We all know how to contextualize the history. However, historical comprehension today does not mean renouncing critique. You thus overlook one glaring point: namely, that while the ecclesiastical authorities held sway, someone like Galileo could be silenced and effectively imprisoned for daring to insist upon something that was contrary to "logic" (when such logic, as we know, was a travesty), simply because it placed the status quo (which means the religious authority over society) into question and ultimately made it seem ridiculous, just as has been since demonstrated.Maaaaaaaarten said:I'd just like to point out that Copernicus system was actually hardly an improvement to the Ptolemaic system. As for the calculations and accounting for the observations they had in the time, Copernicus system solved some problems, but it hardly did a better job than the Ptolemaic system. It's not like Copernicus could actually prove his ideas.
After Copernicus we have Tycho Brahe. Tycho was a Danish astronomer who tried to take the best from both worlds. He developed the Tychonic system, in which the earth was still the center of the universe. The sun and the moon were in an orbit around the earth, but the other planets were in an orbit around the sun. This system was actually superior to the Copernican system in its day. It explained the observations and calculations of their day better than the Copernican system.
Galileo adhered to the Copernican system and he developed better telescope lenses with which he could do some new observations which supported the Copernican system. However, Galileo's system still was full of flaws because Galileo still believed that the orbit of the celestial bodies had to be circular. His system wasn't really better than the Tychonic system, for the observations and calculations they had in the day.
It was only with Kepler that the heliocentric system definitely took the lead. Kepler was the first one to suggest that the orbit of the planets might be elliptical rather than circular. This fitted the observations very well and now with Kepler's innovations the heliocentric system was finally clearly superior to all its rivals. By the way, Galileo was a contemporary of Kepler and was in correspondence with Kepler, but for some reason he completely ignored this great discovery of Kepler concerning planetary motions.
By the way, all this time everybody adhered to Aristotelian physics. The problem with this is that Aristotelian physics couldn't account for a massive object like earth floating around in the universe. They didn't know the celestial bodies were also massive objects yet; so with their knowledge, they could account for celestial bodies to float around in space. So what's important for all of this; the heliocentric model was contradictory with the the physics of the day, making the heliocentric model absolutely counter intuitive and absurd to all the educated people of the day, which is one of the reasons it met with so much opposition. Only when Isaac Newton revolutionized physics, after Copernicus, Brahe, Galileo and Kepler, could we account for massive objects moving around in an orbit in space because of the notion of gravity.
The reason why I'm writing this and is that as far as I'm concerned given this history and given the discussions earlier in this thread, designating Galileo as some sort of martyr for science against the evil oppressing anti-scientific church, as he is commonly portrayed, is a complete misnomer. Galileo couldn't prove his theory. As has been demonstrated previously in this thread, the only physical persecution Galileo suffered was for insulting the pope, not for his science. As has also been demonstrated previously in this thread, before Galileo started ridiculing him, the pope actually encouraged and supported Galileo to publish a book containing the arguments for the different arguments for and against the heliocentric system.
Another thing I want to note is that putting this whole Galileo affair in the mold of a religion versus science confrontation is very misleading and a complete anachronism. Actually Galileo was very religious. In fact, almost all the pioneers of the scientific revolution were very religious. I don't mean a generic type of religion that everybody had in the day; their works, letters, et cetera, indicate a vibrant personal faith. Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler were motivated as much by their religion as the ones who opposed them. The unfortunate idea that religion and science are somehow fundamentally in a conflict is a 19th century idea. This conflict didn't exist before that time. Projecting modern notions of a conflict between religion and science on the Galileo affair or indeed on the scientific revolution at large, as is commonly done, is very much an anachronism.
The point is that civilization has evolved from thinking the world was at the center of the universe, but to get there a certain opposition had to be overcome. That opposition was a terrible instrument of oppression.