Top positive review
41 people found this helpful
Historical interdependence of science and religion
on February 6, 2010
"Galileo Goes to Jail" is a collection of twenty-five essays detailing the misconceptions (or "myths" as used in the popular, not academic, sense) about the encounters between science and religion throughout Western history. Written by authors who are acknowledged experts in their respective fields, many myths are dispelled with thorough research and an unbiased, critical eye. Although amateur historians (Charles Freeman, Rodney Stark), professional historians (Richard Westfall, Jonathan Israel) and scientists (R.C Lewontin, Richard Dawkins, S.J. Gould) are cited as purveyors of some of the myths, the common thread of these essays is that the myths originated with the two late-nineteenth century Americans - John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White.
As is typical with any collection of essays, some are not as good as the rest. In this book, Myths #22 and 23 are disappointments in an otherwise enjoyable and thought-provoking collection of essays. Myth #22 doesn't really argue against (or for) "Quantum Physics Demonstrated Free Will". Indeed, Daniel Patrick Thurs writes simply, "And its spread is due to a very good reason. It is in one sense, absolutely true," and then he writes, "If the historian as historian has any role, it is to expose the roots of such controversy rather than to leap into the fray and parrot the arguments of one side or another" (p. 197). And so the essay goes on - not really saying much of anything of interest or insight. I don't know why this essay was included. The intention of Myth #23 is to refute the claim that intelligent design is scientific. Michael Ruse states: "Taking my advice, the judge decided that `the essential characteristics of science' included naturalness, tentativeness, testability, and falsifiability - and ruled that creation failed to meet these criteria" (p. 211). But then he fails to show in any systematic way how each of these tenets do not apply to ID. He then goes on to criticize William Whewell's delineation of science and religion, saying that "[Whewell] felt it necessary to bring in God to explain the origin of organisms, but he carefully noted that this was not science" (p. 222), is merely a "cop-out option" (p. 212). In the end, Ruse presents his own cop-out option: he simply shows his disgust for the ID view without really arguing against it. I do not believe that ID is a science, but I do believe that one should at least be intellectually forthright when disagreeing with another's opinion and present cogent arguments.
In spite of these two examples, this book provides a highly recommended survey into the complex interrelationship between science and religion, each intellectually underpinning the other, intertwined in an intricate whole, so that to separate one from the other undermines our understanding and appreciation of both.