A Short History of Science and Religion - Galileo, Newton, Kant
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Article Index
A Short History of Science and Religion
The Ancient World
The Greek Contribution
Rise of Christtianity
Dark and Middle Ages
Rise of Science and Philosophy
Galileo, Newton, Kant
Modern Times
Personal Theology
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The Rise of Science - Galileo, Newton, and Kant

GalileoGalileo Galilei - Galileo Galilei was born in 1564, and lived his life in the later throws of the Reformation. The bloody 30 Years War that racked Europe in the 17th century was fought during his later years. The Roman Church, in no mood for tolerating heretics, had instituted the first inquisitions in the 12th century. These continued through Galileo's time. Galileo, born in Roman Catholic Italy, could be said to be born at the wrong place and the wrong time in history.

Galileo did brilliant work in a number of fields of science including physics, mathematics, philosophy, and astronomy. It was his careful observations and keen thinking in astronomy, however, that got him into trouble. He built the first telescope (invented in Holland), and stubbornly believed that the church would accept his conclusions about the heliocentric nature of the solar system and his agreement with Copernicus' earlier speculations.

Alas, the church was in no mood at this point in history to tolerate the contradictory views of a lay person, not even the famous Galileo Galilei! He spent the last 10 years of his life under house arrest and narrowly escaped death and being condemned as a heretic of the Church. It took over 400 years for the Catholic Church to forgive Galileo. Only in October of 1992 did Pope John Paul II officially forgive Galileo and express regret for the way things had been handled in the mid-17th century. Wow.

Isaac Newton - On the year that Galileo died (1642), Isaac Newton was born in Protestant England into a lower income family. Newton was a very bright child, although as an adult he had a somewhat egotistical personality. After finishing his education he received a faculty post at Oxford. In 1664 he was sent home due to an outbreak of the plague in England. There he had time away from his professorial duties to study in his garden, observe the falling of the apple from the tree, ponder issues of gravity, mathematics, and write down his ideas. It was during this year most of his founding ideas in astronomy, physics, and mathematics were developed. His foundational document was Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (in Latin), a pillar of science to follow. Would this have happened if Newton had not had his sabbatical away from the plague?

Newton was a Unitarian and he rejected Trinitarian theology. This became known at Oxford, and he was held back from advancement because of his religious views.