Galileo’s Bluff

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

(2 Timothy 4:3-4) ESV

Most people believe that Galileo proved Heliocentricity. He didn’t, but he showed that the religious dogma of his day was wrong.

In the time of Galileo, Roman Catholic church doctrine was that all planetary bodies orbited the Earth. On one hand, from our frame of reference, they do. We observe the sun rise and set every day, and the stars arc across the sky every night. The whole cosmos is observed to orbit the Earth, it’s empirical.

But this is where Galileo exploited some nuance and the church leadership made the error of being insistent on dogma for which there’s no scriptural basis. Galileo demonstrated that, technically speaking, not all planetary bodies are orbiting the Earth. He did it in two ways.

  1. The Phases of Venus,
  2. The Moons of Jupiter,
  3. Sun Star Synonymy.

It was a long drawn out affair at the time but the end result was that Galileo showed convincingly that the religious leadership of his day were, to use the vernacular, a bunch of mindless idiots who couldn’t understand basic science. This was what anyone looking for an excuse to reject religion and deny the existence of God had been waiting for. The problem was, it was sleight-of-hand. Real science had been used to tell a half-truth:

  • Religious leaders may not know what they’re talking about, but,
  • this isn’t proof of heliocentricity.

Galileo didn’t prove heliocentricity in the sense that the existence of a viable heliocentric model makes the Geocentrospheric model impossible. Heliocentric and Geocentrospheric aren’t mutually exclusive, they coexist as two frames of reference of the same system.

However, Galileo made the religious establishment look like clueless hasbeens and he devised a rationale for believing heliocentricity which sounded reasonable. Human nature is what it is though: people are seeking a way to justify themselves and eliminate the guilt that they feel for their unconfessed sin. The idea that there was an explanation for life on Earth that didn’t need God was infectious, but it had to start somewhere and this was the proposal of a rationale for why is was okay to believe in heliocentricity. Galileo told the people of his day what their itching ears wanted to hear.

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