Previously on the Smackdown...
- Galileo's enemies have managed to suck him into a theological discussion, never a good idea for a private individual during a Protestant Revolution. The lawyers and politicians who run things have almost no understanding of and little interest in natural science. They see it only as a hairy nuisance getting some folks riled up and they want to make it go away. Even the Lynceans are mostly naturalists and lack deep understanding of astronomy.
- Galileo has been asked politely to prove that the Earth really
does move before he demands that the Church reinterpret the
Scriptures. But the Tuscan mathematician is an irascible and impatient sort. He sees things so clearly that the demand for proof seems like pig-headedness and, alas, he starts to see proofs where they are not.
- The upshot is that in 1616 Copernicus' book has been withdrawn from publication -- the third edition has just come out -- to await corrections. That it was not banned outright is evidence that the authorities have no problem with heliocentrism per se, only with the assertion that it is physical fact (and therefore etc.) Two other books that delved into Scripture in the name of Copernicanism -- those by Foscarini and by de Zuñiga -- have been banned, indicating what really matters to the Holy Office.
- Galileo is okay with this, because he believes that before long he will have the physical proofs Bellarmino wants. Then he will Write a Book.
We must not suppose that Galileo brought everything on himself by his arrogant personality, though that surely isn't helping. (Lots of people are talking up geomobility without raising a stink. Kepler, for example, has been appointed Imperial Mathematician by the Catholic Emperor.*) Galileo has been systematically hounded by a band of Aristotelian enemies led by Ludovico delle Colombe, who have more or less compelled him to answer in theological terms. He genuinely frets that if they keep it up they will badger his beloved Church into taking a theological stance on a matter of empirical fact.
(*) Imperial Mathematician. At this point, Kepler has been given permission to move to Linz and work on the Rudolphine Tables, a practical manual for applying his weird elliptical astronomical model.
But neither should we suppose that the Church authorities are "out to get" Galileo due to some deep-seated science-hating hostility of science haters. Everyone thinks they are on the side of science, and none of them -- not even Galileo -- think of science in the way we do today. The authorities are rather well-disposed toward Galileo, especially those like Bellarmino, the Barberinis, del Monte, and others of "the Tuscan clan"
within the Curia, who cut him every break they can. Bellarmino gave him a heads up on the decree of 1616 so that he would not be taken by surprise and publicly embarrassed, and had no trouble providing Galileo with a certificate saying that Galileo himself had not been accused of anything. Once the corrections to Copernicus' book are made, he is welcome to use and discuss it as a mathematical model. It's only that until he has proof, he cannot say it is physical fact.
Although Bellarmino showed an understanding of what we today recognize as scientific method, we can't say that he issued the decree out of tenderness for the purity of scientific methodology. Many scientific theories have been proclaimed -- and accepted -- in advance of their proofs -- Maxwell, Darwin, Einstein, etc. But it has not yet quite sunk into the 17th cent. Zeitgeist that the heavens are a physical place in which physical discoveries can be made. Though it is beginning to change, astronomical theory is still instrumentalist
: a specialized branch of mathematics whose purpose is to devise models that accurately predict heavenly events. In fact, the heavenly bodies are so distant and so devoid of sensible properties -- only location, speed, brightness, diameter can be seen -- that it is unlikely that any physical
theory regarding them can ever finally be proven.*
(*) finally proven. In the Late Modern Age, we have extended that to all of science. Nothing is ever proven. From time to time things are falsified. Had Galileo known of Popper, he would have despaired.
As of 1617, Galileo has returned to Florence to work on his Big Book; Kepler is in Linz developing the Rudolphine Tables; Scheiner is working on his own magnum opus
on the sunspots; Simon Marius has discovered the Andromeda Nebula -- no one will know it's a galaxy until much later. But TOF's Astute Reader will note that no progress has yet been made on establishing the dual motions of the Earth.
If we assume the Earth moves, we can make accurate predictions of the heavens; but if we assume she does not, the Tychonic model also makes accurate predictions. The Copernican and Tychonic models are mathematically equivalent, differing only in the origin of their reference frames. To decide which reference frame to privilege will require physics, not math.
- René Descartes (21) has just graduated college and will shortly enlist in the army. He is about to meet...
- Isaac Beeckman (29), a student of Willebrord Snel, who will anticipate much of Galileo's mechanics.
- Marin Mersenne (29), newly ordained, is teaching theology and philosophy at Nevers and will set up a correspondence network among the scientists of Europe that will include Galileo, Descartes, Beeckman, Gassendi, and Peiresc. He will help translate Galileo's works into French.
- Pierre Gassendi (25) is about to be ordained.
- Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc (39) has discovered the Orion Nebula.
- Joseph Gaultier de la Vallette (55) had with Peiresc observed the moons of Jupiter back in 1610, shortly after Galileo and Marius, and had been the second to see the Orion Nebula.
- Old Simon Stevin (69) had in 1586 dropped two balls of differing weights from the church tower in Delft, proving that they fell at the same rate. He also discovered "Pascal's" Law. As science advisor to Maurice of Nassau, he may well have been present when Lippershey demonstrated his telescope in 1608.
- Nicholas Zucchi (30), a friend of Kepler, has invented a reflecting telescope in 1616 using a borrowed parabolic mirror and some lenses. The primitive design did not provide a way to keep the head of the user from intercepting most of the rays needed to form the focal image, but he will use it to discover the belts of Jupiter in 1630 and examine the spots on the planet Mars ten years later. At the urging of another Jesuit scientist, Paul Guldin, Zucchi will present a reflecting telescope to an enthusiastic Kepler.
All of these save Gaultier and Beeckman have Lunar craters named for them, as do Clavius, Tycho, Galileo, Kepler, Marius, Fabricius, Scheiner, and Harriott. All those things that seemed so important 400 years ago, all the disputes over who was right and who was wrong and who was first are vanished now into the democracy of the dead and the landscape of the moon.