Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion

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Overview

If we want nonscientists and opinion-makers in the press, the lab, and the pulpit to take a fresh look at the relationship between science and religion, Ronald Numbers suggests that we must first dispense with the hoary myths that have masqueraded too long as historical truths.

Until about the 1970s, the dominant narrative in the history of science had long been that of science triumphant, and science at war with religion. But a new generation of historians both of science and of the church began to examine episodes in the history of science and religion through the values and knowledge of the actors themselves. Now Ronald Numbers has recruited the leading scholars in this new history of science to ­puncture the myths, from Galileo’s incarceration to Darwin’s deathbed conversion to Einstein’s belief in a personal God who “didn’t play dice with the universe.” The picture of science and religion at each other’s throats persists in mainstream media and scholarly journals, but each chapter in Galileo Goes to Jail shows how much we have to gain by seeing beyond the myths.

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Editorial Reviews

Vancouver Sun

A revealing book...Using "myth" in the popular sense, to mean falsehood, Galileo Goes to Jail debunks widespread misconceptions.
— Douglas Todd

Daily Telegraph

A splendid book.
— Christopher Howse

Choice

As a collection, these myth-busting arguments work to soften the wedge responsible for the schism between science and religion. The topics and writing style will appeal to all readers, but students of science and religion should consider this essential reading.
— J. A. Hewlett

The Tablet

Informative and thought-provoking reading.
— Ernan McMullin

First Things

The volume's careful organization and execution reveal the kind of planning and teamwork absent from too many edited collections, but which have come to be expected from Numbers...Each chapter of Galileo Goes to Jail begins with two or three epigraphs that clearly convict scholarly and popular literature of perpetuating the myth in question. Most authors then explore the nuances of the myth, its origin, complexity, and longevity, before telling the "rest of the story."
— Mark A. Kalthoff

Weekly Standard

The authors necessarily spend the bulk of their time debunking attacks on religion in the name of science, but they also clear the muddy waters left behind when pro-religion forces try to obscure the scientific record...As Numbers points out in his introduction, fewer than half of the contributors are religious believers at all; and of those, there are only two evangelicals, one Catholic, and one Jew. In other words, they have no axe to grind, and their only agenda is to set the historical record straight. Given all of the polemics published today, this is a breath of fresh air.
— Ryan T. Anderson

belief.net

[Ronald L. Numbers] is a religious agnostic whose scholarship on the history of American religion and science is marked by meticulous accuracy and impartiality...[This book was written] with ordinary readers, not specialists, in mind, making this a truly rare book: where else can you find such authoritative scholarship delivered so accessibly and fairly on such an important subject?
— Edward B. Davis

Vancouver Sun - Douglas Todd
A revealing book...Using "myth" in the popular sense, to mean falsehood, Galileo Goes to Jail debunks widespread misconceptions.
Daily Telegraph - Christopher Howse
A splendid book.
Choice - J. A. Hewlett
As a collection, these myth-busting arguments work to soften the wedge responsible for the schism between science and religion. The topics and writing style will appeal to all readers, but students of science and religion should consider this essential reading.
The Tablet - Ernan McMullin
Informative and thought-provoking reading.
First Things - Mark A. Kalthoff
The volume's careful organization and execution reveal the kind of planning and teamwork absent from too many edited collections, but which have come to be expected from Numbers...Each chapter of Galileo Goes to Jail begins with two or three epigraphs that clearly convict scholarly and popular literature of perpetuating the myth in question. Most authors then explore the nuances of the myth, its origin, complexity, and longevity, before telling the "rest of the story."
Weekly Standard - Ryan T. Anderson
The authors necessarily spend the bulk of their time debunking attacks on religion in the name of science, but they also clear the muddy waters left behind when pro-religion forces try to obscure the scientific record...As Numbers points out in his introduction, fewer than half of the contributors are religious believers at all; and of those, there are only two evangelicals, one Catholic, and one Jew. In other words, they have no axe to grind, and their only agenda is to set the historical record straight. Given all of the polemics published today, this is a breath of fresh air.
belief.net - Edward B. Davis
[Ronald L. Numbers] is a religious agnostic whose scholarship on the history of American religion and science is marked by meticulous accuracy and impartiality...[This book was written] with ordinary readers, not specialists, in mind, making this a truly rare book: where else can you find such authoritative scholarship delivered so accessibly and fairly on such an important subject?
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674033276
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/2009
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 474,045
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 3.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Ronald L. Numbers is Hilldale Professor of the History of Science and Medicine, University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has served as president of the History of Science Society, the American Society of Church History, and the International Union of the History and Philosophy of Science, Division of the History of Science and Technology.
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Table of Contents

  • Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction

    Ronald L. Numbers


  • Myth 1. That the Rise of Christianity Was Responsible for the Demise of Ancient Science

    David C. Lindberg

  • Myth 2. That the Medieval Christian Church Suppressed the Growth of Science

    Michael H. Shank

  • Myth 3. That Medieval Christians Taught That the Earth Was Flat

    Lesley B. Cormack

  • Myth 4. That Medieval Islamic Culture Was Inhospitable to Science

    S. Nomanul Haq

  • Myth 5. That the Medieval Church Prohibited Human Dissection

    Katharine Park

  • Myth 6. That the Copernican System Demoted Humans from the Center of the Cosmos

    Dennis R. Danielson

  • Myth 7. That Giordano Bruno Was the First Martyr of Modern Science

    Jole Shackelford

  • Myth 8. That Galileo Was Imprisoned and Tortured for Advocating Copernicanism

    Maurice A. Finocchiaro

  • Myth 9. That Christianity Gave Birth to Modern Science

    Noah Efron

  • Myth 10. That the Scientific Revolution Liberated Science from Religion

    Margaret J. Osler

  • Myth 11. That Catholics Did Not Contribute to the Scientific Revolution

    Lawrence Principe

  • Myth 12. That René Descartes Originated the Mind-Body Distinction

    Peter Harrison

  • Myth 13. That Isaac Newton’s Mechanistic Cosmology Eliminated the Need for God

    Edward Davis

  • Myth 14. That the Church Denounced Anesthesia in Childbirth on Biblical Grounds

    Rennie B. Schoepflin

  • Myth 15. That the Theory of Organic Evolution Is Based on Circular Reasoning

    Nicolaas A. Rupke

  • Myth 16. That Evolution Destroyed Charles Darwin’s Faith in Christianity—until He Reconverted on His Deathbed

    James Moore

  • Myth 17. That Huxley Defeated Wilberforce in Their Debate over Evolution and Religion

    David N. Livingstone

  • Myth 18. That Darwin Destroyed Natural Theology

    Jon H. Roberts

  • Myth 19. That Darwin and Haeckel Were Complicit in Nazi Biology

    Robert J. Richards

  • Myth 20. That the Scopes Trial Ended in Defeat for Antievolutionism

    Edward J. Larson

  • Myth 21. That Einstein Believed in a Personal God

    Matthew Stanley

  • Myth 22. That Quantum Physics Demonstrated the Doctrine of Free Will

    Daniel P. Thurs

  • Myth 23. That “Intelligent Design” Represents a Scientific Challenge to Evolution

    Michael Ruse

  • Myth 24. That Creationism Is a Uniquely American Phenomenon

    Ronald L. Numbers

  • Myth 25. That Modern Science Has Secularized Western Culture

    John Hedley Brooke


  • Notes
  • List of Contributors
  • Index

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Save Your Money! Another Christian Apologetic!

    It's constantly amazing how low Christian apologists will stoop to press their issues but this book may rank as the absolute lowest. In "busting" the supposed myths of science and religion the present only the religious side of the argument. In saying, for instance, they are addressing the myth of "evolution being circular reasoning" they show all of the Christian arguments against evolution and "admit" that while the Christian apologist have lots of facts and truth on their side it's not fair to say that evolution is completely circular. In the meantime all they have done is present the Christian side of the argument while praising its "logic". This is just one more attempt by the Templeton Foundation to spread their lies and drive the "wedge" issue a little deeper. Don't waste your money on this book. That is unless you are a "dyed-in-the-wool" Christian and you need a little more convincing of the lies you so readily adapt. Why can't Christians accept the truth? Why not follow the facts to their logical conclusion and stop distorting the truth? They are so frightened to know that their founding stories are all based on myth but they are the ones to claim that "the truth shall set you free". I sincerely hope they will eventually allow the truth to be presented without their attempts at lying and subterfuge. Please stop these insidious attempts to deceive people who know better. We're not your followers who will go in whatever direction you yank the guide rope. Some Americans want the truth science has to offer without Christian attempts to delude and falsify it.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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