This is a tale which began thousands of years ago, but is still relevant. Our ancestors studied the heavens and knew them well. Life on earth was filled with mystery, danger, and uncertainty. Only in the sky was there order, predictability. It was here they placed their gods and heroes. They mapped their movements and found pattern and order — banished chaos.

Nineteen centuries ago, a man named Ptolemy who lived in Alexandria Egypt, a center of learning, set about gathering all that was known about the world and the heavens at that time and created a map of the Solar System. In the center sat the earth — it did not move, and all around circled the sun, moon, stars, and planets. Given what could be seen with the naked eye, this was reasonable.

Time moved on: The Roman Empire came to an end and the Christian church rose in power. This institution accepted Ptolemy’s view. To reject the earth-centered solar system theory became heresy and we all know what happened to heretics.

Science had a glorious beginning 2,500 years ago in Greece, but got lost and suppressed by 1,000 years of Christian hegemony. It wasn’t until the 16th and 17th centuries, with the aid of new technology, the telescope, that astronomers began to realize there was another truth, a better fit to what we now could see.

In the early 1600’s, Galileo built a telescope and looked at Jupiter. He saw four moons going around the great planet and knew old Copernicus was right; Ptolemy and the church were wrong: the sun and not the earth, was the center: we all moved!

The church refused to accept the findings and brought Galileo to trial. Not being a brave man, he recanted. The sentence was house arrest and a ban on publishing. It took the church 400 years to admit Galileo was right. It is said we should study history so we do not repeat our mistakes. It seems to me, in the last ¼ century, many have rejected the findings of science in the 21 century, it’s not about what is in the middle. You all know what I am referring to: Global warming and climate change.

In the coming months, I will endeavor, in a down to earth way, to explain the scientific observations and what they probably mean for us. Whereas the acceptance of Galileo’s finding didn’t really matter (we still went around the sun, church dogma not withstanding). The findings of the worldwide scientific community does matter, to each and every one of us – especially so to our children and grandchildren.

To be continued…

M.L. Wells is a Master Gardener Volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Allegany County.