Weighing up the Evidence
What does it take to establish a new scientific truth? In the case of heliocentrism, the death of its sceptics.
It is one of the most famous quotations that was never said: Eppur si muove (And yet it moves). Galileo Galilei’s muttered protest symbolises the triumph of scientific rationality over blinkered, obstructive theology. In the face of all the facts – or so runs the mythology – Pope Urban VIII had refused to accept that the earth is in perpetual motion around the sun. He condemned the heretical astronomer to the relatively mild punishment of house arrest, although melodramatic illustrations show a handcuffed elderly man being thrust down the steps of a dark dungeon as he vainly proclaims the truth.