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Galileo Galilei and His Role in the Scientific Revolution Essay

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Updated: Jun 4th, 2020

Evidence of Copernican theory

Galileo who was a teacher in astronomy, geometry and mechanics, made so many discoveries in many scientific fields. He was able to prove that the Sun does not move around the Earth but instead, it was the Earth that moved around the Sun defending the Copernican theory. He developed the theory of the tides to prove that the Earth moved around the Sun. According to him, the tides resulted from the sloshing back and forward of water in the oceans and seas at a point on the Earth’s surface where it is accelerated and slowed down as the Earth rotates on its axis and revolves around the sun (Drake(a) 23). He observed that the depth and shapes of ocean basins as well as their sizes accounted for the differences in tides.

Contributions of the discovery of Phases of Venus

Galileo’s later discoveries of the Venus gave more proof to the Copernicus theory that it is the Sun at the centre of the universe and not the Earth. According to him all the phases of Venus would be visible as Venus moved around the Sun in its own orbit (Drake(b) 11). The Sun caused the illuminated hemisphere of Venus to face the Earth whenever it was on the opposite side of the sun. It would face away from the Earth when it was on the Earth’s side of the Sun. Galileo’s observations disapproved Ptolemy’s geocentric model which indicated that it was not possible for the orbits of the planets to cross the spherical shell that carries the sun. This proved that just like the Earth, there are other planets rotating and revolving around the sun in their axes implying that the Sun is stationery while the planets are in motion.

Mathematics as key to understanding nature

Galileo had believed that Mathematics was the key to understanding nature since he was an empiricist as he based his conclusions on the evidences that he studied. He rejected the way other philosophers had made their conclusions. He disagreed with Aristotelian assumption which had specified that each material body has a position which is in the order of things therefore the motion of objects should be explained in terms of natural tendency of every body to try to find its own place.

He proved his hypotheses by observing, measuring, weighing and finally calculating to achieve mathematical proof. He believed that application of mathematics revealed the structure as well as the laws of the universe (Eistein 51). His investigations of nature with presumption that understanding of mathematics made it possible to understand nature had made him be regarded as a scientist and not a philosopher. His thinking and ideas therefore became the base of scientific revolution in the 17th Century (Lattis 104).

Contributions of Mathematics to Copernican theory

Galileo used his telescope to observe the shapes of planets, comets and the moon and using mathematics, he was able to prove that Aristotle’s perfect spheres did not exists (Lattis 108). This implied that the Earth being one of the planets; was also not a perfect a sphere. He used mathematics to prove the laws of the universe that supported his view that the earth was not perfectly spherical and also that the Earth rotated and revolved around the sun. Galileo had relied on Mathematics for analysis and proofs of his theories such as Eudoxian Theory of Proportion. He used Mathematics in his in his experimental physics. He also used to Mathematics to determine the length of a solar year (Otto 72).

The relationship between Science and Religion

Galileo had maintained that issues of science could not be addressed using the Bible. He maintained that the scripture could not teach natural philosophy as that was not its purpose therefore issues of faith and science ought to be kept separately. His view was that faith and science should be addressed on different grounds. To assert his views, he quoted the words of Cardinal Cesare Baronius who said that the Bible only informs us of how to go to heaven but it does not tell us how the heavens go (Fantoli 62). He also quoted the words of Tertullian who stated that we usually conclude that we first know God through nature followed by the doctrines and then by the nature of his works (Fantoli 62). In his letter to Grand Duchess of Tuscany, he says that whoever opposes science should know that he or she is opposing the truth and not the meaning of the Bible as what is in science is beyond his understanding therefore interprets the meaning according to what he imagines should be the truth.

He acknowledged that the truth from the Bible and the truth from science should not be contradicted. Therefore the Bible should be interpreted in a way that makes it coherent with the truth. The function of expositors is to search for the true wisdom of the scriptural texts. Science on the other hand gives the physical conclusions that manifest sense as well as the necessary demonstrations which had been previously made certain. He argued that the Bible is a historical document and therefore should be written in a language that made sense to the people (Fantoli 64). In his book the Assayer, he argued that the comets were sublunary. He discussed some of his most reknowned methodological pronouncements and claimed that it is only possible to understand nature by first understanding Mathematics.

Science as part of Theology

Galileo’s support for the Copernican theory which strongly argued that it was the Sun at the centre of the universe and not the Earth thereby agreeing with the heliocentric view as opposed to the geocentric view that the Catholic Church had been preaching made his ideas to be rejected (Fantoli 61). However, he argued that science should not be taken as contradictory to the Bible as both the teachings from the Bible and the discoveries from science are searching for the truth.

Both should be made to compliment and not to compete against each other since they offer completely different as well as separate bodies of knowledge. Galileo encouraged his Christian critics not to take what they read from the scriptures literally (Fantoli 61). According to him, science should provide the physical explanation of the universe. The Bible provides the basis for understanding of the universe while science provides an account for what is in the universe. Therefore theology should be made compatible to science to gain more understanding of the universe as science offers a refinement which enhances proper understanding.

Letter to Grand Duchess Christina

Heliocentric view which was strongly supported by Galileo argued that the Sun was at the centre of the universe and not the Earth; did not prove some physical aspects of the theory. For example, if the view was to be true then there should be observable parallax shifts as regards to the position of the stars since the earth moves in its own orbit around the sun. He did not provide methods for computing the observational consequences of his proposed heliocentric ideas. Therefore his argument that the all the planets revolve around the Sun could not be true since it was not possible for orbits of the planets to cross that the shell carries the sun.

Reflection

Heliocentric view grew as a result of the people who were opposed to Catholic doctrines and were not keen on following the teachings of the Bible. They had believed that Galileo had empirical proved his views and therefore blindly followed in his footsteps. The geocentric view remains the only theory to have been proved and the only one that is in line with the teachings of the Bible which states that the Earth is stationery.

Works Cited

Drake, Stillman (a). Essays on Galileo and the History and Philosophy of Science. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 1999. Print

Drake, Stillman (a). Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo. New York: Doubleday & Company. 1957 Print.

. Ideas and Opinions. translated by Sonja Bargmann. London: Crown Publishers. 1954 Print.

Fantoli, Annibale. Galileo: For Copernicanism and the Church, 3rd English ed.. Vatican: Vatican Observatory Publications. 2003 Print.

Lattis, James. Between Copernicus and Galileo: Christopher Clavius and the Collapse of Ptolemaic Cosmology. Chicago: the University of Chicago Press, 1994. Print.

. A history of ancient mathematical astronomy, Birkhäuser, New York: Springer. 1975 Print.

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