I find it very interesting how over the span of the last millennium science and philosophy have continually evolved. At times the changes are so drastic; they yield entirely new discoveries that rewrite history books and scientific journals. Think of this for a moment: The 1500’s brought forth an amazing renaissance of thought. During the life of Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, the church and state of Europe still had a firm belief that the Earth was the center of the Universe around which the sun and all stars revolved. Any individuals, including Copernicus, who contested this long- held theory, were many times persecuted and punished. The Catholic Church was one of the biggest advocates of this theory. It took one man however to set the world on its heels – an Italian Astronomer named Galileo Galilei. At the turn of the 16th century, through use of the scientific method, Galileo proved that the Earth was not in fact the center of the Universe. Believe it or not this was still thought to be a ridiculous theory and was even labeled blasphemy. Today however, we know that the old theory of the Earth and even the Sun as the center of the Universe is ludicrous. Yet, Copernicus and Galileo were persecuted until the day they died for a theory they believed in and even proved scientifically.

What I find interesting is that all the kings, priests and church and state officials of the era believed with unfaltering faith that the Sun revolved around the Earth, yet they were mistaken. It was not until March 1984 that Pope John Paul II finally conceded and corrected a 350 year wrong. It took 350 years for the Catholic Church to reverse its stance about a basic law of Astronomy. In addition, open-minded thinkers like Galileo and Copernicus died before their beliefs to the contrary were lauded as a monumental scientific discovery. Is this a tragedy? Probably not – they died with their belief systems in place. Still, I can only imagine their frustration – seeing the ignorance that ran ramped through the highest echelons of power. Yet, this does parallel modern life in many ways. As long as you have faith in something, whether right or wrong, you will instill into it a strong belief system that defines you. You may even be punished or ostracized by individuals or groups who do not see things your way. Ignorance, racism and religious persecution are problems our global community still faces day to day.

My point is, as free thinking individuals, there is a need to question authority. To confirm that what we learn in life from a societal, political and spiritual view is valid information. It is important to remember that thinking freely with an open mind is one of the most extraordinary gifts we have as humans. Galileo and Copernicus were free thinkers in a very close-minded world, yet their discoveries revolutionized how we perceive ourselves and our world today. We are not the center of the Universe – we are merely one part of something so vast it boggles the imagination. Yet one principal will remain constant over time: Humans will still always desire to understand why we exist and how the Universe operates. Who knows? The thoughts we think today may seem crazy to those who live generations in the future. The vital thing is for everyone to live with faith in their belief systems along with a complete trust and openness for change, void of persecution.

 

John C. Bader

 

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