Review of Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel, by Bart Breen
Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel, has been one of the more enjoyable literary experiences I have had recently. The writing style is excellent. The narration done masterfully with the narrator distinctively creating the voices and personalities of the different characters. I found the experience riviting and entertaining.
As regards the book itself, I was familiar with the story of Galileo but this brought it to life and personalized it so that I now view this history with a much more passionate eye.
The brilliance of Galileo’s intellect and the radical information that he brought into the darkness of his age cannot be underestimated. As viewed through the culture of our day, I don’t believe we can appreciate the role of one who challenges the prevailing wisdom of the current age and shakes it to its core. Part of Galileo’s legacy is that we have developed in a more scientific community and change is more or less expected and we are by and large more prepared to receive such change as a matter of course. Not all of us of course, but it is a part of our culture and expectations to a degree unheard of in the world, especially as it emerged from the Dark Ages.
I found that important to keep in mind as I absorbed the information of this book recounting the treatment of Galileo by the Catholic Church.
The depth of this treatment and the intransigence of religious thought is such that the most Brilliant mind of the 17th Century who evinced a strong devotion to his Church and faith to a degree that seems almost surreal given their treatment of him, did not have his “Heretical” body buried with the dignity it deserved until the 18th century, did not have his “Heretical” book removed from the Church’s banned list until the 19th century and did not have an official expression of any remorse or regret from the institution of the Roman Catholic Church until the end of the 20th century in the form of a lukewarm and self-justifying statement offered by Pope John-Paul II on the 350th anniversary of Galileo’s death.
Galileo’s Relationship to the Church
I found myself struggling greatly as I digested the words of Galileo, his daughter and various Church officials toward the end of the book as the travesty of Galileo’s trial and subsequent imprisonment played out. You must understand, of course, the context of the days and grant a certain amount of deference. Even with that, the Church erred greatly in their judgement, and handling of this matter and did not just a person, but the entire scientific community extant and yet to come an “astronomical” dis-service of cosmic proportions. Small wonder that scientific greatness ceased to emerge in Italy for so many years following and that the protestant community outside the stifling ignorance and arrogance of the Catholic Church became a progenitor of scientific progress. (This is not to grant those a pass as that ignorance and arrogance is well represented currently in the form of “Young Earth” Creationists who carry that legacy well into our current days, to name just one example.)
As one trained in hermenuetics and apologetics and respectful of religious importance, I was amazed to hear the words of Galileo as regards the interpretation of Scripture. He was not only a more intelligent and disciplined thinker in the realm of science, he was a better Biblical Expositor. He recognized clearly that there was no conflict between creation and Scripture. Where perceived conflict existed, it existed because of faulty interpretation of scientific data AND/OR faulty interpretation of Scripture. The Scriptures were not written in a scientific age and never intended to deliver scientific teaching in a literal sense. The key to enlightenment lay in recognizing truth for what it was from either realm and reconciling the two and abandoning a literal hermanuetic where it could not be supported. Sadly, this lesson remains unlearned by many and the resultant split between the scientific community and communities of faith remains unnecessarily in existence.
It is one thing for the Church to have erred in the introduction of new thought and truth coming out of the Dark Ages. It is sadly another, for ignorance to be embraced and cherished when the light of truth shines brightly for any who would open their eyes and engage in the challenge of understanding and then reconciling the two.
I digress, but the book ignited my little explosion so I will let it stand.
Galileo emerges from this book in oh so human form. His brilliance, his pride and arrogance (probably justified more in him than most men but there none-the-less), and his tender relationship with his daughter, come out of this work in a superior manner. He becomes human and transends the mythological proportions he has achieved in History and Science.
Well worth the time to read or listen. An outstanding book!
P.S. I am a regular reviewer on Amazon and have over 300 books and products reviewed. I’ve set up a personal shop on Amazon with all the items I’ve reviewed (at least those I can recommend). If this review has helped you and you want to see the other items I’ve reviewed you can access them HERE.
I also have a smaller shop set up with books focused on Organic Church and related topics which you can access HERE.