Galileo was the greatest scientist of his day, and the Roman Catholic Church was the most authoritative institution in the Christendom of his century. So Galileo’s trial became a symbol for the open-mindedness of science and the adamant narrowness of religion. The subtler aspects of scientific and religious truths were lost in the intellectual and ideological melee that ensued. Since the religious establishment wielded a power that it exerted on Galileo, scientists have developed a dread of authoritarian religion, its echoes felt to this day. Over the centuries following that confrontation, countless people have reflected upon that memorable episode from different perspectives. In this erudite volume, Finocchiaro (emeritus, philosophy, Univ. of Nevada: Las Vegas) treats readers to practically every detail pertaining to that trial. The book is replete with arguments, anecdotes, and reflections. This work is very readable and within reach of even those who may not be familiar with the topic. Finocchiaro has not only done a great service to historical scholarship, he has also brought a very important chapter of cultural history within reach of the average educated reader.
October 23, 2013