To the Editor:

Florian Ploeckl argued that the Church correctly reminded Galileo heliocentrism was but a theory (“Scientific theory, religion fulfill different purposes,” 11/30). He either misunderstands or misrepresents the historical facts. In his “Dialogue,” Galileo presented the scientific cases for the old Aristotelian view and for the new Copernican theory, discussing the mathematical and observational strengths of heliocentrism. The Church allowed him to discuss the idea with the stipulation that he treat it as merely an interesting mathematical discussion with no basis in fact. They took issue with the fact that he portrayed it as a physically possible theory. Inquisitors physically coerced Galileo to recant because his theory violated the “known truth” of scripture. Insisting that a theory cannot be true because it violates your non-scientific belief system is not good science. Professor Stearns’ analogy to the current evolution controversy aptly portrays the fact that holding to religious beliefs to the exclusion of science is doomed to fail, as scientific progress inevitably continues.

Ross Kennedy-Shaffer ’08

Nov. 30, 2005