Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 8.djvu/410

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lated: "I ask not the grace accorded to Paul, not that given to Peter; give me only the favor which thou didst show to the thief on the cross." Not till thirty years after did a friend dare write on his tombstone a memorial of his discovery.[1]

The book was taken in hand at once by the proper authorities. It was solemnly condemned: to read it was to risk damnation; and the world accepted the decree.[2]

Doubtless many will at once exclaim against the Roman Catholic Church for this. Justice compels me to say that the founders of Protestantism were no less zealous against the new scientific doctrine. Said Martin Luther: "People gave ear to an upstart astrologer, who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system which of all systems is, of course, the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy. But Sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth."

Melanchthon, mild as he was, was not behind Luther in condemning Kopernik. In his treatise, "Initia Doctrinæ Physicæ," he says: "The eyes are witnesses that the heavens revolve in the space of twenty-four hours. But certain men, either from the love of novelty, or to make a display of ingenuity, have concluded that the earth moves; and they maintain that neither the eighth sphere nor the sun revolves.... Now, it is a want of honesty and decency to assert such notions publicly, and the example is pernicious. It is the part of a good mind to accept the truth as revealed by God, and to acquiesce in it." Melanchthon then cites passages from the Psalms and from Ecclesiastes which he declares assert positively and clearly that the earth stands fast, and that the sun moves around it, and adds eight other proofs of his proposition that "the earth can be nowhere, if not in the centre of the universe."[3]

  1. Figuier, "Savants de la Renaissance," p. 380. Also, Flammarion, "Vie de Copernic," p. 190.
  2. The "proper authorities" in this case were the "Congregation of the Index," or cardinals having charge of the "Index Librorum Prohibitorum." Recent desperate attempts to fasten the responsibility on them as individuals seem ridiculous in view of the simple fact that their work is sanctioned by the highest Church authority, and required to be universally accepted by the Church. Three of four editions of the "Index" in my own possession declare on their title-pages that they are issued by order of the pontiff of the period, and each is prefaced by a special papal bull or letter. See specially Index of 1664, issued under order of Alexander VII., and that of 1761, under Benedict XIV. Copernicus's work was prohibited in the Index "donec corrigatitur." Kepler said that it ought to be worded "donec explicetur." See Bertrand, "Fondateurs de l'Astronomie Moderne," p. 57. De Morgan, pp. 57-60, gives the corrections required by the Index of 1620. Their main aim seems to be to reduce Copernicus to the groveling level of Osiander, making of his discovery a mere hypothesis; but occasionally they require a virtual giving up of the whole Copernican doctrine, e. g., "correction" insisted upon for cap. 8, p. 6.
  3. See Luther's "Table Talk." Also, Melanchthon's "Initia Doctrinæ Physicæ." This