Book Reviews of Galileo’s Mistake by Wade Rowland:
“…fresh and compelling.”
“Well-presented scientific history with an interesting philosophical twist”
“Rowland’s is an audacious position”
The New York Times
“Rowland’s triumph is in examining Galileo’s method over his facts and winning an argument that was lost more than 350 years ago. His book provides a fascinating contribution to a debate that is particularly germane today and is likely to be equally important 300 years from now.”
“I recommend it strongly. Rowland tells the story well and with style and…backed by serious research and sensitivity to the issues. The history is embedded in a modern-day travelogue, interspersed with musings about the meaning of life.”
The Globe and Mail
“Rowland does an impressive job of bringing the 17th century to life…he builds a compelling case that Galileo and the Church differed over something far more important than whether the earth revolved around the sun-they differed on the very nature of truth and how mortals can come to know it.”
“An excellent mixture of science and philosophy.”
David Pitt, Bookloons
“Galileo’s Mistake is a lofty and ambitious philosophical exploration, and Rowland’s considerable gifts as a writer make the book pleasurable and captivating. Rowland skilfully weaves history, biography, science writing, and philosophical overviews into the comfortable familiarity of a travel narrative.”
“Galileo’s Mistake has the lazy ease of a multi-course Italian dinner, at once relaxing and enriching”.
Robert Wiersema, Quill & Quire
“…a superb work…an ambitious, even heroic, interpretation of the Galileo-Church controversy. Rowland has included a wonderfully accurate, exquisitely painted presentation of the political, cultural, and historical setting in which the Galileo-Church debate finds a clearly natural location.”
B. J. Hodgson, PhD, Trent University Faculty of Philosophy
From Publishers Weekly:
“Rowland seeks to dispel what he calls “the myth of Galileo”: that he was attacked by an ignorant, closed-minded Church for having discovered the truth, which contradicted Church belief. Rowland (Ockham’s Razor) argues that this traditional perspective on Galileo’s 1633 trial is both simplistic and wide of the mark. Instead, he builds a compelling case that Galileo and the Church differed over something far more important than whether the earth revolved around the sun-they differed on the very nature of truth and how mortals can come to know it.
Modeling the structure used by Galileo in his own book about Copernican theory, Rowland makes use of fictionalized dialogues to explore issues of epistemology and concludes that Galileo, by promoting the idea that scientific experiments alone can lead to a meaningful understanding of the natural world, was a very real threat to the coherence of the Church.
Rowland does an impressive job of bringing the 17th century to life. It’s important to note that, as he makes clear throughout, he believes that religion can allow for a comprehension of reality in ways that science cannot, and that many of the world’s present ills are due to “the transition from the Age of Faith to the Age of Reason,” which Galileo helped accomplish and the wisdom of which Rowland seriously questions. Still, his book will appeal to most readers interested in the current debate about the relation between science and religion, and particularly to those who, like him, posit limits to the reach of science.”
Book Review: Publishers Weekly
Book Review: Quill and Quire:
“Veteran journalist Wade Rowland follows up the success of Ockham’s Razor with another examination of the conflict between science and faith. In Galileo’s Mistake, Rowland ventures to the very roots of that schism and challenges one of the key philosophical beliefs of the intervening centuries – the assumption that science can provide a definitive (or “true”) perspective on the nature of reality.
The book examines the 1633 heresy trial that ended with Galileo’s recantation of his telescopic discoveries, including his evidence for Copernicus’s controversial theory that Earth and the other planets revolve around the sun. Prior to the trial, the Church was at the centre of scientific inquiry – in fact, Galileo borrowed some of his data from Jesuit astronomers. The recantation was a pyrrhic victory for the Church, and marked the separation of “enlightened” science and “anti-intellectual” religion in the public perception. That perception continues to this day.
Galileo’s Mistake is a lofty and ambitious philosophical exploration, and Rowland’s considerable gifts as a writer make the book pleasurable and captivating. Rowland skilfully weaves history, biography, science writing, and philosophical overviews into the comfortable familiarity of a travel narrative.
The pacing of Galileo’s Mistake has the lazy ease of a multi-course Italian dinner, at once relaxing and enriching. Potentially difficult philosophical ideas are explored through both Socratic dialogue and Rowland’s responses to historical documents and contemporary analyses. It’s an effective and surprisingly uncontrived approach, resulting in a return of specialized scientific and theoretical concepts to a mainstream audience, an achievement for which Rowland deserves considerable recognition.”
Book Review: Quill and Quire: Robert Wiersema, a writer and bookseller in Victoria, B.C.
“Galileo’s key error, Canadian historian Rowland finds, was not his advocacy of the Copernican scheme of the solar system, in which the planets rotate about the sun, but his contention that the scientific method is the sole means to determine truth.
In support of this thesis, Rowland undertakes a detailed examination of the history behind Galileo’s trial. While much of the material is undoubtedly familiar to students of scientific history, he presents with considerably more sympathy than usual nowadays the Church’s position on scientific matters, hammered out over more than 1,500 years, with considerable effort devoted to accommodating the philosophies of first Plato, then Aristotle, within the orthodox worldview. Galileo’s support of the Copernican system was a threat, Rowland contends, because of its unstated assumption that the nature of the universe can be learned from observation and reason rather than faith. Granted this premise, it is hard to argue with his conclusion that Galileo’s prosecution was justified both by law and custom.
Much of this argument is presented in dialogues among Rowland, a secular friend, and an Italian nun in the context of the author’s travels in Italy for research. These bring in considerable local Italian color as background and give the somewhat abstract points a more human face; on the other hand, they sometimes distort basic science in order to scoredebating points.
Well-presented scientific history with an interesting philosophical twist.”
Book Review: Kirkus Reviews
The New York Times – Books of the Times Review:
“Rowland’s is an audacious position… in 1992 the church itself admitted that it had erred in condemming Galileo. As headlines mockingly put it at the time, the Vatican had finally acknowledged that the Earth revolved around the Sun. But to Mr. Rowland such descriptions trvialize the real issues at stake in the conflict, namely the essential nature of the universe and which sphere – science or faith – can better grasp it.”
Book Review: The New York Times – Books of the Times Review
“The author puts Galileo’s life and work in a historical and philosophical context to demonstrate just how revolutionary he really was (and, in some respects, wasn’t). We come to know the many faces of Galileo — the father, the husband, the music lover, the scientist — and we come to a greater understanding of the fundamental mistake that got him in so much trouble: his stubborn, unrelenting insistence that science, and only science, reveals the true nature of the world. His refusal to accept, even for the sake of argument, the value of other belief systems (say, religion) is what did him in. And his 1633 trial, at the hands of the Inquisition, was not really about his scientific work; it was about the very nature of truth itself. An excellent mixture of science and philosophy.”
Review: David Pitt, Bookloons
“Popular history recounts Galileo’s 17th-century battle with Catholic leaders in stark terms. Galileo, good. Church, bad. Legend has it that the trial of the noted astronomer in 1633 was based on whether the Earth moved around the sun, as Galileo asserted, or was orbited by the sun, the church’s view. But the image of an enlightened Galileo fighting for truth against the intolerant Catholic Church over astronomical concepts is far too simplistic, Wade Rowland writes in Galileo’s Mistake.”
Review: Philadelphia Inquirer