Letter from Galileo to Monsignor Piero Dini  (excerpt)

May, 1615

          To me, the surest and swiftest way to prove that the position of Copernicus is not contrary to Scripture would be to give a host of proofs that it is true and that the contrary cannot be maintained at all; thus, since no truths can contradict one another, this and the Bible must be perfectly harmonious.  But how can I do this, and not be merely wasting my time, when those Peripatetics who must be convinced show themselves incapable of following even the simplest and easiest of arguments?...

          Eight days ago I wrote to Your Reverence in reply to yours of the second of May.  My answer was very brief, because I then found myself (as now) among doctors and medicines, and much disturbed in body and mind over many things, particularly by seeing no end to these rumours set in motion against me through no fault of mine , and seemingly accepted by those higher up as if I were the originator of these things.  Yet for all of me any discussion of the sacred Scripture might have lain dormant forever; no astronomer or scientist who remained within proper bounds has ever got into such things.  Yet while I follow the teachings of a book accepted by the Church, there come out against me philosophers quite ignorant of such teachings who tell me that they contain propositions contrary to the faith.  So far as possible, I should like to show them that they are mistaken, but my mouth is stopped and I am ordered not to go into the Scriptures.  This amounts to saying that Copernicus’ book, accepted by the Church, contains heresies and may be preached against by anyone who pleases (sic) while it is forbidden for anyone to get into the controversy and show that it is not contrary to Scripture….

          Yet I should not despair of overcoming even this difficulty if I were in a place where I could use my tongue instead of my pen; and if I ever get well again so that I can come to Rome, I shall do so, in the hope of at least showing my affection for the holy Church.  My urgent desire on this point to that no decision be made which is not entirely good.  Such it would be to declare, under the prodding of an army of malign men who understand nothing of the subject, that Copernicus did not hold the motion of the earth to be a fact of nature, but as an astronomer merely took it to be a convenient hypothesis for explaining the appearances….

Source: Arthur Koestler, Sleepwalkers (1959).          

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