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Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion

Ronald L. Numbers, ed. (Harvard University Press: December 8, 2010), 320 pages.

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.

Table of Contents

    • Contents
    • Acknowledgments
    • Introduction – Ronald L. Numbers
    • Myth 1. That the Rise of Christianity Was Responsible for the Demise of Ancient Science – David C. Lindberg
    • Myth 2. That the Medieval Christian Church Suppressed the Growth of Science – Michael H. Shank
    • Myth 3. That Medieval Christians Taught That the Earth Was Flat – Lesley B. Cormack
    • Myth 4. That Medieval Islamic Culture Was Inhospitable to Science – S. Nomanul Haq
    • Myth 5. That the Medieval Church Prohibited Human Dissection – Katharine Park
    • Myth 6. That the Copernican System Demoted Humans from the Center of the Cosmos – Dennis R. Danielson
    • Myth 7. That Giordano Bruno Was the First Martyr of Modern Science – Jole Shackelford
    • Myth 8. That Galileo Was Imprisoned and Tortured for Advocating Copernicanism – Maurice A. Finocchiaro
    • Myth 9. That Christianity Gave Birth to Modern Science – Noah Efron
    • Myth 10. That the Scientific Revolution Liberated Science from Religion – Margaret J. Osler
    • Myth 11. That Catholics Did Not Contribute to the Scientific Revolution – Lawrence Principe – Myth 12. That René Descartes Originated the Mind-Body Distinction- Peter Harrison
    • Myth 13. That Isaac Newton’s Mechanistic Cosmology Eliminated the Need for God – Edward Davis
    • Myth 14. That the Church Denounced Anesthesia in Childbirth on Biblical Grounds – Rennie B. Schoepflin
    • Myth 15. That the Theory of Organic Evolution Is Based on Circular Reasoning – Nicolaas A. Rupke
    • Myth 16. That Evolution Destroyed Charles Darwin’s Faith in Christianity—until He Reconverted on His Deathbed – James Moore
    • Myth 17. That Huxley Defeated Wilberforce in Their Debate over Evolution and Religion – David N. Livingstone
    • Myth 18. That Darwin Destroyed Natural Theology  – Jon H. Roberts
    • Myth 19. That Darwin and Haeckel Were Complicit in Nazi Biology – Robert J. Richards
    • Myth 20. That the Scopes Trial Ended in Defeat for Antievolutionism – Edward J. Larson
    • Myth 21. That Einstein Believed in a Personal God – Matthew Stanley
    • Myth 22. That Quantum Physics Demonstrated the Doctrine of Free Will – Daniel P. Thurs
    • Myth 23. That “Intelligent Design” Represents a Scientific Challenge to Evolution – Michael Ruse
    • Myth 24. That Creationism Is a Uniquely American Phenomenon – Ronald L. Numbers
    • Myth 25. That Modern Science Has Secularized Western Culture – John Hedley Brooke
    • Notes
    • List of Contributors
    • Index