Sunday, October 11, 2009

The martyrdom of Galileo?

Debunking historical falsehoods about the relationship between religion and science is what Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion is about. Reviewed by Ryan T. Anderson in this week's Weekly Standard:
.... Though it is written by academics from Harvard, Oxford, Johns Hopkins, Chicago, and the like, the book is intended for nonspecialists. In about 10 pages per myth, the contributors explain the myth's content, how so many people have come to believe it, and what the historical evidence shows to the contrary. 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.

So, for example, readers discover that Galileo never really was imprisoned (nor was he tortured), that Giordano Bruno was not a martyr on behalf of science (though he was persecuted for his heretical theological views as a defrocked monk who denied the doctrine of the Trinity), that "every important medieval thinker" rejected the flat-earth theory and held fast to a spherical-earth theory, and that "no evidence supports the notion" that Christianity opposed the use of anesthesia in childbirth.

Likewise, claims that the evidence for organic evolution rests on circular reasoning, that Darwin was complicit in Nazi biology, and that "Intelligent Design" mounts a scientific challenge to evolution are all thoroughly explored and roundly rejected.

We also learn that neither the atheists nor the evangelicals are right on Darwin: Evolution didn't lead him to reject Christianity (the untimely deaths of his father and daughter, coupled with the doctrine of eternal damnation, did), nor did he undergo a deathbed conversion. Likewise, despite attempts to list Einstein in the "pro-God" column, he didn't believe in a personal god or favor any traditional organized religion (his many statements on religion showing him to be more of a Spinozist). And regardless of what Inherit the Wind might have us believe about the Scopes "monkey trial," William Jennings Bryan triumphed on the stand and was widely hailed as a hero upon his death shortly thereafter. .... [more]

PREVIEW: Reason for Faith

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