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Galileo and Darwin's Scientific Contributions

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    Scientific contributions have long been a catalyst for changing the way we think. This sample essay touches on the many contributions Galileo Galilei had on the scientific community, highlighting some of their most impressive achievements. Visit our website to view the many features offered by Ultius.

    The impact of Galileo 

    As knowledge about our universe has accumulated over time, humankind has changed its conception of the universe and nature in itself. Specifically, the works of scientists like Galileo Galilei have challenged pre-existing notions of how the world works. Mainly, their work was a paradigm shift in terms of the means by which we explain the universe and nature. This has led to humans decentralizing themselves from the view that they are at the center of the universe. Also, it has pushed forward a new standard of objectivity and scientific logic rather than reliance on religion to explain the world. Religion was downplayed in the process because there was less evidence to support the phenomena that was being observed. Ultimately, the contributions of Galileo changed our view of the universe and nature by decentralizing earth and humanity while replacing religious authority with science. 

    Challengers to Galileo 

    Galileo’s work helped drive the acceptance of the fact that earth was not the center of the universe. According to Bertolt Brecht’s account of Galileo’s interactions with others in his play Galileo, the scientist was commonly confronted for having different views. The church had long abandoned its once ascetic beliefs and were threatened by Galileo's findings. When he met with the Cardinals, they questioned his ideas with challenges like:

    “Does it not appear more probable-even to you- that the Creator knows more about His work than the created?” (Brecht 79).

    The underlying assumption in this statement is that God created the work and that Galileo was questioning an established belief system. Moreover, Galileo’s work regarding the rotation of the planets showed that the belief of earth as the center was false. The intense backlash that Galileo received in Brecht’s play was indicative of the way it changed our conception of the universe. With the Earth as merely another planet of many, the special place of human beings was challenged. 

    Decentralization of mankind

    Galileo’s thinking and work regarding the planets and universe represented a paradigm shift in terms of theory and science. Like physics and its laws are the standard today, religion was the norm in terms of explaining natural phenomenon. As Thomas Kuhn remarked in The Nature and Necessity of Scientific Revolutions, religion’s view of the universe was characterized as:

    “phenomena already well explained by existing paradigms, and these seldom provide either motive or point of departure for theory construction” (Kuhn 4).

    That is, the church’s view on how the earth and universe was structured held as an existing form of truth. However, Galileo followed through with a different course on inquiry by treating the universe as a:

    “second class of phenomena” in which “details can be understood only through further theory articulation” (Kuhn 4).

    This is indicative of the scientific method that we use today and rely on for the search of truth. It is the work of Galileo that challenged the existing paradigm of how the universe is explained; consequently, this has been accepted as the new standard of scientific inquiry. 

    Taking down religion one step at a time

    In regards to studying the natural world, Galileo has fostered the development of a scientific based inquiry that downplays the role of religion. To exemplify, it is important to note the reliance science has upon objective inquiry apart from religion. In Cornelia Dean’s news article, "Believing Scripture but Playing by Science’s Rules", the author took the case of Marcus Ross, a recent graduate who completed his dissertation in a scientific field while believing in Creationism. As the scientific community has long questioned the timeline as set forth by the book of Genesis, this is significant because in today’s world, any religious views tend to discredit or downplay academic or scientific progress. Dean quoted other professors who delved their attitudes on Ross’ views:

    “In theory, scientists look to nature for answers to questions about nature, and test those answers with experiment and observation” (Dean 1).

    One Professor from the University of Colorado maintained that his institution had difficulty admitting individuals with those views because they were:

    “so at variance with what we consider standard science” (Dean 4).

    Such sharp attitudes against religion show that the paradigm in today’s society is scientific reason and logic. Attempts to utilize religious views within the context of science or explaining natural phenomenon are considered taboo today. This shift in the way we interpret religion changed due to the work of Galileo. 

    Galileo and God

    Traditional views of the natural world were tightly integrated with religion. For example, Bertolt Brecht’s account of Galileo’s interaction with others was loaded with confusion and disbelief on behalf of the clergy and his friends. In explaining the nature of planets and moons, Galileo’s friend Sagredo asked in fright:

    “God? Where is God” (Brecht 62). In response, Galileo retorted by arguing that God was simply “Not there! Any more than He’d be here…” (Brecht 62).

    This brief example illustrates the notion that science was heavily explained by religious authorities and not the forms of inquiry that we utilize today. After hearing Galileo’s explanation of the natural world, Barberini, a member of the clergy, explained that:

    “God didn’t study His astronomy hard enough before He composed Holy Writ” (Brecht 78).

    Such adherence towards explaining even inconsistencies within the context of religious views shows that the natural world was explained by Biblical interpretation. The work of Galileo placed forth evidence that confronted this view of religion and God as a determinant of nature and proposed a more secular approach to the world.

    The replacement of religion with science

    Consequently, our views of the natural world have changed because religion has been severely downplayed and replaced by formal forms of inquiry. Religious interoperations of scientific inquiry have yielded mockery and criticism in the scientific community as the balance between science and religion as supported by Descartes seems to have been abandoned. For instance, Dean’s article regarding Ross’ Creationist views even hints at mockery:

    “he believes that the Bible is a literally true account of the creation of the universe and that the earth is at most 10,000 years old” (Dean 1).

    The reality is that this view was considered to be true back then and the reason it is now not is because of the eroding influence of religion in science. Surely, the foundation of such shifts away from religion stem from the inadequacy of its conclusions. Religion, like any other paradigm, was replaced because it:

    “has ceased to function adequately in the exploration of an aspect of nature to which that paradigm itself had previously led the way” (Kuhn 1).

    Ultimately, because religion could not give us the answers that we needed to justify the natural world, it was replaced with a better means of explaining it. 

    Conclusion

    Galileo contributed to our conception of the natural world and universe by decentralizing humanity as the center of the universe and fostering the decay of religious influence in explaining natural phenomenon. Galileo’s work on studying planetary rotation and moons showed that there were other objects in the universe that functioned according to rules that govern the whole universe. Indeed, this was a paradigm shift that scared those around him and drew criticism from religious authorities. Moreover, the natural world has been reinterpreted because views like evolution have challenged religious authority. Today, using religion or ascribing to its beliefs in the context of science is considered taboo and is discredited in some instances. The case of Ross showed that there is a backlash to such views in relation to scientific inquiry. This backlash is a recent phenomenon that required a complete paradigm shift in terms of how we view the universe. Because of Galileo, religion is not the premier authority on how the natural world is explained. 

    Works Cited

    Brecht, Bertolt. Galileo. New York: Grove Press, 1994. Print.

    Dean, Cornelia. "Believing Scripture but Playing by Science’s Rules." The New York Times [New York City] 12 Feb. 2007: 1-5. The New York Times. Web. 20 Sept. 2012.

    Kuhn, Thomas. "The Nature and Necessity of Scientific Revolutions." The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 1962. Reprint. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. 1-14. Print.

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