What got Galileo in trouble was the act itself of looking into the telescope. How could this be? The answer is not as simple as you might think. In fact it involves the most complex and demanding inquiry into the being of human beings imaginable. It also requires a willingness to somehow step above "being human 1997" for a moment so that we can establish a vantage point from which we can then look back. This "looking back", from a place of observation, is often called meta-thinking, or thinking about thinking. If your eyeballs or brain are spinning right now please take comfort in the fact that you're probably in the right place for this conversation.
There are two principle words we need to get into play to continue; cosmology and paradigm. In the simplest of terms a cosmology is the outer wrapper, or container, of everything held by us to be "real". When we speak of what's real for our modern scientific selves we use cosmology. When we speak from an anthropological and/or historical perspective about societies not like us we always seem to use the word myth. From our lofty vantage point of observation, however, we can see that it's all cosmology; i.e. the truth by which we lead our lives.
I've always found it interesting to imagine the responses if we sat up a "man in the street" interview in any Downtown USA, and asked passers by to give us a quick rundown of the operable "Western Cosmology -1997". My biggest laughs come from further imagining the location to be New York City. In contrast, if we were to ask the little brown man in his loincloth, face paint, beads, feathers, and rattle standing in the Amazon jungle clearing, he would probably use up all of the video tape we had, and several cameramen, before he finished.
There is a difference in the two appellations of cosmology given above; one is seen and known, and the other isn't. One is engaged with as a living, breathing, pneumatology while the other functions more like a pattern, or maze, that gets followed without recognizing that there is a pattern or maze. We will use the word paradigm (pattern) to mean a cosmology unseen and unexamined; an apt description of the current condition of western culture.
The run in Galileo had with the Church was not about scientific data, it was about Cosmology with a capital "C". The cosmology of 1600 was not the cosmology of today. Cosmology circa 1600 was a matter of faith that all that we see, and experience, came from God's will as the creator. It is very difficult for us to grasp a culture, a society, a community, that conducted their day to day lives in that reality. Galileo's heresy, the act of looking into the telescope, was seen as a questioning of God's will; an inquiry beyond the accepted belief system or cosmology of his time. What Galileo, his contemporary Kepler, and their predecessor Copernicus did, was to put a large enough hole in the existing cosmology that a few people could begin to think beyond the norm. It would be 50 years after Galileo's death that Newton would publish his "Principa"; and the age of the Scientific Method bloomed into cosmology.
Earl L. Crockett