伽 利略很早就相信哥白尼理论（即行星绕太阳公转），但只有当他发现了证据来支持这一学说时，才公开表示支持。他用意大利文写有关哥白尼理论的文章（没有用普 通的学院式拉丁文），并且他的观点很快就广泛地得到大学界之外的支持。这惹怒了亚里士多德派的教授们，他们联合起来反对他，并极力说服天主教会禁止哥白尼 主义。
伽 利略为此而担心，他赶到罗马去向天主教权威当面申诉。他争辩道，《圣经》并未试图告诉我们任何关于科学理论的东西，通常都是假定，当《圣经》和常识发生矛 盾时，就成为比喻。但是教会害怕这丑闻可能伤害它对新教徒的斗争，所以采取了镇压的手段。1616年，它宣布哥白尼主义是“虚伪的、错误的“，并命令伽利 略不准再“保卫或坚持“这一学说。伽利略勉强接受了。
1623 年，伽利略的一位长期朋友成为教皇。伽利略立即试图为1616年的判决翻案。他失败了，但他设法获得了准许，在两个前提下写一本叙述亚里士多德派和哥白尼 派理论的书：他不能有倾向，同时要得出结论，人类在任何情况下都无法决定世界是如何运行的，因为上帝会以人类不能想像的方法来达到同样的效果，而人类不能 限制上帝的万能。
这 本题为《关于两个主要世界体系的对话》的书，于1632年在检查官的全面支持下完成并出版了，并且立刻被全欧洲欢呼为文学和哲学的杰作。不久教皇就意识 到，人们把这本书看作是确认哥白尼主义的论证，后悔允许该书出版。教皇指出，虽有检查官正式批准出版该书，但伽利略依然违背了1616年的禁令。他把伽利 略带到宗教法庭面前，宣布他终身软禁，并命令他公开放弃哥白尼主义。伽利略又第二次被迫从命。
Galileo, perhaps more than any other single person, was responsible for the birth of modern science. His renowned conflict with the Catholic Church was central to his philosophy, for Galileo was one of the first to argue that man could hope to understand how the world works, and, moreover, that we could do this by observing the real world.
Galileo had believed Copernican theory (that the planets orbited the sun) since early on, but it was only when he found the evidence needed to support the idea that he started to publicly support it. He wrote about Copernicus’s theory in Italian (not the usual academic Latin), and soon his views became widely supported outside the universities. This annoyed the Aristotelian professors, who united against him seeking to persuade the Catholic Church to ban Copernicanism.
Galileo, worried by this, traveled to Rome to speak to the ecclesiastical authorities. He argued that the Bible was not intended to tell us anything about scientific theories, and that it was usual to assume that, where the Bible conflicted with common sense, it was being allegorical. But the Church was afraid of a scandal that might undermine its fight against Protestantism, and so took repressive measures. It declared Copernicanism “false and erroneous“ in 1616, and commanded Galileo never again to “defend or hold“ the doctrine. Galileo acquiesced.
In 1623, a longtime friend of Galileo’s became the Pope. Immediately Galileo tried to get the 1616 decree revoked. He failed, but he did manage to get permission to write a book discussing both Aristotelian and Copernican theories, on two conditions: he would not take sides and would come to the conclusion that man could in any case not determine how the world worked because God could bring about the same effects in ways unimagined by man, who could not place restrictions on God’s omnipotence.
The book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was completed and published in 1632, with the full backing of the censors – and was immediately greeted throughout Europe as a literary and philosophical masterpiece. Soon the Pope, realizing that people were seeing the book as a convincing argument in favor of
Copernicanism, regretted having allowed its publication. The Pope argued that although the book had the official blessing of the censors, Galileo had nevertheless contravened the 1616 decree. He brought Galileo before the Inquisition, who sentenced him to house arrest for life and commanded him to publicly renounce Copernicanism. For a second time, Galileo acquiesced.
Galileo remained a faithful Catholic, but his belief in the independence of science had not been crushed. Four years before his death in 1642, while he was still under house arrest, the manuscript of his second major book was smuggled to a publisher in Holland. It was this work, referred to as Two New Sciences, even more than his support for Copernicus, that was to be the genesis of modern physics.