Galileos Legacy
In papal Rome in the early 16th century the Good Book was the reference book for all scientists. If a theory was supported in its holy pages, or at the very least not contradicted, then the idea had a chance of find acceptance outside the laboratory. Likewise, no theory no matter how well documented could be viewed with anything but disdain if it contradicted with the written word of, or the Churchs official interpretation of scripture. For these reasons the Church suppressed helio-centric thinking to the point of making it a hiss and a byword. However, this did not keep brave men from exploring scientific reason outside the canonical doctrine of the papal throne, sometimes at the risk of losing their own lives. While the Vatican was able to control the universities and even most of the professors, it could not control the mind of one man known to the modern world as Galileo Galilei. Despite a wide array of enemies, Galileo embarked on a quest, it seems almost from the beginning of his academic career, to defend the Copernican idea of a helio-centric universe by challenging the authority of the church in matters of science. Galileos willingness to stand up for what he held to be right in the face of opposition from Bible-driven science advocates set him apart as one of the key players in the movement to separate Church authority from scientific discovery, and consequently paved the way for future scientific achievement.
Galileo even as a boy seemed destined to challenge the scientific thought of the day. He has often been characterized as a pioneer of rebellion against authority. If that was true then he was only following in his fathers footsteps. His Father, a revolutionary man in the world of music who spoke out against the music theories of his day, was quoted as saying, “It appears to me that those who try to prove an assertion by relying simply on the weight of authority act very absurdly” (White, 196). Galileo continued in his fathers rebellion against contemporary views with his support of a helio-centric-universe, a view previously argued by Copernicus, but for the most part ignored by scientists for its contradiction with the established, church-endorsed system of Ptolemy.
Despite his reputation for being an enemy of the church, Galileo was actually a devout Catholic who committed both of his daughters to convents. He was good friends with a number of high-up Catholic authorities, including Pope Barberini, the Pope who was in power for the latter part of Galileos life. Earlier in life Galileo even tried, against the advice of his friends, to get an audience with the pope to convince him of the truth of the Copernican system. Unfortunately his request for an audience was met with a papal decree that helio-centric views, those espoused by Galileo and also by Copernicus, were heretical. Galileo persisted with his views but obeyed the papal ban on teaching helio-centrism as anything more than a theory. However, Galileo continued his fight for acceptance when he argued against viewing religious officials as authorities in science in his infamous letter to the Grand Duchess.
Galileos arguments for scientific independence from Biblical oppression found a voice in his letter to the Grand Duchess. Galileo received a letter from a former student informing him of a conversation that took place at the home of the Duchess widow of Ferdinando de Medici I. The conversation consisted of a visiting philosopher/priest telling the Duchess the earth was not in motion, turning to biblical passages for proof. Galileo used this as a spring board for explaining his stance on the proper relationship between the Bible, the Church, and scientific thought. Galileo both insulted his critics as well as implying that the authority of neither the Bible nor the Church should have been an authority in observable science when he argued that his opponents have resolved to fabricate a shield for their fallacies out of the mantle of pretended religion and the authority of the Bible (Bragg 222). In his arguments there was a fleeting feeling of wanting to protect the church from its own ignorance, as well as wanting to purge its false scientific views.
Galileo further argued that scripture ought not to be the standard for measuring the validity of scientific theory, because scriptures may be misinterpreted. Again referring to his enemies in his letter to the Grand Duchess, Galileo argues that they would have us altogether abandon reason and the evidence of our senses in favor of some biblical passage, though under the surface meaning of its words this passage may contain a different sense (Bragg, 223). At no time does Galileo argue that the Catholic church is false, or that the Bible is anything other than divinely inspired. However, he does not hesitate to argue that mans interpretation of the Bible may be incorrect, and therefore ought not be held as ultimate truth, overriding scientific observation. Galileo even goes as far as saying that his critics, many of whom were officials high-up in the Catholic church, neither read nor understood the Bible (Bragg, 220). Galileo recognized that because the Bible could be understood to mean so many different things it should not have been used as an absolute in matters of science. Instead, Galileo argued for the use of the senses, observation, and experimentation in the scientific study of the world and universe around them. Despite all of his best efforts Galileo was tried and convicted by the church for violating its decree that Helio-centrism was not be taught as truth.

The Church has disagreed with some of the most fundamental scientific discoveries over the nearly four centuries since Galileos time. The roundness of the earth, though excepted by most of the contemporary groups from the Egyptians to Greeks as well as civilizations that existed centuries before the Catholic church, was soundly rejected by the early church on the basis of scriptural interpretation. This took hundreds of years to reverse, using science, as well as scriptural interpretations, to show otherwise. If the church had been the sole source and final judge of scientific reasoning, modern thought might still be dominated by a world as flat as a board (White, 198-205). The Churchs opposition to scientific reasoning in general along with observation as the basis for science, the modern view, is best summarized in its support of Aristotle who did not espouse observation as a means toward scientific enlightenment. Evolution, Newtons laws of motion, fossils as proof of the changes of life, continental drift, and the big bang, all of which met with Catholic disapproval are now commonly accepted and researched (Bragg, 224). If the Church had its way these all would have been dismissed without experimentation. Instead these ideas have found acceptance regardless of Papal disdain on the basic idea that church endorsement is not a necessary step in the scientific method.
Galileos contributions to the science of Physics and Astronomy were many. His conviction was legendary. His willingness to suffer for his beliefs exemplify true courage in the name of truth, and has inspired others to venture intellectual independence from the Churchs creeds, edicts, and proclamations. Perhaps these contributions led to the call for an investigation into Galileo’s conviction, eventually calling for its reversal, in 1979 by Pope John Paul II. But regardless of his standing in the annals of the Catholic church he will always be the man who began the separation of science and religion.

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White, Andrew Dickinson, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology, New York: D. Appleton and company, 1996.

Bragg, Melvyn, On Giants’ Shoulders: Great Scientists and Their Discoveries from Archimedes to DNA. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998.


Autism Autism Throughout the years the diagnosis of autism has changed dramatically. Once, it was mistakenly diagnosed as childhood schizophrenia. Now that much more extensive research has been done, researchers have found distinct characteristics that are typical of autistic individuals. It is most often characterized by difficulty in the child’s ability to respond to people, events, and objects. Responses to sensations of light, sound, and feeling may be exaggerated. Delayed speech and language may be associated.

Other characteristics include: impairment in ability to make peer friendships, absence of imaginative activity, stereotyped body movements, persistent preoccupation with parts of objects, marked distress over changes in trivial aspects of the environment, unreasonable insistence on following routines in precise detail, a restricted range of interests and a preoccupation with one narrow interest, along with many others. Although certain characteristics are typical of autistic children, the diagnosis is a multidisciplinary effort. The diagnosis requires a team of professionals because of the many unique characteristics and behaviors of the autistic child Each professional is assigned a different behavior to monitor. However, the psychiatrist and the psychologist are mainly responsible for the diagnosis and the psychological evaluations involved. The onset of this condition is usually observed within the first two and a half years.

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In 1968, the APA referred to autism as a single disorder, and now it is known to be a syndrome of behavioral and medical effects. Along with autism, several related disorders are grouped under Pervasive Developmental Disorders, PDD, a general category which is characterized by severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of development. The standard reference is known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, DSM, which is now in its fourth edition. The DSM classifies the different types of PDD which are often mistaken as autism. The other PDD are Asperger’s Disorder, Rett’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified, PDD-NOS, which is commonly referred to as atypical autism.

The term autistic spectrum disorder is frequently used to acknowledge the diversity and severity of autism . The characteristics and symptoms of autism can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations. There is no standard type and no such thing as a typical person with autism. The most commonly used terms to describe people with autism are: autistic-like, autistic tendencies, autistic spectrum, high functioning, or low functioning, and more-abled or less-abled. Autistic disorder is also know as Infantile Autism or Kanner’s Syndrome. Most children with this condition exhibit poor social skills, and impaired cognitive functioning and language.

What is it that causes this national crisis, affecting over 400,000 families, and costing the nation over 13 billion dollars. Autism is the third most common developmental disorder, more common than Down Syndrome, multiple sclerosis, or cystic fibrosis, and autism research still receives less than 5% of the funding of the other diseases. With the lack of funding, researchers from all over the world are spending a considerable amount of time and energy trying to find answers. A single specific cause of autism is still not known. The most current research links autism to neurological or biological differences in the brain, and in many families a pattern of autism or autism related disabilities appears.

This could suggest that autism has a genetic basis, although no specific gene has been directly linked to autism. Researchers believe that a genetic basis would be highly complex, involving a combination of several genes. Direct causes have not been discovered, but several theories has been proven false. Autism is not a mental disorder, children with autism are not unruly kids who choose not to behave. Autism is not caused by bad parenting, and no known psychological factors in child development have been proven to cause autism. Children with autism begin to show signs of this disease at around the age of two.

This is when parents may notice delays in language, play, or social interaction. One of the many problems autistic children have is with social detachment and unresponsiveness. Autistic babies do not smile at there parents or reach out to be cuddled or picked up. They often do not play with other children, appearing to be in there their own world, unaware of people or events around them. Many children may never develop normal concern for the feelings of others. Language develops very slowly or in 40% of autistic children not at all.

They often use gestures instead of words or use words, but without attaching the usual meaning. Some autistic children have echolalia. This is when the child will repeat back what someone has just said. This repeating of what was just said, is also thought to be a way for the child to express the word yes. Their voices are normally mechanical or robot like. People with autism do not like it when their physical surroundings or daily routines are changed.

They are dependent on their every day routines, and may have tantrums if things are out of place. Older autistic people may engage in the same hobby or have a set topic of conversation such as train schedules or road maps. Unusual movements and mechanical fascination are others signs of autism. Children will repeat the same motions over and over again, such as: twirling about, rocking back and forth, waving their arms, or flicking their fingers. They may also be hyperactive, moving from place to place with no apparent purpose.

Physical objects seem to be more interesting them then people. Some autistic people will become attached to a certain object, carrying it around at all times, or become obsessed by a particular activity such as flushing a toilet or turning a light switch on and off. Autism is also characterized by self-injurious behavior. This refers to any behavior that can cause tissue damage, such as bruises, redness and open wounds. The most common forms of these behaviors include head-banging, hand-biting, and excessive scratching or rubbing. There are two major sets of theories on why people engage in self-injury: physiological and social.

The physiological theorists believe that these behaviors may release beta-endorphins in the person’s brain, which in turn, provides the person with a form of in …


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