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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/132

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

nection with that history. Something, however, may be said of them here. It is to be observed that the first proposition is condemned because it is contrary to scripture, heretical, false in theology, absurd and foolish; and the second because, from a theological point of view it is opposed to the true faith, false in philosophy and absurd. The words not in italics relate to judgments upon points of doctrine. The words in italics relate to judgments upon matters of philosophy or of science.

It was entirely competent for the Congregation of the Index to render decisions upon matters of theology which were binding upon all catholics. The committee was organized and existed for that purpose. Every institution, religious or secular, must decide for itself on matters of the sort. Not to do so is sheer suicide. The competence of the Roman church and of the Congregation of the Index to decide for itself questions of what is opposed to its faith, contrary to scripture, false in theology, is not to be denied. This was a conflict of theology with an alleged heresy. Copernicus was a member of the Roman Church. The soundness of his theological opinion was a matter for doctors of theology to settle in their own church in their own way. They did not decide it, however, until they had taken the advice of astronomers who pronounced the heliocentric theory to be baseless. (Delambre, 'Astronomie moderne,' i., p. 681.) Tycho Brahé, also—a great authority—had declared it to be 'absurd and contrary to the scriptures.' These two points are often forgotten by writers of the Martyr-of-Science School.

On the other hand, no one can admit for a moment the right or the competence of the Congregation or of the Church to pronounce final judgment upon a question of philosophy or of science. The whole world is now agreed that it is an impertinence for a body of theologians to pronounce upon a question of science, precisely as it would be for a congress of scientific men to pronounce upon a point of theology.

The reasons that led the Congregation of the Index to take this fatal step must be considered in connection with the history of Galileo. It will not be out of place here, however, to attempt to understand the mistaken point of view of the churchmen responsible for the decision.

For fourteen hundred years the theory of Ptolemy had ruled. In 1543 Copernicus proposed a new and revolutionary system. In its essential point the system was true, as we know now; we also know that it was false in asserting that the planets moved in circular orbits (they really move in ellipses), in accepting trepidation as an incident to precession, and in other matters of the sort. It even asserted, falsely, that the center of the orbit of the earth and not the sun was the center of planetary motion, so that in a strict sense it was not even a heliocentric theory. The theory of Copernicus was not