Does Religion Stifle Science?: A Conversation on Galileo’s Jail Time, Creationism, & Whether the Earth Was Ever Flat

One of the most deeply embedded narratives in our culture’s self-understanding is the story of the age-old feud between science and religion. Science undermines religion and religion, in turn, stifles science, as the story goes. The Roman Catholic Church’s imprisonment, torture, and silencing of Galileo Galilei is commonly adduced as evidence of religion’s obstinacy in the face of science, as are the church’s supposed embrace of such ideas as that the Earth is flat, that the world is only 6,000 years old, and that the heavens revolve around an immoveable Earth as evidence of religion’s inherent naïveté or backwardness. This story has profoundly shaped the modern imagination, not least when we enter into contemporary debates where religious faith and scientific research intersect, debates about bioethics, sexuality, education, and more.

But how well grounded is this story in actual historical fact? Recent historical research has called many of the story’s supporting details into question. Can the story’s details be wrong, but its main thrust still be right? And if not, what does that mean for the current debates in which the story is so regularly invoked?

The Socratic Happy Hour is a society dedicated to hosting civil and convivial conversations about life’s biggest questions. If you’re a graduate student based here in Oxford, please join us on Monday, 20th February 2023 at the Head of the River pub for a friendly conversation about these vital questions.


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