Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A broader view of Galileo

Galileo's first use of the telescope to explore the heaven 400 years ago produced such a revolutionary change in humanity's view of its place in the universe that Blaise Pascal said, "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces fills me with dread." It was a feeling that permeated and changed society. [right, Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition, by Cristiano Banti, 1857] This year, as we celebrate the International Year of Astronomy and the Year of Science, Galileo's actions are being highlighted.

University of Arizona professor Richard Poss, a humanities scholar in the Dept. of Astronomy, will offer a deeper look at Galileo beyond the Western stereotype of him as "a poster child of free academic inquiry" in a spring seminar
"Humanities and the Frontiers of Science."

There's an interview with Dr. Poss at the UA news site, where he describes Galileo's decision to do battle with the Catholic Church to get them to change their heliocentric views of the universe. Galileo took provocative public actions intended to provoke the powers that be. Sound familiar? It reminds me of the current situation where some climate scientists have stepped out of the lab to push political action on an issue they feel demands it.

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