Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/405

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389
THE TRIAL OF GALILEO.

precisely set forth the rights of science, at the same time asserting for religion its own. Here, according to him, are two separate domains, which are not rashly to be confounded.

"The Holy Scripture," said he, "can neither lie nor err, but it needs to be interpreted; for, were we to insist upon the literal sense of the words, we should find not only contradictions, but heresies and blasphemies; we should have to give to God hands, feet, ears, to suppose him subject to like passions with men—to anger, remorse, hatred; and, again, to hold that he forgets the past and is ignorant of the future. . . . Inasmuch as the Bible constantly requires interpretation to explain how very different the true sense of the words is from their apparent signification, it appears to me that it should be quoted in scientific discussions only as the last resort. In truth, Holy Scripture and Nature both come from the Divine Word, the one being the dictation of the Holy Ghost, while the other is the executor of God's decrees; but it was fitting that, in the Scriptures, the language should be adapted to the people's understanding in many things where the appearance differs widely from the reality. Nature, on the other hand, is inexorable and immutable; she is not at all concerned whether the hidden reasons and means through which she works are or are not intelligible to man, because she never oversteps the limit of the laws imposed upon her. Hence it appears that when we have to do with natural effects brought under our eyes by the experience of our senses, or deduced from absolute demonstrations, these can in no wise be called in question on the strength of Scripture texts that are susceptible of a thousand different interpretations, for the words of Scripture are not so strictly limited in their significance as the phenomena of Nature. . . . I therefore think it would be wise to forbid persons from using texts of Holy Scripture, and from forcing them, as it were, to support as true certain propositions in natural science, whereof the contrary may to-morrow be demonstrated by the senses or by mathematical reasoning."

This noble letter, the moderation of which would nowadays be admitted by every theologian, but which then gave out a dangerous odor of novelty, no doubt passed from hand to hand, was read by ill-disposed persons, perhaps fomented the agitation produced by Caccini's vehement assault, and furnished to another Dominican, Niccola Lorini, an opportunity of denouncing Galileo to the Congregation of the Holy Office. "Here," said the informer, "are propositions that seem to be suspect and rash, opinions that contradict the text of the Holy Scripture. Besides," he added, "Galileo and his disciples speak with little respect of the fathers of the Church, of St. Thomas of Aquino, and of Aristotle, whose philosophy has rendered so much service to the scholastic theology." The Inquisition, though search was made, was unable to procure the original of the letter, for Castelli had given it back to his master, and he prudently refused to part with it. The