A new look at an old controversy – Galileo

August 18, 2011

Apparently, Galileo was not brought before the Inquisition for claiming that the Earth goes around the Sun. He was tried for interpreting Scripture, which lay people were not allowed to do. In his time, only officials of the Catholic Church (priests, bishops , cardinals and the Pope) were allowed to interpret Scripture.

Before that time, the Church had no official position on whether Ptolemy or Copernicus was correct about the arrangement of our solar system.

Here’s an article on Galileo from Koinonia House:

“The notion that Galileo’s trial was a conflict between science and religion should be dead. Anyone who works seriously on Galileo doesn’t accept that interpretation anymore.” – Historian Thomas Mayer.

Galileo’s trial before the Roman Inquisition in 1632-33 has long been used as an example of a scientist persecuted by religious zealotry. Those who promote the idea that science and religion are at enmity like to bring up Galileo’s unfortunate treatment at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church. However, there is much more to the story than the neat and tidy picture of Galileo as a martyr for science and reason. Not only was Galileo himself a devout Catholic throughout his life, but his trial was far more about his insulting the Pope directly than it was about whether Earth actually moved around the Sun.

In 1632, the already famous astronomer Galileo Galilei published his Dialogue Concerning The Two Chief World Systems, a wildly popular book that launched Galileo into the hands of the Inquisition. To better understand that trial and the controversy surrounding it, however, a bit of background is appropriate.

Ptolemy and Copernicus:
About the year AD 150, the brilliant astronomer and mathematician Ptolemy published his famous work Almagest. Using Aristotle’s physics (not the Bible), Ptolemy argued for a geocentric model of the universe. Ptolemy’s Earth was immoveable, and the Sun and stars revolved around it. He had some mathematical barriers in the way, but he made use of complicated epicycles to make his geocentric model work.

Ptolemy’s geocentric model reigned supreme in astronomy circles until the 16th century. In 1543, Copernicus published a thick, mathematical book called On The Revolutions Of The Heavenly Spheres, which made the case that the Earth and stars, in fact, revolved around a stationary Sun. He still depended on epicycles like Ptolemy, just a fewer number of them. Copernicus was not a pop science writer. His book was written for astronomers and not the general public, and so it didn’t make many waves at the time.

According to surviving class notes, the young Galileo taught Ptolemaic astronomy to his students at the University of Pisa and later at the University of Padua just as the other scientists of his time did. He didn’t know any better until 1608, when he got his hands on an elementary telescope – an “optic tube” as he called it. Galileo did not actually invent the telescope, but he devised one and modified it, and he used it with determination.

The Telescope Discoveries:
Galileo’s instrument was a crude thing with a narrow field of view that only magnified celestial objects for him between 3x and 30x as he made improvements. Yet, in 1609, Galileo made eight important discoveries, many of which he published in his 1610 book Starry Messenger:

-Sun spots were part of the surface of the sun (contradicting Aristotle’s idea that celestial bodies were perfect and changeless).
-The moon was not a smooth surface made of a celestial substance as Aristotle had taught but in fact had mountains and rough surfaces just like Earth.
-Venus had phases, just like the moon, which would make sense if it orbited the Sun (and not Earth).
-Saturn had “ears” – later discerned as its famous rings.
-Stars were more distant than planets.
-There were stars in the cosmos that were invisible to the naked eye.
-The Milky Way was made of stars.
-Jupiter had moons, and so Earth was not the sole center of the universe as the Aristotelians claimed.

These were fantastic discoveries. In his journal, Galileo wrote, “I render infinite thanks to God for being so kind as to make me alone the first observer of marvels kept hidden in obscurity for all previous centuries.”

Galileo was not a particularly righteous and holy man. He had three children by a woman he never married, and while his ambition earned him a place with the most esteemed people of his day, his inflated ego eventually got him tangled up in court. At the same time, Galileo gave God constant credit for the greatness of His creative powers and glory. He marveled at God’s power and the honor that had been given him in being able to see things which had, until then, hung beyond humanity’s reach.

Galileo and the Scriptures:
Unlike Copernicus’ Revolutions, Galileo’s Starry Messenger sold widely and he quickly became famous. He was not hauled into Rome for his discoveries, but was in fact well received. He made a shrewd political move and named Jupiter’s moons the “Medicean planets” after the Medici dukes of Tuscany. He was given the position as the duke’s mathematician and philosopher, which freed him up to stop teaching and devote himself to researching and writing.

The Roman Catholic Church didn’t have an official position on the orbiting habits of celestial bodies just yet. Galileo was warmly received in Rome after his book was published. The Jesuits welcomed him, and he had several friendly visits with the Pope.

As brilliant and driven as he was, Galileo made the error of developing a significant arrogance, and he had no difficulty humiliating those who disagreed with him. He had a great talent for satire, and he made quite a few enemies through his sardonic wit.

One morning at the palace during breakfast, the duke’s mother, Princess Christina, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, upset everything. She made a comment that the Bible said the earth stood still and the Sun moved, rather than the other way around. Galileo wrote the Grand Duchess a letter, explaining that he believed the Bible, interpreted correctly, would match up with science. He went on to offer his position that the Bible said so little about the heavens and their movement, that clearly God wasn’t concerned with teaching astronomy through His Word, and it was not a salvation issue:

“Since the Holy Ghost did not intend to teach us whether heaven moves or stands still, whether its shape is spherical or like a discus or extended in a plane, nor whether the earth is located at its center or off to one side, then so much the less was it intended to settle for us any other conclusion of the same kind. And the motion or rest of the earth and the sun is so closely linked with the things just named, that without a determination of the one, neither side can be taken in the other matters. Now if the Holy Spirit has purposely neglected to teach us propositions of this sort as irrelevant to the highest goal (that is, to our salvation), how can anyone affirm that it is obligatory to take sides on them, and that one belief is required by faith, while the other side is erroneous?…I would say here something that was heard from an ecclesiastic of the most eminent degree: ‘That the intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how heaven goes.'”

Galileo then declared he was able to offer an interpretation of Scripture in light of what his scientific discovery had showed him. He suggested, for instance, that when Joshua told the Sun to halt in the sky, that the Sun did indeed halt in its rotation, to which he believed the motion of the planets and moon were connected. When the Sun halted, so did the entire system, allowing the day to lengthen accordingly as the Scriptures said.

The First Trial:
This letter got Galileo into trouble. The Church had said at the Council of Trent, in response to the Reformation, that common people were not permitted to interpret scripture; that was the job of the Church hierarchy. As Galileo’s letter to Princess Chrstina became public, Galileo’s enemies pounced. His years of satire had ruffled too many feathers. They wrote to the Inquisition and demanded that he be investigated. The Pope asked the theologians to decide exactly what the scriptures said about the matter. Was the Sun the center of the world and immoveable, and did the Earth spin on its axis and revolve around the Sun?

In 1616 the Roman Catholic Church declared Ptolemy to be correct. The Pope had Galileo instructed not to teach the heliocentric theory of Copernicus and sent him home. The index of prohibited books banned all books that treated Copernicusism.

For 16 years, Galileo cleared away from the debate. Then, in 1632, Galileo published his famous Dialog Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. A new Pope was in Rome, Pope Urban VIII, a personal friend of Galileo, and Galileo kept him up on the progress of his new book.

When it was published, however, the Pope was in for a shock. The book, which became a best seller, was written as a discussion between three characters discussing the heliocentric versus geocentric models of the universe, and the character who supported the Ptolemaic position was named Simplicio – the “simpleton”. Those who supported the Ptolemaic side were described as “imbeciles” “dumb idiots” and “people who are too stupid to recognize their own limitations.” At one point, the Pope’s own words were spoken by Simplicio, which did not please the proud Pope. The book was banned, which only increased its popularity among the delighted masses.

The Second Trial
Galileo had made a miscalculation. He was called before the Inquisition and asked whether he’d written the offending book and was asked whether in 1616 he had been given an injunction to not promote Copernicus. Galileo defended himself sloppily, saying that he presented both sides of the issue in his book, and he did not believe he had trespassed the terms of the 1616 precept. The trial focused on determining the exact wording of the 1616 injunction and whether Galileo had violated it.

In the end, Galileo claimed that his satire had actually been written to defend Ptolemy. He declared that he did not hold the opinion of Copernicus. The court did not buy it, and Galileo was sentenced to life in prison. Galileo could have been tortured and imprisoned and burned at the stake, and he was quite aware of these possibilities. Instead, the Pope intervened – having made his point – and 69-year-old Galileo was kept under house arrest (including the houses of wealthy friends).

At his trial, Galileo insisted, “My only error was in my ambition in trying to appear smarter than everybody else.”

Interpretation and Church Power:
Galileo’s trials were therefore not the pitting of religion against science, but about the Roman Catholic Church’s desire to exert its power, about whether a common man was permitted to interpret the Bible outside of the official Church or insult those in authority. Galileo never rejected the Bible, but in fact repeatedly affirmed its true purpose and the intention of the Holy Spirit as true and good.

Galileo remained throughout his life dedicated to the God who created the Heavens and the Earth.

“When I consider what marvellous things men have understood,” Galileo wrote, “what he has inquired into and contrived, I know only too clearly that the human mind is a work of God, and one of the most excellent.” (Poupard, Cardinal Paul. Galileo Galilei,1983, p. 101.)


It will eventually be archived at




August 15, 2011

A small Amish farmer was treated the same as a drug lord selling dangerous drugs, just because he sold raw milk. In other words, his milk was not pasteurized. And for this, the federal government spent tens of thousands of our tax dollars on a year-long investigation of a small farmer. This is not the only case — it is happening all over the nation.

The same people who eat sushi, steak tartar and raw oysters have made raw milk illegal, regardless of whether it is safe.

The truth is that pasteurization only reduces the chances of milk being contaminated with bacteria. And factory dairies that produce milk in unsafe conditions must pasteurize their milk product because they produce that milk in filthy conditions.

Moreover, who is the government to tell us what kind of food we may or may not eat? They are simply trying to put a stop to the organic food movement and to eliminate small farmers who take a market share away from the corporate factory farms.

In the end, this is a matter of personal choice.



Book Review – Bob Wacszowski, Necromancer

August 4, 2011

Book Review: Bob Wacszowski, Necromancer
being the story of a regular guy
who learns how to animate and command the dead
a death-comedy novel by
George Dalphin

Narrated by an extra-dimensional alien, this novel presents a post-Bob world in which a new religion has taken hold, despite the best efforts of Bob to avoid such an outcome. The opening sentence of Chapter 1 reminds me of Snoopy’s novel, “It was a dark and stormy night.” Not a good omen. I question the metaphor, “merely a cardboard cutout of the sun behind the clouds” as an unlikely sight.

Somehow it reminds me of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Not that the plot is similar, because it isn’t, but because it has that same tongue-in-cheek humor that you often find in British literature.

Bob’s girlfriend Anna breaks up with him because he has never grown up, depends on her for money and even for a working shower and is, in short, a man-child. This inauspicious opening leads to Bob’s discovery of the secret of life – or more properly, the key to reversing death.

Armed with an ancient book that only he can read, Bob sets out to put his own life in order. He has no plans for the rest of the world, but you know what they say about the best laid plans.

Bob Wacszowski, Necromancer is fun to read, despite some awkward phrases and clumsy sentence constructions. The story will take you far into the depths of your own mind and then back again to the everyday world which we call reality.

On a scale of one to five, I give it four stars.


Available on Amazon



This review can also be seen on my blog:



Excerpt from my memoir

June 10, 2011

Here’s an excerpt from my memoir Tessa B. Dick: My Life on the Edge of Reality:

I watch horror movies as an adult in order to dispel the fear that haunted my childhood years.

The little orange stucco tract house on the corner of Westwood Boulevard and Ocean Drive in the neighborhood called “Studio Village” in Culver City, California, harbored a menagerie of monsters. I remember the cockroaches that used to swarm out of the storm drain on summer nights, but I was not afraid of them. I remember trying to catch the horned toads, a type of lizard, that lived in our patch of ivy. They scared me just a little.

The creaking and groaning of the pine-paneled walls of my bedroom terrified me. My older and smarter brother Steve later told me that we had an infestation of roof rats, but Mom never told me about the rats because she didn’t want to frighten me. I would have been less afraid if I had known about the rats, instead of being left to imagine all sorts of goblins inside the walls. Mom was always lying or withholding information, with the excuse that she did not want to frighten me. Her real reason was that she did not want to deal with my powerful and easily expressed emotions. She eventually managed to beat them out of me, so now I am stoic. When I was young and curious, she thought nothing of lying to me in order to make her own life easier. For example, I wanted to know how the speakers on our hi-fi worked, so I asked her if they were electrical. Mom said no, to avoid scaring me, even though she knew that they were electrical. I planned some day to study science, so I could learn what kind of magic made those speakers work.

What frightened me the most was that my two brothers and two cousins, all of whom were boys and older than I was, used to turn on the television and start watching a monster movie. They had seen these movies before, but I had not. One by one, they would get bored and leave the room, until I was sitting there all by myself watching Godzilla or the Wasp Woman or some other horror feature. I stayed glued to the chair, unable to leave until I saw the monster die. If I didn’t see the monster die on the television screen, it would remain alive in my mind. The one that frightened me the most was the Mummy. To this day, when I choose a sleeping bag, I never get a mummy bag.


This book is available on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle edition.


Bandit is in doggie Heaven

May 8, 2011

Bandit is in doggie Heaven. I wonder whether the tears will ever end.

My big Rottweiler/black Labrador mix came to me as a puppy. I remember when he was still nursing on his dog mommy.

I remember how happy he was whenever I got out the leash and said, “Walkies!”

I remember when he chewed the waistband off of my brand new blue jeans.

I remember how my Bandit used to run to the front door and bark whenever somebody came up the steps.

I remember how glad he was to see me whenever I came home, even if I had just spent a few minutes talking to a neighbor. When I had to be gone for two days, my granddaughter came by to feed Bandit and let him out to do his business. She said she had to force him to go outside. When I came home, Bandit hadn’t touched any of his food. He just sat there waiting for me to come home.

He used to wag what was left of his tail (it had been cropped when he was a baby).

He used to sit as close to me as possible, all day long, and sometimes he tried to climb into my lap, which was impossible for a 100-pound dog.

Bandit got old, ill, blind, deaf and lame, so he had to be put down. WAH! I miss my furry adopted child! The tears might end after some time, but I will always remember my Bandit. When he left this world, he took a piece of my soul with him.

He was the first dog that was all mine, not my brother’s dog and not my child’s dog. I am blessed to have had him for so many years, but my heart is broken now that I’ve lost him.

It is such a tragedy that our pets don’t live nearly as long as we do.

Bandit is in doggie Heaven. He is the best good boy!


He lives!

April 24, 2011

He lives!

Happy Resurrection Day!

This is my all-time favorite YouTube video –

Norman Greenbaum, “Spirit in the Sky”


WARNING — X Zone took my money, never ran my ad!

March 20, 2011


I spent $75 for an ad in Rob McConnell’s X Zone Chronicles newsletter on December 26, 2010, to run in their special January edition.

It never ran. They keep promising to run my ad in some future issue, but they never run my ad, and they refuse to refund my money.



Two interviews over the weekend honoring PKD

March 14, 2011

Two interviews with me and Anthony Peake, the amazing author of The Daemon.

This one is with Jeffery Pritchett interviewing me and Anthony Peake:


This one is with Anthony Peake as interviewer:



Philip K. Dick: Existentalist

February 17, 2011

Over the course of my ten-year relationship with my husband, I learned that he was more an Existentialist than a Gnostic. His core ideas fall more into line with Kierkegaard and Nietszche, Kafka and Schopenhauer, than with the prophets of Nag Hammadi or the neo-Platonists.

Although he adopted some of the trappings of gnosticism, such as the demiurge and the veil of illusion, Philip K. Dick adopted an eclectic body of knowledge while educating himself at the public library. Like Schopenhauer, he came to the conclusion that the universe is not rational, so we cannot gain a rational understanding of its nature, rules and existence. Like Kafka, he saw us as prisoners who never know what crime has been laid against us.

In line with God’s assertion to Moses that his name is “I am”, Phil began his study of the human existence.

~~ More to come in future posts.
Thank you for reading!

Hanging by a thread– thread about to break

February 16, 2011

With a little help from my friends and family, I got a month’s worth of utility bills paid. Unfortunately, I’m still a month behind, so everything is going to get turned off.

You can help by pre-ordering a copy of my memoir Tessa B. Dick: My Life no the Edge of Reality, which will be available in March.

In this book I tell the story of my life, including my relationship with my husband Philip K. Dick (Bladerunner), as well as the government-sponsored experiment on school children in the 1960s. My brother and I were subjects in that experiment, which was conducted without our parents’ knowledge or permission.

If you send me $25 by Paypal, I will send you a signed copy as soon as it is available.

My Paypal addy is tuffy777@gmail.com

Thank you so much!