Brief Review: Galileo by Mitch Stokes [Vol. 4, #13.5 ]

June 24, 2011


550316: Galileo

A Brief Review of

Galileo: (Christian Encounters Series)

By Mitch Stokes

Paperback: Thomas Nelson, 2011.

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Reviewed by Chris Smith.

Considering that it has only been within the last twenty years (1992) that the Catholic Church has issued an apology for its handling of the “Galileo Affair,” it is good to have a popular level religious biography of Galileo like Mitch Stokes’s Galileo, which has recently been published in the Christian Encounters Series from Thomas Nelson.  Overall Stokes’s biography is a good introduction to the scientific, theological and philosophical complexities that surround the Galileo story; it covers the whole of Galileo’s life, although focusing predominantly on Galileo’s work that we would today call scientific, and the conflict it ignited with traditional Catholic views of that era.  Stokes does play up the tension between Galileo and the “philosophers” a little too much, anachronistically obscuring the reality that there was no such thing as science at the time, only natural philosophy.  So what we have in Galileo is not science vs. philosophy, as Stokes seems to present it, but rather – to use Thomas Kuhn’s term – conflict between two paradigms of natural philosophy (that is escalated by all the theological and power dynamics within the Catholic Church of the time).  Stokes’s work is a good and meaty introductory work, but readers who want to deeper reflection on the issues that this bit of historical narrative raises, would do well to turn to Jerome Langford’s classic work Galileo, Science and the Church.