Monday, April 4, 2011


By Mitch Stokes. Thomas Nelson Publisher.

Stokes carefully lays out the historical and scientific setting in which the Galileo drama unfolded. He explains step-by-step the relevant mathematical and philosophical issues related to Aristotelian cosmology. He shows the close connection between scholastic theology, based on Aristotle's philosophy, and Aristotelian science, and how if the science unraveled the Catholic Church would fear that its scholasticism would unwind too.

Stokes reminds readers that the late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-centuries were the high point of the Counter Reformation, a time when Pope and Inquisition feared Protestantism and hoped to arrest its development, chiefly through the intellectual work of the Dominicans and Jesuits.

Readers get a strong sense of the great faith of Galileo. He not only believed deeply in Christ, but also in the reasonableness of the Catholic Church. He was confident that if he could explain the heliocentric system, famously described by Copernicus, it would be accepted. Galileo's own faith was untroubled by the unwinding of Aristotelian science, because he had, as Descartes and other scientists and early-modern philosophers, separated philosophy from faith.

Thus in Galileo's mind if the Bible contradicted science, the Biblical passage in question could be regarded as allegorical, something akin to Augustine's understanding of Biblical interpretation.

Stokes shows the various personalities involved, though because it is a short book, we don't get to know many of the characters outside of Galileo. The author provides an excellent introduction to the Galileo case, successfully arguing that science and religion did not turn against each other.

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