earthmovessThe current struggles between religion and science in areas such as evolution and “intelligent design” are thrown into sharp relief in a new book on the great Italian astronomer Galileo and his trial by the Roman Inquisition.

Author Dan Hofstadter says the Galileo affair was “the great religion-science clash of 1633 that in some form has persisted into our time.”

Indirectly verifying Hofstadter’s thesis, a Vatican official — Monsignor Sergio Pagano, head of the Vatican’s secret archives — said earlier this month that the Roman Catholic Church should not fear scientific progress and possibly repeat the mistake it made when it condemned Galileo.

The book also explores other terrain that was certainly new for this reader, such as the link between the Baroque movement and geometrics and the moon’s association with the Virgin Mary in folklore and some strains of Catholic thought. Galileo’s study of the moon ran counter to some of these beliefs and may have stoked the anger of some of his opponents.

Read my interview here with Hofstadter, which focuses on the clash between religion and science then and now.