It sounds like some people think there is persuasive evidence that it was okay for the Church to “defend itself” against Galileo—
Galileo should have known he was dealing with crazy people who would defend themselves against challenges to Authority. Kind of blame-the-victim logic to me.
You’re welcome about the links. I think the Grant Paris Lecture is the best place to start to get a summary of the problems that in exercised the minds of the real experts in astronomy.
You put it oddly: If you really mean to say that there’s people out there who think the Church was defending itself against some perceived hostile act on Galileo’s part, I don’t know who those people are, and I couldn’t defend them. The Church wasn’t defending itself against Galileo, they prosecuted Galileo in an ecclesiastical court (not a civil court). Galileo was cleared (officially or officiously, depending on your view) in the ‘80’s, and Ratzinger was right there, so it’s doubtful he was saying it’s *still* right to proceed against Galileo for heresy, the most serious charge. The heresy charge itself was basically wilfulness and going against Scripture.
The less serious charge is what supported the ‘heresy’ - he didn’t have enough support to go against the Bible’s implication that the earth stood still. The trouble isn’t exactly about the position of the earth in the universe, no matter what you’ve heard - it’s about its movement - its orbit, rotation and precession. Where enemies like Bellarmine ‘got’ him was that he was asserting Copernican theory without sufficient evidence - he was claiming for a mere ‘hypothesis’ that it was a well-supported ‘theory’.
Galileo’s *Dialogues* don’t provide that evidence *for* copernican theory. It demolishes the logic-chopping of the worse sort of peripatetic physicists, it deals with any large objections to a moving earth, and it attacks the weak-points of the Ptolemaic arrangement - but none of that is itself evidence that the earth moves, just that it’s neither impossible nor absurd. Those are important things to accomplish, but not enough for evidence that it does move.
The Fourth Day of the dialogues is the sticking-point. It’s his theory of the tides, a hot topic. Galileo explained them as the oceans sloshing around in their basin as the earth moves. His was the only working explanation so far. (No-one was listening to Kepler’s speculations it was the influence of the Moon. There’s deep reasons why not, that have little to do w/ the Church.) Yet, G’s theory of the tides poorly matched the data - it didn’t reproduce the data commode, accurately, enough. So the hypothesis wasn’t verisimile, truth-like, or probabile, probable, and so Galileo couldn’t claim that the Earth had to move. He couldn’t prove that he was right and the Bible wrong.
That’s the scientific nub of the problem. Of course there’s lots else that makes the incident *famous*.
Only some church officials (not ‘fathers’) wanted G’s head on a plate, so to speak. One high Vatican official at the time uttered the famous phrase ‘The Bible tells us how to go to Heaven, not how the heavens go.’ That’s roughly Stephen Jay Gould’s ‘non-overlapping magisteria’ view. Christopher Clavius, my own special interest, has pretty much zero to say on the supposed conflict of religion and science, and he was a professional theologian, Jesuit and one of the astronomers entrusted to reform the calendar.
If that professor with the book mentioned earlier wants to confer cultural martyrdom on Galileo, I cannot stop her. But she sounds extreme, if the title of her book is any indication. (‘Thus Spake Galileo’ is a clear parallel to ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’.) I’m not surprised Benedict was uninterested in turning his polite and probably not terribly interesting speech to open a school-year into a public mugging. In my humble opinion, Benedict should have laughed off the incident years ago as just one of those things, and if that’s the worst they can find in his very public and decades-long work, they only show a distasteful pettiness.
Does that help sort through some of the information you’ve been reading, and my own opinions?