Keep ’em separate

Randy Hellewell is a Sacramentan seeking answers to life’s questions

Galileo, using a truly pathetic low-power telescope, peered at Jupiter in 1610 and instantly revised the universe. The satellites conspicuously circling the brilliant planet offered the very first proof that Earth is not the center of all motion. In an instant, thousands of years of philosophical debate came to an end.

Or at least they should have.

Though Galileo naively assumed that such vivid evidence would carry the day, he soon learned that most people, then as now, are not philosophically agile, not quick to jettison long-held opinions. In one of the most frustrating moments ever recorded, priests peering into his eyepiece a few years later would comment only, “I see nothing!” Faced with revising the Earth-centered doctrine that had bewilderingly been made a religious principle, they pretended they could not see a thing.

Pope Paul V admonished Galileo to relinquish the heretical proposition that the sun is the center of the universe. Galileo later was summoned before the Inquisition at Rome in 1633 and forced to recant his belief that the Earth moves about the sun.

The legend is that Galileo whispered, “But it does move,” as he rose from his knees after the renunciation of his views. That tale is probably apocryphal. Still, the idea that the man who has been called the founder of modern experimental science should end his life imprisoned for espousing his beliefs is reprehensible.

We Americans, much like the independent-thinking Galileo, have obvious reasons for developing greater faith in science than religious doctrine. We will not be subservient to any organized religion that does not treat all men and women equally, without regard to race, ethnicity, sexual preference or national origin.

Yet, we still aspire to be a Christian society, to be commendably decent and generous while exhibiting a Christian concern for others, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. And God—well, “In God We Trust.”

After all, isn’t it possible God created the Big Bang?