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Revisiting the Trial of Galileo

Updated on June 25, 2017

The trial of Galileo has remained a subject of interest for scholars, academicians, social scientists, professional in the legal field and many more (Rosen and Gothard, 2009). This is despite the fact that the trial and its conclusion took place a number of years ago. Many including scholars and philosophers consider Galileo as a man who had a unique form of intelligence, passion and courage in representing rational way of thinking against the bureaucrats such as the clergy who capitalize on the ignorance of their subjects to defend and maintain their superiority and authority over them.

Indeed, Galileo’s arrest, trial and imprisonment have continued to attract interest from various quarters for a number of reasons. For instance, the trial defied the existing rules and regulations pertaining to trials. While the maximum terms for imprisonment by the Inquisition trial was usually eight years, Galileo was unusually sentenced to life in prison (Finocchiaro, 2005). This draws interest as whether the crime he really committed warranted such “unusual” punishment.

Galileo was also a famous scientist at that time whose discoveries helped shape research and science even in today’s perspective. He was also a popular mathematician who worked at various European Universities including Pisa College, Padua University among others. Therefore, Galileo can be considered to be a reputable scholar and academician. He is considered to have improved the telescope, which he extensively employed in studying heavenly bodies including the sun, the moon and stars. The discoveries he made through these studies raised his popularity to a great extent and conjoined him into the league of pioneer philosophers and mathematicians (Amir, 2014). Galileo had discovered and went on to claim that the earth was round and moving and that it was at the center of the universe. These discoveries were contrary to popular belief at that time about the earth being flat and static (Heilbron, 2010). Owing to this status and popularity, the life and discoveries made by Galileo including his arrest and trial have to be studied, considering that the arrest and trial was directly related to his discoveries about the earth and heavenly bodies.

Contrary to many in his times who dared not question church teachings and believes because of fear for the pope and the clergy, it appears interesting that Galileo was able to openly defy the teachings of the church and going on to articulate that beliefs that have been proved to be wrong should be discarded, whether they have been issued by the church or obtained from the Bible. This therefore caused friction between religion and science. This therefore brought a perspective that science and religion may not always go a long and that some aspects need to be separated from one another (Hawking, 2009). This open rejection of biblical and church believes brought interests to scholars, scientists and the religious who would want to understand Galileo and his actions.

Galileo’s case is also unique considering the manner in which the trial institution, organized by the church conducted it. Despite the church being regarded as a holy institution and with sound principles even in matters pertaining to disciplines, the picture portrayed in Galileo’s case of a tribunal with no sense of professionalism, humanity, ready to defy legal principles and with no guidelines. It should be taken into consideration that the case was conducted without any legal guidelines and a scrutiny of the case points out many loopholes that can lead to injustice rather than justice being delivered. The case therefore, provides a “specimen” in improving today’s legal system so as to seal loopholes that could lead to delivery of injustice sentences as those issued in Galileo’s case.

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