Astronomer, physicist and priest details God and science clash

George Coyne, an astronomer and priest, gave the first of two speeches Sept. 4 in Mildred and Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall, “The Church’s Most Recent Attempt to Dispel the Galileo Myth.”

Galileo, a physicist and astronomer, was condemned by the Catholic Church in 1633 for going against the Ptolemaic view of the solar system, which said the sun revolved around a stationary Earth.

Coyne called the debate between Galileo and the church “just one example of the intrinsic conflict between science and religion.”

Coyne spoke of the present- day efforts of the church to remedy the Galileo situation. In 1992, Pope John Paul II issued a declaration saying the church’s condemnation of Galileo was an error resulting from “tragic mutual incomprehension.”

According to Coyne, this phrase is misleading, since it is “meant in the sense of a Greek tragedy,” as though Galileo’s denunciation by the church was “fated to happen.”

Coyne also thought it was wrong to blame the situation on incomprehension.

“There was a lack of understanding, but it wasn’t the root of the problem,” he said.

Coyne also focused on the future relationship between science and religion. He said, “The church understands that they have to do more” to close the gap between science and religion.

And of the scientist many consider to be the first modern physicist, Coyne said, “Humans have an inalienable right to search for truth.”

He added, “Galileo is a product of that right.”