So when Galileo in 1632 published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, the church found itself in a quandary. First, Galileo claimed to have demonstrated the truth of heliocentrism, but in fact his proof was wrong. One of Galileo’s main arguments was that the rapid motion of the earth around the sun was responsible for the ocean tides. This was questionable at the time, and we now know that the moon is primarily responsible for tides. Galileo also assumed, as did Copernicus, that planets move in circular paths, even though by Galileo’s time Kepler had shown that the planetary orbits are elliptical. Galileo contended that Kepler was wrong.

Second, Galileo embarrassed the pope by constructing his “dialogue” between two figures, one representing himself and the other representing the pope. To dramatize the contrast, Galileo gave his pope character the name Simplicio, which in Italian means “simpleton.” The dialogue basically consists of foolish claims by Simplicio elegantly refuted by the character speaking for Galileo. The pope was not amused.

Galileo’s third mistake was that his writings were not confined to scientific issues; he also advanced his own theory of scriptural interpretation. Galileo argued that the Bible was largely allegorical and required constant reinterpretation to excavate its true meaning. The Jesuits had warned him not to venture into this territory. Scripture, they told Galileo,is the province of the church. With the hubris and imprudence not unknown among great men of science, Galileo ignored this counsel. So when he was again reported to the Inquisition, his opponents were able to fault him not only on scientific grounds but also on the grounds that he was undermining the religious teaching of the church.