Portsmouth Institute, Day 1, Session 1: Dom Paschal Scotti, “Galileo Revisited”
It was fitting that the the 2012 Portsmouth Institute conference, “Modern Science, Ancient Faith,” held at the Portsmouth Abbey school, opened on the topic of Galileo.
Brother Scotti addressed the ways in which other factors brought about the Catholic Church’s blunder with respect to Galileo. There were internal politics. Factional rifts between the Jesuits, who were more friendly to Galileo, and the Dominicans. Personality conflicts and ego-driven attacks, including on the part of the “academic superstar” scientist himself.
The bottom line, however, as Scotti told an audience member after the speech, is that the Church has actually done very well with respect to integrating science into its worldview and presentation. But when it got things wrong, with Galileo, it got them spectacularly wrong.
One particularly interesting point arose when an audience member asked whether our intelligence has arguably returned mankind to status as the center of the universe. Scotti replied that, in the old Ptolemaic view, Earth wasn’t the pinnacle of the universe, but “the lowest place, the worst place,” the place to which frailty sank.