Copernicus, Galileo, and the Catholic Sponsorship of Science
The main text here is a speech given by Jane Meyerhofer, in Seattle, three years ago. In addition, there is a letter from Galileo to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany about the interpretation of scripture; our present Pope calls it "a model or hermeneutics." That is, Pope John Paul II called this letter from Galileo a model for the right understanding of scripture and science. It is fascinating. Actually the text of the letter is independently available online at the Internet Modern History Sourcebook, specifically the scientific revolution section which has several sources on Galileo.
In this booklet, you will learn what happened to Galileo -- and what did not -- and why. At the same time, you will understand whose dastardly fictions and frauds lie behind this confused story, one of history's murkiest mysteries; you will understand why it is so difficult to get the facts straight. You will learn something about Easter and the moon, something about Copernicus and about St. Robert Bellarmine, a little about medieval devotion to Our Lady, and a little about Cassini. Perhaps you will come to love Galileo, as I have. Above all, you will get a clear presentation concerning the relationship between faith, scripture, the Church, and natural science.
There are some sections of teacher support as well, Q and A and a time line.
The softbound (perfect bound) booklet is 60 pages, in 8 1/2 x 11 format, including text, drawings, a wonderful reproduction of Van Eyck's Annunciation, teacher support and an outline/table of contents. It is very carefully researched.
Galileo's Letter to Christina of Tuscanyis included as an appendix in the above book, but when I was researching for a middle school class, I realized that his long sentences would discourage them. He is really a wonderful and rather funny writer -- none of his academic enemies had anything like his flair for words. I have simplified his letter while trying to maintain his style. Pope John Paul II recommended this letter as a model in hermeneutics (Biblical interpretation). It's really excellent.
One does not think of Galileo as one who dealt with creationism, but the issue of his time was precisely whether the Bible had to be taken at face value in its assumptions about the motions of the astronomical bodies. One of the surprises in his letter to Duchess Christina is his triumphant declaration that those who had been criticizing him for his thoughts about the Moon had already been silenced. I had not been aware of this argument, undoubtedly because it was resolved so long ago. His critics took the stance that since Genesis 1 says that the on the fourth day, God created the greater light to rule the day (the Sun) and the lesser light to rule the night (the Moon) it was contrary to scripture to hold that the Moon was not actually a light but only a reflector of the sun's light.
What this little incident points up is that it is simply essential to address the fact that scripture was not written to teach celestial mechanics. Nobody -- but nobody in the modern world -- thinks that the Moon shines by its own light. The story of Galileo is the story of people arguing about the very issues of Evangelical creationism we are discussing today, but in a historical setting whose remoteness may allow us a quiet place from which to reconsider both the facts and the philosophy of the case.
Since the writing of these books, I have learned much more about Galileo, particularly from Stillman Drake's writing. A short biography, which does not replace the painstaking work of Jane Meyerhofer, is now posted elsewhere on this site.