Galileo Gives Church the Finger

galileo1_11In ‘SuperSense’ I discuss the odd attitude that we have towards revering the remains of the dead. I think that relics are a manifestation of such essentialist beliefs. Usually, relics are bones from saints, but ironically, the same veneration has been applied to the middle finger of one of the earliest martyrs of science, Galileo Galilei.  

As most of you know, Galileo famously fell out with the Catholic Church after defending Copernicus’s discovery that the earth moved round the sun and was charged with heresy. He was ordered to be imprisoned, a sentence that was commuted to house arrest where he spent his final 9 years. 

Recently, British and Italian scientists have applied to the Catholic Church to exhume the remains of Galileo to determine whether he suffered from degenerative visual impairment.

Currently, Galileo’s middle digit is on display in the History of Science Museum in Florence. It is mounted on a marble base inside a glass egg and is said to be pointing towards Rome.  One might think he has had the last laugh.

1 Comment

Filed under Essentialism

One response to “Galileo Gives Church the Finger

  1. poietes

    Oh please let’s leave Galileo’s remains alone. Aside from his marvelous contributions, the only part of him that we need to be concerned with is already displayed in the most appropriate manner possible.

    In fact, it’s a shame that we don’t have more famous middle appendages to put on display pointing in various directions . . .

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