Galileo: The heretic who wasn’t

Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Students venturing into the social studies of science will quickly realize that the origins of modern science cannot be studied without understanding the role that organized religion played in its development. Indeed, there has been a legacy where historians of science have overplayed the hypothesis that science and religion are fundamentally opposed to each other. The condemnation of Galileo Galilei by the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church in 1633 is widely presented as the paradigmatic case of the interminable conflict between science and religion. However, the study of Galileo’s life, work, and his trial requires more than the simplistic thesis of an authoritarian, religious institution silencing a singular, scientific genius.

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