The Rebirth of Innovation

The Renaissance drew from the works of many ancient Greek philosophers, shining a light on works like those by Aristotle and Ptolemy that were ignored through much of the Middle Ages. Although many Renaissance artists drew inspiration from past philosophers and architects, there was also steep criticism of some unanimously accepted truths. One such truth, the movement of heavenly objects, became a subject of great interest to Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, and Galileo Galilei. The Church held on tightly to their belief in geocentrism, which placed the Earth at the center of the Universe and kept the religious teachings of the Church particularly simple. The sixteenth century began to question this established belief as Copernicus, later joined by Kepler and Galileo, conducted a series of observation experiments that ultimately led to his conclusion that the planets, which included the Earth, revolve around the Sun.

the Universe in Nuremberg Chronicle
The above is an excerpt from The Nuremberg Chronicle (1493) that depicts the universe from a geocentric perspective. The Catholic Church supported this theory of the heavens because it allowed them to stick to their strict doctrine.

The Catholic Church, concerned about losing more of its already sliding power, responded quickly to Galileo’s assertions that the Earth did not make up the center of the universe. They saw his words, along with the previous works of Copernicus and Kepler, to clash with Catholic doctrine and the Holy Scriptures. As a result of the Catholic’s remaining influence in Europe, Galileo abandoned his experimentation and exited the public scene after his initial challenge of Church doctrine. Thus, the matter of planetary movement fell victim to an angry Catholic Church and authority reigned over truth.

However, the Scientific Revolution that came along with the Renaissance created an increased desire for truth throughout European society. Scientific discovery, whether from the observations of astronomers or the experimentation of Isaac Newton, led the spread of a new attitude toward’s God’s role in the world. The growth of this Deism meant that many felt God did not play a direct role in the day-to-day workings of society. It was the beginning of the end to the Catholic Church’s ability to dictate truth.


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