Galileo's Mistake: The Archaeology of a Myth


350 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-919028-42-X
DDC 520'.92





Reviewed by Steve Pitt

Steve Pitt is a Toronto-based freelance writer and an award-winning journalist. He has written many young adult and children's books, including Day of the Flying Fox: The True Story of World War II Pilot Charley Fox.


The struggle between Galileo and the Roman Catholic Church is one of the
most famous philosophical confrontations in Western history. Most people
know that Galileo fell afoul of the church because he believed that the
Earth revolved around the Sun, while the church authorities insisted
that the Sun revolved around the Earth. Most people also know that
Galileo was imprisoned and tortured, and that only under the threat of
death did he recant his theories. Nearly four centuries later, most
people know that Galileo was right in asserting that only science can
determine what is truth. Everyone knows, it seems, except Wade Rowland.

Rowland wants to reopen the debate. What’s more, he has openly taken
the church’s side, which appears to be akin to publicly declaring
himself a modern believer in a flat Earth and sea serpents. But Rowland
is no faith-blinded apologist. In this heavily researched blend of
history, philosophy, science, and literary whimsy, Rowland first debunks
many of the myths that have become accepted “facts” about the
Galileo controversy and then examines the consequences of Galileo’s
ultimate vindication by pro-science historians.

This is a hard book to read quickly, because the content tends to send
the reader’s mind spinning off on daydreaming tangents. One minute
Rowland is discussing the Pythagorean pre-Christian worldview and the
next he has us enjoying a glass of wine at a Florentine café. As
Galileo did in some of his own books, Rowland populates his prose with
quirky argumentative characters that sometimes support and sometimes
oppose his thesis. Ultimately, Rowland tries to prove that Galileo’s
own arrogance provoked the confrontation with the Inquisition and that
the world is the worse for his victory because people now place the same
unquestioning faith in science that they once placed in religion.


Rowland, Wade., “Galileo's Mistake: The Archaeology of a Myth,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 24, 2024,