BY Michael J. Crowe ’58 and Christopher M. Graney | Autumn 2012 | Notre Dame Magazine
The Aristotelians were wrong; the Copernicans were right. Our home is not the center of the universe; it is merely one planet circling one star in an incomprehensibly vast universe. But what is the deeper significance of this important claim?
David Wootton suggests an answer in his recent biography, Galileo: Watcher of the Skies. The Copernican theory, he writes, “[O]ffered a view of the cosmos in which humankind, and the things that matter to humankind — love and hatred, virtue and vice, mortality and immortality, salvation and damnation — were irrelevant. Far from embodying a scheme of values, far from embodying a telos or purpose, [this] universe appeared to be indifferent to moral and metaphysical issues, and even indifferent to our own existence. . . . Galileo’s greatest and at the same time most disturbing achievement was to recognize that the universe was not made for the sake of human beings.”