Thursday, August 1, 2013

Life of Galileo

Play: Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht

Description: Arguably Brecht's greatest play, A Life of Galileo charts the seventeenth century scientist's extraordinary fight with the church over his assertion that the earth orbits the sun.The figure of Galileo, whose ‘heretical’ discoveries about the solar system brought him to the attention of the Inquisition, is one of Brecht’s more human and complex creations. Temporarily silenced by the Inquisition’s threat of torture, and forced to abjure his theories publicly, Galileo continues to work in private, eventually smuggling his work out of the country. (from

My Thoughts: This was an interesting, thought-provoking play. I'm not sure how many of the ideas within I agreed with, but it was an excellent play for forcing me to think about what I believed about what was happening. 

My first thoughts about Galileo: he was a scientist who wanted to discover things about the world, full of optimism but also impracticality. Galileo didn't care at all that no one really wanted to know about what he was trying to discover. He refused to design useful things or take on students, and yet he somehow expected to live a lavish, comfortable lifestyle full of wine, good food, and good clothes. Oh, and he was consistently a jerk to his daughter. So I had mixed feelings about Galileo (although he did seem incredibly human).

Part of what made this play so interesting was that I could sympathize with everyone to some extent. Galilei was portrayed as a genius who ultimately just couldn't stop thinking about his discoveries (which is something I can relate to); the women around Galilei were loyal and kind; Galileo's students had a great desire for scientific truth and discovery that they refused to compromise. Even the Church men, who wanted Galilei to not publish or discover, came across as understandable to me. I'm not even sure why--they refused to even begin to think of their faith in a different way, and they ultimately force Galileo, on pain of torture and death, to recant (i.e. lie) just so they can feel better. It was like I could understand why they did it and their struggle to reconcile this new fact and their beliefs, even if I disagree with their solution. Being so closed-minded that you would rather kill than consider that you might be even slightly wrong is evil and wrong. Was Galileo right to look into the structure of the solar system? How does that knowledge help us?

What is the point of scientific discovery? It helps us discover more about God's world, which tells us more about God--but it ultimately leads to awful inventions like the atom bomb. It leads to people questioning God and unable to see Him. And yet God calls us to search for truth. The world is broken and fallen; is it any wonder that anything we discover, however good it may be, becomes twisted and used for evil?

Life of Galileo really made me think, and for that reason I enjoyed it immensely.

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