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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.
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VINE VOICEon December 3, 2012
I really had high hopes for this book. There are indeed a number of myths that are commonly held to be true by our popular culture: that religion and science conflict, that Christians are or were flat earthers, that the Church prohibited dissection, that Galileo went to jail for his beliefs, that science displaces faith, and so forth.

The book addresses each of these topics (and more), which is great. What isn't as great is the mixed quality of the essays. Many of them seem to take at face value all the myths - except the one they are refuting!

It's frustrating seeing a Marxist scholar write the title chapter on Galileo Goes to Jail, for example. While he refutes the myth that he went to jail, he basically accepts the rest of the Conflict Thesis uncritically - the theory by Draper and White that the rest of the book disproves.
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VINE VOICEon November 9, 2014
Robert Numbers edited an interesting book titled GALILEO GOES TO TRIAL AND OTHER MYTHS ABOUT SCIENCE AND RELIGION. Mr. Numbers edoted essays from knowledgeable scholars to refute popular myths These scholars have different religious views, and the book is clear that devout Catholics, Hindus, Moslems, and secularists have made significant contributions to expand scientifie and mathematics.

The first myth was that Ancient Christianity caused a demise in scientic study. For example, the terrible murder of Hypatia in 415 AD was not due to her work re science. Hypatia was caught in a terrilbe political dispute between Bishop Cyril and the Roman Perfect which had nothing to do with Hypatia's scholarship. While some of the early Church Fathers disagreed with "pagan" Greek and Roman thought, these Fathers accepted much of what the Ancient Romans and especially the Ancient Greeks achieved. St. Augustine (354-430) relied on Platonic thought and rhetoric to make his arguements in his work especially his tome THE CITY OF GOD. He was also aware that the Cosmos was much larger than the earth. Mr. Numbers mentioned that St.Basil of Caesarea (330-379) scolded early Christians for making claims against Greek thought when these Christians were totally ignorant of Ancient Greek learning and made themselves, and Christianity, look foolish. St. Augustine whose work was important to Catholcism was clear that the Bible was often allegorical and not meant to make taken literally. As an aside, unless one knows the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek languages, one does not have a perfect understanding of the Bible.

Another myth that was exploded in this book was the notion that the Catholic Church suppressed scientic thought. Michael Shanks' essay in this book undermines this myth. While no mention of the work of St.Albertus Magnus (1193-1280), is made, Shanks cited the work of another devout Catholic.Roger Bacon (c. 1214-1294) who was one of the most creative scientists of his ear and credited with experimental science. The myth that Fr. Bacon was jailed was proven false by John Helborn, "no apologist for the Vatican," in his book titled THE SUN IN THE CHURCH. Shanks mentioned several other devout Catholic Churchmen who did advanced scientic work.

As mentioned in this review's opening paragraph, men and women of different religious affiliation made significant contributions to science. The essay by Syed Nomanul Haq produced solid proof of Islamic scientic acheivements. Abu Hamid al Ghazali (1058-1111) supported advanced scientific and mathematical study. "For example," Qusta Ibn Luqa (820-912) translated the Greek Diophantus' Greek ARISTHMETIC as THE ART OF ALGEBRA which was an important advance re mathematic calculation. Haq also cited Islamic scholars not only faithfully translated Greek thought, they embellished it with their glosses and commentaries. C. 1259, the Islamic astronomer Nasir Al-Din a-Tusi proved that the geocentric Ptolemic thoery was worng. As Haq Fr.noted, Copernicus (c1472-1543), who was a Caholic monk, used Islamic studies to enhance his work. Haq cited other Islamic scholars whose endeavors contributed to mathematics.

Another interesting essay in this book was written by Katharine destroyed the myth that Catholic Church autorities prohibited human dissection. The Catholic authorities did not make such prohibition. In fact, Catholics dissected human remains to prepare the dead for burial. What the Catholic authorities did prohibit was grave robbing or removing the dead from prisons or poor houses without permission of family members. When Versalius (1514-1564) did his work re human anatomy, Catholic authorities were aware of his work.

The trial of Galileo (1564-1642) is another myth that has been corrected. Maurice A. Finocchiaro's essay makes this very clear. In 1610 Pope V (1605-1621) and in 1624 Pope Urban VIII (1623-1644) both had elaborate celebrations honoring Galileo's work Galileo's secular rivals initiated the issues that brought Galileo to trial. Finocchaiaro disproved the lies that Galileo was placed in a dungeon and torutured. His inquistors never laid a hand him. Galileo spent his "imprisonment" in the Tucany's and Florentine's embassy' and the prosecutor's luxery six room apartment. Galileo has his own chef and wine taster. Galileos' sanctions included house arrest which was a moot point since he was legally blind.He continued his work, and his daughter, a devout Catholic nun, served as his secretary.

Other essays disproved that Darwin (1809-1882) worked against Christianity. The popular notions of Darwin as "the bad guy" or the "good guy" are either exaggerated or simply myths that have no bearing in reality. Other myths undermined in this book is that Darwin & co. were complicit in "Nazi" race halluciantins. Such a connection never existed once readers read the book and sources cited in this book. The essays re Einstein (1879-1955) and quantum mechanics are instructive to understand modern scientific theory.

While this reviewer knew some of the topics in this book, the book was informative. Mr. Numbers could have included the work of Father Le Maitre (1894-1966) whose work on an expanding universe was praised by Einsten. Mention could have made of Father Jaki's (1924-2009) who was a formost mathematician, physicist, and astronomy. Anthony Rizzi's book THE SCIENCE BEFORE SCIENCE could have embellished this book. These omissions should not discourage readers from accessing this book. The book is very helpful as a study of the history of science.

James E. Egolf

Novermber 9, 2014
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on March 22, 2009
I do recommended this book and I applaud, as mentioned in the intro, that all of the authors of this book, which includes many atheists, wanted to get the correct version of history out there. As both a history guy and an Engineer this subject greatly interests me, so I was very excited to read this book. Though I may be a conservative and believe strongly in God, I like many of the authors, do want to see history be fair and balanced or be taught without any bias and by the facts. However, this is very difficult with most of the history books, professors, and media out there being very left of center. With that said this book does a very good job in destroying some of the religion vs. science myths that unfortunately have permeated our society for a long time.

The Good: The book does a very good job at getting at the myths that have been created by men such as Draper, White, and Gibbon and have unfortunately been retold over and over again in classrooms around the world. These articles clearly and concretely made the case that the mythical "Dark Ages" never happened, that no one believed the Earth was Flat in the Middle Ages, the fact that the Catholic Church, Christianity and the Noble rulers of Europe have greatly supported science both financially and rhetorically and also by setting up universities and societies, that the Galileo story and its circumstances are greatly over exaggerated and untrue, that religion has played a very important role as the driving force in the lives of many of humanities greatest scientists, that Bruno was not killed for his science but for heresy, and that human dissection and other medically linked issues were not banned by the Church.

The Bad: I do have a problem with 3 myths in the book. I have a small problem with Myth 4 and I guess that the atheists and those left of center had to try and save some face in myths 9 and 21.

Myth 4 - I agree that Islam was tolerant to science and made some very important contributions to science during the Middle Ages. However, I do disagree with the author in that like many others I believe Islamic science mainly carried on and maintained what the Greeks had done and did not do a tremendous amount to advance any of their ideas. However in my experience the inverse of this myth is far more prevalent in school. If you sit in the majority of college classrooms you get a story that sounds more like that Middle Eastern, Eastern and South American civilizations invented faster than Light travel and matter-antimatter reactors thousands of years ago and Europeans simply came along and stole their ideas or ignored them. Now give credit where credit is due, but in terms of scientific advancements, culture, and overall human progress the contributions made by Western civilization have out paced the rest of the world combined by a very large margin. I know it's politically incorrect to say, but that's the way history has played out and I am just tired of all of the spin.

Myth 9 - is pretty ridiculous, I mean sure almost anyone can prove that anything is never 100% true, but as is it is shown in many of the other articles in the book, Christianity has played a HUGE role in the development of science. Sure the types of government and wealth also play a role in where science has developed, but Christianity also had a HUGE effect on the patterns of wealth and the governments that has made Western civilization so successful. As mentioned in other articles the Catholic Church and Christianity greatly supported science financially and rhetorically, while European nobles were also great patrons of the sciences. Christianity was also an important driver in the personal lives of many of the greatest scientists of all time. I think all of the quotations that were used to support the authors statement were taken out of context and the authors was grasping at the notion that somehow all conservatives and those who see the value of religion ,especially Christianity, are racists or close minded.

Myth 21 - Again like the other two myths I believe the opposite of Myth 21 is far more prevalent. I see a hell of a lot more claims that Einstein was an atheist rather than he believed in a personal God. Though to the author's credit he does point out that Einstein rejected atheism as well. From his own quotations it is clear that Einstein believed in something along the lines of Spinoza's God or held a belief of something like Deism, while rejecting the beliefs and doctrine of the mainstream religions. I agree that anyone should be taken to task if they say Einstein believed in a Judeo-Christian God, but the authors should re-title the article to be something more neutral like "Myths about Einstein views on Religion".

Other minor things include that I think there was a bit too much on evolution in the book. I know this is a hot button issue for many, but it just does not interest me too much. To me it just comes down to the individuals own beliefs.

I think it would have bee nice if the great scientific, agricultural and commercial advancements made during the entirety of Middle Ages be further expanded upon. A mention of the Carolingian Renaissance would also have been nice.

It would have also been nice if an article was exclusively dedicated to the importance of religion or the belief in God in the personal lives of some of the world's greatest scientists. I mean the list of scientists who believed in some from of a higher power far outweigh those who have not.

Overall I still highly recommend.
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on February 21, 2014
This book is filled with essays by leading scholars of the history of religion and science. Some are believers, some are not, and some lie somewhere in between. All the essays written are insightful and offer excellent counter arguments to the simplistic idea that religion and science are in a never ending conflict with each other. Each essay is well argued and supported with copious notes and citations to historical documents. After reading "Galileo goes to Jail," you will walk away with a deeper understanding of the nuanced relationship between science and religion. This is a must read for anyone interested in the science and religion.
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on October 13, 2015
Of the 25 chapters in this book, three are really effective, debunking the myths that medieval thinkers believed the earth was flat, that Darwin had a deathbed conversion, and that Darwin contributed to the rise of Nazi ideology. Even these are flawed. The flat earth chapter notes briefly that Dante described a spherical earth, but fails to note the far more damning criticism that Ptolemy, who supposedly shut medieval astronomy in a strait-jacket, explicitly stated that the earth was a sphere. The chapter on Darwin and the Nazis fails to note that Mein Kampf never mentions Darwin once, something a simple word-count could uncover. The chapters on the church and dissection and Einstein's belief in God are also informative. Too many other chapters rebut myths that no informed person believes anyway. One hardly needs a chapter in a book to dismiss the ideas that the Scopes Trial defeated anti-evolutionism or that creationism is a solely American phenomenon. The chapter defending Islam and its approach to science hammers away on the contributions of Golden Age Islam to science, something that no historically literate person questions anyway, but ends the discussion before delving into reasons for the decline of Islamic science. The chapters on the ancient and medieval world lump vast spans of time into a homogeneous mass, as if someone were to write about "modern times" and not distinguish between steam engines and jet aircraft. But the most disappointing chapters are those on Galileo and Bruno. The titular chapter on Galileo deals with the narrow question of whether he was actually imprisoned or tortured, when what is really needed is a discussion of church politics and Galileo's attacks on other scientists, as part of a wholesale demolition of the "martyr to science" myth. The reality reads more like "Carl Sagan meets the Godfather" and is vastly more interesting and entertaining than the popular stereotype. Even worse is the chapter on Bruno, which speaks disparagingly of the idea that Bruno wasn't really a scientist at all (p. 62) when that is precisely the case. Bruno wasn't a scientist in modern terms and he wasn't in 1600 terms, either. Scandalously, the two articles that do the best job of demolishing the myth of Bruno as martyr to Copernicanism, the Scientific American articles of Edward A. Gosselin and Lawrence S. Lerner (April 1973 and November 1986) aren't even cited in the chapter.

The book can't seem to decide on an intended audience. No scholarly reader needs a chapter debunking the idea that evolution is based on circular reasoning, and no non-scientist who believes it would be likely to find the book very accessible.
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on August 5, 2014
This books consist of 25 essays written by different authors, with contrasting beliefs and points of views. But they all agreed that there are 25 commons myths about science and religion. This book does an excellent work in debunking common myths that have been heard from both sides (religion and science). Some essays are better than others, but overall, the message is clear: don't believe any argument or presupposition just because someone told you so, go to the primary sources and compare with the official and popular version. The example from Galileo is very enlightening!
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on July 3, 2009
Before science and religion can engage in a meaningful dialogue, author Ronald Numbers suggests that several myths (used in this book to mean falsehoods) should be disregarded. The book actually is a collection of essays that Numbers has collected from leading scientists and scholars.

The first three myths have to do with the early Christian church and science (which were not at loggerheads); the fourth myth details medieval Islamic culture and its contribution to scientific achievement. The fifth myth (that the early church prohibited human dissection) was one I'd not heard before.

Several of the myths deal directly with scientists themselves: Darwin's supposed deathbed conversion back to Christianity (#16); Galileo's imprisonment at the hands of the Catholic Church (#8); Einstein's belief in a personal God (#21); and Descartes' mind-body dualism (#12). The book is written by scholars but is perfectly accessible to laymen with an interest in the history of science.
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on June 15, 2013
A lot of what the media tell us about science, misses the point by a wide margin. Dr. Numbers investigates deeply, including the original writings of scientific pioneers, and reaches some surprising conclusions!
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on February 25, 2016
Fascinating chapters that illuminate stories that are often turned into supportive anecdotes for extreme positions!
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