Posted by: Rob Lester | June 29, 2011

Galileo: Geocentrism or egocentrism?

Atheists often bring up the Catholic Church’s persecution of Galileo in an attempt to paint creationists as ignorant, intolerant, and hostile to science.  Galileo discovered that the earth orbited the sun and that our planet was not the center of the universe.  He is often portrayed as humbly bringing this scientific proof before the Catholic Church for their consideration.  This is not an accurate picture.  William Shea wrote that Galileo instead arrogantly demanded that the Church immediately endorse his views rather than allow the truth to be gradually accepted by the scientific community (it was rather shocking).  Galileo was tried for heresy and placed under house arrest.  He was, however, still allowed to continue his work and publish his findings.  So the Catholic Church did not attempt to “hush up” Galileo’s research, although it could have done so. Philip Sampson noted that Galileo’s conflict with the Church was more about his attitude than his scientific findings.  Galileo himself believed the main cause of his trouble came from a 1632 essay he wrote which mocked Pope Urban VIII.  Hear the condescending elitism in a letter to his colleague Johannes Kepler.  “My dear Kepler, I wish that we might laugh at the remarkable stupidity of the common herd” (Wikipedia). Kepler had made similar discoveries and was not persecuted.  Why not? Any conflicts Kepler had with the Church were connected to his Protestantism, not his science.  The Galileo affair was not the definitive clash between science and religion that some have made it out to be.  The Bible does not teach that planet earth is at the center of the physical universe (geocentrism), although some in past times have misinterpreted it to say so.  The Bible teaches accurate science which is always proven true even though it may take man thousands of years to discover this truth.

 Shea, William. “Galileo and the Church” from God and Nature (p. 132), 1986.

Sampson, Philip. Six Modern Myths. Intervarsity Press: 2000 (p. 33)



  1. the Catholic Church is not creationist – that’s the American Evangelical Protestants – the CC endorses evolution

    so this is a bit misleading at the outset.

    Galileo’s arrogance is hardly grounds for justifying forcing him to drink hemlock – but he was rather naive to expect that an organization that had slaughtered heretics wholesale before would be receptive to his discovery that demonstrated the church beleives were wrong.

    but the details matter less than religion is willing to kill to maintain it’s power and position

    and scientists are willing to die for the truth

    • To “Random”:
      Your comment is hard to follow. You are mistaken about the Catholic Church. Whatever their position today, during Galileo’s time it most certainly was creationist. I would argue they are still somewhat, but they have gone down the path of accomodation and embraced so-called “theistic evolution.” I misled no one in my post, although you come close to doing so in your comment. And do you actually think Galileo was forced to drink hemlock? I think you are mixing up your martyrs. Socrates, not Galileo. Galileo was never even tortured, although he was threatened. And I am disappointed that you completely dismiss Galileo’s own words about the source of his conflict with the Catholic Church quoted in my post. He would know better than you or I, would he not?

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