Brecht’s Galileo

It is at least unusual for dramatists to put scientists and the social implications of research in center stage. Bertolt Brecht -an unusual dramatist if there’s any- did just that, economically and elegantly, in his play Galileo. The scope of the play is incredibly broad: Plagiarism, elitism, relations with businessmen, with the Church, and with sponsors, the social responsibility of scientists, and the impact of their work on the general population; all of this concentrated in a few short scenes, sometimes in a couple of loaded phrases. Brecht, as in the rest of his plays, does not give us any answers, but he asks questions better than most.

The overarching theme, of course, is the fight to disseminate the truth when it hurts the interests of the powerful. Considering how religious dogmatism and political interests escalate their efforts to muddle scientific truth in our times, it’s still a very relevant read.

About Jorge Aranda

I'm currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the SEGAL and CHISEL labs in the Department of Computer Science of the University of Victoria.
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2 Responses to Brecht’s Galileo

  1. Gregory Nanopoulos says:

    As a graduate education/drama student at Bennington College – I had to read the play for The Inquisitive Mind/class with Dina Janis, drama faculty. Well, this play is so amazingly relevant to contemporary society because religous views still are stopping research that would benefit society. Stem Cell Research is a great example. My question is what would happen if someone could prove God does not exist–would it be for the benefit of society to expand on this or hide in shame knowing that this discovery could change human existance for many many people.

  2. Jorge says:

    Thanks for your comment, Gregory –of course I agree.

    Unfortunately, by its nature, science cannot prove that God exists or not: It can, potentially, explain the Universe’s phenomena without using the concept of God (which means rejecting religious claims of miracles and holy books). But religion’s retort is to state that God exists outside of our time and space, and there science can’t reach.

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