Culture Making is now archived. Enjoy five years of reflections on culture worth celebrating.
For more about the book and Andy Crouch, please visit


According to the conventional wisdom still taught in schools and repeated by many public intellectuals, Galileo bravely spoke truth (science) to power (the Church), and paid dearly for it, spending his dying days in prison. Except that it’s not true. Ronald L. Numbers’ Galileo Goes to Jail: And Other Myths About Science and Religion, just out from Harvard University Press, is only the most recent attempt to set the historical record straight on “myths”, including its Number Eight: That Galileo Was Imprisoned and Tortured for Advocating Copernicanism. Apparently Carl Sagan’s quip that Galileo was “in a Catholic dungeon threatened with torture” has all the academic rigor of the Indigo Girls song that begins “Galileo’s head was on the block.”

Consider: Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, the source of controversy, previously had been read and approved by the Church’s censors; and Pope Urban VIII, who presided over the trial, was Galileo’s friend and admirer. Consider also: prior to the trial, Galileo stayed in the Tuscan embassy; during the trial, he was put up in a six-room apartment, complete with servant; following the trial, his “house arrest” consisted of being entertained at the palaces of the grand duke of Tuscany and the Archbishop of Siena. Galileo, apparently, was no ordinary heretic.