Science and Religion: 'Galileo'

If you were to tell me, in 2009, that the sun revolved around the earth I would claim that you were denying clear science. However if you made the same claim in 1632 I would have less reason to disagree with you. Afterall the theory of motion and the theory of gravity (gravity was not to be understood until Isaac Newton) had not yet been discovered. Galileo's fall out with the Roman Catholic church was not simply a case of science verses superstition, it involved a new scientific theory verses the old way of understanding (the Aristotlian view).
Neither was this event simply a case of Christianity verses Galileo. As Kirsten Birkett points out, 'Galileo's enemy was not Christianity. He considered himself a devout Christian, and in any case many Protestant Christians had no problems with his work.'
Thirdly, Kirsten Birkett points to the complex interaction of relationships that led to Galileo's condemnation. 'Galileo's fall may have been to appease the Spaniards; or it could have been that Galileo's enemies in Rome, knowing that the Pope was in an awkward situation any way he trained, worked on his personal vanities to anger him against Galileo.'
Galileo's death was not simply a case of science verses religion but involved one type of scientific theory verses another, it was not simply a case of Christianity verses Galileo but one branch of Christendom verses the man, and it involved an interaction of spite and resentment.