A Tribute To The Great Truth-Seekers

On September 6, 2014 by Lonesome George
Truth Seekers - Galileo, Copernicus and Newton on the Astronomer Obelisk at Griffith Observatory 2

Galileo, Copernicus and Newton on the Astronomer Obelisk at Griffith Observatory

As I continue my abridged odyssey through the history of western philosophy, I come to 3 people who are not philosophers but who have had a profound impact on the course of humanity’s development and the way we understand and interact with the world. They changed the reference points of philosophy by redefining our perception of reality so much that all future thinking was accountable to their ideas.

These men held true to their principles of seeking truth and knowledge despite the fact that their ideas ran contrary to the accepted authority of the time. The 3 men were Copernicus, Galileo and Isaac Newton…

Copernicus (1473-1543)

Truth Seekers - Nicolaus-Copernicus

Until Nicolaus Copernicus it was conventionally believed that the earth was the centre of the universe. This view was based on ancient greek thinking that was incorporated into the Christian view of the world in the middle ages by the Catholic church. God had made the earth the centre and the bible verified that the earth was ‘immovable’. It seemed to make sense but nobody could come up with the maths to support the theory.

Copernicus worked out that if you take it that the sun is the centre then the maths falls into place. He knew the outrage such heresy would cause so delayed publishing his work until the year of his death. Predictably, there was a hostile reaction to his ideas because, if accepted, they proved that such revered intellectual authorities as the church were wrong.

Galileo (1564-1642)

Truth Seekers - Galileo

Copernicus’ ideas were refined and verified by Johannes Kepler but nearly a century later they were still not accepted and Galileo Galilei took up the mantle. Because of his belief that the earth revolved around the sun Galileo was persecuted by the Inquisition, which was set up by the Catholic church to suppress heresy, and he only escaped with his life by recanting his belief that the earth moves (whilst reputedly muttering “but it still moves, just the same” under his breath).

Among Galileo’s many achievements were: he was the first person to look through a telescope at the stars, thereby instantly reinventing astronomy; he discovered the principle of the pendulum, which transformed the accuracy of clocks; he invented the thermometer; he discovered that objects fall at the same rate regardless of weight; his work on projectiles launched the science of gunnery; he was the first person to formulate the principle of objectivity in science. A not too shabby CV! Galileo argued, as far as he dared, that power and authority, including that of Christianity, should not have the right to interfere with an objective truth-seeking process.

History Collection on LAZERHORSE.ORG

Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

Truth Seekers - Isaac Newton

Our very own Isaac Newton is undoubtedly one of the greatest geniuses ever to have lived. In a single year aged 23/24 he correctly identified the constituent properties of light, invented calculus and (in his spare time presumably) he formulated the concept and worked out the law of gravity. He went on to revise and correct the works of Kepler and Galileo and produced what would forever after be known as Newton’s laws of motion. He also built up a system of mathematical physics that enabled him to give a complete and accurate picture of the planetary system.

Newton published this work in 1687, only 54 years after the Pope had publicly condemned Galileo for asserting that the earth moved. Newton had provided humanity with the ability to accurately predict the workings of the physical universe. Newton proved beyond any doubt that physical objects are subject to quantifiable laws and this truth, quite simply, changed everything forever.

Science Collection on Lazer Horse

Due to the works of these great founding fathers of modern science, no longer did we have to live in a world where unproven religious beliefs held sway and the search for an objective truth could easily be suppressed. Philosophers could no longer resort to fanciful theories to explain the nature of existence and were accountable to the cold hard facts of science. I am very grateful to have been born in an age and in a place where we are relatively free to form our opinions without fear of being oppressed or victimised. It is sobering to think of all the people in history who have lived a lie because they were scared to speak out against the ruling authority, which (it has to be said) has so often been empowered by religious dogma.It is even more sobering to think that such oppression (religious and non-religious) is alive and kicking in large parts of the world today.

Copernicus, Galileo, Newton: I salute you. May your spirit live on.


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