Last Updated on August 1, 2021

Resident Ralph Strong’s review of Galileo and The Science Deniers by Mario Livio [New York: Simon & Schuster, 2020], is scheduled for Tuesday, August 17, 2021 at 7 PM in the Auditorium.

Who was Galileo Galilei? Why is he honored as the “father of modern science and astronomy?” Why, as a devoted Christian, was he convicted of “suspicion of heresy” by the Inquisition? How were the science deniers of the 17th century like those of the 21st century?

Author Mario Livio published this well-researched book to provide sufficient detail and sources to accurately answer these questions, while providing a readable, interesting book. The book was selected as a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post and Science News.

The author is an astrophysicist, who was the Chief Scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute for 24 years. The organization operates the Hubble Telescope. He has published over 400 technical papers and many bestselling books that are designed to bring science and mathematical topics to non-scientists. He is a Baltimore resident, the science advisor to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, a well-known lecturer, and a patron of the arts.

This book is an in-depth look at the life of Galileo Galilei, his interactions and conflicts with the Roman Catholic Church, his brilliant discoveries in science, and an analysis of political and religious denial of science during the 17th century which persists today. He was a well connected devout Catholic but came under fire when his writings supported theories that the Earth orbited the sun. This conflicted with literal interpretations of the Bible and Church teaching which in part was based on Aristotle’s philosophy that the Earth must stand still as the center of the universe. This book explores the Inquisition that found Galileo guilty of “suspicion of heresy” and how it impacted the academic community.

There are many books available that deal with Galileo’s life and the Galileo affair. Many are heavily biased as apologists for either the Church or Galileo. Some show so much detail that they are difficult to read. Mario Livio’s objective in this book is to provide enough detail so the book reveals the truth without excessive material making it difficult to read. Livio also compares the science deniers of the Church 400 years ago to those of today who use the same arguments in the attempt to discredit modern science, particularly evolutionary biology, climate change, and vaccinations.

Ralph Strong, a Charlestown resident, is a retired engineer and avid reader, especially of books related to science.

Janet Neer and Ellyn Loy, Book Review Coordinators