Book review: Galileo’s Daughter

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Author:Dava Sobel
Reading Level (Conceptual):Children 12 and up
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 12 and up
Year of publication:1999

The story of Galileo's daughter, Sister Maria Celeste, is mostly peripheral to the story of Galileo himself, in this non-fictional biography. Along with interesting details about what life was like for the illegitimate daughter of a famous scientist in the late 16th century, the book also concentrates on the Catholic Church's determined and successful attempt to get Galileo to renounce his conclusion that the earth revolves around the sun and not vice versa.

Reading about the Inquisition which forced Galileo to choose between his deep faith and what he knew to be scientific fact, I was reminded of the later, fictional, 1984 and Darkness At Noon, and the non-fictional Reading Lolita in Tehran and the recent efforts in the United States to ban the teaching of evolution. What is it about power that drives people in authority to force scientists to renounce what they know for what the powers-that-be think they should profess?

In Galileo's case, it seems to me, many of those who reviewed his writings understood that Galileo was correct. And yet, what was required was Obedience rather than Truth.

Why does this happen? Is it, as Ayn Rand seems to think, because those lacking in intellectual gifts resent those who are more intelligent than they are? Or, can it be that theologists and ideologists truly believe that what they believe is not only true, but also that anyone who disagrees must be destroyed?

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