Written by Ornella Rapallini – Tellam Agency
Former Pope John Paul II acknowledged for the unjust condemnation of philosopher and mathematician Galileo Galilei, 359
After years of the event in front of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, this Monday will celebrate its 30th anniversary, becoming a symbolic case in the links between the Catholic Church and science.
Galileo was condemned by the Inquisition in 1633 for confirming, based on his observations, as a realistic theory, Copernicus’ heliocentric proposals which postulated that the Sun – not the Earth – was the center of the universe. “The error of theologians of the time, in maintaining geocentrism,—John Paul II admitted when he delivered the papal address Galileo’s Confession on October 31, 1992—was to believe that our knowledge of the composition of the material substance was the world, in some way, imposed in the literal sense of Scripture.”
Why did the Catholic Church admit the error in the sentence after so long? How have scientific knowledge and religious beliefs related to each other since the time of Galileo? These are some of the questions that Conicet researchers Silvia Manzo and Gabriela Irzabal have answered from a philosophical and social perspective.
Respectively, in an interview with Tellam.
“Religions are always mentioned because some scientific innovations are rejected, but what we found is that there is not only conflict, there are also different forms of association between science and religions, and there is a complexity in the interaction,” said Irazabal, who is also a Doctor of Social Sciences specializing in Catholic Bioethics.
The specialist, who is a member of the International Network for the Study of Science, Beliefs and Society, added that “the processes of secularization do not mean a sharp separation in reality between science and religion, and there are many secularists.”
In the academic field, they find that to analyze the links between science and religion, the “conflict thesis,” a concept inherited from the political program of modernity, separating scientific knowledge, conceived as rational, systematic, and verifiable through a method and a presentation of evidence, has been passed from Religious mythological knowledge, to think of the “interaction complexity.”
Meanwhile, Silvia Manzo, the 16th-18th century philosopher who has studied the emergence of modern science, added that conflict theories persisted in the era of positivism (late 19th century, early 20th century, post-Darwinism) when there was “A very strong progression of science as an authority and bearer of truth and progress,” a perspective he described as “too naive” and “too fertile” toward science itself, because it states that “the values that come from and point to science, because they are scholars, they are” always positive and not concerned”, while science is an institution in which there are also many inequalities and injustices.
With modernity, scientific knowledge is no longer under the tutelage of religions in general, and this process is associated with the idea that spreads to this day that “religion has nothing to do with science,” but, as Irazabal recalls, there are figures from the religious world who in turn incorporated the scientific world such as Gregor Mendel ( 19th century), a Catholic monk and scholar who made important genetic discoveries to end the development of aspects of the theory of evolution of species.
At this point, Manzo added that at the time of Nicolas Copernicus, Isaac Newton, and Charles Dwayne, among others, “there was no vision of an absolute separation between scientific activity and religion” and for them, “being religious” was not seen as an obstacle to their being Scientists, because science was a field fermenting.
“We study these limits of one domain and another: sometimes there is more conflict, sometimes more expressiveness, depending on the historical context and geography,” Irzabal stressed.
Two major nuclei of the conflict between science and religion were symbolic cases: Galileo’s nucleus and Darwin’s, with the theory of evolution.
Galileo was convicted in 1633 after two very strong cultural, religious and political changes occurred during the 16th century. On the other hand, the crisis in Western Europe arose due to the religious reform of 1517 by Luther, which shattered the monolithic Catholic hegemony and doctrines began to multiply. On the other hand, the invention of the movable type printing machine, which allowed a greater circulation of knowledge and books, and more access to reading with some
Independence Manzo explained. Given these two events, the Catholic Church in 1564 made the decision to issue the Index of Forbidden Books, an instrument that had to control the divergence that had exploded thanks to the Protestant Reformation, and to control the circulation of knowledge. Included in that list are, among other things, scientific books.
About 150 years after the condemnation of 1633, when the others Visual notes, the church itself admitted to prove the Copernican theory and that pro-Copernican books were no longer on the banned list, it was in 1822 when the Catholic religion officially allowed the publication of books on Copernican astronomy.
“Church operations are very slow,” Manzo added. The philosopher considered that “the recognition of the Church after 359 years is connected with certain attempts of the Church to improve its image and relations with the scientific world, and with the introduction of self-criticism, which is only partial criticism.”
The Church recognized that Galileo “has the right to claim that to make decisions or positions on scientific issues, what the Bible says should not be taken into account,” explained Manzo, who directs a doctorate in philosophy at the University of La Plata… Galileo argued—already in That time that “if it comes to the heavens, we should investigate nature, not the Bible, for it is written for a spiritual purpose and full of metaphors for common people.”
In general, Irazabal recalls, popes “usually take the recommendations of the Vatican academies” on bioethics and science, and “should listen to what these experts have to say.”
Although he made it clear that this was not always the case in history, as with former Pope Paul VI who disapproved of the development of the contraceptive pill (1968), although it was a recommendation of experts and that within the Catholic Church itself, there were Various positions and discussions on this topic.
In the case of the theory of evolution that emerged in the nineteenth century, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (published in 1859) was never added to the list of banned books.
Manzo emphasized that by that time there was already a “wiser” view on the part of the Church, because it “was already wrong with the theory of Copernicus and Galileo.”
By the time Darwin wrote, science already had a life, power, and authority of its own that did not exist when Galileo made his argument for Copernicanism.