Ecklund is candid about that much, and indeed emphasises it repeatedly, but she wants to argue that scientists should be more publicly supportive of religion. Scientists who are believers should communicate more about why they find religion and science compatible. Those who are non-believers should learn more about religious systems and speak of them with respect. Or so she seems to think.
In any event, there are many individual things in the book that are getting my hackles up. Here is just one:
Many of the scientists I talked with gave Galileo's torture at the hands of the Inquisition as a central piece of evidence that religion and science are in entrenched conflict. But really, Galileo was never tortured; that's a myth. Misconceptions about religion and science abound.Oh come off it! This is extraordinary. It's well known that Galileo was not physically tortured, but only threatened with torture - and perhaps shown the actual torture instruments. That was enough to get him to recant.
Perhaps the scientists whom she spoke to were a bit hazy on this point, but so what? Does Ecklund really think that the Inquisition was not prepared to go through with its threat to torture Galileo if he had held out further with his insistence on the truth of the heliocentric theory? If so, where is her evidence that showing him the torture instruments was merely a bluff or a sham?
And how is the Inquisition less culpable if it was merely prepared to torture Galileo - but did not actually need to do so to obtain a recantation from him? Indeed, if we are going to be technical, is it really so clear that threatening a prisoner with these fiendish instruments of pain ... is not a form of torture in itself? Even if, as is widely believed by historians, he was actually shown them to make the point? Even if you don't classify this as torture, exactly, it seems pretty damn coercive, doesn't it?
If physically torturing Galileo would stand as evidence of entrenched conflict between science and religion, how does "merely" threatening to do so, and apparently being prepared to do so, not provide similarly strong evidence? And how is similarly strong evidence not provided by the fact that Galileo was effectively gagged from speaking any more about heliocentrism, was placed under house arrest for the remainder of his life, and had all his scientific works works banned from publication? Are we supposed to ignore the whole dreadful sequence of events merely because Galileo was never actually physically tortured?
Even if it is argued that the Inquisition showed some mercy to Galileo - yes, mercy by its atrocious standards - how does its behaviour in bullying him, suppressing his speech, threatening him with torture, placing him under permanent house arrest, and continuing to suppress his views not attract Ecklund's condemnation?
She dismisses the story - in its distorted "Galileo was tortured" form - as a myth, but does not tell us what really happened. To be fair, she does have an endnote in which she mentions a book chapter by Maurice A. Finocchiaro, and in the same endnote she quotes at length from Arthur Koestler's tendentious and downright nasty discussion of Galileo in The Sleepwalkers. However, she provides nothing further in the main text. The quote from Koestler provides no detail at all about the Galileo affair, but merely makes fun of a mythologised portrait of Galileo that some people may or may not believe in (the total narrative is evidently Koestler's synthesis).
Nor does Ecklund tell us how the Inquisitors' actions merit anything other than the severest censure, or how the actual events are any less evidence of a rift between science and religion than if the torture instruments had been physically applied to the scientist's fragile human body.
Really, this is deplorable. It never ceases to amaze me how religious apologists and accommodationists can just blow off atrocious actions by the Church as if they are insignificant. Ecklund's handling of the issue could not be much more intellectually and morally obtuse.
Perhaps there is something to be said as to why the Galileo affair, by itself, is indecisive in the case for an incompatibility between religion and science. In this particular post, I don't even want to get into that, one way or the other. But whatever we should ultimately say about the Galileo affair, it is not conveyed in the callous whitewash that Ecklund has offered for our non-edification.