Happy Birthday Galileo!
Apparently a number of smart people were born around the middle of February. After noting Darwin and Lincoln's 200th birthdays, I almost missed Galileo Galilei's 445th birthday, on February 15.
It's interesting to note the difference between the anniversaries of the two scientists. The Vatican last week said, no, we're not going to do anything special for Darwin's birthday or offer an apology because, well, the church didn't do anything to Darwin.
For Galileo, though, the church held a solemn Mass in his honor last Sunday at the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs in Rome, Zenit reports. In a message read at the Mass, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said Galileo was a model who "knew how to read and study science through the eyes of faith." A statue honoring Galileo will be erected in the basilica.
Perhaps the church feels guilty about Galileo?
I'm no expert in church history, but here are a couple of interesting commentaries on the Galileo controversy that says the church shouldn't feel so guilty. Read or listen to learn more about how the church wasn't really against the idea that Earth rotated around the sun (though they wanted more proof than Galileo could provide). Rather the church was threatened by Galileo's desire to reinterpret scripture. Bertone's comments about Galileo being a model of reconciling science and faith make sense in this context.
What's most valuable here is the conclusion from EWTN's The Catholic Church: Builder of Civilization:
"My purpose here is not to say there was no wrong done or that this episode is something to celebrate, but at the same time, I think we can understand that what actually happened here was the fruit of not any mythical Catholic hostility to science but merely the unfortunate convergence of a variety of factors happening at the same time. ... Galileo case or no Galileo case...the church provides the framework in which science was possible. It made us believe that the universe could be understood by our minds and encouraged us to engage in this type of undertaking. And finally even beyond that, the church encouraged--yes, believe it or not--the free interchange of ideas."
Thanks to Tom and Timothy's comments on this blog post for pointing out these resources.