The only thing in Life that makes sense is “nothing makes sense”!

I’ve been trying to understand some of the principles of life and how they relate to human beings.  I find it difficult to grasp the concept that most people are not reasonable when it comes to accepting other people’s ideas.  It seems that the “truth”  is irrelevant to a person’s conviction even when clearly the facts show otherwise.  The following story of Galileo from Bill Bennett’s “The Moral Compass” demonstrates this point.

In Italy some four hundred years ago there lived a young man named Galileo Galilei.  He possessed an intensely inquiring spiritthat is to say, he was the kind of man who makes a point of seeing whatever he looks at, thinking about it afterward, and asking the question: “Why?” He started out as a student of medicine, but soon gave up that plan to spend time on what he really loved-physics and mathematics. He turned his whole mind to the pursuit, and by the time he was twenty-six years old, he became a professor of mathematics at the University of Pisa.

In those times, most people accepted without question the theories and statements inherited from the great thinkers of past ages. It did not enter their minds to test the truth ofthese statements for themselves. They regarded Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, as the greatest of all authorities. “The master hath said it” was the motto in Galileo’s day. Scholars committed Aristotle’s doctrines to memory; doubting them was considered an act of blasphemy, if not a crime. Students were actually fined for disagreeing with the opinions of the ancients.

Now, one of the statements of Aristotle was this: The speed at which an object falls to earth depends upon its weight. A ten-pound weight, for example, will fall ten times faster than a one-pound weight.

But Galileo had noticed different objects falling to the ground, and he thought differently. He made a few experiments, and satisfied himself.

“Aristotle was wrong,” he announced. “Weight has nothing to do with how fast objects fall. It is the resistance of air which affects the rate of the descent. As long as two objects can overcome the resistance of the air to the same extent, they will reach the ground at the same time, no matter how much they weigh. A heavy stone and a light stone will fall at exactly the same rate of speed.”

The other professors at the university were shocked and angry. They declared that of course Aristotle had been right and that Galileo was making a fool of himself. He should be quiet and stop bothering them with his silly notions, if he wanted to keep his job.

“All right,” said Galileo. “We’ll have a little test-my theo!) against Aristotle’s. If I’m wrong, I’ll be quiet. Meet me at the tower.”

The bell tower in Pisa is known the world over, of course, as the Leaning Tower, because it stands at an angle and looks as though it might topple to the ground at any time. Construction of the tower had begun in 1174; by the time the builders reached the third story, one side was sinking into the soft ground. They tried to compensate by making the remaining floors taller on the leanmg side, but the settling continued. When it was finished, the 179-foot tower leaned so much that any object dropped from the top story on the lower side would land some fifteen or twenty feet from the building’s base.

Up climbed Galileo. A crowd of scholars, students, and interested townspeople gathered on the lawn below. With every step, he could hear their snickers and jeers.

At the top, on the uppermost gallery, he placed two iron balls. One weighed ten pounds. The other weighed just one. And the question to be answered was this: When Galileo pushed them off, at exactly the same instant, would the heavier ball hit the ground first, as Aristotle had maintained, or … ?

Balancing the weights carefully on the balcony, Galileo rolled them over together.From far below, the breathless crowd saw the two balls plunge over the edge. They came hurtling straight down. They fell at first side by side, then-side by side-and then finally-There was a tremendous thud. One single thud. They had struck the ground together. Galileo was right and Aristotle wrong.

Even then, some who had seen would not believe their own eyes. It is very difficult to let go of old ideas, especially ones that have persisted for centuries. Some of the professors made all sorts of excuses and continued to insist that Aristotle was correct. After all, if they were to admit that Galileo was right, how many more of the great Aristotle’s principles might also be wrong? It was better, they thought, to silence this troublemaker. They booed and hissed Galileo at his lectures, and made his life as miserable as they could.

But Galileo was not one to be browbeaten. He said goodbye to Pisa, and took a job teaching at the University of Padua, where thoughts were given a bit more freedom. There he went on searching, questioning, and discovering, and showing the world what can be done when someone dares to think for himself.

About MZR

I am a middle aged man trying to be the best person I can become, make a positive difference in our world, while trying to make sense of my life's journey.
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