January 08, 2006

Galileo and Steno

We all know how Galileo was persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church because his views contradicted the reigning biblical orthodoxy; ever since, he's been the poster child for the "war" between science and religion.

Except that if you look into it, you find that Galileo wasn't persecuted primarily for his scientific views but rather for his rude, contemptuous, and insulting treatment of powerful people who disagreed with him. There's a lot more to the story than most people are aware of.

Now Amy Welborn points out an interesting sequel: it develops that the individual who initially proposed the theory that "the fossils and rock layers of the earth, if studied scientifically, gave a chronicle of the earth's history at least as valid as the accepted version in the verses of Genesis," one Nicolaus Steno, proposed his theory not that long after Galileo. Was he condemned by the Church? On the contrary, he wasn't even criticized, and soon after became a priest, and then a bishop. In 1988, he was beatified by John Paul II.

That's right--the basic theory on which modern geology (and hence paleontology, and hence much of evolutionary theory) is based was the product of an orthodox churchman.


Posted by Will Duquette at January 8, 2006 08:10 AM