Hofstadter (Falling Palace: A Romance of Naples) draws upon his intimate knowledge of Italian culture, literature and art-as well as new material released from Vatican archives-for this political, scientific and psychological examination of the "first great clash of religion and science," between Galileo and Pope Urban VIII, two seminal figures who were, incredibly, once friends. The context for Galileo's 1633 trial involved political and scientific upheavals involving better technology (Galileo's major improvements on the telescope) and a 1616 Church edict against heliocentrism meant to protect the Scripture from the free interpretation of laypeople. Despite the political cost, Galileo produced a philosophic treatise on the subject, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems (originally licensed for publication by the Church) that championed the "banned hypothesis thesis" and suggested that astronomical references in scripture were metaphorical. Hofstadter tells the concise, absorbing tale of Galileo's persecution with both sides of the conflict in mind, charting with grace the genesis of the Western world's most persistent ideological divide.
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