How often do you stand your ground?

Today is December 1 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you stand your ground?” People who navigate the chaos often stand firm in their position amidst the volatility of a situation. Through matters small and large, standing your ground is an absolute necessity at times if you want to navigate the chaos.

One lesser known example of standing firm stems from the Staten Island Peace Conference on September 11, 1776 held in the hope of bringing an end to the American Revolutionary War. The participants were the British Admiral Lord Richard Howe, and members of the Second Continental Congress John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Edward Rutledge. Since Lord Howe's authority was extremely limited, the Congressional delegation was pessimistic about the meeting's outcome.

The conference lasted just three hours and was a failure. The Americans insisted on recognition of their recently declared independence, and Howe's limited authority was inadequate to deal with that development. In one of the most forgotten quotes in American history John Adams told Lord Howe "Your lordship may consider me in what light you please, except that of a British subject." A far more well-known example of someone who stood their ground was Galileo Galilei.

Galilei (1564-1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist, and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath, from Pisa. Galileo has been called the "father of observational astronomy", the "father of modern physics", the "father of the scientific method", and the "father of modern science.” Due to his discoveries, publications, and beliefs that opposed the Church’s teaching, a sequence of events into his work began around 1610 and ended with the trial and condemnation of Galileo Galilei by the Roman Catholic Inquisition in 1633 for his support of heliocentrism.

Heliocentrism is the astronomical model in which the Earth and planets revolve around the Sun at the center of the Solar System. Historically, heliocentrism was opposed to geocentrism, which placed the Earth at the center. Geocentrism was the commonly accepted belief, especially by the Catholic Church at the time, and originated from the Greek mathematician, astronomer, geographer, and astrologer Ptolemy (100-170). He thought that all celestial objects — including the planets, Sun, Moon, and stars — orbited Earth. Earth, in the center of the universe, did not move at all.

In 1610, Galileo published his Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger), describing the surprising observations that he had made with the new telescope, namely the phases of Venus and the Galilean moons of Jupiter. With these observations he promoted the heliocentric theory of Nicolaus Copernicus, a Polish astronomer (1473-1543) who published On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres just before his death in 1543.

This publication marked a major event in the history of science, triggering the Copernican Revolution and making a pioneering contribution to the Scientific Revolution. Galileo's initial discoveries were met with opposition within the Catholic Church, and in 1616 the Inquisition declared heliocentrism to be formally heretical. Heliocentric books were banned, and Galileo was ordered to refrain from holding, teaching, or defending heliocentric ideas.

Galileo went on to propose a theory of tides in 1616, and of comets in 1619; he argued that the tides were evidence for the motion of the Earth. In 1632 Galileo published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, which implicitly defended heliocentrism, and was immensely popular. It is important to note a quote often attributed to Galileo regarding the intersection of science and religion: “The Bible shows the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go.” Responding to mounting controversy over theology, astronomy and philosophy, the Roman Inquisition tried Galileo in 1633 and found him "vehemently suspect of heresy", sentencing him to indefinite imprisonment.

By the end of his trial, Galileo was forced to recant his own scientific findings as "abjured, cursed and detested," a renunciation that caused him great personal anguish but which saved him from being burned at the stake. Galileo was kept under house arrest until his death in 1642. Since then, the Church has taken various steps to reverse its opposition to Galileo's conclusions.

In 1757, Galileo's Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems was removed from the Index, a former list of publications banned by the Catholic Church. It took until 1984 for a panel of scientists, theologians and historians to declare that the Roman Catholic Church had wrongly condemned Galileo. A few years later, in 1992, Pope John Paul II said that the scientist was "imprudently opposed." Moreover, Paul Cardinal Poupard, the head of the investigation noted in The New York Times: "We today know that Galileo was right in adopting the Copernican astronomical theory.”

Galileo stood his ground and it cost him dearly. How often do you stand your ground?