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14th December 2007, 00:40
For what can be more foul than to say that knowledge that all, moved by divine instigation, seek and desire, is not useful or necessary to anything?

"Our ancestors considered it a most worthy thing to speak in defence of an innocent man, but though less of combatting evil things. The harder then is my task, for I support no mortal man, but a noble art and science, yet that science is often attacked and stands most in need of defence.

The art and science which, however, we now discuss is Astronomy. there are indeed those who hold it to be of use neither to the mind, nor to the body, nor to the state, which certain opinion it is necessary to treat with much censure, by no means undeserved. For what can be more foul than to say that knowledge that all, moved by divine instigation, seek and desire, is not useful or necessary to anything?

Knowledge, which is arisen from God, the source of all good, is divided into knowledge of the natural world, matters relating to discourse such as the arts of rhetoric and logic, and matters of ethics which apply to the morals of individuals and to the government of the State. What, in truth, is more natural than the knowledge of the elements, the heeavens, the stars, constellations and planets by whose motions our bodies, and also those of our subject animals, all plants, flowers and trees, the fruits of the earth, the vines and so on, are directed and ruled.

Being part of knowledge, arisen from God, who inspires us to investigate the natural world, Astronomy is certainly useful to man, for God does everything to some purpose.

The study of this art requires the greatest diligence and desire for knowledge, and sometimes a unique divine inspiration. No human being is himself so perfect that he may acquire knowledge of divine and heavenly things alone, and we can understand these things only with difficulty even with the help of books and teachers.

Let us therefore, consider earnestly the man who discovered the art of Astronomy, namely Seth, the son of Adam, who was a completely virtuous and dutiful man; and those who enriched it to great perfection, namely, the Egyptians and the Israelites, men indeed most learned, most educated, most wise, endowed with all kinds of learning and virtue. Do we then think that such men, so distinguished and wise as these, would have taken up such work for no account, but even should have been known to spend so much time, which is so valuable on it unless the subject were certainly useful? Or do we think that they were so far from humanity that if they had found the subject usefless or troublsome to the human race, they would have wished to promulgate it? By no means! Besides, I do not see how these people who are seen to despise and find no good in it are the equals in gravity, judgement, authority or learning of the ancients who studied that art, and who built schools and maintained teachers that others might be attracted to that study, and that many of their fellows might take it up. They themselves gave the greatest zeal to that work. Indeed, many schools were founded in Greece, not only by Princes, but also by free men, for the advancement of that art.

These things are well known to you and I hardly need point them out. Astronomy being one of the liberal arts belongs in the education of any young man. When so many have held Astronomy in great esteem how can anyone now criticise it?

The search for knowledge brings satisfaction to the mind. If this were a merely temporal subject it might five rise to some interest. But the heavens are permanent and the motions of the stars and planets most constant. No criticism of such a subject may be justified.

Yet all arts which propagate amongst men the glory of God are not lightly called useful. This indeed is the greatest good of man, that he comes to know God and depends on that knowledge. For Astronomy shows the work of God, through which he is realed to man. As David says in his Psalm "Coeli enim enarrant et patefaciunt coelemtem, invisibilem et immarcessibilem gloriam dei, atq orbis terrae suam potentiam".Paul likewise in the first chapter of his epistle to the Roman people says that although they do not yet know God perfectly, they may come to know thim through his works. The more then we get to know Astronomy the more wonderful will we see God's work to be.

Further, since the greatest states consist in large part of merchants and farmers, Astronomy in benefitting these brings no little profit to the state. The farmer, for instance, knowing the seasons which will probnanly be calm and which others will be stormy may conveniently sow, plough, reap and harvest the land whenever the days are most propitious; through the ignorance of Astronomy and other similar arts many crops are consumed by storm, rain, thunder and even drought, and are lost. The merchant, in truth, without knowledge of the stars is in no way able to navigate or steer his ship correctly. All these men indeed sail their ships according to the motion of the stars.

Wherefore, since all knowledge is of nature, and is the gift of God implanted in human hearts, since the abilities of the discoverers and propagators of Astronomy have been God-given, since if it be one of the liberal arts it will demonstrate truth and give satisfaction to the enqiring mind wishing all things to know, since again it is useful to farmers and merchants, showing the glory of God to the whole world, we think it far from useless to the body, the mind and the State.

This have I said."

King Edward VI