When it comes to the “clash” between faith and science, the example of Galileo Galilei is often cited. He claimed that the Earth revolves around the Sun, while the Roman Catholic Church believed otherwise. Because the church stood up to him, he was seen in popular culture as a kind of martyr to science.
“Galileo is not a martyr”
However, the story is more complicated, says Cohen, who was a professor by special appointment in the comparative history of the natural sciences and is not religious himself. “Galileo was a devout Catholic,” he says.
The reason he was targeted by the Inquisition was not his opinion, but a book written by Galileo, according to Cohen. That book, which appeared in 1632, was written on behalf of the pope, but in reality he made a fool of the pope: “It is a conversation between three persons, one representing Galileo’s point of view, and one asking intelligent questions.” “And the one who represents the present position of the Church. He calls the latter Simplicio, which plainly means ‘the simple man.’ He lets the pope’s argument be in the simple man.”
The mission was to create an unbiased book that highlighted different points of view, but it was too biased, says Cohen: “People who think differently than him are ridiculed. The pope felt cheated, and it happened.” This was ultimately the reason why the Inquisition arrested Galileo and placed him under house arrest. Therefore, he was not sentenced to death as some people think.
The war between science and religion
However, Cohen believes that there is no “clash” between science and faith. “There have certainly been struggles, but there is a tendency to see it as a permanent struggle,” he says. This is partly due to Andrew Dickson White’s History of the War of Science with Theology in Christendom from 1896. “This is a very powerful formulation. It has become incredibly popular and has been talked about endlessly, but it is full of historical nonsense…”
Even more alleged examples of the war between science and religion are expertly debunked by Cohen on the podcast. Listen to this on your favorite podcast app.
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