Galileo's View of the New World

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Galileo’s letter to the Grand Duchess Christina caused much controversy when it was written in 1613. It caused such controversy because it was an indirect attack on the Catholic Church with a viewpoint that was not of the ‘status quo’. This essay will thoroughly analyse this document. It will analyse the context behind what was happening in 17th century with regards to science and religion. Secondly it will critically explain and analyse the grounds behind why this document actually holds significance. This will make the argument that Galileo wanted to make the distinction between science and religion.

In order to understand and analyse this source, the letter needs to be in its 17th century context. During this period, the Catholic Church had a firm grip on power concerning social thoughts . It was common practice for people to not have read the bible due to illiteracy. The letter itself is very important to establish a different viewpoint of the importance of astronomy with regards to religion. His support of Copernican explanations of motion of the Earth would create controversy because it went against the Churches official view of the rules of motion by taking a literal meaning of the words of scripture.

Galileo’s purpose is to defend Nicolaus Copernicus’s theory of motion. Copernicus’s theory, which was further investigated by Galileo, was that the Sun was the centre of the universe and the Earth orbited the sun . This theory was in conflict with the accepted Aristotelian theory that the Earth was the centre of the universe and the planets and the sun revolved around Earth . Because the Bible did not explain in depth (which this essay will argue), the Aristotelian along with the scripture was the acceptable view of th...

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... context. The letter itself caused controversy because it was a direct challenge to an established view – which was not accepted especially during the time of the counter-reformation. Whilst it may have not been accepted at the time, it has given historical significance that it was a challenge to the beliefs at the time.

Works Cited

Finocchiaro, Maurice A. Ed. The Galileo Affair: A documentary History. Univ. California Press, 1989 pp. 2-3

Malcolm Oster, Ed. Science in Europe, 1500-1800. A Primary Sources Reader. Palgrave, in association with The Open University, 2008. 2.1(d) pp. 30-31.

Richard S. Westfall, Essays on the Trial of Galileo, Vatican Observatory Foundation, 1989, p.14

Ernan McMullin. The Church and Galileo. Univ. Notre Dame Press, 2005. pp. 107-109

Alan Chalmers, What is this thing called Science?, Univ. Queensland Press, 1976 pp. 65-66
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