Historians of science have tended to view Galileo's trials as an example of the conflict between science and religion in the seventeenth century. This book questions the traditional "grand narrative" that opposes science and religion, and thus attempts to reconceptualize a key episode in the history of modern science. Feldhay offers a new interpretation of the debate between Galileo and the Church, viewing it as a "dialogue" rather than a "conflict." The known contradictions between the documents of Galileo's "trials" are reread as expressions of the contradictory nature of the Counter Reformation Church. Torn between different cultural orientations (Dominican and Jesuit), the Church was unable to crystallize a coherent attitude towards Galileo's science.
"This book is noteworthy for its original approach to the interpretation of Galileo's trial and for its wealth of information about the ecclesiastical and theological history of the period." Isis "Feldhay's textual scholarship is careful, her distinctions are finely drawn, and her case is complex...the most original study of the 'Galileo affair' in recent decades...Present-day Jesuits and Dominicans will find much to quibble about here, but they also can learn much from her researches." Theology Studies "Drawing on original documents and past interpretations, Feldhay looks at the trials of Galileo in a fresh light and comes away with some new conclusions...one of the more interesting and fresh looks at a fascinating political, philosophical and human drama." Gordon Bond, The Practical Observer "...Feldhay is surely right in placing Galileo in the context of the Dominican-Jesuit struggle for intellectual supremacy in the church, and in suggesting that the Jesuits, who early on had a deep sympathy for Galilean science, were forced by ecclesio-political factors to back away...this book makes an important contribution." Denis Janz, Religious Studies Review "In this important new study, Rivka Feldhay challenges the predominant scholarly and popular view of the conflict between Galileo and the church...a convincing narrative...In support of the argument, Feldhay provides rich historically nuanced information that allows the reader to see the trajectory of conflicting elite cultures active during the early seventeenth century." James B. South, Canadian Philosophical Review "It is historically well informed and, in the main, interpretively sensitive in a context where such qualities have often in the past been in short supply." American Historical Review