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Word for the Wise February 15, 2007 Broadcast Topic: Recant

The annual meeting of the AAAS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, gets underway today in San Francisco. The AAAS is dedicated to advancing science around the world; coincidentally, today is also the birth anniversary of a scientist whose advancement of science was remarkable: Galileo Galilei was born on this date in 1564. (来源:英语麦当劳-英语杂志 http://www.EnglishCN.com)

After Galileo was convicted, by the Inquisition, of heresy (adhering to a doctrine contrary to Church dogma) for his belief in the Copernican—heliocentric—theory, he spared himself from death by recanting, formally and publicly repudiating his beliefs. This repudiation (from the Latin "to cast off; reject") took some doing, since Galileo not only believed the earth revolved around the sun, he had compiled some serious scientific evidence that went a long way toward proving it.

Etymologically, to recant is to "sing again." Like retract and renounce, to recant is "to withdraw one's word or professed belief," but recant stresses the withdrawing or denying of something professed or taught by the person.

Unfortunately, we've been unable to locate proof that Galileo actually said a phrase long associated with him. Supposedly, just before formally abjuring his belief that the earth revolves around the sun, rather than the reverse, the astronomer was said to have stubbornly muttered (in Italian): "And yet, it moves."

 
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