On a recent episode of Current TV’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” the host falsely claimed that Galileo was punished by the Church for “his belief that the earth orbited the sun.” He also said that “the Church acknowledged errors had been committed in assessing Galileo’s scientific beliefs. They did that in 1992.”

In fact, the belief that the earth revolves around the sun was first broached by a Catholic priest, Copernicus, long before Galileo. Moreover, when Galileo first floated Copernicus’ idea, he was bestowed with gifts by Pope Urban VIII. What got him censured was his arrogance: Galileo argued that his hypothesis was a scientific fact, something even scientists of his day scoffed at.

It is false to say that in 1992 the Church acknowledged errors in dealing with Galileo. In fact, in 1741, Pope Benedict XIV granted an imprimatur to the first edition of the completed works of Galileo.

If Olbermann were simply wrong, that would be one thing. But it was his snide delivery that was really offensive.


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