Editorial: What would Galileo do?

Climatology is the work of the devil. So said Galileo’s inquisitors 400 years ago. No, I exaggerate; that is not the historical truth. But it is, I submit, the “emotional truth.”

In the play “Galileo’s Torch” — to be presented this weekend at John Henry’s Stonehenge-like amphitheater in Flint Hill — playwright James Reston Jr. says he wants to get at the emotional truth. He also says, in his role as the play’s narrator:

“In the past 1,000 years I can’t think of a single human life that so changed our perception of the world and the universe than Galileo.”

And yet when he lived, he was unappreciated, even persecuted and prosecuted. That’s what Reston’s play is all about. It is based on his 1994 book “Galileo: A Life,” and has in its starring roles many Rappahannock and Big Washington celebrities.

Toward the end of his life, Galileo was forced — tortured perhaps — to recant his heresy. And the heresy was this: That the earth was not the center of the universe but, instead, moved in orbit around the sun.

He had used mathematics to prove his heretical hypothesis, and that’s when the inquisitors in Reston’s play say, “Mathematics is the work of the devil.”

The catchy ditty from that old television commercial comes to mind: “We’ve come a long way, baby!” Or have we?

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Walter Nicklin
Publisher