Because Ideas Matter...
The faculty and staff of Butler University's College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences presents
GALILEO GOES TO JAIL and Other Myths about Science and
edited by Ronald L. Numbers. Harvard University Press, 2009
Reviewed by Michael Zimmerman
In this wonderful, edited volume,
University of Wisconsin history of science professor Ron Numbers
turns some commonly accepted notions about the relationship between
religion and science on their head.
Beginning with the largest falsity of all, "The greatest myth in
the history of science and religion holds that they have been in a
state of constant conflict," Numbers and his 24 co-contributors
discuss fascinating but false beliefs. Arranged chronologically,
the book opens by discussing myths associated with the medieval
period including "that the rise of Christianity was responsible for
the demise of ancient science," "that medieval Christians taught
that the Earth was flat," and "that medieval Islamic culture was
inhospitable to science."
Common misperceptions about Copernicus, Bruni and Galileo
follow, along with the myths "that Rene Descartes originated the
mind- body distinction" and "that Isaac Newton's mechanistic
cosmology eliminated the need for God."
From the 19th century on, myths about evolution abound and eight
are addressed here, including "that the Scopes trial ended in a
defeat for antievolutionism" and that Darwin converted back to
Christianity on his death bed.
In each of the 25 cases, the origin of each myth is explored and
then each is exploded by good scholarship. The persuasive arguments
will force readers to reexamine long-held beliefs and come to grips
with a different relationship between religion and science than has
previously been promoted.
- Michael Zimmerman is Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and
Sciences at Butler University .