Pope Francis repeats the Urban Blunder; Setting the Record Straight on Galileo

Recently, The Guardian published the article “Pope Francis recruits Naomi Klein in climate change battle written by Rosie Scammell. This article praises the Vatican for getting involved in “climate change” and for recruiting anti-capitalist Naomi Klein to join with the Vatican to address environmental issues.

In the article reference is made to Galileo, who’s rocky relationship with the Vatican has been well-studied by many scholars. The article states:

“Nearly 500 years since Galileo was found guilty of heresy, the Holy See is leading the rallying cry for the world to wake up and listen to scientists on climate change. Multi-faith leaders will walk alongside scientists and campaigners, hailing from organisations including Greenpeace and Oxfam Italy, marching to the Vatican to celebrate the pope’s tough stance on environmental issues.” click here

This statement implies that the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to Galileo was a matter of religion versus the science of Galileo. In short, the religion of the Roman Catholic Church was at war with science. And now, the Vatican finally realizes the error of their ways. The Vatican’s acceptance of the “science of the day” on climate change shows that science has ultimately prevailed. Religion is ignorant on science. Believe the climate scientists on catastrophic climate change.

Clearly, the author of the article did not research the Galileo incident in preparing the article, but simply repeated a popular prejudicial conjecture. The statement and the implication being made about Galileo and the Roman Catholic Church are 100 percent opposite of the historical facts. 

It is well documented that Galileo was a scientist that believed in God. He was not an agnostic or an atheist who was fighting against religion or the church. Galileo was a firm believer in God and the Bible through out his life. He held that the laws of nature are written by the hand of God in the language of mathematics. Further, he believed that the human mind is a work of God and one of the most excellent.

Religious intellectuals supported the work of Galileo at the beginning. But he was forcefully opposed by secular philosophers. Why? Because Galileo’s findings revealed errors in Aristotelianism, the “science of the day. This was not just a simple disagreement on a few points with Aristotle, but a challenge to the very underlying presumptions of the Aristotelian worldview. To the secular Academy, the “science was settled.” Aristotle was not to be questioned. Galileo’s scientific arguments threatened the all-prevailing Aristoteliamism of the Academy.

Galileo claimed that academic professors so opposed him that they influenced the church to speak out against him. Galileo did not help his cause by his poor attitude and lack of diplomacy toward Pope Urban and the Catholic Church. Perhaps he had no people skills (like some scientists in the Academy today). In short, Galileo cut off his own leg in his relationship to the Roman Catholic Church. More could be said about Galileo’s findings, his relationship to the church, and the Roman Catholic Church’s misuse of power to muzzle Galileo.

Here, it is important to understand that Pope Urban and the Roman Catholic Church at that time, like the Academy, had embraced Aristotelianism, the prevailing worldview of the day. No serious challenge to the “science of the day” could be allowed by the Roman Catholic Church even though the Bible did not always support Aristotle.     

The Roman Catholic  Church’s opposition to Galileo was not based on scientific argumentation but rather on the attitude that any serious questioning of the prevailing worldview could not be tolerated. The prevailing Aristotelianism regarding science was based primarily on intellectual thinking and reflection  about the world and universe. But Galileo was using the methods of science available to him to actually go and look at the world, the moon, and the universe.

Let’s fast forward to today. The direction Pope Francis and the Vatican adopted regarding “climate change” reflect the views of some climate scientists and modelers that “climate change” is catestrophic, controlling carbon dioxide by regulation will stop “climate change,” and that capitalism as an economic system is to blame and must be eliminated.

But if we go and look at what is actually happening in the atmosphere, the climate system, and  the solar system, as Galileo “went and looked,” a different picture emerges. Climates change. There are many factors involved in changes in climate and the observable evidence suggests that carbon dioxide, man-made or natural, is not a significant factor.

Scientists who have questioned the prevailing “global warming” and “climate change” political narrative (even if based on scientific arguments) have been excluded from the Vatican discussions on climate. Indeed, the “skeptics” as they are called, need not apply or participate.

Pope Francis (perhaps innocently) and the Vatican officials involved have simply repeated the blunder of Pope Urban in Galileo’s time. They have uncritically embraced a view of changes in climate while blindly excluding those who hold an alternative view.

Reciting the “religion is at war with science” narrative as the article has done is counter productive. There is no conflict between a Biblical understanding of the world and a science-based understanding. Some scientists are at war with the God of the Bible, but their individual battle against God has nothing to do with the true nature of scientific inquiry. 

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