A Journal for Western Man

 

Why Galileo Was Not a Coward

G. Stolyarov II

Issue CXI - June 30, 2007

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Principal Index

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Old Superstructure

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Old Master Index

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Contributors

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The Rational Business Journal

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Gallery of Rational Art

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Henry Ford Award

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Johannes Gutenberg Award

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CMFF: Fight Death

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Eden against the Colossus

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A Rational Cosmology

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Implied Consent

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Links

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Mr. Stolyarov's Articles on Helium.com

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Mr. Stolyarov's Articles on Associated Content

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Mr. Stolyarov's Articles on GrasstopsUSA.com

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Statement of Policy

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A coward is a man who willfully and genuinely renounces his ideological principles in order to follow a goal that is not itself rooted in an internally consistent principle. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), although he publicly recanted his heliocentric view of the universe during his 1633 trial, did not do so out of cowardice. His recantation was coerced, and he did not believe a word of it. Instead, he used it to save his life so that he might continue to pursue the science he loved.

Galileo, though he was forced to recant his Copernican principles formally during his trial, did not genuinely reject them in his mind. Following the trial, Galileo uttered to himself, "And yet it moves!", referring to his belief that the Earth was not in a stationary state at the center of the universe. Galileo's confidence in the Copernican system was unshattered by the Church's threats to destroy him. Though he could no longer convey these ideas to others, he maintained adherence to them himself, and he had not betrayed his own mind. Rather, he set himself to further productive scientific studies during his last eight years under house arrest, where he pursued scientific truth as rigorously as ever through his study of mechanics.

Galileo's public recanting was intended for one purpose alone: to preserve his life so that he would be able to pursue the study of the natural world further. Not only is self-preservation an internally consistent principle, but Galileo would have betrayed his love of truth and science had he allowed the Church to destroy him by not recanting. Indeed, Galileo would have taken the coward's way out had he permitted his life to be cut short through torture and/or execution.

Moreover, Galileo's recanting would not have been produced absent the Church's coercion and intimidation. Therefore, it was not willful nor considered by Galileo as a course of action that would somehow cause him to gain anything. Rather, he recanted because he did not wish to lose the capacities he already possessed. Galileo cannot be called a coward, because he did not genuinely reject the Copernican system, nor would he have recanted willingly, nor did the goal he favored by the public renunciation, his survival and the continuation of his work, lack internal consistency.

It does not take genuine courage to die for one's beliefs; that is too easy, accomplishes nothing, and is often sought as an escape by those who do not believe they have the strength to continue living. But to live for one's beliefs -- that takes true courage. By presenting a false public recantation of his beliefs, Galileo managed to live to pursue the ideas he loved for another nine years.

G. Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to Enter Stage Right, Le Quebecois Libre,  Rebirth of Reason, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Senior Writer for The Liberal Institute, weekly columnist for GrasstopsUSA.com, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. Mr. Stolyarov also publishes his articles on Helium.com and Associated Content to assist the spread of rational ideas. His newest science fiction novel is Eden against the Colossus. His latest non-fiction treatise is A Rational Cosmology. His most recent play is Implied Consent. Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at gennadystolyarovii@yahoo.com.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

Click here to return to TRA's Issue CXI Index.

Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here..

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new four-act play, Implied Consent, a futuristic intellectual drama on the sanctity of human life, here.