When traveling in Italy, we took the kids to the Florence Museum of Science, now the Museo Galileo. It housed a collection of early scientific instruments, old maps, and, of course, the history of Galileo Galilei.
Galileo was the genius who invented, among other things, the forerunner of the thermometer and an improved military compass. He discovered The Galilean Moons of Jupiter. His theory, known as The Galilean Invariance, provided a jumping off point for two other scientific geniuses, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, to form their revolutionary theories regarding motion and relativity. Galileo is regarded as the father of observational astronomy, the father of modern physics, the father of the scientific method, and he even made it onto the list of the top ten people in history who changed the world. But he’s probably best known for proving the Copernican theory of heliocentricity, which states that the Earth revolves around the Sun, rather than the other way around.
And that was his inconvenient truth.
The highlight of the Museo Galileo–at least for our kids–was the mummified finger of Galileo, resting in a fancy glass jar like a holy relic. I suppose it’s appropriate for the revered patron saint of science. Galileo was a pious Catholic and a martyr. Ironically, it was the Church that made a martyr of him for Science.
In 1633, Galileo was summoned to Rome and brought to trial by the Roman Inquisition on the charge of heresy. His crime was contradicting the Bible, which states that the Sun revolves around the Earth.
When the Inquisition threatened to extract a confession through torture, Galileo recanted, was found guilty, and sentenced to life imprisonment. His sentence was commuted, and he spent the rest of his life under house arrest. He continued to write, although the Church slapped a gag order on him, banned his books and censored his writings for another 200 years, when even the Pope could no longer hold back the tide of scientific advancement. When Galileo died in 1642, they weren’t even going to allow him a burial in consecrated ground. It was thirty years before they inscribed his name on his burial place. But in 1737, ninety-five years after his death, they brought his body out of the bad boy crypt and reburied him in a fancy marble tomb in St. Croce in Florence, across from Michelangelo’s tomb, because it was believed that Michelangelo’s spirit leapt into Galileo’s body between the former’s death and the latter’s birth. Then, in 1992, Pope John Paul II did sort of apologize for wrongfully persecuting Galileo.
The wealthy have always had a place at the table, between religion and science, as patrons, enthusiasts, or opponents, but now Big Business sits at its head. Big Business has bought and paid for a president that doesn’t believe in anything but the Almighty Dollar. The Republicans sold their souls to secure their power, dropping any pretense of morality or family values, and they bought their majority by pandering to the far right, that thirty percent of America that interprets the bible as literally they might an instruction manual to the dashboard of a new car. Science has suffered for it on both counts.
Texas is producing textbooks that not only disclaim evolution and pitch Creationism as its own brand of science, but it has cut out any reference to Climate Change. Even the conservative Fordham Institute calls it a “politicized distortion of history.” Texas is spoon-feeding its children claims that Moses was a Founding Father of America. There’s a lot of money to be made in the textbook business, and the privatization of schools, not to mention the prisons. If politics and religion, power and money are twisted into a huge tangled knot, Big Business still knows which strings to pull to get what it wants.
Civil Rights, equality, justice, education, and immigration are hot topics, but Climate Change is the new subject of denial by the Powers That Be. A few years ago I’d have said the advancement of earth science was moving at a glacial pace, but that’s not so apt an analogy any more, because glaciers are melting at an alarming rate. 98 percent of the global scientific community now recognize climate change as real and caused by human activity, but the Republican party is in complete denial. They stick their fingers in their ears and sing loudly to avoid hearing what they know is true. Again, it’s all about money. Environmental protection means restrictions, restrictions mean less profit for Big Business, and Big business gives politicians huge payoffs to deny Climate Change. This has been an ongoing struggle for more than fifty years. The damage might already be irreversible. A rapidly warming Arctic could loose a methane climate bomb resulting in widespread extinction in as little as nine years.
You may be sure that history will judge them, just as it has judged the perpetrators of the Galileo affair.
But there is one huge difference in this particular power struggle. It took 200 years for the popular tide to become too strong to resist, at which time the Church bowed to reality and accepted Galileo’s proof of a heliocentric Earth. But in the case of Climate Change, we don’t have 200 years. We don’t have ten years. We can’t wait for the next Newton or Einstein to show up, and we don’t need them to. Our climate scientists have already done the math, and it might already be too late.
And that is our inconvenient truth.
Copyright 2016 Naomi Baltuck. Photos of Galileo courtesy of Wikipedia.
This and so much else in peril. We have to keep up the fight — that yes, history has its eyes on these horrible people.
It is hard not to get discouraged sometimes. I read recently that the protesting and rallying makes a difference–ibest not to depend upon history to shame them in retrospect, but to keep our eyes upon them now!
Great post, Naomi. We are living in terrifying times. May good prevail. xx
Thanks, Sylvia. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, thinking that it can hardly get worse, and then it does and it is. Again and again and again.
From now on, I will forever imagine venerable Galileo giving the finger to science deniers. 😉
I love it!
The powers that be have lost their moral compasses, giving everything away for what? Power, greed, because they can? We seem to be hellbent on destruction, which may be what’s required for this world to right itself. If there’s enough left to do that.
It’s hard to imagine where we can go from here. We need a reboot, that’s for sure. So much damage has been done in such a short time, and I expect it’s going to be a long time picking up the pieces. Maybe the swing of the pendulum will bring folks back to their senses.
Thank you for this apt analogy. The question we might ask now is, in the time we have left, how do we want to treat those we share this planet with?
An excellent question, and thank you for asking. I guess it’s a different answer for each one of us, with the exception of the Republican Congress and the current White House occupant, in which case, the answer is shamefully, disgustingly, infuriatingly obvious.
Beautifully said, Naomi.
Thank you, Michael.
Great analogy between the resistance to Galileo’s scientific discoveries and the resistance to climate scientists’ discoveries today. And important point that this go-round we have precious little time to overcome this resistance to scientific truth. Good luck to us all! And to the animals. The plants. The Earth, once so beautiful.
Thank you, Maureen. Did you hear that Iceland is generating enough renewable energy to supply every home in the country? If they can do it, we can, but it means that our congress and administration must stop selling out to the fossil fuel companies. I don’t see that happening until we see the political power change hands. Hard not to be discouraged, but where there’s life, there’s hope.
Maybe this is why Don and I have been travelling the world for the past 5 1/2 years – to see it all before there’s nothing left. I’m in an enviable position in that I’ve already had a good life so anything else is gravy, and that I have no children to worry about, and I have a strong belief that there is much more to who we are than being human. So there’s an inner freedom in this for me that I understand most people don’t have. I can be sanguine about it and know it will all unfold as it does, whatever that may look like. I know we already have the science and technology to turn it all around. But I doubt that we will. Human beings are such a bewildering mix of good and evil, intelligence and stupidity.
“Human beings are such a bewildering mix of good and evil, intelligence and stupidity.” So true, Allison. I am sad to think of the state of the planet I am leaving to my children.
Thank you, Mary.
Thank you Naomi for writing this strong and eye opening analogy!
I believe our Mother Earth is an incredible life form we can’t even start to comprehend. No more then a flea can comprehend the dog it lives on.
I send prayers of support to and for her life and soul. I also send prayers to her champions (and there are many) that they may be heard and take swift action, with strong positive results!
I love your analogy. We do have champions–may their voices–and ours–be heard!
Thank you Naomi for writing this post. I wish the nay sayer of climate change were reading this but your followers are mostly like minded people and already agree with everything you’ve said. I love the analogy between Galileo and climate scientists. What is it going to take to get Republicans to face facts and take action against climate change? The world is watching.
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. It’s good to know that we are on the same page. I read yesterday that Iceland created enough wind energy to supply every home in Iceland with electricity using renewable energy and set the goal to supply all its own energy by 2020. It can be done. Honestly, I think it’s easier doe the Republicans to pretend to be a climate change denier than to admit that they are selling out the health of the planet to line your pockets with bribes from the fossil fuel industry.
Very well written Naomi, and informative. Regrettably very little will change until it becomes a visible and imminent economic imperative. By which time – as you say – it will likely be too late.
I am afraid you might be right. But countries like Iceland and Denmark are stepping up to generate huge amounts of wind energy–a renewable source that does not destroy our ozone. As long as the Republicans are in power, they are selling their souls and the life of our planet to line their pockets and get in bed with the fossil fuel industry. It is shameful.
A brilliant but truly disturbing post, Naomi. For some reason, when He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named mentioned God so many times at his inauguration, I shuddered. As for when he said “God Bless America”, I’m sure I could hear that nail going into the coffin of the world from afar. I can sense the melting ice-caps weeping their warm tears.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I can hardly imagine a more godless more hypocritical creature than the current man-baby in the White House. He is a walking ID, who can’t or care about anything beyond his own selfish whims–not about world or the citizens of the country he is supposed to be leading, and certainly not about the health of the planet. You have expressed it so beautifully…”I can sense the melting ice-caps weeping their warm tears.”
I learned so much from this enlightened and enlightening post, Naomi. I love how you made the historical facts flash thru to light up the current situation in the US.
Am trying to work out how to add this as a pingback!
Dear Meg, thank you for the kind words and thanks too for sharing!
The sad thing is that we’re leaving this mess for our children to clean up. These truly are times to live for the day!
Dear Elisa, that is the very saddest thing.
Reblogged this on VIRTUAL BORSCHT and commented:
Enjoy reading this account of Galileo’s life
Thank you for sharing!