Today is the anniversary of the execution of Giordano Bruno by the Catholic Church in 1600. As narrated in the Cosmos series, Giordano had been reading the very un-Christian book On the Nature of Things, by Lucretius, where he acquired the Epicurean doctrine of the infinite universe and its innumerable worlds.
Central to the controversy that led to his death is the false and narcissistic belief that all things in nature had been made by God for humankind and that the Earth was the center of the Universe. This geocentric model of cosmology is specifically denied in the following verses:
Vain error has given these dreams to fools,
Which they’ve embraced with reasoning perverse
For centre none can be where world is still
Boundless, nor yet, if now a centre were,
Could aught take there a fixed position more
Than for some other cause ‘tmight be dislodged.
For all of room and space we call the void
Must both through centre and non-centre yield
Alike to weights where’er their motions tend.
The simple reasoning is that, if the universe is infinite, as it appears to be–for we see no boundary in any direction–then there can be no center. Today as we honor the memory of a martyr of science, let’s also honor the poet who, with his brilliant literature, persistently over the ages has helped to liberate us from the evils of compulsive superstition.