Saturday, September 03, 2005

Galileo and intelligent design

Working to prep a class later in the semester, I came across a letter written in 1615 by Galileo to the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, in which he defends his ideas and complains about those who accuse him of heresy. His arguments are striking in light of recent debates about teaching creationism alongside evolution in the schools:

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them. He would not require us to deny sense and reason in physical matters which are set before our eyes and minds by direct experience or necessary demonstrations. This must be especially true in those sciences of which but the faintest trace is to be found in the Bible.

People who are unable to understand perfectly both the Bible and science far outnumber those who do understand them. The former, glancing superficially through the Bible, would arrogate to themselves the authority to decree upon every question of physics on the strength of some word which they have misunderstood, and which was employed by the sacred authors for some different purpose. And the smaller number of understanding men could not dam up the furious torrent of such people, who would gain the majority of followers simply because it is much more pleasant to gain a reputation for wisdom without effort or study than to consume oneself tirelessly in the most laborious disciplines.

(Full text may be found here.)

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