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Galileo's Distinction Between Science and Religion - Essay Example

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Galileo's Distinction Between Science and Religion

He talks of the need for such a distinction in the light of the events that had led him to be at the centre of a controversy regarding the position of the celestial bodies in relation to the earth. Many were of the opinion that his views contradicted those of the Bible. According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, these times followed eras where science and theology existed together in harmony (Sickler). This harmony however, tilted the balance in favor of theology and the scriptures on more occasions than not. This led to the stunted development of science in many ways. It is such a scenario that Galileo critiques in his letter and he also comments on the vested interests that had started to operate the forces of the church. He thus, takes the social and material conditions of the church into account while talking about the conflict that had developed between science and religion during his times. While evaluating Galileo’s position, thus, one also has to keep in mind the historical aspects of the seventeenth century. Galileo’s main objection against the intermingling of the interests of science and religion lay in the fact that most of the people who would sit in judgment over the work of a scientist were not qualified to do so. Galileo’s objections are thus, rooted in an urge to allocate duties and functions in a society to the people who are most worthy for it. The ones who accuse Galileo of blasphemy are the ones that do not possess any knowledge of how to assess a book of science. According to Galileo, such people are likely to condemn a work of science “without understanding it, weighing it, or so much as reading it” (Galilei, 87). Such people are not capable of judging anything but matters that relate strictly to theology. As such, a divide should be effected between science and religion, according to the letter to the Duchess from Galileo. Galileo thus, is one of the first to argue for the introduction of specialization in different fields. The humanist spirit of the times in which Galileo lived was one of the reasons as to why he argued for the separation of the sciences from religion. Science for Galileo was a field that had endless possibilities that could be exploited to a great extent. Religion, on the other hand was a strict set of rules that prevented this very mobility that was a part of the scientific project of the Renaissance. This was probably why Galileo wanted a separation between the two areas- it would lead to greater freedom for the scientists. They could also assume greater power in the working of the society and thus, be able to assume a position that was similar in the power that it wielded, to the church. An urge to improve one’s position not just in a spiritual sense but also in the monetary and materialist sense was something that the humanist spirit taught people to possess. The letter emphasizes the need for people who were a part of the church to understand their sphere of work and not act as a result of their vested interests. Galileo talks of how Copernicus was understood during his own times. However, in the seventeenth century, theologians had started to take advantage of certain circumstances and had started to condemn Copernicus without so much as understanding the theories that were discovered and advanced by this scientist and theologian. Religion was something that the church derived from the bible and its teachings. Galileo debates the literal understandings of religion that were endorsed by the church. The word of God, according to Galileo, cannot be understood in a literal way and thus, much of the meaning of ...Show more


Galileo, in his letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, talks of the need to place science and religion in separate positions. He argues for separate positions for these owing to the separate functions that they fulfill in society and in the life of a common man…
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Galileos Distinction Between Science and Religion
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