Written by DANIEL OBERHAUS November 17, 2015
Ever since Copernicus published On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres in 1543 to outline his heliocentric cosmology and thereby kick start modern scientific inquiry, an uneasy truce has existed between science and religion. Although Copernicus wasn’t persecuted for his views by the dominant religious authorities (in fact, Pope Clement VII expressed great interest in Copernicus’s work, and the latter would end up dedicating his Revolutions to Pope Paul III), his intellectual heir Galileo was not so lucky when he faced down the Roman Inquisition in 1633, a testament to the fragility of this philosophical truce.
This either/or approach to the world, where one considers phenomena through either a scientific or religious lens, has colored scientific inquiry ever since Galileo was placed under house arrest for his heretical (but scientifically accurate) views. Its legacy can still be seen today in the vehement spats between religiously motivated climate deniers and the militaristic guardians of science known as the New Atheists. more...