Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Free Thinking

It was on this date in 1633, April 12, that the Italian astronomer, mathematician, engineer and philosopher, Galileo Galilei (1564-1662) was brought to trial by the Inquisition. Of course, Galileo’s heliocentric theories, observations, and assertions undermined the geocentric perspective that had originated with interpretations of the Bible, so the Roman Catholic Church couldn’t allow that sort of free-thinking.* He was eventually found guilty of heresy and was forced to spend the remainder of his long life under house arrest.

English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) offered this observation: “If Galileo had said in verse that the world moved, the inquisition might have let him alone.”

* Think for a moment, about that concept – free thinking. If our thinking is not free, what is it? Bound? Constricted? Limited? Why would anyone choose to be limited in thought, in the exercise of the brain, the act that most profoundly defines us as individuals? To what end? Religions that suppress and punish free thought are dangerous and anti-human. Where would we be today without the benefits of ideas from the scientists, poets, artists, musicians, humanists, leaders, and regular people who have enriched, enlightened, and elevated our lives? 

Portrait of Galileo Galilei (1636) by Justus Sustermans (1587-1681). This is a copy by Niccolo Cecconi (1835-1902) of Sustermans’ original, which had been painted during the period of Galileo’s house arrest. Sustermans’ portrait hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence; Cecconi’s version is held by the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

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