While the Inquisition focused on the scientist’s telescopic observations of the night sky, in Galileo’s Mistake, Rowland contends that the disagreement centered on an infinitely more profound question: What is truth and how can we know it?
The classic understanding of the notorious 1633 trial of Galileo by the Inquisition is that of Science and Reason persecuted by Ignorance and Superstition‹of a lonely, courageous freethinker oppressed by a reactionary, anti-intellectual institution fearful of losing its power.
Wade Rowland ingeniously uses the Socratic method to illustrate that Galileo’s mistake was to insist that science‹and only science‹provides the truth about nature. The Church responded to this challenge by declaring that science provides mere models for reality and that ultimate truth is accessible only through metaphysical or spiritual insight.
Title: Galileo’s Mistake
Subtitle: A New Look at the Epic Confrontation between Galileo and the Church
Author: Wade Rowland
Publication Date: July 2003
Hardcover: 320 pages
List Price: $25.95 US
Publisher: Arcade Publishing
Galileo’s Mistake: The Archaeology of a Myth by Wade Rowland
Publisher: Thomas Allen Publishers
6″ x 9″ – HC 384 pages, with illustrations
ISBN 0-919028-42-X – $34.95 Cdn
from Thomas Allen Publishers catalog:
Veteran literary journalist Wade Rowland takes one of the modern world’s most influential myths – the epic confrontation of physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) with the Church of Rome – and turns it on its head.
Rowland argues that at the dawning of the Scientific Revolution in the early 1600s, Galileo’s mistake was to insist that science provides the truth about nature. The Church fought back against this challenge to its authority by declaring that science provides only models for reality and that the ultimate truth is accessible only through metaphysical or spiritual insight.
Although the 1633 trail centred on Galileo’s telescopic observations of the night sky, Rowland argues persuasively that this was merely the public face put on a much more profound issue: what is truth and how can we know it? Galileo’s ultimate recantation, Rowland argues, must be understood in this light.
Couched in the engaging style of travel narrative, this provocative reexamination deconstructs the myth that Galileo was a freethinker waging war against a reactionary and anti-intellectual Church. Using the Socratic method of examining arguments, Galileo’s Mistake moves seamlessly through Galileo’s life and his ideas about the nature of reality. By no means an apologist for the Church, Rowland skillfully and persuasively identifies the source of the ontological crisis that plagues us today: the unquestioned authority of science in determining the nature of reality.