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Skeptical and Natural Philosophy

The Scientific Revolution

How did the Church react to Galileo’s theories?

In an act that remains famous to this day, the Inquisition ordered Galileo (1564–1642) to recant his theories and placed him under house arrest during the last decade of his life. Before that time, however, Cardinal Bellarmine tried for years to persuade Galileo to accept a compromise. The Church did not object to the Copernican theory so long as it was not claimed to be a description of what was true. The cardinal told a friend of Galileo’s that it would be acceptable if he claimed that the Copernican theory did no more than “save the appearances;” that is, provide a hypothesis from which astronomical observations could be logically deduced without claiming that Earth actually moved. Galileo was, in the end, forced to do exactly that, although at the outset he refused to deny the truth of the Copernican theory as a true astronomical description.



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