Maurice Finocchiaro (Philosophy) just received some advance copies of his new book, On Trial for Reason: Science, Religion, and Culture in the Galileo Affair, published by Oxford University Press in Britain. This is a “trade book,” aimed at educated laypersons, as well as specialized scholars. Accordingly, it is a summary, synthesis, and simplification of Finocchiaro’s many scholarly publications; also an elaboration of a public lecture which he has frequently presented to general interdisciplinary audiences locally, nationally, and worldwide; and a reconstruction of a teaching module that he included in many of his UNLV courses for 33 years.
As reflected in the book’s title, its key thesis is that Galileo was condemned by the Catholic Church in 1633 because of his critical reasoning. This alleged crime was committed by publishing a book that defended Copernicus’s theory of the earth’s motion, which was controversial at that time and which the church regarded as false and contrary to scripture. For Galileo did present and explain all arguments on both sides, but took the liberty of evaluating their validity and merits; and it turned out that the arguments favoring the earth’s motion, although not completely conclusive, were much stronger that those against it.