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To support his claim that some scholars may be grossly misinterpreting Scripture, Galileo cites the example of a man who has published his claim that the moon “does not receive its light from the sun but is brilliant by its own nature” (Halsall, 1997). He accuses those in authority of abusing the authority given to them, and taking whatever ill-thought interpretation they have had of the Bible to be biblical truth. Because these men were abundant in numbers, and those who actually put in the time and discipline to study the Word were few and far between, it was a losing battle for Galileo (Halsall, 1997). The Church itself
was self-righteous, thinking its authority and interpretation to be infallible. It thought itself too high to “stoop to the investigation of fallacies in the subordinate sciences; it is sufficient for her merely to determine the truth of a given conclusion with absolute authority, secure in her inability to err” (Halsall, 1997). With this mind-set, it was almost impossible to reason with the Church, as they would not listen to Galileo, or any other scholar that suggested theories that went against their understanding of how the universe functioned. Galileo, to his credit, never attacked the Church as an entity. In fact, he wanted to warn the Church that its authority may be undermined if his theories were to be proven true, after they had publicly condemned them. Because of his very public manner, the Church felt threatened by his views (Langford, 1992: xi). Throughout the letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, Galileo’s tone is one of imploration, asking the Grand Duchess to consider what he is putting forth to her, and to look at things with a more open mind. He constantly reminds the reader that he believes in God and the inerrancy of the Bible; it is just the interpretation, or the misinterpretation, of the Bible, that he finds fault in. He argued that without actually properly observing the Sun, the stars and other celestial beings, people have given them inaccurate characteristics. “For names and attributes must be accommodated to the essence of things, and not the essence to the names, since things come first and names afterwards (Shapin, 1996:18). By writing this letter, he was trying to show that what they were doing was erroneous, and it would be good for the Church’s reputation to properly consider and look into his theories before charging him for heresy. There is a great difference between proof and opinion, he argued, and it was definitely inadequate to base doctrine solely on the subjective opinions and interpretations of those in authority. Galileo also warned of the dangers of “censuring the whole science”. Much of God’s glory was manifested in nature and the heavens, and by preventing people from gazing into the heavens and making discoveries
for themselves, Galileo likened it to censuring “a hundred passages of holy Scripture which teach us that the glory and greatness of Almighty God are marvellously discerned in all his works and divinely read in the open book of heaven” (Halsall, 1997). The Church, however,