Galileo's Children is an anthology of science fiction edited by Gardner Dozios. As the subtitle Tales of Superstition vs Science suggests, all of the stories examine the connection and clash between science and religion. Thirteen stories are included, many by some of the most popular authors in the science fiction field.
In The Way of the Cross and Dragon by George R R Martin, the Catholic Church has spread a dominant influence throughout the universe. A priest is sent to investigate a heretical cult that follows 'St Judas'. As he speaks with the cult's leader the priest discovers that belief and religion may not be what he has always thought it to be. Having only read Martin's fantasy saga A song of Fire and Ice I was interested in reading this tale and was not disappointed. He offers a unique look at the difference between truth and faith.
The Pope of the Chimps by Robert Silverberg is another interesting story in this collection. As a group of scientists watch, a community of chimps evolves as a society, even instituting their own brand of religion. I was intrigued by the way the chimps translated their own experiences into a faith, showing how superstitions based on incomplete knowledge can become part of any religion.
In Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream by James Alan Gardner a scientist goes against scripture to say he finds no serpents in human blood. When others look, some find the serpents and some do not. The story goes on to show how a seemingly insignificant difference among humans can become ingrained into a belief system.
A 1956 Hugos Award winner, The Star by Arthur C Clarke is perhaps the strongest story in this collection. A Jesuit astrophysicist is on an intergalactic mission where his faith is tested in the face of scientific fact.
After seeing the list of big name authors I expected great stories exploring the clash between science and religion. For the most part I was not disappointed. Although as is usually the case with any collection, a few of the stories just didn't interest me, but for the most part Galileo's Children is a wonderful collection, that I highly recommend.
Stories in the Anthology
The Stars Below by Ursula K LeGuin
The Will of God by Keith Roberts
The Way of the Cross and Dragon by George R R Martin
The Pope of the Chimps by Robert Silverberg
Written in Blood by Chris Lawson
Falling Star by Brendan DuBois
Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream by James Alan Gardner
The Star by Arthur C Clarke
The Last Homosexual by Paul Park
The Man Who Walked Home by James Tiptree Jr
When Old Gods Die by Mike Resnick
Oracle by Greg Egan
Galileo's Children is available at Amazon.com
Pyr Publishing provided me with a free review copy of Galileo's Children