Mathematics Pre-May Seminar. 12 February 2007. Michelangelo’s Tomb in Firenze’s Basilica of Santa Croce. Galileo’s Tomb, Santa Croce. Michelangelo’s Giudizio Universale (Last Judgment), Cappella Sistina, Vatican. Detail from Giudizio Universale in the Cappella Sistina.
12 February 2007
It has been more than once asked of your leaders whether they had a demonstration for asserting the motion of the earth. They have never affirmed they had. Therefore, nothing hinders that the Church may understand those Scriptural passages that speak of this matter in a literal sense, and declare that they should be so understood as long as the contrary is not evinced by any demonstration; if perhaps it should be found out by you (which I hardly believe it will), in this case the Church will not at all scruple to declare that those passages are to be understood in a figurative and improper sense, according to that of the poet’s “the land and the cities slip backward.
It does not appear at all that God has wanted to teach us anything in particular about nature; on the contrary, almost all who have wanted to find the principles of their philosophy in Scripture have fallen into untenable errors; in it we should only look for the maxims of religion and morality, and not for the principles of physics or astronomy, which are as useless for the other life as they are useful for this one.
A related compromise was the suggestion that either Galileo’s biblical critics should be prevented from using scriptural passages against his physical theories, or he should be allowed to answer them; but that it was quite improper to allow them free rein while silencing him and his supporters. (page 312)