Copernicus and the Solar System


Copernicusand the Solar System

Copernicusand the Solar System

Sciencehas always been a fundamental part of both the contemporary andconventional human society. This is particularly considering itscapacity to offer explanation regarding the varied dynamicspertaining to almost everything that takes place on the face of theearth and the universe at large, as well as its ability to enhancethe quality of life in both the long-term and the short-term. Sincetime immemorial, there has appeared to be a conflict between scienceand religion particularly with regard to varied positions on thesolar system and even human beings. This was particularly the casefor the Copernicus’ theory of the solar system, referred to asheliocentrism. Heliocentrism underlined the notion that the sun,rather that the earth, was the center of the solar system. This newordering meant that the earth was just another planet with the moonorbiting around the earth rather than the sun. On the same note, thestars were distant objects that never revolved around the sun ratherthe earth was assumed to be rotating once every 24 hours therebycausing stars to seem to revolve around the earth in the oppositedirection. Of particular note is the fact that during the time thatthe theory was being crafted, there was immense persecution ofscientists who came up with theories and teachings that were see asheretical, with the church forbidding individuals from reading thebooks on such subjects. This war resulted in a higher number ofcasualties on the side of science. Copernicus’ theory rubbed thechurch the wrong way since the Holy Scriptures underlined the notionthat the Earth, rather than the Sun, was the center (Ferngren,2002).Since the Biblical teachings were taken literary or at face value,the publication of the theory proved that Copernicus and Galileo weresinners since their teachings insinuated that the Bible was wrong.Copernicus, however, had carefully selected his words in publishingthe theory. Indeed, scholars note that the phrasing that Copernicusused was “if the earth is in motion, the result would be theobserved phenomenon”. The phrasing gave Copernicus some space todeny the theory as it appeared to be a hypothesis that enabledastronomers to correct any errors that they encountered in observingthe heavens. In essence, Copernicus could deny that he believed inthis theory (heliocentrism) since the phrasing was in a manner thatit was nothing but a hypothesis, thereby slipping past the dislike ofthe theory by the church (Grendler,2006).One of the things that made the theory unacceptable was the fact thatthe old theory pertaining to an earth-centered solar system offeredan equally good explanation pertaining to a large number of naturaloccurrences and with similar predictive accuracy as heliocentrism(Grendler,2006).Further, the two theories seemed to take into account the experiencedreality.

WhileCopernicus was pretty much passive, Galileo was categorical in hissupport for Copernicus’ theory and stated that he believed that thesun was situated ‘motionless” at the center of the celestialorbs’ revolutions with the earth revolving around it. He statedthat the support he rendered to this theory was not only refuting thearguments that Aristotle and Ptolemy made, but also coming up withcounterarguments that cannot be explained in any other way (Flatt,2009).

Oneof the fundamental religious significance of heliocentrism revolvesaround encouraging innovation, exploration and adventure. Accordingto Galileo’s “Letterto the Grand Duchess Christina”,the condemnation of the doctrine would, essentially, be a suppressionof not only the propositions made at that time, but would also renderdamnable the varied physical and astronomical statements andobservations that may be connected to the propositions. In essence,heliocentrism did not seek to question the teachings of the bible butto comprehend the varied issues that were presented in it throughexploration of the world (Flatt,2009).In instances where the facts observed were contrary to what is taughtin the bible, such facts should not be seen as contradicting thebiblical teachings but rather explaining them since not every issuecould be explained therein. Similarly, Cardinal Bellarmine underlinedhis willingness to change his position if he is offered further proofregarding the Copernican view, noting that he would not believe suchproofs until he is shown them (Elliott,2009).The failure to have such proof for physical matters should makeindividuals cautious about abandoning the sacred text’sinterpretation as provided since time immemorial.

Inaddition, the theory allowed for the separation of the faith andfact. Indeed, the theory and the propositions that it made allowedfor elimination of hypocrisy among religious fanatics. According toGalileo, the individuals who castigated the assertions of the theorydefended their stand by the hypocritical zeal for religion, andinvoked the bible for deceitful purposes. They deviated from theintention of the bible and the Holy Father by extending the authorityto matters that were purely physical, where faith would not beinvolved (Ferngren,2002).This seemed to insinuate that people would have to get rid of reason,as well as the evidence that they derived from their senses and takeup biblical passage even in instances where the implications ormeanings of the words in the passage were entirely different. Thisunderlined the fact that there must be a separation regarding thethings that faith and biblical teachings should be allowed and thatit would be imperative that biblical teachings are not applied inmatters where they would not be applicable as such a thing wouldessentially be limiting (Grendler,2006).Similarly, Galileo’s assertions were, essentially, calling forproper application of the teachings of the bible and in theappropriate contexts.

Further,the theory espoused on things that were not properly explained in thebible. As much as Galileo acknowledged that the Holy Bible could, inno way, speak any untruth in any instance where its fundamentalmeaning was comprehended, it was also usually abstruse and couldsometimes say things that were extremely different from thesignificance of the bare words (Elliott,2009).In essence, it is imperative that the true meanings of the words andassertions made in the bible were determined. Indeed, the numerousinterpretations that the teachings in the Bible were subjected tomeant that there was a possibility for not only mistakes but alsogreat follies and heresies (Ferngren,2002).Essentially, it was imperative that wise expositors were produced sothat they could offer the true meanings of the passages, as well asthe special reasons that they were written in the words. In instanceswhere the bible made any assertions pertaining to the physical world,particularly those assertions that are extremely abstruse anddifficult to comprehend, the rule of the thumb was to prevent thepossibility of confusion in the common people’s minds that wouldmake them contumacious to higher mysteries (Elliott,2009).Galileo asserted than in instances where the discussion revolvedaround physical problems, it was imperative that the argument doesnot start from the scriptural passages’ authority but rather fromnecessary demonstrations and sense-experiences (Grendler,2006).This seems to be the same assertion that Cardinal Bellarmine wasmaking when he made assertions regarding the provision of proof.Indeed, he seemed to insinuate that physical evidence should takeprecedence to any biblical interpretations, in which case he wasessentially vouching for rationality rather than belief.

Inconclusion, science seems to have always been on collision coursewith a large number of biblical teachings. In spite of the crucialrole that it has played in the comprehension of phenomena in theglobe and the universe at large, the fact that it has largely rancounter to the assertions of the bible has resulted in immenseconflict. Indeed, numerous scientists were massacred in the 15th,16thand 17thcentury when they came up with theories that tended to insinuate thatthe bible was wrong. This was the case for heliocentrism as espousedby Copernicus. In spite of opposition from the church, the theory hadimmense religious significance as it allowed for the separation offaith from the physical matter, called for more preciseinterpretation of biblical teachings and even called for moreenhanced clarity on the meanings of the passages in the bible. Itunderlined the hypocrisy demonstrated by a large number of people whofeigned immense zeal in defending it, thereby calling for wiserinterpretation rather than taking passages in face value.


Elliott,L. (2009).&nbspTheRenaissance in Europe.New York: Crabtree Pub. Co.

Ferngren,G. B. (2002).&nbspScienceand religion: : a historical introduction.Baltimore (Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Flatt,L. (2009).&nbspReligionin the Renaissance.St. Catharines, Ont: Crabtree Pub.

Grendler,P. F. (2006).&nbspRenaissanceeducation between religion and politics.Aldershot: Ashgate.

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