Whenever argument breaks out over science and religion, those who emphasize tension between the two almost inevitably turn to the story of Galileo and the Roman Catholic Church. But David Lindberg, professor emeritus in the history of science at the University of Wisconsin, says that people may not know the real story—and that this may be partly responsible for misconceptions about the relationship between faith and science.

Lindberg is the author of The Beginnings of Western Science. With Ronald L. Numbers, he is the coeditor of God and Nature, the forthcoming eight-volume Cambridge History of Science, and Battlefields of Science and Christianity Revisited: From Augustine to Intelligent Design.

Is Galileo's story a good example of the relationship between science and religion?

The Galileo case has been taken as symbolic of the relationship between science and the church. But it wasn't. In fact, the Galileo case was exceptional.

Many Christians have grown up with the idea that there was this terrible encounter in which the oppressive church stamped out science.

There is another view circulating within the Christian community. Namely, that Christianity provided fundamental assumptions without which modern science could never have occurred. This notion is that the human intellect was designed to be able to comprehend this nature that God had created.

I think both ideas are equally false and misleading.

The relationship between science and Christianity goes back to the beginning. The early church fathers found the Greek classical tradition, including Greek science, dangerous in a number of respects. It contradicts Scripture at a number of points, so there were skirmishes that continued through the Middle Ages.

At this time, there ...

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The Dick Staub Interview
Dick Staub was host of a eponymous daily radio show on Seattle's KGNW and is the author of Too Christian, Too Pagan and The Culturally Savvy Christian. He currently runs The Kindlings, an effort to rekindle the creative, intellectual, and spiritual legacy of Christians in culture. His interviews appeared weekly on our site from 2002 to 2004.
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