On 5th March 1616 De revolutionobus orbium coelestium, by Nicolaus Copernicus was placed on the Catholic Forbidden Index. The problem with Copernicus’s book is that it contained the results of his astronomical observations, which were that the Earth revolves around the Sun, and not the other was around. The bible said otherwise, so there was a conflict between faith and reason. Copernicus’s book was published in 1543, just before his death, which was perhaps fortunate for him. He lived to the ripe old age, for the time, of seventy. Others such as Galileo would be persecuted by the church for any attempt to use scientific method, observation and reason to suggest that the bible might be wrong.

Fire and Earth, the second book in the Sir Anthony Standen Adventures has this theme of faith and reason at its core. I was inspired by the fate of Giordano Bruno who was burnt at the stake in Rome in 1600 for writings which appeared to contradict the views of the church. You might be surprised to know that it was not until 1992 that the Pope admitted that Copernicus, Galileo, and the other proponents of reason over faith had been right all along. What I find astonishing is how the church managed to dig such a hole for itself. The biblical authority for the Sun revolving around the Earth is, as far as I can establish, in Joshua chapter ten, verses twelve to fourteen. 

“Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies.”

If you set yourself up to be the fount of all knowledge and wisdom, then I suppose you feel compelled to defend that position, against all opposition.

You may have guessed that I used AI again for generating an image. I asked ChatGBT to paint Nicolaus Copernicus making astronomical observations. Is it playing with me? Does it really know that the telescope wasn’t invented until around sixty years after Copernicus died? Perhaps that’s why it’s put Copernicus at the top of a mountain with a giant telescope that he would need a stepladder to see through.