Galileo’s Hammer: The Telescope

When Galileo put a telescope between himself and universe, he changed everything!

Well. Not really everything!

What he did was knock a crack in a long-held conceptual wall. It was a wall designed by philosophers Plato and Aristotle, and constructed  by the Western branch of the Christian church. (1)

His simple telescope (which had the magnification of a normal pair of binoculars) gave him more detailed observations than he could get from the naked eye.

His telescope revealed the Milky Way, which appears wonderful fuzzy blur of light when looking with the naked eye on a  clear night, was actually composed of thousands and thousands of individual stars, very far away from earth.” (2)


Our Place in the Milky Way

Skeptics didn’t trust either the instrument  nor the models he built based his observations.

Each revelation called into question what people thought about the heavens. Some thought Galileo’s ideas were based on tricks played by his new ‘tube’, as the telescope was often called, because what could not be seen by the naked eye might not be there. Galileo had to try to convince people that what his telescope showed was real.” (3)

Galileo’s story is the classic example of the competition between science and religion. A competition for the dominance in worldviews.

Ultimately this simple telescope of his became the hammer that cracked the rigid wall of religion. The crack initially created by Galileo has become a continuous and growing breech. With each new cycle of observation, improved measuring instruments, and updated models, new anomalies arise between science’s insights and the remnants of  religion’s crumbling wall.

Religions either address these anomalies, or fade into irrelevancy.

The Hubble Telescope Blasts Away at the Wall?

In the tradition the telescope, The Hubble Telescope continues to reveal challenging  information. This challenge is for both science and religion, but the very structure of science makes it more flexible when encountering this new information.

“Since the earliest days of astronomy, since the time of Galileo, astronomers have shared a single goal — to see more, see farther, see deeper.

The Hubble Space Telescope’s launch in 1990 sped humanity to one of its greatest advances in that journey.”(4)


A Snapshot of the 3D Model of the Universe (5)

With it’s less obstructed view of the universe, today’s astronomer’s have been able to construct an amazing  3D map of universe. (6)

The creator of the 3D map of the universe–Brent Tully–followed in Galileo’s footsteps when he created this detailed model of the universe. One feels a sense of awe and wonderment at the vastness shown by the map.

And frankly, it blasts away at what remains of religion’s conceptual wall. To take the challenge, watch the video:

(1) Exploring the Gap between Science and Religion, Chapter Six: “Shall I Worship the God I Create or the God that Created Me”, p. 42, Figure 12 — Contributors to the Western God Model.

(2) “A Little History of Science, p 65.

(3) Ibid, p 65.

(4) “Hubble Site,” “Hubble Essentials.”

(5) Picture taken from the video walk-through of the 3D Model,

(6) Discover Magazine “The Most Map You’ll See Today,”


There are Always Two trees…and Two Gods

An insight one discovers when exploring the gap between science and religion is that there are always two “somethings!”

There is the object “out there” which is the subject of an individual’s observation, and there is the representation of that object in that humans as “definers” create.

There is a bark-encased, branch-spreading, leaf-bearing (or needle bearing) object, and then there is the representation of that something that we have in our minds. It is of course, the tree. This representation is so pervasive, we almost never attend to it.

Trees. Two of them. The one on the right the one outside of us. The one on the left, our model.

Note the philosophical insight: there are two trees.

This “twoness” is not so clear when it comes to intangible “things,” such as love, smell, and transcendental object humans label as “God.”

The labeling of something as “god” or “God” is not limited to those who believe in God. Atheists have a model of god, to which they attribute the characteristic of “non-existent.”

Whether one is an atheist or a theist, the fact that humans created of the term and concept that deals with the transcendental raises the question, “What experience has led humans to label something as “God.”


An experience of something bigger than oneself…

Perhaps it is what Sociologists report as a universal experience of something bigger than ourselves–aka transcendental. “Universal” in this case refers to a global phenomena where every culture has those in their society who testify to this experience.

From this experience of the transcendental–that which transcends the individual (aka ego)–we humans have modeled this experience is different ways. For example, eastern philosophy’s representation as Nirvana and/or the opening lotus blossom.

Notice that in next graphic, the Abrahamic religion’s representation of God as a old male with a long beard and flowing robes. That representation is shaped by other people, the prevailing culture, scripture & other written works, and prayer & meditation.


A god created by humans, is a representation of “something?”

For people who have a strong religious sense then, the challenging question becomes:

Whom shall I worship? The god I created, or the God that created me?

The next logical question is:

How do I know which one?