If we want nonscientists and opinion-makers in the press, the lab, and the pulpit to take a fresh look at the relationship between science and religion, Ronald Numbers suggests that we must first dispense with the hoary myths that have masqueraded too long as historical truths.
Until about the 1970s, the dominant narrative in the history of science had long been that of science triumphant, and science at war with religion. But a new generation of historians both of science and of the church began to examine episodes in the history of science and religion through the values and knowledge of the actors themselves. Now Ronald Numbers has recruited the leading scholars in this new history of science to puncture the myths, from Galileo’s incarceration to Darwin’s deathbed conversion to Einstein’s belief in a personal God who “didn’t play dice with the universe.” The picture of science and religion at each other’s throats persists in mainstream media and scholarly journals, but each chapter in Galileo Goes to Jail shows how much we have to gain by seeing beyond the myths.
An illuminating study of the relationship between science and religion...This book features the contributions of a team of 25 scholars that includes agnostics, atheists, and Christians. Their collective objective is to dispel the "hoary myths" of the supposedly bellicose relationship between religion and science. Readers will be fascinated by the evidence that for advocating Copernicanism, Galileo was not imprisoned (as commonly thought) but interrogated--albeit under the threat of torture--and set up in an apartment. Other misconceptions concern the connection between Darwinian thought and Nazi biology, Einstein's belief in God, and Islam's alleged hostility toward scientific enquiry. -- C. Brian Smith Library Journal 20090302 A revealing book...Using "myth" in the popular sense, to mean falsehood, Galileo Goes to Jail debunks widespread misconceptions. -- Douglas Todd Vancouver Sun 20090515 A splendid book. -- Christopher Howse Daily Telegraph 20090606 As a collection, these myth-busting arguments work to soften the wedge responsible for the schism between science and religion. The topics and writing style will appeal to all readers, but students of science and religion should consider this essential reading. -- J. A. Hewlett Choice 20090701 Informative and thought-provoking reading. -- Ernan McMullin The Tablet 20091010 The volume's careful organization and execution reveal the kind of planning and teamwork absent from too many edited collections, but which have come to be expected from Numbers...Each chapter of Galileo Goes to Jail begins with two or three epigraphs that clearly convict scholarly and popular literature of perpetuating the myth in question. Most authors then explore the nuances of the myth, its origin, complexity, and longevity, before telling the "rest of the story." -- Mark A. Kalthoff First Things 20091001 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...As Numbers points out in his introduction, fewer than half of the contributors are religious believers at all; and of those, there are only two evangelicals, one Catholic, and one Jew. In other words, they have no axe to grind, and their only agenda is to set the historical record straight. Given all of the polemics published today, this is a breath of fresh air. -- Ryan T. Anderson Weekly Standard 20091019 [Ronald L. Numbers] is a religious agnostic whose scholarship on the history of American religion and science is marked by meticulous accuracy and impartiality...[This book was written] with ordinary readers, not specialists, in mind, making this a truly rare book: where else can you find such authoritative scholarship delivered so accessibly and fairly on such an important subject? -- Edward B. Davis belief.net 20090828