Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Science and Religion: The Case of Galileo

Science and religion are like two worlds from distant galaxies (or perhaps better, from different parallel universes) colliding into each other head on. The difference being that both planets would be destroyed. In this case, however, science lives on and grows to better humanity while increasing our understanding of the universe. Religion continues to perish in the rubble of its dead idols; one of the reasons being, that science invigorates and gives substantial hope, whereas religion deadens and offers nothing but fear and false hope. As Galileo said, “the increase of known truths stimulates the investigation, establishment, and growth of the arts; not their diminution or destruction.” Indeed, the arts, yes, but not superstition. How shrewd he was in his wordings, and how afire he was for the truth. He lived in times of great constraint and peril, yet he did not let this hinder him from continuing his immeasurably important work, despite threats coming at him from every nook and cranny.

Nowhere is the fierce opposition between religion and science better illustrated than in the Bible itself. Shortly after man and woman are created in the book of Genesis a stern warning resounds from the Almighty: that they may eat the fruit of any tree, except for the fruit of the tree of knowledge (Genesis 2:16-17). Was this forbidden fruit called the fruit of sin, of wrong, of evil? No. The “fruit of knowledge.” As Friedrich Nietzsche so accurately puts it in The Antichrist: “Thou shalt not know.” Knowledge and science expose religion as mythology, and religious texts as the word, not of God, but of primitive, ignorant men, who declared their writings holy – so no one would dare question them.

Galileo is a man who dared to know, and beyond the Holy Scriptures. He was brought to trial before the Roman Inquisition for verses such as Psalm 93:1, which incorrectly tell us that, “The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved,” and for the fable of Joshua 10:12-13, where God stops the sun, instead of the earth, “in the middle of the sky” for it to delay “going down about a full day.” Suitably, the strength of the trial turned out to be a forgery by the Holy Office. And it took the threat of the rack by these so-called holy men to get him to recant his vital and groundbreaking discoveries. Now, in Cristiano Banti's famous 1857 painting, entitled Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition, what do we see? Is it not a god being tried by men so utterly unworthy, but granted authority over him due to a book suddenly on the brink of becoming obsolete in the realm of facts and truth? And so he stands tall and proud with his head held high, for he knows he’s done absolutely nothing wrong, and is in fact the highest breed of man - being tried by the lowest. He brings promise - they leave decay. For science evolves, nourishes and emancipates, while religion stagnates, corrupts - and fetters.

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