Galileo’s Middle Finger

Published under: Galileo, Symbols + Numbers

The dig­i­tus infamis.

A sym­bolic ges­ture pre­served for posterity?

Galileo's Middle Finger
While trav­el­ing through Italy in the 70’s, I vis­ited Firenze’s Insti­tute and Museum of the His­tory of Sci­ence (recently renamed the Museo Galileo.) On dis­play was this relic. (Yes, it’s his mid­dle fin­ger.)I had to laugh.  Was this a mes­sage from beyond the grave?  To those who once con­demned him?

Galileo was part of the Sci­en­tific Renais­sance (begin­ning in the 15th Cen­tury).  A time when a great infu­sion of cre­ative energy was being chan­neled into sci­en­tific break­throughs.

Galileo’s con­tri­bu­tions changed our view of the world.  His explo­rations lead to many dis­cov­er­ies — includ­ing the inven­tion of the micro­scope, the improve­ment of the tele­scope, and the dis­cov­ery of the moons of Jupiter.

In spite of his suc­cess, he was ulti­mately tried for heresy; con­demned, and sent into exile.  As a defender of Coper­ni­can Astron­omy (which states that the sun, and not the earth, is the cen­ter of our solar sys­tem) — Galileo was going against the doc­trine of the Church.  He spent the last years of his life blind and in declin­ing health.  His mid­dle fin­ger was ulti­mately wrested from his body as his remains were being moved to their present location.

Fast for­ward to the present.  We find our­selves liv­ing in an age when the cre­ative sparks are ignit­ing all man­ner of sci­en­tific dis­cov­ery.  And as before, we find our­selves com­ing up against the dic­tates of the church.  Whether its in stem cell research or birth con­trol — we’re again faced with the prospect of being held hostage by nar­row worldviews.

But, keep the faith.  Amaz­ing insights are con­tin­u­ing to expand our under­stand­ing of our quan­tum uni­verse.   We’re mov­ing toward the dis­cov­ery of a rev­o­lu­tion­ary frame­work that will unify our sci­en­tific and mys­ti­cal real­i­ties.  Let’s keep our eyes on the hori­zon.  A new day is dawning.

For more info. on the Museo Galileo, click here.

Update: Pope John Paul II Par­dons Galileo.

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