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  #1  
Old Aug 6, '09, 9:18 am
WJL WJL is offline
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Question Copernicus Persecuted?

Hey there,

I've been debating someone who claims Copernicus and Galileo were persecuted by the Church for their discoveries. I'm more familiar with the Galileo affair so, I was able to answer the claims regarding that. I briefly touched on the alleged persecution of Copernicus but, he responded by claiming that Copernicus delayed publication of his book, through fear of criticism, and this fear is expressed in the subsequent Dedication of his book to Pope Paul III. Basically the claim is that Copernicus had to play a lot of politics, to be allowed to publish his book, including staying loyal to the Catholic church, after the establishment of the Protestant state, and make nice dedications, and donations.

How should this be answered?
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  #2  
Old Aug 6, '09, 10:00 am
MarySon MarySon is offline
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Default Re: Copernicus Persecuted?

If you have a chance try to get your hands on a book written by Simon Singh titled "Big Bang". There is a chapter in it where he discusses why the publication of the revolutionary paper by Copernicus was delayed. What are the sources that claim that Copernicus was persecuted?
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  #3  
Old Aug 6, '09, 11:45 am
Timothysis Timothysis is offline
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Default Re: Copernicus Persecuted?

Also, the book How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization has a very good chapter on the Galileo affair and explains how the facts are totally different from what passes today. Galileo was not persecuted for his discoveries but for teaching theory as fact, even though he signed an agreement stating that he would not do so. It really is eye opening.
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  #4  
Old Aug 6, '09, 11:45 am
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chaunceygardner chaunceygardner is offline
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Default Re: Copernicus Persecuted?

I read a bio of Copernicus a year or two ago and, as I recall, there was no persecution of Copernicus during his lifetime. The publication of the book containing his theories did not occur until a short time before he died. But a shorter treatise had been circulated and another associate had written about Copernicus' ideas as well. So his theory about the earth not being the center of the universe was well known amongst the scientific world.

It was only many years later that the Church attacked his theory, and famously so in connection with Galileo, when the idea of the earth revolving around the sun was attacked as opposed to scripture and the teachings of the Church. Since Copernicus was a Canon of the Church and had clerics in his family, he may have delayed formal publication due to the reception his beliefs would receive in the church. Or he may have had other reasons; it was not unusual for scientists of the past to delay publishing their ideas as they further refined them, tested them, and had them reviewed by others.

So the short answer is No, Copernicus was never "persecuted" by the Church. But Galileo was, years later, for adding to and promoting those ideas.

Last edited by chaunceygardner; Aug 6, '09 at 11:56 am.
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  #5  
Old Aug 6, '09, 11:45 am
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Joe 5859 Joe 5859 is offline
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Default Re: Copernicus Persecuted?

When it comes to these sorts of things, my first question would be: What are the sources? Can the person produce primary sources to verify his claims that Copernicus was persectued? Don't let him put the burden of proof on you. If he is making these claims, he should be able to substantiate them if he wishes you to take them seriously.

Besides, it is nearly impossible to adequatley respond to something like this without seeing the original source material, with which you can then put everything in context.
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Old Aug 6, '09, 11:53 am
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Default Re: Copernicus Persecuted?

I just looked at trusty old Wikipedia to see what they had to say about Copernicus. There's nothing that indicates any sort of persecution. That he delayed publishing his book, possibly because of fear of criticism, should in no way be taken as evidence of persecution. Those two things are miles apart. One would need much more evidence than that.
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The more I follow the online discussions ... the more I follow the debates and disagreements in the Church about administrative unity, or the concerns expressed about the moral or personal or administrative or leadership failings of the bishops or the clergy, the more I become convinced that whatever might be the truth of these concerns, ALL of this is simply a distraction. No, itís more than that. Itís a justification, an excuse, for not helping each other and those outside the Church fall in love with Jesus Christ. How easy it is to talk about everything, but about Jesus hardly at all.

- Fr. Gregory Jensen
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  #7  
Old Aug 6, '09, 11:54 am
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chaunceygardner chaunceygardner is offline
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Default Re: Copernicus Persecuted?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothysis View Post
Also, the book How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization has a very good chapter on the Galileo affair and explains how the facts are totally different from what passes today. Galileo was not persecuted for his discoveries but for teaching theory as fact, even though he signed an agreement stating that he would not do so. It really is eye opening.
I believe you are correct that Galileo was perscuted for teaching, but I would disagree that it had to do with theory over fact. What Galileo taught WAS fact, or at least as close to fact as anyone had come to that point. The issue was that what Galileo taught was considered to be in opposition to the Church, even though it was fact.

This is why Galileo's story has "legs" through all these centuries, because it focused on the dichotomy of scientifically derived knowledge vs. unsubstantiated beliefs. The Church got burned on that one and, as we know, had to back down.
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Old Aug 6, '09, 12:01 pm
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Default Re: Copernicus Persecuted?

It is, of course, important to note that Galileo was not prosecuted or "persecuted" for his ideas. Rahter for the profound disrespect he had shown the Church including attempting to interpret the Bible and use the Bible as a scientific text.

Copernicus was not, to the best I can recall, ever persecuted. One must also not forget the Nicolai Copernicus may well have been a priest (the historical records are unclear, but his name did appear on a list of candidates for a bishopric).

A very readable book on this and similar controversies, written by a secualar author, is Coming of Age in the Milky Way by Timothy Ferris. http://www.amazon.com/Coming-Age-Mil...9585082&sr=8-1

I read this book more than a decade ago when I was an atheist. What the author turned up in his research on the Galileo affair, to which one chapter is dedicated, really opened my eyes. The Church was not the evil monolithic monster I had thought it was.
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Old Aug 6, '09, 12:03 pm
Timothysis Timothysis is offline
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Default Re: Copernicus Persecuted?

Quote:
Originally Posted by chaunceygardner View Post
I believe you are correct that Galileo was perscuted for teaching, but I would disagree that it had to do with theory over fact. What Galileo taught WAS fact, or at least as close to fact as anyone had come to that point. The issue was that what Galileo taught was considered to be in opposition to the Church, even though it was fact.
What Galileo was teaching AT THE TIME would eventually be proven as fact, but in his time it was theory. Jesuit astronomers were confirming his discoveries and he was a modern-day celebrity for them but his problems arose from teaching theory as fact. As an example , Galileo maintained that the tides were proof that the earth "moved." We know now that that isn't true at all; it is because of the gravitational pull of the moon. Apparently, there was more academic integrity 400 years ago than today when one was not allowed to teach as fact things that were not yet proven.
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Old Aug 6, '09, 12:08 pm
Timothysis Timothysis is offline
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Default Re: Copernicus Persecuted?

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Originally Posted by rpp View Post
What the author turned up in his research on the Galileo affair, to which one chapter is dedicated, really opened my eyes. The Church was not the evil monolithic monster I had thought it was.
That was the point in How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization. The Church was behind the scientists of the day and encouraged them in their work. Another point made in the book is that people today think that the Church was opposed to scientific investigation. The Galileo affair, however, is the only case that they ever come up with to support their claim (and they still are mistaken about the realities of the case). There isn't one other case that they cite to show that the Church was "opposed" to scientific investigation.
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Old Aug 6, '09, 12:08 pm
quasimodo quasimodo is offline
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Default Re: Copernicus Persecuted?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothysis View Post
What Galileo was teaching AT THE TIME would eventually be proven as fact, but in his time it was theory. Jesuit astronomers were confirming his discoveries and he was a modern-day celebrity for them but his problems arose from teaching theory as fact. As an example , Galileo maintained that the tides were proof that the earth "moved." We know now that that isn't true at all; it is because of the gravitational pull of the moon. Apparently, there was more academic integrity 400 years ago than today when one was not allowed to teach as fact things that were not yet proven.
No, what Galileo taught was in fact wrong but it was far closer to the truth than previous theories
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Old Aug 6, '09, 12:10 pm
Timothysis Timothysis is offline
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No, what Galileo taught was in fact wrong but it was far closer to the truth than previous theories
Examples?
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Old Aug 6, '09, 12:19 pm
rpp rpp is offline
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Default Re: Copernicus Persecuted?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothysis View Post
That was the point in How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization. The Church was behind the scientists of the day and encouraged them in their work. Another point made in the book is that people today think that the Church was opposed to scientific investigation. The Galileo affair, however, is the only case that they ever come up with to support their claim (and they still are mistaken about the realities of the case). There isn't one other case that they cite to show that the Church was "opposed" to scientific investigation.
I have read both books and I agree with your assessment. It is that many people will reject a historical work if it is complementary to the Chruch and was written by a Catholic. That is why I also recommended a work by a secular, non-Catholic, because someone already critical of the Church will be less able to dismiss it based on the presumption of bias.

Timothy Ferris describes Galileo as a rather rude man, who did not even blink about stealing another man's work (Christian Huygens invented the telescope, not Galileo as he claimed, Galileo never cited Copernicus until forced to.) who was more interested in impressing rich nobles than honest discourse. Ferris goes on to say that Galileo was one of those people who just could not keep a civil tongue and it is that character flaw, not his ideas, that got him into hot water. He was censured for teaching a then unprovable theory as fact and for insulting the dignity and person of the Pope.

Yes, you are correct that the Galileo affair is the only thing that critics can point to. They also conveniently ignore the fact that it was the Church who funded Galileo and his research. The Pope himself at the time gave him his full supprt. That is until Galileo began to publicly mock him. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!
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Old Aug 6, '09, 12:37 pm
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chaunceygardner chaunceygardner is offline
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Default Re: Copernicus Persecuted?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothysis View Post
What Galileo was teaching AT THE TIME would eventually be proven as fact, but in his time it was theory. Jesuit astronomers were confirming his discoveries and he was a modern-day celebrity for them but his problems arose from teaching theory as fact. As an example , Galileo maintained that the tides were proof that the earth "moved." We know now that that isn't true at all; it is because of the gravitational pull of the moon. Apparently, there was more academic integrity 400 years ago than today when one was not allowed to teach as fact things that were not yet proven.

Wow! You really need to read up on the scientific method and its terminology. We have a "theory of gravity" and an "atomic theory", but according to your reasoning atoms may not exist and gravity is iffy. Theories can become accepted or proven through rigorous and repeated observation, experiment and testing. The "theories" of Copernicus and Galileo, while not exactly what we know today about the universe, were more accurate than what came before. Our knowledge of the universe, or atoms, or almost anything, don't happen in one giant step. They occur through many intermediate steps that add to what was discovered earlier and refine that knowledge.

If the world waited until something was "proven" as "fact" before we taught it, no progress would occur at all.

In another response Timothysis says: "people today think that the Church was opposed to scientific investigation." He also says that the Church encouraged scientists in their work.

The point is not that the Church opposed science, but that it denounced findings that were in opposition to Church teaching. If a scientist discovered something that would back up the beliefs of the Church, that was great. But watch out if the discovery didn't mesh with accepted theology or doctrine of the time.

You, Timothy, appear to be very defensive over this issue, and cannot accept the fact that something the Church taught at one time was incorrect. The Church eventually admitted its error, why can't you accept it?
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Old Aug 6, '09, 12:44 pm
edwest2 edwest2 is offline
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Default Re: Copernicus Persecuted?

Just go to the Library on this site. Type Galileo into the search box.


Galileo was judged "vehemently suspect of heresy." (Our Sunday Visitor, a Catholic newspaper, May 10, 2009, page 5.)





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