In what ways did the Copernican Revolution affect the Catholic Church?

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In the Ptolemaic view of things, which the Catholic Church adopted as its visual metaphor for the way God created the universe, the earth was at the center of several rings of reality (the geocentric view); the Catholic Church extrapolated from this view to a policy of considering Mankind as the sole reason for a universe in the first place—“Who made you? God made you.  Why did God make you? To love, honor, and obey Him.” etc.  When Copernicus and Galileo, by direct observation and mathematical deduction, proposed a helio-centric universe (the two primary pieces of evidence were the moons around Mars, and the mathematics of orbits), the Church was stuck with a theologically empty argument.  Rather than admit their mistake, they fought against the evidence, not by better argument, but by threats.  The most telling statement from this conflict comes from Galileo’s ironic statement about why he recanted his study—“They showed me the instruments” meaning  “The Church didn’t have to torture me—by merely seeing the instruments I, a scientist, could deduce the results.”  This is ironic because at the same time, he was defending the scientific process—observe, hypothesize, and test the hypothesis with further observation. Even after recanting that the earth rotated, he managed to tell the Church “Eppe, si mouve” (still, it moves).  The Catholic, after that, had to adjust its worldview to include the new “facts”, and by Luther and Henry VIII’s time, became simply a receptacle for moral teachings, not a purveyor of woldviews.


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