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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