The “Galileo Affair” has been the locus of various and opposing appraisals for centuries: some view it as an historical event emblematic of the obscurantism of the Catholic Church, opposed a priori to the progress of science; others consider it a tragic reciprocal misunderstanding between Galileo, an arrogant and troublesome defender of the Copernican theory, and his theologian adversaries, who were prisoners of a narrow interpretation of scripture. In The Case of Galileo: A Closed Question? Annibale Fantoli presents a wide range of scientific, philosophical, and theological factors that played an important role in Galileo’s trial, all set within the historical progression of Galileo’s writing and personal interactions with his contemporaries. Fantoli traces the growth in Galileo Galilei’s thought and actions as he embraced the new worldview presented in On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, the epoch-making work of the great Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.
Fantoli delivers a sophisticated analysis of the intellectual milieu of the day, describes the Catholic Church’s condemnation of Copernicanism (1616) and of Galileo (1633), and assesses the church’s slow acceptance of the Copernican worldview. Fantoli criticizes the 1992 treatment by Cardinal Poupard and Pope John Paul II of the reports of the Commission for the Study of the Galileo Case and concludes that the Galileo Affair, far from being a closed question, remains more than ever a challenge to the church as it confronts the wider and more complex intellectual and ethical problems posed by the contemporary progress of science and technology. In clear and accessible prose geared to a wide readership, Fantoli has distilled forty years of scholarly research into a fascinating recounting of one of the most famous cases in the history of science.
“This book is an excellent account of the trial and condemnation of Galileo by the Inquisition in 1633. It is a simplified and streamlined version adapted from the erudite book on the topic for which Fantoli is well known and highly respected among scholars. But like the erudite book this one is well balanced with respect to the contrasts of science vs. religion, Galileo vs. the Catholic Church, history vs. philosophy, and factual details vs. contemporary relevance.” —Maurice A. Finocchiaro, University of Nevada Las Vegas
"With his characteristic analytical power, new insights, and sharp eye for subtle nuances, Fantoli offers a highly contingent account of the Galileo Affair. He argues that Galileo's abjuration was not a foregone conclusion, but an unexpected turn two weeks before it occurred. His provocative conclusion puts this fine history to work today. He warns that new versions of the Galileo Affair lurk where the Catholic Church's position has joined disputable biblical interpretation to unsatisfactory dialogue with science, philosophy, other forms of Christianity, and other religions." —Michael H. Shank, University of Wisconsin-Madison
"This sage, sensitive account of one of the most infamous trials in history brims with new insights. Annibale Fantoli, uniquely qualified to explore the intricacies and implications of the case, has a finger on Galileo's pulse throughout the ordeal of his accusation and condemnation. Equally gripping is the author's depiction of the ongoing conflict between science and faith—the very struggle Galileo tried to avert—and what it portends for the future." —Dava Sobel, author of Galileo's Daughter and A More Perfect Heaven