Since at least the mid-twentieth century there has been a line of Galileo scholarship that has held that Galileo’s problems with the Inquisition should not be viewed as indicating a basic conflict between science and religion but instead as just problems peculiar to Galileo the man, the personality. I think the ultimate motivation for this line of argumentation is the worry of twentieth-century scientists that their work would somehow be seen as godless and communistic.

In some respects this seems the oddest angle to take on Galileo and his work. It is true he never saw himself as undermining religion. His case was more an expression of internal politics within the church itself than any kind of assault on it. Still, the church — let’s just say it — came down squarely on the wrong side of this one, and that reflects badly on it. Nonetheless, the argument continues to this day, as this review of a recent biography indicates.