The Galileo Syndrome
The trial of Galileo is known to the public almost entirely as a one-dimensional morality play, in which freedom of thought, embodied in science, is persecuted by dogmatic oppression, embodied in the Catholic Church. Recent retellings of the story, such as Wade Rowland’s Galileo’s Mistake, challenge modernist prejudice by portraying a more complex tangle in which the over-bearing Galileo bears part of the responsibility for forcing a showdown with Pope Leo VIII, who had been Galileo’s friend and supporter until the great scientist’s contempt for authority exhausted his patience.
The Church did not object to the Copernican theory, provided that Galileo advanced it only as a useful hypothesis a . . .