From the 1990 speech that got Pope Benny in trouble with the staff and students at La Sapienza university, interspersed with my Ordinary Language translation:
If both the spheres of conscience are once again clearly distinguished among themselves under their respective methodological profiles, recognizing both their limits and their respective rights, then the synthetic judgment of the agnostic-skeptic philosopher P. Feyerabend appears much more drastic. He writes: “The church at the time of Galileo was much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself, and also took into consideration the ethical and social consequences of Galileo’s doctrine. Its verdict against Gaileo was rational and just, and revisionism can be legitimized solely for motives of political opportunism.”
When Galileo was observing the rings of Saturn through his telescope, he was acting like a very scoundrel. Those inquisitors spanking him with switches? They were the real defenders of reason.
According to [Ernst] Bloch, the heliocentric system – just like the geocentric – is based upon presuppositions that can’t be empirically demonstrated. Among these, an important role is played by the affirmation of the existence of an absolute space; that’s an opinion that, in any event, has been cancelled by the Theory of Relativity. Bloch writes, in his own words:
Curiously, it was precisely Bloch, with his Romantic Marxism, who was among the first to openly oppose the [Galileo] myth, offering a new interpretation of what happened: The advantage of the heliocentric system over the geocentric, he suggested, does not consist in a greater correspondence to objective truth, but solely in the fact that it offers us greater ease of calculation. To this point, Bloch follows solely a modern conception of natural science. What is surprising, however, is the conclusion he draws: “Once the relativity of movement is taken for granted, an ancient human and Christian system of reference has no right to interference in astronomic calculations and their heliocentric simplification; however, it has the right to remain faithful to its method of preserving the earth in relation to human dignity, and to order the world with regard to what will happen and what has happened in the world.”
The difference between a heliocentric and earth-centered view of the world is merely instrumental. You can do more elegant calculations assuming that the Sun lies at the Center of the Universe. Whether the earth really orbits the sun, or vice versa...it's all relative. If that prick Galileo had recognized that simple point, those red hot irons would never have got shoved up his ass.
And it isn't just yer old Pope saying it; some German commie even agrees with me.
From the point of view of the concrete consequences of the turning point Galileo represents, however, C.F. Von Weizsacker takes another step forward, when he identifies a “very direct path” that leads from Galileo to the atomic bomb.
To my great surprise, in a recent interview on the Galileo case, I was not asked a question like, ‘Why did the Church try to get in the way of the development of modern science?’, but rather exactly the opposite, that is: ‘Why didn’t the church take a more clear position against the disasters that would inevitably follow, once Galileo had opened Pandora’s box?’
No Galileo, no nukes. Think about it. A lot of people these days say that the church should have deuced the little nerdlinger, not just stuck him in the pokey.
It would be absurd, on the basis of these affirmations, to construct a hurried apologetics. The faith does not grow from resentment and the rejection of rationality, but from its fundamental affirmation and from being inscribed in a still greater form of reason …
Not that I necessarily think that. But I'm just gonna let it hang there: no Galileo, no nukes.
Yer Pope, over and out.