Setting Aside All Authority is an important account and analysis of seventeenth-century scientific arguments against the Copernican system. Christopher M. Graney challenges the long-standing ideas that opponents of the heliocentric ideas of Copernicus and Galileo were primarily motivated by religion or devotion to an outdated intellectual tradition, and that they were in continual retreat in the face of telescopic discoveries.
Graney calls on newly translated works by anti-Copernican writers of the time to demonstrate that science, not religion, played an important, and arguably predominant, role in the opposition to the Copernican system. Anti-Copernicans, building on the work of the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, were in fact able to build an increasingly strong scientific case against the heliocentric system at least through the middle of the seventeenth century, several decades after the advent of the telescope. The scientific case reached its apogee, Graney argues, in the 1651 New Almagest of the Italian Jesuit astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli, who used detailed telescopic observations of stars to construct a powerful scientific argument against Copernicus.
Setting Aside All Authority includes the first English translation of Monsignor Francesco Ingoli’s essay to Galileo (disputing the Copernican system on the eve of the Inquisition’s condemnation of it in 1616) and excerpts from Riccioli's reports regarding his experiments with falling bodies.
“Christopher M. Graney’s Setting Aside All Authority makes a fine contribution to the history of science and especially the history of astronomy. The case Graney presents for the rationality of denying Copernicanism, as late as the mid-seventeenth century, is cogent, and he presents a good deal of novel historical material that urges a reevaluation of a major figure—Riccioli. The book will interest not only historians but also philosophers of science, and scientists in the relevant specialties (astronomy, physics) together with their students at both the undergraduate and graduate level.” —Peter Barker, University of Oklahoma
"The most exciting history of science book so far this century, Graney’s brilliant portrait of Riccioli and his science—amiable but punchy, rigorous but accessible—ought to stimulate a complete revision of what we thought we knew about the Copernican Revolution. Rarely have scientific analysis, historical scholarship, and writerly flair come together with such force." —Dennis Danielson, author of Paradise Lost and the Cosmological Revolution
"For students of the Copernican revolution, here is an unexpected contribution that will force the experts to revise their lecture notes. Christopher Graney (with translation assistance from Christina Graney) has almost single-handedly revised the traditional story about Jesuit Giambattista Riccioli’s list of pro and con arguments for the heliocentric cosmology. Big surprise: in 1651 the geocentric cosmology had science on its side." —Owen Gingerich, author of God's Planet